Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Monday, September 02, 2013

Orienteering (and looking at animals) in South Africa


Mary and I ran a local orienteering event near Johannesburg, South Africa, a few weeks ago.  

I had a clean, but slow, race.  The area sits about 1600 meters above sea level.  That's enough to make climbing hills difficult for someone who lives much lower.  Not being in very good shape doesn't help.

While we planned out trip to include an orienteering event, our main focus was on looking at the animals.  We spent most of our time in Kruger National Park.

We weren't really sure what to expect, but we'd rented a car in Johannesburg and booked nights at some of the camps in the park (Skukuza, Satara, Oliphants and Letaba) and also spent two nights at a lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve next to the park.

A typical day in the park would begin with an early morning drive. The drives involved leaving the camps before dawn and driving to some nearby areas to see animals.  The vehicles were open trucks with room for about 15 passengers.  The morning drives were very nice - you got out to the park before the gates opened and we saw lots of animals.

Our first morning drive included watching some lions.

Rhinos!  We saw plenty of rhinos on the sunrise and sunset drives, but didn't see rhinos when were were driving on our own.

Apparently wild dogs are rare.  We watched a group on our first morning drive.
Continuing our typical day meant returning to the camp and heading out onto the park roads in our rental car.  We'd drive around and see what we could see.  We could see a lot.  I didn't know what to expect.  Would we drive for hours without seeing anything?  Would we see animals, but only in the distance?  It turned out we'd see lots of interesting animals, often quite close.  Turning a corner on a dirt road and coming face-to-face with a giraffe, elephant, zebra, buffalo, kudu,....  Well, it never got old.

The giraffe seems interested in us.
We usually ate lunch on the road.  You're only allowed out of your car in Kruger as the camps or at specific get-out points.  We made sandwiches and ate our lunch sitting in the car or at one of the picnic areas or get-out points.

In the mid or late afternoon we'd return to the camp.  On some days we'd do a sunset drive (which is just like the morning drive but at sunset) and on some days we'd go on a guided walk.  You can't really get out in the terrain on your own, but you can book a walk with a couple of rangers.

Rhino spotted on a sunset drive.
We didn't see many animals on the walks, but the walks were very interesting.  It was a nice break to be moving under your own power rather than sitting in a car.  It was interesting to see the terrain up close.  While we didn't see a lot of animals, we saw lots of signs of animals and the rangers did a good job of showing us different plants, animal tracks, and so on.  The guided walks were limited to about 6-8 people and you were always accompanied by 2 rangers, both armed.

Rangers on one of our afternoon walks.

Hippos came over to us when we sat on the edge of the Letaba river.
We also spent two nights at a private safari lodge in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.  This was the typical safari experience....tea and coffee before dawn, a game drive with a tea and coffee break, a huge breakfast, a short walk, more food, more driving, more food..  You were catered to.  It was nice, but expensive.  We certainly enjoyed the experience and we're glad we had a couple of nights of the safari experience.  But, for my next trip I would stick with the self-drive rental car trip in Kruger.

An advantage of the private lodge and of being outside of the national park was that the guided drives could leave the roads.  That made it easier to get very close to some of the more spectacular animals...like lions, leopoards and cheetahs.  I shot some video with my iphone that will give you a sense of how close that can be.

If you've read this far and you're thinking, "hey, that looks cool, I'd like to go orienteering and traveling in South Africa," then you should check out the Big 5 O' 2013/14.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 3:47 PM


Monday, July 08, 2013

US v Peer Nations WOC rankings


Peer nation standings after the long qualification, sprint qualification and sprint finals races:

New Zealand
USA, Canada, Japan are all tied

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:03 PM


Sunday, July 07, 2013

Final JWOC peer nations ranking


After the JWOC relays, I came up with my final JWOC peer nation rankings.

New Zealand 96
Ireland 83
Belgium 71
Japan 69
Portugal 67
Can 46

The scores can be interpreted as the chance that a matched runner from the nation will beat the matched runner from the U.S.  "Matched runners" are the runners from each nation who are best or 2nd best or 3rd best and so on, in each event.  For example, the 3rd best result from New Zealand in the sprint is "matched" against the 3rd best result from the U.S.  If you look at all of the matches, you'd find that New Zealand would win about 96 percent of those matches against the U.S.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 11:08 AM


Friday, July 05, 2013

JWOC peer nation rankings...no changes after sprint


After today's JWOC sprint there are no changes in the overall peer nation rankings:

New Zealand

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:29 PM


Thursday, July 04, 2013

Portugal moves up in my JWOC rankings


Based on the middle distance finals at JWOC, Portugal moved up a notch (after being tied with USA going into the middle finals).  The key for Portugal was having one A qualifier in the men's race and 2 B qualifiers in the women's race.

The overall rankings haven't changed except for Portugal's move:

New Zealand

While the overall rankings haven't changed, things have gotten just a little bit tighter.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 11:03 AM


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

After 2 days...JWOC peer nation rankings


Here are my "peer nation" rankings after the first two days of the JWOC.

New Zealand
USA and Portugal (tie)

Both Beligium and Portugal suffered from a number of DQs in the long event.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:53 PM


Monday, July 01, 2013

First look at JWOC results and peer nations


I took a look at the JWOC results by looking at the U.S. and my list of "peer nations" after the first day's race.  You can read a bit of background on the peer nations approach.  Keep in mind that I've updated my nations list a bit since 2004.  My current groups is: Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand and Portugal.

I calculated a U.S. win/loss record for the long distance race and I'll keep track of the results as more races occur (and probably post them eventually).

One of the reasons I like looking at peer nation results is that I notice things I wouldn't otherwise notice.  At today's JWOC race, for example, Japan had three runners in the top 100.  That seems like a pretty good result.

Though it has never caught on, I think the peer nations approach is a good way to look at overall performance and would be a good way of looking at how the US performance has changed over the years.  Personally, I think that it would make a good way of setting and measuring goals...except it hasn't every gotten any traction and it doesn't make sense to set goals that nobody but me pays attention to.

You can see some discussion of the US performance at today's race on Attackpoint where a number of posters are coming up with measures.

It is also worth a look at the goals that were posted before the JWOC began.    I'm not a fan of those specific goals, though I like the idea that:

...we want to state overall performance goals for JWOC tonight, then figure out what we need to do to get to those goals, and put them aside and not discuss them until after JWOC.  Instead, we'll be focusing on the process goals...

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:36 PM


Sunday, May 26, 2013

2013 US WOC Team Age


I took my nearly annual look at the average and median age of the US WOC team.

Here are the results:

Year     Avg      Median
2013     28.9     29.5
2012     30.2     29.5
2011     ??.?     ??.?
2010     33.4     31.0
2009     32.4     30.0
2008     31.4     30.5
2007     ??.?      ??.?
2006     ??.?      ??.?
2005     30.8     28.0
2004     32.4     31.5

2013 is the lowest average age among the US WOC teams where I've done the math.  Part of that is that one junior was named to the team (Ethan Childs).  Someone told me that while he was named to the team he might not be going.  If that happens, I guess I'll update the math.

2013 is the first time that I've calculated team ages and had the average below the median.

A few years ago I looked at the ages for as many of the entrants as I could at a WOC and a European Champs and came up with categories based on ages:

Very young = under 21 (3 percent of the field)
Young = 21-25 (37 percent of the field)
Prime = 26-30 (39 percent of the field)
Old = 31-36 (13 percent of the field)
Very old = 36 and up (8 percent of the field)

The US WOC Team for 2013 has one "very young" orienteer, two "young" orienteers, three "prime" orienteers, three "old" orienteers and one "very old" orienteer.

You could apply the categories to the team average age.  In 2013, the average age is 28.9, which puts the average age in the "prime" category.  In prior years (keeping in mind that I've only done the math for 7 WOCs) the average age has always been "old."

*Ages are based on the year of birth that I found on runners.worldofo.com or Attackpoint.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 5:56 PM


37 Year Old Orienteering Map


Orienteering first got started around here back in the mid 1970s.  A group called the Johnson County Outdoor Society put on a few events and some of their members eventually started PTOC in Kansas City.  One of their main areas was Shawnee Mission Park.

The map above is Shawnee Mission Park, but it isn't the map that PTOC used.  Back in the mid 1970s, PTOC used a black and white photocopy of the U.S.G.S. topo.

Since the USGS photocopies weren't so good to use, George M created his own map!  Instead of using the map the organizers provided, George (and others who had his map) could copy the course onto their map.  I think it was a distinct advantage. Above is the map that George made and the route is the course that Gene drew on it.  I think you can see that it is very easy to read and no less detailed than a USGS topo.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 5:18 PM


Saturday, April 06, 2013

First test with OpenOrienteering Mapper


I finally got around to downloading OpenOrienteering Mapper and trying it out.  My first test was to create a tiny map of an area I'm familiar with but that is a long way away.  You can see the result below.

The map is based on a georeference air photo that I downloaded from the National Map Viewer.  I haven't done any fieldchecking, but I might do something the next time I'm in the area.

My general impression of OpenOrienteering Mapper is positive.  I was able to make use of it without much frustration.  That's a bit unusual for me when I'm first using new software.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 5:01 PM


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My training tree


I made a little "toy" of my training log in 2012.  The idea was to take my entire log and use the information to be able to predict how I trained given two bits of information - the day of the week and the activity.  Here's how it works:

  1. The top of the tree begins with the day of the week.  Today is Tuesday, so the top of the tree means that I branch off to the left (if today was Saturday or Sunday, I'd branch off to the right).
  2. The top left branch gives activities.  I rode my bike, so that's "cycling" which means I branch off to the left.  
  3. The left branch gives a number - 46.97.  That's the estimate of the minutes that I trained.  

And that is, in fact, almost exactly right.  My training for today was 45 minutes of biking on my way to and from work.

Here's another example:

  1. Let's say I want to predict my training for Saturday.  From the top of the tree, I go to the right branch.
  2. I'm going to go orienteering.  So the activity is orienteering and I go to the left branch.
  3. The left branch gives a prediction that I will orienteer for 54.75 minutes.

One last example:

  1. Let's say that in addition to my bike riding to work, I am going to go for a run today.  Since it is Tuesday, I begin at the top of the tree and take the left branch.
  2. The left branch is activities and my activity is running.  That means I move down to the right branch.
  3. That branch asks me for the day of the week.  Since it is Tuesday, I move down and to the left.
  4. The left branch gives a prediction that I will run for 27.39 minutes.

I think it is an interesting way of looking back at a year of training.

I should play around with the data a bit more.  I think it might be good to look at the season (probably the month of the year) as well as the activity and day of the week.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:06 PM


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