Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Monday, March 31, 2003

Slowly weaving through the woods


I downloaded a video of the Ronneby relay race from Sweden and watched it this evening. With my recent interest in O' running technique, I paid attention to how people ran. I didn't look for anything specific; I just watched to get an impression.

My first impression was that orienteers look like they are going slowly and not working very hard. I know that isn't true. I know orienteers work hard and are going fast given the terrain. I also know that orienteering always looks slower on video.

The next thing I noticed was how much variety an orienteer faces. In a short stretch, an orienteer might pump their arms and lift their knees as they push up a small knoll, taking a few jogging steps as they carefully study the map, hop down from a bit of rock, leap over a fallen tree, duck under a branch, then weave through thick trees.

I'm not sure I can describe it, but some of the better orienteers looked much more fluid as they ran through the woods. Watching people like Yuri Omelchenko, Niklas Bratt and Kent Olsson leaves the impression that they are very comfortable in the forest (Omelchenko makes a nice boom in front of the camera which is interesting to watch).

If you've got a broadband connection and are bored, I can recommend the video. It runs about 25 minutes and does a decent job of showing the race. If you can understand Swedish (with a strong Southern Swedish accent) it'll be a lot more interesting. You can download the file (a 59 mb .wmv file) here.

posted by Michael | 8:37 PM


Sunday, March 30, 2003

Yesterday's first race


Check out the map from yesterday's first race.

A few comments:

Lake Jacomo is one of the areas that was hit hardest by last year's ice storm. The heavy ice brought down a lot of branches and trees. The deadfall makes the orienteering tough.

I drew my route with dotted lines where the deadfall was heaviest. In those areas my routes zig-zagged a lot as I picked my way through the deadfall.

Before I started, Eric S. and Dick N. finished and complained about rough woods. When I went out I was prepared for the worst. That helped. When I came into rough areas, I didn't worry. I didn't get stressed. If I'd gone out expecting nice forest (the white forest on the west side of the map used to be some of the most open forest around), I might have let the rough woods get me down.

By the time I'd made it to the fourth control, I realized that running on the top of hills was a lot better than running along the sides of hills. The flat areas had just as much deadfall, but it was a lot easier to weave through the deadfall on a flat area than on a hill side or in the bottom of a reentrant. My route to seven reflects my strategy of staying off the hillsides and out of the bottom of reentrants.

posted by Michael | 10:21 AM


Saturday, March 29, 2003

A few words about motivation


Just a quick note as I'm on my way out the door for today's races...

In a pre-season article in a Norwegian newspaper, Jorgen Rostrup is quoted about his relatively poor results in 2002:

I was sorry about the whole thing. Training went great, but I didn't get any fun at all from racing....I didn't feel comfortable in my club or the national team, and then it isn't easy to have good results.

I've been interested in writing something about motivation for a long time. The trouble is, I'm not sure what I'd write. I've had periods of super motivation, and periods of almost no motivation.

I guess I'll give it some thought and devote a few entries to motivation.

For now, I'm motivated to go out and enjoy two races!

posted by Michael | 10:07 AM


Friday, March 28, 2003

Two races in one day


Tomorrow I've got two O' races in one day. PTOC is organizing a regular race at Lake Jacomo with a start around noon. Then they've got a mass start night O' (at a new map near Jacomo) with a start around 7.

I don't have much experience running two races in one day. Tomorrow will be a good chance to see how it feels. It'll be good preparation for the U.S. short champs in a bit over a month.

I expect tomorrow's day course to be 6-8 km and the night O' will probably be more like 3-4 km.

The short champs will have two "stages" with the first starting at 10 a.m. and the second at 1 p.m. Your overall result will be the total time (both stages added together). For M21 the courses are short. The first stage is 1.7 km (with 7 controls) and the second stage is 4.42 km (with 12 controls).

Tomorrow I'll have more time between stages and more distance to run. I'll have a lot of time to kill between races tomorrow. I'm not sure what I'll do to fill that time. Jacomo is about a 45 minute drive from home. It probably isn't worth running, driving home, then driving back and running the night O'.

posted by Michael | 8:19 PM


Thursday, March 27, 2003

South Africa as a training location


Seems like South Africa is becoming a popular place for O' training camps.

Pasi Ikonen is there now. Here is some info he posted on his web page. Pasi is visiting a place called Dullstroom where the well-known O' and track and field coach OP seems to be setting up a training center.

Hanne Staff and Bjornar Valstad just left Norway for two weeks of training.

A month or so ago, the Norwegian club Nydalen had a camp in South Africa. Poke around Nydalen's South Africa camp reports to see some interesting snapshots and bits of maps.

I wonder why South Africa is suddenly popular as a training location. Maybe it has been popular for some years and I just didn't know it. Maybe the warm weather is the attraction? Maybe air fares are good?

The photos look interesting and it'd be fun to add a new continent. But, the best air fare I can find from Kansas City is over $1500, so I don't think I'll be making the trip anytime soon.

posted by Michael | 8:57 PM


Wednesday, March 26, 2003

"funny little Sprint-courses"


At a Swiss team training camp last week they ran some very short sprint courses. Vroni Konig-Salmi described them as "funny little spring-courses."

Take a look at this one.

The course looks to be about 700 meters with a load of climb -- I count 13 lines of climb. The course looks fairly difficult. The third and fourth controls look tricky. It'd be easy to make a small boom on either of those controls.

I'm not sure of the idea behind running these very short courses. But, I can guess that running these courses would be intense. You'd feel pressure knowing that a small boom could drop you. The level of stress could get high. It is probably a lot of fun.

posted by Michael | 9:14 PM


Tuesday, March 25, 2003

If Rostrup is talking Iraq, so will I...


This morning when I checked out Jorgen Rostrup's web page, I saw his thoughts on the war in Iraq. As a local celebrity, he was asked about the war by the local newspaper.

I suppose it is time to write a few words about the war. I'm sad that the war is going on. I'm worried about everyone involved. I'm worried about what is going to happen. I dread listening to the news on the radio or watching on TV, because the news is so distressing.

I read a few Swedish newspapers and the NY Times online everyday. I usually take a look at the Kansas City Star. I listen to the local radio news and NPR. It seems like the newspapers are covering the "pro" and "anti" war opinions. But, I'm not sure they're covering what most people in the U.S. probably think. Most people I meet in a day seem to be thinking like me. They aren't "pro" or "anti" -- they're just distressed, worried, upset and uncomfortable.

posted by Michael | 8:27 PM


Monday, March 24, 2003

What has the Swedish team been up to?


The Swedish O' Federation has been running a series of training logs of national team runners. It is a great idea -- they show a runner's planned training for about two weeks, then update it with what they did and some comments ever few days.

Mattias Karlsson, who runs for Swampfox's club IKHP, has been the most recent runner to be featured. Last weekend, Karlsson was at a national team training camp in the south of Sweden. Here is a bit about what they did at the camp:

Thursday -- Sprint O' in the town of Aahus and some short orienteering. In the afternoon, they had a hilly course at race pace -- about 50 minutes.

Friday -- A 20 minute course in a difficult area with lots of big rocks (and on a 1:5,000 map) called Kjugekull. I looked up the area in google and found some info about it. There are lot of big rocks. I'll bet it makes for some cool orienteering. In the afternoon, there was a race with the start order based on the results from the morning. The course had three loops through hilly terrain and took about 40 minutes.

Saturday -- In the morning a very hilly course that took about 90 minutes. Most of the runners took it a bit easy to save some energy for a race on Sunday.

Sunday -- A race of about 90 minutes.

One of the things they did at the camp was practice TV interviews. After one of the training sessions, the runners were interviewed on video as soon as they finished. The Swedish O' team has a consultant who is helping them deal with the media.

They also had a presentation from someone with Absolut Vodka. Apparently the idea was to try to bring some ideas from a successful company. Goran Andersson said, "It is educational to learn how one packages a winning product. That's what we want to do under the WOC week in Switzerland." That seems a bit strange to me, but I suppose it might have been interesting.

While the Swedes were having a national team camp in southern Sweden, the Norwegians were at a national team camp in northern Denmark. I hope some of the Norwegian O' web pages have some reports. I'd like to compare the two camps. Will the Norwegians have spent their time differently?

posted by Michael | 8:08 PM


Sunday, March 23, 2003

Big booms


Poking around Swedish O' pages today, I read about a race this weekend with some prize money.

Kringeltraeffen gave 3000 Swedish crowns (about $350) to the men's and women's winners. The race had two parts. First was a mass start night O' on Friday. The next day was a regular race. The overall results were based on combined times.

I read a couple of stories about the race when I saw that Johanna Svensson finished second. I know Johanna from the Texas Junior O' Camp. She has been an instructor at the last two TJOCs. Last year, we had some good head-to-head races.

Johanna finished second 3:20 behind Karolina Arewång. So, Johanna didn't take home the cash.

I took a look at the splits to see how the race went and got a suprise. The day race had some huge booms by the top runners on the first control. The fastest time on the first leg was 6:31. Johanna boomed it. Her time was 11:44. Karolina A. boomed it. Here time was 19:32 -- 13 minutes behind the best time. A runner named Ida Wikström-Holmgren also boomed the first control. Her time was 11:40. Those are big mistakes.

Those three -- Karolina, Johanna and Ida -- were the top three overall (with Karolina taking home the cash).

Of the sixty women who finished the day course, 16 of them boomed the first control according to winsplits. (you can see the results here).

I'm curious about that first leg. Was it difficult? Was the map sketchy? Were the top runners stressed by thinking about the prize?

posted by Michael | 6:56 PM


Saturday, March 22, 2003

Local race at Prairie Center


Two weeks ago, the local O' race was at Weston Bend. Eric W. commented, "You guys have better terrain than I thought."

Eric probably expected terrain more like Prairie Center.

Here is the map with my routes. A few comments are called for...

My route from 1-2 looks strange. Why run around a big yellow area? The yellow was deep grass. In some places the grass was waist high. Running through waist high grass is slow and tiring.

The fourth control was misplaced. The small circle to the east of the circle is where the control hung. I took another 50-60 seconds from the center of the circle to when I found the control marker.

Dan and I compared splits and we were within 3/10ths of a second apart at number 7. I picked up the pace a bit, or maybe Dan slowed.

The funniest post-race comment? "How did you do 10 to 11?"

My h.r. curve is typical of an O' race.

posted by Michael | 8:32 PM


Friday, March 21, 2003

A few thoughts on running technique for O'


Any orienteers have "great form"?

In a comment a few days ago, Jeff W. wrote, "I have often wondered about this. It comes up all the time in cross country skiing. "He sure has great form!" Why? Because he is smooth or because he is efficiently using his resources to move from A to B?"

I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone describe an orienteer as having great form in the woods. I can think of people being impressed with certain orienteers speed through the terrain. But, I can't immediately recall anyone talking about an orienteer's running technique.

O' running that has left an impression

I remember trying to hang on to Peter Gagarin as he ran down a rocky hillside at the Turkey Mountain area of West Point. I was impressed. Peter is a strong downhill runner.

Some orienteers, very good ones, have really odd running form. Anders Tistad (formerly Friberg) had a very stiff looking form. He seemed to shuffle, almost waddle. But, he went fast. When I first saw Peter Jacobsson running, I wouldn't have picked him as a world class orienteer. He's very awkward looking, with feet that splay out as he runs. Peter has, if I remember correctly, won the first leg of a WOC relay. So he can move.

From Jimmy Birklin's homepage

Here is a short translation of a bit of an article from Birklin's homepage. It looks like the Swedish coach, Goran Andersson, wrote it:

To improve his running economy, Jimmy should change some of his running sessions from long intervals to 45 - 15 intervals and aim his strength training to maximal strength for the calf, thigh and sitting muscles....The max strength training can be done in a gym, running while dragging a tire attached to him, hopping up hill, and maximum hill sprints for 6-8 seconds.

Not thrashing

Peter G. talks about running without "thrashing." That might be a good way to practice O' running technique. Run through the forest as smoothly as possible. Gradually increase the pace until you feel you're "thrashing." I suspect that if you practiced running just below thrashing, you could gradually increase your thrashing-threshold.

That approach -- trying to find the point where you're running as fast as you can while staying in control -- is basically how I tried to improve my downhill running technique a few years ago. It seemed to work well.

posted by Michael | 8:02 PM


Thursday, March 20, 2003

Almost 20 years ago...


I was looking at some old maps today. This is part of the M21 course from the 1984 Intercollegiate Champs (and Student WOC selection race). The Southern Michigan O' Club was the organizer.

I used to write about all my races. I wrote a sentence -- and usually more -- about each leg. I figured that writing about each leg would force me to think carefully about what I'd done on each leg. Hopefully, writing would help me learn. I also wrote a few notes about the area. If I ever went back to the map, or similar terrain, I'd take a look at the notes to remind myself about what to expect.

Here is a bit of what I wrote back in 1984:

Prospect Hill -- very nice map. The rockpiles are small, maybe 1-1.5 meters across and less than 0.5 meters high. In general, the woods were pretty good. Some trails were small, you had to be looking for them. Because of the recent rain the marshes were all distinct. Slow run areas are often juniper. Some of the juniper (e.g. between 9 and 10) was fast, but as it grows it becomes quite slow. I would stay out of any fight.

1->2 Better route may have been south to the trail (the other route has 3 contours less climb and the climb is spread out).

2->3 Thorn in my shoe -- stopped, untied shoe, checked for thorn, re-tied, ran about 50 meters and realized there was still something in it....same thing all over. Lost perhaps 2 minutes. Tried to just cruise into the marker, but I was too high. Didn't really look at the map.

3->4 No question - take the road.

4->5 The depression north of 4 surprised me. I expected a hill.

posted by Michael | 8:15 PM


Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Wild turkeys!


One of the reasons O' is the greatest sport in the world is that you get to train and compete out in the forest. Sometimes you see some interesting wildlife. Tonight, I saw a group of wild turkeys.

posted by Michael | 8:12 PM


Tuesday, March 18, 2003

More on running technique


I've been reading about orienteers work on their running technique. It has inspired me to put in some work on my technique and experiment with some training. If it goes well, I'll be able to run more efficiently in the forest. If it doesn't go well...well, it is still an interesting experiment.

The basic way I go about training is to think about my past experiences, read a bit, use some analogies from similar sports or activities, plan some sort of training, and see how it goes.


When I think about my own training experience and O' running technique, I reach a few conclusions...

1. I run best when I'm training in the terrain all the time. When I lived in Stockholm, almost all of my running was in the forest. I felt like I ran well in the woods.

2. Running in the terrain is different from running on the roads, trails or grass. I can feel that my running style changes when I'm running in the terrain.

3. After I tore up my leg almost two years ago, my ability to run in the forest seems to have suffered. Part of it is mental -- I don't feel comfortable running in the woods; I still get scared once in a while.

4. Working on running technique can pay off. In late 2000 and early 2001, I spent some time working on running downhill. Whenever I trained in the woods, I practiced running downhill. I concentrated on what I was doing and tried to get a sense of how fast I could run. I pushed the pace a bit and gradually my downhill running technique improved.


I'll do a google search on running technique and see what I come up with. I've also been reading web pages of top orienteers -- Staff and Valstad, Jimmy Birklin, Pasi Ikonen -- and can probably pick up a tip or two from them.

Elitloparen -- a book by the team doctor for the Swedish team in the late 1980s -- has some info about running technique. For example, they report on a study comparing running in the terrain with running on roads. I'll take another look at the book and see what I can find.


The obvious analogous sport to think about is running. From what I've seen, runners do a few things to improve their technique. They train on a relevant surface. They do some running faster than they race (e.g. 10 km runners doing some fast sprints). They stretch to stay flexible. They do some drills (like skipping, hoping, etc.). They strengthen their muscles -- running hills and lifting weights.

Of course, whenever you use analogies to think about a topic, you've got to ask a few questions: How is running like orienteering? How is running different from orienteering?

The Plan

The plan has to wait until I do some reading and thinking. But, even before I set out my plan, I can think about my goals. The goals are to learn something, to become more comfortable running in the forest (i.e. run without worrying about tearing up my knee) and to become a bit more efficient running in the forest (which ought to translate to running faster).

posted by Michael | 7:19 PM


Monday, March 17, 2003

Another coincidence


The day after I translated Alternativet's article on the JWOC to english, Alternativet announced they've released an english language version of their page. Check it out at:


Alternativet has been one of the better O' pages that I've found. They provide a lot of news (focusing on Sweden) and have discussion forums that can be amusing. Runoway allows people who've run certain events to draw in their routes to share with the world. Looking at routes is a great way to kill some time in front of the computer. Runoway is very slick.

Another english language O' news page is Orienteering Online. OO has a bit broader focus than Alternativet, covering pretty much all of Europe. OO doesn't get updated as much as Alternativet, though.

posted by Michael | 7:48 PM


Sunday, March 16, 2003

Translated JWOC article


The Swedish O' page Alternativet has been running a series on the Junior World Orienteering Champs.

I translated the final article in the series. You can read it here.

Keep in mind that my translation was quick. Any errors are my fault.

Martin Groth wrote the series. He apparently interviewed (via email) a bunch of orienteers who'd competed in JWOCs, wrote up a series of articles and published them over a week or so. Thanks Martin. It made for great reading.

If I get inspired, I might translated some other articles from the series.

posted by Michael | 6:52 PM


Saturday, March 15, 2003



I'm working on a long translation that I thought I'd have finished in time for today's entry. I've got a bit to go. It should be ready tomorrow.

For today, I've got a snapshot from a trip Mary and I took to Portland a year ago. I took the snapshot on a trail jog near Mount St. Helens.

posted by Michael | 8:19 PM


Friday, March 14, 2003

Recoving from a cold


I've been orienteering and training for over 20 years. I feel like I know a lot about how I react to training and how I need to prepare myself physically and mentally. But, I've got no idea how best to recover from a cold.

I've been suffering from a cold for the last week or so. I first noticed some symptoms last Friday. My throat felt a bit dry; not really sore or scratchy though. I ran both Saturday and Sunday. I didn't feel terrible, but I slept a lot on the weekend. I probably shouldn't have run, but I didn't have the self discipline to rest. I ended up taking all week off from training and one day off from work. I went through the week on "wal-phed" (Walmart's brand of psuedoephedrine) and some sort of wal-nite-gel-caps (a mix of various symptom relievers).*

I feel decent today. But, this is when the uncertainty comes in...

How can I be sure I'm resting enough, but not more than necessary? How can I tell if I'm ready to resume training?

I don't have a good feel for how to answer those questions.

* I expect that taking this sort of stuff at a race would be doping.

posted by Michael | 7:13 PM


Thursday, March 13, 2003

How Elisabeth Ingvaldsen trains


Elisabeth Ingvaldsen is a top Norwegian orienteer. While I was searching for info on Kjell Puck yesterday, I bumped into some info on her training in 1997. The article is from a seminar for O' trainers. You can see the original Norwegian article here. My rough translation follows:

In 1997, Elisabeth Ingvaldsen had 110 training sessions on maps. 43 of them were races, 67 were O' technique training session....She doesn't do high intensity sessions without controls. She wants to make sure she has orienteered correctly. She does a lot of O' technique training in the spring, much of it is easy runs of 90 minutes on her own. O' technique sessions are a good way to do physical training in the terrain. You have to be able to concentrate for more than 30 minutes in a race. She does less technique training during the competition season, mostly as a way of saving her legs.

In response to a question, she said, "if you get tired of doing O' technique, you've got a problem -- orienteering is what we're doing."

...She plans her training 4-8 weeks in advance. She evaluates what went well/poorly in her last races and tries to understand how to prepare. She pays special attention to that during training. Control picking, line orienteering, etc., isn't' so important. The most important thing is what is going on in your head.

Egil Johansen -- a world champ and former coach of the Norwegian national team -- pointed out that we don't know much about the effect of O' technique training.

And a really ugly car...

On the way to work today, I passed a Honda Element -- a really ugly car.

posted by Michael | 6:51 PM


Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Some thoughts on why Halden SK is so good


Halden SK has been one of the absolute best -- if not the best -- O' clubs in recent years. Why are they so good?

I came across a Norwegian orienteer who tried to answer the question. If you can read Norwegian, take a look at the original article here.

I read, but didn't translate, the article. Here are a few of the factors that might explain why Halden SK is so good...

The orienteers train a lot. One of them supposedly did 750 hours last year. Another put in 80 hours in January.

The club has a lot of group training. Here is a typical week schedule:

Monday: Indoor training -- strength, explosive strength and ball games.
Tuesday: Interval training.
Wednesday: Long run including O' technique in the morning. Aerobics in the evening.
Thursday: Training from the club house -- often O' technique with a sauna and snack afterwards.
Weekends: O' technique training and long runs.

Another important factor in Halden's success is a guy named Kjell Puck. He's apparently a leader in the club who helps out with everything.

The article actually talks about a few other reasons for Halden's success, but the ones I wrote about above seem, to me, to be especially important: orienteers who train a lot, a lot of organized training (with plenty of variety and technique training), and a supportive leader.

posted by Michael | 7:05 PM


Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Some comments on the U.S. cross-country skiing success


The U.S. had decent results at the recent world champs. I don't have the results on hand, but I know an American was 5th in the 50 Km race and another was 4th in another race (the same guy won the opening leg of the relay).

I came across an interview with a U.S. ski team coach who made some interesting observations about the success. He explained the success:

Training hard for years.
Creating a "true team" and a "ski culture."
Catching doped skiers is part of the story.

The entire article, which is definitely worth a read, is here.

Lessons for Orienteering?

There are probably some lessons for orienteers to learn from the success of the U.S. skiers. Certainly, there is no substitute for consistent good training (combined with some talent). With some work, the U.S. team could probably develop into a "true team" and a bit of an "O' culture." While I'm sure there is doping in orienteering, I don't think doping is prevalent or has much effect on orienteering. So, as far as doping goes, orienteering is probably well ahead of skiing.

posted by Michael | 7:41 PM


Monday, March 10, 2003

Elite orienteers and their professions


I came across a list of jobs held by Swedish National Team orienteers. Lots of them are engineers. Lots of them are students. Very few of them work full-time (keep in mind that even full-time in Sweden means a lot more time off than most of us in the U.S.).

Teacher, 50 percent.
Planner/architect, 50 percent.
Civil engineer, 80 percent.
Construction engineer, 50 percent.
Physical therapy student.
Physical therapy student.
Substitute teacher.
Chemical engineering student.
Civil engineer, 75 percent.
Surveying engineer, 50 percent.
Writer/editor, 90 percent.
Transport developer (?), 75 percent.
Engineering student.
Quality engineer, full-time.
Teacher, full-time.
Physical planning (?) student.
Professional orienteer, full-time.
Education student, 50 percent.
Electrical engineer, 50 percent.
Middle school teacher, 80 percent.
IT coordinator, 80 percent.
Physical therapist, 75 percent.
Teacher, 80 percent.
Middle school teacher, 50 percent.
Civil engineering student.
IT engineering student, 50 percent.
IT engineer, 60 percent.

posted by Michael | 9:18 PM


Sunday, March 09, 2003

Today's local event (and Trot preview)


I ran a course at Weston Bend today.

Check out the map with my routes.

A few comments about today's race:

I've got a light cold and running didn't go very well. I felt slow. I kept reminding myself that good races don't feel good, so I shouldn't worry too much about feeling lousy. But, feeling lousy during a good race is a whole lot better than feeling lousy when you're going slow. I guess a few days of rest or very light training are called for.

Something was up with the first control. The map seemed a bit strange in the area. I'm not sure the marker is in the right spot (but I'm not sure it is in the wrong spot either).

I was most disappointed in how I ran 10-11. I let the hill pull me too far to the right. It would have been better to stick closer to the line, passing through the two small open areas. My route didn't cost much time. But, I left ten without a good sense of where to go. I let the terrain pick my route rather than make a decision.

The soil at Weston Bend is a bit unusual. I think it is loess. For an orienteer, loess makes for fairly steep hills and some deep, but narrow, gullies. Especially in the spring, the ground gets slippery. What seems to happen is that the top several inches of soil get frozen. The frozen soil can be hard and slippery. When the temperature gets above freezing (or on a sunny day), the top 1/4 inch or so turns to mud while the soil underneath remains ice hard. The result is some very slippery footing. Climbing steep hills or climbing out of creek beds can be tough.

At today's finish, Mike Shifman announced that the 2003 Possum Trot will be at Weston Bend. So, if you're reading this and want to do well at the Trot, take a look at the map and plan to do some hill training.

posted by Michael | 8:52 PM


Saturday, March 08, 2003

Baseball and O'?


Today I read about half of Ted William's The Science of Hitting. I like baseball, but I'm not a huge fan. Still, the book is quite interesting because William's was so good at hitting and spent a lot of time trying to understand why.

One thing that stands out is that Williams spent an enormous amount of time thinking about hitting and trying to learn. He learned by asking good hitters for advice, watching good hitters, testing conventional wisdom, experimenting with different techniques, trying to understand the logic of what he was doing. He tested out analogies (e.g. he compares hitting a baseball to golf and even fishing). He never really stopped trying to learn, understand and improve.

Williams was a hitting fanatic. There is something to learn from his example.

posted by Michael | 7:16 PM


Friday, March 07, 2003

O' running technique


At a training camp I heard Bob Kaill talk about training for running in the forest. Kaill is a Canadian who is an O' trainer in Sweden. He was the head trainer at the O'Ringen Clinic in 1986. In addition to coaching Swedish orienteers, I think Kaill worked with several of the top Canadians.

Kaill felt an orienteer could learn to run through the woods by training to step over obstacles (as opposed to jump over them). He suggested training by setting up a technique loop with lots of stuff to step over. The course could be a short loop with low obstacles and you could set it up anywhere. It doesn't have to be in the forest. You run the course and practice stepping, rather than jumping, over the obstacles. Jumping takes a lot of energy and changes your momentum. Kaill was able to demonstrate how you could get over a fairly high obstacle while keeping your hips fairly level.

I don't remember many of the details of Kaill's lecture (it was in 1986). But, I can picture him demonstrating how you could step over an obstacle without jumping.

posted by Michael | 9:09 PM


Thursday, March 06, 2003



At the training camp in Arizona, Mook spent a bunch of time playing the O' game "Catching Features."

I'm a big fan of the game. I've played the test version. The final release won't be for a while (Biggins anticipates a release in April/May). The released version will include a random maps and courses and might have the ability to import OCAD maps.

Here is a bit of what Mook had to say after playing CF for a while....

Recently I've started to play the computer game Catching Features (hereafter CF), which simulates orienteering. It is fun, even in its test phase. It can be quite hard too and I'm sure it will be a while before I feel comfortable knowing which controls to use to get it to do what I want (much less orienteer consistently). Certainly real orienteering is quite different, but there may be some skills you can pick up playing CF that will help. Perhaps the best thing it does is force you to concentrate. If you can't get out on a map, you might think of a training session where you run repetitive (hard) laps on a track, followed by a leg on CF. You'd probably want one of those plastic covers to go over your keyboard if you did that!

I'm not sure how to make CF more helpful for o' training. One of the things that is just a bit too easy is running in a straight line, which in terrain takes more thought than it does on CF. I don't know how to make running straight more difficult without making it artificially hard. Perhaps if the trees grew even closer together it would force the runner to weave back and forth more, and that would make running straight more of a challenge.

If I were to choose, here are some additions/changes I might like for CF:

1. Add different vegetation types, like fights, areas of slow run and high visibility, deadfall, etc.
2. Add some "inclement" weather conditions.
3. Have the trails be clear of trees and faster running than the surrounding woods (I'm not sure that they are).
4. Get the bottom of the OK suit to match the real thing.
5. Have a utility that allows people to create different types of terrain and vegetation and create their own courses on them.
6. Add a greater variety of animal life, perhaps to include some dangerous animals.
7. Calculate some statistical measures of performance (other than time) and report them to the runner.

posted by Michael | 8:42 PM


Wednesday, March 05, 2003

A few words from Norwegians in Italy


The Norwegian National Team just returned from a training camp in Italy. I know that because four of the top Norwegian runners have their own web pages where they have written up the camps. It is quite cool to be able to find out what top elite orienteers are up to, and what they have to say about training.

Here are a few words from each of the reports from the training camp in Italy (some of the translation is a bit rough)...

From Bjornar Vlastad and Hanna Staff:

...we've got a [new] trainer with a lot of knowledge about running and running technique. Mostly, we are making small, individual changes in training plans and we are doing more special exercises than before. The idea is to increase our running speed and to develop "energy saving" running style so we are able to get more out of the base condition that we've developed through tough training for several years. It is something that I think will give good results in the future.

The new Norwegian trainer is Anders Garderud. Garderud is best known for winning the Olympic Gold in the steeplechase in 1976. He's also a decent orienteer.

It would be interesting to know a bit more about the running technique training the Norwegians are doing. I think running technique -- the technique for running in the terrain -- is an area that orienteers learned much about. That suggests it might be an area where you could gain time over your competitors. What sort of exercises are they doing? Do the exercises work?

From Tore Sandvik:

Probably the most exciting day of the camp was a trip to Matera and Alberobello....The course in Matera is clearly the toughest sprint race in a built up area that I have ever run. It was incredibly fun. If you haven't seen the map before, take a look.

Matera goes on my list of places I want to visit for orienteering. A trip to Italy might just be in order. I wonder if I could combine a visit to Venice, Matera and the 2004 veterans' champs?

Finally, from Jorgen Rostrup:

The afternoon session....we ran 10,000 meters on a track; we were supposed to run 200 meters in 35 seconds, then 200 in 45 seconds, and so on. Without much experience running on a track, my legs were totally wasted after 8 laps. It took four days of easy training and massage before my legs felt normal again.

posted by Michael | 8:40 PM


Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Sking and strategy and coaching and orienteering....


The color commentator for the Eurosport coverage of the men's 4x10 Km relay at the x-country ski world champs was interesting (thanks largely to some interesting questions from the other commentator). Magnar Dalen provided the color. He was the Swedish national coach at last year's Olympics. During the relay race this year, the other commentator, whose name I didn't catch, asked Dalen a bunch of questions about strategy for the race.

One question was about the extent to which the coaches told the skiers what to do. Dalen said that different countries have different approaches. The Swedes and Norwegians generally let the athletes decide how they'll ski their leg. The Germans and the Russians are given explicit direction from their coaches. If a German skier is in the middle of the pack 4 km into the event, it is probably because the coaches told the skier to be in the middle of the pack at that point.

In orienteering I suspect that strategies for a race are usually left up to the runner. But, I wonder if it might be better -- at least for some orienteers -- if coaches talked through race strategies with the orienteers before a race.

Talking through race strategies might make a lot of sense for orienteers from the U.S. who are likely to have relatively little experience. On the other hand, the U.S. national team coaches haven't typically been very close to the orienteers on the team. Having someone give you advice, even just talking through strategy, who you don't feel comfortable with is probably just a waste of time.

posted by Michael | 7:34 PM


Monday, March 03, 2003



A lot of athletes make changes to add motivation. Or maybe they make changes for other reasons and then just view the changes as ways to improve.

I read a newspaper article today about a Danish National Team member, Thomas Jensen, who has just changed clubs. Here is what he said:

I like to run short distance races. That's where I've had the most success. I felt like a change of clubs would give me some new motivation, and that has helped me train extra...

And for something completely different...

This may be old news, but it is fresh news to me...Will Smith from the Canadian National Team just got married to Katrina Allberg from the Swedish National Team. Congratulations.

posted by Michael | 8:09 PM


Sunday, March 02, 2003

A classic Kansas O' problem


I witnessed a classic Kansas boom today.

16 to 17 is a straightforward leg. From 16, you drop a line or two, then follow the contour to the small reentrant. The blue dotted line shows the route. There are two lines close together that form a handrail that you can follow to the control.

What makes orienteering in Kansas tough is the forest. The forest is fairly thick and, in some places there are plenty of thorns. It is hard to run a straight line. It is easy to drift off your planned route. The differences between shades of green on the map can be subtle. In a white section of forest, you can come across some thick areas. In a green section of forest you can sometimes weave your way through and keep a good pace. In any forest you can be suddenly stopped by thorns.

The red dotted route shows a typical Kansas boom. Where the blue dots split from the red dots the woods got a bit thick. As you ran this leg, it was easier to follow the red dotted line from the point where the two lines split. There was a bit of an indistinct deer trail that went off to the right. It was tempting to follow. At the point where the lines split, you had to work to stay on the blue dots because there was a downed tree (and maybe some thorns) you had to get through.

Soon after you got on the red dotted line, the woods got a bit thick and the visibility went down. It slowed you down.

I shadowed Gene on this leg and he followed the red dots. I suspect he boomed because of the classic Kansas problem. He let the thickness of the forest push him off his planned route. It probably didn't help to have someone watching him (what Fritz calls the "EF" -- the embarrassment factor). Fortunately, Gene recovered quickly and the boom didn't cost much time.

posted by Michael | 7:51 PM


Saturday, March 01, 2003

worn out...day off


I woke up this morning and felt worn out. I'm not sure why. I haven't done much training the last few days. Work hasn't been unusually stressful. Maybe I'm suffering from several weeks of trouble sleeping (my ribs hurt when I'm in bed, so I wake up every hour or so).

My plan was to do a decent run today (probably 90 minutes at Wyandotte with a good 30 of it technique training) plus 30+ minutes on the trainer while watching KU basketball.

I didn't follow my plan. I didn't do anything physical. Aside from shuffling out the back door to re-fill the birdfeeder, I didn't even go outside. I took two naps. I read a bit of a book.

I also spent some time watching videos from the x-country skiing world champs. Two US skiers, Carl Swenson and Kris Freeman, did really well. It is fun -- inspiring -- to watch ski races. Skiing has got to be one of the best of the suffering sports. If you've got a broadband connection, download some of the videos here. I'd recommend the men's relay.

Now for something completely different....

I discovered a toy for making audio entries on this page. If it works correctly, you should be able to click on the button below and hear a short message.


WIDTH="200" HEIGHT="45" id="blogview" ALIGN="">

quality=high bgcolor=#FFFFFF WIDTH="200" HEIGHT="45"

NAME="blogview" ALIGN="" TYPE="application/x-shockwave-flash"


posted by Michael | 6:56 PM


March 2002April 2002May 2002June 2002July 2002August 2002September 2002October 2002November 2002December 2002January 2003February 2003March 2003April 2003May 2003June 2003July 2003August 2003September 2003October 2003November 2003December 2003January 2004February 2004March 2004April 2004May 2004June 2004July 2004August 2004September 2004October 2004November 2004December 2004January 2005February 2005March 2005April 2005May 2005June 2005July 2005August 2005September 2005October 2005November 2005December 2005January 2006February 2006March 2006April 2006May 2006June 2006July 2006August 2006September 2006October 2006November 2006December 2006January 2007February 2007March 2007April 2007May 2007June 2007July 2007August 2007September 2007October 2007November 2007December 2007January 2008February 2008March 2008April 2008May 2008June 2008July 2008August 2008September 2008October 2008November 2008December 2008January 2009February 2009March 2009April 2009May 2009June 2009July 2009August 2009September 2009October 2009November 2009December 2009January 2010February 2010March 2010April 2010May 2010June 2010July 2010August 2010September 2010October 2010November 2010December 2010January 2011February 2011March 2011April 2011May 2011June 2011July 2011August 2011September 2011October 2011November 2011December 2011January 2012February 2012March 2012April 2012May 2012June 2012July 2012August 2012September 2012October 2012November 2012December 2012January 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013July 2013September 2013