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2/1/07 Emmenegger Test Loop

I re-taped my test loop at Emmenegger yesterday. Unlike the Rockwoods Test Loop, the loop at Emmenegger is really tough to run fast. The navigation is easy enough, but the woods are thick. I ran this loop several times last year to work on my speed through light green. I think it paid off.

The map is a bit odd. This loop was originally the model event for SLOC's A-meet in 2005. That meet was held at three very different parks. I wanted a single model event to capture the flavor of each, so I broke the map into three sections. The southern section is like an urban park - mostly open with some wooded areas. I mapped that using the same standards I used for the Forest Park map. The middle section of the map has lots of trails and small contour features. I mapped that like Cliff Cave. Just by luck, the original Emmenegger map was made by Plamen Djambazov, the same guy that did our Rockwoods Range map. The northern section of the park has bigger and steeper features, so it was a good representation of that (except that the woods are much faster at Rockwoods).

While that's great for a model event, it is a little weird to run on. If you want to give it a try, click on the map clip for the full map and print it at 300 dots per inch. The tapes are orange. They aren't very big. I don't have official permission to set a course there, so I try to be inconspicuous. However, in keeping with my recent rants, none of them are hidden. The tapes usually last only a few months out there, so if you want to run the course taped, don't wait too long. Besides, by April, the woods will be considerably slower.

FWIW, my fastest time is 20:44.

2/3/07 Brrr!

I'm not sure what the weather was like for Phil, but any groundhogs around here saw their shadow yesterday. Last night it got down to the single digits and it was still plenty frosty when I went out for my workout at West Tyson this afternoon.

I was surprised by how many mountain bike tracks there were. We got fresh snow on Thursday and it hasn't been above twenty degrees since then. I don't mind running in that kind of weather, but that's mighty cold for riding a bike.

Today is the Bonk Hard Chill. I didn't enter this year because it is so close to the marathon. Last year it was about this cold. I remember the paddling was crazy cold. Doug is racing with the Alpine Shop crew (David, Jeff, & Carrie) so I guess his ankle is feeling better.

2/4/07 Meremac Loop

Today was my last long run before the marathon. I'm glad that's over with. It's not that I don't like long runs, I do. My main concern is that I'd get injured. I'm generally pretty resistant to overuse injuries, but marathon training can bring down just about anybody. It's a lot of miles on hard surfaces.

The loop I ran today is one I've wanted to do for a while. It's now possible to connect the trails that run along both sides of the Meremac by crossing at Route 66 park. That means you can run both Castlewood and the Chubb all as one loop. I'm not sure why I'm so obsessed with loops, but I really don't like out-and-backs.

Anyway, for any locals who want to do a moderately interesting 27-mile loop either running or mountain biking, here's the route (starting from the commuter lot at 141 and I- 44:

Go north on 141 to Vance (this is the part that sucks running, because you have to cross the Meremac bridge running in the road, which is busy even on a Sunday morning).Turn left on Vance and take that up the hill to Big Bend. Left on Big Bend to Ries and left on Ries to Castlewood.

Take your pick on how you want to get down into the park - I chose to take the Grotpeter trail, but there are plenty of other ways to get to the river. Take the trail along the river to the western edge of the park and pick up the Al Foster trail to Glencoe.

This is where it gets a bit dicey. You're need to follow the old railroad grade to Route 66 park. You're not on it for more than a hundred meters when you get to the first bridge. Or, should I say where the bridge used to be. Follow the path off to the right to get across the creek. This is a wet-foot crossing, but not bad. Follow the wide trail back to the rail road grade. A bit over a mile later you get to the second missing bridge. This one is easier because you can cross right at the base of the bridge. At least today, you can even keep your feet dry. After that, the grade gets increasingly difficult to follow, but if you keep going south, you will get to the outer road.

Head east on the outer road, pass where it stops, and keep heading down to the tracks that run along the edge of the park. You can use the tracks to get across the creek; these are active tracks so keep your head up. Head straight east through the park and cross the Meremac on the park access road.

Turn left into West Tyson Park and pick up the Chubb Trail. Take the Chubb to Lone Elk. From the Lone Elk trailhead you can either take the park road back to the commuter lot, or stay on trail by taking the trail that runs along the top of the ridge above I-44.

It's an OK loop, with tremendous potential to be exploited in an adventure race. I've collected a pretty good collection of potential AR venues. One of these days, I might get around to actually putting one on.

2/5/07 Lucky13

Today is my 13th anniversary. That's not a particularly long time to be married (my parents just celebrated 50), but it's certainly longer than my first one lasted. At least some of that is due to coming to consensus on training.

Training for endurance sports has about the same impact as working a second job. My actual training hours are only 10-15 per week, but when you throw in the time spent getting ready, cleaning up, and traveling to venues, it's over 20. It certainly helps that Kate stays home with Yaya. I don't know how we could swing it if both of us worked outside the home.

I've recently changed my schedule in hopes of having a bit more family time. Basically, I'm giving up my mornings with Yaya to have more time with her in the evenings. I'll be out of the house before she wakes up, but should be back (with workout complete) by dinner. She's been staying up until 8-9, so that will give me a nice block of time with her and then some time with Kate before I have to go to bed.

At first blush, this looks like a setback for training, but I'm not sure it is. Granted, it will be harder to get in the long workouts. I'll be lucky to get in one 3-hour workout a week and the 5-6 hour stuff is probably gone altogether. On the other hand, having a set schedule will mean that I won't have to change (or miss completely) as many workouts due to other things that come up. Several folks I've talked to have indicated that they actually saw their training improve when they cut back on the amount of time they could devote to it. The restriction forced them to be efficient and their training became more purpose driven as opposed to just "working out".

I like to think of my training as already being fairly well planned, but one can always improve. We'll see how it goes. There's no question that if it comes to a choice between the two, I'd take a happy family life over winning races. Of course, what I'd really like is both.

2/6/07 Glencoe

While I was on my long run on Sunday, I noticed a little patch of land that may have some potential. It's only about half a square kilometer, and from the USGS map you'd never know it held any interest at all. It isn't even mapped as forested.

However, that little chunk of flood plain north of the river is actually some of the most complex terrain I've seen in Missouri. It's all intertwined with little knolls, depressions, and gullies. The area is too small to do anything longer than a sprint, but it would be one tough sprint. There's enough deadfall that it would be really hard to run fast and still get more than a fleeting glimpse of the map. Add in the fact that there are no big features to relocate off of and you've got a real challenge.

2/7/07 Bonked?

Not sure what the deal was at Bonk Hard Chill last weekend, but the results are a bit suspicious. When you see one top team miss a CP, it might just have been a bad day, but when Alpine Shop, Springfield Bike (formerly Dynamic Earth), and Citgo all fail to complete the course, I gotta think there was a problem with the setting. Not to take anything away from Lab Rats; they're a good team and probably deserve the win, but I'm starting to think I'm glad I missed this one. I'll see if I can dig up the dirt on what really happened.

2/8/07 Tough break

Well, it seems that Jason is absolved. I've heard from several teams and everybody says that there was nothing wrong with the course at Bonk Hard Chill (except that it was ridiculously cold). Here's Carrie's version of what happened to Alpine Shop:

We did the race, bitterly cold paddle and we finished about 20-25 minutes back from Lab Rats. Not our best day but solid. I rolled my ankle badly at CP 3 or so but sucked it up (much to my regret now)! Anyway, finished in what we thought was 2nd place and then got a phone call from Jason E on Tuesday asking if we went to CP 21. Grabbed the maps and looked and found out- NO! It was incredibly close to the TA and would have taken us 5 minutes but the course was changed in the AM because of the lake freezing and we plotted a new course in the AM. This CP was a new one on an O' loop that we had plotted from the earlier course which we had highlighted. We didn't highlight the new CP in our route in the AM and just blew it. So, our freezing and hard work and my hurt ankle were all for a bummer of a finish.
Seems to be the season for rolling ankles.

I'm glad to hear that the course was good. Jason's last few efforts have been pretty good and I was afraid he might have slipped a bit. As he'll be putting on Nationals this year, I hope he keeps improving. Central Missouri is perfect terrain for a long course event and it could be one of the best nationals ever.

2/10/07 Fixed gear

It seems to be a bit out of vogue, but even now, many of the world's elite cyclists devote a good portion of their off and early season to fixed gear training. The thought is that any hitch in the stroke becomes more apparent when the bike is driving your legs as much as your legs are driving the bike.

I could site examples from my own career (back in the days when fixed-gear training was de rigueur for serious cyclists), but I found a much more amusing one in Yaya. I haven't seen her on the tricycle since last fall. Meanwhile, her pre-school has been spending it's time indoors riding trikes around the gym. Today, I walked around the block while she rode. Or, I should, say, I jogged. She's motorin'. I clocked her at 130 RPMs. There are a lot of reasonably serious cyclists that can't sustain that with toeclips (oops, showing my age - clipless pedals).

OK, her tricycle has a 10" gear. 130 RPM's is only four miles an hour. Her legs weigh less than 10 pounds each. Still, it's pretty impressive to see how much better she pedals after just one fixed-gear session a week for 10 weeks.

2/11/07 Sick

I saw this coming, but that doesn't mean I'm happy about it. Kate and Yaya have both had colds recently. I've found that I'm usually susceptible to colds when I'm backing off my training volume (which has always seemed weird to me - you'd think you'd benefit from the extra rest). Yesterday I felt a bit off and cut my workout short. Last night I didn't sleep well and this morning I woke up with my head all stuffed up.

There's not much to do about it except try to get plenty of sleep, eat well, and stay hydrated. That's pretty much what I'd be doing the week before a big race, anyway. With any luck, this will pass quickly. If not, there's always another day.

2/12/07 What makes a race big?

This weekend is the big one. Why? Obviously, it comes down to what's important to the individual. But, that's a bit of a circular answer. To rephrase the question: what is it about certain races that cause us to view them as more important than others?

Some races carry stature with them. Championship events, for example, are assumed to gather the best competitors eligible. Further, it's assumed that those competitors are all putting out their best effort in the race. Neither of those is ever completely true, but the perception is enough that a win in a championship race is considered a bigger deal than beating a similar field at a similar non-championship event. Other events with heightened status are qualifiers for even larger events such as Olympic Trials. Finally, there are the "bragging rights" races; those that are widely acknowledged to be particularly tough (locally, the Pere Marquette trail run is a good example).

While such status races are often cited in the goals, there is another set of races that by themselves carry no such prestige, but stimulate similar feelings in the minds of individual competitors. This weekend's marathon is one such race. The Pensacola Marathon is a small race. A few hundred competitors, mostly from nearby. I doubt many people could even say for sure that Pensacola has a marathon. Judging from last year's results, the field for the Frostbite Half Marathon is considerably tougher. I ran a PR at the Frostbite Half and placed second in my age group. Objectively, that's a stronger result than breaking 3 hours at Pensacola, but it doesn't carry nearly the weight in my own mind.

I suspect that the vast majority of the Pensacola field views things the same way. Marathons, by their very nature, take up big chunks of a training calendar both in preparation and recovery. With so much time and effort devoted to a single race, that race becomes important to the person making the investment, even if nobody else cares.

The marathon is also woven into our cultural mythology in a way that no other race possibly can be. Mention a 50K to someone and they'll think, "that's a long way." Mention a marathon and they'll think, "that's the race that killed the first guy to try it." Even if they know the 50K is longer (most have no idea), they'll respect the marathon more. Of course, nobody really believes you're taking your life in your hands by entering a marathon, but the subconscious message persists: even an ordinary marathon is no ordinary race.

In general, setting goals and identifying target races is good for performance. The danger is failing to recognize that this is an artificial structure, not reality. If my cold gets worse this week, I might have a pretty bad run this weekend (I might have a bad run for any number of other reasons as well). While I don't want that to happen, it's important to realize that a bad run doesn't mean that six months of training has been wasted. I would have trained a little differently if I wasn't targeting a marathon, but not a lot differently. The fitness I have going into this race can certainly be put to use in any number of other events. Furthermore, good training is its own reward. I like running. If I didn't, I wouldn't do it.

I hope I can put out a good effort this weekend. I'll be genuinely disappointed if I can't. But, I won't go injuring myself or turning a cold into pneumonia just to prove how tough I am in the big game. That would waste six months of training. If I get to 20 miles and it's clear that my body isn't up to the task, I'll jog it in and try again another day. As long as you keep your sense of perspective, there is always another day.

2/13/07 A-meets

I expect my regular readers are getting sick of me going on about the marathon so today I'll write about what I could be doing instead. This weekend is the Georgia Navigator Cup. That's normally my first big orienteering meet of the year.

The Navigator Cup is an A-meet. That basically means that the organizers have agreed to certain quality standards and that the results are used in the national rankings. Depending on your point of view, A-meets can be either intimidating or no big deal. The level of competition is higher at A-meets than local meets. The organization can also be intimidating. There's generally no race-day registration. The overall experience is geared towards people who know what they are doing (as in, they understand the start procedures, the course/class structure, etc.). For a novice, it can be a bit much.

On the other hand, I'm lucky enough to live in a town where the local club (SLOC) sets courses that are very close to A-meet standards. That means that once I'm on course, the A-meet experience isn't much different from what I get all the time. I think part of the key to becoming comfortable with national competition is realizing that what you are doing isn't different; it's the organizers that have to raise their game.

There are a lot of good reasons for Adventure Racers to do orienteering meets in general and A-meets in particular. The people I'd really like to see at an A-meet or two are Adventure Race organizers. They could learn an awful lot from seeing first hand how little room there is for error in putting on an elite orienteering race and how consistently amateur clubs succeed in the task. You won't ever hear an A-meet director saying, "That's all part of the adventure!" A-meet directors know they have to get it right, and they nearly always do.

2/14/07 Where are all the US ROGAINE's?

There was a time not long ago that you could find five or six full-length (24-hour) endurance orienteering events (known as ROGAINE's) each summer. Looking at this year's calendar, I see 5, but only two are in the US. There's no championship event for either North America or the US. What gives?

ROGAINE's always used to be the easy way to raise funds for a club. You don't have to make a new map because USGS mapping is acceptable. Competitors are willing to pay a fairly sizeable entry fee (at least by orienteering standards) and there's not much in the way of expenses. Basically, if you set a decent course and have some good food at the end, everybody goes home happy.

So, what gives? Are US clubs so flush with cash that they don't need the income? I have to think that with the increasing popularity of Adventure Racing it would be even easier to get good fields for these things. I hope the schedule fills out, because I really enjoy the long events.

2/15/07 Off to Florida

Well, for better or worse, I'm off. My cold feels better and my dial-in workout this morning went OK. My pulse is still just a bit high, but I'm optimistic. I'm not sure when I'll update this blog again, but you can check my AttackPoint training log if you're burning to know how it goes. I should be able to get that updated by Sunday evening.

2/18/07 3:00:15

Close, but not quite. Still, a good run at the Pensacola Marathon. I'll write a full report in the next few days.

2/24/07 What went wrong?

When missing a significant goal, one is always prompted to ask, "What went wrong." While that may be useful, it's not a question I'm asking about Pensacola. I've thought about my race quite a bit over the last few days and I'm simply not able to see it in a negative light.

True, the stated goal was to run at least 16 seconds faster. And, while conditions weren't perfect, they were not enough of a factor for me to claim a "virtual" success. I didn't break three hours because I wasn't fast enough to do so. Period.

However, to dwell on that would miss the fact that this was very much a race that went exceptionally well. My training went well, I avoided injury and illness, I paced nearly perfectly (running slightly negative splits), won my age group, and broke my old marathon PR by over 20 minutes. To fail to appreciate all that over 16 seconds would be stupid in the absurd.

I'd still like to say that I'm a sub-3-hour marathoner. I think I will try again. But for now, I'd rather think about what went right.

2/25/07 Pensacola race report

Is finally here.

2/26/07 Third Thursday adventure series

This is all still preliminary, but I figured I'd start getting the word out. Carol's Team will be putting on a series of Sprints and Adventure Runs this year. The series will be held on the third Thursday of each month. Registration will be from 6-6:30PM with the first start at 6:30.

While we have daylight in the evenings, the focus will be on sprint events. Sprint is used here in the orienteering sense: 12-15 minute winning times. Most nights we'll be able to get in two races. The second race will generally have a unique twist. The navigation difficulty will vary, but the short legs and large map scale should make the courses accessible to anyone.

The sprints will count towards the North American Sprint Series. Anyone running all the events should earn enough points to get a decent seed at the Finals in Connecticut on September 22. The Finals is quickly becoming one of the most popular Orienteering meets in North America with lots of side activities complementing the multi-round sprint competition. I'd love to send a healthy St. Louis contingent this year, especially since the next day will probably be US Relay Champs.

In October, we'll switch to longer races with lights. The night events will all use linear feature navigation (trails, streams, etc). They will also be mass started, so teams that want to stick together may do so. They are still individual events, however, so everybody needs to carry their own required gear (compass, whistle, light) and towing isn't allowed.

The first event will be on March 15 at Forest Park. We'll meet at the Steinberg Ice Rink in the SE corner of the park. Going north on Kingshighway, turn right (yes, away from the park) at the first light north of 40. Now, just keep making right hand turns (going underneath Kingshighway on Clayton) until you get to the entrance to the rink. Hope to see you all there.

2/27/07 Boston

We'll be leaving the marathon genre for a while, but as a parting note I'll say that I do plan to run the Boston Marathon in 2008. This is driven less by a desire to say I've "run Boston" than for its potential as a fund raiser. Because of its status as the oldest annual marathon and one of the few that requires a qualifying time, it's easier to get sponsorship for Boston than just about any other marathon. The venue is particularly appropriate as both Carol and I were born there.

So, while I'll be turning my training focus back to orienteering and adventure racing, I'll also be drumming up some support for a run at Boston. If any other qualifiers would like to help by running as part of Carol's Team, please let me know.

2/28/07 Poster boy

Apparently, I'm the poster boy for fat Missourians. As part of the Show Me State Games, Missouri is running a get fit program called Shape Up Missouri. Brad Baum saw one of the posters the other day and it's got a picture of yours truly on it. I imagine it was taken at the State Games Duathlon last year. I haven't seen it myself yet, but I hope I can get a hold of one.

The competition is basically to see if you can lose a bunch of weight and increase your activity level. I'm sure it's just coincidence, but I wonder if they'd be amused to know that I was once 60 pounds heavier.

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