Occassional thoughts about orienteering
Thursday, January 31, 2008
mass startI've no idea how serious this is (or even if it is serious)...from Alternativet (rough translation):
The Scandinavian countries have discussed the idea of pushing the IOF for a mass start at the WOC. The new discipline would be seen at the 2010 WOC in Trondheim. Now it is up to the national governing bodies to decide whether or not to support the idea. If so, it would then go to the IOF.
Sometimes I wonder what orienteering would be like if it was invented from scratch right now (i.e. with no tradition or history). If it was invented now, I think there'd be a good chance that mass start would be the normal form of the sport (that's not to say a mass start is a good idea).
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 8:25 PM
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Invisible competitionA good orienteer probably needs to be able to push themselves and concentrate even when they can't see their competition head-to-head. But, that is a difficult skill.
...Human beings evolved in small groups and hunter-gatherer societies, in which virtually all competition was face to face. That is the environment most of us are biologically and emotionally geared to succeed in, and it explains why our adrenalin surges when a rival wins the boss’s favor or flirts with our special someone. But in the new arena, with its faceless and anonymous competitors, those who are driven to action mostly by adrenalin will not fare well. If that’s what they need to get things done, they will become too passive and others will overtake them.
The greatest gains in this new world are likely to go to people who are methodical planners or who love the game for its own sake. Some people plot their competitive strategies far in advance. These planners—be they crazy or just highly productive—don’t need anyone breathing down their necks, and indeed they often work best alone or in small groups....
The quote is from an article by the economist, Tyler Cowen, that you can read here.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 7:59 PM
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
More tiny mapsGiovanni posted a comment that included links to some tiny maps in Italy. Check out this and this.
I'm not really sure how useful these tiny maps are. They could be good to show people what orienteering is about and to share with school and scout groups who want to learn about orienteering.
Even if they aren't all that useful, they are fun (and quick) to make. Using a combination of basemap material from the internet and OCAD it is fairly easy to create a tiny map.
Where I live you can find some good basemaps for Johnson County through the AIMS online mapper and for Lawrence through the city's GIS. I think a lot of other cities and counties have similar online mapping tools.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 8:30 PM
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Does racing Gueorgiou or Niggli make you worse?Put yourself in the shoes of a world class orienteer. You're getting ready for a big race - a WOC or a World Cup - but you know that you're going up against Thierry Gueorgiou or Simone Niggli. Does facing a superstar help or hurt your performance?
Maybe racing against a superstar inspires you. You push harder, focus better. Your performance is better. But, you still (probably) finish behind the superstar. Or maybe racing against a superstar weakens your performance. You feel like a perfect run won't quite be enough. You aren't quite as inspired or prepared as you should be. Or maybe you feel like a perfect run won't quite be enough, so you take a lot of chances.
Does facing a superstar help or hurt your performance? It is an interesting question.
Jennifer Brown, a PhD candidate at UC-Berkeley, looked at an analogous question by studying how golfers performed when Tiger Woods was competing. Basically, she found that top professional golfers performed worse when facing Tiger Woods. It is a bit more complicated (and interesting) than that. So, if you're interested you should read the paper (see the link at Jennifer Brown's collection of working papers).
Here is the abstract of her paper:
Managers use internal competition to motivate worker effort, yet I present a simple economic model suggesting that the benefits of competition depend critically on workers' relative abilities---large differences in skill may reduce competitors' efforts. This paper uses panel data from professional golfers and finds that the presence of a superstar in a rank-order tournament is associated with lower competitor performance. On average, higher-skill PGA golfers' tournament scores are 0.8 strokes higher when Tiger Woods participates, relative to when Woods is absent. Lower-skill players' scores appear unaffected by the superstar's presence. The adverse superstar effect increases during Woods's streaks and disappears during Woods's slumps. There is no evidence that reduced performance is due to "riskier" play.
Tiny Map Update
I started, but didn't finish, my weekend project.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 4:54 PM
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Local race at Burr OakHere is my course from today's local race at Burr Oak (most of it, that is).
The course was physically a lot tougher than it looks. The streams are all in steep-sided gullies which were especially tricky to cross with the slippery footing. The forest is a bit thick, too.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 6:33 PM
Friday, January 25, 2008
Weekend project = a tiny O' mapI've decided to create a tiny orienteering map this weekend. I was inspired by the latest from Alessio Tenani's blog (an example below):
Now, I may very well be too lazy to actually make a map. But, my current plan is to have some sort of tiny O' map ready by the end of the day Sunday. Stay tuned.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 8:01 PM
Thursday, January 24, 2008
An old interview with Hanne StaffA re-run...something I translated almost 6 years ago. The text is an interview Johan Ivarsson did with Hanne Staff. I did a rough translation from Swedish. The link to the original interview is dead.
Hanne Staff -- A Winner!
By Johan Ivarsson
People often say you should learn from your mistakes. Hanne Staff doesn't think that is quite right. Instead, she thinks you learn from what you do well. So why not try to learn from someone who very often does a lot of things right. Let's hear from Hanne about her WOC Short Race.
Johan: Before the WOC 1999, you said you really wanted to run well in the short race. You'd won the classic event in 1997 and in Scotland in 1999. You wanted to take the short race. But, the result was a big mistake and 22nd place. What were you thinking this year when only the short race was left and you hadn't won an individual medal?
Hanne: I learned a lot after the WOC in Scotland. In Scotland, I was too focused on trying to win a gold. This time I was trying to have a good race. My runs in the sprint and the classic weren't especially bad, they just weren't good enough. On the evening before the short final, I decided to relax. The level of tension and stress had been too high. After a good last leg on the relay (despite losing the sprint on the run-in) I just wanted to go out and run to have fun. Before the race I tried to stay calm and relaxed, and to tried to have "genuine" positive thoughts from within. I wasn't thinking aggressively. I avoided people who were negative for me. I focused only on myself.
Johan's comments: Often those who concentrate and do best are those who try to have a good race rather than those who aim to win. Hanne made an effort to avoid people who were negative for her -- who could distract her concentration and cost her energy.
Johan: Did you have a tactic before the race?
Hanne: My plan was to have 100 percent contact with the map in all of the difficult areas. I wanted to run offensively but in control. I new from the other races during the WOC that I was able to hold a high speed in the technically difficult areas.
Johan's comments: Hanne has a tactic. She's thinking about what she expects will happen and what suits her.
Johan: What were you using to orienteer to the first control?
Hanne: When I got the map, I immediately decided to avoid the green area. So, I followed the vegetation boundary to the top. I was a bit uncertain on the way up, but I kept a steady pace. When I came up, the forest opened and I could easily read the two bare rock knolls north of the control and the distinct marshes to the east. From the southern of the knolls I saw the high area where the first control was. I spiked it without trouble.
Johan's comments: Hanne tries to make it as easy as possible for herself.
Johan: Why didn't you go around to the second and fifth controls where you could have simplified the controls?
Hanne: I was thinking offensively. In my mind I believed that straight was the best route. I was careful on the legs and made sure I had a safe approach to the control.
Johan: On the map it looks like the forest is a bit thicker from the 4th control to the 8th. Did you change your tactic? Adjust your running speed and be a bit more precise with keeping your direction? Why do you think these areas were the foundation of your victory?
Hanne: I didn't change my tactic. Just read the map the whole way. Don't lose map contact for a second. To 8 it is a little more diffuse, so I was careful with the direction. I checked my position with the knoll and the big boulder before 8. I saw the TV people, but I didn't think about them, and found the control.
Johan's comments: When Hanne reads the map, she reads the details she sees. But, she isn't satisfied with that, she also double checks with another feature.
Johan: To the 10th control you went off.
Hanne: First, in the beginning of the leg I probably ran a bit further to the right than I drew on the map. My first thought when I saw the leg was -- now there is a route choice. I saw the trail to the left. When I left 9, it was with the idea of running around. I stopped at the road and changed my mind. I stayed offensive and went straight instead. But, from the road I ran without really thinking. I wasn't really sure where I crossed the high area (knolls). I saw Simone Luder, who was on her way to 2, but didn't manage to relocate. I thought I'd figured it out several times, but I was stressed and didn't check the direction. I thought I knew where I was. But then things didn't fit. At the marsh, I relocated. But, I was too stressed to really check the direction. I thought I was on my way to the control, but it was soon obvious that things weren't fitting. So, I stopped -- wrong spur. I immediately saw where I was. I was very glad to see the control. I listened for Reeta (started 2 minutes after me) as I left the control.
Johan's comments: Finally Hanne stopped and read the map. Immediately it was easy; as soon as she took the time to just stop and read the map.
Hanne: I would have liked to go out and run the leg again. It is really annoying to not know what I did wrong. But, I won the race and that is most important.
Johan's comment: Is that most important? When I asked Hanne the next question it is four months after the race.
Johan: Which is you strongest feeling, four months after the race? Is it that you won or that you made a big mistake?
Hanne: I have actually thought about that mistake a lot. I wonder why I changed my mind and didn't take the trail as I first planned? Why did I lose concentration? Was it because I saw Simone in the middle of the leg?I would have be much more satisfied if I hadn't made that mistake. Maybe the feeling of trying to have "the perfect race" is what drives us? I also wonder if I really deserve to win after such a big mistake! I make a distinction between my result and how well I ran. For a World Champs it the result is more important than how well I ran (at least when I won the gold). So, I'm very happy to have won the World Champs even without having "the perfect race." But, I haven't really answered your question...which feeling is strongest? I think the happiness of winning is strongest, even though I'm really irritated that I could make such a big mistake.
Johan's comments: I don't think it is "the perfect race" that drives us. We're never going to do it. We will always be able to run a little faster or go on the right side of a tree or boulder. Instead, I think we want the feeling of doing as well as we could, to have mastered the problems the forest and course setter gave us.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 7:24 PM
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
The Price of an OrienteerImagine you're from a small orienteering club in Sweden and you've developed a good, young orienteer. Then that young orienteer goes to one of the big elite clubs. The big club gets help in the important relays, and you get nothing.
One of the small clubs in Sweden is proposing that the big club would have to pay the small club. The idea is that for an orienteer up to the age of 23 who moves to an elite club, the elite club will pay compensation to the club where the runner was developed for each year between the age of 15-21:
Here is the "price list":
5,000 Swedish Crowns to the club the orienteer belonged to when they were 15-16; 5,000 for age 16-17; 10,000 for ages 17-18; 10,000 for age 18-19; 15,000 for ages 19-20; and 15,000 for ages 20-21.
I think it works like this...If a runner trained with a club from the age of 15-21 and then moved to another club, then the new club would have to pay the original club a total of 60,000 Swedish Crowns. The payment compensates the first club for its investment.
Without having given it much thought, it strikes me as a strange idea, but an interesting idea for discussion. It reminds me of the sort of idea that we'd talk about in intro economics course - trying to figure out who would ultimately pay and what the unintended consequences might be.
If I had to bet, I'd place my money on the proposal not being put into effect.
Here is more about the idea from the Uppsala newspaper (in Swedish) and here is an argument against the idea from one of the runners who seems to be at the center of the idea (also in Swedish).
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 7:56 PM
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Tougher to concentrate after 70 minutesEric wrote:
Today, I went for what was supposed to be a 2-hour orienteering workout at Hawn. I started out a bit faster than planned, but it felt good and I was being very accurate, so I continued at that pace. At about 70 minutes, I started having difficulty concentrating. I bobbled a couple controls and then really messed up a long leg. By force of will, I got back on my game for a bit, but fell apart again about fifteen minutes later....
I reviewed some of my bigger errors in 2007 and found that most of them occurred between 60 and 90 minutes....
This reminded me of something I found several years ago when I was looking at patterns of booms. I was specifically looking to see if there was a tendency for more booms to happen on the first control. I looked at a bunch of different races and checked to see where booms happened. What I found was that booms were not especially frequent on the first control, but there was an increase in the boom frequency on the last 15 minutes or so of a course.
I should replicate the analysis that I did a few years ago. With a lot more results in Winsplits, it ought to be a bit easier to do. I'll add it to my list of things to do someday.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 8:55 PM
Monday, January 21, 2008
Strange shaped courseYesterday's course had a strange shape. Check out the zig-zag from controls 2 through 7.
On the way to the race I drove through a historic district. My rural Georgia history is a bit weak, so I don't have any idea what this was about. But, I am curious.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 5:11 PM
Friday, January 18, 2008
An idea to introduce students to orienteering through maps and technology - Mapping VaxjoYou can read about a project to introduce students to orienteering through a combination of mobile phones, maps, and treasure hunts. Read some English description of the project and if you're really interested (and can manage Swedish) check out Mapping Vaxjo.
I came across the project through a news item on Alternativet.
Next Update on Monday
I'm running the A-meet in Georgia this weekend. I won't update this page until Monday.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 8:43 AM
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Norwegians running uphillWorth a look - the results of an uphill running test at a Norwegian national team training camp. The course was 6.3 km with 375 meters of climb.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 8:05 PM
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Some idle speculationI read about a psychology study where the researchers compared two groups of students. One group was praised for putting in a good effort. The other was praised for being smart. Basically, one group was focused on process and one on outcome. The researchers then gave the groups two other exercises to pick from. One exercise was more challenging and had the potential to push the students. It turned out that the group praised for effort was more likely to pick the more challenging task in the second round. The group praised for being smart was more likely to pick the easier task.
What might this have to do with orienteering? Well, it might be interesting to compare runners who are praised for having "talent" with runners who are praised for "training hard." See which group eventually performed better.
One possibility - if the research described above holds - is that the group praised for being talented might be more likely to race against weaker competition, where they could get good places even if they didn't perform as well. The group praised for training hard might test themselves against tougher competition. It is easy to speculate, but hard to know what would actually happen.
*Unfortunately, I can't remember where I read about the experiment. I can't provide a reference. If I come across it, I'll try to post some more info.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 7:29 PM
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Special new training method
When I arrived at tonight's night O' session I realized I'd forgotten my compass and, more importantly, my magnifier and reading glasses. Without some sort of magnifier, I struggle to read the detail on a 1:15,000 map. But, I was set on doing some technique training, so I made the best of the situation. It turned out to be a good way to train. By not being able to see details, I was forced to pay more attention to the big picture. That's almost always a better way to orienteer.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 8:11 PM
Monday, January 14, 2008
Wingstedt on prioritiesEmil Wingstedt posted a comment at Alternativet about priorities. If you can manage Swedish, it is worth a read. If not, here is the gist of some of what he posted (roughly translated):
...For several years I've skipped a lot of competitions and other activities - both at the club and national team levels. This year, and previous years, I've done that with the understanding of the national team, in order to have the plan that suits me best.
I consider several things when I decide my season plan:
Travel. Travel days reduce training time and hurt recovery. Travel should be minimized.
Money. As long as we don't get paid by the federation and have to hold a normal job, every training camp means I lose income. Every training camp has to be evaluated based on the number of vacation days I've got. If someone is interested in what it costs to focus on orienteering, consider that you've got 2 extra years of studies and student loans, plus a part-time job (50-60 percent) for the rest of your competitive career. Of course, your costs are lower compared to others because you don't have time for regular vacation travel or shopping ;-) In a good year - i.e. when you win a world championship - the performance bonus from the federation is basically a wash compared to working full time (that's just a fact, not a complaint).
Family. With 2 small children at home, my spouse has a lot of work when I'm gone. Even if I skip a lot of activities, I have to be away some days, like under championships, etc.
Nobody would be happier than me to be able to attend more activities. But for the reasons above, and a strong desire to perform well at championships, I've chosen to make some sacrifices. So far it has given good results, and that is probably the most important thing for the federation's point of view....
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 7:28 PM
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Just a mapJust a map, an old map:
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 7:02 PM
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Today's route choice testI ran a route choice test this afternoon. The leg is short (roughly 400 meters). The contour interval is 3 meters. The hills aren't as steep as they look if you are used to 5 meter contours. The forest is mapped as light green. It isn't too bad to run through.
The map shows the four routes I tested. When I do this kind of training, I try to estimate the difference in time between the different options. The idea isn't so much to pick the fastest route as to train myself to estimate the differences in different routes.
The fastest route took me 2:20. The challenge is to pick estimate how much slower the other routes are (and, of course, to pick the fastest route). I'll post the results as a comment.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 4:51 PM
Friday, January 11, 2008
More World Ranking O' TriviaThe United States has 249 names listed in the IOF World Ranking list.
I thought it'd be interesting to see which nations are most similar to the U.S. in terms of the number of names on the ranking list. So, here is a list of the nations within +/- 100 names of the United States:
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 7:56 PM
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Some O' TriviaI counted 10,588 entries in the IOF world ranking lists. Roughly half of them are from seven nations.
Can you guess those seven nations? (Bonus if you can get them in order).
I'll post the answer as a comment.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 9:03 PM
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Sketch mapsDrawing your own sketch maps is a good way to practice your orienteering. As you study a map and draw your own sketch map, you're forced to simplify. You also get a bit of extra time to study and plan your leg. When you run the course, you typically run cleanly and quickly.
Here are a couple of courses from a recent HOK training:
And here are some examples of the sketch maps (click on the maps for a larger image, if that isn't legible, try this link):
In reviewing the sketch maps, the common "mistakes" that showed up were:
1. Not enough focus on contours.
2. Too much focus on small trails.
3. Too many unnecessary details (small boulders, dot knolls, etc).
If you can read Norwegian, the description of the training and the analysis of the sketch maps are worth a look.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 7:44 PM
Monday, January 07, 2008
Disrespect = motivation?Apparently the coach for the Ohio State football team gave all of the players a short DVD full of commentary about how the team didn't deserve to be playing in tonight's football national championship game. I thought that was an interesting way to motivate players - convince them that the rest of the world doesn't respect them. We'll see if it works (as I write, the score is tied 10-10 in the first half).
Stadium Sprint Map
I came across this map on Markus Puusepp's blog (an Estonian blog with lots of maps). Can you guess where the map is?
I had no idea, but a Google search suggests it is in Azerbaijan.
Slick (and inexpensive) GPS
An email arrived today with a link to this inexpensive ($70) GPS data logger.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 8:14 PM
Sunday, January 06, 2008
A bit of today's mapA bit of today's race:
The event was a mass start one-hour score O'. While the entire course was fun, the clip above shows the best bit. The stretch from 16-19-20 is some of the nicest forest around Kansas City.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 8:54 PM
Saturday, January 05, 2008
New Sprint Area?We might need to make a sprint map of the JCCC campus.
I spent an hour or so exploring the campus and running a short sprint course. For a map, I used the county online GIS map viewer to create 2 maps with pavement edges, buildings, water features, and contours. One map was at about 1:4500 and the other at about 1:9000.
I think the area would work as a sprint area. It isn't as interesting as the KU campus, primarily because it is flat.
I'll have to talk with some of the local PTOCers about mapping JCCC.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 6:25 PM
Friday, January 04, 2008
One of the things I like about orienteering is that it isn't a gear-heavy sport. It is nice that you don't have to change tires or wax skis or buy a boat or spend a lot of money on gear. Still, there are some cool toys out there...like the latest Garmin GPS - the "Forerunner 405."
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 6:15 PM
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Post night O' training snapshotWhen I was done with tonight's night O' practice, I put my camera on a tripod, set the shutter to 60 seconds, shined my headlamp on the trees, and took a picture. Standing there, waiting for the shutter to close, I began to get cold.
Some Iceland Snapshots
Some interesting Iceland snapshots from the Reykjavik Museum of Photography (note, a bunch of the links end with a "%20" which seems to screw up the link; just delete the "%20" and you'll get to the right place).
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 8:54 PM
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Process versus outcome...and the NY GiantsOne of the key plays in last weekend's Giants game was a long pass by the Patriots to their star receiver, Randy Moss. Moss was wide open. The ball was a little underthown, but hit Moss in the hands. He dropped the ball. If Moss had caught the ball, it'd have been a huge play.
The very next play, the Patriots did the same thing. This time Moss caught the ball and scored a touchdown. It put the Patriots ahead and they went on to win the game.
The TV announcer said something like, "the Patriots went right back to the same play after it had failed."
But, if you think about process versus outcome, you'd have expected the announcer to say something like, "the Patriots went right back to the same play because it succeeded the first time - it got the receiver wide open and the quarterback put it on his hands...he was just unlucky and unable to hang on to the ball."
I suspect that the coaches and players for the Patriots were thinking about process rather than outcome. They probably thought, "wow that worked, let's do it again and Moss will catch it."
I wonder if the Giants coaches and players were thinking outcome instead of process. They probably thought, "they tried an all-or-nothing play and got nothing - now the Patriots will be worried."
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 7:47 PM
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Spreadsheet orienteerFor no good reason I created a little spreadsheet orienteer this morning. I was looking at the world ranking results of orienteers ranked between 224 and 232. Not coincidentally, Boris is in the middle of the list and Patrick Goeres is at 232. As I was looking at the distribution of individual race results, I realized it'd be pretty simple to make a spreadsheet that would create similar results.
My spreadsheet orienteer has five results (results=world ranking points):
Race 1 = 955 points
Race 2 = 906 points
Race 3 = 1076 points
Race 4 = 952 points
Race 5 = 984 points
The world rankings are based on the top four scores, so my spreadsheet orienteer drops the 906 score and has a four race total of 3967. That would rank 228th (which is Boris' spot).
The way the spreadsheet works is it uses Excel's random number generator to create results based on the distribution of the actual results of all of the orienteers ranked 224 to 232. That's not exactly right, I made a few simplifications and I make it impossible to score 0 in the spreadsheet (though some very low scores are possible).
In Excel I can then run the year over-and-over and see what happens to my spreadsheet orienteer. Think of the spreadsheet as performing more-or-less like Boris but sometimes having different luck (sometimes better luck, sometimes worse). I ran 100,000 seasons and the spreadsheet orienteer averaged 3812 points (which would rank 251, where Jon Torrance is currently ranked). That average is a little too low, so I should probably tweak my spreadsheet...except there isn't really any point. It isn't like I'm going to use my spreadsheet orienteer....
In those 100,000 seasons, the luckiest the spreadsheet orienteer got was 4626 points. That'd rank 125th. And that would be really lucky (a 1 in 100,000 chance). The unluckiest would score just 185 points. That'd rank 1802.
Probably the most interesting thing to do with the spreadsheet orienteer is estimate the value of running more than the minimum number of world ranking competitions. The world ranking list is based on the best four results (in fact, quite a few runners have fewer than four, but most of them aren't ranked in the top 300 or so). If you run more than four ranking events, you can drop your worst score.
How valuable is it to drop your worst score?
For my spreadsheet orienteer, it is very easy to find out. You just run a bunch of seasons where you base the result on 4 races and then a bunch of seasons where you base the results on 5 results, but you drop the worst result.
It turns out that dropping the worst of 5 results is worth about 325 ranking points (which seems a bit too large...another suggestion that I might want to tweak my spreadsheet). That's a big jump. Adding 325 points to someone with ranked around 225 to 230 would jump them up to about 185th place.
It turns out that most of the orienteers I looked at already have more than 4 world ranking results. So, they've already got the 325 point bonus.
Enough...time to make dinner.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com. posted by Michael | 6:28 PM