Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving... with a turkey!

I don't remember when I last had a turkey for Thanksgiving - usually I'm somewhere with snow, and no turkeys. Or rather, turkeys-a-plenty in the grocery stores, but only a toaster oven and a microwave in the hotel kitchenette with which to cook the turkeys. So the fact that I got to stay home and eat turkey this Thanksgiving is actually kind of a big deal, even though I don't particularly like turkey. We decided to not bother with traveling, so stayed home and had a wonderful evening with Leo and Jenny, definitely the right decision.

Leo massages the turkey. I stole Ed's iphone and took silly pictures all night until they took the camera away from me.

What's going on here is that our roasting pan (we brought the turkey over, with a roasting pan, because Jenny is vegetarian, so they don't roast meat in a roasting pan ever) didn't fit in their oven. It doesn't fit in our oven, either, but we were hoping Leo and Jenny had a bigger oven. Luckily, we're talking about Ed and Leo, here, so they came up with a solution, which involved a dremel, a fire escape, and eventually, a smaller roasting pan.

Plotting their mischief. I feel like I'm in highschool again.

Also, Ed had the genius idea to inject bourbon into the turkey. It didn't actually make the turkey taste at all like bourbon, which was a bit disappointing. Because that would have been GENIUS, had it worked.

Apparently, I am a glutton. You know what? Its thanksgiving! I'm allowed to be gluttonous!

West Yellowstone may have had snow, but it was totally worth staying in town for this evening.

And did I mention the pecan pie? *swoon*

Things have been kind of hectic lately on my end, I've been trying to get all the temperature loggers out into little headwater streams at my study sites before everything freezes up, which happens, oh, right now. I don't mind the actual activity of standing in cold water tying these loggers to underwater branches so much, although you'd think I'd hate it; what I mind is the opportunity cost of wasting all your daylight hours driving from study site to study site. Just because I spent 9 hours in the field doesn't mean that I don't still have 7 hours of real work to do, too. Whine whine whine, but seriously, I don't deal well with work-related stress anymore these days. Training has taken a serious hit! Luckily, the semester is almost over, I can see that light at the end of the tunnel (does that mean I'm dead?), and I leave for Europe in 13 days for some ski-o racing action!

I wanted to do some racing over the weekend, but instead we headed to VT, where I spent another 12 hours driving around and standing in cold water. But, it was SNOWING! Like for real snow, they closed the pass on rt 100 through Dover/Wardsboro, which was problematic because I had to go that way to get to my next site, luckily I found a way around, and slipped and slid my way down the mountain, a nice reminder of how to drive in snow - turns out, snow is really slippery when they haven't sanded the roads yet!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The queen of convoluted travel plans

There aren't many people who can rival me in making plans for the weekend super duper complicated. In this case, Ali and her boyfriend Dan were the victims. Because Ed was in Rochester at the HFL ski swap, selling rollerskis, I didn't feel much need to get to Boston on Friday. I just had to be there to coach, and to run the Blue Hills Traverse, on Sunday. I was hoping to get there early enough on Saturday to coach some of the juniors on the Littleton ski, but it turns out sleeping in is actually pretty nice. Ali was also heading to Boston to run the Traverse, and let herself get roped into my plans. Muahahahaha!

The plan went something like this...

Friday night: core strength, dinner, and planning for the Orienteering Superstars weekend with Peter, Gail, Ali, and Dan.

Saturday: Ali and Dan picked me up, we drive to Littleton, where Ali and I do a loop just to get a ski in, while Dan works on his paper (he does some orienteering, but we haven't gotten him on rollerskis yet).
Then they drop me in Concord, at my Aunt Susan's house, so I can eat lunch with her and catch up briefly.
Then Susan drops me at Heath Bridge, so I can coach Corey.
Then Corey's dad drops me at the train station, so I can hop on a train to Ross and Sam's house, site of the evening's festivities.
Then Ali and Dan can drop me at my house, on their way to Dan's sister's house in JP.

I bike to the Bermans' house, to buy a new compass from Larry (owner of Bermans O supply).
Ali meets me at the Bermans', to buy a ski-o map holder.
We leave Dan in Cambridge to hang out with his sister, and drive down to the Blue Hills.
Race, then return to JP to pick up Dan, return to Newton to get the rest of my stuff, and go back to Amherst.


I hear that some people spend their weekends raking leaves and watching TV. What a strange concept.

Blue Hills Traverse

I was looking forward to the Blue Hills Traverse, because I thought it might go well, and be fun, but for whatever reason, a whole combination of reasons most likely, it was not fun. I actually haven't had that little fun in a race in years. I don't know why I didn't drop out, I guess its not in my nature to drop out of races. I had a glorious run of four years of no work-related stress, but school got hard the last couple weeks, and apparently I don't know how to deal with that anymore. The stress manifested itself in a pretty poor physical performance, and a worse mental one. I think my training log sums it up best, so I'm just reprinting that:

Orienteering race (Blue Hills Traverse) 2:41:27 16.15 km (10:00 / km) +572m 8:30 / km
ahr:171 max:190

Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Not so much the orienteering, although that was hardly great, but just sort of all the little things that were adding up and I couldn't get my head past them so all these little things built into an awful blur of miserableness, and all sorts of little things that normally wouldn't bother me were just too much. My body felt frail out there, wobbly ankles, tired legs, being whipped by branches stung more than it should have. The pointy rocks were particularly hard to deal with today, and for the effort I was putting out, I just wasn't moving at all. Brief second wind (although you can't really have a second wind if you never had a first one) when Bob L caught up, and I was like, shit, I better start running again. But then the downward spiral of self pity over nothings started up again, and I just couldn't kick my head back into cheery-land, by control 23 I was sobbing, what caused that was a particularly stingy whack to the face of a white pine branch, something that I normally wouldn't even notice, and I stumbled down the hill towards 24 unable to see much for tears and hiccuping and all that, no real reason for it. So then I went ahead and spent 15 minutes on #24, just sort of whining to the world in a pathetic little way about how much I was hating life and hating rocks and hating the terrain and hating the park and hating the map and hating the course and hating the sport. Luckily Bob caught back up at that point, so I started orienteering again instead of wandering in circles at a quarter-Sharon mumbling to myself and sniffling.

Going to take a break from orienteering for a bit until I can have fun in the woods again. It was fun once, right?

Also going to get my shit back together in the rest of life; I suspect stress played a role today.

I feel like this facial expression sort of sums it up, as I jogged towards the finish...

Despite it being a time of year when I should be ramping up the volume, I need to back off from training until I can get the rest of my life in order. Working on that list of impending doom. Breathe in, breathe out, I hear that's how it goes!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Orienteering publicity, or the lack thereof

This is brilliant. Its in Polish, but, the reason its brilliant, is that it doesn't even matter. You totally get what orienteering is and how it works. The first 6 minutes basically explain the sport, how come Orienteering USA doesn't have something similar? Instead, they have this. Yawn. No wonder only old guys in their hiking boots and surveying compasses are attracted to this sport, I don't think that brochure mentions once that it is a race. I guess I shouldn't knock that brochure too much, I mean after spending 10 minutes to read the whole thing, I understood what orienteering was.

Sigh. I don't have time to take on a publicity campaign for a sport that doesn't care to be recognized as competitive... I guess that's why the serious orienteers move to Europe. At least there seems to be a growing consensus among the competitive runners in the US that we need to actually do something to change the face of our sport, and the new website is a good start. Too bad it can't also serve as a results database, then people might actually go there!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Impending doom

I'm doing my best not to A) whine too much, and B) drink too much more coffee. This whole grad school thing started out so easy, and then all of a sudden, all the shit that had been getting a nice breeze from the fan fell into it. I spent two days last week attempting some fieldwork, luckily I had a very competent FS research guy come along, he's been showing me the ropes and it makes things much easier. It still involves wading in streams in November, why did I pick a project that was going to be both wet and cold? Anyway, the problem with being out in the field (my two sites are in the West River watershed, VT, and Westfield River, MA - neither of which are particularly close...), is that the entire day is lost to getting any work done. So, that has been piling up, and I might have to give up my agreement with myself to not do any work on weekends. In Ed's words, "they don't pay you enough to work weekends". Who would have thought that school could possibly interfere with my racing lifestyle?

So last weekend, instead of studying for an exam, doing problemsets, or finishing my thesis proposal, I helped Brendan put on an orienteering race at Rocky Woods, in Medfield MA. Ed basically took it over, printing the maps (all fancy-like, with color separation and other printing terms I don't even understand), running the e-punching, and setting out and picking up his share of controls. It was a pretty low-key event, but everyone seemed to like the courses that Brendan and I had set - he set the advanced ones, I set the beginner ones, and boy is it hard to set beginner courses when you're used to trying to make things tricky.
The orange course - hardest beginner course before you move on to the advanced courses. "intermediate beginner".

I went straight from the orienteering meet to Lincoln Sudbury Highschool, to help Rob coach a NENSA coach's clinic. It was mostly Bill Koch coaches, and as Rob put it, super important to teach them the right stuff to teach the kids who'll eventually end up with us. I was in a pretty foul mood driving over there, feeling guilty about leaving the meet early (thus not helping to pick up any controls), feeling pressure that I should be doing schoolwork instead of coaching, all sorts of stuff just sort of building to a head. Luckily, coaching relieved that feeling of impending doom, and I was smiling again by the end of it. There is really nothing quite so rewarding as coaching people who want to learn. Maybe teachers feel like that, too, but its something about moving that does it for me.

By Sunday I was only feeling small amounts of doom-impendment, and after coaching the CSU practice in the morning, and Corey in the afternoon, on a gorgeous sunny Indian-summer day, I was even in a good mood. Managed to actually do some studying for the exam, and then Ed and I spent something like three hours playing in the kitchen. We made dolmades. With other stuff. Quite tasty.

Monday is always too early, in this case even earlier because I wanted to arrive early enough to do some more cramming. 5am hurts, but it was worth it, as the exam was easy and I was still riding on an adrenaline high for most of the day, crossing off many of the impending-doom-list items.

Whee! Now to just not add anything to that impending-doom-list.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Norwottuck training

Mt. Norwottuck and I have a rocky relationship. It started in 2005, when I did a Billygoat there, completely unprepared. I've talked about this Billygoat before, its the one known as the hardest Billygoat, with a 21% DNF rate, and only 48% of starters finished within the time limit. An inadequate breakfast and the first hot day of the year left me totally bonked and staggering around into trees. I was one of those overtime finishers.

I thought maybe Norwottuck and I could move past that rough spot in our history, especially now that I live out here, but it seems that area will always give me trouble. Last week, Ali and I headed out to work on moving smoothly through junky woods, and things were going ok until about #9 on the course we'd designed, where I just got totally thrown off, and couldn't recover. It was an ugly day, a bit of a soul-crusher; thank god it hadn't been a race.

You can see how after I got to #10, I just gave up and ran home. All those pointy rocks, all those little pine trees in your way, it was just an unpleasant training session.

I thought I'd give it a go again this week, when Phil mentioned that he'd like to do some compass training. I set up a corridor course, where the map is all whited out except for a corridor of terrain between controls. The idea is to use your compass to go in the right direction. The penalty for leaving the corridor is pretty high, because there is no way to relocate. We didn't bring along a full map, which was silly, but there ya go.
This went even worse than last week. I made a 5 minute error to #1; I'm actually quite impressed that I found it at all, after totally leaving the corridor. #2 was alright, but then I got pushed south by an expanded beaver pond on my way to #3, and never actually went to the right area. That is a danger when there is nothing in the woods, but anyway, that threw me off on my way to 4, and I was just moving waaaay too slowly, trying to make things match up. Just having so much trouble running. Luckily I figured out where I was, and got to the control location eventually.

Another minute or two evaporated near 5, I was in the right spot, but without being able to see the massive reentrants on my map, I just couldn't put two and two together until I'd relocated off the little lake. Sloppy sloppy. I tried to get my act back together on the way to 6, but was just moving so slowly, that I got depressed. I slogged on to 7, and then had to decide whether or not I wanted to bail, or keep going over the mountain. I thought about bailing, just because I wasn't having that much fun, but eventually decided to keep going, since it wasn't that much longer. Up to the top, and then I jogged down the trail, which was mostly in the corridor. Things were going well, and I was moving faster again, but then managed to completely overrun #10, ending up almost at the road. I took that as a sign that I should just go home, and stumbled back to the car to meet Phil, who had been waiting almost 10 minutes. Not a fun time, but hopefully somewhat valuable in using my compass more intelligently... We've decided that future trainings should be done as partner exercises, when we have a partner. Much more fun that way.

Time for more ski training and less orienteering training - I'm going to Sweden in three weeks!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Breakheart Reservation Orienteering

NEOC was holding a meet this weekend, up at Breakheart Reservation in Saugus. All I know about Saugus is that they have a good sausage shop, Ed has been there, but we didn't go to get sausage, which was sad. The map was made in like 1980, so a couple things have changed, like trails and vegetation, but it was still mostly ok. The vegetation was thick, which I found unpleasant, but there were some nice parts of the woods to run through, so that made up for it. Unfortunately, my head wasn't really screwed on straight, and I made three distinct errors that all involved over-running something on a trail, and were all really stupid.

On my way to #4, I decided that I was too warm, and I would take off my headband and put it in my pocket. I came out of the woods and hit a trail, which I knew I had to follow for a little bit, so I jogged down the trail while putting the headband in my pocket. It took longer than I meant for it to take (clumsy race fingers), and eventually I zip up the pocket and take a look at my map, and I'm way past where I meant to be. D'oh! Lost at least a minute thanks to that little move, and more embarrassingly, Ed witnessed it.

A perfect case of braindead on my way to #12, I was running on trails, and I was on the right trail, but then I crossed a little stream, and I was like "wait, there aren't any streams that I'm supposed to cross! I must be on the wrong trail!" So, I turned around, and got all the way back to the first junction before I found the stream on my map that I was indeed supposed to cross, and had to turn around. Another minute, and this time, Lori witnessed that mistake.

Things went pretty well for a while, until I got to #14, which had also been #4, a butterfly control. I punched at the control, oriented my map, and merrily set off for #13 instead of #15. I was vaguely wondering why the terrain looked similar, but I was on the line, so not that worried, until a cliff appeared that shouldn't have appeared, and I realized what I had done. D'oh! Another three minutes.

Somehow, the rest of the course went pretty well, and my knee felt fine running in terrain. I ended up 4th, and the first woman. Most importantly, I beat Ian, which I haven't done in well over a year. The whole recovering-from-a-stress-fracture thing might have slowed him down, but I'll take a victory where I can get it.

Next week I'm co-directing a meet for CSU, at Rocky Woods, in Medfield. All three of you who read this blog should be there (I guess the parental units can be excused from that order, its a bit of a drive).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Random photos from the fall

I seem to have collected lots of photos from various races and things over the fall, and felt that this was a good place to put them. I like photos.
From a recent training exercise at Mt. Tom.

Pre-corn maze fiesta. Not sure what Ken is doing.

Here, I definitely know what Ken is doing - taking straight shots of "maple magic" for some extra oomph during the corn maze.

This is Hartford. I thought it was pretty. I had time to kill on my way to the Lowlander, when Ross and Sam were scooping me up from the train station en route to Neil's.

Diaper-butt (or leakybutt) heading into the corn maze.

2nd place at the GLOF sprint.

GLOF was fun.
Working at download for a local NEOC meet.

Woooo rollerskiing. Attempting to take pictures of the juniors just get boring sometimes, and apparently my feet are more interesting.
Or Ali's feet. This was a perfectly acceptable fashion decision.

Night Weasels!

I wanted to race this weekend, but the whole road rash on the butt thing really kept me off my bike, and even though I can now ride, my legs are all weak. Alas and alack, this is the closest cross race of the season and I'm missing it. Hopefully I'll be pedaling again soon... at least running seems to be going ok so far, and rollerskiing. I can pretend to be a skier again!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Kearsarge rollerski race

Kearsarge mountain, in Warner NH, has a paved road to the top that was recently re-paved, and naturally the head honchos in CSU thought that was the perfect excuse to hold a rollerski race to the top. John and Sue LaChance did the organizing (and leaf blowing, in John's case), and about 15 people showed up on Halloween to race 6km and 440m up a mountain. Fun!

I had plans to dress up, but just wasn't on top of my game enough to make it happen, so dressed up as a CSU skier. Creative. Rob was in his Elvis costume, but I guess everyone else felt like being a rollerskier is enough of a costume on its own. After some warming up, we lined up to start, the guys on fast skis in the front, the rest of us behind, and then it started snowing. Well, that might be generous, maybe it was just sleet. Appropriate. I was lined up in front of most of the juniors except for Hamish and Chris, and when John said "GO!", I tried not to get too excited. I'd seen the profile for this race, it started with a brutal uphill the first kilometer, no way was I going to toast myself on that.

Hamish quickly took the lead, followed by Chris on his rocket-fast aeros. That was the last I saw of Hamish, but Chris faded hardcore and I almost caught him at the end. Yea pacing.

For the first few minutes, I was skiing basically next to Max and Rob, Max being one of those 70-lb 13yo kids, and Rob wearing an Elvis costume just made him faster. Eventually Rob left us, and I skied behind Max for a while - its probably not a good thing that my tempo matched his stride for stride. Time to get stronger... Anyway, he pulled away a bit near the top of the first steep pitch. The hardest part about this race was never having seen the course - I never knew what was coming around each corner, and it was psychologically exhausting to have no idea how much longer you'd have to put out this huge effort up the hill. I had guessed that it would be 30-40 minutes, so was pacing myself for that, but my watch was covered by my sleeve, so I really was just going by feel. I can tell if I'm going too hard and building lactic acid, and on a hill climb, you really want to avoid that. No surges.

After the first flat bit, which lasted for a depressingly short amount of time, the road angled back up, and Cate (one of my star J2s) caught up to me. She quickly passed me and dumped me like a bag of rocks, I figured that would be the last I saw of her. I couldn't tell if I was fading or she had started slower, I still felt pretty in control.
Cate makes the pass.

And leaves me behind.

Something I've been working on the past couple years is how to be faster on gradual uphills - that work paid off as the hill became slightly less brutal, and more gradual, allowing for some glide. I closed the gap to Cate, and narrowed some of the distance to John and his kid Max. Part of the reason for this was because the road was turning a lot, and I was taking the shortest line, while they weren't. Amazing how much a second saved actually closes a gap. But then it got steep again, and they dropped me and Max. Going over a couple rollers, I worked those corners for all I was worth, and dropped Max. I'm not a fast skier because of the uphills...
John, leading Cate, and Anne Burnham in the follow car. Jamie, Allen, Anne, and a couple others were leap frogging the racers to take photos and video - all of these photos are from Jamie. Tom and Sue (and others) were the timing crew, waiting at the top.

After the rollers, I had a sort of second wind, but I was starting to feel the effort. My left calf and shin were super tight, sort of like they get at the Weston Tuesday night races, and that made it hard to hold a good body position. As your legs crap out, you start standing up, and that is not fast. But there were a couple switchbacks left, and then I could hear someone cheering, that must be the top! Finally knowing that I was approaching the finish was a huge psychological boost, it is just so disheartening to ski uphill for half an hour and have no idea how much longer you have to keep skiing! "OMG, am I THERE yet??"

I was unable to close the gap, and ended up 10s down on Cate, and like 30s behind John. He actually beat us by considerably more than that, since he had started everyone, and then put on his stuff and chased us down. But I placed second for the girls, I think 8th overall, and I was quite pleased with my effort. For not training much recently, I felt pretty good, so, I'll take it. And next time, I'll know what the course looks like, so hopefully can put out even more effort.