Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Vermont 100 crew

Before I left for Finland, Amy Rusiecki, giggle #3 of Team Giggles, sent an innocuous email asking if I were busy the weekend of 7/21-22.  She was looking to fill out a crew to pace and crew her for the VT100.  Well, I'm not known for my ability to say no to things, so naturally I ended up signing on to Team Amy, a spirited bunch of speedy ladies from western MA.  I hadn't met any of them before, and three of the four of us had never crewed for an ultramarathon before, but thankfully, Amy has an OCD nature, and gave us lengthy and explicit instructions as to what we should do.  That really helped!  Apparently, it's abnormal to have a race binder telling your crew exactly what you want at every aid station, but for us, that thing was the bible.  Key points were: ice, lots of it, for sports bra and water bottles, and bodyglide, anywhere you may have *any* chafing. 

Team Amy! From left to right: Jess, Karin, Liz, Alex, with Amy in front.  I don't know how she got a beer in her hand so fast after finishing; I turned around and she'd found a campchair and a beer!  good thinking.

So we met up in western MA on Saturday morning, leaving the morning crewing up to Amy's husband Brian's crew, and found our way to the mile 47 aid station, Camp 10 Bear, by 10am or so.  Amy had provided us with some detailed pace charts, so we could know when to expect her depending on how fast she was running.  Unfortunately for her, she had just gotten back from a trip to Wales for the World Trail Championships, and the travel fatigue combined with a nagging hamstring injury led to a strain around mile 15.  She debated for about 25 miles whether she wanted to drop out, and ultimately decided not to, racing the rest of the race doped up on ibuprofen and never really opening her stride.  She was clearly disappointed with her placing during the race, but we did our best to pump her up and encourage her, and apparently other crews were commenting that Team Amy had a bit too much energy.  Well, I was on Team Amy, what do you expect...

One of the cool things about this race is that it is a 100mi horse race, too.  So we got to watch these beautiful Arabian horses float by.  The horses were clearly in good shape, but they were held at mandatory vet checks for mandatory periods of time, so there was a decent amount of back-and-forth between the runners and the horses. 

At the aid stations, we would meet Amy about 100m beforehand, and get some questions in, like when have you last peed, what do you need, can I feed you these salted potatoes, how do you feel, how about an energy gel?  We'd greet her with a water bottle filled with some sort of tasty concoction, and lots of ice, she'd drink that on the way in, and then she had to get weighed, because if you are more than some percent of your body weight up or down from the starting weight, they'll hold you there until you're either more hydrated or less bloated, depending on the problem.

Amy was a quick transitioner, generally in and out in under 2min, and her main tasks were switching out the empty water bottle for a full one (with ice), in a carrier thing that we'd packed with gels and chewy things and salt tabs and ibuprofen as needed ahead of time, put some more ice in her bra, maybe switch out her hat or visor, maybe change her shorts, maybe eat some fruit or potatoes or potato chips, and then on her way again.  We always had a couple extra pairs of shoes for her, too, in case the current pair got muddy or sandy or were giving her blisters. 

Karin and Jess at our runner buffet.  From left to right we have: wash cloth soaking in ice water (for rinsing face and neck and general cooling effect), a selection of bars, chews, and gels, salt tabs, coconut water (tastes good), ginger ale (if stomach is bothering her), pedialyte (if getting too dehydrated), advil (duh), toothbrush (sometimes that makes you feel fresher), and the new water bottles for Amy and her next pacer.  There are also some new clothes and body glide, and a buffet of water bottles to choose from for the run in to the aid station.

Some of the aid stations were a bit of a trek from the car.  Thankfully, we had time, since Amy usually had to run 6-10mi between the manned aid stations, and we only had to drive a little bit.  By mile 70, she was allowed to have pacers (the first 70 miles of this race you had to run alone - imagine that.  we're talking like 12 hours or more, of just running, alone, with nothing to think about except how much your feet hurt or your belly hurts or your brain hurts... gah).  Liz took the first chunk, in the daylight.  Karin did the next chunk, starting in daylight, but finishing up in the dark.  I took the last chunk, 10.7mi, and it was full dark.  I broke my MagicShine headlamp, so just had a normal one, but even that was pretty bright, and at this point I was rarin' to run, so I kept pushing Amy to run a little faster, a little further up all the hills. We ended up passing a bunch of guys in the last 10 miles, there, putting Amy into the top 20 overall, and third woman.  She was closer than we thought to first, because 50 minutes over 100 miles is actually pretty darn close.

I don't think I want to do one of these anytime soon.  It doesn't look like a ton of fun, and this one in particular is all on dirt roads, with really limited amounts on trail.  Slogging through the last 80 miles of a race (because let's be serious, how much fun can any of these be after 20 miles?) looked like hell, but Amy is a special kind of crazy, our favorite kind. She was easy to crew for, which I expect is not something every crew can say.  It was kind of cool being on a crew for a race like that, because the real challenge isn't in putting one foot in front of the other (ok, maybe that plays a small part), but in the logistics and in keeping a happy belly.  No matter how you play it, you're going to run a caloric deficit over 100 miles - the question comes in as to how much you can replenish and absorb while on the run.  sheesh.  Sign me up for a 5k!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Some photos from WOC

Thanks to Ken for coming along as our official team photographer - he grabbed some great shots.  Unfortunately, some of my photos it's painfully obvious how slowly I'm moving, but hey, I've never been one to avoid putting photos of myself online!
Go Team USA! (Boris is missing)

Proof that I followed my instructions to myself in the sprint to keep my head up.


Even prancercizing was hard on the long distance day.

Stadium was PACKED for opening ceremonies and sprint final.  Team USA made lots of noise - we're an excitable bunch!

Team cheer every night!

The following photos are from Jan Kobach at World of O: 

I found one!  Photo:

Difficult prancercizing.  Photo:



And this one is from Nick Barrable of Compass Sport magazine.  I used to be embarrassed by having huge thighs, but I think I've come around, and am now proud of those strong legs.  Those things create power.  Also, the Team USA uniform looks way better with the blue lightning socks!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Orienteering World Championships, 2013

The 2013 World Orienteering Champs is a wrap, and I'm sitting in an airport most of the way home, playing the woulda-shoulda-coulda game and wondering what needs to change for next year... these championships did not go the way I had hoped.  I came into the week in the best shape of my life (if 3k PRs can be used to determine that), got into the terrain early enough to truly feel like I understood what was coming, and I was in a great state of mind, confident but not blind.  Unfortunately, it didn't pan out the way I'd hoped.  I screwed up the physical preparation, with a bit too much fatigue in my legs, probably because I was too much a slave to the plan.  The plan was supposed to make me fast, but I did not take weather into account, nor the fact that my body has not responded to tapering the way it used to for the last two or three years.

I also managed to pick up some sort of low-level virus thing, leading to lower energy levels and a stuffy nose all week.  Exactly what you want when it comes to performance!  Standing on the start line of the long distance qualification, I had a whole pocket full of mantras to trick myself through the race, but it wasn't enough to overcome the sheer exhaustion I was fighting through from the get-go.  I made two errors in the race, but the lack of oomph in my legs was the big limiting factor, and I spent a few hours after the race with chills and shakes and nausea, which may be from the heat, but may be related to the cold.  That race was so sub-par, the points I got from it were the lowest I have gotten since 2010, when I still didn't really know how to orienteer.  Not how I wanted to start the week.

Tomorrow's another day, so immediately upon finishing the long distance, I started recovery, mental and physical, for the sprint.  Lots of fun when you have heat chills and just want to curl up in a corner.  I managed an afternoon jogeroo after an afternoon nap, and that helped the legs wake up a bit, enough that I was actually feeling human by sprint morning.  I nailed my warmup routines, with the major theme of my race plan being anticipation - always know what is coming up next.

I flipped the map and started running, and the course laid itself out in front of my eyes; fairly simple, quite flat, but with all houses and shrubberies looking identical, it was important to stay in contact.  A few brief hesitations here and there, but in general I could keep my head up and absorb information from the map quickly.  By about two thirds of the way through the course, I was starting to feel the effort of yesterday, and my legs picked up that sluggish feeling when you stop clearing the lactic acid as well.  I pushed through to the finish, and though I didn't feel super quick, it felt like a solid run.  Unfortunately, when I downloaded, it became apparent that I had not gone to #9 - I had gone to a different course's control, and because that control had had the code of 109, I brainfarted, and "109" overwrote "136" that was supposed to be the code.  I'd been reading ahead for the long leg to 12, and run at the control in the right direction.

This one hurt.  Being slow is pretty painful in and of itself, but failing at the overall concept of the game - find all the controls, in the right order - is worse.

I was not selected to run the relay.  Hannah was totally deserving of that spot after yet another demonstration of her ability to navigate well and quickly in this terrain, so my WOC was over by lunchtime on Monday.  I think I managed to stay positive for the rest of the week, and be supportive of my teammates, and it was definitely exciting to watch Ali run so well all week!  But I am leaving Finland with a heavy heart.  It's not easy to put yourself out there, time and time again, to sacrifice and hurt and strive, only to fail to meet your expectations.  The sacrifice and the physical hurts and the emotional investment are part of being an athlete, but I'm going to need some time to repair my give-a-damn and my ego.

Team USA was the loud team.

Ali finishing the long final in second place!  She ended up in 18th, which is the best ever finish by an American on the world championship stage.  Wahoo!

The WOC office was selling souvenirs.  Like cutting boards.  They looked nice, but I wanted a sticker.

There was a treadmill thing set up that projected a map on three screens, and you could run through a sprint course using head and arm movements.  It was pretty awesome looking, but the line was always too long for me to be able to give it a try.  

7 Wonders passes the time.

Packed stadium at the relay arena!

Goal for 2014: learn to run like this!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pre-WOC jitters

The training is all finished now.  Nothing more can be done physically, it all comes down to the mental acumen and psychological state at this point.  How well can we anticipate the controls appearing exactly where they should?  How well can we overcome the inevitable problems that will arise?  The team is in good spirits right now, but there is an undercurrent of excitement and nerves, even though most of us are old hands at this.  This is the 13th WOC for Eric!  

I feel good.  I had a good session today, doing my pre-race 3x3min blow-outs in the terrain and spiking controls, and I have my mantras and my keywords ready.  The only trouble is my massive horsefly bite on my thigh that itches constantly!  

More teammates arrived last night - we're nearly a full house, only missing Sam now, who is arriving after the sprint.  Food is good and plentiful, sleeping is quiet and peaceful, games are fun, and the forests are fast.  What more can you ask for?

Hannah, dashing through the woods

A free-range Rosstopher, prancing on the mossy ground

Angry birds paraphernalia is everywhere!  Clearly the national pasttime, as well as the national economy driver.  I may have downloaded and finished the free version of the game within a day and a half... 
Angry birds gummies!  They have a salted licorice bird in there, which is about as gross as it sounds, but the Scandinavians seem to love that stuff.  

Finland appears to be well-wired.  Or unwired, depending on how you look at it.  This has been good for spectating the Junior World Champs, just wrapping up today in the Czech Republic.  

More photos of beautiful terrain.  This stuff is faaast.  (or is that fäst?)

I'm collecting a whole pile of sleeping-Brendan photos.  

Euro supercar!  Tiny, and very efficient

Alison and Eric on the swingset.  Woo!

And some maps, of course: 

Long distance model map, with my route from the 3x3s that I did.

Sprint training in Lohtaja, near Kajaani.

Some middle distance training, on the ski slope map from behind our first cabin.

And some more sexy forest training! O'tervals on a map with sandy mossy ground and very fast speeds. So sweet.

More contours on this one.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Finland: Säyneinen regional race

I flew to Finland on Thursday evening, picked up a rental car in Helsinki, picked up Ali and Brendan (who'd arrived a day earlier), and kept driving north for a few hours, until we arrived in Leppävirta, at a tent-sized cabin by a lake to spend the night before running a race the next day.  The cabin was adorably cute, but possibly because of its tininess, it was very warm inside, so we ate dinner outside in full sunlight, before cramming ourselves back in, where I fell into one of those deep, dreamless, sleeps of the exhausted traveler.

Inside the cute little cabin

Outside of the little cabin

A Finnish Lake at 11pm.  This was down in Leppävirta.  Even more daylight up in Vuokatti!

Morning came too early (not like it ever got dark overnight), and the three of us crammed back into our tiny Euro supercar (5 gallon tank, roughly 60mi/gallon), and headed to a race!  This was supposedly a Regional Championships, I figured maybe the size of an A meet back home, but there weren't huge fields.  I suppose maybe there just aren't that many people in this region of Finland - we had just driven through five hours of essentially nothingness.

Anyway, it was a two-race deal, with a sprint in the morning, and a middle distance in the afternoon.  I was hoping to feel good, but after nearly missing my start (darn time zones, out there to confuse me!), I just felt terrible, physically, and could barely keep up an eight-minute mile on the pavement.  This was discouraging, but I hoped that maybe the jetlag and exhaustion would just sort of wear off for the afternoon.  Unfortunately, that wasn't really the case, and I made a lot of mistakes to boot, so by the time I stumbled across the finish line I was pretty done.  Trying to pull a clean shirt out of my bag, my forearms cramped up, and going for a quick dip in the river, my toes and feet cramped up swimming, so clearly there were some nutritional deficiencies as well as exhaustion playing havoc with my body.  Yikes!

Go CSU!  Ali won the overall race, nice showing =)

Shower facility, down by the river.

Studying an old map of the area before the middle distance race.

My map and route from the middle distance race.

I managed to stay awake enough to drive the next few hours north to Vuokatti, where we found our next cabin, thankfully much larger than the last, that will be our home for the next week.  Right now it is still just Ali, Brendan and I, but tonight Cristina arrives, Eric comes in at some point in the wee hours of the night, and I think Wyatt and Alison arrive later this week, too.  The currently wonderful peaceful work-inducing environment will soon change, I fear!

Vuokatti is home to one of Finland's largest ski schools, so there is all sorts of awesome ski-related coolness, like rollerski paths everywhere, a downhill mountain, both sizes of ski jumps, a super sweet ski school campus, and, of course, the ski tunnel itself.  Yes, I'll be visiting that!

Yesterday afternoon I got out for a brief training run on a sprint map that is adjacent to our cabin, and it felt really good to move some blood around my legs and try to flush out the fatigue.  This morning, we headed to one of the training maps nearby, to start getting familiar with the terrain around here.  The forests are wide open and easy running (aside from all the hills), with various aged versions of the same type of pine tree everywhere, over a slightly squishy mossy undergrowth with some low blueberries, all of this over sand.  Quite pleasant!  Brendan is heading out for a second training now, while Ali and I are staying in to try and get more work done.  Then dinnertime!

Long distance training map at Pöllyvaara. I drew a line, to follow, and the idea is that will help me look at the terrain a lot and learn from the map.

The event center office is a little cabin.  Typical!

Inside, they have a wall of maps that you can purchase for training before WOC.  This excites Ali.

The forests are beautiful and open.  I like running here.

Ali and I staged some photos.  Woo!

It's a well-known fact that cool socks make you run faster.  It's an even better-known fact that Inov-8 shoes make you fly!

They had these really cute little figurines for sale in the WOC event center.