Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Central Park O' Map


I dug out an old copy of the orienteering map of Central Park in Manhattan. A rough scan of a bit of the map:

Heather Williams made the map I've got. The copyright is 1984. The copy I have is a color photocopy of the original map (which was printed by Hamilton Newell).

I orienteered in Central Park once, a long time ago. I think the race was part of a Canada/USA World Cup week. I know that a bunch of European national teams were at the race. The course was typical "park orienteering" with lots of short legs. I think I skipped a control and either DNF'd or just jogged around after I discovered my mistake.

I don't think the park gets much use for orienteering. Maybe there are some access/permission problems. Or maybe it is just too much trouble to organize an event there.

Comments should be back soon

A server failed. The comments system is off-line, but should be available again in a day or two.

posted by Michael | 8:32 PM


Saturday, August 30, 2003

Pay attention


When I'm orienteering a lot, when I'm orienteering well, I don't have much trouble paying attention to what I'm doing. When I haven't orienteered recently, my mind tends to wander during a race. That's not good.

With the U.S. Champs coming up soon, and with my lack of recent orienteering, I need to spend some time thinking about how to pay attention.

I wonder if practicing paying attention helps?

Don Alexander has a few thoughts about attention:

Possibly the most difficult job during a race is to maintain concentration and focus. If your attention is diverted to extraneous areas, focus is taken from important priorities. It is important to regain focus on the important priorities as quickly as possible. The longer the process takes, the more time is likely to be lost, and the greater the risk of errors.

There are several tools that help regain lost focus. The most important is simply recognizing that focus of attention has faltered. In many cases this is enough to regain focus of attention.

posted by Michael | 6:26 PM


Friday, August 29, 2003

"I don't believe in astronomy"


My latest casual interest is astronomy. It hasn't passed NASCAR racing, but given some time I'm sure I'll be able to relate astronomy to orienteering.

I should say that I know almost nothing about astronomy. Never took a class in high school or college. Never read a book (until recently, that is).

At last year's High Altitude Relay Training camp in Colorado, Mook gave me a short lecture on astronomy while we looked at stars with binoculars. There it is -- a way to relate orienteering and astronomy. Looking at the stars is a good way to relax at a training camp.

I suppose an obvious parallel between looking at stars and orienteering is that both can involve maps. Star maps look a bit like O' maps with no contours, just boulders. Apparently you can find your way around by recognizing constelations (something like patterns of boulders). A quick search for "star atlas" finds some interesting web pages:

Linda Hall Library in Kansas City has an exhibit of old star maps.

Here is a star map from 1972 that looks a little bit like a sprint orienteering map from the 1980s.

Here is a web page that lets you make a custom star map for your location.

Another way to relate astronomy to orienteering is that there are relatively many astronomers among American orienteers. Certainly there are many more astronomers than performance auditors among the U.S. O' Federation.

posted by Michael | 8:49 PM


Thursday, August 28, 2003

Searching for motivation


For most of the last two years I've had a goal. I wanted to run a blue (M21) course, feel like I was "racing" and not feel anxious. I tore my leg up almost two years ago during a race. I wanted to make sure my last M21 race wasn't the one where I got hurt.

I've more-or-less met my goal. So, I'm searching for another goal. Maybe "searching" isn't the right word. Maybe what I'm doing is "waiting" for the right goal.

The thing about goals is that they are important, but they've got to really mean something. I can't just pick out a goal and suddenly be motivated. I've got to have a goal that means something to me.

I don't know what my next goal will be. It might be to prepare myself for the 2005 World Masters O' Champs in Edmonton. But, I'm not yet sold on that.

I've always been a bit puzzled by motivation. More often than not I've been motivated to train. But, there have been times (especially from about 1993 through 1998) when I wasn't really motivated.

posted by Michael | 8:20 PM


Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Wow, what a map


Sometimes I see and orienteering map and think "wow, what a map."

Dick Neuburger showed me the map from the Norwegian long O' champs. He picked up the map while on an orienteering trip to Switzerland this summer.

The map is huge and beautiful. You can see the terrain. You want to be there.

I'd already seen the map and course on the internet. But, seeing the map in person is different. After seeing so many maps printed on computer printers or color copiers, I'd almost forgotten how easy it is to look at a map printed the old fashioned way.

I wish there was a way to show the map on the internet. There isn't. The next best thing is to show and an analysis of the Norwegian long O' champs. (Follow the links labeled "kart").

The map is right next to the town of Kongsberg. I don't know if it is true now, but back in the 1980s taking a trip to Kongsberg was an "in" thing to do. Kongsberg hosted the World Champs in 1978. Orienteers made pilgrimages to Kongsberg to run on those maps.

I spent a couple of days in Kongsberg in 1986. I was on my way to Sorlandsgallopen and made a quick visit to Kongsberg to run on the World Champs terrain. It was a great way to spend a couple of days. (While I was in Kongsberg and at Sorlandsgallopen, Eric W., Mikell P., and Dan M. were orienteering in France. I never quite understood choosing the French 5-days over Sorlandsgallopen).

posted by Michael | 9:31 PM


Tuesday, August 26, 2003

What about variation?


Do "exercise scientists" study variation?

I spent 20 minutes or so (of my lunch hour) looking at some exercise science abstracts on the internet.

It seems like the studies focus on average results and say very little about variation. Here's a hypothetical example to explain what I mean. The researcher might study the effects of a specific type of training (say very short intervals with rest periods double the work periods) on two small groups of subjects. The results seem to always be reported in terms of average changes in some measure (maybe time on a test course or VO2 max). But, they didn't seem to report the range of results.

I wonder why they don't report the ranges? I wonder why they don't try to understand variation? Maybe it was just the few studies I looked at. Maybe there are very interesting studies I didn't find (after all, I only spent about 20 minutes looking at the studies).

I suppose one reason could be the motivation for the studies. I bet a bunch of them are by graduate students trying to complete a Masters or PhD, in which case the reason to do the work is as much about learning how to do research as answering an interesting question. I bet a bunch of the rest of the research is motivated by academics trying to publish articles as opposed to really answering some interesting questions.

I spent some time looking at these studies because I was interested in variation. Different people seem to use very different approaches to training while reaching similar results ("Sub 4:00" talks about how Seb Coe and Steve Ovett had very different approaches to training planning while both reaching world class levels in middle-distance races).

posted by Michael | 1:06 PM


Monday, August 25, 2003

Training plans


Some people plan their training in great detail.

I'm reading "Sub 4:00" and came across this paragraph:

...Webb met with the coach to map out a schedule, right there in black and white, with daily and weekly mileage figures and workouts with target times for Webb to control. The schedule provided him with enormous peace of mind. "Now I have a plan, a sheet with what I'm going to do, and we're not going to get ahead of ourselves, he says. He's excited, if cautious, about regaining the fitness he had in cross country.

I've usually planned my training. But, I've never planned my training in great detail. I've never had a schedule that would tell me how much to run and at what pace.

I remember being amazed when I saw Rick Oliver's training plan back in 1988. At the time he was focusing on biathalon (I think he was aiming for the 1992 Olympics). He had a book with his training planned out in detail for years in advance. I was amazed. I'd never seen something like that. I was impressed. But, I couldn't imagine training that way.

I know something about the range of possibilities -- from just deciding what to do as you walk out the door to having a daily plan for years in advance. But, I don't really know where most people fit. How many have detailed day-by-day plans? How many have no plans? How many people have plans they actually follow? How many people have plans they revise every week or so?

posted by Michael | 9:37 PM


Sunday, August 24, 2003

An old map from a good race


Looking at some old maps, I came across a map from a very good race.

The map is from a relay called "25 manna" (25 runners on a team). My course was short (3.9 km) and fast.

Since it was a relay, I didn't take any chances. Though the course is straightforward, and I might not have run the legs any differently if it weren't a relay.

I hesitated near 8. Otherwise my run was about as good as it could be.

posted by Michael | 6:27 PM


Saturday, August 23, 2003

Confidence and training


The U.S. Champs are coming up soon and I'm not ready. I haven't trained much this summer. I haven't done any meaningful training on maps since the Texas Junior O' Camp in June (I don't consider the relay champs in Idaho to have been meaningful running on maps).

I've got a couple of weeks to get some confidence and plan my races at the U.S. Champs. I'm not especially worried.

I read a quote today about confidence. Greg Meyer won the Boston Marathon back in 1983 (in 2:09!). He's quoted in "Sub 4:00":

My personal philosophy, after all these years, is that everyone is gonna get their cardiovascular stuff done a certain way, but believing in what you're doing and keeping that focus is what I think determines success. A lot of people can post great workouts, but if you come out of there still doubting yourself and worried about what's going on, you're not going to run as well. Ron [Warhurst, Michigan's coach] has the ability to help build confidence; a lot of people don't. With him, when he said you were ready to go, you felt you were ready to go. When you take that doubt out, it allows you to run a lot better.

posted by Michael | 7:05 PM


Friday, August 22, 2003

Books for inspiration


I've been suffering through some hot weather. Training feels like a chore, even if I'm just doing a bit of easy running. Sometimes when training feels like a chore, I find that reading a sports book can be inspiring.

I just started Chris Lear's Sub 4:00.

I've read the first 20 pages. It is too soon to recommend the book (though I can recommend Lear's other book Running with the Buffaloes).

The book begins with a forward by local running legend Jim Ryun. Ryun was a terrific runner (held the world record in the mile) but 2 and 1/4 pages of his writing is enough for me.

Lear describes a race between Ryun (as a high school runner) and Peter Snell. I understand why Lear got Ryun to write the forward, but I'd much rather have heard what Peter had to say.

posted by Michael | 8:56 PM


Thursday, August 21, 2003

Some quick notes


Web page worth a look

A month or so ago I discovered an orienteer with a blog who'd linked to this page. I've been taking a look at the page every couple of days. It is worth a look. The main page is here and you can see the orienteering entries here.

"I'll be back"

My clock radio came on at 6:30 this morning and I heard something I'd never expected to hear. Arnold Schwarzenegger was talking about auditing.

From JoinArnold.com:

The former bodybuilder declined to provide any details about spending cuts, saying the budget is "so crazy" that he couldn't make "good decisions." Instead, he said he would hire outside auditors to assess the budget within 60 days of his taking office. From that information, he said he would determine where to make the spending cuts needed to balance the budget.

When I was sitting in the theater watching Terminator 3 it never occurred to me that the next time I heard Arnold's voice he'd be talking about auditing.

Why people from Lawrence, Kansas, can't stand Missouri

This morning I also heard a radio story about Quantrill's Raid (where a bunch of Missourian's came to my home town, killed about 200 people and burned the town to the ground).

You can listen to the story at the NPR web page.

posted by Michael | 8:52 PM


Wednesday, August 20, 2003

More Paris Snapshots


I'd guess the Eiffel Tower may be the most photographed thing in the world. Here are a few of my Eiffel Tower snapshots.

August 1, 2003 -- Mary's 40th!

I tried to get a view that wasn't quite the normal snapshot. But, I'd bet there a lot of other people took something close.

Paris is full of impressionist paintings. I was inspired to see if I could create an impressionist view of the tower with my Olympus D-100.

posted by Michael | 7:40 PM


Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Words from Kent (via Mikell)


It should hit 104 later today (40 C). Despite the heat, I'm going to run a trail race in Lawrence after work. Well, the event is a race, but I'll just take it easy because of the heat.

Without much time to write anything, I'll just pass on a bit that Mikell Platt wrote:

In his co-authored book with Lasse Hogedal, "Path To Success", Kent Olsson wrote about the strategies leading up to his VM Gold in 1987 in France, which most O' historians remember principally as the year the French got their revenge on the Swampfox in the VM doping tent. One of the things Kent did was spend several weeks mapping that summer in order to get the right feeling for map reading. If Kent--as one of the top orienteers in the world--felt it was important for him to do that then, and a good use of the time he had available to prepare and train, then it sure seems like mapping could be a good way for mere mortal orienteers to also improve. Yet I have the suspicion that if you tossed a map board and some pencils into a gang of US Blue runners these days, you might be taken to jail and charged with inciting a riot. Someone might spot the map board as it whistled down, and would yell: "Incoming!", and that's when blood would drain and faces would whiten and panic and terror would ensue as runners sought desperately to escape and claw their way to freedom. But if someone really was interested in improving their O' skills, they might do well to study Kent. For my money, Kent Olsson was the best of anyone for "racing when it counted."

posted by Michael | 1:05 PM


Monday, August 18, 2003

Don't get to say that very often


It isn't something you get to say very often. But, today I said:

I wish I understood Slovenian

Gregor Anderluh is a Slovenian orienteer with a web page that looks very interesting. Unfortunately, it is all in Slovenian. I've got no chance to read it.

Still, I check the page out every day or two. I follow the links and I'm usually rewarded with some interesting photos and maps.

Check out Gregor's page here.
The links on his August 16 and 18 entries have maps from the WOC that are fun to look at.

Another pretty cool thing about Gregor's page is that he's got a link to my page (and I like to see my name in the same list as Pasi Ikonen, Bjornar Vlastad and Hanne Staff, and Vroni Konig-Salmi and Janne Salmi).

posted by Michael | 8:16 PM


Sunday, August 17, 2003

What could the U.S. Team do next?


When I was running last Tuesday, I spent some time thinking about how to improve the U.S. O' Team. The team has been around for a bit over 20 years and has had ups and downs. It strikes me that some fairly easy to implement changes could make the team a better organization -- an organization more suited towards performance.

Loose and tight organizations

I think you can learn something about an organization by thinking about what the organization is focused on, how the organization is structured and how the members are linked.

Compare two organizations: the people who live on my street and the U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team.

The people on my street aren't formally focused on any common goal. We're just neighbors. We'd be concerned about problems (like when some cars on the street had their windows smashed out), but we're not trying to perform anything.

The people on my street aren't formally organized. We don't have a leader. We don't have a structure. We're all members of a larger group, the home association, but the people on my street aren't otherwise organized.

The people on my street aren't closely connected to each other. We see each other and wave or say "hi." Some of the people on the street are close friends with a neighbor. I know most of the people by sight, but I don't know the names of most of them. If I needed to get in touch with the person who lives across the street four houses up, I'd have to walk over and knock on their door. I don't know their names and don't have their email addresses or phone numbers.

Of course, such a loose organization has no money and spends no money.

The U.S. Postal Cycling Team is very focused on a common goal -- getting Lance Armstrong to win the Tour de France. Everyone knows the goal. Everyone accepts that it is their job to do what it takes to prepare to win the race. At the end of the race, everyone knows whether or not they reached the goal.

The U.S. Postal Cycling Team appears to be carefully structured. There are support staff who have specific jobs. There are directors. I doubt riders or other staff are confused about what is expected of them.

The U.S. Postal Cycling Team is closely linked. They see each other regularly. They communicate regularly. I'd bet that Johan Bruyneel can get in touch with anyone connected to the team in minutes. I'd guess that most of the people connected with the team get along with everyone else.

Such a strongly organized and focused organization has a big budget.

These two examples fit on a "spectrum" of organizations. I'll put the people who live on my street way over on the left of the spectrum and the U.S. Postal Cycling Team way over on the right. To make it easier to talk about, I'll call organizations way over on the left "loose" and organizations way over on the right "tight." (At first I thought of "weak" and "strong" but that doesn't work because "weak" seems to imply bad and a "loose" organization isn't necessarily bad because "loose" might fit the circumstances).

Where does the U.S. O' Team fit?

The U.S. O' Team is more a "loose" than "tight" organization. Over the years, I'd say the organization has become looser. That is ok, especially if it was a conscious decision. But, if organization matters, moving to the right could improve the performance of the group.

I think organization matters. Organization isn't the only thing that matters, but all things being equal a strong organization focused on achieving an objective will usually do better than a weak organization.

After the WOC in 2001, I wrote some thoughts about the team on the team's email group. Here is an excerpt:

The US Team doesn't - as far as I know - have any goals for World Championships. You can't really evaluate how we did without having some goals.

As an organization, the US Team is closer to a loose-knit community than a goal/performance oriented organization. I guess that is ok. But, we ought to recognize that it is a choice that the organization has made.

I think the most important thing the US Team could do to improve performances at WOCs would be to have some goals - both for the team as a whole and for the team's performance at WOCs. In other words, the team could decide to become a goal/performance oriented organization.

For individual orienteers to improve we need to train and race more. We need to spend more time practicing orienteering. I think the best way to get good is to live in Scandinavia.

Some basic premises

Improving the team would be easy (or at least easier) if you had a big budget. If the team could count of having thousands and thousands of dollars each year you could do a lot. But, the team doesn't have that kind of cash and shouldn't premise any plans on having much cash.

Improving an organization would be easier if you've had a number of people who are really dedicated to improving the organization. It'd be much easier to strengthen the team if you had a group of people who were putting 20+ hours a week into administrative work. I don't think there are those people, and I don't think you can count on having those people.

My basic premises in coming up with ways to improve the U.S. O' Team are that there isn't money and there aren't a lot of people who can work on improving the organization. So, the ideas have to be easy to implement. Implementing them has to be easy and quick.

It'd be foolish to say that the team needs to do something that it is unrealistic to accomplish. I could easily say, the team needs to get the top 8-10 men and women in the country, find them half-time jobs and some sponsorship money, find them places to live around the best terrain in the country, hire a Scandinavian coach, pay their way to international events, etc.

Three easy to implement ideas

1. Set goals for the WOC and commit to them.
2. Select runners to the team based on commitment in addition to performance.
3. Include sprints in the WOC selections.

Set goals for the WOC and commit to them

The "executive steering committee" should come up goals for the 2004 and 2005 WOCs. But, just having the goals isn't enough. They need to make sure everyone knows what the goals are and they need to get the USOF Board to approve the goals.

When the 2004 WOC is over, the Team should report to the board. Did the Team reach the goals? Should we change the goals for next year? ONA would report on how the Team did in relation to their goals.

Having goals and getting USOF buy-in builds some accountability. It might also start a move toward a change in the organization, from "loose" toward "tight."

Select runners to the team based on commitment in addition to performance

The Team (i.e. the national team, not necessarily the WOC team) should select members based on commitment, not just performance.

Currently, the Team has three groups -- A, B and C. Basically, the A group is the best few orienteers in the country, the B group is orienteers just a bit below them, and the C group is a bit behind the B group. Currently membership in the Team is mostly a measure of performance.

I'd like to see something like two groups based on goals and commitment. One group might be people who say that they want to go to the WOC in 2004 or 2005, record their training on Attackpoint, are ranked in the top 15 in the U.S., and are not over the age of 30. The group would have some name, "performance group" or "WOC group" or something. The other group would be everyone else.

Again, this isn't a big change, but it is a move toward an organization trying to perform well and demonstrating some accountability.

Ideally, the first group would commit to working regularly with a coach/advisor. But, I'm not sure that is practical immediately. It might take a couple of years to build up a small network of knowledgeable orienteers who'd help this group.

Include sprints in the WOC selections

This change doesn't do much to the organization, but it seems odd to me that there have been two sprint world champs and the U.S. has yet to have a sprint selection race.

I'd like to see the Team decide to select one man and one woman who were focusing on the sprint.

Not everyone (maybe not anyone?) agrees with me, but I think the sprint is a race that the U.S. could do comparatively well at. Encouraging people to focus on the sprint would improve our chances. Selecting runners based on a couple of sprint selection races might be enough to encourage that.

Some final words

I think these three things would be easy to implement and, while they wouldn't make the Team a lot better, would begin changing the "culture" of the Team. And, I think a Team that was a "tight" organization, that was focused on performance, is a prerequisite for a Team that performs well.

posted by Michael | 2:38 PM


Saturday, August 16, 2003

Running in the heat


A good topic tonight would be running in the heat. The WOC took place in miserably hot weather. Today in Kansas City it is miserably hot, too. Right now (nearly 8 p.m.) it is still 99 F (37 C).

I ran this morning, but not as early as I should have. I ran with Dan. We jogged slowly. We covered about 10.5 miles in about 100 minutes of running time. We also spent about 10 minutes taking short walk breaks or drinking at water fountains on the route.

Dan and I both ran with heart rate monitors. In normal conditions, when we're running and compare out heart rates, they are about the same. Not today. My average heart rate was about 160 (despite going really slowly), Dan's was about 140.

posted by Michael | 7:49 PM


Friday, August 15, 2003

Another baseball inspired entry


My local baseball team, the Kansas City Royals, are having a great season. They're leading the division and have a decent chance to make the playoffs. What is remarkable is that they are coming off the worst year in their history. Last year Kansas City was terrible.

The team's manager, Tony Pena, is getting a lot of the credit. Here is a player quoted in the NY Times talking about the manager:

Tony Pena has made all the difference. He's upbeat all the time, and the confidence he has in his players is probably second to none that I've seen, as far as managers are concerned.

Now the reason I'm writing about Tony Pena is that it raises an issue for orienteering clubs or national teams -- does having a club or team leader who is upbeat matter? Does a leader's confidence carry over to the team?

I'm not really sure. I'm fairly sure that a leader (or team mates, for that matter) who lack confidence and who is always being negative hurts. But, I'm not sure the opposite really helps.

posted by Michael | 8:39 PM


Thursday, August 14, 2003

Hanne Staff at the middle final


Hanne Staff finished 2nd at the WOC middle distance final. She ended up 17 seconds behind Simone Luder and 35 seconds ahead of Heli Jukkola.

Hanne wrote about her WOC runs on staff-valstad.com. You can see the map with her routes here.

Hanne wrote that she was only surprised once during the race -- in the middle of the course they had a marked route that climbed a big hill. You can see it on the map between the 10th and 11th control.

You can see the same climb on the men's course (between 12 and 13) by looking at Bjornar Valstad's map here.
The legs weren't quite the same. The men's control looks a little be easier than the women's.

Anyway, Hanne was in the lead at 10 by 34 seconds over Jukolla and 38 seconds over Luder, but she lost about 30 seconds on the leg.

Hanne also wrote that someone named Kari Christiansen held up a note that said "+10" when she passed the finish area near control 15. I guess it is a bit like the guy who rides on the motorcycle at the Tour De France holding up the chalkboard with the gap between the leaders and the chasers. At that point Hanne was nine seconds behind Luder.

posted by Michael | 1:13 PM


Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Some inspiring results


I don't' remember why, but I was looking at the results from the 1989 World Champs a few days ago. The 1989 WOC was in Sweden, but not in the normal Scandinavia terrain. The terrain was closer to continental terrain. The organizers felt it was "neutral."

Marita Skogum won.

What caught my eye were some of the results further down the list.

10 minutes back (16th place) was a 20 year old who went on to win the sprint in 2001 (Vroni Konig-Salmi).

11 minutes back (18th place) was a young runner -- 22 I think -- who took her first of several individual medals when she finished 3rd in the classic/long race in 1993 (Yvette Baker-Hague).

15 minutes back (27th place) was a 22 year old who took the bronze in this year's long race (Birgitte Wolf).

19 minutes back (33rd place) was a 20 year old who went on to take a bronze medal in the middle distance in 1999 (Frauke Schmitt-Gran).

27 minutes back (46th place) was a runner who won the gold in the classic/long just two years later (Katalin Olah).

If I was a young runner who'd run at a WOC (or even who'd missed a place on a WOC team), I'd be inspired. If I was Sandra Z. or Boris G., I'd be inspired.

posted by Michael | 1:10 PM


Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Course from the night O' champs


Kenny posted his routes and course from the U.S. night O' champs. You can see it here.

I have a quick and dirty way of "measuring" course setting. I ask a series of questions that are easy to answer. Here are the questions and answers for the 17-leg night O' course:

How many legs are more than one kilometer? 0.
How many legs are more than one and a half kilometer? 0.
How many legs force a distinct direction change? This is a bit subjective, but I count 9 direction changes.
Compared to the prior leg, how many legs are either more than twice as long or less than half as long? 3.

The answers give a quick view of the variety on the course. I think variety is an important part of course setting. Other things being equal, more variety makes for more interesting and challenging orienteering.

The night O' course doesn't look very good based on my questions. Compare with a course from the Ash Fest I looked at back on July 13. The answers for that course were 4, 2, 11 and 8.

Course setting is difficult. Maybe the course setter was working with some constraints and this is the best course you could have. I don't know. Still, I can't help but thinking that you could work in a leg or 2 that was a bit long and had some interesting route choice.


Kenny wrote, "I didn't have any complaints about the mapping, though the laser-print job suffered from the usual contours-in-green problem, which made the map difficult to read at times."

That "contours-in-green" problem is really annoying. I bet it is worse at night when you've got to read the map by headlamp.

I don't know much about printing O' maps, but Pat Dunlavey wrote an article that explains the contours-in-green problem and how to simulate "spot colors." Take a look at Pat's article here.

posted by Michael | 1:02 PM


Monday, August 11, 2003

Quote from Kent


From Kent Olsson's description of his silver medal race in the 1989 World Champs:

It is important to be able to look at the map and see where it will be defuse and difficult to read, and therefore easy to make a mistake. Then you've got to take an easier route choice. Once again: you've got to avoid mistakes.

posted by Michael | 8:18 PM


Sunday, August 10, 2003

A visit to Fontainebleau


When I was 8 years old I visited the forest at Fontainebleau. I didn't know anything about orienteering. But I remember running around in the boulders and thinking it was a very cool place. That was in 1972. My parents took us to Paris for a vacation and to visit my Dad's friend Klaus Berger. The Bergers took us to see Fontainebleau.

Once I started orienteering, I always kept Fontainebleau in the back of my mind. My memories of it were a bit fuzzy, but I'd always had an idea it might make for an interesting O' area.

When Mary and I went to Paris this summer, we got advice from two orienteers about what to do in Paris. Both said, "go orienteering at Fontainebleau."

We got in touch with a couple of orienteers in Paris -- Matthias and Abi -- and borrowed maps. We took a train out to Fontainebleau, paid a visit to the chateau, and then spent some time exploring the forest.

We weren't disappointed (though the ferns were a bit thick).

This snapshot shows Mary racing past a boulder.

My fuzzy memory of Fontainebleau was of big boulders. That boulder Mary is going by is big. But, it isn't a "big boulder" on the map! The boulders are Fontainebleau are huge. According to the legend on the map, boulders aren't mapped unless they are over 1.5 meters. To be shown as a large black dot, boulders had to be over 3 meters. That boulder Mary is going by is close to 3 meters, but I guess it is a bit too small -- it is mapped as a small black dot.

Here is a bit of the map.

The map is ok, though the contours are a bit rough. It would be a difficult area to map.

posted by Michael | 4:22 PM


Saturday, August 09, 2003

Valstad's comments on Thierry Gueorgiou


Bjornar Valstad wrote a bit about Thierry Gueorgiou and the French orienteers. Here is a quick translation:

I think [Thierry Gueorgiou's win] was one of the best WOC races ever.

The French runners have used Norway as a model for their training. If you've been paying attention, you've known that this triumph was coming. Several of the Norwegian runners (Jørgen, Øystein, and others) have been with the French men at training camps in France and have come home impressed by the French runner's systematic approach and desire. There is a lot to learn from the young French team. It wasn't surprisese that Thierry won, but nobody believed the margin of victory would be 2:37! Friday, Thierry set a new "world record" in middle distance orienteering. He showed us how fast it can go in demanding orienteering. A new standard was set.

I've heard a bit about the French team from two other sources -- the issue of O-Sport that I've got and a chat with Matthias and Abi in France a couple of weeks ago.

I think there are some interesting lessons to learn from the French successes....and if I had more time I'd write about them. Maybe tomorrow.

posted by Michael | 3:16 PM


Friday, August 08, 2003

Just a quick note or two on the WOC


There is a lot to write about Thierry Gueorgiou's victory in today's middle distance race. But, I don't have a lot of time right now, so I'll just put out a question...

Is Thierry Gueorgiou the first World Champion with a goatee?

You can take a look at a "photo provided by www.olwm2003.ch" here.

A clarification

A couple of days ago I wrote something about Omeltchenko and Mamleev running together at the WOC. Today I read something Mikell Platt wrote:

....As usual, some runners are following other runners, and as usual there are some Americans who can not believe there is following going on and that nobody is doing anything about it! ...

Just for the record, I'm not surprised runners are following or that nothing is done about it. I don't think running together is "wrong." I think efforts the organizers make -- like the forked "nests" -- are good controls to help ensure the integrity of the event.

posted by Michael | 1:18 PM


Thursday, August 07, 2003

Some thoughts about sprint orienteering


One of the things I think is interesting about sprint orienteering is that normal booms can have really big effects on the results. Comparing two runners at the WOC -- Johan Naesman and Martin Terry -- illustrates that.

Johan and Martin both live in the same city, Stockholm, and run for the same club, IFK Lidingo. Johan is 30 and Martin is 27.

Johan and Martin have very different O' records. Johan has won medals in international competition. I think he's won a JWOC. He's one of the best in Sweden; one of the best O' nations. Right now, Johan is ranked 13th in the world according to the IOF. Martin is one of the best from South Africa. He's currently ranked 562nd in the world according to the IOF.

In the sprint WOC, Martin was just 33 seconds behind Johan....because Johan made a couple of booms. Sprint races are so short that a couple of relatively small booms can't be made up, and a couple of small booms represent a big portion of the total race.

Johan was in the lead at the 4th control when he misread the map and started running to 10 instead of 5. He figures it cost him 45 seconds. After that mistake he was just 2 seconds ahead of Martin at the next radio. Johan kept going but made another boom, losing another 30 seconds. He still beat Martin by 33 seconds, so he must have been orienteering a good bit faster than Martin.

I haven't actually looked at the split times and studied the routes. But, I've got to guess that Martin had a fairly consistent run and I'd say he's probably relatively satisfied with his 31st place in the World Champs and just 33 seconds behind Johan.

Assuming Johan's estimates are correct, he boomed 1:15 on a course that took him 14:11. Taking away those two booms would move him to second place. But, you can't take them away. About ten percent of his time was booms.

If it weren't a sprint race, I don't think Martin would really have a chance to be close to Johan even if Johan wasn't having a good run.

posted by Michael | 1:22 PM


Wednesday, August 06, 2003

A few WOC2003 thoughts


Course setting blunder?

From the IOF rules for the 2003 WOC:

"The winning times of the finals shall be 70 minutes for women and 90 minutes for men."

Simone Luder won in 1:26:14, and Thomas Burher won in 1:48:20.

The weather was warm, but the winning times aren't even close.

I haven't looked at prior WOC results, but I'm fairly sure the winning times are usually slower than called for in the rules.

Fundamentals played a role in the sprint

Some of the top competitors had big problems with real fundamentals in the sprint race. By "fundamental" I mean the sort of thing you're taught the first time you ever orienteer.

Bernt Bjoernsgaard lost time when he mis-read the map and left 4 on his way toward 10 rather than 5. Johan Naesman was in the lead at the 4th control when he headed toward 10 instead of 5.

Joergen Olsson skipped the third control from the finish.

Four men and four women were disqualified for "miss ct." I think that must mean missing control. Maybe some of them didn't see a control on the map and ran by it. Maybe some of them ran to the control and punched but the punch didn't register.

The WOC is using SI electronic punching. You can tell your punch worked when the control beeps and a light blinks. But, the crowds were apparently so large and noisy that runners couldn't hear the beep.

All of those problems with "fundamentals" sound like what happens when you rush too fast. Staying calm and taking time when needed must be quite tough in a sprint race.

You can see the course here.

Running together?

Two of the top 5 finishers seem to have run together. By the second control (after a bit less than ten minutes of the race), Omeltchenko and Mamleev were within ten seconds of each other. They were within seconds of each other until the last five minutes of the race. From the unofficial splits, it looks like they ran together all but about 15 minutes of the race.

Both of these guys are fantastic orienteers. Either one is a medal candidate running alone. But, you've got to wonder how much a difference running together made.

If I'm not mistaken, this is the first long distance WOC with a two minute start interval (I may well be wrong about that).

When they do the start draw, they make sure two runners from the same nation don't start next to each other. To complicate matters, both Omeltchenko and Mamleev run for the same club even though they are from different nations.

Again, I'm not saying this is cheating. But, I am saying having two runners together for nearly the entire course might have affected the outcome.

Is Burher a surprise?

On a discussion at Attackpoint, someone suggested Burher's win might be considered surprising.

Burher won the European Champs last year in continental terrain in Hungary. I think he's had some injury problems, but he can't be considered a surprise (though I wouldn't have picked him as my favorite).

posted by Michael | 1:03 PM


Tuesday, August 05, 2003

A rough comparison of WOCs in 2001 and 2003


I spent some time at lunch today looking at results from the long distance qualifying races in 2001 and 2003. In 2001 the WOC was in extreme Nordic terrain in Finland. This year the long distance terrain is classic continental terrain. I wondered if the different terrain types would make for different results. Would different countries do better in Switzerland than Finland?

I decided to rank each nation based on the results from the long distance qualifying races.* The formats between 2001 and 2003 varied a bit, so making direct comparisons of results is a bit awkward. For example, in 2001 each nation got four runners in the qualifying race while in 2002 each nation got three runners.

For each nation I calculated the average place of its runners. For example, in 2003 the U.S. had runners who finished 19th, 27th and 25th. The average was 23.67 (exactly the same as Japan). I then ranked each nation based on the average. The top team was Norway with an average qualifying place of 3.33. The U.S. tied with Japan for 27th.

Which nations did much better in 2003 than in 2001?

Only two countries did a lot better in 2003 than in 2001 -- Ukraine and Austria.

Ukraine was the 4th ranked in 2003 but was the 24th ranked in 2001.

Austria was the 8th ranked in 2003 but was the 19th ranked in 2001.

The Austrian team must be happy to have done much better. I bet they feel comfortable in the Swiss terrain since it is so close to home.

Which nations did much worse in 2003 than in 2001?

Six nations did much worse in 2003 than they did in 2001 -- Denmark, Russia, Australia, Latvia, Poland and Ireland.

Denmark and Russia were hurt by disqualifications. Russia was really hurt by Novikov's disqualification. The other two Russian men, Mamleev and Efimov, had decent qualifying races in Switzerland. Actually, Mamleev was more than decent; he won his heat.

It might have been better to exclude Poland because only one runner ran the long distance qualifier in Switzerland.

Which nations did well in both 2003 and 2001?

Five nations ranked in the top ten in both WOCs -- Sweden, Finland, Norway, Czech Republic and Great Britain.

I thought it was interesting that the Swiss men did very well in Finland in 2001, but not nearly so well at home in 2003. The worse rank in 2003 is largely because one of the Swiss, Felix Bentz, was disqualified. The other Swiss men did quite well. I suspect the team is satisfied overall, but won't be satisfied without good results in the finals.

Looking forward to the finals

I won't make any predictions, but I am looking forward to seeing how tomorrow's long distance finals turn out. The conventional wisdom is that the non-Scandinavian nations will have a good chance to take some medals.

* I only looked at results from the men. I would have included the women, but my lunch hour wasn't enough time to include the women's results as well.

posted by Michael | 8:50 PM


Monday, August 04, 2003

Tour De France snapshots


Mary and I watched the last stage of this year's TDF. Here are a few snapshots.

We took a train out to the stage start at Ville D'Avray (a Paris suburb). Before the start, the riders need to sign in. The photo shows Lance riding back to the team bus after signing in.

The race started at Ville D'Avray and made a loop before passing through the town again and then heading on to Paris. For some reason, Lance was a bit behind the pack when they passed us.

After the riders went by us, we got back on a train and headed for Champs Elysees. We met huge crowds at Champs Elysees. You couldn't get close to the road. At Ville D'Avray you felt like you were right next to the riders. I don't have a zoom on my camera, so the photos above give you a sense of how close you could get. But, on Champs Elysees the crowds were so big that you could barely see the race. When the pack came by, I stuck my camera above my head and snapped a few shots, not knowing what I was getting.

I'd write a bit more, and try to get orienteering into the topic, but I'm too tired. I haven't yet recovered from the jet-lag...Time to go to sleep.

posted by Michael | 8:23 PM


Sunday, August 03, 2003

Back home...and tired...


Mary and I arrived home a bit ago after a long travel day. We got up at 6 in the morning in Paris and arrived home after about 18 hours of travel...

I plan to spend some time tomorrow updating this page. Look for an orienteer's view of Paris over the next few days.

posted by Michael | 5:50 PM


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