Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ausland on sprint orienteering


The Norwegian national team trainer, Jarle Ausland, discussed sprint orienteering (a rough translation):

I don't believe in a sprint team, but we will focus more on sprints in the future. Phsyically the sprints aren't different, but it is the O' technique and map reading where the sprint is different.

If you can read Norwegian, check out the article at OPN.

And for something completely different

Take a look at these amazing images of Iceland from Google Maps.

posted by Michael | 7:53 PM


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Trivia and compasses


What is the most common first name among men who have IOF world ranking points?

Give it some thought...the answer is at the end of today's post.

Compass preference

From a comment on yesterday's entry:

Would you give your thoughts, personal, researched or both on the use of base plate and thumb compasses?

I use one of these:

I've been orienteering for about 25 years. For maybe 15 years, I used a baseplate compass. For about 5 years I carried just the round housing part of a baseplate compass (i.e. a baseplate compass without the baseplate). For the last 5 years, I've been using the Silva compass in the photo above. I've tested a thumb compass a few times.

My preference is the compass I use now. I like how easy it is to carry. I like how when you look at your map you see the compass easily. You can't "take a bearing." But, I can only recall one time in the last 10 years when I wished I'd been able to take a bearing.

In the first few years I orienteered, I did a fair amount of training where I'd set a bear, follow it for 400 meters or so, and then check to see if I'd run in a straight line. The idea wasn't to train to run on a compass, it was to train to run in a straight line. I'm glad I was using a baseplate for that sort of training (though a thumb compass would have worked just as well).

My preference for compasses is weak. If I was standing at the start, with one minute to go, and you took away my compass and gave me another type, I don't think I'd have any trouble adapting.

Trivia answer

The single most common first name among men in the IOF world ranking list is.....Martin. But, you could make a case that Alexander-like names are more common (counting the various spelling: Alexander, Aleksandr and Oleksandr). Here are the top 10:


Don't ask why I checked on this. It was just a moment of curiousity. Maybe I'll check the most common women's names tomorrow.

posted by Michael | 8:46 PM


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Short rant about night orienteering


Some discussion about night O' on Attackpoint inspired this short rant. Without getting into the details, two points came up in the discussion that I'd like to write about:

Night O' is too different
Night O' equipment matters too much

I think that one of the great things about orienteering is that we regularly compete in "different" conditions and terrains. Some people define orienteering as involving "unknown terrain." But, "too different" would imply some sort of maximum allowable difference.

Try this thought experiment. Think about three events. One is day orienteering at Pawtuckaway. One is night orienteering at Pawtuckaway. One is day orienteering on this map in Florida.

Which of those two events are most different and which are most similar? In my mind (and based on my experience running on both of those maps and having done a lot of night orienteering), the differences between Florida and Pawtuckaway are bigger than the differences between day and night orienteering.

Your opinion may be different.

A common criticism of night orienteering is that equipment matters too much; even that night orienteering is really just about how strong a light you've got.

Two points about the equipment discussion:

1. Of course equipment matters, just like it matters for day orienteering. Another thought experiment. Both races are at Pawtuckaway. In one race, you're wearing Birkenstocks. In the other race, you're wearing VJ O' spikes. I suspect (and hope) you'd do much, much better in the VJ's. I suspect (and hope) that you wouldn't conclude that equipment matters too much.

2. Decent night O' lamps are easy to get and not very expensive if you recognize that they last a long time. Most bike stores sell lights that work fine for night O'. You can order an orienteering headlamp online. At first glance, a lamp might seem expensive. But, you've got to recognize that a headlamp will last for a long time. I've been running with a Silva headlamp I bought in 1989. (As an aside, I think once you get over about 10 watts of halogen light, the marginal benefit of brighter light is relatively small....which is not to say I wouldn't like to have a brighter light than the 10-20W halogen that I run with).

Time for dinner.

posted by Michael | 7:14 PM


Monday, August 28, 2006

O' poster


More poking around the web turned up this O' event poster. The designer is Niels-Peter Foppen.

I have a dim memory of some discussion on Attackpoint about posters to promote orienteering. Foppen's poster strikes me as really nice way of showing orienteering as a running sport.

posted by Michael | 8:56 PM


One of my O' life list items: orienteering in Venice


Ever since I first heard about orienteering in Venice, I've wanted to go. It certainly sits high on my list of things to do before I die.

Poking around the web, I came across a short video of Venice Orienteering. Check it out from the Maprunner video page.

posted by Michael | 8:40 PM


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Yesterday's sprint race at Longview


Maps from yesterday's sprint race at Longview Lake.

The course was tougher than it looks on the map because the light yellow (rough open with scattered trees) was very rough. You couldn't hold a straight line through the light yellow. Actualy, you probably could, but it would have involved running through some unpleasant thorns and massive amounts of poison ivy.

Snapshots from mapping project

I'm working on a sprint map of the KU Campus. I planned to get in several hours of work today, but I only managed a bit over an hour because of a lot of rain. I took a couple of snapshots that illustrate some of the terrain. I think it'll make for fun sprint orienteering.

The start will be near Marvin Grove, a small area of big, old trees.

The campus also includes areas with lots of buildings, stairways, low walls (high walls, too), and gardens. This snapshot shows the Anschutz Library on the far left, with Budig Hall and the stairways between Budig and Wescoe. I think this sort of area will allow for some tricky control placements and route choices.

I made these two panoramic photos using a very slick software called Autostitch. The snapshot of Marvin Grove is 8 individual pictures stitched together. The snapshot of Budig is 3 individual pictures stitched together. Stitching the images together was amazingly simple. You just open the files the go together and click, Autostitch puts the photos together automatically. It is almost like magic.

posted by Michael | 7:06 PM


Saturday, August 26, 2006

More O' Fashion - Project Finish Chute


I spent an hour or so and put together a web page where different WOC 2006 orienteering fashions compete head-to-head. Check it out at:


The way the page works, you get a paired set of orienteering suits and get the questions "which is better?" In this case, "better" refers to the design of the O' suits. Look at the two options, click on your favorite and the results of the head-to-head battle are registered. Once you've decided one battle, you get another paired set of photos.

Try it out.

The photos are from the runner profiles as worldofo.com. I wasn't able to find photos of for North Korea or Serbia and Montenegro, but all other WOC nations should be represented.

posted by Michael | 1:30 PM


Friday, August 25, 2006

Walking around courses


Something Aspleaf wrote reminded me of a few years ago when I walked around a number of O' courses. A bit of what he wrote, in rough translation:

Can't you just jog around the course?

My answer to this question has always been, "If I'm going to just jog around, I may as well stay home and jog from my own front door." The fun of orienteering is being able to push your body while, at the same time, being able to handle the navigation...

A few years ago when I was injured, I couldn't even jog around an O' course. Instead, I walked. I didn't expect it to be challenging. I didn't expect it to be interesting. I figured it'd be fun to get outdoors and to see other orienteers.

I decided that walking around a course might be interesting if I tried to be as efficient as possible - don't boom a second, don't take a step that isn't the best possible step I could take.

Walking around a course as efficiently as possible turned out to be surprisingly difficult. To be as efficient as possible - to make no mistakes - required a lot of concentration. If your mind wanders for just a few seconds you might, for example, take the wrong line around a downed tree and lose a few seconds. Because you're going slowly, you have to hold your concentration for a relatively long time.

So walking around courses wasn't so bad. Jogging around a course might be similarly interesting.

But, do you know what the best thing about walking around a course was? It gave you a real appreciation for how much more fun it is to run around an O' course. Being injured, being unable to run, really makes you appreciate being able to run. I remind myself of that when I'm shuffling slowly around on a cruddy, hot, humid day (like it was today).

Orienteering in Iceland

I did a few internet searches and didn't find any info about orienteering in Iceland. If anybody reading this knows of any orienteering in Iceland, please let me know. Thanks.

posted by Michael | 9:12 PM


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Map printing comparison


Vladimir posted scans of two maps of the same rocky hill in Colorado. Comparing the two bits of map is a dramatic demonstration of the outcome of 2 differnt methods of printing the maps.

Fashion Update

Judging by the number of comments and page visits today, there is a lot more interest in O' fashion that I'd expected. Look for more WOC suit analysis in the coming days.

posted by Michael | 8:46 PM


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Orienteering Fashion - Project Finish Chute


Mary is hooked on a reality TV show called Project Runway. The premise is pretty simple - each episode the contestants design some clothing which is then judged. The worst design is kicked off the show.

I am not hooked on Project Runway. But, I have to admit to sitting in the room while the show is on and paying more attention that I should...and it inspired me to start Project Finish Chute (an critique of national team O' clothes). First up is Sweden versus Canada.

The Swedish suit looks more like a wet suit than running gear. The short sleeves add to the wet suit look, as does the color. The designed has managed something nearly impossible -- to take attractive, athletic people and make them look like they've been squeezed into neoprene.

Canada, on the other hand, has a great look. The maple leaf instantly tells you the suit belongs to Canada (take a look at the Swedish suit, could you guess which country it is from if you didn't already know?). You could quibble with one aspect of the design -- that a bib number covers too much of the maple leaf.

Canada is a clear winner in the fashion fight against Sweden.

Almost forgot, I should credit worldofo.com for the photos.

posted by Michael | 8:16 PM


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New comments system


I put in a new comment system. I've been having a lot of trouble over the last week or so making comments. I write a comment, try to post it, and get a message that I've been blocked by the moderator (which should be me) from posting because I'm posting spam.

So, I've moved to a new comment system.

Unfortunately, that means the old comments aren't easily accessible. I should be able to download them and store them, but they probably won't be available on this page.

posted by Michael | 7:42 PM


A little inspiration


Yesterday's visit from John and Anna (two of the better juniors in the U.S.) was inspiring. Seeing some youthful enthusiasm is always good. In particular, both of them are thinking ahead, thinking about future races. Also, both ran the test loop and then ran it again. It was warm and humid, they'd just gotten out of a car after driving across the state of Kansas. It would have been a lot easier to just call it quits. But, John and Anna didn't call it quits. They took advantage of being on a map and did a bit more training.

posted by Michael | 6:56 PM


Monday, August 21, 2006

Juniors on my test loop


John and Anna are driving back from the U.S. Champs in Colorado and are spending the night in Kansas City. I met them at my test loop after work and got them to run the course. John set the men's record and Anna set the women's (though Anna was certainly not running very hard).

My PR on the loop is just over 15 minutes.

I interviewed John and Anna after they crossed the finish line.

posted by Michael | 9:57 PM


Sunday, August 20, 2006

orienteering streak


I read a story in the paper today about a guy who has a skiing streak of over 1000 consecutive days. Keeping the streak alive involves flying back and forth from North America to South America so he can ski year round.

What is the record for consecutive days of orienteering racing and training?

My own streak isn't impressive. I'm sure I've done 8 consecutive days (and I suspect I might have a 10 day streak, but I'm not certain). My 8 day streak was from 1984 when I ran a 3-day competition in Denmark followed immediately by the Swedish 5-days.

I wonder about the all time longest O' streak. I can imagine someone, maybe Jorgen Martensson, running a good 20-30 days of orienteering in a row.

posted by Michael | 8:15 PM


Saturday, August 19, 2006

How does Samantha train?


I spent a little time today looking at Samantha Saeger's training. I used the set of questions I developed for looking at people's training on the web. I've used these questions before -- for example, when I looked at Kim Fagerudd's training -- and I find it helps me get a feeling for how someone trains. I also find it fun.

I've met Samantha, but I wouldn't say I know her. Over the last couple of years, I've checked out her log on Attackpoint, but not more than once every couple of weeks. Her runner profile has her results history and a few good photos. She's had some really good results.

easiest to answer questions

Training volume -? even year round or lots of up-and-down? If the volume is uneven, is it because of periodization or something else?

Samantha has a fairly even volume. She seems to vary the quality of her training by the time of year, but the volume is steady. She tends to put in a slightly higher volume week every 4 or 5 weeks. I can't tell if it is intentional or just an accident. My guess is the pattern is more accidental than planned.

One very clear pattern shows up in Samantha's training. At the end of 2005, she dramatically increased her training.

Cross training -? does the orienteer use other sports in training? Do they compete in other sports?

Samantha does a bit of cycling and skiing. She also does a bit of strength training. But, she doesn't really do a lot of cross training. Most of what she does is run and orienteer. I think she ran track in high school and college. She does a few trail races.

O' technique -? Does the orienteer practice technique or do they get their technique through competitions?

Samantha does a reasonable amount of technique training. In the past (checking out her training every couple of weeks), I'd never noticed how much non-race technique training she was doing.

Samantha regularly runs more than one course at small O' races.

Injuries and illness -? Does the orienteer have problems with injuries and illness?

No. Maybe she eats well, gets plenty of rest, and has a good sense of how she's feeling. Maybe she's just lucky.

possible to answer, but easy to get wrong

Does the orienteer have clear, known goals?

Samantha was clearly focusing on the WOC in Denmark and wanted to qualify for finals. She set a goal of training 7 hours/week in 2006.

Does the orienteer work with a coach?

I don't know if Samantha works with a coach. I suspect she gets plenty of advice (from her Dad, among others). I suspect that she has worked with coaches in the past.

Does the orienteer's approach seem to be scientific and detail-oriented or more intuitive?

I don't like the way I worded this question. I'll have to fix it before I use these questions again.

Samantha seems to pay attention to details, but in a relaxed way. I think she'd, for example, keep an eye on her heart rate monitor, but not let it dictate how she's going to run.

hardest to answer, probably wrong

Does an "attitude" come through? Does the orienteer come across as having a positive approach? Do they whine a lot?

Samantha doesn't whine in her log. She comes across as driven and competitive (without being nuts about it). But, she also comes across as relaxed. So, either I'm completely confused, or she's really well adjusted (or both?).

Does the orienteer seem to be experimenting or following a template?

I think she's following a template, but trying to learn and willing to experiment. Her template is built around these ideas:

Train about 7 hours a week.
Train mostly running and orienteering.
Do some strength training.
Run hard intervals regularly (often on the track).
Regularly train O' technique.

To me, Samantha's training template looks pretty good.

What sort of background does the orienteer have? Do they make maps? Have the competed at a high level in another sport? Did they start at a young age? Have they lived in Europe?

Samantha comes from an O' family and has been orienteering a lot. She's a strong runner (probably ran track in high school and college).

Samantha traveled to Europe but I don't think she ever lived there.

Does anything seem striking or unusual?

Samantha's sudden big increase in training at the end of 2005 stands out.

Reading her log, I was struck by a determination and drive that I hadn't noticed before.

Samantha is a good runner in the forest. I've run races and run a few legs with her. She runs well. But, she also has a tendency to orienteer badly now and then. I suspect that she can get her orienteering to be consistent with a little more technique work.

Which brings me to an observation -- at just 24 years age, she's clearly got a lot of potential.

Reading through her training log, I found an entry I hadn't seen before:

To the top in WOC, it's a long way to go,
Just like dad climbing Big Blue, with me in tow.
Breathing hard and sweating buckets,
Sometimes I just want to say **** it. (poetic license please)
But the dreams of WOC keep me going,
Just glad I'm not in Sweden where it's snowing.

posted by Michael | 8:08 PM


Friday, August 18, 2006

M21 U.S. Champs Preview


The US Champs takes place this weekend in Colorado. I'm not going, but I thought I'd give you my favorites in M21...and my pick to win.

The obvious favorites would have to be Mikell Platt, Eric Bone, and Boris Granovskiy.

Mikell is getting old. Heck, he is old. But, he trains a lot. He's a good orienteer. He lives at altitude. The races are around 7,000 or 8,000 feet altitude. So, living at altitude should be useful. If you could gamble on the U.S. M21 O' champs, Mikell would probably be the favorite and wouldn't pay very well.

Eric is another obvious favorite.

Boris is a bit of an outsider. In some ways, he trains better for orienteering than any other American. Living in Uppsala helps. He's coming of the WOC where, I suspect, he might be feeling like he didn't show his best. Of all the competitors, Boris might be the most likely, however, to be feeling the effort of a long, tough season (and a good bit of travel on top of it).

James Scarborough would be a good outside pick. He lives in Colorado -- does that give him a home field advantage? It might. He seems to be in decent shape. James is a bit off the radar. He doesn't log his training on Attackpoint. He doesn't travel to loads of A-meets. A gambler might get good odds on James.

My pick? Mark "Mook" Everett to win! Not only is Mook my clubmate, he's also been training pretty well the last couple of months. He raced well earlier this week, including winning the M21 night champs.

posted by Michael | 9:34 PM


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sprint course setting


When I saw the courses from the sprint WOC in Denmark, I was suprised. Not by the terrain, but by the number of controls and the number of direction changes. Marten Bostrom spent some time comparing sprint courses at WOCs. Here is what he wrote:

After my race, and after cheering Jani Lakanen to a gold on the long distance, I have given some thoughts on the format of the sprint. According to the International Orienteering Federation: “The sprint profile is high speed. Sprint is built on very high speed running in very runnable parks, streets or forests. The winning time, for both women and men, shall be 12-15 minutes, preferably the lower part of the interval.” The Finnish Orienteering Federation has added that “the orienteering challenges should be possible to solve from the map in full speed”. The winning times in WOC sprints 2001-2006 has been 10’55” – 12’43” – 13’06” – 14’31” – 13’35”. The course consisted of 12 controls in 2001, but in Denmark 2006 the number of controls was 21! This means that the average control interval has decreased (from 55secs to 38secs) at the same time as the total running time has increased. I did not feel like the sprint in Århus was “built on very high speed running” nor that the orienteering challenges could be solved in full speed. Indeed, the longer legs demanded fast speed, but the course included 10 legs where the fastest split for the leg was less than 20 seconds! So mate, don’t blame yourself if you prepared yourself for a different kind of race than awaited in Århus? I myself lost the race on the longest leg – I’m just concerned about where the Sprint event is heading.

Before the WOC, I'd spent some time looking at previous WOC sprint courses and came away with the conclusion that the courses would have fairly simple orienteering. I didn't see many controls and I didn't see many direction changes. That's why I was surprised by the courses in Denmark.

Take a look at the Emil Wingstedt's map with 21 controls over 13:35 of running. Also, look at Kajsa Nilsson's map with 16 controls over 13:24 of running. Those little loops near the end of the course -- the last 7 or 8 controls -- those aren't what I'd expected.

But, I probably should have expected courses with lots of controls. For example, If I'd been paying attention, I'd have looked closely at the Norwegian sprint test race in Denmark. Look at Oystein Kvaal Osterbo's routes on the course with 23 controls.

posted by Michael | 8:16 PM


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Klas Karlsson's Systematic Orienteering


Years ago (maybe 1999?), I translated an article Klas Karlsson wrote about his ideas on orienteering. I think Karlsson's ideas are good. Back in 1999, very few people looked at my page. These days the audience is growing. I'm reposting the original translation in the hope that it'll reach a broader audience, and that at least someone out there will find the article interesting.

Systematic Orienteering

By Klas Karlsson

This is an electronic version of a paper I wrote in the fall of 1994. It is a good description of my philosophy of orienteering. It is aimed at juniors, but I think everyone can benefit from reading about how others think about orienteering.


I wrote this to help you think about your orienteering. It is aimed at juniors who are moving up to the senior classes. Everyone knows it is a big step to take. I wrote this to help juniors improve and to use my own experiences to describe and think about the problems I have struggled with.

First, I thought about my strengths and weaknesses.

I quickly realized I don’t have any problems with running at the level I aspire to (assuming my physical training is going as it should). Of course I can be better, but it is not the highest priority. I have had physical problems during my first years as a senior, but that is another story...

The problem I need to work on is that I often feel stressed in the forest. I know how good the others orienteer -- how little they miss. As a junior my orienteering was not as secure and reliable as it has to be at the senior level. Just getting older won’t help that. So, how do I solve the problem?

First, I analyzed what the differences were between races that have gone well and those that have gone poorly.

When races have gone well: (1) I felt secure and had self-confidence or (2) I had the right attitude. (By the right attitude, I mean I was thinking -- “I am not going to make any mistakes no matter how much time it takes,” or “I am not in good shape, but I am going to keep up by making no mistakes.”).

What these situations have in common is that I have really been “thinking orienteering.” In the first case, I felt -- “the only thing that can hold me back is if I make mistakes...if I don’t make mistakes I will succeed.” In the second case, I have always been concentrating on not losing any more time than necessary.

I concluded that I need to copy the technique I used during my good races. This technique -- which I called “thinking orienteering” above -- is what I call Systematic Orienteering.

Goal, Strategy, Realization

These words will help to think about orienteering. It might seem a bit theoretical in the beginning. But, I think it is helps to make it clear what you should do and what it takes to succeed.


The goal is to run an orienteering course as fast as possible and to do your best when you choose to.


The strategy to reach the goal is being systematic. I do this by planning and simplifying. I will come back to what that means.


How will I succeed with planning and simplifying? Will I be able to do that? When can I do that? When won’t I be able to do that? Can I train my ability to plan and simplify? These are the hard problems and questions that are very individual.

I am going to describe what I mean by “systematic orienteering,” why I believe it is the way to go, and how you can train orienteer systematically.

Systematic Orienteering

What do you do when you orienteer? A course is built of legs. Each leg is a problem. Orienteering involves running a series of legs faster than your competitors; in other words, solving a series of problems better than the competition. It is common to think of each leg alone and try to run faster than the others on each leg. I don’t think that you need to do that! The winner isn’t the one who wins the most legs. Rather it is the one with the least slow legs.

In training and races it is interesting to see how hard it is to have the fastest time on a leg, but how easy it is to be among the fastest. Test this sometime when there are a lot of good orienteers around to compare split times with. Pick a few legs where you try as hard as you can and some where you take a bit of extra time to be careful. The result will be that when you try as hard as you can you will win some legs and have some bad legs. When you take a bit of extra time you might not win any legs, but you will never be far behind.

Every leg can be thought of as a trap to avoid. Run the legs fast, but systematically. Being systematic will guarantee you don’t make mistakes.

What is systematic orienteering? It is planning and completing each leg the way you would if you were sitting at home at the kitchen table looking at the map. Orienteering is really easy when you are sitting at the kitchen table! The difference between the kitchen and the forest is that in the forest you are tired and your thinking is as sharp as a butter knife. To solve problems in this condition it is important to have a tactic, strategy, or whatever you want to call it, to be able to easily concentrate on what is important. This is what I call “systematic orienteering.”

Systematic orienteering should begin with the problem. Orienteering problems can be split into two parts -- route choice and control taking.

1. Route Choice

Experience and practice teaches you to be able to see which route is fastest. It usually isn’t a big problem at the kitchen table, but during a race....A correct route choice is not made in an instant. To be able to make a good route choice it is important that you are not completely worn out when you make your choice. In the easy-running parts of a course, you don’t lose much if you don’t run as hard as you can. You can take a look at more than one leg ahead. As a rule you should always know how you will do the next leg before you punch. This will reduce stress and you get a “flow” in your orienteering. Less stress also helps you keep going longer and an elite course is really long!

2. Taking Controls

Simplify! By simplifying and enlarging controls you are safer, have better “flow” and have more time to think clearly and be systematic.

Simplifying means looking for a larger feature that is easy to find and near the control. You can think of a control as a “big control” and the real control. The big control is nearly impossible to miss. Once you find the big control it should be nearly impossible to miss the real control. A control that looks difficult and makes you feel uncertain can often be simplified by taking it the right way. By feeling safer the whole way to the control, you don’t feel stressed and you keep your sharpness and “flow.”

In summary, systematic orienteering means taking a few extra seconds to ensure a better route choice and safer control taking leads to increased “flow” and better energy.

Do I have time to be systematic?

A big problem when you first move up to the senior classes is that your self-confidence takes a hit. It is tough because as a junior you may have been used to always being on the top and the center of attention. When your self-confidence goes down, you feel stressed in the forest. Maybe you take some chances; thinking you don’t have time to take an extra look at the map. I’ll try to show you that you actually do have time to take one or two looks at the map.

The objective of competitive orienteering is to be faster than the others around the whole course.

Faster than the others....There are two ways to be faster than the others:

1. (a) You run faster than the others;
(b) You always make the right route choices and don’t miss anything;

2. (a) The others run slower;
(b) The others make worse route choices and also miss some controls.

It is important to think about it this way. We often hear that we should “run our own race” and not think about how others run. I’m not saying this is wrong, but I think that by including others in the picture (after all, they are our competition) it is easier to understand the reason why you should do something in a particular way. If you know that your competition is going to make mistakes, you know that by avoiding mistakes you will have extra time. So you can orienteer more carefully than your competitors who are missing.

1. (a) You run faster than the others. Only one person in each race can run faster than the rest. The differences in speed are small; so there is not much time to be gained here. It is, of course, important that you do not run much worse than the others, but it isn’t in running fast that you’ll find your biggest advantage.

2. (a) The others run slower. This just isn’t right. The others run just as fast, or nearly so, as you do.

1. (b) You always make the right route choices and don’t miss anything. This is where you can make big gains. To always make the right route choice -- is this possible? No. But, you can improve your average. To never miss any controls -- is this possible? This is definitely possible and is the basis for having better times than the competition.

2. (b) The others make worse route choices and also miss some controls. This is an important area that is often ignored because you can not affect it. As I wrote above, you can’t hope that the competition will make bad route choices and miss controls. But, you can work on the assumption that they will. I would like to see how many people can say they always take good routes and do not miss anything. This happens once in a while, but is not very common. Don’t misunderstand me -- I don’t think that since every else will take bad routes and miss controls, I can also. I think that since most others miss and take some bad routes, I have some “extra time” compared to if they didn’t.

This is a good way of thinking because it lets you avoid the most common stress that I think affects younger seniors.

I think that I have to DARE to take the right roue and not make any mistakes. You do that by taking a few extra seconds at certain times during an orienteering race. Taking this extra time can feel like a waste of precious time, but it is not.

I have often felt stressed when I’ve “gotten stuck” (e.g., going up a slippery steep hillside). It feels like time is running away and I am standing still. But, I am convinced that if you had a film of this you would hardly notice the loss of time.

I think the “experience” of time is not the same as actual time. The seconds you sacrifice for thinking may feel like a lot of time, but actually they are just seconds.

How Do You Learn Systematic Orienteering?

To learn to orienteer systematically is not hard. Just follow these simple rules:

Plan -- know your route choice one leg ahead.

Simplify -- take controls the simplest way.

The difficulty is not learning to follow these rules, but to be able to follow the rules always and quickly. It is important that you believe in your strategy before you begin to follow it. Believe in the concept of systematic orienteering. Not because it is the only way, but because it is a way to orienteer that is relatively simple. The most important thing is not that you buy into my concept, but that you have one. If there is a part that doesn’t fit with your beliefs and experiences, just change it. You have to believe in what you do. I believe in what I do. If you have trouble coming up with your own philosophy, buy someone else’s and change it.

Problems and Risks

Systematic orienteering takes more time! The advantage is not that systematic orienteering means going faster than others. The advantage is that you are more careful at the cost of a few seconds. You win through avoiding mistakes. In the long run, this leads to faster times for the entire course (but perhaps not the fastest split times).

If you thoroughly implement systematic orienteering you will feel like you are going slow. In the beginning, your race times will also go down. To follow the rules described above, you have to slow down, perhaps stand still. You will feel time flowing away. It is very important that you are prepared for that feeling. When it happens you will be ready to accept it.

You will feel that you could orienteer much faster with your old technique. And that is true. But, you couldn’t orienteer more safely with your old technique. To hold your own as a senior you have to have that safety. The speed you can run and at the same time systematically solve orienteering problems will soon increase. The time it takes to be safe will be less-and-less and eventually it will be negligible.

One problem is that there are a lot of races and everyone hates to be beat...motivation might not be the highest. It is tough to learn a new technique even if it is not very different from the old one. It doesn’t make it any easier that in the beginning you might get worse results. In those situations you have to keep your belief in systematic orienteering.

I remember how I thought when I was a junior (it wasn’t so long ago...). I thought that the most fun was to beat my competitors. I wanted to run times that no one else could run. Sometimes I succeeded, but often I was a bit down. In those cases I had big mistakes to describe afterwards, just to show that I was the best after all. I was satisfied; if I hadn’t make those big mistakes I would have won easily.

Training Systematic Orienteering

Obviously, systematic orienteering is not something that happens immediately, it has to be trained.

How to train systematic orienteering?

There is a lot to keep track of, so take it one step at a time. Begin by practicing on a short course and by being totally concentrated. Do everything just right and let it take as much time as necessary, but don’t be lazy. This emphasis is very important. Plan a leg ahead. It is going to feel like it is going VERY slowly, but just let that happen.

Then try to practice systematic orienteering a little bit more each time you do technique training. If you feel unmotivated and unconcentrated just use your old technique or decide that there are 3-4 controls that you will practice systematic orienteering and run the rest of the training as usual. Before you start you should decide exactly what you will practice. Don’t get down if it goes badly and you make mistakes. The most important thing is that you practiced what you decided to practice.

During a technique training when I practiced systematic orienteering it began well. Planning worked well and my mental state was good. After a few kilometers I made a big mistake. I had extended the control and should just go in an punch. But, I got a bit off. The forest was dense. I lost a few minutes. The rest of the course went well. After the training I was mad that I had missed the control and was not satisfied although what I’d planned to practice -- systematic orienteering -- went well. This is the sort of situation where it is important to decide beforehand what to practice. And then after the training I should think about how the training went by thinking about how well I did what I’d planned to practice.

To make a few mistakes when I’m concentrating on practicing systematic orienteering is not a big deal. The more you practice systematic orienteering the less thought it takes and you will start to miss less.

When to train systematic orienteering?

It is very important that you begin to learn systematic orienteering without the stress of competition. You can, for example, skip some less important competitions and instead run the direct course or just go to a technique training. Don’t begin to use systematic orienteering in important competitions too soon. There is a risk you’d lose your self confidence if you used systematic orienteering before you were really comfortable with it. If you do use your new technique in competitions, be prepared to have a bit slower time than normal. It is not a big problem if someone else has a time that you couldn’t match even if you take away all of your misses.

During the time it takes to learn you will surely fall back on your old technique. Be prepared for that to happen. Don’t be upset or feel powerless. Motivation and concentration vary and, in the beginning, your success with a new technique will vary also.

The Junior Syndrome

“The junior syndrome” is a term for what often happens, especially among boys, when they move up to the senior class. Things don’t go well! I think there are two causes: physical limits and bad technique.

Physical limits: It takes a few years of hard training to be able to run the long courses that are normal in the senior class. The solution: keep training and have patience.

Bad technique: Poor (sloppy) technique isn’t penalized as much in the junior classes where the differences in running abilities are relatively great. A “junior star” can finish in the top 4-5 even with a bad race. In the senior class the same race would result in 40th place. “Juniors” gets stressed, run harder, get more tired, and make more mistakes. They feel worse than when they were juniors.

What to do? Lower your expectations of top results. Compare yourself to your old competitors. It is interesting to see that it is often those who were a bit behind as juniors who have the best success when they begin as seniors. Those who were aggressive with their technique -- and won junior classes by several minutes -- rarely have good results during their first years as seniors. They don’t have good systematic orienteering!

And finally, learning takes time...


Systematic orienteering: Take a few extra seconds to pick better routes and select safer ways to take the controls, which leads to better “flow” and better energy.

Reduce stress.
Lower expectations (in the beginning).
Think about orienteering.
Have fun.
You have time to think a bit more.

posted by Michael | 7:57 PM


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Highlight of my vacation


Mary got this snapshot of me meeting Atticus, my 6-week-old nephew.

posted by Michael | 8:31 PM


A few questions


I'm back from a short vacation and I'm tired. Our flight home was delayed. I didn't get enough sleep last night. I don't have the energy to think. So, I'll just post a few questions that have come to mind in the last few days:

1. How dumb is it to have a running streak? By "streak" I mean the number of days in a row without taking a day off. Back in the day, Meenehan had a streak of well over a year. I doubt my longest streak is more than about two weeks. But, I've been thinking it might be an interesting experience to put together a streak. Not because it makes sense in phsyically, but because it might be a way to learn something about motivation.

My rule will be that I've got to run at least 20 minutes for a day to count. My current streak is at 5 days (with very little total time...tonight I just jogged around for 20 minutes). We'll see how it goes.

2. Looking at some snapshots from the World Champs in Denmark, and I wondered, "Do you suppose he drank the entire bottle (see photo 1 and then photo 2)?"

3. Is looking at a map on the computer screen versus on paper really different? For me, looking at a map on paper feels very different from looking at the same map on a computer screen. I looked at all of the European Champs maps on line months ago. I looked at them on paper (in the latest Orienteering Today) at lunch this afternoon. When I looked at the maps on paper, they seem much more real. Is it just me?

That's enough for now...

posted by Michael | 7:18 PM


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

My new running test


I've set up a new running test at Bonner Park. Mary designed the course for a local sprint race a couple of weeks ago. It should be a good running test.

I've run the course for time twice. The first time it took me 16:18. I ran it in 15:13, yesterday. Both runs were in hot weather (nearly 100 the first time and about 91 yesterday). I plan to run the test once a month through the fall/winter/spring. It should be a good gauge of my running fitness.

Irregular update until Tuesday, August 15

I'll be traveling the next few days. I don't plan to go out of my way to update this page each day. But, I'll have my phone with me and might make a few audio posts if I can think of something to say.

If you're counting on a daily orienteering fix, you'll have to look elsewhere. A good way to satisfy your O' fix is to look at old maps of places that might be used in next year's world champs.

posted by Michael | 7:41 PM


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A few snapshots


Lots of orienteers run in glasses these days -- eye protection and a fashion statement.

The Swiss model.

Mary and I at a mystery location....any guesses (some of you will know this location)?

posted by Michael | 8:51 PM


Monday, August 07, 2006

Good orienteers; bad orienteering


David Andersson wrote about his big mistake at the middle distance race. You have to feel bad for Andersson. I look at his mistake and think, "man, I wouldn't want to do that, and it must really suck for it to happen at a WOC." Good orienteers sometimes orienteer badly. It is a bit like the "not the top ten" plays on ESPN Sportscenter. It hurts to watch, but it reminds us that those great athletes can, with just a little bobble, look mortal.

Andersson wrote up his mistake on his blog. If you can read Swedish, the whole report is worth a look. If you can't, I'll translate a bit of it. But, first check out the snapshot of Andersson at Oringen super-elite (below), where he won the middle distance race (and where I got a crappy snapshot of him on the run in).

Andersson's map from the WOC middle final is below. Check out the last bit of the course, from control 11 to the finish.

What happened to Andersson is that he ran most of the last loop backwards (going from control 11 to 22, 21, 20, and so on. In the end, he was DQ'd for failing to follow the marked route from the spectator control, 11, through the field and toward control 12.

What happened? Here is a rough translation of what Andersson wrote:

What happened is that I was on the way toward the spectator control and made a mistake reading the map. I thought the thick contour line on the map was the line between controls 11 and 12 (actually 11 and 22). Incredibly sloppy and I've wondered many times how that could happen. I still can't really understand that I managed to do that, but the contour line is my best explanation for what happened.

Despite studying the sketch of the competition center the night before the final, and drawing the marked route and second start point on an old map, I forgot everything when I ran and was convinced I should head off to the right when I came out on the field, where I didn't see or hear any alternative.

At the spectator control I understood from Per Forsbeg [the announcer] that I was 1:01 after Holger Hott Johansen and that Micha Mamleev had just finished in 2nd place, just under 1:30 behind Holger. "Now it will be decided," I remember thinking when I ran from the marker and went into the forest toward control 22. I then took controls 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16 and 15 without any problem and enjoyed the technical area that I knew suited me perfectly. At 15 I unfolded the map to see how the last part of the course looked and quickly noticed that the course I was running didn't lead to the finish.

At this point, Andersson figured out what he did and thought about DNFing. But, he decided to correct his mistake and finish the course. He did that, but was DQ'd for failing to follow the marked route from the spectator control.

Andersson went back to the 12th control, and began finishing the course.

He was, at this point, just behind Valentin Novikov, who was in second place in the race at this point. At the 12th control, Novikov's time was 24:05. Novikov was ahead of Holger by 52 seconds and behind Jarkko Houvila by about 10 seconds.

Novikov took the lead at the 13th control and stayed in first place to the 16th control, where he gave us another example of a good orienteer, orienteering badly.

Novikov leaves 16 and, instead of going to 17, heads toward 18. About half way to the 18th control, he realizes his mistake and returns to 17. The damage was done and Novikov dropped from the lead to 8th place (fighting back up to 5th by the finish).

Check out Novikov's map below. It looks like he might have been reading the map from 17 and he left 16.

You have to feel sorry for both of these guys. Learning lessons at the WOC must hurt.

posted by Michael | 7:28 PM


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Swiss model for Sweden


A quick translation of a bit of an opinion bit on changes for the Swedish O' team:

It is time for Tomas Bruce, president of the Swedish O' federation, to say "thanks and goodbye" to Goran Andersson and start negotiating with Matthias Niggle. The Swiss model has been the best in the 2000s, so why not give Swedish orienteering a Simone-effect, with the help of her husband?

In Denmark the Swedish runners have mainly show technique problems; that is worrying. Contact with the map is basic - rule number one in the hunt for controls. In that aspect, there is no better model than Simone....

If you can read Swedish, you should read the original article in Dagens Nyheter.

posted by Michael | 9:23 PM


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Online coverage


Great coverage of the WOC this year. Can it get any better?

posted by Michael | 3:29 PM


Friday, August 04, 2006

Assuie WOC Team Song - Very Cool


Gotta get this on my Ipod...

powered by ODEO

posted by Michael | 9:32 PM




What lessons might we take from Moneyball and apply to orienteering?

One theme in Moneyball is the idea of using measurements and data to help avoid (or at least learn to recognize) some of the traps of less rigorous thinking. A baseball team following the Moneyball model wouldn't ignore subjective data, but they'd try to balance it with more objective data.

We can do the same thing when we think about orienteering.

Reading some of the discussion on Attackpoint about the U.S. performances at the WOC raised an example. Here is a message from the thread:

This is real achievement by Hillary, Sam, and Louise! Go girls! My daughter Masha was very happy to see them in the final. Role models for our new generation!

I just hope that men would put as much training and effort into WOC preparation.

The "real achievement" refers to some nice results by Hillary and Samantha Saeger and Louise Oram. From a Moneyball aspect, the more interesting part of the posting is the "hope that men would put as much training and effort into WOC."

I think the implications are pretty obvious. First, that U.S. men aren't training as much as Hillary, Samantha and Louise. Second, that if the men train like those three women, they can expect better results.

I'm not going to question the idea that more training is a good idea. But, I want to take a look at the idea that the U.S. men aren't training as much as Hillary, Samantha and Louise.

Here are some numbers to look at:


What are those numbers? Those are hours recorded in Attackpoint for all of the U.S. WOC team members (4 women, including Hillary and Samantha; and 4 men) who record their training on Attackpoint and Louise. The training is for about the last 19 months (all of 2005 plus 2006 through today).

Read the message again -- I just hope that men would put as much training and effort into WOC preparation. Now, look at that list and pick our Samantha, Hillary and Louise. Which are they?

Here is something interesting. On that list of 9 people, Samantha and Louise are ranked 7th and 8th (with 423 and 346 hours). I should point out that Louise hasn't updated her training since late May...so, she's probably got more like 420 hours.

All of the U.S. men (Boris, Eric, Eddie and Clem) have trained more than Samantha over the last 19 months. All of the U.S. men have trained more than Louise over the last 19 months.

Hillary is a different story. She's quite high on that list. For the 19 months, Hillary has 564 hours of training. Behind only two people (Boris and Sandra). Hillary's training is a bit unusual. She does a lot of strength work and rowing, and relatively little running and orienteering. This year she's already got 360 hours of training with only about 150 of that running and orienteering.

Two people on the U.S. WOC team don't log their training on Attackpoint: James and Pavlina. I don't know how much either of them train. I've heard that Pavlina runs to/from work most days. Having run with her in the forest, I know she's in good shape. I've talked to James about his training. He's told me that he takes lots of days off, but trains hard on the days he runs.

Getting back to Moneyball, I guess the point of this little exercise in reviewing training logs at Attackpoint is that actually looking at the evidence, rather than just writing what you think, might result in a different understanding of what is going on.

posted by Michael | 7:28 PM


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Running for Scandinavian clubs


I was looking at the World Of O' startlist for tomorrow's middle distance final and noticed that a lot of the runners who weren't from Scandinavia listed Scandinavian clubs. 33 non-Scandinavians are in the men's final. Of those 33, all but 2 listed Scandinavian clubs. For the women there are a few more who don't list Scandinavian clubs. Of the 35 non-Scandinavian starters, only 24 list Scandinavian clubs. I guess that means that Scandinavian clubs looking to strengthen their women's relay teams have some good orienteers to look for.

posted by Michael | 8:45 PM


Aspleaf's sprint protests


After reading about the protests at the sprint WOC races, Asplead put together a list of protests. Here is a rough translation of his list:

I saw two girls in short skirts, so I looked the wrong way when I ran by the control.

The light was red at the crosswalk and I couldn't afford to get a ticket.

I stepped in dog crap.

The spectators laughed at my pale legs and I lost my concentration.

A man on the street asked me what time it was.

I met a pack of baby carriages that took up the whole sidewalk.

The control was next to a fish store and I'm allergic to fish.

I don't understand the sprint map standards.

posted by Michael | 8:25 PM


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Belgian orienteering?


I know next to nothing about orienteering in Belgium.*

As I was comparing the U.S. sprint results to peer nations, the results of the runners from Belgium caught my eye.

Here are the results from the sprint qualifiers:

Men A Bart Delobel 23rd (3:25.7 back)
Men B Jan Gilot 5th (0:46.9 back)
Men C Pieter Hendrickx 2nd (0:17.2 back)

Only one woman from Belgium ran, Greet Oeyen, who finished 16th, just over 8 seconds from qualifying for the final.

Those results look pretty good to me.

In the final, Hendrickx and Gilot finished 20th and 22rd. Those results are comparable to the top two Czech (18th and 30th) or Norwegian (19th and 27th) runners.

Gilot is young (24) and running his 3rd WOC.

Hendricks is fairly young (he ran a JWOC in 2000) and is running his 2nd WOC.

If you'd asked me before the races if I thought Belgium would have results similar to the Czech Republic and Norway, I'd have said, "not a chance." Maybe I'm just revealing my ignorance...or maybe those are really good and unexpected results. In either case, I'd say "congrats on nice results" and I'd wonder what the story is of orienteering in Belgium:

Are these results expected?
What are these guys doing to improve?
How is the team from Belgium coached and managed?
Will we be seeing more good results in the relay and coming WOCs?
What can the U.S. team learn from the experiences of the team from Belgium?

If I could manage the language, I might find some answers over at De Laatste post.

*I have taken a few looks at Fabian Pasquasy's web page.

posted by Michael | 7:20 PM


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A couple of Sprint WOC notes


Another day, another comparison of the U.S. results against peer nations.

Today, I compared the sprint qualifying races in Denmark with the 2005 WOC in Japan. And the U.S. had a much better day today. Against peer nations in Denmark, the U.S. had 14 wins and 16 losses (46.7 winning percent). In Japan, the U.S. went 5 and 12 (29.4 winning percent). It is worth noting that in both Japan and Denmark, the U.S. did relatively well in the sprints compared to the other distances. Not a surprise.

Congrats to Hanny Alston

Hanny Alston's win was really cool. She was clearly in great form at the Oringen super elite races. In three Oringen races (running for Savedalens AIK) she finished 4th, 3rd and 7th. Her best place was in the sprint race (though her other results are just as impressive in my view).

Alston is just 20. To win a WOC as a junior is a remarkable achievement. I'm not sure it has ever been done before (I think Rostrup was 21 when he won in 1999).

Comment about Taavi

The comment function on this page seems to be acting screwy (everytime I've tried to post a comment today it has been rejected as spam). So, I'll answer a question from yesterday's post...Taavi is Estonian. He lives in Missouri. He's from a serious O' family (his sister is running on the Estonian WOC team right now).

I'm hoping to figure out how to fix the comment function. It might be time to move to a new system.

posted by Michael | 8:53 PM


March 2002April 2002May 2002June 2002July 2002August 2002September 2002October 2002November 2002December 2002January 2003February 2003March 2003April 2003May 2003June 2003July 2003August 2003September 2003October 2003November 2003December 2003January 2004February 2004March 2004April 2004May 2004June 2004July 2004August 2004September 2004October 2004November 2004December 2004January 2005February 2005March 2005April 2005May 2005June 2005July 2005August 2005September 2005October 2005November 2005December 2005January 2006February 2006March 2006April 2006May 2006June 2006July 2006August 2006September 2006October 2006November 2006December 2006January 2007February 2007March 2007April 2007May 2007June 2007July 2007August 2007September 2007October 2007November 2007December 2007January 2008February 2008March 2008April 2008May 2008June 2008July 2008August 2008September 2008October 2008November 2008December 2008January 2009February 2009March 2009April 2009May 2009June 2009July 2009August 2009September 2009October 2009November 2009December 2009January 2010February 2010March 2010April 2010May 2010June 2010July 2010August 2010September 2010October 2010November 2010December 2010January 2011February 2011March 2011April 2011May 2011June 2011July 2011August 2011September 2011October 2011November 2011December 2011January 2012February 2012March 2012April 2012May 2012June 2012July 2012August 2012September 2012October 2012November 2012December 2012January 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013July 2013September 2013