Sunday, March 31, 2013

Urban Adventure Run

Last fall, I decided that it would be a good idea to hold an urban orienteering event, that ran all over Boston and used our city's interesting history as clue points.  Permit acquired, this vague idea came to fruition on Sunday, when about 30 people (my advertising effort was pretty weak.  I've been busy) gathered on Boston Common, for the first (hopefully annual) Tour de Boston.  There were three courses: the mini, the half, and the full, full being a full metric marathon.  Definitely the most takers on the half course, though we had five stupid souls sign up for the full.  Everyone seemed to have a good time, which is really the whole point of silly activities like this.

I meant to take photos of the start and people running and stuff, but all I ended up doing was taking photos of Presto, Lori's dog.

This is the map for the mini.  Took a nice tour around Boston, with some historically relevant questions, and some totally random ones.
This is the back of the half map, with some insets from Boston Common and the Esplanade.

This is the map from the half.  You got out a little further, and then finished up on the same points as the mini.  Lori won the mini, barely sneaking ahead of Stephen, who won the half.

This is the map of the full - they went all the way down to the arboretum and Franklin Park, and then back.  First place for that course was Peter Gagarin, in just over 2.5 hours for 27km.

Here is the back of the full map, with the inset from Franklin Park, Esplanade, and Boston Common.
I think we all had enough fun that this should become an annual event, but next time I want to run in it too!  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Training camp and o' week

I'm not very good at taking time off between seasons.  I've never been good at it, I've never liked taking time off, and a few years ago I decided that I may as well just do what I want, rather than moping around and getting bored.  So I gave up with the whole off season idea.  I did, in my defense, take two weeks of unstructured training this year.  But now it's straight into orienteering season!  Wahoo!

Becky, an elite British orienteer currently living in New Haven, was planning a training camp for American juniors last weekend, and since I finally had a weekend off, I volunteered my services as a coach, provided I could get in some quality forest training of my own.  The weekend did not disappoint, and we had a hearty crew of ~20 juniors, from 8 to 20 years old, doing a whole variety of training exercises.  Saturday morning started at Osbornedale park, and after a lunch at Wendy's (options were slim, and it was a better choice than buger king), we moved on to Ansonia Nature Preserve.

Saturday evening, Becky's crossfit gym did a nice intro to strength training for us, and then we all reconvened at Becky's house for a barbecue and an early night.  Sunday we were at Gay City park, and by mid-afternoon we were all eating pizza and then heading home.  Short and sweet, but some good improvements by all the juniors on their technical orienteering, and hopefully a better understanding of what is required physically, too.

Dave Yee was taking a bunch of photos, mostly of the warmups, that I've posted below.

Merrick was only 8, but when asked how long he'd been orienteering, he said "yeah, I'm pretty much a pro by now".  Yeah confidence!

I have two heads!

It was cold, despite being sunny.

Contour course at Osbornedale.  I was shadowing Izzy, and she did very well, with some very mature thought processes and good show of technique.

Route choice exercise, where I was shadowing Anna B.  I think I gave some good pointers, hopefully they stick =)

One of the trickier exercises at Gay City on Sunday.  I managed to almost nail them all... almost.

Peg relay from Saturday afternoon.  This was an awesome exercise.  It's a mass start, and at all the decision-point controls, there are a number of streamers tied on to the actual control.  If you get there and there is still a streamer, you take the streamer, and you do the bonus controls.  If there are no streamers, you go on to the next numbered control.  This means that the faster people keep having to do more distance, and mixes up the results nicely!  

Contour-only (almost - mostly just trails and stone walls were removed) exercise at Gay City, that I snuck in before heading off to shadow Anne on a route choice course.  

Now back in Boston, I've decided to extend the training camp into a stay-at-home training camp, that I'm calling o' week.  The goal is that every day of the week I get onto an orienteering map, and have good focus for the entire time.  I obviously try to get on maps as much as I can most weeks, but it's nice to have a time-limited goal like this, because you know the early mornings and tired stabilizer muscles will stop soon.  It's been pretty fun so far!  I've been into Hammond Pond twice already this week, onto a sprint map of Longwood, and today and tomorrow I'm hitting up the Fells.  To make the week even more fun, Weston still has snow, so we snuck in one last Tuesday night race (maybe we can get another week... maybe), and also a sweet game of speedball with some CSU and EMBK skiers last night.  So much fun to be had!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Eastern Highschool Championships

A scant 48 hours after arriving in the States, I was back on the road, this time driving north, to Presque Isle, for the Eastern Highschool Championships.  I was the head coach of the Mass. team, and fairly excited to be up there, though a little apprehensive - when things go bad, now it's my fault, so hopefully the kids would all behave themselves.

Turned out I had nothing to worry about.  The team was focused, professional, and positive, and I felt that everyone did their job to the best of their abilities.  I was super proud of all the Mass. skiers, but some of the CSU skiers really did a standout job.  I saw some of my kids skiing better - with more confidence and better technique and more desire - than they have all season.  For many skiers, this was a very good way to end the season.  With its technical twisty downhills, the courses at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle claimed their fair share of casualties, both of the equipment variety, the pride version, and a little blood, but everyone was able to walk away from the venue on their own two feet.

I'm now back in Mass., and working to wrap up my thesis and close that chapter of my life.  With no official CSU practices after work, I thought maybe I'd have a smidge more free time in my life, but somehow it isn't working out how I'd imagined, and I'm feeling busier than ever.  Part of that is probably all the tying up of loose ends after ski season "finishes" - that's in quotes because we just received another heavy 8" of snow, and yesterday held yet another night race at Weston!  Maybe we can hold out for one more week of racing; that would be sweet.  In the meantime, I should start thinking about orienteering - the night-o I did on Tuesday didn't go so well, somebody has to relearn how to navigate on foot!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ski WOC Long Distance race

We woke up to 8 degrees warmer than forecasted, so the morning involved some frantic panic-re-waxing, and a quick fluoro test before heading out to the stadium.  Not for the first time, I was very happy to be staying right at the venue.  With only 35 women racing, I was in the third row back, on the left.  We started, and because I was stuck on the left, I got totally cut off when about a third of the pack turned left into me, and I was trying to keep going straight.  Grr!  Not happy with being pushed around, but I got shoved onto that trail, and did some elbowing of my own to get back to the main trail.  Not a great start!  

Things got a little smoother after that, I was the tail end of a little train heading up the middle curvy trail, took the fourth right and spiked my control, still in a small pack.  Out to the big trails, and I made another slight mistake, missing the junction to 2, because I'd misread the trail as being on the other side of the reentrant.  I had to turn around and backtrack, losing another 20s or so.  But now I was closing on some other skiers, and that felt nice.  Then I took a not-so-great route to #3, going way out of the way north and down, rather than cutting it a little straighter, and going around on a big trail to suck up the climb there, but I definitely lost time on that route, as the group I'd been with before was now 100m ahead of me as I reached the control.

Ok, get less flustered now, because you'd hemorrhaging time with your current technique.  Crossing big trails using the little trail connectors, and I'm finally feeling in control.  There's a Finnish skier not so far ahead of me, and I can see a Swiss girl or two in the distance.  I spike my 4th control, and zoom down a semi-sketchy downhill to the first stream crossing and #5, still feeling in control.  A speedy-looking Russian chick comes at me, and I let her by without too much fuss, since she's probably in the hunt for the medals.  I try to latch on behind her, but she is definitely stronger than me, double poling away much faster.  Damn.  That did help speed me up, and I catch up to a Kazkh, who is moving slower than I want her to, but then I hesitate at a junction and miss my chance to pass her.  Oops.  We punch 6 at the same time as the Finn I'd been chasing, and I have to pause, because the leg to 7 looks like a real doozy.  

It's a long leg, with a whole spaghetti-network of trails, none of them contouring quite as much as I'd like, but I notice a big ditch about 2/3 of the way there, and given the firm crust under the fresh powder, I figure, hey, time for some short-cutting!  Zoom zoom zoom, sometimes on a trail, mostly just through the nice open woods, not having too much trouble skating, and there's been a few people there already, boosting my confidence.  I hit a couple smaller reentrants along the way and hesitate, but when I get to the ditch, it's quite obvious.  Now to just relocate where on the ditch I am.  There's a trail right near me, so I cross the ditch on that mini-bridge, and there are only a couple options for cross the ditch on a trail, so I narrow it down pretty quickly when I hit a junction pretty quickly, realizing I'm at the diamond of trails.  Then it's short work to contour on the nicely-contouring trail, and loop quickly in to nab 7.  I felt pretty good to have not totally blown that control and skied off the map!

I'm now in a small group with Carmen Strub (SUI) and a Kazakh, and we cut pretty straight down the fall line to 8, keeping the small river in line of sight until we hit the field.  Carmen leads in to 8 as I plan ahead, since she keeps taking the routes I want, it's easy to plan ahead.  I have some awesome cuts planned to 9, but then I manage to really confuse myself in there; it's a bland hillside, and I must have miscounted trail crossings.  Shit.  I'm standing there feeling lost, when I see Carmen and the Kazakh downhill of me, I look further, and see some orange of a control.  Ooh!  I'm saved, and cut through the woods to the control, not far behind Carmen and Kazakh.  

Back across the river, and my next control has a nice attackpoint off the corner of the straight trail I'm on, and I can see Carmen and Kazakh ahead of me, so can cut some corners and close the gap.  Phew.  Then into the stadium for the spectator control and and I get the next map.  Again, it appears that Carmen and Kazakh have the same forking as me, and we ski as a pack up to #1.  I take a better shortcut and lead in to the control, then lead on to 2, up the big trail.  We can see a bunch of people heading up the trail away from the narrow trail to take to 2, cool, we're close to a pack, but we're maybe a minute or two back from them, which is hard to make up.  There's a sweet gully to cross on the way to 2, and then we shortcut uphill and spike the control.  Carmen continues uphill, but Kazakh and I retrace our steps out to the big trail.  Carmen must have cut somewhere, because she appears ahead of us on the big trail, and I'm working hard trying to close the gap back down.  We all ski up to the corner of the big trail, then make a bunch of shortcuts and meet up with a trail to cross the reentrant, and spike the reentrant again.  We seem to have dropped the Kazakh girl on the climb, and Carmen and I are alone making the cuts and navigating in to 4.

Back across the river, and this time we have a lower control on the hillside.  Thank god you can shortcut as much as you can, the crust is wonderfully firm under the fluffy cold new snow, and I pull a little ahead of Carmen.  We both hightail it for the gully, contouring across the slope, and upon hitting the gully, Carmen decides to cross it without the bridges, while I ski uphill to go across on the sketchy bridge.  I get to the control first, and then just go straight down the fall line, a little faster than I'm totally comfortable with, and hit the powerlines field to catch myself and get to #8, same as we were last loop.  But, making the turn, I catch my ski on a shrubby tree thing, and get spun around, wrenching my strained groin again, and while extricating myself, Carmen catches up.  This is good, because we do navigate faster when we're together, but I had sort of been hoping to drop her.  She leads to 9; this time I'm very careful approaching 9, determined not to make another mistake there, and when Carmen pauses at 10, I take the lead again, going a bit around, but on big trails, so it's fast.  One more control in the maze, with Carmen leading again, and then in to the map exchange again.

I pick up the last map, and I'm relieved to see that it's a very short loop, just 5 controls, and nothing on the hillside of green spaghetti confuzzlement.  Carmen takes one of the earlier big uphill trails, and I figure I may as well take that route too, but just before the turn, we run into some ice under the snow (it had been raining massively two days ago, and now things are icy in places), and because I'm not paying attention, I land flat on my back.  D'oh!  Carmen checks to make sure I'm ok, but keeps skiing, and I'm chasing again.  I go through my #1 from the first lap, but then I come out to the big trail and get massively confused.  Which trail junction is this?  Why is nothing making sense?  I ski up a trail a little ways, don't see the junctions I expect, and go back to the last junction, standing there trying to puzzle it out.  I make a guess, and figure I'll give myself one hunch before bailing, and head into the maze, thankfully finding the control where I expect it, but now I have lost Carmen for good, and a few minutes to boot.  Darn!  

Up the hill to 2, and I try to take the most direct route I can.  I see a blue suit climbing a different trail, and I hope that my choice is the better one.  As I approach the control, I see a Swede coming in, sweet!  I'm briefly ahead of a Swede!  I zig and zag and do some shortcutting to get to 3, and she's right behind me, she sneaks by and punches first.  I'm a bit confused right now, because I don't see a finish circle on my map, and I'm wondering if maybe I counted wrong and there's another lap to do before the finish, so I don't worry too much about the Swede picking up a little gap on me as we zig and zag and shortcut to 4.  Because she's ahead of me, I can see where to take the better shortcuts, but I can tell that this speed is exceeding my navigation speed.  I slow down a smudge just to reaffirm my place on the way to 5, before realizing that I can see it through the woods, and now the Swede has a gap on me.  We come into the stadium, and there's no way I'm catching her, and when she makes the U-turn into the finish, I realize that I am indeed finishing, and that I just lost another place by not sticking to her like glue and then outsprinting her.  D'oh!  

Carmen finished about two minutes up, which is a bummer, because I felt like I could outski her at times, but she clearly out-navigated me, and that's what counts in the end.  Oh, well.  It's still a good finish, and leaves plenty of room for improvement.  

This is one of the sketchy little bridges over the river.  I think there are some bigger boards under the pine branches... maybe.

Look ma, I'm almost tall!

Finishing up the relay.

Control setup.

Upstream view of a sketchy river crossing.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Ski WOC: Relay

After a good amount of debate, the US women's team decided that since I am better than Ali at putting my map into the holder, I should scramble, then Anna should go, and then Ali would anchor.  We thought this would give us a decent chance against the Swiss, Czechs, and Kazakhs, who all had somewhat similar strategies, putting their fastest skier last.  The morning dawned clear, cold, and sunny, and we were PUMPED!  Relays are awesome.

Fast forward to race start, and I get my map into the holder just fine - I'd been worried about that, after professing my skillz at map-placing, what if I screwed that part up?  Luckily, it went fine, and it wasn't too hard to stay near the front, as I quickly ducked into the woods to find my first control, on the heels of Ladina Lechner of Switzerland and the Swedish chick.  Ladina and I had a different forking than Sweden, and as we headed uphill, I found that it wasn't too hard to keep up, in fact, I sort of wanted to pass her.  But I decided to hang out behind her, see what happened there, because I was still all pumped up with adrenaline from the mass start, so who knows how hard I was actually going.  We hit the first control and I've already planned for the second, and Ladina goes my route.  Leaving 1, we see Helena Randakova, of the Czech Republic, coming at us, and she joins the train as we head uphill on a wide trail.  

Ladina takes a poor route to 2, and I find myself in the lead, wheee!  Some fun little swooshy trails through the woods and I'm out to the next big trail, then just a short maze to hit 3, with Ladina and Helena in tow.  I head back to the big trail as directly as I can for the downhill, and manage to contort myself into a tuck around the map holder, whooshing down the hill and finding my narrow trail junction exactly where I want it.  Thanks to the cold temperature, the snow has firmed up nicely, and I can pole with full strength; such a relief after the past few days of soft slow slush!  I skitter across a fairly sketchy pine bough bridge over a raging river, and head into the next maze.  I know where to go for 4, and I'm planning for 5, when I ski right past 4.  D'oh!  I snowplow to a stop and scootch backwards to punch the control.  This let Ladina catch up, and then we take different routes uphill to 5, and I think she picked the better one.  She and Helena are now ahead of me, barely, with a blue butt (Finland?) in view, but I decide on a different descent on the narrow trails to 6, and we part ways again.

Unfortunately, this is where disaster strikes - going over one of the frozen lumpty bumps, I break my left ski, about a foot down from the tip.  Damn.  I hold out hope that I'll still be able to glide on the ski, but on the multi-contour downhill to 6, the ski catches badly and I go tumbling into a tree.  Now it's really broken.  Slight mistake in the circle, because I took the wrong turn, being a bit frazzled, but probably only lost 20s or so to that.  I can see Helena departing 6 as I cross the field under the powerlines, but at this point we're on a wide trail, and she can V2, while I can only double pole on one foot.  We hit a steep downhill, and I manage to stay on my foot, but put my other foot on the ground near the bottom, and the ski digs in and I almost fall.  Across the flats on a big trail, and I can sort of marathon skate, using the ski-that-doesn't-glide as something to kick off of, but Helena is disappearing into the distance, and I have a big climb ahead of me.  

I'm just super duper right now; it's one thing to break equipment, it's another thing to ruin your race, but it's a whole other league to do this in a relay when your teammates are waiting on you.  I am doing this awkward half-V1 thing up the hill, working real damn hard, because I'm f***ing pissed, and really just want to get back as fast as possible to get another ski and hope to pull back some time on Czech and Swiss teams.  Up the hill, Swedish Ed's buddy Carl skis up behind me with the headcam, and after a few moments of skiing behind me, notices my flopping ski.  He asks if I want his ski.  "YES!"  I briefly debate the legality of this, decide it's illegal, and hope nobody notices… this'll save oodles of time, since I still have a ways to get to the stadium, and it's hard to double pole on one foot.

Two working skis, and I attack the hill, spiking the next control and heading to the spectator control.  I don't see anyone in the stadium loop, but figure maybe I can at least pull back some time as I do the last kilometer or so, spiking the controls and still just f***ing pissed, working damn hard.  I tag off to Anna maybe a minute behind the Czechs, but I know we're out of it, now.  The anger I'd skied with the last three kms fades to disappointment, and a feeling I've let down the team.  I know that anything can happen in ski-o, but it's still a bummer.  Anna skis really well, but still gets passed by Kazakhstan and Norway (the first girl from Norway got mega-lost, so I beat her in by 3min).  Ali goes out, and the gaps are just too big to make up.  We finish 8th, tying our finish from two years ago, but this time only out of 8 teams.  I'm still proud of us - I think we all skied well, and with the extra 2min, it would still have been a challenge to hold off Kazakhstan and try to take down Czech Republic, but at least Ali would have had someone to chase down.  

I guess this means I can't retire from ski-o yet.  That top-6 is totally attainable.

Men's relay start.



Anna loving the sunshine.

Greg and Adrian in the sunshine.

Ed, this one's for you - these are the GPS loggers.

Greg racing

Sweden and Finland racing to the finish - Sweden won, by a boot size or so.

Adrian racing.

Another compilation of Kazakh/Russian food.  A mix of breakfast cookies, cabbage, and unidentifiable meat.  Yum!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rest day in Kazkhstan

Yesterday was the sprint relay here at Lesnoye, with one team per country, consisting of one man and one woman.  Ali and Scott represented the USA, and skied admirably, but unfortunately, Ali went to the wrong control during her second leg (each skier does 3 separate loops, tagging off in between), disqualifying the team.  Sprint relays are super frazzling events, with lots of people around and you're going full bore the whole time - the whole thing seems designed to beg for a mispunch.  Bummer, but if not for that, would have been a really nice result!

Uh oh... snowmobile won't start...

Here is Ali skiing off just after Scott tagged her.

Here is Ali, waiting in the pouring rain in the tag zone for Scott to come through - I stopped taking pictures after this, to not kill my camera in the rain.  I also wore a plastic bag all day, and that made standing around and holding jackets and buffs much more pleasant.

The day after the sprint relay, we had a rest day, so of course we all headed out running in the morning, and then it was time for a cultural excursion to Ridder City.  We went to two museums and hit the downtown Ridder for some shopping.

The men's team, waiting for the bus.

Anna, waiting for bus.

At the first museum, we saw a pretty sad collection of stuffed animals - I liked the baby bear.

And the bobcat thing, hanging on a tree above the visitors in this two-room museum, that combined natural history with Kazakh history with other random stuff about Kazakhstan.  


There was a yurt, with a pink fuzzy saddle!

More stuff from inside the yurt.

The guy we've dubbed awkward translator, because of his awkward mannerisms, and the docent, with her single chopstick to point at stuff.

More sad looking stuffed animals.

I found a wolf.

Then we went to another museum, this one about Kazzinc, the factory we pass on the way to Sinegorye when we went there to train, that mostly deals with zinc.  Above is a bus-full of internationl athletes ready to take in some propaganda.  "everything from the factory just goes into the river - it is very clean!"  Oh, really?

Here's the factory as we drove back to Lesnoye.

Then we went into city, and there we found a food store and a souvenir store - here we're looking at sausages, fish, and mystery meat.

This is some sort of Kazakh national symbol - apparently the one in Astana is HUGE.  It's either a fruit tree or a golden eagle egg, depending on who you ask... 

We finally got some sunshine (and new snow! after all that rain...), so the views of the Altai mountains were great.

A downhill run!  Just one.

This is the river with the super sketchy bridge crossing on our dead-end road to Lesnoye.  The river was about half the size when we crossed it a week ago - has been a LOT of precipitation coming down, combined with super warm temps.  I'm just glad the bridge is still there.

Afternoon means some ski testing!

Anna and I enjoying the sunshine!

Laura (Hungarian team) found a frozen frog in the snow - pretty cool! (no pun intended)

Nice views when it's not snowing or raining.

Tomorrow is the relay.  The women go first, then the men, at 10am and 11:15am, respectively (that's 11pm and 12:15pm, EST).  I'm going off first, so scrambling with the big girls, and I'm very excited.  Time to go spike all the controls!