Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

An unusual course


The men's course at the U.S. Team Trials was -- at least for an American course -- a bit unusual.

Take a look at the course with Peter Gagarin's routes.

Just a glance at the course should be enough to notice that there is a lot of variety and a few long legs. Three of the 16 legs are longer than one kilometer (and one of those is over two kilometers). About half of the legs force the orienteer to change direction (i.e. leaving the control you've got to make a distinct direction change compared to how you approached the control). Nine of the legs are either more than twice as long as the previous leg or less than half as long as the previous leg (one measure of variety).

Long legs and variety aren't all that common in the U.S. A year or so ago, I compared courses from Sweden and the U.S. The U.S. courses had less variety and many fewer long legs. One reason we tend to have fewer long legs is that we tend to have shorter courses. But, even accounting for that, I think American course setters tend not to appreciate long legs.

One of the projects I've had in mind for a long time is to figure out a good way to measure the character of a course and use those measures to describe a bunch of courses. I might learn something.

What sort of measures should I use? I've got a few ideas:

How many long legs are longer than one kilometer? How many are longer than 1.5 kilometers?
How many legs force a distinct direction change?
How many legs are either more than twice as long as the previous leg or less than half as long?
How many legs seem to offer a lot of route choice?*
How many legs are navigationally difficult?*
How many controls are navigationally difficult?*
How much climb is on each leg?
How many controls require an approach from above, below or the same level?
What portion of a leg is running uphill, downhill, on a trail or road, through an open area, through rough vegetation, etc.?

Maybe if I get inspired (or really bored!), I'll play around with this a bit in the next few months.

* These measures are obviously subjective. My initial thought is that a simple scale might be useful. A leg that looked like it wouldn't offer any route choice problems could be a "1"; a leg with some route choice options could be a "2"; and a leg that had a difficult route choice problem could be a "3." You could use a similar scale for navigational difficulty.

posted by Michael | 9:36 PM


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