Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Friday, September 29, 2006

Relays - the last selection


I spent more time reading the Bowerman biography by Kenny Moore. I'm learning some running history. One thing I hadn't known was that Oregon put together a very good 4 x 1 mile relay team in the early 1960s. They held the world record. That team went to New Zealand to compete against a strong team that included Peter Snell. Reading about the races got me thinking about relays...which, of course, got me thinking about orienteering.

It must have been something to be the 4th runner on either the Oregon or New Zealand team. Imagine how motivated you'd feel (and perhaps how stressed you'd feel) knowing that you were the worst runner on a team that either (a) held the world record, or (b) had the world's best runner, Peter Snell, to lead the team. I bet you'd get an immediate boost in your training. You'd train better than you've trained before. You'd focus. Or maybe you'd stress, over train and fall apart.

My guess is that most people in that position would rise to the occassion and perform at their best.

I think the same thing happens in orienteering relays. I think the people fighting for the last spot on a Jukola team, for example, start to focus and train well. And once you've been picked for that last spot on the Jukola team, you've got strong motivation to focus, sharpen and perform at your best. Or maybe you stress, over train and fall apart.

An speaking of orienteering relays, Simon has added WOC relays to his WOC database. It is definitely worth spending some time poking around the relay results.

You might find out, for example, that the five best U.S. relay results (in percent behind the winner) were the men in 1983, 1989, 1987, 1981 and 1993. I find it especially satisfying, but also disappointing, that I was on three of those teams. Satisfying because it is fun to be able to look back to days when I wasn't so old; disappointing because the U.S. really ought to be getting better and better.

posted by Michael | 8:03 PM


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Map study snapshots


One of the great experiences in orienteering is talking about your race afterwards. Here are a few snapshots, one from Sweden and one from the sprint finals.

Something completely different

When I work on police audits, I always find myself paying more attention to crime. I read stories in the newspaper I wouldn't usually read. I look at FBI crime stats. I read murder mysteries. I look at academic papers. Today, I watched Steven Levitt, an economist talk about crack.

posted by Michael | 7:04 PM


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Why just 3000 meters?


From a discussion at Attackpoint about running speed...

Very interesting that the Norwegians use the 3000m as the test. Seems very short and fast to me - but probably important these days with so many shorter races at WOC than there used to be!

I'm pretty sure I know why the Norwegians use 3000 meters as a test distance. Obviously, it is easy to control and easy to compare times from year to year and place to place. But, maybe as important a reason is the graph below (lifted from Staff-valstad.com).

The graph shows you that at about 9 minutes you're running at about 95-98 percent aerobic. That's about the same as if you run for a longer time. If you run shorter, the aerobic portion declines. But if you run longer the aerobic portion doesn't really change. So a test run of about 9 minutes is the minimum you can use and get an aerobic/anaerobic mix that is just like a much longer race. There is no need to go any longer.

A longer test run would work, but it'd doesn't really give you any more information and it is just more draining. You could do a good warm up, run a 3000 meter test, jog a bit, and still have plenty left for a second session. But, if the test is 10K, that second session might not work.

Of course, I'm just speculating. Maybe I'm wrong.

posted by Michael | 6:15 PM


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Amazing form


My legs felt great today. If I didn't know better, I'd think I was in really good form. But, I know better. As the days get shorter and the temperatures go down, I always feel good. Summer in Kansas City can be unpleasant - warm, humid, uncomfortable. You survive summer, you don't really get stronger. But, then the weather cools off a bit and the humidity drops and you feel better than you've felt in months. It is great. But, it isn't really good form, it is an illusion. Still, an illusion feels good.

Disappearing Index Contour

I was looking at maps from the Swedish 5-days and noticed something I've never noticed before (which doesn't mean it is new, just new to me). When the contours get especially tricky, they changed the index contours to regular contours. The map below (Olberget with Oystein Kvaal Osterbo's routes) shows an example.

See how the index contour changes to a regular contour between the blue arrows.

I've no idea if that is normal or not. Is it "allowed" by the IOF standards? I should probably know. But, I don't.

posted by Michael | 8:04 PM


Monday, September 25, 2006

Thinking about the IOF world cup selection plan


I spent some time looking at the Attackpoint discussion on the plans to base World Cup entries on a nation's world rankings. The basic idea is that the IOF would base the number of runners a nation got to enter on the combined ranking of the top 20 ranked runners from that nation.

The specifics (e.g. how many runners to include in the national rankings) aren't especially interesting to me. But, the idea of raising the importance of world rankings and counting a fairly large part of each nation's talent distribution; well, that seems like a much more interesting idea (to me, any ways).

The IOF proposal increases the incentives for the USOF to hold world ranking events. I suspect that might be one of the reasons behind the IOF proposal.

I came across this comment on Attackpoint:

...and also point out the ridiculous argument that it will now be the job of a country's 2nd best runner to convince the country's 19th best runner to go to more WREs....

What the poster is getting at, I think, is that the IOF proposal makes a big change in the incentives a nation faces. The U.S. national team, for example, doesn't really have much incentive to care about the performance of orienteers who aren't among the top 10 orienteers in the U.S. That's maybe a bit strong. Let me put it another way - the IOF proposal increases the incentives for the U.S. team to care about the performance of orienteers who aren't among the top 10 in the U.S. That might be a good thing.

Whether it is a good thing probably depends, to some extent, on the national strategy. Think of a WOC team as like a club's Jukola team. One way a club could put together a good Jukola team is to have say 7-10 good runners and really invest in trying to get those runners to be as good as possible. Another way a club could put together a good Jukola team is to have say 15-20 runners, spread the same resources (e.g. coaching and travel spending) thinner, and then pick the Jukola team from the best 7 runners. Either approach can probably be successful.

posted by Michael | 6:55 PM


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Thinking about Canada


When I was running today, I looked at the ground, saw the maple leaf and thought, "I'd better start thinking about the race in Canada in a couple of weeks." The race is the North American Champs in Ontario. We get three races: sprint, middle and long.

When I got home from my run, I took a look at a map of the limestone pavement terrain we'll be running in (the map below shows Peter's routes on a map that is next to the area we'll be running in).

I also watched a video of Mike Waddington talking about the terrain (among other things). The quality of the video is not good. That's what you get when you rely on a little camera's microphone and mis-set the white balance. Even with the low quality, you can get a few good ideas about orienteering in the limestone pavement.

In addition to the maple leaf, I came across something a bit unusual in the forest today.

posted by Michael | 6:49 PM


Saturday, September 23, 2006

odd idea


From a book I'm reading:

...raced with his cheeks weirdly puffed out, as if trying to blow a walnut through a soda straw....Air pressure in the lungs affects how readily oxygen molecules hop across the alveolar membrane to be grabbed by red blood cells....reasoned that if more pressure means more molecular hopping, a runner applying back-pressure when exhaling could force a little more oxygen into the system.

The quote is from Kenny Moore's new biography of the Oregon running coach Bill Bowerman.

I have no idea if the idea of trying to create back-pressure makes any sense (it seems a bit farfetched) but I love reading about unusual ideas.

I remember reading an article that said runners from the old-USSR would hold their thumbs between their third and fourth fingers when they got tired. It was supposed to help a tired runner hold their form. Who knows?

Fast orienteer

The WOC long distance winner from Finland, Jani Lakanen sits in fourth place in the results list from this year's Lidingoloppet (huge, 30 km cross country race in Stockholm. He ran the course in 1:43:34.

Lakanen's time is really good. I've never raced Lidingoloppet, but I've run the course. It isn't easy.

I wondered how Lakanen's time compares to other orienteers who've run the race in the past. I don't have the patience to go through loads of results, but I came across a list of top Swedish times and saw some orienteers I recognized on the list:

Mats Hellstadius ran 1:38:56
Anders Karlsson ran 1:40:59

I came across a few other orienteers results from 2003:

Mats Haldin ran 1:47:06
Jamie Stevenson ran 1:47:49
Johan Nasman ran 1:49:24
Gabor Domonyik ran 1:51:14
Erik Axelsson ran 1:56:30

I'm sure I could find some more orienteers' times, but I think I'll go and watch the KU football game on TV instead.

posted by Michael | 8:04 PM


Friday, September 22, 2006

Feet of clay


I can't run an 8:38 3000 meter race.

I can't win a world championship.

I'm no Holger Hott Johansen.

But, when I look at his route from a recent night O', I see that a great orienteer can run just like the rest of us. And while I shouldn't take any pleasure in the misfortune of others, there is something satisfying in seeing a great orienteer having a rough day (or in this case, night).

Check out the full story (with the entire course and lots of comments in Norwegian).

posted by Michael | 6:46 PM


Thursday, September 21, 2006

WOC Sprint DQs


I was looking at some maps from sprint races and was reminded of how easy it seems to be to skip a control in a race. I suppose it is because there are so many short legs and direction changes, combined with the feeling during a sprint race that you've got to rush.

I checked the WOC results database to see how many people DQ'd in the different races at this year's world champs. Based on a quick look:

4.4 percent of the starters in sprint races in Denmark DQ'd

Given that the field is some of the best orienteers in the world and that they are taking these races seriously, 4.4 percent seems quite high.

But, you can't really say if it is high or not until you have some contest, so I checked the DQ rates for the middle and long races in Denmark.

1 percent of the starters in the middle races in Denmark DQ'd

3.7 percent of the starters in the long races in Denmark DQ'd

That last number surprised me. 3.7 percent seems quite high.

More context...how many of the U.S. and Canadian WOC runners over the entire WOC history have DQ'd? What about Sweden, Finland and Norway?

The U.S. has 1.6 percent DQs
Canada has 1.3 percent DQs.
Sweden has 0.6 percent DQs.
Finland has 0.6 percent DQs.
Norway has 0.4 percent DQs.

Those numbers provide some context and suggest that the DQ rates for both the long and sprint races in Denmark was pretty high.

Enough for tonight...

posted by Michael | 8:55 PM


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How fast is fast?


Some discussion over on Attackpoint about how fast top orienteers can run inspired me to look up some 3000 meter running times. Here are a bunch of 3000 meter times from very good orienteers:

Jan Fjaerestad 7.57.06
Truls Nygaard 7.59.60
Oyvin Thon 8.23.8
Jon Tvedt 8.24.42
Rolf Vestre 8.26.60
Tore Sagvolden 8.30.33
Oystein Kvaal Osterbo 8.31
Havard Tveite 8.32.25
Harald Thon 8.32.4
Audun Weltzein 8.44
Petr Losman 8.47
Oystein Kvaal Osterbo 8.49
Emil Windstedt 8.50
Anders Holmberg 8.51
Mats Haldin 8.52
Lars Skjeset 8.54
Hakan Eriksson 8.55
Mats Troeng 8.56
Audun Weltzein 8.57
Mattias Millinger 8.58
Lars Skjeset 9.00
Jonn Are Myhren 9.25
Ingunn Weltzein 9.39
Birte Riddervold 10.32
Birte Riddervold 10.52

Most of the runners on the list are Norwegian men. I'm not sure why, but it was relatively easy to find results for Norwegian men.

Some runners have more than one result. That's because they ran more than one race.

I think the results are a real mix of personal bests and whatever time was easy to find. Hakan Eriksson, for example, has probably run a lot faster than 8.55. But, when I did a few google searches, 8.55 was the time I found. Probably Oyvin Thon ran slower than 8.24, but the time I found for him was 8.24.

The question that came up on Attackpoint was something like "how fast is fast?" The list I've put together gives you a decent idea. I'd say the answer to the question, for men, is "under 9 minutes." For women, the list doesn't give you enough to answer the question.

A better question

I think a better question is, "how slow is fast?" By that I mean, how slow can a world class orienteer run.

If you could answer both questions - how fast and how slow - you'd have a good idea of the range of running speed among world class orienteers.

Answering the second question - how slow - is going to be tougher. Largely because you'd expect the world class orienteers who run slowly are a lot less likely to show up in 3000 meter race results.

That's enough writing for now. If anyone reading this knows of other times (fast or slow), feel free to use the comment function and post them.

posted by Michael | 7:51 PM


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

1 day = 4 races


I ran 4 races in just over 24 hours last weekend. That's unusual and turned out to be really interesting. The total racing time was modest, maybe 2 hours.

One fun part of having so many races in such little time was that it compressed the learning you usually get after a race. Typically, after a race you spend some time thinking about your run, talk to some competitors, look at the map and your split times, think about what you'll do better next time, and maybe even "kepsa" a little. With relatively litte time between races, you need to be efficient with your learning.

My favorite baseball writer, Bill James, has a theory about how sports teams and individuals learn. He calls it the theory of competitive balance. Basically the idea is that if the team did well, they tend to be conservative and not make any changes. But, if the team did poorly, they look for ways to improve. Those approaches tend to pull both teams toward a middle ground. Better teams get conservative and tend to weaken. Weak teams take some chances, innovate a bit, try something new, and tend to improve.

Did my racing and learning fit James' theory?

As a matter of fact it did. Saturday afternoon's race was not very good. But, Sunday morning I ran well in my first race. But, the second race wasn't quite as good, I made a big, dumb mistake. The third race I bounced back and had a good race (though by this time my legs were quite shot). I can't be certain, but I'm fairly sure that I spent more time and effort trying to understand my races and make some adjustments after my two weaker runs than I did after my better run.

It might be fun to do some more racing like this (i.e. lots of races in a short period of time). I think I'll have a chance to do something like that at the North American Champs (with three races over three days). We'll see how it goes.

By the way, the snapshot shows John F. and Eddie B. at the last control on the first sprint race.

posted by Michael | 7:52 PM


Monday, September 18, 2006

Eric starting the sprint


posted by Michael | 8:09 PM


Yesterday's first sprint race


powered by ODEO

posted by Michael | 6:35 PM


Sunday, September 17, 2006  

this is an audio post - click to play

posted by Michael | 7:00 PM


Saturday, September 16, 2006  

this is an audio post - click to play

posted by Michael | 3:28 PM


Friday, September 15, 2006

On your marks....get set....


I'm on my way to the sprint series finals.

Without making any particular effort to prepare, I've actually done a couple of things that give me some confidence. I've been working with Gene to fieldcheck a sprint map. I've done a couple of tests using the half-completed map to help me make decisions about the map. So,without intending to, I've did some sprint training in and spent some time thinking about sprints.

I ran some intervals (so-called "old man intervals") yesterday and was moving faster than expected. It didn't exactly feel good, but it gives you a bit of confidence to run a bit better than expected.

On the other hand, I haven't done any intentional preparations (the stuff I'd usually do to get myself ready for a specific event). But, maybe that won't matter so much. We shall see.

Updates in coming days

Updates will be irregular over the next couple of days. I might phone in a couple of audio updates over the next couple of days.

posted by Michael | 12:37 PM


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Doping news


OPN.NO reports that all 30 of the doping tests at the WOC in Denmark were clean. Good news, but not really surprising. I'm reasonably sure orienteering is fairly clean.

I wonder if any of the 30 orienteers tested (or maybe it was just 30 tests?) had TUEs. TUEs are "Therapeutic Use Exemptions." Basically, TUEs are granted to athletes who have medical needs to use medications that would otherwise be considered doping. I came across an article that reports that 60 percent of the 105 Tour de France riders tested had TUEs.

I wrote above, "I'm reasonably sure orienteering is fairly clean." That's not a strong conclusion. I didn't write, "I'm sure" or even "orienteering is clean." That's probably because in my work I see people doing bad things, even people who don't seem like bad people. I guess I'm suspicious of people.

posted by Michael | 8:13 PM


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Gratis Johanna!


Johanna Svensson won Sweden's night champs yesterday. I've followed her results off-and-on since I met her at the Texas Junior Orienteering Camp back in 2002. She's had some very good results (I think she has 2nd place at a Swedish night champs before and won a night champs as a junior).

My memory of running against Johanna in a mass start race was that she was a very good map reader and a decent runner. We were very evenly matched back in 2002. Since then, I'm sure she's improved physically and technically. We chatted briefly at Oringen right after she'd finished one of the days (she was annoyed with a mistake, but looked quite strong). You can read about our hard fight for victory in "Tatyana's Marathon" at the 2002 TJOC.

Check out the video from the Swedish Night Champs with a short interview (in Swedish). A rough translation of what Johanna has to say is:

Usually, I run the same in the day and the night. Today, I ran routes that went more around than I usually do, but I think it worked well in this terrain.

I didn't really make any mistakes, but I got stuck in a green area.

And for something completely different, I came across this training course with Johan Nasman's routes from one of my all time favorite terrains...

posted by Michael | 7:17 PM


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Nice terrain


posted by Michael | 9:08 PM


Monday, September 11, 2006

The perfect map


From a discussion on Attackpoint:

There is no such thing as perfect O-map.

Is there a perfect O' map?

I would argue that there is such a thing as the perfect O' map. The perfect orienteering map lets you make appropriate route choices (matching your physical and technical abilities) and navigate along those routes. The perfect orienteering map has no inaccuracies that you can notice as you use the map in an orienteering race.

I think my criteria for "perfect" are quite close to the introduction to the IOF mapping standards.

I can think of a few maps that were very close to perfect...maybe even perfect. I'm thinking of some of the maps near Laramie, some of the 1993 WOC maps, and some of the maps from the 1978 WOC maps(though it has been a long time since I was on those maps).

What do you think - is there such a thing as a perfect map? Which maps might be perfect?

Questions and Answers

In a comment on yesterday's post, Jan asked:

Isn't it easier to be closer to the winner in a sprint race than in other distances? I guess there was no sprint distance when Kristin Hall and Pavlina Brautigam made their WOC debuts?

Those are exactly the sorts of questions the WOC results database is made to answer!

Yes, it is (or at least it has been) easier to be close to the winner in a sprint race. The WOC results database has a simple query for finding out how far behind the winner you can be given a specific overall place. You can find out, for example, that to finish in 10th place, you'd need to be X percent behind the winner.

I ran the query for 10th place, and the sprint races are much more likely to be tighter than the other distances (which is consistent with it being easier to be close to the top).

The results database also confirms that 2001 was the first sprint race, long after both Pavlina and Kristin had their WOC debuts.

posted by Michael | 7:29 PM


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Browsing the WOC results database and learning some history


I spent some time browsing the WOC results database.

I started by looking at all of the U.S. results (251 individual races, beginning in 1974). As I looked at the results, I was struck by Hillary Saeger's sprint qualifying result from 2006. Going by percent behind the winner, Hillary's result (16.7 percent back) was the best by a US woman other than Kristin Hall or Pavlina Brautigam. That's pretty good for someone running their first WOC (though not her first WOC race as Hillary ran the middle qualifier a few days earlier).

Hillary is young; 22, I think. Which raised a question - How old (or young!) were Kristin and Pavlina at their first WOC races, and how well did they do?

Kristin could have run a WOC in 1985. I think she was 18 at the time. She ran well at the selection races, but turned down the chance to make the trip to Australia. She made he WOC debut in 1991 at the age of 24. She finished 13.8 percent behind in her best race then.

Pavlina was trickier because I had to check her earlier results when she ran for Bulgaria. Her first WOC was in 1983 at the age of 22 (same as Hillary). She was 41.9 percent back (comparable to Hillary's 2006 middle qualifier and sprint final).

And, that raised another question - How old were Kristin and Pavlina when they had their best results? Kristin had her best at the age of 26. Pavlina was 30 when she had her best result.

Hillary's sprint qualifier shows that she's got the capacity to be one of the best US women ever. But her other WOC races are much more ordinary (and her sprint final map shows one of those races-best-forgotten). It'll be interesting to see how she goes forward.

posted by Michael | 8:02 PM


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Mapping clinic


I spent a couple of hours at the PTOC mapping clinic this afternoon. PTOC is hosting a weekend mapping course and I was responsible for a short session on fieldchecking. It was fun.

My teaching theory was - "learn by doing." So we spent a little time indoors, preparing a map board and talking about how to start a fieldchecking project, then we went outside. The participants spent a bit over an hour fieldchecking.

As the participants walked around mapping trails, contours, buildings and a strange round labyrinth, Gene and I touched bases with them, to see how things were going and answer any questions.

I left the session feeling pretty good about how it went.

After the mapping class, I went for a short run. I came across an old cemetery and took a couple of snapshots.

posted by Michael | 7:53 PM


Friday, September 08, 2006

Tomorrow's race


When I was a kid I used to play a table-top baseball game called Strat-O-Matic. In those days, before everyone had a computer at home, the game involved cards and dice. You roll dice to decide the outcome of each at bat.

I've given up Strat-O-Matic, but for this competition season I've been playing a web-based orienteering game that is a lot like Strat-O-Matic called Omanager. In Omanager, you've got a stable of runners with different abilities. You assign their training every few days. The runners' abilities change with training. You can buy or sell runners to other clubs. For races, like this weekend's "TioMila", you select the runners from your club and assign specific legs.

While I don't know the exact details, Omanager works a lot like Strat-O-Matic baseball. The runners perform based on their attributes (things like: running in the forest, night orienteering, stamina, form, motivation,and so on) and some random element.

I don't have the time, energy or interest to play Omanager seriously. If it had been around when I was in school, I can imagine I'd take it very seriously.

My team isn't very good. But, I'm gradually learning a bit about the game (even though I'm not really trying). Like, I've managed to train my runners too hard and get them sick. So, two of my better women aren't running this weekend because they are sick.

posted by Michael | 7:43 PM


Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Toad don't worry


Lots of folks are worrying about the new IOF World Cup rules (which would restrict the U.S. to just one participant per event). The Toad on my back door; he's not worried.

I'm not exactly worried. But, I'm interested in the issue. I hope the IOF changes the rule to allow the US to have more participants.

What if the IOF changed the rule and allowed say 3 participants per event. That'd mean, 3 men and 3 women could run in the World Cup events. Would USOF send that many? I don't know, but it looks like it'd be a bit of a pain to get that many people to attend that many events.

The schedule almost looks like it was designed to make it hard for the US (obivously, that isn't the case...). Excluding the WOC (where I think the US would send 4 or 5 of the allowed 6 participants), the World Cup is made up of four events in three chunks.

The first 2 WC races are in Finland and Norway in mid June. The schedule is built around Jukola. That'd probably help the US participate. I suspect that the European-based US team runners would probably plan to run Jukola and Venla.

The next WC races are late July as part of the Swedish 5-Days. Holding the event in conjunction with 5-Days might make it a little more feasible for the US to participate. But, it is a full month before the WOC and it is probably not so likely that any non-European based WOC team members would make the trip.

The final WC races are in Switzerland in early October, more than a month after the WOC. The non-European based WOC team members would probably have a tough time making the trip.

I'm not sure how many US team runners are based in Europe (or will be next year). I can think of one man and three (or maybe 4?) women.

In recent years, the USOF hasn't prioritized the World Cups. To participate at a level of 3 per event would be a big change in priorities. I'd describe myself as an interested observer of the US team. I'll be interested to see what happens with the issue and, if the US gets lucky and IOF changes the rules, what will happen next.

Well, the toad isn't worried and I've decided that I'm not going to worry either.

And here is another Autostich panorama. This one is 8 individual close ups, stitched together.

posted by Michael | 9:03 PM


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ultra sprint


Ultrasprint is a competition where the area is small, but the map scale is big. Essentially everything is on the map - knee high cliffs, street signs, bushes and reentrants you didn't think existed.

Here are a couple of ultrasprint maps. Both clips show about 50 meters x 50 meters.

I've run on the second map and can tell you that ultrasprint orienteering is really fun. Running the course feels technically very intense. It takes full concentration. Losing map contact for just a few steps costs precious time.

posted by Michael | 9:09 PM


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

WOC results database


Simon E. built a database of WOC results. What a great tool or toy or whatever you want to call it.

How does the best US sprint result compare to the best South African sprint result? Easy to find out. Samantha Saeger's 29th in 2006 compared to Martin Terry's 31st in 2003.

What was Zsuzsa Fey's best result, measured by percent behind the winner, in her first WOC (1995)? Turns out it was the long qualifier.

What about her worst WOC result? Just two years later, she was 34.3 percent behind the winner in the long qualifier in Norway.

The database doesn't include relay results and you need to be careful to look for different spelling of names (I'm listed as two runners, "Michael" and "Mike", for example...and "Michael" is a better orienteer judging by his results). But, I'm not complaining, the database is a great tool for looking at results.

Suffering of a Royal's fan

I watched a bit of the baseball game last night. The Royals were playing the NY Yankees and took a 5-1 lead into the 8th inning. I turned off the TV and a bit later turned on the radio, expecting to get the post game report. Nope, the Royals managed to give up 11 runs and lose the game. The sad story is nicely illustrated by the WPA graph of the game from Fangraphs.com.

What would this game be like in terms or orienteering? You're having a great run in a big race...except you skipped a control or two or three.

posted by Michael | 8:22 PM


Monday, September 04, 2006

Paul Pierce studying O' maps


A snapshot from Oringen, is that KU and Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce studying the winners' routes?

posted by Michael | 6:54 PM


Comparing different eras


The comments to my post about experience were all over the place. Without getting into the specifics of what I wrote or what the comments were, they spurred me to spend a few minutes thinking. Among other things, I spent a few minutes looking back at Eric Weyman's O' career.

Comparing different O' eras might even be related to how different orienteers view experience.

For some background, Eric ran on US Teams beginning with the 1979 World Champs in Finland and ending with the 1989 World Champs in Sweden. As I thought about it, I realized that the World Champs has changed tremendously since then. Consider this:

Eric's US WOC team career spanned 11 years and he had a total of 11 WOC starts (with just 5 of them individual starts).

By comparison, Samantha Saeger's US WOC team career has spanned just 2 years and she has already had 6 WOC starts (with 5 of them individual starts). At this rate, Samantha would have 66 WOC starts if her US WOC team career lasts as long as Eric's did.

The number of potential WOC starts is much larger now than it was. It also could relate to how the sport has changed with regards to experience. Basically, Eric couldn't consider experience to be very important. There just weren't enough chances to gain experience. If Eric stood at the start and believed that WOC experience mattered, he'd lose confidence. On the other hand, Samantha could stand at the start line and legitimately tell herself either, "I've got a lot of WOC experience" (after just two years) or "I'm taking this race as a way to get experience for the future" (and the future would be just a year, or even just a day or 2, away).

Eric had a good WOC in 1983 in Hungary.* He could enjoy it for a year, then spend another year getting ready for the next WOC in 1985. If Eric were running now and had a good race, he couldn't really afford to relax because he's got just a year to get ready for the next WOC.

It probably would work the other way, too. Imagine that Eric had a disaster in 1983. Then he'd have two long years before he'd have another WOC start where he'd have a chance to put his bad race behind him. These days, he might (depending on when he had a bad day) be able to put it behind him at the same WOC.

I think these changes in the WOC make a difference that I probably don't appreciate as much as I would if I were competitive know (For the record, I ran 4 WOCs, beginning in 1987 and ending in 2001).

What was the best ever U.S. WOC result? I'm not sure, but Eric's 1983 qualifying race must be up there. Here are some of the results from that race:

1 Jaroslav Kacmarcik CZE 60.10
2 Jorgen Martensson SWE 60.30
3 Sigurd Daehli NOR 62.54
4 Lars Konradsen DEN 63.21
5 Kent Olsson SWE 63.45
18 Tore Sagvolden NOR 69.20
19 Eric Weyman USA 69.40
20 Georgi Stonov BUL 69.48
21 Kari Sallinen FIN 70.24
22 John Sondergaard DEN 71.15
23 Ted de St.Croix CAN 71.31

In 1983 to top 25 qualified for the individual final. To try to put Eric's result in some context, I looked at how he'd have done in the long qualifying race in 2006, if he ran the same percent behind the winner. He'd have qualified in the A and B heats, but finished 16th in the C heat, missing a qualifying spot by about 25 seconds. Eric's final results were not nearly as good (he had a big boom at the 2nd control). He had a nice run in the relay on the team that managed what I think is still the best US men's relay result ever.

I want to thank people for the comments a couple of days ago. Looking at comments from people I know and have a lot of respect for, but which seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, got me thinking. And thinking got me to looking at results. And looking at results let me learn something.

* Though just months later he was beaten by some old guy in the US Champs.

posted by Michael | 12:11 PM


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Golf = orienteering = stock car racing?


Some people have claimed that golf and orienteering are the same sport. I don't know, but I've nearly finished reading my first golf book.

A month or so ago I heard a radio interview with an author named Tom Coyne who just released Paper Tiger: An Obsessed Golfer's Quest to Play with the Pros.

Coyne was a good, but not great, golfer who decided to spend a year as a full time golfer, trying to qualify for the professional tour. He moves to Florida, trains all the time, works with coaches, and competes. Reading the book makes you (or me, maybe) think about how fun it'd be to spend a year focusing purely on orienteering.

As I've read the book, I begin to understand some of those parallels that lead people to believe that golf = orienteering. A golf course is a bit like an O' course, with legs to make your way through and booms to deal with. Both are concentration sports. Coyne describes a lot of the mental fights he goes through to try to hold his concentration, to learn how to keep his mind in the moment - to think about what he is doing instead of how he is doing. There are, of course, huge differences between the sports (but that's a subject for another day).

You can get a sense of the book and the author by listening to the interview with Coyne from the NPR show Only a Game. Go to the June 24 show, click on the link to listen and go to about the 38 minute mark of the show.

I'd write more, but the Nascar race is on TV and I've got to go sit in front of the TV. You know, car racing is really the same sport as orienteering...or something like that.

posted by Michael | 8:09 PM


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Old history


I came across a binder of old maps and photos and took a look. Here are a few highlights.

This map is from a race in 1983 in Ontario. From the notes I wrote with the map, I was quite happy with the race, one of my best ever (at the time). I finished 3rd in M19-20, about 3 minutes behind Mike Waddington.

In 1984, I was in Sweden and ran Oringen. A highlight of that trip was when Andy Gagarin won his class.

This blurry snapshot shows Dave "Legs" Linthicum sprinting hard (if not fast). He's wearing the original Orienteer Kansas O' suit. The race was the Student World Champs in Jonkoping.

And it isn't old history, but I took a few snapshots on my run this afternoon, including three shots at the river trail/Mud Creek junction. I stitched them together with Autostitch.

posted by Michael | 9:29 PM


Friday, September 01, 2006

Some notes and thoughts about orienteering experience


Lots of North American orienteers are upset about the new rules that, if I understand correctly, will limit the U.S. and Canada to one man and one woman in each of the World Cup races next season.

To get a feel for the discussion and issues, you can read Sandra's concerns.

I don't really have any thoughts about the overall issue, but Sandra wrote something that interests me and that I have thought about a lot over the years.* She wrote:

Everyone wants a chance at gaining valuable experience in the international circuit, but now we are only allowed 1 women and 1 man in the World Cup races!!!

What I want to comment on is the idea of "gaining valuable experience" by running world cup races. The implication is that there is some unique experience that you get from running a world cup or a world champs. That's an idea that I don't buy (and I realize that I'm in the vast minority in that view). What I think is that people have come to believe is that the experience of running a world champs or world cup helps you do better in the future. It is a very common idea and an idea that is reinforced over and over.

Imagine that you're a promising, young orienteer who wants to do well at a world champs. You could tell yourself that you need to run some world cup races to get international experience. But you could also tell yourself that the sport is exactly the same at a world champs as at any high quality race. You make the same decisions. You think the same. You train the same.

The big difference between a high quality race and the world champs is the stuff around it (like sharing a room with a team mate you don't know very well, or being around a bunch of big name O' stars who you've only read about before). But, that stuff isn't really about the sport, it is about how you react and what your expect. What if you just told yourself you wouldn't worry about that stuff?

I probably haven't done a good job of explaining my thoughts, but I guess it boils down to focusing on the aspects of a world champs that are just like any other race instead of the things that are different. Tell yourself, "it doesn't matter that I've got no world cup experience - orienteering at the world champs is just like finding controls at any other race."

I wouldn't necessarily avoid running world cups, but I wouldn't run them for experience, I'd run them because they are races and they should be fun.

*I first spent time thinking about this when I ran in Europe in 1986. I'd never run a WOC, but I was hoping to make the team for 1987, when France hosted the WOC. A bunch of runners from the U.S. went to France to run a World Cup race in 1986. I gave that a bunch of thought, but decided to go to Norway and run Sorlandsgallopen instead. I decided that if I made the team and got to run the WOC in France, I just wouldn't worry that I'd had no experience running at the world cup in France. I made the team and I don't feel like I had any disadvantage. But, I'm convinced that if I hadn't thought through the issue, I'd have come to France feeling like I was at a disadvantage because I didn't have the world cup experience or didn't have the French experience. I decided to focus on the idea that orienteering at the WOC would be just like orienteering on the KU West Campus - reading the map, finding the controls, and running.

posted by Michael | 8:18 PM


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