Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Trail run at Weston Bend


posted by Michael | 7:40 PM


A good way to train on maps you know well


Take a look at Thierry Gueorgiou's latest route choice analysis.

There are a whole bunch of interesting things about the analysi. But, one thing that struck me is that this sort of training would be very useful on maps you are familiar with.

I have several maps nearby and I run a lot of technique training on them. There are tricks to making good use of maps you know well. But, it hadn't occurred to me to use them the way Gueorgiou used the leg in his analysis -- pick a route, test several alternatives, and compare the actual time differnce to the differences you expected.

I think picking the fastest route isn't usually so difficult. But, figuring out time differences is tricky. I haven't trained that skill very much. It might be something to work on this winter.

posted by Michael | 7:15 PM



Had some sort of problem with our home internet connection yesterday. So, I couldn't connect to post anything on Tuesday.

posted by Michael | 6:53 AM


Monday, August 29, 2005

Did Not Finish


Boris wrote:

One thing i noticed yesterday, and i wonder if anyone can comment on this: it seems very normal and acceptable here in Sweden to quit when you are having a bad race. Judging from the splits and from talking to people, several good runners who got off to bad starts just quit, and this seems fine. For me, quitting a race is one of the most shameful things i can do - i have done it almost only in cases of injury or an extreme situation (US Champs at Fallen Leaf). Why is it that here it seems more acceptable than finishing with a bad result?

I haven't ever thought of quitting as a cultural thing. Some people quit a lot. Some never quit.

I'm one of those people who DNFs a fair amount. If I'm not having fun, I stop (though if it was a relay, I wouldn't). Last Spring I DNF'd on two A-meet days. On the first day at the NTOA event, I stopped when I had only a couple of Kms to go. I just wasn't having fun. As soon as I recognized that thought, I stopped. What was the point? At West Point, I was fighting my mind. I couldn't concentrate. I was missing controls. I just wasn't paying attention to what I was doing. I stopped, sat on a rock for a while, watched Kenny go by, and then jogged to the finish.

Some people never quit. Some coaches will tell you, "quiters never win; winners never quit."

There seem to be two distinct approached:

1. Never give up. You might still do ok, because everyone else might be doing bad. On top of that, quiting is bad (shameful, lazy, weak).

2. If you're not having fun, stop. The whole point of sport is to have fun.

I'm quite sure there are very good orienteers who fit in each group.

It is a bit like the distinction between different views of results. Some people are satisfied when they win, even if they didn't run well. Some people are satisfied if the don't win, as long as they ran well.

posted by Michael | 7:20 PM


Sunday, August 28, 2005

No U.S. Champs, but a return to N.H.


I didn't run the U.S. Champs this weekend, and I'm wondering if I should have. Mary was at the event and from what she tells me it was fun -- nice terrain and good courses.

I decided not to go for three main reasons. First, I expected it to be hot and I don't really enjoy running in hot weather. Second, I didn't expect to have a chance to get in enough decent technical training before the race. In KC it isn't really practical to run in the forest from about the beginning of May until mid-September. Third, I'd done a bunch of traveling in July and figured a bit of time at home would feel good. A few years ago I "over travelled" and got really worn out (mentally). I don't want that to happen again.

Still, after hearing Mary's description of the terrain and courses, I'm wondering if I should have gone.

Mary, by the way, is stuck out in Oregon. She was supposed to fly home today, but Delta cancelled her flight. Instead, she'll fly home tomorrow.

Return to N.H.

My next O' trip is to New Hampshire. Four years ago, when I tore my leg up in New Hampshire, I decided I'd never go back. But, now I've decided to "get back on the horse."

Running at Pawtuckaway will feel stressful. It has taken me a good three years to get to a point where I could run in the forest without feeling at least some anxiety. I expect to feel a bit worried/scared/unconcentrated at Pawtuckaway.

posted by Michael | 8:26 PM


Saturday, August 27, 2005  

I spent some of today's run on trails. This time of year that means running into spider webs. Lots of them.

posted by Michael | 7:02 PM


Fagerudd's WOC


Kim Fagerudd wrote a bit of a summary of his WOC. As you may recall, he had some bad mistakes on the middle qualifying race and didn't make the final. Here is a rough translation of a bit of what he wrote:

My preparations before the WOC went well. I was in very good physical form and the hills in Japan should have suited me well. We went to Japan about a week and a half before the start, which gave me a chance to get to know the terrain. I don't think my result would have been any different if we'd come to Japan earlier.

The training in Japan went well and I wasn't making any big mistakes. Maybe that affected me, I never had to face the situation I met during the race. On the other hand, it is really hard to train or simulate the feeling you get when you start to make a mistake in a World Champs. I think I was well prepared before the WOC, but maybe I should have thought a bit more about the importance of the qualifying race.

In the beginning of the qualifying race...I could have avoided the first mistake by taking a safer route choice. I should have taken the control from above and then it wouldn't have been a problem. The next mistake was probably more a result of WOC-nerves and inexperience.

We had a good feeling within the Finnish team during the whole trip. Three weeks together isn't always so easy, but there weren't any big conflicts. Thanks to all the team and leaders for a great trip.

...This WOC definitely gave me more motivation. I showed myself that I have the capacity to be high in the results list. At the same time, I failed, which makes me want to get revenge. One thing that doesn't improve my motivation is the dcision to includie micr-o or Micro-O' or whatever it is called at the next WOC....

If you can read Swedish, read Fagerudd's WOC article. If you can't read Swedish, you can still follow the link to see a bit of the map that shows Fagerudd's mistakes.

posted by Michael | 6:46 PM


Friday, August 26, 2005

Watching car racing and looking at an O' map


I'm skipping this weekend's U.S. Champs in Oregon. Instead, I'm staying home. I mowed the lawn tonight and now I'm cooking dinner. After dinner, I'll sit on the sofa, glance at an O' map, and watch the NASCAR race on TV.

Car racing and orienteering reminds me of a web page I came across a few days ago. I like reading web pages written by orienteers. Usually, I find them when someone posts an announcement on Alternativet or OPN. But, a few days ago I found one that, as far as I can tell, is nearly unknown.

Ingun Fristad is a Norwegian who has run one WOC (2001). She lives in Finland and has a web page. The page isn't full of stuff, but when I first came across it I was surprised to see an entry about auto racing!

Fristad wrote a bit about her summer training, including that she is aiming for next year's WOC, and described a visit to watch Finland's World Rally Champs race.

Fristad's page is a bit light -- a few stories, some photos, no maps. Most of the page is in Norwegian, but a bit is in English. If you're a fanatic orienteer, it is worth a look at Ingunn Fristad's web page.

posted by Michael | 7:26 PM


Thursday, August 25, 2005  

This is the h.r. and altitude curve from one of my common trainings. I jog around on trails at a nearby park, climbing a bit of a hill, to warm up. Then I do 3 intervals of a bit over 3 minutes on trails in a flat section of the park. I take a full recovery between hard sections.

posted by Michael | 7:36 PM


Wednesday, August 24, 2005  

Unpaved runway at the airport in the Gobi.

posted by Michael | 9:52 PM


a couple of thoughts about micro O'


I spent a bit of time today thinking about micro O'.

How fast do you think the top runners at the Nordic Champs ran during the micro O' section of the race?

When I watched the video, it looked like people did a lot of standing and didn't move fast. But, when I looked at the times for the micro O' section, it looks like people were moving pretty well.

For the micro O' at the Nordic Champs, the men did 8 controls over 810 meters. The average min/km time for the top ten men was 7:17 min/km. While that isn't moving flat out, that is moving pretty well (remember they are having to find controls).

The women did 8 controls over 730 meters. The average min/km for the top ten women was 8:52 min/km. Again, that isn't moving fast, but it is moving reasonably well.

The difference between the paces of the men and the women seems, to me, pretty big. The women may have been being more cautious. Though when I look at the number of controls missed, I don't see any difference (I figured that if the women were being a bit more cautious, that might show up in fewer missed controls).

Compromises for spectators and TV

Micro O' is clearly a compromise to make the sport more interesting for spectators and TV. And, the idea of including micro O' in the WOC seems to be getting a lot of criticism because it is a compromise. Micro O' isn't real orienteering and it just doesn't feel right to be making a compromise in a World Champs.

If it were up to me, I wouldn't include micro O' in the WOC.

As I thought about it, I wondered why the compromises we already make for spectators and TV don't seem to bother me (and certainly don't seem to be getting much, if any, criticism)?

I looked at the relay courses from Japan and looked at how much dead running was put in the course to make it easier to watch. You can see the relay course here.

It looks like the event is set up so the orienteers begin with a couple hundred meters of dead running (i.e. no navigation) to get to the start triangle. Then the courses loop back through the start/finish/spectator area and cover a good 800 meters with essentially no navigation (one control that would be quite simple to find).

It looks like the relay courses included a good 1 km with almost no orienteering value to make the race easier to watch.

I'm not complaining about the relay courses and how they were designed. In fact, I like when courses are set up to have some chance to watch the orienteers during the race. What I find interesting is that my knee jerk reaction to micro O' is negative and I don't have that reaction to setting up normal courses for spectators.

posted by Michael | 9:23 PM


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Tips for American Orienteers Living in Sweden


Boris Granovskiy, who has run on the U.S. team at the last two WOCs, just moved to Sweden. Boris is not quite 25 years old. If I understand correctly, he is studying at the university in Uppsala.

I was 24 when I moved to Sweden. I'd run on one WOC team. I was going to the university in Stockholm. So, Boris and I have something in common...of course, I'm 41 now; older...and wiser?

As I ran tonight I thought about my experiences and what, if any, advice I'd have for an orienteer from the U.S. moving to Sweden. Here are five tips:

1. Work with the coach/trainer for the club. I got a lot out of working with a coach. We talked about goals, we set out a training plan, he reviewed my training, etc. I learned a lot and made a lot of progress.

2. Go to lots of club trainings. There were weeks where I'd train with the club on Tuesdays (a short jog and some indooor gympa), Wednesdays (night O' training races), Thursdays (running on the map around the club house followed by soup and sandwiches), Friday (playing innebandy), and Saturday or Sunday (a long O' training session). When I was training with the club the most was when I improved the most.

3. Use orienteering to learn Swedish. It is tough to learn Swedish. Nearly everyone in the country speaks English. It is easy to get by without learning the language. But, by learning with just a small vocabulary, you can begin to speak Swedish with orienteers. Once you can start to use the langauge, you can pick up more and more. Learn Swedish for "how did it go?" (Hur gick det?). Ask someone at the end of their race and listen carefully. Before long you'll pick up enough that when they ask you "Hur gick det?" You'll be able to answer.

4. But some essential gear. Get a headlamp and battery. You'll need it for night O' and running during the winter. My headlamp is, without doubt, the best investment I've ever made in orienteering gear. Neoprene socks make running in the winter a whole lot more comfortable. With neoprene socks you can run through a wet marsh in the snow without your toes going numb. I got a lot of use out of one of those backpack/chair combinations. A thermos was another good item to have at races.

5. Balancing different demands can be tricky. There will be nights when you might have options like: running a local night O' race; going to Stockholm with a bunch of foreign students; hanging out with some Swedish students; or working on that paper that is due tomorrow. I tried to keep a fairly even balance. If something suffered it was usually school (if was there to, as my advisor put it, write a masters thesis, not a masterpiece).

It'll be fun to follow Boris' progress as he lives and trains in Sweden.

posted by Michael | 6:52 PM


Monday, August 22, 2005  

Hey, that cloud above a mountain in the Gobi looks like a bunny rabbit!

posted by Michael | 8:01 PM


Course setting styles


I was reading Oystein Sorensen's summary of his weekend's racing where he touched on the idea of course setting styles. Sorensen wrote about having started Sunday's race after having learned about the course setter's style on Saturday. He went in to more detail about both races and, if you can manage the Norwegian, it is worth reading his article.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about course setting styles. Gene Wee has a distinct style. His courses look similar and the way he makes use of different leg lengths stands out. Possum Trot O' Club course setters used to set courses that all looked the same -- the same general shape and leg lengths. It was very distinct (they've gotten to be a bit more diverse in the recent years). A few years ago, Peggy Dickison set the courses on one day at the U.S. Champs. I looked at some courses she'd set earlier. When the U.S. Champs came, I was completely ready for Peggy's courses. We didn't face any difficulties I hadn't thought about before the race. Kris Harrison set the courses on the other day, and her courses had a very different style.

Back to Sorensen....The course setter for the two races he ran last weekend was a well-known Norwegian orienteer named Eystein Weltzien. Weltzien's courses from the weekend have a distinct style. Take a look at:

Sunday's relay course and Saturday's indiviudal course, which is divided into three parts: start to 2; 2 to 8; and 9 to the finnish.

Interesting courses with a distinct style, don't you think?

posted by Michael | 7:39 PM


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Night O' Champs


The maps below show a few legs from the night O' champs in Colorado (M40 course). The race was a couple of weeks ago.

The terrain was quite nice for night O': pleasant running, good visibility, and a good map. The forest is at altitude, making running a bit difficult. I walked a lot of the uphills.

My plan for the race was to take the running easy and keep good map contact. I didn't want to be tired for the relay champs (which started about 12 hours later). I glanced at my heart rate a few times during the race and kept it under 160. My normal race h.r. is from about 165-172. For the night O', my h.r. averaged 156.

Running a bit easier than normal made it easier to keep good map contact. Even though I ran a bit easier than normal, I picked safe routes because relocating at night is tricky.

I lost a bit of time on 6. I drifted a bit further left than planned (and even a bit further left than the line I drew shows). The reentrants about half way between 5 and 6 didn't fit my expectations (I didn't realize I was drifting left). I felt unsure. Then when I was within the control circle, I didn't see the marker. I stopped and looked at the map for a few seconds. I couldn't figure out where I could be. I took two or three steps forward and the control marker was right in front of me (not more than 10 meters away).

That little bobble at 6 probably cost me a minute or so.

posted by Michael | 7:36 PM



posted by Michael | 7:34 PM



posted by Michael | 7:34 PM


Saturday, August 20, 2005  

Late last night a thunderstorm rolled through. I stuck my camera out the front door, having no idea what the picture would look like. Just as the shutter opened, lightning struck. For a split second, it was like daylight.

posted by Michael | 7:05 PM


Oystein Kristiansen on micro O'


Oystein Kristiansen wrote about mirco O' on the OPN discussion. I don't have the energy to translate everything he wrote, but I'll summarize his two main points:

1. Kristiansen is glad to see the IOF making an effort to try something new to make the sport TV friendly. It might not work. But, it might.

2. Micro O' is about managing the changes in map scales during a race and carefully reading the control description. Those are both things that are easy to train.

I think both of these are good points. I've been a bit suprised (but only a bit) at how negative the reactions have been to including micro O' in the WOC. If it were up to me, I wouldn't include micro O'. But given the decision, I think it is intersting to think about how best to deal with it.

posted by Michael | 6:50 PM


Friday, August 19, 2005  

Mook finishing the last leg for the Orienteer Kansas relay team. Note the new OK O' top from Axis Gear.

posted by Michael | 8:53 PM


A Swiss map and a dim memory


I was looking at some JWOC maps and came across the relay map at San Bernardino. Check out Oystein Sorensen's routes.

I recognize the terrain (and the name). I ran on this map a good 20 years ago at a Junior Euro Champs (the precursor to the JWOC). If memory serves me (and it is possible I'm mistaken), I was lost on the hillside near control 11. Really lost; I lost tens of minutes.

posted by Michael | 8:46 PM


Thursday, August 18, 2005  

What do you suppose I've got in that container? Any guesses? The snapshot is from the days we spent living with the nomads.

posted by Michael | 8:21 PM


Live Orienteering on TV


I guess one reason for micro O' is to make orienteering interesting as a live TV sport. Which got me wondering -- is there any good way to cover oreinteering live on TV?

My initial thought is "no way." An orienteering event unfolds too slowly to really work for live coverage. That's not all. So much is going on in orienteering that you can't see. Looking at an orienteer doesn't give you much (any?) sense of what is going on.

The best live TV coverage I can recall was the 2004 WOC in Sweden. What made the coverage good was the waiting. You felt some drama as you waited for a runner to show up at the control. Then you'd see a runner go by and you'd wait again. I think you had to be an orienteering fan to appreciate the coverage. If you weren't an orienteer (maybe even if you weren't a fanatic orienteer), you'd probably lose interest quickly.

Maybe micro O' is better. I doubt it.

Orienteering could, I think, make for good TV....but not live. I think a good editor with a bunch of video from a race could put together a good story. Forget about how the event unfolded live, edit it to tell a story. That's how TV covers adventure racing and it seems to work pretty well.

Live orienteering works suprisingly well on the radio. I have fond memories of listening to Tio Mila coverage on Swedish radio. The announcers sat out in the forest at controls and gave updates as the teams went by. When nothing was happening in the forest, they played music. Tio Mila seems to be an ideal radio sports event (up there with a good baseball game).

posted by Michael | 8:04 PM


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Micro O'


The internet is buzzing with discussion about "micro O'." The International O' Federation decided to include micro O' as part of next year's middle distance WOC.

What is micro orienteering? It is pretty simple. At some point during the race, the course will include a number of legs where the control flag is on a feature, but there are also controls hung on nearby features. The idea is to punch at the correct feature. To make it tougher, the orienteers won't have control codes. Punching at the wrong control results in a penalty, but not a disqualification. The penalty involves running a bit extra. The idea is to make orienteering a bit like biathlon (cross-country skiing with target shooting, where the athletes have to ski a bit further if they miss a target).

Most of the discussion on the internet seems to be complaints about including micro O' in a WOC and/or changing the rules without much discussion or input from elite orienteers.

I don't think including micro O' in the middle distance is a good idea. But, IOF didn't ask me (and probably wouldn't listen anyway).

I find it interesting, however, to think about how I'd prepare if I had to compete in a micro O' race. To start to think about it, I'd ask myself what different demands micro O' puts on the orienteer. It seems like the main problems an orienteer is going to face are:

1. Changing maps in the middle of the race. At the Nordic Champs -- so far the only big micro O' event I'm aware of -- the course began on a 1:10,000/5 meter map; went to a 1:5,000/2.5 meter map for the micro O' portion; and then finished on a 1:10,000/5 meter map. I think the micro O' map had a bit of extra detail, too. That change could be tricky.

2. Micro O' changes the rythem of the race. I've watched a video of the micro O' portion of the Nordic Champs and it is clear that the orienteers in the micro O' portion move slowly. That change, from running at a normal O' pace to standing around, could also be tricky.

3. Micro O' penalizes you for just getting close and looking for the flag. Having a very clear picture of the control feature and surrounding details is always a good idea, but should pay off even more in micro O'.

Are there other problems you'd face during micro O'? Probably, but I'm not sure what they'd be.

posted by Michael | 7:23 PM


Tuesday, August 16, 2005  

The Gobi.

posted by Michael | 7:54 PM


Mary's gift


When I got home today I got a surprise. A new issue of Orienteering Today was waiting for me.

It reminded me to write about Mary's gift.

For the last couple of years, Mary has picked out a promising young orienteer and bought them an Orienteering Today subscription. The idea is that the magazine is inspiring, but a bit expensive for someone still in school (or even just out of school). For an orienteer in school, Orienteering Today is a luxury. But, for Mary and I (both in our 40s, both with full-time jobs), it isn't much money.

Part of the deal is that Mary asks the recipient to wait until they are 40 and then do something to help out a promising young orienteer.

I think Mary's idea is a good one. I think we'll make it a tradition (we've done it twice).

posted by Michael | 7:43 PM


Monday, August 15, 2005

More notes on the U.S. at the middle qualifying race


Continuing from where I left off yesterday...

Erin, Samantha and Pavlina

Erin qualified for the final. That's really good. I think it is fair to say that every U.S. runner who runs a WOC has qualifying for a final as a goal.

It looks to me like Erin had a decent race and made her way around the course alone. LapCombat estimates she made almost 4 minutes of mistakes, but none of the mistakes are especially big (the two biggest are 46 and 44 seconds).

While Erin qualified, she was very close to not qualifying. Three seconds slower -- just slipping and falling once, for example -- and Annabel Vellador beats Erin. The lesson is obvious; fight for every second.

Erin is fairly young;just 24, I think. It'll be fun to see her get better.

Samantha just missed qualifying. She finished 16th (top 15 made the final). While Samantha's place was just one from qualifying, she was 1:32 from qualifying. In a race of just over 30 minutes, that is pretty far back.

Based on LapCombat's analysis, Samantha started slowly. On the first four controls, she lost 28, 30, 33 and 57 seconds. She also lost 1:56 on six. Losing a little time on each of the first four controls could mean she just started out a bit slowly, taking it careful. But, the mistake at six is odd.

Check the map and look at control 6. It doesn't look difficult. Most of the route to the control is on a trail, and you can enlarge the control feature to a spur about 100 meters wide.

So, what happened at the 6th control? I've got no idea. I can speculate that because the leg looked so simple, Samantha let up with her concentration. Further, because the leg invovles a lot of trail running, she may have picked up the pace. Maybe she started thinking about running? When that happens, it is not hard to make a mistake.

Samantha is just 23 years old, I think, and clearly has the capacity to have better results in the coming years.

While Erin and Samantha are young, Pavlina isn't. She's 44 (even older than me!).

The splits show Pavlina having a steady run. LapCombat shows just a bit over two minutes of mistake time. Her mistake ratio is better than Minna Kauppi's (Minna won the qualifying race). But, being old matters and Pavlina didn't run fast enough. I don't know if she'd be satisfied with her run, but to me it looks like a reasonable race.

Pam James from Canada was just four seconds behind Pavlina. Pam's race was quite different and I've got to think Pam would be disappointed. Pam dropped 1:52 on one control. Which one? Number 6, just like Samantha. What was it about that control?

Pavlina and Pam ran the "C" qualifying course. So, did Anne Margrethe Hausken of Norway. Hausken was one of the big surprises of the middle races. She was a clear medal candidate. But, she didn't qualify for the final.

Hausken had a huge mistake on one control. At 10, she lost 6 minutes. Ouch. Ten is a relatively tricky looking control (the same area when Dan lost so much time). Here is a quick translation of some of what Hausken wrote about it:

I'd looked at the short leg to 10 earlier in the race and I knew that 9 and 10 are on the same contour. Go through some green, cross a stream and I'd be there....I make a n adjustment in my direction, but I'm not sure exactly where I am....I catch sight of a control on a boulder and go there, but I can't get the map and terrain to fit. Now I get stressed....90 percent of my thoughts are negative. I'm using the 10 percent that is left to find my way to the control...

Hauken's description goes on a bit more, but you get the idea. She got a bit off, lost map contact, started feeling stressed, and couldn't keep it together. It is a tough sport.

posted by Michael | 5:58 PM


Sunday, August 14, 2005  

Mary took this snapshot of me. I'm riding a cross between a cow and a yak. It was fun, it a bit scary. I also tried to ride a yak, but the yak didn't want me on his back. After trying to get on two times, and managing not to get stomped by the yak as he moved around, trying to keep me off his back. I gave up.

posted by Michael | 9:39 PM


A quick look at the U.S. team's middle qualifying races


The WOC organizers have posted split times from the races and those results include some analysis using some software called LapCombat. I don't really know how LapCombat works, but the software kicks out two interesting numbers. One is a "cruising speed index" and one is a "mistake ratio." In both measures, lower numbers are better. You can see an example here.

I thought it'd be fun to look at how the U.S. runners did.

We had six runners in the middle qualifying races and it looks like we had four decent races. We also had two quite bad races. Here is a quick summary.

Boris, Sergey and Dan

Boris had a decent race. He finished 22nd and missed qualifying by almost 4:30. LapCombat estimates his mistakes at 4:01. So, even with a perfect race, Boris wouldn't have qualified. Boris did a bit better in the second half of the course.

Boris' race was about what I'd expect. He's a decent navigator and runner, but he doesn't have loads of experience or training. Let's hope Boris works hard and is ready to do better in Denmark.

Sergey had a bad race. LapCombat estimates his mistakes on the first two controls at 1:51 and 5:41. The guy who started two minutes after Sergey, just beat him to the first control. You can see Sergey's course (with Tero's routes) here.

The first control on Sergey's course looks fairly straightforward. The second looks tricky. I suspect -- and this is purely speculation -- that Sergey made a minor parallel error at 1 (probably checking one reentrant too soon) and then made a major parallel error at 2. It looks to me like the approach to 2 could be quite tricky. It'd be easy to miss the reentrant by 50 meters. It also would be easy to miss by a couple of hundred meters, heading down one of the major spurs to the east or west of the control.

A few years ago, Sergey and I exchanged some emails about what he called the "first control syndrome." Sergey noted that people often miss the first control. Now, I've spent a bunch of time carefully studying splits from different races, looking for patterns. You won't find a clear tendency for people to make mistakes on the first control (in fact, the might be a slight tendency for people to do better on the first control). But, I've just been looking at overall patterns. Certainly, some individuals will have a tendency to miss the first control. Why? I'm not sure, maybe it is nerves. Maybe it is a self-fulfilling prophecy? Maybe Sergey is one of those people?

Sergey is a strong runner. My impression is that he's an uneven orienteer. I thought he had a good chance to have a good race in Japan. At the middle qualifying race, he didn't have a good race.

Dan also had a bad race. Dan lost, by LapCombat's calculations, 8:12 on the 10th control. Aside from that, he had a decent race. He was sitting in 18th place at the 9th control, then boomed...sort of.

Take a look at the course Dan ran, with Mats Troeng's routes.

Control 10 jumps out as a tricky control. Troeng described it as "the course's toughest leg." In general, controls that look tricky aren't. If you can see from the map that the control will be tough, you adapt your techniques (slow down and take a safe approach), and you don't miss it.

Some more pure speculation....what might have happened to Dan is that he wasn't taking this control carefully because he was with someone. Sometimes running with someone helps, and sometimes it hurts. It can be easy to start to lose contact and become uncertain, but then trust (hope) that the other person has contact. Dan was running with a guy named Alexander Minakov from Russia. Minakov and Dan punched 3 together (actually a second apart), then they were within 5 seconds of each other at each of the next controls until ten. Minakov lost a chunck of time at 10, but found it a bit before Dan.

Looking at the map, I'd guess that Dan and Minakov spent time in the area north and a bit east of the control. That looks like a rough, low visibility area. I can imagine running back and forth in that area trying to spot the control. There was also a control on a boulder a bit down hill from the control Dan and Minakov were looking for. I suppose they might have found themselves down there and then become confused. That close to the finish of a race it is hard to relax and make sense of what is going on. It can be tempting to start hunting rather than make a plan and follow it.

Erin, Samantha and Pavlina

I was going to write about the women. I've spent some time looking at the results. But, I'm tired of writing. It'll have to wait till tomorrow.

Take a look at this web page

Jukka Inkeri posted a link in a comment from my post about following. This is worth a look. You'll find a long course, redesigned to reduce the chances that runners could work together.

posted by Michael | 8:30 PM


Saturday, August 13, 2005

Two mistakes from last Sunday


The maps below (click on the image for higher resolution), show two mistakes I made during last Sunday's race. Not much to say about them, just being sloppy.

posted by Michael | 6:55 PM



On my way to 5, my mind wandered. I knew I was looking for a rocky hill with a dot knoll on the back side of it. When I saw the rocky hill a bit north of the control cirlce I checked it out. It must have cost me 30-40 seconds.

posted by Michael | 6:54 PM



I lost some time on this leg. I should have stayed a bit right of the straight line, the running would have been easier.

posted by Michael | 6:53 PM


Friday, August 12, 2005

Stopping following


After yesterday's world championships long distance race, following is an obvious topic. Here are a few thoughts about following.

1. You can't eliminate following from orienteering. You also can't elimnate fraud, crime, war, or any number of bad things. But you can put in controls that make it harder to follow and easier to catch (and punish) people who follow.

2. The easiest way to get rid of the problem is to "legalize" following. Orienteering could always be a mass start race where anyone can follow anyone else. The first person to cross the line wins. It'd be exciting to watch. It'd be fair. Making following an accepted part of the sport is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. But, it'd be a big change in the nature of the sport and, in my opinion, a mistake.

3. Orienteering relies on protests to identify and address following. Someone might follow another orienteer around the course, but if a competitor or team leader doesn't protest, everyone just ignores it (recall the North Americans in Ohio as an example). But, orienteering doesn't have to rely on protests to identify problems. At a WOC you could assign someone the job of identifying probable following and then taking a look at each specific case. Studying splits lets you spot probably following quickly and easily. If that happened, you'd have a lot of possible following incidents identified and looked at. That alone might reduce the amount of following in the sport.

4. The best control to prevent following is individual starts with reasonable start intervals. What are reasonable start intervals? It depends on the terrain, the course setting and the level of competition. I think a strong case can be made that two minutes was too small a start interval for the long distance races at the WOC.

5. When auditors look at controls to prevent fraud, we talk about the "control environment." Control environment involves a bunch of things, but you can boil it down to something like the organization's (business or government or whatever) culture. Some organizations have a strong control environment -- everyone knows what is expected; what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. In some places bribes and kick backs are common business practices. In some places bribes and kick backs are clearly unacceptable. An orienteering "control environment" that frowns on following won't prevent people from following; but it'd probably reduce the amount of following that goes on.

posted by Michael | 7:42 PM


Thursday, August 11, 2005

A couple of notes about the middle distance race


Simone Niggli and Thierry Gueorgiou by fairly big margins. Looking at the splits and the split analysis on the WOC pages, it looks like they each had very different ways to win big. (If you're interested, check out splits for the men and women).

To simplify things a bit: Niggli navigated well, but really gained by running faster than her competition; while Gueorgio ran well, but really gained by navigating better than his compeition.

In the sprint qualifying, Tore Sandvik made a big mistake when he misread his course (see yesterday's posting). In the middle final, Kalle Dalin was DQ'd because he ran from 4 to 6 without punching at 5. Ouch. Looking at the map, you can see how that could happen.

posted by Michael | 8:16 PM


Wednesday, August 10, 2005  

Mary heading out to round up the sheep and goats.

posted by Michael | 9:26 PM


A couple of WOC notes


Just a couple of quick notes before I begin to follow the middle distance final online (it starts in just a few minutes) at http://woc2005.bglb.jp/online/en/index.jsp?id=&style=

Tore Sandvik wrote about what happened to him during his sprint qualifying race (he didn't make the final). As he left the 5th control, he was reading the map from the 6th control. I guess it is a good reminder for all of us -- one of the skills that sprint O' emphasizes is carefully reading the course.

If I remember right, a couple of very good orienteers had similar problems at the WOC sprint in Switzerland a couple of years ago.

One of the favorites in the men's race tonight is Anders Nordberg. He wrote about his strategy for the middle final. A rough translation:

...I plan to run agressively tomorrow....that is something I've often been weak at, but it was soemthing that was absolutely essential for my result at last year's WOC -- I will think positively and agressively the last part of the course. I know the last ten minutes will be tough...

The starter before me, perhaps the biggest favorite in teh race, is Theirry Gueorgiou. When I start, mhy goal is that I will go out and catch up to Thierry. Nothing is impossible, but mainly I want to have a "primitive" goal for really force myself to be agressive from the beginning. It isn't so important that I reach that goal, just that I'm fighting for seconds.

And a last pre-middle note...Sandy Hott Johansen from Canada had a very good qualifying race and it will be interesting to see how she does. The Swedish O' page "Alternativet" has had a contest where you can pick your favorites. One of the questions they've asked people is to predict Sandy's place in the final. The last time I checked the median answer was 15th.

posted by Michael | 6:30 PM


Tuesday, August 09, 2005  

A camel in front of Hongoryn Els in Gobi.

posted by Michael | 7:53 PM


Sandvik's sprint preparation


Tore Sandvik wrote about some of his sprint preparation on his home page. If you can read Norwegian, take a look at the original article.

Sandvik has been spending some of his time in Japan using OCAD to draw his own map of the sprint area. He scanned an old 1:10,000 map of the terrain and has been drawing his map at the scale and contour interval for the race (which is, I think, 1:5,000 and 2.5 meters).

Here is my quick translation of some of what Sandvik wrote:

...it has given me a very good impression of the terrain, and at the same time I'm familiar with the map I'll run on tomorrow. There are probably few others who have done the same thing, and that is another advantage that I have over the others.

At the model event I "remembered" the area. I know it pretty well in my head. There were no surpises at the model event, it was what I'd expected.

I also have an idea of where I think the course will go tomorrow and I've set a lot of legs on my map. This sort of preparation has always been good for me.

posted by Michael | 1:17 PM


Monday, August 08, 2005  

This weekend in Colorado a number of people had nice things to say about the photos I'd posted from Mongolia. That inspired me to post some more. Today's Mongolia snapshot is a landscape near Kharkhorin. In the foreground you can see a couple of people on a motorcycle. A lot of the nomads own motorcycles and you see people (sometimes as many as three or four) tooling around the countryside on motorcycles.

posted by Michael | 7:13 PM


A couple of WOC notes


After being away from the computer for a few days there is a lot of WOC news for me to catch up on. Here are a couple of quick notes from Mats Troeng's WOC blog.

At the pre-start area for the middle qualifying race the runners got a bit of paper that included text in Japanese that said, "I'm feeling sick, please call the following phone number 0536-37-2360." The idea was that runners suffering from heat problems could get help even if they didn't speak Japanese.

I've been interested in the "cooling vests" that are out there on the market. I don't enjoy heat and haven't had many good performances in the heat. The basic idea of these vests is that they cool off your body before you start. I was interested in seeing if any of the runners at the WOC would be using cooling vests. Troeng tested one. He didn't write about how well it worked, but he included a photo of himself in his vest (scroll to the bottom of the page).

posted by Michael | 1:11 PM


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Next planned update on Monday, August 8


I'm going to Colorado to run the Night and Relay Champs. Running at altitude will be tough. I'm not likely to be sharp, having done little O' technique training recently. I trained little in July, due mostly to travel. Still, I'm looking forward to the races and hope to have clean runs.

If I weren't going away, I'd probably spend some time translating parts of this page (which describes a pre-WOC training exercise).

posted by Michael | 1:17 PM


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Orienteering in Japan


It is fun to think about how to orienteer in the Japanese WOC terrain. I like to look at the maps and think about what my plan would be if I had to orienteer in Japan.

Check out this a map with Thierry Gueorgiou's routes on one of the training areas.

Hanna Palm, one of the Swedish WOC runners, wrote her thoughts on orienteering in Japanese terrain. Here is a bit of what she wrote (a very quick translation):

The difficulties are in picking the right route and then avoiding parallel errors of running on the wrong spur or in the wrong reentrant. You also have to concentrate despite all of the noise -- cicadas in the forest are very loud. There are also a lot of bugs moving around on the ground.

Cicadas! I'd never thought of the sound of cicadas being an issue for orienteering. But, I guess if you don't live some place with cicadas, it'd be disturbing. Maybe the Swedish team should have been training by running O' races with an Ipod full of cicada mp3s.

posted by Michael | 6:37 PM


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

What is Troeng thinking about?


Mats Troeng is in Japan to run the WOC for Sweden. But, he's sick. Here is a quick translation of something Troeng wrote about his current status:

...How much does a sickness like this really worsen your performance?

Let me speculate about it. Say I run a certrain course (e.g. the middle distance final at the WOC) in 32 minutes when I'm in top form. What would be time be if I was in "normal" form?

Of course the answer depends on a number of factors. Based on my own experience I'd guess the answer would be about 33 minutes. My physical results don't usually vary so much during a competition season. A little bit worse phsycial form usually shows up as feeling like it is going touch, but I'm not actually going much slower.

Let us think about it another way. If I run a course in 32 minutes with a "normal" technical perforance, what would the time be with a top technical performance? A guess in Japanese terrain is it'd be about 29-30 minutes. I'm basing that on the idea that taking the right routchoices and running the right way through the forest will pay off.

In other words, the technique/mental preparations are extremely important. And having a cold doesn't prevent you from thinking a lot. I have, in other words, had some really good preparations!

It sounds like Troeng is making the best of his situation. It'll be interesting to see how he recovers from his cold and how he runs at the WOC.

posted by Michael | 8:02 PM


Monday, August 01, 2005

Resuming daily updates


It is August 1. Time to start updating this page on a daily (roughly) basis.

The topic has got to be the upcoming WOC, which begins in just a few days.

I've spent a little time reading reports from orienteers who will race at the WOC. The commong theme -- dealing with travel and jet lag. Japan is a long way from Europe or North America. Getting to Japan means spending a lot of time on an airplane and then dealing with the time difference (Japan is 7 hours off from Sweden and 14 hours off from Kansas City).

In the last month, I spent over 40 hours sitting in airplanes. That's a lot. I had plenty of time to think about how to travel comfortably. I changed times zones a couple of times -- KC to Mongolia (14 hours), Mongolia to KC (14 hours), KC to Portland (2 hours), and Portland to KC (2 hours).

A couple of thoughts:

It strikes me there are two ways to sleep on airplanes. You can take a sleeping pill and try to sleep for a reasonable amount of time or you can try to take lots of short naps. The problem with trying to sleep for long periods of time is that you can get extremely sore from airplane seats. The problem with lots of short naps is you might not get much sleep.

To combat the discomfort of sitting in a plane, I take aspirin. It seems to help. I don't get nearly as sore from the discomfort of sitting in one position. Of course, I also pile up pillows and try to get as comfortable as possible.

For my flights to/from Mongolia, I went with lots of short naps rather than taking a sleeping pill. I've usually taken a sleeping pill for long flights. I was pleasantly surprised with how well I was able to survive the travel with short naps. I recovered from the trip very quickly (much better than previous trips to Europe). In general, I'm a big fan of the 20 (or 30) minute nap.

Check out this photo of a couple of Norwegian WOC runners sleeping on the flight. It looks like they are trying for the long sleep rather than lots of short naps.

posted by Michael | 6:18 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