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Newsletter

Blog Archives

3/1/05 Happy Birthday to Carol

Today is Carol's 40th birthday. I'm 19 months older than Carol. I don't know that I yet grasp the concept of lifespan, but it kind of feels like I've lived half my life. The idea of life ending now is very strange.

I think that one of the reasons that Carol is dealing with this so well is that she has always lived in the moment. I'm a big planner. I get upset if something I plan doesn't work out. Carol has always lived each day as if it's her last. I think her list of regrets is far shorter than most.

Enough depressing talk. It looks like we'll have something like 125 people coming for Carol's party this weekend. Should be a fairly wild crowd, although Carol's friends are pretty good about having fun without getting too out of control. It's at one of the Cornell frats, so I guess it won't be any crazier than their usual fare.

3/2/05 Midday run

Today I ran with Jeff Fromme at lunch time. Jeff is a triathlete who works in the same office I do. We run about the same speed.

I like running at midday during the winter and spring because most of my training is in the dark. The drawbacks are that around my office, you're pretty much restricted to running on roads and the workout time is limited.

3/3/05 Off to Ithaca

We're flying to Ithaca tomorrow (actually Syracuse, since flying to Ithaca sucks in ways I have described in detail). I probably won't update this page during the trip. Look for reports on Carol's party plus an update on her condition when we return next week.

3/8/05 Great trip

It took a bit longer to get back than planned (we missed a connection so we had to stay overnight in Detroit), but the trip for Carol's party was great. As expected, it was an animated crowd. They also put on a short show with a few numbers from shows Carol has been in as well as some original material. I gave a toast at the end, which went over well, but it was pretty intimidating to get up in front of a group of seasoned performers following some really talented acts.

Carol had a great time, but was really wiped out by the end of the day. One of the problems she has is that she gets so engaged with her friends that she doesn't want to take the time out to eat and drink. This isn't anything new - she didn't have any of the food at her wedding reception. The difference is that eating and drinking are so time consuming now that it's hard for her to catch back up if she misses a meal. Her doctors have told her that she should try hard to keep weight on at this stage.

The best part of the trip for me was meeting all the people who have been supporting Carol. I've always been aware of Carol's friends, but haven't really gotten to know that many of them. A finer group of people would be hard to find.

3/9/05 Mapping

Most of the good navigators I know have done some mapping. Many are quite proficient at it. I'm currently making the maps for the St. Louis A-meet in April. Most of the work is done, but there are some details still to tend to.

For the meet this spring I'm mapping two areas that are very different. Cliff Cave (below, left) is thick woods and with complex contours. It took three days of fieldwork to map just 1 square kilometer. Forest Park (below, right) is a large urban park. Mapping went faster, although it still took longer than I thought it would. The park is about 10 square kilometers, but only half of that is usable for orienteering. I spent about five days on fieldwork.

I think mapping makes you a better navigator, but it's probably not an optimal use of time. That is, mapping only helps if it is incremental to your training. If it's taking away from time you could be out training in the terrain, it will be a net loss. Fortunately, mapping doesn't take much out of you physically, so if you have the time, you can do both. Now that I'm working on Carol's Song in the evenings, my time is a lot more limited so I'll probably quit mapping for a while.

3/10/05 Lights out

My HID headlamp broke a few weeks ago. I think it's just a burned out bulb, but it might be more serious. Unfortunately, I've been so busy lately I forgot to send it to the manufacturer to get fixed. That means that I'll probably have to do the KC 9-hour with my old halogen lamp.

HID lamps have really changed the game of night navigation. Most adventure racers have figured this out, but many are still intimidated by the price. A good HID light with 2 lithium ion batteries will set you back about $600. That's a lot for a light, but you have to think of it in terms of price/performance.

Depending on terrain, a $400 HID light is worth 5-10 minutes per hour of technical night navigation. What other piece of equipment gives you that kind of time for that much money? Carbon fiber kayak paddle? Maybe 5 minutes/hour, but I doubt it. Better mountain bike? Well, maybe the difference between a $400 and $800 bike is worth that on single tack. But certainly going from $1600 to $2000 doesn't get you anything close to that payback, especially on roads.

As for the extra $200 for lithium ion batteries, it's more than just weight savings (although taking a pound out of your pack is certainly worth $200 - try taking a pound off your bike for less). Lithium ion batteries love the cold. At 70F, the burn time for both the lithium ion and ni-cad batteries is about 4 hours at 11 watts (which is plenty bright enough). At freezing, the lithium ion batteries are up to around 4:30 while you're lucky to get 3 hours out of the ni-cads. Since most races feature low night temps, you are basically getting an extra battery with the lithium ions.

I'll get by with my halogen light at KC, but I'm glad that David will have his HID light.

3/13/05 S-F

Most of the terrain near St. Louis is pretty steep. We have two parks south of the city that offer much more subtle features: Hawn and S-F. S-F is owned by the Boy Scouts, so we don't get to train on it. That makes our annual meet there almost like an out of town meet.

This year the S-F meet coincides with the KC 9-hour. The meet director let a few of us run the course a week early. It was a lot of fun. The format was 2-hour score. David and I planned sweep routes. Mine was a little longer, but I felt that it followed the features better. We both ran well, with no significant mistakes. My total error was around two minutes. I finished with 7:25 to spare; about a minute and a half ahead of David. Jeff Sona also ran and got all but a few controls.

A scan of the meet map is here.

3/14/05 Map simplification

After yesterday's meet I was talking to Jeff Sona about what you do and don't read when navigating at speed. Being able to quickly filter out the things you don't need to care about is essential to reading the map on the run.

Consider this leg from 9 to 10. There are at least three ways to approach this leg: 1) compass bearing (risky), 2) carefully checking off each feature (slow), or 3) quickly, relocating off each linear feature you cross. There are three such features: the trail perpendicular to the red line, the north-south ridge, and the stream 200m south of the control. The north-south trail is not useful because it is indistinct and you might miss it.

When I ran this leg, I had a map in my head that looked more like the one to the right. Upon leaving the control, I checked my compass to get a rough bearing. I ran to the trail, expecting to cross it about the time I got to the flat part at the top of the ridge. Note that this is a subtle ridge, so trying to determine where you are on the slope is hard. Determining that you are on the flat top portion is easier. I then got over to the eastern slope and started looking for the stream. Upon hitting the stream, I confirmed that I was at the western edge of the exposed rock, and attacked the control from there.

Along the way, I noticed other features, such as the two small ditches past the trail and was pretty sure I saw the indistinct trail as well. Upon passing each, I took a quick glance at the map to confirm my position, but I didn't add that to the detail I was carrying in my head. By looking for the larger, simple features, while being conscious of the smaller features you pass, it's possible to stay in complete contact with the map without having to read and remember every feature off the map.

3/16/05 Spinning

Spinning has become somewhat popular in the last few years. It is an excellent workout. By pedaling at close to the speed limited by skeletal movement (as opposed to limits imposed by external resistance) one can significantly elevate the heart rate without subjecting the skeletal muscles to stress that will require prolonged recovery. In other words, spinning works your heart without killing you legs.

I've only done a couple spinning classes. I don't really like them. I prefer spin sprints to prolonged efforts at moderate rpm's. I also like to do low gear work on a non-stationary bike. This forces you to use a smooth pedal stroke. On a stationary bike you can be pretty choppy. On rollers or the road, you can't go much above 120 rpm's with any significant flaws in your stroke. With a really smooth stroke, you can hit 180 rpm's or more. I once saw the great sprinter Nelson Vails wind it up to 230, which was a world record at the time.

3/18/05 Training through

This weekend is the Kansas City 9-hour orienteering event. I don't know if it will really take 9 hours, but it will be long. The 9-hour is at night and is preceded by a 3-hour day event (that will also likely be a bit shorter).

With 10-12 hours of racing in store, I would ordinarily taper my training. I'm not going to this time. Instead I'll be "training through" the event. Basically, this means using the race as a long workout. There are a few things you do differently when training through an event.

First, you have to accept that you're not going to have your best performance. If that's a problem, either taper or skip it. I do enough orienteering events a year that I don't mind having a few that I don't go all out.

Second, you have to really limit the max efforts during the event. It's fine to go hard, but you have to take a little of the edge off. Otherwise you'll need too much recovery afterwards. That's going to be difficult since both David Frei and Michael Eglinski will be there. Staying with either of them usually requires some pretty serious output.

My plan is to put one more week of long training and then start to taper for the Ozark Challenge.

3/20/05 KC Score O's

Yesterday, I did two score-O's put on by the Possum Trot Orienteering Club. The first was a 3-hour at Weston Bend. I swept the course in 2:19 to take third behind David Frei and Michael Eglinski. I was with them for the first few kilometers. On trails and roads, I was moving a bit faster than them, but I wasn't able to match their speed through the forest. After they broke contact with me, I lost some time due to errors. It was an OK run, but a bit disappointing after running so well last week.

The second event was a 9-hour at Bluffwoods Conservation Area (north, south) that started at 9 PM. David and I teamed up for this one. We ran well for the first three hours but then I started feeling sick. We stopped briefly at the water stop between #43 and #5, but it didn't do much good. From that point on, I puked on every climb. After the first few times, I stopped trying to put anything back in, so it was just dry heaves. Although we were able to clean the course in 6:48 to win, I didn't have a very good time. I felt bad for David who clearly could have gone faster.

I'll write a meet report in the next few days.

3/21/05 Paddling

I haven't been thinking much about paddling this winter. Between the A-meet planning and the trips to see Carol, I haven't been able to find time on the weekends to get out in the boat. I need to remedy that since we'll have plenty of it at the Ozark Challenge in two weeks.

Once the time changes, I'll be able to paddle after work. Unfortunately, I have to park in a garage at work, so I can't bring my boat to work on top of the car. Maybe I can find another place to park.

I'd like to improve my paddling this year. It's the weakest adventure racing discipline for me. I didn't really think it was that much of a liability until nationals last year. When we came out of the first paddle section in 35th place, I knew we had to take it more seriously.

The weird thing is that at the qualifiers, we've always done OK on the water. I wonder if the teams in the Midwest are all kind of lame in that area. Overall, Midwestern teams do fairly well. I think there were 3 Midwestern teams in the top 10 at last year's nationals.

3/22/05 Welcome to spring

Spring is here and it's supposed to be cold rain every day this week. Yuk. I guess we need it, but I was enjoying running and riding trails without mud.

Even through fabrics have greatly improved in the past 20 years, I still hate being out in cold rain. I don't mind really cold temperatures when everything is frozen, but I've never been very good at dealing with cold and wet. For a short race, it's OK, but for longer events or workouts I just get really depressed.

My cold rain clothing varies by sport. For running, I wear a polypro base layer (top & bottom) a Supplex shell, hat, gloves, and really thin socks. If it's windy, I might wear a wind breaking vest as well. For cycling, I replace the base top with a wool jersey I've had since high school and add a waterproof jacket and shoe covers. I don't usually paddle in this type of weather, but if I do, I add neoprene gloves.

The above outfits work as well as one could hope, but I still don't like it.

3/23/05 Changing Plans

Last week I wrote that I was planning on training through the KC races and doing another big week this week. That obviously went out the window when I got sick in the 9-hour. After something like that, you have to let yourself recover.

Being flexible in such situations is really important to staying healthy. A common mistake is to cling too tightly to a training plan when your body is telling you to do something else. Of course you can't be cavalier about abandoning a schedule, but it's better to err on the side of safety.

One way to make a training plan more flexible is to leave off days floating. I expect to take an off day every week. I don't put this in my plan because I don't usually know what circumstances will come up to interfere with training. Instead, I plan a few workouts each week that, while having merit, I could do without if necessary.

If nothing comes up, I do the full schedule. If something does, I'll shift everything a day and knock one of the less important workouts out of the schedule. I don't stress over it because I was expecting to have to lose a workout or two. I never try to "make up" a workout by doing two days training on a single day. If I do a double workout day, it is by design.

3/29/05 - Welcome to spring (again)

Today got into the mid-70's. It felt strange to be riding with only shorts and a jersey. Once the time changes, I'll be able to get in a fairly substantial mid-week workout before the sun goes down.

3/30/05 Training through (again)

I've decided to train through the Flying Pig. I simply don't think that my navigation is sharp enough right now to justify tapering for it. Next week I'll be tapering for the Ozark Challenge and the week after that will be recovery. I don't want to take three full weeks off from training.

I'm a little disappointed that I'm not better prepared. Day 2 of the Pig is US Short Course championships for orienteering. I'm not particularly good at short course, but if my form was on, I'd have a chance at a medal. As it is, I'm being way too sloppy in the woods. Short course requires very accurate navigation.

I'll still run the event hard and, who knows, I might even do OK (although the start list for M40+ looks mighty tough). For what it's worth, my picks for the top five are:

Joe Brautigham
David Frei
Mark Voit
Nadim Ahmed
Me

There are a handful of others who could also find their way to the top. As this meet is also US Team Trials, there are a few good M40+ runners that will be running open rather than their age group. Michael Eglinski is one such runner who would likely beat me.

3/31/05 New house

Kate and I have been thinking about moving. Yesterday we looked at a house that we liked and today our offer was accepted on it.

It's quite a bit different from what we've had in the past. We've always lived in older houses. This house is fairly generic, but it's well laid out and in good shape. Ever since Baby-O arrived utility has taken precedence of character. Having a garage will be nice (no more hauling the kayak out of the basement.)

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