Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

A few more notes about blown leads


I looked at a few more races to learn a bit more about blown leads. I looked at how often the person in the lead with about ten minutes left in the course didn't win. I looked at 100 races (25 classes for each of the first four days of last summer's Swedish 5-days).

This time I found 40 blown leads in 100 opportunities. That's fairly consistent with what I saw the last time I looked at blown leads.

In looking at the split times (and thinking about other times I've looked at splits in the past), I have a few thoughts:

"Blown lead" is a bit harsh. It looks like the people who lost leads usually just slid back a bit rather than made a big boom that cost the race. Often the leader with a bit more than ten minutes left to go still finished near the top.

Coming from far behind to win is rare. When a lead was blown, the person who turned out to win was usually (more than half the time) in 2nd place with ten minutes to go.

As I spend time looking at split times (it is something I do more than I should admit), I see a couple of patterns. First, booming the first control is quite rare. It happens, but it doesn't happen any more frequently than booming other controls and, in fact, seems to happen a little less frequently. There might be a tendency for more booms to come in the last part of a course. I haven't seen big increases in boom rates in the later parts of courses, but I've seen a slight tendency for the rate to go up. That'd fit with the idea that being tired causes booms. I should say that I haven't looked at the time lost to booms. It could well be that the rate of booms are evenly distributed across a course, but that booms in the later parts of courses cost more time.

Leading a race from near the start to the finish is common. In the 100 courses I looked at, 28 times the eventual winner was in the lead by about ten minutes in the race. I wonder if that would change -- become more unusual -- at races other than the Swedish 5-days. One feature of the 5-days is that a late start time can be a huge advantage because of the extensive elephant tracks. The very late starters can feel like they're running a trail leading them all the way around the course. That'd make it relatively easy to lead from start to finish.

Peter Gagarin wrote about the advantage of late starts at the Swedish 5-days:

On the other hand, at any large O meet the woods get faster as the day goes on, and the O'Ringen is the epitome of that. I remember once I had the first start in my class (8:01 am) and had a really good run and was 6 minutes behind on a 40 minute course. I am quite sure that same run with a late start would have been within a minute or two of the lead. In any case, they rotate the starts and therefore any advantage/disadvantage is cancelled out over the course of the first four days (day 5 is a chase start). But on a day-by-day basis one thing is very clear - the day to go for it is the day you have a late start.

Lunch hour is over...time to get back to work.

posted by Michael | 1:10 PM


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