Thursday, June 27, 2013

CNYO Regaine

Central New York Orienteering puts on an interesting event every spring called the "Regaine".  It's like a rogaine where you collect controls in any order for as many points as you can get within a specified time period.  The differences are that you run it solo instead of on a team and you have to return to base camp to rest for at least an hour in between 4 periods of running in the woods.  I was excited to return to this event after having fun with it in 2011, and John was excited to try it for the first time.  It was a downer that John got sick a couple days before we started our drive back from Texas, so he was still recovering by Regaine weekend and had to take it easy.

We were returning to the same park as the Snowgaine from earlier this year, so we were quite curious how the swamps were going to play into the strategy this time.  Last time we learned to aim for large frozen-over water features, but we were pretty sure that strategy no longer applied.

The map turned out to cover a lot more area compared to the Snowgaine, including a fish hatchery up north and several points around town way south.  I opted for the standard "start out on the run" plan instead of taking an hour to strategize at the start so I wouldn't lose 2 hours of daylight later in the race this time.  We had only a couple minutes with the maps before the clock started on our first leg, and with such a huge map it was hard to really know how to approach it.  I made my best guess based on what I knew from the Snowgaine and aimed for the large swamp area to the south.  I figured swamps might be best navigated in daylight if possible, and there were a couple high-value controls there.

I started with a couple close points and did OK.  Then I began a running conversation with myself about whether to try a wide swamp crossing (I went around), whether the little logging track I was on was the faint trail marked on the map (not sure but I suspect not), and how best to approach #34 (working harder to find the more obvious east-west trail first would have been a good start).  I ended up going around a large hill-peninsula thing, mostly knowing where I was but not with enough accuracy to locate the control.  Finally I reached the southern shoreline, figured it out, turned around and walked right to it.  Could have been worse.

On the other hand, 5 hours is not a lot of time for a big loop if I had many more issues like this.  I worked back out to a small road and debated about skipping a control or 2 along the way.  I was standing there at an impasse on this question when a guy emerged from the woods above #17.  Aw heck, it's right there, just go get it and stop arguing with yourself!  So I did.

The next couple controls went well, then I made a long cross-country attempt toward #44.  I was slow and careful until I found an overgrown road that was much easier to follow than the map indicated, so that helped me zero in on #44 without delay (also saw the same guy coming back out from that point).  I thought I had a good plan for #24 but ended up quite a bit southwest of it and marveled at my ability to mess it up while I figured out to recover.

Not a clean start, to be sure.  Argh.

I had better luck with #14 right off a road and then #61 along a rock wall.  Well, the trail to #61 wasn't obvious from the road even through I was pace-counting and really looking for it, but a decent compass bearing from the top of the hill took me right to the wall and down to the point.

There were 2 more controls in the swamps to the south and I really wanted to try for them.  Hoping I wouldn't regret it, I headed that way.  I really wanted to see this section after tromping through here in the snow a few months ago.  There are long narrow ridges with interesting shapes above low swampland, pretty fun to navigate.

In between the little land masses were short sections of swamp.  I used a pokey stick to test for a bottom and found that I could get across in knee-deep muddy water, stepping up on grass tufts and branches here and there.  That went well.  A couple more little pieces of land alternating with little swamp crossings, and I found #55 on a swamp island.  Very cool!

I thought I had time to try for #46 also.  There was major water (areas of blue) in the way, including an obvious pond with a creek coming out the bottom.  There had been mention of beaver dams in the pre-race briefing, so I went to see if there might be one here.  Otherwise I could back-track out of the area and skip #46 if necessary.

There is a beaver dam, excellent!  I used a stick to test it and for balance as I walked across.  It was really stable and I marveled at the engineering ability of beavers to create something so solid out of sticks and logs.  Well, if nothing else, I had that experience so I was pleased.

I ran around the south side of a hill and found an unmapped trail to follow.  I was getting skeptical of the trail mapping by this point.  #46 was a little ways north next to a marsh, then I continued following the trail (with one set of footprints going the same way) until it came out on a road.  That was really helpful, because a bushwhack out of there would have been way slow.

OK, time to work on getting back to TA.  I started by running up the road and jumping off to grab #63, another nice high point.  Hmm, not much time left, I began to wonder if I had gotten myself stuck in needing to get back from this part of the map.  I figured I might as well cut across the middle of the map in the direction of #53 and maybe I could bag an extra control on the way to a spot where I could run back on a road.

I moved as quickly as I could along a small trail, over a hill, across a small marsh, and over another hill.  OK, #53 is somewhere on the side of this hill overlooking a swamp to the north.  Yikes, there were a ton of little contours and drainages without an obvious feature to work toward, topped off with a bunch of vegetation that made it difficult to see very far.  Well, I had one shot at this so I estimated a distance up from the swamp and started a traverse.  I would either find it or I wouldn't... and I walked right into it!  I called that one a minor miracle.

Time to move it!  I aimed for another pond outlet where we had seen a beaver dam in the Snowgaine, yep that's a good place to cross.  No time for #15 nearby, I had to go.  I ran up to the road and started for home.  I did a couple calculations as I ran and looked for anything close by.  #35 wasn't far off the road.  As I neared it I could read the contours and see that the woods were wide open, so I gave myself a couple minutes to run in and see if I could nail it.  Downhill on a spur - there it is!  Nice one.

I ran back to TA with a couple minutes to spare, happy with my "salvage mission" after a shaky start on this loop.

Change of socks, try to rehydrate, prep my pack while also trying to figure out an overall strategy.  This map was absolutely huge for having to come back to the TA every few hours.  There were roads to get places but although I can run for quite a while I'm also not fast.  Looking at the map later, I think this course would have been really fun for a 24-hour rogaine where you had to time to explore all the edges and different areas and ways to connect them without getting pulled back to TA all the time.  As it was, it was a bit frustrating.

Anyway, no time to ponder, I had 1 hour and then I was off on a 4-hour leg.  It started OK with a couple points just to the north.  I really wanted to get up to the fish hatchery area where there were several points close together and an interesting map.  But just getting there gave me fits, with a couple spots marked "private" on the map without obvious boundaries.  I tried following the 4x4 trail but it went way out of the way, eventually taking me to the main road.

Finally I could run better and I got myself in the area of #64.  I had a supplemental close-up map of this spot, with a whole bunch of deep depressions and strange shapes.  Just getting started took a couple tries, then I had a good point of reference and approached slowly to try and work it out.  I kept running into questions and soon wasn't sure where I was.  I would try something, it didn't match up, here's a ridge with a trail (no trail on the map), I don't get it, there's a huge depression, let's go around it.  I found another little trail, maybe one of the 2 on the little map?  I looked into a little drainage, no control.

Making this whole exercise more challenging was the mosquito issue.  Every time I stopped to look at the map they descended on me and started biting.  I tried to take quick looks and memorize what I could.  But boy, what annoying little buggers!

Down, up, back to the trail on the ridge.  I knew I was wasting so much time (and getting bitten up) but I wanted to figure it out.  I pulled out my main map and there was the trail I was standing on (it wasn't marked on the little map).  Suddenly everything was clear.  It would have been nice if this had happened sooner, but I'll take it!  I went around the big depression the other way and walked right up the drainage to the control.  I suspect I had walked very close to it on my previous pass but didn't start looking soon enough.

So there was that.  On my way up the trail to the northwest it started raining.  Then pouring.  I kind of lost it at that point.  I looked at the map to see if I should try for #47, but it was in another area full of depressions and I didn't think I had it in me at that point.  So I briefly "gave up" and started back to the TA, getting soaked and feeling like crap.

I noticed that #27 was just off to the west of my route back.  Might as well try for it, I'm here anyway.  The rain stopped and I worked my way around a big field and down to nab the control.  Funny how finding checkpoints can make me feel better immediately.

It got dark as I continued down the road.  I decided to try for another one, but with less luck this time.  I followed a creek and the edge of a marsh for what seemed like too far based on my pace-counting, but I kept running into more water pushing me in a northward direction.  Finally I found a small hill and climbed it in the dark. No control.  Out of time.  Bummer.  I'm still not sure what went wrong with that one.

Starting back toward the road I heard a rustling in a tree.  I trained my bright light on it and saw a large black and white furry animal scrambling to get up.  Skunk!  I'm outta here!  I think the skunk was also thinking "I'm outta here!" the way it was trying to get up that tree.  That kick-started my run back to the road.

I would have liked to try for another control on the way back, but I suspected I didn't quite have time.  I returned to the TA in a low mood, proclaiming that leg to be a disaster.  It only missed being a "complete disaster" by having located #64 eventually.

With my current state, I knew I needed to use my long break (5 hours) at that point.  I crawled into the back of the truck with John and went to sleep.  The whole event was now a "salvage mission" and basically I would treat it as navigation practice and long run training.

That helped me get up and get ready for my 3-hour run to town and back.  It started in the dark, a nice quiet mosquito-free few miles on pavement.  Eventually I found the turn-off toward #52 and worked my way across a small marsh to find it at a boundary intersection.  Getting out of there proved more challenging, especially when I started 90 degrees off from the direction I wanted.

Yikes, OK, recalculating.  I went south through a bunch of crap vegetation, along crappy old roads full of water, back into the rough bushes, fighting to just get out of there.  Finally I found the trail I wanted and ran around and up to a road.  I jumped off the road short of a "private" house and went down to a small lake.  It was really pretty in the dim pre-dawn light, with frogs singing away.  I found #50 with no trouble and then followed trails out to another road.

I ran up to a small cemetery to locate #36 and knew I didn't have time for the other 2 controls down there, oh well.  Lots of running, hello horses!, no traffic along the main road, good training.  Not sure if that was the most effective use of my 3-hour time block, but it was really pleasant so I didn't second-guess it.

Back to TA for my final break.  I had 2 hours to prepare for my last loop, 4 morning hours to finish this up.  It finally felt like I actually had some time to plan a route.  There were 3 60-pointers remaining and I wanted to get them all.

So I started with a long-ish road run, turned off on a trail, and headed up to #62 with no issues.  Retrace steps on the trail and road, then pop over to get #23 just off the pavement.  I debated going back out to the road to go around to #60 but decided instead for a kilometer in the woods that worked out well because there was very little underbrush in here and it was fairly easy going.  I found a trail along with several unexpected little hillocks.  Taking a guess at which one I was standing on, I took a bearing and walked right to #60 which seemed a bit more hidden than normal (although I might be remembering that wrong).  It felt like another lucky find, anyway.

Still, I didn't have much time to muck around, so I skipped a couple far points and instead ran down the road and along a trail through some wet areas.  It had been nice to run with dry feet for a while, that's why I left this part for the end.  #43 was next to a marsh, then there was the easiest water crossing of the whole race - rock hopping over a creek.  What a joy!

The mosquitoes were still out in force (and they didn't seem to give a darn how much DEET I put on my arms) so I tried to keep moving and keep swatting.  I made a brief detour to a little island in the swamp too early, corrected my mistake, and continued on to find the beaver dam with #65 on the other side.  One more beaver dam crossing (and back), and the 60's were complete.

Now for a few small points on the way back to TA.  I climbed a hill and followed a road and over to #19 next to a pond.  Back around to the main road and finally I would get a chance to get #31 that I had been eyeing most of the race.  Just as I had suspected, it included another beaver dam crossing that was easy but took a couple minutes.  Not something I would have wanted to do in a hurry in the middle of the night, so I was glad I hadn't gone down the hill to try it at the end of loop 2.

#31 done, back up the hill to the road, then across to climb up to #12 in the woods.  Back to the finish line - I was so ready to be done!  I about had enough of the mosquitoes and mud and swamps, certainly I got my money's worth, plenty of good orienteering and running training for one weekend.

One last surprise... Two top navigators battled it out for the lead spot, with Joe Brautigam scoring just a few more points than Andreas Wibmer.  They both completed an amazing percentage of the course.  The rest of us were a ways behind, however somehow I managed to come out at the top of that pack for 3rd place overall again?!  I'm still really not sure how that happened.

There is one more event in the CNYO "Trifecta Cup", a rogaine in July that John and I will be running.  I'm currently in 2nd place in the standings, but if Joe (who is leading) shows up it's all over.  Maybe I can get top female  :)

As always, lots of fun running around in the woods, that was quite a challenge!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Trip to Texas

Wow, I'm pretty far behind on my blog stories.  A lot has happened this year, much of it unexpected.  The saddest event was losing my Dad.  Everything else pales in comparison, and that has made it easy to take the other things in stride and run with them.  For example, IBM recently made some cuts that included the last few months of my planned 3-year position, so I'm suddenly free to do other things this summer.  Immediately I knew I wanted to join John on his trip to Texas around Memorial Day.

It was such a lovely trip and we got to visit with many, many people that we have been missing during our temporary stay in Albany.  John's family in East Texas, folks in Austin and San Marcos, and a bunch of fun adventure racers at the Too Cool "Spread Your Wings" race at Camp Eagle.

I was really lucky to score a volunteer job with Art and Robyn for the race - thank you guys!  What a fun place to run around.  It turned super interesting when we awoke in the middle of the night before the start of the 36-hour race to a huge storm - pouring rain, big thunder and lightning.  What the heck?  There had been zero mention of this in anyone's forecast, but the dang storm showed up and stayed all night and morning.

Camp is situated out in the middle of nowhere down a dirt road that tends to wash out when there is a lot of rain.  So that happened.  Most of the 36-hour racers were already on site, but the "bus them to Junction" plan was out the window.  The camp people and race directors reworked the course to figure out a way to salvage the event.  The prologue was really wet, but eventually the rain stopped and the road was fixed and reopened.  By then the 36-hour teams had left for a long bike leg, and the sprint and 12-hour teams started arriving.

With all the craziness, it's amazing that Art and Robyn were still able to smile for the camera:

I got a job running an overnight remote transition area for a trek in the middle of the long bike leg.  One of the highlights was driving through the "safari" section of a ranch next door to get there.  There were all sorts of unexpected animals like different kinds of (possibly African) deer and antelope.

And buffalo:

The teams didn't see these, too bad.  They trekked around the "normal" woods and eventually got back on their bikes to return to camp in the morning.  A beautiful moon came out and it was a great night to be outdoors.  I even got a little sleep.

Congratulations to all the teams who came out to Camp Eagle and made a solid effort at the races!  I didn't see most of the finishes, but I know the muddy conditions made things pretty tough.

I then got to tag along up to (and down!) the Mega Zip 3000-foot zipline flight.  Now THAT was awesome!!

Just have to get up to the tower to get started...

Video from Robyn:

Other fun activities included picking up checkpoints in South Llano River State Park and helping Scott with this year's murder mystery.  The whole weekend was amazing and I'm really glad I got to go.

Back to San Marcos, then back to East Texas, then we got into the truck and drove it back to New York.  We're back to a 2-car family  :)

The hardest part of the drive was noticing things that we would have liked to stop and check out, but we couldn't because we had a race to get to.  We don't normally just drive straight through entire states.  Of course I started a list of the things we will have to see when we return.  I'm especially looking forward to exploring Tennessee.

One last Waffle House stop (the northernmost Waffle House in the world!) and then we were back in New York again...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Challenge Nation - Baltimore

John and I recently did a Challenge Nation urban race in Baltimore.  It was our first race in that city, and it was something new in a couple ways.

The clue sheet was rather different, for one thing.  Many of the checkpoints were not actual locations, but scavenger-type challenges.  Hmm, not exactly our forte.  I guess we should work on that!

One of the "fixed location" clues was this giant ball that you can spin at Ripley's Believe it or Not - cool!

Hula hoops at the time capsule - also cool:

We found an old-style parking meter where you can drop in coins to help the homeless - an excellent concept:

Now for some tougher ones.  First was easy, as this very nice policeman was posing with any team that asked (with our lopsided "Charlie's Angels" stance):

We glommed onto a couple other teams taking a mock wedding picture (someone had a flower??) in front of the USS Constellation:

Teams were using the outdoor amphitheater at the waterfront as a "theater" to reenact a scene from an Oscar-winning film, in this case Titanic.  We traded photo-taking duties in exchange for our picture.  Someone was very creative in coming up with this pose (it wasn't us, you can be sure of that).

Now we needed our picture with an image of any president that is on Mount Rushmore.  I had this idea that the Washington Monument at the top of the hill would be perfect for it.  Heck, you could see it from all the way down at the bottom of the hill at the waterfront.

Well, theoretically it was perfect.  In practice, taking a picture from a distance of a grey statue on a grey day with grey clouds behind it, well, that doesn't work with a little camera.  At least we couldn't see it on the camera review screen (which is what matters at the finish line).  So we spent a few minutes running up a couple blocks, trying again, running, discussing, getting a little sidetracked with a separate question, running some more, finally agreeing that this photo better work because this is taking way too much time:

That's not completely what lost it for us, but it is #1 on the list...

OK, let's see what we can salvage.  We returned to the CVS on Light Street that we had visited pre-race and met the same really nice man working there who helped us find a postcard to mail.  Thank you sir!

And there were plenty of US mail boxes around:

Our crew came up with a barber pole - nice!  And it's so cute too:

John with his Texas drivers license:

Another photo with props (I'm a fan of props) - pretending to have a pirate fight with another team at the Shot Tower.

It wasn't a huge surprise that we didn't place top 5, but our fumbling and bumbling kept us out of the top 25 as well.  Congrats to all those teams that knocked these clues out so quickly!

We did accomplish a race in a new state for us, so that's something...

And it was fun to explore Baltimore, especially along the waterfront.  Always neat to see new things.  Thank you to Challenge Nation for organizing an urban race here!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Visit to Polyface Farm

We recently had the incredible opportunity to visit Joel Salatin's Polyface Farms - huge thanks to Kathy for finding this place and figuring out that we could all visit on a weekend tour.  We are big fans of Joel and his family's ways of farming and also of their efforts to promote local food and change the way people treat animals.  Joel's book "Folks, this ain't normal" is full of thought-provoking ideas on possible changes everybody could make (and it is an excellent audio book that Joel himself reads).

Gathered with Bob, Kathy, and Kathy's Dad before our tour of the farm:

We were all excited to be there:

"Support your local lunatic farmer"

We met some rabbits who were interested in any blades of grass we felt like poking in their cages:

The least friendly animal on the farm must be this "Guard Goose"

Getting ready for a hay ride into the hills:

The man himself - Joel is an excellent speaker and super friendly too.

John and I followed the hay ride on foot.  Here is John wondering what I'm taking a picture of:

Everything was so very green:

Talking about the "pigness of pigs" at the half-acre where the pigs were currently rooting around (before being moved to stir up another part of the woods):

The field with the broiler chicken cages.  Previously the cows had been through here, then the Egg-Mobile (the egg-laying hens), now the broilers in staggered pens.

Talking about cycling animals through the field and how it produces rich grass and healthy animals:

Demonstrating how the cages are manually moved each day for fresh grass:

We were the first group to tour his neighbor's land.  Joel and his family are just starting management of it and are working to reduce erosion and improve the health of the grass.

The "Pigaerator" where the winter cow manure is combined with hay and corn and then turned into compost by the corn-happy pigs:

Heading back to the main house and barn:

Piglets are so cute!

Joel hung out and answered questions for as long as anyone wanted to stay and talk - we loved every minute of it.

Adoring fans  :)

That was certainly a recent highlight for us!

Friday, June 7, 2013

My Dad

My father lived a long and happy life as a Peace Corps volunteer, a teacher, a handyman and a carpenter, a Green Mountain Club volunteer, a dance instructor, and most of all as an educator.  In recent years he has braved some health issues head-on, fighting a disease called amyloidosis.  We had many fun get-togethers and trips to make the most of our time.  Things seemed stable until recently when it all took an abrupt downturn.  My Dad was so courageous all the way to the end.  He died peacefully with my also-so-brave Mom by his side.

He leaves a legacy of kindness and caring and helpfulness that I can only attempt to emulate.  We will always remember and love you, Dad.

A celebration of his life with us, everything he shared with many people, in no particular order (obviously not chronological)...

Taking us hiking and exploring:

A snowy winter at the house he built in northern Vermont:

With Mom at the airport:

Visiting the Cathedral of Junk in Austin:

Christmas day:

Clowning around and making funny (and "punny") jokes as usual:

Visiting the Beard Farm in Texas:

Staying active even in the snowy Vermont winters:

He loved to teach kids:

With his mother, Gramma Fiebig, probably getting ready for some pie:

He donated a kidney to his friend Lucy and I went to visit him at the hospital:

Dad and Lucy:

Visiting us in Austin:

A hiking trip:

Trying out a via ferrata course in Grenoble, France:

One of his woodworking trucks:

Dance lessons:

With Jay and Kip in Las Vegas:

At our wedding with Kip and Billi Jo:

My parents visited us in France and we had a great time showing them around:

Dad even agreed to go up for a ride in a small plane to see some amazing views of the Alps:

In Grenoble:

In the French Alps:

Mom and Dad loved to dance wherever there was music and a dance floor:

We were so happy to all meet up on the Big Island of Hawaii for some incredible sightseeing:

Earlier hiking days with Mom:

A family photo in South Dakota - love this one:

Dad made many signs for the Green Mountain Club, so it's great to "run into" Dad whenever we are out hiking on the Long Trail:

Dad doing some Long Trail hiking of his own (at the Canadian border):

Dad helped me, John, and Kip for several days while we ran stages of the Long Trail.  He was so patient in waiting for us at the end of the trail each day.

A rainy day with Jay:

A fun trip to Maine:

Dad taught me how to cross-country ski:

He also helped me (from a distance) build a doghouse for Grete:

Mom and Dad ready to go dancing:

With a tree that Kip and I planted in Austin in their honor:

On top of Mount Mansfield in Vermont:

With Kip at Mount Bonnell in Austin:

The family helping build a wheelchair ramp with the Texas Ramp Project:

Dad designed a bridge for the Green Mountain Club and helped them build it:

Back to earlier years on the trail:

Fond memories of our wedding at the top of Jay Peak:

Miss you lots, Daddy!