Great minds must think alike. Riding to work this morning, I was thinking that all the
terrain training I've done in the last month is great, but it doesn't mean much if it doesn't
translate to results. Then, I checked my log on Attackpoint, and Peter Gagarin has posted
comment saying basically the same thing. So,
this weekend is the test. Given the depth of the field (pretty much everybody ranked
above me nationally will be there), a top-20 finish would be a success. A top-10 would be
over the top fantastic. We'll see.
11/2/07 You have got to be kidding me
In an upset of comical proportions, I've won another national championship. At my worst
discipline, no less. I didn't want to have my sprint count on my ranking in the elite
(M-21+) class, so I ran my age group for US Sprint Championships. Not expecting much, I
ran relaxed and even stopped in a couple places to verify my position.
The result was the best sprint I've ever run and a win in the M40+ class. There's a
lesson in there somewhere - I wonder if I'm smart enough to learn from it.
11/3/07 Not so much
Opposite weekend continues with an absolutely disastrous run in the event I'm supposed
to be good at. I'm not sure what strings they pulled, but
QOC slid an
IOF Long Course onto day 1 of Classic Champs. Normally, both days are classic distance
(winning time of 75-80 minutes for elite) and the winner is the one with the lowest
combined time for both days. This year, the combined time format was kept, but day 1
was raised to IOF Long distance (winning time 90-100 minutes). I was quite happy about
this as I generally do better on longer courses. Today was quite the exception.
There was nothing wrong with the course or the map, but there certainly was something
wrong with me. After booming 4 of the first 5 controls, I decided this was going to be a
training run. I slowed to a jogging pace and took plenty of time to look at the vegetation
mapping. I actually ran the second half of the course fairly cleanly, although that's hardly
to my credit given how slowly I was running. Anyway, as a training session, it was quite
beneficial as I got a lot of time on difficult terrain. As a
competition, well, not so much.
Obviously, any hope of a top-20 is long gone. It will take a good day 2 just to move up into the
the top half (I'm currently 32nd of 58 entries on elite). I
suppose I can take some solace in the fact that I wasn't the only one to run into trouble
today. The DNF list was considerably longer than usual on all courses and even among
those who finished there were an awful lot of poor performances. The terrain was tough,
both technically and physically. That's what you want for a championship event because it
really sorts out the pretenders. I was just hoping to be on the other side of the split.
More work to be done, I suppose. In the mean time, I can still try for a decent 1-day result
In happier news, the Alipne Shop team (David, Jeff, and Carrie)
finished 4th at USARA Adventure Racing Nationals this morning. Nice going!
11/5/07 What went right?
The natural reaction after two rough days is to think about what went wrong. I'm not
going to do that. That's not to say that lessons can't be learned from the rough runs on
Saturday and Sunday, but I really don't want to lose sight of the fact that Friday went
incredibly right. And, while I went into the weekend wanting to do well at Classic
Champs, one of my goals for the whole season was to get better at sprints. To end the
season with a National Championship in the sprint is things going right in a pretty big
way. So, what went right?
First and foremost, I ran into the map. By that I mean that I didn't try to force the first
few legs. At control 4, I was in 8th place, 45 seconds out of first. I don't think I'll win too
many sprints spotting the leader quite that much time, but the point is that from 4 on, I
was relaxed, in contact with the map, and hammering. Normally, I've already messed
things up by then and I'm just trying to salvage the race. Everybody ahead of me at 4
made a serious mistake in the second half of the race. I didn't.
Secondly, I stayed in contact the whole way. I have had a tendency to run too loose in
sprints, figuring I'll be able to make corrections approaching the control. The problem
with that is that even a correction of a few seconds can be a problem in a sprint. I did a lot
of high-speed running with a map in October and that paid off. I was able to read the map
without slowing down. On three occasions, I did feel like I was losing contact and I
immediately stopped and sorted it out. In one of those instances, I was headed for a pretty
big boom (at least by sprint standards) and the five seconds spent stationary saved the leg.
In fact, even with the pause, I had second fastest split for the leg. Without it, I would have
run up the wrong spur (a common error on that leg) and the race would have been lost.
Finally, I kept my cool. Things didn't go perfectly by any means. I made mistakes; I lost
time. I knew that, but I immediately put it behind me and focused on what was ahead.
I've heard many elite orienteers say that when they are navigating well they are always
looking forward rather than backward. I think I got a better idea of what that really means
on Friday. Perhaps that's the best lesson from the weekend: just because things are going
wrong doesn't mean things aren't going right. Keeping your head in the game counts for
11/8/07 Boomin' the green
It seems my problems from last weekend were not temporary. Yesterday, I ran the
Emmenegger Test Loop and missed breaking 20 minutes because I messed up a control
in a low visibility area. This leg is very similar to legs we saw on Day 1 of Classic
Champs. The main difference is that in this case the control is in a pretty open area and
there aren't many parallel features.
Those two factors (along with the fact that I've run the test loop several times)
give me the confidence to attack this control very aggressively. I leave the trail at the
junction and run straight at the control. That's the point of the test loop: to run faster than
you would in competition to train terrain speed. Still, it's nice to navigate cleanly as well.
This time of year, the light green comes right up to the
trail, but it's still only 100m from the attack point to the control. I should be able to spike that.
I've messed this leg up two times in a row now. That, combined with the debacle from
last weekend is more than enough to convince me that I need to move low-visibility
training to the top of my priority list. That's going to be hard to do with all the leaves
coming down in the next few weeks, but at least I can be thinking about ways to train it when
things green up again in the spring. I'll post some ideas here as they occur to me.
I wouldn't say that my confidence was shattered from last weekend's performances at
classic distance, but it certainly was a rude shock. So, it was pretty nice to put together a
rock solid run at the SLOC meet at Meremac State Park today.
Gary Thompson was the meet director and course setter (as he always is for the Meremac
meet). I thought the course was outstanding. After a few easy controls, 4 and 5 required
staying in contact while covering a rather vague area. Then, when you had been lulled
into reducing effort, you were hit with a brutally physical section of the course. If you
didn't turn up the tempo for the second half of the course, you would get buried on
footspeed. But, you still had to be navigating. There were plenty of opportunities for
My time for the 8K course was 65:38, ahead of Andy Komm (73 minutes) and David Frei
(76 minutes). Having two quality competitors there made the good run that much more
gratifying. I don't think last weekend was a fluke - there's real work to be done. But, I
don't think this was a fluke either. Before you can be consistently fast, you have to be
fast. A result like this helps to reset expectations as to what's possible, even if I can't do
it every time.
11/11/07 Beat up
I like Meremac. The running is generally fast; even the low-visibility areas. The
navigation is advanced (assuming the course setter knows what they are doing), but not
so technical that you can't run hard. Courses there typically have a lot of climb, but it's
not out of control. It all adds up to a venue well suited to someone like me who relies on
fitness to overcome any shortfalls in technique.
The downside is the rocks. The forest floor is littered with "baby heads" - rocks the size
of your fist that make it difficult to get a good foot plant and bruise your foot through
thin-soled orienteering shoes. I had a great time running yesterday. Today I feel like I've
been in a bar fight (not that I've ever actually been in a bar fight, but I did get kicked
around a few times in high school).
This is two years in a row that I've had a great run at the Meremac meet. It's also two
years in a row that I'm glad it will be 12 months before I go back.