Thursday, October 27, 2011

US Sprint/Middle/Long Champs: the race report

If I were smart, I wouldn't try to race while also in a managerial role, but we all know that I'm not very smart. So, I signed up to race all three days, since that is three more A-meet days to add to my ranking, plus a WRE - very cool stuff! The sprint was really the only day where I felt good, physically, but I thought maybe I could get away with not feeling so awesome, and still managing a good result. That didn't actually happen, not so surprisingly.

The sprint was super interesting. There was some fast fields-running, but a lot of very technical thinking in the woods - yes, you could run on trails, but you really had to keep track of where you were. I made a bunch of mistakes, not to mention all the hesitations, but still came through in 6th, good enough for third place US and a medal! Ali was almost 3 minutes ahead of me, and she had made mistakes, too.

After all the heavy lifting that evening, I tried to pretend that I was feeling fresh for the middle, but somehow my brain didn't believe me. It was another super interesting course, that made great use of the little bits of nice forest. Again, it was very technical, with low visibility, but I really enjoyed the course. I was being pretty cautious in the beginning, trying not to lose time through mistakes, but balancing not losing time through being too hesitant. I lost some time on 5 and 6, maybe a minute total, but I was starting to really flow by the time I hit 7-9. After making another mistake on 11, Carol Ross, our favorite Canadian, caught up to me from four minutes back, and we started racing pretty hard head-to-head. That's my favorite kind of orienteering!

We finally parted ways on the way to 15 - I saw the smarter southern route, and picked up a minute over Carol just by doing that. I knew it was smart, and was trying to push the pace, hoping to drop her enough to beat her in the results, but then I went and totally goofed on 18, and ended up almost 10 minutes out of the lead. This time I was 9th overall, and fifth American, so no more medals for me.

Dave Yee was taking more photos today, and caught some of me during my race. One of my gaiters fell down, which, aside from causing a lot of pain when running through brambles, is a serious fashion faux-pas. Gasp.

Coming in for the finish punch clearly requires a lot of concentration.

Photo courtesy of Clem McGrath.

The banquet Saturday night went over well, and Ali and I gave out awards. Sunday dawned way too early, and aside from freezing my toes off, the morning set-up went well, and I found myself on the third start line for the weekend. I knew there would be a lot of trail running today, given the nature of the Fells, so I was trying to be prepared to run fast. Unfortunately, it turns out my body just didn't have much to give in the face of running fast, and there were many moments where my brain really wanted my legs to be moving a little faster. I suppose that's the crux of sports. Want to go faster, but can't.

I still managed to make mistakes - nearly 9 minutes of mistakes - and that kind of disappoints me. Because if I had felt like I wanted to go faster, then I damn well should have made sure the orienteering was as perfect as it could be. I caught up to Tori Borish fairly early on, and I kept trying to drop her, which wasn't actually a good plan, because it meant that for two controls in a row, I was a complete goofmuppet. Eventually I found that pesky control #12, and I was PISSED. Ali had caught up to me (from eight minutes back or some such ridiculousness), but I outran her to both control 13 and 14. Either because I orienteer better when I'm really mad at myself, or because I orienteer better when I'm racing someone head-to-head, not sure. Unfortunately, a long trail run followed control 14, and I lost Ali pretty quickly.

Starting around 18 it became a slog; I couldn't drop Tori, and I just couldn't make myself go any faster. I totally blew #22, but managed to hold it together to come in 7th, 4th American, and just two minutes out of the medals. Hardly a good race, but given the circumstances, entirely acceptable. The last four nights, I've averaged 9.5hrs of sleep. It's been glorious.

The route from Sunday's long race. The straight-line distance was 10.x km, and I ended up running 13.7. I guess that's a long time to be running. I hadn't thought to bring any gels, so I put some candy corn in a little baggy and stuffed that down my sports bra - it turns out, candy corn melts. And is very difficult to chew, mid-race. Just fyi.

Monday, October 24, 2011

2011 Sprint/Middle/Long US Orienteering Championships

Way back last fall, Ed and a couple other big thinkers decided that CSU wanted to host the sprint/middle/long individual US championships for orienteering. We had a new map being developed of Lynn Woods, and we finally had the full map (all the way around the reservoir) of Middlesex Fells, and we thought we could do an updated map of Franklin Park, to have three pretty exciting venues. We went about securing permits and coercing talented orienteers to set courses for us, and after a bit of a battle with the sanctioning committee, who basically just don't like our terrain, we were set to go.

Ed has a bit of a perfectionist streak in him. This meet was going to be perfect, or he would break himself trying. Giovanni, another CSU member, was the other meet director - basically, they both wanted to be meet directors for this thing, and we figured, heck, let 'em both do it! The problem, or maybe blessing, is that both Ed and Giovanni are very technologically-minded, and they had all sorts of new innovative things they wanted to try out at this meet. In the end, most of their ideas came to fruition, but there were a couple that we just didn't have time to do.

I was registrar, which meant that I got to deal with all the whiners, but this was a good lesson in patience, and in biting my tongue before snapping at people who were really driving me up the wall. "Of course you can have the 10:34am start time. I understand that 10:28am won't work for you. Let me see what I can do". The majority of people are very pleasant to work with, but it's those few brats who stick in your mind...

The competition was held over three days - Friday through Sunday, at three different venues: Franklin Park, Lynn Woods, and Middlesex Fells. CSU is a small club, and most of our members are in the M/F21+ class, the elites - most of us wanted to run in the US champs. This stretches a small number of volunteers over a huge task list, and everyone who did volunteer, did it to excess. We couldn't have made the thing go as smoothly as it did without the blood sacrifices of all our volunteers. Well, hopefully not too much blood, but certainly plenty of sweat and tears. Ok, maybe not even that many tears - just my own, on Sunday morning, pre-breakfast setting up the arena in the dark with the frost on the grass chilling my toes. Thankfully, Ken went out and acquired me some McGoodness, and it was hot and greasy and filling and delicious.

Friday morning was a potential disaster. Ed and I had been scurrying around since 6am, loading equipment, carrying equipment, driving places, and Giovanni and Katia had been scurrying around since 6am, acquiring our rental truck, our rental tent, and all the rental tables and chairs. Unfortunately, the rental place couldn't get the truck until something like 8am, and so the truck, loaded with tent and chairs and stuff, didn't arrive at the arena until close to 11am, with the first starts slated for 1pm. To make matters considerably worse, when Ed and I arrived at Franklin Park, the field in which we were planning to set up the tent was thoroughly soggy, and the groundskeeper waiting for us refused to let us drive any vehicles across the grass.

The tent had to go in its designated spot in the middle of the field for a bunch of reasons, so, we started carrying out all the equipment. It was ~200m walk, through soggy, muddy, grass, and we had about twelve people carrying however many thousands of pounds across this field. Thankfully we had two dollies, but we were cutting it pretty close with getting people registered and the arena set up before race start. In the end, the day went fabulously, and pretty much everyone had a really great time - except one guy, but he's an inveterate complainer, so we had no choice but to mostly ignore him.

Of course, at the end of the day, we still had to carry all that equipment back to the truck, and thankfully a handful of non-CSU runners stuck around to help us out. We would never have made it to the evening packet pick-up without their help. Actually, Ed almost didn't make it to the evening packet pick-up - his truck wouldn't start after we'd loaded everything up. We shifted all the registration gear into someone else's car, put me in the car, and I headed up to the meet headquarters, leaving Ed alone in the dark with a finicky truck to figure it out on his own. He got things working and arrived shortly after me, but by 9:30pm, when we finally got a chance to escape and have some dinner, we were both pretty wiped.

The racing was fast and furious, and visiting Canadians definitely gave the American runners some competition. Above, Carol Ross and Hannah Burgess sprint in to the finish - Dave Yee photo.
Brendan Shields, course setter, enjoying all the praise people had for his courses. Dave Yee photo.
Morning scene: piles of boxes in a field.

Ali Crocker in the finish chute - Ali made it three for three wins this weekend - champ! Dave Yee photo.


Greg Balter and Peter Gagarin manned the microphone all weekend - and they did an excellent job, especially with the elite runners' announcing. Dave Yee photo.

Ed doing what he does, and fixing problems. Dave Yee photo.

Saturday was another early morning, but thankfully we didn't have to carry the equipment very far - just unload the truck and set up. It made things go much more smoothly, and there were far fewer snags through the day. The US Junior's team set up a concession stand as a fundraiser, and that was highly possible, as was the US Senior Team's meet-and-greet - people were invited to come over and talk to the team members about their routes and orienteering in general, and people seemed to really like that. I didn't get much of a chance to partake, as I was manning the registration table, but everyone seemed really happy with the whole day, meet workers included! Saturday's race was a World Ranking Event, and that definitely attracted some foreign blood - we had Canadians, Americans, Swedes, Germans, Ukranians, Czech, and Irish racing in the elite race.
Meet and greet the US team, and talk about orienteering - a typical orienteering huddle. Dave Yee photo.


Tent set-up. Good times.

I feel like this photo catches the American orienteering scene really well - four runners, all on different courses and in different classes, approaching the spectator control on the middle distance race. Dave Yee photo.
Then Neil blasted past the slower runners. Dave Yee photo.

Bernie helping the juniors at the concession stand. Dave Yee photo.
Gary Richter showed up with his Icebug trailer - it was nice to have some vendors around, added to the buzz around the arena.

Kseniya showing the anxiety that you feel during an orienteering race - so much pressure to not mess up! Where do I go next? What is my attackpoint? I need to be running faster! Ahhh! Dave Yee photo.
Middle distance women's WRE course.

Saturday night was the banquet, and awards - the top three US contenders got medals, but the top three overall got prizes, and the prizes were sweet - a puzzle made up of the map from that day! People really liked the puzzles. The banquet went over well, and the food was tasty. We also all sang Larry Berman happy birthday, which I think he really appreciated.

Sunday morning dawned clear and frigid, and Ed and Giovanni made the decision that we didn't need to erect the tent. This decision was extremely well-received by the volunteers, and we quickly set up the arena and eventually the sun came up and melted the frost. By that point I had digested my McMuffin, and found another layer of clothing to wear (over jacket and down vest):
The Walker boys taking care of electronic stuff. Greg was trying out the new fashion of sideways headlamps. Apparently it's less ideal for actually seeing things in the dark.
Eric and Ali, champions for the day, handing out awards to all the other classes.

The race went very smoothly; apparently we were old hands by now, and we managed to get most people their awards before they left, so that was good. By the time we packed up and left, we were feeling pretty good about the entire weekend. I think I'm glad that we put on that meet, but I'm not sure I can handle doing it again for another couple years.

And Jess showed up Sunday afternoon, after rocking out in her xc running race earlier in the day! We went on a control pick-up hike, and I know I had a good time catching up.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ontario Orienteering Festival

The mountain bike race I was slated to do last weekend got postponed to this past weekend, and I had already made plans for a road trip to Canada, so I managed to weasel my way out of the bike race, after all. Ali, Becky, Rob (Becky's boyfriend) and I piled into my car, and we headed north, with our passports this time, for a long weekend of Canadian orienteering. I also got the chance to see Ottawa a bit, pretty much for the first time, as Nevin and Will took us around on a tour.

The racing was fast and furious, with a really competitive women's field. Ali managed the overall win, also winning the middle and the sprint, and I ended up 3rd overall, although both Becky and Katarina Smith would have been ahead of me if they had also done the sprint. The event was very well organized, and the weather cooperated with brilliant foliage and pleasant temperatures - better for spectating than racing, as it really felt like summer out there.

We were staying with the Teutsch family, as we did last summer for the Canadian O' Champs, and as ever it was a really wonderful blast of organized chaos. Three kids, a dog, a cat, a bird, three bunnies, a couple fish, and seven houseguests... Anne didn't ever look ruffled, it was unbelievable! The Teutsch's were great hosts, and since Anne and Eric were basically in charge of the meet, they also ran a really great meet.

We were on the same maps as last summer, and that was a good thing, as I had some vengeance I wanted to wreak upon that terrain! Last year hadn't gone so well for me, and I was ready to bring it this time 'round. The weekend started off with a middle distance, at the Hidden Meadows XC ski place. Map below. This went pretty well for me - I was never stupendously fast, but I was going along pretty accurately, and relatively smoothly, too. However, I couldn't last the entire race, and I ran off the map on the way to the last control. Luckily that only cost me three minutes, give or take 30s, but it was still frustrating to mar an otherwise good race with a silly mistake! Ah well, it's all a learning process I suppose.

Note my route on the way to 17 where it falls off the map... oops.
Chasing down Katarina Smith into the finish. Stefan Bergstrom photo.
Stefan Bergstrom photo.
Finishing the middle distance. Photo courtesy of Andrew Cornett.

We didn't get much of a break before it was time for the sprint race, at Beaver Brook development center. The course was an interesting mix of very fast open suburban-type areas, and middle-distance-esque complicated forest. I found it difficult to change gears between top speed and something more sustainable for thinking, but managed to make it through probably less than a minute total of errors. This was good enough for third, 54 seconds behind Ali, who won by 1 second. But the heat was definitely getting to my stomach, and I spent a good while after the race curled up in a little ball wishing I were more hydrated.


Starting out the sprint. Punch the start and flip the map, then go go go! Photo courtesy of Andrew Cornett.

Sometimes, Ali's bag explodes at races.

Sunday it was time to attack the beavers. The terrain at the Eco Wellness Center is like a series of linear lakes and beaver ponds, all criss-crossed with beaver dams and very thin passageways, with lots of bare rock between the lakes. It is basically a barrens terrain, and very cool to run on! I started two minutes in front of Becky, so I sort of figured I'd see her out there, but I didn't expect her to catch me as soon as she did; right around control #3. I discovered that I could keep up, and actually out-run her at times, so for a while we were having a great head-to-head race, until I made a massive blunder on my way to 5, and took forever to correct from that. You can see the route below - I basically missed the control, because I can't count to two, and thought that I was crossing the first lake when I was actually crossing the second. I then proceeded to be a doofus for 10 minutes while my heartrate lowered, until I could finally get myself out of my own mess.

After that I was on my own, and things were going pretty well, except for the massive blister developing under my left toes. It caused an onset of wimpiness syndrome, and I definitely slowed down in the second half of the course. Overall, though, if we ignore control 5, it was a very good race! Results.

The blister.

Fall foliage! The leaves were out in full force, it was beautiful. Harder to find orange controls, though...

After the race, we headed into Ottawa for a look around. The light was beautiful, sideways afternoon light on a golden fall day, so I took a bunch of photos.

Becky and me on our wander.
Looking north, toward the Gattineau hills.
Maple trees everywhere! I liked this city, it had trees and grass and stuff in it.
The market!

Looking up over locks.
Looking down over locks.
Becky and Rob.

The last day was a two-person relay, so Ali and I teamed up as "Team Giggles". I was pretty tired by this point, and didn't race as well as I would have liked, but it was a nice end to the weekend. We won the women's division, but there weren't too many women's teams.

Alex Bergstrom grabs his map, first off the line. He and Alex Teutsch were racing for "Team Alex", and so I felt a connection to them, even though they beat us.

Ali grabs her map, just ahead of Molly Kemp.