Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Sunday, June 30, 2002

Street orienteering in the World Cup


Today's World Cup race in Norway was a short street orienteering course.

Check out the map with the men's winner's routes.

As you can imagine, there is lots of discussion and debate among orienteers about whether this sort of race is a good idea. It can be accesible for spectators and the media. On the other hand, running around in the streets is very different from running in a forest.

Looking at the results is interesting.

Non-Scandinavians in the top ten

As usual, the Scandinavians did really well, especially in the women's event. Among the men you've got two French runners and an Australian runner in the top ten. Well, sort of...

Tom Quayle (7th in today's race) has spent a lot of time living and orienteering in Scandinavia. You can read about Quayle in an interview from 2000.

Thierry Gueorgiou (2nd today) has lived in Finland and run for the Finnish club Kalevan Rasti.

Francois Gonon (10th today) has run for another Finnish club -- Paimion Rasti.

So, the three non-Scandinavians in the top ten have all run for (and probably lived in) Scandinavia. It still seems like the road to the top includes living in Sweden, Norway or Finland. It will be interesting to see how Sandy Hott Johansen (from Canada but now living in Norway) does over the next few years.

Lots of men DQd

Six men were disqualified...Six of 50 starters...Six of the top orienteers in the world. What's up with that?

Fredrick Lowegren skipped a control. I'm not sure what control he skipped. Looking at the map, it looks like 9 is the easiest to miss. I don't know about the other five. The splits aren't up yet, so I haven't been able to try to figure out why the runners were DQd (e.g., missed controls or mispunched).

Skipping a control (or mispunching for that matter) is the sort of mistake you're more likely to make when you're in a big hurry. In this sort of race, where seconds count, it'd be easy to rush. Usually, you can take an extra second to look at the map or double check the code. But, in this sort of event that second could cost you. If Emma Engstrand, who won the women's race, took an extra second at any point on the course, she'd have been third.

No women were disqualified.

posted by Michael | 6:21 PM


Saturday, June 29, 2002

Strange heart rate pattern


Thursday night I ran some intervals where my heart rate during the rest period (just standing still and recovering) was as high as my heart rate during the running. I was running intervals by running park O' legs and then resting for a minute at each control. The shortest legs took about 1:30 to run and the longest took maybe 5:00. It was hot and humid.

I wonder why my heart rate stayed high even when I was resting? Was it the heat? Was I just plain worn out? What was it?

Today's session went much better. It was much more "normal." When I ran harder, my heart rate went up. When I slowed down, my heart rate went down.

posted by Michael | 6:07 PM


Friday, June 28, 2002

Friday Night at the Track


Friday night at the track...not running intervals, watching stock car races.

Check out some photos from the Friday night racing at Lakeside Speedway.

posted by Michael | 10:34 PM


Thursday, June 27, 2002

Advice from top Swedish junior


Erik Andersson is one of the top Swedish junior orienteers and medal hope at the Junior World Champs in Spain. From an interview by Alternativet:

Do you have some tips for young runners who'd like to run the Junior World Champs in the future?

Train a lot of O' technique and go to training camps. Have fun.

Sounds like good advice to me.

posted by Michael | 7:21 AM


Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Today's topic...French cooking!


What are the favorite dishes of the Master Chefs and Chef Coordinators at the French Culinary Institute?

Trout with almonds.
Poulet rôti.
Aurthur Bryant's BBQ ribs.
Anything with the words hot molten and chocolate.
Risotto of any kind.

Bryant's made the list! Bryant's is a local restaurant in Kansas City.

Bryant's made it as my brother's favorite.

I've never been to the French Culinary Institute (it is in New York), but the school's menu looks good.

posted by Michael | 7:12 PM


Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Rostrup on specialization


Jorgen Rostrup wrote about specialization in Orienteering:

There were relatively many people who criticized me for not running in the Norwegian Sprint Champs. They ought to ask themselves why Marius Bakken [a world class Norwegian runner] doesn't run the 400 meters. He has chosen to specialize in the longer distances. That is the sort of specialization we are seeing more and more in orienteering. Believe it or not, to run 400 meter races is not the same as to run 5000 meters. To run a sprint O' course is not the same as to run a classic O' course.

I'm not going to agree or disagree with Jorgen. But, I think it is interesting to see how people use analogies to think about issues and to try to make their case. You see this sort of thinking all the time ("another Vietnam" or "the next Lance Armstrong").

It is a powerful way of making a case. It can be a useful way of thinking. But, it is also easy to get sloppy.

It seems to me that the key to thinking critically about Jorgen's discussion, is to ask a couple of questions:

1. How is running races on the track like running orienteering?
2. How is running races on the track dislike running orienteering?

You can make a huge list of answers to each question. For example, most nations have runners while a relatively few nations have orienteers; so the depth of competition is probably lower. Another example, the shortest races in orienteering take a good 10-15 minutes while the shortest races on a track take under 10 seconds. A final example, runners and orienteers both spend a lot of their training time running. You can go on and on.

posted by Michael | 1:05 PM


Monday, June 24, 2002

A Computer Success!


I'm not a complete idiot around computers, but I'm also not great with them. I'm alway happy when I get something to work as expected.

I was pretty happy that I figured out how to convert an OCAD map into a PDF file. For someone who knows what they are doing, that probably doesn't sound like much. But, I was pretty happy to figure out how to do and get it to work.

Sharing maps as PDF files ought to be useful for O' practice and training. I fieldchecked and drew a park O' map this winter. For this week's Thursday night practice, I'll just send the PDF to anyone who plans to be there. They can print the map themselves. It'll save me the trouble of printing (and ink for my printer).

posted by Michael | 9:10 PM


Sunday, June 23, 2002

First O' Club with a Club Frisbee?


The combination of today's long run in the heat and not sleeping well last night mean that I'm tired (even though I didn't go to a toga party last night). Aside from a run, about the only thing I accomplished today was adding a new item (the "OK apple logo" frisbee) to the OK store.

posted by Michael | 6:52 PM


Saturday, June 22, 2002

Running fast...too fast


John Fredrickson is a U.S. junior who is in Norway training for orienteering and preparing for the Junior WOC. He ran the Norwegian Sprint Champs a few days ago and wrote about it on his training log at Attackpoint. In the race, he struggled with the balance between running fast and running the right pace. Here is what he wrote about his race:

Today was the Norwegian Sprint Championships. I ran with the 16s for the first time. I went out very fast, since I had a chance to read over the course for a minute before starting. I managed to get a good look at the first 5 controls. They went smoothly, and very fast. Unfortunately, I ran too fast, and neglected to take the time to look ahead. When I came to the 5th control I had no idea what I was going to do for the 6th, except for the direction. Instead of stopping for a few seconds to figure it out, I ran out fast in the direction of the control. When I hit the area the control was in, I had no idea where I was, and couldn't attack it. I had to relocate which took some time. I ended up losing over four minutes on the control. After that, I gave up since it was such a short course. I then blew the next two controls. In total I made close to 10 minutes of error. The winning time was just under 23 minutes, so even if I had had a perfect time, I would have had a run for my money. I will have to be more careful on Sunday.

The thing that surprised me is that my Average Heart Rate was 176 even though I spent quite a lot of time wandering around at a low heart rate. This means that I was moving way too fast to be fully concentrated. 176 is about what my AHR is when I have a good race.

I don't have John's course, but to give you an idea of the terrain, take a look at the elite women's course with routes.

posted by Michael | 12:02 PM


Friday, June 21, 2002

Prepositions and Orienteering


Mook and I were talking about Swedish prepositions which reminded me of an interesting (or atleast unusual) idea about why the Scandinavian countries have so many good orienteers.

Maybe the Scandinavian languages have better prepostions for navigating?

Prepositions express spatial relationships. Navigating is about relating things in space. The idea (I don't want to call it a theory) is that Scandinavian prepositions do a better job of describing spatial relationships.

Swedish and English prepositions are different. "We ate in the restaurant." But, in Swedish you eat on the restaurant. There are lots of differences in prepositions between Scandinavian languages and English.

Maybe Swedish prepositions are better than English ones?

Mabye that helps explain why Sweden is full of good orienteers?

Probably not. Scandinavia is probably full of good orienteers because there are a lot of orienteers, a lot of maps and a lot of races. So much for the idea.

But, it is interesting to think about languages and orienteering. A more interesting way to think about orienteering and languages is to think of map reading as learning a second language....Maybe that'll be a topic for another day.

By the way, I should mention that Charles Parry is the person who wondered about Scandinavia prepositions and orienteering. Charles was working with orienteering in the late 1980s. He went to the WOC training camp in Sweden in 1988 and was part of the U.S. group at the WOC in 1989. He was studying orienteering and orienteers because he was interested in "Peak Performance." He did some interesting work. Maybe a topic for another day...

posted by Michael | 9:09 PM


Thursday, June 20, 2002

Living on an O' map


Mapsurfer recent wrote about the ongoing discussion of speed/track invterval and technique training. One of the things he wrote about was how technique training can be logistically difficult, "we can't just walk out our backdoor and do O training."

Most of us can't. I can't. It takes me 15 minutes of driving to get to the nearest O' map.

But, when I was most serious about training, I lived on an O' map. It was great. My building was on the map. It took about a minute to be in the woods.

Here is a bit of the map that I used to live on (my building is north of the part of the map that is shown).

The mapped area is a good bit bigger than this particular map shows. I'd guess you're seeing maybe 1/4 of the forested area. The terrain isn't as hilly as it looks (I think the contour interval is just 2 meters). The terrain is nice -- mostly open forest with lots of details and trails. Some of the trails are lit (what the Swede's call eljusspaar). In the winter, I could put in a good 10-15 kilometers of running on the lit trails. But, most of my night running was in the woods with a headlamp.

Last Summer, Kenny Walker rented a student room that is in a building immediately next to the map (right about where the "city cup" logo is).

posted by Michael | 1:10 PM


Wednesday, June 19, 2002

"The Secret of Good Orienteering"


On Wednesday nights, the Speed Channel replays the weekend's Nascar Winston Cup race. It is on TV right now.

Watching a race on TV reminded me of an The Secret of Good Orienteering -- an article that mentions both orienteering and Formula 1 racing.

posted by Michael | 9:15 PM


Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Scary Medical Story


Surgery is scary. When I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon, I was worried that I might need surgery. I didn't want anyone cutting (even with an arthoscope) me open. Fortunately, I didn't need surgery.

Check out this story of a medical mistake. I found it scary.

posted by Michael | 4:59 PM


Monday, June 17, 2002

A Few Snapshots from the Weekend


Check out a few snapshots from the weekend.

posted by Michael | 8:14 PM


Sunday, June 16, 2002

Just got home


Mary and I just got back from a three day weekend in Maryland. We put in a day of O' training (in the rain), ran the famous Quantico "Beer Chase" (both of us in the non-beer-drinking category) and were present for Peggy and Nadim's wedding. A great weekend.

posted by Michael | 9:36 PM


Thursday, June 13, 2002

Expect the next update Monday


I expect to be away from a computer for the next few days. Don't look for any updates until Monday.

If you're looking for some interesting O' reading, check out Kenny Walker's training log on Attackpoint. On June 11 he wrote some interesting comments about his racing in Belgium and Switzerland at the World Cup races. Here is an excerpt:

I think the real problem is that I don't practice continental orienteering, which is a lot different than what I'm best at. contours and rock features: no problem. welcome to new england or scandinavia. the maps I had the biggest problems on (sc relay, wc1 final, wc4 relay) had hardly any contours I could use for navigation. the primary features there were trails and veg boundaries; both subject to a lot of interpretation in places.


If I'm going to run well in switzerland next summer, I'll have to practice a bit differently sometimes. I'm not sure where to find boring terrain around here, but contours-only or no-compass training (among my favorites) probably won't help. probably the best thing to do around here is to run courses designed to force the use of "continental techniques." for the moment, I'm switching back to pre-season mode training (more volume, less races)

Intersting stuff.

We can hope that Kenny will write some more in the next few days.

posted by Michael | 1:04 PM


Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Orienteering Music


IFK Lidingo's got a new O' song to get psyched for the world's biggest O' relay (this weekend's Jukola). You can download the song as an mp3 file at: hem.passagen.se/ifklidingosok/sdd.mp3. It is in english with a few words in Swedish and Finnish. It isn't too terrible.

The song is by a group of orienteers who call their band SDD (I've got no idea what SDD means).

It isn't all that unusual for an Swedish club or a few orienteers to put together an O' song. Some of the best are parodies of pop songs with the lyrics re-written.

It'd be cool if some of the musically talented orienteers in the U.S. got inspired and put together a few songs.

posted by Michael | 7:17 PM




Probably no creature on earth can cause as much torment for its size than the tiny chigger.

I neglected to spray my legs with bug-spray before one of the sessions at TJOC. I'm paying it now. My lower legs are torn up from chigger bites.

Chiggers are really annoying. It'd be nice to be able to finish a run and then sit in the grass for a bit, maybe do some stretching. But, in areas with chiggers, you don't dare do that.

The Ohio State University has a chigger fact sheet. It includes more than you'd ever want to know about chiggers.

posted by Michael | 12:48 PM


Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Jorn Sundby's Advice


Jorn Sundby is a former Norwegian Junior Team coach. Here are a few of his ideas:

Give yourself one to three things to think about/focus on during your training sessions or races. Write these things down on a piece of paper or in your training log. It is important that you focus on just a few things. The specific focus will vary with the type of training, type of terrain, and the things you are trying to improve. Here are a few examples:

Always use an attackpoint.
Keep your head up -- look ahead and look around.
Use trails for route choice if possible.
Run straight.
Walk to the first control.
Stop as soon as you feel uncertain.
Use the compass.
Slow down at the attackpoint.
Read the map.

My translation is a bit rough, but I think it gets the main idea. If you can read Norwegian, take a look at the entire article.

posted by Michael | 9:30 PM


Monday, June 10, 2002

Running or navigating?


Warning: today's entry is looooong.

There has been some discussion on Attackpoint about the importance of being able to run fast (and to train intervals to get fast). The discussion began under a thread about the recent World Cup races in Belgium and Switzerland.

I decided to take a look at Sergey Velichko and Kenny Walker's split times from Belgium (the "middle distance" race). I wanted to get a sense of how much time the top U.S. orienteers are losing. How would they have done if they ran at their capacities?

After I looked at the times, I think Kenny and Sergey don't need to be running intervals on the track. They need to be working on navigation.

Running capacity

I looked at Kenny and Sergey's splits. I took the three legs where they had their best relative places. Of the 58 runners in the B-final, Kenny's best leg placings were 25th, 35th and 36th. The average of Kenny's top three is 32nd. Sergey's best leg placings were 22nd, 29th and 33rd. The average of Sergey's top three is 28th.

You can make a reasonable case that Sergey's running capacity is such that he could be 28th, and Kenny's running capacity is such that he could be 32nd.

How well would the U.S. runners have done if Sergey was 28th on each leg and Kenny was 33rd on each leg?

Sergey would have run 30:22. That'd be good for 21st place; just ahead of Dickie Wren (Raymond's son). Sergey actually ran 37:24.

Kenny would have run 30:45. That'd be good for 22nd place; just behind Dickie Wren. Kenny actually ran 38:00.

Over 7 minutes below capacity

Unfortunately, both Sergey and Kenny lost over 7 minutes compared to their running capacity. (The split time analysis at Winsplits shows Sergey and Kenny booming about 4-5 minutes each).

I think the analysis suggests that both Sergey and Kenny are losing a lot of time to navigation. They need to work on reading the map and finding controls.

Keep in mind that the terrain in Belgium is relatively straightforward. Vlad described it as "pathetically simple." You can take a look at the B-final map and course and judge for yourself.

More running training -- working on running speed -- wouldn’t hurt. But, it probably isn't the place to make up seven minutes. Seven minutes is a lot of time.

It is hard to run so slowly that you lose seven minutes over a race that takes 30-40 minutes.

Think about it this way -- how fast could you run a 10k road race? Let's say you run 10k on a road in 45 minutes. How much easier it would feel to run the same distance in 52 minutes? It'd feel like a jog. Think about how much harder it'd be to run the 10k in 38 minutes. Could you do it? Probably not. In fact, unless you're doing almost no regular training, a 7 minute improvement is almost impossible.

Sergey and Kenny both do plenty of running training. Neither of them is going to be able to add a couple of hours a week or running (even if it is a bunch of track intervals) and run 7 minutes faster for a 10k.

On the other hand, they might be able to get rid of a big chunk of those 7 minutes by not booming.

I think it is clear -- Sergey and Kenny shouldn't worry about intervals and running, they should worry about map reading. They should try to add more physical training. They should add more orienteering.

Making the best "investment" in training time

When you're thinking about how to train for orienteering, I think it is useful to think about marginal returns. Think about how you would best use the next hour of training a week. How many minutes would you gain on an O’ course if you added:

One more hour a week of steady running?
One morehour a week of intervals (or hills or whatever)?
One more hour a week orienteering technique training?

Some final notes

32nd place on each leg gets you 21st overall. That’s one of the things that makes orienteering interesting. You don’t have to be fastest for the leg, you have to be fastest for the entire course.

My analysis is very limited. It’d be worth looking at some other races (and some other orienteers). Maybe I’ll do that in the future.

My analysis oversimplifies the issue of running versus navigation training. The two aren't really seperable. The fitter you are, the easier it can be to navigate because you won't be so tired. On the other hand, the fitter you are, the harder it can be to read the map because you may be moving too fast. Running and navigating have to be in balance. Finding the balance is a key. It isn't easy.

posted by Michael | 9:00 PM


Sunday, June 09, 2002

Look Up


Most of us need to work on keeping our heads up when we orienteer. Look around. Look far ahead in the terrain.

At TJOC I watched a lot of people orienteer, and one thing that stood out was that orienteers don't look around enough.

A lot of us are either looking at the map, the ground or the 10-20 meters of forest directly in front of us.

When I was manning controls I saw people run within 20 meters of a control without seeing it. They weren't looking up and around. If they'd just looked around, they'd have saved time.

When I'm orienteering well, I look far ahead. When I'm not orienteering well, I often catch myself looking at the ground.

How can you train yourself to look ahead?

One thing that would help is to plan to look up and look around. Make it part of your strategy. Just before starting, remind yourself to keep your head up.

You could practice by re-running a course and seeing how far ahead you could see things if you were really looking. I bet if you walked around a course and kept looking as far ahead as possible, you'd find that you could see terrain features and controls sooner than you did during the race.

I suspect that it is harder to look ahead and look around when you are really tired (most navigation gets tough when you're tired). When my legs are dead and I'm struggling at the end of a course, I catch myself looking at the ground right in front of me. Being fitter ought to make it easier to keep your head up.

Fritz could probably invent some sort of training aid -- maybe a sharp needle that would fit on the bottom of your chin and would poke you if you didn't keep your head up!

posted by Michael | 8:31 PM


Saturday, June 08, 2002

Photos from TJOC


I uploaded a few photographs from TJOC.

posted by Michael | 8:18 PM


Friday, June 07, 2002

"Tatyana's Four Course Marathon"


Wednesday morning we ran "Tatyana’s Four Course Marathon."

The race is really four races. Tatyana designed four relatively short courses (1.8 km to 2.2 km). The end of each course was near the beginning of the next course.

Each course was run with a mass start. Each course starts an hour after the previous course. So, if you finish the first course in 30 minutes, you wait about 30 minutes for the next mass start.

You earn points in each race. Your place in the race equals your points. A win is worth one point. Second place is worth two points.

At the end of all four courses, you get to throw out your worst score and then add up your three scores. The lowest overall result wins.

Tatyana's race was a good way to train:

It works well when there are fairly big differences between the best and worst orienteers in a group. After each course, you re-group and start again.

You get four mass starts. So you have four chances to go too fast and really push your map reading to the limit. You have four chances to feel like you're in a relay race.

There is a lot of head-to-head racing. That makes you think about how you are orienteering a bit differently. Do you hang back a bit and wait for the leaders to boom? Do you lead the race and try to drop everyone? Do you stick with a competitor and try to out kick them on the last leg?

You get four chances to stand around at the finish, cheering on the people who finish after you and talking about the routes with other runners.

By basing the results on places rather than time (plus throwing out the worst result), the final outcome isn’t usually decided until the last of the four courses.

Andrew K. had a close race but took home the victory in the junior men.

Ashley S. won among the junior women (at least I think she did).

Johanna, Andreas and I had a tight race in the non-junior category.

We had a good race. On the first course, all three of us came together near the end. Andreas beat me and Johanna to the last control. In the second race, I found a control in a sketchy area relatively quickly and got a lead. Johanna caught me leaving the next to last control, but I beat her to the finish. Andreas turned and ankle and limped across the line in 5th. In the third course, Johanna and I were together three controls from the end. We took different routes and she gained two or three steps on me, which she held to the finish. Andreas walked around the course.

Going into the last course Johanna had six points and I had five. But, we were both getting tired.

Andreas surprised us by running well on the last course. In fact, he won. He out kicked Johanna on the run in. I was just behind them and was able to watch Andreas pull away.

Johanna's places were 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd. Dropping the 3rd place, Johanna had five points.

My places were 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 3rd. Dropping the 3rd place, I had five points.

We had the same score. The first tiebreaker is the fourth result (the one that doesn't count). We still had the same score.

But, the final tiebreaker was place on the last course. Johanna beat me on the last course. Johanna won Tatyana's Four Course Marathon (She'll probably put the prize next to her Swedish Night O' Champ prize).

*Tatyana Svistun lives in (or near?) Dallas. She taught orienteering in St Petersburg before moving to the U.S. She helped with last year’s TJOC (and maybe prior TJOCs?).

posted by Michael | 2:23 PM


Thursday, June 06, 2002

A Brief History of TJOC


I just got home from TJOC. I had my PDA with me and wrote up some blog entries while I was there. I'll post them over the next couple of days. Here is the first one.

TJOC started four years ago. The story is that the U.S. Junior Coach made some disparaging remarks about orienteers from Texas. A couple of the folks in Texas decided they needed to set up a training camp and teach the juniors how to orineteer. The goal -- get a Texas junior on the U.S. Junior WOC team.

I like the story. The Texans were dissed, instead of whinning about it, they came up with a plan to be able to show that Texas juniors can orienteer.

This year, Ashley Smith, a junior from Texas, made the US JWOC team. She's the first from Texas. Don't be surprised to see more in the next few years.

Major V (who along with Miki Snell are the driving forces behind TJOC), told me that they've got to take advantage of what they've got that other orienteers in the U.S. don't -- organization and planning.

The TJOC is very well organized.

What TJOC doesn't have is great terrain (though it isn't terrible). The forest this year is rough. There are cacti, thorns, rocks and spear grass. The map is adequate, but not great.

Good organization and a lot of enthusiasm help make up for the terrain.

posted by Michael | 7:33 PM


Saturday, June 01, 2002

TJOC time


I'm flying to Texas today for the beginning of this year's Texas Junior Orienteering Camp. I'll be back in KC on Wednesday night (I don't expect to be able to update this page until Wednesday or Thursday).

The day before last year's TJOC I was dreading it. I don't really like teaching orienteering. I wasn't looking forward to being around 50+ high school kids (mostly Junior ROTC). I don't like running in hot weather. But, I'd committed my time (Miki Snell talked me into it). So with low expectations, I went to the 2001 TJOC.

It was great. The kids were cool. The camp was well organized (with a lot of work by, in particular, Miki and Major V). The other leaders/teachers were interesting, worked hard and knew what they were doing. If the weather had been better, it would have been perfect.

This year, I'm looking forward to TJOC.

posted by Michael | 7:50 AM


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