Orienteering my way around orienteering

In 2013, I did my first trail race.

Last year, I tried another kind of race.

Orienteering.

What is orienteering, you ask? I’m still trying to figure it out but this is the gist according to Orienteering USA: Orienteering is a race in wilderness navigation using a map and compass.

You run (or walk) around from check point to check point. You find these check points (which are a flag-type box) by navigating on your map (that the race provides). And each check point has a number so you obviously work your way in numerical order until you get to the end.

There was an urban race being hosted at my college alma mater campus so I figured it couldn’t be that difficult. I mean, I know where certain buildings and landmarks are so it’s not like I would get lost. Hopefully.

It was raining on the Saturday before Christmas, which is when the race took place. Everyone around me had obviously been orienteering before. Unlike me, this wasn’t their first rodeo. They had a plastic band around their wrist so they could have their paper map in full view without it getting wet. I had mine in my pocket and every time I took it out, it became more and more like mulch because it was raining so much.

Bryce was set to do the advanced course and I was going to tackle the intermediate one. (I know, I am a beginner but since we were racing on campus, I figured I could complete the intermediate course).

As soon as I started, I looked at my map and saw the check point #1. I ran to the area that I thought it was at but as soon as I saw the orange box, I thought, “What happens if I stick my e-punch into the check point but it is the wrong check point? Will it beep at me? Will I be disqualified?” (By the way, the e-punch is a little device participants carry around and stick into each check point so that the race can electronically keep track of your time and whether or not you go to the correct check points).

Sorry for the blurry photo — my hands were freezing! — but the above is what the e-punch looks like.

Because there were more than four different orienteering races going on at once (varying from beginner to advanced to even elementary and high school student courses,) the number 1 check point for one race wouldn’t necessarily be the number 1 check point for another. This is why each physical box was assigned a box number. I didn’t realize this until I sheepishly stood by what I thought was my first check point for several minutes.

In this moment, I was kind of in a slight panic. I thought I wouldn’t be able to complete the race at all. I don’t know what I’m doing here! I’m a marathoner, not a navigator! As a small child ran by me in the pouring rain, waving her map around, I pulled myself together. If she can do it, well, I guess I can do it, too! It can’t be that hard!

I turned my map over to discover the key that told me what box number each of my check points were associated with. I felt much better and my heart rate returned to normal. One by one I checked off each check point, scrambling around my old college stomping grounds.

Once I got through the first two or three check points, I was in a rhythm. It was starting to be fun!

IMG_1987

I never had to use my compass because I was never so disoriented that I didn’t know what direction was north. (All the directions for the check points would give a clue like, “east of a lone tree” or “north of stairway.”) And note while the map looks normal and detailed, there are no street or building names on it.

I’m proud to say that I completed my very first orienteering race that day.

It may have been cold. I may have felt like giving up for a second at the start. But, I really had no expectations going into it. I just wanted to try something new.

When I saw that I finished 5th out of 22 participants for the intermediate course — with five of those being groups! — I was pretty impressed with myself. It took me 38:08 minutes, which was about 10 minutes behind the leader. The race was a 3.2-km race, which means that if you ran to the check points in straight lines, it would be 3.2 kilometers.

I lost a lot of time at the beginning when I was figuring out the first check point, but towards the end, I went from one check point to another in the same amount of time it took the first place racer!

IMG_1988

I definitely had fun — the above is my “I’m-done-and-it’s-pouring-rain-and-it’s-five-days-until-Christmas!”-face. But, I know that if I were to do an orienteering race in the actual wilderness, it would be harder than this urban one. I would probably have to talk Bryce into being in a group with me if I were ever to do a wilderness orienteering race so I wouldn’t get lost in a forest or something like that.

If you are a runner looking to try something different or are in the off-season from training for a race, I’d recommend giving orienteering a try. Or, even if you’re not a runner but enjoy the outdoors, this could be a fun activity for you!

I can’t say I’ll be doing many more of these any time soon since I’m beginning Eugene Marathon training, but if I do, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Happy orienteering / running / not-getting-lost this year!

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The Redemption Race

Yes, a mere 11 days after the Portland Marathon, I’ve registered for my next one. (So much for “taking a break,” huh?)

Eugene Marathon, I’m coming for ya!

The race may be seven months away but at least this time I won’t have to train during the summer months.

I’m giving myself another chance to achieve that elusive sub-4 hour time.

Whether it happens in Eugene or not, I know one thing.

This will be my redemption race.

I’m not going to dwell over what happened in Portland.

I’m only looking forward — to May.

Six days away

My (what-I-like-to-think) “re-debut” race is in six days.

Last fall I had IT band/knee injury-stuff going on and ran a very painful Chicago Marathon.

Thus followed physical therapy and very minimal running through the holidays and New Year.

In February I ran a half but this one is my “real race.” That one I signed up for at the last minute (like a week before) and my goal was to moderately race it without any pain. I did that. This one I signed up for in the midst of my PT rehab, the one I would race when I would be well and healthy.

This weekend’s Whidbey Island Half Marathon is to actually race — to not hold back.

I’m nervous because what if my IT band does act up?

I’ve also been hearing from multiple people that this course is hilly. I’m just in denial and telling myself that the full is hilly and the half (hopefully) isn’t too bad.

After all, my goal is to PR. (Isn’t that the goal every “real” race?)

I’ve been training like I want to PR. This has actually been my first half marathon (out of 14) where I followed a training plan.

Also, for the past month I’ve been that one obnoxious friend “who can’t drink” because I’m in training mode. (At least my friends have been grateful to have a DD).

Yesterday I rolled my ankle while playing ultimate. The awful thing about it is that I wasn’t even doing anything cool or difficult. I just tripped over my own feet and fell the wrong way on my left ankle.

It still feels funny today. I’m kind of bummed out about that because isn’t one supposed to be 100 percent going into race week?

I’m wearing my running shoes to work today. If I’m going to have a wonky ankle, it’s going to be well-supported and in comfortable shoes.

Because, I’m six days away.

Ready or not, here I go!

Tomorrow’s race day.

I’ve been drinking water.

I keep refreshing the weather page online to see if conditions have changed.

All my running gear is ready to go.

I stretched and did some core.

For some reason though, I do not feel ready.

Maybe when the alarm goes off at 5 a.m., it’ll sink in.

Maybe it’s because I registered a week ago.

We’ll see what happens. I’m treating tomorrow more as a training run.

IT band, behave yourself!

Because, ready or not, here I go.

Let the racing begin!

2014 racing was scheduled to begin in April for me.

But, as of tonight, my first race will be in one week!

Next Sunday I’ll take a stab at the Birch Bay Half Marathon in Blaine, Wash.

Bryce was already registered to do it and rather than go up and spectate and wish I was running, I decided to just go ahead and do it too.

Let’s hope the IT band behaves.

And, that my knees have recovered from yesterday’s beating.

(Oh yes, I will have to update you on the embarrassing mishap. I’ll get to that tomorrow, I promise. Let’s just say that walking up and down stairs is a bit painful for the time being).

I’m not going in this half marathon with strong hopes of PR’ing. I mainly want to see where my baseline is at. I want to see if my body is fully ready for racing again.

So when April comes, I can really attack that Whidbey half marathon.

Let 2014 racing begin!

(I think) I’m ready!

If there’s no pain, it’s not a birthday (run)!

Last year I did the Fremont 5K on my birthday. Even though it was only a 3.1-mile race, I was in pain for pretty much the whole thing and kept thinking to myself, “Why am I putting myself through pain on my birthday??”

This year, I also decided to race on my birthday.

I wasn’t sure how the Cougar Mountain 8-mile trail race was going to turn out. I know I’m in shape. I just wasn’t sure if I’d be racing-up-hills-on-a-mountain-in-shape, you know?

But, I was. I am!

I made the mistake of starting out too fast. Other runners were constantly passing me — which really diminishes one’s ego and motivation.

And then three or four miles into it, I got the worst stomach cramp I have had in a really long time. It felt like daggers. And, people were still passing me!

Once again, the thought entered my head: Why am I putting myself through pain on my birthday??

Because … it’s supposed to be fun. Running is fun, I told myself.

So,  I just breathed and kept running. I took the downhills hard. I steadily shuffled on the uphills (and past a few people who walked up them). I started feeling a little better while having no idea what pace I was at or what mile mark! (This is when I really start to miss road racing … the constant awareness of which mile you are at!)

I was sweating bullets and was thankful that the weather remained gray rather than sunny (like I thought the forecast had shown earlier in the week).

Somehow my cramp went away and I continued on. I felt OK …

I didn’t know the finish was coming up until well, I saw the finish flags straight ahead. I kicked through the finish and afterward Benjie told me it was the fastest he had ever seen me run — ever. What surprised me the most was that I came away with a sub-10 min. pace! My first trail race in February was 11:29-min pace, so obviously, a significantly better trail race.

I guess this is what happens when you are 26 years stronger and wiser and all that!

I'm not short. I just hang out with tall people.

I’m not short. I just hang out with tall people.

 

Running is one of my favorites. So, why not race on my birthday with my favorites? Happy Birthday to me and Kenji Johjima!

(And, yes, now that I am not longer 25, I am taking suggestions for a new blog name! … )

 

The story of a runner’s first triathlon

[Note to reader: This was originally written a few hours after finishing the race. This entry was posted three days later.]

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I’m pretty darn excited right now.

It could be the adrenaline rushing through my veins — three hours after I crossed the finish line.

It could also be because I just did something I thought I could never do. 

(Moral of the story is we all need to listen to more Justin Bieber — and never say never).

I completed my first triathlon this morning.

I swam, biked and ran consecutively — and with no mishaps! I didn’t have to stop during the swim and hold onto a nearby paddle boarder or man-in-a-kayak that they had scattered all over the lake for our safety. I didn’t crash my bike during the second leg or have to walk my bike up the hill connecting to I-90. I didn’t get a flat tire. I didn’t mess up my transitions too horribly. I didn’t have to walk during the run.

I did cramp — a bit.

The open water swim was what I was fearful of the most. But, all those horror stories we hear about other participants swimming on top of you or kicking your goggles off … I didn’t experience. The water was pretty calm. It was overcast out. The water was warm. After I passed the last buoy and was on my way back to shore, my right foot however started to cramp. I was slightly alarmed and didn’t know what to do.

I hopped onto my back and backstroked the rest of the way. I even passed a number of people doing this! (But, that didn’t matter. I didn’t care about beating other women, I just wanted to get back to sweet land).

This is what I look like about eight seconds after swimming 1/2 mile.

Once I did, my heart was pounding extremely fast. I was worried about my foot. I yelled at Bryce that my foot had cramped. He said something back — what exactly, I can’t recall. My family was there cheering for me. My mom ran along side me with her iPad — trying to take photos (yes, she is one of those people) — as I walk-jogged over to the transition area.

Getting out of the wetsuit wasn’t as bad of an operation as I thought it would be, too! But, having seven family members – yeah, I had people fly in to watch me 🙂 — and Bryce on the other side of the fence cheering directly at me can be a bit intimidating. It was really nice to have all the support though.

Finally I was on my bike and had 12 miles ahead of me. And let me disclose that prior to the race, I had never biked a consecutive 12 miles. I always did an out-and-back ride during my training where I would stop and take a water break. What would 12 miles continuously feel like? It was fine.

Until the last two miles came and that darn right foot started cramping again.

This time it was worse than when it cramped in the water. And, since I was on a bike it wasn’t like I could just go on my back and let my arms do all the work …

I started applying less pressure with my right foot and pedaled vigorously with my left foot.

“I may not be able to run if this doesn’t stop,” I thought to myself, slightly defeated.

Everything was fine though.

Smiling because I am approaching the transition area — and see my family.

I was out of the transition area in a minute and it was game time. My body was ready for this leg of the race. Once a runner, always a runner.

A quick wave to my admirers as I start the 5K.

The three miles were a cake walk. (I did cramp — not in my foot but just above the knee on my right leg. Cramping seemed to be the theme for the morning).

No matter. I was passing everyone! OK, I’ll be honest. I passed everyone (mainly because a majority of the participants were either walking or jogging) with the exception of one woman. A few meters before the finish line another woman sprinted by me. (I’m not bitter).

Just like Bryce had said earlier in the morning, I was doing a running race — I just had to swim and bike first to get to it. And, I did.

Mad dash to the finish — can’t remember if this is before or after that woman passed me!

Many people are too scared of doing things not because they will fail at it, but because they tell themselves that they just cannot do it. Once I decided to do a triathlon, I knew that I wasn’t going to fail at it. I knew I would finish. I even surprised myself by finishing in under two hours! I can do a triathlon faster than I can run a half-marathon. My total time with transitions: 1:44:42.

The biggest challenge for me was to override the “I-can’t-do-this” thought. Because as cheesy as it sounds (and I sure know it does,) we can all do anything if we just decide to actually do it.

This runner, is now a triathlete. 

Danskin Triathlon Seattle 2012

(And, hey, I knocked off one of my New Years Resolutions!)