Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Friday, January 31, 2003

Road trip


Mary and I are taking a road trip this weekend. We're going to Nebraska City! On the way, we'll spend a few hours running around the forest at Indian Cave State Park.

Indian Cave doesn't have an O' map. Not yet.

Possum Trot OC, working with a member who lives in Nebraska, have put together a rough map -- USGS contours with a few small changes in OCAD.

Mary and I will use the rough map to explore the area.

From and orienteering standpoint, it looks like a promising area (I've studied the USGS map, the rough O' map, aerial photos and I've been there before).

The area looks interesting. The hills are big (might make for good route choice options). The contours show typical midwest spur/reentrant terrain. The may be erosion features -- ditches and gullies -- that don't show up on the USGS map. The park is on bluffs above the Missouri River. That means the forest might be mature. And, that means the woods might be nice and open. It looks like there are some cultural features: an old town, some abandoned roads, some active hiking/horse trails and at least one old cemetery.

posted by Michael | 7:04 PM


Thursday, January 30, 2003

Å, Ä, and Ö


Å is for Åbo

Åbo is a town on the west coast of Finland (known as Turku in Finnish). It is a nice place to visit and I wouldn't mind living there. Jorgen Rostrup used to live there.

Rostrup has put some of his traiining courses from Åbo on the web.

Ä is for Älg

Älg is the "king of the forest." Älg is the Swedish word for moose.

If you've spent much time training for O' in Sweden (or Alaska) you've probably seen an Älg. They're big and if they wanted to, they could cause some real damage. Don't put yourself between a mother Älg and its calf...

Ö is for Östergötland

Östergötland is a region of Sweden. I spent a bit over six months in Östergötland -- orienteering, mapping and hanging out. I like it.

You can see a map that shows where all the O' maps in Östergötland are located. You can also see bits of some O' maps near Aaby.

posted by Michael | 6:24 PM


Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Z is for Zoltan


Coming up with a "Z" was giving me trouble, until I remembered Zoltan Lantos.

Zoltan is a top Hungarian orienteer who was at his best in the 1980s. I got to know him when I hosted him (and Istvan Benedek) during the Canada-US world cup race week in 1980-something. I also bumped into Zoltan now and then when I was living in Sweden.

Zoltan was known for strong running. His marathon PR was something like 2:12 or 2:13. He was fast.

I typed his name and "orienteering" in Google and found a few quite good results. He took 3rd at the University World Champs in Hungary in 1986. He was third in a qualifying heat for the 1983 WOC in Hungary (just ahead of Oyvin Thon) and finished 2 seconds back of the leader on the first leg of the relay. He was 15th in the 1885 WOC in Australia.

I don't have any idea what Zoltan is up to these days.

Z could also be for zoonotic diseases

Z could be for zoonotic diseases (which Mook would, I'm sure, find appropriate). It could be, but it isn't.

posted by Michael | 1:08 PM


Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Y is for young


Orienteering isn't usually a young person's sport. Experience counts for a lot in orienteering. It isn't unusual for orienteers to be at their best in their 30s.

There are some notable exceptions. Oyvin Thon won a world champs when he was 22 (I think) in 1979. Jorgen Rostrup won a WOC at the age of 20. Pasi Ikonen won a gold at the age of 21.

When I lived in Stockholm, they briefly experimented with a M30 age group. The M30 age group was clearly tougher than M21.

I think the youngest US men's champ was 23 (me in 1987). When will a younger orienteer win the US Champs?

I haven't compared orienteering to other running sports, but I suspect that orienteering champions tend to be older than running champs (even if Carlos Lopes was 38 when he won the Olympic marathon).

posted by Michael | 9:34 PM


Monday, January 27, 2003

X is for x-training


Five thoughts about x-training (i.e. cross training) and orienteering:

Running on smooth surfaces is the best cross training for orienteering. Running on a road isn't quite the same as running in the terrain, but it is close enough to do a lot of good.

X-country skiing is popular cross training for top orienteers. I've recently looked at training for Pasi Ikonen, Bjornar Valstad, Emma Engstrand and Thomas Asp and they've all been doing a good bit of skiing.

I don't have much experience with x-country skiing. But, as far as I can tell, it is a great way to train. You work hard without putting a lot of stress on the body.

A non-snow version of cross training that might be a bit similar is hiking at a fast walk (especially up hills).

Cycling is worthwhile. I spend a bit of time each week on my bike. In the winter, it is usually on a trainer in my basement. In the summer I usually do a few easy miles on roads near my house.

Like skiing, cycling is easy on the body and is good aerobic activity.

Cycling can also be a good way to train when you're injured. When I was recovering from my leg/knee injury, cycling was good because I could work up a sweat, get in some aerobic activity and strengthen the upper leg muscles that needed strengthening.

Living in KC, cycling is a good way to train in the summer. The summers can get hot. Running in 90+ heat isn't much fun. On a bike you generate some cooling wind and it is very easy to carry plenty of cool drinks.

Some years ago I spent a summer doing a lot of cycling. Every week I'd do at least one ride of over three hours (sometimes well over three hours) plus one ride that was a short time trial (maybe 15-30 minutes at a hard effort). I didn't run much that summer. When the O' season started up, I was in decent shape.

Weight/strength training is probably not too terrible for an orienteer. You don't need strong arms to orienteer. But some overall strength probably doesn't hurt. It might even help a bit.

A lot of orienteers (judging by training logs at Attackpoint and reading about how others train) do a bit of strength training -- lifting weights, calisthenics, gympa and/or yoga.

When I lived in Sweden I did a fair amount of gympa. I was a bit stronger than I am now. These days I do a few light calisthenics most days. Does it help? I don't know.

Lots of other sports can be cross training.

Pasi Ikonen seems to be addicted to innebandy (aka floorball).

John Fredrikson plays a lot of basketball.

Joe Brautigam plays ice hockey.

Those sports aren't going to give a big pay off for orienteering. But, they bring up an important reason for cross-training...fun. Sports are supposed to be fun. Having fun is important. Having a break from orienteering can also be good for motivation.

I don't think an hour of innebandy beats an hour of O' training. But, an hour of innebandy can be a good workout and can beat an hour of sitting in front of the TV watching Seinfeld re-runs.

posted by Michael | 7:47 PM


Sunday, January 26, 2003

W is for water


Did you know USOF requires orienteering courses to have water stops every 2.5 km?

I looked it up in the USOF rules:

On each course refreshments consisting of at least potable water shall be provided at least every 2.5 km. Refreshments shall be provided at the start and finish and at appropriate control flags and indicated on the description sheets as such. There shall be enough water for each competitor to have .25 liters (8 oz.) or more at each refreshment stop. In the event of hot weather additional refreshment locations are recommended. These additional locations need not be at control locations but must be indicated on the map.

The USOF rules seem to be filled with detailed requirements that are, at best, tangentially related to the sport. I guess that is typical of sports and rules. It all seems a bit overboard.

Take water stops as an example. I'll buy that orienteers might need water on the course. But, there are lots of ways for an orienteer to carry water. When I ran today I had a bike bottle in a pack. No problem. I needed water, I took a drink.

If I were writing the USOF rules, the water rule would be different. The rule would be simple. It'd be something like this: "The event info shall say if water will be available. If water is available, the info shall include the number of stops and the distance between stops."

I suppose rule-setting follows a certain pattern. In the beginning, there are relatively few rules and those rules focus on the essentials. Then, rules are added. Some of the additions clarify problems, but a lot of them just add unnecessary detail. Eventually, a committee is put together to review the rules and make recommendations for changes. The committee recommends simplifying the rules (a bit). The federation considers the recommendations, accepts most of them and adds a few new rules. Then the process starts all over again.

posted by Michael | 4:54 PM


Saturday, January 25, 2003

V is for video


I looked out my front window a few minutes ago and saw some high school kids making a video. I'm not exactly sure what they're filming, but part of it involves a car driving by, followed by one guy carrying another across the street, and then pushing the guy down on my front yard. Strange.

An O' video from Sweden

A week or so ago I bumped into a half hour home video from an elite O' race in Southern Sweden. It is (at least for a few minutes) amusing to watch. The video is a "wmv" format (I watched it with "windows media player"). Check out the high quality version or the lower quality version. The images of runners in the forest, most of them top Swedish orienteers, are fun to watch.

An O' video from the US

USOF put together a pretty slick O' video that premiered at the US Champs last fall. I've seen it and it is good. Here is how USOF describes it:

O.MOV, filmed at three meets in Fall 2002, is a fast-paced video which captures the emotion of orienteering. Created by Art Bonanno and Chris Cassone, it features the young energy of the juniors, as well as the broader community. Eight and one-half minutes long, USOF will be selling O.MOV directly for a discounted price until March 15, 2003.

I think they plan to make it available as a streaming video on the internet soon.

More info is at the USOF O.MOV page.

Can you use video to learn anything?

I suspect you could learn something by watching videos of orienteers racing. You could get a sense of the running style (and variations in running style). You could study how orienteers behave as they approach and leave a control (the Swedish O' video shows lots of runners arriving at a control, punching, checking their maps and heading off toward the next marker). Maybe you could learn something. Maybe not.

You could also conduct some simple tests. How often do orienteers look at the map? If you could video an entire leg (which might be practical in terrain around Laramie, Wyoming, for example), you could probably count how often orienteers are looking at their maps. You could probably figure out where they are looking. Maybe you could learn something. Maybe not.

I think it'd be interesting to be able to watch orienteers who are especially good at running down steep hills. Do they do anything different?

A training camp might be the place to put some of these video ideas to the test.

posted by Michael | 5:35 PM


Friday, January 24, 2003

internet service problems....


I've got some trouble with my internet service....hope to have it fixed in the next couple of days (if not sooner). Till then, I might not update this page every day.

posted by Michael | 8:39 PM


Thursday, January 23, 2003

U is for Uppsala


It was hard to come up with something for "U."

Uppsala is a university town a bit north of Stockholm. It is a nice place. It is also home to my friends Magnus and Sanna.

Magnus and Sanna live on an O' map. Here is a bit of the map (their house is on this bit).

When I visited Uppsala a couple of years ago, I ran a course on the map (576 kb). The course on the map was designed for Gunilla Svard as a practice for the 2001 World Champs "Sprint" event. It is a nice little course.

posted by Michael | 8:15 PM


Wednesday, January 22, 2003

T is for terrain, technique and tempo


Interesting course setting usually forces the orienteers to change terrain, technique and tempo.

I think a good way to begin designing a course is to look at the area you've got to work with and find the different terrains and think about the different techniques you can force the orienteers to use. Tempo changes are usually a matter of variety in leg length and throwing in a few legs that reward someone for running fast on a trail.

T could also be for training camp

I've got less than one month to go before my first training camp of the year -- "Spike's Sonoran Safari" in Tucson, Arizona.

posted by Michael | 7:49 PM


Tuesday, January 21, 2003

S is for Skogum


Marita Skogum hasn't just won several gold medals at World Champs, she's also written a book. Here are a couple of bits (selected more or less at random) I've translated:

Here, Skogum describes some preparation for the World Champs in New York (1993), where she won the classic race:

In earlier WOCs, I haven't trained with a map much the last weeks before the event. But now [a bit before the Swedish team was selected] I decided I needed it.

One day, I filled my thermos with coffee and walked around on a detailed map. I did a map walk where I talked to myself, as I do when I'm orienteering. I was very concentrated. At the top of a hill, I sat down and enjoyed my coffee and just listened to the sounds of the forest. I felt that this "training" gave me a lot of energy.

Here, Skogum talks about how she orienteers:

My O' technique is based on having map contact the whole time. The goal is to orienteer fast, but without making any mistakes. To do that, I look for handrails and try to simplify the map. I look for the fastest route that minimizes my mistakes. I try to prepare myself as much as possible and I prepare how I will react to different stresses, e.g. if I boom a control or get disturbed by another competitor.

I have to prepare myself physically for what I expect. If the race is going to be in continental terrain with a lot of steep hills, then I've got to have strong leg muscles and learn to push myself both up and down steep hills.

To be able to orienteer with a high level of concentration, it is important to have good physical condition. When I'm orienteering, I don't want to have to think about running.

Even if it is the orienteering that is decisive, it isn't enough to just have good endurance and be strong; you've also got to be fast. But, you can't go too fast. You've got to maintain a balance between running and navigating. When I'm preparing, I don't think about running fast, I think about orienteering fast.

S could also be for "spiking" controls

There is a discussion at Attackpoint about what "spike" means. I think it is an interesting topic....maybe something to write about in the future.

posted by Michael | 8:50 PM


Monday, January 20, 2003

R is for report from Georgia


Mary and I went to the A-meet in Georgia on the weekend. Here is a short report:

Big Hills The map had a big hill that we climbed a couple of times on the first day. The second day was not nearly as hilly. One the first day, my course was 11.08 km with 610 meters of climb on my route. On the second day, my course was 7.69 km with 370 meters of climb on my route.

The climb was a bit more extreme on the first day than it seems from just the length and climb numbers because about 2+ km was flat. So, the 610 meters of climb came in about 9 km of course.

The hills told me that I'm not in shape to run a hilly course two days in a row. I suffered a lot on the second day's climbs.

Lots of kids The event was the Interscholastic Champs and drew several hundred school kids. That's always good to see. U.S. O' seems to have far too few kids.

Courses; OK but not inspired The course setting was ok, but not inspired. The courses had plenty of direction and length changes (a good thing!), but not much technique change. I suspect that with some work you could get some more interesting route choices. I'd have like to have a few legs with side-of-the-hill orienteering (where you've got to go along the side of a hill gaining or losing a line or two).

The course setter squeezed a long course in a fairly small area. The first day's course was over 11 km on a map that wasn't much more than 2 square km.

Map was OK The map was OK, but not without some problems. The contours were a bit rough. Point features were over-mapped. Some of the cliffs and rock piles, in particular, were too small to be mapped. But, the open forest made those features a bit more apparent than they'd have been if the woods were thicker. Some people felt there was some green (light green at least) missing. I thought the runnability was mapped fine.

Cold The newspaper said it was colder in Atlanta than it'd been for three years. It got down to about 14 F at night. When we ran it felt like it was in the mid-30s F. Not super cold, but not what I'd expected for Atlanta.

I won Ross Burnett and I had a good race. I beat him by a couple of minutes the first day and he was ahead of me the second day. When the times were added up, I got him by less than a minute. The meet didn't draw a very strong M21 field, but it is always fun to win. I think Ross is on the Canadian team (he was in 2002), so he's not too shabby.

A bit of day 1 map The map shows a bit of the M21 course on the first day. We went over the big hill in the middle a couple of times.

posted by Michael | 9:47 AM


Thursday, January 16, 2003

Next update on Monday


Mary and I are going to the A-meet in Atlanta, so I don't expect to update this page until Monday.

posted by Michael | 8:25 PM


Q is for quitting


Sometimes you can't make it all the way around the course. Sometimes you quit.

I looked at some results on winsplits and counted the number of starters who did not finish. I only looked at a few races and a few classes. For the events I looked at, about 2 percent of the starters didn't finish.*

Two percent DNFs is a bit lower than I'd expected. I'm not sure why, but I'd have guessed about 5 percent would start but not finish.

I've never subscribed to the approach that "winners never quit, quitters never win." I figure if you're hurt or not having fun, you may as well quit. But, I know that some people feel finishing, no matter what, is important.

* I looked at four different events (all part of multi-day events) and four classes at each event (M21, F21, M35 and F35).

posted by Michael | 8:22 PM


Wednesday, January 15, 2003

P is for park orienteering


Earlier this month, someone wrote a comment...

Park Orienteering. I read the PWT web site but I still don't understand it completely. What is it? How is it different from the short course (tactics and such)? What do you think about the Park World Tour, and why don't Americans join the tour? It seems that it would be a good way for Americans to break through in international racing.

I know very little about the park O' or the PWT. I haven't run many park O' courses. I haven't thought about it much. But, that won't stop me from speculating a bit...Just keep in mind that this today's writing is something like a "stream of consciousness"...

My definition of "park O'" is broader than the PWT. I'd include local events put on by clubs all around the world, the sprint champs at the WOC, and the PWT.
I see park O' as having two characteristics: it isn't in the forest and the winning times are generally under about 20 minutes. Both of those characteristics aren't hard and fast. For example, I'd consider the sprint O' at the 2001 WOC a park O' event even though it took place in some forest. I'd also consider the Forest Park event that SLOC used to host a park O' even though the winning times were over 40 minutes.

Are strategies different?

I don't know. But, it seems like strategies would be a bit different.

The demands of a park O' are a bit different than the demands of most orienteering. Physically, park O' is much shorter so you can run a bit faster. Though, park O' is still long enough that it is a distance event. The running surface in park O' is less likely to be rough. You can probably get by with a running technique that is more like a road/track runner's technique than an orienteers technique. Decisions about navigation need to be made quicker. In most races, the route choice decisions and navigational difficulties are likely to be simpler.

I read an interview some years ago with a top park orienteer (it might have been Rudolf Ropek) who said the technique was a bit different from regular orienteering. He relied mostly on buildings for navigation.

What do you think about the Park World Tour?

I think it is interesting.

I don't like the idea that it is so expensive to organize (e.g. the organizers are expected to pay for "The costs for accommodation (three-star hotel) and catering covering a two-day period - including all breakfasts, lunches, dinners and banquet - for all the 50 runners and 10-15 international PWT officials."). I understand why the PWT organization requires so much and I recognize that they don't seem to have much trouble filling the schedule. I like that the organizers treat orienteering like a "real" sport. I just think it is a shame it is so expensive.

I like that they've managed to get some really interesting orienteering in urban environments. Take a look at the maps and courses Matera and Alborello in Italy for some cool orienteering. On the other hand, take a look at the map and course from Bangkok for some ho-hum orienteering.

I'm not sure that PWT is the best way to spread O' or that park O' is what the sport ought to be working on. But, I respect (and even admire, I guess) that some people are working hard on the PWT. On the PWT homepage, it says "The Park World Tour contributes to spreading the sport all over the globe, with our ultimate goal - inclusion in the Olympic Games - in sight." Those goals are admirable -- spread the sport and get O' in the Olympics. But, I'm not sure the sport as a whole is better if park O' becomes an Olympic sport. Isn't regular (in the woods) orienteering a better sport? Should orienteers change the sport to accommodate the Olympics?

Personally, I think orienteering -- the regular in the woods variety -- is a fantastic sport, but it isn't a typical spectator sport. I don't think it ever will be. That's just the nature of the sport. It can be made interesting for TV, but it can't be made interesting to spectators.

Is park O' a good way for Americans to break through in international racing?

It might be.

Americans are at a much smaller disadvantage in park O' than in regular O'. The physical and navigational demands are lower (though the margins are tighter, as well). An American training for park O' would have a much easier time finding relevant training opportunities (e.g. it'd be a lot easier to find a college campus to run around than a forest that is like a Swiss forest).

But, there are also some real problems for an American training for an international break through in park O'. I think the level of competition in the US in park O' is less than the level of competition in the US in regular O'. We don't have many park O' races and those that we have are at the local level. The top US orienteers don't meet head-to-head in park O'. I'm not sure what it'd take to get an American to race in the PWT races. But, right now we'd probably only get in as a novelty or if a US club hosted a PWT event.

One way to get around the problems facing an American would be to move to Europe. Race park O' events at the local/national level in Europe, gain a bunch of experience, and then show what you've got at the sprint WOC.

posted by Michael | 1:26 PM


Tuesday, January 14, 2003

O is for orienteering


I'm not especially imaginative today; so, I'll make it easy....O is for orienteering.

Here is a quick translation of something Johan Ivarsson wrote about orienteering training:

You couldn't accuse Kent Olsson of being a "training addict." I was at a presentation during a conference for Smaland's elite orienteers in November 1986 where Kent was a lecturer. He explained that he trained between 7 and 11 hours a week during the year. Today I don't consider that especially much training. Later during his career, I think Kent had some periods when he trained much more and, in particular, trained very effectively and goal-oriented.

As reigning world cup winner, Kent's lecture might have given us the wrong signals.

A few years earlier, Egil Johansen was the star from Norway -- two-time world champion, a world champs silver, five Norwegian champs wins in a row, etc. From 1979-1981, he had a couple of 10-week periods with at least 20 hours of physical training per week! Impressive, and as Norway's best, his training became a model for many younger orienteers.

These two orienteers -- Kent and Egil -- illustrate a feeling I have...In Sweden, we like to talk about how little we train, while in Norway (and Finland) orienteers would rather talk about how much they train.

Maybe the lesson to take from Ivarsson is that different approaches work. Both Kent Olsson and Egil Johansen are very good orienteers. Both are world champs. Both are models. Both got to the top following different training models.

I've heard Kent talk and read something from Johansen, but I don't know either of them. But, I'd be willing to bet that both of them were very confident that their training would work and both of them were very motivated to do what they felt would work.

posted by Michael | 1:14 PM


Monday, January 13, 2003

N is for Nippon


Japan is the host country for the 2005 World O' Champs.

I've never been to Japan, but it seems like an interesting place for a visit. Maybe a spectating trip to the WOC is called for?

Bjornar Valstad and Hanne Staff have been orienteering in Japan and wrote up the visit. If you can read Norwegian it is interesting. If you can't, you can still look at the maps (which are relevant for the 2005 WOC).

At first glance, the terrain looks a bit like a hillier version of St Louis terrain.

If I were younger, I think I'd be training hard with the idea of preparing for the 2004 (Sweden) and 2005 (Japan) world champs. That combination would be a good experience. Sweden would be classic nordic terrain and a European environment. Japan offers "continental" terrain and a much more exotic trip.

posted by Michael | 7:43 PM


Sunday, January 12, 2003

M is for making trails


I bumped into a group of mountain bikers making trails at Kill Creek today.

The park is new (opened less than a year ago), and over the winter I've noticed new trails being marked and built. I wasn't sure who was building them or what they were for. So, when I saw the guys working on the trails today, I chatted with them a bit.

They were working on mountian bike trails, but they said there were also trails for horse riding and trail running.

One of the mountain bikers complained that the horse riders didn't always make good trails. The mountain bikers had been to classes to learn how to make trails. It hadn't occurred to me that there would be classes in making trails. It isn't something I'd thought about, but I guess it makes sense.

I poked around at Google and found a page of mountain biking trail making info.

The guys working on the trail told me that the trail running trail might be open to mountain bikers. They'd heard a rumor that if a trail is designated as a pedestrian trail, it has to be wheelchair accessible because of ADA requirements. I'm not an expert in ADA, but that sounds a bit far fetched. The park already has a lot of paved hiking/biking trails that look accesible to me. It doesn't seem likely that every pedestrian trail would have to be accessible.

M could also be for motivation

A Cornell physics prof named Paul Ginsparg talked about motivation and physics (in the latest Cornell alumni magazine):

Workring toward the Nobel Prize -- that's the wrong motivation. It's as wrong as inner-city children playing basketball because they expect to make it into the NBA and strike it rich. The real reason we do science is for the fun of it.

posted by Michael | 6:57 PM


Saturday, January 11, 2003

L is for Lance


Orienteering is one of the suffering sports, like cycling, skiing and distance running. It can be inspiring to watch the great athletes in the suffering sports. Lance Armstrong is one of the greats.

Jorgen Rostrup even lists Lance as one of his heroes. Rostrup is apparently a bit of a cycling fan. Here is what he wrote when he described some training in the Norwegian mountains:

These mountains, which mostly are between 500-600 meters in altitude, are the best thing in Vestlandet. It is always either steep up or steep down, and as I'm running I'm often thinking of the climbing-king Pantani (except for the doping). My goal has been to spend as much time in the mountains as they do on bikes in France (yes, I'm following the Tour De France).

For Christmas, my sister-in-law gave me a DVD about Lance called "Road to Paris". The DVD follows the US Postal Team for about a month in the late spring of 2001. It also includes some footage of Armstrong at a TDF training camp where he checks out TDF stages on his own. Whoever made the DVD had a lot of access to the team and must have shot a lot of film.

Some parts of the DVD are inspiring. It opens with Armstrong on a cool, foggy day, climbing a TDF mountain as part of his training. He's been out for something like 4 hours and stops when he reaches a road closed because of an avalanche. This is what the suffering sports are all about -- long, hard training in tough conditions. It is also cool to see a training camp -- so much of sports on TV is about the race when the training is where the race is really won.

The DVD includes some interesting interviews with the US Postal director, a guy named Johan Bruyneel. In one interview, as he drives a car following Armstrong on a training session, Bruyneel describes the goal of the team -- to do everything the can, in terms of planning and preparation, to win the Tour De France. I guess it is obvious that a coach/manager would focus on planning and preparation, but sometimes I think we (orienteers, runners, cyclists, etc.) forget that the goal can be to come to the event prepared to win. Making preparation the goal instead of the race itself the goal works well (at least in my experience).

posted by Michael | 4:44 PM


Friday, January 10, 2003

K is for Kansas City


Kansas City isn't too bad a place for an orienteer.

A few things that make KC a good place

KC has some maps. I've got five decent maps within a 30 minute drive of my house. If I want to go another 15-30 minutes, I've got another dozen maps or so.

KC has two O' clubs. PTOC is based in Kansas City and usually hosts two meets a month. OK is based in Lawrence.

KC has people to train with. If I want company for a training session, I can usually find someone.

KC is relatively convenient if you want to travel to meets around the country. You can travel to either coast for the weekend (the flights don't take too long and the time difference isn't a problem). KC isn't an airline hub -- that means we've got good air fares (though the flights aren't usually direct).

A few things that could be better

KC doesn't have good terrain. The terrain around here is nothing special. Navigation is simple and the woods are thick. There are enough thorns in the forest to make it a bit rough.

KC doesn't have a lot of orienteers. I can usually find someone to train with, but it'd be nice if O' training sessions drew dozens of orienteers instead of a few.

Travel to other parts of the country for O' means long drives or not-so-long flights. Having more clubs would be nice. DesMoines, Omaha, Manhattan and Columbia might be able to support small O' clubs.

KC's climate could be better. The spring, fall and winter are ok. But, the summers are hot -- too hot for my taste.

What makes for a good O' town?

In general, what makes for a good O' town? As an orienteer, I've lived in four places: Kansas City, Lawrence, Linkoping and Stockholm. I've got a few ideas about what makes a place a great O' town.

Obviously, you need some terrain and some maps. I think accessible maps are more important than good terrain. I'd rather be able to get to a map of so-so terrain quickly than get to a map with great terrain but have to go a long way to get there.

An active O' club is important.

Most important is some company -- people to train with.

What do you think?

What makes a great O' town? What is the best O' town in the U.S., North America, the world....?

posted by Michael | 7:50 PM


Thursday, January 09, 2003

J is for Jukola


Jukola is the world's biggest relay. They get over 1,000 teams of seven runners. It is huge.

I've run Jukola three or four times. It is a special race.

Jukola is also one of the best races of my life. In 1991, I had a very good race. It wasn't perfect, but it was as close as I've come.

Here is a bit of the map:

Here is the whole map (664kb).

One of my favorite memories of the 1991 Jukola is from a bit over a month after the race.

I was standing in the line for a restroom at another event and Steven Hale was in line next to me.

"Hello Steve...hey, I haven't seen you since the finish chute at Jukola. You ran by me on the big hill"

Steve replied, "that was a tough hill...what leg were you running?"

I laughed, "what leg? I was running the 5th leg; same as you."

He'd guessed (not an unreasonable guess, I suppose), that I was running an earlier leg on a team that he'd lapped. It didn't occur to him that I'd been on a team that was ahead of him until the run-in.

posted by Michael | 7:55 PM


Wednesday, January 08, 2003

I is for income


Orienteering costs money. As sports go, it isn't especially important. But, you need some income to orienteer.

Today's Aftonbladet had an article about Fredrik Lowegren (the current number one-ranked orienteer in the world). Here is a bit of the article translated:

The orienteer Fredrik Lowegren trains the most and pays his own way

Fredrik is...a full time professional, just like Peter Forsberg, Fredrik Ljunberg, Annika Sorenstam and Kajsa Bergqvist [all fairly well known Swedish athletes].

He trains 20 hours a week, which is a lot of training. According to Anders Garderud, the newly named coach for the Norwegian national orienteering team, Fredrik trains more than any other athlete in Sweden.

While millions rain over athletes in other sports, Fredrik is happy if he breaks even each year....

Aftonbladet goes on to describe how Lowegren is at a training camp in South Africa with the Swedish National Track Team. But, he had to pay his own way. In Sweden, if it isn't an Olympic sport there aren't grants.

What drives an athlete to train more than everyone else when the salary is mostly honor? Fredrik is, in some ways, the last amateur in a world that has become professional and enormously lucrative for most of the world's top athletes.

"What drives me is a love for the sport. I do what I love. And I've got a vision -- standing on top of the podium at the world champs. Then I'll know if it was worth the price I paid; if the feeling is what I'd expected."

But don't you get envious of athletes earning millions?

"No. But, they've got it a lot easier. I'm not out to make a lot of money, but it'd be nice to be able to go to a training camp without having to worry about what it costs."

What about Bjornar Valstad?

Coincidentally (or maybe not?), Bjornar Valstad wrote about "wealth" on his homepage today. Here is a quick (and rough) translation:

"Wealth," that was what I was thinking about on my first training session today.

I am rich. Maybe not rich in terms of money, but someone who can do what I do is rich. It is a privilege to be able to lead my own life day to day and have the freedom to train in the environment I do.

As an orienteer, even with many world champs medals, be rich in economic terms. But, what does that matter?...

It is important to have enough money to do what we need to be good athletes; and that isn't really much money.

Orienteering income

I've written before that orienteers in the US are lucky to be involved in a sport where you can make a living (at least for a while) doing their sport. You can make enough to survive as a mapper. Working as a mapper is tough, but it is good practice and gives you enough time to train.

I lived the "O' bum" lifestyle for a short period (less than a year). It was a good time. In the end, I preferred mixing training and studying.

If I were a lot younger (maybe 22 or so) and really wanted to be as good an orienteer as possible, I'd try earning my livelihood as a mapper and train as much as I could. I'd either move to Europe (where both mapping and training opportunities are good), or I'd stay in the U.S. If I stayed in the U.S. and I was a bit of a sales-type, I'd try to make some money teaching orienteering to adventure racers (to supplement mapping income). I think you could make ends meet. It might not be a career, but it'd sustain you for a few years.

posted by Michael | 8:30 PM


Tuesday, January 07, 2003

H is for headlamp


My favorite O' gear is my headlamp. I really like being able to run in the woods at night or do some O' technique training after work.

Running with a headlamp seems to attract police. I guess it looks suspicious. A week or two ago, Mary was running at night and the park police at Shawnee Mission Park stopped her. They thought she might be hunting illegally. Tonight as I was getting ready to run the park police at Wyandotte Lake stopped me. The guy told me that "technically we don't want you in the woods at night." I showed him the lamp (he was impressed by how bright the light was) and explained that I'd be running with two other people. If we had any problems there would be people to help out. The officer knew about orienteering and after a bit of a chat didn't have any problem with us running in the woods.

Inspired by my run-ins with the law, I designed a T-shirt with a headlamp logo. You can buy it at the Orienteer Kansas store.

posted by Michael | 8:42 PM


Monday, January 06, 2003

G is for ...


G is for....

Greece which I thought was the largest European country (in terms of population) without orienteering. But, I think I might be wrong. Check out the orienteering in Greece homepage!

Green, the color of thick woods.

Gene, as in Gene Wee -- "The Father of Orienteer Kansas."

Google, where you can search for "Orienteer Kansas" and get 908 hits. Or you can search for "muppet dwarf orienteer" and get 2 hits.

Gatorade -- the sport drink easiest to find at gas stations across the land.

Georgia where the year's first A-meet will be held (and where Mary and I are going in a couple of weeks).

Gagarin -- a famous Russian cosmonaut.

posted by Michael | 8:00 PM


Sunday, January 05, 2003

F is for France


I've orienteered in France once. I had a lot of fun. The terrain was interesting, most of the maps were fine, and the courses were good.

Here are a few legs from the 1987 WOC relay race (with my routes).

You'll notice that I spent a lot of time running on trails. The woods were nice. But, my strategy was to run trails as much as I could. I was running the first leg and was most concerned with having a clean race. My time was 79:53 for just under 10 km. The other US runners were: Mikell Platt (88:32), Dan Meenehan (74:13) and Eric Weyman (73:48). The best runners were just under 65. Any time around 70 would have been very good.

Running the WOC in France was the first time I'd set up a goal (making the US team) that I really worked for. I almost missed it. I got sick at the team trials. Just before the team trials, I caught a virus (symptoms included being very tired, having trouble breathing, a sore throat, and strange fluid leaking out of my eye sockets). I was young and dumb. So, I ran the trials even though I was sick. I finished way back but was selected as a discretionary pick.

The year before the WOC, France hosted a World Cup and a multi-event. A bunch of top US runners went to Europe and went to France to run those races. I went to Europe, but I didn't go to France. While most of the Americans were in France, I went to Norway. I figured I had more to learn by going to Scandinavia.

The month or two before the WOC, I went to Scandinavia again. Once again, I figured I had more to learn by going to Scandinavia.

I showed up in France a week or so before the WOC and spent a week trying to figure out how to orienteering in the French terrain.

There is something to be said for preparing for a WOC by spending a bunch of time in the host nation. But, there is also something to be said for preparing for a WOC by spending a bunch of time in Scandinavia.

posted by Michael | 8:24 PM


Saturday, January 04, 2003

E is for electronic punching


It seems to me that electronic punching is one of those solutions looking for a problem. The regular punches that have been around for years do the job pretty well. Electronic punching is cool. But, like using a GPS for making an O' map, electronic punching isn't necessary and doesn't change the sport in any important way.

I've used both Emit and SportIdent and don't have a preference one way or another. Poking around the web, I found another electronic punching system called etime (I think it is using something called Ibuttons)

Reading various O' forums on the internet, I bump into a lot of debate about the merits of the different systems. I don't pay any attention to the debate (even me, a serious O' geek, could care less about arguments for and against the two systems). SportIdent is well established in the US. I don't think any US events have used Emit.

Tore Sandvik who wrote an article on his homepage called "Back to regular punches" where he discussed his experiences with both SportIdent and Emit. The article is in Norwegian and I don't have the motivation to translate it, but if you can manage the language, it is a reasonably interesting article.

I think the most interesting and useful thing electronic punching gives us is the chance to look at huge amounts of data on how people orienteer. At a place like winsplits online you can look at splits from races all over the world. You can begin to answer questions like -- do people frequently boom the first control? How often do people boom the first control? If you boom one control are you more likely to boom the next control? Do winners tend to "win" a lot of legs?

posted by Michael | 11:47 AM


Friday, January 03, 2003

D is for dunes


D is for dunes. Sand dunes that is. Sand dune terrain makes for some challenging orienteering.

One of the more interesting places I've orienteered in the U.S. is a place called Mission Hill on the upper peninsula of Michigan. The area is a big forested sand dune. Take a look at a scanned copy of the map with my routes on a red course.

The challenge at Mission Hill was staying found. Relocating was difficult. I ran there a long time ago. I think it was 1984. If I remember correctly, it was easy to run too fast, lose contact with the map, miss a control, then take a long time to figure out where you where.

Minnesota has some mapped sand dune terrain. They've used Sand Dunes State Forest for at least one A-meet. A few years ago, Mary and I ran on one of the maps. In places the area was nice, but in some places the forest was filled with thorns and dense saplings. Here is a scanned copy of the map from the Minnesota O' Club's home page.

As far as I know, the Michigan and Minnesota areas are the only dune terrains used for A-meets in the U.S.

OK has a small black and white map of a sand dune area in the middle of Kansas near Hutchinson.

I've been interested in exploring the sand dune terrain in the middle of Nebraska. Here is a topographic map of a bit of the forest. It looks interesting.

posted by Michael | 8:10 PM


Thursday, January 02, 2003

C is for cold feet


I ran in the snow today.

If it hadn't been for my neoprene socks, I'd have had cold feet.

C could also be for course setting contests

Don't forget the okansas course setting contest.

If you like course setting contests, pull out your Norwegian-English dictionary and check out Bjornar Valstad and Hanne Staff's course setting competition. They're using the map where the 2003 WOC long distance race will take place in Switzerland.

posted by Michael | 5:54 PM


Wednesday, January 01, 2003

B is for Bogren


Anna Bogren won the short world champs in 1993 in New York. She's also got relay champs medals and was 3rd in the short champs in Germany in 1995. She can orienteer.

Here is a translation of an interview with her (from Träning):

What 5 characteristics make you a top orienteer?

Goal oriented; I set priorities for what I want to do. Disciplined; I don't forget what is important, my goals are important and other things have to take a back seat to them. Sometimes I'll have to do things that aren't always so fun, in other words I'll have to prioritize things that help me meet my goals. Self confident; at least in orienteering, I've become stronger and I know that I can handle different things. I am self-aware and I'm able to go my own way. I'm confident in who I am and my decisions. It helps my self confidence to know that I prepare for a world champs a bit differently than my competitors. Orienteering is a very challenging sport which is what makes it so fun. I am willing to improve; to learn new things and listen to how others think.

What a minute -- isn't that six things? Goal oriented, disciplined, prioritize, self confident, fun and willing to improve. Yes, that is six.

posted by Michael | 11:52 AM


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