Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Monday, October 31, 2005

Lowegren's rant


Fredrik Lowegren has a bit of a rant about course lengths. If you can read Swedish, take a look at what he wrote.

I don't have time to translate the article, but basically Lowegren's points are:

1. Sweden's recent WOC, world cup and Euromeeting results suggest that Sweden is falling behind as an O' nation.

2. M21 courses in Sweden are getting shorter. There are relatively few really long, tough M21 courses.

3. Points 1 and 2 are connected. "...Swedish orienteering no longer has the depth it once did. I think our too wimply "normal" competitions are the cause."

I'm not sure what to think of what Lowegren wrote. It seems possible, but I'm a bit skeptical.

It'd be interesting to see how Sweden compares to other nations. Have course lengths declined in Norway, Finland, Switzerland? I suspect (and if I get around to it I'll check) that course lengths (i.e. winning times) have gotten shorter all over the world.

A more difficult -- and more intersting -- question to look at is the relationship between how people train and course lengths. It seems obvious that when winning times are longer, people will train more. But, I'm not sure that is the case. Unfortunately, figuring out the relationship between course lengths and how people train isn't so easy.

My own experience (which is a very weak proxy for how top elite orienteers train!) is that my training depends more on how motivated I feel and how much time I have than on the length of the events I'm preparing for. Thre is some relationship, but not so much.

posted by Michael | 8:09 PM


Sunday, October 30, 2005

A few random notes


The Grand Prix Polonia web page features a photo of someone in a Possum Trot O' Club suit. How strange. Check out the GPP page and look at the green/black/white PTOC suit in the upper right. I have no idea who that guy is or how he got a PTOC suit.

I was looking at the results from Smalandskavlen (this weekend's big relay race in Sweden) and saw a time that looks very, very good. On the last leg, Emma Engstrand ran the course in 58:25. Engstrand had the second best time on the leg. Minna Kauppi ran 53:48! Wow, that's nearly five minutes faster. Kauppi went out in 9th place, just over ten minutes behind the leader. She passed all but one team (IKHP) and made up about 7 and half minutes. She must have really been moving.

Gene has a nice photo of the Phog Allen statue shrouded in plastic wrap. The statue is in Lawrence, right in front of the Allen Fieldhouse (and has been a control feature for street orienteering in Lawrence). It looks pretty cool.

posted by Michael | 6:28 PM


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Sprint rules and a nice video


I read the proposed USOF rules for sprint races and came across this:

Finding the controls should not be the challenge, rather the ability to choose and complete the best route to them, requiring full concentration throughout the race.

That struck me as strange. Not because there is anything wrong with it, but because it should apply to any O' race. Maybe I'm misunderstanding something.

Swedish TV

Check out the video from Swedish TV at:


Looks like a pretty good job of presenting orienteering.

posted by Michael | 6:32 PM


Friday, October 28, 2005

Anders Nordberg's training


Anders Nordberg wrote a bit about his last 12 months of training. Here is a quick translation of a bit of it:

The last 12 months I did 545 training sessions (30 more than last year), 775 hours of physical training (50 more than last year) and about 130 hours of O' technique (30 hours less than last year). Though I haven't done much planning for the next year, I want to increase the hours with a map in the terrain -- 130 was not good enough.

A bit more on his training from an inerview published on Kondis.no:

Do you have a special training philosophy?

I train with variety and relatively little quality, I think. I also do a lot of strength training. But, no I don't really have a special training philosophy. I think you've got to train a lot and have patience to reach the top as an oreinteer.

posted by Michael | 7:50 PM


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Map quality and an ankle update


A mapper's blacklist is a stick. Maybe a carrot would be a better starting point. The carrot I'm thinking of is an annual award -- best map of the year.

I think there are some real advantages to recognizing a good product over bashing a bad product.

I think some other countries have awards for the best map of the year.

I guess you'd need some sort of nomination process followed by a vote. That would be pretty easy to organize and might have the beneficial effect of enouraging and recognizing good mapping.

Ankle update

My ankle is gradually improving. I think I'll be able to get some reasonable training in this weekend on my mountain bike.

Holger Hott Johansen wrote about his injury and recovery:

Patience and alternative training are the key factors for getting healthy again.

I'll buy that. I'm trying to have patience (though is can be tough) and I'm using alternative training to recover and maintain some fitness.

posted by Michael | 8:05 PM


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Quality of maps


There's been some discussion at Attackpoint about the quality of maps and mappers. One person wrote:

Time to compile "mappers" black list

That's an interesting, though not necessarily good, idea.

The problem with creating a blacklist would be that we orienteers have some difficulty judging the quality of maps.

It is extremely hard to judge the quality of a map during a competition. The biggest problem is that it can be difficult to separate bad course setting (especially bad control placement) from bad mapping.

I think orienteers tend to over emphasize the importance of point features as measures of quality. What I mean is that you'll hear complaints like, "that boulder couldn't have been more than half a meter, the map was bad." But, a problem like that isn't necessarily a big deal.

It can also be hard to place blame. Maps can be "bad" because of problems with the basemap, fieldchecking, drafting and printing. Sorting out the blame can be tricky.

I guess we could figure out a way to measure the quality of a map, but it'd take some careful thought.

posted by Michael | 7:31 PM


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Orienteering archeology


Eric B. spent some time this weekend at Giant City State Park, south of Carbondale, Illinois. He explored a bit on a USGS map and wrote, "I'm told there are O-maps of the park, but I've never seen them. I think the last O-meet in southern IL was at least 20 years ago."

Southern Illinois was once a hot-bed of North American orienteering. In 1970, Sass Peepre came from Ontario to Illinois and helped set up orienteering. Hank Schafermeyer and Ken Ackerman (and certainly some others who I don't know about) were involved in mapping and teaching orienteering. The first U.S. Champs took place near Carbondale on October 17, 1971.

But, that is all in the past. I don't think there is a club left in southern Illinois. That's too bad.

I came across a map from Giant City. Take a look at some of the terrain in these map clips.

Based on my 20+ year old notes, the map and terrain were nice. There were some thick areas and thorns, but the white forest was nice. You could often work through the light green without much trouble by following deer trails. The rock features were big.

Don't forget Boomer!

The little town of Makanda sits on the northwest corner of the Giant City map. If you find yourself in Makanda, you'll want to visit the Boomer Memorial.

posted by Michael | 7:41 PM


Monday, October 24, 2005

Orienteering environment


Some discussion over at Attackpoint has got me thinking about the orienteering environment. Take a look at "best places to live..."

I touched on the subject a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about what I'd do if I was 20 years younger.

I find the topic interesting and something worth putting some thought into. In particular, I'd like to think more carefully about what makes a good orienteering environment. I'd also like to think about how to create that good environment.

A few more thoughts on the topic:

1. I'd pick a good group to train with but bad terrain rather than good terrain but not many people to train with. Of course, the ideal is good terrain and good people to train with.

2. If I were weighing options, I'd put a lot of weight on living somewhere that had forest access right out my door. Being able to train in the forest without having to drive is nice, very nice.

3. For the U.S. I'd consider travel issues. One of the good things about living in Kansas City is that we can fly anywhere in the U.S. for a weekend without having to take vacation (i.e. we can usually catch a Friday afternoon flight) and without having to suffer jet lag. We can travel to either coast for a weekend A-meet. Take a look at how travel made a difference for the baseball player, Jermaine Dye, over at baseballmusings.

4. I'd like to be able to reach a map in about half an hour. If it takes longer, it begins to feel like a chore. Within 30 minutes from my home, I can reach four parks I can train in (and a new map, just 9 minutes from my home is underway). There is one more map within 30 minutes, but access is a bit of an issue. There is also one more map, but it is just a small park O' map. Now, all of those maps are "typical Kansas terrain" -- so they leave a lot to be desired in terms of terrain.

5. It is hard to measure, but the culture or personality of the club is important. I've run for four clubs and all four were distinct. But, some felt better than others. I think it has something to do with the level of organization and the goals of each club. In some clubs I've felt more motivated than in others.

6. I'd pick clubs that put emphasis on relays.

posted by Michael | 7:37 PM


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Focus on what goes right


Here is a rough translation from a summary of a seminar for O' coaches in Norway:

Both Hanne [Staff] and Bjornar [Valstad] pointed out that orienteers (and their trainers) focus too much on the few controls that they boom and not enough on the controls they do well.

I think they are absolutely right. We all spend too much time worrying about mistakes. If you stand around at the finish line, the first thing many (most?) of us do is talk about what went wrong. I've always figured that it doesn't matter what goes wrong, just figure out what goes right and do that again.

posted by Michael | 8:27 PM


Saturday, October 22, 2005

My first night O'


I was looking at some old maps and came across my first night O' race. It was a long time ago -- August 1988. I ran the "direct course" at Ostergotland's night championships. I ran with a friend, Lennart Gustavsson, shadowing me. I didn't have much confidence in my ability to find controls at night, and I figured (or maybe Lennart did?) that I'd learn more if a shadow could go over the course with me after I was done.

Click on the image for higher resolution.

At the start triangle I took a couple of steps into the forest before I realized that I'd better stick to the trails. I guess that was my first lesson. If my memory is right, I stopped at each trail junction. I remember having no sense of how far I'd gone. A short distance on the map could feel like a long distance on the trail.

The control was easy, up a couple of lines with a big marsh just before it.

I stuck with trails as much as possible on the rest of the course.

I remember being surprised at how tricky the controls in the open area (3 and 4) were. In the day you'd be able to see far enough that you wouldn't have to even think about holding your direction. At night, you couldn't see far and had to keep an eye on the compass. That would be lession two.

I could use trails for the route to 6. I cut a few corners in the last third of the leg. I was getting a bit more comfortable with running at night.

7 and 8 took us between the buildings. This felt strange -- you could see lights on at houses and wondered what the people in there were thinking as headlamps ran past.

Once I'd picked my route on the long leg to 9 I felt like the course was over. Of course it wasn't. I let my concentration lapse and missed a trail junction (south of the square open area near Halleholm). It didn't cost me much time. But, I learned a lession (lesson three) that a small lapse can cost time.

I finished the 6.2 km in 54:37. I was satsified with the time (though in retrospect it isn't especially good).

posted by Michael | 6:34 PM


Friday, October 21, 2005

Sports Art


I like sports. I like art.

I went for a walk on my lunch hour and dropped by an art gallery in downtown Kansas City.

I spent a few minutes looking at "Baseball Project" by an artist named Mike Hill. Hill makes drawings based on statistics of Boston Red Sox games. The photos show part of an art work that summarizes a season of games on the walls of the gallery.

Hill drew hits, walks, strikeouts, homeruns and runs scored for each inning. You can stand back and look at the whole season or move closer and look at an individual game. Once you understand the legend for the graphs, you can see the story of each game.

The photos show parts of one season. Hill also made drawings (using a different way of tracking statistics) of two other seasons. I didn't take any snapshots of those drawings because I didn't think they were nearly as interesting.

If you're interested in sports and art and find yourself in downtown Kansas City, you can see the exhibit through November 5. The gallery is at 21 East 12th and is open Thursday and Saturday 12-5. You can also see a lot by just looking in the window.

posted by Michael | 5:50 PM


Norwegian race with GPS tracking tomorrow


Blodslitet, the mass-start long-distance race in Norway, will take place tomorrow. The organizers are planning to have some sort of internet coverage, with updates and photos during the race and there just might be some coverage based on GPS tracks of some of the top runners.

Mass start is 12:30 (Norwegian time) on Saturday.

It might be worth taking a look. Check out Blodslitet home page.

posted by Michael | 7:10 AM


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Some night O' thoughts


Boris ran night O' training at Lunsen tonight (see the map clips to get an idea of the terrain). He struggled a bit.

His experience got me to thinking about night O'. Here are a few thoughts:

1. Lunsen is about as hard a place as you can find to do night O'. The contours are 2.5 meters, so it is flat and everything looks pretty similar. At Lunsen you don't get many breaks. Relocating is hard.

2. Boris has little experience running night O' and based on what he wrote on his training log, he's not used to running in the forest at night. It takes a while to get used to the feeling of being in the forest at night. It takes a while to feel comfortable running with just a beam of light in front of you. Some more experience running in the forest with his headlamp and Boris will be fine.

One of the nice things about living in Sweden is that you can almost always find terrain close to home. I lived on a map. In the winter, I did most of my runs (even if they weren't with a map) in the forest and with my headlamp. I got comfortable running in the woods at night.

3. Night O' technique is the same as regular O' technique. It is just that the margin for error is a lot smaller. If you lose contact at night, you can lose a lot of time. Night O' punishes sloppy navigation. That's why it is good training.

4. Boris wrote, "Being lost in the woods can be fun, but when it's dark and you are cold and wet, it stops being fun in a hurry." If you're cold and wet, you're probably not wearing the right clothes. I wonder if Boris owns neoprene socks. If not, he needs to get some. When it is cold and wet (Lunsen has plenty of marshes that can be wet), you're feet will be uncomfortable if you don't have neoprene socks.

5. Night O' penalizes sloppy navigation, but it doesn't penalize slow running as much as regular orienteering does. In fact, sometimes running slow can help you at night. When I was first learning to run night O', I'd do a hard run the day before. I wanted my legs to be sore and tired at the start of the night O'. If my legs were sore and tired, then I ran slow and had the mindset that I couldn't afford to make any mistakes because I was going so slowly. After a while, my technique improved and I got comfortable running at night. When that happened, I didn't need to have sore legs at the start of a night race.

posted by Michael | 7:55 PM


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Another O' video and a Thanks


Patrick put together a video as he ran the beginner course at a meet near Seattle on teh weekend. Check out Patrick's video.


I got lots of good suggestions for dealing with my ankle injury. Thanks to everyone who commented or sent me an email. I appreciate it.

The ankle is doing so-so. The swelling is down a little bit. There is much less discomfort than a day or two ago. I was able to do some light strength training tonight.

posted by Michael | 9:16 PM


Monday, October 17, 2005

Work stress and orienteering


Over at Yepsport, Ollie O'Brien wrote about the relationship between work and orienteering. Here is part of what he wrote:

One of my fellow orienteers in JOK advanced the theory that the stress of work affects my results adversely. Case in point - after a week’s holiday, I got my best results of the season during the Scottish 6 Day. On the other hand, I generally perform badly in races in southern England, i.e. racing at the weekend when working at the week.

O'Brien has another explanation for some poor results and it is worth reading his analysis.

O'Brien's post brings up an intersting topic -- the relationship between work-stress and orienteering performance. Here are a few quick thoughts:

1. In my experience a high stress workday is really draining. After a high stress workday, I don't want to train or race, I don't feel good, and I'm worn out. I have no doubt that I wouldn't race well after a high stress day at work.

2. A little work stress can be good. At the end of a slightly stressful day in the office, I feel like running. I really enjoy training on those days. I tend to put in a little bit more (or harder) training.

3. I think most of the better orienteers in the world have some non-O' activity like work or study. I think most of them work part time and would (or have) found a full time job to be too much.

4. Eva Jurenikova and Sandy Hott Johansen recently wrote about the relationship between work and orienteering training on their web pages.

Here is a bit of what Jurenikova wrote:

Why do I have doubts about the next year then? The reason is that it is difficult to manage with the little money I make in my job. Since the beginning of this year I have been working as a substitute teacher at primary schools in Borlänge. I do not have any job-contract.....I like working with kids more then working with money even if I have an university degree from business administration and not from pedagogy. However, sometimes the teaching is quite tiring and I need a lot of discipline to get myself out and train in the evening.

Here is a bit of what Hott Johansen wrote:

My work weeks increase to 60-100 hours. I sleep even less and somehow train even more, but the combination is killing me. Meanwhile my golden opportunity is passing me by. Kristiansand is one of the best cities in the world for orienteering, but I am in the hospital 24/7. Oh, the irony. By February 2005 I finally figure out that I can't do both. Orthopedic surgery will wait. I quit my dream job and start on a Selective in Physical Medicine, 50% job. I am officially a "semi-professional" orienteer.

5. I am better, much better, at managing work stress now that I was in my first 5 years on the job. I suspect that most people learn how to manage work stress and get better at it as they gain experience. The problem for orienteers is that those first 5-10 years in the work world coincide with the time an athelete is at their peak.

An interesting topic that Ollie O'Brien brought up....

posted by Michael | 7:59 PM


Sunday, October 16, 2005

Scoring legs


I spent the day resting my ankle. That gave me plenty of time to think. Unfortunately, instead of thinking, I spent a bunch of time watching football on TV.

I did spend a few minutes thinking about simple ways of describing O' legs.

I figure I'll start each leg description with the leg number and length (in 100s of meters). What is more interesting is coming up with a way to describe the technical and physical demands of each leg. After some thought, I decided to describe each leg in terms of the three most important technical demands and two most important phsycial demands.

I try to think like this:

If this leg was all I was training for, what are the three technical demands and two phsyical demands that would be most important?

Demands are different from techniques. For example, demands would be something like keeping rough distance and direction. Techniques would be something like following a compass bearing and counting paces.

A few examples might make it clearer.

1, 4; simple route choice, navigating by big features, and rough distance and direction; Running in the terrain, running trails.

What that means is that the first control is about 400 meters long. The most important technical demand is making a simple route choice. The next most important is navigating by big features, like the open area, the major trail and the narrow gap between the green areas. The third most important technique would be holding a rough direction and distance. The most important physcal demand that will make a difference on this leg is running in the terain (I'm thinking of the last 150-200 meters where you approached the control). A second phsyical demand is running on trails/open areas.

2, 4; simple route choice, navigating by big features, and rough distance and direction; Running trails, running in the terrain.

The second leg is essentially the same. I reversed the physical demands, but you can make a case that you should keep the order the same.

Here are a couple examples using a different course. The map is from the Swedish Champs (with Mats Troeng's route).

1, 2; precise distance and direction, simplifying the terrain structure, none; running in the terrain, running uphill.

So on this leg, of about 200 meters, the key technical demand is being able to hold direction and distance precisely. You could do that by setting a compass bearing and counting steps, or by using rough compass and reading the map carefully. Another key technical demand on this leg -- not as important -- is seeing the overall structure in the terrain, for example noticing the steep hillside south of the control and just outside the control circle. This leg is through the forest and uphill.

Here is another:

5, 11; moderately complicated route choice, rough distance and direction, precise distance and direction; running in the terrain, running on trails.

The fifth leg is about 1.1 km long. The key technical demand is a route choice. It isn't very complicated, but it is a bit more complicated than a simple left-right decision. You have to think a bit about differences in running speed on different surfaces. You could run most of this leg with rough direction and distance judgement, but near the end of the leg you'd need to be a bit more precise. The physical demands are pretty straightforward -- run fast in the terrain and then run fast on the trail.

One more:

8, 2; none; running on trail/smooth surface, not going too hard.

The 8th leg is short and has essentially no orienteering demands. There are not decision and the navigation is trivial. You would need to run fast. You can also make a case that an important physical demand on this sort of leg is to avoid running too fast.

The next thing I need to do is come up with an easier way of writing the descriptions. I can develop some sort of "code" for the common demands. That'd make it a bit easier to write (though harder to read unless you know the code).

So what?

Why am I doing this? What, if anything, might I learn?

Describing legs like this is a way to force myself to think carefully about what is going on during a leg. It gives me a system to think about the demands of a course. It is a bit like scoring a baseball game. When you score a baseball game, you watch closely and notice things you might not have noticed otherwise.

Maybe if I "score" or "code" a bunch of legs I'll discover something.

posted by Michael | 6:56 PM


Saturday, October 15, 2005

Not what I'd hoped for


When I went orienteering today I didn't expect to end up running just ten minutes. But that is what happened. I turned an ankle and didn't finish the course. As soon as possible, I wrapped the ankle tightly and iced it. We'll see how it feels tomorrow. It is enough of an injury that I'm not going to Columbia tomorrow.

Here is the part of the course that I ran.

The forest at Jacomo is thick and thorny. The main challenge for route choice is to minimize time in the forest. The course setter used big, distinct features (at least for the first three controls). So the navigation wasn't tricky.

I saw two options to the first control. You could go just left of the line, pick up the fence and follow it to the control. Or, you could go right of the line, touch the trail, then follow the narrow gap between the green areas to the control. Dick Luckerman, the mapper, does a good job of drawing the differences in green. I was confident I'd be able to find the narrow gap and confident that it would be passable. So, I took the route to the right of the straight line.

I saw two options to the second control. The course setter thought straight was fastest. I'm not sure about that. I went back through the gap in the green that I'd used to approach control 1, then ran on the trail until I could see the pond.

To three -- once again two routes. You could go a bit lef and use the trail. You could go a bit right and use the open area. I went through the open area and used the white forest to approach the control. About 50 meters before the marker I turned my ankle and fell, landing on my left shoulder hard enough that the shoulder is sore.

That was the end of the race for me.

Ankle injuries

I've had very little ankle trouble over the years. I can recall two times when I turned an ankle badly enough that I stopped the course (today was the third). I hoping that a couple of days off and then easing back into running will be all that it takes. I'll probably run in an Active Ankle for the next couple of O' races.

My plan is to wait until tomorrow and then see how it feels. Depending on how it feels, I'll make a training plan (or maybe a rest, recovery plan) for the next week or so.

Since I don't have much experience with ankle injuries, I'm a bit unsure about how long it is likely to take to recover (obviously it depends on the level of injury) or how best to get back to training. If anyone has thoughts or suggestions, leave them as comments.

posted by Michael | 6:41 PM


Friday, October 14, 2005

Some quick notes


I'll just write a few quick notes before I get back to sitting in front of the TV watching tonight's Nascar race.

Good questions

Patrick asked a couple of good questions in a comment to yesterday's post:

What other places in the U.S. do you think need an orienteering club? And how does that place go about getting an orienteering club?

I haven't thought carefully about these questions. It seems to me like the ideal places for O' clubs are towns/cities like Lawrence (or a bit larger), where you've got a fairly active population and a university (it'd be nice if Lawrence had some better terrain). Columbia, Missouri, fits the bill. I suspect there are lots of Lawrence-like towns in the upper midwest (Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, etc) that would be good places for clubs.

Carbondale, IL, used to have a club and is a great place for one. They've got plenty of good terrain just outside of town.

I don't know how places go about getting clubs.

Norwegian page in English?

One of my favorite O' pages is Oystein Kvaal Osterbo's. He posts lots of maps and photos. He's Norwegian and writes his page in Norwegian. But, when I looked today, I saw that today's two entries are both written in English. I don't know if that he plans to keep the page in English or not. English or Norwegian, his page is worth visiting.

posted by Michael | 8:22 PM


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Thinking about Sunday's event


Sunday I'll be in Columbia, Missouri, to run an "orienteering" event put on by the Friends of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. The Friends isn't an orienteering group. I'm not sure what to expect, but I'm mentally preparing myself for a sketchy map, unusual course setting, and a few controls to be misplaced.

I think they'll use a map that was based on an orienteering map drawn by Mike Meenehan in the mid/late 1970s. I've run on the map, and I remember it being very rough.

Columbia, Missouri, is one of those places in the U.S. that needs an orienteering club. The club that Mike Meenehan started is long gone, but the town seems suited to orienteering. There is decent terrain nearby. I'm sure there are some good park O' areas in town. Maybe The Friends will be the beginning of an O' club.

posted by Michael | 8:47 PM


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Comparing maps


Eva Jurenikova wrote about 25-manna (a big relay in Sweden) and posted her map.

25-Manna is a fun race and I've got a lot of fond memories of it. I ran it 3 times (I think) and the weather was always nice (cool, but not cold, and dry). I also had a very good race the last time I ran it and got to bring my team up to first place after 16 legs. We couldn't hang on to it over the last nine legs and dropped down to 8th. I think it was the one and only time I've been in the lead of a relay at the exchange. It is a nice feeling.

Anyway, back to this year's 25-Manna....

I was looking at Jurenikova's routes and recognized the terrain. I dug around in my old maps and found two copies of the same area from events I ran there in 1991.

"Cool, it'll be interesting to compare the maps -- see how mapping has changed," I thought.

Actually, it wasn't interesting. The 1991 map and the 2005 maps are nearly the same. I found very few differences. The clip below (of the 1991 map) shows the area that is most different. The only significant difference in the clip is that the 1991 map used fewer form lines.

posted by Michael | 7:29 PM


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

You can also follow M.E.


Thierry Guergiou has some great "follow me" videos on his web page. I linked to one yesterday.

I ran at Knob Noster on Sunday and I had my camera with me. So, I made my own "follow M.E." video. You can check it out through the www.putfile.com web site at:


It isn't nearly as cool as Guergiou's, but it was fun to put together.

posted by Michael | 8:29 PM


Monday, October 10, 2005

"The town was basically a maze"


If you haven't already seen it, you've got to check out Thierry Gueorgiou's latest "Follow Me" video. He shows a leg of the world cup sprint race in Italy. It is fantastic.

The terrain really looks challenging. How would you prepare for a race in that sort of terrain?

Karen Williams ran the race and here is a bit of what she wrote about it:

It was intense...particularly in the rain. I was somewhat disappointed with the run because of mistakes, but at the same time, it was really fun and something really unique. Randy and I were saying that it is definitely something that you could not train for in the US simply because we have nothing like it! But we can train running stairs, which I would have benefited from!!

I haven't been in the sprint terrain and I've only spent a few minutes looking at the maps, but I've got to think that even though the terrain is "really unique" we could train for something like this in the U.S. But it takes some imagination.

First, we can train for the basic physical demands -- running up and down a lot of paved stairways, for example. Second, we can train the basic sprint skills -- things like going to the correct next control, being cool under pressure, etc.

What about the technical demands of orienteering in terrain that Randy decribed, "The town was basically a maze"?

How about orienteeing in a maze? Check out the map from a race Fritz set up a few years ago in a corn maze just outside of Lawrence.

posted by Michael | 8:19 PM


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Today's training


Here is a bit of the map from today's training at Knob Noster -- the best, by far, terrain around here. The forest is open, the map is good, the terrain has plenty of interesting contour detail.

At this time of year, the forest is a bit thick and visibility is cut down. In places we ran through chest deep grass. For the most part, it was nice if not quite as nice as usual. I like the reduced visibility. You have to pay a bit more attention when you can't see as far in the terrain.

posted by Michael | 7:05 PM


Saturday, October 08, 2005  

Fog at Wyandotte this morning.

posted by Michael | 2:07 PM


Thoughts from an easy distance run


How would you describe a leg like this? Not how would you do the leg, but how would you describe it in just a few words?

That's what I was thinking about during part of today's run. I was jogging up and down hills at Wyandotte -- not so hard that it took a lot of effort and attention. To keep my mind occupied I thought about how to describe the leg.

The leg was to the sixth control of last weekend's race at Cuivre River. It was a bit over half way around the course. So maybe the first thing to describe the leg would be:

Middle part of the course

The leg was about 750 meters long. So maybe the second thing to describe the leg would be:

Middle length leg (not long or short)

The main orienteering difficulty on this leg wasn't navigation or dealing with any extremes of terrain or vegetation, it was making a simple route choice decision. Would you take the trail or go straight? Maybe the third thing to describe the leg would be:

Simple route choice

Once you've made a route choice, the leg is straightforwad. The control location is not tricky (you can make it quite big by treating it as the large east/west running reentrant rather than the little side reentrant the control sits in. The main navigational difficulty is just keeping rough direction and distance. Maybe the fourth thing to describe the leg would be:

Rough direction and distance judgement

The way to gain time on this leg is to run faster than everyone else. To do that, you'd need to move well through the terrain. Even if you take the trail route, you're only on the trail for about half of the leg, so an ability to move well through the terrain would be key. Maybe the fifth thing to describe the leg would be:

Emphasis on terrain running

So, I've got a simple description:

In the middle part of the course, we had a mid-length leg that offerred a simple route choice problem, finding the control invovled rough distance and direction judgement, and the leg emphasized terrain running.

So what? Yes, so what? Well, that's the kind of thing that floats around in your brain when you're doing an easy distance run. But I also think that a good system for simple descriptions of legs could be useful. If you built up a good collection of legs, you could begin to see what sort of legs give you trouble. You could begin to see what sort of problems you face most often. You could begin to see different course setting styles. You might just learn something.

posted by Michael | 12:48 PM


Friday, October 07, 2005

Nice map collection


Oystein Sorensen is a top junior from Norway. He's got a nice web page with a great collection of maps. You can "velg arstall," which means pick the year. He's got maps going back to 1994 when he first began orienteering. Sorensen was just 9 years old in 1994.

I think it is fun to look at the courses over the years, seeing how the difficulty increases.

Some of the courses are very simple. For example, take a look at Sorenson's course from Sorlandsgallopen in 1997 (he's 12 years old).

Some of the courses look tricky. Just a year later, Sorenson ran a difficult course at the "KM" (which I think means Krestmasterskap, which would be something like regional championship).

posted by Michael | 7:08 PM


Thursday, October 06, 2005



Emma Engstrand was in 3rd among the women at the world cup sprint final on her was to the last control. But she missed it. Her split to the last control was 4:41. To put that split in context, the two U.S. runners ran the leg in 1:15 and 1:19 (the 22nd and 25th best splits). Engstrand dropped from 3rd to 20th.

Anne Margrethe Hausken had a very similar problem on the control. She went from 6th to 16th. Hausken's split on that leg was 3:01.

Here are the four worst times on that leg:

45th 1:53 Maiorescu
46th 3:01 Hausken
47th 3:23 Fuaner
48th 4:41 Engstrand

That is really remarkable.

You can see the map with the men's course. The last two controls are the same for both men and women.

Hausken wrote a little about her mistake. She apparently got distracted by seeing two other runners, then came to a place where she couldn't pass a big wall. "I'm still not exactly sure where I was, but I'm never going back to Cervara to find out."

There must be some lessons in this for sprint orienteers. You can boom a huge portion of the race with one loss of concentration. Engstrand lost about 3:30 in a race that was won in under 16. A 3:30 boom is like a ten minute boom on an hour long course. I suppose another lesson would be that the race isn't over until you're standing on the other side of the finish line.

posted by Michael | 8:14 PM


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

If I was 20 years younger


If I was 20 years younger...I would look for a good orienteering environment; then I would move there. By “orienteering environment” I mean maps, trainers, competitions, clubs, etc.

My first choice would be to move to Scandinavia. I lived in Sweden and it is hard to imagine a better O’ environment. But, I think I might prefer to live in Norway. I have spent a little time in Norway, maybe two months in total, and I like the place. Maybe it is my Norwegian roots that would draw me to Norway (my grandfather, a Hansen, was born in the U.S. but his parents were born in Norway).

My next choice would probably be Hamilton, Ontario. It sounds like the O’ environment in Hamilton is really good. Check out some recent discussion over at Attackpoint. Maybe it is my Canadian roots that would draw me to Hamilton (my other grandfather, an Eglinski, was born in Canada).

I think that the right orienteering environment is important; probably more important than any talent. Actually, I’ll qualify that – if you consider motivation a “talent”, then the environment is not most important. I read something Malcolm Gladwell wrote in the latest New Yorker that gets at the distinction:

Social scientists distinguish between what are known as treatment effects and selection effects. The Marine Corps, for instance, is largely a treatment-effect institution. It doesn’t have an enormous admissions office grading applicants along four separate dimensions of toughness and intelligence. It’s confident that the experience of undergoing Marine Corps basic training will turn you into a formidable soldier. A modelling agency, by contrast, is a selection-effect institution. You don’t become beautiful by signing up with an agency. You get signed up by an agency because you’re beautiful.

The orienteering environment is the “treatment effect” while some level of talent is the “selection effect.”

A topic for another day is -- if you can't move to the best orienteering environment, what can you do?

Add a bookmark

If you haven't already, you need to add a bookmark to hottjohansen.com.

posted by Michael | 9:29 PM


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

World Cup Sprints


Today was the sprint qualifying race for the World Cup in Italy.

As I was looking at the results, something jumped out at me as unusual. One of the qualifying race winners was in 13th place at the first control. To be that behind that many other competitors and still win is unusual, but not unheard of. I opened my spreadsheet of placing at the first control (which is now up to 64 races) and calculated the percent of races won by someone in 13th or worse at the first control. Just 6 percent of the race winners are behind so many people at the first control.

If you poke around the results carefully, you'll probably see what seems to have happened.

US Sprint Results

The U.S. Team did pretty well. I think two women qualified and one man was close. Sprint is the discipline that I expect the U.S. Team to have the best chance of good results. Let's hope for some good races at tomorrow's sprint final.

Gueorgiou's Sprint Training

Gueorgiou posted a map he used for sprint training. It is obviously not a completly fieldchecked sprint O' map. It looks like a street plan with maybe a few details added.

posted by Michael | 7:45 PM


Monday, October 03, 2005

Nice forest


Some of the forest at Cuivre River is nice, very nice. The course setter didn't give us much of this, but it sure looks nice on a photo.

posted by Michael | 6:49 PM


A couple of notes from this weekend's training


Mary and I went to St Louis for the weekend. We did some training at Cuivre River on Saturday and ran the SLOC event on Sunday. A couple of notes:

1. Putting out controls is good training. When I was putting out a couple of markers I did my best orienteering of the weekend. I kept a reasonable pace between controls, then slowed as needed, and was careful about reading the map right to the center of the control circle. When I was running the training course, picking up controls, and running the race I didn't orienteer as well as I did when I was putting out markers.

2. Warm weather is really draining. We ran in mid-80s and fairly high humidity. It never felt good. How can it be so uncomfortable in October?

3. I ate a bit of Clif Blok during the weekend. After a bit of testing, I'd say Clif Blok is a nice alternative to a gel. It is a bit less messy. The biggest problem is that the package is annoyingly difficult to open on the run. The next time I carry Clif Blok during a race I'll open the package before I start the race.

posted by Michael | 6:38 PM


Sunday, October 02, 2005  

We had a longish leg at Cuivre River today (1-2). I looked at a couple of different options before picking my route. One option was to go down from 1 and take the road, far to the left of the line. Another option was to go down to the road, but then turn rigth at the intersection, leave the road after a couple of hundred meters and use the trails to get near the control. Anothr option was to go back through Camp Cuivre, follow the road past control 11, then drop down the hill and use trails to get near the control. I didn't consider going straight. I haven't seen any splits (or even talked about the leg with others who ran). I'll let you think about the options, feel free to leave your thoughts as a comment. Sometime tomorrow I'll tell you which route I picked (I'll add it as a comment).

posted by Michael | 7:47 PM


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