Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

New Norwegian National Team Coach


The Norwegian O' team has a new coach, Anders Garderud. Garderud is an experienced orienteer who also happens to have won a gold medal in the steeplechase at the Montreal Olypmics.

Picking Garderud is an interesting choice by the Norwegian O' Federation. Norway must have a lot of qualified coaches available, yet they turned to Sweden for their new coach. Garderud is best-known as a track and field coach, though he has worked with a number of top orienteers. He coached Annichen Kringstad in the early 1980s when she was dominant. He currently coaches two top Swedish orienteers (Johan Nasman and Fredrick Lowegren). He was also a very strong orienteer. He was on the team that won the Swedish relay champs in 1977 and has a top ten place in the Swedish night O' champs.

Garderud runs for IFK Lidingo, the club I ran for during most of my time in Sweden. I raced against him once. The event was a club versus club competition and Garderud and I ran the same course (he must have been about 45 and I would have been 27). I had a strong run and felt pretty good about my race. A clubmate -- Tjompen -- pointed to a lanky guy in an old O' suit running up the run-in and asked, "do you think you beat that old guy?" I was sure I had. How could I have lost to that old-timer? Turns out I was right. I'd beaten him. But, by only a few seconds.

As an O' coach, the Norwegian job must be a dream. You've got an incredibly strong team and an incredibly strong O' nation. The next WOC is in continental terrain, which might not favor the Scandinavian nations. But, the chances to be successful -- being the top nation at the WOC -- are very strong.

Garderud's philosophy?

I'll speculate about Garderud's training philosophy. I'd say his approach is simple -- do a lot of hard training.

Annichen Kringstad was known for training a lot. She trained much more than her competition.

Lowegren is known for training a lot, also.

Garderud once described his formula for success: 2 x 7 x 52 x 10.

Train two times a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year for ten years. Then you'll be successful.

posted by Michael | 1:05 PM


Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Who reads this?


Who reads this?

I write my blog for myself, but I know other people read it. The site statistics show an average of 13 visits per day.

I know some of my readers. Mook and Mary are regular readers. The site statistics show the domain of visitors and I know who some of the frequent viewers are. But, there are also a fair number of regulars who I wonder about. Who is from sympatico.ca, mediaone.net or mlhs.org?

If you are a regular reader, you might drop me an email and introduce yourself. I'm curious about who reads this page. My email is meglin@juno.com.

Strange searches

When someone comes to this page from a google search, the site statistics show the search terms. Recent searches that hit this site include: chigger+bite+photos, french+translation+chiggers, and older+woman+are+my+weakness.

posted by Michael | 5:50 PM


Monday, July 29, 2002

Why work is tougher than school


Back in May, I wrote about work getting in the way of training and I got a comment:

Easier? to train?? when a student??? what a college. Enjoying my well-deserved (permanent?) work break from studies...

Back in May, I was writing about how my work schedule was getting in the way of training. I find work schedules much less flexible than school. I could always skip a class or put off studying. But, I can't skip work.

The bigger problem with work is stress

I think stress is a bigger reason why work can interfere with training. When you're stressed, it is hard to concentrate. After a stressful work day, it is tough to pay attention to training. It can be easy to get out and jog around. A bit of excercise is a great way to relay. But, it is not so easy to get in some quality training (a tough run or some good technique training).

For me, work stress is almost always related to supervising. Supervising people is tough. People are complex. Managing people is complex.

Over the years, I've gotten much better at managing people and much better at managing my own stress. But, it can still be difficult.

You shouldn't get the idea that I don't like my job or that I am super-stressed. I just find it a good bit more stressful than school. I find combining work and training much tougher than combining school and training.

How work stess is good

Every cloud has a silver lining...and the silver lining of work stess is that I've become much better at managing people. That can pay off for an orienteer. At the World Champs last year, I was better prepared to deal with the strange interpersonal issues that show up when you put a bunch of individual competitors together. "Team dynamics" are a lot like work place dynamics. The stress I've dealt with on the job gave me the tools for dealing with stress at the WOC. That's good.

I think one of the real difficulties a national team has is that it puts together a bunch of individuals who aren't likely to be good at getting along as a team. Orienteering is an individual sport that attracts individuals. It attracts people who are sharp. But, it doesn't necessarily attract people who have skills at managing. This is especially true because at the top level, competitors don't usually have much work place experience (and the work place is where you really learn how to deal with people).

There are a lot of people who try to use sports as a way to train business people. If you poke around, you'll find business books by or about sports like Peak Performance.

I don't know if there are business types pushing books to a sports market. I wonder what Warren Buffet would have to say about training for orienteering or organizing the U.S. team?

posted by Michael | 7:28 PM


Sunday, July 28, 2002

Why was today's run lousy?


The last two weekends I have trained almost exactly the same. On Saturday, I've gone to Weston Bend and run hill repeats. On Sunday, I've run at Wyandotte. Both weekends the weather has been similar -- hot and humid.

Last weekend I felt awful on Saturday and good on Sunday.

This weekend I felt good on Saturday and lousy today.

I wonder why. I wonder how I would figure out.

It might help if I kept a bit more training info. I don't track how much I sleep ar my resting heart rate. Attackpoint has fields for both.

Maybe I just won't worry about it. It isn't really unusual that my legs would feel worn out the day after hill repeats.

posted by Michael | 6:50 PM


Saturday, July 27, 2002

"Read the map"


If you had to have one simple strategy for orienteering, it'd be -- read the map. It is always worth reminding yourself before you start, "read the map."

Marita Skogum had a few words to say about focusing on map reading after she won three gold medals at the Nordic Champs back in 1992. Marita said, "running becomes automatic when the orienteering is going well...You can't run away with a competition, you've got to orienteer away."

posted by Michael | 7:40 PM


Friday, July 26, 2002

Duct tape hat


Working downtown means that you see an odd thing or two. Today I saw a person who had their head wrapped in duct tape.

I was walking back to my office after getting a to-go order of beans and rice at the federal office building's cafeteria when I saw someone ahead of me with a gray baseball cap. As I got closer, I realized they were wearing a baseball cap covered in duct tape. As I got right behind them, I realized they didn't have a cap covered in duct tape -- they'd wrapped their head in duct tape! Strange.

It struck me that it must be uncomfortable. It was awfully hot today. Wrapping your head in duct tape would probably make it worse.

It also struck me that removing the tape wouldn't be pleasant. I'd suspect the tape would stick to your hair. Pulling it off would be like pulling a bandage, only worse.


posted by Michael | 6:06 PM


Thursday, July 25, 2002



I don't like hot weather. I don't like running in hot weather. Summer in Kansas City is hot.

My plan for dealing with the heat is simple. I lower my ambitions. The summer is a time to maintain, not improve, my condition. If the weather is not so bad, I try to take advantage of it. When I see a cool day in the forecast, I try to make sure I get a good run in. On the weekends, I usually run in the morning before it gets too warm. I carry water when I excercise. I ride my bike a lot. I stay flexible and don't worry about taking it easy or taking a day off when it is really gross out. When I run I take lots of breaks for short walks.

Training in the summer heat isn't fun. When the cooler weather arrives it feels great.

Some bad experiences in the heat

I've had several bad experiences with the heat.

I collapsed when I was about 13 or 14. It was a hot day and I was working on my tennis game with a coach. I walked up to the net to pick up a ball. The coach asked, "are you ok?" I said something and plopped into the net. The next thing I knew I was on a couch in a building next to the courts surrounded by worried looking people. I'd passed out.

At a PTOC A-meet I had some severe problems with heat and dehydration. The meet was on an unusually warm March day (not super hot, probably mid/upper 80s). It was sunny and since the leaves hadn't come out you were baking in the sun. If I remember right, it was 1984 and I was running the Blue Course as a junior. I pushed myself hard.

At the finish, I chugged a huge amount of water. Apprently that was the wrong thing to do. My friend Rex Keith (a med student at the time) later told me that the body would have had trouble handling a bunch of water without electrolytes. Because it was the first hot day of the year, my system hadn't adapted to the conditions. So, I lost a lot of electrolytes that I wouldn't have lost if I'd been more adapted to the condition.

I felt decent just after I finished, but deteriorated pretty soon. I remember feeling awful. My head hurt. I was nauseous. I "blew chunks in the Ozarks." It was not fun.

One good experience in the heat

I only remember one good race in hot conditions. It was an A-meet at West Point. I was fit.

My strategy for handling the heat had two parts. First, I reminded myself the whole time "go slower..go slower." Second, every time I saw water, I dunked myself in it. If I saw a small stream, I'd stop at it and crawl into the water, soak for a few seconds, then get up and go.

It worked pretty well. I had a good result and I survived.

Of course, that was also the event where I mistook Lans Taylor for Peter Gagarin (so maybe my mind was fried by the heat). Lans is a good 20 years younger than Peter. Lans has the upper body of a rock climber. Peter has the upper body of a ultramarathon runner. Lans was running without a shirt. I saw the shirtless 20-something rock-climber and thought it was Peter!

Some advice for handling the heat

Check out Fasterskier.com for some advice on handling the heat.

posted by Michael | 7:40 PM


Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Can a video game make you a better orienteer?


There are a number of computer game versions of orienteering. WinOL is the one I'm most familiar with. I downloaded a demo version a couple of years ago and played around with it a bit.

Can an orienteering video game make you a better orienteer? If you play WinOL for 10-15 minutes a day will it do you any good? Will it do you any harm?

WinOL is like orienteering in several ways. You relate an image to a map. You can orient the map (which makes it a lot easier to relate the map and the terrain). If you get lost, it can be a challenge to relocate.

WinOL is unlike orienteering in two important ways. When you use WinOL you're not doing anything phsyical and you're not outdoors. Sitting at a computer screen is nothing like running in the woods.

I suspect that playing an orienteering computer game might be a way to practice "armchair orienteering." So, it might help you become a better orienteer. If you think it will help you, it might work (something like a placebo effect).

posted by Michael | 8:17 PM


Tuesday, July 23, 2002

How the Swedish team plans to win in 2004


The goal of the Swedish O' teams is to be best in the world at the 2004 World Champs in Sweden. Right now they aren't the best in the world. But, they've got time and they've got a goal.

Expressen published an article based on an interview with the current men's national team leader, Goran Andersson. Andersson described how they plan to use science to help them.

The Swedish national teams are going through extensive physical tests, including studying running economy in the terrain (I wonder how they measure that).

Andersson has already reached some conclusions. "The Swedes aren't lazy. We are training a lot, but not in the optimal way. Many are running their intervals at too high a tempo and for too short a distance."

Another part of the Swedish approach is to look at both social and psychological factors. The runners are answering a bunch of questions about, for example, how they manage stress, how their personal finances are doing, and how their personal lives are doing.

It will be interesting to see how the Swedes do in 2004.

posted by Michael | 7:45 PM


Monday, July 22, 2002

Gagarin's maps


In May, I posted a note titled "I'd like to study the maps of these 5 people."

Peter Gagarin was one of those people. I'm getting a chance to look at some of his maps and routes. He posted a bunch of maps and comments from the APOC. Check out his map page for some interesting map study.

posted by Michael | 6:59 PM


Sunday, July 21, 2002

Interview with Pasi


Right now Pasi Ikonen from Finland is the top orienteer in the world. He's leading this year's world cup after taking a gold and silver at last year's world champs. Pasi is well-known for orienteering without a compass. He's only 22 years old.

Expressen published an interview with Pasi today as part of the Swedish paper's coverage of the Swedish 5-days. I translated a bit of the interview.

"I made a lot of mistakes when I was 18 years old. I noticed that I couldn't concentrate on the orienteering. So, I decided to change the pattern. I figured that orienteering without a compass would force me to read the map more and better."

Pasi Ikonen earned a spot on Finland's national team. But, running without a compass hasn't always worked. During a world cup race two years ago, he made a classic mistake and ran 180-degrees off. The national team's coach, Totte Smedslund was...

"Not happy. He told me that I might want to have a compass at the World Champs and important relays."

Are many juniors trying to run without a compass, like you do?

"Yes, maybe too many. You have to be mentally prepared for it."

Pasi runs his own web page (in English) and it is worth a look. Click on the "training" link to take a look at how Pasi trains. For the most part, Pasi's English is decent. You can get a sense of what he is doing. For a lot of his sessions, Pasi's loaded his heart rate data, too.

posted by Michael | 2:52 PM


Saturday, July 20, 2002

Hills and heat


I've begun to add some hills to my training. Hills are good. They make your legs strong. O' courses have a lot of hills. I need to begin to get myself back in to shape to run uphill.

It will be a challenge. I've never been strong on hills. I run up hills slowly. I run down hills slowly.

I've got a lot of room for improvement.

Last year I worked on running down hills. I think it helped. Running the downhills faster was a relatively easy way to gain some time on an O' course. But, after I hurt my leg last September, I've regressed. I'm really bad on downhills. I feel uncomfortable running down. As my leg strength returns, I think I'll be able to begin working on downhill running again (hopefully this fall and winter).

A couple of hill sessions

Weston Bend has a decent hill for training. There is a hill that climbs about 55 meters (11 lines on the O' map) and takes me about 4:40-5:00 minutes to run. It isn't super steep, but it feels like the sort of hill you face in a lot of O' races.

I uploaded heart rate curves from two sessions on the hill at Weston Bend. Check out last weekend,s session and today's session.

Both sessions were similar. I ran up the hill, turned around and the top, jogged back down, and then ran up again. Last weekend I did five uphills. Today I did six.

Effects of the heat

The heart rate curves give a pretty clear picture of the effects of the heat. When I ran last weekend it was relatively cool -- temp was in the 70s. Today it was relatively uncomfortable -- temp in the mid/upper 80s.

If you look at today's heart rate curve you see the effects of the heat. The "valley's" between going up the hill get higher over time. If you drew a line through the lowest point in each valley, that line would rise over the course of the session. As the session went, I wasn't recovering as well. Another thing you'll see on the curve is that the peaks rise over the course of the session. You can't tell from the curve, but my times on the uphill segments were getting slower and slower at the same time as my peak heart rate was getting higher and higher. I was working harder and going slower.

posted by Michael | 4:59 PM


Friday, July 19, 2002



Malcolm Gladwell's latest article in The New Yorker has been making its way around my office this week.

Among other things, Gladwell looks at what some well-known management consultants had to say about Enron before it collapsed. He focuses on issues like the relationship between talent and organization and how to look at performance. Even if you're not an auditor, you might find it interesting.

So how does it relate to orienteering? I can think of a couple of ways. First, it is interesting to think about the idea of talent and orienteering. Orienteering is a sport that is, in some ways, dominated by people without much "athletic talent." Mikell Platt doesn't seem to be a naturally gifted (or talented) athlete. But, he's become the best orienteer in the U.S. Orienteering is filled with people who have more "talent" than Platt. They're usually below Platt on the results lists. Second, Gladwell writes about sports as analogies for business. He talks about the differences between sports -- in baseball you can have a great team by putting together the most talented players, but in basketball it isn't so simple. In basketball the organization -- the system -- is very important. What would Gladwell think about the U.S. orienteering team?

Gladwell was interviews on National Public Radio this evening. Later this evening you should be able to go to the All Things Considered section of www.npr.org and hear the interview.

posted by Michael | 7:54 PM


Thursday, July 18, 2002

Rostrup and Eglinski...both following the TDF!


Jorgen Rostrup is training in the moutains of Norway. He wrote:

The mountains, which aren't usually much over 500-600 meters, are the best part of the "Vestland" part of Norway. You're either going straight up or straight down. In my thoughts I'm often the climbing king Pantani (except for the doping). My plan is to spend as much time in the mountains as they do on the bikes in France (yep, I'm following the Tour De France).

Like Jorgen, I'm following the Tour De France. It is inspiring to watch those guys (who I really hope aren't doping). The nightly TV coverage is great. It wasn't long ago that it was a thrill to get 30 minutes a day. Now you can see two hours a day, and live if you don't have to go to work.

Since I've got a job I can't watch the live coverage. I do try to check out the live coverage on the internet (via Yahoo, Velonews or OLN TV). It is surprisingly interesting to get live text reports; to feel a bit of nervousness as the race comes to an end and you're wondering...Will they catch Jalabert?...Will Beloki be able to hang on?... Will Lance win the stage?"

This evening's training will include a few short hills. Perhaps I'll imagine I'm Jorgen...running the mountains of Norway (actually, I'll be doing a slow shuffle along NW 86th Street in Kansas City).

posted by Michael | 6:04 PM


Wednesday, July 17, 2002



ARRGH! I just wrote a bit of text and then something happened. It didn't post. It disappeared (a problem at Blogger?)

I don't have the energy to recreate what I'd written.

Instead of writing something new, here is a link worth a look. Check our Bjornar Valstad's routes at the "middle distance" world cup race in early July. He finished in a tie for 2nd.

posted by Michael | 8:17 PM


Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Men In Black II


Mary and I saw Men In Black II on the weekend. One highlight of the movie was seeing Serleena's necklace. My brother's wife, Annette, is a jewlery designed who made Serleena's necklace. Check out the lower photo on this page to catch a glimpse of the necklace. A couple of photos on this page also show Serleena and her necklace.

Aside from the jewlery, the movie is fine. It isn't great, but it isn't terrible either.

posted by Michael | 9:06 PM


Monday, July 15, 2002

How can it possibly take 3 hours to finish a brown course?


From the USOFclubnet:

Overtimes are someone [sic] common but not much of a problem....From my experience, the most problematic course is the brown...

Now I don't know if it is true that overtimes on brown courses are the most "problematic," but how on earth it can take three hours to finish a brown course?

A brown course is a shorter than green but similar navigational difficulty. The winning time is supposed to be around 45-50 minutes. Overtime is 180 minutes.

I looked at the results from a few A-meets over the last year or so. Of the 13 brown course results I looked at, three had winning times under 45 minutes and seven had winning times over 50 minutes. It looks like it isn't uncommon for brown courses to be a bit longer than the guidelines. But, the slowest winning time I saw was 69 minutes -- 111 minutes less than overtime.

Barring an injury, how can it possibly take three hours to finish a brown course?

What are people doing that makes it take so long to finish?

Are they spiking the controls but moving at a 45+ minute per kilometer pace? Are they making 15 minute booms on each control? Are they spiking most of the controls but making a two hour boom?

I don't mean to be insensitive or flippant. I really am curious about what someone is doing that makes it take over three hours to do a brown course.

If anyone knows, please let me know (either post a comment or drop me an email, meglin@juno.com).

posted by Michael | 8:01 PM


Sunday, July 14, 2002

More about the Junior WOC


A recent discussion at Attackpoint about the results of the Junior WOC inspired me to look at some results.

Before I write about the results, I want to write a few thoughts about how to characterize performance. In the discussion on Attackpoint, the U.S. results were described in very different ways -- "We are screwed"..."world class performance"..."mediocre performances."

The way to characterize a performance is to understand the goal. What was the goal? Meeting the goal is good, failing is not.

If the goal was to win medals or turn in top ten performances, the U.S. Juniors failed. Their performance was mediocre. On the other hand, the team might have exceeded more modest goals.

I don't know if the U.S.O.F. has a goal for the Junior WOC. I don't know if the Junior Team has a goal for the JWOC.

Without the goals, what can you do?

Without goals you can still look at performance. I like to compare performances over time. In general, improvement is good. If the U.S. is getting better compared to the best, I'd say the performance is "good." If the U.S. is falling further behind the best, then things are not good.

I decided to look at the U.S. relay team results in Junior WOCs. Relay results are a simple measure of the strength of the team. Relay teams at the JWOC take three runners. A good result in a relay takes three good runs.

I poked around on the internet and was able to find results for five different JWOCs (I also found a few outdated links to JWOC results). I looked at results from 1996 and 1999-2002. As far as I can tell, the U.S. didn't have a men's relay team last year and didn't have a women's relay team in 1996.

I looked at relay results by comparing the times of the U.S. teams to the winning team, the bronze medal team and the tenth place team.

2002 junior men's result looks good

The U.S. junior men had the best relay performance in 2002 (compared to the other years I looked at). In 2002, the junior men's time was 122 percent of the winning team. In the other years I looked at, the junior men were 148, 195 and 146 percent of the winner. 2002 also is the first time the junior men were closer to the winners than the junior women were.

2002 junior women's result looks good, too

The 2002 U.S. junior women had a time that was 126 percent of the winner. This is about the same as in 2000 and 2001, and much better than in 1999.

I wouldn't feel comfortable characterizing the results any more than I already have without knowing what the U.S.O.F. and Junior Team goals were. But, I'd be surprised if either U.S.O.F. or the Junior Team actually had goals.

A few final thoughts

I'm not at all disappointed in the performance our the U.S. juniors.

It'd be great to see performance goals for both the U.S. Team and the U.S. Junior Team. As far as I know, there aren't any.

For the individual members of the JWOC team, I hope they are happy to be the best the U.S. has to offer, but not satisfied to be the best the U.S. has to offer.

It isn't really a fair to compare a three leg relay to a four leg relay, but just for fun I compared the 2002 juniors to the 2001 seniors. The U.S. men's team at the 2001 WOC was 142 percent of the winners. The U.S. women in 2001 were 146 percent of the winners.

posted by Michael | 6:00 PM


Saturday, July 13, 2002

An interview with Annichen


Annichen Kringstad is one of the great orienteers. She won world championships in 1981, 1983 and 1985. Before 1987, the WOC was one race -- a classic champs. You had one chance and only one chance. Winning three in a row is amazing.

Annichen dominated the world champs she won. In Switzerland in 1981, she won by just over three minutes. In Hungary in 1983, she won by over seven minutes. In Australia in 1985, she won by less than a minute (she started the race in Australia with 5-6 minutes of booms in the first part of the course, then smoked the rest of the course and won).

Expressen published an interview with Annichen. A few quotes:

"I went my own way. I didn't want it to be at the cost of others, but I understand that I was considered very egotistical. This stuff about 'team spirit' just wasn't my way"

"I tried smoking when I was just nine years old. I've never been able to smoke. I've tried several times, but I can't. I cough and feel awful. I guess I'm glad for that."

Expressen notes that when she was in high school, she often trained three times a day. As a young junior, she didn't have especially good results -- she was fast, but rarely found the controls right away.

"I've got a list of results from a training camp when I was 12. I was last in every race."

Expressen notes that she trained hard and trained a lot. "Unfortunately, no one told me that I couldn't train 12 hours a week. So, I trained too much and got injured." A few years later, she got a stress fracture. "They put my leg in a cast. It wasn't necessary except that it would force me not to train."

She finished her elite career after three gold medals, when she was just 25 years old. "It finally became so important to win that it wasn't fun."

posted by Michael | 2:10 PM


Friday, July 12, 2002

Organizers apologies


The APOC organizers misplaced a control at the relays. Another unfortunate mistake. But, it looks like the organizers admitted the mistake quickly. Good for them.

From the APOC results page, "In the APOC Relay held on Monday July 8, one control was misplaced....We sincerely apologize to all competitors for the mistake."

I'm not sure whether they threw out the results. They've posted results, but I suppose the might still void the course. (Note that the US O' Team put together a team for the "4-point" category that was DQ'd when the anchor runner, Sergey V., mispunched).

Meanwhile, the IOF has issued something like an apology for the problems at the ultra-long world cup. "IOF assumes responsibility for the mistakes at the Idre Ultra long, and expresses its apologies to all runners that were harmed."

Check out the IOF's note.

It might just be my imagination (and it might not be a fair comment on my part), but the APOC organizers seem more sincere than the IOF. The IOF note reads like a politician's press release. The APOC's reads like an apology.

posted by Michael | 8:10 PM


Junior WOC maps


This year's JWOC features two extremely different terrain types -- detailed, complex sand dune and mountaneous continental terrain.

Check out the maps with routes from the short finals in the sand dunes.

Check out maps and routes from yesterday's classic races in the mountains.

posted by Michael | 7:10 AM


Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Camelbaks at the World Cup and JWOC


As far as I can tell, Bjornar Valstad is the only runner who wore a Camelbak at the ultra-long world cup. I spent some time poking around on the internet to see what I could find. I saw a photo of one other runner, a guy from France, who carried a water bottle. I found a news article that explained that Bjornar carried 1.5 liters of sport drink in his Camelbak so he wouldn't have to depend on the organizer's drink stops.

The Junior World Champs is another race where a Camelbak might be useful, more useful than at the ultra-long world cup. The weather at the world cup wasn't hot. The weather for tomorrow's classic JWOC race is expected to be hot -- nearly 40 C (which is around 100 F).

If it really gets that hot, the heat could be a big factor.

The start times are spread out over several hours. The first starts are at 9:30 a.m. and the last starts are around 2:45 p.m. Normally, it is an advantage to start late (you're more likely to have a few elephant tracks to follow). But, for a course with a winning time of 55 minutes for the women and 70 for the men, combined with temps near 100, it might be a bigger advantage to start earlier.

The Swedish O' Federation page had this:

The Swedes are preparing by drinking a lot of water. The women's leader, Christina Blomkvist is also giving her team advice -- get some salt and a little fat. "Eat chips and don't just drink water. Have some drinks with sugar in them."

Anders Holmberg says he will run with a pack on his back. "I'm probably going to run with my Camelbak;it won't work without it."

It sounds like tomorrow's JWOC could be brutal.

posted by Michael | 8:09 PM


A crowd at the punch


Check out this photo of the crowd punching at one of the early controls in the ultra-long distance World Cup race last week. According to the caption this is the third control. Bjornar Valstad is the guy getting ready to punch and wearing a camelbak.

posted by Michael | 7:15 AM


Tuesday, July 09, 2002

TDF pre-race meeting


Tonight's OLN coverage of the Tour De France included a look at a pre-race team meeting for the USPS team. This is the sort of thing that I find interesting. I like to watch behind the scenes reports about sports and I like to watch top athletes before their races.

OLN showed the team leader, Johan Bruyneel, giving holding a pre-race meeting. The riders sat on benches in the team bus and Bruyneel stood in the door way talking.

Although he talked the entire time, Bruyneel didn't really have much to say -- certainly he wasn't telling the riders things they didn't already know. For example, he reminded them to think ahead when they were planning when to come back to the team car for water bottles. He reminded them of the team's strategy. The strategy was very simple. They'd let small breaks go. They'd quickly chase down any large breaks. They'd put a rider into any medium sized break. They'd consider attacking if there was a big cross wind.

The riders didn't have any questions.

The riders looked nervous but concentrated. It reminded me of the way orienteers look on the bus to the start of a World Champs. No one looks especially good. There aren't many smiles or laughs. People are nervous, but usually quietly nervous. You don't see a lot of fidgeting or movement.

I suspect the team meeting serves some functions beyond (or even instead of) simply giving the riders some info. It is part of a pre-race routine. A routine helps the athletes get themselves mentally prepared for the event. The meeting probably also gets the riders away from the crowds for a few quiet minutes. Finally, just in case there are any important questions or bits of information, the team meeting gives the riders a chance to learn (though I suspect that doesn't happen very often).

Of course, the entire meeting might have been nothing more than just a chance to get the sponsor on national TV. Maybe it was entirely staged and had no resemblance to a real team meeting.

posted by Michael | 8:53 PM


Monday, July 08, 2002

Fiasco in Sweden


Vlad suggested a blog topic "OK, how about an op-ed about the infamous queue at Men's Control 4 at the World Cup?"

Sounds like a good one.

First, some background for anyone not familiar with the 4th control at the World Cup race

The race was an "ultra long distance" race with a mass start, but only one e-punch at the 4th control. The pack arrived at the 4th control and there was chaos. The crowd was too big for one punch. The control was in a depression, making getting out once you'd punched even tougher. Some runners waited and punched. Some runners just went ahead and kept running. People, including Bjornar Valstad, yelled "let's run to the next control" (i.e. without punching). About 15 runners did that. Some runners ran ahead, but then turned around and went back and punched at the 4th control. Valstad was one of the runners who turned around and ran back.

Making the situation even more difficult the course had a "gate." The gates were places where only the top X runners could continue. To make it through the first gate, you had to be in the top 59 runners. If you were the 60th runner, you weren't allowed to continue no matter how close to the leaders you were.

At the finish, the Norwegian team protested. The runners who'd decided to continue without punching the 4th control were disqualified. Carsten Jorgensen of Denmark was the highest placed of these runners -- he crossed the line in 4th.

Jorgensen is annoyed with the Norwegian protest. Afterall, it was some of the Norwegians who were encouraging runners to keep going. Jorgensen's disqualification hurts him in the overall World Cup standings (even after being DQ'd he is ranked 9th overall).

What a mess.

The organizers, including the IOF controller, thought the runners would be spread out by the 4th control and only one punch would be necessary. Whoops. They sure screwed up.

What do I think about all of this?

The best solution is to throw out all the results. It wasn't a fair competition. There isn't any question of that.

I'd like to see the organizers refund the competitors' entry fees. The organizers screwed up, the organizers ought to pay a real price.

The jury didn't make the best solution. Why? They must have thought it was more important to have results than a fair competition. (Reminds me of the jury at the Chicago A-meet this spring and the fiasco on the green course).

The organizers screwed up. They made a decision that the control only needed one punch. They thought about it and decided the field would be spread out. The problem is they didn't think about the "risk" of the decision. If they were right, the competition would be fine, but if they were wrong, it'd be a disaster. If they'd thought about the risk, they'd have put more e-punch units at the 4th control.

Organizers need to think about risk when they plan their events. The biggest risk is probably a mis-placed control. So, organizers ought to put a lot of effort into making sure a control isn't misplaced.

Finally, I wonder what would have happened if exactly the same mistake was made by organizers in the U.S. Would the web be buzzing with people criticizing the U.S., saying we couldn't organize a world class event? If something like this had to happen, I'm glad the screw up happened in Sweden.

What a mess.

posted by Michael | 8:26 PM


5 Random Thoughts from NY


Mary and I are visiting her parents in their new home in Congers, NY. Here are five more-or-less random thoughts from today:

1. The Manhattan skyline without the World Trade Center is a strange sight. We flew in to Newark. We flew over the Deleware Water Gap, then made a right turn over Giant Stadium and landed at Newark. Looking out the window you saw the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. The skyline seems strange without the World Trade Center towers.

2. There aren't many places as good for orienteering as Harriman. The maps are great, the terrain is great and the park is accesible. I wonder why HVO hasn't produced more top orienteers?

3. It seems to take me 40 minutes -- no matter how slow or fast I run -- to begin to feel comfortable running in rocky terrain. Today I was stumbling along and then started to feel pretty good. I looked at my watch. It was 39:53.

4. I wish I'd started orienteering with a magnifying glass 20 years ago.

5. If you're ever in Congers and are looking for a good meal, try "X." We had a good lunch (for about $20 per person) at X this afternoon. Really good food. Good service (it is rare these days to eat at a place where the wait-staff don't introduce themselves by name, interupt your meal at inopportune times, and hide when you actually need to get them).

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posted by Michael | 7:14 PM



After a short vacation, I'm back at my computer and plan to get back to daily updates. I should have time for an update later today.

posted by Michael | 7:09 AM


Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Norwegian routes on the World Cup


Several of the top Norwegian runners have their routes from the last world cup race online.

What do you think of Bjornar Valstad's routes?

Jorgen Rostrup scanned in his map in three pieces. The first seven legs are through a mostly flat area. The middle part of the course included some long route choice legs. Jorgen and Bjornar took very different routes on the two of the long legs (8 and 11). The final part of the course isn't as interesting to study, but was probably fun to run.

Hanne Staff ran mostly straight. Even on leg seven which went over a big hill. After the race, Hanne wrote that her route cost her time. Running around was better.

posted by Michael | 7:56 PM


Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Ye Ren???


A co-worker just returned from a trip to China where she visited, among other things, the Ye Ren museum near the Shennongjia Nature Reserve.

Ye Ren means "wild man." Ye Ren is Bigfoot!

It occurred to me that if you want to learn about Bigfoot (and who doesn't) the internet is the place to start. A good starting point is the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. The BFRO has a slick where you can read about, for example, 24 sightings in Missouri and 16 sightings in Kansas.

I've spent a lot of time in the forest -- running, orienteering and mapping. To date, I haven't seen Bigfoot. But, if I do I'll know wher to report it.

posted by Michael | 8:59 PM


Monday, July 01, 2002

Nice course setting


When I popped open the map from today's men's World Cup race in Norway, I thought, "nice course."

Why do I think it is a good course?

Mostly, the course setter has done a good job of putting a lot of variety into the course.

There are a good 11 direction changes, where you leave a control on a sharp angle from how you arrived. Take a look at the second leg. You have to make a 90 degree turn as you leave the first control. Direction changes make for some interesting variety.

There are a lot of different leg lengths. I looked for legs that were either <= half the length of the prior leg or >= double the length of the prior leg. There were 14 legs with length changes. Length changes make for some variety. Leg changes reward runners who can change tempo and technique.

There are also several long legs. Seven legs are longer than 1 km. One leg is more than 2 km.

There are controls that you'd attack from above, below or along the side of the hill. A quick look at the course suggests that you'd attack six controls from above or below and eight from along the side of the hill. About seven of the legs would be attacked from a more-or-less flat approach. Again, the course setter has given the runners a lot of variety.

Finally, the course setter made use of several different types of terrain on the same map. The first five legs are in a generally flat area with some low knolls and lots of marsh. For these legs, it looks like you'd do a lot of straight line routes. The next seven legs are in a part of the map with big hills and long hillsides. These legs feature some legs with route choice options that go far off the straight line. For legs 13 through 17, you're going along a hillside. There isn't so much route choice, but you'd need to be careful to stay at the proper contour level to avoid extra climb (and to keep track of where you were). Finally, the last legs are in a type of terrain similar to the beginning of the course.

I like courses with the variety you see in the World Cup course. It isn't something you see a lot of in the U.S. To some extent, that is because we don't have so many different types of terrain in a single area (and we don't usually run courses that are so long). But, I think it also reflects the common way course setters in the U.S. think about course.

I believe a lot of course setters focus on legs and controls rather than the entire course. If you spend all your course setting energy trying to make each leg interesting, you can easily forget to look at the course as a whole.

The easiest way to put some variety in courses is to vary the length and direction of legs. I think a lot of local O' courses would be more interesting if the course setter tried to set one long leg with a couple of routes, and then set a few short legs to get you from the start to the beginning of the long leg and then from the end of the long leg back to the finish. Gene seems to use this sort of course setting model and his courses are among the very best you'll see around this part of the country.

posted by Michael | 8:44 PM


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