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11/1/05 Sick

I don't get sick very often, but I sure have been lately. I don't even know what it is - some sort of intestinal virus, I suppose. I haven't been able to eat much since Friday. I've lost 8 pounds in the last four days.

The strange thing is that this is coming after two fairly light weeks of training. I suppose there is an element of randomness in all this, but I'd expect to be healthier when I'm getting more rest. Fortunately, I'm feeling a bit better today. I've been able to eat and I don't think I've lost any more weight.

11/2/05 Test Run

Today, I ran the course for the Pere Marquette Trail Run, which I'll race in December. I've never run the trail at anything less than race pace. It's a long way to drive for a 7.5- mile run. However, I'm working in Alton now, so I'm most of the way there. A few observations:

The trail is really beautiful. I knew this already, but at a training pace, it's much more obvious. Since all the scenic overlooks are at the top of big hills, you're really in no shape to appreciate them during the race.

The middle section is quite hilly. I've always thought of this section as being flat running. Compared to the first and last two miles, it is, but there's still plenty of undulation. I may have been running this section wrong in the past, trying to hard to maintain a steady rhythm when I should be pushing the hills and recovering on the descents.

The prospect of running this trail twenty per cent faster is daunting. That's the normal difference between my training and racing pace, but somehow on trail it's hard to imagine going that much faster. . My PR for this race is 60:15. All indications are that I have a good shot at breaking an hour this year, but today's 72-minute run left me feeling a little worried

11/4/05 Tough race

Looks like the race at USARA Nationals is pretty tough physically. The good technical teams (including the Carol's Team entry of David, Jeff, and Carrie) are getting hammered. Still a chance to move up during the night. More or less real-time results are here.

11/6/05 Lotsa rocks

SLOC held a local meet at St. Francios park today. Map is here. I've not indicated my route because there are some interesting choices that I'll write about later. Here are some quick throughts:

St. Francios has rocks everywhere. The map only shows the big stuff. It was hard to run fast - especially since I didn't want to risk an injury with Long Course Nationals just next weekend.

The leg to 5 is not as straightforward as you might think. There are three very different viable routes.

5-6 also has some route choice, but it's more obvious.

Having the technical stuff come at the end was good. You really had to get on the brakes approaching 6 after running hard for the first half of the course.

David Welsh is getting very good at this course setting thing. This was his third try at courses. I believe he did these with no help. All the courses were pretty good.

11/7/05 USARA Nationals

The more I hear about USARA Nationals, the happier I am I didn't go. I haven't heard anything from Jeff, David, or Carrie, although I'm sure they're a bit disappointed. Of course, if they read the USARA site, they might be happy because they currently have last year's results posted which show us as fourth (as Gateway Adventure).

From the maps posted on the web site during the race showed that it was pretty much entirely in swamp. We simply don't have any of that around here, and I'm not sure I'd spend much time there even if we did. Ken Walker Sr. wrote of wading through chest- deep mud and confronting an alligator during the night. Not really my idea of a good time.

None of this is to make excuses. Part of what makes adventure racing interesting is that different terrain brings different teams to the front.

11/8/05 Long course showdown

This weekend is US Long Course Orienteering Nationals in Delaware. Long Course in orienteering is still a short race by Adventure Racing standards. The winning time should be around 100 minutes.

I've always felt that Long Course is my best chance to win a national championship. The premium is on running good routes fast rather than the detail navigation common to the shorter distances. I'm a little disappointed that they aren't doing a mass start this year. That injects a lot of strategy into the race and it certainly helps my chances. Pack running is even less about fine navigation because a group can run a bit looser and still find the control. Still, I'm going with the mindset of winning. I think you have to approach a championship meet like that, even if you're not the best one there (and I'm certainly not).

The 40+ field looks reasonably strong. I would think that Joe Brautigham has to be the favorite, but after that it gets pretty tight (and Joe's not invincible, either). Ted Good is strong and this is a home-field race for him. Ordinarily, Michael Eglinski would be a favorite, but he's nursing an ankle injury and that could be a problem on ridge and valley terrain. Nadim Ahmed has the fitness to win if he can avoid mistakes. JJ Cote has a ton of experience and is used to the distance since he frequently runs with the young studs on the Blue course.

My official predictions are:

Joe
Ted
Me
Michael
Nadim
JJ

And, of course, there's always the chance that somebody else comes up with a big race and surprises everybody. It should be fun.

11/13/05 Bummer

Long course champs was really great. Excellent terrain, great weather, good field, and I was both running and navigating well. For 4 controls, anyway. Then I folded my ankle over. I tried to keep going for another half hour or so, but it finally got to where I couldn't run on it at all.

I was in second place at the time, although Michael Eglinski (who ultimately got second) was only a few seconds behind me. It sure would have been nice to see how it would work out.

Still a great weekend, the meet and the terrain were fantastic. At least the injury came on the last day, so I got to finish two other courses. I'll have maps from all three days posted soon.

11/14/05 Injury update

Things could be worse. I was afraid that by not retiring immediately I might have done some more serious damage to the ankle. Fortunately, that does not appear to be the case. There is mild discoloration and swelling along the entire outside of my left foot. The range of motion is reduced perhaps by 10% front to back and 25% side to side. This is indicative of a fairly minor sprain. A real injury, to be sure, but one that can be expected to heal quickly.

I've turned my ankle plenty of times, but I usually get the weight off it quick enough to avoid injury. Early in my orienteering career, I used to have problems with ankle injuries. I even ran in high-tops for a year. As I did more running in the woods, I found that I no longer injured them. I'm not sure exactly what changes. I suppose the ankles do get a bit stronger, but I suspect the real difference is a subtle change in stride coupled with much faster reaction time.

At any rate, I'll be taking it easy for the next few days. Hopefully, I'll be able to run in the woods again in time for the 3-hour (two weeks).

11/15/05 DVOA Sprint

Here's the map for the sprint at the meet last weekend. Although I blew it with a bad mistake on #2, I really enjoyed this event. To run well, you really had to be looking ahead because most of the route choices were made in the first few meters of each leg.

I've generally not run well in sprints. This wasn't much of an exception, but it was encouraging. From #2 on, I was pretty smooth. I think I had the fourth or fifth fastest time for the rest of the course. Of course, that's like saying that I'd be good if it wasn't for the fact that I'm bad. It's true, but stupid. The first two controls count just like the rest of the course. Still, it was nice to be moving at the leader's pace, even if it did mean making a mistake.

The mistake at #2 is what I call a transition error. This is where you make a change from one type of terrain to another and lose your sense of direction in the process. This most commonly occurs when leaving trails. In this case I was both leaving a trail and switching from woods to open fields.

As I rounded the bend on the trail, I saw the open field ahead of me. The woods were open enough that I just ran right through them rather than taking the trail all the way to the end. What I didn't realize is that I hadn't completed the turn on the trail. As I hit the field, I was still 90-degrees off. I crossed the N-S trail thinking it was the E-W trail. As I got further into the field and started looking for the control site, things were obviously not making sense. I stopped for a few seconds and then realized what I'd done. From there, I hit the control cleanly, but it was 90 seconds lost, which is an eternity in a sprint.

The defense against this sort of thing is to always check your compass when you make a transition. I know this and usually do it. I was so caught up in the speed of the sprint that I forgot. I was still adjusting to the map scale as well, so it took longer to realize that things weren't right. I should have been being more careful so early in the course.

The amusing part of this was that I caught the guy who started in front of me going to #1. Making up 30 seconds on such a short leg was apparently enough to convince him that I knew what I was doing. He followed me on leg 2 and ended up losing even more time than me because he lost contact with the map and couldn't figure out what I was doing when I made the correction. Moral: run your own race!

11/16/2005 DVOA Classic

The classic race last weekend was fairly unusual. The terrain was an interesting mix of fields and woods. The navigational challenges were quite different than a normal classic course. Rather than the normal "Green-Yellow-Red" sections (corresponding to loose, tight, and detailed navigation), the entire course was high-speed with very little fine map reading.

Maps west, east.

That doesn't mean the navigation was trivial. Far from it. The route choice problems were often complex. Often, the best way to avoid loosing time on route choice legs is to make a quick decision and execute it with conviction. Since there was plenty of time to read the map while running through the fields, you could spend a lot more time figuring it out. That meant you really had to get them right.

While most of the actual navigation was large-scale, there was one element of detail navigation that had to be tended to: the entry and exit points to the woods. Most of the edge vegetation was nearly impenetrable but there were gaps. It was very accurately mapped, so careful reading could get you through the transitions at full speed.

My run was a little rough at the start. After spiking #1, I got pushed left by the marsh and then found myself on the wrong side of the thick vegetation. By the time I got back on line, I was past the control. I lost about 90 seconds there. I misread the map on the way to #4 and ran down the road for a bit before I realized where I was going. Running right of the building would have been faster, but comparing splits it looks like that error was only about a minute. After that, it was a very clean run.

I was holding back just a bit because I wanted to save my legs for Long Champs the next day. I think that helped me run clean because my head was clear. When you're running really hard on a course like this it is very difficult to stay focused.

11/17/05 Tero

Too busy at work to write much today, so I'll point you to an interesting foreign site. Thierry Gueorgiou, known as "Tero", is a great French orienteer; the best ever from that country. He has a good site that is enough in English that you can get a lot from it even if you don't read French.

11/18/05 Gookinaid

Ed Gookin is a long-time fixture on the US orienteering scene. He's over 70, so he's not exactly setting records these days, but back in the day he was a mighty fast runner. After puking during Olympic Marathon trials, he developed a sports drink that is still sold today called Gookinaid. It's not particularly tasty, but it does work.

Ed wrote an article in Orienteering North America about the effects of dehydration and electrolyte depletion. Now, I'm not saying that he's lying, but some of his facts were irreconcilable with my own experiences.

Most suspect is the idea that performance falls off 3-5% for each 1% of bodyweight dehydration. I'll grant that loosing 5% of your body weight may set you back as much as 15%, but the relationship is hardly linear. During a 40K cycling time trial, I'll drop five pounds (nearly 3%) yet I almost always increase my pace in the last 10K. Lance Armstrong severely dehydrated himself in a Tour de France time trial in 2003 (nearly 10% loss by the finish) and dropped 90 seconds to Jan Ulrich in the last half hour. That's a 5% drop in speed, which translates to about 14% in horsepower - way below the claimed effect. Elite runners run negative splits in 10K races without drinking anything. Surely they've lost 1-2% by the finish.

Now, I'm certainly not quarreling with the idea that hydration is important. I just don't like quoting a mathematical relationship to represent what is obviously a very loose correlation. I don't know where these numbers come from, but my guess is that it was a study performed indoors on a treadmill or ergometer. The body cools itself much differently when you are turning yourself into a space heater then when you are outside moving through the air. I'm always amazed at how few kinesiology studies consider this.

11/20/05 Active Ankle

Today I went for a run on trails with some of the Big Shark Tri team. Since my ankle is still very susceptible to injury, I wore an Active Ankle. I've never used one of these before (I rarely have ankle problems). Here are some quick impressions:

Overall, it's a remarkable device. Lightweight, works in just about any shoe, and offers good protection. I'm not surprised that it's so popular in the orienteering community.

Taking it on and off is slow. I don't think I'd want to use one in an adventure race because it would add time to transitions. Of course, if the alternative was not racing at all, I might.

The instructions warn that a break in period is required. I found that the bone on the outside of the ankle got pretty sore by the end of the run. That might go away after I use it some more. If it doesn't, then I'll have to figure out a way to solve that problem.

Near the end of the run, I was confident enough to try running through the woods. The woods at Queeny Park are very thick so you do a lot of hopping over stuff and moving sideways. I was able to do this without any trouble.

As much as it appears to be an effective device for recovery, I don't think I'll wear it much for prevention. I think one of the reasons I so rarely turn an ankle is because I've learned how to run properly through the woods. Relying on an artificial device for protection might hurt that. I know David wears his just for races so he can blast with confidence through rocky areas. That makes some sense. I might do that from time to time.

11/21/05 Blind faith

Today's entry has nothing to do with Adventure Racing; I just thought it was kinda funny.

We're currently potty training Ya-Ya. My only experience in this sort of thing up to now has been housebreaking dogs. You'd think training a kid would be easier, but you'd be wrong.

Anyway, she's starting to catch on, so Kate decided to put some "pull-ups" on her. These are like diapers, but the kid can pull them up and down themselves like underwear. She craps in them, so I go to change her.

Now, like most 2-year-olds, Ya-Ya thinks that all adults know everything. So when I put her on the changing table, she has complete confidence that I'll do this right. After all, I've changed her several thousand times before. The problem is, I don't realize that you can actually take pull-ups off like regular diapers as well. I try to pull them down and, end since she's inverted, end up splattering crap all over everything, including her.

It takes her a few seconds to realize from my reaction that I didn't expect that to happen and don't really know what I'm doing. Now confronted with the prospect of being covered with poop and in the hands of an incompetent caretaker, she decides to freak. There is quite a bit of clean-up work to be done when it's all over.

Someday, she'll realize that none of us really knows what we're doing in life. I imagine several more such incidents will be necessary to drive that point home.

11/22/05 Final rankings

USARA has published their final rankings for 2005. Surprisingly, the national championship race didn't shake things up much. We stayed in 6th place. I guess the fact that many of the top teams struggled with the unique terrain made it pretty much a wash.

I'm pleased with that ranking although I don't take these things too seriously. In our case, I think it's reasonably reflective of how we raced, but there are certainly some mighty good teams a long way down the list. You have to enter quite a few USARA events to get ranked well. We're fortunate that there are many such races within a day's drive of St. Louis.

I don't know what happened to the EcoUSA rankings. I thought they had a better system, although we were ranked about the same on both. They pretty much went dark after August. Getting a niche publication off the ground is no small task, so maybe the whole operation has folded.

11/23/05 Training time revisited

A while back I wrote about how I find time to train. Yesterday, was one of those days where all that got put to the test.

My intention was to go to the track and run repeat miles before work. With significant races each of the next three weekends, moving this workout is problematic. If it doesn't get done this day, it won't happen. And it's an important workout. Granted, no single workout makes much difference, but the quality stuff is what you really don't want to miss if you can help it.

I'm dressed and ready to leave the house when Ya Ya wakes up and starts throwing a fit. I had counted on her sleeping in a bit. So, jettison the morning workout. My parents are in town and we are planned on eating out immediately after work. We go to a nice place and have a good sized meal. We get home after 8PM and I'm way too full to do a track workout.

After getting Ya Ya to bed, I turn my attention to replacing the disposal in our kitchen - a task that absolutely, positively must be accomplished before Thanksgiving dinner (we're hosting 10, which isn't huge, but enough that automation will be required). My tools are at the old house, so I have to drive over there and get them. The old disposal is rusted to the mounting bracket, so getting it off is no picnic. I finish the job at 11:40.

I get out the door at 11:55 (it still counts as that day's workout if you get out the door before midnight). My first lap is 3 seconds off and I really feel like quitting. I run the next lap on pace, but it feels terrible. I'm wondering if this whole thing just isn't going to happen - these aren't supposed to be this hard. Then I find my stride and run the last 800m well followed by two more miles on pace.

I don't write this to complain about how tough I have it or boast of how dedicated I am (I don't regard either of those statements to be true). My point is much more basic: if performance is important to you, you have to be willing to work around all the other stuff in your life and not just give up when plans go astray. Of course, this is why elite athletes don't have day jobs - the stress of balancing all these priorities is a drain in and of itself.

11/24/05 Thanksgiving

Rather than write some maudlin piece on how good we all have it I'll simply state that I think it's great that the internet is extending a lot of freedoms to people that didn't have it before. I can write pretty much whatever I want on this page, and so can billions of other people. I think that's good and I'm glad that our country came up with the idea.

11/25/05 Goals

I really shouldn't run the three hour tomorrow. I want to do well at the Possum Trot next weekend and running tomorrow won't help that. It might hurt. I think my ankle is well enough to return to the woods, but it's dicey.

I'm going to run tomorrow anyway. I'll tape the ankle up really well. (I still haven't been able to break in the Active Ankle enough to wear it for three hours straight). If the ankle starts to give me problems, I'll walk it in. I'm pretty sure I'll be OK, but if I really wanted to do well at the Trot, I would skip it. I guess I do want to do well, but it's not that big of a deal if I don't.

Goal setting in amateur sports is a weird thing. The real goal is for the activity to be fulfilling in some way. Maybe it's just a release, maybe it's to learn something about yourself, maybe it's to have something to brag about. Everybody has their own reasons. At any rate, unless you have a very distorted set of priorities, winning races is a secondary goal that helps achieve the primary goal of making the activity fulfilling. That's quite different from pro sports where winning is always the primary objective.

If I was a professional orienteer (not that there is such a thing, but some of the elite amateurs are pretty close in lifestyle), I would not race tomorrow. But, even though it threatens a good finish at the Trot, I know that I will enjoy the sport more if I go. This is SLOC's biggest local meet of the year. I rarely miss it and the years that I have, I've not been happy about it.

I enjoyed my brief time as a semi-professional athlete, but I'm glad that I don't have to think just about winning anymore. I race because I enjoy it. The worst that can happen tomorrow is that I re-injure the ankle so badly that I can't race at all until some time next year. That would suck, but it's only a slight chance. With only three races left this year, skipping one on the off chance that I might have to miss the other two seems silly.

11/26/05 Weird scoring

This year's 3-hour used a rather complicated scoring system. On top of the usual points for controls and penalties for being overtime, there was a system of bonuses for sweeping ranges of controls (1-10, for example). The bonuses also got penalized for overtime. It made it difficult to figure out what the optimal skip strategy would be. I suppose the safe thing would have been to just get back in three hours and not worry about it. If I had done that, I would have won easily. At three hours, I had all but a few low-point controls.

I was fairly sure I was ahead (although if I had realized by how much I definiately would have come straight in), but I was worried that someone might sweep the course and get the huge bonus for getting everyting. I got the remaining controls and ended up getting hammered on the bonus deductions. I would up third. David also struggled with the calculations and was second, despite getting more controls than Kevin Teschendorf, who won.

Now I'm not saying that Kevin is an undeserving winner. He, David, and I are all pretty evenly matched so it's reasonable that the result could have gone any way. I would just have preferred to see the determining factor be the actual orienteering and not deciphering the scoring system.

11/27/05 Flare up

I taped my ankle for the 3-hour yesterday. Before, during, and immediately after the run, it felt OK. I did hyper-flex it (bend the foot up towards the knee) at around 2 hours, but it didn't hurt much. On the drive home, it swelled up big time and got really sore. I've never had a hyperflexion hurt that much. It was worse than a sprain. I was pretty sure I'd wrecked my chances for the Trot.

I gave it the usual treatment - rest, ice, compression, elevation - plus a good dose of ibuprofen. By this evening, the swelling had gone down considerably and it didn't really hurt to walk on it. Strange that it would get so bad and then reverse itself so quickly. The next few days will be telling.

11/28/05 Schedule?

Honestly, I have no idea how you're supposed to find out when Adventure Races are taking place. I spent several hours cruising around the web last weekend trying to put together a schedule for 2006 and didn't have much success.

I'm not sure why this is so, but I guess at least some of it is simply growing pains for a relatively new sport. I can see all the national orienteering meets for next year by going to a single site. If I want to see the tentative schedule, I can check out Randy Hall's planning calendar. By also checking the schedules for the half-dozen clubs covering the neighboring states, I can fill in the local events that I might want to travel to as well.

Adventure Racing isn't club/federation driven. It's a bunch of independent race organizers who promote their events however they see fit. I find out about most races by word of mouth. I know USARA is trying to change this, but check out their calendar. They only have five races for all of 2006 and no indication of where nationals will be held. Makes it tough to do any long-range planning.

I'd love to fix this, but I'm not sure how. Something like Randy's calendar would be a really good thing. Then organizers could avoid stepping on each other's dates and racers could plan what races they want to attend. Anyway, if anybody knows of a source of race information that I've apparently overlooked, please use the Contact Us link to drop me a note.

11/29/05 Foot maintenance

I wore my orienteering shoes for the 3-hour. I usually wear them for races of 3 hours of less. I'm glad I did because the footing at Meremac was difficult in spots and I probably would have aggravated my ankle injury in trail shoes. The downside is that my feet are a little ripped up.

Fortunately, there is very little blistering. I went over the bottom of both feet with my Dremel sander and smoothed out the callous. The callous layer was a bit thicker than it should have been which probably contributed to the problems. I am usually vigilant about keeping the callous layer thin and supple, but I've been a bit lax on this lately since I don't have any long races coming up.

Keeping the callous layer thin helps prevent the condition where the callous is moving against the skin beneath it. That can lead to a really nasty blister beneath the callous. I grind the callous using a medium weight sanding bit. I don't take off very much at once - it's better to thin it out over several days. Obviously, you want a little bit of callous, but it's surprising how thin you can get it and still have pretty tough feet. If the skin feels at all sore after grinding, that's an indication that you've thinned too much. Only remove the dead skin that has no nerves in it.

After grinding it, I'll put some moisturizing lotion on the foot to help keep the callous supple. Keeping the callous layer supple prevents it from folding over on itself and developing creases that may turn into blisters. The best defense is to do this before the race, but even during a race you can help the situation by keeping your electrolyte levels high. If you're electrolyte levels get too low, the skin dehydrates and blisters soon follow.

I started taking foot maintenance seriously after my first 24-hour race. I had typically picked up blisters in any race where I was on my feet over 6 hours. In the 24 hour race, they got so bad that we had to finish a couple hours early (it was a score event, so we could stop at any time and still have an official score). After that, I read the book Fixing Your Feet. I found that while some people (such as myself) are more prone to blisters, there are reasonable preventative steps that can greatly limit the incidence of severe blistering. I haven't had serious problems with blistering since.

11/30/05 Rest

I haven't worked out for three days and it's driving me crazy. I know I should stay off the ankle if I want it to be healthy (or at least usable) for the weekend. I don't like taking a lot of days off in a row.

It's not just an obsessive thing. That's part of it, but I really enjoy getting out and running (or riding, paddling, whatever). If I go for too long without doing that, I start feeling badly. I'm going to try riding on the trainer tonight so at least I get some activity.

Typically, I take it pretty easy between the Pere Marquette run and New Years. This three week break in the routine helps everything heal up after the fall season and also allows me to put on a few pounds which helps my immune system through the winter. With the time off due to injury, I've already gained a couple pounds, so I'll have to be careful not to gain much more. Depending on how this weekend goes, I might skip Pere Marquette and give myself an extra week to heal. I want to get back on training fairly quickly in January because I've got two A-meets in February.

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