Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bear Hill Park-o

Part of the responsibility of being a CSU member means putting on an event each spring, as part of the park-o series. My event was yesterday, at the northern end of the Fells, on the map we call Bear Hill. It went pretty well, and we had a decent turnout for a park pretty far from public transportation. I set two advanced courses, to make it worth the while of the competitors, as well as a beginner course. We had 19 finishers on the first advanced course, and 8 on the second course, as well as two people run the beginner course. Nobody got lost or horribly injured, although Ian did run into a wire fence at full speed because he didn't see it, and Eric couldn't find #10 for a long time because it had fallen off the tree I'd hung it on. I'm not sure what I could have done about the fence other than not put controls over there, but I could have tied the flags a little better to wherever I was hanging them from. Live and learn. At least the beginners had fun - Alexei's daughter and Vadim's daughter.

The beginner course - it was a bit on the long side, at 2km, but both girls were able to finish it. Victoria is just a wee one, but she was pumped to do the course, with Alexei shadowing her to fend off any bears or other wildlife.
Advanced #1.

Advanced #2.

Ross finishing - doesn't that finish stretch just scream "At one with nature" to you?

The usual post-race route-analysis huddle.

Jim finishing.

The founders themselves! Larry and Sara Mae Berman, always on hand with the cookies and water at the park-os. They also take care of the administrative stuff, which is super convenient, since the course setters generally get hung up with making sure all the flags are out, and tend to forget about things like registration, and getting people started on time, and providing cookies afterwards.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tales from a land of crazy

Next year, I'll be back at school, working on a masters at UMass Amherst. This necessitates a place to live, since Ed is staying in Boston, so since I was out by the Connecticut river last weekend, I checked out a couple apartments. The stuff people try to rent out is pretty ridiculous. They're damn good at the spin on the Craigslist ads, I'll tell ya that much.

The first was a house owned by a crazy cat lady. The type of person who puts the crazy in crazy cat lady. She was down to four cats, since apparently there has been a fox in the neighborhood, and it has a taste for kitty cats, and Fluffy didn't come home one night. This lady was renting out a room, that I think used to be her daughter's room, and the room was fine, but it smelled like cat. She smelled like cat.

The next was a split level house, and the couple that owned it usually live in CT, except when they're here, with their two kids. The room they were renting was the size of my current bathroom, and about as clean. I last cleaned our bathroom three weeks ago. The other really weird bit was that the room was part of the upstairs suite of rooms - the bedrooms were on the upper bit of the split and the kitchen and living room on the lower bit, so it was a room next to the master bedroom and across the hall from the kids' rooms. I want a room, not a family. Thanks, next?

There was the strange guy in the apartment complex trying to rent out a room in an utterly filthy supposedly-two-bedroom place, dark and dank and stinking like cat piss (his cat was cute, in his defense). There was the house that looked like a frat house, had four roommates on the first floor, two families living upstairs, and two families living downstairs. A couple fairly normal apartment complexes. And then the one that took the cake.

In her ad, this woman sounded like a friendly hippie. I thought I could deal with that, so I responded to her ad, turns out she also has an 11yo kid, well that's fine too. She had mentioned in the ad that the house was often a little cluttered, since she didn't really have time as a single mother to keep things spotless. Sure, that makes sense. Well, I walked in, and the house takes the word packrat to a whole new level. Papers and toys and tools and more papers and boxes and cans and more toys and clothes and tupperwares and god knows what else just EVERYWHERE. There were basically paths through the clutter from one area of the house to the next, it would have been a very beautiful house if not for all the junk everywhere. Even the kitchen had stuff piled on every horizontal surface. She mentioned that she just didn't have much time to pick up, it looked like she hadn't picked stuff up in the last 11 years. Wow.

So she shows me around, the room is very nice, and there is a big basement with nothing in it, amazingly enough, for bike storage etc. She points to half of an island in the kitchen, which is sort of clear, and says that that is where previous tenants prep food and stuff. Oooh, a whopping 1x4' horizontal surface! So at this point we sit down to talk about stuff, she is renting this place pretty cheaply so I'm interested, but not sure I could deal with the clutter, and then she brings out two pages of handwritten questions for an interview, and I realize I probably can't deal with this level of crazy.

She is hoping for someone to basically take care of her kid when she can't, which I told her right up front I wasn't willing to do. That didn't dissuade her, the questions continued. No scented soap in the washer because it makes the whole house smell. The dishwasher is broken and she probably won't get around to fixing it. Please be careful not to scratch the pinewood floor in the bedroom. Careful of all wood surfaces (where? I can't see them for all the papers on top). No slamming of doors, and the walls upstairs are pretty thin, so be very quiet if you have to get up in the middle of the night, don't flush the toilet until morning, don't even turn on the bathroom light because there is an associated fan. Obsessive about snow removal, 2" or more and it must be shoveled out from around your car. Doesn't want Ed coming over until she's met him (I guess that makes sense? Maybe if I had a kid I wouldn't want random people coming over either, but if they're vouched for by someone I trust to live in my house...?). One of the best was that if I go to a party, please don't come home that night, since she doesn't want her kid exposed to any insobriety. The rules went on. And on. And on.

Eventually we ended the rules, shook hands, and I left, telling her I'd think it over. Because at that price, maybe I could deal with that level of crazy. Took a night to mull it over and realized that was too crazy even for me. Yikes. The kicker is that she is a volunteer firefighter - which is why she keeps the "fire lanes" clear in her house.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Billygoat 2010

The Billygoat is a race that happens once a year, and is definitely one of my favorite orienteering races of the year, mostly because of its inherent goofiness. You can follow people, in fact, its recommended at times, and you can skip one control, of your choosing. The Billygoat also is generally very hilly, and fairly long. Phil Bricker, the head goat (other races call them race directors. At the Billygoat, we call them head goats), decided that he wanted to have this Billygoat win the record for the hilliest Billygoat ever, so he planned a course with 680m of climb, over 11km. That is a lot of climb. The course involved a lot of stumbling and slogging, depending on whether you were going downhill or uphill. Combined with a hot, muggy day, it was a hard race.

The Billygoat was held at Mt. Tom before, in 2004, when Will Hawkins of CSU was head goat. That was my first Billygoat, and I came in well before the 3.5hr cutoff, earning my t-shirt. Looking at the results, it appears I just followed a reliable group of old-but-accurates, finishing 68th. It was an enjoyable introduction to Billygoats. The year after, however, (2005) was brutal: First hot day of the spring, too long, too hilly, a breakfast of 2 brownies and a redbull, a horrific bonk, and I finished in 3:34, just missing out on the t-shirt privileges. My only overtime Billygoat. This past Sunday was my fifth Billygoat (I missed the one in 2006, I must have been graduating or something on that weekend), and by far my best.

I drove out to Amherst on Saturday with Presto and SGB, who was in charge of Presto for the weekend since Lori was at the US Radio orienteering championships. And you thought Ski orienteering was obscure. Anyway, we trained on Saturday, spent a very nice evening at the Gagarins' house, and arrived at Mt. Tom rested and ready to go. Ed came Sunday morning, after working on rollerski stuff all Saturday, I think I know who had a more enjoyable Saturday. SGB wasn't racing, after hurting himself while finishing 4th in the Seven Sisters trail race, so he just took Presto on a very long walk and took my camera. I was hoping for a photo of the view from the ridge, but I guess he never went there.

Course, with my route overlaid. Green is 5min/km (8min/mi) and red is slow. I'd rather not say how slow, but lets call it walking pace.

Its a motley crew that lines up at the start. Since nobody knows which direction we'll be starting, there is no real start line, per se. Most people just plan to follow someone else to the first control, which can end up being a problem when the person you're following is planning to follow someone else who is following someone else... you see how this can go. There were some large packs of lost people on the way to the first two controls.

Everyone rushes to get their map, even though you can't look at it until they say go.

And then the start is pretty anti-climactic. Some people dash off (with many in tow), hoping someone else will take the lead and show them where to go. Some people dash off and know where they're going. Smart people will stand still until they have found #1 on the map and have a plan for getting there. Others will start walking in the general direction of the dashing-off-people while figuring out where to go, then give up and sprint after the people already running in (hopefully) the right direction.

My race went well. I blatantly followed Ernst Linder (he is quite experienced, and smart enough to navigate to the first control on his own rather than following someone else) to 1, dropped off the pace a bit to 2, still following, so that I could pick out which control to skip. I had sort of decided on 6, since it saved a bunch of climb, but it turned out that was also a water stop, and I was projectile sweating, so I chose 15 to skip instead - it also saved climb, and would give me a sweet trail run with a nice view. Once I decided that, I started navigating more on my own, sort of in the midst of a loose group. As the race wore on, there was some movement in the pack, and I was slowly working my way towards its front.

The hills were just as hard, steep, and rocky as promised. The first part of the course felt like a whole lot of uphill, and I was slogging along dripping sweat for most of it. Luckily the navigation wasn't too hard. I couldn't get enough liquid into my gullet at the three water stops, but I was acutely aware of the folks behind me needed just as much if not more water, so I tried to limit myself at the unmanned stops. It was hard.

The race was clean until I bungled a supposedly clever plan to #20, and lost about 5 minutes to the guy I'd been running with. A guy who had just done an 18hr adventure race the day before. If I'd just stuck with him, I'm pretty sure I could have taken him in the sprint. But, that's what you get for trying to be clever near the end of a 2hr race in hot weather. I eventually finished, and while it felt like a long slow slog, I think others were just as affected by the nasty hills and humidity, and I was the 3rd woman and 21st overall. This means that next year, if there are at least 21 controls, I will get my initials as one of the control codes! Quite exciting.

Ed came in not too much later in just under 3 hours, utterly drenched in sweat. He does even worse than me in hot weather, and my only consolation for how stiff and sore and tired I feel today is that he is in worse shape.

Do you think this thing is washable?

SGB caught me in the finish chute. I tried to run faster, but an 8min/mi was about all I could do. Those rocks and hills were brutal.

Proof that Ed is actually a gorilla. Or just so tired that when the hill finally flattened out he still couldn't stand up straight.

At the awards.

Ross' dad almost didn't make it - they do the awards right around 3.5 hrs, so that we can all cheer for the people who are cutting it close. Eric Smith was spotted at 3:27, so Ross ran over to pull him in to the finish, and he did it with 60 seconds to spare.

Presto after a long walk. I'll admit that my parking brake looked like a good pillow to me, too, after the run.

Should you want more of a technical report, you can find it in my attackpoint log. And some stories from the Billygoat in 2009, 2008, and 2007.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sprint photos

There were a bunch of spectator controls on the sprint, so I stole some photos of me attempting to run fast. I have a ways to go before I'll consider myself fast, but maybe if I don't break myself this summer, I'll be able to run as fast as I did in highschool. Which isn't the loftiest goal I've ever heard of, but I don't think I'm there yet, so it totally counts as a goal.

Punching the last control (we call it the "go control"), not hearing the beep, and turning around to get it again. Convenient that it was next to a lamp post to catch yourself.

Someday, I'll learn to run with my shoulders down.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Orienteering Team Trials

I have done a lot of orienteering this spring, if that somehow escaped your notice (27 hours, 145km, and 352 controls of it). Enough orienteering, in fact, that I felt justified in showing up to the Team Trials races last weekend in Harriman, not because I thought I'd make the team, but because I wanted to see how I'd compare, and didn't think I'd be embarrassingly far behind everyone. There wasn't really any pressure on me to perform, because I did not have an A-meet ranking score, having only done two of those in the last six months, and you need at least three ranking scores to come up with a team ranking score, which meant each of the three team trials races would count as a ranking for me.

Saturday had both the middle distance and the sprint race, and the middle was probably the most technical thing I've ever run. It was still way better than some of my previous experiences at Harriman, but not at all what I'd call a good run. The splits on attackpoint claim I lost about five minutes to mistakes, and I think I lost another 1-2 minutes on just being hesitant and overly tentative. I never got running fast, which seems to be just what happens on middle distance races, but at least near the end I started to run more confidently, when Cristina caught up and I was trying to hold her off/pass her back. I didn't feel very good about that one, but thanks to a lot of other people making mistakes, I placed 7th (for the WOC-eligible runners, the Canadians all beat me), although 24% back. Arrrrgh.
A horrible photo of the map. My scanner no longer works with the OS on my computer, so I stole this from Peter Gagarin, who had just taken a photo of it.

After a couple hours to recover, it was time for the sprint. I did a decent warmup, although I could feel lunch still bouncing around in my innards, and tried to focus my brain, not dwell on the mistakes from the morning. The scale of the sprint map really helped, and I ended up having a great race, flowing smoothly from one control to the next and always in control of my run. I could use some more leg speed helping me out, but the navigation was about as good as it gets for me, which was quite encouraging. Unfortunately, I was pushing so hard that I just never saw #15 on my map, causing me to completely skip it, and get disqualified. A huge bummer to run a good race and then blow it, but I was on such a high from navigating well and smoothly (except for that #15, whoops) that I just couldn't get mad about mispunching.

Coming in to one of three spectator controls - definitely still favoring the ankle a bit, but its otherwise healed.
If we're going to play the woulda-shoulda-coulda game, had I not mispunched I would have been 6th, 10.8% back, definitely one of my better races. That course definitely favored the fast runners, maybe someday I'll get fast.

The long race was on Sunday. I decided that I would have a comparative advantage going into this, thanks to leftover skiing fitness, because I wasn't actually all that tired from the two races on Saturday. So, I attacked the course, and for the most part that worked really well, although I was definitely slowing down by the end. I have good endurance right now, but not very good speed or orienteering fitness - it takes a different skillset to be fast in the woods, and although I'm learning the tricks and getting better at it, I can't float through the blueberries like some more natural runners. Of course, I'm also not really training for that (or for anything at all), so its to be expected that I'd be slower.

I had a relatively clean run, some bobbles in the beginning, and then a really good middle section of the race as I was trying to stay away from two girls who were catching up. I might have been able to hold them off, too, had I not made a 3.5min error on #15, and by then there wasn't enough course left to make up much time. It was still a good run, with some good navigation, although to my chagrin I was 7th again. At least this time I was near the pack of Ali/Erin/Cristina (all named to the WOC team), if at the back of it.

The only part about this weekend that makes me sad is that the Team Trials races don't count for your A-meet ranking score, so the good points I got from Sunday's race don't go into my overall rank. But it was super fun to see everyone, hang out in the sun, and cheer on my friends and teammates who will be representing the US in Norway this summer! CSU named four to the team, so that was pretty sweet. (if you feel like seeing where I'd stand had I not DQ'ed the sprint, my sprint points would have been ~90, so the sum of all three races would have put me either tied or just behind Alison Campbell, the 3rd alternate).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pine Hill re-run

Ed has been on this kick recently of re-running the park-o races. I think we can both admit that its to try and beat my time =). Anyway, after last Thursday, I wasn't sure I wanted a re-run. Pine Hill is green and brambly at the best of times, and the early spring here means that now you can't quickly differentiate between nasty brambly stuff and just regular nasty green bits. This is important, because I will happily bash through the normal nasty green bits, but thorns stop me pretty quickly. Nothing like having strings of briars wrapped around your legs in multiple places - you get immobilized pretty quickly. Not pleasant. Anyway, Ed was prepared with carharts this time, and even I wore windpants instead of the usual spandex I choose for orienteering.

Last week's route is below. You can see my major mistake on the way to 11, but re-running the course made me realize that I made a couple minor mistakes along the way as well.

Splits from the two runs, with Bill and Sam having added their splits as well. The map below is my route from last night, although its a bit confusing, due to a couple fast laps around trails between 5 and 6... I didn't want to fight through all that green stuff, I thought intervals sounded more pleasant, so I ran around on trails for a bit until I was close to 7.

I guess its a bit hard to see the quickroute line over all that greenness. Anyway, I made a chart of where I was faster last night, to try and figure out more accurately how much time I think I lost. It should be noted that I wasn't running as hard last night, so anywhere I picked up time was definitely a better route. The red difference numbers is the time I lost the first time, blue is what I lost the second time.

5/6/10, 5/11/10, Difference:
1. 2:28, 2:14, +0:14
2. 2:12, 4:18, +2:06
3. 1:28, 1:45, +0:17
4. 2:11, 2:17, +0:06
5. 2:19, 1:40, +0:39
6. 2:50, N/A
7. 2:46, N/A
8. 2:24, 2:34 +0:10
9. 1:39, 1:38 +0:01
10. 2:53, 2:17 +0:36
11. 6:12, 4:35 +1:37
12. 2:15, 7:51 +5:36
13. 1:19, 2:24 +1:05
F. :34, :39 +0:05

From this, I can see that there were five splits where I was faster the second time 'round. The first control I took a better route second time - around on trails to the left, instead of through the fence. 2-4 I was a little shaky last night, with a blatant mistake at 2. 5th control I went out to the trails to the right, that was clearly faster.

I didn't visit 6, and 7 was part of my interval lap time, 8 I hugged the line a little closer on the second time, but was more hesitant - pays to run fast I guess. Then I went straighter to 9, instead of going down the trail like I did the first time, and this was barely faster. It was way faster (and more pleasant) to go out to the trail and back in to get to 10, and likewise way faster to go around on trails to 11. Then I got stuck in the brambles going to 12. Really wishing I had Ed's carharts at that point. The stuckness continued out to the trail to 13.

This was a pretty valuable exercise, but Ed ended up beating my time this time (although not my time from last Thursday!). From my analysis, I lost 3:07, and that doesn't count my hesitations on the way to 6 and 7 last time (~20s total). Had I been 3:27 faster, I would have been 5th instead of 6th, although of course you can't really compare like that when you're doing a re-run. Results from last week. How Ross ran that course in 22 minutes is a total mystery, he must not have any nerves left in the skin on his legs.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

WCOC A-meet: Long distance

The second day of the WCOC meet was at Huntington state park, near Bethel CT. It was billed as a "classic" course, not quite a long, but definitely longer than a middle. The women were doing 8km, and I'd heard that this forest was also very open and fast, so I was psyched to try and run faster than I had on Saturday. Unfortunately, I ran too fast, and completely outran my brain, botching the first control by 17 minutes. Yes, minutes. By the time I finally found that stupid control, I knew I was out of contention. I had just taken 23 minutes for a 5-6 minute leg, you can't make up that sort of time. So I punched the control, stopped, and said "ok. Push the reset button now".
This is the little bugger that gave me all that trouble. Grrr.

The second race of the day (#2-17) went pretty well. I was pleased with my ability to put that first leg out of my brain, and I was moving really well at times. I had some excellent legs out there, as well as a couple bobbles, but near the end my left achilles started to get really tight and painful. This hasn't bothered me since 2007, so it was probably related to rolling my ankle or something, but I definitely slowed down as the pain increased. I have come to the realization that even though I have a relatively high pain tolerance, when I think that whatever is hurting is doing something bad to my body, with lasting effects, I won't tolerate the pain, or at least I get really wimpy about it. So I will tear my legs to shreds on brambles, and not notice it, but if I feel a twinge of pain in my ankle, I slow down. I guess that's self preservation for ya, didn't know I had it in me...

I rolled in to the finish eventually, sort of hobbling because of my sore achilles, definitely didn't win that finish split. I was so pissed about that first mistake that I went out to run the first leg again, although it turned out that running was painful, so I mostly walked. And took some silly action shots along the way. It was a beautiful sunny day, if a bit chilly and windy, and the forest was just so open and fun to run through that I couldn't stay angry for long. Sure, my overall score for the weekend was crap, but I was able to find the good in each run. The courses were very well designed, the maps were exquisite, and everything was run very smoothly and very professionally.

Results, which also have the overall weekend results, and splits, although that is for the entire red course, which also includes M40, M55, and M-20, so there are a lot of boys mixed in. I was 35th if you want to scroll all the way down there...
That is a big boulder.


Monday, May 10, 2010

WCOC A-meet: Middle distance

The Western Connecticut Orienteering Club (WCOC) put on a national level meet last weekend, which also happened to be a World Ranking Event (WRE). This attracted some of the really fast Canadians, as well as a bunch of fast Americans, many of whom are sticking around until next weekend, which is the US Team Trials at Harriman. I had heard that CT had really nice forests to run through, but I didn't really believe it until after this weekend. It was just beautiful out there, open deciduous forest with a smattering of mountain laurel just to make things interesting, rolling hills but nothing too steep, and not too many annoyingly pointy rocks on which to break my ankles. I don't think I've ever run so fast, or so hard, during an orienteering race.

Saturday was the middle distance event, at Ansonia Nature Center, near New Haven. Middle distance races tend to be the most technically challenging, so I was interested to see whether all this technical training I'd been doing this spring would make me faster.

The sky had been alternating between heavy thunderstorms and heavy rainstorms the whole drive down to New Haven, and naturally that didn't let up for the race. As the thunder rumbled ominously and the rain soaked me to the skin, I wondered briefly if I would make it through the race alive. A few years ago, I was informed just how scary lightening can be. I was anxiously counting the seconds between the lightening and the thunder, but by the time I was at the start I'd convinced myself I'd make it through alive. Its a credit to the course setter that the course was so interesting I didn't notice when the rain stopped, or even that I was running in a forest in a thunder storm. Totally engrossed in my navigation, which is how it should be.

I ran a fairly clean race, but I did not particularly feel happy about it. I never got up to full running speed, and I felt like I was relying a bit too heavily on my compass. If you trust your compass you can sort of just run fast in the right direction until you hit your attackpoint, but that is pretty risky in case you miss it, and I felt like I was just moving too fast for my brain to keep up. Nothing worse than running with a sense of panic building inside that you're just going to outrun yourself, but I kept moving and picking off features and didn't make any huge mistakes, although there were plenty of hesitations out there.

I ended up in 7th, ahead of some people I definitely did not expect to beat (including someone who went to the World Championships last year, although she had a bad race, and someone who will likely go this year, although she also had a bad race). Its impressive that Sam managed to take almost 10 minutes out of my time, a lot of that is due to straight up speed, but I like to think that if I felt more confident with myself I could knock a couple minutes off. That said, a cautious run was probably the best approach today, and it worked well enough. Results, scroll all the way to the bottom for the F21+ class (elite women). And splits, for the analysis.

That evening we all gathered at Kat and Boris' house, "we" being a large chunk of the serious orienteering population under 30 in North America, to play Kubb and have a barbecue.

Kubb involves throwing sticks at wooden bricks. Its Swedish, and I imagine it would be much more fun as a drinking game, but we all had to race tomorrow.

The champ herself!

Mike the grillmaster.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Park orienteering: Peter's Hill and Cat Rock

The only racing action I've seen recently is on Thursdays, at the fast and furious park orienteering races. Two weeks ago was at Peter's Hill, in the arboretum, and last week was at Cat Rock park, in Weston. Peter's Hill was pretty brutal, as we had to go up the hill three times, and I found that my legs didn't want to cooperate on either the ups or the downs. This was just after four days of orienteering at Harriman, so you'd think I'd be all coordinated, but I made mistake after mistake, and my slow running couldn't keep up with my mistakes. I'll blame being tired. I ended up 10th for the day, but 32% behind Ross. Dang.

Cat Rock park was last week, and like Peter's Hill, it featured a big climb, that we went up, but only once this time. Unlike Peter's Hill, it was a forest sprint, so there was some actual navigating involved, which was nice. I was feeling pretty sluggish again, and my calves were still sore from the track workout two days earlier, so I incorporated a slower pace into my race plan. This worked wonders for not making mistakes, but my newly discovered navigational skills weren't enough to boost my sluggish running pace. I'm noticing a pattern - you mean I have to run fast and orienteer cleanly to do well? I also managed to be a doofus leaving 13 and leaving 14, which cost me ~2 minutes.

This time, I was only 28% behind Sam, who won, and I was fifth, although Ross and Brendan and SGB weren't there. Still not a great result, but at least it is an improvement. This week is at Pine Hill, in the southern part of the Fells, so hopefully my not-so-fast running speed won't be too much of a hindrance, since the woods are a little thicker there. I just can't keep up with the boys when its flat out trail running or open parkland.

The garmin was a little off on this one - anywhere that the track is near a trail, I was probably actually running down the trail. And I didn't climb all those contours over by 15, I may be dumb but I ain't stoopid.