Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Saturday, August 31, 2002

Forest versus roads


Is running in the forest significantly different that running on the roads or trails?

The answer is, "I'm not sure," and "it depends."

Running in the forest is clearly different. Christer Johansson compared video of orienteers running in the forest and running on the roads. In the terrain: the stride is shorter and slower (fewer strides per minute), the foot is on the ground longer, the arms swing less symetrically, the knees lift higher, the hip bends more and the upper body leans forward. He wrote, "running in the forest takes more strength, you lift your knees higher and get more power from the larger muscle groups like the thighs." Compared to road runners, orienteers have weaker calf muscles.

When I do a lot of training in the forest, I notice that my running style changes. I'm not sure exactly how it changes, but it feels different. I also notice that I become more flexible.

When I have been doing a lot of road/trail running and little or no forest running, I don't feel comfortable running in the forest. I get tired quickly. I don't have the confidence to really run hard.

But, is the differnce significant?

I suppose it is significant in certain types of terrain and much less significant in others. Last weekend I ran at Lake George, Colorado. The terrain is very open, not very rocky and relatively hard. It feels a lot like running on a road or trail. On the other hand, I ran at Harriman in July. The terrain is rocky, there is a fair amount of low vegetation and the ground can be soft/marshy.

I think the differences are signficant in most, but not all, terrains we orienteer in. I try to take that into account when I plan my training. Once the woods are runnable around here (October through April), I try to do a bunch of training in the woods. During the summer, when I can't get in the local woods, I try to run some hills. Hills are probably a good way to simulate forest running (Johansson's comparison of forest and roads looks a lot like a comparison of hills and roads).

posted by Michael | 5:10 PM


Snapshot of the terrain at HART Camp


posted by Michael | 3:11 PM


Friday, August 30, 2002

What is relevant running terrain?


Relevant running terrain for an orienteer would be the type of terrain an O' course typically goes through. A guy named Christer Johansson looked at ten World Cup races from 1988. He studied the winners' routes and measured the portion of the course the winner ran in different types of terrain: forest, trails, open areas, marshes, thick areas, felled areas and stony ground.

On average, 64 percent of the winners' routes were in the forest.

On average, 17 percent of the winners' routes were on trails.

On average, 8 percent of the winners' routes were in open areas.

On average, roads made up only 1 percent of the winners' routes.

There was one race that was an outlier. The World Cup race in Hong Kong had just 5 percent forest and 68 percent trails.

Looking at Johansson's analysis, it looks like an orienteer ought to be doing a lot of running training in the forest. But, that is only true if running in the forest is significantly different from running on the roads or trails. Is it?

Stay tuned...I'll look at that tomorrow.

posted by Michael | 7:21 PM


Thursday, August 29, 2002

Cross training


In the mid-1980s, a guy named Mark Thomas gave a little talk at an A-meet hosted by Possum Trot. Thomas owned a store that specialized in equipment for Tri-athlons. He had some sort of athletic background and was a bit interested in orienteering. He wasn't really a very good orienteer, but he was enthusiastic and interested in the sport. The subject of his talk was training for orienteers.

Mark's main point was that orienteers didn't really train, they just "cross-train." Orienteers do a lot of running, but not a lot of orienteering. Orienteers considered running "training" when he considered it cross-training. Other sports aren't like that. In other sports, the bulk of training is more specific.

I think Mark had a good point.

posted by Michael | 12:56 PM


Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Swiss WOC terrain


If I were planning to make the US WOC team to the 2003 World Champs, I'd be thinking about the races and what to expect. If I was doing that, I'd be reading reports from people like Bjornar Valstad and Jimmy Birklin -- world class orienteers who have their own web pages. Jimmy recently wrote about a training camp in Switzerland.

I'm guessing (hoping) that a reader or two of this blog are planning to go to the 2003 WOC. Maybe they'd be interested in Jimmy's thoughts. Here is a quick translation:

The sprint will be in Rapperwil and will be mostly street O'. There might even be a bit of park O'. The city is hilly and there are a lot of alleys and cobblestone streets (a bit like the Swedish town of Visby).

The classic qualifying race is at an altitude of 1,100 meters -- so called pre-alpine terrain. There will be a lot of steep hills. Some of the terrain is relatively wet, which means there can be some undervegetation that can slow you down. The forest is mostly spruce, but there is also some beech. The hills are not so steep that you can't run along them. Route choice will be important. Even though the terrain might seem easy, intense map contact will, as usual, be needed.

The classic final will be at a lower altitude, about 550 meters. The area includes two different types of terrain. Part of the area is brutally steep, where the climb can be 150 meters in a distance of 450 meters. Part of the area is a plateau. Some of the terrain is so steep that you can't run along the hill -- you can only go straight up or straight down.

The short race is in another type of terrain. It is more detailed. The terrain is almost like Scandinavian terrain. The area isn't especially hilly and the normal technique will be "straight ahead."

The relay is in an areas that is crossed by east-west running hills. The altitude is 500 meters above sea level. There are some deciduous woods that can make for slow running and visibility. The hills are fairly steep, but not so long. I think the relay will include a lot of route choice.

Nothing Jimmy wrote is unexpected. The organizers have made it pretty clear what the runners can expect.

A real challenge for runners at the 2003 WOC will be how to prepare for such different terrains. If you ran all of the events -- you'd be faced with street orienteering, continental/route choice terrain, and Scandinavian-like terrain. Will people try to specialize or prepare for all of the events? Will national teams select specialists? Will selection races emphasize a specific type of terrain? It'll be interesting to see what happens.

posted by Michael | 7:10 PM


Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Some pre-relay champs map study


I need to spend some time before the relay champs looking at maps -- armchair map reading.

At H.A.R.T. camp I was orienteering relatively well but I was struggling with a couple of things: running too fast into the control circle and not catching errors in the middle of legs.

In Colorado, I wasn't really slowing down as I approached the controls. The terrain in Colorado is forgiving of orienteers who run fast in the circle. But, I don't think the terrain in Vermont will be as forgiving. So, I've got to spend some time looking at maps and recognizing where to slow down.

In Colorado I had a couple of booms when I got a bit off track on the middle of the leg and just kept running and hoping for the best. That works once in a while. But, over the long run (even over the short run) it is a bad strategy. When I'm orienteering well, I catch errors quickly. In Colorado, I didn't catch all the errors quickly. In a few cases I began to feel uncertain. I knew something was wrongmm but I didn't do anything about it. I just kept running and hoped things would begin to make sense. That won't work in Vermont (in fact, it didn't work in Colorado). I need to spend some time looking at maps and looking for places where an error could occur.

posted by Michael | 9:06 PM


Monday, August 26, 2002

Gjermund on his bonk


Gjermund wrote about his long O' on his club's guestbook. Here is a translation (my appologies for the rough translation):

...If the Norwegian Long Champs were 24 km instead of 25.4, I'd have brought the gold home to Tromsø. But, I completely ran out of fuel/carbs at the end....One hour on the last kilometer must be a new record. The map was a morass of unclear symbols, blue and brown floated together before my eyes, and my legs and brain felt like syrup. The only thing I could think was -- blueberries, blueberries and blueberries.

I'm not certain I've got the translation right (I don't have any problem with Swedish, but casual Norwegian is a bit of a challenge). In any case, I think I've captured the basic idea -- Gjermund bonked and bonked bad.

posted by Michael | 8:34 PM


Now that's hitting the wall


In last weekend's Norwegian long distance champs, Gjermund Hanssen hit the wall.

Gjermund won last year's Norwegian long distance champs. He was a favorite this year.

After 2:25 of racing, Gjermund was in the lead. He was less than a minute ahead of Håvard Tveite and Johan Ivarsson. The race was nearly over. There were only a few legs left.

But, Gjermund hit the wall.

Tveite took 11:30 on the 29th leg. Gjermund took 42:57.

Tveite took 3:43 on the 30th leg. Gjermund took 21:27.

Tveite took 1:40 on the 31st leg. Gjermund took 9:11.

By the finish, Tveite had a time of 2:43:38 and won the gold. Gjermund was over an hour behind.

I haven't had time to carefully read the Scandinavian O' pages to find out all the details, but I know that the story is simple. Gjermund just ran out of gas. He hit the wall.

posted by Michael | 5:11 PM


Thursday, August 22, 2002

Next update on Monday


I'm leaving for H.A.R.T. camp after work today. I plan to update this page on Monday.

posted by Michael | 12:39 PM


Idaho prize


Dick and Nancy picked up my prize from the Idaho A-meet. For an O' meet, the prizes were unusual. One part of the prize was a medal on a ribbon. But, the rest of the prize was a natural ointment (seems to be something like Bengay) and a book on food and excercise.

The book looks amusing. One excercise is the M&M walk. Here's how it works. Start at one end of a football field with a bag of M&Ms. Eat one. Walk to the other end of the field. Eat another M&M. Walk back. You can go through the entire bag.

I used to have my own version of a junk-food session. I'd ride the elevator from my office to the 9th floor (I work on 21). I'd walk up the stairs with a short stop on the 18th floor. There is a candy machine next to the stairway on the 18th floor. I'd look at an item -- maybe a powdered sugar donut -- decide "no way, I'm not eating that junk," and then walk back to my desk.

posted by Michael | 12:38 PM


Wednesday, August 21, 2002

H.A.R.T. Camp?


H.A.R.T. Camp is part of my preparation for the fall season and the U.S. relay champs.

What is it?

High Altitude Relay Training Camp.

Mook organized the camp. It will be small (Mook, Mikell Platt and me...maybe Dan?). We'll spend a couple of days training on the maps around Lake George, Colorado, and then run the RMOC Scapegoat.

It should be fun.

My goals/plans are:

Spend plenty of time running and walking on maps. I have done very little technique training the last year or so. I need to work on my map reading. I'll try to spend some time walking/hiking around on the maps taking careful looks at the terrain and the map (almost like mapping).

Gain confidence in running in the terrain. I'm still uncomfortable running in the terrain. I hope some terrain running and walking will help. Every time I run -- roads or terrain -- without my knee bending backwards, I get a little more confident.

Get in some fast orienteering. I have trouble running at altitude, so I need to make some adjustments in how I'd train if I'm going to get in any fast orienteering. Basically, there are two things I can do. First, run technique courses that go mostly downhill. Second, run "interval" courses where I run a leg, then rest a bit. Last year I did some training in Laramie before I went to Finland and used the interval approach. Mook, Mikell and I would meet at a control and race to the next control (starting a minute apart). It worked well. I had enough time to rest and catch my breath, which enabled me to run relatively fast. If I run a course at altitude, I have to either stop a lot or keep a slow/steady pace. The interval approach isn't the ideal way to train technique, but it is a good way to get some hard/fast running in at altitude.

posted by Michael | 12:47 PM


Tuesday, August 20, 2002

A few words from the current number one ranked orienteer


If you go by world ranking points, the number one orienteer in the world is Fredrik Lowegren of Sweden.

Fredrik has had some serious injury problems this year. Here is a bit of an interview (translated from Swedish):

What is your goal now?

Well, it occurred to me that I should retire while I'm at the top....No, not really. A new goal will probably be to try to keep my spot on the top of the world rankings when the season is over, though I'd rather win a medal at the European Champs.

How are the injuries and training going?

My foot isn't completely well but I'm going to go out for my first running session tonight -- 15 minutes of easy running on grass. I decided, with some advice from Dr. Claes Östberg, to begin alternating biking, running in a swimming pool and easy runs. The idea is to get in shape for the European Champs at the end of September.

I'll be interested to see how it goes for Fredrik at the European Champs.

posted by Michael | 9:13 PM


A few notes on my first day at Idaho


1. I was a bit surprised by the first leg. Given the hilly terrain, I didn't expect to lose so many lines on the way to the first control. I saw one person who started ahead of me go north from the triangle (through the rough open area) and another go on the trail. When I got my map, I wasn't surprised by the first leg.

Nearing the control I came across some rough forest (mapped as white) with lots of deadfall. I'm not in shape to run through rough forest. Lots of deadfall was going to slow me down a lot.

2. My biggest mistake of the weekend. I drifted north of the line when I planned to go south of the line. I didn't hold a straight line running through the flat area (which was fairly rough). When I crossed the forest road, I thought I was on my planned route and began to climb the hill. I quickly recognized that the hill didn't fit and turned around and got back to the right hill.

This is the sort of mistake that I make when I'm out of practice. I was sloppy. I didn't adjust my technique for the conditions (flat area with rough vegetation).

3. A number of people went straighter. I spent some time on the trail. I like running on trails. I'm a weak runner (especially now) and figure I lose much less time by taking physically easy routes (like trails).

The contours were a bit strange near the control. I went to the flattish area (which the maps shows as being just in front of the control). In fact, it turned out to be at a small cliff down the hill from the control. The map was a bit rough overall. The organizers warned us ahead of time. So, I didn't let it bother me.

4. This control looked tricky. If you missed it, you'd be in trouble. I took it carefully and found the control without any difficulty.

5. Nothing much to say.

6 and 7. I saw the marker at the sixth control from about 250 meters away. I saw the marker for the seventh control from a good 200 meters away. I must have been keeping my head up and looking far ahead.

8. I wandered a bit, costing some time. The map was a bit general and I felt uncertain at several points along the leg.

9. Nothing much to say.

10. I boomed this one. I took a bit of a risk by contouring into the control (trying to squeeze through some thick vegetation and use the small clearing at the edge of the circle. I had trouble figuring out where the clearing was (it seemed to be a line below me and below the control). I was in the general area and figured I was too low. I looked up and saw Jeff W. (I think), heading toward 11.

11. This looked simple -- follow the open area to a spot just south of the control circle or follow the other open area (with scattered trees) to just north of the control circle. But as I got close to the marker, the open area seemed to disappear. I felt unsure (though obviously I was very close to the control). Instead of thrashing around aimlessly, I felt like a quick bail-out to the trail and then attack the control from below would be best. That's what I did.

posted by Michael | 12:54 PM


Monday, August 19, 2002

My routes in Idaho


Check out my routes in Idaho.

posted by Michael | 9:47 PM



Just a quick report on my runs at Idaho. How did I do compared to my goals?

I managed to stay healthy. I didn't hurt my knee/leg. I turned an ankle after a few kilometers on the first day, but it didn't give me much trouble the rest of the course or on the second day. I taped my ankle the second day. I very rarely tape my ankles. But, I thought it was worth doing. I didn't have too much trouble running down hills. I took it quite easy -- which cost me time. I'll need to work on my hill running (up and down) this fall and winter.

I boomed less than 4 minutes each day. While I didn't boom much. I wasn't sharp. I didn't spike many controls either.

I didn't orienteer systematically the first day, but I did much better the second day. I felt rusty. I haven't done much O' recently and it showed.

I learned some things that will help the OK team for next year's relay champs. (I'll save that info for an email to the OK team....no need to help the competition!).

posted by Michael | 12:35 PM


Thursday, August 15, 2002

To Idaho!


I'm going to Idaho for the A-meet this weekend.

That means the next planned update of this page will be Monday.

It also means I need to say a few words about my plan for the event.

My strategy for the meet is simple -- read the map and be ready for anything.

I'm not sure what to expect from the organizers, terrain and map. I'll try to make sure I'm not expecting much, that I'm ready for problems like a poor map or start times delayed while waiting for vetters to check the last few controls. The event is at a moderate altitude (5000-ish feet, I think). I'm not sure how I'll react to the altitude -- I'm hoping it won't be much of a problem.

My goals are:

Stay healthy. I'm still not fully recovered from my knee/leg injury and I don't want to push it. Mostly that'll mean taking it a bit easy on downhills.

Less than 4 minutes of booms each day. Less than 4 minutes of booms isn't a very demanding goal. I'll be disppointed if I boom more than that.

Oreinteer systematically. I haven't done much racing or technique training in a long time. I need a bit of work to get back to the reading the map well.

Learn for next year. Next year's US Relay Champs are in Idaho. Some expereince in the area might be useful. I hope to learn something useful to pass on to the Orienteer Kansas teams.

posted by Michael | 1:14 PM


Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Risks of training


One of the scary things about training for a sport is the risk (small as it is) of getting seriously hurt.

Bernt Bjørnsgaard, the Norwegian national team member, is flat on his back in a hospital after a serious mountain bike crash. He was training on his bike and went over the handlebars, landing on his head. He injured his neck quite seriously. He was able to walk back to a road and got a ride to a hospital. He was lucky. He easily could have been hurt more. If the weather had been bad, he'd have risked hypothermia.

Training for cycling seems to be pretty risky. Falls from mountain bikes are relatively common. On a road bike, you've got to worry about traffic.

I'm a bit of a klutz on a bike, so I stick to mountain biking on technically easy areas. On the roads, I look for low traffic routes. Most of my road biking is on a small loop (aka the bunny loop) with low traffic.

I think orienteering and training for orienteering are low-risk. But, there is a risk.

I guess the best ways to minimize risk are to think through what you're doing and make sure someone knows where you are and when you'll be back. Carrying a whistle and/or a cell phone doesn't hurt. Preparing for the weather conditions makes sense (e.g. carrying a hat and jacket on a cool day even if running without them is cool).

I don't think I've done many things that were really stupid. In general, I'm fairly risk averse. After tearing up my knee and leg in New Hampshire, I've become a bit more careful. I don't think I've changed how I would train. But, I am more likely to think through what I'm doing and what I'd do if I got hurt.

posted by Michael | 12:51 PM


Tuesday, August 13, 2002

From discussion to sports-talk-radio


The discussion forum on Attackpoint has been unusually active the last month or so, and it seems to me like the discussion is de-evolving into something like sports-talk-radio. If you listen to sports-talk-radio, you know that it is full on unsupported nonsense and arguments based on logical fallacies. That doesn't mean it is uninteresting, in fact it can be quite entertaining. But, while it is entertaining it might not be informative.

Here is an example:

First, some background. Jeff Watson started a discussion about training by asking a series of questions about how top US orienteers train. Jeff wrote a list of very specific questions. The discussion generated some interesting posts. For example, Eric Buckley, based on his experience as a very serious competitive cyclist, suggested that:

...support from the federation and/or sponsors (if it comes at all) is the result of world-class training behavior, not the cause of it. How can one train full-time without these things? Its not as hard as one might imagine.

The on-going discussion was really quite interesting. In fact, Jeff posted a note, "What great comments!" A few more posts kept the level of discussion "healthy." By healthy, I mean based on information and personal experience more than opinion.

Opinion, stated as fact, is a sign you're listening to sports-talk-radio. Typically, the opinion-stated-as-fact is something you can't observe or test. It is a sign the discussion is no longer informative.

Listening to a sports-talk-radio show you'll hear this sort of stuff all the time -- "the chemistry on the Royals is all wrong, there aren't any leaders in the clubhouse...leaders would make sure guys are running hard to first on an infield grounder." This is the sort of statement that you can't disagree with because it isn't based on anything resembling evidence. What is "chemistry"? What is a "leader"? How does some bozo on a cell phone have any idea what is going on in the clubhouse (it is fairly common that a sports-talk-radio caller refers to some sort of insider knowledge that the caller can't share)? What makes you think players aren't running hard? Does it even make sense to run hard on a grounder that is an almost sure out?

Back to orienteering.

In the on-going discussion about how much an orienteer needs to train, Jeff pointed wrote:

With regards to 15 hours of training, I think that this is a bit much. I was just looking at Pasi Ikonen's training journal, and he does about 8-10 hours per week.

So far so good. Jeff made a very relevant point, based on evidence. But, the response to Jeff dropped the discussion into the realm of sports-talk-radio. Sergey responds:

I hardly believe that top orienteerers spend less than 15 hours per week. Look at their published training logs with some sceptism as they don't want to publish what they are actually doing. They most likely don't log all the stuff they are doing. I may say that most male athletes at top 100 are doing at least 60 miles/week average only running that alone takes 7-8 hours. You have to add special O training and recovery training to that - that easily adds to 15 hours.

This is pure opinion-stated-as-fact. The discussion has gone from evidence-based (Jeff is telling you what Pasi's training log says), to speculation. The speculation is camouflaged -- it has lots of specific numbers which almost make it look like it is based on evidence. It isn't. It is opinion. It may well be correct, but it is just opinion. It attacks Jeff's point in an especially insidious way -- it implies (with absolutely no evidence) that Jeff's data is flawed.

This sort of de-evolution is probably common in internet based "communities." The OK forum, for example, features a lot of inside jokes. Maybe the discussion at Attackpoint will improve in the future...maybe not.

posted by Michael | 1:28 PM


Monday, August 12, 2002

5 items to take to the Idaho A-meet


Mary and I are going to the Idaho A-meet this weekend. Here are 5 good things to take to an A-meet:

1. Whistle. I never used to carry a whistle. After a wicked injury a year ago, I always carry a whistle. I was really lucky last year -- the weather wasn't bad and someone stopped to help me right when I got hurt. It only took about 30 minutes before people were able to find me and begin helping me out. I carry a whistle now.

2. Earplugs. Those little foam ear plugs are great for travel. You never know when you'll be in a room next to a highway or next to a room full of partying drunks. Earplugs let you get some sleep.

3. Handspring PDA and foldable keyboard. It gives me enough computing power to take notes about my race, draft a blog entry, play solitaire and read the latest updates to mapsurfer.com, attackpoint.org and Abbatoir.

4. Camelback Peak Bagger. I've got a new Camelbak pack as a present from the in-laws (thanks!). It'll work as a carry on bag. The Idaho A-meet will be at altitude, where staying hydrated is extra important. I'll keep the pack filled with water for post-run refreshment.

5. Think to Win. Don Alexander wrote this book about autoracing. I find it thought provoking. It gives me a lot of ideas about orienteering.

posted by Michael | 9:04 PM


Sunday, August 11, 2002

Corn Maze Orienteering


OK hosted the third annual corn maze O' race this morning. As usual, it was a lot of fun.

Corn maze orienteering is surprisingly challenging. If you lose map contact, relocating is difficult because every part of the maze looks like every other part of the maze. The course setter can give you some interesting route choice legs (cutting through the corn is prohibited). The rules of the maze don't allow running. So, you orienteer at a walk. Even at a walk, it can be a challenge to hold contact with the map.

Check out this year's map.

The Pendletons are not planning to do the maze next year. That's too bad. But, it is tough to make a profit and the Pendletons are running a business.

There is a chance that OK will host a night event in this year's maze. We'll see if something materializes.

posted by Michael | 5:42 PM


Saturday, August 10, 2002

Talking while orienteering


A day or two ago I wrote about talking to yourself as a way of holding (or recovering) your concentration. It reminded me of an experiment Damon Douglas did.

Damon was US Team coach in the late 1980s. He spent a lot of time trying to learn about orienteering and figure it all out. He spent time at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs. He went to a pre-WOC training camp in Sweden in 1988 and interviewed runners and coaches from other countries to learn what a coach should do.

He also got Peter Gagarin to carry a tape recorder around with him while he ran a course. Peter talked about what he was doing as he ran the course. Peter kept up a running commentary by describing what he was doing, what he was looking for and what he was thinking. Listening to the tape while looking at the map was quite interesting. It seemed like you got a good sense of how Peter orienteered.

Did Damon ever get other runners to carry a tape recorder? Have other coaches used the technique?

posted by Michael | 7:24 PM


Friday, August 09, 2002

Gunilla's fast 5k


Swedish orienteer Gunilla Svärd ran a fast 5k the other day. She ran a 5,000 meter on the track at the regional champs...and won!

Her time was 17:06.83 (she didn't beat my PR, but she was very close).

The local paper reported on her race:

"I was aiming for 17:30. Simone Luder, who has dominated orienteering this summer, is supposed to have run 17:20. I never thought I'd beat her. If it turns out that I did, that'd be great."

Gunilla ran track as a teenager; since then it has been just orienteering. She sees running on the track as good training for increasing tempo and getting faster on trails and roads. She's aiming for the World Champs sprint next year.

"This is fun. I hadn't expected it to go so well."

If you've got a RealPlayer, take a look at an interview and video of the race.

posted by Michael | 6:02 PM


Thursday, August 08, 2002

Gears of concentration


Randy Hall wrote about different "gears of concentration" at mapsurfer today:

...perhaps just as there are many gears of running, there may be many gears of concentration, and I need to find that high gear in stuff like this. I do know this gear, I have it sometimes, and sometimes not. I wonder if I have control of when I have it?

I think there are different "gears" of concentration, but unlike running it is much tougher to change gears. When you are running it is easy to change pace at will. On my run today, I wanted to run for ten minutes at an honest effort (i.e. just below race pace). I picked a spot to start, punched my watch, and changed gears. When ten minutes was up, I slowed down and recovered. No problem changing running speeds.

Concentration is not like running. Changing concentration is a lot harder. But, I think there are ways to change gears. I've got three main ways I try to raise my concentration or get it back if it slipped.

1. I practice "watching" my concentration and learning to notice when it slips (e.g. when I start to think about something other than what I'm doing). When I catch my concentration slipping, I tell myself to look at my compass. Just taking a look at my compass seems to help me regain my concentration. When I've been doing a lot of technique training, I catch my concentration slipping very quickly. When I haven't been doing much technique training, my mind can wander for a minute or more before I realize my concentration slipped.

2. I talk to myself. I talk to myself out loud. I talk about what I'm doing. "Ok, head up this hill, I should be able to see a boulder off to my right...then the hill will flatten a bit and I'll need to quickly orient the map, then head more or less straight to the edge of the marsh..." Talking out loud seems to force me to think about what I'm doing.

3. I "think" in Swedish. I'm not sure why it works, but when I think in Swedish, my mind doesn't wander. I find that I often slip into Swedish when I'm concentrating well. I do that without trying.

The best way to deal with concentration is to keep it high all the time. Since it is hard to change gears, it is risky to let your concentration wander. The best way to keep a high level of concentration is to keep map contact all the time. When you start letting go of map contact and trying to push hard (e.g. just setting a rough compass and running hard to a big feature) it is tough to recover concentration.

For me it is hard to shift gears. That's why I very rarely plan ahead. A lot of orienteers try to take trail routes early in the course and use the time on the trail to look at other legs. I don't do that. Even if I'm on a trail leg, I try to keep my mind on what I'm doing at the moment. If I start to look at other legs, I have trouble getting my mind back on what I'm doing now. I suppose I lose a few seconds because I don't look at future legs. But, I save minutes by not booming much. I'm willing to give up the seconds to save the minutes.

Concentration is an interesting topic. I should probably spend some time thinking about it a bit and write some more -- maybe a topic for another day?

posted by Michael | 8:16 PM


Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Orienteering and basketball?


One of my "hobbies" is trying to apply ideas from other disciplines (everything from auto racing to corporate governance) to orienteering. I bumped into an interesting discussion of basketball and orienteering on John Frerickson's training lot at Attackpoint. Here is what John wrote:

I played in a basketball game for an hour to fill in for a friend who couldn't make. I played hard and got a great workout. I have realized that basketball is great cross-training since it requires a lot of short bursts of energy as well as endurance. In that regards it is similar to Orienteering: endurance, but not at a continues pace. It also requires a certain amount of mental discipline, as towards the end of the game, you can see where you need to hustle, but to actually make the split decision to execute it, you need to override your mental urge to rest. Since you are constantly resting and bursting during a basketball game, when you are tired, your brain just doesn't make that split decision in time, even though it knows it should.

The physical relationship between basketball and orienteering is obvious.

But, Fredrickson found a mental relationship. That takes a bit of creativity.

posted by Michael | 7:41 PM


Tuesday, August 06, 2002



In 20+ years of orienteering, I've never seen a rattlesnake. In fact, in 38+ years of life, I've never seen a rattlesnake.

Mook, who trains in the mountains around Tucson, Arizona, regularly spots rattlesnakes.

I think I'd like to see a rattler in the wild.

posted by Michael | 8:46 PM


Monday, August 05, 2002

Bjornar on running in the heat


Bjornar Valstad won a big Norwegian meet in hot weather (for Norway) yesterday. On his homepage, he wrote a few words about his strategy for dealing with the heat.

In the heat it can be risky to push the running, so I ran with the brakes on...I responded unusually well when I picked up the pace near the end of the race. I would have been able to keep a high speed for a long time today.

Bjornar's strategy was to go out slow -- to conciously "put on the brakes" in the beginning of the race.

Bjornar has apparently had stomach problems when he drinks during races (though he also carried a Camelbak with sport drink in it at the ultra-long World Cup race).

My problem with drinking during races seems to be a thing of the past. Today, I didn't drink much, but I managed to drink about 3 dl of water [about ten ounces]. I didn't dare drink any more. But, 3 dl is A LOT compared to nothing.

Now the heat in Norway isn't all that bad. It was almost 30 C (which is about 85 F). By comparison, at 6:30 a.m. in Kansas City today it was 81 F.

For some good map study, check out Bjornar's map with his winning route.

posted by Michael | 9:16 PM


Sunday, August 04, 2002

Jerky underground?


Simone Luder is the 2001 World Champ. She's leading the World Cup. She's leading the Park World Tour. She just won the "super elite" category at the Swedish 5-Days. She is a very good orienteer.

Simone Luder has her own web page.

My only complaint about her page is that it is all written in German. I can't read German.

The only way I can try to make sense of her page is by using translation software. This afternoon, I tried to read a bit of her web page through Babelfish translation.

Here is a bit of Simone's write up of the fourth day of the Swedish 5-Days:

when I looked for the first time on the map, I admired the fine map picture, wow, looked mad! But a step I was continued to catch up directly by the present: up to the chest (swam) I stood in the sump... The area was beautiful, but also extremely difficult. Not only orienting was in the vague hills, sumps and rock a challenge but also running over the wet, stony and jerky underground. Already at the beginning I had trouble and my other security did not want not to adjust itself. With the respected post then the final tiefpunkt came as I (actually only briefly before the post) any longer did not get along. Further errors were added and came in such a way I wet and with much arrears from the forest, now it me had thus again once so correctly gotten!

I'm thinking that Simone is describing a mistake in some difficult terrain. From other sources (which I can understand), I know she made a big boom on the fourth day. Clearly, she's talking about the difficult terrain -- terrain with subtle contours and rocky footing (="jerky underground"). She seems to have gotten lost. But, I can't really make much sense of the translation.

It might be worth spending some more time poking around Simone's home page and plugging the text into Babelfish. Even if I don't learn anything useful about orienteering, the translations themselves can be amuzing.

posted by Michael | 9:19 PM


Saturday, August 03, 2002

Some O' history


I was poking around the USOF home page today and came across a list of U.S. World Champs teams for 1966-2001.

With a cup of Peet's coffee and a pen in hand, I studied the list a bit. Here are a few "factoids":

Most experienced teams

The teams with the most experience (i.e. the most prior WOC team experience) were 1989 (Sweden) for the men and 1997 (Norway) for the women. The 1989 men had Mitch Bentley as the only first-timer. Dave Pruden and I were at our second WOC. Mikell Platt and Eric Weyman were at their sixth. The 1997 women had two first-timers and two old-timers. Karen Williams and Kris Harrison were at their first WOC. Sharon Crawford was at her tenth and Peggy Dickison was at her 7th.

Least experienced team

The team with the least experience (excluding the first couple of WOCs the U.S. sent runners to) was the 1991 (Czech.) men. Four men -- Joe Brautigam, Tom Bruce, Rick Oliver and Lans Taylor -- were at their first WOC. Bruce Wolfe was at his third.

Peggy and Sharon

Peggy Dickison (9 teams) and Sharon Crawford (10 teams) are in a class by themselves. Only one other woman has 5 WOC teams (Kristin Hall) and only one other has 4 WOC teams (Heather Williams). On the mens' side, MIkell Platt has 7 WOC teams and Eric Weyman has 6. Platt could probably have made enough teams to put him even or ahead of Sharon, but he hasn't gone to a WOC since 1993.

One timers

Currently, there are 16 men and 11 women who've been on only one WOC team. Two of these orienteers, Ken Walker jr. and Sandra Zurcher, are likely to drop off the list if they keep themselves in the sport.

Gaps between teams

Carl Childs, Dave Pruden and I have all had 8-year gaps between appearances on the WOC team. Carl was on the 1985 team and then the 1993 team. Dave was on the 1981 team and then the 1989 team. I was on the 1993 and 2001 teams.

US Champs on the team

Before 1990, there was only one year where the U.S. champ was not also on the WOC team. In 1983, Peter Gagarin was US Champ but was not on the team (though I think he was an alternate and went to the WOC as the team coach).

Since 1990, there have been 5 mens teams and 2 womens teams without the US Champ. For the men, 1993 was the only WOC team with the US champ. For the women, the US champ was not on the WOC team in 1997 adn 1999.

Mikell Platt accounts for some of this. He has won the US champs three times in years when he didn't go to the WOC.

Three or more WOC teams

The men who've been on three or more WOC teams are: Mikell Platt (7); Eric Weyman (6); James Scarborough (5); Eric Bone, Joe Brautigam, Steve Tarry and me (4); Carl Childs, Bruce Wolfe, Petere Gagarin and Dick adams (3).

The women who've been on three or more WOC teams are: Sharon Crawford (10); Peggy Dickison (9); Kristin Hall (5); Heather Williams (4); Karen Williams, Pavlina Brautigam, Virginia Lehman, Betty Anderson and Beth Skelton (3).

posted by Michael | 4:59 PM


Friday, August 02, 2002

Mispunch? No problem, just add two minutes to your time.


Runners on the M45 course at the 4th day of the Swedish 5-days who mispunched weren't disqualified. Instead of DQing runners who punched at a wrong control, the organizers penalized them by adding two minutes to their times.

Given the situation, it seems like a reasonable approach. Here is what happened...

The M45 course had a control with the code "158" that was very near another control. The other control had the code "159." The two controls were only a bit more than ten meters apart. A number of runners punched at 159 rather than 158.

Instead of disqualifying the runners who punched at 159, the organizers added two minutes to their overall times.

The organizers estimated that if you came to 159 but didn't punch, you'd lose up to a minute in figuring out where you were and then getting to 158. If the controls are really only about ten meters apart, you might lose considerably less time than a minute.

The people who punched at 159 had some trouble reading the code. At the 5-days, the control code is printed on the map next to the control. But, this particular code was printed in such a way that the 9 sat on top of a bit of a cliff. The bit of the cliff closed the lower loop of the 9, making it look like an 8. Now, a cliff is black and the code was printed in purple, but keep in mind that the guys reading the map are all over 45.

Usually I'm not a fan of trying to avoid DQing runners who mispunched or keeping a course that isn't fair. But, in this case I think the solution is good. It penalizes the people who mispunched, but doesn't disqualify them.

I don't think the organizers really screwed up. It would have been better to have the controls further apart (there is probably some sort of rule that prohibits or discourages having controls so close). Also, it would have been better to have codes that were more distinct (few people would have mispunched if the controls were, say, "158" and "310"). But, even though the controls were so close, the course wasn't really unfair.

posted by Michael | 5:22 PM


Big cake!


I was poking around the internet today and bumped into news of a big cake my brother made. Check it out here.

posted by Michael | 1:17 PM


Thursday, August 01, 2002

Orienteer Kansas - 25th Anniversary


Mook told me (and I believe him) that the first OK club meeting took place on September 8, 1977. That means that we're just over a month from the 25th anniversary of Orienteer Kansas!

Check out the new 25th anniversary T-shirt at the OK Store. (The T-shirt runs $14.99 which is the base price -- all of the products are at the base price, no mark-up....I'm not making a penny on them).

posted by Michael | 9:39 PM


4 things to do to get ready for the relays


The U.S. relay champs is coming up soon. The race is September 22 in Vermont. The relays is always one of the highlights of the year for Orienteer Kansas.

This year there are some special challenges. The timing is not the best for us. The local O' season doesn't even start until the week after the relays. I'm still recovering from a serious injury last year -- so I'm still not able to train as I'd like.

Here are four things I'm doing to get ready for the relays

1. Once a week I train on hills and once I week I put in ten minutes at an honest effort. Running up and down hills is a good way to build up some leg strength. It also translates pretty well to running in the terrain. I find that a minimal amount of hard running (at least ten minutes once a week) seems to be enough to keep my legs ready to run hard without getting injured or worn out.

2. I'm spending a bit of time every day looking at O' maps from old races. Looking at O' maps should help make up for the lack of technique training in the months before the relays. There are maps scattered all around the house. I try to take a look at a map whenever I get a few free moments.

3. I plan to spend a long weekend doing O' training. I'll probably go to the H.A.R.T. Camp (High Altitude Relay Training). If I don't make it to H.A.R.T., I'll probably spend a weekend at Harriman. Mary and I are also going to the A-meet in Idaho in a couple of weeks. It won't hurt to have a couple of days of competition to begin to get my mind back into competition shape.

4. I need to think through the different situations I'm likely to face at the relays. How will I react if (when?) I lose contact with the map? What will I do to get my mind back on the race if I fall and sprain my knee? Am I prepared in case I get a different leg than I expect? What is my strategy if I go out together with another runner? There are lots of situations to think about.

posted by Michael | 6:53 PM


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