Category Archives: Sports

What? No rain?

The past two events (Lake Johnson Night-O, directed by yours truly, and Schenck Forest) were extremely wet, coming after several days of rain _and_ with rain during the event.

Today’s event at Umstead didn’t look great either if you were to trust the weather forecasts at the beginning of the week. However, as the event got closer and the forecasts predicted the rain would stop some time Saturday night, we’ve seen a lot of people registering. I know because I happen to be on the list that gets the notifications.

Today was a bit windy, but otherwise sunny and – what a change – dry! Mostly. There was still a lot of mud everywhere, and on some steep hills I felt like skiing. But coming back with my clothes completely dry, that’s definiltely different.

Jozef designed a beautiful and very challenging course. The Green course was longer than our Red usually is (6.7km), and Red was 7.4km. If that doesn’t sound much, maybe I should add the elevation changes that pretty much killed my legs by the time I got to control 13 (out of 19). By then I was obviously no longer thinking straight, I lost probably at least 10 minutes looking for control 16 after I passed it probably by 30m. Then I lost a few minutes at control 19 (the last), a trivial one, because I took the wrong clearing (which was not mapped), instead of the obvious one with some man-made objects in it.

In a way I wish I stopped after #13 and call it a Green day; on the other hand I found out how out of shape I am (not that I didn’t know, having skipped some of my runs for wimpy reasons like “the trail is wet” and “I’m too tired to wake up”). 106 minutes of running (and walking towards the end) proved to be quite tough on those hills. Once the results are posted, I’ll know how bad I did compared to others.

I probably need to train for a specific goal, maybe I’ll set one after we come back from vacation in Romania, mid-May-ish.

To quote a slogan I read on a t-shirt: “procrastinators, unite tomorrow!”

(to be fair, I know I will not train while on vacation, except for maybe a food contest, so there’s little reason to plan for something now).

Gorgeous day for around-the-home activities and mapping at Lake Bond

After a stretch of cold days, today started at 34°F (at least started _for me_, when I stepped outside around 8:45 for a quick run). After that, trimmed the crape myrtle in front of the house (by then the temperature got above 65°F), went for a couple of hours back to Lake Bond with my son (throwing rocks and twigs in the lake is fun!), then back home for an hour and a half, then back to Lake Bond (third time!) to do some mapping on the North-Western side of the park – and I ran out of daylight.

All in all, a great day to spend most of the time outside.

Refreshing map at Bond Park

Sunday was the second day I spent doing map refreshes at Bond Park. As Vladimir described in several posts, the map is very outdated. I found lots of features missing from the map, and some mapped features that no longer exist. A lot of construction took place too, major trails are now paved, new buildings were erected etc.

Today I checked if what I recorded last week was accurate (and it was), and then handled the rest area North of the dam, around the rope course and South of the parking lot at the community center (or maybe Senior center, now that I think about it).

I am still learning, both how to go on the field and record features and how to use the CAD program for drawing the map. But it is a lot of fun.

January 25th orienteering

Another fun event with Backwoods OK. Great turnout (partly due to my friend Marty Wesley bringing a group of 30 that courageously adventured on the orange course, despite the low temperatures.
Vladimir added a 1km leg (which is *long* in orienteering terms, for a course 7.1km total, with 15 controls on top of start/finish). I happened to run that leg with no problem, but I did do some mistakes early on. The time splits will tell the whole story when they get published.

As usual, 35°F (almost 2°C) doesn’t mean much as soon as you start running, but it was a great feat for Vladimir, Tanya and Michael to man the start/finish shelter the whole time.

The maps printed at Kinko’s worked great too, I could not tell the difference from the ones BOK produces in general (using a special paper and printer) until I looked at them side by side.

Awesome Umstead Park map

Backwoods Orienteering Klub is selling full-size Umstead Park maps. This is the same map we are using for our orienteering events, except that ours are generally scale 1:10,000 printed on a letter-size paper, whereas this is 1:15,000 printed on a much larger sheet (events are usually happening in about a quarter of the mapped area).

The park-maintained trails are marked with red on top of the standard orienteering black.

The level of details is amazing (what you expect from orienteering maps). There is history behind the map too, apparently after one of the major hurricanes (Fran, 1997) the map was redone and somewhere close to 15,000 trees were _individually_ mapped. Also, at some point you could see the trail of a tornado taking down a huge number of trees (1989) – now only impassible areas of overgrown vegetation.

To quote from the map description:

… Utilizing orthophoto base materials, detailed field surveys were performed in various stages by eleven different individuals over twenty-six yers. It took an estimated one thousand one hundred man hours of labor to produce this map. Drafting was done on computer using OCAD software. This map is printed, using soy based inks, on PaperTyger, a paper plastic laminate, making it water and tear resistant.

If you are interested in one, check out one of the retailers, or let me know and I can try to pick one up for you when I get mine.

Gear ratios

I was curious how important having a bicycle with 24 speeds (vs. 21 gears vs. 6 gears) is. I have an Iron Horse mountain bike with 24 speeds (3 gears front, 8 gears back). My daughter has a smaller mountain bike with 6 speeds (only 6 gears in the back). Obviously the wheel size matters a lot, but how much does having 24 speeds help *me* in particular? I know my 26″ wheels make me go faster than my daughter’s 20″, but wheel size being equal, how do various gear/sprocket combinations compare?

Being a geek by nature, I wrote a (python, of course) program to sort the speeds. Here is the output:

Front: [(0, 24), (1, 34), (2, 42)]
Back:  [(0, 32), (1, 28), (2, 24), (3, 21), (4, 18), (5, 15), (6, 13), (7, 11)]
0 (0:0): 0.750
1 (0:1): 0.857
2 (0:2): 1.000
8 (1:0): 1.062
3 (0:3): 1.143
9 (1:1): 1.214
16 (2:0): 1.312
4 (0:4): 1.333
10 (1:2): 1.417
17 (2:1): 1.500
5 (0:5): 1.600
11 (1:3): 1.619
18 (2:2): 1.750
6 (0:6): 1.846
12 (1:4): 1.889
19 (2:3): 2.000
7 (0:7): 2.182
13 (1:5): 2.267
20 (2:4): 2.333
14 (1:6): 2.615
21 (2:5): 2.800
15 (1:7): 3.091
22 (2:6): 3.231
23 (2:7): 3.818

What does this show?

First, the number of teeth in each gear (sprocket) for the front and back. They are sorted in reverse order front/back, since you will have the highest speed with the large sprocket in the front and small sprocket in the back.
Then, the first column represents the speed number, counting with the smallest front sprocket and each back sprocket, then the next front sprocket and each back sprocket etc. The second column shows which sprocket combination it represents (front:back). Third column is the ratio front/back (number of teeth). The higher the ratio, the higher the speed (and the harder you work).

What does this show?

Something I knew all along: I only need one front sprocket (the largest). I don’t do a lot of trail, even then I generally do 2:3 or higher, and on streets I’m using 2:4, 2:6 or 2:7. Notice how 2:0 is pretty high in the list, with a 1.3 ratio – and I feel like I don’t make any progress when I try that! This means that probably the combination of 8 sprockets in the back with the largest sprocket in front is way more than enough for me.

Again, I don’t do hard-core mountain biking, maybe if I did I’d find a need for the other two front sprockets. Can someone enlighten me if the other two front sprockets are really useful?

Half-marathon in Asheville

I can finally say I did a half-marathon – the Asheville Citizen-Times one. Here are the results.

Lessons to be learned (or random thoughts at the end of a long day):

  • Hilly courses are hard. I signed up before looking at the course elevation chart. I am glad I did, I may have changed my mind otherwise :-)
  • It is very hard to pace yourself on hills.I ran the first two miles at a 7:30 pace, downhill. I was pretty sure I won’t be able to keep that pace, it was faster than I was intending it to be (see below).
  • I noticed interesting strategies for handling hills during the race. My approach is to try to keep a steady pace going uphill just as going downhill. I’ve seen (especially) ladies going slowly up the hill and blasting past downhill. It was actually funny to see that the net result was about the same, since I would catch them up on the next hill. I briefly discussed this with another guy that happened to be in my vicinity for about 4 miles, and we agreed it’s hard for tall people to accelerate going downhill. It puts a lot of strain on the knees, the glutes and the core. There was at least one guy that was walking uphill just to go extremely fast on flat or down. I am not sure who is right, it may be a matter of preference.
  • Water stations are good, even though I was able to take only a sip out of every cup. Physics make it hard to drink while you’re running. The rest of the water was used for cooling off. Oranges provided a nice boost of energy at the last two stations.
  • The corollary for the first two miles going downhill was inevitably that the last two miles were uphill. That was unexpectedly hard. I felt great up to mile 11, but started to feel the pain after that. Probably also because my long runs during training were stopping at 10 miles.
  • I dreaded to look at the clock after I finished the race. I finally did it after drinking 1l of water, about 10 minutes after the finish. I was very pleased, given that the average pace was 8.09 when I hoped for 8:45 (since that’s what I found to be comfortable in training for a 10-miler).
  • Do not ask me if I will do this ever again. Right now I’d probably say “no way”.

After the race we got to enjoy Asheville – it’s a very quiet, very European city.

More orienteering

It’s been a busy orienteering season this year, with additional “training” events for members only, that made the schedule more interesting.

The June 8 event was fun, even though the heat added to the challenge of overgrown vegetation. I could have done better, since I lost a lot of time on several controls (and the worst one was the last). But exhaustion does play tricks to your mind. Vladimir Stemkovski described his experience on the Brown course, and he has posted the map. I believe that, when trying to hit control 12, I got to the trail (dotted black line) between 11 and 12, right where I was supposed to be, but missed the saddle, then got back on the trail and thought I was on the top of the hill, so my compass bearing dropped me on the paved road instead. Approaching the control from the paved road was easier, the large re-entrant helped me get in the right spot, and even then I had troubles seeing the saddle.

I was 20 minutes late past the 3PM course closing time, but I wasn’t the last one on the course (as I found out later, one orienteer suffered from heat exhaustion). I was pretty happy with the fact that I was able to run large portions of the course, but when I got to finish I probably looked like I stepped out of the pool (although I suspect there was some mud involved too). Long pants are mandatory to protect from bugs and branches, and that doesn’t help much for cooling you down, even though the tech fabric is definitely light and breathable.

In other news, I started working on a PalmOS application to download data from SportIdent  control stations. I didn’t have any time to work on it over the past months, but hopefully I’ll make some progress in a few weeks, when my schedule clears up a bit.

Remote Forests

It’s been a few busy weekends. Sunday Feb 10th we had an orienteering event at Raven Rock, and Feb 17th was Birkhead Wilderness. Both are awesome parks.

The part of Raven Rock where most of the event happened had a lot of underbrush that made it near-impossible to run – but otherwise the course was very well chosen, with some awesome terrain features. The forest is South of Cape Fear, and the cliffs close to the river are very impressive.

Birkhead was a brand new course for Backwoods Orienteering, a bit far (close to the NC Zoo in Asheboro), but still a lot of fun. The forest is sprinkled with huge boulders, and controls were placed in a variety of features that made it less monotone than usual (where reentrants are the norm).