Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Saturday, July 31, 2004  

Matthias wrote about a training session last week, "...in Fontainebleau...the ferns were ridiculously high...so the going was very tough." It reminded me of my experience in the ferns at Fontainebleau almost exactly a year ago.

posted by Michael | 9:30 PM


Picking a team


The U.S. WOC team will be selected this week. The process in the U.S. is pretty simple (poke around the U.S. O' Federation web page if you're really interested in the details). We've got two races and the top 3 finishers are put on the team. The last place is a discretionary selection, but there are some defined limits on who can qualify for the discretionary spot. More likely than not, I expect the fourth person to be the person who finishes fourth at the team trails.

Essentially the selection process has been to have a race and put the top finishers at the race on the team. Over the years the team trials has changed a bit, but the basic approach hasn't really changed. I'd say there have been two main changes. First, the races have become less tough. In the 1980s, the U.S. had three races with each race being a bit longer than a normal race. Second, the national team has limited the discretion in picking the discretionary spots.

Typically, there is a lot of discussion about the process either in the months leading up to the selections or in the months after the selections. Everyone has an opinion about how, when and where the selections should take place.

I'm not sure we've ever looked back and tried to figure out if the selection process worked. Did the best runners get picked? Did the runners perform at the WOC consistently with their team trials performance?

It seems like a good process would usually result in getting the best runners to the WOC and that the top finishers in the team trials would also be the top performers at the WOC.

I looked at the 2001 team trials and WOC results to answer those questions.

Did the best runners get picked?

Not in 2001. In 2001, Mikell Platt was the top U.S. runners and declined a spot on the WOC team. Kristin Hall was probably the top U.S. woman and she did get selected to a discretionary spot. If I remember right, Kristin didn't run the trials.

Did the runners perform at the WOC consistently with their team trials performances?

Sort of.

I ranked the U.S. runners 1-5 based on their team trials results. For the men it was: Eric Bone, Kenny Walker, me, James Scarborough and Eddie Bergeron. For the women it was: Kristin Hall (I put her in the number 1 spot even though she was the last selected), Pavlina Brautigam, Peggy Dickison, Karen Williams and Eilen Breseman.

Next I looked at the race results from Finland and ordered the runners according to their WOC results. For example, for the men in the middle qualifying races, James finished 18th in his heat and was the best U.S. result; Eric was 28th in his heat which was the 2nd best U.S. result; I was 29th in my heat, the 3rd best U.S. result; and Kenny was 34th, the 4th best U.S. result.

If we'd run consistently with our performance at the team trials, Eric would have been the best U.S. runner, followed by Kenny, me and then James.

Our actual performances were a good bit different than our team trails performances. While we finished 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the team trails, we finished 2, 4, 3 and 1 in the WOC.

Maybe that is ok. But it makes me wonder if someone who finished behind me in the team trials would have done better than me in the WOC.

Add to my list of projects: look at team trials and WOC results for some other years and some other nations and ask "do selection race performances predict WOC performances?"

posted by Michael | 9:03 PM


Friday, July 30, 2004



I started fast and punched at the first control. No problem. When I came to two, I noticed that the code was wrong. I stopped and the only thing I could think of was that there must be a mistake on my description sheet. I continued to three and the same thing happened -- wrong code again. Now I knew what happened. I yelled to one of the race officials at a control that the codes didn't fit. At the same time, I saw some runners in the M21 class that ran in an entirely different direction that I was running. I checked my map. Yes. F21. I said a few well selected word to the official at the control and jogged bag. At the start the organizers gave the maps to the competitors. You didn't pick your map yourself.

That's the report from Kim Fagerrud at a sprint race a week or so ago in Finland. Fagerrud got another chance at the M21 course. They gave him a new start time and a M21 map.

After that he had a good race. Check out Fagerrud's map with his routes.

While you're at it, you might want to bookmark Kim & Salla's collection of maps.

And for something completely different

When I lived in Sweden I liked to play innebandy (something like field hockey with a whiffle ball on a basketball court). I haven't played innebandy for over ten years.

Maybe I should take up Field Crumpets - a favorite sport of the OK KU chapter members. You can see a video of some FC action from the TV station in Lawrence.

posted by Michael | 8:05 PM


Thursday, July 29, 2004  

I saw a lot of turkeys when I ran today. When I finished, I got may camera and jogged back over to the hillside where I'd seen a large group of about 8 turkeys. I couldn't get too close without scaring them away, but I managed to get a couple of snapshots.

posted by Michael | 9:34 PM


Bernt Bjornsgaard's training


If you can read Norwegian, point your browser to Langrenn.com's article on Bjornsgaard's training.

I'm not up to translating the whole article.  But, here are a few of the points they make:
Orienteers, like cross country skiers (Langrenn.com is a x-c ski web page) compete in varied terrain, going up hill, downhill and flat.
  • Bjornsgaard trains 14-20 hours a week in the off season.  He includes cross country skiing.
  • In recent years, orienteers have been specializing more on running in the terrain.  Compared to a few years ago, orienteers now are slower at running on the roads or track.
  • One type of interval training Bjornsgaard does is 60 x 1 minute with 20 seconds of rest.
Well, there is more to the article and maybe I'll get around to translating the whole thing some day.

posted by Michael | 9:20 PM


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Off balance


Elite orienteers don't have good balance.  That was the finding of a study some years ago.  In the study, orienteers balanced on one of those balance boards (a platform with a round bottom that you can use to improve you balance and leg strength).  People off the street apparently do better at this test than elite orienteers.

A guy named Christer Johansson described the study at a training camp I was at years ago.  Johansson was the doctor for the Swedish team.  He wrote a bit about the study in his book (the translated title would be "The Elite Runner: Elite Orienteering from a Sports Medicine Perspective").  He wrote:

Our study showed that our national team orienteers were extremely bad at standing on a balance board.  When we tried to measure objectively we found that many of the national team orienteers couldn't stand on one leg for one minute on an even floor (on a pressure plate that measures th size of the swaying that occurs when you try to balance on one leg) without having to use the other leg as a support.
It probably reflects our measurement method being irrelevant for measuring functional foot/ankle stability for an orienteer rather than our national team orienteers having bad balance.

Johansson did some interesting research on orienteering injuries and developed ways for the orienteers to avoid injuries and recover from injuries quicker.  In his book he notes that turned ankles once required missing training for 1-4 weeks.  But, they'd managed to reduce the training missed to a few days.

Without getting in to all of the stuff he said or wrote, the things the runners were doing differently (that Johansson felt explained the improvements) included running in the terrain year round; treating their own injuries as soon as possible (he wanted runners to carry bandages when they ran in the forest); and taping their ankles in specific conditions, but not all the time.

I was reminded of Johansson's presentation and book when I read some discussion of ankle injuries on Attackpoint

posted by Michael | 8:31 PM


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Road trip!


A week from right now I expect to be sitting in my car, heading west through Nebraska toward the last few days of the Wyoming 1000 Days orienteering.  It should be fun.

Mary has a work trip next week.  Being "home alone" isn't much fun.  I decided I'd see if I could take a little road trip.  The pieces of the puzzle fit together today, so the road trip is on.

What I like about orienteering in Wyoming

The maps are good.
The weather should be nice (not too hot, not too cold).
I checked the start lists and it looks like lots of interesting folks will be there.

What I don't like about orienteering in Wyoming

The altitude.  The maps sit around 7000-7500 feet above sea level.   You feel the effects of the altitude.  Over the years, I've become better and better at handling the altitude.  But, I still struggle.  Competing at altitude isn't fun.  But, training isn't so bad.  So, I'll take my road trip as a chance to train.

posted by Michael | 8:24 PM


Monday, July 26, 2004

Fast clothing


The Swedish team's new O' suits are, according to the company that makes them:

...made for the least possible air resistance.  Less air resistance leads to higher speed....
Aerodynamic orienteering clothes!?

I'm no engineer.  But I'm sure that aerodynamic clothing isn't going to make much difference to an orienteer.*  Orienteering ain't NASCAR.

You can read a report on the new O' clothes at the Swedish Federation's web page.

* I Googled "aerodynamic running" and found an article that reported:

...the air resistance one encounters while running can also be minimized by
grooming oneself to be as aerodynamic as possible. Kyle's careful wind-tunnel
experiments showed that, among other things, loose, wrinkled clothing, long, thick cotton
socks, and long hair are significant sources of wind drag. Since these items are unlikely
to affect marathon performance by more than 5 to 15 seconds...

posted by Michael | 7:49 PM


Sunday, July 25, 2004  

Mary and I watched the last stage of the 2003 TDF from a small town at the edge of Paris where the stage began. The peleton went by us, then Armstong came a few seconds later, chasing the group from behind. I don't know what he was doing behind the pack, but it made for a better snapshot.

posted by Michael | 7:56 PM


The Law of Competitive Balance


Bill James (my favorite baseball author) developed a theory to explain how sport performance develops over time.  He called it "the Law of Competitive Balance."  Here is a simplified explanation from one of James' books:

The law of competitive balance: Teams which win tend to slack off.  They don't work as hard; they don't take risks to make themselves better.  They think defensively. But when a team combines the talent of a championship team with the attitude of a runner-up, the combination can produce -- historically, often has produced -- a team of exceptional quality.

There is a bit more to James' law, but you get the idea.

If you buy in to the law of competitive balance, you'll find:

Winning consistently -- like Armstrong's 6 consecutive TDFs or Halden SKs' string of Tiomilas -- is especially rare and impressive.

Teams and individuals that win consistently have probably gotten lucky or figured out a way to keep "the attitude of a runner-up."

Working hard and taking risks is easier when you've been close to a goal, but haven't quite reached it.  (As an aside, I think people who design gambling machines understand the same thing and design machines to keep you feeding money into the machine while teasing you with the impression that you almost won). 

posted by Michael | 7:31 PM


Saturday, July 24, 2004

Some quick notes



Randy wrote about the Japanese team at the European Champs.  Reading Randy's comments spurred a couple of thoughts.

A couple of years ago the Japanese O' Federation invited (and paid for?) Bjornar Valstad and Hanne Staff to come to Japan and participate in training meetings in terrain relevant for the 2005 WOC with the Japanese team. 

The idea was to show them how we set up our training and our daily lives in.  We held some lectures for the junior and senior national teams.  We also had some events for "regular" runners and talked about orienteering in Norway, organization of clubs, recruiting, mapping, etc.

Valstad-Staff's trip is written up here (in Norwegian, but with some photos and maps for non-Norwegian readers).

Peer nations

Randy wrote:

Are the Japanese serious, and could they be the next "peer nation" poised to leave the US behind...?

This reminded me of something I was thinking when I put together my set of "peer nations."  I included a bunch of factors that didn't have a lot to do with O' performance.  For example, for each nation, I asked "is it in Europe?"  I reasoned that non-European nations had something in common.  I was trying to get at ways of identifying nations that had similarities in the problems they faced in international orienteering.  For example, I assumed that Japan and the U.S. have something in common because both nations are a long way from Europe.

The main reason I put together my peer nation list was to have a tool for looking at results in WOCs.  But, it occurred to me that another way to use the list would be to get runners and coaches from the peer nations together to talk about the problems they face and the solutions they come up with.  The U.S. can learn a lot from studying Scandinavian nations, but we can probably also learn a lot from studying peer nations.

Some links worth a look

The Swedish 5-Days, Oringen, just finished.  Check out some video clips and look at maps from the "super elite" category.

Check out some nice maps from Mike Waddington.

posted by Michael | 2:43 PM


Friday, July 23, 2004

Indoor Tour de France


I've got a bike trainer in my basement.  The trainer is a small stand that sits under the back wheel of my bike.  As I pedal, the wheel spins and the trainer provides some resistance.

Normally I use the trainer a couple of times a week.  A short session -- say 30 minutes -- is enough to break a good sweat and give my legs some work.

But sitting on the trainer is boring....except during the Tour de France.

Wednesday morning, I sat on the trainer for 90 minutes, watching live coverage of the time trial on L'Alpe D'Huez.

Jorgen Rostrup has been doing the same thing.  A report on his web page says he's been watching all of the TV coverage of the TDF, some of the time while on a trainer.

I'm sure lots of cyclists are doing the same thing.  Here is a note from Eric Buckley's training log:

Moderate tempo while watching the L'Alpe d Huez TT. Matched my cadence to whoever was on TV. Since I wasn't shifting, that meant I worked a lot harder when Lance was on the screen. Surprisingly, Ullrich was pedalling a bit faster than Basso.

Tomorrow is another time trial.  My training plan is to start the day with 90 minutes on the trainer watching the live coverage.

posted by Michael | 8:44 PM


Thursday, July 22, 2004  

I went for an easy jog at PNS on the way home from work today. I carried my camera, hoping to get a snapshot of a turkey. No luck. I saw a few, but never close enough to get a picture. I settled for this deer.

posted by Michael | 9:11 PM


Seems like a flaky idea


I've been running for 20+ years, nearly injury free.  I tore my leg up a couple of years ago, but other than that I can only recall one injury that caused me to miss much training.  That injury must have been some sort of overuse injury.  My knee left knee felt tight.  Moving it hurt.  It reached a point where walking was uncomfortable.

I got rid of the injury by doing no training for about three weeks.  After that it was fine.  In fact, the knee felt great and the forced rest must have done me some good because I ran very well for the rest of the O' season.

But, before I took some significant time off I'd take a couple of days off and hope for the best.  That never quite worked.  I tried training once a week and racing on the weekend.  That didn't work either.  In hindsight, it was obvious that I just needed a complete rest.  It took a visit with a doctor to realize I needed the rest.

I remember feeling almost desperate when my knee would hurt at the end of a race.  I probably would have tried anything.  Someone told me I should press the outside of my palm with my fingers (pushing the fingers at a point where a nerve would get stimulated).  It seemed flaky.  But, I tried it even though I didn't think it'd work.  Who knows, maybe it helped.  I guess it can't have hurt.

This strange therapy came to mind when I came across the "benix body energy system."  Benix sells a wristband that supposedly will "increase endurance, improve VO2 maximum, increase strength, improve muscular reaction, quicken reflexes, improve balance, reduce fatigue, aid recovery and promote well-being."  How strange.

Even stranger, benix sells underwear (!) that are supposed to have the same benefits.

I can't imagine underwear and wristbands can really increase endurance.  I also can't imagine pressing my hand can help a sore knee recover.  Pressing my hand costs nothing.  Benix underwear cost $35.

posted by Michael | 8:49 PM


Wednesday, July 21, 2004  

Another 2003 TDF snapshot.

posted by Michael | 8:29 PM


"Maps from the Internet give an advantage in the forest"


That was the headline for a story in today's DagensNyhter (a Stockholm paper).

The story described how an orienteer could buy high quality maps from Sweden's national survey agency and use OCAD to create an O' map of an area where a big competition is coming.  The article noted that some of the French and Norwegian orienteers had made their own O' maps of the sprint area for the 2003 WOC.

The story also had some quotes from Sweden's national team coach, Goran Andersson [translations are a bit rough]:

The technological developments give us opportunities we haven't had before.  I'll discuss it with my national team runners to see what we'll do in the future.
To be able to study a map of the actual competition area before the race gives you mental and O' technique advantages that you can't underestimate.  And keep in mind, this development has just begun.

Emil Wingstedt is also quoted:

Regardless of what you know about the terrain in advance, you've still got to have good legs.  We already try to get as much advance knowledge as possible, through maps over areas near the competition terrain....

I've been wondering if orienteers preparing for races have started creating their own maps in OCAD, then importing them to Catching Features.  It seems like that'd be a good way to study the terrain.

posted by Michael | 8:13 PM


Tuesday, July 20, 2004  

The moon from my back yard last night. Not quite the same as Mook's snapshot of the moon.

posted by Michael | 8:27 PM


Does management matter?


The TDF is on TV and I don't want to miss today's stage.  So, I'll just give you a link to an article from Velonews that gets at an interesting question - does management matter?

I suspect management does matter in sports.  But, I'm not sure.  And I'm certainly not sure how much it matters.  Maybe a topic for another day.

posted by Michael | 8:20 PM


Monday, July 19, 2004

All around


The world champs now has a sprint, middle, long and relay race (with qualifying races for sprint, middle and long).  Maybe it is time for an "all around" champion.  You could put together a scoring system so runners would get points in each event, then add up all the points at the end and declare an overall winner.

posted by Michael | 8:00 PM


Sunday, July 18, 2004  

When I finished running today, I was tired. I was also looking forward to having a good cup of coffee.

posted by Michael | 7:09 PM



The beans...waiting to be ground.

posted by Michael | 7:08 PM



A fresh brewed cup of Peets.

posted by Michael | 7:06 PM


Swedish 5 days


The Swedish 5 Days - ORingen - started in Goteborg today.  Actually only one class, the "super elite" started.  The rest of the event begins tomorrow.  I didn't realize the 5-Days was starting until I bumped in to the online audio coverage when I was making my daily round of O' web pages.
When I came across the audio, the super-elite men were coming to the finish.  It turned out to be a close race.  The winner had a time of 15:26 and won by 3 seconds.  As you can tell by the time, this was a sprint race.
What you can't tell from the time is that the course was in the middle of the city.  Check out newspaper articles from the men's and women's races to see photos of orienteers in the city.  It isn't quite the environment most orienteers like, but it looks like fun.
The results were close for both classes.  For the men the average time between finishers (excluding the DQs) was just 10 seconds (and the median was 5 seconds).  For the women the average difference was 45 seconds, thanks to two people had quite bad races (the median was just 6 seconds).
Close races.  That's what you tend to get in Sweden.  I think those close races help make you a better orienteer because you get penalized for small errors.  Losing 30 seconds might mean a big drop in the results, even in the middle of the pack.  In today's race, Caroline Jonsson finished 22nd of 40.  A 30 second mistake would have dropped her 5 places.

posted by Michael | 6:46 PM


Saturday, July 17, 2004

Ages of elite orienteers


Runners at the Euro Champs long distance qualifying race by age:
under 20 years old 0 (0%)
21-25 years old 69 (37%)
26-30 years old 75 (40%)
31-35 years old 29 (15%)
36-40 years old 15 (8%)
over 40 years old 0 (0%)
The median age was 27.
I didn't have ages for all of the 225 runners in the qualifying race.  I had ages for 188 of them.  I don't think the results would change if I had all 225, but you never know.
The age distribution at the Euro Champs is very similar to the age distribution at the WOC in 2003.  The median ages for both events is 27.
Last year I also look at the age distribution for riders in the 2003 Tour de France.  For the TDF, the distribution is a bit different.  The cycling tended to be a bit older (52% between the ages of 26-30 and 32% between the ages of 31 and 35).
If I had to guess, I'd say that the cyclist ages tended to be a bit higher because cycling is a professional sport while orienteering, with a few exceptions, isn't.  A world class orienteer is more likely to have to give up serious training and get a full time job at the age that a world class cyclist is pulling down a good salary from a cycling team.

posted by Michael | 7:45 PM


Friday, July 16, 2004  

No time to write tonight...Three hours of OLN TDF coverage is just beginning.

posted by Michael | 7:35 PM


Thursday, July 15, 2004

Some words from Johan Modig


From a couple of newspaper interviews with Sweden's Johan Modig.  First, from Stockholms Fria Tidning:
I definitely think it is easier if you think in structured, logical ways when you orienteer.  In particular you need to build up a plan for what you'll do when you meet different problems or different situations.   That I've decided to study to be a math and German teacher might be more than a coincidence.  These two subjects are both built up on a set of logical rules.
Second, from Kristianstadsbladet's report on the Euro Champs sprint:
Johan Modig was disappointed in himself.  It looked good after the morning's qualifying race, but in the final he made several mistakes.
"I ran too hard in the beginning of the race on a long uphill toward the church.  I paid for it later.  I also screwed up at the lakes in the park.  I saw the guy who stared a minute before me and ran toward him, but he was already at the next control"
"In a sprint you've to reign your feelings [note, I'm a bit unsure of the translation].  I thought I'd learned that at the WOC last year, but I guess not.  Still it is useful to run a championship and hopefully I learn something each time."
And finally for something completely different....
I check Takehiko Oguma's training log every week or so.
I am thinking of running up Mt. Sarakura while I am in Yahata.... The mountain is only about 1 km from the hotel I will be staying at, but I doubt I can manage to make time for it because I will be on a tour of a steel plant during the day and drink beer at night tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.
Drink beer or run up the mountain?  I guess Oguma must be a student!  A couple of days later his log shows that he ran up the mountain.  I wonder if he drank some beer too.

posted by Michael | 7:31 PM


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Sportsmanship at the Euro Champs


Bjornar Valstad and Carsten Jorgenson both show up as "disq" in the Euro Champs sprint results.

Do you know why?

Both of them DQd themselves for running in an out of bounds area. Jorgensen reportedly realized it at the time and DQd himself at the finish line. Valstad realized he'd run out of bounds when he got his map back after the race.

Check out Bjornar's map and his route to the 10th control.

posted by Michael | 8:35 PM


Some thoughts about sprint orienteering


What kind of problems do course setters give you in sprint orienteering?
What does it take to qualify for a final at a sprint WOC?
What would a sprint specialist do that other orienteers don't?
What special techniques do you need to be a good sprint orienteer?

I was thinking about sprint orienteering after looking at the men's and women's Euro Champs sprint maps. By the way, look how much of the two courses is the same. That's something you don't usually see at championship events.

To me the development of sprint orienteering is interesting. I think I find it interesting because it is new. The discipline is new enough that there isn't a strong "conventional wisdom" (or if there is, I don't know what the conventional wisdom is). As a new discipline, there is probably a lot of room for growth.

posted by Michael | 8:18 PM


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Some Euro Champs notes


I checked out the discussion page at Alternativet this morning and saw people whining about poor live internet coverage of the Euro Champs. It struck me that we (i.e. orienteers sitting at our computers) are getting spoiled if we're complaining about bad online coverage.

Even without live coverage, you can come across some interesting news from the Euro Champs.

Tore Sandvik's guess about the course setting

The day before the middle distance qualifying race, Sandvik spent some time with an old map that covers the area (though not quite the entire area) trying to guess what the course would look like.

Take a look at his pre-race guess and then take a look at the actual course.

I check Sandvik's home page every few days. When he writes something, it is usually worth a look. He's got a nice collection of maps (look under "arkiv" and then "kart").

He's also got a list on his page: Pasi Ikonen, Jani Lakanen, Kim Fagerudd, Michael Eglinski, Jimmy Birklin, Johan Modig, Fredrik Lowegren, Emma Engstrand, Mikael Lund, Jamie Stevenson, Oli Johnson and Jenny Whitehead. I like seeing my name in that list -- quite good company!

Hanne's bad night and good run

In my quest for Euro Champs news, I read about Hanne Staff's bad night of sleep, followed by her gold medal in the middle race. Apparently she was nervous about the race and worried she might be getting sick. She didn't sleep well, but she ran well.

Check out Hanne Staff's gold medal race.

She lost a little bit of time in two places. Leaving the first control she orienteered toward the 12th control, but caught herself before she got there and made her way to 2. Then on her way from 11 to 12 she drifted off line a bit.

What about the Americans?

Even though it is the Euro Champs, three Americans (and one Canadian) are racing.

I thought Sandra Z's comments on Attackpoint were interesting:

Model event for Word cup races in Danmark. Interesting forest, nothing like I have ever seen. The white on the map is always different in the terrian and hard to read (also sometimes really slow). I am so glad that I had the opportunity to go to the model event, otherwise tomorrow would have been a huge surprize.

Long distance qualification race. Not that good of a race. I made a lot of mistakes, but also had trouble getting into the map the first few controls and lost time just by simply not being effcient. I have never run in Denmark before, and with only the model map as an example I was not prepared enough to be able to push and still understand how the terrian was mapped....

It must be quite frustrating to struggle with the map and feeling surprised by the terrain and map. That might just be a topic for another day.

posted by Michael | 7:19 PM


Monday, July 12, 2004



I've been reading about disease in the O' news the last week or so.

Peter Gagarin wrote about his first day at the World Masters:

Talk about a day that wasn't fun. Woke up in the middle of the night feeling bad, then throwing up, then just feeling awful. No breakfast, managed to drink just a little water before the start....After I finished I felt so bad I just wanted to lie down under the table where they were downloading times. Staggered off to the car, slowly drank a little, lay on the ground shaking and panting for about an hour while first Randy and then Gail tried to take care of me, and then threw up everything all the way back to the first course for dinner last night. At that point Gail suggested we head off to the first aid tent to see if an IV was possible. It was, and after an hour there I felt a touch more human, and now a couple of hours later some more fluids and a little bit to eat are staying down, so there is hope for tomorrow.

I can't be sure, but it sounds to me like a Norovirus.

Mats Troeng, at the European Champs, is also suffering, though it doesn't sound like a Norovirus. He woke up in the middle of the night with a sore throat. In the morning he still had it. He diagnosed it as a common cold.

Troeng will skip the middle distance race and hope he's recovered in time for long distance final on Friday.

He wrote (joking, I hope!):

Why not have a little extra contact with runners from other nations?

posted by Michael | 8:32 PM


Sunday, July 11, 2004

Junior WOC results compared to peer nations


I looked at how the U.S. juniors did at the JWOC against peer nations.

I defined a list of peer nations, based primarily on the number of men and women in a country ranked in the IOF's top 1000 (as of March 2004). You can check out the complete list and some more info about the groups.

By my method, peer nations for the U.S. are: Portugal, Slovakia, New Zealand, France, Bulgaria, Belgium, Canada, Japan, Poland and Ireland.

To compare the U.S. to peer nations, I looked at each JWOC race and compared runners head-to-head. I counted the number of wins and losses. For example, if a Portuguese runner finished 10th and an American runner finished 15th, the U.S. record against Portugal is 0-1. I compared the U.S. to each peer nation and for all of the JWOC races. Since the JWOC has B-finals, I also used the B-final results. I considered any A-final result as better than any B-final result. In other words, winning the B-final is a loss compared to finishing last in the A-final.

Once I counted wins and losses for each comparison, I calculated percent scores. For example, the U.S. juniors faced New Zealanders 13 times, winning 8 and losing five. The U.S. - New Zealand record is 8-5 for a 0.615 winning percentage.

Here are the JWOC results by nation:

Ireland 0.900
Japan 0.688
New Zealand 0.615
Portugal 0.500
Belgium 0.364
Slovakia 0.095
Bulgaria 0.000
Poland 0.000
France 0.000

Canada is a peer nation but didn't send any runners to the JWOC. I don't know why. Maybe it isn't an important event for Canada. Or maybe they don't have any juniors. Or maybe they don't have any money.

You can compare how the U.S. juniors did with how the U.S. seniors did at the last WOC.

The JWOC results are quite similar to the 2003 WOC results.

posted by Michael | 4:57 PM


Saturday, July 10, 2004

Results of the experiment


Thanks to everyone who sent an email to help me with my experiment. I really appreciate it.

Now, before getting on to the results, let me give you a bit of background.

"The Wisdom of Crowds"

I recently read a book called "The Wisdom of Crowds" by James Surowiecki. The book mixes ideas from economics, sociology, psychology and probably some other disciplines to look at the idea that groups (i.e. "crowds") can sometimes be very good at solving problems. Without getting in to all the details, Surowiecki shows that under certain conditions crowds can solve certain problems.

As I read the book, it struck me that making route choice decisions fit the type of problems that crowds do a good job of solving. So I came up with an experiment to see how it'd work.

The experiment

If you're reading this, you probably know what the experiment was. But, just to recap, I'll describe it. I found a route choice problem. I asked readers to tell me which route was fastest and how much faster it was. I planned to compile all the answers, aggregate the information by calculating average time difference between the routes, compare the crowd's performance to the actual race results, and see how the crowd performed.

Some more info about the route choice problem

The route choice problem I used was published in Skogsport magazine back in 1998. The leg was from the women's course at a World Cup race in Estonia.

Hanne Staff ran close to the straight line, skirting the edges of marshes.

Karolina Arewang ran out to the trail, climbing a bit but getting some easier running.

Staff took 1:46 and Arewang took 2:21. I could just subtract the times and find that the straight route was 35 seconds faster. But, the splits from the rest of the course and the overall results suggest Staff was moving faster the whole time. I adjusted for this and decided that the actual difference in routes was about 27 seconds.

What about the crowd?

I got about 25 responses. Most, but not all, thought Staff's route was faster.

I aggregated the responses in two ways. First, I averaged the time differences for all of the answers. (I entered negative numbers for those who guessed Arewang's route was faster). Second, I averaged only those responses that picked Staff's route, ignoring the responses favoring Arewang's route (about 20 percent of the total responses).

By either method, Staff's route is faster. By the first method, Staff's route is faster by 11 seconds and by the second method her route is faster by 16 seconds.

The split times suggest a time difference of 27 seconds, and the crowd's average shows a difference of 11-16 seconds.

A couple of things strike me as interesting:

The crowd got it right. Even though about 20 percent of the individuals (about 5 of 25) picked Arewang's route as faster, the crowd picked the faster route.

The crowd's estimate of the time difference looks pretty good to me. You could make an argument that the difference between the crowd's average and the split times is big (11-16 seconds compared to 27 seconds), bit keep in mind that the crowd had very little information about the conditions. Are the woods thick? Is the marsh wet? Was it cold and rainy? Was it hot and humid? What was the contour interval? I don't know the answer to any of those questions. Neither did the crowd. Yet the crowd did a pretty good job of making the best choice and of estimating the difference in time.

Why does it matter?

Obviously one little experiment doesn't matter. But, what if it turned out that the crowd always got it right? Wouldn't it be cool if you could look at a leg and, without having split times or running the leg, get a good idea of which route was faster and how much faster it was? I think that'd be quite cool.

It might even be useful. I can imagine that a course setter could use the crowd to test legs. You could use a crowd to study route choices for future events (imagine being able to begin to understand route choices for the WOC in Japan without having to go to Japan).

Thanks again

Thanks again to everyone who helped by sending their guesses.

posted by Michael | 2:45 PM


Friday, July 09, 2004

Bjornar's strategy for the Euro Champs


First things first...it isn't too late to help me with my experiment. See yesterday's entry for details. So far, I've got a good 20 or so responses. That'll be enough, but more will be better.

Now, on to the Euro Champs...

The Euro Champs opened today, with the first qualifying races taking place tomorrow.

Bjornar Valstad wrote about the model event and his strategy for the competitions. He didn't actually describe what his strategy would be, but he wrote about the importance of having a strategy and wrote about how he'd done some testing of his strategy at the model event.

He also included a picture of his model event map and routes.

Based on the model, it looks like Bjornar's strategy for the Euro Champs is to use trails.

posted by Michael | 7:08 PM


Thursday, July 08, 2004

Help me with an experiment


I need some help with an experiment. Here's what I want you to do.

Look at the leg from 12 to 13 on the map below and send me an email (send it to me at meglin@juno.com) and answer two questions:

1. Which route is faster, A or B (A is the dotted line, B is the solid line)?
2. How much faster is the faster route (give me an answer in minutes and seconds)?

That's all.

A couple of things are important for my experiment. First, use email. Don't use the comment function to answer the questions. I want the guesses to be independent. If you put a guess as a comment, it'll screw up the experiment because other people will be able to see what you guessed. Second, there aren't any other directions. The information I've given you (the caption for the map gives you an idea of the scale and the two routes marked are the only two options) is all you need.

Once I've got enough responses, I'll explain the experiment and the results.


posted by Michael | 8:36 PM



There are two routes from 12 to 13. I'll call the dotted route to the left "A" and the solid line route that is closer to the straight line "B". To give you a sense of scale, the control circles are 100 meters across. (Click on the map for a higher resolution image)

posted by Michael | 8:34 PM


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Some words from Mats Troeng preparing for the European Champs


Mats Troeng of Sweden wrote a bit about his preparations for next week's European O' Champs in Denmark. Here is a rough translation of some of Troeng's thoughts:

There is a lot of talk about mental preparations nowadays. How does that work in practice? Together with my mental advisor, Thomas Fogdo, I've been working on my mental preparations [note: Troeng calls this "malbildstraning" which would translate literally to something like "goal image training."]. It is about preparing yourself to deal with distractions. I want to have a plan for every distraction that might come up during or before the race in order to react to it rationally. What will happen if I get an early start time for the qualifying race? What will I do if I lose map contact on a leg or boom a control, or maybe more meaningful: how will I put a mistake behind me? What should I do if I'm caught from behind or if I catch someone who started ahead of me? I've thought through these situations. The human brain is built so that it has trouble distinguishing between thoughts and reality. If I imagine a situation, then the brain will feel like it has already been through the situation when it happens in reality. Then I have to just do the same thing again.

posted by Michael | 7:03 PM


Tuesday, July 06, 2004  

Last year's TDF -- the pack racing past.

posted by Michael | 9:11 PM


A couple of quick notes


It is hard to devote much time to thinking about orienteering. Instead of checking O' web pages or looking at maps, I'm watching the Tour De France on TV. Great stuff.

One cool thing about the TDF is that you can look at heart rate data for some of the riders at Polar's TDF page. Another page is supposed to show live power, heart rate, speed and cadence data. I logged on this morning (when the race was underway) but didn't see any data. I'll try again tomorrow.

I should write something about orienteering. The Junior World Champs -- underway in Poland -- is the obvious topic. But, instead of looking at the results and writing something, I'm watching the TDF on TV. Maybe tomorrow I'll look at results.

A while ago (maybe a year or so), I translated an article about JWOCs that was published on Alternativet. The article is titled "The Best Prepared Win." You can read my translation here.

posted by Michael | 8:48 PM


Monday, July 05, 2004  

After today's run, Fritz, Gene and I ate lunch in downtown Lawrence.

posted by Michael | 8:19 PM




I like looking at different people's training logs at Attackpoint, reading what they're doing. Some people make interesting comments.

I was reading Sandra Zurcher's log and came across this description of a race she ran this weekend in Switzerland:

Thankfully everyone lost time and I would have been 8th out of 16. BUT... I did a classic mistake that I am very angry at myself for making. I came to a control at the same time as another DE runner, and I was proud because I had taken a better route and caught up with her. I punch and kept going, never checking the code. Well it turns out that I punched a HE control and in a reentrant too early. Stupid!! My control was 1 meter away, ahhh!! Anyway, I was harshly reminded that one should ALWAYS check the codes. Oh well. I would have been good.

A classic mistake -- paying attention to how you are doing not what you are doing.

Usually the consequences are that you stop concentrating and slow down or boom a control. Sandra mispunched. Ouch.

I wonder if the two controls were, as Sandra wrote, 1 meter apart. That seems a bit hard to imagine.

posted by Michael | 7:52 PM


Sunday, July 04, 2004

Page 40, 4th sentence


I picked up three O' books on my shelf and looked at the 4th sentence on page 40.

From a 1981 autobiography Liisa Veijalainen:

But once I had the map in my hand I had only one thought -- the fastest and safest route to the finish.

She's writing about her mindset at a Finnish Champs where she had a good race and finished 2nd.

From a 1999 autobiography of Jorgen Martensson:

My foot held out for the whole classic race, but I was too cautious in my routes, running too far around.

Jorgen is writing about his race in the 1993 WOC classic, after he'd injured his foot in the short final. He finished 2nd in the classic final, 31 seconds behind Allan Mogensen.

From a 1994 biography of Marita Skogum:

I'm sloppy sometimes, especially by eating bad food that doesn't give the right kind of energy.

Marita is describing the importance of sleep, rest and nutrition.

I thought I'd look at the 4th sentence on the 40th page because I couldn't think of anything to write and thought it might spur some interesting thoughts. I wouldn't call it a success, but it gave me something to write.

Just for the heck of it, I'll look at the 4th/40th from a couple of non-O' books I'm in the middle of reading:

Taking a step backward from what his father had said a dozen years before, Welch rejected the personal God of Emerson and the Unitarians, reiterated the importance of revealed truth in scripture, argued that revelation need not submit to reason, and spoke of that which "man could never discover by the light of his own mind."

That's a bit strange...

From another book:

The ants went around and around the circle for two days until most of them dropped dead.

posted by Michael | 3:27 PM


Saturday, July 03, 2004

Huge screw up?


The headline in ONett's report on the sprint of the Nordic Meeting* in Denmark:

"Found 18 controls before the start"

When I read the headline I figured it meant the Norwegian runners had carefully studied the map and figured out the location of a bunch of the controls on an old map. That's the sort of thing that a lot of us do when we've got an old map. Some people are very good at it.

But when I read the story, I found out that the organizers had allowed runners to run in the terrain before the event and the Norwegians had found control locations marked with tape.

Who knows if it affected the results, but it just doesn't feel right.

I don't generally like criticizing organizers, especially when I didn't participate in the event and don't really know the story. So, I won't criticize the organizers, but I've got to wonder...Was this a huge screw up?

*The Nordic Meeting is a competition with teams from Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden. Looking through the competitor list, it looks like it is mostly younger elite runners who are a bit below the top national team level.

posted by Michael | 11:40 AM


Friday, July 02, 2004  

Last year, Mary and I spent a week in Paris at the end of the TDF. This snapshot shows Lance before the start of the final stage.

posted by Michael | 7:16 PM


TDF starts tomorrow


The Tour De France starts tomorrow, always one of the best sports events of the year (right up there with KU Jayhawk basketball).

I spent some time watching OLN's pre-TDF coverage a few minutes ago and saw:

1. Lance Armstrong getting a pack of Peet's Major Dickason's blend coffee delivered to him in Europe. Just a couple of days ago I ordered some Major D's myself. I'll have to enjoy a cup while watching the race on TV.

2. The USPS team leader, Johan Bruyneel, commented on the difficulty of picking the team. He talked about picking the last few spots and having to disappoint a couple of riders. It must be tough to be the first person who didn't get picked.

posted by Michael | 7:05 PM


Thursday, July 01, 2004

Short note


All week I've been in training (work related). I'm going through a "Leadership Academy" sponsored by the University of Kansas and the Mid America Regional Council. Basically, the idea is to put a small group of local government managers through a fairly intensive course that should help us become better "leaders."

The training has been pretty good. We've have very good, credible speakers (not the usual management-consultant types you'd expect at "leadership" training). I've learned something.

But it has also been fairly intensive and I got home a few minutes ago with no inspiration to write about orienteering (though a lot of what we've been discussing could easily transfer to orienteering organizations).

I've got to write something about orienteering, though. So, I'll just give a couple of links to maps from Japan (host of the 2005 World Champs). Check out one map and then the other. These maps remind me of some place, but I'm not quite sure where.

posted by Michael | 9:58 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