Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

An interesting toy


Take a look at Garmin's latest toy, the Forerunner 2001.

The Forerunner is a big watch/small GPS that is being marketed as a training tool. I can't imagine it'd make you a better runner or orienteer. But, toys can be fun to play with. And having fun can make you a better runner or orienteer.

One of the features is a "virtual training partner." Apparently you program the watch with goals (pace and distance, I guess) and then it tracks your progress. The watch displays a little stick figure and how close you are to your virtual training partner. Weird. But, maybe kinda cool in a strange sort of way.

posted by Michael | 1:14 PM


Monday, September 29, 2003

Nearly perfect


I've had a couple of races that were nearly perfect. One of those races was in 1991 at Leksand, Sweden.

Here is the first leg.

Even 12+ years after the race, I have some strong memories of it. Among the strongest memories are feeling a bit unsure on the way to the first control and being really mad on the run-in from the last control. On the way to the first control I felt a bit unsure. I took a quick stop to read the map and to remind myself that I needed to be sharp and really pay attention to what I was doing. When I punched at the last control a spectator yelled at me, "Lidingo haengloeparen" (roughly, "a runner from Lidingo who follows"). Well, I hadn't followed. I'd caught a guy who'd started a few minutes before me right at the last control. That guy, who ran for another club, would normally beat me. The spectator figured I'd followed him around the course. That pissed me off. I ran the run-in hard.

My race was good, but not good enough to win. I was 2nd, which is good. But, I was 1:30 behind. I wasn't really close to winning.

I used to look at this map a few times a year to remind myself of my mindset when I was orienteering well. I guess that's another use of map study -- putting yourself in the proper mindset. I've got several maps of really good races that I like to look at now and then. All of them are races where I ran close to perfect. But, I've never had a perfect race. Not yet.

I came across this map when I pulled out a notebook of maps as part of my map study experiment.

The entire course is here.

posted by Michael | 8:08 PM


Sunday, September 28, 2003

Studying maps


How much time do orienteers spend studying orienteering maps?

I have no idea.

I know a lot about how top orienteers train physically. I know a bit less -- but still a lot -- about how they train technique.

But, I don't have any idea how much top orienteers (or any orienteers for that matter) spend looking at O' maps.

When we were running today, I asked Snorkel if he spent much time reading maps when he was most serious about orienteering. He said, "of course." But he wasn't sure how much time he was devoting to it.

My experience

When I've been most serious about orienteering, I'd spend about 20 minutes a day looking at O' maps. Recently, I've been spending much less. I still look at maps, but I don't make time every day to look at maps.

I think looking at maps helped me. It seemed like I could get the information from the map with a very short glance. That made it a lot easier to read the map on the run.

An experiment

I'm going to spend 30 minutes looking at O' maps every day between now and the Great Lakes O' Festival (October 11-13). I'll see if I think it helps.

A question for readers

You can use the comment function to answer:

1. How much time do you spend just sitting and looking at O' maps?
2. How much time do you think top elite orienteers spend sitting and looking at O' maps?

posted by Michael | 6:08 PM


Saturday, September 27, 2003

First day at the U.S. Champs


Tom sent me an email with some comments about the U.S. Champs. Today I'll write a bit about the legs Tom mentioned.

Take a look at the first two legs.

Before the U.S. Champs I hadn't really done any O' technique training since early June. The terrain at the model event didn't really prepare you for these two legs (though looking around the start area made it pretty clear that this sort of leg was possible).

When I looked at the map I knew I'd have to go slow and easy. The first leg was difficult and even with a magnifier the map was hard for me to read.

The first control wasn't as difficult as it looked at first glance. The hill gets much steeper just left of the line. You could easily see where it got steep and could use that as a handrail. I took it slowly anyway (keep in mind the alitude was about 6200 feet). The fifth control was a water stop and I spotted the cups and water which gave me a good attack point.

I think the second leg is a lot more difficult. You don't have a handrail. I don't see any good attack points. A distinct reentrant sits a bit uphill from the control, but I wasn't confident about the contours after the model event. People who had more confidence in the map, used the reentrant without any trouble.

Not seeing any particularly good approach I just headed in the right direction.

If I'd been in better O' form, I'd have had no trouble. Just contour and drop a couple of lines, checking off a couple of point features. That would have worked. But, I hadn't orienteered in months. So, I felt unsure.

As soon as I felt unsure, my pre-race plan kicked in. Before the race I'd decided that if I started hesitating and feeling unsure, I'd bail out to a clear point and attack the control. I didn't want to spend time wandering aimlessly or just standing around. I dropped down the hill so I could see what was going on in the field across the road. That gave me a clear location and I could attack the control.

In retrospect, if I'd have kept going the direction I was going I'd have hit the control. As it was, I lost some time. Actually, I lost a lot of time. Looking at splits, I lost 3 minutes. That's a lot.

I wish I knew how much of that 3 minutes was standing still. I'm sure I stood still once or twice before deciding to head down toward the clearing. I'm sure I stood still as I confirmed my location. I might have stood still as I approached the control. I'd guess at least 2 minutes of the time I lost was standing still.

I lost time, but it wasn't a stressful way to lose time. Since I'd thought about what I'd do when I felt unsure and did what I planned, it didn't feel like a bad leg. Of course, I lost time -- and I knew I lost time -- but I didn't get mad at myself or lose concentration.

Take a look at leg 11 below.

Before getting to the leg, the 10th control is where some people lost a lot of time. The control was hidden behind a low boulder in a bunch of brush. As I came up the hill to 10, I came into the middle of the circle and didn't see the flag. I stopped and looked at my map. I couldn't figure out how I could be in the middle of the circle and not see the control. I also couldn't figure out where I could be if I wasn't in the circle. I took a few steps forward and saw the flag. (Mary had just found the control before I reached it. She stopped and watched me. She told me that I was within 15 feet of the flag but couldn't see it.)

On to the 11th leg...

I contoured. I figured I'd be able to see where the hill began bending to the left (which would stop me from going too far). I also figured there was a chance I'd see the rock features a line or two below the control.

The challenge on this leg was to keep going. The forest was crap.

How much would you lose by running back down the hill, running the trail, then walking up the hill to 11?

Take a look at the 14th leg.

I saw two options -- go straight or run trails to the right. For me the choice was easy. Straight is a bit shorter, but you'd have to pay more attention. Paying attention slows me down, especially near the end of the race.

I think James Baker went straight. James was running a bit faster than me. He was five seconds slower than me on the leg. So, I think it is fair to say the two routes are essentially equal. If two routes are equal it is always better to run the trail route.

You can see my entire map here.

posted by Michael | 5:50 PM


What were they thinking?


Maybe 99 percent of what I write has something to do with orienteering. But, sometimes I find something so strange that I've just got to write a few words about it.*

My hometown, Lawrence, is a wonderful place. But, you've got to wonder.

Highschool administrators at one of the schools are concerned about how students dance. They've created a video to illustrate acceptable and unacceptable dancing. Take a look at the video here.

My first reaction was, "I'm sure glad it this didn't happen at the school I went to, Lawrence High, home of the Chesty Lions."

My next reaction was, "what were they thinking?"

* I'll probably write a bit about orienteering later today...

posted by Michael | 8:01 AM


Friday, September 26, 2003

A few notes


From Nascar.com

I'm always interested in learning about how people practice their sports away from the playing field. Here is a bit from an article about Dale Earnhardt, Jr.:

"I'm sure his dad was the best guy at Daytona and Talladega as far as working the draft," said veteran Todd Parrott, crew chief for Elliott Sadler. "I've know Dale Jr. as long as he's been racing, and I know he's sat and watched in-car camera tapes and did a lot of studying on what his dad did and how he worked the draft. I'm sure his dad talked to him a lot about the draft.

I guess a driver watching video is a bit like an orienteer studying a map.

From Kondis.no

Meanwhile, an article from Norway reports that cross-country skiers drink the least alcohol of Norwegian athletes (the study included 4000+ athletes in 20 sports). In general, endurance athletes drank less than non-endurance athletes.

I wonder why they did the study?

From mapsurfer.com

Randy has been writing about quality of events on his o-log (take a look at his September 25 and 26 entries).

Today, Randy points out that the "USOF quality control process is dysfunctional."

I wrote something a few months ago about quality control for orienteering based on an auditing model. I think it might be relevant for the discussions about quality of events in the U.S. You can read it here.

posted by Michael | 1:06 PM


Thursday, September 25, 2003

Quality of events


Attackpoint has had a lively discussion about the quality of the recent U.S. Champs. You can check out the discussion here.

I have just a couple of thoughts about event quality. Well, actually I've got a lot of thoughts, but I'm only going to write a couple of them tonight.

I don't think we'd be having a discussion about the quality of the U.S. Champs if one small thing had been different -- if the control markers had been hung a foot or two higher.

A lot of people seem to think that the way to make orienteering difficult is to hang the flags low and a bit hidden. I think that is ridiculous. But judging by how many times I run events with the flags hidden, a lot of people think flags should be hidden.

I have a theory about event quality. When clubs get stretched, when too few people do too much of the organizing work, problems are more likely (I don't have any hard evidence to support my theory). It strikes me that some clubs view organizing A-meets as a chance for their members to run an A-meet without having to travel. When that happens, the host club has relatively few members doing the pre-event fieldwork (checking control locations, test running the courses, hanging markers, etc.).

I also suspect that clubs are more likely to put on high quality events when they view organizing an A-meet as a chance to show people from around the country how well they can organize an event. When that happens, the club expects most of its members to help. The club has lots of labor available for the pre-event fieldwork.

I don't know how many BAOC people did pre-event fieldwork. But, I know there are about 330 people in the results list and almost 100 of them are BAOC members. Maybe BAOC should have had fewer members competing and more doing pre-event fieldwork.

The last two U.S. Championship events have both had some serious problems. The City of Trees O' Club used a very bad map for the relay champs. The recent U.S. individual champs had some serious problems with hanging controls (the map was a bit sketchy, too). I had mixed results -- a disaster at the relays and a M35 win at the individual champs. But, I've been disappointed by the quality of both events.

posted by Michael | 8:21 PM


Wednesday, September 24, 2003



One of the clubs I ran for in Sweden had "contracts" with runners in the training groups. As a runner, you made some commitments to train and compete, and the club made some commitments to support your efforts. I don't remember all the details (it was more than ten years ago), but I remember it seemed like a good idea.

Poking around on the internet, I bumped into another "contract" for a Swedish club. It still seems like a good idea. In this case, the contract is the same for all of the members of the club's "relay project." The contract is set up around goals, expectations for the runners, expectations for the club and expectations for people who want to help out.

The goals cover several years (2003-2005). The top goal is to win Jukola or Tio Mila. But, they've also set lower level goals for 2003 -- goals that it is realistic but challenging to meet and goals that they really ought to meet unless something goes wrong.

Next, the contract includes partial goals for 2003 for each individual runner. Each runner will try to improve compared to last year, become a more sure orienteer, run the club's test loop under a specific time and do what it takes for the club to reach the realistic goals for 2003.

The contract sets out some specific expectations for the runners. For example, each individual is expected to turn in a training plan, make certain training sessions priorities and help arrange training sessions and camps.

The club also makes some commitments to the runners. For example, the club will arrange relevant training and provide subsidies for training camps.

The last section of the contract is for people who aren't committing to the entire project, but want to help out and support the effort. These people can commit to helping with training sessions, be team leaders are relays, etc.

I think this sort of thing -- making a formal agreement about goals and efforts -- can help an organization perform well. Everyone gets on the same page and can feel that others are, or at least should be, committed to the same goal. For a club with a lot of new blood, I'd think a "contract" like this would help set the tone and keep some continuity.

I checked some results to see how well the club did compared to the goals for 2003. They met the realistic goal for Tio Mila but missed the "ought to meet" goals for the Swedish relay champs and Jukola. They missed the realistic goals for Stigtomta relay, but the second team met the "out to meet" goal for Stigtomta relay.

Overall, they've got to be disappointed with the 2003 results. Maybe they set their sights too high.

I wonder how common this sort of "contract" is?

posted by Michael | 1:17 PM


Tuesday, September 23, 2003

More on model events


Here are a few comments on the U.S. Champs model events that I found on the web:

...the merest hint of what was to come since this must have been the area of the map with just about the densest trail network...should have clued me in on how much trouble I'd late have deciding which dead tree/fallen tree/boulder I happened to be contemplating...

...Things matched-up pretty well most of the time giving me confidence although attack points were very close to trails mostly.

Pretty nasty -- a good indicator of things to come!

...Had some trouble with a pit and wanted to figure it out before the races. had some issues with the map & terrain...But, a lovely day.

Mostly just spent my time trying to figure out little green x's and o's.

...And the mapping of the knolls, pits, & tree features seemed pretty random as to what would and would not make the map...but if you figure that out on the model event, it's still usable.

I think I could also whine about the misleading winning time/misleading model.

As I wrote before, I think I got a lot out of the model event. Spending some time on the model made a big difference in my race.

Or did it? Maybe I think the model helped because I had a decent result (winning was more than I really deserved given how I ran).

For most of us, what we think about an event -- the course setting and mapping -- tends to be influenced by how well we did. If you win, you think the map had some problems, but you could figure them out. If you have a bad day, the same course setting and mapping were bad. I guess it is just human nature.

posted by Michael | 7:51 PM


Monday, September 22, 2003

A few tidbits of Ivarsson's thoughts


Here are a few bits of the articles Johan Ivarsson wrote.

Among the things Johan would have done differently if he could do it all over again:

As a junior and young senior I would have, together with someone else, made a looooong-term plan for training. The plan would have gone at least five years....

When I decided where to study, I'd have paid more attention to the orienteering possibilities of the town I studied in....

...I would have learned more by listening to older, more experienced orienteers....

I would have found one or more of the best orienteers at the top level, seen how they trained, tried to learn how they thought....

As a junior and young senior my results went up and down like a yo-yo. I often ran fast...but I had a hard time steering both technical and physical form. After about a year away from competition, I finally understood what was important for me as an orienteer -- to orienteer right! I needed to take the time in the forest to avoid mistakes. If only I'd known that as a younger junior instead of as an old guy...

After he won the Swedish classic champs in 2000, Johan noted:

This year I haven't tried to do anything at the international level and I've reduced my training significantly. During the winter and through June, my training volume was about half of what it had been earlier. But here is the important thing, my training wasn't half as good. I trained with a higher quality than last year; more running in the forest and running faster. What has been worse is that I haven't done as much orienteering technique training. During April and July-august my training was better and was aimed at 10-Mila and the Swedish champs. Something Kurt Svensson said after having gone over my season for 1999, was that I should race more before important events. That is why I competed every weekend in April and August. I won the Swedish 5-days in August, even if it wasn't against the top competition, I knew I was on track.

Describing the end of his race when he won, he wrote:

I was very careful on the last controls. I didn't miss anything, but I lost a little time. Some might call me passive, but I didn't dare take the risks when I was so near the end. This passivity cost me the year before when I was beat by 3 seconds at the Swedish champs classic race....

In his article about Bjornar Valstad, Johan wrote:

The area I think he [Bjornar] has developed the most in the last few years, and where he's gained an advantage over the competition, is in his ability to turn any situation to his own advantage.

I found Ivarsson's stuff thoughtful. He has spent a lot of time orienteering (very successfully) and has spent a lot of time thinking about orienteering.

posted by Michael | 1:01 PM


Sunday, September 21, 2003



I spent some time this morning drinking a good cup of coffee and reading some of the articles Johan Ivarsson wrote. The idea was to write a bit about Ivarsson's thoughts.

Then I bumped into a Swedish web page full of short video clips of orienteers in the forest. If you've been reading this page for a long time, you might remember that I'm interested in watching orienteers in the forest. So, instead of Ivarsson's thoughts, I'll write a bit about "VideoPunch."

What is VideoPunch?

VideoPunch is a very simple and cheap system for capturing video clips of orienteers punching in the forest. Basically it involves putting a lap top with a web cam out in the forest, then synchronizing the video clips with data from electronic punching. You end up with a result list that has links to short video clips of the runners punching at a specific control.

I'm not sure it is useful, but it is kind of cool.

Check out the VideoPunch results from this weekend's Swedish short champs.

Click on Mattias Karlsson (IK Hakarpspojkarna) to see a World Champ making a tiny boom. Joergen Olsson (Pan Kristianstad) seems to be reading his clue sheet just before he punches. Peter Jacobsson (OK Ravinen), with his feet flaring out and his knees knocking, must have the oddest running style for an elite athlete. Elin Dahlsted (Leksands OK) booms a couple of seconds. My former clubmate Tina Junegard (OK Ravinen) is just a step or two behind Emma Engstrand. But, Tina isn't just hanging Engstrand, you can see that she's checking her map on the way out. For a contrast, watch the guy who is following Hakan Ohlund (IK Hakarpspojkarna). Ohlund's shadow doesn't even glance at the map.

More info about the system is at VideoPunch.

posted by Michael | 7:29 PM


Saturday, September 20, 2003

Johan Ivarsson


At the age of 36, Johan Ivarsson won the Swedish middle distance champs today. He's won 15 Swedish championships. That's a lot.

He's also written a bunch of articles about orienteering (some of them are available at Staff-valstad.com).

I'll have to take a careful look at those articles and see what he's got to say.

More on my computer crash

We've managed to recover from our computer crash. We recovered most of our data. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of old email and some email addresses. If you wrote me within the last month or so and I never responded, I've probably just lost your address. Sorry.

posted by Michael | 8:19 PM


Friday, September 19, 2003



I ran with Dan and Nadim last night. I struggled, really struggled, to keep up with them. Both are older than me. Both are probably better "natural" athletes than me. But, I really ought to be able to keep up with them. Last weekend I struggled to keep up with James Baker (a competitor since we were both juniors).

My problem is motivation. I haven't been motivated to train. I feel like motivation is coming back...it might be just around the corner... So, here are a few quick thoughts about motivation:

Compared to just a couple of weeks ago, I think I'm closer to being motivated. Check out my post from August 28.

As I think about when I've been most motivated, a couple of things have been in place. First, I've usually got a mid-term (say 1-2 year) goal. Second, I've usually been doing a lot of orienteering (both technique training and racing). Third, I've had some reliable training partners; people I can get together to train with. Fourth, I've had some outside advice/feedback.

Right now I'm looking for a mid-term goal -- the 2005 vet's champs in Canada and the 2004 U.S. relay champs seem like good possibilities. I expect to be doing plenty of orienteering during the winter. I can -- I think -- count on Dan to be a reliable training partner. I don't have any systematic outside advice/feedback. Maybe I'll look in to setting something up.

I read an interview with the skier Vegard Ulvang where he talked about motivation for masters skiers. He said, "DonÂ’t let it be too serious, training and competition is supposed to be fun." I guess that seemsobivouss, but it is sometimes good to be reminded that the whole point of doing something like orienteering is to have fun. If it isn't fun, why do it?

Looking back at my list of what's been in common when I've been motivated, I'll add a couple more. Fifth, I've often made a change in my training (maybe training more volume, or less volume but more intensity, or less running but more orienteering, or less running but more biking).

After yesterday's run (and after watching James Baker pull away from me in the forest last weekend), I feel like I'm a step closer to being motivated. I'm not yet there, but I'm close....

posted by Michael | 12:50 PM


Thursday, September 18, 2003

Counting controls


A few years ago I started counting controls. I kept track of how many controls I found during races and training during the O' season.

I was inspired to count controls when I'd heard that Bjornar Valstad had found some enormous number of controls (sorry, I don't remember the number) while preparing for the World Champs in Scotland.

When I got hurt two years ago, I stopped counting controls. I've started again. So far I'm up to 38 for the season.

I like counting controls as a measure of training. The number of controls you find is a good measure of how much O' training you do. I've also noticed some patterns -- my orienteering improves after I've found a certain number of controls over a period of about a month.

A book I'm reading notes that the mathematician/astronomy Karl Friedrich Gauss thought that whenever possible one should count. Apparently Guass counted everything he could. If Gauss had been an orienteer, he'd have counted controls. I wonder what else he would have counted...

posted by Michael | 1:05 PM


Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Model events


Randy wrote about the U.S. Champs and wrote a few words about the model event (See his September 16th entry). It got me thinking about model events. So, here are a few thoughts.

I got something useful from the model event at the U.S. Champs. After the model, I jotted a few notes to myself. Here is the gist of what I noted:

The forest is rough -- lots of dead stuff to get over -- it is hard to keep a straight line and tiring to run in the forest. Look for routes to save energy.

The green point features (green X's and O's) are nearly impossible for me to see on the run. If I stop and really look, I can see the features, but I don't notice them as I run by. Don't rely on them for navigation.

The contours are a bit rough. Relocating by the contours won't be easy.

You can't see very far in the forest. You can't count on navigating by features that are a ways away. You can't relocate easily.

I feel the altitude. Going up hills is difficult. Be careful to avoid going too hard up the hills.

Reading the 1:15,000 model was hard. I use a magnifier when I orienteer, so I was ready for a hard to see map. I talked with Eric Weyman at the model and he was struggling with being able to see the map (probably a combination of scale, printing and old eyes). I showed him my magnifier. Eric said he wouldn't want to try something new. I guess that's ok. But, I'd rather try something new than struggle with a hard to see map.

When I'm at model events I try to remind myself that the model will always be different from the event. Across any map you'll get different types of terrain (the U.S. Champs maps had several different types of terrain on the same map), the model will never capture all of the differences.

Model events are a good chance to chat with people; pick their brains to get some ideas. I spent some time listening to Mary and Dan talk about the terrain. I also got a few thoughts from Eric Weyman. I suppose you have to be careful about what people have to say, but if you know the people and know something about how they orienteer, you can pick up some good ideas.

I should spend some time and write down "instructions" for how to use a model event. I bet I could come up with a little form that would help me get the most out of a model event.

Mary pointed out to me that as we drove to the model I said that you never learn anything at a model event. But, then during the weekend I said things like, "I'm sure glad I went to the model, I learned a lot." Interesting. I like to think I'm usually pretty consistent, but Mary points out that I wasn't.

I wonder if what I was doing was lowering my expectations -- essentially playing a mental game with myself. If you expect to learn 10 things at the model, but learn only 5 you'll be disappointed. But, if you expect to learn nothing at the model and you learn 5 things, you'll feel confident. Maybe that's it.

I wrote a bit about model events way back in August 2001. Check it out here.

posted by Michael | 7:10 PM


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Positive approach


Johan Ivarsson wrote a piece on Bjornar Valstad's "positive" approach. Ivarsson wrote about a "positive" approach, but I don't think it is really the same as the pop-psychology "positive thinking." As I understand it, Bjornar plans a lot and looks for ways to take advantage of whatever situation he's facing. It isn't that he tells himself he's a good guy, instead he thinks about how to put himself in the best position he can. Bjornar is more like Lance Armstrong than Anthony Robbins.

I don't have the motivation to translate the whole thing, but here is a small bit:

consciously or subconsciously, Bjornar has systematized his positive approach. He writes a lot on his home page and he writes often. That he thinks and reacts positively is one thing. But writing it down and letting others see it makes his approach much more concrete. It isn't just a thought that goes by.

posted by Michael | 8:02 PM


Monday, September 15, 2003

U.S Champs


A few quick notes about the U.S. Champs:

1. The orienteering was tough. I struggled to move through the forest because of all the downed trees, thick brush and the altitude (a bit over 6,200 feet). Oh yeah, don't forget the hills. I climbed 22 lines over about 700 meters on one leg. The course setter expected the winning time on my course (F21, M35 and M20) to be 65 minutes. On the first day, I had the best time on the course at 88 minutes. I haven't seen the second day times, but I'm quite sure no orienteers finished in 65 minutes (I'd be surprised if more than one or two got under 80).

2. The map was a bit sketchy. I had trouble making sense of some of the bends in the contours, some of the different shades of green, and much of the yellow. The area would be difficult to map. I think the mapper did a decent job given the terrain.

3. The course setter hid some of the controls. I think the course setter designed the courses with the philosophy of making it tough to find the markers. If that was his goal, he succeeded. Some controls were very difficult to find even when you stood close by. I had a couple of controls on small boulders with the flag tucked out of the way and largely obscured by bushes. People who arrived at a control when someone else was punching would have a tremendous advantage.

4. I must have tied my shoelaces too tight on the first day. The top of my foot is quite sore and a bit swollen. As I ran, the laces must have put pressure on the top of my foot. Ouch.

5. I think I won my category (M35) and had the fastest time for the two days (James Baker beat me on the second day by a couple of minutes). It is always fun to win.

posted by Michael | 1:14 PM


Thursday, September 11, 2003

Next update on Monday


The next time I plan to update this page is Monday, September 15.

Mary and I are going to the U.S. Champs this weekend in Lake Tahoe. It should be a fun way to begin the O’ season.

posted by Michael | 3:32 PM


Wednesday, September 10, 2003

More thinking about goals


I’ve written about the need for the U.S. Team to have goals and have brought the issue up a couple of times over the last few years. But nothing has happened. It seems obvious to me that an organization like the U.S. Team should have goals. But they (actually “we” since I am on the team) don’t.

I began to wonder why I think goals are good. I thought about it. Why do I think goals are important?

It comes down to personal experience. I think most of us form our opinions through experiences and anecdotes. What experiences make me think goals are important?

Swedish club

Over ten years ago I spent almost four years living in Sweden and orienteering with clubs that had clear goals. The goals – typically about performance in big relays like Tio Mila and Jukola – gave everyone in the club an objective. We trained with the goals in mind. We fought to make the team. We supported the club at the races.

I found the structure important. It helped motivate me. When we reached a goal it felt great. When we didn’t it gave us a chance to rethink our preparation.

My training was guided by the goals. Tio Mila has a lot of night orienteering – so I ran a lot of night orienteering. When the Swedish Champs took place near Nykoping, we had a training camp near Nykoping.

Performance auditing

I work as a government performance auditor. Among other things, my job is about encouraging the government to be accountable to the people.

Having goals helps make a government accountable. If the city says it is going to fix potholes so that the streets are in good condition, the citizens can hold the city accountable for fixing potholes.

Maybe goals don’t matter

Maybe goals don’t really matter. Maybe my personal experiences lead me to think they are important when they don’t matter. I think goals are important, but I might be in the minority. Though I might be wrong, I still think the team ought to have goals both to focus the organization on performance and to encourage accountability to the U.S. Orienteering Federation.

posted by Michael | 5:11 PM


Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Grudge Match II


Some mountain bikers in Lawrence are hosting a mountain biker versus runner race tonight.

After being sick for a week or so, I'm planning to run the grudge match and see how I feel.

The grudge match pits mountain bikers against runners on a single track trail of about four miles in Clinton State Park. Last time the runners got a head start of a couple hundred meters.

I don't know how the scoring worked, but the runners beat the bikers. The bikers are probably out for revenge tonight. Last time the weather was a bit of a problem -- temperatures near 100. High temperatures probably favored bikers (or more likely didn't hurt bikers as much as runners).

The format is pretty interesting. Bikers have an advantage when the trail is smooth. But there are enough rocks on the trail that there are places where a runner has a big advantage.

In all of my O' career I've never done as much running racing as I should have. I don't really like road races, so I don't do them. Trail races are more fun, but there aren't enough of them. Grudge matches are just right.

posted by Michael | 1:11 PM


Monday, September 08, 2003

Sad news


Damon Douglas -- orienteer and former U.S. Team Coach -- died a few days ago.

This is very sad news.

A couple of quick memories of Damon....

Damon and I were among the few Americans at the Sorlandsgallopen in 1986. I remember spending a bunch of time looking at maps and talking about orienteering. Damon had a lot of ideas. He was very thoughtful. He was fun to talk to. I remember a group planning to go out to a restaurant one evening. I was broke. There was no way I could afford a restaurant meal (especially in Norway). Damon treated me. It wasn't much money, but the gesture (not to mention the food) were greatly appreciated.

I got to know Damon a bit better at a pre-WOC training camp in Sweden in 1988. Damon was U.S. Team Coach, but understood that he didn't know everything. At the camp he spent his time interviewing coaches and elite runners from other countries. He asked them about coaching, racing, training, etc. He listened and learned. Many people -- probably most of us -- think we know more than we do. Damon knew he didn't know everything. So he did something about it. I admire that.

posted by Michael | 1:43 PM


Saturday, September 06, 2003

Computer crash


Our hard drive died this morning. I will try to update this page as I can, but I don't expect to be able to update it every day.

Mary spent some time on the phone this morning and HP is sending us a replacement hard drive. Our hard drive had been "recalled." So, I'm hoping we'll be back on line in a few days.

Like any other computer user I haven't backed up everything I should have. I'm pretty sure we've lost all but a couple dozen of the photographs from Paris, for example. I suppose I learned a lesson -- more frequent back ups.

posted by Michael | 1:02 PM


Friday, September 05, 2003

Watching tennis


I watched Andre Agassi play Guillermo Corria at the U.S. Open and looking to see how the two players differed.

Corria is 21 and Agassi is 33. I figured it'd be a good opportunity to try to see how an experienced athlete compared to a young athlete. I'm interested in how some older athletes can continue to compete at a very high level.

I only watched about 5 or 6 games and didn't take any notes. I can't really be sure what I was seeing. But, I had a definite impression that the players took risks in different ways.

Trying to hit a winner is risky. A safe shot is to try to hit the ball deep but not at an extreme angle. A risky shot is to hit the ball very short or at a sharp angle. The risky shots might win the point. The safe shots usually just keep the ball moving and give each player another chance.

It struck me that Corria would take risks when he saw the chance regardless of the score. But, Agassi took risks depending on the situation within the game. Agassi seemed to be more aware of the score and the importance of each point.

For example, Corria might go for a winner when he was down 15-30. If he lost the point -- and since going for a winner is risky, he often did -- the score would be 15-40 and the game was almost lost. On the other hand, Agassi seemed to take risks when he could afford to lose the point. Agassi certainly took some risks, but he seemed to be much more careful in when he took a chance.

Agassi, the old player, took risks but carefully considered the overall context. Corria, the young player, took risks almost at random.

If you compared risk-taking between young orienteers and successful older orienteers, would you see the same pattern? I think you might.

I bet Peter Gagarin takes risks, but only when the payoff is high. I bet John Fredrickson takes risks even if the payoff might be small. Maybe not. It is just a theory.

posted by Michael | 8:01 PM


Thursday, September 04, 2003

Money and orienteering


Jorgen Martensson says he's become "rich" orienteering...rich from experience.

The U.S. Champs this year is offering prize money. According to the event web page, "There will be cash awards for the top three M21 and F21 finishers for the 2-Day A meet. First place winners will receive $1,000.00, second place finishers will receive $500.00, and third place finishers $250.00."*

I think prize money is a bad idea. I thought about writing why (though I think it is good for clubs to experiment like BAOC is doing). But, then I started wondering how much money I've made as an orienteer (mapping doesn't count).

I got a few bucks in travel money from the U.S. team in the 1980s. A couple of times I got a bit of cash to cover some of cost of driving from Lawrence to N.Y. I don't remember how much money it amounted to (not much), but it helped pay for the gas. At the time I had very little money. I appreciated the help.

One of the clubs I ran for in Sweden had a couple of programs that let me earn a bit of money. They had performance awards based on results. I remember getting some money when my relay team finished well at the Stockholm District Relay Champs. I might have earned some money when we had a good Jukola result, but I'm not really sure. Again, I don't remember the amount but it was probably something like $50 -- $100. The club also had a program where you earned points every time you went to a club training session. Each point was worth 10 SEK (about $1.50 at the time). I usually got to 3 or 4 club training sessions a week (earning 4-6 points a week).

Both of the payment schemes for the Swedish club were designed to achieve specific club goals. The club focused on relay races. The performance awards focused on relay races. The club focused relay races that involved night orienteering, like Tio Mila and Smalandskavlen. The training points emphasized technique -- and especially night orienteering -- practice.

The cash in Sweden was managed by the club and you had to use it for orienteering expenses, like buying O' gear or paying for expenses related to a training camp or something similar.

*Apparently the prize money is only available to runners eligible for the U.S. Championship (though that isn't what the info actually says).

posted by Michael | 8:33 PM


Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Shadowing Bjornar


A Swedish runner followed Bjornar Valstad for about 5 km of a course last April. Here is a bit of what the shadow -- Isak Bergman -- wrote about it:

It feels like Bjornar's going as fast as he can toward a point ahead on the terrain. If he hasn't already planned the leg, he takes it a bit easy for a while then speeds up to his fastest again.

I have to work hard to keep up with his pace.

I'm "lucky" and he booms. I'm able to stay with him for about 5 km.

He fell down 4-5 times....

One of my theories has been that if you don't fall down, you're not running fast enough. When you're working hard, moving fast, you fall down at least once every race.

When I never trained in the forest, I fell down when I wasn't moving fast. But, as I trained more and more in the forest it became harder and harder to fall down. I had to move faster if I wanted to fall down!

As I get older, I've become much more cautious (more of a wimp, I guess). I still fall down, but I don't get upset with myself it I don't.

As I get older, I also seem to take longer to recover. A couple of years ago I fell off my skateboard. I was sore for a good week afterwards. When I was 14 and skateboarding in empty swimming pools, I'd fall all the time. I never remember being sore the next day. I guess the lesson is be careful about skateboarding when you over 30.

posted by Michael | 9:46 PM


Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Age or motivation


Egil Johansen -- a top Norwegian orienteer before becoming their national team coach from 1991-97 and 2000-02 -- had a few thoughts about age and motivation. Here is a rough translation. The original article is here.

The Norwegian O' Federation has always spent more of its elite budget for developing young, promising orienteers.

"But we can't put young runners on the WOC team. The best have to be on the WOC team regardless of age. For the "Euromeeting" it is different," according to Johansen.

Is motivation more important than age?

"Yes, definitely. Mathias Karlsson, a first-timer, was a strong part of Sweden's relay gold medal. He is 31 years old. Karolina Hojsgaard took silver in the long distance. She had few international merits and is 32 years old. It seems like we have to think about this in a whole different way than we did before," says Johansen.

posted by Michael | 7:17 PM


Monday, September 01, 2003

Mountain bikers and GPS


On behalf of orienteers, I want to thank mountain bikers for building and mapping trails.

When I started orienteering (1980) there were few trails around Lawrence and Kansas City. As mountain biking has become more and more popular, mountain bike trails are becoming more common. They make great places to run.

Mountain bikers also seem to be among those who make the most of GPS for mapping. I don't think GPS is much help for an orienteering mapper, but I'm sure it helps mountain bikers who probably wouldn't have the patience or skills to map the trails carefully. Check out a couple of the local mountain bike club maps:

Landahl Park (where Possum Trot also has an orienteering map).

Truman Sports Complex (you can see the KC Chiefs football stadium just on the edge of the map).

Minor Park.

Today I spent an hour exploring mountain biking trails at Smithville Lake. The trails were in great shape. This is going to be a good place for running this winter.

Smithville might make a decent place for orienteering. Well, "decent" is relative. It won't be the kind of place that people will remember fondly (I probably couldn't get someone from Wyoming out there). But, it is typical for the terrain around Kansas City. Perhaps the best thing about the area is that we can call the map "Paradise" -- it is just a mile or so from the town of Paradise, Missouri.

posted by Michael | 6:53 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