Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Weekend's champs


While most of the O' world will be following the Nordic Open Champs, this weekend is also the U.S. middle and long distance champs in New York.

The races are at a place called Winona where the U.S. Champs were held a couple of years ago.

Winona is a great place for orienteering. Here is a bit of the map.

There probably won't be a lot of route choice, but the navigation can be tricky. Relocating is difficult, so keeping reasonable contact should pay off. In places the visibility is a bit low. The forest has a bit of deadfall, so you've got to pick your legs up and it can be tough to run and feel like you're moving well.

If I remember correctly, the map is nice; maybe a bit over drawn in places. The mapper used a lot of form lines to show the subtle land forms.

I'm running M21 for the middle race and M35 for the long race.

It should be fun.

posted by Michael | 7:55 PM


Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Infectious disease


Two of the top Norwegian men are missing this week's Nordic Open Championships because they're sick. Jorgen Rostrup and Bernt Bjornsgaard were sent home.

One of the teams I followed at Tio Mila had to change its lineup at the last minute when 3 of the 10 runners got sick.

Last year, the OK relay team at the U.S. Champs suffered a lot because a couple of us were sick.

The Norwegian women's relay team at the 1993 WOC was disqualified for doping. Apparently, the doping was a non-prescription cold medicine one of the runners took to combat a cold.

Getting a cold at a big race is bad. But, having flu or a norovirus burn through the field at a WOC would be a real disaster.

posted by Michael | 7:59 PM


Monday, April 28, 2003

Some comments from Jenny Johansson


Jenny Johansson is the latest orienteer covered by the Swedish O' Federation. Among her results are a win at the European Champs middle distance event in 2000 and a silver at the same race in the 2001 WOC. Johansson is only 26 years old. Here is a short translation of a bit of the Swedish O' Federation's report:

This year's WOC is in Switzerland, and it might not be the ideal terrain for Jenny, but both the sprint and middle distance should suit her.

"The middle distance is in an area that is very special for Switzerland. It will be more like the map reading we are used to in Scandinavia. So, the middle distance is the race I'm going for most at this year's WOC," says Jenny.

The sprint is in the town of Rapperswil and that will mean a lot of map reading at a fast pace. With two Park World Tour wins, Jenny has shown that suits her.

And she also has the ability to be best when it matters.

"I think that is because of two things. First, I think the big competitions are really fun. Then I'm a bit more psyched. Second, I get just nervous enough. Many others get too stressed by the big competitions."

A few comments...

One of the things I'm most interested in seeing this summer is how people handle the enormous differences in the terrains at this year's WOC. They're racing in everything from classic continental terrain to city streets to near-Scandinavian terrain. The variety makes for some interesting problems for runners preparing for the WOC.

"Best when it matters" (in Swedish "bäst när det gäller") is something orienteers in Sweden talk about a lot. It is a bit like "clutch hitting" in baseball. It seems to come naturally for some orienteers to be best when it matters. Others seem to have a lot of trouble, often under-performing at big races. I guess that is true in most sports.

I wonder what orienteer has been the best at being the best when it matters? Some day it might be worth spending a few minutes looking at WOC results to get an idea. My guess is that Marita Skogum and Oyvin Thon might be among the absolute best if you looked at how they did in every WOC race they ever ran. Is that a good way to measure "bäst när det gäller"?

posted by Michael | 8:12 PM


Sunday, April 27, 2003

Losing the dipstick


The first time I ever used a SportIdent electronic "dipstick" I lost it.

I was running through the woods when I fell forward. When I got up, the dipstick wasn't on my finger. I searched for about a minute or so and found it. I guess I was lucky to find it, or at least lucky to find it quickly.

Since that time, I've never had any trouble with losing a dipstick or an Emit card.

One of the runners at Tio Mila from IF Thor lost his dipstick during the race. Apparently the lost it just before the exchange for The Long Night. Conny came into sight of the finish with a pack. Then he turned around and ran back.

Then, Conny showed up on the huge TV screen. He was walking! He searched for about 5 minutes -- all on TV -- until he found the dipstick and ran to the finish, sending out the next runner on The Long Night.

That would not be fun.

posted by Michael | 7:42 PM


Saturday, April 26, 2003

Long day at the computer


I spent a lot of the day sitting at my computer following Tio Mila. During "The Long Night" I even put on my headlamp (to feel solidarity with Magnus as he ran the nearly 17 km course).

I'm a serious O' nerd if I can spend the day following Tio Mila. And I loved it.

posted by Michael | 8:58 PM


Friday, April 25, 2003

8 Important "Ks"


Actually, they are only K's in Swedish. Here is a translation of the advice to IFK Lidingo's women's teams at tomorrow's race:

Clothes: They're going to check that you've got full-body cover.

Map: Make sure that you get the right map.

Concentration: Focus on the task at hand. You've got to run a regular O' course.

Control code: Make sure the codes are right.

Control order: Don't skip any controls.

Check the flashing light: If a lot of people are punching at an electronic control, it isn't enough to listen for the beep.

Fight: Fight all the way to the map/exchange. You can earn important seconds for the next leg runner.

Give a hug: Hug a friend who needs it or earns it.

Pretty good advice before any relay.

posted by Michael | 7:25 PM


Thursday, April 24, 2003

Orienteer Kansas at Tio Mila


The last few years I've picked an OK Tio Mila team. We've never sent a team, but it is fun to pick a team anyway. To be considered for selection, you've got to have some connection to OK.

Women's team

1. 6.4 K. Sanna Wallenborg. Sanna is a good first leg runner. She's running the first leg this year for IF Thor 2. Look for Sanna to have a strong race and bring the team in within sight of the lead.

2. 5.1 K. Peggy Dickison. Peggy's been struggling with some injuries this spring. But, she is steady. She'll rise to the occasion and keep the team in decent shape.

3. 4.3 K. Mary Jones. Mary's orienteering well this year. Her training has been a bit rough the last couple of months, but she's getting more and more consistent with her orienteering. She always runs well in relays. Look for Mary to lose some time to the leaders, but lose just a couple of places overall.

4. 5.1 K. Gunilla Karlsson. Gunilla ran for OK a long time ago (maybe 1988?) when she lived in Kansas City for a year. Gunilla has a lot of experience and if she's fit, she'll pass a few teams setting us up for our anchor runner.

5. 8.4 K. Terhi Kauppila. Terhi spent a semester in Joplin, MO, last fall and took in a few O' meets. Terhi is running for Tampereen Pyrinto 3. Look for her to power her way around the course and pass a number of teams brining OK to its best ever finish.

Men's team

1. 10.3 K (day). Sanna. Sanna gets the first leg for the men's team also. It'll be tough for her to run two first legs the same day, but she's tough! Look for Sanna to finish in a huge pack a good bit behind the top teams, but right in the midst of the bulk of the teams.

2. 10.3 K (dusk/night). Nadim Ahmed. Nadim is married to Peggy. So, even though he's a member of Quantico OC, we consider him almost an OKer. He had a business trip to Kansas City this winter, and we got him out for some night O' at Shawnee Mission Park. Nadim didn't know it at the time, but it was a test. Would he have what it takes to make the OK Tio Mila team? Yes. Look for Nadim to run well in the pack and move up as his strength lets him make good use of the lines of runners in the forest.

3. 10.3 K (night). Dan "Snorkel" Meenehan. Dan's been training a bit these days (as he put it today, "I'm in about the same shape I was at the U.S. relay champs last year...but I'm not sick."). Dan is a veteran. He knows what he can do and he's a master at pushing himself to his limits. He holds his own on the third leg.

4. 8.2 K (night). Gene's training was better last year, but his lamp is better this year. Look for Gene to have one boom, but a good run otherwise. Gene might lose a good bit to the leaders, but he won't lose more than a couple of places.

5. 16.8 K (night). Magnus "Maggi" Wallenborg. Magnus gets the honor of running "The Long Night." He's strong. He's an animal. He pushes through the pain. He fights the whole way. He catches the packs that went out ahead of him, hangs with them for a while, then drops them as they tire.

6. 8.2 K (night). Raymond Wren. Raymond ran for OK when he lived in Lawrence for a year or so (2000?). He's a tough guy, like Magnus (but older, so he gets a shorter leg). Raymond has a steady run.

7. 8.2 K (night). Eric Saggars. Eric is running his first Tio Mila for OK. The pressure is high. He might boom in the beginning, but after that the nerves calm down and he has a decent run.

8. 12.7 K (night/dawn). Michael Eglinski. My training has been going ok. I'm not in shape to run 12.7 K. So, I take it steady. No booms, but I still struggle from about 8.5--10.5 km. Then I catch a second wind and bring it in. I've run several crack-of-dawn legs at Tio Mila's in the past and always had decent runs.

9. 6.5 K (day). Terhi Kauppila. Terhi already ran one leg for the women's team. She slept all night and is ready to go again. She's relaxed -- no pressure because people don't expect a young woman to run well against the men. Terhi takes advantage of those expectations and has a stunning run. But, she's worn out as she struggles to the final exchange.

10. 14.3 K (day). Mark "Mook" Everett. Who else. OKs' legendary strongman. Mook has the race we all know he has in him and devours the course. He finishes looking strong.


There is a lot going on at Tio Mila -- stoking the heater in the tents, cooking hot food throughout the night, waking the early morning runners, helping track the progress of the team, giving pep talks to the runners, etc. OK needs a lot of good coaches. We've got them: Peter Gogol, Keith Lay, JJ Cote, Peter Gagarin, Mikell Platt and Fritz Menninger. The coaches have a huge range of skills (these fine folks could nurse you back to health, make a fine home made pizza, while doing your income taxes...and all using words with four letters).

posted by Michael | 8:05 PM


Wednesday, April 23, 2003

More Tio Mila stuff


I spent my lunch hour checking out Scandinavian web pages to see what I could find about Tio Mila. I found a lot of stuff. Here are a few short translations...

Capser's memories

I made my debut in the first team in 1990. I was 17 and in great form. I got the first leg and realized that if you start with the lead pack, you should finish in the lead. Ever since 1984, I'd dreamed of leading Tio Mila and I made sure I did that. Half way to the first control I was in the lead and I stayed in the lead for 2/3rds of the course. The feeling of being in front and driving, having the pack behind, can only be understood by those who've experienced it. Wonderful! But, my lack of experience stopped me, with a 3 minute boom on a forked control.....The second team finished 88th and was rewarded with a picture in the Lidingö newspaper.

Casper Giding is a strong orienteer and was a club mate when I ran for IFK Lidingö. As a junior he was one of the absolute best in Sweden. You probably get a sense of his self-confidence. At the age of 17 he expected to win the opening leg of Tio Mila. I just checked the Swedish rankings at Alternativet and he's listed at 169 in Sweden. That's quite good (to give you an idea, Steven Hale is 200 right now).

I ran Tio Mila in 1990 for IFK Lidingö. But, while Casper made his debut in the first team, I was in the second team. We had a decent race and finished 88th. I don't remember the picture in the local newspaper, though.

Bjornar's memories

Even though I didn't run Tio Mila until I was 18, I sat at home and listened to it on the radio. I stayed up till the very early morning and listened to the Swedish radio. The hope was that NTHI [a Norwegian university team] would be in the lead....

We listened to Tio Mila from the house. The radio reports brought the excitement home. We heard the whispering voice of the radio commentator, "quiet, they are coming now. I can see the lights over a knoll. But, they're turning away. It is quiet. Now it is happening, they're booming." Tio Mila is a great radio sport!

Bjornar Valstad is right. Tio Mila is a great radio sport.

It might sound silly -- listening to orienteering on the radio. But, it really is good. Swedish radio has reporters out in the forest every few kilometers. They report, whispering so as not to give away their location to the runners, as the top few teams come by. Then you hear music for a while as the runners head toward the next radio control. There is a rhythm to the coverage that is remarkable. There is a special feeling while you listen to the music and wait for the next report, wondering what is going on...knowing that while you're listening, the runners are racing through the dark forest.

posted by Michael | 8:41 PM


Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Tio Mila terrain


I spent a few minutes today looking at old maps of the area where Tio Mila takes place.

The organizers have a couple of old maps here.

I found another scanned map with a course on it. This map is scanned at a higher quality and has a course on it. Take a look here.

The start/finish area is at Lockmora (in the north east part of the map). The start triangle on the map with the course is where the Tio Mila start triangle will be (or at least very close). Finishers will come in from the south, near the large power line a bit south of Lockmora.

It looks like there are a number of trails and forestry roads. That will help the night orienteers who aren't as strong. An orienteer who isn't in top shape and isn't the best at night O' will be able to make use of the trails, especially on longish legs, to get around the course without huge time losses. The better night orienteers probably won't spend as much time on the trails.

I can't quite explain why, but this looks like the kind of terrain where elephant tracks can build quickly. That might help runners on the later legs. Or it might just confuse runners who have trouble figuring out which elephant track to follow.

At first glance, this is the sort of terrain where courses will (or at least could) have a lot of variety in leg length. You could have a longish leg with some trail options, followed by a couple of short legs with some detailed fine map reading and direction changes.

Because of the shape and size of the area, I'd bet that an orienteer who spent a few hours designing legs would be able to do a decent job of forecasting the course. If I've got time, I might print out a couple of the old maps and spend some time in the next few days designing courses.

A writer for Alternativet ran around in the forest about a month ago. He wrote about a green area about one kilometer from Lockmora that would be a place where orienteers would boom. That kind of boom -- losing time in the green within a Km of the start/finish -- can be especially stressful. You're either missing at the beginning of your leg (making the rest of the race tough), or you're missing within sight of the finish. Alternativet's writer said that most of the terrain was very open and the orienteering problem would be to avoid running too fast.

Tio Mila's organizers released a couple of bits of the actual competition map. Take a look here. In places those map bits look a bit over drawn. What I mean by that is it looks like some small features -- knolls and form line contours -- are shown. Sometimes that is necessary, but sometimes it goes overboard and just makes the map harder to read and use. All of the women's legs and seven of the men's legs are using maps at a scale of 1:10,000. That too suggests a lot of fine details are shown on the map. If I was running Tio Mila, I'd have my magnifying glass.

posted by Michael | 9:12 PM


Monday, April 21, 2003

Tio Mila coming up soon


My all-time favorite O' race is Tio Mila. Tio Mila is a huge relay. The men run 10 legs beginning Saturday evening and finishing Sunday morning. The women run five legs on Saturday afternoon. It is a fantastic weekend of orienteering.

In recent years, I've spent Tio Mila weekend following the race on the internet. The organizers usually manage to provide regular result updates, on-going text reports and streaming audio. The organizers' coverage is mostly Swedish. But, OKers and a few others around the U.S. have followed the event and posted updates in english to the OK forum.

We'll probably do the same this year. To get a taste, take a look coverage of one leg.

To get ready for Tio Mila, I'll study the official web page (which has a fair amount of info in english); check out the web pages of clubs I've run for to see how their teams look (OKS Ljungsbro/OK Roxen, Lunds OK and IFK Lidingo); study old maps of the terrain; and fire off some emails to friends who I expect to run this year (Magnus, Sanna and Terhi included).

Another pre-Tio Mila ritual is to pick an OK team for Tio Mila. I can't imagine OK will ever run Tio Mila, but it is fun to come up with a line-up.

posted by Michael | 9:20 PM


Sunday, April 20, 2003

Like a new place


I ran at Weston Bend today and if felt like a new place. I've run O' races and done O' training at the park. But, this time I ran without a map. It felt like an entirely different place.

I think the reason the place felt different is that I look at different things when I've got a map compared to when I don't have a map. When I run with the map, I'm looking ahead and looking for things that I expect to see. Without the map, I just ran along and looked around. I spent a lot of time looking to the side. With a map I don't look around as much.

I don't know why, but without a map the hills seemed longer. Maybe it is because I don't know how long and steep the hill is going to be if I don't have the map. Or maybe my legs were just tired from yesterday's race.

Maybe there is a lesson here...When I'm running without a map, I could practice looking at the terrain the way I do when I've got a map. And when I'm running with a map, it probably wouldn't hurt to look around a bit more.

posted by Michael | 9:04 PM


Saturday, April 19, 2003

A few comments on post O' race analysis


Now and then I get an email with a suggested topic for this page. A couple of days ago, I got a mail that included:

..how do people perform their post race analysis and record their results for future use?

...when I was only running, a simple log of workouts was easy. I'm having trouble compiling and storing all this O data in an efficient way.

Here are a few thoughts about the topic:

I'd guess the most important (and useful) thing to do is draw your route on the map after a race. Keep the maps and look at them now and then.

It doesn't really matter how you file the maps. Mary keeps her maps organized by location (state). That's quite nice. When we are traveling, I can go into Mary's files and find the maps. I used to keep my races in notebooks by date of race. It was interesting to go over an entire season and see how I'd improved. These days I keep my race maps scattered around the house (eventually ending up in a big plastic box).

Attackpoint is a slick tool for recording training and racing. The more people who use it, the more interesting it gets. More and more people are also scanning their maps so others can take a look at how they ran. Sergei Zhyk and Peter Gagarin have a lot of maps on the web.

Some people draw little arrows on the maps to indicate the features they used to navigate (e.g. the attackpoints). That seems like a good idea.

It would be an interesting exercise to sit down after a race with a blank piece of paper and draw a sketch map of the race. The sketch map would show the features you remember using to navigate.

I used to spent a lot of time writing about my races. I'd write about my plan for the race, how I ran each leg, what I thought of the map and terrain, how my running felt, and so on. I had a rule -- no matter how simple the leg, I had to write at least one sentence. Writing forced me to spend a bunch of time thinking about the race. That is almost certainly a good thing.

I've found it important to spend a lot of time thinking about what went well rather than what didn't go well. Most of us focus on booms and bad route choices. At the end of the race, everyone is talking about what they missed. For me it is more important to try to understand what happened when I didn't miss. If I spiked a control, how did I do it? If I was running fast (which doesn't happen any more!), why was I able to run fast?

posted by Michael | 3:05 PM


Friday, April 18, 2003

To the races


I spent some time chatting with Peter Gagarin about training and motivation at the West Point meet. He talked about running trail races -- something he likes to do and has done a lot of.

Peter must have inspired me. I'm planning to do a local trail race tomorrow morning here in Kansas City.

There is no local orienteering this weekend, so I figure a hard effort will do me some good. The course is supposed to be about 8 miles with several water crossings. We've had enough rain the last few days that the trails could be muddy. It should make for a tough effort.

Peter has run a lot of trail races in his career. Peter is one of the best downhill O' runners I know. I wonder if there is a connection?

posted by Michael | 8:51 PM


Thursday, April 17, 2003

Armstrong in France and the Norwegians in Sweden


Last Sunday's NY Times had an article about Lance Armstrong's preparation for this summer's TDF. In the late spring, he rides a bunch of the routes for the summer's race. Here is a bit of the article...

Does it really help to see the routes, to commit every stage in the Alps and Pyrenees to memory? Nobody else does it, or ever has.

"It depends," he said in a long interview here. "Like today, you didn't need to see that. But, for me, the more important thing is tradition and superstition. I've always done it, I've always gone and looked at all of them.

"If somebody called me and said, `Hey, it's absolutely flat, good pavement, all on one road,' I'd still come. Even if there wasn't a race like the Circuit de la Sarthe, I'd still fly up here and look it over."

Meanwhile, the Norwegian O' team is doing something similar to prepare for May 1-4 Nordic Open Champs. They're holding a training camp in terrain near the NOC terrain and replicating the NOC schedule. The NOC begins on a Thursday with a sprint race, followed by the classic, short and then relay. The Norwegian training camp follows the same schedule. Today (Thursday) was the sprint. Tomorrow, the Norwegian camp features a classic distance race, and so on.

Armstrong can ride the actual course. The Norwegians have to settle for running in similar terrain. To make it as relevant as possible, the course was set by a local who was knowledgeable of the NOC terrain.

You can see course from the sprint event from the training camp here.

posted by Michael | 8:38 PM


Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Map from Saturday at West Point


You can check out my map from the M21 course on Saturday at West Point. A few comments about my race:

On the way to three, I took a stick in the eye. It pushed my contact lens out of place. I stopped and poked around and discovered the lens folded over in the corner of my eye. It looked reasonably clean, so I put it back in. Ouch, there was some junk on the lens. A few blinks and I could see ok.

Some years ago I ran with one lens. It wasn't much of a problem. I'm nearsighted. I could adapt to using the eye with the lens to look in the terrain and the eye without the lens to read the map. But it took about 30-40 minutes to get used to.

I lucked in to seven. I was feeling a bit unsure when I saw a marker in a reentrant. My control was in a reentrant, so I went over and took a look. Sure enough, it was my control.

A control on the side of the hill a few hundred meters north of 12 would have been interesting. That sort of side-of-the-hill control can be really tough (what they call "skrå" orienteering in Sweden).

On the way to 13 I took a strange step and tweaked my left knee. From then on, I felt a bit uncomfortable running in the rocky terrain.

One of my goals for the last year has been to reach a point where I feel comfortable running in the woods. About a year ago I ran the short course in Pennsylvania and felt very anxious. Running in the forest was uncomfortable. I worried about every step I took. I'm mostly over that now. West Point was a good test. The terrain is rocky. If you're comfortable running down a rocky hillside at West Point, you're comfortable running just about anywhere. I was comfortable running about 80-90 percent of the time at West Point.

posted by Michael | 8:10 PM


Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Some of the weekend's booms


Over the weekend, the Norwegians had selection races for the Nordic Open Champs. I spent some time today reading race reports from Bjornar Valstad, Hanne Staff and Tore Sandvik.

Both Valstad and Sandvik boomed when they saw others in the woods.

Sandvik caught an earlier started around the fourth control and lost concentration. He boomed about a minute. Check out the map here.

Valstad wrote that he had three booms when he caught earlier starters. Check out his routes here. Valstad wrote a bit about one of those booms. Here is a quick translation:

On one of the occasions, a (Swedish) runner followed me for a few legs. It irritated me a lot and I made the day's biggest boom. Following is bad, but I shouldn't let it irritate me, I have to work on focus and concentration.

Looking at my maps from the weekend, I made one mistake when I was aware of another runner. In the middle of the second day I ran a few legs where I saw Jon Torrance off and on. On the way to the 5th control, Jon caught me from behind (he boomed 4 after blazing by me on the way to 3). I let my concentration lapse when I should have been looking at the leg. I decided to leave the trail earlier than I should have. I got stuck in some thick vegetation and lost a bit of time. If I had been alone I don't think I'd have lost my concentration.

Sometimes it is satisfying to see that the world's best orienteers making the sort of mistakes that the rest of us make. It is like watching an NBA player put up an air ball.

posted by Michael | 8:57 PM


Monday, April 14, 2003

Cool GPS stuff from Kenny


Check out Kenny Walker's latest GPS track from an O' training session here.

Kenny ran with his brother Dan and the track shows their route superimposed on an O' map. What is cool -- something I haven't seen before in a GPS track -- is that speed is also shown. When Kenny and Dan went faster than 9 kph, the track is green. When they slowed to below 6 khp, the track is red. Between 6 and 9 kph, the track is blue.

I've always felt that the best use of GPS for O' is going to be as a training tool (as opposed to a mapping tool) and I think Kenny's latest experiment shows promise.

Kenny, if you read this page, use the "comment" and let us know how you did the tracking.

posted by Michael | 12:57 PM


Thursday, April 10, 2003

Next planned update is Monday


Later this afternoon, I'm leaving for the West Point meet. I don't plan to update this page until Monday.

I will have some access to the internet during the weekend and, if the mood strikes, I'll probably add a few notes.

Check out Janne and Vroni's latest

Janne Salmi's latest entry on his homepage is a report from a short training camp in Sweden. It is worth a look -- a couple of nice maps and some interesting text. Here is the report.

Janne wrote that he found 169 controls and made 3.7 seconds of mistakes per control. That's not much time lost to mistakes. It is also a measure I haven't seen before. I've seen people counting controls and counting time lost, but it is the first time I've seen an average time lost per control.

posted by Michael | 12:38 PM


Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Basketball, nerves and Jukola


The Jayhawks lost the basketball game to Syracuse Monday night (71-68).

Watching the first half, I had the impression that Kansas looked "off" in the beginning. The players looked uncomfortable. They didn't look the way they normally do (I've seen a good 25-30 games this year). I couldn't tell you if they were too relaxed or too tense. If I had to guess, I'd say too tense.

Sports psychology-types have graphs to try to describe the relationship between performance and some measure of nervousness. The graphs show performance initially increasing as nervousness increases. At some level of nervousness, performance peaks. Then as nervousness increases further, performance declines. You can be too relaxed, too nervous or just right. I'm not sure if there is any evidence that the graph is correct, but it seems to make sense in a general way.

I've watched enough orienteers to have a few thoughts about the sports-psychology-graph and orienteering...

The graphs are specific to the individual. Some people seem to do best when they seem to be nervous. Some people seem to have disasters when they're nervous.

Erring on the side of too relaxed is probably better. I'd guess that big booms are more likely when you're too nervous. Small booms and not pushing hard enough are more likely when you're not nervous enough.

Putting a group of people together raises all sorts of interesting complications. At a WOC, you've got maybe ten individuals together for a week or two in a stressful situation. My impression is that people have difficulty dealing with team mates who don't share their particular nervousness graph. Runners are WOCs are typically fairly young. They've got strong individual personalities. Often they have relatively little experience in the work place. Maybe they haven't developed the skills needed to deal with other people in stressful situations?

I have a vivid memory of pre-race nerves. In 1991, I ran the 5th of 7 legs on a team at Jukola (world's biggest O' relay). Before the race, you'd probably have picked our team to finish in the top 150 or 200 of the roughly 1100 teams. As I was getting ready to warm up for my leg, a club mate told me we were in the top 50! My first reaction felt like being scared. The first thought that popped into my head was "oh no, I'm not that good, what am I going to do?" Fortunately, my second thought was, "well, if you'd asked me before the race I'd have said I want to be running on a good team that is doing well -- this situation is what I'd want." That entire thought process took maybe 15 seconds. I felt relaxed and was looking forward to the race. I had a good warm up and one of the better races of my life -- a very clean race that moved us up a few places. The last two runners had good runs and we finished in the top 50.

More than ten years after that race, I can remember the feeling as if it was yesterday.

posted by Michael | 8:06 PM


Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Check out the "guest map"


Orienteering Online reprinted the translation about Annette Granstedt's training.

I seem to be getting a lot of new visitors from the OO link.

If you haven't added your name to the guest map, please do. Click "view my guest map" to add yourself. I like to see where people who read this page are from.

posted by Michael | 7:37 PM


W.P. preview


I'm running the A-meet at West Point this weekend. I spent a few minutes thinking about it today.

I'm running M21. That'll be tough for me. I'm not in great shape. The terrain and courses at West Point can be brutal. It is going to be interesting to see how it goes.

The races are on the Popolopen and Bull Pond maps. I took a look at some of the courses I've run on those maps before.

Here is a clip of the Bull Pond map.

The terrain is really nice. The forest is open. Some low bushes and some mountain laurel can slow you down. The contours are usually quite accurate, you can read a lot of the details without much trouble. Both maps are hilly. I think they've had a lot of snow this winter and the weekend forecast is wet. So, the blue features on the map will probably be wet and distinct. The rock features are the maps are usually large and distinct. The ground is rocky, making running tough.

Popolopen is hilly. The courses are often very tough with several big climbs.

Bull Pond has a fairly dense trail network. Long legs (over 1 km or so) often have trail options. Courses at Bull Pond often have a lot of legs. Short legs keep orienteers from having long trail runs.

I looked at five or six courses at Bull Pond from different years and the overall layout of the courses is very similar. If I spend some time studying those maps, I won't be surprised to see legs this weekend that are very close to legs I've run before.

How do you orienteer at West Point?

Looking ahead and around is important. The visibility can be very good and it is often possible to navigate by features that are far away. In particular, large boulders and cliffs are often visible from a long way.

The physical demands can be a big factor. The footing is rocky (which is really tough if you're not used to it) and the hills are big. Sometimes it can pay to run a long trail route to avoid a tough climb or rough footing. Some of the steep downhills can be slow unless you're a strong downhill runner (and I'm not).

Looking at my routes over the years, I've had a few runs where I've done a bit of unnecessary climb. Controls along the side of hills can be really tricky. It is easy to drop a few lines more than you planned (or even climb a few lines more than needed). A mistake on the side of a steep hill covered with small cliffs and boulders can cost a lot of time (e.g. the area around control 8 on the map above).

The opposite of unnecessary climb can also be a problem. In some runs, I've avoided a few lines and taken a much more technically difficult route. Avoiding a couple of lines of climb but risking a big boom isn't usually worth it.

Don't give up. The terrain can be tough. The courses can be brutal (and West Point doesn't have a reputation of having the best course setting). The weather can be dismal (cold and wet). Everyone faces the same conditions, when it is tough, some people are beaten already.

posted by Michael | 7:34 PM


Monday, April 07, 2003

No time to write


No time to write today. I'm on my way to Lawrence to watch the KU Jayhawks play in tonight's national championship.

Go Jayhawks!

posted by Michael | 5:53 PM


Sunday, April 06, 2003

Translating terrain to map


When I was training today I ran across the top of a hill that was thick with vegetation. When I came over the top of the hill, I wasn't sure which reentrant I was in. I stopped, looked at the reentrant, saw the shape and the shape of the reentrant next to it, checked the map, and realized I needed to go to my right to find the control.

Later, I spent some time thinking about the process of translating the terrain you see while your orienteering to the map during a race.

I also read something about the process...

As your...skills develop, your level of scrutiny will also change. The beginner might just see a [reentrant]...you will come to appreciate that each one is not "just another [reentrant]."...

While the expert may seem to have a mystical ability to discern detail and make an identification when you can see only a [reentrant], the secret, of course, is familiarity and practice. We all perform equivalent feats every day...Your brain has tremendous power to filter out distractions and fill in details of familiar patterns...

That said, there is a danger in filling in details in this way. You can jump to conclusions and convince yourself that certain desired details were actually seen.

The text I've quoted sounds like it might be about orienteering, but actually it is about bird watching. (I replaced a few words in the original text -- like "duck" -- with reentrant). The quote is from a book called Sibley's Birding Basics.

I suppose relating terrain to the map is a bit like bird watching. Both involve relating three dimensions to two dimensional images. Both involve conditions that can make it tough. An orienteer might be tired and feeling stressed. A bird watcher might just catch a glimpse of a bird. An orienteer looks at the terrain and figures out how a mapper might see it. A bird watcher looks at a bird and compares it to a picture in a field guide.

My mom gave Mary and I a bird feeder for Christmas. Lots of birds come to the feeder. I've begun to wonder a bit about the birds I see. I figured I needed to know a bit about birds in order to figure out what I was seeing. So, I picked up the Sibley book a few days ago.

posted by Michael | 7:52 PM


Saturday, April 05, 2003

No, no, not again.


Yes, again. I'm writing a bit about O' running technique.

Here is a bit of a report from Bjornar Valstad in South Africa:

"We ran for 1:40 and finished up with what we call "Anders exercises." It is a series of different exercises to loosen the hips, which Anders Gaerderud sees as being stiff among orienteers."

Check out the photo of Valstad in action doing his "Anders exercises."

The photo reminds me of some of what I was doing in physical therapy when I was recovering from tearing up my leg. When I was able to bear weight on my leg and the swelling was reduced enough to begin to bend the knee, the therapist had me doing an exaggerated walking motion. It was a bit like an old Monty Python "silly walk."

I began on a treadmill, but the therapist said I should use the silly walk as much as possible. I must have been a sight walking to my office.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk

And in other news, the Jayhawks played Marquette earlier this evening and look good -- very good. They won 94-61. Monday night KU will play for the national championship. I'm psyched.

posted by Michael | 7:59 PM


Friday, April 04, 2003

Annette Granstedt's training


Annette Granstedt is on the Swedish national team and her recent training is on the Swedish O' Federation's web page. Here is a bit of it translated:

March 31. The plan: Intervals on a stationary bike and strength training. Comments afterwards: Bike intervals as planned. 50x 45/15, i.e. 45 seconds of work, 15 seconds of rest. I also did ten minutes of warm up and cool down. Total time was 70 minutes. I also did 40 minutes of strength training, working on the stomach-arms-back and some movement exercises.

April 1. The plan: long distance (about 1:40) line orienteering in the forest and on trails. Comments afterwards: This was the first Tuesday session without a headlamp. It really feels like spring is here. The session was line orienteering for 1:20. There were 7 or 8 women and together with the men there were about 25 people who did the session. The club, IKHP, traditionally has a big training every week.

April 2. The plan: intervals in the forest, I haven't decided exactly what type. Comments afterwards: I ran with Anna Envall early in the afternoon. We usually do that before we pick up the kids at the preschool. I try to do two session a week during the day in order to have the evenings free with the kids at home. We ran intervals from the IKHP clubhouse. We began with 8x2.5 minutes, then did 10x 90/30 (90 seconds running, 30 seconds rest). The session was 1:20 including a half hour jogging before and after.

April 3. The plan: distance run in the forest, 1:15. Comments afterwards: Again I trained during the day with Anna Envall. We did 1:10 easy running on trails. I felt a bit worn after yesterday's intervals.

April 4. The plan: Rest. Comments afterwards: Rest, as planned. In the afternoon, we traveled to Skåne to get ready for the weekend's long distance national champs.

A comment

When I was reading about Granstedt's training, I remembered talking with Anna Envall a couple of years ago. I told Anna that I'd seen she'd been having some very good results. She agreed and said that the environment in the club, IKHP, was very good. There was a group of women -- all about the same age and several with young children -- who trained together. She was very motivated to train.

Having a good situation within an O' club can be very motivating.

posted by Michael | 7:46 PM


Thursday, April 03, 2003

Like a quarterback with a concussion


There is an unwritten rule in the NFL that a starter won't lose his job because of an injury. A player who gets hurt, will get the starting job back when they've recovered, even if the back up player has been playing well.

I guess a similar unwritten rule must apply to the U.S. O' Team. That's the only way I can figure that I seem to have been named to the 2003 U.S. Team (the "C" team, I believe). I tore up my leg in September of 2001 and have run only a couple of M21 courses since then. I can't have earned a place on the team. I guess the idea is that being injured shouldn't count against me. I guess that is ok. It is a surprise.

posted by Michael | 8:33 PM


Wednesday, April 02, 2003

More on running technique


I downloaded another video of orienteers in a race and watched the running technique.

As before, the variety orienteers face is impressive. The variety shows up even in very short spaces -- running into a control, punching and leaving. We run on different surfaces (hard, soft, rocky, etc.) and slopes (up, down, along the side). We change direction a lot. We'll punch at a control and turn to leave. We'll run a few steps, then turn to get around an obstacle, and so on.

Orienteers seem to keep their knees and hips bent almost all the time. The style makes us look stiff.

Orienteers often run with their shoulders a bit hunched.

The combination of the variety, bent knees and hips and hunched shoulders makes orienteers look, well, goofy. It also makes the running look slow. Running in the forest looks easy, it doesn't look like orienteers are working hard.

If you've got some time and a broadband connection, download the video from last year's elite series (Sweden) race here (75 mb). A lower quality version is available here (22 mb).

posted by Michael | 8:49 PM


Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Snapshot from training in February


Mook in the mountains near Tucson.

posted by Michael | 8:37 PM


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