Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Friday, July 25, 2003

Vacation! Next update planned for August 4


I'm going on vacation. I don't plan to update this page until August 4.

Quick look at ages for the WOC

I spent a couple of minutes this morning looking at the ages of athletes at the WOC. Here is the list of entrants.

I'm in a bit of a hurry this morning (gotta pack my bags), so I'll just give you a quick idea of the age distribution.

20 and under: 15
21 to 25: 104
26 to 30: 112
31 to 35: 35
36 to 40: 15
over 40: 7

The median age is 27.

For comparison, take a look at the age distribution for riders at this year's TDF (see the July 9 entry in the archives).

posted by Michael | 8:40 AM


Thursday, July 24, 2003

A French O' map


I've orienteered in France once, back in 1987. Here is a map from the first leg of the WOC relay.

Even looking at just two legs my strategy is apparent -- run the trails, be safe.

I remember being fairly intimidated at the race. I felt nervous standing with runners like Morten Berglia, Kent Olsson and Jaroslav Kacmarcik. I'd never run the first leg of a relay (when Peter first suggested I run the first leg, I thought he was joking!). I'd never run a WOC. I'd been the last selection on the U.S. team.

I was reasonably happy with my run. I finished in just under 80 minutes (best times were just under 64). The team did all right, too. We finished 15th (remember this was before the break up of the Soviet Union). Norway won by five minutes in 4:11. We finished in 5:16 minutes.

Just for fun I compared the U.S. result in 1987 with the U.S. result in 2001. Either the Norwegians are whole lot better now than in the late 1980s, or the U.S. hasn't improved (and has, in fact, gone back). It is a bit disappointing. Let's hope for better in Switzerland in a couple of weeks!

posted by Michael | 8:46 PM


Wednesday, July 23, 2003

O-Sport magazine


A sample copy of O-Sport magazine showed up in my mail yesterday.

I only had time to flip through the pages last night. It looked very good. "Great, I'll look at it at lunch and then write about it on my page." That was my plan. But, Mary wanted to take it to work and read it during lunch. So my review will have to wait.

I can say this much:

Just flipping through the pages gave me a good impression. I was impressed by the number of maps, the titles of the articles (several of them looked interesting), and the high quality of the photography. The issue I have includes a translation of a chapter one of my favorite O' books "Vaegen till framgaang" by Kent Olsson. This looks like a great magazine.

It must be good if Mary wants to read it at lunch! Mary is known to read "good books" -- i.e. books that are well written and get good reviews in the NY Times.

Right now it is a bit difficult to get a subscription in the U.S. There aren't any U.S.-based subscriptions agents. I'm hoping that will change soon. Paying the subscription directly isn't convenient (the publishers are in Europe and can't take credit cards. I've emailed the British agent (they take credit cards) to enquire about ordering a U.S. subscription through them.

Once I get the mag back from Mary, I'll read a few articles and write what I think.

posted by Michael | 12:57 PM


Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Some odd split times


I was looking at split times again today and came across something a bit odd.

The Swedish and Finnish middle distance selection races were on the same course and map. I think the Swedes ran first.

At the Swedish women's middle distance selection race only one of the top 14 runners missed the 8th control, but 6 of them missed the 9th control. Maybe that 9th control was tough?

At the Finnish women's middle distance selection race 8 of the top 14 runners missed the 8th control, but only 2 missed the 9th control. Maybe the 8th control was tough?

The Swedes had trouble with the 8th control. The Finns didn't. But, the Finns had trouble with the 9th control. The Swedes didn't. That's a bit interesting. The sample size is so small that it probably doesn't mean anything (well, actually it is consistent with an idea I've been thinking about a lot the last few days).

I'd like to see the course. The closest I've found is Janne Salmi's routes (same forest, different course).

posted by Michael | 9:21 PM


Monday, July 21, 2003

Rostrup's goal


Rostrup talked about his goal for the WOC (he's focusing on the middle distance race):

So much has to fit just right to succeed. I won't be upset if I finish fourth if I feel that I've done my best. If that happens, then the others were better than me. At the same time, I know that I'll be in the fight for a top placing if I perform at my maximum.

posted by Michael | 8:29 PM


Sunday, July 20, 2003

Nascar and the TDF


I watched about half an hour of yesterday's Nascar Busch Race on TV. After a pit stop one of the drivers suddenly started losing time. From being near the front, he was losing two seconds each 30 second lap. (I think the driver was Riggs; Mook's "favorite Nascar driver").

Turns out the problem was the tires. During the pit stop, they put the left front tire on the right front wheel. The car didn't handle well and the driver had to slow down to keep control.

When mistakes like that happen; I ask myself "why?"

Nascar teams have lots of controls to prevent just that mistake. There is a specific person who has the job of putting the tire on. The tires are labeled -- "LF" for "left front." But, controls don't keep mistakes from happening, they just make them less likely.

What about Lance in the time trial?

If you're to believe the news reports, Lance Armstong was seriously dehydrated before and during the time trial where he lost over a minute to Ullrich. I've heard that at the end of the race his weight was over 5 kilos down.

I wonder what happened? What was the mistake?

Here are a few possibilities for what happened:

1. He was sick.
2. He didn't drink enough before the event. Professional teams must have some controls in place to make sure riders get food and drinks after each day. Maybe some of the controls broke down.
3. He didn't plan properly how to drink during the time trial. Maybe he expected to be able to get more water on the course and for some reason couldn't. Professional teams must have some controls to make sure the riders are ready for the conditions on the day.

Maybe several things went wrong at once.

Maybe the controls were all in place, but something got screwed up -- some person made a mistake -- just like the Nascar race.

I suppose the lesson in both of these situations is to plan (i.e. put the controls in place) but not to be surprised when the controls don't work. Controls help. Controls reduce the chance of mistakes. Controls make it easier to figure out what went wrong. But, controls aren't perfect.

* I suppose I should define what I mean by "control." I mean something that you've designed to reduce the likelihood of making a mistake. For a professional bike racer controls to prevent dehydration might include a list of drinks to have waiting at the finish and a coach who asks the rider "have you had enough to drink?"

posted by Michael | 6:21 PM


Saturday, July 19, 2003

The first control...again...


I read this in today's Goteborgs Posten:

The most important controls for an orienteer are the first, any controls that are immediately after a spectator control, and the next to last. Those are where it is easiest to lose concentration.

"In the beginning and at the spectator controls you can be influenced by other people, in the end you're tired and the course setters try to have difficult controls near the end," says Thomas Asp.

If you're just beginning a race it is easy to run too fast or not be ready to race. So, you miss the first control. When you pass through a spectator control you can easily start thinking about how you're doing or how you look to the spectators...and you miss the next control. On you're way to the last control, you begin to feel like the race is over. Maybe you start thinking about how good your race has been. Suddenly you're not thinking about what you're doing and...boom....

This is one of those things that sounds reasonable....but is not true. In fact, the first and next to last controls are not controls that orienteers miss very often. If you look at where orienteers boom, it won't be the first or next to last control. Well, there are some mistakes at the first and next to last control, of course. But, there aren't many.

Here is a count of the number of mistakes for a series of 20 races:*

first control = 36 booms
second control = 51 booms
third control = 51 booms
fourth control = 55 booms
fifth control = 32 booms
sixth control = 42 booms
two controls from the end = 38 booms
next to last control = 30 booms
last control = 5 booms

When I look at split times the only real patterns I see consistently are that there are very few mistakes on the last control and somewhat fewer mistakes than average on the first control. It makes a lot of sense that there aren't many mistakes on the last control. The last control is usually right at the end of a marked finish chute. It is hard to miss.

I'm not sure why people don't miss the first control more often than they do. One theory is that you're not tired. Being fresh has got to help. Another theory is that first controls might be set a little bit easier than other controls. Maybe that helps. I don't know.

Actually, there is another pattern I think I'm seeing, but I haven't really looked at enough data to be sure what I'm seeing is really a pattern and not just my imagination. I'll hold off on writing about that pattern until I've looked at some more data.

*The data is from a spreadsheet I've been building. The spreadsheet shows the number of booms by control for the top 14 runners in a series of races (using slit times reported in Winsplits to identify mistakes). I'm putting the spreadsheet together for a little analysis I'm working on. I wasn't looking at first control/next to last control (since I've already looked at that issue enough to know what the data shows), but when I read the story in GP I knew the spreadsheet had the info I needed to look at those issues quickly.

posted by Michael | 9:11 PM


Friday, July 18, 2003

Questions but no answers


A few questions I've thought about in the last few days:

1. Can you look at an O' course and predict where people will make mistakes? My first thought was, "yes." But after some thought I'm not so sure. I think it is a pretty interesting question.

2. Who is going to win medals at the WOC in Switzerland?

3. What should I do in Paris? A week from right now I'll be on an airplane on my way to Paris. Mary and I are taking a short vacation to Paris. It should be fun. We've both been there before. We don't have many plans. We plan to watch as much of the last stage of the TDF as we can. We'll have a few nice meals. We'll visit some of the big tourist destinations. What else should we do? What should we see? Where should we eat?

4. Will I make the Vets World Champs in 2005 a goal? The races are in Canada. I'll be 41 then. I wonder if I'll be motivated to get myself in decent shape and sharpen my orienteering?

posted by Michael | 9:08 PM


Thursday, July 17, 2003

A few thoughts about heart rate monitors


Eric wrote a few comments a couple of days ago that inspired me to come up with a few comments about heart rate monitors.

1. Obviously you can be a very good orienteer without ever using a heart rate monitor.

2. If you run with a heart rate monitor for a while -- maybe a couple of months -- you can get a good feel for what your heart rate is without having to look at the monitor. You'll be running along and think, "ok, I'm running at about 140", look at you h.r.m and you'll probably be within a couple of beats of 140.

3. A lot of good elite orienteers use heart rate monitors. When I was at the WOC in Finland one of the things I noticed was that a lot of the orienteers wore heart rate monitors. I don't know what the proportion was, but it was high -- closer to half than a quarter.

4. I suspect that h.r. monitors are most useful for certain people. If you're working with a coach who doesn't see you everyday, a heart rate monitor can help provide some objective data to share with the coach. If you're a relatively inexperienced runner, a heart rate monitor might be a good investment because it can help you learn how to run at different efforts. If you have no structure in your training (just "run whatever feels right") you could probably benefit from adding some structure -- a h.r.m can help.

5. I suspect that h.r. monitors are least useful for certain people. If you don't work with a coach, your own subjective estimate of your effort might be enough (especially if you're an experienced runner). If you're very structured in your training ("next Thursday I plan to run a 22 minute warm up at 140 bpm, then I'll stretch for 8 minutes, after another 5 minutes at 140, with some strides, I'll do 15 minutes at 80 percent of my max...."), running without a h.r.m. might be worth trying.

6. I think of my heart rate monitor as a toy. It is fun to download the h.r. curve after a run. You might learn a thing or two, but mostly it is just kind of cool to see the data. I guess that can be motivating.

posted by Michael | 8:02 PM


Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Heart rate monitors...Nope, not today


I was going to write a few thoughts about using a heart rate monitor.

But, then I checked out a Norwegian O' page and saw two stories that caught my eye:

Rostrup won't defend his championship in the long (aka classic distance)

Valstad won't run the relay

Both are deciding not to run specific events because of the WOC schedule. Rostrup's main focus is the middle distance (his favorite distance in the most Nordic-like terrain). The long final is just two days before the middle distance qualifying and finals (both on the same day). Rostrup feels running a tough classic race just two days before two middle distance races isn't a good idea. So, he's skipping the long race. Valstad had to choose between running the relay or the middle distance. He's picking the middle.

So, we won't get to see the defending gold medalist in the long...and we won't get to see Valstad, last year's world cup winner, in the relay.

That's too bad.

We also won't get to see the defending sprint champ -- Jimmy Birklin -- in the sprint race because he's injured.

Maybe I'll write a bit about heart rate monitors tomorrow. Until then, check out this heart rate curve from yesterday's TDF.

posted by Michael | 7:38 PM


Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Cave maps


I saw a bumper sticker the other day -- "Cave Surveyor." When I got home I looked up cave maps on Google.

Cave maps are interesting. Here are a couple of examples:

Jewel Cave

Wind Cave

Click on the "cut out" links to see close ups.

posted by Michael | 7:40 PM


Monday, July 14, 2003

Finishing is the first step to winning


Joseba Beloki crashed on today's TDF stage. He didn't finish. He won't win. You gotta finish to have a chance to win.

I was really sorry to see that Beloki crashed. He brings a lot to the race.

It got me thinking -- how hard will it be for Armstrong to finish five TDFs in a row?

I figure there are about nine riders this year who are legit contenders: Armstrong, Beloki, Botero, Leipheimer, Simoni, Hamilton, Mayo, Ullrich and Garzelli. You could argue that there are a couple more. So, let's just say there are ten legit contenders for the overall win in a normal year. Clearly, some of the teams have strong riders but no real overall contenders.

This year, three of those contenders are already hurt or out. Hamilton and Leipheimer crashed early on. Hamilton has hung in there, but I'd say he's seriously weakened his chances to win. Beloki crashed out today. The tour isn't even half over and about 30 percent of the legit contenders are gone. As far as I can tell, all three of the contenders who are out were victims of more-or-less random bad luck.

If the chances of a contender finishing are only 70 percent, the chance of finishing five in a row is just 17 percent.

I suspect this year is unusual in that so many contenders don't usually crash out. Suppose the chances of finishing are 85 percent. Then the chance of finishing five in a row is 44 percent. The odds of not even finishing five in a row are greater than the odds of finishing.

Maybe I'm way off. Maybe the chances of a contender finishing each year are more like 95 percent, and the chances of finishing five in a row are 77 percent. Actually, that seems a bit high.

How does this relate to orienteering? Well, it doesn't really. But, since I try to have something about O' everyday, I'll just say that it is clear that you've got to finish to have a chance to win. For a relay team, everyone on the team has to finish to have a chance to win.

posted by Michael | 7:42 PM


Sunday, July 13, 2003

Nice course in Colorado


A few days ago I found an envelope in my mail box with a Laramie, Wyoming, return address. I opened the letter and found a map with the blue course (M21) course from the last day at the recently completed "Ash Fest."

I scanned the map and you can see it here.

My first thought was -- "nice course."

Back on May 27, I wrote about trying to figure out a way to measure the character of a course. My idea was that systematically studying a bunch of courses might be interesting. I might learn something.

Tonight, I took the course from Colorado and applied some of the measures I'd been thinking about.

The Ash Fest course is 15 controls over 11.6 km with 600 meters of climb (according to the description sheet).

How many legs are more than one kilometer? 4.
How many legs are more than one and a half kilometer? 2.
How many legs force a distinct direction change? This is a bit subjective, but I count 11 direction changes.
Compared to the prior leg, how many legs are either more than twice as long or less than half as long? 8.

I think those measures show a lot of variety. When I recognize a course as "good," I'm pretty sure I'm recognizing variety.

I didn't try to apply other measure I'd considered (like subjectively rating the route choice and navigation difficulties or estimating the portion of the course on different surfaces).

But, I spent some time looking at each leg and I noticed something I've never noticed before. An orienteer would attack nearly every control on this course from above. I've probably never noticed something like that before because I wasn't trying to look at course setting systematically. Looking at -- trying to measure -- course setting was an experiment. I wanted to see if I'd notice something new. I guess it was a successful experiment because I noticed something new.

Some more courses from the Ash Fest are on Peter Gagarin's page. While you're there, take a look at Peter's comments on the map at the relay champs.

posted by Michael | 7:16 PM


Saturday, July 12, 2003

Old man


I had a topic in mind for today. But, I changed my mind when I saw that 41 year-old Hakan Eriksson won the Swedish sprint selection race. That's pretty good for an old man...and inspiring for other old men!

When I saw the result, I remembered reading an interview with Eriksson about his ambition to run the sprint at the WOC. Here is a bit of the article (published April 9, 2003):

Hakans theory is clear: ...for the WOC they select specialists at different distances, who have a chance to take a medal.

"I've talked with Goeran Andersson (national team leader) about my new goals. I'm aiming for one distance -- the sprint. I'll follow the same plan as last year, and that resulted in a gold at the Swedish sprint champs. It takes a while for my old body to get speed, but I feel like things are going in the right direction. There aren't many who are aiming for the sprint, so I think I have a chance to make it to the WOC."

"Obviously the selection races will decide. If I'm going to make it to Switzerland, I've got to do well at the selection races."

Here is the original newspaper story in Swedish.

It'll be interesting to see if Eriksson makes the Swedish team. Having focused on the sprint and then won the selection race, it might be hard to justify not selecting him. But, you never know.

Age and the TDF

I took another look at the ages of TDF riders. This time I looked at the average age of teams. There are some young teams and some old teams. (Keep in mind that I'm estimating age as 2003-year of birth and that I'm missing five riders).

The three oldest teams are: US Postal (31.1), Gerolsteiner (31.8) and Bianchi (32.6). Two of the riders favored to winArmstrongng and Ulrich, are on old teams.

The three youngest teams are: FJD (26.9), Brioche (26.6) and Ibanesto (26.1). I think two of the young teams, FJD and Brioche, are French teams. I think the TDF organizers give priority to French teams when they select teams. So, it probably isn't surprising that the younger teams will include some French teams.

posted by Michael | 3:51 PM


Friday, July 11, 2003

Some heart rate curves


Take a look at the heart rate curve for a cyclist in the team time trial at the TDF.

Take a look at the heart rate curve for Pasi Ikonen during an O' race.

The two curves are quite similar. Both the time trialist and the orienteer hit a high rate quickly and stayed there. Pasi didn't have a very good race and you can see his curve drop at a couple of places. Pasi wrote:

Almost 8min mistakes, disappointed but physically it seems good towards NOC. I "only" have to learn how to find the
controls... Lots of mistakes. You can easily see the two biggest ones.

Without those mistakes, I'd bet Pasi's curve would be difficult to distinguish from the time trialist.

Take a look at a cyclist's heart rate curve from a road stage at TDF; quite different.

posted by Michael | 8:34 PM


Thursday, July 10, 2003

Preparing for the sprint world champs


Here are a few words from Gunilla Svaerd:

Sunday, July 6....Some stair training. I've been doing that regularly to prepare for the sprint at the World Champs. There are a lot of stairs in Rapperswil [the town where the sprint race takes place]. I run on stairs outdoors, both up and down.

One of the things I like about orienteering is the environment. Running in the forest is great. I'm not sure what I think about the sport being brought into urban environments. Running on concrete, up and down stairways, and between buildings just doesn't seem right. I guess it is how the sport is developing. But, I'm not sure it is positive development.

posted by Michael | 8:51 PM


Wednesday, July 09, 2003

How old are TDF riders


In the last few weeks I've spent some time thinking about age and sports. At lunch today, I started wondering about how old Tour de France riders are.

Before you read further, ask yourself "how old are TDF riders?" You'll get the answer soon.

I figure to race an event like TDF you can't be too young or too old. A young rider wouldn't have the experience necessary to last through such a tough event. Young riders probably don't know how to recover, they lack the experience to make the best of their strength. Too old and you just won't survive. You can't recover quickly enough.

I spent a half hour or so at lunch looking up the year of birth for TDF riders. By my count 198 riders (22 teams of nine) started the race. I was able to find the year of birth for all but five of those riders.

The youngest riders are 23 (i.e. born sometime in 1980). That's young, but I figured there would be a couple of riders even younger.

The oldest riders are 37. That's almost as old as me!

Here is the complete analysis.

Age Number of riders

23 5
24 11
25 13
26 21
27 16
28 17
29 24
30 22
31 18
32 15
33 7
34 12
35 9
36 1
37 2

Here are the percent of riders by various age groups: 8 percent are under 25; 47 percent are 25-29; 38 percent are 30-34; and 6 percent are 35 and over.

I wonder how the age distribution in TDF compares to a World O' Champs?

posted by Michael | 8:51 PM


Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Bjornsgaard on sprint orienteering


Bernt Bjoernsgaard -- the top Norwegian orienteer -- wrote a short article on sprint orienteering. Here is a quick (and a bit rough) translation:

With the recent Norwegian Sprint Champs, I've put down some thoughts and some tips about sprint races. I've had a lot of successes and a few disasters in sprint races. So I've built up some experience.

"Sprint. It'll go fast." That's what a lot of people think. Wrong! You've got to adapt your speed to the terrain and the course. Too many people sprint from the start and make a little boom. Maybe they lose just five seconds. But, five seconds is a lot in a sprint. You've got to, just like any competition, have good "flyt" even if the orienteering is easy. Starting by building up lactic acid is an easy mistake to make. The speed will come during the race.

Sprint orienteering often changes from easy to difficult orienteering, the tempo changes, there are a lot of controls and direction changes. It demands concentration for the 15 minutes it takes. The key is "flyt." You get that by reading and thinking ahead. You get that by reading the map at the right instant, looking up and reading the terrain ahead of you. Try to know the way to the next control when you're going into a control.

Don't stress! Too many people get psyched up for a sprint race. They run like scared dogs around the course and lose four seconds here and 13 seconds there. Til sammen en del sekunder paa rett og slett vaere [sorry, I'm not sure what that means] too excited and to run too fast. Let the orienteering guide the adrenaline and don't think, "today I'm going to run fast."

To summarize -- read the map and Orienteer -- get "flyt" -- read the map and keep looking up -- don't stress.

If you can read Norwegian, take a look at the orignal article.

A couple of comments:

I didn't translate "flyt." If you look up "flyt" in a dictionary, it says "flow." But, I never like to translate it to "flow." I connotationw" has a different conotation in English. "Flow" sounds a bit mystic or spiritual. Based on my understanding of the Scandinavian orienteering use of the word, "flyt" isn't mystical. It is just how things are going when you're orienteering really well. It is reading the map and anticipating what is coming. No booms.

Bjoernsgaard's tips on sprint orienteering are a pretty standard description of how a lot of Scandinavians seem to approach orienteering. The emphasis is on running the right speed, having "flyt" and not getting stressed. You could follow his advice for any type of orienteering.

Sprint orienteering is the newest type of orienteering. It'll be interesting to see how it develops over the next few years. What sort of terrain and maps will be used for sprint orienteering in ten years? What sort of strategies will the top sprint orienteers be using? How will sprint course setting develop? Will orienteers specialize? Will sprint orienteers train differently?

posted by Michael | 8:09 PM


Monday, July 07, 2003

Junior WOC


The first Junior WOC race takes place tomorrow. A few random comments:

The terrain looks interesting. It reminds me a bit of southern Michigan (though I suspect the vegetation is quite different). Check out some sample maps at the JWOC home page. It looks like the sort of terrain where you can set a really interesting course -- with lots of changes in tempo.

A few words from a report on the Swedish O' Federation's home page:

There has been a lot of talk about the undervegetation before this year's JWOC. "Ormbunkar" [whatever that means?] and high grass are covering the ground on large parts of the competition maps.

"We'll check that out the days before the competition. There are probably also a lot of stinging nettles," according to Christin Smedberg...."A late start time will be a clear advantage."

The international controller for the JWOC is Lasse Forsberg..."It will be difficult to get 100 percent fair competitions, but the organizers are working hard to make everything as fair as possible."

John Fredrickson, one of the U.S. juniors at JWOC, spent some time in Estonia recently. His training log gives you an idea of some of what to expect at JWOC. Check out John's comments from the week he was in Estonia.

It is good to see some of the runners from the Texas junior O' camp making the U.S. JWOC Team. Ashley Smith, from near Houston, and Robbie Paddock, from near Dallas, are on the 8 person team. That's good to see.

My predictions for the JWOC? No idea. I don't pay any attention to junior results. The JWOC is probably a very tough race to predict because the competitors are young and the nordic nations probably have a smaller advantage than at senior championships.

What the heck, I've got no basis for a prediction...But I'll go ahead and make a couple of guesses. Give gold medals (not sure which races!) to Anders Tiltnes of Norway and Piret Klade of Estonia.

posted by Michael | 7:17 PM


Sunday, July 06, 2003



If I ever win the lottery, I'll go Greenland and run the Arctic Midnight Orienteering. Check out the map from Ilulissat.

posted by Michael | 5:33 PM


Saturday, July 05, 2003

36 and 25


In response to something I wrote a few days ago, Vladimir posted a quote from Bjornar Valstad:

"... Jörgen is very much an orienteer. He's not that fast outside the forest; but, give him a map, and he will show maximum speed. Jörgen's strong side, in my opinion, is that he's not afraid of anything at all. His weak side may be that he's too much of an orienteer. He has been very good in Nordic terrains so far. ... I would like to see him make good results in Continental terrain as well, and prove his fitness throughout the whole season in the WC."

I don't know either Rostrup or Valstad. I have a sense of how they think about orienteering from reading their home pages.

Valstad's comment strikes me as very much what you'd expect. Last year, Valstad won the World Cup. Valstad is clearly very interested in handling different types of terrains. Judging by what he writes, he's done a lot of thinking about how to orienteer in continental terrain. He's written an article ophysiologygy.

Rostrup, on the other hand, seems to focus big races that suit him. He had a less-than-impressive World Cup season last year. But, he's been as good as anyone in World Championships. I'd be very surprised to bump into an article on physiology and find Rostup's name as the author.

It strikes me as a bit harsh to be critical of Rostrup for lack of results in continental terrain because focusing on nordic terrain -- through the 2004 WOC -- would seem to make a whole lot of sense. Maybe I'm miss reading Valstad's quote. Maybe he isn't being critical. Maybe he's just looking forward to watching Rostrup develop.

When I read Valstad's comment, my first thought was "well, of course, Valstad is 36 years old and Rostrup is just 25." Valstad's quote -- and the things he writes on his home page -- sound like someone who is 36. Rostrup's approach to orienteering, and the things he writes on his homepage, sound like someone who is 25.

I find both Valstad and Rostrup very interesting. I think, or at least hope, that reading what they've got to say has taught me something about orienteering.

Not meaning to be disrespectful or critical in any way...I think it is worth keeping in mind that Rostrup is a kid compared to Valstad. It is also worth keeping in mind that while Valstad has been a great orienteer, he's not going to be the best ever. Rostrup has a chance -- maybe just a small chance, but still a chance -- of being the best there has ever been.*

* Compare Valstad to Rostrup at the same stage in their respective O' careers. By age 26, Valstad had been at two WOCs. In 1991, his best individual result was 10th in the short/middle. In 1993, he was on the team but sick. By age 25, Rostrup had been at two WOCs. In 1999, he won the short/middle. In 2001, he won the classic.

posted by Michael | 3:54 PM


Friday, July 04, 2003

Peak form


On TV last night Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong's coach, said something about Armstrong's training throughout the year. He said at any time of the year Armstrong is within ten percent of his peak fitness.

I'm not sure exactly what it means to be "within ten percent," but I think the idea Carmichael was trying to get across was that Armstrong is fit year round. The difference between his peak and his "off season" is not huge.

On the other hand, I might have totally missed Carmichael's point. "Within ten percent" might imply a huge difference between peak fitness and "off season." For example, a 10,000 meter runner who ran 35 minutes at their best would probably have no trouble running within 10 percent of that time even if they did almost no training in the off season.

Still, I suspect the point Carmichael was trying to make was that Armstrong is fit year round. He doesn't spend much time away from training.

In general, it seems to me that peaking for any sport (and especially orienteering) is tricky. I guess the basics of reaching a physical peak are fairly well understood. But, since performance is so tied to strategy and psychology, hitting peak physical form isn't enough to have a top performance.

Christer Johansson, trainer/doctor for the Swedish team in the late 1980s, suggested that most orienteers should try to keep a fairly even form throughout the year. If I remember correctly, he felt that orienteering rewarded an even form because of the balance between running and navigating (i.e. if you're running too fast you tend to miss controls). I think he also felt a steady form was better for avoiding injuries.

posted by Michael | 2:04 PM


Thursday, July 03, 2003

Jørgen = Lance?


Rostrup's home page has an article comparing Rostrup to Armstrong. The comparison the editor points out is that both have been criticized for being mechanical/robot like and not emotional/enthusiastic enough. (If you can read Norwegian, check it out).

Comparing and contrasting -- thinking in analogies -- can be a good way to learn (and can be entertaining). So...

A few ways Joergen and Lance are alike:

1. Both have won the biggest races in their sports more than once. Armstrongg has a world championship to go with four Tour de France wins. Rostrup has four world champ gold medals (two at Junior WOCs).

2. Both compete in "suffering" sports.

3. Both spend a lot of time preparing in relevant terrain. Armstrong rides the main stages of each year's TDF in the late spring. Rostrup moved to Finland before the 2001 WOC and has been spending time in Switzerland this year.

4. Both are (or at least have been) sponsored by car companies. Lance shows up on TV driving a Subaru. I'm guessing he's getting paid a lot to endorse Subaru. I don't know the details of Joergen's car sponsorship. If I had to guess, I'd say he gets the use of a car from a car dealership. Here is a photo of his car in Finland.

5. Both have had "near death" experiences. Armstrong's cancer survival is well known. Rostrup was on a ferry boat that caught fire. He was asleep at the time and had to escape through smoke-filled halls.

A few ways Joergen and Lance are not alike:

1. Armstrong is rich. Rostrup isn't (though Joergen Maartensson once said that he'd become rich on experiences).

2. Armstrong's sport is more of a team sport. Armstrong couldn't win the TDF without a strong team. Orienteering is an individual sport.

3. Armstrong is a good bit older than Rostrup. I think Lance is 32. Rostrup is 25. Lance's physical peak is probably behind him. Rostrup's peak is probably ahead of him.

4. Want to get in touch with Lance? Try finding his agent. Want to get in touch with Rostrup? His phone number is on his home page. Lance is a celebrity with people who control access to him. Rostrup might be well known by orienteers, but I bet he doesn't get recognized on the street.

5. Armstrong's sport isn't half as fun as Rostrup's.

posted by Michael | 8:12 PM


Wednesday, July 02, 2003

30 hour week


Here is a rough translation of bit of an interview with Gjermund Hannsen, a top Norwegian:

How much do you usually train?

I've had some 30 hour weeks -- mostly to set a record for my training diary -- but those are obviously far from the average. In a good year, I put in about 700 hours of training, but when it isn't going as well I get in about 550 hours. It is difficult to break that habit, so I still depend on 10-15 hours a week of running. An advantage of having good training habits is that it is easier to compete when your form is good than when it is bad.

That's a pretty rough translation. I'm almost certain I missed something. But, what I find interesting is the idea of making training a "habit." I went through a stretch a few years ago when training wasn't a habit. I'd get home from work, hang around the house a bit, maybe watch some TV or read, and maybe go for a jog...or maybe not. I'd gotten out of the habit of training.

If you watch my training carefully, you'll see that I do a lot of very short training sessions. Tonight I jogged for 20 minutes (then I mowed the lawn). Sometimes I'll ride a stationary bike for 30 minutes. Those sessions aren't giving me much benefit, except they help me keep the habit of training. (Of course, Hanssen's habit -- running 10-15 hours a week -- is a lot better than my habit of doing at least something most days).

If you can manage Norwegian, check out the entire interview.

posted by Michael | 9:16 PM


Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Orienteering head cam


A couple of weeks ago (June 13) I wrote about stapping a video camera to an orienteer. It seemed like an odd idea.

Tonight I bumped into someone who strapped a video camera on an orienteer's head! They're planning to make a video of this year's Swedish 5-days.

Best of all, you can check out a short test film. A video clip (about a minute and a half) is available on this web page . Go to the middle of the page and click on "videoclip fran tret nr. 1 huvudkameran." You need a "RealOne Player" to watch it.

posted by Michael | 8:54 PM


A few words on the relay champs


I need to write something about last weekend's races in Idaho. I should. But, I'm afraid I don't have a very constructive attitude right now. So, I'll just quote a few other people...

Here is what the meet officials said about one of the maps:

While it is not a shining example of the mapper's art, in broad the map represents the area well, if a bit generally....As long as one doesn't try to read too much into the contours, they are accurate....

The meet officials were describing what I would consider the best of the three maps we ran on.

Kenny Walker wrote:

The area was nice to run through, but the map wasn't especially good. They used USGS DEM data to generate 5m contours, thereby creating a base map less accurate than USGS topos (if you can imagine that)...

...I guess I should be glad I didn't lose as much time as others at the infamously mislocated 1-ft boulder control.

Without getting into the details, I'll just say I was disappointed in the quality of the event. In my mind, this was easily the worst U.S. Championship event I've attended. Putting it behind me will be difficult but constructive. I'm looking forward to next year's relay champs, where ever they may be.

posted by Michael | 12:45 PM


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