Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Off to the races


Early tomorrow morning I'm getting on a plane and heading toward Ohio to run the U.S. Team selection races. Actually, I'm only running M21 the first two days. The third day I'll run my M40 age group.

It should be fun to see how the selection races go.

I'm planning to post audio updates Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I'll do my best to post the key results in M21 and F21 for anyone who is sitting at home and trying to follow the races.

Of course, the audio-posting function isn't 100 percent reliable.

An intersting map from Sweden

Check out Kim Fagerudd's map from a race in Trollhattan. The terrain looks fun and Fagerudd's routes look good (he described it as his best middle distance race ever).

I also thought the map was interesting. The mapper drew a lot of small vegetation details (green areas and yellow areas). When I lived in Sweden (which was about 15 years ago), the maps almost never had that sort of detail, even when the terrain had some small thick areas and some small open areas. I wonder if the mapping style in Sweden has changed or if this particular map is unusual.

posted by Michael | 7:38 PM


Wednesday, March 30, 2005  

Wild Turkeys at PNS.

posted by Michael | 7:30 PM


Is start interval relevant?


Over at Attackpoint, folks are discussing the start interval for the U.S. team trials sprint race.

Several people have made the point that the start interval at the WOC sprint, one minute, is the same as at the team trials sprint.

One person wrote:

Finally, one significant rationale for doing it this way is that it is how it is done at WOC. The WOC finals are all based on qualifiers with best starting last. If 1 minute intevals are OK for a WOC sprint final, then I should think they should be just fine for the US trials.

And another person wrote:

And it does make sense that a trial to determine the WOC team should take place under the closest we can simulate to WOC conditions, rather than under some alternate set of conditions in which interaction never occurs.

Another wrote:

But I also think that mimicing WOC practices is probably the best route to follow - they may be unfair in some regards - but that same element of unfairness will be present at the championship event - so why not consider it akin to training specificity and just accept it?

This line of reasoning begs the question -- how relevant is start interval?

I've got to think that when you compare the U.S. sprint trials to the WOC sprint qualifications and finals, the start interval is essentially irrelevant. There are much bigger differences between the events (e.g. the team trials is likely to be held in cool weather and will be on a non-sprint standard map; while the WOC will likely be held in hot weather and is sure to follow the sprint standards). And even if there weren't much bigger differences, a difference in start intervals is a very, very minor difference in relevance.

The idea of designing a selection race to be as relevant as possible is interesting, and worth thinking about. I can imagine, for example, it might be interesting to require the team trials participants go through a process like a WOC. You could make them eat food similar to what you'd get at a WOC, travel to the event site by bus (taking about as long as it'll take at the WOC), and so on.

I'm interested in the idea of relevance. So, I'll keep thinking about it (and thinking about how to think about it) and will probably write more over the next few days or weeks.

posted by Michael | 7:09 PM


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

What can we learn from Georges Seurat?


When I do a lot of O' technique training I see the terrain and the map well. When I look out in the terrain, I have a good picture in my head of what the map would look like. When I look at the map, I have a good picture of what the terrain would look like.

When I haven't done a lot of O' technique training I don't see the terrain so well. In particular, I tend to get tunnel vision. I look at the small features on the map and try to find them in the terrain. I don't necessarily see the big features. And, it is a lot easier to orienteer when you see the big features and don't get fixated on the small features.

I was thinking of all of this today when I was thinking about the painter Georges Seurat. If you stand really close to a Seurat painting you see lots of little spots of color. But, you don't really see what is going on. Take a couple of steps back, look at the big picture, and you see an image.

Training a lot of O' technique lets me do the equivalent of taking a few steps back from a Seurat painting.

Check out one of Seurat's most famous paintings at the Chicago Art Institute web page. Click on the "view closeup" link and you can zoom in and back out. Cool.

And check out this wierd map

Take a look at the wierd O' map on Kurt Huber's web page.

posted by Michael | 7:51 PM


Monday, March 28, 2005



I wrote a note and blogger crashed while posting it. I thought I'd saved a copy, but I hadn't. Arrrrrgh.

I wrote a few thoughts about the U.S. Team Trials. I won't go in to all of them. One was:

What would happen if the U.S. held a team trails every two years and picked a team for two WOCs? Would it work? That is, would it increase the chances of the U.S. having our best runners at the WOC and them being well prepared?

posted by Michael | 9:56 PM


Sunday, March 27, 2005



Picture Elvis. A young Elvis. He's maybe 23 years old. He's slim, wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans. Elvis' hair is black.

I saw Elvis today. I was in the last 1/4 of an O' practice. I was running a control picking course at Knob Noster. I drifted a little of my line and saw him -- Elvis -- standing in the forest. At least he looked like Elvis.

It was a very strange experience.

Now and then I see people when I'm orienteering. Usually they are other orienteers. Sometimes I'll see birdwatchers, hikers or hunters. Before today I'd never seen Elvis in the woods.

When I'm orienteering well, I concentrate on what I'm doing. I've had races where I've met people in the woods without noticing them. On the other hand, when I'm not concentrating well, I notice other orienteers. I notice who I see in the woods. I exchange a few words.

I think a lot of orienteers make mistakes when they see someone in the woods. Either they think about seeing someone, and lose concentration, or they think about being watched, and lose concentration.

When I saw Elvis today, I waved and said "hello." I looked at my map and found the next control. But, my concentration was shot. The rest of the course, only about another ten minutes, I fought to keep concentration. My mind kept wandering. I kept wondering what Elvis was doing out in the middle of the woods (he was near, but not on a hiking trail).

posted by Michael | 8:32 PM


Saturday, March 26, 2005  

posted by Michael | 7:13 PM


Link to some nice French maps


Check out some nice maps from the Le Caylar area in France.

posted by Michael | 7:04 PM


Friday, March 25, 2005

A scary story


I came across this story from last weekend's 9-hour night O' race at Bluffwoods.

...as I ran along the road north and a little west of #8 I went very close to what seemed like private property (the road might have been public though). This was about
3:20 AM.

In any event, I managed to wake the gentleman's dog, who barked for long enough to wake his owner. Just after I passed his house, he must have heard me and yelled out G....it, what's going on out there!?"....I simply continued jogging east away from his house. After a few seconds he repeated his inquiry (I was about 50 meters past him now) and then unexpectedly let fly with a gunshot. Needless, to say, my pace became considerably faster at that point. By the time I reached the pond and access gate on the north side of the trail I was far enough away that his dog had shut up, and since he wasn't about to roust out of bed at 3 AM I felt safe at that point.

That is a scary story.

I'm going up to Bluffwoods tomorrow to pick up controls. I've marked my map so that I don't get too close to the guy with the gun.

posted by Michael | 9:25 PM


Thursday, March 24, 2005



I posted a map yesterday that I described as "not WOC relevant" and Peter described as "quite different from where the WOC will be."

It got me thinking about what we mean by "relevant."

You can quickly notice that a map from Aichi (which is "WOC relevant") looks different from the Japanese Champs area. The shapes and sizes of the hills leap out as the difference.

The answer to whether an area is relevant isn't just "yes" or "no." There are degrees of relevance. Trying to figure out the degree of relevance between two areas would probably be a good exercise to go through as you think about an upcoming race.

Look at the Aichi map. Look at the Japanese Champs map. Compare and contrast. What terrain differences show up? More importantly, what different physical and technical challenges will you face? What techniques will be emphasized?

posted by Michael | 4:56 PM


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A map from Japan


I posted a map from the Japanese Champs below. The terrain looks interesting. I don't think it is considered WOC-relevant, but it looks like it'd be a fun place to orienteer.

Thierry Gueorgiou won the Japanese Champs race against some tough competition (national team runners from Great Britain, Switzerland and Australia show up in the results list).

Somebody reading this is probably planning to run the WOC in Japan. If you're planning (or hoping) to go to the WOC, you'll want to take a look at Oli and Jenny's WOC page.

posted by Michael | 8:06 PM



Japanese champs course (click for higher resolution).

posted by Michael | 8:02 PM


Tuesday, March 22, 2005  

Another waterfall in Oregon.

posted by Michael | 8:21 PM


David Andersson's training


I read an article about David Andersson's training in Falu Kuriren. Andersson is on the Swedish B-team. He's young -- just turned 23 -- and works half-time as an instructor at a ski/orienteering school in Jonkoping.

I won't translate the entire article, but here are some highlights:

This season, Andersson has focused on orienteering rather than ski O'. His winter training includes more running than before. He's putting in 12-15/week this winter, building a base for the coming season.

"It has worked well, and I've avoided injuries and illnesses."

He's also been doing a lot of training camps recently. at Le Caylar in France and Arhus in Denmark. After Easter, he'll do a training camp in Gdansk, Poland.

posted by Michael | 1:33 PM


Monday, March 21, 2005  

One of the water falls at Silver Falls State Park.

posted by Michael | 8:43 PM


A relay team


USOF picks the U.S. WOC team in a couple of weeks at selection races in Ohio. The selection races are open. You can run the selections even if you aren't eligible to go to the WOC or are eligible but don't want to go to Japan.

I'm running M21 for the sprint and middle distance qualifying races, but will run M40 on the classic day.

I came across a list of people who are eligible (and entered) but won't go to Japan. You could put together a decent WOC relay team with: Brian May, John Fredrickson and Kenny Walker.

posted by Michael | 8:33 PM


Sunday, March 20, 2005  

An early morning run in Silver Falls State Park, Oregon.

posted by Michael | 6:35 PM




From a NY Times article on recent upsets in college basketball:

...Tom Brennan, the Vermont head coach said he suspected that teams from big conferences weren't always as hungry as teams from smaller conferences.

"Two weeks ago, if we lost, we were out," he said..."We had another game if we lost that we were out. We played Northeaster; if we lost, we were out. So these kids are really used to play win-or-go-home games."

"I think sometimes the reason that these scores are close is because the other guys don't face taht much," he said....

I think something similar goes on in most sports. If you've got to push yourself just to make the team or qualify, you have to figure out how to make lots of small improvements. If you're on top, you can get by with just coasting.

There are some obvious implications for orienteers.

posted by Michael | 6:17 PM


Saturday, March 19, 2005

Head-to-head racing


Possum Trot O.C. set up a three hour score O' at Weston Bend today. Mass start, so we had some head-to-head racing. The course was small enough that it was clear that several of us would be able to get all of the controls.

One of the great things about orienteering is that you race alone -- like a time trial. But, now and then some head-to-head racing is fun.

I saw Dave Frei several times during the race. Dave runs faster than me, but he makes a more mistakes. So, we can have a good race.

We were together after about 80 minutes. We stuck together for a couple of legs before Dave put in a burst of speed and got away. I was alone for the next couple of controls, then caught sight of Dave ahead of me. I glanced at my watch and calculated that Dave had 1:40 lead.

A 1:40 lead -- that is small enough that a mistake by Dave could cut most of the lead. I sucked down some Gu and focused on running steadily and reading the map.

I made a better route choice a couple of legs latter and gained back a bunch of that 1:40. Then Dave lost some time at a really sketchy section of the map and we were together.

We had three controls left. I was in front and Dave stuck with me. We were a bit sloppy to the next to last control, then climbed a few lines....and then...wooooosh. Dave blew by me on a downhill. He got a quick gap.

Dave held that gap to the last control and to the finish.

Frustrating to finish second, but fun to have a head-to-head race.

posted by Michael | 7:29 PM


Last Saturday's O' Race


I ran the ORCA meet on a map just outside of Salem, Oregon, last Saturday. The maps below show the course (click on images for higher resolution).

As you can see the terrain was green and flat. Most of the green was dense blackberry bushes -- very thick, very thorny. The course setter didn't force you to go into any green, using the green areas to give route choice problems.

I don't run this sort of course very often. In fact, I can't recall ever running in similar terrain. It was fun, but I wouldn't want to run in it all the time.

posted by Michael | 8:20 AM



posted by Michael | 8:19 AM



posted by Michael | 8:17 AM


Friday, March 18, 2005

Quick note


I planned to write a bit today. Maybe I'd write about the O' race I ran last weekend in Salem, Oregon. Maybe I'd write about my latest thoughts on "team chemistry."

But, I'm tired.

I spent most of the day traveling and had a long week of work (and I'm running a 3-hour score O' tomorrow).

Good night.

posted by Michael | 8:43 PM


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Next update on March 18


I'm beginning a week-long work trip tomorrow. The next time I plan to update this page is next Friday, March 18.

Work travel gives me some time to think. So, I'm planning to spend some of that time thinking about orienteering. I've got two specific ideas:

1. Re-read part of the book written by Kent Olsson and Lasse Hogedal. Olsson wrote a lot about how to orienteer. Hogedal wrote about leading the Swedish national team.

2. Think about how to think about "team chemistry." I've got a bunch of unfocused ideas and thoughts. Maybe if I give it some more time I'll start to make sense of it.

posted by Michael | 6:59 PM


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Mapping and the new O-Sport


GPS and OCAD are great. The technology helps mapping. It also seems to have resulted in a few more people trying their hands at mapping. That's good, at least in the long run.

The problem with the technology is that it doesn't make someone a good mapper and doesn't address the difficult part of mapping -- making cartographic decisions.

Here is an amusing quote from a relatively new mapper:

It is amazing the number of such detail corrections that can be made without actual field work. My simple 4 hour quick visits take weeks of spare time to incorporate into the map. Some parts of the map are begining to look really good while other parts (such as the southeast corner) remain a mess.

New O-Sport

Maybe this is old news, but apparently there have been some changes with O-Sport magazine. If you're a subscriber (or potential subscriber) you'll want to read the discussion from Alternativet.

I'm a huge fan of the magazine and really hope it succeeds.

posted by Michael | 7:01 PM


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Interview with Emma Engstand


I've translated a bit of an interview with Emma Engstrand from her web page:

...It seems to me that a lot of people in the national team feel that intervals and more spenst and strength training are the way to succeed. What do you think about that?

In the last few years we've had a lot of discussions and education in physical training, which is really good. To be able to win a WOC, you've got to by very strong, and that is what we want. We've also gone through phsyical tests and got personal advice based on those tests. We've also focused on strength training a lot. The advice I got was to improve my running economy and I'm supposed to do that by training more strength, spenst and intervals while sharply reducing my distance training.

I'm convinced that it is important to really think through how you should optimize your training. And I've thought about that a lot. I've adapted my training a bit based on the advice, but I'm not prepared to reduce my distance training so much. I think I'll be good by training distance. I've made some small adjustments, but nothing big. I think my winter training works well fo rme and that I'll be strong from it.

The translation is a bit rough, but I think you get the basic idea.

If you can read Swedish, check out the entire interview.

posted by Michael | 6:56 PM


What should I do in Portland


I've got a work trip to Portland coming up. I'm flying out there on Friday. What should I do in Portland? I've got a car and plenty of time on the weekend.

posted by Michael | 6:54 PM


Monday, March 07, 2005

Team chemistry


Benedict Carey wrote a story about team chemistry in today's NY Times. He was writing about baseball, but the article reminded me of some thoughts I've had about orienteering.

Here are a couple of things Carey wrote:

"So much of psychology and sociology emphasizes the importance of communicating and creating strong bonds to improve group performance, but in a lot of situations that is just not how it works," said Dr. Calvin Morrill, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine, who has studied group behavior in competitive corporate situations and in high schools. "Baseball is an odd mix of an individual and team sport, and an ideal example of where a diffuse team with weak ties to one another may help the overall functionality of the group."...

When a common purpose is shared, loosely tied groups can function better than strongly bonded ones when it comes to containing dissent or bickering, research suggests. In studies of neighborhood organizations and corporate teams, social scientists have observed that members with weak ties can withdraw from disagreements without disrupting the group or their own work.

On a tightly knit team, by contrast, a falling out between key members can divide a squad, forcing people to take sides, psychologists say. "The idea is that any sort of problem is likely to ripple more strongly and quickly through a close group than one with weak ties," said Dr. Mark Granovetter, a professor of sociology at Stanford.

I think there is something to the whole idea of "team chemistry." I think it matters. But, I don't understand it and don't really understand how to think about it in a useful way.

I'll have to give it more thought.

Ski Orienteering WOC

I just discovered that the Ski O' WOC is going on.

The U.S. results don't look very good, but there are still a couple of races left.

Poking through the results I noticed:

I don't even recognize the names of several of the U.S. competitors. Who is Candice Raines? Chelsea Cunningham? Mike George? Aims Coney?

I did recognize Sharon Crawford. So far, Sharon looks to be the best of the U.S. women. You've got to be impressed by Sharon.

You can follow the Ski O' WOC at www.skiwoc2005.org. Click on the "Live" link for results, live updates, photos, interviews, etc.

posted by Michael | 7:50 PM


Sunday, March 06, 2005

Very strange terrain


Take a look at this map. Strange.

The map is called Irchester Country Park. I wonder how the terrain got to look like that.

Irchester Country Park reminds me a bit of an area near Columbia, Missouri, called Finger Lakes. Finger Lakes is a state park on an old strip mine. Check out the aerial photo and USGS topo map to get a sense of what the terrain is like.

An O' map of Finger Lakes might look a bit like Irchester Country Park.

* Thanks to Yep Sport for the link to the Irchester map.

posted by Michael | 5:36 PM


Saturday, March 05, 2005  

posted by Michael | 3:42 PM


Carrying a heavy weight


About an hour in to my run today, I got suddenly tired. I wasn't running fast today. But, I spent a fair amount of time in the woods and on hills. Still, I was a bit surprised at how suddenly I felt tired -- like someone had handed me a heavy weight to carry.

You can see the hill I was jogging up when my legs got tired.

I wonder why I got tired so quickly. I've had, for me, a long week of training. I also felt a bit hungry when I was running. Maybe if I'd carried some sport drink I'd have felt fine. Maybe I just picked up the pace a bit as I went up the hill and ended up going a bit too hard. I don't think so. I didn't feel like I was going hard.

posted by Michael | 3:22 PM


Friday, March 04, 2005  

A hot spring on the Upper Terraces loop at Mammoth Hot Springs.

posted by Michael | 7:29 PM


20 people's training


Now and then I like to pick a day and see how different people trained on that day. I picked February 26 and looked at how 20 people trained on that day. I picked people I know (most of them recording their training on Attackpoint) and a few elite European orienteers who post their training on the web.

I picked February 26 because I knew some people had run the 150 control course in Spain. I wondered what the rest of us were doing that same day.

Only two of the people I looked at didn't train. One was, I think, recovering from an injury and one was resting for a race on the 27th.

The average amount of training was 1:44. That's quite a lot of training. Half of the people did at least one session of 90+ minutes.

I was surprised to see that almost half of the people I looked at did two sessions.

I saw a lot of cross-training: running, skiing, snow shoeing, cycling and strength training.

posted by Michael | 7:02 PM


Thursday, March 03, 2005

O' geek


I'm an O' geek. I spend time checking out maps and O' pages on the Internet. I've got the audio of the live WOC coverage on my Ipod. Yep, that qualifies me as an O' geek.

Here are a couple of links other O' geeks might appreciate:

Eva Jurenikova's ski O' course from a place called Gronklitt in Sweden. I'm pretty sure I've both orienteered and skied at Gronklitt a long time ago.

Check out some O' map puzzles from Norway. Download the files and run them and you get jigsaw puzzles of O' maps. Cool.

posted by Michael | 7:44 PM


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Orienteering is just like....?


Jorgen Olsson is a great orienteer. He's got two WOC medals. Last year he finished 7th in the WOC middle distance. I came across an interview with him in a Swedish newspaper and here is a quick translation of a couple of quotes:

You can't stand still if you want to keep up. The whole time you have to keep improving....

You have to accept the consequences, to set priorities and use your energey and resources correctly. To really do what you are best at and say "no" to other things.

If you read the interview (and I'm guessing a few okansas readers did), you'll know that Olsson isn't talking about orienteering.

What is he talking about?

If you've got a guess, put it in a comment (and if you've read the article, don't bother adding a comment).

posted by Michael | 7:14 PM


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Worn out


I ran today. I didn't feel strong. I think it was all in my head. Sort of. I think the problem was that I had a mentally stressful day at work.

If you think about it, it is strange that mental stress can make you feel physically worn.

Fortunately, stressful work days are relatively rare for me.

posted by Michael | 7:10 PM


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