Dare Mighty Things

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chick Parm Redux

Have you ever put off a Sunday AM run 'til the afternoon and then regretted it every step of the way? We were heading down to MA this morning for a family function and I had very good intentions last evening of getting up and getting a quick 6 in before 7:30 AM. My first mistake was forgetting that in my chronically sleep deprived state, if it doesn't involve an entry fee or a starting line there's no way I'm getting out of bed before 7:00 AM on a Sunday. Mistake #2 came at the lunchtime meal when I went back for second's on the chicken parmesan. Believe it or not I passed on the cake. As it turned out later, I should have had a piece. Anticipating my state of mind after driving 90 minutes home on a Sunday afternoon I had already laid out my running clothes. The beautiful Chamber of Commerce morning had turned into an ominously cloudy afternoon but had yet to rain...until I stepped out of the garage on my way to run Donkey Hill. Before I finished the 200 meters of Cross Road the thunder clapped and the lightning flashed and all manner of cats & dogs descended from the heavens. I always say that being wet is a heck of a lot easier than getting wet. The first few minutes of my rainy 6 mile loop were the most uncomfortable...from a weather standpoint anyway. Remember the chicken parmesan I liked so bad and had to have seconds? I burped it the entire way. By the time I approached the last climb up 2CPR I was wishing I had eaten some cake. Anything would have tasted better in review than those breaded chicken cutlets in the tangy marinara.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

PR at Pineland

"Teamwork is the quintessential contradiction of a society grounded in individual achievement." - Marvin Weisbord.

New Gloucester, MAINE -- Regular readers of this site will understand the importance of today's event at the Pineland Farms 25k Trail Challenge. I had circled this race on my calendar back in November. The '08 version was a disappointing performance highlighted by a humbling walk up several of the last hills in the final 5k. From that race I took away a valuable lesson...never again arrive at Pineland under prepared. This course is too demanding to simply show-up and put up a fast number. My preparation prior to today had been right on schedule with a great confidence booster two weeks ago at Big Lake. The plan today was to continue to ride that confident vibe to a PR and perhaps a Top 10 overall finish. In true Scotty G-style I arrived 2+ hours prior, registered, and began my pre-race prep. My teammates (Steve S., Nick L., Brent & Amy) arrived within an hour of the start. When Brent finally made it to the starting area he and I quickly formulated a gameplan. Knowing he was racing and that our fitness levels are pretty compatible I was hoping he would be willing to work together. During my pre-race prep I calculated several pace splits to keep me (us) on PR pace target (22:30-5k, 45:00-10k, 90:00-20k). The thinking was simple...stay patient and on pace for the first 20k and then hang on during the final (and arguably toughest) 5k on the course. This being Brent's first time at Pineland he was more than willing to work with my plan. Today's weather was really ideal for this race on this course...overcast in the 70's with scattered showers and the cooler temps played a very meaningful role in today's performance. Brent and I attempted to find a groove in the first 5k which is always a challenge considering the excitement of any race start. At the 5k mark our split was perfect...22:15ish. The next 5k is a rolling combination of nordic trails and cow pastures. No hill too long or too steep to significantly affect our pacing. We hit the 10k split again, right on target just shy of 45:00. At this point the chatting back and forth became less and less as we knuckled down and began the purposeful move forward. Although I hadn't determined a 15k split I quickly figured it during the third 5k and we again hit the mark almost dead square. At this point we were consistently pulling 22:30 5k's and picking up places. Brent and I took turns pulling and were never more than a meter apart. His energy was palpable and I fed off of it the entire race. Repeating the mantra's, "patience" and "rhythm" the first 15k was a blur. We passed by the START/FINISH area just shy of 17k and began the assault of the final, and most challenging, 9k of the race. Staying focused on 5k at a time was incredibly helpful as it forced us to stay in the moment. We hit the 20k right at 90:00 and it was then that I began to feel very confident that our teamwork and pace may result in something special. Last year I walked several of the killer hills in the final 5k. This time around was a very different story as my legs felt strong as we hammered the final climbs. It was here that the true definition of teamwork was illustrated. I felt Brent pick up the pace slightly during these final km's as he ferociously attacked the climbs. And truth be told, he probably could have run away from me at any point. But like a true warrior he stuck with his brother and we finished together (14th & 15th overall) in an unofficial time of 1:54:19. Assuming the "official" results are close, this would set a PR for me on this course by 22 seconds. And if that weren't sweet enough the guy we passed at 23k was in our age group...and I finished on the podium (2nd) in the 35-44 division (behind Brent). No doubt my physical preparation, race plan, and weather were key factors in today's performance, but if not for Brent and his willingness to work together there's no way I PR two years after setting the mark. Thank you Brent, you are an incredible athlete and teammate.

Next up: Bow Lake Dam 15k

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pawtuckaway Trifecta

Pawtuckaway State Park, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Several months ago the NH-12 adventure race scheduled for this weekend at Pawtuckaway State Park in Nottingham, NH was reschedule to September. In it's place, the folks at Racing Ahead decided to hold a triple O-meet (or trifecta...their term) consisting of 60 minute foot, paddle, & bike rogaine's. Always needing the nav work and tapering for Pineland Farms 25k next week anyway, I took the hour drive south to one of my favorite NH state parks. Pawtuck' has a great mixture of paddling, singletrack, and some of the coolest glacial erratics you'll find anywhere. The plan was to race all three rogaine's taking no more than a 30 minute transition between courses. My first course was the Foot-O and it's 20 controls. The plan was to tag the 4 controls in and around Neals Cove and then head over to the Big Island and attack the 8 CP's on the southeast side of Burnham Marsh before cutting over to the northwest side of the marsh and the 7 remaining CP's. I started well, but couldn't locate CP4. Turns out I had seen it, but thought it was a paddle CP and didn't bother to go and get it. Things on the southeast side of the marsh went very well with use of terrain association, aiming off, and compass headings. At CP 8 I came to an important decision. With about 30 minutes remaining it became evident that all 7 controls on the other side of the marsh probably wouldn't be attainable. In fact, I quickly made the decision to forgo CPs 9 & 11 in favor of a more obvious (and shorter) attack point to CP 10. From CP10 I aimed off in a northerly direction to the marsh to travel along it's banks to CP12 before crossing the small section of land to the other side. After 3-4 minutes of struggling to find the right knoll I bailed on CP12 and headed to the other side of the marsh with less than 18 minutes left. I easily picked up the Fundy Trail and raced westward toward the road taking brief side trips to tag CP's 13, 16, and 18 before heading back to the START/FINISH. I clocked back in at 57 minutes and change with 11 controls (55 points). After a 30 minute break I clocked out for the Paddle-O. Again, it was a straightforward clockwise attack. Without a great deal of paddling experience it's hard to judge how fast you can travel in a kayak in flatwater. I made the decision (perhaps too early) to skip CP's 11 & 8 figuring they were a little too far off the beaten path and that there were plenty of other scoring chances bunched together near Mountain & Neals Cove. The paddle nav was very clean. At CP2 with approximately 20 minutes to go I made the decision to also skip CP3. It looked a little too far down Mountain Cove and I felt it may cost me a chance to pick up two CPs (CP1 & CP13) positioned along Neals Cove. I clocked back in with an uncomfortable 8 minutes to spare. As it turns out, I probably should have made an attempt at CP's 11 & 8 because I probably had the time. My point total for the Paddle-O was again 55 points (11 CPs). During my final 30 minute transition I ate a little snack while I studied the Bike-O map. The bike controls appeared to be positioned on or near parts of the expansive trail network at Pawtuck'. I honestly haven't spent much time on the bike this year and I let that negative thought creep into my head before I started. And I immediately paid the price for the negative karma. I bobbled mightily on CP4 locating it after a devastating 5 minutes of backtracking. When I finally reached the sweet singletrack off the Fundy Trail (I wish I could remember the name, but I'm planning to head back there soon to ride it again!) I was quickly running out of time. The original plan to ride the entire length of singletrack to Round Pond Trail never materialized. With 20 minutes to go I turned around after punching CP8 and rode back in the same direction I came. I had just enough time to ride back up the main park road to tag one final CP (#9 and my 9th of this course). I clocked back in with 2 minutes left. The total for the Bike-O was a disappointing 45 points (9 controls). My "trifecta" total for the day was 155 points. I'll guess that will put me in the middle of the pack for the day. Despite the mediocre finish position, I was very pleased with both my technical & physical performance. I ran, paddled, and rode up to nearly every control I located. And with the NH-12 Adventure Race scheduled at the park in September I know I gained extremely valuable recon (and and O-map) of the lay of the land.

[Photo creds: O-sign, Foot-O map, Paddle-O map, inlet of Pawtuckaway Lake]

PS. Pawtuckaway Trifecta >>RESULTS<<.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Big Lake 1/2 Marathon

Alton, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Sometimes expectations can be a burden. The Big Lake 1/2 Marathon this morning along beautiful Lake Winni was not only a last minute addition to the racing calendar, but it was one of a very few distances I've never raced. As I tune for the Pineland Farms 25k Trail Challenge in two weeks today's objectives were simple if not but a little vague...1.) run relaxed and 2.) try to maintain sub 7:00's. Truth be told, I had no intentions of racing today. Karen had circled this on her calendar months ago and I was simply going to go along, take pictures, and cheer wildly for her when she finished. Unfortunately, Scott Graham seemed to have other ideas for me. His cajoling resulted in my laying out $45 and actually racing this morning, not just spectating. Scotty, Karen, and I weren't the only teammates in attendance today. As happens at most of the "big" events we had a very impressive turnout. Austin, Liz, Gary, and Joe all raced and all raced very well (more on that in a moment). Coming off his nearly sub 3:00 Boston Marathon performance, Scotty G. is running very well. Despite his urging, I had no plans to run with him today in his pursuit of a sub 1:25 finish. When the go command was given a sizable pack (including Scotty) took it out very hard and very fast. I was content to settle into a rhythm and get to the first mile split. As I approached the 1 mile clock I was a little surprised to see a 6:20 first mile. A quick assessment of my faculties and I decided that I felt pretty comfortable and decided to stay in the groove I had found. Big Lake travels up Route 11 along Lake Winni for approximately 6.5 miles before turning back toward the finish on a rollercoaster lake road. Due to the terrain and highway I could see most of the runners ahead of me including Scotty who had approximately 200 meters on me for most of the first 4 miles. As we climbed near the 4 mile maker I finally came up to his shoulder. I'm not sure if he was pleased to see me or not but as a very supportive teammate he utter a few words of encouragement as we plodded up the hill. I was hoping we'd run together and feed off of each other's energy, but once over the hill I felt the gap between us widen just a bit. Before the race started I had decided to break the distance down into three 4 mile races plus a 1.1 mile "overtime" leg. The approached worked perfectly as it forced me to stay in the moment and focus on the challenge immediately in front of me. No question that the third 4 mile rollercoaster was the most challenging but I still felt relaxed and strong. By the last mile I could feel my distance-specific fitness become exposed as I reached down for another gear that didn't exist. A quick peek over my shoulder and I was assured that my place finish was secure. I crossed the finish in 1:27:01 (officially 6:39's) good enough for 20th overall, 2nd in my age category (male 40-44), and the third overall masters finisher (40+). Needless to say I was quite pleased. Pineland Farms is one of the toughest challenges on my racing calendar but I really feel like I've put the work in over the past 5 months to put forth a good performance in two weeks. A number of other teammates took home podium age group finishes including Liz (1st), Scotty (3rd), and Gary (2nd).

[Photo credit: finish photo courtesy of Kristin, The "Big Lake", NH Maple Syrup prize & finisher medal]

Sunday, May 3, 2009

College Woods O-Meet

College Woods, UNH, Durham, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Brayden, Pop, and myself headed over to UNH this afternoon for our first orienteering meet of 2009. It was the first time this year that all three generations of Dunn's have raced together. College Woods is essentially a "home meet" for us. After stopping at the recycling center (for the first time in three weeks), Brayden and I headed to Madbury to pick up Pop. When we arrived on campus I drove directly to the fieldhouse where I expected the START/FINISH to be located as it had the past two years we've attended meet's here. When there were plenty of spots in the faculty/staff lot adjacent to the football field I should have immediately known something was awry. Without getting out of the car we could tell this wasn't the place. I called home and asked Maddie to check online to find out where the start was located. After a quick Google search she found the UNO website and the description of the starting location for today's meet...Greg Hall. As the only alumni of the university in the vehicle all eyes quickly fixed on me. Problem was, I was a UNH student over 20 years ago and the names of the buildings had long since faded from my consciousness. Frankly, where I was last weekend had long since faded from my consciousness. The great thing about O-meets is that there are almost always signs pointing to the start. Trust me, the irony of getting lost on the way to an orienteering meet is never lost on me. After no more than one U-turn we found the signs and eventually Greg Hall. Today's objective was to 1.) spend some time with my father and son, and 2.) build a little nav confidence on an easy yellow course layout. We checked in, paid the $5 for our map, and then transferred the 16 controls to our maps from the master sheet. A quick scan of the controls revealed many of them on or adjacent to the trail network within College Woods. The clue sheet was written out (see upper right hand corner of the map) although we were prepared to decipher symbols if necessary. The course was very straightforward and sent us in a counterclockwise direction. We basically followed both general compass orientations (ie. North, South, etc) and map features. Most the controls were within 250 meters with some located no more than 50 meters apart. All were visible from at least 25 meters away. We really only had two small mistakes. The first was 5-6. I had planned to aim off to the trail to our northwest and then run southwest on the trail to the control (6; 704, rootstock, east side). Somehow I managed to get us too far south and we ran across the wrong trail. After arriving at obviously the wrong trail junction we doubled back and located the control. The other small error was 9-10. It should have been a simple 100 meter bushwhack on a southeasterly compass bearing to a 1 meter cliff (northeast side). When we arrived at the hill that contained the cliff I ran the team on the southwest side and we had to completely circumnavigate the hill to find the control. Had I attacked on the correct side we would have run right up to it. Luckily, on this course the mistakes cost a minute or two and not 10-20. We finished the 2.7 km course in just over 36 minutes. Running up to the controls was a great confidence boost at this point in the season. Getting a chance to race with my father and son was simply one of the greatest competitive experiences imaginable.