Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Eastern Cup openers

The first Eastern Cup in New England is typically the third weekend in December, which is great, because that starts the racing off early, and thanks to snowmaking, the races can usually happen somewhere.  What's not so great is that with races this early, and winters this warm, you don't get any "opener" races beforehand.  The Eastern Cups are a big deal, since it's filled with juniors all trying to qualify for Junior Nationals, and college kids trying to fight for a spot on their carnival teams, and there are more and more fast skiers on senior teams.  This is all awesome.  I was remembering back to the old days when Jess and I would be the only senior women in the field - so much has changed!  And definitely for the better.  Kudos to Janice and the competitive programs in NENSA! 

This weekend opened with a classic sprint.  I'd been classic skiing exactly once so far this year, but figured, how bad could it be.  Well, pretty bad, but at least I was walking the next day, unlike the day after my previous classic ski!  Rollerskis don't do a great job training your hip flexors to absorb slipping skis.  Unfortunately, the timing crew was testing out a new system, and something went terribly wrong, wrong enough that they had to throw out the results from the first race for everybody.  They decided to run the entire prelim again, and just not do any heats, which is too bad, because heats are a ton of fun, both to race in and to watch.  Tom Smith had been recording finishes using the racesplitter app, and had put me in 24th, which is into the heats, but that missed any late-starting Canadians, of which there were 7, so the repaired results have me in 31st, exactly where I'd hoped!  But when there aren't any heats, you are less excited about only having to race once.

Anyway, with that day over, it was on to the "10k" "mass start" skate race.  Actually an individual-start, 5-lap, 8.5k, but who's counting.  Not two of my juniors, at least when it came to laps... but that's a different story.  I had a nice start spot, in the beginning of the B seed, so there were fast people going by me to carry me along.  Out of the start, Heidi Halvorsen and Amy Glen were lapping, so I put in a surge and caught up to them.  That pace felt relaxed, enough that I was leading at times, but then we hit the hill by the finish/lap and I dropped like a stone.  Not sure why, my legs were just sluggish from too much standing around the last two days I guess.  Heidi and Amy were in sight the rest of the way round lap #2, and I tried to focus on skiing smoothly and picking up time in the transitions. 

Lap #3 Annie Hart caught up to me, on her last lap, and I increased the pace to keep up with her.  Amy and Heidi had finished, so I no longer had my rabbits, but Annie was a good one to ski behind, and it wasn't too hard to keep up, though clearly it was faster than I would have gone alone.  She finished, and I headed into lap 4 alone, when Hannah Smith blasted by, having just started.  She put a small gap on me, and then just hovered there, just out of reach, with a UNH girl.  This time round, I was really starting to hurt, the short wall of an uphill in the stadium was just sapping any strength from my legs.  But, one lap left, I can do anything for 4 minutes, right?  I found some strength, and passed Hannah back on the uphill in the back, working hard but not putting myself under, trying to find as much speed as I could in the transitions.  The course was starting to get more crowded, but I was moving through them pretty well, staying within myself and right at the brink of too-hard.  Once more around the field at the bottom of the hill, and then just the final rise into the finish, and I was pretty cooked.  That race was just fine as an 8.5km!

Photos thanks to Jamie Doucett!

Ended up 19th in the skate race, which is totally acceptable, given that I was seeded 21st.  Specific ski strength isn't there yet, but I'm fit, and the technique will come back.  I managed to stay ahead of all my juniors (and my ex-juniors), too, which was a nice bonus - they'll all be faster than me soon if they keep improving the way they have!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

US Ultralong orienteering champ!

So, after thanksgiving, Ed and I headed west, and a whole lot south, to Cincinnati.  There were two very good reasons for this trip - first, his sister and her partner live out there, and second, the US orienteering night, relay, and ultralong championships were being held by Orienteering Cincinnati (OCIN).  Have I ever mentioned how Orienteering USA has waaaaay too many championship events? It's a little ridiculous.  Anyway, here was yet another weekend of championship events, and I figured I could basically finishing writing my thesis while on the road.  No biggie.

We got to Cincinnati on Thursday night, and it was really fun to have all of Friday to hang out with the girls and their dogs.  They're up to four dogs of their own, and one of the renters in their house has another one, so that makes five dogs.  That's a lot.

Fly and Virginia

Ginger the lap dog.  Ginger made a great running partner.

The first race of the weekend was the night-o.  I love night-os, and I did have a good time on this one, but didn't feel very speedy.  The hills were killing me, and there were lots of hills.  Luckily it was a clean race, though I lost about a minute on one of the route choice legs, sort of bumbling around for a while before fulling committing myself to my route.  Oh well, happens.  That minute sure wouldn't have made up the 8 minutes that Ali beat me by.  I still managed to take 2nd place for F21, beating out Iliana, the Bulgarian living here for a while, and beating all the men on my course except one, and he's a crafty old goat.

The next race was the relay champs.  CSU had 14 runners, and there were teams of four, so two people didn't get to race on a CSU relay, so formed an impromptu relay under the name "Water Dragon".  I have no idea where that name came from.  The way orienteering relays work in this country is that you are assigned a point value, give your oldness, juniorness, or femaleness.  There are three categories of relays - 4, 8, and 12 points.  You need enough people of points to fit into one of these categories, and males younger than 35yo are worth zero points, so that means you need to wisely divide your women, children, and elderly folks.

Start of the relay

Ken tagging off to Ed - they were on the eight-point team, consisting of Barb Bryant, Anna Skafer-Shelton, Ed, and Ken.

So, it turns out Ed is very susceptible to peer pressure.  He was coming across the baseball field to the finish and we were all gathered there waiting for teams to finish, and of course the suggestion was yelled out that he should jump the fence.  And he did.  Then we yelled out that he should jump the other fence (completely unnecessary, as the control could have been reached by a 2-foot detour around the fence).  But he jumped that one, too.  So then we asked him to jump the finish banner, and he did that, too.  Thanks Ed!  Good thing there weren't any other teams nearby...

Team CSU!  Me, Peter, Izzy, Ali, Ian, Mikkel, Kenny, and Greg.  Missing from the photo are Barb, Dave, Ken, Bill, and Ed.

Ian tagging off to me as second leg of the relay

CSU ladies - we had had facepaint, but the blue didn't last after being sweated on.

After an excellent dinner of Indian food, we had a team social meet-and-greet thing at the central hotel, where people could come meet the senior team, talk to us, see photos, listen to stories, and hopefully give us money.  We raised some money, and hopefully some awareness, so that was good.

Then it was Sunday, and time for the ultralong.  The women's course was 14.5km straight-line distance, with 530m of climb.  That doesn't sound like that far, except that orienteering tends to take you further than the straight-line distance, and there is lots of up and down on soft slippery surfaces.  So, this would be tough.  On the start line, it began to rain, buckets of water, and I was incredibly thankful that I don't wear glasses.  This was a mass start race, and I was looking around for Ali, but it turns out she didn't start, so as to not prolong an already-lingering cold.  So, I figured I'd try to run with Greg Balter and Vadim Masalkov, two very speedy M50s that I tend to finish near, or just behind, on shorter races.

Off we went, and the first loop of controls was really fun.  The terrain was interesting, with some slippery side slopes but nothing so steep that you couldn't climb into or out of gullies.  Apparently, this part of Ohio is dead flat, punctuated by very steep gullies, that happen to get INCREDIBLY slippery when it's pouring rain.  I noted the lightning around control 5, but figured it was far enough away that I wouldn't bother worrying about it yet.

Our first long route choice was from control 6-7, and I didn't make a great decision, and then didn't execute it so well, and this separated me from Balter and Vadim and Iliana, who all got ahead of me by 2min or so on that leg.  Boo.  But I caught back up to a Canadian M50 around control 7, and we were racing head to head for the next fun loop of controls.  More gullies and slip sliding around and thankfully not sliding too far down into any of the gullies that I didn't want to slide into.  After that, there were some flat legs, and I dropped Andrei, and ran alone for a long time.

On the way to 17, I lost contact with the map, and no longer knew where I was.  I also realized that I'd tied my shoes too loosely, or they'd loosened up in the rain, and they'd been this way for a while, long enough for me to lightly roll my ankle a few times and jam my foot against a branch once or twice.  I told myself I would retie my shoes at #17, but I should have just stopped when I realized it was a problem, as my feet were quickly becoming the weak point in my race.  So, now I was lost, in the rain, with painful ankles and I still didn't retie my shoes.  I was wandering around a deep gully attempting to figure out what was going on, when I saw Ed on the other side of the gully.  "Ed!  Where the f*** am I?!?!?"  We proceeded to have a great discussion, shouting at each other from either side of the gully, as to where I was.

Eventually what he was saying began to make sense, and I realized where I had to go. Turns out, it was the same control that Ed had to go to.  I started over there, and ran into some super thick, nasty, scratchy brambles.  I had to get to the other side of them, and just stormed through, but it really hurt.  Then I got to the control, and I couldn't get my shoes untied to retie them.  So when Ed got to the control, I was a bloody, whimpering wreck, basically throwing a temper tantrum because I couldn't get my shoe untied.  Thankfully, Ed took charge of the situation and gave me a hug, laughing at the fact that we were out racing in a thunderstorm wading up and down muddy ravines and occasionally crashing through bramble patches.  One more hug for good luck, and then we went our separate ways, and I was in a way better place mentally and emotionally than I'd been five minutes before.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get back the fire after my little temper tantrum, and slowed way down on the last loop before coming in to the finish.  I had seen Balter and Vadim and co. all heading back toward me, basically 10-15min ahead, as I headed out on the last loop, and that's just plain disheartening.  But, I slogged through to the finish, and given that it was a race of attrition, I won it.  Woo!

Don't I look happy?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Race with Grace 10k

I did some racing last weekend, a 10k road race on Thanksgiving, and then another 5mi "trail" race on Saturday.  The road race messed me up more than I expected - I wore pretty light shoes, and while they made me feel pretty speedy at the time, my calves paid the price, and it took a solid week for the soreness to dissipate.  The Race with Grace 10k was the first 10k I've ever run as a real race, and I wasn't sure how to pace it.  I figured a pace based on my vdot calculation from my most recent 3k, so aimed for ~41:30.  That seems speedy, but hey, what do I know, I've never done one of these!

The course was nearly dead flat, a couple rises here or there just to raise the heart rate, but I found that my legs eventually stopped wanting to turn over.  The first two miles were totally conversational, not a problem at all, but shortly thereafter my legs started to get quite tired.  I haven't done much road running lately, so even though I didn't feel all that out of breath, my legs were getting heavy, quickly.  I had a bit of a mental slump after 5k - I'm used to running 5k races, so the idea of continuing to race beyond 5k was a bit new to my brain.  Luckily after that, I picked it up again, and though I suffered in the last mile, I finished feeling like I'd run a totally acceptable race, given how my legs felt on the day.

The course.  The time was 42:40, which is slower than my vdot prediction, but I think 40 seconds could have been made up just by being a little more mentally tougher in mile 4 and mile 6.  Maybe; the shoulda-woulda-coulda game is always easier than the act of running faster... Anyway, this was good for 13th female, thankfully out of the money enough that I didn't have to stick around for awards and could get on to the important part of the day - stuffing my face with turkey and stuffing!  Also, this race gave me chocolate milk at the end, which made my day.

Saturday, I knew there was a trail race in Mendon Ponds, a low-key affair hosted by Jess' running club.  At first I was planning to sleep through the 9am start, being a bit tired from too much fun on Friday night, but then I got up anyway, and gingerly jogged down to the park.  My calves and hamstrings were still suffering badly from the 10k on roads.  I got myself registered, and then discovered that it wasn't much on trails - more of a road race with a mile or two on trails.  Oh, well, could be fun anyway.

It was a pretty small crowd, and as we took off around the lake (on roads), I noticed that it was windy, but had trouble finding somebody going the right pace to draft behind.  I wasn't feeling very sprightly, so just kept the intensity down to more of a tempo-y pace, and that was nice and comfortable.  When we finally got to the trail section, I quickly passed a couple people, who all slowed down because we were on a trail.  What's with that?  There was a big hill, but that means there were downhills, and I'm good at downhills, so I passed one more, and was closing in on the 2nd place girl (Jess was leading the race, so I wasn't going to be catching her) when we ran out of race.  Course.  I think I ended up 6th overall, and third female, and I got a teeshirt, a glass mug, a thing of cliff shot bloks, and a pair of gloves out of the deal - totally worth it!

By Thursday my legs seem to have recovered from all that silly running, and I'm ready to attack this weekend's orienteering relay championships, night-o champs, and ultralong champs!

End of an era

Last Monday, we put down my old dog, Tira.  She was nearly 17, but had been living a good life, full of quality - good sniffercizes, delicious chikkum, nice snuggles.  Then, something happened, she got sick overnight, and started having a lot of trouble breathing, and spent a day and a half not eating.  pant pant pant, groan, pant pant pant, groan.  It was hard to watch her like that.  By Monday morning we knew it was over, and took her to the vet to end it.  I haven't cried that much in a long time.  I grew up with this dog, she gave me focus and love during awkward teenager days, she gave me a purpose.  All I could give her at the end were kisses and tears.  Hopefully she's joined Rudi and the great beagle in the sky by now, and will be reincarnated as a puppy to give some other family joy.  What a dog.

Now my parents' house is dogless.  Feels so empty.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Photos from Raid the Hammer

The organizers took some sweet photos in the forest of Team Giggles.  And of other teams, but really what matters is Team Giggles =).

Giggle 1.

Giggle 2. 

Giggle 3.

Dashing through the woods; you can just see Ali's arm from behind the tree.

Reading the map

Bounding down a trail.

The Canyonero team, who we were chasing for the end of the race.  Ali's in close pursuit right there.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Raid the Hammer

Raid the Hammer bills itself as Ontario's toughest running race, the first race in Salomon's Dontgetlost Adventure Running Series.  Naturally, with a tagline like that, I wanted to do it.  I convinced Ali that she wanted to join me, because it would be partway between Ohio and Boston, but then we realized that we needed a third teammate.  I wanted it to remain an all-girls team, so tried to get my first choice teammate, Jess Snyder, onto the team, but she already had plans that weekend.  Wracking my brains for who would make an awesome teammate (I should mention that I like being the weakest link in a team, because then I know exactly how hard we can push, so I wanted to find someone faster than me), I suddenly remembered that Amy Lane does all sorts of ultra running and adventure type races, so she was probably crazy enough to join us.  I shot her an email to feel things out, and apparently, nobody had ever recruited her before as "extra female body who can run fast".  I thought that happened all the time!  The two major skills we had to have Amy brush up on were her orienteering, and, more importantly, her giggling.  You can't be on Team Giggles if you aren't giggly!

Luckily, Amy got very good at both giggling and orienteering in a short period of time - she lives in the Amherst area, so between Peter, Phil, and myself, we had her doing a bunch of orienteering training sessions.  Given that her father is the president of the New England Orienteering Club, she does know how to orienteer, but was a bit rusty.  Raid the Hammer is slightly different than most adventure races, because there is a section where teams are allowed to split up in order to get a set of controls in the most efficient manner possible, so it pays to have three runners who can navigate.  They call this "the matrix".  Other than the matrix, there were some sections where you had to visit controls in order, some sections where you had to follow a certain trail that was marked on the map, and some sections where you could get controls in any order, but your team had to stay together.

So, Saturday night found us in Hamilton, Ontario, actually staying at the home of one of the race organizers - Mike and Starr were incredibly generous in offering us a meal and a place to stay, and it was awesome to have a friendly home to be in, instead of some cold hotel room somewhere.  I went to bed a little apprehensive - knowing you're the weakest link on a team does leave you hoping you won't slow people down.  But, the day dawned bright and beautiful, and I was super excited to go for a long run in the woods!

Planning routes and strategeries after getting our maps.

Map 1: Mt. Nemo: 
The first part was to get N1-N4, in any order, with the team all together. We checked out the forest on our way to #1, and it looked beautiful and open, so we went with the shortest-distance plan, as opposed to the use-more-trails plan, and hit N1, N2, N3, and N4 in order and with no bobbles. Ali and I were talking out our navigation as much as possible, and one was leading the other was backing up/checking things off and planning the next leg. 

The next section was the matrix, and this was where we were the most nervous. Amy is a totally competent orange-level orienteer, so sending her off to A was fine, but I was a little apprehensive that she might make a big mistake. I got B, but had misread the cliffy thing by it, expecting a hill instead of a pit. Luckily I caught myself quickly, but that was unnerving, especially given how much time we'd had to study the map beforehand. Ali got C. I was back first, then Ali after a few minutes, and less than 5 minutes for Amy to get back. Phew! 

Then off to S1 and S2, and a trail/road run to the next map. Slight bobble on S2, but otherwise fine. I took a gel on the road heading to the next hill (45min in), and my stomach wasn't super happy with the downhill that followed; too much bouncing. I guess it doesn't help that I was already in L4 on that road... oops. Beautiful views of both Toronto and Hamilton as we ran down the road. What a day for a run! 

Map 2, Brant Hills: 
This map was entirely colored green, so we were a bit apprehensive that it would just be super thick, but thankfully it was just a topo map type symbology, where green is forest and yellow is fields. The forest was lovely and open, and such a pleasure to run through! We spiked the first three, but I definitely was feeling the uphills, and had to ask Ali if we could start walking them. Amy was also starting to suffer a bit with the soft footing/bushwhacking, which apparently is actually a specific strength that should be trained =). The area around 4-5-6 was hillier, but we had slowed down a bit, and my HR was starting to come out of L4 and back into L3. We missed 5 by about 2min, too far east, but corrected relatively quickly. I took a pretty good header tripping over a tree on the way to 4 - pushing too hard. 

Then on to a trail run! This was one of the most enjoyable trails I've been on in a long time - some rolling, but mostly flat, singletrack, no rocks, just lovely. We'd slowed down, and I was feeling really good. Somewhere near the end of the trail I took another gel, at 1.5hrs in. I think the trail also gave Amy a chance to recover from the orienteering sections, and we'd started chatting a giggling a bit. Running near Team Canyonero (Sergei's team) for this section, and they didn't seem too anxious to pass us. After the end of the map, we had another ~2km on the white-blazed escarpment trail, until we hit Highway 5, and the next map 

Map 3, Tyandaga-Sassafras: 
This started with another score-o of 5 points, that I think we did in a good order (ABDCE), though Canyonero got ahead of us, I think doing ABDEC. Amy was starting to flag on the off-trail climbs by now, but holding tough, and I was out of water and getting thirsty. We lost ~30s just before B (attacking from the southeast), discussing where it was, but otherwise a clean navigational section. The controls were all hung very visibly. 

At the aid station, Amy and I gave Ali our water bottles to fill, we punched the control, and ran off, and she caught us not much later. Short trail run section and then the last orienteering bit, in a really cool terrain. It was like the rock cliff was trying act like a glacier, and there were these big rocky crevasses near the cliffs, as though layers of rock were trying to shear off and calvve. So cool! We spiked these next 6 controls, closing in on Nick Duca's team, Jackson Triggs Wine-Os. 

Then some more trail running, and into the last bit, the urban adventure (see inset on Tyandaga map). We weren't sure of the scale , but knew we were nearly done. There was a mandatory gear check at 8, but we blitzed through that, and then headed off in pursuit of the Wine-Os and Canyoneros! There was a climb away from 8, and that was when I definitely started to notice that my glutes and quads had just run 20 something km, at a relatively high HR. Oof! But, I'm too competitive not to keep fighting, and Amy latched on to Ali's backpack for some extra speed, and we started hammering. Caught up to Canyoneros at a stoplight where we scampered across just in time, and one of their teammates was suffering pretty good, so they didn't put up much of a fight. We caught the Wine-Os at the last control, and I'd say the general level of suffer among Team Giggles was pretty high, too. We didn't look back, though, and held off the Wine-Os by 45s or so. Fun to have people to race all the way to the end! 

This was a great race - like an adventure race, only the maps were all great and the controls were in the right places! I loved racing with Amy and Ali, and I think we all had something to contribute to the team. No negative moments, at least not that I noticed.  We ended up winning the women's category by an hour, and coming in 5th overall - less than five minutes out of winning the entire thing!  We're already talking about next year...


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lynn Woods US Champs re-run

After the US Orienteering Champs last fall, CSU had a lot of leftover maps from the middle distance race at Lynn Woods.  I decided that since we had all these maps, printed with great quality, of courses of great quality, on a map of great quality, I may as well hold a meet that was just a re-run of the champs!  We ended up getting a bunch of folks who hadn't made it to the US champs, so for some it was a totally new course; for others, it was a chance for vengeance.

I didn't set all the courses; there had been way too many controls last fall, and I was worried about hosting this thing with just 2-3 helpers, so I limited the advanced courses to brown (short), green (longer), and blue (longest).  I had actually run the blue course last winter, as prep for the 2012 US champs down in Georgia.  It had taken me 1:04 then, but without controls in the woods, you're really slowed down, because you have to verify where you are at each control.  I wanted to run the course again, and see how fast I could do it with controls in the woods.  I didn't remember enough about the course to have a huge advantage; most of my advantage came from setting out the streamers a few weeks ago, and then hanging the actual controls this morning.

I started my race around 1pm, after pretty much everyone else had started and finished, since we weren't going to pick up the controls until 3pm.  Brendan started 3 minutes after me, since he was my major helper-outer with regards to control set-out and pick-up.  It was really fun to have somebody to race against - I held him off until control 9, where I saw him for the first time, and he quickly dropped me on an uphill through thick vegetation.  But then, I saw him again, on my way to 14!  He had made a navigational error, and I had nearly caught up!  Unfortunately, he is just faster, and ran away from me again, to end up beating me by 5 minutes.

Overall, my race was quite clean.  I'd made a slight bobble on my way to #1, but I quickly figured out where I was, and kept moving.  The next 11 controls were all very good - I was reading ahead enough to know what was coming and keep moving consistently, which is a real challenge at Lynn Woods.  The map is detailed, the vegetation is thick, and there is just a lot going on all at once.  This of course makes it a wonderful place to orienteer!  If you can avoid the greenbriar.  At 12, I had a brief hesitation just before the circle, when I'd tried to make a rocky hill be a rock in my head.  Luckily, I noticed this change in reality, and put myself in a better location.  It was very thick on my way to 13, and I was also noticing that I was getting tired - I haven't had that many orienteering races where I've been able to push myself to above threshold for long periods of time!  This was cool.  But then I had lots of trail running to do, so tried to really push the pace again for the last few controls, and seemed to make it 'round without too many bobbles.  Awesome!  I was pretty psyched about this race, and it didn't hurt that I was third place, behind Dancho (crazy Bulgarian) and Brendan.  Splits.

Route from last February, 1:04:xx.  Very squiggly-looking, with many more red bits.

Route from Sunday, 49:35.  Much smoother-looking, with a more consistent speed.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Kearsarge rollerski race

CSU hosted the Kearsarge rollerski race for the third year in a row (fourth year? I've lost track), and I ran out of excuses to avoid it, so headed north to join my juniors for a sufferfest.  The road starts out brutally steep, but after a mile and a half or so, it flattens out a bit, and alternates between flattish and gradually up for the rest of the climb.  Driving up ahead of time, I told myself I'd be V2ing a lot of the flatter pitches, but it turned out all I could do was wobble my way up in V1.  Damn.  

I didn't get quite enough warmup, thanks to driving up the road for some recon ahead of time, and combined with being a little tired going in, and starting a tad too hard, my calf totally blew to pieces pretty quickly.  I think I also had some residual knots in there from last weekend's four races in three days, so it was just a bad set-up.  If I were a smarter person, I would have skipped the race, but we all know how good I am about not starting races.  Or dropping out of races when things go to hell.  I haven't had an episode this bad since the Mt. Washington ski race that was on the heels of a soft skate marathon, two years ago. Today, after stopping, it took about 10min before I could push off my toes again. This may have been the worst I've ever had my calf go. I hope it never does this again. I'd contemplated dropping out of the race, but there was nowhere to go but up, so I just kept going as fast as I could. At least the good news was that I could bend my ankle, so kept my weight forward, but I couldn't glide, and it hurt, a lot.  Did I mention that it hurt?  No?  My leg really, really, REALLY fucking hurt.  I still don't know why I push through these things.

I ended up just over a minute slower than 2010, though calf blow-up aside, in 2010 I was coming off two weeks basically off due to some bandages on my butt and a bum knee, and this year I'm coming off a 4-race weekend and a 14h week. So I'm not too concerned with the slow time, and actually, I'm psyched that I could move that quickly when in that much pain. I did a few visual checks of my left leg, and I was able to hold a decent body position/ankle flex, it just hurt a lot. So at least I was still getting some free glide. 

I spent most of the first half, the terribly steep part, wondering if my calf would get over itself and hurt less, trailing behind Hank. I actually did the first mile ~20s faster than 2010, which adds some weight to my started-too-fast theory, but I didn't feel that I could slow down much without coming to a stop. The next mile was a little flatter, and Bob Burnham caught and passed me as I tried to double pole my calf back to happiness. It didn't work; it's like the pain came from simply trying to glide on that foot, so double poling didn't really reduce the pain at all. Since that didn't work to reduce the pain, I tried to put it out of my head and attempted to V2 harder. Lost my 20s back to 2010 in the second mile. 

The third mile I was mostly alone, though I could still see Hank, and I knew his younger sister, Meg, was behind me by not that much. That kept me moving, and though I got close to him on some of the climbing, I just couldn't glide well enough to move on the flats, and he kept his lead. Lost another 20s in that mile. Then lost 40s in the last 0.4mi. Wimp. 

Chasing after Hank.

I'm frustrated - I'd thought that I was staying on top of my calf problems with massage and rolling, and the last massage, on Friday, had removed a ton of knots. I guess I'll have to back off training for a bit until my massaging can catch up to my self-inflicted bodily harm.

I'm not good at backing off, though... 

technique falls to shit on long uphills, apparently... at least I was gliding.  Love the new Madshus boots!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

North American Orienteering Championships

This post may become way too long, but I felt like I just had two weeks of fun packed into one weekend.  As Ken put it, I have an awesomeness hangover right now.  

The North American Orienteering Championships (NAOC)  happens every two years, and it's a Big Deal.  I missed the last one, but I was definitely going to make it to this event.  Not only is it the biggest orienteering event on North American soil, it would be a chance to see all of my friends who are scattered across the globe, since pretty much everybody made this event a priority.  The champs were hosted by the Delaware Valley Orienteering Club (DVOA), and they did a fantastic job, raising the bar in every way imaginable.  Ed had gotten himself involved early on, since he's been doing some pretty innovative stuff himself on the technology front, and he and Eddie were the guys in charge of internet for the arenas.  This is a massively important task, because if you want to bring orienteering out of the forest, you need some way to get all the exciting bits onto the web, and asap.  So, this involved three separate trips to PA for Ed and Eddie to play around with getting various repeater towers on various hilltops, including across the river in New Jersey for one of the day's arenas, the one that was miles off into the woods.  I think Ed had a good time doing that, and the best part was he still got to race.

The way NAOC works is that there are three individual races, and a relay.  Canada and the United States compete for the Björn Kjellström cup.  Runners are given points based on their finish in the individual races (25, 22, 19, 16, 13, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1), and more points are better.  The points are only awarded to "eligible" runners, i.e. passport holders from the U.S. or Canada.  This year, they also introduced the Future Champions cup, which was a separate competition for juniors.  Being able to compete for your country with the lofty goal of beating Canada raises the level of competition to a whole new fury.  Awesome!  To set things in perspective, in the last 32 years that we've been racing for the BK cup, Canada has won 14 times, the U.S. just twice.  Pressure is ON.  Of course, because these races were also World Ranking Events, there was a healthy contingent of runners from other countries than North America, and that also helped to raise the level of competition.  

I drove down to PA with Ross, Sam, and Karen, three of four CSU members currently living in Sweden these days.  They were all really excited by the whole "fall season" thing that the northeastern US does so well, with apples, apple pies, beautiful weather, beautiful trees - apparently, Swedes just don't get it, because in Sweden, fall is just like a rainier winter.  *shudder*

So, after we arrived at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC), which was the site of all the cabins where people were staying, we went off in search of touristy things to look at.  The above photo is the actual Delaware Water Gap.  It was pretty cool.

Clem wanted a billboard, so purchased a billboard.  Although it might not bring people to the race, it was pretty damn cool to see orienteering alongside the highway!

As I mentioned, we all stayed in these camp-like cabins at PEEC.  It was really the only option for lodging, since PEEC is in the middle of freakn' nowhere, and it was really fun to have all of my bestest friends staying in one place.  I don't think any of us slept near enough, since we were all busy catching up.  And playing boggle.  And bananagrams.  And seven wonders.  And cabin orienteering.  I think the CSU cabin may have had all of CSU; it came pretty close if not, with 30 of us all spreading our dirty laundry out front.  Wait, you're not supposed to do that?

Bunkhouse style accommodation, and I'm glad I brought earplugs, since there are certainly some snorers in the group.

Games, endlessly!

Ross made a rough map of the cabin, and put out "controls", which were just little pieces of tape with a number of them.  Then people got to run the race, which took between 2-3 minutes.  Of course, this was happening at the same time that Sara Mae was attempting to hand out birthday cake for Larry, whose 78th birthday was the next day.  Nothing better than some barely-controlled chaos!  

Here's Giacomo, exiting the ladies' bathroom, in search of controls.

I totally would have won if Sara Mae hadn't been handing out cake.

Ross finally got his cast off his broken elbow, and his left arm is significantly smaller than the right.  And yet he still challenged Ed to arm wrestling.  He lost, very quickly.

Oh yeah, and we ran some races!  The first race of the weekend was a middle distance, in some very technical, tricky terrain with low visibility.  It was also raining torrentially, enough that people with glasses were at a severe disadvantage.  As I stood on the start line, the very last starter among the elite women, the rain started to come down even harder.  Apparently the DE water gap got 3" of rain on Friday.  Thankfully, it wasn't cold.  

I think these photos of Katia and Ian, taken by Julie Keim, capture the moment pretty well.

My race was pretty terrible.  I missed #1 by a lot, and just couldn't relocate to find the damn thing; ~4min lost on that leg alone.  Not how you want to start your race!  I then proceeded to lose another 4 minutes on the next five controls, and it wasn't until #7 that I finally got my head screwed on straight.  I tried to keep the focus and keep attacking, but that's always a challenge when you've messed up so disastrously in the beginning of the race.  Near the end, I caught up to Carol Ross, one of my favorite Canadians, and we had a good fight to the finish, but I was pretty upset with how I'd raced this race.  Splits, and IOF results.  The U.S. ended up clobbering Canada in both the men's and women's races, taking 1-2-5 for the women (Ali, Sam, and Alison), and 1-3-4 for the men (Eric, Ken, and Boris).

Cooldown in the rain with Boris, who also was disappointed with his race.

Gail fighting through the rain like a champ.


I love this photo - Nevin just looks so annoyed, as Balter goes on Baltering about something.  They did a damn good job announcing with the amount of information they'd been given.



The men's team discussing routes and splits afterward.


Sergei and Karen racing to the finish.


So, after that disaster of a race, I refocused.  I knew that I wanted to pick good routes for the long distance, execute them cleanly, and run as fast as I could anytime I got the chance.  I was the very last starter again for the elite women, but I had Cristina 3 minutes ahead of me, and Carol 6 minutes up.  I was hoping to see both of them.  I ended up catching Cristina at #7, and Carol between 9-10, the first long leg, though she did catch me back when I made a small mistake at 11.  I thought it was another great course design, and I felt up to the challenge of the race, this time, racing aggressively and cleanly.  Unfortunately, I'm just not fast enough yet, and I think a lot of that is related to map reading and woods speed, since my average HR was one beat below my zone 3.  Clearly, I can push harder, I just need my brain to be able to keep up.  I ended up as the fourth North American, and though I was well ahead of 5th, I was way out of 3rd.  Splits, and IOF results.  This ended up being one of my best WRE point races, and also, very importantly, I beat two Swedes.  And for the second day in a row, we beat Canada!  1-2-4 for the women (Ali, Sam, me), and 1-6-7 for the men (Ross, Eric, Boris).

Check out those two long legs.  How would you approach #10?  I went to the right, on the trail, and then straight-ish.

The arena at the long distance was all on this broken shale stuff, but it worked pretty well for giving people an area to hang out and watch the races.  It also helped that it was sunnier that day.

Ed, doing what he does, making things work and fixing problems.

The business end of Ed's truck!

Next to a small tower. They had much bigger towers out in the woods.

One of my better photos - pizza!!

The ski-o team needed to get a photo, since we'd failed on getting one last season for sponsors and thank-yous.  Also, now we have a sweet headwear deal with Sauce.  Yipee!

Boris finishing the long.  Given that he's going to defend his PhD in Sweden on Friday, I was impressed with how well he ran.

Sunday was the sprint race, and then the relay race in the afternoon.  The sprint started early, and after a clear night, it was a very cold morning.  It was a forest sprint, a lot out in the woods, and while it was an interesting course, I never felt that I was moving at top speed.  Luckily, I kept it pretty clean, and the only thing I would have done differently was to read ahead on that last loop a little better, since I never knew what was coming next, and my orienteering became very reactionary.  It's a bummer that I did that last loop so poorly, because I think if I'd been confident, I could have held onto third place.  As it was, Louise bumped me down to fourth, by 17 seconds.   At #14, I'd been 3s ahead of her, but she just ran that last loop better than me, and pulled ahead.  Yarr!  But you can't dwell on that, the shoulda-woulda-coulda game gets you nowhere.  Splits, and IOF results.  In another display of dominance, we once again beat Canada: 1-2-4 for the women (Sam, Ali, me), and 1-2-4 for the men (Ross, Andrew, Boris).  

Ed sprinting in to the finish.  I would not want to be in his way.

I'm done!

SGB loping in to the finish.  Presto didn't run the sprint course, but usually, Presto wins the finish split, because Lori is standing at the other end when Stephen and Presto finish their race.

Ross and Sam were crowned sprint champions.  

The last race of the weekend was the relay between the U.S. and Canada.  At this point, we had a healthy lead, but there were several scenarios in which Canada could take back the lead and win the cup, so we definitely still had a race on our hands.  I'd been selected to run on the first team, and I was definitely feeling proud about that.  The relay consisted of two teams from the U.S., and two teams from Canada, for both seniors and juniors.  Everyone else stuck around to watch, and they were handing out relay guides, with maps of the relay, information about the racers, and all sorts of other useful stuff.  I thought the announcers did a great job keeping the excitement levels high, and the chaos to a minimum.  

My race went well - it was unremarkable, but I wanted to run very cleanly, and possibly sacrifice some speed in order to nail all my controls.  I succeeded in doing just that, except for ~20s miss on #8, which allowed Karen, our first leg runner for team two, to take the lead into the exchange zone.  It was really thrilling to run down the chute and tag off to Sam, representing my country at the highest level.  The first team ended up winning the race, and though Louise anchored Canada to second place, our second women's team still ended up third.  Unfortunately for the men, Ross, on the first leg, missed the last control - he just ran right by it, without punching, and so our first team was disqualified.  Thankfully our second team held on tough, and ended up in second place.  This was enough for us to win the BK cup, and we were all pretty pumped about that!  

So, Alex, how are you feeling about running first leg for the first US team?

Team cheer, with all the juniors and seniors together.

US Team 1, being announced before the race.

On the start line.  The Canadians look nervous.

Running away from a Canadian.

Into the finish!

And done.

The before shot, and the after shot, of team 1.

At the awards, team USA was presented with the Björn Kjellström cup.  That's Peter Goodwin, OUSA president, holding the cup.  


We may have beaten the Canadians, but we'll accept this little Canadian, we like her.

Overall, the weekend was awesome.  Winning the cup was just icing on the cake.  I got to hear the technical report from Ed, and all the details that need to work for things to run smoothly, worked.  He really enjoyed working with DVOA to make this event as amazing as it was.  I can't wait for the next episode, in 2014!