Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Preparing for races


As I've gotten more experience orienteering (and as I get older!), I've become more interested in how to think about an up-coming race.

The Chicago A-meet gave us some good opportunities to think about the up-coming race. On Friday, we had a "model event" at a place next to the race site. Before you started on Saturday, you had a chance to look around the finish area and you could see a bit of the forest on the way to the start. Before Sunday, you could think about what you'd learned on Saturday and could look at the terrain and map before your start (both day's were on the same map). The same person designed the courses both days -- I had a few minutes before I started on Sunday to chat with the course setter.

How do you make the best use of the chances you've got?

What should you look for during a model event?

What should you do if you've got a map of the actual event site?

Can you learn something by looking at the course setter's prior work?

What sort of things to the best orienteers see on the way to the start that the rest of us don't?

If you were getting ready to run the World Champs in Switzerland in 2003 and you had a copy of the map of the classic area, what would you do with it? (If you're curious, here is a 1998 map that covers part of the classic WOC 2003 area).

I've got a few thoughts about preparing for races. But, they'll have to wait a while because I'm getting sleepy.

posted by Michael | 10:00 PM


Monday, April 29, 2002

More from Hanne Staff


Hanne Staff doesn't write much on the www.staff-valstad.com, but what she writes is usually quite interesting. Here is a bit of her report from last weekend's race:*

I went out for the last leg in about 6th or 7th place. Liisa Anttila was just ahead of me and Simone Lude was just behind. So, I had to be sharp. Earlier, I'd thought about this situation and decided to make my own race the whole way. I did that...almost...Most of the time I was offensive and in control. But, a few times I didn't do so well and that lead to a boom or some time lost.

It is interesting that Hanne thought about the situation before she started and had a plan for how to handle it. That way of thinking is, I think, very good. I think a lot of us can learn something from Hanne. We can spend some time before a race thinking about the situations we're likely to encounter and thinking about how we'll react.

* My appologies if I've mis-translated Hanne's report. My Norwegian is a bit shaky.

posted by Michael | 8:45 PM


Sunday, April 28, 2002

Five thoughts about the Chicago A-meet


1. The O' was (mostly) fun. The white woods in Chicago are very nice and the green is not. That makes for some interesting route choice possibilities. The courses were okay, but a long leg would have been nice.

2. The cool rainy weather we left in KC arrived just in time for my start. As I was jogging to the start I felt the first few drops of rain. The rain began a couple of minutes before my start time -- perfect timing.

3. Listening to Tio-Mila coverage over the internet while relaxing on Saturday evening was great. The coverage was great. They had streaming audio of the event announcer. You could follow the race quite well (assuming you could understand the Swedish). I turned off the computer early, long before the race ended. I'm hoping that next year's Tio-Mila won't be on the same weekend as a meet I go to.

4. The organizers used an interesting array of maps. On day one I ran with an offset print map at 1:15,000. On day two I ran with an inkjet (or maybe color laser?) map at 1:15,000. Mary had inkjet maps at 1:10,000 both days. The inkjet maps are ok, but offset maps are a lot nicer.

5. The first control on the second day's green course was bogus. It was in the wrong place (or the circle was drawn in the wrong place if you want to take another version of the problem). It was bogus. It is the kind of mistake that is at the very basis of the sport. If you can't use the map to find the control, it isn't orienteering. The jury wouldn't agree with me. They decided to void ONLY the F35 category. Bogus.

posted by Michael | 7:55 PM


Friday, April 26, 2002  

Mary and I spent some time poking around the Ikea store here in Chicago. It was strange -- it feel like you\'re in Sweden.

We ate Swedish meatballs. I had a good cup of Swedish coffee. I bought a couple of tubes of caviar.

After our Ikea-trip, we wandered around the model event area. The main impression from the model was that the thick woods are very thick, very unpleasant.

The terrain could be quite interesting. It could also be pretty crummy. A good course setter will give us some interesting route choices and some good tempo changes. A bad course setter will let us spend a lot of time hunting for flags and/or bashing through thorns.

I\'m hoping we get the good course setter.

Sent by whale-mail

posted by Michael | 8:27 PM


Thursday, April 25, 2002

First real race in a long time


I'm going to the Chicago A-meet this weekend. It is the first time since September that I feel like I'm going to a race. It feels good.

I'm running M35. I'd like to be running M21. My training isn't enough to let me run a blue course, let alone two blue courses. I'm confident I'll be able to run one good red course. I'm not so sure I'll be able to recover for two days in a row. But, I think I've got a shot.

Physically, I'm not in great shape. I haven't done much training and the training I've done has been slow.

Technically, I'm a bit rusty. I haven't done as much technique training as I'd like. I haven't raced.

So, not in great shape and not technically sharp. But, I'm still psyched because it is going to be fun to feel like I'm racing. In the seven months since I got hurt, I've missed racing.

My plan is simple -- READ THE MAP. If I read the map, the running should take care of itself.

The terrain should be ok for me. I expect it to be relatively flat (good, since I'm in lousy shape). The woods may be thick and thorny -- my kind of stuff.

The forecast is for cool (40s and 50s) and rain. My kind of weather.

Tomorrow is a travel day. I'm not sure I'll have a chance to update the blog tomorrow (or Saturday and Sunday, for that matter). If I get a chance, I'll try.

posted by Michael | 9:00 PM


Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Hanne and Fritz and the "Embarassment Factor"


Fritz talks about the "embarrassment factor" (EF). The EF is when you see someone in the woods or are seen by someone and start thinking about how you are doing. You think about how you look to other people. You worry about being embarrassed.

Hanne Staff wrote about something like the EF when she described a race last weekend. Here is my translation of what Hanne wrote:

On the way to the 14th control, I saw Birgitte on her way out of the control. She started 6 minutes ahead of me. I started to think about how far ahead of her I must be. That resulted in three bad legs in a row and about 1:30 of time lost to Birgitte.

Most of us have been disturbed by other runners. When I saw Birgitte, I lost focus and was thinking about something other than orienteering.

It is important to have a plan for this sort of situation. Whether you catch someone or get caught, you need to have a way to get your thoughts back on what you are doing -- orienteering. One way to do that is to read the map a bit extra on the way to the next control [whenever you see a competitor in the woods]. That will help you from thinking about other things. It forces you to think about orienteering.

Hanne goes a step beyond Fritz. She recognizes the EF and the problem it causes (just like Fritz does), but Hanne has a strategy for dealing with it. As soon as she recognizes the possibility of the EF, it triggers a reaction -- doing some extra map reading. That reaction gets her mind back on what she is doing. (Although she doesn't seem to have done so well in the specific race she's talking about since she lost 1:30 once she saw Birgitte!).

It doesn't have anything to do with the EF, but it is interesting to see how Hanne's time on the course last weekend compared to Johan Ivarsson. Johan is one of the absolute top elite Swedish runners (I believe he won M21 at last year's Swedish 5-days and he's won numerous Swedish champs). Johan also ran the same course as Hanne last weekend (Johan ran M35).

Johan ran the 8.3 km course in 55 minutes. Hanne ran the same course in 62 minutes. If she hadn't suffered from the EF, Hanne might have been closer to 60 minutes.

Hanne is losing very little time to one of the top elite men. If you finished the same percent behind Ivarsson at last year's Swedish 5-days, you'd have finished about 43rd of the elite men. You'd have finished just behind Arto Rautianen (who's been on Sweden's World Champs team). You'd have finished just ahead of Marc Lauenstien (a Swiss guy who spent a year or so in the US and dominated events he ran here).

posted by Michael | 7:04 PM


Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Orienteer Kansas' Tio-Mila Team 2002


Tio-Mila is this weekend in Surahammar, Sweden. For the uninitiated, Tio-Mila is a ten leg orienteering relay. The legs vary from 7.9 km to 15.4 km. Six of the ten legs are night orienteering. The race begins Saturday night and finishes Sunday morning.

Orienteer Kansas won't have a team. But, if we did, here is my leg-by-leg line up:

1. 10.7 km, night. Sanna Wallenborg. Sanna had a fantastic first leg for IF Thor's women last year. I figure she's got another year of experience. She's been training for adventure races and should be in great shape.

2. 10.7 km, night. Michael Eglinski. I put myself on this leg. I'm not as strong as last year. But, I'm recovering and I've got enough night O' experience that I should be able to take Sanna's strong lead and move us around the course.

3. 10.7 km, night. Dan "Snorkel" Meenehan. Dan isn't in the best shape of his life. But, he's always able to put in a good run when he has to. He's got a good headlamp and put in some night O' training this weekend.

4. 15.4 km, night. Mark "Mook" Everett. This is the famous "long night" leg. It will be tough. It is long. The courses are forked (all legs are forked this year). Mook is OK's strong man. If he can just run cleanly, he'll move us up.

5. 7.9 km, night. Mary Jones. Mary is OK's president. She's been training decently this winter. She bought a new headlamp last summer. Mary won't bring us to the front, but she'll get around the course without any big booms.

6. 9.0 km, night. Keith Lay. Keith and Eric organized some informal night O' sessions this winter. That, in and of itself, earns them both big points. I checked the last PTOC event results where both Keith and Eric ran...Keith got Eric by 5 minutes at Blue and Gray. That gets him the selection. Eric will be a reserve (let's hope it spurs him on and he earns a spot next year).

7. 9.0 km, night/dusk. Gene Wee. Gene is the father of OK. He's been training and competiting decently this winter. He boomed at last year's US Relay Champs. He's looking for redemption. This is it -- Gene will smoke the course.

8. 11.2 km, dusk/day. Peggy Dickison. Peggy is a crafty veteran. She showed good form last weekend at the "Billygoat" where she was the top woman. I don't think Peggy is a serious night orienteer, though. So, I've put her on a day leg.

9. 10.2 km, day. Nadim Ahmed. Peggy and Nadim are getting married in June. I've been following his training at www.attackpoint.org and I think he's up to the task. Nadim had a good run at the last US Relay Champs (can't remember what club he ran for?). A spot on the OK Team is a true honor....look for Nadim to prove that he deserves it.

10. 13.9 km, day. Magnus Wallenborg. Magnus has been training hard for adventure races. He's ready to run the long distance. The terrain for this year's Tio-Mila (check out a PDF of this year's map) is the sort of stuff that Magnus is ready for.

Now that I've made my selections, I realize there are a number of people who'll be disappointed. People who are good enough to run on the OK team, but didn't quite make this year's team. The reserves include: Eric Saggars, Mark Maher, Dave "Legs" Linthicum, Raymond Wren, and Dick and Nancy Neuburger.

A team needs a support crew/coaches. The OK Tio-Mila team has an outstanding support/coaching crew. JJ Cote and Mikell Platt are obvious choices. Even though they aren't OKers, they read the OK forum and post regularly. Kenny Walker, Jr. earns a spot for managing the Attackpoint web page (THE coolest orienteering web page).

Whoops, I almost forgot....last, but not least, Peter Gagarin is our head coach. Peter missed the cut last year. But, he earned a spot this time. Congratulations!

posted by Michael | 8:32 PM


Monday, April 22, 2002

Taking care of your feet


Taking care of your feet looks like a key to doing well (even finishing) the Eco-challenge. On tonight's coverage, they showed a number of people suffering...and they're less than half way through the race.

Here is an interesting discussion on foot care for ultrarunners. There is interesting advice on using duct tape.

I haven't had too many foot problems while orienteering. I'll get a blister now and then. Usually, it is from new (or newish) shoes or a wrinkle in a sock. I've taped my feet, but never used duct tape. In fact, I don't even carry duct tape with me to O' races. I probably ought to.

posted by Michael | 8:28 PM


Sunday, April 21, 2002

5 thoughts while watching the Eco-challenge on TV


The Eco-challenge is on TV. Mary and I have watched the last few years' coverage. It is interesting. Five random thoughts about the event:

Why do they carry their maps around the neck? Carrying a map case on a string around your neck looks uncomfortable and inconvenient. Most importantly, it would make "thumbing" the map almost impossible. If I was doing an adventure race, I think I'd try to carry the map like an orienteer (I'd probably add a string to attach it to my wrist, though).

Based on the TV coverage, there seem to be two main personalities: relaxed, easy-going, fit-types...and flaming idiots. I realize, the TV coverage isn't giving you a cross section of the people competing. But, they include a lot of coverage of team's interacting with each other and after-the-race interview. Two personalities show up repeatedly. The easy-going (yet driven) type is probably drawn to this sort of event. The flaming idiot is probably a personality that is normally hidden, but brought out by the stress of the event. Or, is it just the TV producer's idea of what makes the best show?

Being on your feet for days at a time must be tough. There aren't many sports that don't offer competitors the chance to really recover. Even in races like the Marathon de Sable and the Tour de France, competitors spend a lot of time sitting and sleeping. But, in the Eco-challenge, they don't spend much time off their feet. Rich Ruid -- who's competed in a few of these races -- told me that spending so much time on your feet is really tough.

It looks like navigation plays a huge role in these races. "Booms" in adventure races cost hours, not minutes. The navigation doesn't really look very difficult, but the maps might be pretty bad.

I wonder why the teams rely on one navigator? Most teams seem to have one "navigator." One person who carries the map and makes most of the navigation decisions. I wonder if it'd make more sense to have a two or three navigators?

* The USA Network is showing the Eco-challenge for the next few nights. Here is the schedule.

posted by Michael | 8:05 PM


Saturday, April 20, 2002

Close races


Close races are great. When seconds count, you're forced to push hard and stay concentrated. Any little bobble costs. Taking a few extra seconds at a control might cost you a place.

Today's 2-hour score orienteering at Shawnee Mission Park was not a close race. It didn't feel like a close race (I haven't actually seen the results yet, so maybe it was a bit close). I never felt like seconds would matter.

I got a bit lazy. I wasn't pushing through the thick vegetation as well as I should. I was slow at each control; finding the right box on the punch card, grabbing the punch, marking the card and taking a split.

When I lived in Sweden, I ran in a lot of close races. I got into the habit of orienteering when seconds count.

Races in Scandinavia are usually closer than they are here. The number of competitors is larger and the differences between the top the middle and the bottom of the results lists are usually not all that great.

Here are the time gaps from a race in Norway today (beginning with fourth place): 3 seconds, 6 seconds, 9 seconds, 15 seconds, 3 seconds, 2 seconds, 18 seconds, 6 seconds, 5 seconds and 2 seconds. That's a close race.

Here are the time gaps for the first 15 men in today's Swedish elite race: 1:20, 2:15, 1:00, 0:21, 0:02, 0:17, 0:09, 0:05, 0:06, 0:08, 0:05, 1:17, 0:09 and 0:17. It wasn't as tight as the Norwegian race, but it is still pretty close once you get past the top three.

Close races -- races that force you to worry about losing a few seconds -- are one of the reasons living in Scandianvia is so beneficial for an orienteer.

posted by Michael | 7:53 PM


Friday, April 19, 2002

My first lyrics


When I was jogging today I thought, "it can't be all that hard to write lyrics to a pop song." So, I began to compose lyrics to an O' pop song. So, I started to write my first pop song.

Ankle deep in mud,
Trying to run.
Ankle deep in mud,
Its no fun.*

Pushing the pace,
reading the map.
Having a great race,
reading the map.

Bashing through the thorns,
Trying to run.
Bashing through the thorns,
I'm having fun.

At the "GO" control,
Smile on my face.
Just a few steps left,
I'm gonna win this race.

It is pretty lame. But, it is supposed to be a cheesy pop song, so lame is probably fine. It was a something to think about while I was jogging today.

* The first four lines are from a song called "ankle deep in mud" that was done by a local band in Lawrence back when I was in high school, I think.

posted by Michael | 8:21 PM


Thursday, April 18, 2002

Bye Sammy


Bye Sammy. We will miss you.

posted by Michael | 8:51 PM


Wednesday, April 17, 2002

O' on Swedish TV


A local television station in Sweden has a 6 minute segment on the local O' club. (The file is a wmv format video -- it is a big file and might not be worth downloading if you don't have a fast connection).

The TV bit includes an English-language interview with Rob Walters (an Australian national team member). Walters is spending 6+ months in Sweden competing for a Swedish club.

The show also has interviews with Jimmy Birklin and Hakan Eriksson plus lots of pictures of the three of them running in a very nice Swedish forest.

What Walters is doing -- moving to Scandinavia to train and race -- is what more and more non-Scandinavian runners are doing. At the World Champs last year, I was a bit surprised by how many non-Scandinavians were spending a lot of time there. If you're motivated to be the best and want to see how good you can get, moving to Scandinavia is the way to do it.

posted by Michael | 8:04 PM


Tuesday, April 16, 2002

5 Things A-Meet Organizers Ought to Do:


In no particular order, here are five things I wish A-meet organizers would do:

Publish winners' routes on the internet after the meet. It'd be cool if you could see the courses and routes for the top runners at every A-meet. It'd be cheap and easy for the organizers to do.

Tell us how the map will be printed before we register. I don't mind running on color copies of maps printed on an ink jet (though I prefer offset printing). But, it'd be nice to know before you start what you're in for. The Chicago A-meet info give this sort of information. It is another cheap and easy thing for organizers to do.

Remember that the focus of organizing an A-meet should be on putting on a good event for people from other clubs, NOT giving locals a chance to go to an A-meet without traveling. I think the quality of events will go up if people from the local club focus their time and efforts on organizing. Keep in mind that people spend a lot of their own time and money to travel to A-meets. The organizers' job ought to be to make the trip worthwhile. This is another cheap and easy thing for organizers to do.

Have a PA system and an announcer at the event headquarters. It really helps the atmosphere of the event to have a speaker who announces incoming runners, updates the main results, provides information and even plays a bit of music. You can probably rent a PA system for a reasonable price. Finding a really good announcer is probably not that easy. But, even a not-too-terrible announcer would help create a better atmosphere.

If you screw up, admit it and move on. If a control is in the wrong place and it makes the course unfair, don't wait for a formal protest, just admit you screwed up and throw out the results. Organizers could even offer to refund entry fees if the problem was foreseeable (e.g. a misplaced control rather than a stolen control).

posted by Michael | 7:21 PM


Monday, April 15, 2002

A Long Leg


Take a look at 1 to 2 on this map.

That's a long leg.

How would you run it?

The route in red is Hanne Staff's. She ran the leg in 17:23. Here is what she wrote about her route:

In both the men's and women's elite courses there was a long leg from one to two. I didn't have time to look at the leg in advance since I took a technically demanding route to the first control. I had to spend some time at the first control deciding how to go to two. I made the "easiest" choice -- just go straight. The fastest route was to run around to the right with a lot of road and trail running. But I was only 35 seconds slower.

The fastest route -- the route taken by the runner with the best time on the leg -- is shown with a purple line.

Long legs like this are rare in the U.S. In fact, a leg much over 1 km is rare in the U.S. I don't know why. Maybe it is because course setters tend to focus on making it hard to find the control rather than interesting to decide how to run between the controls?

posted by Michael | 7:55 PM


Sunday, April 14, 2002



It was hot when I ran today. My mind got a bit cooked.

It was about 65 degrees when I left to pick up Snorkel. By the time we finished running a couple of hours later, it was 84.

The vegetation is beginning to come out, but the leaves weren't out on the trees. No shade. We spent the entire two hours in the sun.

I wasn't prepared for the temp to be so high. I only carried one water bottle and didn't have any Gu.

My heart rate curve tells a bit of the story. The curve generally rises throughout the run. The last 20 minutes or so my heart rate was up around 160. I was not going fast. I was going slow. But, my heart rate was just a bit below a race effort.

Lessons learned: check the weather and bring a bit more water and carry some Gu. If I'd looked at the forecast graphs, I'd have seen the sharp rise in temperature (though the forecast was for it to be about 8 degrees cooler than it actually was. If I'd thought it was going to reach almost 80, I'd have brough an extra bottle of water. A packet of Gu only weighs a couple of ounces. There's no excuse for not carry it.

posted by Michael | 8:23 PM


Saturday, April 13, 2002

Time for Park O'


It won't be long before we can't really go in the woods around here. Once the leaves come out, the woods get very thick. They also get very unpleasant.

That means it is time for park orienteering.

This summer park orienteering will be especially important for Orienteer Kansas. The U.S. Relay Champs are in September, before the woods around here are useable. So, we'll have to use park orienteering to help us with our technique training.

Karolina Arewang described park orienteering like this, "When it is this short and things are happening all the time, I don't have time to start thinking about anything other than orienteering."

If we train lots of short/fast park orienteering, it should help us stay sharp for the relays.

I'm hoping we can get some park orienteering races (even just informal low-key training sessions) organized. Some of our local maps are suitable for park orienteering. I fieldchecked (a bit rough) a new park orienteering map this winter that I need to finish drafting.

For inspiration, check out a couple of good park orienteering links:

Park World Tour.

Boston Park Series.

Hanne Staff and Bjornar Valstad's 2001 Park O' page.

posted by Michael | 7:54 PM


Friday, April 12, 2002



This is just a test.

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posted by Michael | 6:46 PM


Read the blog via email?


I'm testing a service called bloglet that should allow you to sign-up to get this blog by email.

You should be able to put your email in the box on the right. Then you'll get a daily message with info about the day's blog entry (the first 100 words of the entry) and a link to the entry.

I don't know if it'll work. I had it set up for a few weeks ago and it didn't work. I made a few changes (and bloglet made a "fix"). I hope it works, but I'm not sure it will.

If it doesn't work, I'll delete it (again).

posted by Michael | 6:38 PM


Thursday, April 11, 2002

Some photos from tonight's training


I set up an informal O' training session at Wyandotte tonight.

I brought my camera and took a few photos.

The woods are beginning to get green. It won't be long before we don't go into the woods. It won't be long before I have to spend time pushing a lawn mower around my yard.

posted by Michael | 8:43 PM


Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Some thoughts about last Saturday's chase


Here are my routes on the chase.

The chase start was based on places from the prologue. I had the fastest prologue time, so I started first. The next start was 15 seconds later and so on. For example, Gary Thompson had the third fastest time and started 30 seconds after me.

1. The way we were lined up, it looked like we'd be heading south to the first control. So, I started off in that direction. I oriented the map quickly and noticed that to get to the first control I actually needed to go west. So, I made a quick 90 degree turn and headed off in the right direction.

A straight route to 1 looks ok. But, the grass can be rough. My route sticks to trails.

It turned out the trail just on the back side of the hill was slow -- there were a lot of downed trees (from the ice storm). In places I left the trail and ran in the woods.

Snorkel caught me very quickly (Mary told me afterwards that he jumped the gun). I heard footsteps behind me as I crossed the creek. Snorkel was right behind me on the trail up the hill.

2. I thought about going all the way down to the clearings. Instead, I took the small trail a bit down the hill from 1. Snorkel left 1 and headed back up the hill to the trail. I gained a bit on the route choice, but not much (I'd guess I got to 2 about 75 meters ahead).

3. I planned to go a bit straighter to 3. But, as I left 2 the running was better going the way I went. I wondered if Gary Thompson was far behind. But, I didn't look for him. I didn't see any point in looking back.

4. I didn't want to go straight because I was worried the forest would be too thick. So, I made use of the trail. When I crossed the stream I got a bit hung up in some vicious thorns. I backed up. Snorkel found a better way through and got ahead of me.

There is a bit of white forest with a distinct vegetation boundary near number 4. You could see it from a long ways away. I saw it when I was about 1/4 of the way to 4.

5. On the map my route looks ridiculous. But, the yellow areas near 4 were quite overgrown and rough. I stuck to deer trails (there are a lot of deer trails at Monkey Mountain and they offer some good running).

6. Snorkel went further to the right (staying much lower on the hillside leaving 5). The two routes are equal. We reached the control together.

7 and 8 and finish. Just running. Snorkel let me go when we reached the road. He walked in. I ran.

posted by Michael | 1:10 PM


Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Some thoughts about last Saturday's prologue


When I was jogging around an old cornfield to warm up, I began to think about the race. Dick Luckerman set the course, so I asked myself, "what can I expect from a course Dick set?"

I thought about other events when Dick set the courses and remembered something useful. Dick likes to hide the markers. He likes to make it difficult to find the marker even when you're at the feature.

When I got to the first control, I didn't see the marker. I was standing at the ditch (here are my routes) I didn't see the flag. I knew I was at the right ditch. I noticed a cedar tree and guessed (correctly) that the marker might be tucked in the branches.

My expereince with the first control (and the fact that I'd anticipated having some markers "burried") prepared me to have to hunt a little for some other controls. Several of the other controls were hung low and/or out of the way. But, I was expecting that so it didn't threw me off.

Dealing with hidden markers is difficult. It is especially difficult if it isn't what you expect.

When I'm hanging markers for events, I make sure the bottom of the flag is one meter off the ground. I err on the side of making the marker "too easy" rather than risk hiding it. To me, orienteering isn't about hunting for a flag. But, not everyone agrees with me.

posted by Michael | 1:15 PM


Monday, April 08, 2002

Routes from last weekend


My route on the prologue.

My route on the chase.

I'll try to write a few comments about the course and my routes in the next couple of days.

posted by Michael | 9:14 PM


Sunday, April 07, 2002

Getting a fast start at the triangle


On the April 3rd entry at mapsurfer.com, Randy wrote about getting a fast start at the start triangle.

I think good orienteers are able to quickly look at a map, find the start and first control and get going. Being able to get a quick start is an indicator (not the only one and maybe not even a very good one) that someone is a good orienteer. But, it isn't essential for having a good race. It is more like a side-effect of being a good map reader and an experienced.

For what it is worth, I've got a few thoughts about what I do to get a quick start.

A few things I do:

1. I usually have a good idea which direction I'll leave. At some meets, you can watch the people who start ahead of you. At most meets, you can make an educated guess. If you've got a good idea which way to go, you can begin running that direction as you find the triangle on the map. (Sometimes, the course setter will try to trick you. Yesterday, I grabbed my map, took about three or four steps and then had to make a 90 degree turn).

2. I always know which direction north is and orient the map right away. If you watch me at a start, you'll probably notice that I'm looking at my compass just before I get the map. In fact, I am most dependent on a compass when I first get the map. You can often see lettering through the back of the map that will give you a chance to plan how to turn the map over and orient it quickly (since the lettering is supposed to be oriented north).

3. I try to have an idea of how the map might look on the page so that I know which part of the sheet to look at. Yesterday (running on a map I've been on many times), I knew that the start triangle would be on the middle part of the north edge of the map. When I turn over the map, I looked at that part of the map. Even if you haven't seen the map, you can often have a reasonable guess about the general shape of the map and where you might be. For example, at the world champs short race, I knew we where south of the finish area and just north of a road. So, I expected the start to be toward the bottom of the map.

A few things I don't do:

I don't try to go fast. How much time can it take to look at the map, find the triangle and find the first control? It can't take more than a few seconds. So, there isn't much time to gain. (Though in a mass start, a few seconds feels like a lot of time).

I don't try to have an idea of what the start area is going to look like on the map. It sounds like a good idea. But, I don't think it'll help you find the triangle quickly. You're much better off trying to train yourself to look for a big purple triangle than to look for a specific bit of topography. An exception is if you are at a very distinct feature. On a map like Clinton State Park, you can use the edge of the lake to help orient your map quickly.


It would be easy to practice quick starts. Get a stack of maps. Put them in a pile on the floor. Get a compass. Pick up the top map, turn it over, orient it, find the start triangle and the first control, and pick a route.

I'd bet that if you practiced for just a couple of minutes a day, you'd see improvement very quickly. Just remember, it isn't going to save you more than a few seconds on an entire course.

posted by Michael | 6:42 PM


Saturday, April 06, 2002

Mental training


"Mental training" isn't something I think about very often. But, a couple of things today made me think about it.

First, Fritz described "biofeedback" as a way to train to pay attention -- to concentrate. He's been doing some sort of biofeedback training and feels its helping him. It sounded interesting. It also reminded me of an The Mental Edge, published by Outside magazine about a year ago.

Second, on the drive home from Monkey Mountain, I listened to a Royal's game where a young pitcher might have developed some big-time pyschological performance issues. The pitcher -- a 21 year old with no professional experience beyond the A-level minors -- pitched in his first big league game. He came in in the 8th inning, faced four batters, threw 16 pitches. All 16 pitches were balls. He didn't throw a single strike. He walked the bases loaded and walked in a run.

A performance like that can't be a good way to start you're big league career. I wonder what a coach tells a player after a performance like that?

posted by Michael | 6:08 PM


Friday, April 05, 2002

Why booms happen


I bumped into an article from a Norwegian orienteering page that described why people boom controls.

The article lists three reasons (very quick/rough translations):

1. Going too fast. It is common to boom because you ran the same speed the whole way; you didn't slow down and pay more attention when you got near the control.

2. Failing to adjust your technique. If you don't adjust your technique to the specific conditions -- terrain and type of leg -- you might boom.

3. Failing to simplify the control. If you don't look for ways to simplify the control, it is easy to boom. You should always plan how you're going to find the control (often picking a good attackpoint).

The Norwegian article didn't mention the effect of getting tired on booming. If you look at a bunch of split times, you'll see that people make a lot of booms later in the course. Getting tired doesn't really cause you to boom so much as it causes you to get sloppy (to orienteer un-systematically)...and then you boom.

posted by Michael | 9:41 PM


Thursday, April 04, 2002

5 Web Pages I looked at Today


At the U.S. O' Team page I discovered that I was named to the U.S. Team (the main US page described it as the "Foot-O Team"!). I haven't run a blue course since last May. I think I was an automatic selection. One of the criteria is top 5 from the U.S. classic champs (and I think I was in the top 5).

I spent a few minutes listening to the Kansas City Police Scanner. In fact I'm listening right now..."juvenile throwing rocks off the overpass......possible drunk driver in a blue Nissan....unknown males standing near the railroad tracks, apparently looking like he is trying to jump on a train....can you check on glass on the roadway?..."

Expressen -- a Swedish afternoon newspaper -- had an article about Karin Hellman, Swedish national orienteering team.

Fasterskier.com is a page I found when I was looking for info before we went to the Olympics. I take a look at the page every week or so. There is usually something interesting to read. "Tobjorn's Spring Training" is worth a glance.

I check abbatior almost everyday. The last couple of days Abbatoir has featured a photo of me standing on top of Wasson Peak (spikewasson.jpg).

posted by Michael | 8:32 PM


Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Rostrup on Travel


Joergen Rostrup wrote some of his thoughts about travel on his home page. Instead of actually translating what he wrote, I'll just summarize some of his main points.

Rostrup does a lot of travel. He lives in Turku (on the west coast of Finland) and travels around Scandinavia for races and training camps. A lot of his travel is by boat. There are night ferries that go back and forth between Finland and Sweden. These can be convenient ways to travel because you can get a cabin and sleep while your making the trip. Rostrup doesn't ever take night ferries after being asleep on a ferry that caught fire. You can imagine it must have been a scary experience.

Rostrup thinks travel is draining. You can't do your normal training and a lot of the movement you do is just moving between uncomfortable places to sit.

Another problem Rostrup has with travel is that it is difficult to eat and drink right.

Finally, Rostrup thinks it is easy to get sick while you travel. You are exposed to a lot of different people and changing temperatures.

posted by Michael | 1:09 PM


Tuesday, April 02, 2002

More from Tucson


After running up Wasson Peak, Mook and I visited Kitt Peak.

Kitt Peak is a mountain a bit west of Tucson. The topo gives you a sense of the terrain.

Kitt Peak is home to the national observatory.

The mountain top is covered with telescopes. The telescopes are in white painted buildings, most of the dome shaped. This photo shows the a view of the peak from the base of the largest telescope.

Mook explained that the building are painted white to keep them from absorbing heat during the day. You don't want temperature differences -- which create moving air currents -- around the telescope. The moving air causes distortion when astronomers take photos through the telescopes.

I think the white paint makes the domes look like kitchen appliances (refrigerators, blenders, bread makers, etc.).

This photo shows the view looking back toward the big telescope. The tallest dome in the distance houses the big telescope. If I remember correctly, the mirror in the big telescope is 5 meters across.

Mook does some work with one of the telescopes on Kitt Peak. He works on a project called the Remotely Controlled Telescope.

In this photo, Mook phoons in front of the RCT.

posted by Michael | 8:51 PM


Monday, April 01, 2002

Sand hill terrain


I had a window seat for my flight from Phoenix back to Kansas City. It was a mostly clear day. I spent most of the flight looking out the window studying the terrain.

There is some very nice terrain in the middle of Kansas. Central Kansas is filled with small areas of sand hills. Here is a topo map of an area near Great Bend. There is a small state park with this sort of terrain near Hutchinson. We've got an old black and white map of the park.

Central Nebraska has some huge areas of sand hills. One of the most interesting areas is a part of the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey. The topo map shows areas of low forested hills. The forest -- Ponderosa Pines -- was planted about a hundred years ago by professor at the University of Nebraska.

The Nebraska forest looks like it might make for interesting orienteering or rogaining terrain. It might make for a worthwhile weekend camping trip.

The U.S. must be full of interesting orienteering terrain that has yet to be discovered by orienteers. I bet there are a lot of interesting areas that are in the middle of nowhere; places like the Nebraska National Forest. On my next flight, I'll try to get a window seat and see what I can find.

posted by Michael | 7:32 PM


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