Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Monday, September 30, 2002

Some European Champs news


Emil Wingstedt (Sweden) is probably the best orienteer in the world right now. The European Champs just ended and Wingstedt finished 5th in the middle distance, second in the relay, won the sprint, and finished 2nd in the classic. I poked around the internet to learn a bit more about him. Here is what I found.

Wingstedt is Swedish, but studied in Norway and lives in Norway. He runs for the Halden Ski Club -- one of the all-time great O' clubs. U.S. O' trivia buffs will know that Halden was the home club of the Hollowell family. The local newspaper in Halden published an interview with Wingstedt where he talked about moving to Norway and living in Halden, among other things...

I decided to study in Norway as a change. I could have combined going to school with orienteering at home in Sweden, but I grew a lot by moving to a new country, getting into a new training environment and being able to try a new terrain.

Halden seems to be a nice small town. I've got a good impression of Halden Ski Club, too. There are a lot of orienteers of international class I'll be able to train with. The leaders seem to be very good, too....

There are really three reasons I picked Halden. First, there are good possibilities to combine work and training for elite orienteering. I work 60 percent at the Institute for Energy Technology. Second, I've had an introduction to the orienteering environment from working here in the summers and studying with Tore Sandvik [Norwegian national team member] in Trondheim. And last, but not least, the terrain around here looks really good and there are a lot of good maps around here.

One of the things Wingstedt did to combine studies and orienteering was take a bit longer to finish his degree. His degree normally takes someone 4.5 years, Wingstedt took 6.5.

A Swedish newspaper had coverage of Wingstedt's silver medal in the classic race. Here is a bit of what he had to say:

The long distance race [aka classic distance] at the European Champs has been my main goal all year. It is what I've been training for.

I'm never satisfied if it doesn't go well the whole time. I had a couple of dumb mistakes today. Buhrer [the Swiss runner who won] orienteered best and he won.

The paper also quoted the national team coach, Goran Andersson:

Wingstedt has shown that with a good attitude and goal-oriented training you can have top results. He has had a fantastic week.

If you're really interested in Wingstedt's career, take a look at a history of his orienteering (written by Wingstedt and in English).

posted by Michael | 1:20 PM


Sunday, September 29, 2002

Low effort O' practice


Here are some ways to practice orienteering without putting in much effort:

Ten minutes of map study I used to be a fanatic about map study. Even just a small amount -- ten minutes a day -- seems to help.

Pick inconvenient parking places I wouldn't say a bit of walking is great training. But, it doesn't hurt. If you pick inconvenient parking places, you get a bit of extra walking every day. Bonus points if you carry something.

Mental mapping When you're walking around, think about how you'd map what you see. Ask questions like: how many lines between me and the top of that hill? If that fire hydrant was a boulder, would it be big enough to map?

Stretch at work Stretching seems to be a good thing to do. When you get a minute or two free, do some easy stretching. It is bound to do some good.

Play catchingfeatures Download the game at www.catchingfeatures.com

Now, I don't know if these things will really help much. I doubt they'd cause you any harm.

posted by Michael | 8:15 PM


Saturday, September 28, 2002

Learning by watching


I read an article in the KC Star this week about Nascar cup drivers watching Busch races to help prepare themselves for races.

In a lot of sports you can learn something by watching top performers. Skiers watch videos of Olympic skiers to help develop good technique. Golfers do the same (thought it seems like golfers will do just about anything to try to improve as long as it costs something).

People also watch themselves to try to improve techniques. Golfers video their swing and then study the tape trying to figure out how to improve.

I wonder if you could improve your orienteering by watching good orienteers?

If you could see Bjornar Valstad running through the woods, would you learn anything?

There are, of course, all kinds of practical problems with watching orienteering. If you sit out in the forest and watch, you only see a short bit of the race. If you try to follow from the event center, you don't see much either. At most races all you see is the run in.

As I've run races, I've seen some very good orienteers and I've run with them for a bit. But, I've never tried to watch what they are doing with an idea of picking up some ideas.

I suppose that watching a top orienteer might be useful. You could get a sense of how they move through the forest, how often they look at their map and how they look around the terrain. Maybe you'd learn something. Maybe not.

posted by Michael | 8:36 PM


Friday, September 27, 2002



posted by Michael | 8:44 PM


Thursday, September 26, 2002



Here are the top 5 men at the European Champs middle distance race:

1. Mikhail Mamleev (Russia) 24:49
2. Yuri Omeltchenko (Ukraine) 25:26
3. Jamie Stevenson (Great Britian) 25:56
4. Troy De Hass (Australia) 26:01
5. Emil Wingstedt (Sweden) 26:02

You'll notice that only one of the top five is a Scandinavian.

You might not notice that all of the top five live in Scandinavia. Mamleev lives in Sweden. Omeltchenko lives in Sweden. Stevenson lives in Sweden. De Hass lives in Finland. Wingstedt lives in Norway. (Of course, serious elite orienteers must be spending a lot of time travelling around -- racing, training and visiting in other countries).

It isn't really a surprise that non-Scandinavian runners did so well in Hungary. The terrain looks fairly nuetral. It wasn't extreme in any way. Check out the men's middle distance course.

It isn't really a surprise that the non-Scandinavians all live in Scandinavia. For an orienteer, Scandinavia is the place to go.

posted by Michael | 8:25 PM


Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Gunilla wins!!


The day after I wrote a few words from Gunilla, she won the European Champs at the middle distance. Coincidence?

Here is a bit of what the Swedish O' Federation reported:

The women's race had surprises. Simone Lude (7th), Hanne Staff (9th) and Vroni König-Salmi (5th) all had to many booms. So the podium looked a bit unusual. There aren't many who would have predicted the trio of Svärd-Wolf-Husebye to take the top three places.

"It was a bit surprising. It was very easy running and a fairly easy course. But, that is always what you think when it goes well," said Gunilla.

The key to her success, according to Gunilla, was her win at the Swedish Champs.

"That gave me the self confidence I needed before the travel here. That, and Marita Skogum's [national team coach] support when it wasn't going so well in the spring and summer."

Here is a snapshot of the new European Champ, and her daughter Lina, after a rainy training session last summer.

Mikael Mamleev, from Russia, won the men's race. Stanislaw Rachitskiy -- who has done some coaching for the U.S. team and lives in Ohio, I think -- coached Mamleev some years ago. Here is a snapshot of Mamleev and Stanislaw at the WOC last summer.

posted by Michael | 6:49 PM


Tuesday, September 24, 2002

A few words from Gunilla Svard


Gunilla won the Swedish short champs last week and she was interviewed on the Swedish O' Federation's "web TV." Here is a bit of what she said when asked about her race and her form before this week's European Champs:

My form should be coming. I hope so. It feels good that I can win even though I missed a minute and the others ran well. It felt good. I’m especially satisfied that I orienteered well. I didn’t do that last weekend. I took time to stop and read the map, I had an entirely different feeling of harmony than I did last weekend.

posted by Michael | 8:02 PM


Suffering at the relays


I usually keep my heart rate at about 165-168 during an O' race (or a road race for that matter). If I get my heart rate over about 169-170, I have to slow down. But, if it averages about 165, I can keep a steady effort throughout a race.

At the relays I was sick. I suffered. I felt bad, weak and slow. It shows up in my heart rate. Here are the average heart rates for the splits I took: 162, 179, 180, 180, 179, 180, 177, 178, 177, 179, 179, 181 and 182.

Normally, I wouldn't be able to run for more than a short sprint with a heart rate of 180. But, at the relays I ran most of the course around 180...and, I was going slowly.

I navigated reasonably well. I had a small hesitation and bobble at the first control and took a bad route on one leg (losing a good 1:00 - 1:30 on the route choice), but I would need to navigate perfectly to have a chance to have a good run given my physical condition.

posted by Michael | 12:51 PM


Monday, September 23, 2002



Before I write anything about the relay race itself, I thought I'd write a few words about the announcing.

The announcer, Vladimir Gusiatnikov (assisted by Mike Schuh and probably some others) did a great job. Throughout the event, he kept the crowd (a total of about 300 orienteers) informed about what was going on. But it wasn't just updates, Vlad also threw in some color commentary. He began by speculating about the favorite teams. He interviewed Dan after he finished the first leg. He kept the crowd entertained.

Having an announcer at an A-meet is relatively rare. I can't remember an announcer at any other A-meets I ran in the last year. That's too bad.

I wonder why more meets don't have announcers? It probably costs a bit. You've got to get a PA system and you need to invest some time. But, it really improves the atmosphere at the meet. It makes it feel more like a sporting event.

I suspect it doesn't cost any more, and might cost a bit less, to have an announcer than to have e-punching. Personally, I'd rather have an announcer than electronic punching. Maybe I'm in the minority.

posted by Michael | 7:59 PM


Congrats to CSU


Cambridge Sports Union won the 4-point relay champs yesterday -- congrats.

OK struggled to a 6th place (among teams eligible for the U.S. Championships). Look for OK to come back strong at next June's relay champs!

Look for more about the relays in the next few days.

posted by Michael | 1:24 PM


Thursday, September 19, 2002

To the relays!


Tomorrow morning we're flying to Vermont for the relays.

Don't look for another update to this page until next Monday.

The relays is always a high point of the year. Relays are fun and OK has almost always done well. We've got two teams this year (one team including two Possum Troters).

I feel much better than I did yesterday. I expect to be able to run Sunday and, maybe, jog around the course on Saturday. I'm sure being sick has not helped me, but I'm hoping it hasn't hurt much either.

The key to a relay is for everyone on the team to have a decent run. Relays aren't usually won on the first couple of legs. We've got a strong team in that we've got a lot of experience. If everything goes well, we might be able to contend for a medal.

posted by Michael | 5:48 PM


Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Looking at another map


The map I posted earlier today shows a part of a very good race. Here are a couple of legs from a bad race.

In 1991, I ran the second leg at Tiomila. The second leg was a 12.5 km night leg. I was psyched to be running a night leg. It was the last time I ran Tiomila and the first time I'd earned a night leg.

I blew my chance. I made some classic relay errors.

The map below shows my second leg (from 92 to 82). The first leg was about 1.5 km and not especially demanding. At the first control, I caught sight of a couple of runners from other teams. I let the other runners draw me off course.

As I left control 92 on my way to control 82, I tried to keep up with the runners ahead of me. It turns out they were on a different fork -- going from 90 to 85 and then 95.

To keep the others in sight, I ran faster than I should have. I couldn't keep up with the map reading.

I noticed I wasn't going quite right and tried to correct by looking at my compass and heading in the right direction. I wasn't exactly sure where I was until I bumped into a marsh (the marsh just east of control 82). When I bumped into that marsh, I knew where I was...except I was wrong. When I came to the marsh, I thought I was at the marsh directly south of my control. Boom. I lost a good three minutes.

My mistake at the second control was a wake up call. I needed to be careful and sharp.

I began to orienteer well. I was taking safe routes and pushing hard. I ran well for the next six legs (maybe 5 km).

Then I caught another pack of runners. The map below shows the leg where I caught up to a group.

As I came in to 153, a string of maybe a dozen runners were leaving the control. I jumped on the train.

We were going fast. Way too fast for me to read the map. The forest was thick and I was working hard just to keep up. We ran through dense forest, through some wet stuff and crossed a trail. We went another 150 meters or so and then the forest opened up. Then the train stopped. None of us knew where we were. I couldn't believe it. Nobody had been reading the map, we'd all just been running.

Everyone stood around for a bit. Everyone kept an eye on everyone else. Clearly standing around and watching everyone else wasn't going to work.

A few people ran back east toward the trail. A few headed north. Nobody went west. I went south.

South turned out to be the right decision and I quickly found the control, but not before losing a good three minutes.

I ran well the rest of the course. But, running well for all but two legs isn't good enough. It felt bad to run poorly -- well below my potential -- at a relay.

posted by Michael | 3:10 PM


Looking at maps


I took another day off work today. I stayed at home resting and spent some time looking at maps from old races.

This map is the first part of an M21A night course I ran a long time ago - 1991. It was a very good race for me.

For me, one of the keys to the race was how I ran to the second control. Just after I passed the powerline, I felt a bit unsure. At night, when you feel unsure, you need to do something right away. Trying to relocate is difficult. Wandering around can be a waste of time. As soon as I felt unsure, I headed a bit north. Instead of slowing down and going straight, trying to make the map fit what I was seeing, I bailed out. I then took a very safe route to the control.

If you look at the map, you might wonder why I didn't just go straight and relocate on the small trail just before the control circle. That's a good idea, except the small trails in Sweden can be difficult to see (especially at night). Also, relocating on the trail would be a bit risky. It'd be easy to make a little parallel error and then boom the control.

Feeling uncertain and nearly booming at two probably helped me have a good race. It gave me a warning -- be careful. Without costing me much time. I'm sure I lost a bit of time compared to going straight and spiking the control. But, I didn't really lose much time.

My route to five is another place where I gave up some time compared to the straight route. If you didn't boom, going straight would be faster. But, my route was very safe. I gave up a bit of time for a safe route. I also gave up a bit of time to have a chance to run on trails and roads instead of through the forest.

I didn't scan the rest of the map, but the terrain changed a bit after the 5th control. The forest was a bit more open and the orienteering was a bit easier. I continued to run around on trails and make the controls as easy as possible. I continued giving up a bit of time compared to a well executed straight route.

I made one small boom -- probably 15-20 seconds -- when I didn't see the control from within the circle.

It was a very good race; certainly one of my best ever. The course was 10.2 km and I ran it in 78 minutes (in a cold mix of rain and sleet). I won by over four minutes.

posted by Michael | 2:29 PM


Can you help?


Some people looking at this blog get an error message:

"The requested URL /hosting/okansas/styles.css was not found on this server."

I haven't had the problem (I'm using IE 6).

You can get around the problem by turning off style sheets in Netscape.

If anyone knows what I need to do to fix the problem, let me know. Send me an email at meglin@juno.com.

posted by Michael | 10:37 AM


Tuesday, September 17, 2002



One of the interesting things about sports is that you can plan and prepare, then have to readjust at the last minute. That's what I'm having to do. I'm sick and it is just a few days before one of the season's highlights -- the relay champs.

Sunday afternoon my throat started feeling dry and scratchy. Sunday night I had trouble sleeping. My throat was getting worse. I went to work yesterday, but came home just after lunch.

There isn't much to do about being sick. I'm resting. I'm using my sick leave. I drank several glasses of orange juice. I'm hoping.

Right now, Tuesday evening, I'm feeling a bit better. But, I'm still worried. A sore throat isn't good. It isn't like a light headcold. I'd run with a headcold. But, I wouldn't race with a sore throat.

I've got a few days. I'm hopeful I'll feel better tomorrow and better still Thursday.

And now for something completely different...

I look at the statistics for this page every couple of days. One of the statistics I can get is the search terms that people use to find the page. Some are strange. Today I had visitors who searched for, "Orienteer without a compass" and "Warren Buffett shirtless." Warren Buffet shirtless?!

The most common searches that seem to reach my page are versions of "Serleena's necklace" and "chigger photos."

posted by Michael | 7:41 PM


Monday, September 16, 2002

Interview with the champ


Here is a quick translation of the video interview with the Swedish classic champion, Niclas Jonasson. It touches on a couple of subjects I've written about in the last few months: work stress and terrain in Switzerland.

Does it feel good to be back on top after a tough spring?

Yes, it feels very good to show that I can be good. I’ve had a really good summer of training. It feels good to show that I can be best when it counts.

Can you tell us about why it didn’t go so well in the spring?

Well, I changed jobs in the winter, so I didn’t train as much as usual. I was working full-time until the summer. So, I’ve been a bit stressed – haven’t been in balance. But now I’ve had a good summer of training. I’m working less [than full-time]. I’ve got a good balance again. I was able to have success this weekend. It feels good.

Was it a perfect race? You were about a minute ahead of Johan Ivarsson.

I had one little mistake, but otherwise I think it went very well. It felt good – both technically and physically. I’m very satisfied.

You’re not on the team to the European Champs in Hungary, is next year’s WOC the goal?

Yes. Today’s race shows me that my training plan works. I got a lot of good information from this race.

I understand you liked it in Switzerland, you were there for a training camp with the national team.

Yes. I think [the Swiss terrain] will suit me well – a lot of tempo changes and rather tough running. I hope everything will go well next year.

posted by Michael | 7:52 PM


O' on TV


Getting O' on TV is not going to be easy. There is a lot of competition for a little time. The sport isn't well understood. While it could be quite interetsing to watch, it probably isn't cheap and easy to make interesting.

The Swedish O' Federation is experimenting with using the web to provide video coverage (streaming video using "realplayer"). Eventually, the Swedish federation hopes to have a weekly show.

It seems like a good idea. You could provide video relatively cheaply. It'd be widely available even if the audience is narrow. It might be something USOF could experiment with.

I took a look at the first try -- a two-and-a-half minute bit from the Swedish classic champs.

I'm not impressed with the first try. But, it is only the first try. Hopefully they'll get better and better.

posted by Michael | 7:10 PM


Sunday, September 15, 2002

Swedish classic champs


The Swede's had their classic champs today. Niclass Jonasson won M21 and Katarina Allberg won F21.

Allberg had a few interesting thoughts about her race, here is a bit of a newspaper story:

The champs was in hilly and tough terrain...a type of terrain that suited Katrina Allberg perfectly.

"The tougher the better," said Allberg....

Allberg won by 1:49...her winning recipe was to slow down.

"It was really difficult near the end. To avoid making a mistake, I slowed down a lot."

Several of the people I know did quite well. Anna Envall is ranked 18th and finished 10th. When I was mapping in Lund, I lived with Anna's family for a bit. Tina Junegaard is ranked 22nd and finished 16th. Tina was a clubmate when I lived in Stockholm. Johanna Svensson is ranked 126th and finished 25th. Johanna is a veteran of the Texas Junior O' Camp. I wonder if she'd credit training near Dallas for a strong Swedish Champs?

The next big race is the European Champs in Hungary in a bit over a week. I compared the Swedish the Swedish team to the classic champs results. Of the seven men on the European Champs team, only three ran the classic champs. They finished 5th, 12th and 31st. Of the six women on the European Champs team, five ran the classic champs. They finished 1st, 4th, 7th, 17th and 23rd. I don't know what to make of it, but if I were a Swedish national team coach, I might be a bit worried.

posted by Michael | 7:35 PM


Saturday, September 14, 2002

More thoughts on route choice


Saving energy

The best route isn't necessarily the fastest time on a given leg. The best route is the route that gives you the fastest time for the course. Sometimes, you can give up a bit of time on a leg to save some energy that you'll be able to use later.

Take a look at the two routes on this map. Route A is the fastest route. Ten men ran both routes and the average for A is about 30 seconds faster than B. Seven women ran both routes and the average for A is about a minute faster than B. What is interesting is that the B route -- with a steep climb just before the control -- also slowed the runners on the next leg. The A route saved energy for later in the course.

Even if A had turned out to be slower than B, it might have been the best decision because it saved energy.

This example is from an academic paper on route choice by Rasmus Westergren in 1990. If you can read Swedish, it makes for interesting reading. The paper is available here.

Some ways to train route choice

I do a couple of things to train route choice:

1. I look at courses and pick routes. I try to find several alternatives even if one route looks obvious. I even look for alternatives that I think are not feasible. I'm not trying to see the best route, I'm trying to see the options. The idea is to make it easy to find the different options.*

2. I do a few route choice tests where I compare times on routes where one route looks to be clearly slower (perhaps running a trail that is far out of the way). I try to learn how much time I would lose by taking a crazy route. I run these tests with a heart rate monitor to try to keep the effort similar. Another way to do this sort of test is to run with someone -- each of you taking different routes -- either starting at the same time or starting a minute apart. I think it works best when you expect one of the routes to be clearly slower. It is interesting to see how much slower.

*Peter (I think) wrote something in a comment about the tendency for Swedes to miss routes that aren't straight because they are used to just going straight. In Sweden, the straight route is often the best. Compared to a lot of nations, Sweden is flat and the runnability doesn't vary much. Swede's get used to heading in the general direction without even looking for the alternatives.

posted by Michael | 10:32 AM


Friday, September 13, 2002

Inspiring news for those of us getting older


41-year old Haakan Eriksson won today's Swedish sprint O' champs.

40-year-old Haavard Tveite won the Norwegian long champs a couple of weeks ago.

41 year old Joergen Maartensson was nearly the fastest for his leg at the Norwegian relay champs (17 seconds back).

Ted De St Croix -- 40+ I think -- won the Canadian Champs this summer.

Inspiring performances.

posted by Michael | 7:02 PM


Thursday, September 12, 2002

Andersson on peak performance


One of the obvious ways to learn about a sport is to talk to people who are really good -- find out what they do. You can learn from people in other sports.

I came across a publication by Goeran Andersson (current Swedish national O' coach) and Rolf Kaek that is based on interviews with elite athletes and coaches from a bunch of sports. They interviewed orienteers, rowers, skiers, pistol shooters, wrestlers, badminton players, swimmers; and coaches of golf, soccer, bandy, basketball, hockey and track. They wanted to learn about peak performance and strategies for having peak performances at championship events.

Here is just a bit of what they wrote:

During the competition:

I stand at the starting line. Now is the time for my optimal race; doing my absolute best. At a World Champs or Olympics, everything surrounding the competition is different from a "normal" competition. But, the race itself is just like a normal competition. My techniques, speed, thoughts are all concentrated on the task at hand. My techniques are automatic -- instinctual -- while my concentration and motivation are focused on the task. I'm only thinking about what is happening now and from now on....

posted by Michael | 1:54 PM


Wednesday, September 11, 2002



There were September 11 rememberances all over the country. Kansas City had several, including one in front of City Hall. I didn't go, but I looked out the window and took a snapshot.

posted by Michael | 8:29 PM


Tuesday, September 10, 2002

5 thoughts about Catching Features


I've been playing around with Catching Features -- a new O' video game -- for a few days. If you've got the correct hardware and an internet connection that will let you download the large program (I think it is 17 mb), give it a try. Here are five thoughts:

Best O' game I've seen I've seen a number of computer O' games, and Catching Features is the best. No doubt.

When you begin the game, you pick a character. The image on the screen is a picture of the forest with you -- your character -- standing in front of you. The arrow keys make you move and turn. Press the space bar and you see the map. If you're running when you press the space bar, the map moves up and down (like reading an O' map on the run). Punch the space bar hard, and you get an image of the map that you can orient. As you run though the forest, you see what you'd expect to see on the map. You see trees, contour features, trails, marshes, lake, boulders, etc. You even see other orienteers (they always seem to be going a lot faster than I am!).

Given that you're sitting at a computer screen punching keys on a keyboard, it is remarkably realistic.

Cool graphics The graphics are quite cool. Take a look at the "gallery" section on the CF home page to get an idea of the graphics. The characters and terrain are three-dimensional. Boulders and cliffs look like boulders and cliffs. The graphics aren't quite up to the latest PlayStation games (if you watch sports on TV, you've seen a lot of adds for the latest PlayStation and X-box games), but they aren't far behind.

Cool sound effects As you run, you hear your footsteps. When you go downhill, your speed picks up and so does the sound of your footsteps. When you go into a marsh, you hear splashes. When you run into a tree, you fall down and make a grunt. When you're near a control you might hear the beep of another competitor punching in.

It is fun to see real people in the game The default character in the test version is Kenny Walker. You can chose other real orienteers, Suzanne Armstrong, for example. Maybe Biggins, the programmer, will add some new characters. It'd be fun to have an Orienteer Kansas runners and some more celebrity orienteers (Peter Gagarin, Mikell Platt, Sharon Crawford, Peggy, etc.).

Hand-eye coordination There is a special hand-eye coordination to playing video games. I crew up with Pong. Pong is easy. You have one control and the game is entirely two dimensional. I don't have any trouble with the hand-eye coordination with Pong. But, Catching Features is a two-dimensional screen that simulates three dimensions. It is a bit of a challenge for me. I spend a fair amount of time crashing into trees. I suspect that people who grew up playing video games more advanced than Pong wouldn't have any trouble.

And Finally, one though from Mary...

Mary isn't the sort of person who spends a lot of time playing video games. But, when I came downstairs yesterday, she was sitting at the computer, racing (as Suzanne Armstrong) around the Cambridge Cup. I asked Mary what she thought about Catching Features -- "I like it."

posted by Michael | 7:59 PM


Monday, September 09, 2002

Snapshot from Idaho A-meet


Frank at the last control in Idaho.

posted by Michael | 7:42 PM


New video O' game


I downloaded the test version of a new orienteering video game on Saturday. I've played around with it a bit and it seems very promising.

You can download the test version (and learn a bit about it) at: www.catchingfeatures.com.

Take a look at the hardware and software requirements before you download it. I had to download "DirectX 8.1" (free from Microsoft) before I could use the game. Also, note that the test program is large. If you don't have a broadband connnection it probably isn't practical to download.

Even if you don't download the program, take a look at the Catching Features web page to get an idea about the game.

I'll write my initial review in the next day or two.

posted by Michael | 1:01 PM


Sunday, September 08, 2002

What happened September 8?


Orienteer Kansas started 25 years ago

The first organizing meeting for the club that would become Orienteer Kansas took place on September 8, 1997. I wasn't there. I don't know what went on. But, I can guess that Gene Wee and George McCleary were there. The meeting probably took place in the KU union.

Who else was there? What did they do? What did they decide?

Regardless of what went on, I'd like to thank the founders for their efforts.

I tore up my leg/knee in New Hampshire

September 8, 2001, I tore up my leg/knee at the Pawtuckaway A-meet in New Hampshire. I don't know what happened. Maybe I stepped in a hole. Whatever caused it, my left knee bent backwards causing all kinds of trouble for my leg muscles, knee and tibia. It was not fun.

posted by Michael | 2:45 PM


Saturday, September 07, 2002

More route choice stuff


The map shows a leg I ran in Sweden. I suspect the route I took was a route the course setter didn't anticipate. I also think few (if any) of the others on the course ran it. I think it was the best route.

I see three alternatives on the leg. You could go straight. You could take the trail in the beginning of the route for about 500 meters, then go straight, get on the big trail and follow it to about the first aid station, then go straight to the control. Or you could do what I did, go around on trails and attack the control from behind.

The race was a long time ago, so I'm not absolutely sure what I was thinking (though I have a lot of memories of the race). If I remember correctly, I picked the route for two reasons. It gave me a good attack for a control that looked risky and it gave me a chance to save my legs for later in the course. The terrain had a fair amount of strength-sapping blueberry.

I was a very early starter (I think I was either the first or second runner on my course) and knew that I'd need a clean run. The race was at the Swedish 5-days, where an late start time can mean you run most of the time on elephant paths. Elephant paths can, if you use them right, save you energy and help with finding the controls. If you start early at the 5-days AND boom, you can really hurt your overall result.

I think my route was good, not so much because it was fast as because it was safe. The area around the control was tough. The visibility was a bit low and the contours aren't so distinct that it'd be easy to read all the way into the control (let alone relocate).

When I finished, I got a shower and then went to the result board to see how I did. At the time I was first. But, as I was an early starter, I knew that my result would move down the board as later starters, following elephant tracks through he blueberries to the controls, would run faster. Turns out I only dropped one place. I finished 2nd for the day (in M21-A-short). I've never had a better place at the 5-days.

I think the route choice on the leg above illustrates my normal route choice strategies: picking routes that make the navigation simple and saving my energy for later in the course. I'm usually willing to give up some time to make a control easy. I'm boom averse. I'm also not a very strong runner. Running on a trail or road is a lot easier than running in the forest. As a relatively weak runner, I need to look for chances to save some energy by running on trails.

posted by Michael | 5:16 PM


Friday, September 06, 2002

A quick translation


When I can't think of anything original to write, I try to find something to translate....

In 1998, Joergen Maartensson and Johan Ivarsson had a close race at the last day of the Swedish 5-days. The last day is a chase start. Johan went out 22 seconds ahead of Joergen. They ran together for the first 20 of 24 legs. Here is Skogssport's description of the last couple of legs:

To 21, Joergen attacked but didn't get the control right away when he came into the cirlce.

"I saw the race officials manning the control, but they were sitting 20 meters away from the flag."

Johan got a small gap on Joergen.

To 22, the last tough leg on the course, Johan went straight.

"I expected Joergen to try going around, but decided to run my own race," said Johan, who even had enough time to stop just before he found the contol to be sure that he was right.

The short stop is his winning weapon.

"You have to be willing to stand still rather than waste time running around within the cirlce," said Johan.

Joergen ran full speed to 22, down a road and in toward the control.

"I had studied the leg earlier and decided ahead of time to take that route if Johan was ahead," said Joergen. "In to 22 I didn't see the two boulders immediately and wasted a bit of time before I got the control."

By then Johan was 20-30 meters ahead. The race was decided.

posted by Michael | 9:40 PM


Thursday, September 05, 2002

Book on course planning


When I was about 16, I read a book on course setting (in English) that I've been unable to find since (it's by four Swedish last names none of which I remember).

I think the book is "Course Planning" by Claeson, Gawelin, Jaegerstroem and Nordstroem. It was translated from a 1978 Swedish book and published by in English in 1981.

It is a nice book. There is a lot of info about how to plan courses for different levels. The book is full of examples -- on full color O' maps. Even though it is aimed at the Swedish situation, for example it has info on setting courses to avoid stressing the moose, it is worth reading. Judging by the writing, most of the book was translated by Swedes. There is a bit of strange English. But, overall the English is fine.

I don't have any idea if "Course Planning" is still available anywhere.

I scanned a map from the book.

The map illustrates "an acceptable leg because the easiest route choice is the slowest." According to the book, the left route takes 7:30, while the other two routes take 6:50 and 7:10.

posted by Michael | 7:25 PM


Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Route choice in the USA


While I was cycling today, I was also thinking about route choice. In general, I don't thinkroute choice is very important in the USA. I don't think many races are decided by route choice. Here are five reasons why:

Legs tend to be short. In the US, we tend to have courses with a lot of controls and relatively short legs. I've done some comparisons between course setting in Sweden and the U.S. and found that we don't have many long legs. When the legs are short, it is less likely that a route choice mistake will cost much time.

Course setters seem to try to make route options even. I'm not sure of this, but my general impression is that a lot of course setters think a good route choice leg is one where there are two or more options that are all similar. But, if the options are similar, the choice doesn't matter. A good route choice leg gives you options that are clearly different. For example, a good route choice leg would have an option that is clearly faster but forces you to climb; and another option that is clearly slower but is flat so you can save energy for later on the course. I don't see that sort of leg very often.

We usually orienteer in park land. Most US O' races are in parks -- land that is owned by the public and closed to forestry. Compared to land that is actively subject to forestry, parks have relatively little variation in vegetation and a simple trail network. Land where forests are harvested are full of different thicknesses of vegetation (felled areas, areas with young trees, mature forest, etc.) and the industrial processes leave a lot of trails. It is easier to have difficult and interesting route choices in forests that are being logged.

Booms are big. Booms are common and big. It isn't unusual to boom 3-4 minutes on a control. It isn't unusual to have two or three booms on a course. But, it is hard to make a route choice decision that is so bad it costs 3-4 minutes. You can often get a good result by avoiding booms and not worrying about route choice. [Note that this is something you could probably study, by looking at split times and routes. I haven't done it, but if I get inspired some day I might.]

Maybe Americans don't like route choice. I don't have any evidence, but I think most American orienteers would rather have a course with lot of controls that are hard to find than interesting route choices. A course setter who had a couple of controls that were easy to find would probably be criticized even if the legs were interesting. We tend to focus on controls rather than legs. As an experiment, take a look at a few courses and see if you could create some interesting routes by just removing a control or two.

posted by Michael | 7:46 PM


Tuesday, September 03, 2002

A new map


I added a "guest map" to the page. The guest map is a guestbook that lets you mark where you are. Use it to show me (and other readers) where people are reading this blog from.

posted by Michael | 9:20 PM


Easy to win


Magne Lystad was a top Norwegian orienteer in the late 1950s and early 1960s.*

He said, "the Norwegian Championships was the easiest race to win because everyone got so nervous that they made mistakes."

To some extent, I think Lystad's comment applies to a lot of orienteering championships and probably to a lot of other sports. If you can manage to perform well, you can get a good result because a lot of your competition will get stressed and make mistakes.

* Lystad won the Nordic Champs in 1957 and 1959. He was third in 1961 and 1965. At the time, there wasn't a world or european championships.

posted by Michael | 9:09 PM


More from Birklin on Switzerland


Here is a bit more from Jimmy Birklin about the 2003 World Champs in Switzerland.

Making route choice decisions will be the most important O' technique. We Swedes aren't used to making route choice decisions, so we'll have to do a lot of "dry land" exercises. Physically, running on the hills will make the difference. Having the guts to really run the downhills will be an important part of our WOC preparations. The ground has very few rocks and is hard and firm, so someone who isn't afraid will be able to earn a lot of seconds on the downhills. The risk of building too much lactic acid in the beginning of the race is something we also have to master. Lactic acid tolerance should be a priority for training. I think we can do a lot of that on the Swedish ski hills.

Jimmy's focus on downhill running is interesting. Two years ago, I began to work on my downhill running. I've never been good at running downhill and it seemed like an area where I could pick up a fair amount of time. I improved quite a bit. Then I tore up my knee/leg in New Hampshire and I'm back to square one. In fact, I'm probably worse at running downhill than I've ever been. Downhill running is, once again, a good place for me to gain time.

I'm not sure I'd agree with Birklin about route choice. Sure, there will be plenty of route choice opportunities in continental terrain (which is the dominant, but not only, type of terrain in Switzerland) and to prepare for Switzerland an orienteer ought to spend some time thinking about how to make route choice decisions. But, I'm not really sure route choice is going to be a deciding factor.

I should write a bit more about route choice, but it is the end of my lunch hour and time to get back to work....maybe I'll write more this evening or some other day.

posted by Michael | 1:02 PM


Monday, September 02, 2002

Makes my boom look like a spike


I thought my boom at the Scapegoat was bad, but check out this boom from an elite junior in a race in Sundsvall, Sweden.

The Sundsvall boom is from a new web page devoted to booming -- www.bomma.tk

This page is for people who can't orienteer or for anyone who really made a fool of themselves in the forest during a race. It is going to feature detailed descriptions of all members and even include some discussion of booms. If you're a real boomer, you should register!

posted by Michael | 8:35 PM


Sunday, September 01, 2002

Last week's race


Last Sunday I ran the Rocky Mountain O' Club "Scapegoat." I scanned the map with my routes.

Round Mountain terrain

The race was at Round Mountain. The area is very pleasant. There isn't any thick vegetation. The ground is firm and not rocky. You can see a long way into the terrain. There isn't much relief -- no big hills to climb and not much route choice. For the most part, the technique is to go straight.

Round Mountain is a popular area for camping. It isn't unusual to bump into campers just about anywhere (especially near one of the roads). Some of the campers have small four-wheel vehicles (sort of like motorcycles). They've created a number of trails that aren't on the map. The trails don't really help with route choice, since the forest is so open, but they can confuse you if you are relying on trails for navigation or relocating.

See the August 31 blog-entry for a photo of the area around the first control.

Running at altitude

A challenge at Round Mountain is the altitude. The map is at about 8500 feet. That's high enough to give me a lot of difficulty.

When I run at altitude it feels like I have to go a lot slower/easier and the margin for error is small. When I race, my heart rate usually averages about 165-168. At Round Mountain, my average heart rate was about 155. I have to consciously hold back. If I go just a little bit too hard (raising the heart rate to about 157-158), I suffer a lot. I have to slow, or even walk, to recover. In a sea-level race, I can push the heart rate up a bit and then just back off slightly to recover. At altitude I have to back off a lot, often walking, to recover.

I find running at altitude interesting, but frustrating. Having a small margin for error is a challenge. But, seeing people I'd beat at sea level running away from me isn't fun. The Scapegoat is a mass start race and there was a small pack of Colorado-runners who got away from me in the first kilometer or two (several of them using the good visibility to keep Mikell Platt in sight as he found the controls).

My run at the Scapegoat was the best I've ever had at altitude. I was able to stay right at the edge most of the time. There were a couple of places (I'll write about one of them) where I went a bit too hard. But, overall I kept the effort just right.

A big boom

On my way to 12, I pushed a bit hard and boomed. It was not just a boom. It was a big boom. I'm guessing I lost 3-4 minutes at 12.

The control is fairly difficult -- a pit in a flat area with no strong features near it.

The way to take the control was to recognize the difficulty and slow down in the area about 300 meters from the control. Take it easy from that point, reading the map carefully and watching the compass.

Unfortunately, I pushed a bit too hard leaving 11. I recognized the risk and recognized the way to take the control. But, I didn't execute it. I just ran and hoped. That is never good. That is something I don't usually do.

Other than my huge boom at 12, I orienteered fairly well. I am satisfied with how I was navigating -- not as sharp as I will be in a month or two, but not too terrible.

The mass start

This year's Scapegoat is a mass-start with simple forking. At registration, you were assigned to either "X" or "O" group. I was an "X." I began with a small loop, two controls then back to the start. After the loop, I picked up my map for the rest of the course. The first two controls of the rest of the course was the first loop for the "O" group.

The forking didn't break the group up much. The terrain for the first loops was physically and technically relatively easy. You could see a long ways, so you could keep runners ahead of you in sight and use them to help you find the controls.

posted by Michael | 5:11 PM


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