Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Some advice


1. Read control descriptions.
2. Concentrate on the map.
3. Orient the map all the time.
4. Do not run faster than you know where you are on the map.
5. Drink water at all stops.
6. Ignore all singing birds and beautiful views.
7. Run like "hell" from the last control.

posted by Michael | 6:39 PM


Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Another top list...


Today I've got my own top 5 O' list for 2003. Saturday's list was top O' news, today's is my own top O' experiences for the year:

Continued recovery. Throughout the year my injured left leg got better and better. A year ago my knee was stiff every day and sore a few days a week. Now my knee is stiff maybe once a month, and sore about once every few weeks.

Three great events. Three O' events come to mind: the team trials in Harriman, New York; the Great Lakes O' Festival in Hamilton, Ontario; and the Western Connecticut "Event in Kent." All three meets featured interesting courses on good maps in interesting terrain. I wish I'd run better the first day in Harriman. I wish I hadn't gotten sick the last day of the GLOF, and I wish I'd been in better shape for the races in Connecticut.

Cool web pages. Attackpoint and Staff-Valstad.com remain worth visiting every day.

Motivation getting better and better . Thinking back over the entire year, I think my motivation has been improving throughout the year. There have been some high points (just after the relay race at the team trials) and some low points (just after the bogus races in Idaho), but overall I'm feeling more-and-more motivation.

Local night O' training.I love night O' and I'm really psyched that we've had night O' trainings every couple of weeks. The turnout has been good and the training has been a blast. Just two days left till the next session -- a January 1st 2-hour score event at SMP.

posted by Michael | 7:23 PM


Monday, December 29, 2003

A quick note or two


I've just got a couple of minutes because the second half of basketball game on TV is about to start.

Mapsurfer has some interesting comments about goals on today's (December 29) post. Check it out here.

For something completely different...here is a quick translation from Johan Modig's training log for last week:

Comment to the week - easy training because I've got a tendency to get a cold, a recurring problem I have around the holidays.

Monday: Strength training 50 minutes (half legs/half other body) plus 30 minutes of warm up and cool down.
Tuesday: Distance training 120 minutes plus "movement exercises"*
Wednesday: Tempo training 30 minutes (3:25-3:30/km) plus 20 minutes warm up and cool down.
Thursday: 25 minutes of cycling plus 15 minutes of strength
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 100 minutes plus movement exercises.
Sunday: Rest (movement exercises).

Total: 6:30

I thought Modig's training for the week was interesting because of he planned to take it easy to avoid getting sick since he's had a history of getting a cold around the holidays. Avoiding getting sick is a great thing. I haven't tracked it very carefully in my own training. But, if I had to guess, I've usually gotten sick in two circumstances: when Mary's gotten sick or when I'm around a bunch of people while I've been traveling.

Back to the game...the second half just started.

* In Swedish this is called "roerelseoevningar" which directly translates to "movement exercises." I don't know what it is. Maybe it is stretching?

posted by Michael | 8:13 PM


Sunday, December 28, 2003

O' speed


In a comment to my December 17 entry, Jeff wrote:

With regards to first control booms, I think that orienteers are being more careful. If you had time/Km information, I bet that you would see that people are going slower to the first control then things pick up on the 2nd and 3rd controls.

Maybe people are more careful on the way to the first control. I've been given advice to take it easy to the first control. You want to "get in to" the map. You don't want to start the race with a big boom.

On the other hand, maybe people go faster to the first control. The first leg often begins with some very fast running -- commonly on a trail. Sometimes the first leg is designed with the idea of getting the runners out of the start area. If that's the case, the speed would probably be quite high even if the orienteer was being careful.

I haven't ever compared speeds for the first control and subsequent controls. Partly because it is a bit of a pain (split lists don't usually show leg lengths). Partly it is because the speed is so dependent on the specific leg.

But, I spent a few minutes this morning looking at some information from O-Sport's coverage of the 2003 WOC that struck me as interesting (though I'm not exactly sure what to make of it).

O-Sport calculated the speed of a bunch of runners on different legs at the WOC. Speed is the time divided by the length of the route that the individual runner took (not the straight line length).

Some speeds from the sprint race

Jamie Stevenson won the sprint at a speed of 3:28 (per Kilometer) on his route. The course was 2.8 km, but Stevenson ran 3.66 km.

O-Sport has his speed for three individual legs: 2:44, 3:08 and 3:40.

Simone Niggli-Luder won the sprint at a speed of 3:52. The women's course was the same length as the men's (2.8 km), but Niggli-Luder covered a little less distance on her route. She ran 3.45 km (210 meters shorter than Stevenson).

O-Sport has her speed for three legs: 3:44, 4:18 and 3:48.

Some speeds from the long distance race

Simone Niggli-Luder won with a speed of 5:48 per km. (It is interesting to note that Karolina Arewang ran at a faster speed, 5:29, but ran about 1.5 km longer).

O-Sport speeds for Simone: 5:28, 6:54, 6:27 and 5:22.

Thomas Buhrer's winning speed for the entire course was 5:23.

O-Sport speeds for Buhrer: 4:57, 6:34, 6:12, 5:09, 4:39 and 4:40.

What to make of this info?

I don't know what to make of the information. Obviously, the speed orienteers run varies a lot.

A quick glance at the maps suggests the speed depends on the terrain. That makes is hard to use split times as a proxy for how careful someone is orienteering.

To look at speeds to try to figure out if an orienteer was being careful probably would make sense in certain races (where the terrain is relatively consistent -- not so hilly and consistent footing, climb and runnability).

posted by Michael | 1:00 PM


Saturday, December 27, 2003



This is the time of the year for the "Top X of 2003" lists. Top 10 pop songs of 2003. Top news stories. Top new car models. Top ten worst dressed.

So, I decided I'd put together a top list. Here are my top five O' news items from 2003.*

Simon Niggli-Luder wins four gold medals. Winning every race at the World Champs can't be beat.

Thierry Gueorgiou wins the middle-distance WOC race by a bunch. Gueorgiou was over 2:37 ahead of Bjornar Valstad and 3:00 ahead of Oystein Kristiansen. To win by that margin in a race that took just 30:08 is a very good performance. Gueorgiou's results - along with the results of the other French runners - is also impressive because France had a short history of being a top O' nation. Studying Gueorgiou and the French team would probably be a good thing to spend some time doing.

Halden SK men's relay team wins both Tio Mila and Jukola. Halden became the first to win Tio Mila 5 times. Halden is impressive, but that sort of domination is a bit boring. Let's hope Halden has tougher competition next year.

The IOF makes some bogus decisions about the sprint WOC. The sprint race was in a town that was open to competitors before the race. You could walk all around the town. You couldn't use a map. That's what the IOF allowed. Opening the terrain to all competitors helped ensure the event's fairness. I understand the logic, but you lose something when you change the nature of the sport so much in the name of fairness. Running circles around on a track is fair, but it isn't orienteering. I think, and hope, that sprint races are here to stay. But, I hold out hope that the IOF will work to keep the races more like regular orienteering (e.g. with "unknown" terrain).

O-Sport magazine thrives. OK, I don't actually have any idea about the financial condition of O-sport. But, I'm guessing (hoping) that their base of subscribers grew and that they'll keep publishing their magazine. O-sport brings something to orienteering that has been missing -- an international, independent voice that treats O' like a real sport.

*Cut me some slack. I'm not putting much thought in to this list. I'm just writing down the first five news items that come to mind.

posted by Michael | 7:59 PM


Friday, December 26, 2003

Strange run


When I ran yesterday I felt strange. My legs didn't feel good. I felt like I was working harder than I really was, but I didn't really feel like I was working hard. I felt a bit unmotivated, despite a fine day for a run and a nice setting (the river trails in Lawrence). My legs didn't feel sore. They didn't feel "dead" the way they might after a tough run the day before. My legs just didn't feel right.

I can't quite explain how I felt, but it was unusual enough that I spent some time thinking about it. Why did I feel that way? Should I be worried? How often have I felt that way in the past? How often do other people feel that way? Was yesterday a sign of worse things to come? Should I take a day off and rest? Is thinking about this just a waste of time?

Checked some other training logs

I decided it'd be interesting to look at some other training logs at Attackpoint. I was going to look at a bunch of different people and see how often they felt really good and really bad. I was going to see how often people described a feeling that sounded like my feeling yesterday.

Turns out most people don't really describe much about how they felt. Most people (and I'm among them) just add a few notes about the session that distinguish it from other sessions (like who they trained with or where they went). I guess I was a bit surprised at how rarely people describe how they felt while training. When people do write something about how they feel it is usually about feeling bad rather than good or neutral.

After looking at some training logs, I decided I'd just stop worrying about how I felt yesterday. Maybe I felt bad because I did a bit of cycling before the run. Maybe I felt bad because I ran at an unusual time of day (I usually run either earlier or later). Maybe it was just one of those days.

Today I'll go for another run and see if how I feel.

posted by Michael | 9:56 AM


Thursday, December 25, 2003

Quick notes on "team building"


I came across a story about a professional cycling team building session. I thought it was a bit interesting.

Before giving the link, I thought I'd add a few comments:

1. I think how an organization works -- how managers work with athletes, how goals get set and how people work together -- is important.

2. I think organizations that perform well are different from organizations that don't. I also think there are many different ways organizations work. Organizations can follow different approaches, but there are probably some things in common among organizations that work well.

3. I'm very skeptical of "team building" exercises (like the one described in the story I've linked below).

OK, that is enough. Here is a story from professional cyclist Bobby Julich about a camp with the CSC team.
The camp report begins in the middle of the page.

Bobby Julich fighting to catch the back of the pack at the World Champs in Hamilton. He dropped out of the pack when he had a mechanical problem with his bike. He chased for a bit, never caught the pack and dropped out soon after I took this snapshot.

posted by Michael | 7:27 PM


Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Happy Holidays


A snowy holiday scene from a few years ago.

posted by Michael | 5:07 PM


Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Stress and competing


I've had some good races when I've been stressed by work or school or something else. Sometimes it seems like you can put your troubles out of your mind and compete well despite the stress.

I've also had some disasters when I've been stressed by work or school or something else. I remember one race in particular where I hit the first control, missed the next several, then bailed out to a road and jogged back to the finish without doing more than about a third of the course.

I wonder why stress helps in some cases (or at least can be dealt with constructively) and hurts in others?

I was interested to see that the football player, Brett Favre, played a great game just after learning his father had died. It is hard to imagine a much more stressful situation. I wonder why he had a great game instead of a collapse? Motivation, stress, concentration .... those are interesting things.

Here is a news story about the game.

posted by Michael | 8:29 PM


Monday, December 22, 2003

Short note from Valstad on technique training


From Bjornar Valstad's home page [note: this was a very fast and rough translation]:

The fundamentals to build good technique at race pace have my priority in technique training [this fall]. I've visited about 450 controls since October. The number could have been higher, but it is more important to -- leg by leg and control by control -- work in the right approach. We know that how we react in race situations is based on our feelings and thoughts. So we've got to teach our subconscious, over and over, how to do it right. That applies to beginners and elite runners.

While you've got a few minutes, check out the training course that Vlastad posted to go along with his comments.

I just took a look at my training log to see how many controls I've found since the beginning of October. I've found 273 controls since the beginning of October.

posted by Michael | 7:53 PM


Sunday, December 21, 2003

Crazy route choice


Check out my route from 17 to 18.

What in the world was I thinking?

Yesterday's session was a long, easy run in the terrain. I re-ran parts of a race a couple of weeks ago. Since it was training, I took some different routes. On this leg, I decided to run a route that would give me lots of hills.

I used to feel that running strange routes in training wasn't a good idea. I didn't want to train myself to pick crazy routes. In training I'd run the same routes as if it were a race.

I've changed my mind. Taking some crazy routes can make the terrain feel fresh. Since I was re-running a course, taking a crazy route makes the control feel fresh. In training I took the control from a different direction and with a couple of big hills in my legs. I don't think there is much risk of losing the ability to see routes. If anything, looking for some crazy routes could train you to look for different options, which might help you to find good routes.

posted by Michael | 12:31 PM


Saturday, December 20, 2003

Running glasses


When did orienteering with glasses become popular?

Looking at the cover of the latest O-Sport, 3 of the 10 "icons of 2003" are running in glasses.

Running with glasses makes sense. You can pick the tint to match the conditions -- dark glasses for sunny days, red/yellow tint for flat light and clear for other situations. The lenses ought to protect your eyes from scratches. Of course, running with glasses in the rain isn't fun. Actually, running with glasses in the rain is ok, but reading the map is a problem.

I run with sunglasses now and then. But I've never tried them consistently. Maybe I'll give it a try this spring.

Almost seemed like a different team

I sat down in front of the TV to watch the Jayhawk basketball team play UCSB tonight. When I watch the games on TV I almost always turn the sound down and listen to the radio coverage. I like the radio broadcasters a lot more than the TV commentators.

Tonight Bob and Max weren't on. Instead, Brett Ballard and some other guy (I didn't catch the name) did the coverage. Bob and Max are apparently with the KU football team getting ready for Monday's game.

I hadn't realized how much I'd gotten used to Bob and Max. Listening to other voices almost made it seem like a different team. It didn't help that the Jayhawks played in red uniforms (something we haven't seen since the mid-1980s).

posted by Michael | 9:08 PM


Friday, December 19, 2003

Night O' last Wednesday


Most Wednesdays a few of the local orienteers orienteer at night at Shawnee Mission Park. The sessions are very low-key. The courses are usually short and fairly easy (I'd say "easy" -- but no course is really easy at night).

Check out last Wednesday's course with my routes.

posted by Michael | 7:24 PM


Thursday, December 18, 2003

Peeing on the kitchen floor


When my brother and I were kids, my brother had a puppy. The puppy, Willie, was very young when my brother got him.

We wanted to teach Willie to pee in the backyard, not on the kitchen floor. The idea was simple. When you'd see Willie peeing on the floor, you'd get him outside as quickly as possible and tell him he was a good dog. He'd learn that peeing in the backyard was good. Peeing on the kitchen floor wasn't.

You had to get Willie outside immediately. You couldn't come into the kitchen half an hour after Willie had peed on the floor and then put him outside and say he was a good dog. He wouldn't have any idea what the point was. You had to connect peeing on the floor with the reward.

I suppose you could also catch Willie peeing on the floor and tell him he was a bad dog. He'd learn to connect peeing on the floor with punishment.

It wouldn't really work if you punished a dog half an hour after he peed on the floor.

I was thinking about Willie after I read the sports news today.

Johan peed on the floor

Nearly two years ago Mary and I went to Salt Lake City to watch the Olympics. We saw Johan Muehlegg dominate a world class field. But, Johan "peed on the kitchen floor." Johan was doping.

Today Johan got his punishment. He was stripped of his "gold" medals.

That's good news. But, it is a bit like telling Willie he's a bad dog 30 minutes after he peed on the floor.

It is a bit strange because Muehlegg wasn't just doping nearly two years ago -- he was caught doping nearly two years ago. But, the punishment took almost two years.

It was an odd situation. If I remember the details, Muehlegg was caught doping in a test after he'd won his third race. He lost that medal, but he didn't lose the two he'd already won. Didn't lose them until now, that is.

I understand the need for due process. It is just a shame it took so long to resolve the Olympic results.

The Olympic ski stadium at Soldier Hollow.

posted by Michael | 8:02 PM


Wednesday, December 17, 2003

A few more notes about blown leads


I looked at a few more races to learn a bit more about blown leads. I looked at how often the person in the lead with about ten minutes left in the course didn't win. I looked at 100 races (25 classes for each of the first four days of last summer's Swedish 5-days).

This time I found 40 blown leads in 100 opportunities. That's fairly consistent with what I saw the last time I looked at blown leads.

In looking at the split times (and thinking about other times I've looked at splits in the past), I have a few thoughts:

"Blown lead" is a bit harsh. It looks like the people who lost leads usually just slid back a bit rather than made a big boom that cost the race. Often the leader with a bit more than ten minutes left to go still finished near the top.

Coming from far behind to win is rare. When a lead was blown, the person who turned out to win was usually (more than half the time) in 2nd place with ten minutes to go.

As I spend time looking at split times (it is something I do more than I should admit), I see a couple of patterns. First, booming the first control is quite rare. It happens, but it doesn't happen any more frequently than booming other controls and, in fact, seems to happen a little less frequently. There might be a tendency for more booms to come in the last part of a course. I haven't seen big increases in boom rates in the later parts of courses, but I've seen a slight tendency for the rate to go up. That'd fit with the idea that being tired causes booms. I should say that I haven't looked at the time lost to booms. It could well be that the rate of booms are evenly distributed across a course, but that booms in the later parts of courses cost more time.

Leading a race from near the start to the finish is common. In the 100 courses I looked at, 28 times the eventual winner was in the lead by about ten minutes in the race. I wonder if that would change -- become more unusual -- at races other than the Swedish 5-days. One feature of the 5-days is that a late start time can be a huge advantage because of the extensive elephant tracks. The very late starters can feel like they're running a trail leading them all the way around the course. That'd make it relatively easy to lead from start to finish.

Peter Gagarin wrote about the advantage of late starts at the Swedish 5-days:

On the other hand, at any large O meet the woods get faster as the day goes on, and the O'Ringen is the epitome of that. I remember once I had the first start in my class (8:01 am) and had a really good run and was 6 minutes behind on a 40 minute course. I am quite sure that same run with a late start would have been within a minute or two of the lead. In any case, they rotate the starts and therefore any advantage/disadvantage is cancelled out over the course of the first four days (day 5 is a chase start). But on a day-by-day basis one thing is very clear - the day to go for it is the day you have a late start.

Lunch hour is over...time to get back to work.

posted by Michael | 1:10 PM


Tuesday, December 16, 2003

National team goals


Since I've occasionally written about goals for the U.S. Team, I thought I'd write a few words about the goals for Canada's national team.

I don't know how the Canadian team is organized, but I think Ted de St. Croix is the national coach and probably had something to do with the goals.

Canada has an advantage over the U.S. in that Ted carries a very high level of credibility. Ted knows what it takes to be world class. If Ted says something, you'd better take note. Even if you don't agree, it is worth paying attention to. The U.S. has people who know a lot and have had some really fine performances. But, I don't think anyone has the instant credibility of Ted (Which isn't to say that there aren't people in the U.S. who you should pay attention to).

The introduction notes that the goals are "centered around items we have direct control over as opposed to result oriented goals," but the first goal is a results oriented goal! Nothing wrong with that, but I thought it was a bit odd.

Canada focuses on the relay. I think that is great.

I don't know what the U.S. focus is. When the national team began (early 1980s) the focus was on the relay, but I think it has changed over time. These days I think the focus is more on individuals (with the goal being qualifying for finals?). In any case, I don't think the U.S. has had explicit goals in recent years.

Canada's goals could be a template for just about any nation or club. Just search for "Canada" and replace with "Belgium" or "Japan" or "Germany" or whatever.

I think Ted is the coach and heavily involved in setting the goals, so reading the goals should give us some insight into how Ted thinks and how he thinks orienteering should be structured. As I wrote above, Ted knows what it takes and he's worth listening to. That said, I don't see anything unusual in the goals. It is standard stuff.

If some Canadians read this and I've missed the boat, let me know (use the comment function).

posted by Michael | 1:06 PM


Monday, December 15, 2003



I was going to write some more about blown leads...or maybe about goals for orienteers. But, I feel a bit off. Maybe I'm getting sick. Maybe I'm just worn out.

Instead, check out this O' map from Antarctica that showed up at www.alternative.nu.

posted by Michael | 7:11 PM


Sunday, December 14, 2003

How many non-orienteers orienteer?


The last time I was training at Knob Noster I found three markers in the forest. Two of the markers were made of wood, painted orange and white. One was a regular orienteering marker hung about 6 feet off the ground. They were clearly for orienteering (they had regular orienteering punches), but they weren't from the local orienteering clubs. Someone who isn't part of the recognized "orienteering" club in the area is arranging orienteering at Knob Noster. Who?

I saw a wood stake next to the road at Wyandotte today. A bit of plastic tape was tied to the stake and "CP 125 (save)" was written on the stake. I wondered if it was a marker for some sort of orienteering. It certainly wasn't something put out by a local orienteer, but it might be something be used for orienteering by someone who isn't familiar with the local orienteering clubs.

I wonder how often people arrange orienteering-like events without knowing about the local orienteering clubs? Who are these people?

posted by Michael | 4:57 PM


Saturday, December 13, 2003

Running in the snow


I love running in the snow. It is fun. The forest looks amazing. When I woke up this morning I was psyched to see a few inches of snow on the ground and more falling.

After breakfast and a good cup of coffee (Starbucks since I'm out of Peets), I drew a few controls on a Wyandotte map and did some training. O' training in the snow is a great way to spend a couple of hours.

posted by Michael | 5:37 PM


Friday, December 12, 2003

Blown leads


How often does an orienteer have a lead going in to the last kilometers of a race only to slow down or miss a control and lose the race?

Orienteering would seem to be a sport where it'd be easy to blow a late-race lead. Because you're on your own you don't really know how your doing compared to your competition. If you're having a good race, can you ease off a bit and preserve the lead or do you need to keep pushing? Maybe you're in the lead and easing off will drop you back to second. Maybe your second and easing off keeps you from moving up. Maybe you push the pace, boom a control and drop way back.

Before reading any further, take a guess:

What percent of the time do top racers blow a lead in the last ten minutes of a race? If you looked at split times, how many times would someone who won the race be in 2nd (or worse) with ten minutes left?

Think about those questions and make a guess...

...then keep reading...

I can't immediately recall blowing a lead. But, I remember coming from behind when a competitor blew a lead. Way back in the late 1980s at a race in Rhode Island, Mikell Platt boomed a control with less than one kilometer to go. I didn't. Mikell's boom was large enough that I beat him (in fact I think I even passed him in the forest without seeing him). If the course had been a kilometer shorter, Platt would have won.

I'm sure I've blown a lead. But, an example doesn't come to mind immediately. Wait, one just came to mind. I was running the second leg of a small relay race in Stockholm called Tullingeruset. I went out at the back of the lead pack of perhaps 15 runners strung out over less than one minute. The course was short -- maybe 3-4 kilometers -- and early in the race the leaders boomed. I took the lead. I ran hard and clean. I made it to the radio control in the lead. But by then the pack had recovered and run me down. I drifted back and exchanged to the next running in about 10th place, maybe 30 seconds behind the leaders.

I was thinking about blown leads last night and decided to take a look at split times and see how often top orienteers blow leads. I looked at split times from 40 races in Sweden during the past year. I looked at equal number of races for men and women. I looked at M21 and F21 elite results except I also looked at the results from the Swedish junior team selection races. For each race, I answered two questions:

1. At the first control at least ten minutes into the race, what place did the eventual winner have?
2. At the last control at least ten minutes before the finish, what place did the eventual winner have?

The second question was the one I was most interested in. I figure that if the eventual winner was not in first place, someone must have blown the lead.

In those 40 races, the eventual winner was in the lead with ten minutes to go 29 times. 11 leads were blown. For this group of elite Swedish races, leads were blown in 28 percent of the races.

Is that a lot? I don't know. I guess spending some more time looking at split times would give me an idea.

posted by Michael | 9:05 PM


Thursday, December 11, 2003

Over training


Per Elofsson is a world class cross country skier. Here are his total training hours for the last nine years:

1994: 412
1995: 480
1996: 530
1997: 600
1998: 650
1999: 720
2000: 790
2001: 830
2002: 850

Except for the increase from 1994 to 1995, Elofsson increased his training volume fairly moderately every year (by moderate I mean close to the conventional wisdom that you shouldn't increase more than about 10 percent).

Still, Elofsson is suffering from over training if you believe recent Swedish newspaper articles.

Elofsson is also known for taking a lot of rest days. His normal week includes two days with no training. There aren't many top level athletes who take that much rest. From his web page:

He trains five days a week and rests for two days. His training is so hard that he has to rest for two days to let his body recover.

I wouldn't try to diagnose the reasons behind Elofsson's problems. But, I found a quote from the Swedish national coach that might hint at it:

It is like burn-out. Both the body and the mind suffer....Unfortunately we don't know very much about over training. Three are no easy answers for why it happens. It is complicated and involves physical, mental and social aspects.

So what does this have to do with orienteering?

Nothing really. But, I'm interested in training and I'm interested in "suffering sports" (distance running, bike racing, skiing and orienteering).

posted by Michael | 8:25 PM


Wednesday, December 10, 2003



I read a Swedish newspaper article about Fredrik Lowegren today. Lowegren was the top Swede in the 2001 WOC classic race (5th, I think) and spent some time at the top of the IOF rankings. Injuries kept him out of it all of last year.

Lowegren was picked for the Swedish "B" national team. Since I'm interested in motivation, I thought it was interesting that he commented on that in the newspaper interview:

"I thought I'd keep my place [on the "A" team] despite everything. But now what I need to do is show what I can do when I'm healthy....I will run the WOC in Vaesteraas."

The article makes it sound like he's motivated and working hard. But, he's also not yet fully recovered. He can only run three times a week. So he's spending a lot of time with rehab, riding a cycle trainer and training in a swimming pool.

The original newspaper article is here.

posted by Michael | 1:27 PM


Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Map reading as a second language


Reading a map is a lot like reading a second language. I suspect you can use that analogy to think about how map study "works."

Here are a few words from Bjornar Valstad (written by Bjornar in English...no translation necessary):

Mapreading is about learning a language. Like any other language it is hard to learn without a good teacher. You can learn to speak english by traveling around, but not the Oxford way! The same way will it be very difficult beeing a top athleet in orienteering trying to go all the way all on yor own.

posted by Michael | 9:00 PM


Monday, December 08, 2003

What should I write today?


I write something almost everyday. Some days it is easy. Some days I can't think of what to write. Sometimes when that happens I poke around the internet looking at orienteering pages.

Oystein Sorenson

Today I spent some time looking at Oystein Sorensen's page. Sorensen is a top Norwegian orienteer. He's 18 years old. Here are a few tidbits from spending a few minutes looking at his web page:

Sorenson spent November evaluating his season and planning his winter training. For the winter, the plan looks like this:

2-3 hard session each week (intervals/distance) - not so hard that it takes a lot of time to recover.
Lots of long session, mostly running, but also some on the cycle trainer and on skis.
Strength training for about 2 hours a week (3-4 sessions).
Some "spenst" training (2-3 times a week).*
Training camps in snow-free terrain from January and on.
Gradual increase in the amount of high intensity training throughout the period.
About 1 hour of stretching a week.
Average around 70 hours of training per month.

I've got a couple of thoughts about Sorenson's training. First, I think it is great to see someone thinking about their plan, writing it down and putting in out for the whole world to see. Second, I don't see anything unusual about his plan. It looks sound. Third, 70 hours a month is a lot of training. To reach 70 hours a month, you need to average 2:20 a day. That works out to 16:20 a week. That is a lot. It'll be a very good base to build on.

* Spenst means something like elastic/stretchy in English. Spenst training is training explosive strength, doing things like jumping exercises. It is a lot easier to do when you're 18 than when your older!

Sorenson also has a nice collection of maps from races and training.

What about Swedes?

It strikes me that a lot of Norwegian orienteers keep their training and maps on the web while far fewer Swedes do. Why is that? Has keeping an O' page become fashionable for Norwegians while it isn't for Swedes? Maybe there are lots of Swedish pages I just haven't found them?

posted by Michael | 8:19 PM


Sunday, December 07, 2003

The Trot...the good, the bad, the ugly


I ran The Possum Trot today. Take a look a the first part of the course and the second.

The Good

While I wouldn't say I ran strong, I didn't run too terribly either. Comparing splits with Nadim showed me that I managed to hold a reasonable pace until the last 2 km or so. I've got a long way to go before I'd say I was in good form, but I'm stronger than I was a couple of months ago.

I was strong enough at the end. I caught Eric Buckley (who's recovering from a broken foot) with less than 2 km to go. I didn't have much left, but I had enough to keep jogging and not let Eric by. On the trail to 25 I was hurting. If Eric had passed me, I might have just let him go. While I've got chances to improve my fitness a lot, I have to be glad I didn't give up and let Eric beat me.

The event was a lot of fun. The Trot is always one of the year's highlights.

The Bad

I blew the decision on which controls to skip. I skipped 9 and 12. The best options were either 3 and 4 (Mikell Platt's choice) or 11 and 12 (the course setter, Mike Shifman's favorite).

Skipping 9 was almost a spur of the moment decision. It wasn't a good decision.

I navigated passively -- running and reading the features I'd come to (as opposed to knowing where I was going). I can't be satisfied with how I orienteered.

The Ugly

Running down the hill between 18 and 19 I put my right foot in a hole and "tweaked" my right knee. I finished, but not with out some difficulty. The knee feels a little unstable and sore. I suppose it is a light strain of a ligament.

posted by Michael | 7:50 PM


Saturday, December 06, 2003

Snapshot from today's race


Orienteer Kansas put on a race today at Clinton. While Peggy was home shoveling snow, Nadim finished, looking strong.

posted by Michael | 6:15 PM


Friday, December 05, 2003

Quick links to some maps


A couple of maps worth looking at:

Jorgen Rostrup did some training in Swedish terrain relevant for next year's World Champs. Here is one map and here is another.

Bjornar Valstad also did a quick training visit to Stockholm for some training that looks relevant for the coming World Champs. The course has 44 controls over about 15 km. The goal was to practice changing tempo -- high speed on the long legs and maintain "flyt" on the short legs.

And in case your thinking beyond 2004, take a look at a race in Japan from Takehiko Oguma's web page. Take a look at Oguma's training log. I've only spent a few minutes reading the page, but I've found it quite interesting.

posted by Michael | 6:08 PM


Thursday, December 04, 2003

Training with "coach" Lars


Years ago, Dan and I had a mini-training camp with "coach" Lars Lindquist. We spent about 5 days training in Harriman Park in New York. We spent the entire time on the Silvermine map, which I think was the only map in the park at the time (mid 1980s).

Memory sessions

Lars would pick out a point on the map and show it to Dan. He'd study the map for as long as he wanted, then hand the map to me as he took off. I'd run behind him and keep track of where we were going. When we'd reached the spot Lars picked, we'd do the same thing again, this time with me leading.

It was a good way to train. Not because you need to memorize maps when your orienteering, but because it taught you to see the larger structure to the terrain and orienteer by the larger features.

It also made for a dramatic demonstration of how much faster it is to orienteer if you're navigating by the large structure and keeping ahead of yourself. The person following, the one who had the map, constantly struggled to keep up and to keep track of where we were. The leader, who was navigating by the large structural features, moved fast.

The leader would orienteer by the structural features and constantly was looking ahead, actively looking for the next feature. The follower was passive, checking off features as we went and usually looking at a lot of the smaller features.

Those sessions taught me a lot.

Another test

I used the same approach at a training camp in Sweden in 1988, but this time I was the "coach." I was running a training course with a sports psychologist who was studying orienteering. I gave him points in the forest and talked through how he'd run the leg. The guy had very little experience with orienteering, so I had to point out the terrain structures on the map and explain to him what he'd see. We'd spend several minutes looking at each leg. Then he'd run the leg. He'd done very little orienteering, but he was able to run those legs at a respectable pace (if I remember correctly, he was running 8 min/km on the legs).

I think he was able to run reasonably well because he was orienteering by the structure of the terrain, wasn't fixated on the details, and was looking ahead the whole time.

Last Monday's post

Last Monday, I wrote about a memory session that some Norwegian orienteers did. The concept is similar to the training Lars was doing, though it was set up a bit differently. The Norwegians drew their own sketch maps (which serves the same function as memorizing the leg).

Check out the Wing OK web page to see photos of sketch maps from the training session.

posted by Michael | 8:20 PM


Wednesday, December 03, 2003

This weekend's race


After writing about planning ahead, I should spend some time planning for Sunday's "Possum Trot."

Take a look at a scan of the map with a course from last March.

The terrain is relatively hilly with lots of roads and trails. The hills are "loess." The green can be unpleasant.

Skip strategy

The Trot is a mass start race with a special rule -- you can skip any two controls. It is worth thinking about a strategy for skipping controls.

The course setter, Mike Shifman, usually designs the course so that the skips aren't obvious. You should be able to narrow the options down to a few controls without much trouble.

My usual strategy is to save the skips for when I'm tired. All things being equal, I'll skip controls in the second half of the course. I also like to use the skips to save climb or rough terrain (ideally I'd save distance, climb, rough terrain and a tricky control).


This time of year the weather could be nice and dry or cold and wet. Last night we got about an inch of slushy snow. But, last Sunday was warm and sunny. If the weather is wet, the loess soil can be slick. If it is slick, getting up the steep hills will be much more difficult, both slower and more energy consuming.

Cold weather also feels draining. Maybe you work harder to stay warm and burn more calories?

Small map

The mapped area is fairly small and the course will probably be 15-16 km. I expect the course will be made up of legs about 400-600 meters with most of the legs similar length (that's one of the ways the course setter can make it harder to pick the controls to skip).

Because of the hills and areas of thick forest, a short leg can offer some route choice. Look at the leg from 9-10 on the map from March. I compared split times with people who went straight and it looks like my route was even with those who went straight.

Rain or shine, good strategy or bad, the Trot is always a fun race.

posted by Michael | 1:26 PM


Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Planning ahead


A discussion on Attackpoint is touching on the idea of planning ahead when you can have the map before the race.

When I started orienteering it seemed as if organizers did everything they could to keep you from having any idea what the map looked like before you started. Most A-meets were on never-before-used maps. If a two day A-meet used the same map, the organizers wouldn't return your map from the first day until after the second day was complete.

These days it seems like most A-meets are held on areas that have been used for orienteering before. You can usually get a copy of the old map before the race.

When I first went to a WOC (1987 in France) the terrain was entirely new. For the most recent (and the next) WOC, old maps of the terrain were available ahead of time. For the first sprint WOC in 2001, you could spend time on the map in the race terrain the day before the race. This year you could spend time in the terrain, but you couldn't use a map while you were in the terrain.

I don't really have much of an opinion about the way orienteering is developing. I'd rather have new maps every race. But, I'd rather have a lot of races and re-use maps and terrain. I'd always pick interesting courses on a frequently used map than boring courses on a new map.

When a map is available, you can prepare in a different way. You can study the terrain and think about the type of problems you'll meet. You can set legs and anticipate the route choices and orienteering problems. I think this sort of preparation is fun and helps.

When I looked at the classic champs courses from Switzerland, I can't say I was surprised by the layout of the course. Several of the route choice legs where legs I'd set when I was playing around with the old map from the area. I can't imagine many of the people who raced the WOC hadn't spent a good bit of time looking at the old map and designing courses.

I suspect national teams all over the world are busy setting courses on the 2004 WOC maps.

Does that change the sport? I don't know. I don't think it changes who wins. It definitely changes how you prepare.

posted by Michael | 1:13 PM


Monday, December 01, 2003

Some interesting thoughts from Garderud


Anders Garderud trains the Norwegian national O' team. He's also been a good orienteer and won the Olympic gold in the steeple chase. He's a good athlete who knows a lot about training and about orienteering.

Garderud spoke at a O' trainer conference reported on by O-Nett.

You have to run a lot, have continuity in what you're doing, in other words avoid injuries that force you to take breaks from training. Take a long-term view.

Garderud also talked about people who'd meant a lot for his athletic development. One of them was a Norwegian orienteer named Magne Lystad. In 1967, Garderud wrote a letter to Lystad and Lystad took the time to write back to him. Lystad wrote about how Norwegian orienteers had made mistakes in their training.

I thought a few things about this story were interesting:

I find it interesting that an Olympic champion would refer to something so seemingly insignificant -- a letter with a bit of advice written to a 20 year old runner. It makes me wonder whether the letter really made a difference. If Lystad hadn't replied, or replied with different advice, would Garderud have become a great athlete?

I also find it interesting that Garderud talks about the importance of avoiding injury. We (i.e. people who are interested in training) often think about hours per week or maybe hours per year. But, I think Garderud is emphasizing thinking in a much longer time frame. Garderud is known for saying the formula to success is 2x7x52x10 (train twice a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year for 10 years). If you looked at how much people train over a really long period of time -- say ten years -- what sort of volumes do you get? I'm not really sure how much training I've done over the last ten years. I don't think I could find all my old training records to figure it out, but I suppose I could make an educated guess.

Finally, I wondered -- who is Magne Lystad? I recognize the name. I've heard it before. But I don't really know anything about him. A quick google search and I found out he has been a very good orienteer. Before the European and World Champs, the Nordic Champs must have been the top race. Lystad's results: 1957 he won, 1959 he won, 1961 he was 3rd, and 1965 he was 3rd.

posted by Michael | 8:28 PM


March 2002April 2002May 2002June 2002July 2002August 2002September 2002October 2002November 2002December 2002January 2003February 2003March 2003April 2003May 2003June 2003July 2003August 2003September 2003October 2003November 2003December 2003January 2004February 2004March 2004April 2004May 2004June 2004July 2004August 2004September 2004October 2004November 2004December 2004January 2005February 2005March 2005April 2005May 2005June 2005July 2005August 2005September 2005October 2005November 2005December 2005January 2006February 2006March 2006April 2006May 2006June 2006July 2006August 2006September 2006October 2006November 2006December 2006January 2007February 2007March 2007April 2007May 2007June 2007July 2007August 2007September 2007October 2007November 2007December 2007January 2008February 2008March 2008April 2008May 2008June 2008July 2008August 2008September 2008October 2008November 2008December 2008January 2009February 2009March 2009April 2009May 2009June 2009July 2009August 2009September 2009October 2009November 2009December 2009January 2010February 2010March 2010April 2010May 2010June 2010July 2010August 2010September 2010October 2010November 2010December 2010January 2011February 2011March 2011April 2011May 2011June 2011July 2011August 2011September 2011October 2011November 2011December 2011January 2012February 2012March 2012April 2012May 2012June 2012July 2012August 2012September 2012October 2012November 2012December 2012January 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013July 2013September 2013