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Occassional thoughts about orienteering


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Another look at the toughest leg

 

I spent some more time looking at the GPS tracks for the section of the WOC women's middle distance final that I wrote about yesterday. But before I got to the 14th leg, I noticed a couple of runners taking a trail route on the 12th leg. Most of the runners followed the line straight to the control. But, two of them dropped down to the trail, then came back up to the control. In the first map clip you see the "live" GPS track for Dana Brozkova and Lizzie Ingham. They were together at the point shown in the map below.


Brozkova dropped down to the trail and then came back up to the control, adding a bit of distance but also spending some time running along a trail. They were back together at the control. I think it is fair to conclude that Brozkova's trail route is essentially equivalent to the straight route.

The other runner who took the trail approach to 12 was Annika Billstam.

Now, on to the 14th leg. The toughest leg on the course.

I think the leg is tough for a bunch of reasons. It is near the end of the course. That means the runners are tired. It also means you might start thinking the course is over and let your concentration wander. There is enough green on the leg that it may be a bit rough to run through the forest. That said, it doesn't look all that difficult. You could run to the highest point on the map clip and you'd be just a bit outside the ring. If you don't want to climb up to the top, it looks like the reentrant just before the control should be a feature you could find.

I was inspired by Brozkova's and Billstam's routes to look at the trail option. The map below shows the two options that caught my eye. It looks like a lot of extra distance. The trail option doesn't look to give you an especially good route to the control. None of the runners took that option, so it is a difficult to tell how much time it would have taken.

If you knew in advance that this was the toughest leg on the course - a leg where almost 20 percent of a group of the best orienteers in the world would struggle - maybe you'd give the trail option some thought. The last map clip shows the routes of the 8 orienteers who had the most trouble on the leg.

Two of them ended up finding control 14 from the trail, but only after missing the control and bailing out.

One runner lost about 6 minutes on the leg (based on WinSplits Pro "time loss"). The runner who suffered the most was almost certainly Lizzie Ingham. By WinSplits Pro, she lost 2:42 on 14. On the rest of the course, she only lost another 48 seconds. Take that 2:42 off her total time and she would have 36:26 and an 8th place finish.

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posted by Michael | 8:13 PM

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Toughest leg on the WOC women's middle final?

 

You can make a case that the leg to 14 was the hardest leg on the entire course for the women's middle final at WOC. I was looking at the splits in WinSplits Pro. I looked at the "performance index" for each leg on the course. Performance index is the average of the fastest 25 percent of the split times divided by the specific runner's split time. The higher the number, the better the runner did on the leg.

For the 14th leg, Helena Jansson had the best time and her performance index was 109.9 percent.

I counted the number of runners who had a performance index of 60 or below on each leg. The 14th leg had 8. That's the most of any leg and it is almost one of every 5 runners.

If you were looking at the entire course, you'd probably pick out one of the legs around 3 through 6 as the one with the most bad performances. Using the performance index and the 60 percent cut off, leg 6 was difficult. On that leg, 6 runners has performance index scores of 60 or below.



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posted by Michael | 9:11 PM

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Just ignore them all

 

This is one of the better training log entries I've read in a long time, from Alex Jospe, on the day she ran the WOC qualifier:

I think everyone assumed I'd be nervous for my first WOC race, and pretty much everyone I saw yesterday and this morning tried to offer me advice. I figured it was easiest to just ignore them all and do my own thing - I know how to play this game; other people may be better at it, but I know what to do. So I wasn't that nervous starting out.

People like to give advice even when it isn't wanted. I guess there's some sort of desire to feel like you're helping. I'm sure I'm guilty of it, too. But as a rule of thumb, I try to remind myself that most people are smart enough to figure things out for themselves if they make an effort to learn.

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posted by Michael | 7:54 PM

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Route from the WOC relay

 

I thought this was one of the more interesting routes from the WOC relay. It is leg 5 to 6 on the first leg of the men's relay. I've shown the routes of the medalists - Philippe Adamski (France), Carl Waaler Kaas (Norway), and Anders Holmberg (Sweden).

What caught my eye was Norway's route.

I saw a number of legs throughout the WOC where it looked like there were route options like this - out of the way, along a trail, and with a reasonable approach to the control. As you might guess, on this leg Norway's route wasn't the fastest. But it wasn't too bad either. I'm guessing it cost about 50 seconds compared to Sweden - running a shorter route and executing it well.

Compared to the Swedish runner, Norway lost about 50 seconds. But, compared to the French runner, Norway gained about 20 seconds. (The time estimates are a bit tricky because Sweden had a different fork). From the GPS track it doesn't look like the French runner missed the control. But he had to go a bit more slowly and carefully for more of the leg.

To me, the value of a route like Norway's is that you get a little bit of a break. You can relax you're map reading a little bit. You get a brief break from the terrain. It isn't a big break. In this case, Norway had about 2 minutes of easy orienteering (down the big hill and along the trail).

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posted by Michael | 5:53 PM

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ireland's WOC versus the peer nations

 

Now that the World Champs is over, I looked at how Ireland did against each of the peer nations. I used my usual list of nations (USA, BEL, CAN, IRL, PN, NZL and POR) and calculated a win-loss record for the Irish runners.

Overall, Irish runners' won-loss record was 39-48. That's a winning percentage of 45.

To put that into context, in 2009 Portugal's winning percentage was 60. The other year's where I have winning percentages are all for the US and are:

2005 24 percent
2006 26 percent
2007 51 percent
2008 32 percent

You can break down the win-loss records by discipline or compare Ireland's men and women. If you look at the win-loss record against each individual nation, you can get an overall ranking of the peer nations. If you have a bunch of time, you could look at the winning percent for Ireland at previous World Championships.

A few things caught my eye as I was looking at Ireland's results:

The men and women had similar winning percentages (47 for the men and 41 for the women).

Ireland had one runner - Aislinn Austin - qualify for a final. She ran the middle final. She finished behind NZL and CAN (in fact, she was behind 2 NZL runners, but in my win-loss scheme that only counts as 1 loss). She finished ahead of the USA.

Ireland's men had a good relay. They beat all of the peer nations. Finishing ahead of New Zealand is an especially nice result. New Zealand is typically the best of my peer nations, often by quite a bit.

If you rank the 7 peer nations based on wins-losses, Ireland comes out behind New Zealand and Canada, but ahead of the other nations. That seems to be a pretty good result (and I think it would be better than Ireland has done in the past).


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posted by Michael | 4:46 PM

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"The Brian May Effect"

 

One of the characteristics of most of the "peer nations" is that they suffer from "The Brian May Effect." What's that?

Essentially it is that a single orienteer can make a huge difference in how well the team performs. Take that orienteer away and the team's performance suffers quite a lot. The easiest way to illustrate the B.M.E. is to look at a simple goal - take qualifying for the finals - and imagine how a nation would have done without their best orienteer. In France, the U.S. has had 4 qualifiers for finals. Ali Crocker qualified for all three disciplines and Samantha Saeger qualified for the sprint final. Four finalists is a decent performance for the U.S. But, take away Crocker and the U.S. almost certainly has just one qualifier. That's the B.M.E.

Compare the U.S. to one of the absolute top nations - say Switzerland. Take away one of the best Swiss oreinteers and Switzerland's performance suffers. But, it doesn't suffer anything like the U.S. would if you take away the best U.S. orienteer.

I first wrote about the B.M.E. back in 2004.



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posted by Michael | 7:30 PM

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Monday, August 15, 2011

How many North American qualifiers at the sprint?

 

On a discussion at Attackpoint, Hammer wrote:

...Anyway, good luck to all in the sprints tomorrow. Should be some exciting online WOC coverage. how many North Americans to the final?

My "batting average" model would suggest that 2 North American runners will qualify for the sprint finals.

I also took a quick look at sprint results from the last 3 world champs. It looks like the North American's have had 1, 2 and 2 qualifiers in the last 3 world champs.

It'd be great if more made it.

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posted by Michael | 7:50 PM

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Seven qualifiers for the middle final

 

Seven runners from today's middle distance qualification race from USA, BEL, POR, CAN, IRL, JPN and NZL. Here's the list:

Ali Crocker (USA)
Aislinn Austin (IRL)
Lousie Oram (CAN)

And then four qualifiers from New Zealand:

Chris Forne
Lizzie Ingham
Penny Kane
Amber Morrison

New Zealand had a good day. They had a bad day yesterday. New Zealand has historically been at the top of my peer nations list at WOCs. If I were putting together a peer nations list for New Zealand, I'd create a different list.

It was nice to see Louise Oram qualify. She just missed yesterday and ran in a heat where it looks like some pack running may affected the results. Or maybe not, with pack running you really can't say for sure.

Win-loss records using the peer nations

The idea of the peer nations list was to put together a group of nations with some similarities to the U.S. and to use that list to help measure U.S. results. What I'd hoped was to see people use the list to count wins and losses. Essentially, each runner from the U.S. would get a win for finishing ahead of a runner from one of the peer nations. They'd get a loss for finishing behind a runner from a peer nation. You'd end up with a U.S. win-loss record. It is very simple, no calculations required, just some counting.

Here's how it'd work for Alex Jospe at today's race. First, I'll list the peer nations runners and their places from the Women's C qualification course:

8: Lizzie Ingham (NZL)
14: Louise Oram (CAN)
24: Alex Jospe (USA)
27: Niahm O'Boyle (IRL)
DQ: Eriko Ide (JPN)

No runners from Belgium or Portugal ran against Alex.

So, Alex Jospe's win-loss record was 2-2. She beat the runners from Ireland and Japan and lost to the runners from New Zealand and Canada.

You can see how the U.S. did as a whole by summing up all of the individual win-loss records.

I like the win-loss approach. While it is very simple, I've found it interesting. But, it never caught on with a broader audience (and, I've actually got a few very negative reactions to the approach...which surprises me).

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posted by Michael | 3:00 PM

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Four qualifiers for the long finals

 

My "batting average" model of WOC qualifiers is batting 1000. It expected 4 qualifiers from the group of runners from USA, BEL, POR, CAN, IRL, JPN and NZL. Here are the 4 qualifiers with their nations and places in their heats:

Lizzie Ingham (NZL) 6th
Ali Crocker (USA) 10th
Carol Ross (CAN) 14th
Chris Forne (NZL) 15th

I think it is always fun to see younger runners doing well. Ingham and Ross are both just 23.

Louise Oram (CAN) was close. She finished 16th, missing a qualifying time by 16 seconds. From the splits, it looks like Louise lost a bit too much time on two legs - 3 and 7. You can see the course here.

Middle qualification

The middle qualification race is tomorrow and the batting average model would again have 4 qualifiers.


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posted by Michael | 1:23 PM

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Friday, August 12, 2011

WOC starts...first look at peer nations

 

With the World Champs starting in France tomorrow, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at the teams from the peer nations. "Peer nations" are a group of countries that I use to compare. The group is:

USA
Belgium
Canada
Ireland
Japan
New Zealand
Portugal

I put the list together years ago. You can read about the method if you're really interested.

54 runners from the 7 nations are listed on the WOC teams at WorldofO.

The nations sent a total of 54 runners, and most of the peer nations sent large teams (8 or 9 runners). Belgium and Portugal sent smaller teams, with just 5 runners each. Barring injuries, we should see 5 of the nations have men's and women's relay teams.

I always like checking the ages of WOC runners. The average age of the runners from the peer nations is 27.7. You can look at the average ages of each nation's runners to get an idea of which teams are young and which are old.

The 2 youngest teams (based on average age)?

Portugal (24.4) and Belgium (26.2)

The 2 oldest teams?

Japan (31.7) and the USA (28.6)

The long distance qualifying race is tomorrow. Based on a quick look at the start list, I see 33 starters from the peer nations. It will be interesting to see how the qualifying races go and how many of the peer nation's runners make the finals. A few years ago I calculated a "batting average" for making the finals (the number of qualifiers/the number of qualifying opportunities). The averages vary by nation (with New Zealand having the best by a good bit). If you use the group batting average to predict the number of finalists, you get 3.6. We'll call it 4. It isn't my prediction, but it'll be a rough idea of what we might expect tomorrow.


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posted by Michael | 7:45 PM

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Sunday, August 07, 2011

Iceland orienteering 2011

 


It is about time I wrote something about our 2011 Orienteering trip to Iceland. Mary and I went to Iceland in 2007. At that time, there wasn't any orienteering, but we managed to get a couple of old orienteering maps and were able to explore a little bit. I wrote a bit about those maps back in 2007.

Since 2007, orienteering has gotten started (or re-started). Iceland now has an orienteering club called Hekla. Hekla hosted the 3-day Ice O' event in July. When we saw it on the calendar, we started planning for the trip.

I'll start with links to the maps:

Sprint course

Long course

Middle course

The terrain for the long and middle distance races is tougher than it looks. Both maps feature lava terrain. The lava terrain is rough, with lots of lumps of rocks covered by soft, thick moss. It is a bit like running on an uneven mattress. It is tiring. The photo below shows an example of some lava terrain (this is an extreme example and is NOT taken from one of the maps):



The vegetation in the orienteering terrain was mostly pleasant. The dark green areas were thick - something to avoid. In a few places you ran through Lupines. It looks beautiful, but is a chore to push your way through. Forturnately, we didn't have to spend much time in the Lupines.



The Hekla club did a great job of putting on the event. Orienteering is a small sport in Iceland, it was a lot of work for the club. I probably didn't thank the organizers enough for all of their hard work, but I very much appreciated their efforts.

I would highly recommend an orienteering trip to Iceland. I hope to get back there in the next few years.

The orienteering is good, tough and interesting. The atmosphere at the events was friendly. There's something special about being around a sport when it is new and developing (as orienteering is in Icleand). There's sense of optimism and excitement.

One of the nice things about Iceland - from my standpoint - is that it is not so far from the U.S. The flying time is a few hours shorter than it is to go to the rest of Europe. That few hours makes a difference. The time difference is less (two hours different from central European time) and that makes the jet-lag easier to deal with.

An orienteering trip to Iceland is also a great reason to visit the rest of the county. Iceland is an amazing place to be a tourist. Reykjavik is worth a visit, but the most interesting parts of Iceland are outside of the city. Everywhere you look, you find something special. The snapshots below show a geothermal area between the main airport and Reykjavik and a lava-tube cave about an hour's drive from Reykjavik.





Late edition....here is a video that gives you an idea of the terrain. Obviously the video was not shot in the summer!



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posted by Michael | 1:07 PM

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