Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Monday, May 31, 2004

Finding control 7


I've posted photos showing the route to control 7 on Saturday. I should have posted them in reverse order (whoops).

To get the sequence right, go down the page a bit to the bit of the map, then move up.

Sorry about that.

Also, clicking on the photos will give you a larger image.

posted by Michael | 2:01 PM



After punching the control, you ran between the cliffs to what looked like a deadend. It wasn't a dead end. Turn to the left and you could squeeze through a narrow passage and get back to the trail and head toward 8. The passage is narrow enough that you had to turn sideways.

posted by Michael | 2:00 PM



As soon as you got through the crack, you turned left and spotted the control.

posted by Michael | 1:59 PM



I approached the control from the trail at the bottom of the cliffs. The stream was a good attackpoint. From the stream/trail crossing, I turned in at the second gap in the cliffs. Then I came to what seemed to be a dead end. Except it wasn't. There was a small crack in the cliff that you could just get through. The snapshot shows Michael Eglin in the small crack (we went back out and took some snapshots after the race). My first time attacking the control I didn't see the crack in the cliffs. I was puzzled. I bailed out and returned to the attackpoint. I came back to the same spot. But, on the second try I saw the little crack and went through it.

posted by Michael | 1:58 PM



A bit of the course on the first day of the North American Champs took us in some remarkable sandstone terrain. The 7th control was especially cool.

posted by Michael | 1:54 PM


Sunday, May 30, 2004  

I'll write more about the North American Champs tomorrow. For now I'll just post a picture of one of the more interesting control locations on teh first day.

posted by Michael | 7:42 PM


Friday, May 28, 2004

Next planned update on Monday, May 31


Since I'm going to Ohio to race this weekend, I don't plan to update this page until Monday. (With a slim chance that I won't be able to update it until Tuesday due to some computer problems at home).

posted by Michael | 1:17 PM


An issue of motivation


I read an interview with Lucie Bohm, the Austrian who won a WOC a few years ago. Bohm had just won a race in Austria (might have been a national championship) and said something like -- I haven't been training very much, I don't want to go to the WOC if I'm not able to prepare properly, I don't want to just go and try to finish in the top 20.

Imagine you are the selector for Austria's WOC team. What do you do?

Bohm's point of view -- as a former world champ, she doesn't want to just go to the WOC and make her way around the course -- is probably common. It makes sense. I understand it.

But, if you're trying to put together the best possible WOC team, you want Bohm on the team. What do you do?

1. You could accept her position and move on (which clearly hurts your team).
2. You could try to get her to train properly and be ready to compete at her best.
3. You could try to get her on the team with the training she's got.

Without knowing Bohm, I wouldn't presume to know what to do. But, I think the issue is quite interesting. It gets at motivation. It also gets at some organizational issues.

I think lots of nations face this problems. Lots of countries suffer significantly if their top runner doesn't go to the WOC. Think of Austria without Bohm or France without Guergiou or the US without Brian May.

I don't know how much selectors worry about getting the top. How do countries typically address the situation? From the list above, do they do 1, 2, 3, or something else?

My impression (which is a very risky thing to base a conclusion on) about the U.S. is that we tend to accept the position and move on. We'd be more likely to leave Brian off the team if he said he didn't feel like he'd be able to train to his best and he doesn't want to go if he's not at his best. Another impression is that in the U.S. we spend energy (by that I mean time, effort, stress of the national team's steering committee) on picking the bottom of the team rather than the top. The debates and disagreements over the years are largely about the last selections for the team.

I'd guess that people would be satisfied with selection processes if the best orienteers didn't go (for reasons like Bohm) but the final selections weren't controversial.

But, in terms of how a team performs at a WOC (in the relay for example), having the best at the WOC is hugely important.

Note: Feel free to offer comments and criticisms, but cut me some slack. I haven't thought through these issues very carefully. I'm just writing to begin to form my ideas and to get them down on paper.

posted by Michael | 12:59 PM


Thursday, May 27, 2004



I don't feel good today. Sick? I'm not sure. I'm hoping it is just a bad day.

posted by Michael | 1:08 PM


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

This weekend's races


This weekend I'll be running the North American O' Champs (M40) near Cleveland, Ohio. It should be fun.

I took a look at the event web page today.

The start list shows only 205 people. That's not many. Too bad.

My course, red (M40) has a lot of controls. The first day's course is 6.8 km with 25 controls. The second day's course is 7.5 km with 25 controls. It doesn't look like we're going to have many long legs.

The start list has a few interesting names. Ted de St Croix is entered, but it doesn't say what course he is running. I hope he's running M40 (I think that is his class). But, he may be running M21. I think he may be the current Canadian M21 champ. The Norwegian star, Holger Hott Johansen is running. His wife, Sandy, is also running. She's Canadian and I suspect that she's got to run this race in order for the Canadian selectors to put her on the WOC team (I think I've heard that Canada is using the North American Champs as a WOC selection).

posted by Michael | 5:07 PM


Tuesday, May 25, 2004  

The altitude curve from my run tonight (click the graph for a larger image).

posted by Michael | 9:14 PM




TJOC -- the Texas Junior O' Camp -- was started to help get kids from Texas on the JWOC team. That wasn't the only reason to start the camp, but it was a main reason.

I think there have been 4 or 5 TJOCs. I've been at 3 of them (and will go to this year's TJOC next week).

If you measure success by reaching a goal, and if you consider the goal of TJOC to be getting kids from the camp on the JWOC team, you have to say TJOC has been a success.

Of the nine kids going to the JWOC this year, two are TJOC grads. In addition, two TJOC grads qualified, but can't go because of prior commitments.

A few years ago, none of the kids at TJOC were on the JWOC team. Robbie Paddock and Ashley Smith made the JWOC team a year or two ago.

I suppose one of the reasons I've returned to help at TJOC is that I've seen the improvement. Each year at TJOC the standard is better. The best kids are better and the group just below the best is bigger. It is very satisfying to see the improvements.

posted by Michael | 8:48 PM


Monday, May 24, 2004  

Sprint Mook, sprint!

posted by Michael | 8:51 PM


Lowegren's sprint training


Fredrick Lowegren wrote a bit about his preparations for the sprint WOC on his web page. He did a one-man training camp the last few days. While his camp was to prepare for all of the WOC distances and terrains, I thought the sprint stuff was most interesting. Here is a bit of what he wrote:

Regarding the sprint...The stony footing can cause some problems. Route choice can be decisive -- how much can you go out of the way to avoid the stony ground? In addition, the stones make it harder to read the map at a high tempo, which will certainly cause some mistakes.

Lowegren also wrote about his preparation for this weekend's Swedish sprint champs:

The Sprint champs takes place Saturday in Kramfors. So I'm putting some extra emphasis on sprint orienteering. At the Swedish champs, just like the WOC and the European champs, the qualifying and final are on the same day. That puts some extra demands on the runners....To prepare, this morning I ran a sprint course in Hagaparken [a city park in Stockholm, if I remember correctly] and after a couple of hours rest I ran IFK Lidingo's test course. Despite poor conditions, with rain and slippery footing, I was just 16 seconds off my personal best, which feels positive. I also did a sprint training next to the WOC sprint map last Friday and I'll run the Stockholm City Cup race on Wednesday....

posted by Michael | 8:39 PM


Sunday, May 23, 2004  

A bison peering over a snow bank at Yellowstone.

posted by Michael | 6:42 PM




In a comment to a post about course lengths, Eric wrote:

...Then there is this premise that people will train more or better if we set longer courses?...I'd like to go on the record now. This notion simply defies my sense of logic and reality. I don't know what else to say, except I believe motivation to train comes from other sources.

I'm very interested in motivation. What motivates people to train? What motivates people to train really hard? What motivates people to do things that most people wouldn't?

I don't know the answers. But, I think I'm learning things that help me begin to understand motivation.

I think the work place is a perfect lab to watch motivation in action. But writing about the work place isn't what I want to do.

I also think psychologists have some interesting ideas (or at least raise some interesting questions).

I've read a couple of interesting articles in newspapers over the last couple of weeks that touch on motivation and how "irrational" people can be.


Playing a slot machine just doesn't make much sense. You don't have much chance of making money. The entertainment value seems pretty low. But, slot machines rake in money.

The NY Times magazine had an article about how gambling is designed to hook you. One thing slot machines do is give you an impression that you got close to a big win. People who think they're getting close to a big win, put more money in and keep playing. Machines tend to pay small wins fairly often. Not often enough that the house doesn't make money, but often enough that the sucker...errr, player...feels they've got a chance to win.

Maybe orienteering can learn something from slot machine designers. Maybe orienteers can be hooked on training. Perhaps orienteers will be motivated to improve their training if they see lots of small payoffs (e.g. meeting intermediate goals) and if they can see a chance for a big payoff.

For North Americans, the model for the big payoff has to be Ted de St. Croix. If an orienteer can see a path toward doing what Ted did (a top ten in the WOC in 1985) and they reach or get close to reaching lots of goals along the way, then they'll be motivated to keep improving.

Medical Errors

Last week the Wall Street Journal had an article about how hospitals and doctors are learning to reduce the costs associated with medical errors. If a patient was hurt by a medical error, the doctor apologizes. Seems simple. Apparently it reduces the likelihood a patient will sue.

For years, doctors have been advised not to apologize because it'll look like admitting a mistake and will make it easier for a patient to win a law suit.

If patients followed the sort of strict rationality (the rationality modeled in an introductory economics course), they'd use the apology to maximize their chances to win a lawsuit and to maximize the damages the doctor would pay.

Some people (probably most) aren't like that. Often, people are satisfied with the apology. Sometimes they'll still sue, but will be satisfied with less damages.

I think there are some lessons for motivation and orienteering in the way the medical profession is learning to apologize for mistakes. But, I'm not really sure what those lessons might be.

One might be that people aren't motivated by introductory-economics-rationality. The idea that changing the USOF rules to require longer courses would lead to better training is an argument that counts on some of that rationality.

Most people aren't like that. So, to get people to train better, we need to try to understand how they are motivated. Then design approaches to take advantage of motivation.

posted by Michael | 6:18 PM


Saturday, May 22, 2004  


posted by Michael | 8:15 PM


More on climb


My watch tracks altitude as I run. The new software I'm using to download the watch data to my computer calculates, among other things, the percent of the time I was running uphill, flat or downhill.

Here are the figures for the ten A-meet days I've run this spring (with percent of the time I was running uphill/flat/downhill).

SLOC day 1 20/62/18
SLOC day 2 26/51/23
OCIN day 1 24/56/20
OCIN day 2 24/54/22
Badger day 1 24/54/22
Badger day 2 20/57/23
West Point 1 23/56/21
West Point 2 27/51/22
HVO day 1 23/55/22
HVO day 2 22/58/20

A few observations:

I was surprised at how little difference there was in the percent of the time I was running uphill. If I'd had to guess, I'd have thought there would be more difference (keep in mind that except for the West Point and HVO days the terrain was different at each event).

The easiest day, in terms of climb, was the second day at Badger. I'd have guessed that. We had a lot of climb to get to the start and then not much climb the rest of the course. It was the only race where the percent of time I ran downhill was greater than the percent of the time I ran uphill (which is what you'd expect when the start triangle was something like 15-20 lines higher than the finish).

The toughest day, in terms of climb, was at West Point. I'd have guessed that, too. On the second day we started at a fairly low point and had two quite tough climbs. I think the finish was probably a good 5 lines higher than the start. Even though the West Point day was clearly the toughest climbing of the season, it only involved a little more climb than the second day of the SLOC meet. That surprises me (maybe the second day at SLOC was tough and I just don't remember it).

posted by Michael | 8:03 PM


Friday, May 21, 2004  

Here in Kansas City it feels like summer -- warm and humid. That inspired me to find a nice cool photo. The skier is Norwegian, I think. The race is the men's relay at the Salt Lake Olypmics.

posted by Michael | 8:32 PM


Pay attention!


You've got to pay attention to orienteer well. Concentrate on what you're doing. If you don't -- if you're mind wanders -- you'll boom or run too slow.

I was thinking about concentration when I was driving to and from work today. I was paying attention (!) to what other drivers were doing. You can spot a driver who is talking on a cell phone from a long ways away. They're the ones wandering out of the lane, slowing as soon as the road goes up a little bit of a grade, or both. Paying attention to the phone makes the driver stop concentrating on what they are doing. Their driving performance suffers. There's a good orienteering lesson.

posted by Michael | 8:26 PM


Thursday, May 20, 2004  

Any guesses for this one? (Hint -- I'm training and Mary is the photographer).

posted by Michael | 8:40 PM


Golf? Sailing? What next?


Eric (and others!) have said that golf and orienteering "are the same sport."

Meanwhile, the Norwegian national team's relay project has been sailing! If you can read Norwegian, check out Staff-Valstad's report. Actually, even if you can't read Norwegian there are some nice photographs.

What next? What other sports can teach us something that can transfer to orienteering?

Crystal Legend

My brother-in-law, Brian, has reunited his high school band. Check out "Rockland County's premier surviving 70s garage rock band" at their web page.

posted by Michael | 8:29 PM


Wednesday, May 19, 2004  

Any guesses where I took this snapshot?

posted by Michael | 7:16 PM


A couple of quick notes


Climbing and descending

I downloaded a software update for my hrm that calculates the portion of a run that is uphill, downhill or flat. Here is the percent of time I spent climbing or descending:

Day 1 at HVO last weekend:

23 percent climbing
22 percent descending

Day 2 at HVO last weekend:

22 percent climbing
20 percent descending

Yesterday's run on the way home from work:

24 percent climbing
21 percent descending

I was surprised that the percent of my time spent climbing on day 1 and day 2 last weekend are nearly the same. The first day felt like a lot more climb. Maybe it was just more concentrated.

I suppose that if I was better at running downhill the difference between percent climbing and percent descending would be bigger.

Cool web page

Check out www.co-news.com. Co-news.com is a French O' web page. I can't read French, but it looks like a good page. I've learned that circuit means course and cartes means map. Even if you can't read French, you can poke around the links and find some cool maps. For example:

Check out the map from the recent Swedish elite series sprint race and a map from (I think) the French university champs.

More photos

I'm testing some software for uploading photos. So, I'll probably be posting more photos than usual over the next few days.

posted by Michael | 7:05 PM


Tuesday, May 18, 2004  

Mary skiing at Yellowstone (posting this as a test of posting photos using www.hello.com)

posted by Michael | 9:16 PM

Some technique training ideas from Swedish WOC camp


The recent Swedish WOC training camp used a couple of technique training sessions that I thought sounded interesting. (I got the descriptions from Johan Modig's report on the camp).

Long leg O'

Each course covers about three kilometers with one long leg. Three runners are in each group and the runners start 30 seconds apart. At the WOC camp (which was focusing on the classic distance event), they ran four of these 3 km courses.

This sounds like a really tough training session because you'd end up pushing quite hard.

Emma Engstrand posted a copy of the map from one of these long-leg sessions.

Contours-only and drawing your own map

For this session, the runners got maps with contours only AND some of the distinct contour details removed. Before the training, you got to draw in the details from the real map that you thought you'd need. This forced you to draw only the features you really needed, you had to simplify the map.

Modig wrote, "you can save a lot of time on the maps these days by disregarding unimportant details and only reading the clearest and biggest features."


I think Johan Ivarsson was responsible for the technique training sessions at the WOC camp. So, I suppose these two exercises are ideas Ivarsson thinks are useful (and Ivarsson is certainly someone who is worth paying attention to).

posted by Michael | 7:54 PM


Monday, May 17, 2004

Running in the rocks


At this weekend's race I had a mistake when I had trouble running in the rocks. I was going down a rocky hillside, lost track of what I was doing (I was paying attention to running but not where I was going), got scared (post-leg-injury I've never really gotten to a point where I feel comfortable running in rocky terrain), and missed a control.

Think Old

Greg Balter gave me some advice after I talked about my mistake. "Think old," he told me.

He said I should forget trying to run and keep contact in the rocky footing. Maybe I could move through the rocks ok when I was younger -- and maybe kids like John Frederickson can run through the rocks and read the map -- but I can't keep orienteering like that if I can't run through the rocks. He suggested stopping, taking a look at the compass, then getting through the rocks.

The idea of changing how I orienteer instead of just trying to orienteer the way I used to is an idea worth some careful thought.

Arto's advice

The sad news from Sweden this weekend is that Arto Rautiainan died. He was just 36 and had two young children. I didn't know him, but I knew of him. Quite sad.

Reading some of the news about him, I came across a quote about running in rocky terrain. After winning the Swedish short champs in 1993, the announcer asked how he could run so fast in the rocky terrain.

"I learned that from the Ingelsson brothers [who lived in a part of Sweden known for rocky terrain], you think of it as an asphalt surface and then just run."

If you can read Swedish, you might read the sad news as reported at Alternativet.

posted by Michael | 1:01 PM


Thursday, May 13, 2004

Next planned update on Monday, May 17


I'm going to New York to run the Harriman A-meet (M40). I might have time to update this page from New York, but don't count on it. I'll be back home Sunday night and plan an update for Monday.

posted by Michael | 12:55 PM


Learning from the past


I came across a report of the Swedish national team's recent WOC training camp and noticed that they're trying to make use of the experiences of some former top Swedish runners.

The camp began on Saturday evening with a lecture by the guy who won the 1979 Swedish Championships in the same sort of terrain as the WOC will go. Goran Andersson (but not the same Goran Andersson as the national team's coach) gave his thoughts on orienteering in Vastmanland and how he prepared for the 1979 Swedish Champs.

The camp also included technique training set up by Johan Ivarsson. Ivarsson is past his international O' career (though his results are still extremely good at the highest levels of competition). Ivarsson shadowed Modig.

Last week I wrote about comparing O' in the US in 2004 with the "old days":

One of the biggest changes since the early 1980s is what I'd call the "O' infrastructure." We've got a lot more good maps now. We've also got many more orienteers who know a lot about orienteering. Back in the early 1980s, if you wanted to learn about orienteering you might find a few people with 5-10 years of experience. But now you've got people with a lot of experience. Collectively there is a lot of knowledge about orienteering, competing and training. That just wasn't around in the early 1980s.

It looks like Sweden is making an effort to make use of experienced old-timers. I wonder how much other nations do that? I think it is common for national team coaches to be former elite runners. But, I wonder how nations make systematic use of the experience that is sitting around waiting to be exploited?

The camp also had a lot of the sort of training where they simulated WOC conditions (like what I wrote about a few days ago).

If you can read Swedish, check out Modig's article.

posted by Michael | 12:45 PM


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Some quick notes



In a comment a couple of days ago, someone wrote:

"Just wondered why are you skeptical about this idea?" The idea was Karolina Hojsgaard's practice sprint race the morning of the elite series sprint race.

Actually, I think this sort of thing is a good idea. But, I don't think it makes much difference. I certainly don't think doing something like what Karolina did is necessary. But, I also don't think it causes any harm.

I guess the reason I'm skeptical is a personal philosophy that one key to having a good race is to expect something you didn't expect. Simulating what you expect to face is fine, but you'll still face something you didn't prepare for. Another part of my personal philosophy is that once you've got your map in hand, every race is pretty much the same as every other race.

Course lengths

When I was mowing the lawn tonight I wondered about the average and median winning times for WOC races. There are nine races at the WOC: long qualifying, middle qualifying, sprint qualifying, sprint final, long final, middle final, and three relay legs.

The median winning times for all nine men's and women's races are: 45 and 40 minutes. The average winning times for all nine men's and women's races are: 42 and 36 minutes.

The reason the median and average winning times are so low is that sprint, middle and relay races dominate the WOC.

For the men, only two of the nine WOC events have a winning time of an hour or more (the long qualifying race at 60 minutes and the long final at 90-100 minutes). For the women, only one of the nine WOC events has a winning time of over an hour (the long final at 75 minutes).

posted by Michael | 7:28 PM


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Mini Orienteering


At tonight's OK training I set up a mini O' course. The map was at a scale of about 1:1500 with 2 foot contours. I set a course with 5 controls covering a short distance (not sure of the distance, but the winning time was just a few seconds over two minutes).

Five people ran the course and, as far as I could tell, everyone enjoyed it. I certainly enjoyed watching people navigate around the course.

It looked like good O' techniques and habits -- like orienteering the map, looking ahead and actively looking for the marker -- paid off. A couple of people made some big errors when they over ran a control (clearly having trouble with the unusual scale).

I think I'll make some more mini-maps this summer and set up a few more training sessions.

posted by Michael | 9:52 PM


Monday, May 10, 2004

Course lengths


An idea that comes up from time to time in U.S. orienteering is that our longest courses (M21) are too short. The basic argument is usually that at WOCs the courses are longer and that in Europe the courses are longer, hence we should have longer courses. Longer course will give people incentive to train more and will lead to stronger, tougher orienteers.

That is the idea.

I'm not convinced of the basic premise (i.e. that if our courses are longer U.S. orienteers will train better), but that is for a different day. For today, I'll just look at a bit of data.

How long are M21 courses in the U.S.?

I looked at the winning time for the A-meets I've run this spring. I've run 8 days of A-meets (I ran M21 in half of them). The winning M21 times for those 8 days ranged from 58 to 109 minutes. The average was 78 and the median was 72.

How long are M21 courses in Sweden?

I looked at the top M21 course for 49 races in Sweden in the last month. I didn't count any relays, but I counted every other race (so my list included some sprint races).

The winning M21 times for those 49 races ranged form 12 to 120 minutes (the 120 minute race was a district long distance championship). The average was 53 and the median was 55.

If you look at only races with winning times of at least one hour, you get a total of 19 races. Here are the winning times for those races: 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 67, 71, 72, 73, 77, 80, 80, 81, 81, 82, 86, 89, 92 and 120.

For the races with winning times of at least an hour, the median and average was 77.

Just for fun, I also looked at the M21 elite and M21 "super elite" results from last year's Swedish 5-days. The winning times for M21E were: 71, 77, 88, 36 and 79. The elite ran only one day with a winning time over 80 minutes. The winning times for M21 super elite were: 17, 38, 80, 28 and 52. The super elite ran only one day with a winning time over 80 minutes.

What do I make of this?

First, I was a little surprised at the fact that the winning times in Sweden were less than I expected. If I had to guess, I'd have guessed the winning times would have been closer to 85 minutes. I don't know why I would have thought that. If I think back to when I lived there, I don't remember many courses with winning times that long.

Second, it looks like Swedes run a lot more short courses. Of the 49 results I looked at, nearly a quarter of them had winning times right around 30 minutes (for the top M21 class).

Third, if you exclude the short Swedish courses, the U.S. winning times are a bit shorter than the Swedish M21 winning times. But, not all that much. The median and average times are quite similar. Of course the level of competition in the U.S. is lower, so if the same competitors ran the U.S. courses the winning times for the U.S. would drop. But, I'd guess they'd drop on the order of maybe 10 minutes which isn't really all that big a difference (i.e. training for races with winning times around 75 minutes isn't much different for training for races with winning times around 85 -- or 65, for that matter).

Fourth, if you include the short Swedish courses, the median and average winning times for Swedish courses are a good bit lower than the U.S. courses I looked at.

posted by Michael | 7:53 PM


Sunday, May 09, 2004

More WOC preparation


A few days ago I wrote about how the Norwegian team was practicing scenarios for the WOC relay, today I'll add a note about how one of the Swedish team is preparing for the WOC.

On the morning of this weekend's Swedish elite series sprint race, Karolina A. Hojsgaard ran her own sprint race. In the afternoon, she ran (finishing 2nd) the elite series race. Running the morning race was practice for the WOC. The WOC will have a qualifying and final sprint race on the same day, followed by the long final the next day.

Here is a bit of a newspaper report about Hojsgaard's race:

To prepare for this year's WOC races, where the qualifying and final sprint race are on the same day, Karolina decided to run a race this morning.

The idea was from the national team leader, Goran Andersson, but Karolina was the only one who ran the morning race.

"But it was set up like a real competition. There was a start, marked route, race number and finish chute..." said Karolina.

You can see a short video from the sprint race, including a short interview with Hojsgaard, on the SOFT web page.

I suppose simulating the WOC schedule isn't a bad idea. I guess I'm skeptical that it makes much difference, but it probably doesn't hurt. If it works (i.e. if you try it and have a good result), it'd probably help your confidence. It it doesn't work (i.e. if you screw up either the morning or afternoon race), it'd give you something to work on.

posted by Michael | 7:46 PM


Saturday, May 08, 2004

Tom's training


Here is another bit from Tom Hollowell...

Relative to my own aspirations I don't think I have had a more enjoyable time orienteering ever. Changing jobs 3 years ago was probably the best move I have ever made. The career carousel at Emerson Electric was hard to jump off, but I didn't realize until afterwards how much positive energy it drained out of me. Unfortunately, I lost about 10 years of good training effort and I have realized you just can't build that back up again once you've passed 40. I really started training hard in October 2002 and from there it has just kind of continued. I seem to be able to set up a new goal and so far have met them all. First was Vasaloppet 2003, then was getting to the A-final at the WMOC last year in Norway, then was getting a medal in our district championships (ended up with 2 actually) and winning a club championship* (won the Long-O), then it started all over with Vasaloppet 2004. I have focused on just enjoying the effort of training and competing and every once in a while I have a really good day and surprise both myself and my surroundings. Current longer-term goal is to train hard until I turn 45 (2 more years) and see if I can get up to the top echelons of the class then. We'll see how it turns out.

Tom touches on a few things that I'd guess often go hand-in-hand with good orienteering:

1. Having fun.
2. Reducing work (or school) stress.
3. Having some clear goals.
4. Enjoying the effort of training.
5. Training hard.

1, 2 and 3 all make it easier to do 4 and 5. If you're having fun, not stressed and working toward some meaningful goals, then training hard is a lot easier. Training well pays off.

You could probably even generalize and say that anything you do to improve 1, 2 and 3 will pay off. If you're not having fun, figure out a way to have fun (for me this usually means doing lots of technique training and training in different places). If work is stressful, figure out a way to reduce the stress. If you don't have goals, set some.

Take a look at Tom's training on Attackpoint to get an idea of how he specifically trains. At this point, Tom only has about a month of his training recorded at Attackpoint. But, you can get an idea of how much technique training he's doing.

posted by Michael | 7:57 PM


Friday, May 07, 2004



Orienteering well when you lack confidence is tough. I can think of three good ways to have confidence:

1. Train the way you wanted (so you feel well prepared).

2. Reflect on prior good races.

3. Be totally oblivious of past training and results and just assume you'll do well (I've seen some basketball players who seem oblivious to everything going on around them).

I'm not really sure 3 works. If it does, it'd take a very special mentality.

I was thinking about confidence and sports performance while I was watching the KC Royals baseball game tonight. Last season, the Royals performed better than expected. This year, they've struggled (their pitching wasn't much last year and they didn't really improve over the off season). Tonight they played Boston -- a strong team -- and faced a good pitcher.

The Royals looked good. The Royals had a 6-2 lead going in to the 8th inning.

Then they fell apart. Boston scored 2 runs in the 8th. The 9th inning was a disaster. The pitcher walked a runner, then gave up a home run. The score was tied. They walked another runner. Then the Royals brought in a new pitcher who got one out before giving up a hit that scored the winning run.

Falling apart like that must destroy the athletes' confidence.

posted by Michael | 9:19 PM


Thursday, May 06, 2004

Reading the map


Both Bjornar Valstad and Pasi Ikonen have been writing about WOC training camps in Sweden. Both have commented on reading the maps.

Pasi wrote:

My orienteering in here has become safer and one reason is that I have used magnifying glass when the scale is 1:15000.

Bjornar wrote:

Sweden has a different map-culture than we normally see in Norway or in other parts of the worlds. It is a culture that we've got to learn if we're going to succeed. The focus on Swedish maps is much more on the small details than on the runnability or terrain shape....Reading the maps is difficult and almost all of the runners use magnifiers on the 1:15,000 maps...

I'm a big fan of magnifiers. I started using one in 2001 and almost always carry it. In some terrain and on some maps I don't use it much. But, on detailed terrain or when the maps are not printed very well I use it a lot.

More Tio Mila video

I found another Tio Mila video on the internet. Go to www.pyramis.se, click on "web-TV" then "idrottsfilmer" then "10-Mila i Timmergatan." The film is a good 20 minutes and follows the race from start to finish.

In both of the Tio Mila films I've seen I noticed that Jarkko Houvila, the Halden runner who put Halden out of touch for the chasing teams, ran in black rather than the normal red-white-blue Halden colors. Was to be hard to see and recognize?

posted by Michael | 5:42 PM


Wednesday, May 05, 2004

What has changed?


A week or so ago Tom Hollowell wrote an email that's been circulating. He wrote some thoughts about his recent trip to the U.S., his orienteering and the WOC in Sweden. It makes for great writing fodder. I think I'll touch on a couple of things Tom wrote about over the next few days.

Tom is an American orienteer living in Sweden. He's been living in Norway and Sweden for years. He's about my age (runs M40). I don't know Tom very well. I stayed with him for a few days when he lived in Sandefjord, Norway (maybe 1987?). He knows a lot about orienteering.

You can see a short video of Tom running to a control at the district champs last year.

Here is part of what Tom wrote:

Since I found the attackpoint site I have been trying to keep up with the US/NA orienteering scene a bit. I guess I would have to comment that unfortunately it doesn't seem much has changed. I don't mean or want that to sound derogatory and please correct me if I'm wrong. It seems like there is a willingness to improve but still not the methods.

Tom lived and orienteered in the U.S. in the early 1980s. He writes that "it doesn't seem like much has changed." That got me thinking -- how does orienteering in the U.S. in 2004 compare to the 1980s?

I think the top level hasn't changed much. In the early 1980s, the best North American orienteers were Eric Weyman and Ted De St. Croix. The best women were probably Denise DeMonte and Sharon Crawford. I don't think the best orienteers now are any better (if they are, they aren't much better).

But, I think the level just below the top has improved a lot. I'd bet that the 5-10th best men and women now are much better than the 5-10th best in the 1980s.

One of the biggest changes since the early 1980s is what I'd call the "O' infrastructure." We've got a lot more good maps now. We've also got many more orienteers who know a lot about orienteering. Back in the early 1980s, if you wanted to learn about orienteering you might find a few people with 5-10 years of experience. But now you've got people with a lot of experience. Collectively there is a lot of knowledge about orienteering, competing and training. That just wasn't around in the early 1980s.

If an up-and-coming orienteer wanted to improve, the conditions are much better now. We've got lots of good maps and lots of good advice.

Tom wrote some more interesting stuff that I'll probably touch on in the next few days.

posted by Michael | 8:55 PM


Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Some pre-WOC relay training


Fredrik Lowegren wrote a report from the Norwegian WOC training camp and described part of the Norwegian relay training. Here is a bit of What Lowegren wrote:

Under the direction of Kjell Puck (the man behind Halden's Tio-Mila dominance), the Norwegians are putting together a relay group in their national team. I was invited to their training on Thursday. It was the last session before the relay group would be cut down to five runners, so you can see it was an important session.

At the exchange, Bjornar Valstad was told he'd go out in the lead, and just before he started he was told that the lead ahead of Sweden was just 50 seconds at the warning control [i.e. the control near the end of each course where in coming runners are announced]. My role was to try to catch Bjornar and also to stay ahead of the other Norwegian teams.

This way of training -- setting up situations to practice -- seems like a good idea.

I think a lot of runners go over possible scenarios mentally. I do. But, I doubt as many do that when they are doing technique training.

As an aside, it is interesting that Lowegren was invited to go to the Norwegian WOC camp, but he wasn't invited to the Swedish WOC camp that begins this weekend.

posted by Michael | 7:17 PM


Monday, May 03, 2004

Some West Point notes


Instead of scanning my routes and writing up the event, I decided I'd just write about a couple of controls.

As I approached the 9th control on the first day (above), I looked for the large cliff about 100 meters before the control. As I glanced at the map, it looked like staying below the cliff would take me right to the control. The control itself is at the foot of a little cliff. I went by the big cliff and expected the small cliff with the control to be easy to see. I stopped and headed down hill a bit and took the control.

At the time, it felt like I had gone too far down the hill to get the control. I thought the map might be a bit off or the control might have been hung on an unmapped cliff (there were parts of the map where there fieldchecking was a bit sketchy).

When I finished, I heard some other runners complaining about the 9th control being hung wrong. They said it was too far down the hill.

When you looked at the map during the race (and even at a glance after the race), your eye might not pick up that the foot of the little cliff is going to be three lines below the foot of the big cliff. Something about the shape of the contours on the hillside seem to trick the eye and make it look like the cliff is just a line below the big cliff.

I think the control was in the right place and the map was correct (if a bit sketchy).

The 7th control on the second day was not in the right place. The scanned map is quite hard to read, but I drew a red circle around the place the control sat.

The control was about 70 meters from the circle. It sat three lines below the circle.

I spent a good 7-8 minutes looking for the control. I came right to the center of the circle and saw no flag. I then went to a big boulder due north of the control and attacked again. I came out at the same spot. I went back along the hillside, matched up some features and came back to the same spot. Then I just wandered around a bit, going down hill a bit and found the control. It might have gone quicker if it hadn't been foggy, since the fog cut how far you could see.

After I ran, I went back out to the area with the two course setters. We confirmed the control wasn't in the right place and confirmed where it was.

We also found the correct location. The place where the control should have been wasn't a good location. The mapped features were a bit vague. They really shouldn't have used it as a control location (though you could navigate to it).

I don't know what they did. Did they throw out the results? Did they throw out the leg?

Later, I was chatting with Nadim, Peggy and Eddie and mentioned that control 7 was misplaced. A guy I'll call "Peter Anderson" overheard us and came up and proclaimed that control 7 wasn't misplaced. "It was in the right spot." Well, Peter was wrong and I explained that I'd gone out there with the course setters and confirmed it was wrong and figured out where the control sat.

I thought Peter's comment was odd. I could understand saying something like "it seemed ok to me." Or "I didn't lose any time." Or maybe "I'm not sure, I came right to it."

Dinner is ready..time to stop writing.

posted by Michael | 7:08 PM


Just a quick note


I'll try to write a bit more tonight. But for know, take a look at an interview with the Anders Tiltnes, a top Norwegian junior.

posted by Michael | 7:34 AM


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