Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Craftsbury EC

Last weekend was the first Eastern Cup of the season, up in Craftsbury.  They had enough snow to hold the classic race (10k mass start) on the real race trails, moving away from the silly little manmade loop that we all end up racing around most of the time.  I nearly signed up, but decided that we had enough skiers showing up that my time would be better spent waxing, and anyway, elbow isn't really 100% ready for prime time on classic skis yet.  So, I signed up for the skate sprint, expecting that I just laid down $35 for 1.3km of racing - with all the college kids in town, and everybody all trained and fit and strong, I did not expect to be a contender.  But, skate sprints are fun, and a new pair of skis just showed up in the mail, so I needed to see how they ran!

An early morning jogeroo shook the cobwebs out of my legs - I spent too long sitting down on Friday, and then frantically packing for a two week vacation.  Woo!  It's exciting to take this time off, but a little sad how much I'm looking forward to getting some work done. Wait, I think I'm doing vacation wrong... anyway, I'd felt pretty stiff and groggy, but the jog woke me up and got the blood flowing, and I was in full-on Alex-on-a-race-day-morning mode by the time I hit the dining hall for their scrumptious bacon!  We got out testing skis, and the course was fast and hard, not at all feeling as slushy as I'd expected given the temperature.  Colder grinds and colder waxes were running fast, and our skiers were on some speedy boards by the time I rolled up to the start line.

Speaking of start line... the women's race start was delayed.  First by 10 minutes, then another 10 minutes. I'm apparently quite terrible at math, because somewhere in this mix I thought I had an extra 12 minutes before I started, when actually I had less than 1.  I heard them calling my number, and thankfully my skis were near the start, so I skied over, stripping off clothes and poles, jumping a barrier, and getting both poles on (but only one glove) with about four seconds to spare.  Whoops.  Oh well, I could use a shot of adrenaline!  The nerves combined with criminally fast skis meant I felt jittery the whole way round the course, never settling into a rhythm and never feeling like I was riding my skis.

Always treat a sprint like you've moved on, so I took care of myself and got some lunch down, before heading back into the rain for the heats.  CSU had sent 12 (including some alumns) into the heats, and I was pumped to watch all the blue suits zipping around the course!  I'd qualified in 23rd, nearly 16 seconds back (wowzers, that probably shouldn't have made the heats!), so I knew I wouldn't have the speed to just run away from my heat.  My plan became to tuck in and freeskate as much as possible, let my fast skis carry me past people on the downhills and then try not to die on the uphill into the finish.  My goal was to move up a few spots by finishing 3rd or 4th in my heat, but if I didn't move on I was quite ok with that. Ski racing is hard, and my legs didn't feel like they had three more races in them today.  That may sound pessimistic, but I was having a bit of trouble motivating the give-a-damn.

The heat played out according to plan, thankfully two girls tangled and went down on the first downhill, leaving me clear to just hang on to the front pack of Corey, Emily, and Hannah.  It was work to ski that fast, but not impossible, and I moved up into third climbing the wall in the stadium.  One last rest down the hill into the horseshoe, and then it was an uphill finish, and I ran out of gas, sort of as predicted.  Turns out, skiing takes strength and coordination, and I didn't have much of either going for me.  My oomph ran out, and Hannah snuck ahead of me into the finish lanes behind Corey and Emily, and I didn't have the fight to go around, so finished 4th in the heat.  This moved me up nicely from 23rd to 19th, so I was satisfied with the day.

I was super pumped watching some of my juniors racing.  Two of my girls are total pros, and they moved smoothly through the heats and into the A final, finishing 4th and 5th overall.  Another of my gals skied a gutsy race to move from 26th to 15th, and one of my juniors in the junior heats had a break-out race, moving into the A final and taking 4th! We had three J2s in the heats, one boy and two girls, and they all skied with heart and really learned from the experience, which was pretty sweet to see.  Despite the rain, we were all pumped to give it another shot tomorrow in the classic race.

Unfortunately, the temperatures dropped and everything froze overnight, while it kept raining.  They managed to groom the course, but the trees were so coated with ice that the branches kept falling, making a noise like gunshots.  They rightly canceled the race, because it was too darn dangerous to be skiing out there, and that was the right call, but a little depressing for the skiers who wanted to make up for the sprint day with a good grind-it-out distance race.

To leave, I had to use a metal putty knife to chip the ice from my windshield, but eventually I got out of there, and kept driving until I got to Rochester, for the holidays at home.  Next up, Mont Sainte Anne!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Racing! (on skis and foot)

Ski season is just about starting, with the first race this weekend up in Craftsbury, VT. I elected not to sign up for the classic race, given that my elbow is still not perfect and I don't want to mess up all the good physical therapy I've been doing for it, but I am signed up for the skate race. Skate poles are longer, and that seems to be less aggravating for the triceps tendon insertion. I can't wait to race! I don't feel ready, but this week I've been shoveling enough snow to actually get strong, or at least, sore, so we'll see if snow shoveling is at all ski specific. Hmm.

I did get in one opener race; while up in Craftsbury for Thanksgiving (wheee! skiing!!). That place is becoming like the home-away-from-home for us Boston skiers. I certainly can't complain about their delicious maple bacon and everything local, organic, and delicious in the dining hall. Oh wait, I'm there for the skiing? Anyway, the race was billed as a 10k, but was more like a 7.5k, 5 times around a 1.5k loop. It had been cold, but warmed up the night before the race, leading to some quality manmade sugar-slush on the hills. Not my favorite conditions, but it was fun to rev the engine a bit and see what would happen. What happened was a lot of wheezing and some burning legs, as well as a fourth place finish among the college skiers who were up there. If you plan to race yourself into shape, you gotta start somewhere, and admit that you're not starting at peak performance. Turns out, ski racing is mighty tough, and I could have used a bit more oomph, but I was totally ok with the result.

Morning view on a race day! Coffee mug on one side, wax iron on the other, and your wax table is all set.

In non-racing news, Ed's mom sent us a gingerbread house kit. Zan came over and helped us decorate, we were quite a team of sprinkle applicators. Unfortunately, Ed and I differ in our philosophies regarding gingerbread houses. To Ed, a gingerbread house is something that is supposed to sit there and decorate your counter during the holidays. Then, at the end of all the festivities, it is hard as a rock and not tasty, so it gets thrown away. To me, we're looking at a house-shaped cookie, and I want to eat the darn thing. I've limited myself to only eating one side of the roof, but Ed seems to have noticed, and is making comments like "there was more roof damage in a storm near the gingerbread house yesterday". I think he's on to me...  

Last weekend, I stayed home rather than search out the skiing somewhere.  Weston has been blowing snow, so we had an on-snow practice with the Bill Koch league, and there was even some natural snow, but not quite enough for skating.  From BKL practice, I joined up with Terry and Pat, two of the CSU runners, and we drove up to Melrose, for the Assault on Mt. Hood.  It turns out that Mt. Hood is actually a golf course; I had expected a bit more.  But, it was a hilly race, with a fun low-key atmosphere, and snow on the ground. Not quite a trail race, but pretty fun for xc.  3.5mi, ish. 

I wasn't really sure what to wear, but settled on a windblock polypro and another one on top, with two layers on my legs.  It was chilly, 13 degrees!  And then there was the guy in a speedo.  Seriously?

Exhibit A. Speedo on the right.

The race started out with the part that went up Mt. Hood, so I took it out slow, and then there was a really steep descent (wheeeee!), and an even steep ascent back up to Mt. Hood, which I discovered was faster to power-hike than to run.  I was already benefiting from my slower-than-usual start, reeling in the runners and starting to find my stride.  Pretty happy with my choice a shoe, the TrailRoc236, which have aggressive outsoles but a nice wide platform, lending some stability on the slippery snow.  At about two miles in, I could see mr. speedo ahead of me, and I determined that I would pass him.  This helped the motivation, and once I caught him, I had half a mile left in the race and I had to hold him off!  Success in that regard, but I ended up just off the podium, in 4th, for my age group (and 5th overall).  That meant that I didn't get a giant nutcracker award - bummer!  Next year...


The CSU masters team took the win, and took home some nutcrackers for their effort. Go CSU!

Also, this is pretty cool. Yay thesis, woo!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Blue Hills Traverse

I've taken a few years off from the Blue Hills Traverse, even though it's a good race that's held every year and it's relatively local.  The last one I did, in 2010, was just a really bad day for me, and left a bad taste in my mouth.  So I figured it was time to do this race again!

It was chilly this year, about 24F with tons of wind, I was hearing windchill of zero degrees. Brrr.  Once in the woods I was generally ok, though there was one hillside where the wind was cutting right through the trees and I couldn't get down into a valley soon enough.  The Traverse is a mass start race, and you're allowed to follow, so it's always fun to see what group you end up running with.  This year, the fast boys took off quickly, and I found myself slogging cross country and feeling kind of cold and slow.  It didn't help that the day before had been a monster day of orienteering, setting up and taking down a meet up in Lynn Woods, but there was just no pop in my legs.

I could see a group of guys ahead of me for the first few controls, and I knew with this much fatigue in my legs I'd have to be flawless in my navigation.  Shortly after that realization, I thought I was overrunning control 3, so turned around, making some spectacular parallel errors and losing five minutes and my pack of guys.  Damn.

On to the second map, and I re-found most of the guys I'd been running with, Ben and Ari and Will and Jon, as they wandered around searching for a boulder on a hillside littered with unmapped boulders.  We got lucky and found the control, and I got mad, because I didn't think that was a particularly fair control location, so I started running faster down the hill. I couldn't quite drop the guys, but I did make contact with Tim and Juha, and I had some moments of good orienteering.

That didn't last, as I chose the wrong route to 11, losing about a minute on the route and another minute because of vaguely mapped terrain, but this got everybody, and I was near the front of the pack.  Whee!  Jon latched onto me at that point, because he'd apparently dropped his map somewhere, so was just following people in to the finish.  Not a bad solution, actually.  I pulled ahead with Ari and Jon into control 15, feeling pretty good about the race so far, and then we proceeded to be unable to find control 16.  It was a rootstock, with no solid attackpoints on a flat plain, and it turns out it was also mishung, by 50m.  So, as we wandered around, Will and Ben and Tim and Juha all caught up and passed me by, and that really broke my give-a-damn.  So when the boys still with me on the trail ran faster, I just didn't speed up, and eventually stumbled into the finish very happy to be done, and very frustrated with the parts that hadn't gone so well.  Luckily, I had my big megapoof to put on, and I won a gingerbread man, so life quickly returned to its general state of awesomeness, but I'm STILL pissed about losing five places in the last 10min of the race!


Monday, November 18, 2013

DVOA Fall orienteering festival

After a lot of travel weekends lately, I wasn't too psyched about another long drive, this time down to French Creek State Park, west of Philly.  But, the Delaware Valley Orienteering Association held a top-notch meet, that was well worth the drive (which was great in its own right, carpooling with Katia, Giovanni, Anne, and Zan).  My experience running down there is limited, and there are many fewer features than I'm used to on the map, leading to a much higher dependence on direction and distance to get to your control - the boy scout approach.  I was very happy to find most of the leaves on the ground rather than on the trees, as it meant visibility was quite good, making the orienteering considerably easier.

Standing in line for the start.

The format of the weekend was two classic-distance races, and a combined time for the overall winner.  I didn't bother to really taper, and just hoped to hold it together for both races, despite still feeling some fatigue from the 25k Raid the Hammer race last Sunday.  Saturday's race was at a southern portion of French Creek, with some hills, but in a flat, vague sort of way.  I treated the navigation quite cautiously, and never got moving very fast during the race, though I was certainly working hard up the hills.  The footing was rough - loose stones and thick vegetation - and I didn't feel particularly stable on my feet. I also took a stick to the eye somewhere around control 4, which didn't do much for my confidence moving through terrain.  But the cautious approach worked out, and although I dropped about 2 minutes on the course because of mistakes, I came out on top of the pile of elite women, with a scant 3min lead over Kseniya.  There were quite a few M45 and M20 runners who beat me, though (we're on the same course), indicating I should probably move a bit faster the next day. Splits (includes all the men on the red course, too).

Off we go!

Map from day 1 - click to make bigger.  The red line is the route I thought I took, the green/red line is the route my gps claims I took.  A miss on #2 and #7, but otherwise quite a clean run and nailing all of my process goals. 

DVOA had set up a wine tasting event at a local winery, so many of us took advantage of that opportunity, which was a very nice touch to the event.  The official dinner was in downtown Pottstown, and after dinner, the Senior Standing Team members ran a public course review, going through some of the courses offered today and discussing the various best ways to approach different legs.  For the most part, I thought this was a really good idea, and folks seemed to get something out of it. 

Day 2
My goal for day 2 was to carry over the good navigational habits from day 1, but run a little more aggressively, especially where the vegetation was thick and rocky.  Everybody has to deal with tough terrain, I just gotta move through it faster.  Unfortunately, warming up I twisted my ankle kind of badly.  This ankle has been twisted enough that the ligaments are already all stretched out and the pain stops quickly, but it did leave me feeling very unstable on my feet for the race.  As is often the case, the footing is much better off trail than on the trails when there are loose rocks under leaves. 

I tried to start aggressively, but somehow was still losing some serious time to both Tereza (member of the Czech Republic team who is here studying at Elon University) and to the M45s.  I started to take the time back by #4, and the flat trail cruise to #5 felt good, and I was moving well.  I could tell I was running too fast, because I really wanted to stop running and sit down, but the trouble with orienteering is that the race plays itself out one control at a time, so it can be very difficult to pace yourself well.  By the time I was climbing up the hill to 7, I knew I was in trouble, physically, and had to back off the pace a little. I made contact with Kseniya at control 10, having made up a few minutes on her, and while this was a relief, I knew I had to keep pushing the pace.  I was deathly slow up the hills to 13 and 14, just unable to move any faster, and lost two minutes to Tereza between control 11 and 15.  Darn!  Splits from day 2. Luckily, the overall time was enough to net me the win!  I was pretty psyched about this.

Map from day 2.  More hills, and more green!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Raid the Hammer

Last year, Ali and Amy Rusiecki and I did this adventure race in Canada as Team Giggles.  We won the women's division, and were close on the heels of the men's teams, just five minutes out of the lead in 5th.  We planned to do the race again this year, to see if we could get any closer to the lead.  Unfortunately, Team Giggles lost Amy when she tweaked her hamstring pretty badly the weekend before in a 50 miler (that she still won. beast!). Though she could still sorta run, she didn't think she could run fast, and neither Ali nor I wanted to push a bum hamstring in a long race. So, we started casting around for teammates, needing someone faster than Alex, somewhat able to orienteer, and crazy enough to be willing to drop everything and drive to Hamilton on a four-day notice. Enter Ari Ofsevit.

Bonus fact: Ari was willing to wear a pink tiara. Woo! 

Team Giggles with their awesome glittery home-made shirts.

After a lovely evening at the Waddington household, it was go-time. The course was really physical, lots of running and lots of flat running. I started suffering pretty early on from an unhappy digestive track and very sore ankles; I guess I was rolling them around more than I thought in the first off-trail section. Not my finest day physically, but it's a team event, and you're only as fast as your weakest link, so Ali was a rockstar and towed me along for all the urban or big-trail stuff with a bungee cord. Can I hire her for my road races? There was also a wicked headwind, so it was fantastic to have Ali breaking the wind (as opposed to breaking wind; that was my job) for me.

Map 1:

We took the road around to 1, and that didn't seem any slower than cutting through the fields. Other teams were faster, but I tried to find a pace that felt comfortable yet fast.  My feet felt like in their X-Talon190s, which were the best compromise between road and hard-trail running and super slippery mud, that made up the themes of the day.  My ankles were a little floppy cutting through the woods on the way to 1, which was a bit of foreshadowing for the rest of the race. From 1, we had "the matrix", where we were allowed to split up to get three controls, and then meet back up at 2. I had the shorter, marginally technical control, Ali had the far away brambly control, and Ari had the far away trail + climb control.

The trail run to 2 was gorgeous, and knowing I'd been on the shortest leg I slowed down to a jog to try and recover. Ali arrived at the control within seconds of me, and Ari was 3:18 behind her, so we'd picked a good strategy, and we left control 2 with the top teams.  Amazing how requiring all three members to navigate breaks up the race!

Map 2:

We got stuck at a traffic light trying to get onto map 2, with the matrix-code-checker people on the other side of the intersection, so lost the top 2-3 teams there, who'd snuck ahead as the light was going yellow. Boo. I was struggling a little with the pace, and my stomach was not being happy with me, but we were holding even with the teams around us through the southern portion of the map.

From 5 we exited the orienteering bit and had some road/wide-trail running. The organizers had blanked out parts of the map, and they didn't say we were forbidden to use the roads that went through those areas, but they did say that the roads wouldn't be a huge help.  So, we stayed on the mapped areas.  The trails were a hard-packed gravel/dirt mixture, typical suburban running.  Ari had brought bungee cords, so I bungeed myself to Ali's waterbottle belt, and this lent us a smidge more speed, while bringing my heartrate back below threshold. This was where I noticed that my right ankle was really hurting. Ankles are small things, but apparently I'd tied my shoe too tight, and that was pushing on things badly at the front of my ankle, a known problem area for me. We got stopped at another light, where another coed team was stopped with us, so I loosened my shoe there, but the damage was done, and that foot felt really tender the rest of the race.  Rookie mistake!

Map 3:

We took a better route to 8, not losing as many contours, and got ahead of some teams there. But then to 9, first I needed another pit stop, then Ari's nipples started chafing, so I was digging out the tape from our med kit as we were running, and then none of us were paying any attention to the map and overshot a reentrant by a bit and had to correct by running through some tall burr things. Oops. But, I saw a decaying bicycle in the streambed, which was kind of cool. Just half the rear tire and the derailleur sticking out from the mud and rocks. We also jumped over a dead and decaying deer. ewww.

Up the hill and through the neighborhood to 10, munching on some food, and we did better with making sure that somebody was actually navigating at all points. I suppose that's an actual drawback of having more than one navigator on your team - you always assume somebody else is navigating. We were ahead of the other coed team down to 10, and dropped them on the climb up to 11, especially after I bungeed back to Ali on the flat part into the feed. In the sideways freezing rain. Both ankles were really killing me now on the flat hardpack stuff, but I was hoping that the next section of orienteering would be better, since it was softer footing. I was definitely not going to let ankle pain slow us down; they're just ankles.

The climb from 12 was a doozy, a real map-in-teeth-use-fingernails-as-tread sort of climb (see Ari's tiara photo up top). I was having a lot of trouble running fast along the trail to 13, sort of in a bad little world of hurt and pain and ow and tired and poop. Ali did a spectacular job of trail finding on the indistinct guy to 13, and then we were in the "void", a vague area with low visibility, where I just ran compass checks on Ali as she spiked controls, with Ari acting as cheerleader.  We put some time on the other teams in that section, as we nailed all the controls and were moving decently, considering Alex's sorry state of being.

17-18-19-20 were all trail running, with Ari nearly killing himself tumbling down one of the steep slopes and me trying not to whimper too much about my ankles, the right one in particular now was giving me sharp pain with every step. One of the teams that beat us saved 4 minutes and 8 contours by crossing the uncrossable river; I guess since it's AR and they didn't specifically say "you'll be dqed if you cross that river" it's ok. Probably better not to go that hypothermic for me and Ali, but frustrating to lose that much time. Anyway, a long climb on road to 21, where Ali was just pushing me from behind, then a cruise along the river to 22, a final muddy climb back to suburbia, and then bungee all the way in, managing to stay on my feet and mostly ignore the ankle.

We ended up 6 minutes back, but first coed, which was our category. All the flat running was tough, but so were the steep muddy hills, and overall it was pretty fun. Team dynamics were good, and there were no tears. woo!  Sounds like next year is the 15th anniversary of this race, and the race director promises to put together some of the best parts of the last 15 years, so it's probably worth the drive, though going that way twice in three weeks was rough.  Team Giggles for the win!  hehe.

Friday, November 8, 2013

New England autumn

This has been a glorious fall in New England. It's finally getting cold enough at night that it truly feels like fall, and the trees got that memo, breaking out into these brilliant flaming colors, coating the ground with their leaves so that you are running through a kaleidoscopic tunnel. If ever I'm having a down day, all it takes is a run through the forest, crunching through the leaves and taking in the views and earthy smells to make me happy again. It's worth appreciating the beauty around me. 

Of course, four days later, November happened for real, my glorious CSU-colored tree lost its leaves, and the sky rained on me: 

Sneaking out for a lunchtime run the other day, I renewed the conscious decision I made years ago to view the upside of situations. Life is beautiful, and when I let the busy-ness of it all overwhelm me, it's easy to get wrapped up in the daily grind, ignoring the brilliant forest that surrounds me and focusing on one step at a time, driven by the end goal. That can work, but it's the process of everything that I do that really brings me joy, not just achieving the goal, and that's worth remembering from time to time. 

Of course, that's not to say there aren't scary and overwhelming decisions and deadlines that need to be made or dealt with all the time.  Those need respect, but I refuse to give them any more of my time and energy than necessary, and I will not dwell on the negatives. I'm not ignoring these things, but I refuse to let them overshadow the beauty of life.  That choice is mine to make.

I think it's time for a run!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

U.S. Two-day classic championships

Last weekend was the two-day classic championships in orienteering, up at Bear Brook State Park in NH.  There are too many US Champs in orienteering, mostly because we can't agree to do what the rest of the world does and use a sprint, middle, and long distance event as the championship event.  The classic distance is what tends to get used at local meets, and I can admit there is something to having a combined time event, but it just seems silly to have so many different championships, and definitely weakens the statement that you're a national champion.  After all, I'm the national champion in the ultra-long event, and was on the winning team at the relay champs!  But how can you choose the best if there are so many random events? Agreement is difficult, and nobody has bothered to think that maybe the organizer should choose the format of the race for national championships. 

Anyway, ranting about too many championships aside, last weekend was fantastic.  New England is having a spectacular fall, hanging out in this beautiful Indian summer thing far longer than we deserve.  Up North Orienteers put on a very nice event, on a new map that was incredibly technical.  You don't get this level of difficulty very often; I certainly don't feel like I've been this navigationally challenged since the craziness of 2011 WOC in France!  Awesome!

Map from day 1, with route.

Ali had elected to run against the elite men this weekend, since that's the clear next step for her to actually improve (what can you learn when you win every split?), so that left the championships wide open.  It was a small but deep field for the elite women, and I knew I'd need to be on my toes.  I am confident in my fitness and speed, but some of these ladies are ace navigators, and I'm not quite there yet.   In this thick forest with difficult navigation, speed actually becomes a liability.  I also wanted to place well among the middle-aged men who were running our course, since they're often a good measure of how consistent you're actually being. 

I had some really good process goals for the race, that would hopefully keep me focused the whole way through.  After the Canadian champs a week ago, I'd figured out a couple strategies that would work to address some of the mistakes I'd made, and I was excited to try them in a race.  Out of the gate, I was excited but kept myself reined in, focusing hard on making a good attackpoint and keeping good direction.  Unfortunately, I got dragged further downhill than I meant to, and took nearly two minutes to relocate and find the first control.  Argh, not the start I had hoped for!  In an encouraging turn of events, I managed not to freak out, and I calmly made my plan for the next control and executed it to a T.  Phew.  As the controls continued to click off, I let myself move a little faster, though that cost me another minute at #4 when I missed that the marshes were dry, and overran the control. 

Moving into the southern section of the course, I was feeling confident, but that area got much more technical and I nearly lost myself on the way to 9.  I had lost contact, and thankfully I was still moving in the right direction, but it was a little touch and go for a while.  Thirty seconds lost there because of that hesitation, and then I let myself drift on the way to 10, losing another minute.  I was getting frustrated with myself, but managed to keep the focus, nailing the final controls in the vague area before the finish, much to my relief.  In the end, it was good enough to win for the women, barely a minute over Kseniya, and I was 5th among the men.  Not too shabby, even with five minutes of errors!  Splits.

The evening passed quickly among friends with a lot of laughter, and after a poor night of sleep in a campground (I'm getting too old and whiny for sleeping on the ground...), I was up early, shaking out the legs and trying to figure out what I would do differently on day 2 to avoid all the mistakes I made on day 1.  I knew that to stay ahead of Kseniya I would have to have a clean run, because she is just so solid in the technical stuff, but I determined not to think about her, and only think about how to orienteer.  The focus today would be direction!  Despite the thick forest, I would have to go the direction I wanted, and not the direction the trees pushed me! 

The course was very fun, and very difficult.  The southern part of this map is incredibly flat, and covered with enough detail on the map and with enough vegetation in the terrain that it is very difficult to read the flow of the land, both on the map and in the terrain.  Tough going, and very hard to simplify the land and move quickly.  I spiked #1, which feels good, and starts the race on the right foot, but then on the way to #2, I ignored the voice in my head that told me to slow down and figure out what was going on, and I got mega lost, dropping 6 minutes and change while slowly relocating.  That's a huge mistake, and I fought the urge to sit on a rock and cry about it, even as I made another mistake on 3.  But, I am proud of myself for rallying after that, and moving carefully if slowly through the boulder fields of vagueness in the southern portion of the map, staying focused and remembering what I meant to do. 

Map from day 2, with route.

Unfortunately, I was too cautious to 12, losing some time there, and then managed to completely mess up my direction on the way to 13, losing another two minutes.  At this point I was pretty angry with how I was orienteering, and I let my frustration come to the surface, bashing through the thick forest angry and screaming, but thankfully in the right direction, winning the split to 14 over all the men and by a minute over the next woman.  Where was that for the rest of the course?  Of course, it wasn't enough, and losing nine minutes over the rest of the course dropped me to third for the day behind Kseniya and Zan, and second overall.  I was bummed to not win, since I felt that I had it in me, but I did not perform well enough on day 2 to maintain the lead, and Kseniya totally deserved the title for her solid navigation.  Splits from day 2.

Now there's time for a solid training block, and the last A-meet of 2013 for me will be down near Philadelphia in mid November.  Time to retrain some skiing muscles...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Canadian Nationals

Last weekend I headed over to Hamilton, ON with Zan and Anna for the Canadian orienteering national championships.  It was a long drive, but well worth it, as the event was incredibly well run, had two World Ranking Event races, and the weather was fantastic all weekend.  A brief stop overnight in Rochester let me see my parents and their new condo, too, and my mom made me cookies for the road.  Just like old times!

Beautiful forests on a beautiful day.

How to kill time on a nice autumn day.  No complaints here!

We swung by the model event at Canterbury Hills first, to check out the terrain and get a feel for the forest.  So lovely and open, though there were a few burrs at times.  We killed a few hours picnicking in the sunshine, and then it was time to move the party to McMaster University, for the WRE sprint.  Naturally, having three elite orienteers in the car led to us getting quite lost.  We decided that the best plan of action was definitely to find a coffee shop, so that we could both caffeinate and ask for directions.  Time was a little tight, because even though none of us started until 5:30 or so, we had to be in the embargoed area by 4:45 at the latest.  Thankfully, our coffee plan worked out great, and we swung into the embargo with 10 minutes to spare.  No problem!

The sprint was staged at this university, which probably meant there wouldn't be any tricks, but you never know.  I was pretty amped up, since I haven't done a high-level orienteering race since WOC.  My primary goal for this race was to find all the right controls, something I didn't quite manage at WOC.  My secondary goal was to do this quickly and smoothly, but that's sort of less important if you can't figure out the first part of this game.  Warming up, I knew the taper had worked; I had wings on my Inov-8s, barely touching the ground.  Today was going to be a good day.  I knew with this sort of feeling, I didn't have to think about speed, I didn't have to think about effort, that part would just happen.  Focus on the navigation.  Out of the gate it was all making sense, and I spiked my first control with a feeling of triumph.  Unfortunately, I hadn't quite read ahead enough to see that the staircase I wanted to take to the second control ended in a wall (with a door, but that's a bit irrelevant when you're sprinting), and I lost 20 seconds there, needing to backtrack.  That flustered me, but I got myself back under control and focused on spiking the third control.  Wahoo!

Sprint course for women's elite class.

Into the 4th, and all of a sudden I can't see the control.  In reality, it's hiding around a flower bed, but I couldn't find it, and there's another 20 seconds lost, and panic sets in.  The flustered and panicked feeling lasts as I head toward 5, and I make a more serious mistake, trying to run up the wrong set of stairs again.  I know that I need to drop this feeling of panic, so I take a second to collect myself, and then carry on through the course, no more rushing.  By the time I hit control 13, which is next to the arena, I'm flowing again, and I see that the last loop is relatively un-technical, just running.  Pour it on!  I won three of the last five splits, and was 2nd on the other two by a mere 2 seconds, proof that I had legs under me today.  (Splits). I ended up in third, behind a Brit and a Canadian, both of whom are much faster than me on paper, so I was happy to be so close.  That result yielded me over 1000 WRE points, a first for me in summer orienteering!

We found a tasty Thai restaurant for dinner (accommodating the gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and vegans in our 15-person group...), for proper preparation for Saturday's middle distance WRE. This was held at Mineral Springs, a really fun area with lots of relief in the form of eroded hillsides with beautiful open forests. I was pretty pumped for this; my speed in the woods is pretty good these days, and I feel like my navigation has been improving.  Then I blew it, not seeing one of the three trails out of the start and orienteering my map with a trail that ran east-west, rather than with a north line.  This led to a 90 degree error out of the start, and five minutes of wandering around before bailing back to the start and trying to figure out what the heck went wrong.  That's a lot of time to lose on a 35min race.  After that, I was pretty angry with myself, and flustered and feeling rushed and trying to push the pace, and naturally, that led to more mistakes, nearly another five minutes over the rest of the course.  I was pretty upset, but there were parts of the race that went quite well, so it wasn't a complete wash, and I still got decent WRE points, somehow.  I also ended up third, when it turned out that the Swede/Canadian in second had actually mispunched.  At least I found all the controls this time! Splits.

Women's elite course of the middle distance.  Check out all that contour detail!  Super fun =)

The meatball truck was on hand for some meatball poutine to soothe the hurt to my ego, and it was another gorgeous day that I got to spend outside with friends, so on the whole, Saturday was a truly fantastic day.  I just want to replay between about 11:14 and 11:20am.

It's a mix of angry, excited, game on, and just totally nuts.  Don't mess with this crazy lady!

It was raining the morning of the long distance, but I was happy about that, as I figure the tougher the condition, the better I'll do.  Alas, the rain stopped and the sun came out before we started, but I was still ready to attack this course aggressively and cleanly.  No mistakes!  This was working for me the first 35 minutes, but then I missed 5 by a bit, and did some stupid things on the way to 7.  Still in the game, but you really shouldn't handicap yourself by going inefficiently to controls.  I was really enjoying the running out there, just nice clean dirt, no rocks, no brambles, and it felt fast.  I started going to 14 after 12 accidentally, and that cost me some minutes, but in the end those minutes wouldn't have netted me 2nd place, and I was firmly in 3rd by the time I cruised into the finish, a minute clear of the Belgian runner in 4th, but six minutes behind Katarina and nine behind Louise.  Yep, there's some room for improvement... but I'm happy with my run, overall.

In the end, I can't complain about three podiums in three days. This is a big improvement, and I am relatively happy with the results. It is nice to see that there are some low-hanging fruits for me to fix with my orienteering, and that the distance running stuff seems to be paying off in the forest as well as on trails. I can't wait to test myself again in the US Classic Championships this coming weekend!

A crown of clover.

Sometimes it's cathartic to actually write out excessive notes on the course as a post review.

There were burrs.  These things stick to you and are nearly impossible to get off; they also give you terrible skin rashes from rubbing against your legs over and over.  Anna seemed proud of hers, though. The best way to remove them from your clothes is with an old credit card, just scraping them off.  Yuck.  Better than greenbriar, maybe.

The Boston crew of elite women orienteers at a scenic view stop along the way home... never seen the Canadian side of the falls before!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hudson Highlander

I never got around to writing about the Highlander on here.  It happened.  I finished.  I'd never done it before.  That's a heck of a race, and it kicked my butt.  I wrote up a race review for Inov-8, so you can read that one here.  Being the weekend after the 50k, my legs weren't too recovered, and I struggled getting into the right mindset for the race.  In the end, it was a beautiful day, and I hope I get the chance to run that race again! 

Splits are up, and reveal what I already knew; that I ran slowly and steadily the whole way through.  These two long races gave me a bit of base to work with for the fall, but also made me a bit more tired than I'd expected.  Need to bring back more long runs into my training! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pisgah 50k

I have been doing more running this summer than in past years, in part because I was feeling a bit burned by orienteering after Worlds, and I just wanted to put one foot in front of the other.  Running seemed like fun, so I kept doing it.  And then I did a race, and that was fun, so I looked for more races, and did those, and they kept getting longer and longer, through no fault of my own, and somehow, that's how I found myself on the start line of the Pisgah 50k.  I've never done an ultramarathon before, heck, I've never done a marathon before, and to date I think my longest run was probably the 18 miles I did two weeks ago on the Wapack.  I really don't know why I thought it would be a good idea to run this race, but the week before, I started telling people I was going to do it, and at that point, well, you don't have much choice if you give a hoot about your pride.

So, the alarm went off at some ungodly hour, I piled a bunch of gels and shoes and stuff into a bag, and drove to the southwest corner of NH, at the Pisgah State Forest.  Paid some money, got a bib, promptly forgot bib in car, created a duct tape handle on a waterbottle, stuffed some gels down my bra, double knotted my Inov-8 shoes and stood on the start line with about 200 other crazy folk.  The weather was gorgeous, cool and sunny and dry, and I was actually pretty excited to spend the next few hours running.

I ran into Kelsey Allen within a mile or two, last year's winner and general mountain woman of awesomeness.  We started chatting, and discovered that both of us wanted to enjoy the day and not suffer too badly until the end, so we chilled out as we cruised down a trail covered in pine needles, winding its way along some high-elevation marshes.  This part was cool, because you kept passing these linear marshes, that really gave a sense of *going* somewhere.  Eventually we hit the first aid station, at 8.1mi, and we were right on target for a 5h finish.  I know this, because I spent some time in the car writing down the splits for a 5h finish on the back of a trail map with the race course highlighted, that I was carrying along for entertainment.  Surprise, I'm an orienteering nerd.

We also got a split that the lady in first was 6 minutes ahead of us.  This is a lot of time, when you've only gone 8 miles.  But, neither Kelsey nor I felt like changing anything about our pacing, so we just kept on keeping on, hiking the steeper uphills and dancing the downhills.  Apparently we were better at the downhills than the leading lady, because we made contact just after the second aid station, around 14mi or 15mi.  Kelsey had picked up the pace a bit at this point, and I forced myself to keep up, even though it felt harder than I necessarily wanted to go.  I figured I just had to keep up until about 20mi, and hopefully we would have put enough space between us and this other woman that I'd hang on to 2nd.  But the trail kept being beautiful, and after the aid station at 17mi, we climbed up Pisgah Mt, which was also covered in mature hemlocks and had some bare granite slabs on top with blueberries (but no fruit, bummer), and some great views of Monadnock.  And then a ripper downhill!  I should mention that Kelsey and I are probably some of the best downhill runners on the circuit these days, especially when we're pushing each other down something rocky and technical.

We picked off a few more men, and then cruised into the aid station at 20mi, ready for a loop around Kilburn Pond.  This involved another technical downhill, with more rocks and more loose rocks, and I was definitely getting tired.  My hamstrings and my butt could tell I'd been cruising the downhills, and they were like, duuuude, you haven't trained us, can you please just stop??  Eventually we hit a bridge and turned back uphill, and Kelsey was running and I knew I couldn't, so I backed off and told her I'd see her at the finish.  I kept moving, letting the hips swing and the feet dance, but the intensity was a notch lower and this felt more comfortable.  The trail climbed for a few miles, back toward the aid station, and as we approached the aid I saw Kelsey's white singlet through the trees.  I'd made contact by the time we hit it, and she was hitting a rough patch, getting hungry and tired.

We left the aid at 25.4mi together, but on the next downhill I pulled away, and as I started climbing up Dave's hill or something like that, I knew this was it, 10km left and they might not be pretty, but I had to keep the pace up, so Kelsey didn't catch me once the food she'd just consumed started working for her.  I was still right on pace for a 5h finish, but only if I kept running 6min/km, and this jogging pace felt a lot harder than I had hoped.  I pulled in another guy or two, and then we started a long downhill slog on newly-logged logging roads, that were muddy and steep, and my legs were pretty done.  I kept expecting to see the aid station at 28.6mi, but apparently that wasn't there, because the road was washed out to get to it, so that was playing mind games with myself.  45min and I haven't gone 3mi yet? uh oh!

I finally exited the logging area and hit a real road, where there was a truck with gallons of gatorade and water and two racers sitting on the ground guzzling that gatorade (I was so glad not to be in that position, of a hardcore bonk only 2 miles from the finish!).  Keep plugging, keep plugging, only a mile or two of road and then I can sit down!  One little bitch of a hill, but eventually I came to an intersection and saw a finish chute to my right.  Wooo!  I staggered down the chute barely under 5h, in 4:59:38.  That was cutting it a little close.  But, I had won, so that was pretty darn awesome.  Kelsey came in maybe 10min later, with a smile on her face, so I knew it had been a good day despite the bonk.  The weather made this a fantastic day for a run, and the trails were beautiful and soft; I couldn't have asked for a better venue to run 50 km.  The aid stations were well-stocked and manned by friendly folk, course was well marked, and overall, this was a top notch production of a race.  Thanks to all who made it happen!

I won a basket o' goodies and a pie!  This photo amuses me, because the guy who won looks like a runner, while I sort of look like a miniature skier pretending to be a runner =)

Tastes like victory!

This was my impromptu water bottle carrier.  Easier than a thing around my waist, messing with my stomach.  It worked well, and I even designed a little pocket in there!

The TrailRoc236 shoes done me good.  Lots of mud, but they had fantastic grip on the mud, the rocks, the roots, and the bridges, while fitting beautifully and feeling comfortable.  A fine mesh on the front meant that after running through mud puddles, the water drained out very quickly, and none of the mud went in.  Though my socks were fantastically muddy from when I had gone in over my ankles.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wapack Trail Race

I've run the Wapack trail a few times, since the CSU ski camp uses it for one of our long OD runs, but I've never done the race.  I'd certainly heard Rob talk about it, and figured I may as well try it out this year, since I've been doing a bunch of these trail races lately.  I convinced Sharon to join me, because friends always make for more fun, even though she claimed she hadn't been running at all.  Evil influence that I am... Anyway, the day dawned hot and sticky, with a dew point nearly equal to the temperature, but it refused to rain.  This meant that the rocks were slimy with humidity, and I was badly affected by the humidity on the uphills, just unable to keep myself cool. From the start, it felt like my legs were made of lead.  I figured it would be a race about heat management, but didn't anticipate how much the humidity would destroy me.

On the line, I saw that Kelsey Allen was there, and a few other ladies who looked serious. Figuring that you either go big or go home, I decided to start with Kelsey and see what happened. We all pranced down the first hills through the ski area merrily, but it quickly became apparent to me that I couldn't go Kelsey's pace on the uphills.  I got passed by a bunch of men up that first climb to Barret Mt, as I slowed down to what felt like overdistance pace, and still my legs just weren't responding, but I was hopeful that they'd wake up soon. Over the flat crests and then we had the first descent, where I reeled in a bunch of guys and a loose group formed of me, a talkative guy, two guys who were running it "for fun" together, and a red headed kid in Inov-8s who kept sprinting ahead and then losing the trail. The trail isn't very well marked, but I've run this ridge enough at ski camp to know where to go, so that wasn't too much of a problem. The rocks, slick and slimy with moisture, made for really treacherous footing. I was still the fastest downhiller in my group, but I had to be cautious, because the rocks did not offer good grip today.  My X-Talons were good, but they are fantastic on dry rocks, so "good" is disappointing.  They do have the advantage of a narrow fit, which makes for an excellent close feeling when scampering down hills!

I dropped my group on the downhill to Binney Pond, and figured that maybe now my legs had woken up and I could put down some faster miles. The opposite was true. Every step took work. The next three miles were along wide logging roads with good footing that trended upwards. More guys streaked by me, and there wasn't much I could do to go with them, though I used each one as an excuse to lengthen my stride and fall into the hill a little more. I was starting to pray for the top of Watatic, praying to see some of the leading guys coming back at me, meaning the turn-around was night. Eventually, the leaders went by, and I headed into Mt. Watatic's steep and rocky descent, carefully careening down the hill past hoards of regular folks out for a weekend hike.  I saw Kelsey on her way up, comfortable around 10-13th place, and I knew that unless she had a more horrible day than me, I wouldn't be seeing her again.

I hit the turn-around, took some water and food for the road, and started climbing back up. This is where the problem of dead legs really started to hit home. There's a lot of climbing left in the next 9 miles. So, I went my own pace, letting the men go, listening to the wheezing and trying to keep it controlled. At the top I set myself to the task of crushing those gradually downhill miles, pulling in a runner or two along the way. I passed Sharon, coming the other way, happily hiking with plenty of folks behind her, and that cheered me up. Finally I hit the aid station, and knew I only had a painful 5.4mi left to the finish, and some refreshing watermelon.  I can't tell you how motivating the thought of watermelon was to me at that point!

The sun was starting to come out, but unfortunately not enough to lift the humidity from the rocks, only enough to make it uncomfortably hot anywhere not under the canopy. I would have killed for a breeze! I went through over half my bottle on the climb back to the ridge, not good. But, I could see a guy in a yellow shirt dying ahead of me, and I knew a guy in a red shirt was ahead of him somewhere, so I had my rabbits. My legs were terrible on these climbs, just not responsive at all. Not cramping, just tired. I blame the humidity. I passed yellow-shirt somewhere on New Ipswich Mt, and red-shirt just beyond, but Barrett Mt. has a gazillion and a half false summits, and these were killing me. I had an eye on my watch - I'd been hoping for 3:10, 3:20 on the outside, and 3:29 as a real your-day-was-shit sort of time, because that's Rob Bradlee's last time, and beating Rob should always be a goal. Things weren't looking good, though. My legs were tired enough that by the time I finally started the descent, I just didn't care anymore. The last mile felt like four miles, and I had to play horrible, terrible, mind games with myself to convince myself to keep running all the way back to the finish. "If you run for 90 strides, you're allowed to walk for 30". And so on. I was truly defeated by the humidity. Ugh.

The winning time was 9min slower this year. Kelsey's time was 16min slower. I'll be back, because that's a pretty fantastic race.  Hopefully the weather cooperates next time!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Greylock, and a corn maze

Last weekend, the Jospe pack gathered on top of Mt. Greylock for a quick weekend vacation.  It was pretty awesome, involving some hiking, some biking, and a trip to Sunderland for the corn maze o'.  A nice change of pace in a beautiful setting.  I enjoyed our hike, but my feet were twitching to run those trails.  Next year.  We had an awesome weekend of low humidity and beautiful views, and it was fun to look across the valley and see the Hoosac ridge, where I'd raced the weekend before. 

Looking north toward Vermont, from the AT.

By the powerline cut, which is apparently a ski trail.  It's steep!

This is the visitor center on top of the mountain, that also has some rooms in it you can rent out.  Totally acceptable accommodation!
So then the corn maze - my corn maze orienteering skills really need some improvement.  Ed beat me three for three, and I made many, many mistakes.  At least the rest of the family appeared to be having fun!

 I blame my poor result in the night-o on an excessive amount of barbecue consume directly beforehand.  Buffets are evil!  but delicious...