We don't get hurricanes in the Midwest and earthquakes are exceedingly rare (although,
when they do occur, they rival what California deals with). That leaves ice storms as the
most destructive force that nature sends our way. Last night's was particularly bad. I
haven't got out into the woods to survey the damage, but the urban areas are reeling.
I'm among the half million people without power today. (I'm writing this from a
computer at a friend's house). Being without power in the winter really sucks. It's no
picnic in the summer, either, but at least you don't run the risk of freezing to death or
having all your pipes burst. If we get power back in the next day or so, I think we'll be
fine. If it goes much longer than that, we may have a real problem on our hands. When
thunderstorms took out power to a similar-sized group last summer, some people went a
week without juice.
From what I hear, Kansas City got a lot of snow, but not as much ice. Hopefully the
woods in the area of the Possum Trot weren't too messed up. It would be a bummer to
have that race ruined by a lot of new, unmapped deadfall. Of course, if I don't get power
back, I might not be able to go anyway. That would be a true bummer because I'm one of
only three people to finish all 9 editions of the Trot so far.
12/2/06 O Mt. O
The first event of the Possum Trot weekend was the O Mt. O sprint on the Kansas
University campus today. It was a really fun event. I'll post the map when I get it
scanned. I ran well and finished 2nd in M40+ (4th overall). The course was very
interesting and required serious concentration to find the best routes through all the
buildings and alleys.
Hopefully, I've still got some starch in my legs for the tough hills tomorrow.
12/3/06 Possum Trot Weekend
Don't have much time to write as I have to get ready for an out of town assignment
tomorrow. I'll post the maps from this weekend and add some commentary throughout
the week. All in all, a very fine weekend of orienteering, both from a meet quality
standpoint and personal results.
Trot, loop 1
Trot, loop 2
I had time to write tonight, but decided to use it for my last long run of this base period
instead. I wasn't sure if my legs would be up to a long run, but they were fine.
Orienteering doesn't tear up your legs like road running, so I can often do a reasonable
workout, even the day after a race. I wanted to get the long run in today so I'd have
plenty of time to recover for Pere Marquette this weekend.
I'm staying in Sikeston, Missouri right now. My current contract is with a small
manufacturing company here. Training opportunities are somewhat limited around here,
but my run was quite pleasant. The temperature was just below freezing and the moon
was nearly full. The breeze was noticeable, but not a problem.
I was surprised that many of the fields still have cotton in them. I thought all that would
have been picked by now. I took a closer look at some of the plants and they seem to be
doing fine, despite the cold temps. I picked a few balls of cotton just because it's
something I've never done before.
12/5/06 Eric's Absurdly Detailed Skip Analysis
Normally, I write my Possum Trot race report first and then add this as an appendix. With
my schedule turned on it's head with my new assignment, it only seems fitting to write
this first. Besides,
Spike has already weighed in on the subject and I can't be scooped by him!
This year's skips at the Trot were made simpler by the fact that there were two loops with
one skip per loop. This meant you couldn't skip 2 in a row (unless you chose to skip the
exchange control, 13, which would be insane since you had to go there to get your second
map anyway). On the other hand, the nature of the area meant that assessing a skip was
more difficult. Rather than simply hacking off the most distance, you really had to look at
running speed. The fields were much faster than the woods. As always, this
analysis is based on the speeds of the top finishers.
So, 2 appears best, but not by much. As long as you executed well, you should still be in the hunt for
the second half. Let's see what the choices are with the race on the line.
2: This is the most obvious skip, and it's pretty good, but not as good as everybody
thought. The main downside is that it comes so early and you don't want to break with
the pack right away. However, most people took this one, so the pack stayed together.
With so many taking this skip, there isn't much good data on the alternative. The fastest
times reported for 1-2-3 are 7:57 and I think the leaders could have done it 30 seconds
faster than that. The pack did 1-3 in 2:44, so this skip saves about 5 minutes.
6: Darius Konotopetz was the only top runner to take this. I think it's quite good,
although I don't have his split to confirm. The pack did 5-6-7 in 11:56. 5-7 doesn't save
any distance (it's actually slightly longer), but it's 1100m of fields and roads with just a
little woods on each end. Hitting 6 puts you in the woods the whole way (unless you take
the big around route to 6 like Swampfox did). I was running field legs at around 6:30/K,
so this leg should be in the 8 minute range for a savings of about 4 minutes.
7: This is the other obvious skip and it's also quite good. I (like many others) thought it
inferior to 2 because the distance removed is through the fields. 6-7-8 was 9:53 for Tom
Carr and I, but we goofed up 7 a bit. It should have been more like 9:30. Steven Graupner
did 6-8 in 5:09 for 4:20 saved.
11: Another obvious one that suffers because the distance saved is through fields. Tom
and I did 10-11-12 in 7:18. None of the top runners took this, but 10-12 is just 400m of
fields, so we'll call it 2:45 for 4:30 saved.
14: Not obvious, but worth a look. 13-15 is all trail running, about the same as 13-14. The
savings is basically 14-15, which was just over 3 minutes. Nobody took this.
15: Saves a bunch of distance, but it's all fast running. 14-16 is about the same as 15-16,
maybe 10 seconds slower since it's not downhill. That makes the difference 14-15 again.
Rudy Schwarz was the only person to take this.
16: Replaces the light green running from 16-17 with a road run - and on a highway at
that. I did 15-16-17 in 5:56, but was pushing really hard there to get away from Tom. The
rest of the top 5 did it a minute slower. 15-17 is 700m of highway and then 30 seconds
through the woods to the control - call it 3:30 for 2:30 - 3:00 saved. Nobody took this.
22: I'm surprised this one wasn't more popular as it's quite obvious. I guess most people
again concluded that too much of the distance saved was through fields. Randy Hall
skipped this, but I don't have his split. It looks like 21-23 is about 15 seconds faster than
21-22, so the difference is 22-23 plus a bit. 22-23 was 3:47 for me, but I took a dumb
route. I think the real savings is more like 3:30.
23: The most popular skip among the top 10 and I can't figure out why it was so
appealing. Sure, it saves distance, but it replaces field running with woods. 22-24 was a
bit over 3 minutes. 22-23 is slightly longer than that. Only 3 of the top 10 to ran 23-24
and I don't have splits from any of them. It's 300m of fields and 150m of woods, so it
should be around 3:30. Total savings just under 4 minutes.
24: Taken by the top 2 finishers. Saves all of 23-24 and replaces the 800m woods leg of
24-25 with a similar length leg of fields and roads. Sorry to be smug, but this one should
have been spotted by more of the top runners. Savings is at least 5 minutes.
25: Not at all obvious, but it's at least as good as 23 (Mike Eglinski took this when David
Frei split by skipping 23 and they came back together at 26). As with the skip of 24, it
replaces the 24-25 woods leg with fields and roads. 24-25-26 was a bit over 13 minutes. I
don't have splits from Mike, but the leg is 300m of woods and 1100m of fields and roads.
Should be around 9:00 for a savings of 4 minutes.
Some might debate it, but I think it's fairly clear that 24 is objectively best. Not enough
to turn the race on it's head, but enough that some of the close finishes could have gone
the other way if 24 had been skipped rather than 23. I think that's the way skip decisions
should play: not decisive, but still worth getting right. Another fine job by Mike Shiffman
in putting together interesting choices.
12/7/06 Hard freeze
After a couple days of mild temperatures (which proved insufficient for melting all the
ice we got last weekend), it's back to being really cold, at least by Missouri standards.
High today was 17F, and it will likely get into the single-digits tonight.
I'll be interested to see the condition of the trails at
Pere Marquete this weekend. Normally, a hard freeze means fast times, but if there's
still a few inches of ice on the trail, that will make the descents pretty tough. Although
icy conditions won't help me hit my goal of running under 1 hour, it probably will help
my finish position. Few of the top runners have orienteering shoes, and you can't beat
them for grip.
12/9/06 Wave zero rocks
I have to say that running in wave zero at Pere Marquette was everything I'd hoped with
none of the downside. My big fear was that I'd be stuck at the back of the wave and then
just get passed by a bunch of people in later waves. That probably would have been true a
few years ago, but two things have changed. First, I'm faster. I finished 13th overall, so I
was actually in the top half of the wave (there are 24 waves of 25 runners each; eight of
the runners who beat me were in wave zero). Second, the seeding is now done by past
results rather than 10K time, so there aren't as many fast trail runners relegated to later
waves. Only two runners passed me from later waves.
There was just a bit of congestion as we started the first climb (about 400m into the race).
I don't think I lost more than a few seconds there. After that, it was clear sailing. I was
worried when I found myself in a little pack on the third descent which is the most
technical. This is not a place where you want to be stuck behind folks, especially when
the trail conditions are as bad as they were today. However, in wave zero, you're running
with people who know what they're doing and while I did pass them on the descent, it
wasn't hard to get by because they weren't flailing around. The picture below is just after
the descent (click for larger).
The runner right behind me is Brad Middleton, who caught me from wave 4. We went
back and forth from the top of the third climb to the middle of the last descent, but then
he pulled away to finish 20 seconds ahead of me (of course, he was already 2 minutes
ahead by virtue of his later start). I think I owe a good bit of my performance to that little
battle. Prior to being caught by him, I was starting to lose focus.
After the event, we had a great time hanging out in the lodge. Yaya danced to the band
while we waited for awards. We passed the time making new friends with John and Judy
Schneller who had traveled all the way from Des Moines, Iowa for the race. As you can
see, by the time the awards came around, Yaya was very excited to see her daddy get one.
Today was SLOC's annual Christmas Party and Score-O. The party was the usual pot-
luck affair. Baby-O certainly enjoyed it. Yvonne was there with baby Beck and there
were several other children there, so she had plenty of company.
The score-O was 1-hour at one of our steepest parks, Greensfelder. I was concerned about
running such steep hills the day after Pere Marquette. I planned a course just over 6K,
figuring that 10 minutes per K would be good going. Several factors made that
assumption wrong. Chief among them was the fact that the soreness from PM really
hadn't set in yet. I was able to run pretty well. Knowing the uphills would be tough, I
planned my route to avoid as much climb as possible (although it still came to nearly 5%
I didn't realize how conservative my route was until it was too late to add any controls.
As you can see from the map, the four that I skipped are quite a ways out. Getting any
one of them would have used up almost all the remaining time, even if incorporated in
the most efficient manner. By control 17, I knew I'd be early, but the out and back to #19
looked like a lot of extra time. I think the best plan would have been to insert 19 between
15 and 16. It still would have been tight, but doable.
Fortunately for me, David Frei made the same planning error, so while I had 10 minutes
left over at the end, I still won because he didn't have time to pick up an extra control,
either. It was a fun event, but it was weird to finish that early without sweeping. I usually
do a better job of planning late drops so I can come in just under the time limit.
In hindsight, a far better route would have been to leave #3 for the end. Even though that
was less than two minutes out and back, it's a good control to leave as a filler. That
would have got me to 15 knowing that I had time to get 19. If I didn't have time to get
#3, I wouldn't be much worse off, but if I did, I'd have an extra control. I think I would
have done that if I had more faith in my legs. Rather unlike me to sell myself short. My
problems usually stem from thinking I can do more than I can.
12/12/06 Possum Trot race report
Is finally here!
12/13/06 2006 wrap up
Seems a bit odd to be assessing a season just as I get into a buildup phase. Pensacola has
my training periods out of phase with the calendar. However, I had set goals for 2006 and
I'm done competing until next year (the Frostbite races are still to come, but they don't count
because I'll be running them as training runs rather than races). Therefore, it's time to see
how things went.
Against my stated goals, it wasn't a particularly good year. The team decided not to go to
USARA Nationals, which had the effect of nixing most of the team goals. We did have a
pretty good showing at Muscatatuck, proving that we're at least capable of competing on
the national level.
In individual competition, I did get my goal of winning a goat event (won 2, the BillyPig
and Turkey-O). I didn't win any bike races, but I got a couple age group wins in
Duathlons. I narrowly missed the hour at Pere Marquette, but I can't regard at 13th
overall at that race as anything but a success.
While achieving only one of six goals, I found this year quite satisfying. I still think goals
are important, but this year certainly proved that there's more to enjoying an activity than
putting notches in your belt.
12/14/06 No arguing with the G
In the early part of the year, Mikell Platt stated that one of his goals for the year was to
"achieve the G." By this, he meant showing up at the starting line of a race weighing less
than Peter Gagarin. Peter made this a lot more difficult for him by dropping some weight
of his own and Mikell failed to meet this goal. However, chasing the G did have him
racing lighter and he certainly had a good season in all other respects.
The nomenclature caught on with the Attackpoint crowd and quite a few folks now refer
to their weight as their "G value". I'm not sure if that discussion spurred me on, or if I
came to it on my own, but I decided early this year that I, too, should dump some weight
and get closer to the 172-pound frame that served me so well in my late 20's (I've been
targeting mid-180's for the last few years, but it's crept into the 190's from time to time).
Once I determined to do it, dropping below 180 wasn't that tough. Improving from there
has been more of a struggle, but I certainly raced lighter this year than I have since 1993.
I subjectively rated all my races this year based on what I felt would be reasonable
expectation at the beginning of the year. I gave each race a 3 if my performance met my
expectation, a 4 if I was a bit better, a 2 for minor disappointments, and saved 1 and 5 for
anomalous results. The two 5's (SLUG 50K and the Meremac O meet) were not shockers when they
happened as I've recognized my improved fitness. However, they were great runs by my
expectations going into the year. I had 2 DNF's this year, but since neither
had anything to do with fitness, I rated them based on how the race was going up until
Plotting the results as a function of weight yields an interesting graph:
The three points on the right are early season results. I'm not sure I would have been so
pleased with them in the middle of the year. Leaving those aside, the trend is quite clear.
The lower the weight, the more likely a good performance. This is hardly a surprise, but the slope
of the trend is noteworthy. It appears that a difference of just 1-2 pounds is significant.
It's good to have hard data on these things if for no other reason than to help turn down
that extra piece of pie over the holidays.
12/16/06 Mid pack
All my mass-start races in the last few months have either played to my strengths (trail
runs, duathlons) or been "small pond" events where I find myself near the front of the
field. I got a bit of a reality check today running the first event in the Frostbite series
hosted by the
St. Louis Track Club.
With High School cross country season complete and no competing races in the area, the
Frostbite Series brings out a pretty strong field. There are certainly much larger races in
the St. Louis area, but the quality doesn't get too much better. As a result, I found my self
looking at the backs of over a hundred runners during the 12K race. Granted, I could have
placed better if I was actually running it as a race (I was running it at marathon pace), but
even then there would have been a pretty good-sized group up the road.
Naturally, I find it more fun to be up front, but I enjoyed today's event. It was certainly
more interesting to run in a big pack than to pound out eight 6:50 miles on my own. It
was also a lot easier. While there was no shortage of individuals who had misjudged their
efforts, the pack as a whole kept a very even pace. By simply holding my position, I ran
very even splits, which was the goal. I'm planning on running the next two Frostbite
races as marathon pace runs (10 mile and 20K). The fourth race is a half marathon that
comes three weeks before Pensacola. I'll run that one as a real race to get a measure on
12/17/06 Random orienteering
Last night David had a Christmas party at his house. Most of the Carol's Team crowd
was there as well as some other members of the St. Louis adventure racing scene. After
we'd all had a chance to drink a bit, we went out for a night orienteering race at a park
near his house.
The format was really good for this sort of thing. It was a 25-minute score event, with 13
controls. Rather than selecting which controls to hit, your control order was dictated by
drawing cards. The controls were labeled 2-9, J, Q, K, A. Just before the start, we all
drew a card. That was our first control. At each control was a stack of cards. You drew
another card and that told you your next control. You kept doing that until the time was
up. Your card count at the finish indicated how many controls you had visited. Rob got the
most (27, which gives you some idea of how tiny the area is).
I like finding ways to add some luck to orienteering. At major competitions, the goal is to
reduce the element of luck as much as possible. That's why A-meet directors spend so
much effort on checking the map and making sure the controls are placed exactly right.
That's fine when the goal is to determine who the best orienteer is, but at an informal
event like a picnic or party, adding some luck lightens the mood considerably. Most of us
still ran it pretty hard, but nobody got too worked up about the results.
12/18/06 Saddle height
Most people who ride a lot know that saddle height is the most important bike
measurement to get right. Note that this is not the same as saying seat tube length is
important - it's not. Saddle height can be adjusted whereas the distance from the saddle
to the brake levers is pretty much fixed unless you want to screw up the bike's geometry.
That's the measurement you want to look at when buying a bike. But, assuming
you got that one fairly close, saddle height is the one that should be fine-tuned.
Conventional wisdom is to start low and keep creeping it up until you start feeling
discomfort at the back of the knee. Then drop it about half a centimeter. A good bike
shop can fit you just as accurately in one try by measuring the angle of your knee at the
bottom of the stroke, but I've found the crude method works pretty well.
You want the saddle as high as possible without hurting yourself. The higher the saddle,
the more power you have, but if you overdo it, you run into problems with tendonitis
because you're pulling the leg back at the bottom of the stroke when it's too far extended.
What brought this to mind was an outing with Yaya this afternoon. We often go around
the block with me walking and her on the tricycle. Today she seemed to be having more
trouble than usual getting up a slight incline (it's not a hill by any stretch, but when
you're 3 and pedaling a plastic-wheeled vehicle, it doesn't take much to slow you down).
I noticed that her legs were still bent quite a bit at the bottom of the stroke. I haven't
adjusted the seat position since last summer and I guess her legs have grown another inch
since then. I moved the seat up and she was off like a shot. It was a pretty vivid
demonstration of getting free speed just by setting the bike up right.
12/19/06 Skills hit list
Last year I identified 10 skills that I wanted to target this year. Here are the results (in
ascending order of importance):
- Getting cleanly and quickly in and out of the control circle. Some progress here,
mostly the result of a general improvement in all aspects of navigation. I didn't really put
any extra effort into this, so it's not surprising that the gains were modest.
Climbing. I decided I didn't have time to make any headway here, so I dropped it as a
Night nav. A fair bit of improvement here. I was leading the night section at Berryman
when I hit the misplaced control and Carol's Team had the best night split at Planet
Adventure. I didn't train this quite as much as I had planned. I think there's plenty more
room for improvement.
Whitewater paddling. This was another one that got jettisoned due to time constraints.
Mountain bike descending. Some improvement here. I spent more time on trails than I
have in the past few years. I'm still giving up a lot to "real" mountain bike racers, but
won't slow down too many adventure race teams.
Flat navigation. I made some strides here early in the spring. I haven't raced on flat
terrain much this year so it's hard to know how much real improvement took place.
Plotting. Big improvement here. We were the first onto the course at the Mission
Adventure Race. I thought it would take more practice than it did to improve. I could be
faster, but I think I'm pretty close to the speed at which plotting faster would risk plotting
Mountain bike navigation. I didn't really work this specifically, but I did notice
improvement as a result of just spending more time on trails and therefore being more
comfortable reading the map while riding. We didn't boom any MTB controls this year,
but I can't think of any that were particularly tough.
Light green vegetation. This was easily my biggest gain of the year. I worked it quite
a bit and
by early fall felt I was moving much better through areas with undergrowth and/or
downfall. Two of my best orienteering meets this year (Meremac and the Possum Trot)
had significant amounts of thick, but runnable vegetation. My lead at Berryman was
largely the result of hammering out a long leg through moderately thick stuff when
almost all the other top teams bailed to a road.
Single-blade paddling. Another big gain, although there's more work to be done. I'd say
that paddling in the back with a canoe paddle has gone from being a liability to neutral.
I'd like to get to where it's a strength. That will take another year at least.
I think the list was a little ambitious last year. While I made significant headway on the
top two items and a little progress on others, it was too hard to work in enough training to
address all the areas. I think I'll cut the hit list down to five items for 2007 and try to
make sure I really put some effort into each discipline.
12/20/06 Terrain tempo
Like most runners, I typically run my tempo runs on roads. There are some good reasons
for this. Road running is fast, and tempo runs are supposed to "feel" fast (although they
shouldn't be race-level efforts). Your pace is also fairly predictable on roads and a tempo
run loses a lot of its value if the pace isn't pretty close to your target (within 5
seconds/mile your 10-mile race pace is a good rule of thumb).
That said, I think running tempo runs in the terrain is extremely valuable provided you
can run them at the right level of effort. This is much faster than most people run when
navigating. Although some elite orienteers can be accurate with even higher heart rates,
most of us simply don't have enough oxygen going to the brain to avoid errors at 90% of
Because you're moving faster than normal, terrain tempo helps develop the
coordination to move through vegetation and clear obstacles smoothly - skills that can
save a good bit of time at slower speeds as well.
Terrain tempo also teaches you to look further ahead. If you have to move 10 meters off
your line to get around a fallen tree, it's better to realize that 50 meters in advance rather
than 10. You also get a better appreciation for how much relatively small obstacles slow
you down and learn when to go around them and when to crash through.
Because tempo pace is too fast to navigate accurately, the course for terrain tempo has to
be slightly different than a regular orienteering course. There are several ways to "dumb
down" the navigation to where you can handle it at tempo pace:
Don't navigate at all. Just run on your watch through the woods at tempo effort until 15-
30 minutes have passed. While this preserves the stamina benefits of the workout, I don't
think it gets the full value of being in the terrain. You may also be pretty lost at
the end of 30 minutes of random running in the woods.
Run a bearing. This is excellent training for rough compass. This exercise gives you a
good idea of how much variation from intended bearing to expect when you are running
on the needle (answer: a lot - holding a tight bearing requires you to slow down so you
can keep the needle still and take sightings). Bring a map along but don't look at it while
running. Use it when you're done to see far you went off. This variation is particularly
well suited to tempo intervals (e.g., 2x12 minutes with 3 minute recovery) because you can
use the rest to figure out where you are and what bearing to run to get back.
Set a course that uses major handrails to big features. This allows you to run each leg
hard by following the handrail, but still be thinking about landmarks as they go by.
Set a test loop. This is my favorite way to do terrain tempo. A test loop is a course that
you run often enough that you know your way around it. You may still have to bring the
map, but you're not figuring anything out. The map is just there so you don't have to
remember the whole course. Depending on your skill level and the difficulty of the loop,
you may have to run the course quite a few times before you can run it at tempo pace.
You'll know when you've got it because suddenly you can run as fast as you want and
not make any mistakes at all. I typically get to that point after running a course once a
week for 2-4 weeks. Even though the jump in speed just a reflection of knowing the
course, it's still a great feeling when it happens.
If you do a fair bit of road or track tempo work as part of your training, you should be
able to run terrain tempo by "feel" and be reasonably close to the right effort, but you'll
probably be just a bit slow. Because running in the terrain puts greater demands on the
skeletal muscles (particularly the stabilizing muscles), the same cardio effort will feel
more difficult off road. If in doubt, a heart rate monitor is useful. Tempo should have you
between 85 and 90% of max heart rate.
12/21/06 Team awareness
Daniel Gray Wilson of the Harvard Graduate School of Education performed a survey
study on the teams at
Primal Quest this year. The focus of his research was the impact of self-awareness
on both performance and enjoyment. I haven't had time to review it in detail, but it
appears to be a well-conducted study with some interesting results. You can check out the
abstract or the
12/23/06 Listen, skeptically
I've written here before that you should listen to your body when training. As much as
you may believe that you have the world's greatest training plan set out, if your body
can't do it, you need to adjust. That said, it's important not to give in too easily.
Today, I had a long run planned on the Lewis and Clark trails. They are really nice trails
that have been featured in the
Runner's World Where to Run column
(the article was several years ago and seems to have expired from their website). The first
mile is really easy - flat, smooth, almost like running on a road (it gets a lot tougher after
that). I ran the first mile in 9:40 and felt terrible. Running another 21 miles on much
tougher singletrack didn't look like much fun. I began to think about bailing on the
workout and trying again in a few days.
Fortunately, I didn't decide that right away. Long runs are the most difficult part of
planning a training schedule. Moving one often requires juggling several other workouts
as well. So, I decided to keep running and see if I would feel any better.
Mile two (which contains a pretty good climb) took 11 minutes, but the gentle mile 3
went by in 8:30. Mile four (the toughest on the Lewis loop) took under 10 and I started to
feel like I might be finding my stride. The relatively flat fifth mile gave me the respite I
needed to get into a rhythm and I was not in trouble from that point on. I ended up
finishing two laps of Lewis and one of Clark (about 22 miles and a whole bunch
of climb) in just under 3 and a half hours, exactly what I had planned.
It's important to listen to what your body is telling you, but it's also important to know
that not all the signals are reliable. In particular, feelings of general tiredness often recede
after 30-45 minutes of moderate exercise. If I had not felt any improvement in that time,
I certainly would have recognized that I needed rest and cut the workout short. By being
patient, I got in the workout I wanted and won't have to rearrange things over the next
12/26/06 Slow focus
I've been struggling over that past year with navigating cleanly when moving slowly.
Some of this is a result of the correlation between slow pace and the use of USGS maps
in long races, but even adjusting for map quality and fatigue, there's no question that I
navigate better when moving quickly.
To fight this, I've been doing some control picking at an easy pace. I still use orienteering
maps because there's less temptation to use rough compass when you have rich feature
detail. On an orienteering map, I can stay in constant contact with the map - provided I
keep my head in the game.
And that's the rub. It's hard to stay focused when not moving fast. It seems so easy that
your mind starts to wander. It doesn't take too much of that to lose contact with the map.
Of course, on an O-map, relocating at low speed is relatively easy so it's important to
recognize when you've lost contact and recovered rather than staying in contact the
Today I did a control picking exercise at West Tyson at an easy pace. It was still faster
than my trekking pace in a 24-hour race, but slower than my usual training pace. I didn't
lose contact once, so I started thinking what I had done differently than days when I've
struggled with focus.
First and foremost, I think it's practice paying off. The improvement has been
incremental; today was simply the latest data point in an upward trend. The practice has
been primarily the control picking noted above, but I've also done a few sessions
featuring longer legs where I run a bit looser, but still try to stay in rough contact at all
Another difference with today's session was the complete absence of thick vegetation.
West Tyson is pretty open year round and particularly fast this time of year. The map
does have a couple areas of light green, but they would probably be white on most maps.
Despite improving my speed through light green this year, I still have a tendency to run
too loose in low visibility, assuming I'll be able to relocate on the other side. This is
almost always true, but when it isn't, it leads to big problems, especially at night.
I think the next logical step in improving this area is to work slow navigation in low
visibility areas. I'll have to think about the best way to do that since most of our mapped
areas are very open. I may have to use some USGS maps.