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9/5/06 New baseplate

I switched to a thumb compass for orienteering races earlier this year. Actually, the transition began last fall, but I didn't start using it in competition until last spring. For adventure racing, I still prefer a baseplate.

My old baseplate had developed a sticky needle, so I needed a new one. I've decided to try Brunton's Adventure Race compass. The needle isn't as fast or stable as what I'm used to, but it's adequate given the generally slower pace of adventure racing. I like the fact that the UTM grids are on the plate - one less thing in the pack. The adjustable declination could be a plus outside of the midwest (we're close enough to zero degrees in St. Louis that you can pretty much ignore declination).

The only thing I'm a little skeptical of is the goofy arrow pointing north rather than a traditional needle. It might be harder to read, particularly at night. I'll try it for a few weeks and see how I like it. I'll have my thumb compass in my pack as a backup at Berryman, anyway.

9/6/06 Back to base

With the summer peak and a couple recovery weeks behind me, it's back to base training for a few months. I find that the fall races work well in a base period. They are generally longer and lower intensity than my summer events, so there's not much advantage to peaking for them. A typical adventure race is a pretty good (albeit rather long) base workout.

I'm not going to try for a late-fall peak this year. That would be too close to the marathon I'm planning to run in February (Pensacola on 2/18/2007). That means that I'll be running the Possum Trot and Pere Marquette directly off base. It will be interesting to see how my performances in those two events compare to years when I've peaked for them.

Normally I do most of my base training on the bike, but with the marathon in the offing, I'll have to get in a fair bit of running. That's been a problem for me in the past - too much running beats me up. My plan is to do most of it on trails and in the woods to keep the pounding down. Holding the line on my weight should help, too.

9/7/06 Playing the angles

Yesterday evening was about as perfect as conditions can get for flatwater paddling. Creve Coeur Lake was completely smooth. The temperature was a very comfortable seventy degrees. There were just enough clouds to make the sunset pretty, but not enough to obscure the full moon rising on the other side of the lake. I found myself slipping into a low-angle stroke and looking around a lot more than I usually do.

I normally paddle with a pretty high-angle stroke (see diagram to the right if you don't know the difference). Aside from being faster and giving better steering control, it's closer to a single blade canoe stroke, so there's more overlap of technique. My paddle, a Werner Carbon Shuna, is designed for a high-angle stroke, but works OK with a low-angle. (By the way, the diagram is taken from Werner's site without permission, but I don't think they'll mind.)

So, if a high-angle stroke has all that going for it, why doesn't everybody paddle that way. In a word, fatigue. High-angle paddling is a lot of work. You're going faster because you're putting more into each stroke. High-angle strokes use your lats (NOT your arms!) whereas low-angle strokes rely more on the deltoids (again, NOT your arms). Both muscles are plenty strong (capable of lifting your body weight if you're in shape), but the lats benefit from being able to use your body weight since you are pushing down rather than rotating around you body. This extra power is handy, but tiring.

In a long paddle, I switch back and forth between low and high strokes. For 1-2 hours of paddling, I'll go for five to ten minutes with a high-angle stroke, then rest for two or three using a low-angle. As the paddle gets longer, I use more low-angle. Even at 4 hours, I'm close to 50% high-angle. I've done very few paddles longer than that.

Berryman will be my first long solo paddle in an adventure race. I expect I'll use predominantly high-angle strokes, but last night's lapse into low-angle was probably good practice. And it sure would have been a shame to be so focused on the activity as to miss the moment.

9/8/06 Tires

Any auto racer will tell you the most important part of a car is the tires. I used to race a car that could be entered in one of two classes - the only difference being what tires were allowed. If you ran in the class with "normal" street tires you got an additional 3% on your handicap over the class that allowed race compounds. That may not sound like much, but it's actually about the difference between a Corvette and a Miata. And, that's just the difference between a treaded race tire and a very high performance street tire. If you were to compare true racing slicks to the tires that come standard on most cars, the difference would much greater.

In mountain biking, tire selection is somewhat less critical, but it still matters. I normally race on semi-slicks because so much of Midwestern adventure racing involves riding on roads. Berryman is an exception. Typically, all the mountain biking is off pavement; much of it single track. So, I've swapped out the semi-slicks for a fast set of hardpack tires.

It's been so long since I used a tire with decent tread that I'd forgotten how much more confidently they handle. I never blast the single track sections in adventure races because you never know what's around the next bend and a wreck can spoil your whole race. Still, it was a pleasure to ride the trails at Lost Valley with a bit more gusto last night. Even if I don't ride any faster, the improved handling means smoother lines and less effort expended keeping the bike upright. In a long race, particularly one that's as bike-intensive as Berryman, that can matter.

9/10/06 Millstadt

Despite moving back into base training, I had one last race I wanted to slide in before closing the books on the "fast" part of the 2006 season. I've never done the Millstadt Parks Biathlon, but I've heard it's a fun, low-key event. As this is the 19th running, it's a fair bet that the organizers know what they're doing.

I didn't have a chance to run or ride the course beforehand. I did look at the USGS map to get some idea of how hilly it was (answer: very). The 5-mile run is a simple out and back. The 22-mile bike loop is more complicated and I decide that it's not worth trying to memorize it. I do make a note of two significant climbs.

I arrive early and, after checking in, get my first nice surprise of the day. The restrooms are spacious and squeaky clean. I'm used to making do with whatever is available (often the porta-potties are preferable to the permanent facilities) and I don't let it bother me, but it's always nice to change clothes in a clean area where you're not worried about dropping a piece of gear into an open pit toilet.

Not knowing the course or how well my legs will respond to competition after a heavy base week, I decide to start conservatively in the run. At the end of the first mile, I'm back in the high-teens with the leaders practically out of sight and I wonder if maybe I'm taking it just a bit too easy. That question is quickly answered in the negative as we hit the first of the hills. Runners ahead of me begin to falter and by the turnaround, I'm in 11th place.

Coming back we're facing an increasingly stiff headwind. The return trip takes nearly a minute longer than going out. I pick off a few more and finish the run in 7th with a time of 31:26. Given the difficulty of the course, I take that as a sign I'm going well.

I pick up another spot with a reasonably quick transition and head out on the bike course. As I expected from reviewing the map, the course is rolling with many turns. What the map could not tell me is that the surface is fairly lumpy farm roads with the characteristic bumps and holes at the apex of each corner. While I generally welcome such technical challenges, it's not a match made in heaven for deep section carbon wheels. I find myself skittering into each corner and then having to stand on the exit rather than smoothly rolling through. Pre-riding the course to know which turns could be taken at full speed would have been a really good idea.

I come to the top of a descent with warnings painted in the road. The descent is fast, but not particularly tricky. About the time I'm wondering why all the warnings were needed, I round the last bend and see a bunch of course volunteers directing me to make a sharp left hand turn at the bottom. I lock the rear wheel (trying not to think about the fact that I've got a brand new $100 tire on there), turn the corner, and am immediately on the first of the big climbs. Shortly after the top, I hit a T intersection and don't know which way to go. Every other corner has been well marked, so I must have missed the arrows in my hypoxic fury to get back up to speed. Right looks more likely as there's gravel on the left apex and all the other corners have been swept. I look ahead and behind and can't see anybody. Just enough oxygen has returned to my brain that my orienteering reflexes kick in and start screaming at me to not continue until I'm sure of where I am. Of course, I have no way to determine that because I've never ridden the course and didn't bring the map. I'm about to completely give in to panic when I spot a cyclist about a minute up the road. It might just be somebody out on a casual ride, but I take it as confirmation and bury my nose in the handlebars and get back to work. It's with much relief that I encounter the familiar orange arrows at the next intersection.

While the incident has cost me some time, there's still nobody close behind. Rather than disrupt my rhythm, the momentary break has helped get everything settled after the climb and I ride the section between the two big climbs pretty well. I don't seem to be taking any time out of the rider ahead, but I'm not losing to him either. At any rate, visibility is so limited with all the rolls and turns that I don't see him much.

The second big climb is easier than the first. At the top, some volunteers are handing out water. That might not have been a bad idea as there's still a good ways to go, but it's not too warm and I was well hydrated at the start, so I pass it up. I've got a little bottle in my back pocket if I really need some.

The remainder of the course is predominantly into the wind and fatigue is starting to be a real issue. I start riding the rolling hills in bigger gears out of the saddle just to get some different muscles involved. With nobody in sight ahead or behind, it's tempting to back off, since it's obvious I'm going to be 6th no matter what. I really want to have a good bike split, so I keep the pressure on to the line. I finish the bike in 58:07. Again, a split I'll happily take given the course. The official split is 59:13 (4th fastest), which includes not only the transition, but about 40 seconds of running from the run "finish" to the actual TA.

The wait for the awards ceremony is a bit long (especially considering that results were posted quite quickly after the finish), but there are worse things to do with your time than hang around a shady park with free soda and very reasonably priced snacks. The overall winners get some pretty nice looking plaques and my medal for winning the 40-44 age group is actually engraved (a practice that seems to be going out of fashion). In short, the race exceeded my expectations in every respect and will leave me with a pleasant taste through the winter training.

9/11/06 Lead time

What comes next in this series: 8, 9, 7, 11, 12, 9, 14, 15, 11, 17, 18, 13, 19, 12, 20, 12, 8? Stumped? It's 26.2! The above progression of weekly "long" runs (I'll explain the quotes in a minute) is supposed to get you ready to run a marathon. In fairness, the program that sequence is lifted from is designed for novice runners who are more interested in finishing than turning in a competitive time. I cite it without reference because my purpose is not to slam the author (who I have a good deal of respect for) and it's not much different from most other marathon training schedules out on the web.

So what's the problem with this schedule and the hundreds like it? Lead time. Look at the first three runs. Unless you're a turtle, these aren't even long runs (that is, they won't take longer than 2 hours). If you can't even do a real long run, it's going to take a lot longer than 18 weeks to get ready for a marathon. The first run that starts to push into real marathon territory is the 19-miler with only five weeks to go. The body simply does not adapt that quickly. You need to be doing marathon-type runs (that is, runs that last roughly as long as the race) at least 12 weeks out. 20-week lead time is better.

Training schedules like this are not the product of clueless coaches. If you talk to these folks, they'll certainly encourage you to do a proper 6-month preparation. The first four months of that prep will be base where the focus is volume. The buildup period during the final 10 weeks should actually reduce training volume in exchange for higher quality workouts. Yet, so many aspiring marathoners do exactly the opposite; cranking up the distance in the last few weeks and arriving at the starting line with dead legs. This mindset is so ingrained in the novice crowd that schedules like the above are produced to inject at least a little sanity into the training plans.

For many runners, just finishing the marathon is the goal. I have no problem with that. I also recognize that such a goal can be achieved off relatively little training. It does mystify me just a bit though, that people who love running enough to want to do a marathon wouldn't also want to spend six months preparing for one. When most people tell marathon stories, they speak of suffering through the last few miles. It doesn't have to be that way. Running a marathon off proper training is actually a very uplifting experience. Sure, it's still a long, hard race, but there's no reason why a mid-pack runner can't run negative splits and finish strong. Your body is capable of some surprising things when properly trained.

9/12/06 No pain?

I'm supposed to be in pain right now, but I'm not. Two days after a race is usually when you feel the most soreness. Sure, I can tell I ran hard last weekend, but it's not nearly the level I would expect. One explanation is that I didn't run hard enough. If that's true, I'm a LOT faster than I realize. I don't think that's it.

A more plausible explanation is that the thing that really rips up your legs is the kick at the end of a hard running race. You don't do that in a biathlon because you've still got the bike leg to go. Cycling, while tough in its own way, doesn't tear you up the way running does. That's why stage races are common in cycling, but very rare in running (and almost none of the world's elite runners take part in the few that exist).

I don't know if the mechanism behind muscle soreness from short events has been studied. Everybody knows it happens, but exactly what actions during the race cause it may be an open question. I certainly don't know, but I'm pretty surprised at how good my legs feel today.

9/13/06 Katy

When I first moved to St. Louis in 1994, I heard about the Katy Trail but didn't pay much attention to it. As a hard-core road cyclist, I wasn't interested in an old rail bed, even if it was 200 miles long. Twelve years later, I'd go as far as saying the Katy Trail is the centerpiece of much of my training.

It's not that riding (or running) a crushed gravel trail is such a great thing (although the recreational crowd certainly seems to like it); it's that the trail does such a nice job of connecting places I want to go to. In many cases, the road route is either longer or relies too heavily on highways that aren't particularly bike-friendly. The opening of the Creve Coeur connector three years ago gave a nice alternative to the crappy 370 bridge for getting across the Missouri River.

One of the things I like the most about it is that I can be a very long way from home at sunset and still get back without having to ride roads at night. This evening, Doug and I rode out to Weldon Spring and ran a loop of the Clark trail. By the time we'd done that it was dark, but it was no big deal to ride back on the Katy. Despite being 8 miles away on the other side of the river, I can get to the Katy without riding on any roads except the residential street I live on.

9/14/06 Bring on the night

A note from the organizers of the Berryman Adventure recommends that we don't get any lodging for Friday night. I take that to mean that we'll be starting not too long after the team meeting Friday evening. I hope that's true, because it will mean that much of the race will be at night.

I grew up in the city, so being out in the woods at night was a bit creepy for me at first. Now, I love it. I do a good deal of my training at night. This is mostly because I prefer to spend time with Yaya while she's awake and then train rather than train early and not get any time with her. But, it's also just fun to be outside in the dark.

From a competitive standpoint, the more nighttime, the better. Mistakes are more costly at night, so night racing favors experience. Navigation mistakes can be particularly disastrous at night. Historically, my night nav has been good, but not great. I'm hoping the additional night training this year will result in a clean night nav section. That could be worth the better part of an hour by the time the sun comes up.

9/15/06 Happy trails

If you're local to St. Louis or here for a visit and haven't checked out the new mountain bike trail at Greensfelder, you really should. It's a great trail; one of the fastest pieces of single track in the county. Today, I ran it after doing some O-practice in Rockwoods Range. I took my map with me and made a rough sketch of where the trail goes after I was done.

At first glance, there appears to be nothing all that special about it. It's a trail that switchbacks down a hillside (or up, depending on which direction you ride it). As with most things, the devil is in the details, and the execution of this one is flawless. Because the trail is constantly winding in and out of reentrants, you never feel like you're just following a contour line. The turnarounds, while obvious switchbacks, don't take away from the linear feel of the trail. If you were to ride this without a map and not pay close attention, you would be very surprised that the trail is crammed into such a small area.

I'm not exactly sure how the trail gets back up the hill because I was out of time so I had to run back up on the old trail. I assume it's a fairly direct and steep ascent because I haven't seen the trail winding around on the opposing hillside. I do know that it does not follow the old trail heading east for very long.

The old trails at Greensfelder were OK, but they were very steep and had a lot of loose rock. That's not a combination I like very much. This one has some loose sections, but most of it is hard pack. The sections that are loose aren't steep enough that the loss of traction is a problem. I normally don't like riding multiple laps of a short loop, but I think I could do quite a few circuits of this one before I got tired of it. And, it's not as short as it looks. I haven't shown all the little twists and turns. I ran the portion on the map in about 22 minutes at a moderate clip. With the uphill section added in, I'm sure it's well over 3 miles.

9/17/06 Adventure weekend for Yaya

Kate went to Kansas City this weekend, so Yaya was with me. We packed in quite a bit of activity. Friday night, we went to the Balloon Glow at Forest Park. That's where all the teams for the big hot air balloon race set up their balloons (but don't take off) and thousands of people come by to look at them. It's pretty cool, with the flames lighting up the balloons in the night. After wandering around the balloons for a while, I took her through the woods on the bike path in the jogger.

On Saturday, we paddled in the canoe. She enjoyed that quite a bit. Hopefully, I'll be able to take her on more paddle workouts. I was going to take her to the night orienteering race, but she was getting really tired. Kate got back just before the race, so I left them together and ran on my own (I'll post the map soon).

Today, we got up early and worked a water stop for the Lewis and Clark Marathon. Although L&C is a medium sized field at 3800 runners, this water stop feels much bigger because it's right near the turnaround. The runners are coming both directions so you get about 6000 runners in half an hour. It was a bit chaotic, but also fun. Yaya sat in a puddle of Gu2O, but didn't seem to care.

That many new activities left her a bit over-stimulated and she was a handful this evening. It was worth it, though.

9/18/06 Long hard road

Yesterday, I went for my longest continuous run on pavement (24 miles) since the St. Louis Marathon in 1996. I ran about 40 miles on pavement at last year's Flatlander, but that also included 20 miles on grass, which helps break up the pounding.

Things held up pretty well. My left knee was getting just a bit achy by the end, but not alarmingly so. I'm not terribly stiff today. Most importantly, my right forefoot, which often bothers me on long runs or rides due to old injuries, is fine.

My route was mostly on bike path which is more forgiving than most paved surfaces. I believe quite a bit of the Pensacola Marathon will be on concrete, which is the hardest surface going. Hopefully, that will be offset by the fact that I'll be running faster, so I won't be striking my heel quite as hard.

Having alleviated any fears with respect to handling the distance on pavement, I think I'll not do another 20+ mile run on roads until January. No point in risking an overuse injury when all you're trying to do is get in easy miles.

9/19/06 Kirkwood night O

Here's the map from the Kirkwood night meet last Saturday. It was a 45-minute score event. I finished my route in 25 minutes. I had a fairly clean run; just one mistake heading to 141 which set me back somewhere between 90 seconds and 2 minutes. It was a fun meet even though, with David as course setter, it was more of a training run than a competition. David is the only other St. Louis runner who takes night training seriously.

9/20/06 Scattered

Well, it's not the way I envisioned it, but all the Carol's Team regulars will be competing at Berryman. We'll all be on different teams.

It all started when Vicki decided she wanted to race with her old Teammate Ken DeBeer. That left Brad, Doug, and I with no woman to fill out the 4-person elite squad. We considered options, but decided we didn't want to just race for the heck of it; if we weren't going to enter the regular team, we'd skip it.

I decided that it would be interesting to give a solo race a try, so I'll be carrying the "official" Carol's Team colors. Doug got snapped up in an instant by Thoughprocess/Alpine Shop (they've had their eye on him for quite some time). Then, todayI got a call from Amber Mounday, one of my Big Shark triathlon teammates. Her team was suddenly without a member due to a work conflict. I pointed her to Brad and now he's entered with them.

I'm hoping that among the four teams, we can get at least one win out of this!

9/21/06 Wet

The forecast for Berryman is 50% chance of thunderstorms. I believe that is the official meteorological way to say, "Who knows?" You'd think that for the number of adventure races I've done, I'd have more experience in the rain. I can only recall racing in the rain on two occasions (not counting light sprinkles that don't affect what you're doing). Of course, I've raced in the rain plenty in other sports.

Naturally, I'd rather it didn't rain, but from a competitive standpoint, it may be good for me. As with darkness, rain makes any technical challenge more so. As I tend to be stronger at technique than just hammering, that's generally good.

The big exception to this is mountain biking. Our combination of steep terrain and sandy soil means that trail erosion is a big problem around here. Thus, I don't ride trails in the rain if I can avoid it. An upside of this policy is that I spend less time cleaning my bike. The downside is that I'm not as comfortable in slick conditions as I probably should be. Hopefully, that will be mitigated by the fact I've switched to hard pack tires for this event.

9/25/06 Tough choice

I'll cut to the chase for those who don't read my training log: I DNF'd Berryman. Dropping out of a race is very hard for me. In my late teens, I did it pretty regularly. I saw that pro bike racers often retire from races once they realize they aren't going to be a factor and figured that was the way to do it. But what makes sense for a pro who enters 200 races a year is not the best policy for an amateur trying to get better.

Just before my 21st birthday, I decided I wasn't going to drop out of races. I also decided I wasn't going to make excuses if I didn't finish well. Those two mental changes did what six years of physical training couldn't. Two years later, I had gone from being a mid-grade amateur to racing semi-pro. Ever since then, when someone talks about an athlete being "gifted", I think, sure they are, but the gift is mental, not physical. Lot's of people are physically capable of pro-level competition. Very few have the mental discipline to bring that to fruition. Frankly, I didn't, but I was honored to ride on the same team as some folks who did and I learned that one thing they all had in common is that they simply didn't back down from a challenge.

So, back to Berryman. The race wasn't going perfectly to be sure. After a slow start, I got the lead about four hours into the opening trek. Then I spent nearly 90 minutes looking for a misplaced control (I'm not sure how you train for this, but some folks seem to be much better than me at finding misplaced controls). By the time I was back on my way, I was 20 minutes behind (I didn't know exactly where I stood, but I was certainly sure that I was well off the pace). With the sun rising and not much trekking remaining, it would have been tough to make that up, but I certainly wasn't at a point where quitting would even enter my mind, much less be entertained as a real option.

Then another front came through. We'd had thunderstorms all night, but this one was different. Large branches and even entire trees were coming down. It occurred to me that I hadn't seen another person in several hours. If I got beaned, it might be a long time before somebody found me. I've always been hesitant to do a solo adventure race because of safety concerns and now my worst fears were being realized.

It really pained me to drop out of Berryman, but I just couldn't justify continuing in those conditions. When I leave for these races, and even for long workouts, I always promise Kate and Yaya that I'll be careful. I mean it. I'm quite willing to accept the risk of the "normal" injuries that are a part of the sport. With the knowledge that teammates or even other competitors are around, I'm even willing to accept some small risk of something a lot more serious. But being out in the woods alone in violent weather is beyond the threshold that I've promised my family I'll observe. I think I'll stick to Adventure Racing as a team sport.

9/26/06 Taper

Conventional wisdom has it that you taper longer for longer events. I'm beginning to think that's not good advice. More research is required, but here is the basis of my argument:

  • Taper accomplishes two things: it allows the muscles to clear out the negative by-products of exercise (primarily calcium) and gives the entire body a chance to fully replenish stores of glycogen and electrolytes.
  • Short events run the muscles closer to maximum output. That puts a premium on available glycogen stores. Longer events use much more fat as fuel, which is always available, tapered or not.
  • After the first hour or so of competition, all those exercise by-products will be back again, so that part of the taper only helps in the early stages of a long race. That's not the part where you really need help.
  • All the adaptations that matter to endurance (mitochondria development, aerobic capacity, etc.) are developed on much longer timelines than the taper. To get these adaptations, you need to be planning enough rest into your base and buildup periods. A few weeks of rest during taper isn't going to make much difference in these areas.

That's the "logical" argument, but I'll confess that it's merely me trying to explain what I already believe. There may be stronger counter arguments. The real reason I believe that taper should be shorter for long events is that the empirical evidence of my own performances points overwhelmingly to that conclusion.

I didn't taper at all for any of my adventure races this year, yet I was physically in great shape for all of them. In my shorter events, I noticed the big improvements much later after tapering than I expected. The Flat Five was a disappointment after 1 week of taper. Babler was better the next week (although some of that can be attributed to a course that played to my strengths). The following week was an OK, but not great performance. Then, three weeks after that came the really good run at Millstadt. Six weeks after the start of taper and I was still seeing significant improvements. I would have expected to be getting stale by then.

As I said, more research is required. This is just one season of racing for one person, so there's plenty of chance for confounding variables. I'm going to poke around and see if I can find any rigorous studies on the topic. I'd sure like to get it right for the Pensacola Marathon.

9/27/06 New use for a compass

On my way down to Berryman, I stopped at a convenience store. Not surprisingly, they had on some radio station that played both kinds of music: Country and Western. I don't really have any objection to that stuff, although I seldom listen to it by choice. I did pick up a useful tip from the lyrics of one of the songs: "Use the needle of your compass to mend your broken heart." I think I'd need some more detailed instructions to actually perform that procedure, but it's always nice to know your equipment has multiple uses.

9/29/06 Solo revisited

Last month I wrote some predictions about racing Berryman solo. For the most part, I was right.

  • Paddling was slower, but not as much as I expected. For one thing, it was a downriver paddle, so the Kayak was well suited to the task. Staying in the current matters more than paddling hard when the water is moving. As I had already decided to stop after the paddle, I wasn't putting out much effort, but I still got through it in a decent time.
  • Running through the woods was certainly faster. I spent the first hour running with the Alpine Shop team. Individually, they move about as fast as I do (I've raced with each of them several times). I kept going when they stopped briefly and gained a fair bit of ground on them without really increasing my effort.
  • Finding controls that were in the right place wasn't slower. The controls were all on mapped features and once inside the control circle, I found them easily. If the controls had been on unmapped features, extra eyes might have helped.
  • It was lonely and I realized that working as a team really is a big part of my enjoyment of adventure racing. It's interesting that being out alone for an ultra-marathon or endurance mountain bike event doesn't bug me, but here I really wished I had company. The fact that I was leading wasn't enough to make it fun without teammates. Then, of course, there was the fact that my two big fears about not having company were realized: a badly misplaced control cost me over an hour (and the lead) and when the really nasty weather hit, I decided it was just too dangerous.
I don't think I'd call it a bad experience, but not a particularly good one either. Given the time and expense of entering an adventure race, it's hard to justify it if you don't have a reasonable expectation of a good experience. I may do another solo in the future, but probably not one this long.

9/30/06 What a blast

I ran a really fun race this evening. Yes, evening. The St. Charles Blast 5K started at the unusual time of 6:30PM. The race was held in conjunction with a fair for a new housing development. Kate and YaYa came with me and we all had a great time. Along with the race were the usual little attractions of a local fair and, YaYa's favorite, a hot air balloon glow. (One of these days she'll learn that hot air balloons actually fly. Right now she just thinks they are pretty sources of very large flames.)

The housing development is called "New Town". It's nice if you're into the planned community thing. Seeing all those new houses with nobody living in them I couldn't help thinking of the fake village in Blazing Saddles. I'd heap more sarcasm on it, but as I'm living in the 'burbs myself these days, I guess I can't talk.

The course ran through the development. Some of the streets were just poured a couple weeks ago. I guess I'd rate it as a fast course because it was pancake flat. Offsetting that was the fact that the 2nd mile was on streets with no houses build yet, so it was exposed to the wind, and there were a lot of turns. I ran an OK time for me (18:24) and finished third overall behind two teenagers. They were both gracious at the finish, but you could tell they were pleased with themselves. Hey, why shouldn't they be? Speed is a gift of youth. Endurance comes later.

I ran this one on a whim. It seemed like something that our whole family could attend and have a good time. I wasn't disappointed. It will be interesting to see how my legs hold up on the hills of West Tyson in the Orienteering meet tomorrow. But, that's another day's problem.

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