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8/2/07 Healing

The good news is that I'm down to just one blister that's a problem. The bad news is that it's in a really hard spot to bandage (right at the joint of the big toe), so it's a real problem. I ran on it for about half an hour this evening and it wasn't too bad. Hopefully it will be healed up in time for nationals, but it's going to be close.

8/3/07 Slow start

This is pure speculation on my part and could be way off base. I've noticed that I take a lot longer to warm up than I used to. That might be because I'm getting older, but I don't think so. I think it's a result of the fact that my diet is much lower in carbs than it was during my prime.

This morning was typical. I ate a light breakfast and started riding into work. For the first 10 minutes, just turning the 60 inch gear was generating some complaints. Then it started rolling easily and by 20 minutes I was on top of the 89 (53x16 for you young-uns that don't do gears in inches). OK, that's not exactly a big gear, but it constitutes decent tempo. I don't think that my fitness has fallen off any further than I'd expect for my age, but it sure takes a lot longer to get the motor started.

8/4/07 August is out

My surgery has been rescheduled for August 16. Therefore, I won't be able to run the Third Thursday meet for August. We'll just move it to September.

8/5/07 44 at 44

Today's my birthday and just by coincidence my morning resting pulse was the same as my age. It's only recently that I've seen my resting pulse less than or equal to my age.

I've never been one to have a super low pulse. I had a few days in my late 20's where it was below 40; the lowest I ever recorded was 37. Generally it's been in the low to mid 40's my whole adult life. From what I understand, the absolute values for resting and maximum pulse aren't that important. Some people just have higher rates than others. What does matter is the relative value. If your resting pulse is elevated, it's a good sign that you should go easy that day.

8/6/07 Get back on it

Yaya got her first bicycle for her birthday yesterday. I was going to wait another year so she wouldn't need training wheels, but she's too big for her tricycle. Of course, even with training wheels you can wreck if you're not looking where you're going. Which is exactly what she did just 50 feet into her first ride.

She landed in some grass so she wasn't hurt. She got right back on and kept riding. I took that as a very good sign.

8/7/07 Depletion

I haven't read much about it lately, so maybe the technique has fallen out of favor. It used to be that whenever you were trying to peak for a long race (long in the "normal" sense, like 2-4 hours; not 24), you did a carb depletion cycle. The theory is that if you drain all your carbs and then eat a bunch, your body overcompensates and you wind up with more carbs stored for the race.

As I said, this theory may have been discredited, but I used the technique a lot when I was cycling and still do it when I have a 2-3 hour race that I care about. Long course orienteering champs probably won't take more than 2 hours, but just in case it does, I went ahead and did a depletion ride today. As it was also very hot, I was careful to drink a lot and not push very hard.

I think it worked well. I'm not particularly tired and I'm certainly not dehydrated. The fun part is the next three days when I get to eat a lot.

8/8/07 Ready or not

I can't honestly say I feel prepared for the championship races this weekend. I've not done any navigating in the woods lately and my physical training has been all base. Still, I'm pretty optimistic. I'm relatively injury free (the blisters are still present, but not impacting performance). My weight is a few pounds lighter than target, so I can let it come up in the next few days. I always feel better when I'm coming up to target weight rather than fighting to stay there.

I've never orienteered in Colorado, but the open terrain should favor my style. The picture at left is from Wyoming, but my understanding is that the terrain is similar: fast running with clumps of vegetation that force speed changes. Transitioning between running through fields and navigating in the woods seems to be something I do better than most. Probably a result of all the park orienteering I do.

At any rate, there's nothing I can do to improve matters now, so I might as well think positive about it.

8/10/07 Blowin' it

Today was US Short Course Orienteering Champs (winning time around 30 minutes - what the rest of the world calls "Middle" distance, but the US is still clinging to the old terms, kind of like our anti-metric stance). Anyway, I ran M40+ figuring the terrain was good for me so I might actually win the thing. After a shaky first leg, I ran pretty well to get into the lead. Then I made a big parallel error getting on the wrong spur on the way to the penultimate control. Knowing that the race was in the balance, I took a gamble and guessed which way to correct without truly relocating. I guessed wrong and any chance of winning evaporated.

I suppose I should be bummed about that, but I'm really not. I was running aggressively, made a mistake, took a chance, and got burned. If I had spent more time sorting things out, I might have salvaged a medal, but I really wanted to win. Once I realized my bid had failed, I turned off the gas to save my legs for the Long Course event tomorrow (winning time should be closer to 2 hours).

8/11/07 Never, never, never, give up

There's an apocryphal story that the above line was the entirety of a commencement address once given by Winston Churchill. It is good advice in a long course championship.

I had a lead of a couple minutes with only 3K to go today at the US Long Course Orienteering Champs (40+ class). I boomed a control badly and Ted Good got ahead of me by about two minutes. I knew this because long course is a mass start event, so I saw him leaving the control area. It seemed hopeless that I'd make that up in such a short distance, but I was able to keep my head in the game.

The last bit of the course wasn't particularly technical, so there was no reason to expect him to make a mistake. Still, I ran as hard as I could figuring anything can happen. What happened was that Ted started to cramp up and I caught him a bit over a kilometer from the finish. After the event he told me he made no attempt to stay with me because he knew if he hit the gas he'd seize up entirely.

So, a longtime goal has finally been achieved: I've won a National Championship. Age graded and on one of the less popular distances, but a National Championship all the same. Expect a suitably gloating meet report with maps in the next few days.

8/12/07 Where to eat in Woodland Park

One of the things I really like about traveling to meets is eating at new places. I don't mind the food at chain restaurants, but I much prefer local fare. I've enjoyed the weekend at Woodland Park enough that I'd recommend it for someone looking for a vacation at nosebleed altitude without nosebleed prices. If you do go, here's where I ate and what I though of it.

Java... The Hut. I thought the name was clever enough that I would give them the first piece of my business. Turns out they serve some pretty excellent coffee. They don't have as many flavors, but I'd put the quality on a par with Kaldi's in St. Louis (and if you don't think that's high praise, you need to get yourself to Kaldi's). I also got a roasted veggie burrito which was fine.

Joanie's Bakery and Deli. I don't have anything to compare it to because somehow I've managed to go through 44 years without ever having a kolache before. This one had cherry and cream cheese filling. It was yum. They also have free wifi.

The Donut Mill. Skip it. Nothing special here.

Primo's Chicago Pizzaria and Broasted Chicken. Well, that's not a combo you see every day. What the hell is "broasting", anyway? I knew I'd have to check this place out. Adding to the surreal was the fact that they had an Elvis impersonator performing. The salad bar was somewhat limited, but good. The pizza was average, but that might not be fair. The group I was with wanted thin crust, and I assume from the name that the thicker stuff is their specialty. I also got a piece of the broasted chicken, which was OK, but not nearly as special as they seemed to think it was. All in all a decent meal for not too much and only slightly spoiled by the fact that the service was pretty bad.

Grandma's Kitchen. Conventional wisdom is to avoid places with names that reference maternal ancestors, but this one had a parking lot full of pickup trucks which is usually a good sign. Their coffee was almost as good as the Hut's and the Garden of the Gods omelet (veggie) was outstanding. Service was excellent.

Buck's Mountain Saloon and Grill. Pretty standard fare, but you could do a lot worse than a small salad, cheeseburger, fries, and 2 pints of beer for $8.55.

Fiesta Mexicana. Having never been to Mexico, I have no idea if their claim of "authentic Mexican food" is valid. It was, however, cooked and served by authentic Mexicans and there were authentic Mexicans eating there. It tasted just fine to me.

Hungry Bear Restaurant. It was probably a dumb idea to have breakfast here when I wasn't really all that hungry. The menu was full of things like 4-egg omelets, steak and egg combos, and the like. I spotted a veggie sandwich for $5.95 that included coffee and figured that would probably be pretty light. Wrong. It was two big slices of sourdough toast jammed full of roasted veggies and cheese. I had to eat it with a knife and fork because it was too big to pick up. Fortunately, it was also pretty good. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the coffee.

Definitely gained some weight on the trip, but it was long-O champs so eating hearty was the order of the day.

8/13/07 Still a girl

Lest anybody be concerned that I'm making Yaya too much of a tomboy, here's her reaction to the rather girlie birthday present she just got in the mail from her cousins.

I'm not one to either foster or discourage gender roles. If she wants to come camping with me, great. If she'd rather play with a pink castle, I'm down with that, too. Truth is, I'd like her to try just about everything (within reason) and make up her own mind. Of course, being that open-minded as a parent is a lot easier said than done.

8/16/07 Surgery successful

I had my surgery today to correct my hernia and also remove my gall bladder. Kind of a two for one deal. It was the first time I've had any surgery (unless you count getting 36 stitches to reattach my eyelid after a crash surgery). I'm not in much pain right now although I do have a lot of inflammation in the abdomen. I'll be out of running for about 2 weeks. I can ride sooner if I feel up to it.

8/17/07 Safer is better

Still haven't found time to write a full race report, but in the mean time I'll comment on two legs that jump out as particularly instructive from last weekend. The first (shown right) is the one that lost the Short Course Champs for me. The route I intended is shown with the purple line. It's not a terrible route, but it's risky. The attackpoint (shown with an X) is ambiguous. If you hit one of the parallel features, you may lose contact completely. That's what happened to me. I ended up on the spur to the right (red line).

I knew this leg was the type where one might make that sort of mistake and looked for a safer route, but didn't see one. Post-race analysis yielded the blue route. This route is slightly longer and adds a contour line of climb, but it is nearly bulletproof. You could run it as fast as you want because even if you missed the optimal turnoff, you'd get caught by the end of the spur and only lose 10-15 seconds. I sure wish I'd seen it during the event.

This leg is a happier story. This is the leg that won the Long Championships (or at least got me back in the game after the boom at 13). Very few people went all the way up to the trail. Yes, it's longer and it adds climb, but again, you can run this all out and still be safe. The trail bend dumps you right into the reentrant before the spur you want. You can attack directly from there. When looking at splits after the race, it didn't surprise me that I had fast time for this leg - I thought it was a good route and I ran it hard. I was surprised to find that I had taken nearly a full minute out of everybody else. The difference between running with conviction and navigating tentatively is pretty significant. The lesson is clear enough: the best route is almost always the fastest one that you can execute with confidence. If you're nervous about it, try to find something safer.

8/20/07 Long Course race report

... is here.

8/21/07 The "real" nationals

I compete in enough sports that just mentioning "nationals" leaves the actual race in doubt. That's made worse by the fact that Orienteering has six different national championships. The "real" orienteering national championship is a 2-day combined time affair. Each day is roughly 75 minutes for the elite class. This year it will be held at Prince William Forest near Washington DC.

I was very torn between that meet and USARA Nationals, which will be held right here in Missouri. While I don't have a competitive open team this year, I think I could have put together a decent over-40 squad. Regardless, I decided to go with orienteering nats since that's what I've been focusing on this year. It's been a while since I've entered the elite division at a national championship meet in orienteering. I suppose a little humbling is in order after the good results this summer.

8/22/07 Vetting Berryman

Jason Elsenraat asked if I'd like to check the course for the Berryman Adventure this year. Since entering the race is out (I'm not supposed to lift more than 20 pounds until October), that sounds like something I'd like to do. I'm glad to see Jason requesting this and wish more AR directors would take vetting seriously.

When I used to work as an engineer, I couldn't design anything (or make changes to a design) without a formal review process. It just makes sense to have a second set of eyes on something that, if wrong, can mess people up. In the medical profession, getting a second opinion is standard practice and no competent physician would ever discourage it, no matter how sure they were of their diagnosis. Yet, for some reason, many AR directors think that asking for a vetter is akin to admitting that they can't set a course properly.

Of course, the reality is just the opposite. Part of proper course design is getting it reviewed by an independent vetter. I hope many of the entrants in this year's race will tell Jason they appreciate him taking this step. The only thing that will get more races properly reviewed is pressure from the racers themselves.

8/23/07 Sprinting

One of my skills targets for this year is Orienteering Sprints. I think I've made some progress in this area, but there's certainly a ways to go. Between the Third Thursday series and SLOC's summer meets we've had enough local sprints that I've managed a decent spot in the North American Sprint Series. If I was going to finals (which I'm not as I won't be fully recovered from surgery), I'd have a decent shot at winning M40 and a top 10 overall.

That's a little misleading, though. I'd be just as likely to tank one of the sprints and end up a lot further down the list. While I've had some really good runs in sprints this year, I've also had some disasters. I've mispunched twice and badly outrun my navigation on two other occasions.

When sprints first started being contested at the elite level, many competitors went with "all or nothing" strategies, figuring that in a race that short, somebody would get lucky and win even though they were outrunning their navigation. That hasn't turned out to be the case and the world's best sprinters are now the folks that are just very good at reading the map while running at speeds comparable to 5K cross country races.

I've been thinking a bit about training for sprints and decided that this is an area where it's really helpful to have a training partner. If you've seen the course beforehand, even briefly, it's much easier to run accurately at full speed. If you've designed the course yourself, it's that much more so. I think the best way to train sprints is to go to a suitable venue with a partner, each of you designs a couple courses, and then you trade maps running each other's courses. I think I'll try to organize some group training sessions to work on this.

8/27/07 Summer's gone?

Yes, of course I know there are still a few weeks left in what is technically defined as "summer", but starting the season on the solstice always seemed a bit retarded to me. Like most Americans, I think of summer as being the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

I wouldn't say that summer seemed to go by more quickly than usual this year, but it certainly did have a lot less "stuff" in it. No buildup period. No bike races, running races, or triathlons. Only one Adventure Race, and a short one at that. Of course, the Colorado trip was a high point but, damn, where did the summer go?

Frankly, it went to my family. I've been spending a lot more time with Kate and Yaya. Our Florida trip was the first real vacation we've had in several years. We've been doing a lot more together on weekends and evenings.

I can't say that I'm at all displeased with that. Aside from the obvious benefit of a happier home life, my fitness hasn't suffered any. Sure, I've entered fewer races, but the ones I have entered have gone as well as I could have hoped. Having a break from weekly competition has just made me more eager to get back in the woods this fall.

There's a part of me that still wants to be competitive in a bunch of different sports. There's a bigger part of me that's realizing that jettisoning all the stuff I was just OK at and focusing on a couple things has made life a lot simpler without compromising my happiness.

8/28/07 Fun and games at St. Francois

I've taken over course setting duties for the SLOC meet at St. Francois in exchange for being able to run the 3-hour at Hawn. David Welsh will be setting courses for Hawn. St. Francois presents some unique course setting problems. First and foremost is keeping climb under control without setting a boring course that just follows the valleys. One way to do this is to use just the southern portion of the park (map below). This area is flatter and has some very rich contour detail.

The problem is that the southern part is also really small. If you're going to use just that section, you need a 2-loop course. Once you've committed to that, all sorts of options present themselves. I've decided to bust out a bunch of tricks that we haven't done at SLOC meets for a while.

I haven't decided yet whether the overall format will be Farsta or Prolog and Chase. Either way, the first loop will include some Micro-O. The idea is that people would turn in their cards at the end of the first loop and the cards would be scored while they ran the second lap. Then we could do actual penalty loops for the micro-O at the end of the second loop, which is the preferred format to just assessing a penalty. That also preserves the "first across the line wins" aspect which is the draw of mass start events to begin with.

I'll post updates here and on SLOC's site as I get more stuff figured out.

8/30/07 Carbs

It's been a while since I've written anything about diet, so I've decided to do a series of posts on carbohydrate replenishment. I should note at the outset that I do not consider myself an expert on either nutrition or kinesiology. The best I can say for my practices is that they are largely supported by the research I've read and that I've won a fair number of long races employing them. In no way am I trying to vindicate my approach, which is admittedly off the mainstream. Frankly, I couldn't care less if others approve of my methods. But, for those who are interested, I will present the rationale for why I do what I do.

To get started, let's look at some facts which I will take as axiomatic because they are not disputed in current research:

  1. To maintain an optimal weight, one must consume the same number of calories as one burns. I emphasize "optimal" because it is quite possible to maintain a slightly higher weight while eating a good deal more than one burns. There's only so much food your body can process in a day. If you eat more than that and burn what you actually digest, your weight will stabilize. That's why pro cyclists can get away with eating 7,000 Kc (Kilocalories - what is commonly referred to as a "calorie") a day while burning "only" 5,000". Problem is, just because you're not using the extra food doesn't make it go through you any quicker. While it's inside you, you need to haul it up every hill you encounter. If you're training over 20 hours a week and eating everything in site, you'll look really thin and have low body fat, but you'll probably be about 5 pounds heavier than you need to be.
  2. Protein is not a useful source of energy during exercise. This may come as a surprise to those who get their nutritional advice from the wrappers of energy bars. Your body can and does burn protein for mundane tasks like heating the room you're in, but protein does not power the skeletal muscles. There is no (as in zero) scientific support for the assertion that eating a lot of protein enhances aerobic performance.
  3. Fat and carbohydrates are both used as fuel during all forms of exercise. World class sprinters can burn upwards of 45Kc/min of carbs (obviously an anearobic effort). World class endurance athletes can burn fat at 15-18Kc/min, which is better than VO2Max for most of the population, but all fat burning is necessarily aerobic as there is no mechanism to metabolise fat without oxygen. Well-trained amateurs are below both of those numbers with glycogen output typically in the mid 30's and fat burning in the low teens. A six-minute mile on flat roads requires roughly 20 Kc/min for a 75Kg man (e.g., me).
  4. Onset of exhaustion corresponds to depletion of liver glycogen. And that's the rub. When your liver runs low on glycogen, you're screwed, period. For a variety of reasons (not all of which are understood), your body can't keep working hard without liver glycogen even if the pace is slow enough for fat burning to cover it. Note that it's just liver glycogen, not the levels in the muscles or blood, which matters.
  5. The ratio of carbohydrate to fat used is dependent on many factors including intensity, duration, current glycogen levels, and previous conditioning. Like just about every biological system, your body adapts metabolism to the circumstances it's handed. You can teach yourself to burn more fat.

In the next few installments, I'll use the above facts to construct the support for my own dietary regime.

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