Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Moreau Lake training camp

During the US orienteering champs last month, Hannah, Ali and I were scheming how to get back together to train somewhere awesome that somewhat replicates Scandinavian terrain, before the World Champs.  Moreau Lake State Park comes pretty close to the knobbles and bobbles and low-relief terrain over there, apparently, so we went ahead and scheduled a training camp, put out the word, and attempted to get ourselves organized enough to provide a great training experience.  The weather cooperated, and it was thankfully cool, breezy, and sunny, making for a really fun weekend of training, camping, and socializing. 

 I brought my camera up to the plateau, to take some photos, but it's tough to make the forest look as gorgeous on film as it was in real life.  We had some local folks show up on each day, which is fun, but requires a bit more coordination.

I told Will (on the US junior team) to dash through the woods as an orienteering model.  I sort of like this photo, he's moving so fast the terrain behind him is blurry!  

The major drawback to this map is that the good parts are all at the top of a 250m climb up to a plateau.  It's a nice hike, though steep at times, but you just don't feel like doing that hike more than once or twice, so by my fourth time up the hill, I was about ready to be done.  I think that increased fatigue levels, despite not having too many super long training exercises.  The camp was exactly what I had hoped for in terms of training - high intensity, head-to-head, high-stress race simulations.  Important stuff when your sport is 50% mental; things you just can't practice when you're training alone.

Sunday's crew (missing a few who were still out in the forest), after the first training.  We didn't *plan* to all wear US Team gear, it just happened that way.  The hikers who were picnicking on the same look-out were intrigued by the whole idea of orienteering, but I think were more amused that we all matched.

The weekend started with a major executive function failure on my part, as I left all the training camp supplies (maps, controls, streamers, control descriptions...) at home, and didn't realize until we reached Albany.  Um, guys? Now what? Luckily, Ian hadn't left Boston yet, so could pick up the maps from Ed, who had managed to put a copy of the maps online so that we could print the Friday maps at an OfficeMax, so it wasn't a complete disaster, but for a while it was looking like things were heading in that direction.  Maps are one of those crucial, can't-do-it-without-them pieces to orienteering... and of course, instead of running the night-o, my headlamp broke.  It just wasn't fated to happen.

Saturday and Sunday were great, though!  Camping at a state park really gives you a look into a different demographic than I usually associate with, and honestly, I was happy to spend most of my time up on the plateau rather than at the beach, but it sure was nice to be able to go swimming at the end of each day.  Saturday morning we started by re-running the brown courses from the middle distance champs last month.  None of the runners there had run brown last month - we had all done red or blue - so it was a new course, and they were just the right length to have enough oomph to do two race efforts in a row, with a short break between.

The afternoon started with a partner simplification exercise, where you run with a partner, and the person in front runs to the control using only his memory of the route, while the person behind follows along and simplifies and memorizes the route to the next control. Once at the control, you hand off the map and switch roles. It's a really great exercise to force you to simplify the terrain, which on Moreau's plateau, is no easy task, and it also forces you to read the map as you run through terrain at a slightly faster pace than usual, since the person in front tends to run faster if they aren't reading a map. I teamed up with two junior boys, since we were an odd number, and Will did his legs alone, while I ran my memory legs at the same time as Nathan, sort of keeping tabs on him since he's a bit less experienced. Thankfully, we always chose to go the same way!

After the partner training, I took a stab at the marsh training that Neil had designed for me, to practice running straight through crappy terrain, but the marshes were just too wet for me to run through, and I was getting tired, so I called it quits and headed down the mountain for a swim and a tasty spaghetti dinner courtesy of Ken.

Sunday morning's training was "o'tervals" - orienteering intervals. We ran these in two groups, and the idea was to take 3-4 designated controls above race pace, then regroup at the last one and recover on the way to the next start. My group separated ourselves by 30s for the starts, so you couldn't see the person you were chasing until you had truly made up some ground. This was great fun, and I navigated really well and nailed the workout, which always feels good. I need to remember that feeling for when I get to Finland!

After a picnic on the lookout, it was time for the final exercise of the weekend, a control-pick, and then time to pick up all the flags we'd put out in the forest. I was happy to move a little slower through the terrain, assimilating what I had learned over the weekend, applying the good practices and full confidence, but happier yet to get back to the campground and take a shower! The weekend was capped off with happy when Ali and I got a chance to meet up with Jess and Graham for dinner in Albany, as they headed west and we headed east. Perfect!

Now I just need to keep that feeling of confidence and aggressive running!  One more week of training and the taper can begin... 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Inov-8 shoes!

I'm not sure if I've made a formal announcement on here, yet, but in some very exciting news, this year I am sponsored by Inov-8!  I have been running in their X-Talon212s for a long time, and I really do think that those are the best sprint orienteering shoes out there, so I was definitely already drinking whatever koolaid they had to offer when the sponsorship came through!  Sometimes it pays off to ask for help from the brands you like best!

Amy Lane (member of Team Giggles at Raid the Hammer last year) had put me in contact with the Inov-8 sponsor folks, and I am so glad that she did!  Inov-8 makes a wide range of shoes, specializing in trail and off-trail shoes, and got started in the UK, where they have this awesome-sounding sport called fell running, and you need good grippy shoes for that.  They've expanded, and they sponsor a slew of international orienteers, so I am feeling quite honored to be among those elite ranks!

So, lately I've been testing out all sorts of different shoes, some for orienteering, and some for straight-up trail running.  I still haven't found anything I like better than the X-Talon212, though the EVEN LIGHTER X-Talon190 is pretty sweet.  I'll post some shoe reviews soon; the trouble with eight new pair of shoes is that it takes a long time for me to run enough miles to review all of them!  The shoes pictured above are the heavy-duty studded shoes, the Oroc340s, and very importantly, they have CONTOURS on the side!  squeee!

Check out those lugs.  We're talkin' serious muddin'.

Less aggressive lugs on the 212s, but so perfect in so many ways.

Especially when paired with bright socks!

One of the things I'm really liking about Inov-8's shoes is that they make it real easy to understand what you're buying.  First, you choose your category, which is quite simple.  On road, off road, or off trail.  That determines the general purpose of the shoe.  Then you choose your fit - natural, endurance, or precision (with women's fit available for some shoes; basically that just means a narrower heel).  The precision fit is the narrowest, and most of the off-trail shoes are in this category, because you don't want your foot sliding around in the shoe on uneven ground.  Endurance is the widest fit, so your foot has room to expand over long races.  The natural fit is slightly shorter in the toe box, and also a little wider in the toes.  

Once you've chosen your fit, there are a variety of sole materials to choose from, ranging from obscenely sticky (that would be the bottom of the X-Talons) to much harder and more appropriate for road running.  Each shoe is listed with a little bar chart, rating that shoe in soft, hard, and loose conditions.  Their marketing folks are goooood.

Then there's the midsole.  Inov-8 follows a pretty minimalist philosophy, which I totally agree with, especially for orienteering shoes, and the way they categorize this is by the weight of the shoe and the amount of drop from heel to toe.  Their most supportive shoes have 9mm of heel drop, indicated by 3 arrows carved into the heel of the shoe.  Then they've got 6mm drop shoes (2 arrows), 3mm drop (1 arrow), and zero-drop (no arrows).  Again, beautifully simple to understand.  A zero-drop shoe really feels like being barefoot, so you do have to work up to that one, just a warning.  I'm happy in the 1- and 2-arrow models; the 3-arrow shoes feel a little clunky to me.

Finally, there's the weight!  This one's simple - the lower the number after the name of the shoe, the lighter the shoe.  So, the Oroc340 is heavier than the Roclite275, which is heavier than the Trailroc236, etc.  The number unit is grams.

If you made it through all that technical stuff, you can read some of the race reports I've written for the Team Inov-8 blog - report on the 7-sisters race, and a report on the US orienteering champs.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Breakheart adventure-o and another 3k

I went rollerskiing last weekend. The whole way around Littleton! This was probably the latest I've waited to start rollerskiing in a few years - usually I get out at least once or twice during May.  Unfortunately, the elbow is still not super happy after last season's abuse, so I figure, why push it.  But, a nice hot day at Littleton is hard to resist, and I didn't have anything else on my plate for the weekend.  I actually enjoyed myself!  And the elbow was fine, though I certainly didn't use my arms much. 

After, Olga and I were hoping to go strawberry picking, but that didn't work out, and we found a town fair in Hudson instead.  With sprinklers!  It was time well spent, I'm glad we stopped.

Also, I found a mini train.  I showed this photo to Ed, whose response was "don't you realize you're surrounded by 8-yo kids?"  oops.

Sunday was a US junior orienteering team fundraiser race at Breakheart Reservation, up in Saugus, so we went up there to partake in the fun.  It was hot, 90+ degrees, and sunny, but at least there was a breeze, so if you sat in the shade, life was bearable.  Running was tough, but at least it was in the forest.  The format of the race was a score-o, meaning you could get the controls in any order you wanted, and different controls were worth different amounts of points.  I decided that it would totally be possible to get all the controls, even though it was hot, and planned a route that involved all three water stops, also planning to walk up all the uphills.  I ended up being one of two people who cleared the course, and I only did it with 10min to spare, but, importantly, I was the faster of the two people to clear the course =).  Winner!  But not much competition today.

Standing at the start, we got a short amount of time to plan a route. "ooh, Ed, we should go this way!" "we? you're doing this on your own if you want to get all the controls!"

The heat wave broke on Monday, thankfully, as Tuesday was the first 3000m time trial for CSU.  I figured I'd join them, and see if I could improve on the last 3k that I'd run three weeks ago.  My goal for the year is 11:20, so after my 11:40 three weeks ago, I have some seconds to shave.   There was a good crowd of skiers, and I determined not to start too fast.  Changing into a lighter pair of shoes (an old pair of X-Talon212s, from Inov-8), I did some strides and realized I had wings on my feet today.  What a feeling!  Those days are few and far between, and I was pumped to be doing a race effort on a good day.  I managed to keep the start under control, and let some skiers drift away from me, holding a steady pace around 91s laps.  I rolled through the mile in 6:03, feeling quite good (maybe I should race a mile one of these days, see how it goes), and at 2k I had picked off two of my skiers, with a speedy J2 still ahead.  Things were starting to hurt with 800 to go, and I focused on my technique, trying to hold it together, pick up the pace, and eventually I crossed the line in 11:19, a huge new PR for me, and accomplishing my time goal for this race for this year!  Woo!