8/1/05 Training time
A guy at work asked me recently how many miles I train. I told him I don't measure
training in miles, but it comes out to 10-15 hours a week. His next question was how I
find the time to do that.
Part of it is perception, I suppose. When I was racing bikes seriously, my training was
more like 30 hours a week. My current training seems light by comparison. Of course, I
had no other job during the season back in those days and that makes a huge difference.
My answer was that you just have to carve out the time when it's available. I train at
lunchtime and then eat a sandwich or salad at my desk rather than going out to eat. On
weekends, I get up early so I can do long workouts and still have the afternoon for
household chores or just to spend with Kate and Baby-O. I do one evening workout a
week, and I try to make sure it's a good one (usually 3-4 hours).
Most of all, it comes from having a pretty supportive crew at home. Kate has never been
much for athletic endeavors, but she understands that it's important to me. I try to repay
the favor by looking after Olivia on the evenings that I don't train. I also get her up in the
morning and feed her breakfast so Kate can sleep a little longer.
I guess questions like this just help me realize how lucky I am.
8/2/05 Wild life
One of the great things about being out in the woods is seeing what other animals are
capable of. Here are two recent examples:
At Mission on the Muscatatuck (southern IN) both Carol's Team entries were together as the sun
was setting. We came over the top of a ridge and startled two wolves. I didn't know there were
any wolves still in Indiana. Anyway, they weren't interested in chatting and took off at an
impressive speed, but we sure got a good look at them because they were only about 10 feet
away when we came up on them.
The second was just last weekend at the Extreme Heart Challenge last weekend (Sioux City, IA).
We were mountain biking on a dirt road and a young deer decided to flee by running along the
road. We were moving at about 18 mph at the time and this guy just kept hopping along about 20
feet in front of us. We were worried that he might turn into the road and take us out, but we were
also mesmerized by watching a 200-pound animal apparently float along above the ground.
Many people go their whole lives without seeing wild animals up close. We get to see
them all the time.
8/3/05 Teddy Roosevelt on failure
I came across the following quote from Teddy Roosevelt. I'm sure he had greater tasks in mind
when he wrote this, but it speaks to the spirit of our sport:
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or
where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually
in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who
errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or
shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself
for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and
who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never
be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
I've seen this quote before and always focused on the first and last lines - basically his
point that there is a wide gulf between those who dare to do and those who simply watch.
Today was the first time I really noticed the part about error. Particularly the phrase,
"there is no effort without error or shortcoming."
I am always trying to run the perfect race. A race where we do everything right and finish
just before the effort does us in. I am increasingly becoming aware that this is a
contradictory goal. If we are trying hard, mistakes will be made. In fact, they
must be made. To prevent every mistake is to be so cautious that we become one
of those cold and timid souls, unwilling to take the risks required to truly compete.
At a pragmatic level, I've known this for quite some time. I used to set my error threshold
for orienteering at 10%. That is, if I made more than six minutes of error per hour, I felt I
was running too sloppy and needed to slow down. At less than 10%, I was losing more
time being careful than I was saving in mistakes. In the past five years, I've been
pushing that threshold down. My best results last year were in races where my error was
around 5%. Splits from big international races indicate that the top international
orienteers have an optimal error rate of around 2-3%.
I think our optimal error rate in adventure racing is also around 5%. The combination of
complexity of the race and lack of sleep make for larger mistakes, but that is offset by
long stretches (such as paddling down a river) that are typically error free. In a long
course event, that comes to about an hour of mistakes. Most of the mistakes are small (2-
3 minutes) but we always seem to have one whopper in there.
8/4/05 More Teddy
While we're on the subject, here's another Teddy Roosevelt quote that I really like:
Do not hit, if it is possible to honorably avoid hitting. But never hit soft.
This one has nothing to do with adventure racing (no matter how mad you are at the race
director, you should never hit them.) It was brought to my attention by
Steve McArther, a friend of mine who has won
US and World Tae Kwon Do championships. Don't mess with the dude.
Today's my birthday (42). Frankly, I feel like I'm in my prime right now. It's true that I
used to be a bit faster - a lot faster on the bike - but my endurance is better now than it's
ever been and my technique continues to improve. A few random thoughts about aging:
You definitely recover and heal slower. Things that used to get better in a day or two now
take a week. Taking care of yourself becomes more important.
Endurance really improves with age. I'm sure there's a point at which this stops, but I
haven't hit it yet. Going for 24-hours straight was misery in my 20's (I only did two 24-
hour races before age 30 and hated both of them). My favorite distance now is 18 hours,
but I certainly don't mind if a race takes a full 24.
Technique can compensate for fitness. I'm sure my VO2 max is down considerably from
what it was 15 years ago. My time trial results would indicate the falloff may be 15% or
more. Nonetheless, I would happily race a team comprised of 27-year-olds who had the
same fitness/technique level as I did back then. They'd smoke me on the open sections,
but once we started navigating, climbing, paddling, etc., I'd start liking my chances a lot.
Experience counts for a lot. I can't remember which one, but one race website had the
line "Experience is something you get shortly after needing it." We've done enough races
now that we've learned not to panic when things are going wrong. We still make
mistakes (see yesterday's entry) but they are much smaller than when we started.
8/7/05 Ya Ya
Today is Olivia's birthday. She's two. When she started talking, she had trouble saying
her name (it is, after all, 4 syllables). The best she could do was "Ya Ya". It stuck and
that's mostly what we call her now.
Astute readers will note that she uses her left hand to hold a fork. Too early to tell if she has
inherited this from her father or if this is a passing predilection. She draws with either hand,
although the left appears to yeild better results (it's not always clear which marks are intentional
in a 2-year-old's drawing).
8/8/05 No motivation
I really didn't feel like training today. That doesn't happen very often, usually I wish I
could train more. I went for an easy run and swim.
The first day that I feel like this, I try to get out and do something because often the effort
snaps me out of it. If I don't feel like going the next day, then it's usually a sign that I
need a break and I go ahead and give myself one. I'll see how I feel tomorrow.
8/9/05 Too much thinking
Sometimes I over-analyze things. At tonights race (Tuesday Night Crits at Carondolet), I
saw a dangerous group forming up front. There were seven of them and they had maybe
50 meters on the field. That's an easy gap to bridge, and since I was only about fifteen
riders deep in the field, I thought about going.
Then I thought that since the gap had stayed constant for a whole lap, surely the field
wasn't going to let them go, so maybe I should just wait. It was a pretty hot night and any
big efforts would be paid for later.
About the time I was thinking this, there was a big attack and three more riders bridged
up to the break. Everybody hit the gas and the field completely blew apart. After two laps
of hard chasing, I had almost got across the gap with two other riders, but we never did
make it. After another two laps we were back in what was left of the field and we all got
lapped by the break.
Fifteen years ago, I would have just bridged the gap and not worried about it. I think I've
become a lot more cautious. Maybe I don't have the legs to cover moves like I used to,
but I think I need to quit worrying about that and just go when the situation seems right.
8/11/05 Change of plans
For a number of reasons, Carol's Team will not likely be going to nationals this year. I'm
not too disappointed in that - Tampa isn't really our best terrain. It does leave us with not
much in the way of goals for the remainder of the year. I think we'll do some shorter
races and try to break in some new team members.
8/13/05 Forest Park
Today, SLOC had a meet at Forest Park. As the mapper, I should have had an advantage,
but the nav was pretty easy, so it really came down to foot speed. I ran OK, but David got
me by a couple minutes. It was still a fun meet. I hope I didn't kill my legs for
I'll post the map soon.
Yesterday, we got hit by a pretty hard storm in the afternoon. We were outside at a park
when it came. We saw a funnel cloud develop right overhead, but I don't think it touched
This morning I got a message the Triathlon had been cancelled because of the weather. I
decided to run the Chubb trail instead. When I got to Lone Elk, I understood why the race
had been cancelled. There were a lot of trees down and the road was covered with small
branches and leaves. I assume the roads at Babler were just as bad.
A meet director's first priority should always be the safety of the participants. This is
especially true for races like the Babler Beast where much of the field is, well, let's be
kind and call them "recreational". I didn't mind that the race was cancelled and I got in a
good 20-miler on the chubb.
I did think that it was a bit cheesy that our only compensation for the cancellation was a
10% discount on next year's entry. That will be all of $4.20, unless they raise their fees. I
think they could have done a bit better than that. Seems like the race organization should
assume some of the risk for bad weather.
8/15/05 Route choice
Rob said he tried to set courses for the Forest Park meet that emphasized route choice.
Most of the choices were small differences (less than 15 seconds). Fifteen seconds
matters in a park meet, but you certainly don't want to spend more than 2 or 3 seconds
making your decision.
The one leg that presented a significant challenge (enough to warrant spending a little
time getting it right) was the leg from 5 to 6. There are four viable route choices for this
leg (see map).
This is an excellent example of a route choice leg. The different routes are
obvious to a competent navigator (the idea is to test decision making, not trick
people into going the wrong way). One route is objectively best (that is, the
decision matters). The optimal route is not trivial (you shouldn't reward people
who just take the easiest route without considering alternatives).
The route drawn on the map, following the bike path then left of the Art Museum, across
the footbridge, then along the road to the control. This is objectively the best route by
about 30 seconds. David and I both took this route.
Similar to above, except that instead of cutting across the field between the Art Museum
and the footbridge, stay left and follow the road all the way around. The extra distance is
compensated for by the fact that you're running on road the whole way. If the ground was
soft, this might matter, but we've had very little rain so running through the fields was
almost as fast as running on pavement. I don't think anyone took this route.
Head straight east from the control to the road and then run down the road to the edge of
the woods. Turn left and pass on the SE side of the Art Museum and follow the first route
from there. This is the shortest route, but it has more running through the woods and adds
a couple contour lines. This was the most common route taken.
As above, but don't make the left turn. Instead, stay on the road all the way past the big
lake and then head north and pick up the path to the control. As with the second choice,
this one is longer, but is almost exclusively on pavement. I don't think anybody took this.
I haven't test run it, but my guess is that it's actually the second best choice.
The only flaw in this leg was the setup. The first control used the same bridge, you
had already looked at that part of the map. I think the second and fourth choices would
have had some takers if people weren't predisposed to using that bridge. Also, the first
two legs weren't very technical, so there was plenty of time to make a decision. That
said, most folks still got it wrong, so it certainly wasn't a gimme.
8/16/05 Pattern Recognition
While running with David and Jeff this weekend, the subject of training for navigation
came up. David was noting how many otherwise strong adventure racers don't spend
much time training navigation. We get asked all the time what the "secret" is to better
navigation. I suppose there are a few tips that can be passed along, but the only way I
know to really improve is to spend a lot of hours in the woods with a map.
Most people know how to read a map. Given enough time, they can find just about
anything. To read a map while moving, requires something more: you have to be able to
process the map information at least as fast as you are moving through the terrain
(preferably a lot faster, since you also need to look where you're going). The speed at
which you can recognize patterns on the map and translate them to visual images limits
the speed that you can run without losing contact with the map.
Depending on the input (visual, audible, etc.) different sections of the brain work on it,
but all pattern recognition is handled pretty much the same way by your brain. The
pattern comes in as a set of neural firings. Your brain searches its memory for similar
patterns. If the input matches the stored pattern closely enough, the resulting match is
used. If no close pattern is found, your brain starts looking for simpler patterns that might
contained in the more complex pattern.
When you first start reading a map, you only recognize the simplest patterns - linear
features such as roads, trails, and streams. With more experience, larger contour features
such as spurs and reentrants can be recognized. With much experience, you can see the
difference between a dot knoll, a 1-contour line knoll, and a 2-contour line hill. (By see
the difference, I mean you can visualize in your head what each of these items looks like
and how they are different). With vast experience, you learn the patterns for individual
mappers and know that Plamen Djambazov uses the dry ditch symbol any time there is a
distinct watercourse in a reentrant but Mike Minium only adds the ditch symbol if the
edges of the reentrant are nearly vertical.
As your database of patterns gets larger, you take less time to recognize features on the
map. You also go less distance between features you recognize because you can read
more detail. The result is that you can run faster without losing contact. The only catch is
that it takes a lot of time in the woods to make all this happen.
8/17/05 New Teammates
We will be shaking up the lineup for Carol's Team a bit for next year. We're going to
break in some newbies this fall. The goal is to have a core group of six (4 male, 2 female)
and several alternates. This will allow us to enter around 10-12 races without burning
everybody out. If any of our readers are interested in racing with us next year, now would
be a good time to let us know.
Breaking into adventure racing is no small thing. Hooking up with an established team
makes it a lot easier. The main qualifications are general fitness, reasonable mountain
biking skills, and a determination to finish what you start. Everything else can be learned
in a relatively short amount of time.
Yesterday I listed what I believe are the three things you must possess to get into
adventure racing. That list assumes you're joining an established team that already has a
navigator. If not, you certainly need to add navigation to the list. I'm going to look at
these qualifications a bit more closely.
The fitness qualification is fairly obvious. Even "sprint" adventure races take several
hours. If you want to win a shorter event (as opposed to just finish), you actually need
more fitness than for a 24-hour event. In a 6-hour adventure race you're going very near
aerobic threshold the whole way.
What qualifies as "general fitness" depends on what your goals are. For a typical newbie
who wants to be able to finish a 12-18 hour event, I would say the fitness demands are
greater than cycling a recreational century (100 miles on road), but less than running a
A corollary to the fitness requirement is being able to properly pace yourself. Many
excellent athletes blow up in adventure races because they push too hard, especially in
the early stages of the race. The danger of this is particularly great if it's your first time
racing with a team. Nobody wants to be viewed as slowing the team down. The first few
hours of a 24-hour race should feel so ridiculously easy that you wonder if this even
qualifies as racing. Yes, it does, and the effort will catch up to you.
8/19/05 Mountain Biking
It may seem strange to single out this one discipline as a must have skill when there so
are many aspects to adventure racing. In our experience, this is the killer.
People who can run on roads can learn to run on trails and through the woods. They may
not be able to move fast enough to be competitive in an orienteering meet, but they can
keep the pace for a trekking section.
Paddling takes a while to learn, but by putting the weakest paddler in the same boat as the
strongest, the team isn't slowed down too much.
Climbing takes years to get really proficient at, but adventure races rarely hit you with
anything more technical than 5.7. Most fit people can learn to climb at that level quite
There are all kinds of oddball activities that get thrown into adventure races: rollerblades,
scooters, cargo nets, three-legged races, etc. Usually, these activities are short enough
that if you can do them at all, you can get through the leg without loosing too much time.
It's not hard to find races that avoid them altogether.
That leaves mountain biking. If the race is predominantly on fire roads, there's no
problem. On singletrack, you've got to be able to ride the bumps without stopping or you
bring the whole team to a crawl. Being able to ride reasonably steep hills rather than
walking can also make a big difference. This isn't something that gets picked up in a day
or even a few weeks. A couple years of solid experience makes a huge difference. It's
best to have this going in.
8/20/05 � Not Again!
Today I did the Big Shark Ride that leaves from the shop. This isn't the team training
ride, it's an open ride that gets about 25 folks of varying, but generally good ability. We
hadn't been going for 15 minutes when one of the guys riding next to swerved into me
and we got tangled and went down. Ten years without a road crash and then 2 in as many
months! Fortunately, we weren't going too fast so no serious injuries to report.
The annoying thing is that both of these crashes were very avoidable. Riders bump all the
time in packs. It's not that big a deal to stay upright, but BOTH riders have to know how
to do it. So, as a public service, I'm posting instructions on how to not crash when you
make contact with another rider.
Don't be in a big hurry to break contact. As long as you're both leaning on each other,
you're very stable � basically a four-wheel vehicle. Take your time to get your recovery
DO NOT HIT THE BRAKES. You both need to keep moving at the same speed.
Push off with a healthy shove. If you simply try to steer out of it, you are moving your
wheels out from under you. If you do this, you'll have to turn back to keep your balance
and you'll run right into the other person again (this was the mistake made both times I
got pulled down � we got through the first contact just fine, but the second contact was
much harder and the other rider was already falling by that point).
Once separated, take a few really hard cranks. You've probably lost some momentum so
your bike is less stable. You need to get some speed back to straighten out your line.
Also, if you've slowed too much, you present a hazard to people on your wheel.
So, in short: relax, push, crank. Practice this in a grass field with some friends until you
can do it without even thinking about it. Pack crashes hurt a lot. It's worth some training
to avoid them.
8/21/05 Back to the Woods
With August coming to a close, it's time to start training navigation in the woods again.
We have a few areas where the woods can be run year round, but I don't usually bother.
It's really not much fun to do technical training in the summer here. Since we have 9
months a year of really good conditions, the break is welcome.
Today I ran a couple short courses in West Tyson
park. West Tyson isn't very technical. The ridges are quite steep (which is why it doesn't
get choked with undergrowth) and the features are large. On top of this, I know the park
quite well. To force myself to stay in contact with the map, I set a course with short legs.
This type of "control picking" course is a good way to use a familiar area because it
forces you to focus on being accurate even though you know the general layout of the
I ran both courses at around 10:00/Km. That won't win any races, but for the first
workout back in the woods, it will do.
Finishing up the thoughts on skills needed to start adventure racing...
There's a rather well know personality test named after it's creators, Meyers and Briggs,
that assigns a four letter code to each personality type. (For those who are familiar with
the test, I'm an INTJ). The last letter is either P or J depending on how much you value
closure. J's hate unfinished tasks. For adventure racing, you need to be a J.
Organizers make it pretty easy to drop out of adventure races. This is necessary because
teams get in trouble and have to have a way to bail. As a competitor, you simply have to
remove that option from your thought process. In almost every race, there will be times
when you feel like quitting. You have to be able to get through that without letting it
affect your performance.
Of course, if you're really in trouble, you need to tell your teammates about it. Last year
at Berryman, we had to take a five hour break to let a teammate recover from
dehydration. He was miserable, partly because he was puking and cramping, but also
because he felt he let the team down. He didn't. He got through it and we finished the
race in the top 10. If he had quit, that would have been a big letdown.
It's a rather fine balance. On the one hand, you need to be very in tune with what your
body is telling you because the early signs of trouble are quite subtle. On the other, you
have to completely eradicate the negative thoughts that cause you to slow down or quit
simply because you don't feel motivated at a particular point.
For me, the best way to handle this is to focus on my teammates. Like me, they've
invested a lot in the race. Adventure races are hard work, time consuming, and expensive.
If I let my feelings mess me up or, worse, if I quit outright, all their effort is wasted. By
completely eliminating quitting as an option, the only question is: what's the best way to
get finished? The answer to that question is to move as best I can without
getting in trouble. If everybody on the team operates that way, a good finish is practically
I'd say I struggle with this maybe 5% of the time when racing. The rest of the race, I'm
enjoying myself; happy to be out doing what I love to do with my friends. But 5% of a
20-hour race is a full hour of struggling which is plenty long enough to get depressed if
you don't deal with it properly.
8/23/05 Ridin in the burbs
Today I got out of work too late to do the Tuesday crits, so I headed over to the
Marquette ride instead. Since I was cutting it close (the ride was rolling out just as I got
to Marquette), I took the most direct route on a busy road.
The road is nominally bike friendly; there are "Share the Road" signs in a few places and
there's usually a good shoulder. But it's also very heavily traveled during rush hour and
the 35 mph speed limit is not enforced. Of course, it's busy enough that I actually do
better than the cars on average - there was a noisy Civic traveling the same road and it
would pass me doing 50, only to wait in a long queue at an intersection while I zipped by
on the shoulder.
I felt very unsafe. I used to ride through fairly large urban areas on a fixed gear and not
feel at all threatened. Maybe it's the recent crashes, or maybe I'm just getting old, but I
think the real difference is the drivers.
City drivers are aggressive, but they are also pretty skilled. They are used to squeezing
through narrow alleys and merging in heavy traffic so they know the dimensions of their
car. They also know that you can come across just about anything in the road so they
keep an eye out for the unexpected. They may not like having to slow down to get around
a bike, but they're not shocked by it.
Suburban drivers are used to traveling on wider, smoother roads at higher speeds with
fewer disruptions in the traffic flow. A lot more of them are talking on phones (although
this habit is invading the city streets, too). If they see you, they might be more polite
about your presence, but they might also run you over before they even recognize that
Of course you can get hit in the city, too, but all my life-threatening car/bike interactions
(there have been three, one of which was entirely my fault) have happened on suburban
roads. This is true for most of my friends as well even though many of us have done a lot
of city riding.
8/24/05 I'm number 1!
Under the heading of meaningless accolades, I've hit the top of the charts on the
Attackpoint training rankings. I
seem to have a habit of picking up these sorts of things - awards earned over time that
most people pay no attention to. Probably the most bogus was my St. Louis Solo II
"championship" in 2001 when there was only one other Street Touring car entered in
enough races to qualify. I lost interest in auto racing after that.
One thing the Attackpoint rankings show is the difference between training for running
versus other activities. Even at the elite level, runners don't put in that much training
time. A world-class marathoner probably does around 100-120 miles a week. That sounds
like a lot until you realize that at their training pace, that's less than 12 hours.
Top cyclists ride 20-30 hours a week. Even mid-level amateurs are in the 10-15 hour
range (which would put them at the top of the Attackpoint list). Swimmers have very
seasonal training habits, but their heavy weeks go well beyond 30 hours and even their
light weeks are close to 10.
Adventure racing would appear to reward a heavy training schedule, but I'm not sure it
does. Unlike individual disciplines, there's not really much merit to honing one's skills
beyond the 80/20 rule. Our motto has always been "don't suck at anything." As long as
everybody on the team can keep moving at a decent pace, a good result awaits. Tripling
one's training to gain the edge that would be the difference between winning and losing
in an individual sport doesn't pay the same dividends in Adventure Racing.
I suppose if you have the time and don't get injured, more training is probably better. It
seems that the best adventure racers manage to get by with less training than athletes
other in sports (but more than runners).
8/25/05 MDA Run
I just found out yesterday that the Flatlander Runs put on by the SLUG's will benefit the
Muscular Distrophy Association. These folks were helpful to Carol as the disease has
some similarities with ALS. I think I'll enter the run and try to raise some money for
them. I'm certainly not trained for a competition-level performance on pavement, but I'll
enjoy running for a good cause.
Although I've covered ultra-distances in orienteering and adventure races, I've never run
a bona-fide ultra-marathon. That will change next weekend when I run the Flatlander 12-
hour. As this is my first attempt at this sort of thing (not to mention the fact that I haven't
trained for it), I'll be pretty conservative. Here's my plan:
Alternate running and walking. Many ultra-runners have told me that alternating running
a bit faster with walking is less tiring than running at a steady pace. I think that may be
why I don't have a problem in adventure races when we have to trek for 30 miles or so.
Adventure races tend to have a lot of start and stop rather than constant pace.
Run on the grass. It's slower, but it's the only way I'll be able to run for that long. I
haven't done a run of over 20 miles on pavement since my last marathon (1996). Each
lap is 1.4 miles. I figure I'll walk a couple hundred meters on pavement while passing
through the feed area, run about half a mile on grass, and do the rest of each lap on
Start slow. I'll do the first few loops in 17-18 minutes (roughly 12-minute miles). If after
three or four hours I'm feeling like the pace is ridiculously slow, I'll pick it up, but not
before then. I've found that about a third of the way through a race I can tell if my pace is
going to work. If I try to force things sooner than that, I get in trouble.
Don't stop. This is the lesson from adventure racing. Stopping is lethal. You don't really
recover any better when you're stopped than when you are just moving slowly. Real
recovery requires you to completely shut down and sleep. There will be brief moments
where I'm not making progress because I'm changing shoes or something, but I don't
plan to take any breaks.
Change shoes and socks often. Speaking of shoe changes, I will doing that every couple
hours. Maybe even more if it's hot. I've never had problems with blisters when I do this.
If I try to get by without shoe changes, I get in trouble.
If all goes well, I'll get in somewhere around 60 miles. That will be well off the lead
pace, but will still be a "real" ultra. I'd rather be conservative and enjoy my first outing
than try too hard and blow up. I'll let y'all know how it goes.
8/27/05 Keep looking
Today I ran an old course at West Tyson. Each year I run this course just as I'm starting
my fall training. It gives me something of a baseline to work from. Since I originally ran
this course in 1998, I've run it many times. I can't run it from memory, but I'm certainly
not struggling with decisions. At least, not usually. Today, I found a leg that I've been
running wrong all this time.
The first route is what I've been running up to today. It looks like a reasonable
choice. You do give up a couple contour lines early on, but after that it's pretty fast
running with a grunt at the end.
Tyson has an interesting geological feature we refer to as "The Highway." It can produce
some very strange looking optimal routes. Basically, the highway is a layer of very hard
rock that hasn't eroded as fast as the rest of the ridge. You can see the contours are
spaced a bit wider. This is actually an exaggeration, since the actual flat section is only a
few meters wide. It is pretty flat, though and you can run on it almost as fast as you
would a trail.
Today, it occurred to me that since the highway goes right to the control, it might be
faster to climb up to it right away and follow it around the ridge. A lot of extra distance,
but less climb and much faster running. Furthermore, when I got to the control, I was
reasonably fresh as opposed to out of breath from pushing up the hill right at the end of
the leg. This meant that I had a much clearer head entering the next leg.
I estimate the new route is around 30 seconds faster. I wouldn't feel bad about missing
that in a meet; especially if I had never run on the map before (you wouldn't know the
highway was a good route from just the map). I just though it was interesting that long
after you think you've figured a leg out, there might still be a better way.
8/28/05 Night-O is not a crime
I understand that park rangers might want some reasonable restrictions on park access.
From both a safety and crime prevention standpoint, closing parks at night makes some
sense. What doesn't make sense to me is an absolute restriction on night access.
Most of the parks near St. Louis close at sunset. Some of the public lands allow access
until 10PM. That still doesn't leave a lot of room for night training this time of year. Of
course, such restrictions are fairly easy to circumvent. Just park outside the area and run
in. Most of our parks are large enough that as long as you stay clear of the roads your
chance of getting spotted at night are pretty near zero. Seems a little silly sneaking into an
area as a 42-year-old, but one does what one must.
The unfortunate side effect of this is that if you really were to run into a problem, you
might be screwed. I always let someone know where I'm training, when I expect to be
back, and keep my mobile phone with me. When feasible, I get someone to train with me.
It would be so much simpler if the parks had a sign-in policy that allowed responsible
users night access (maybe after demonstrating some basic navigation and/or survival
The alternative to all this sneaking around is to head off to the national forests where you
are pretty much on your own. Mark Twain NF is about 90 minutes from St. Louis and
Shawnee NF is a bit over 2 hours. It's worth the trip if you're going to do a long night
session, but not too practical for a quick weeknight workout.
Here's my sponsorship letter for the Flatlander run. Use the "Contact Us" link if you
want to contribute:
As most of you know, my sister, Carol, passed away a few months ago after a year-long
struggle with ALS. One of the organizations that helped her during this time was the
Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). I'm grateful for the assistance they provided
and would like to repay them in a small way by participating in a run this coming
I'm sure you know the drill: get people to pledge a certain amount per mile and run as far
as possible in the time allotted. In this case, the run is called the Flatlander and is put on
by a great group of folks known as the SLUG's (St. Louis Ultrarunners Group). As these
are the sort of nuts who like running 100 miles through the mountains, the time limit is a
generous 12 hours.
Although I've done quite a few adventure races and orienteering events of this duration,
I've never tried to run 12 hours straight. I'm not really sure how far I can go in that
amount of time. I'm guessing that I'll cover between 50 and 60 miles. If you're worried I
might break the world record and bankrupt you, there is always the fixed amount option.
Personally, I'd like to get as many per mile donors as possible so I have some extra
motivation to keep going around hour 10.
I hope you'll support me in this by making a small pledge to the MDA.
David, Jeff, and Carrie were the Carol's Team entry for the Sylamore Hardcore
Adventure Race. I don't have many details yet, but I do know that they won it. It's the
first nationals qualifier that we've won this year. Congrats!
8/31/05 Top 10
Better check quick because I don't think it will last long (there are a bunch of results
from the west coast coming in this week), but right now we have busted into the top 10 of
the USARA Rankings.