Monday, July 30, 2012

Memory training at the Fells

One of my process goals for next year is to run faster when I'm in the woods.  Close that gap between woods-speed and track-speed.  Another of my process goals is to read the map better when I'm running.  A partner memory exercise addresses both these goals!  Woo!  The way it works is that the first person memorizes the first leg, then hands the map to the second person, who memorizes the next leg, while following the first person to the first control.  Then you switch the map again, and second person leads the way, while first person memorizes the next leg.  It's a great exercise, because you tend to run a little faster when you're not holding a map, and you also look around a lot, another good thing to do.  When you're following, you're forced to run a little faster also, to keep up with your partner who is running a little faster because he doesn't have a map.  At the same time, you have to plan your route and memorize it for the next control!  All these are good things.

Magnus and Brendan joined me at the Fells Sunday morning, and we alternated leads.  It had rained all night, and somehow that made the forest feel easier to run through, slipping between trees unobtrusively and smoothly.  It also helped lower the temperature, to a perfect running weather, with occasional drenches when a tree would shake its water onto your head.  Although my achilles started to ache a bit by the end, I couldn't make myself quit, I was having too much fun.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


I made it home on Thursday, after a few days visiting family in London.  London was buzzing, getting ready for the Olympics.  On a related note, it's just plain idiotic that NBC doesn't offer a pay-per-view option for streaming the Olympics.  What about poor suckers like us who don't have cable?  Grumble.  I would pay money to watch the olympics! But I don't want cable.

Anyway, I've had time to reflect on my performances at WOC.  It wasn't ideal.  It never is - you can't rely on having everything come together at the perfect moment, all you can rely on is your training, your mental state, your mantras, and hope that is enough for a normal day to produce an amazing result.  I should be proud that I had one good race, but I was left wanting more.  Maybe I'll never be truly satisfied, and that's why I keep racing.  I'm thinking ahead now to next year, in Finland, where the terrain will require leg strength rather than leg speed, and the challenges will be technical.  I hope.  I'm excited.  I believe, somewhere deep inside, that I actually have the potential in this sport to outperform my genetics.  (love ya, mom!)

The International Orienteering Federation (IOF) had a meeting while we were racing, and agreed that in the future, they are going to eliminate the qualification races.  I guess this is done in order to make it easier for smaller (poorer) countries to host WOC.  Of course, this leaves open the question of how to choose who gets to run in the finals.  Right now, the proposal stands at allowing one runner from each country, plus others based on past WOC results and some regional champions.  And then a 3-person relay, although for many runners, who get limited support from their foundations to begin with, it isn't enough to travel to WOC just to run the relay.  What this means for the US women's team is that I'll probably never run WOC again, since right now, Ali and Sam would be fighting over our spot, and neither performed well enough to grant us a second spot.  And by the time they want to retire, hopefully there is a faster young'n coming through the pipeline, for our country's sake.  The proposal doesn't take effect until 2017, but the organizers between now and then could adopt it if they wanted, and there is a rumor that 2014 and 2015 have already decided to do it that way.  What this means for me, is that next year is likely the last chance I get at trying to race my way into the finals, fair and square.

There are plenty of other huge, multi-day, European orienteering events I want to race in, but the World Championships obviously has its own draw.  So, I've done some thinking about how to get better at this sport.  I've come a long ways, but I still have some obvious weaknesses, that I plan to address in the next few months, ideally before North Americans.  I have a whole bunch of process goals, and thankfully none of them interfere too much (I hope) with all my other disparate goals in life.  This is a manageable project!  Here goes!

Did I mention we saw the torch relay, completely by accident?!?  It was shiny, and burning.  oooooo.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Final WOC photos

I've successfully departed Lausanne, and landed in London.  Lots of pre-olympic stuff going on here, but it's avoidable.  Now that I have internet I figured I could dump the rest of my photos from WOC.  Beautiful weather led to lots of photos!  

Sam on the big screen before her start in the long final.  The WOC organizers were pretty dumb, and did not make it easy for people to get from the spectator races to the WOC races, so there weren't nearly as many people in the arena as there had been last year.  

There was a gummybear vendor in the arena.  I bought a giant gummy frog.  He's on my knee, there.  He was delicious.

Annika Billstam, Sweden, through the arena in the long.

Boris got hold of my camera and took a lovely photo.

After the long distance race, we went shopping for banquet outfits.  The ladies found a nice outfit, the guys found some ladies jeans that they really liked.  shiny and tight.  this is what happens when you let Giacomo be the fashion consultant.  Above - can we wear these? Does my butt look big?

Oh yeah, we can wear these.  

Sandra modeling our banquet outfit.  

The zebra shoes fit right in with the nasty o' shoes.

Then on to relay-spectating!  Ali had a fantastic first leg, above she's on the jumbotron in the lead pack.

Hannah and I got WICKED excited about this.  We spent a lot of time sprinting around the stadium screaming loudly.

Ali, still with the lead pack!  Does she hear us when we scream at the screen?

Ali with the lead pack, coming through the stadium.

USA, tags off in 3rd!  In the world!


Sam, into the finish chute, anchoring us to 15th!  A pretty awesome run for these ladies.  Next year, I'm on that team.

GPS tracking on the big screen.  Cool stuff, let's you see who is making a mistake, where the race is won and lost.  There are lots of little lines because the controls are forked, so that you can't just blatantly follow.  

Team superstar supporters, Linda and Rick!  

Sandra, exhausted from the relay, before rallying for the beverage race.

Giacomo acquired some food, intelligently, pre-beverage race.  

Ross and a broken Australian giving us the rules (the gimps were in charge)

Finishing the last leg of the beverage race. 

Hopefully, there exist some photos of the ladies in their outfits, since we looked darn good (the guys just looked ridiculous).  But those photos may just got onto facebook, rather than here.  It was a fun week, inspiring and humbling and exciting, and I am totally psyched to prep for next year.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

WOC2012: The races

I came in to this year's World Championships far more prepared than last year.  I'd added another 2000 controls, 130 hours in terrain, 550 hours of physical training, and had just posted a PR in the 5k on the Northampton course (though not yet a lifetime PR.  That'll take a flat course).  Last year, I was a rookie, now I had some idea of what to expect.  In an ideal world, if everything went perfectly, I thought I had a shot at making one of the finals.  My other big goal was to be selected for the relay team.  I didn't make either of those goals, but somehow, I feel like I'm still coming away from these championships successful, or at the very least, hungry.

The first race for me was the long distance qualification.  The terrain was very different than anything I've experienced - I'm used to thick, rocky, slow terrain, where you can't move at full speed through the forest.  Although this map had plenty of nasty prickly stuff on it, you could move FAST if you avoided it.  All the running on hard-packed trails aggravated my achilles tendonitis badly, enough that by about halfway through it was a distraction from my navigation.  Amazing how hard it is to run fast when you're thinking about some painful body part.  I'd also paced myself poorly, starting too fast, and it was a struggle to push to the end.  I felt like I'd just done a 15k road race, and was completely and utterly wiped.  As it should be!  Although I raced a relatively clean race, I clearly didn't have the leg speed to compete with the top, and managed to outrun my brain once or twice - I estimate I lost maybe 6 minutes to errors.  That's a lot of time over an hour race.  A perfect race would have gotten me closer to the top 15, but I'm not quite there.  Yet.
The map from the Long qualification race.

Photo:  Game face!

The following day was the qualification for the middle distance.  A little desperate to make my achilles hurt less, I spent a while looking up youtube videos of how to use kinesio tape to help alleviate achilles pain.  I found two scientific studies online, one of which says kinesio tape doesn't do squat, the other saying it totally works.  I decided to believe the one that told me it worked, and taped up my heel and calf.  Combined with painkillers, my heel was fine through the race, and I left the tape on for a few days.  I now declare it to be magic tape, as my achilles pain faded the longer I wore the tape, despite continuing to run hard races.  I will have to acquire some of this magic tape at home - nothing better than a crutch to let you train more than you should on an injury!  (I'm being sarcastic.  I hope).  

So, leg all taped up in pretty colors, I prepared for the middle distance.  More technical terrain than the long, with more rocks and low-visibility forests, I was quite excited!  Too excited.  This race was a disaster.  I started well, but the crucial mistake came on the way to #2, when I tried to compensate for a hesitant start by running faster, but did it in the wrong direction, and proceeded to make a massive mistake, compounding the mistake with a panicked, idiotic recovery.  Luckily, I was able to put that control behind me and out of my mind, and followed it with a string of really good controls.  And then I made another mistake, this time with a parallel error.  Recovered, and then another mistake, bad compass work from my attackpoint.  My spirit was broken, by then.  There was no more point lying to myself; one mistake maybe you can recover from, three mistakes, plus a race full of nervous bobbles, there is no coming back.  It was disappointing to have such a disaster of a race, one of the worst races I've had in at least a year, but I know you can't necessarily expect to have your best races on the day it counts.  Not like that knowledge lessens the sting.  

Middle distance qualification map.

In to the control...

punch!  (would be such a better photo if the control were in the frame)

And out!

With no finals to run, and having taken myself out of the relay with my inconsistency, the week became more of a training week for me.  The public spectator races being run in conjunction with WOC were open to all, and I threw myself into the orienteering as though that could somehow make my past races better.  Running in the elite class of the open races, the competition was still stiff!  Spectating the WOC final races was also thrilling, and the relay day was the ultimate excitement, when Ali finished her first leg in 3rd place!  Sandra did a great job on the second leg, and I was happy to see her there in her last WOC.  But I look forward to the day that I can run at a level to keep our relay up in the lead pack!  I know what I need to do, and I'll keep hammering at those process goals and see where next year can bring me.  Now on to the next adventure!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

WOC in photos

I'm currently in Switzerland, at the World Orienteering Championships.  I've been here all week, but internet has been slow enough at our hostel that I haven't posted anything, since I'm spoiled by fast internets at home.  I finally got a bunch of photos to load, and those are below.  I'll write up the races in a bit - executive summary is one good race, one disaster race, and I was not selected for the US relay team.  I just returned from the relay, where Ali led our team into 3rd (3rd!!!!  holy shit!!!), followed by a super solid run by Sandra and a great finish by Sam to bring our ladies home in 15th, which I think is our best ever finish!  I was super pumped to be a spectator and watch that finish.  I'll post those photos later, since posting photos around here is a lesson in patience.  In the mean time... enjoy!

Sprint final arena - beautiful weather, beautiful backdrop of the oldtown of Lausanne behind the massive jumbotron.

Packed stadium, and more people all over the rest of the arena.

This dude, hiding under the jacket, controls the octocopter, which basically looked like a flying erector set with a video camera dangling below it.

More tech dudes, hiding under the stadium seating.  Ed asked for lots of photos, so I tried to take photos he'd appreciate =).

Cutest little South African baby ever.  The flag-sling worked really well to move her over obstacles.

GPS tracking!

Matthias Müller has his own fanclub.  So cool!  

Lake Geneva

The Swiss team dominated the sprint.  They all happened to be called Matthias.  Crazy!  

Opening ceremonies had tap dancers holding orienteering flags.  Cool.

At the opening ceremonies, they presented the awards from a kids race that had happened earlier in the day.  No wonder there is a strong orienteering community in Switzerland!  Imagine doing a race and getting your result announced at the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS!  So cool.

This is a map that is 125m long, from an orienteering relay that crossed all of Switzerland.  This was really cool.

Before the first race!  

Magic tape.  I decided to try out kinesio taping to see if it would make my achilles feel better, after spending some painful hours watching youtube videos (did I mention the internets are slow?).  I call it magic tape because the placebo effect totally worked, and I could run again.  Need to acquire some of this magic tape.

Cute lil' cow at the quarantine area.

Team USA!!

At the middle final arena.  Another gorgeous day.

Middle arena

Arena from the adventure day.  The Swiss 5-Day competition happened in conjunction with WOC, so that the spectators have something to run.  Since I didn't make any finals, I got to run in the spectator races, and stage 4 was a real adventure.  It involved driving way up the valley beyond Montreux, up the side of the valley wall, and then a cog railway up to the top of the pass.  The course itself was hellacious, involving plenty of gratuitous climb, and I had a pretty epic bonk.  More on that later, maybe.  

After our adventure race, a bunch of us hiked down to a gorgeous lake, which, being in Switzerland, naturally had a cafe by its shores.


I'll post relay photos and long distance final shots later.  It's been fun, but now it's time to go get banquet-ified.