Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Underground Orienteering


Check out the map clip and photo from some underground orienteering in Finland. It looks intersting. It also looks like something we could do around Kansas City.

Kansas City is full of storage "caves." A NY Times article reported that Kansas City was a leader in underground space in the U.S.:

There are a few other areas of the country that have, or are beginning, underground industrial development -- including Indianapolis, Louisville, St. Louis and an area north of Pittsburgh -- but Kansas City has the overwhelming majority of the space in use.

One of the Kansas City "caves" hosts an annual road run. Check out a photo of the start.

I've run the Groundhog race once, but that must have been 20 years ago. Maybe I'll sign myself up for the 2007 race.

Park University has some underground storage space under the campus. I came across a map showing both the campus terrain and the underground area (the grey grid pattern area on the map is the storage).

There must be some other good options for indoor orienteering. Getting permission to use an indoor facility for orienteering might be difficult. Convention centers and shopping malls seem like good "terrain."

All this thinking and writing about indoor orienteering is making me crazy. What am I thinking? Why orienteer indoors when the forest is out there?

posted by Michael | 6:58 PM


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Story telling


I came across Vroni Konig Salmi's story from a conference on orienteering coaching put on by the British O' Federation. Her story (as a PDF) is worth a look.

Long time Okansas readers will know that I'm a big fan of orienteers being able to tell their stories. If you're interested, check out what I wrote back in May about what makes a good orienteer and June about an orienteer's story.

And since I'm not really writing today, just pointing to links, I'll point you to two more:

1. Another presentation (another PDF) from the coaching conference on juniors (some really intersting materials they prepared for their JWOC team on pages 7-11).

2. An interview with Bill James on baseball fielding.

posted by Michael | 8:51 PM


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

More indoor O' maps


From OPN, a couple more indoor O' maps:

And for something completely different...

Attackpoint has been buzzing with discussion of O' as a TV sport. I don't see much of a future for O' on TV, but I like to see experiments (like micr-O).

Basketball, on the other hand, is a great TV sport. A student in Australia has developed a basketball jersey that could help spectators watch a game by showing, for example, a player's fouls and points scored on the jersey.

posted by Michael | 7:53 PM


Monday, November 27, 2006

nice forest


If you ran in forest like this every day, you wouldn't be very tough.

posted by Michael | 7:39 PM


Sunday, November 26, 2006

TV coverage


TV4 in Sweden made the indoor orienteering the "Turkey of the Week." So, I went over to TV4's web page to watch the online coverage. I clicked on the link and got a message:

Av raettighetsskael kan vi inte visa innehaallet i det land eller omraade du befinner dig i. Ditt land: United States (US)

Which roughly translates as:

"Because of the TV rights, we can't show this in the nation you are in. Your nation: United States."

Which begs the question - Does an American TV network own the rights to indoor orienteering?

posted by Michael | 5:14 PM


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Indoor Orienteering on Lidingo


The Swedish national team has been doing some indoor sprinting. Here is the map from the preliminary round.

The competition had three rounds. The first and third rounds used individual starts with 30 second start intervals. The second round used 3 parallel courses with 3 runners starting at the same time.

You can see PDF files of all three maps over at the Swedish O' Federation report from the race.

Here is a rough translation of a bit of the report:

"As a 'happening' during this sort of training camp, this was a perfect thing," said Goran Andersson, national team leader for the men and the person who initiated the competition. "The runners get something from this for all forms of orienteering. It is a great interval session and the intensive map reading sharpens technique."

So, Andersson describes it as a rational way to train. But, I have a darker theory. Perhaps Goran Andersson is out to drive Aspleaf crazy.

Course "fingerprints"

The indoor courses are good examples of the different "course fingerprints." If you download the PDF file and look at the courses, you see some clear differences. The first and third rounds have one general type of fingerprint, while the parallel course has another.

posted by Michael | 11:45 AM


Friday, November 24, 2006

"Team chemistry"


I spent some time today thinking about selfishness and "team chemistry." Coincidentally, I also came across a couple of interesting comments about team chemistry and basketball.

Kelvin Sampson (former OU coach, current IU coach) was on SportCenter talking about chemistry. Sampson noted that the term wasn't well defined, but he'd say that it comes down to making good decisions about passing the ball and good decisions about shooting the ball.

And in today's Journal-World, I read an article about tonight's basketball game between Kansas and Ball State:

"I haven't been out of Kansas since summertime, so it's fun to be around the guys building team chemistry off the court," Arthur said.

Indeed, trips such as this one can be as important in terms of team bonding as well as the win/loss record.

"There are different phases every season where a team becomes a team, and a lot of times when you get a chance to get away from all the distractions around home, or around school, and hopefully this is the case," KU coach Bill Self said. "Hopefully, it will work well for us. Last year, it did not work well for us in Maui at all. Not that we lost, but that we didn't come out of it being a lot better. Hopefully that will not occur this trip. We were totally deflated when it didn't go well out of the chute last year."

This stuff doesn't have all that much to do with orienteering. Orienteering is primarily an individual sport, but a sport where we get together in clubs or national teams. So, "Ttam chemistry" - whatever that might be - might matter for orienteering like it does for a team sport like basketball.

More tips for OK's December 2 race

Be careful coming around blind corners. There are a few places on the campus map where you might round a corner on your way to a control and you could bump into someone leaving the control. Be careful. Remember the Bone-Smith crash in Denmark? Don't let it happen to you.

Keep in mind that the sure way to have a disaster in a sprint race is to skip a control. When you first get your map, look for the start triangle. Then look for 1. Go to 1. Look for 2. Go to 2. Look for 3. Go to 3. Don't go from 2 to 4. You get the idea.

posted by Michael | 8:04 PM


Thursday, November 23, 2006

5 Tips for the OK event on December 2


Orienteer Kansas hosts a race on a sprint map of the KU Campus on December 2. Here are 5 tips to help you get ready for the race:

1. Check out the small sample of the map that we posted earlier.

2. Check out sprint maps and courses from other races on university campuses: the North American Champs on the McMaster campus and the U.S. Team Trials on the University of Missouri, St Louis campus.

3. Remember that sprint maps show features as uncrossable when they are physically uncrossable or crossing the feature is prohibited. It might be physically possible to run through a garden, but the garden might be prohibited to run through. You need to understand the symbols and keep that in mind as your racing.

4. Get familiar with the sprint symbols. Know what an uncrossable fence or wall looks like. Know what stairways look like. The area around controls 9 and 15 on the UMSL map shows lots of the special sprint features. Know what a "canopy" looks like on the map and know that you can run under/through a canopy (check out the McMaster map and the various route choice options for 11-12).

5. Think about the physical challenges or running on a campus rather than in the forest. On a campus you'll need to run up and down stairs.

Special Bonus 6th Tip! If you have trouble adjusting to 1:5000 scale, read lots of features on the first couple of legs to get used to the scale.

posted by Michael | 9:53 AM


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Which of these courses is better?


Take a look at these two course. Both are about the same length.

Which of the courses is better?

The answer, which should be obvious, is "you can't tell."

But, I bet that when you first look at the courses, you think that the second alternative looks like a better course.

One of my many flaky theories is that good courses tend to leave a distinct "fingerprint." That is, a pattern in the characteristic. The second courses has more variety in leg length and more direction changes. That gives the overall shape - the fingerprint.

I don't think the shape causes a course to be good. I think the shape is a symptom of a good course. A good course causes the shape.

posted by Michael | 7:41 PM


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Short note during halftime of the KU game


An intersting comment from Fabien Pasquasy's page:

Last weekend I had the opportunity to join the French team in Fontainebleau for one of their winter training camp. Last decade, one of the key success of the French team is to set up at least 10 to 12 training camps during winter on snow free and top quality terrain. There is of course a lot to say about their training system and probably Tero’s website is talking by itself and gave to you an overview how it goes. I usually try to join them every year during winter to get this emulating / competing feelings.

What's intersting? To me, two things. First, that the French team sets up a lot of winter orienteering training camps. Second, that Pasquasy writes about the feeling he gets from these camps, not the technique training he gets. Significant? Maybe. I think that at some level technique training is primarily about getting a certain feeling and staying motivated.

Back to the game. Kansas, in red (!) uniforms, is up 50-19 at halftime. You can almost hear the Rock Chalk Chant.

posted by Michael | 8:10 PM


Monday, November 20, 2006



Holger Hott Johansen showed up on a Norwegian TV program a few days ago. He was, of all things, bowling. You can check out the November 19 version of Newton, go to about the 15 minute point in the program.

The program, Newton, is a science show aimed at kids. The bit with Holger is about self confidence and flytt ("flow") - standard sport psychology stuff.

I suppose it is obvious, but just for the record, the short TV clips makes it crystal clear that Holger is a better orienteer than bowler. But, I bet that if he worked at it, Holger could become a decent bowler. I suspect that a lot of the thinking skills involved in orienteering and bowling overlap.

In fact, I have fond memories of talking about things like practice, preparation and concentration with a co-worker years and years ago. I was talking about orienteering. My co-worker was talking about bowling.

That co-worker, Bob Glass, eventually became a very good professional bowler (and probably the only professional bowler who also had a PhD in economics). You can read a story about Bob from the Journal-World. Another article worth a look showed up a few years earlier in the Journal-World.

posted by Michael | 7:52 PM


Sunday, November 19, 2006

A wise course setter


Tom H. set today's courses. I always like running Tom's courses because of his course setting philosophy. Now, I'm not sure Tom would even realize he has a course setting philosophy, but I've run enough of his courses to recognize his style.

Basically, Tom errs on the side of comfort and solid control features. That's really nice in some of the areas we orienteer in around Kansas City. You can easily put controls on sketchy features in dense patches of thorns. Tom doesn't do that.

One way to avoid the thorns at local meets is to run Tom's courses. Another way would be to use Mary's custom O' pants. She's built a pair of O' pants with thin knee pads made of a very light fleece coated in duct tape. The pants have pockets on the knees so you can remove the pads. It seems like a strange idea, but Mary says they greatly reduce the number of thorns you get stuck in your knees...and that's a good thing.

posted by Michael | 9:09 PM


Saturday, November 18, 2006

A couple of quick notes from Americans in Sweden


Here is a night sprint race with Boris' routes. The course was a club training, followed by strength training. It looks fun.

And from Viktoria's training log:

Terrain run...I need to start doing more of this kind of training. One of the things slowing me down the most is my slow speed running in vegetation. I figure I can make up a lot of time, just by training in terrain rather than just on roads and trails.

posted by Michael | 8:15 PM


Friday, November 17, 2006

Norwegian Event Award


I think that having an award to recognize the year's top event is a good idea. I wrote about the idea under "Carrot or stick or something else?." John Fredrickson liked the idea and started a discussion on Attackpoint.

As is common on Attackpoint, the discussion has wandered a bit. But, there are some interesting ideas throughout the thread. I haven't contributed to the discussion at Attackpoint. I might in the next few days.

Norway has an award for the event of the year and I spent a few minutes today looking at some information about that award. If you can read Norwegian, take a look at the information on the event of the year award. Since many readers can't read Norwegian, let me give you a rough idea of the basics...

A committee of three people considers nominations and uses a set of general criteria. The criteria are designed to recognize events that were successful at attracting new orienteers and appealing to the non-orienteering public. The criteria are:

An invitation that generates curiosity/interest without too much "stammespraak" [I'm not sure what that last word means...a guess is "jargon"].

Clear and inviting signage (appropriate for non-orienters).

The meet site set-up: finish chute; spectator control, decent "merking" [again a word I don't recognize].

Media coverage before and after the event.

Innovative elements to the event (micro, chase start, etc).

Helpful, friendly organizers.

Good courses, designed to achieve the goals for the event.

Increased participation compared to prior years.

Announcer and good atmosphere.

I think a few things about how the Norwegian's have set up this award are interesting:

1. The criteria are clearly designed to relate the award to a specific goal.
2. People nominate specific events for consideration. People who nominate an event need to send in the nomination with a short explanation.
3. The group that judges the nominees is small - just three people.

Cool Basketball Page

A couple of days ago I included a link to a cool baseball page, today I'll link to Kenpom.com's preview of the Big 12 Basketball Season (PDF file).

posted by Michael | 8:22 PM


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sprint map fieldchecking


Gene and I worked to fieldcheck the KU Campus sprint map this summer and fall. It was more interesting than I'd expected. Compared to fieldchecking a regular map in the forest, working on a sprint map was:

The sprint mapping was much less physically draining. Working on a map in the forest is tough. You spend a lot of time stomping through rough terrain, up and down hills. But the sprint terrain was much more gentle. After a few hours you might be tired of mapping, but you didn't feel worn out the way you would after a few hours in the forest.

The sprint mapping felt like you made more cartographic decisions per hour
. The fun, and the difficulty, of mapping is making decisions. Is the forest thick enough to be green or is it still white? Is that boulder large enough to map? Is that cliff crossable? Those decisions are interesting. On the KU Campus you made lots of decision, mostly about how much to generalize the features and whether or not features were crossable. It helped that the basemap was good. You didn't spend much time having to place features in the right location because the basemap had so much detail.

Cool Danish Sprint Mapping Page

Take a look at Kell Sonnichsen,s sprint mapping page. It is in Danish but has lots of map clips and photos. So, even without being able to read it is worth a look.

I don't have the time or energy to translate the text, but I'll tell you that the links from the front page are:

Forside = front page
Traeer og buske = trees and bushes
Skov eller park? = forest or park?
Steir og veje = trails and roads
Mure = walls
Hvad ska ikke med = What should not be included

Sonnichen's page gives you a sense of some of the decision-making while sprint mapping.

posted by Michael | 9:04 PM


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Favorite O' gear


Without a doubt, my favorite piece of O' gear is my 17-year-old Silva headlamp.

Cool baseball web page

There are at least a couple of orienteers who read this page and are baseball fans. They might want to check out the www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ for a huge database of box scores and play-by-play data. The detail is amazing. Did you know, for example, that on June 25, 2006, in the first inning, David DeJesus of the Kansas City Royals stuck out swinging on a full count? That's the kind of detail that you can easily find in the baseball-reference database.

posted by Michael | 8:08 PM


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Strange, poetic translations


Some surreal orienteering poetry:

In any case, you thought that running to end aggressively, is necessary.

The short leg is read with the long leg.

Reading, it runs ding dong.

Changing with the short leg, it designates the head as navigation mode.

Here several seconds are made. Avariciously.

And and, it runs aggressively.

Actually, this isn't poetry, it is the Google translation tool's version of Yoko Bamba's analysis of her race at the long final in the 2006 World Champs.

I discovered Yoko Bamba's web page while browsing through the site statistics for Okansas. I knew that Google had a tool to translate from Japanese to English and figured this would be a good test. I poked around Yoko Bamba's page and reached two conclusions:

1. Bamba's page is full of interesting stuff - analysis, training information, articles, and so on.

2. Google translate isn't quite good enough to really understand much of what is going on. But, it still makes for some interesting reading.

Here's another translation, this time about Sandy Hott Johansen's great result in the 2005 World Champs:

The Canadian person, also participating from Sandy world championship remained in the head.

Within first 10 ranks, you supplied the record, Middle 9 rank with non-European spirit.

Her, it was the conference of somewhere, however you forgot, the relations which fail together extremely? So, the person where the hand does not reach so you did not think.

As for her being the doctor, in the past when being terrible, about one day 20 hour it worked, it seems. But, this spring, with this circumstance and work were changed into half time

9 rank of the when. She being able to brighten the eye, the 6th rank finger sitting down, calls next year.

Google translate isn't quite good enough to understand exactly what Bamba is writing (though it is pretty easy to understand the general idea).

posted by Michael | 8:17 PM


Monday, November 13, 2006

Race at Batsto


Saturday's race (map lifted from Randy's page):

The orienteering was trickier than it might look. Keep in mind that the contours are 2.5 meters. Those hills are subtle. But what made the orienteering tricky, for me, was that the running was fast but tough. The vertical green stripes are deep blueberry bushes. Running through that stuff took strength and concentration.

posted by Michael | 8:05 PM



okansas.blogspot.com #5

Gabcast! okansas.blogspot.com #5

posted by Michael | 6:34 AM


Friday, November 10, 2006

Next update planned for Monday, November 13


My next planned update is on Monday. Thought, there's always a chance I'll make a short phone post or 2 from the races in New Jersey.

Worth a look is the Worldofo.com story about using CatchingFeatures to prepare for JWOC. It reminds me of stories about Dale Earnhardt Jr. using video games to get ready for Nascar races (yet another similarity between orienteering and Nascar!).

I guess it won't be long before WOC organizers will provide CatchingFeatures maps for training use. That seems like a great idea.

posted by Michael | 7:38 AM


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sprint map of the KU Campus


Here is a preview of the sprint map of the KU Campus. This is the map we'll be using for the race on December 2.

If you're familiar with the KU Campus, you'll recognize that the large buildings in the south part of this bit of the map are the Spencer Museum of Art and the Kansas Union.

I think it is fair to say that this bit of the map is representative of the range of terrain you'll be seeing on the December 2 race.

posted by Michael | 8:33 PM


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

950 hours of training


Marianne Andersen wrote about her last year of training, where she did about 950 hours of training. That's a lot. If you can read Norwegian, read what she wrote.

If not, I'll note a few things that she wrote about.

The pie chart shows how her training breaks down by type. Perhaps the most interesting thing in this chart is that less than half of her training is running. She does as much alternative training as she does running. Her alternative training is mostly cycling on a trainer, skiing, roller skiing and cyling.

Her training was heavily influenced by some injuries. In her summary, Andersen wrote about three injuries affecting her training.

In another article on her page, Andersen wrote about her plans for the coming years. Here is a quick translation of a bit of what she wrote:

A training goal for the coming year is to train a bit less than I have the last two seasons. Anotehr goal is to run more. I will put some focus on running on hard surfaces, since I think I have room to improve in that area. But, I will also continue to do a lot of running on trails and in the forest. I'm also going to work on increasing my O' technique speed. I think it is just as important to be able to orienteer effectively at a high speed as it is to run fast.

Looking at the latest WOC results, Andersen was just 22 seconds behind in the middle distance race and 26 seconds behind in the long distance race. It'll be interesting to see how it goes in 2007.

posted by Michael | 8:39 PM


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Strange doping news


Dagens Nyheter reported on an unusual sports doping case. Here's a rough translation of a bit of the report:

A few weeks before the European Champs, I took some "ryssfemmor" [a type of anaboloic steriods in pill form]. I knew it was illegal, but I didn't think I'd get caught.

The sport was weight lifting. I suppose it isn't much of a surprise that weight lifters might take steriods.

What is unusual about the case is that the athlete was 73 years old.

What does this have to do with orienteering?

One argument that I've heard about doping and orienteering is that because there isn't much money in the sport, there isn't much doping. I think cases like this - a 73 year old weight lifter - suggests that doping isn't necessarily a motivated by money. Of course money is a motive for doping. But, I'd expect that there are some other really important motives - like individuals who (a) don't expect to get caught; (b) want to achieve some goal (the old dude wanted to break a record); and (c) compete in a sport culture that doesn't necessarily push a strong anti-doping environment.

I worry that orienteering is susceptible to some of the same incentives, even if there isn't much money in the sport.


I came across the original article, published in another Swedish paper called Dala Demokraten. The article is worth a look if you can read Swedish. Here is a little bit of what the Old Doper had to say when asked how he got ahold of the steriods:

It was a young guy who explained how I could get the "ryssfemmor" on the Internet. He helped me make the order, I'm not so good with computers.

The article includes a nice photo of the Old Doper.

posted by Michael | 8:15 PM


Monday, November 06, 2006

Computer games


I've been playing OManager for a few months now. If you're not familiar with it, OManager is a computer game where you manage a team of orienteers by assigning training, picking relay teams, and buying/selling runners.

I signed up for the game because I was curious about how it worked. I'm in my second season. As I've played, I've begun to get more interested in it. I think the moment I realized I was hooked was when one of my runners got hurt...and I felt real disappointment. A line of text on my computer screen, a string of numbers, and a bit of text telling me that the line of text was "injured." And, it bugged me. Strange.

posted by Michael | 7:12 PM


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Carrot or stick or something else?


I came across a discussion on Attackpoint that touches on a bunch of interesting issues, the one I thought I'd write a few notes about is the quality of events. Randy posed the question:

how does USOF make the guidelines actually happen, once written (and this applies to all things (mainly printing promises), not just course setting styles)?

Among the ideas that get discussed are: training/teaching how to organize meets; some sort of enforcement "stick"; and a couple of "market" solutions.

J-man (as you might expect if you spend too much time reading discussions on Attackpoint) proposed a very rational solution. Here is part of what he wrote:

...I know that markets become more efficient with better information, to say nothing of equilibrated supply and demand. If we can't force meet admins to follow-through maybe we just bring their successes (and failures) to light.

Admittedly, there is the question of objectivity, but I think this is a quibble. If a meet is supposed to have a 35 minute WT, publicize that in advance. If it comes across with a 52 minute WT, so be it. Let the market decide if they care.

If every meet featured this kind of accountability, and we had a historical track record, the public, to the extent they care, of course, can vote with their feet and $s.

I'd add something to J-man's proposal - a carrot. I'd put in place an annual award for meet quality. Find the really high quality events and reward them with some recognition. USOF could award a prize to the club that hosted the highest quality events. Someone could interview and write about the organization of the event for ONA - spreading the good ideas and encouraging a "culture" of high quality organization.

Would it work (i.e. over time encourage higher quality events)? Maybe. It would seem easy to implement. The hardest things would be defining some simple criteria for "high quality" and designing a reasonably credible judging process.

posted by Michael | 8:00 PM


Really nice forest


Back home after a week in California. I'll probably write a bit about yesterday's orienteering in the next day or two. For now, I'll just post a few snapshots of a forest in the hills above Oakland. I took a walk with an orienteering map through the redwood forest - very nice.

posted by Michael | 10:30 AM


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