Friday, February 27, 2009

Team USA Profiles: Alison Crocker

Time for another profile! This time we get to present an athlete who has had great success at a high level in other sports before switching to orienteering just a couple of years ago and already starting to kick some butt. Here is Alison Crocker. Look out for her name at the top of some results lists in the next few years!

1) What's your name?
Alison (Ali) Crocker

2) What's your hometown?
Grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY. Currently in Oxford, UK, but going to move to Amherst, MA in October!

3) Marital status/ kids/ pets
My boyfriend returns from New Zealand tomorrow! For sure no kids though, and not really a pet person. Seem to be allergic to most of them. I like plants though- particularly those that produce yummy food.

4) What's your club?
OUOC - Oxford University Orienteering Club. This year I'm the President and Women's captain. We're organizing the British University championships in 1.5 weeks time, where we'll take on the orienteering powerhouses of Edinburgh and Sheffield Universities!

5) What's your birthday?
August 20, 1984

6) What do you do when not orienteering?
I am studying for my DPhil (=PhD) in astrophysics here in Oxford. I specialize in galaxy evolution, trying to explain why the galaxies we observe look the way they do. Mostly this involves looking at data on my computer, but every once in awhile I get to go somewhere cool and use a telescope (Japan, Holland, Spain x 2) to get more data. I also spend some time doing other sports- running, skiing, cycling.

7) How did you start orienteering?
I orienteered a handful of times while at boarding school in New Hampshire- one of the teachers there took a group of us to local meets, and I really loved it! But then I dislocated my shoulder while orienteering and my rowing coach said I wasn't allowed to do that again.
Six years later, I came to Oxford and met this guy on the running team (ok, my now-boyfriend!) who suggested I come along to a local orienteering event. I went and was completely confused for most of the way around, but had a blast (team members Boris and Kat were on this trip and probably remember). Then have been orienteering as much as possible since then!

8) What are your biggest orienteering successes so far?
I had great races as last years JK Festival of Orienteering here in the UK. I was 8th overall, combining the middle and long race, amid some really good competition. And I was really psyched last year to get my first World Cup point at the middle distance race at the O-ringen. It was a good race for me and squeaked into 40th place!

9) What are your goals for 2009? What are your more long-term orienteering goals?
Major goal this year is to keep improving. I've been a bit hampered by injuries in the past few months, but I hope to have top 10 finishes at British Champs and hopefully get to go to some World Cups sometime over the summer and place a bit higher than last year!
Long-term, I'd like to be consistently competitive internationally. Will definitely try to make WOC teams in future years!

10) What is your most memorable orienteering experience so far?
Probably last year's TioMila or O-ringen. Such a blast having so many people around orienteering, a great atmosphere, great terrain!

11) What are your favorite orienteering disciplines?
Think I like them all! Great to have the variety. I probably get most excited for sprints and relays as they're least frequent. Although I'm not entirely sure I have middle-distance races figured out.

12) What would be your ideal training session?
A full day, with no pressure of thesis hanging over my head, somewhere with really technical and interesting terrain.
It would start with lots of technical little exercises, line courses and control picks, then a map memory exercise before lunch. Then lunch and some time to hang out, preferably, in the sun with an ice cream van nearby... In the afternoon, more racing-focused, trying to go fast in the terrain, maybe throwing in a peg-relay at the end because those are always fun!

13) Can you describe a typical training week?
Whew. Don't think typical ever happens. =) If it did, it would go something like this:
Monday- 40 min run + club circuits
Tues- 50 min run (intervals session w/ running club)
Wed- club run 45min-1h
Thurs- 50 min club hill reps + hurdle drills (I run the steeplechase on the track)
Fri- off
Sat- running/track race/orienteering training/rollerskiing
Sun- orienteering event

14) You had great success as a cross-country skier before moving to England and starting to orienteer. Can you tell us about life as an elite skier? What do you miss most from competing on the skiing circuit? What do you not miss at all?

Ah yes, my other life - cross-country skiing! So cross-country skiing definitely was my sport before coming over to mostly-snowless England. I trained the whole year round, which is lots of running and rollerskiing in the warm months, then chasing the snow in the fall (far north and high elevations to start with), and then racing nearly every weekend all winter. The fall particularly takes lots of travel and I generally took the term off from my studies at Dartmouth to get to early-season snow. I raced for the US at Junior Worlds, U-23s, and World Cups.

I mostly miss the skiing out of the life of an elite skier. Cross-country skiing is really a wonderful sport. It's super-demanding physically, but is also just such a fun motion and you go fast! What I don't miss are the other things that go with being a skier- the endless amount of stress and money that goes into waxing skis, having to carry 16 pairs of skis with me wherever I went, and having to work so hard to avoid getting sick, which generally was unavoidable anyways.

15) Which are tougher, skiers or orienteers?
Oh gosh, unsure! Both wear lycra (obviously makes one tough!). But actually, I think there are two slightly different flavors of mental toughness. In orienteering, you have to push hard physically, but still have the ability to make sensible descisions, which is mentally very demanding. In skiing, you have to just completely surrender all mental faculties to being able to withstand the physical pain of pushing at your absolute limit. Different. But both tough.

16) What is the most annoying/scary/dangerous orienteering hazard?
Two things annoy me. I keep running into trees while reading my map (ok, only happened twice, but still...) Secondly, I often find exactly the deepest place to put a foot into a stream or puddle and end up chest-deep in water.

17) What would you take with you to a deserted island?
An axe. I like axes- I was a lumberjill on the woodsmen's team at Dartmouth. Or a 10m telescope with an integral field unit spectrograph. That'd be sweet too, but maybe less critical to survival!

18) Do you think you are weird enough to be an orienteer? If yes, illustrate with an amusing anecdote.
Yes. I think fractal broccoli is about the coolest thing in the world.

19) If you could be any orienteering features, which would you be?
Sand dunes! They're super neat, plus they actually move.

20) What kind of music makes you invincible against wicked course setters and Canadians?
Music is too distracting before racing for me! But based on a Dartmouth-ski girls tradition love country for post-workout.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Team USA Profiles: Ross Smith

As the hush of winter covers most of North America, and the spring orienteering season is still only on the horizon, we will be running a somewhat-regular series of profiles of US Team members, so that people can get to know us a bit better. We begin this week with a rising star of US orienteering. who made his first WOC team last year. We present to you an interview with Ross Smith.

1) What's your name?
My name is Sir Lancelot of Camelot. To seek the holy grail. Blue.

I mean, Ross Osborne Smith

2) What's your hometown?
I grew up in Freeville NY, which is where my parents still live. I currently live in Newton, MA, just outside of Boston

3) Marital status/kids/pets
I have a long-term, live-in girlfriend, team member Samantha Saeger.
I don't have any kids, zoning in Newton isn't great for goat raising.
I also don't have any pets, as our apartment doesn't allow them.
Sam and I would probably get a cat if we were allowed.

4) What's your club?
Cambridge Sports Union, which is a small but feisty club in the Boston Area. We also have a superb group of alumni/expat current members that live in various places far far away.

5) What's your birthday?
May 14, 1983. Which I just learned is the same as George Lucas ( not the 1983 part). Also two popes died on May 14th, so if you're the pope, be wary.

6) What do you do when not orienteering?
I have a job, which often forces me to be not orienteering (A research technician at the Joslin Diabetes Center) and I have various hobbies many of which are not orienteering. I like reading, cooking, puzzles and games, and it's really easy to convince me to try new hobbies too, unless of course these new hobbies occur before 9 in the morning on a Saturday. Those hours are sleepy hours.

7) What are your biggest orienteering successes so far?
Orienteering is a sport with many tiers and many different metrics for success. The orienteering races that I am proudest of might be considered my personal successes so I'll talk about those. I
was really thrilled to make the US WOC team last year (2008) for the first time and the sprint and long at team trials are ones that I am proud of. I also consider the sprint qualifier at WOC in Czech Republic to be a success, because I had a quite clean race in a situation of enormous pressure and tummy-butterflies. I also think that running the first leg on the CSU tiomila team in 2008 was a great success, because although I made many mistakes, I survived a wicked
hard race in the dark :) And finally, I won my first Blue course at an A-meet at the 2008 West Point meet in the classic distance. That was sweet.

8) What are your goals for 2009?
My goals for 2009 are fairly modest at the moment. I really am aiming to make the 2009 WOC team so the races at Team Trials will be very important for me. I do hope to make the team and so I have goals for WOC too, I'd basically like to race better than last year, to show improvements. I'd like to have better placement but also to have less time behind the leaders and to have fewer mistakes. From a physical standpoint, I'd like to get my mile time below a 4:55 again this season.

9) What are your favorite places to orienteer?
I like Patuckaway a lot, it took awhile but it has really grown on me. Some of the CSU training camps that we've had up there have been the best orienteering experiences for me. I like orienteering on many of maps I've been to in Sweden. And I like orienteering in Wyoming too, mostly because the whole atmosphere of the 1000 day competition.

10) What are your most enjoyable orienteering memories?
Starting out at dawn for my leg of the CSU Jukola relay in 2006. Also finishing my leg of the 2008 Tio Mila coming up over the bridge and seeing the castle lit up with blue spot lights. Also all the summer orienteering trips that I've taken over the years have too many great memories to chose just a few.

11) What are your favorite orienteering disciplines?
My favorite discipline is the relay. Because the shared adrenaline and energy is truly wonderful. Those who know me well ( or even a teeny little bit) know that I love to cheer loudly.
Big international relays, the Crystal Relays, relay championships.... all good times. I think that it helps that I usually perform well in relays. My next favorite discipline is the sprint, even though urban sprints make me really nervous because I'm always worried that I will get stuck on the wrong side of a wall or go through an out-of-bounds area accidentally.

12) What would be your ideal training session?
Before the 2008 WOC a group of the US team got together to do some training in Western Connecticut. The last training exercise was the most fun, we all agreed. Peter Gagarin and George Walker had created a forked course consisting of several start triangles, a few short legs that were forked, and then a finish circle that was the start for the next section; creating in effect a string of mini-course. Then PG and GW orchestrated a lead-off, a pack, and trailing runner for each mini-course so that for each course a different person would get a 30
second head-start and then the main pack would go and then 30 seconds after that the trailing runner would have to chase everyone down. This was awesome! I can't stress that enough. So an ideal training session would have some fun training like this, lots of friends to run
with, a lake or river to jump in afterwards, and then lots of food.

13) Can you describe a typical training week?
So it is currently very cold in Boston, which makes training less captivating. A typical week for me at the moment has me running to work 3 or 4 times a week ( just over 4 miles on icy sidewalks) and once a week doing some pretty intense Street-o ( about 1 hr at top
speed) with the CSU crowd. We have been based in Cambridge and Sommerville this winter but last year it was mostly in Newton. On the weekends I get to go running with Sam and often with her dad and sister. Weekend runs will be long runs pretty soon, sometimes over 2 hours. I do some very basic crunches and push-ups in the morning. I don't do any injury prevention in the way of stretching or strength training which is bad, and I haven't really ever done any map study (though I just recently got enough point in Catching Features to open
the Gun Stock map!)

When it gets warmer out, and stays light out later I will be adding track workouts, hill workouts, and CSU training will happen more often in parks instead of on street maps.

14) What would you take with you to a deserted island?
I would bring other people (which I suppose is cheating because then it wouldn't be deserted), a deck of cards but even solitaire would get boring. I might bring a copy of Robinson Crusoe as sort of an instruction guide and my spice rack because if I'm going to be eating coconuts and peccaries I'll need some curry powder and rosemary at the very least. I probably wouldn't bring much in the way of clothing.

15) What special power would you most like to have?
I don't know what power would be the best. I would love to be able to talk to plants and animals. Perhaps a more realistic special power that would also be useful would be to speak every language.

16) If you could be any orienteering feature, which would you be?
When we played this game at Junior Training camps I was always rough-open Ross. That fits pretty well I think. I'm pretty shaggy and rough around the edges, and yet I'm always open for good times.

17) What kind of music makes you feel invincible against wicked course setters and Canadians?
Oh those wascally Canadians. I like the song "very superstitious" by Stevie Wonder... that is a very powerful song. It has a good groove, and although it's not a song that says "I feel like I can run so fast" it does say " everything is going my way right now". Which is the same feeling that I get from the song "Feeling Good" as sung by Michael Buble (ironically Canadian). Pretty much
anything that I can sing along to is fair game though.

18) Finish this sentence: In the kitchen I make a mean...
...woman melt with the cunning application of buttermilk pancakes and
chocolate chips."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Team Trials Info

Want to represent the US at WOC? Information about the 2009 Team Trials is now up to date and available here:

US Orienteering Team Trials for WOC 2009.

The TT will be held May 1-3, 2009 at Spring Lake Park, Santa Rosa, California, & Bogg's Mountain State Demonstration Forest, near Cobb, California, hosted by BAOC.