Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Boston Sprint Camp and a skier adventure weekend

Ed and I pulled off the fourth year of Boston Sprint Camps two weekends ago. This is a fun event, usually very personal and interactive thanks to the small number of runners. Like the past few years, we had a little over 30 people, and the weather and vibes were great. We used three new orienteering maps - Cutler Park, Millennium Park, and Jamaica Pond - always fun to run on new places! Cutler was a double edged sword. It's a long walk, about a mile, to get down to the good terrain. But then, given the unproductive glacial geology going on down there, the forest is superb. People really enjoyed the course we did down there, despite the walk.

Sprint Camp started unofficially with the Thursday night park race at Moakley Park, in Boston. This was our final park race of the season, and most of CSU hung out afterward to have a potluck. Brendan from Inov-8 stopped by with a demo fleet of shoes, much to the enjoyment of the runners. We had a couple out-of-towners joining us for the Thursday race, and that was a nice ending of the season.

Inov-8 demos at our last park run at Moakley!

Sara Mae setting up the potluck

Race day shopping. Should have gotten fewer bananas and more m&ms.

Sprint Camp started officially on Friday with a day in Cambridge, doing a bunch of training exercises at Danehy Park before moving to Fresh Pond for the evening race. I only put one control in the middle of a patch of poison ivy... oops. Next time, I'll leave that one out. Lunch from Anna's Tacqueria, always delicious.

Saturday was out in the Newtons, starting with a "peg relay" in Nahanton Park. Mass start, but some controls have pieces of surveyor's tape looped on. If you get there and there is still a tape, you take it and run a "bonus loop," which serves the purpose of constantly consolidating the pack, making for lots of head-to-head racing. So much fun!

Izzy in to the first peg control

Keegan leading the whole race, taking a streamer to go run some bonus controls

Izzy leading Bridget, Kristin, and Marie

Tori leading a pack in to the first "peg" control

How to exit a trail: no hesitations!

From there we headed down to Millennium Park, for some more training exercises and then an e-punched park race. Ed made me take out any legs that went straight up the hill, and that was a good move. We ate lunch from BrickFire pizza there, and everyone was pretty hungry by then.

The final race was down at Cutler, on the new map in the gorgeous woods. Despite the mosquitoes, I think everyone really enjoyed that race. We quickly hauled in controls, and then went home to prep for Sunday's bracket race.

Route choice - Tomas took the trail, Pam cut through the woods.

On Sunday, the Bermans stopped by to help us organize things. We were based in one location, but runners did six races in total, and each one had a different start and finish. We all marched out to the southernmost area together, and they ran the qualification race there. From the results of that, I slotted all the runners into eight heats of four, and they ran the first of five elimination heats. There's a big complicated bracket to explain it all, and we fell down by not having this thing printed out ahead of time. Next year. I think we actually managed to stick to the bracket and not screw anything up, which was a minor miracle considering I was basically sitting there with a pencil and a clipboard trying to interpret the basic results from the mini screen we were using in the field. Phew.

Huddling in the shade before the start of the qualification

Heat #2 under way!

One of the master heats starting out

Junior heat starting off. Read the map, THEN run

Ed manning download, in the field

Five heats later, everyone ran the final sprint, now in heats most closely matched, and it looked like a ton of fun. Everyone loves head-to-head racing, and boy did I wish I could jump in. I'll have to go back to the Seattle Adventure Running Tournament!

Lunch from the Noodle Barn, award pies, and then it was over. Quite the whirlwind, but thank god for such great hanging-around weather.

Adventure Weekend
Last weekend was the first CSU adventure weekend. We center this one around the Greylock mountain race, which I've raced the last few years. Unfortunately this year, I'm still recovering from my injury this spring, and didn't want to jump into the race, knowing that I have a hard time holding back when I'm wearing a bib. So the usual thing of "beat Alex's time and I'll buy your ice cream" had to get shifted to beating last year's time, which was a pretty soft one to beat.

One of THOSE days. Great pavement, perfect day to ski

I love these old roads up in the Berkshires. Maple trees lining the view of fields and forests, hills for days. 

The boys cruising past my favorite field of wildflowers

Sending it off a cliff in Adams

The crew up on Pine Cobble. Seven athletes, two grownups. Make that nine athletes, seven of them in highschool. 

Tunnel of green, line of runners.

Calm morning on what ended up being a hot day. Kind of glad I wasn't racing.

Love this

Despite lots of fun on Saturday, including a very hilly rollerski and a bonus hike up Pine Cobble, five skiers braved the start line, ready for the longest race of their lives so far. They all made it around, some with smiles, some with blisters, all agreeing that it was the best sort of Type II fun they've ever had, with at least one kid admitting to having a lot of Type I fun, too. Two boys earned free ice cream, and everyone felt very proud of themselves. Good stuff!

Looking forward to a weekend at home, now...

Friday, June 15, 2018

Unstarted races

May had promised to be this great month of racing. When I lined up the competitions in February, training was on track, and I was super psyched to get to the point of the season where the work is done and you're just reaping the rewards of being really, really, really fit.

If you've been reading this blog, you'll know that didn't go according to plan. What do you mean, I'm only human? So anyway, what with 7 Sisters, the Billygoat, the Sugarloaf marathon, and the Westchester County Challenge/Team Trials races already paid for and lodging/transport arranged, all that was left was for me to travel around to races and cheer on my friends. It could have been a lot worse; sitting at home moping. And there's still be time for a bit of a social life, such as it is for us.

Ed playing with Andrea over at Jess and Graham's house - "I don't understand why she's crying, she seemed fine when she was flying through the air!" 

Sugarloaf marathon
The Billygoat was worth doing, despite the setback in my injury, and actually might have been good, because it made it very clear to me that I should NOT start the marathon the next weekend. That had been my A goal for the season, so it actually wasn't as hard as I imagined to not start the race - knowing you're completely unprepared helps instill common sense, sometimes. It was a lot of fun to cheer for my friend Sharon, as she set a 46-minute PR. So impressive! That looked like a fun course, so maybe someday I'll be back for it.
Still so full of energy 11 miles in

Reccing the course the day before, with a couple tourist stops. Here in front of the Bigelow Range.

View from our condo. Hi car! 

This part looked more painful than the running part. 

First stop: Gifford's, this one in Farmington. Then we stopped again in Portland; I wanted to eat at a place called "Duckfat", but unfortunately it was too long a wait, so we ate fries somewhere else. Nice to break up the drive home from a marathon with walking and eating. 

Love this sign!

Westchester County Challenge
The final weekend of May was Team Trials. I avoided this race last year, because I wanted to make it really clear, to both myself and my ex-teammates and officials, that I was done. Retired. Not coming back. This year, I felt like it would be safe to do the races, since I was so out of shape and out of orienteering practice that it would be very clear that I wasn't "racing." This was the first really hot weekend of the season, and I suffered mightily. The combination of being really out of shape, unused to spending time on feet, and 90+ degrees was not a good one, but I did see a new max heart rate, highest since college!

The first race was the middle distance, and I had a blast navigating through the technical but fast terrain at Westmoreland Sanctuary. Unfortunately, as the heat and my lack of fitness caught up, I started making mistakes near the end of the course, and dropped about four minutes total. Still, I was proud of my navigation, all things considered, and had so much fun. This is how orienteering should be! But boy oh boy did I miss my fitness.

Sunday was the Continental Relay Championships, and Team Giggles was back in action! Izzy Bryant joined Ali and myself, complete with Wonder Woman socks and pink tiaras. We were taking ourselves very seriously. This was at Mountain Lakes State Park, and again the orienteering was very fast. I didn't have much speed in my legs, but my knee held up great. Maybe orienteering is actually good for it? It was so much fun to be running in a relay again!

Monday (Memorial Day) was the long distance race, and I decided not to push my luck. I took Barney for a 5-mi walk, which thoroughly tired him out with his little legs, and took the sting out of my legs enough that I was happy enough to have not started. It was also fun to stay in the "team" house that my friend Greg had organized. Ed and I figured that we can't contribute that much to the senior team, but at the very least we could show up and cook for them, so we did. Nice to feel useful!

Relay start, led out by local exchange student Vilppu. 

Valerie and Barney, two very good reasons to go to this event

Team Giggles! Wonder Woman socks and pink tiaras ftw.

Great arena for the long distance race at Mountain Lakes State Park.

Barney enjoying his walk

Modeling my tiara. It stayed in place for the whole relay! 

The QOC/CSU team! Kenny, Alli, and Boris. Barney is just a mascot.

The movers and shakers of this sport - Balter, Larry, and Sara Mae. Love this adopted family.

Geeking over maps and splits

Boris in superdad mode.

Great to see Ali running in the team trials again. She won the overall handily, but is still working on regaining that strength and fitness you lose after creating a mini human. She'll be rocking by WOC!

Ed setting up the announcer's booth.

Cheering squad of Tom and Jennifer! And of course Barney. How does he get into all of my photos?

Team Giggles being serious

Beagle orienteering

Barney helping Ed with the download station

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Billygoat 2018

The Billygoat is one of my favorite races, and also one that I happen to be very good at. Long mass start orienteering race where you're allowed to follow people? sign me up! This year, however, thanks to the knee injury, I wasn't prepared physically for this race. I had a long debate in my head as to whether I should even start, but eventually came to the conclusion that I may as well try. Who needs running training for a running race?

We headed down on Saturday night to hang out with Boris and Alli and Barney and Inara (one of these four is a beagle), before making our leisurely way over to Blue Mountain, in Peekskill.

Ed will sleep here in the dog bed. Barney doesn't mind too much.

Inara did the long race, entirely in the child backpack that Boris was carrying. They had the fastest finish split, but I hear they hiked the rest of it.

Blue Mountain is a fantastic place for orienteering. The trees are tall and well-spaced, with very little groundcover and not even too many downed branches and trees! Lots of great cliffs and rocks to play in. I was last here in 2012 for a training camp run from Neil's house, when he lived in Peekskill. Good times!

So anyway, my plan was to race conservatively. Walk all the uphills, navigate perfectly, and enjoy myself and enjoy the fact that I was out orienteering on a lovely map in great weather. This plan lasted all of 15 seconds, because as soon as we started running, I entered race mode. Old habits die hard.

Click for full map

The first leg had a route choice, and I went left, chasing some fast boys and running with Bridget from West Point. I had my money on her as a winner, but I wasn't going to go down without a fight. As we ran up the hill, I confirmed that she was much stronger than me up the hills right now - I am so out of shape! Turns out that not training doesn't do much for your aerobic capacity. My breath sounded loud in my ears, my heart was pounding, my legs were burning. The self doubt didn't creep in, it jumped in. You're too unfit for this, your knee is probably going to start hurting, you shouldn't play these games if you haven't prepared for them. I tried to ignore the evil little voice by telling myself to be super clean in the navigation, but the fact that I haven't been in the woods in months had left me rusty, and in the technical areas I was really hesitant.

I was running frantically, continually trying to make up time for stupid little mistakes, and never giving myself time to regroup and get into the map. Rushing the navigation meant I kept making mistakes, and then I'd run faster to try and make them up, only to make a mistake because I was getting tired. By #2 I had already dropped three minutes in mistakes, and was at the back of a very large pack that I wanted to be in front of. Of course then I pushed the pace hard, and had made it to the front of the group by #6, but at a high energetic cost.

I was running near Jeremy from HVO at that point, and despite dropping another minute in the vicinity of #8 and basically letting the pack catch back up, we were still in front heading down the beautiful hill towards 9 and 10. At this point, I felt like I probably had the speed and endurance to pull this off, assuming I was actually in the lead for the women. Oh, hubris. Down the hill toward 10 I got wayyy off my line, wandered about for a while trying to figure it out, and ultimately dropped about three minutes. On a single control. Oh, this was getting painful.

Now I was behind the pack again, but still fighting. The downhill trail run towards 11 was built for me, and I pulled a minute back on the pack there. 11 was the aid station, and the volunteers were surprised to see me so far back, which was both humiliating and nice at the same time. They still believe in me! But I'm really sucking at this! As I ran around the pond toward 12, I could see the pack disappearing into the woods, and I was in hunt mode. Working way too hard, I finally caught the tail of the pack at 14, and told myself that I was not allowed to move to the front for at least one control, to let myself recover. I could tell that any matches I had had to begin with were totally burned by now. I had dropped 8 minutes in mistakes at this point. Oh how I wish I'd just gone slower and in the right direction!

Anyway, I was feeling recovered enough to push things again toward 15, and once at the front I promptly lost contact with the map and led the group in a merry little swamp dance for a bonus 1.5 minutes. Oops. The group splintered a little bit after that, and I finalized my decision to skip #20 - in this race, you can skip one (and only one) control. In hindsight, 24 was a much better skip, especially considering I really didn't have any more gears to kick into for the extra trail run I'd given myself. Even worse, I took a wrong turn at a trail junction, costing myself an extra 2.5 minutes. Once back on the right track, I ran into Bridget and Kristin and Tyra, who had just punched control 20, which I had skipped.

So of course, I bluffed, and ran past at full speed. Kristin yelled to Tyra "go with Alex!" and Tyra followed. Damn. Luckily, she fell for my bluff of running faster, and as we started uphill to 21 she took the lead, and I started walking. My evil hope was that Tyra would have run too fast and would thus make a mistake in the circle and I'd get ahead. This worked, but I also made a mistake in the circle, wandering around too high up the hill for two minutes before figuring it out, now behind Kristin and Bridget again (but Tyra was even higher on the slope).

Anyway, at that point the writing was on the wall. They all skipped #24, which I had to go visit, and I eventually limped into the finish thoroughly beaten and broken, three minutes back and in fifth place. All told, I dropped about 16 minutes (MINUTES! I normally measure mistakes in seconds!) over the course of the race. That was embarrassing and humbling, but the good news was that my knee held up ok, and my fitness wasn't as atrocious as I had expected. It was a good hard race, fast and fair, and I really enjoyed battling it out with that pack. Next year, I'll be smarter.