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!