Tuesday, April 30, 2013

West Point A meet

The annual A-meet at West Point was slightly different this year from previous years, because they decided to do two shorter races each day, rather than a day of shorter races and then an epically difficult and long race on the second day.  I sort of missed the long race, but a lot of people were pretty psyched about the shorter races!

It's always fun to be at the first A meet of the season, and catch up with everyone you haven't seen all winter.  Hi friends!

The first race was a middle distance affair, at the Camp Buckner map.  The courses weren't very inspired, mostly a matter of you-just-have-to-get-there, following fairly linear features.  Of course, that didn't keep me from losing some time.  I lost the most on the first control, when I elected not to check out the number on a control that was near where I thought mine should have been, but my control was supposed to be on a boulder.  That control was on nothing of note.  Turns out, that was actually my control, and clearly the boulder-fairies had come during the night and removed the mapped boulder, but I ran to the top of the hill and back before punching.  There goes 2 minutes.

I was pretty pissed after this, and tried to run faster, but my gimpy calves were having one of their bad days, and attempting to blow up.  This made the uphills pretty difficult, and after the climb from 3-4-5, my splits showed that I made a mistake on 6, that's how slowly I was going attempting to let my calves recover.  They didn't really recover, but at least the course tilted downhill, so I could just sort of fall/roll downhill, with less burning in my calves and less panting.  I made another goof in the circle at #9, losing about a minute, but then I was clean to the end, attempting to pick up the pace, and failing miserably.  It might have been a more enjoyable course if I'd felt better physically, but the whole thing was tainted by losing that much time on #1 because they put a control on a feature that shouldn't have been mapped because it was too small.  People are supposed to vet these courses for quality before the meet, guys...


So after a few hours of basking in the sun, it was time for race #2, a sprint at Camp Buckner.  I did a good warmup, attempting to shake out my tight calves, and while they were mostly fine on the paved parts, things were bad in the woods.  My race was clean, and I managed to post some time in level 5 on the heartrate graph, so clearly I was pushing hard, but my splits got much worse on the parts of the course that were in the forest.  The soft terrain was causing my calves to seize up again, and I couldn't bash through the terrain how I wanted.  Hannah ended up edging me by 7 seconds in this race, but this is her home terrain, and to be fair she took better routes on three of the controls that I just didn't see.  A Swedish girl beat all of us by nearly a minute, so clearly there is some speed to be gained, still.  Hopefully I can blame my lack of speed on my misbehaving calves - I was in 3rd (including menfolk) at the end of the paved running bits, but slipped to 8th after the forest sections.  Time to get those calves to recover!


We spent the night at Ali's grandma's house near Peekskill, and then were in the base itself for Sunday's races.  The morning race was a middle distance at the ski slope, with quite a bit of advertised climb.  I was starting 2min ahead of Greg Balter, an M45 who I am attempting to beat, and unfortunately, he caught me by #7.  Apparently I hadn't been quite so clean on the first part as I'd thought!  I was in a different pair of shoes today, with metal spikes and bigger lugs, and that helped a bit with my calves, but I still had no pep, and was struggling mightily on the climbs.  Running with Greg, we both messed up #10, missing it by about a minute or so, and though I relocated faster and got there first, he then got the advantage of running me down for the rest of the course, able to see me and take better route choices.


My result was better, this time, but Hannah beat me today by more than I beat her yesterday, so she took first for the middle distance combined award.  I would have needed better legs to do better in the results; the navigation was not the limiting factor.  Looking at the splits, I definitely picked up the pace once Greg caught me, so I guess I got a boost, there.

By now I was pretty whipped.  My calves felt like blocks of wood, and the rest of my legs were lead.  One more race.  I needed some caffeine, but the junior fundraiser concession stand had no such thing, so I had some pepsi instead (bleurgh), which didn't give me the kick I needed and the bubbles bothered my stomach.  By now it was hot; first hot day of the spring, and I was having trouble motivating myself for the final, hilly, sprint.

This is the start location for the last race - Flirtation walk, apparently closed to the public most of the time.

(but, it was a gorgeous day!  Kseniya took a shot of Hannah and I taking in the view)

As you might expect, going into a race with a blah attitude does not lead to stellar results.  I missed #2 to the tune of 3 minutes, just going round and round the control circle and unable to find the damn flag.  This made me really angry, so I had a few good splits in there, but I also messed up 4, going to the wrong cliff, and 8, trying to cut through the reentrant when running around on the path would have been much smarter.  Then we were finally out of the woods, and my legs cooperated again, and I started spiking controls, but I missed a possible route to 11 that would have saved me 40s, mostly because of bad printing - looking at the splits, only two people got that choice right, so clearly it wasn't all that obvious.  One of those people was Hannah, who went here for school.  Anyway, things were fine on the campus, and I was running confidently and aggressively, but I really started sucking wind on the climb up the stairs to the final controls.


I got my a** handed to me in that sprint, mostly because of my miss on 2, so ended up 5th.  Combined, I was 4th in the sprint awards.  I was psyched that there were so many competitive women racing this weekend; it made things super fun!  Usually we have to compare ourselves to the guys, for lack of female competition, so this was great.  I can't wait for Team Trials, in two weeks!
Somehow, Erin convinced all the juniors (+ Hannah and me) that it was a good idea to do a core workout after the sprint.  Ed chose to take this time to take a nap.  Much smarter!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Billygoat

The Billygoat is one of my favorite orienteering races, for many reasons, not least of which is the tradition that the control codes are the initials from last year's results - i.e. the 6th control will have the initials of whoever finished 6th last year.  It is always a good goal to try and finish high enough that your initials will end up on a control next year.  Generally the top 20 is good enough for this, but it varies, and finishing in the top 20 is highly dependent on who shows up for the top men.  The Billygoat is a silly race; you're allowed to skip a control, you're allowed to follow people, you can't take yourself too seriously; at the same time, there's some prestige to this race.  You only get the teeshirt if you finish under the 3.5hr cut-off, and then you wear that thing with pride.

Anyway, this year, some of the top ladies weren't in town, with Sam in Sweden and Ali in Ohio, and a bunch of Canadians didn't bother to make the trek down to Earl's Trails, in Amherst.  The day dawned chillier than expected, but this was good, because I'm certainly not used to the heat, and a long hard run with lots of hills on the first hot day of the year would be pure misery.  My goal for the race was to finish in the top 20 overall, but more importantly, my nemesis for the race (unbeknownst to him) was Greg Balter, a crafty old Russian goat in the M45 category, who beats me a lot more than I beat him (We're 2 and 6 for last year, if anyone were keeping score).  My plan was to run my own race, but definitely keep tabs on where Greg was going, see if I could pick up any tricks, and outrun him at the end if I couldn't outsmart him. 

The first control is a long leg, with some good route choices along the way, and I decided that I wanted to go around to the left, staying high and running on trails where possible.  Everyone starts running, and it becomes immediately clear that my route up the trail is unique enough that I'm doing it alone.  Damn.  Oh well, trust yourself, and keep running hard!  Bummer, there goes my plan to run with Greg.  I ran aggressively, and passed Tiivo, a junior, and Anna, one of my training buddies, on the way, clearly the second half of my route wasn't too dumb, but the first half had added some distance.  I got to the control just after a group being driven by Tim P and Nadim A, with some West Point cadets and Ben G in tow, and that gave me a good idea of how much time I'd lost - I was guessing somewhere between 2-5 minutes on the lead pack.


(click on the map for a bigger version, then click the map to toggle the route on or off)

I didn't want to be running with Tim's pack -  I thought I could go faster than that.  So I got to the front of the pack and made a few attacks, all of which failed, because I was running faster than I could orienteer, and was making mistakes to each control, so everybody would catch up.  By now I'd burned a few matches, and knew I had to slow down, but I really wanted to beat these people, so I decided that I would skip #6, and save myself some climb, and hopefully leapfrog onto a faster-moving group.  This strategy worked, and I recovered enough cruising down the hill to 7 that I could think again.  As I left 7, Greg Balter and Ted Good punched it, so I was psyched.  Back to plan A!  Even though I had already skipped and Greg hadn't, at least I could run with him for a bit.

The next few controls were pretty good; it's always easier to run in a pack, and we had some cadets for company, too.  But on the climb to 11, I discovered that I had indeed burned too many matches early on, and the fatigue started to accumulate.  Damn.  Greg pulled away up the last climb, and that was it, now I was dropped.  I spent the next few controls doing a lot of walking on the uphills, and it definitely felt like there were a lot of uphills, but finally I got to the top of the map, and was facing a couple downhill controls.  14-15-16-17-18 were all sort of zig-zaggy, and I had to keep reminding myself to push, because there would be folks behind me who hadn't skipped yet, and might catch back up that way.  My fears were well-founded, because Ted caught back up as I was approaching 18, having skipped 16 or 17.  Time to turn the legs and brain up to the next level!

I was feeling pretty good now that I'd recovered from pushing too hard in the beginning, and I started to push harder again, but unfortunately, I again outran my ability to navigate, and made a mistake at both #20 and 21.  The mistake at 21 was bad enough that Ted was able to catch up and get ahead of me, but thankfully I found more oomph in my legs, and chased him down and passed him on 22 and 23.  I maintained my lead to the finish, good enough for 16th place, 21min behind Wyatt, who won the race, but 21min ahead of the next female finisher, Elina.  Greg finished 4.5min up on me, some of which he certainly made up in the skip, but most of which was due to just running faster and cleaner.  Next time, I will be a lot less sloppy in my orienteering. 

Yet another reason to love the Billygoat is that the trophy is not yours to keep - the winners sign the back, and then you have to bring the trophy to next year's Billygoat, to pass on to whoever wins the next Billygoat.  Hopefully I can do it again!

Friday, April 19, 2013

April O' week

I decided that one of my weaknesses in orienteering, compared to people who live in a country that actually does this sport, is that I don't spend enough time in terrain or looking at maps.  Since I can't actually take multiple training camp weeks every year, I figured maybe this spring I'd try a once-monthly stay-at-home training camp, fondly referred to as "O' week".  How hard could it be?

Well, March's O' week didn't quite go as I'd hoped - it was too big a jump in running miles straight off of ski season, even though those miles were soft and squishy, and I ended the week with a mild calf strain.  Thankfully, I left wisdom dictate my actions and took a day off, but as a result, it was a six day week.  It was a nice kick-start to my orienteering, though, and I was feeling confident in the forests.

April O' week started with a weekend of local training.  Normally I start my week (mentally) on a Monday, but somehow these O' weeks have been kicked off with a training camp, so far.  So last Saturday, I headed to Pawtuckaway, with Ian, Izzy, and Dave, and we did a solid 3hr day in the woods, on a truly glorious early spring day.  No bugs!

We started with a corridor training:

I only blatantly left the corridor once, and had two mega mistakes when I lost contact with the map.

Next up was a window training, which is an excellent exercise working on relocation, distance estimation, and direction.

The last exercise was a control pick, and I had to cut things a little short to make it back in time:

Sunday, Giacomo and Brendan hosted a one-day training camp at the Fells, and we had a really decent attendance, with maybe 30-40 people coming by for the morning activities. I helped put out a couple extra streamers, and then started out on the line-o. It was neat to see so many people out in the woods, mostly looking around trying to puzzle things out, but otherwise looking like they were having a good time. Cool! My line-o went pretty well, though I did lose the line once or twice. After that, I did the "o'tervals" session, which was meant to be an orienteering interval session. Again, I made two really bad mistakes, but I had a great time out there, occasionally racing Kristin Hall. Upon getting back from that, I started out on the control pick, but discovered that actually I was tired and hungry, so I gave up on that idea and ate lunch instead. Post lunch was a relay, and Ed and I teamed up. This was fun, and definitely a good time to be out in the woods with so many other people!

Above, left to right: Line-o (follow the line), interval session, control pick, relay leg 1, relay leg 2.

With the weekend over, I decided that even O' week deserves a rest day, and worked from home to avoid the general chaos of the Boston Marathon. I spectated a little on Heartbreak hill, then went home and heard the terrible news about the bombing at the finish. Of all places to kill and maim people, the finish of a marathon is the most cruel, and the place you'll find the most resilience. I've read so many stories of bravery and heroism, large and small, from people near that finish line. I've heard the stories of people who were nearly blown up, but for the wall of bodies taking the blast instead. I've heard the stories of "well I would have been right there, but...". It's sickening, but if there is any city that will rebound, it's Boston. This race, this city - as tragic as those deaths are, people will be back to run this race again. People are already out and about again, driving like massholes and living their lives. We haven't forgotten, we haven't moved on, but we won't let the selfish act of a crazy idiot hold us down.

Geez, I started thinking about that guy with his legs blown off, and I'm not sure I want to write about o' week anymore.

Tuesday is workout day, so that meant hills at Prospect Hill park.  It was a cool exercise, with a long leg up the hill, and then some short legs coming back down the hill to stress your brain while in oxygen debt.  I ran myself thoroughly out of oomph, then got on my bike and headed to work.

Wednesday I was working at home again, since everyone else in the office was out and about or working at home, and that meant I could take a loooong lunch break, heading back into the Fells for some training exercises that Boris had designed.

Thursday was the first CSU park-o of the year! I was excited, even though it was on a boring map, in Danehy Park. I was feeling pretty good and moving pretty well, until I mis-read the clue sheet, and navigated my way to the wrong side of an uncrossable fence. This was a 2.5min mistake, which isn't actually acceptable in a 14min race. Oops.

One final day in O' week, and I jogged over to Hammond Pond on Friday morning to do a control pick, designed by Alexei, before catching the T to work. Of course, just as I was finishing that up, my phone starts ringing, and apparently, I was supposed to check the news before going out, because the city is in lockdown, and there's a manhunt going on in Watertown. Eep! I scurried home, and thankfully didn't run into any crazy armed wackos.

Tomorrow is the Speedygoat, out in Amherst, and Sunday is the Billygoat, also in Amherst. I'm excited, because the Billygoat is one of the most awesome races ever! Hopefully all this orienteering this week will have sunk into my brain, and I do smart things and beat all the M45s.


Springtime means the ski season is over, I guess, and I got a chance to finish up and defend my masters thesis.  That went well, now I just need to make some edits and get the committee to sign off on it.  I figured proper celebration would involve a long trail run (7 sisters, anyone?), and then I boogied up to Vermont, where Ed was impatiently waiting for me so we could go do some skiing.

Ed carried my skis for me, which is the true mark of a gentleman.  Or maybe it was to make up for the fact that I was on the world's crappiest pair of snowshoes.  But at that point, the crust was starting to soften, so snowshoes were definitely the ticket.

Up to the top of Peabody, which is thankfully a small mountain, and then down through some sweet maple beech forests!

Then it's off to the sugarhouse, because springtime means maple syrup.  

Best liquor dispenser ever.

Doors were glowing red hot - that's a good fire!

Sunday wasn't much more restful, as I hit up the Danby road for one last ski of the season, then headed back to Boston in time to help Lori and Stephen with their orienteering meet, then arrived at the CSU end-of-season banquet just in time, and even showered!  

That's how springtime weekends should be spent.