Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Wednesday, February 28, 2007



A few rambling notes about "persistence"...

Is an individual's level of persistence hard-wired and immutable or can it be increased/decreased?

An interesting question. It matters to orienteering because being persistent - training to get better - matters. So, we ought to be interested in cultivating persistence.

I'd guess the answer is that persistence can be increased or decreased, but there is some hard-wiring, too.

I'm reminded of something Sandy Hott Johansen said about the orienteering environment in Kristiansand OK. She said that after training, the question is never "are you going to train again today?" Instead it is, "what are you going to do for your second training today?"

I suspect being in an orienteering environment might encourage persistence.

Thinking about persistence reminded me of something I wrote last year.

Local election update

We voted at the mayoral primary yesterday. The primary gave us a chance to narrow the field from 12 candidates to 2. My former boss made it through by finishing a very close 2nd place.

If you're interested in the Kansas City mayoral race, check out Mark Funkhouser's campaign.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:13 PM


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Young and dumb? Or old and weak?


I ran intervals today. My plan was to run 5 x roughly 3-5 minutes (using an old park O' course). I called it quits after 4.

As I jogged easily back to my car, I realized that I frequently do a little less than I'd planned. I cut my training short about once out of every 5 hard sessions.

But it hasn't always been that way. When I was younger, I almost always did a little more than planned. If I was going to run the Campenile Hill 10 times, I'd end up running it 12 times.

These days I feel like I'm better off taking it a bit easier than planned. In the old days, I felt like doing more than planned was good - made me tough.

Was I young and dumb? Was I young and strong? Am I now old and wise? Or maybe I'm now old and weak? Or old and lazy?

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:57 PM


Monday, February 26, 2007

Quick note on performing under pressure


I came across this quote that has some relevance for orienteering...

Well, anyway, it seems clear that people really don't think as well under pressure, which is its own kind of distractor. And those little questions that give rise to self-doubt are some of the most powerful distractors, because they interfere with the process they reference.

It is from a blog entry on performing under pressure. Worth a look, I think.

I'd write more, but a basketball game is starting in just a few minutes and I'd rather sit in front of the TV and cheer on the Jayhawks.

Mayor Campaign

We vote in the mayoral primary tomorrow. One of the annoying aspects of the campaign has been the automated phone calls on behalf of candidates. When I get home, I usually have a number of messages waiting for me. I press play and get a recorded message telling me who to vote for (or bashing a specific candidate). These "robo calls" are so annoying that they've become a campaign issue!

This one is particularly amusing (like something on the Colbert Report):

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:56 PM


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Browsing training logs


I spend time most days browsing training logs at Attackpoint. It is a great way to find some interesting ideas for training.

Today, for example, I was inspired by George W.'s Friday session:

Today the plan was to read the paper, have coffee sitting in the sun of the family room door, shovel the measly amount of snow in the latest disappointment of winter and go to the library for coffee and renewing book and investigating new ones, then sit in the sun and read a mag or two.

And that is what we did;-}

That's pretty close to what I'm doing today.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 2:19 PM


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Frequency of looking at the map


I ran at SMP today, which gave me a chance to test the experiment I wrote about a few days ago. I ran the leg, looking at the map at each X. It took about 3:30 - reading the map once every 40 seconds. Then I re-ran the leg, taking much more frequent looks at the map. The second time I looked at the map 22 times - reading the map once every 10 seconds.

I ran a couple of other legs, counting the number of looks at the map.

What (if anything) did I learn?

The short answer is "nothing." Checking the map reading frequency on just 3 legs isn't enough to learn anything. But, I got a sense of my normal map reading frequency and the pattern to my looks at the map. I also got a feeling that this might be a useful training exercise. It feels like the inverse of "map memory" training.

I wish I could figure out a way to count my looks at the map without paying attention.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:09 PM


Friday, February 23, 2007

Big race this weekend...sort of


This weekend's big race? The last relay of the season at Omanager.

Omanager is an online O' simulation reminiscent of games like strat-o-matic baseball
. The basics are pretty straightforward. You decide how each of your runners train, pick relay teams, and sit back and see how they perform in the races. Performance in races depends on the runners characteristics and some "luck."

To play casually requires very little time, maybe 10 minutes a couple of times a week. To play seriously could take a lot of time.

I started playing because I was curious how the game worked. I've kept playing because it is strangely satisfying to see the runners progress and to get good results in races.

A game like CatchingFeatures is obviously useful for an orienteer. It feels like training. It feels like it helps your orienteering. So, does a game like Omanager have any real-world benefit? Maybe.

It is a nice reminder of the constant trade-offs you make as you train. Let's say you assign hill training your runners. They get stronger at running hills, but they lose some motivation and increase their chance of getting sick or injured. Through the season you balance training and rest. You try to keep the runners healthy and motivated. Maybe having to think through that sort of trade-off is a useful reminder as you think about your own real-world training.

Going into the last race of the season, my men's team is 68th place and my women's team is in 42nd place (both in "superelite"). For the weekend's race, I'm hoping for top 50 by the men and top 20 by the women. Both would be season-best results. So, it is a high goal. We'll see.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:02 PM


Thursday, February 22, 2007

More on short-term v. long-term


"Always think about the future, never the present."

That's a description of one of the guiding principles of the Minnesota Twins general manager. It is describing a way to build a baseball team, but it could also be a useful principle for thinking about orienteering training.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about balancing short-term and long-term goals. When I heard the description of the Twins general manager, I recognized it as a principle that might make sense for an orienteer.

"Always think about the future, never the present."

The idea is to force yourself to think about the long-term and to emphasize long-term goals and plans over short-term ones. Of course, you don't take the principle to the extreme. You wouldn't stand at the start line of a WOC and think, "this will be great training for a race I've got in 2 years." But, more often than not, I'd think it would be a good principle to follow for most of us.

It is a principle that is worth thinking about.

The description - as applied to the Minnesota Twins - is from Dave Pinto who runs the Baseball Musings web page. If you are a baseball fan, it is worth a look.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:43 PM


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Beaufort Scale for Orienteering


It'd be nice to have a scale for grading your performance on an O' course. The idea is to have a simple method (valid and reliable) to grade your race without having to look at the results list or study splits. It would answer the question "how did it go today?"

There are lots of "scales" for easily measuring things that might otherwise be measured with fancy equipment. If you don't something to measure the wind speed, you can use the Beaufort Scale. If you don't have a heart rate monitor, you can use the Borg scale.

I'd like something similar for orienteering performance.

Maybe I could just adopt the Wong pain scale:

If I weren't so sleepy, I'd try to come up with something. But, I am sleepy.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:05 PM


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Looking at the map - an experiment


Try this some time. Run a fairly easy leg and count how many times you look at the map. Check how long it took you to run the leg. Now, calculate how frequently you looked at the map.

The map below shows a hypothetical example. Each "x" is a place you might look at the map. You look at the map in the triangle. Then as you run along the trail, you look again. You check the map when you reach the trail-reentrant crossing, just before you leave the trail. As you cross the top of the reentrant, you check the map. Finally, as you go over the hill and start toward the control, you check again.

That's 5 looks at the map. If the leg took 3 minutes, that works out to a look at the map every 36 seconds.

Now, run the same leg again and force yourself to look at the map much more frequently. Aim for a look every 10 seconds. See what it feels like to look at the map that frequently.

Here is a rough translation from a Norwegian newspaper article about a training weekend with Bjornar Valstad and Hanne Staff. The quote is from an orienteer who was at the training:

"They talked about what you need to do to be good and what you should think about during a race," said Arnfinn Kringlen.

Something that surprised him the most was how often an orienteer should check the map. Based on some research, the orienteers who read the map the most usually do the best.

"They [Valstad and Staff] said that they check the map every 10 seconds. That's a bit surprising, I hadn't thought about it before," said Arnfinn.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:09 PM


Monday, February 19, 2007

Routes from Georgia, Day 1


My routes from the first race in Georgia. Not much to say. The orienteering is straightforward. Lots of climb.

I should have run straight from to 2. Otherwise, I think my routes are ok.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 4:46 PM


Sunday, February 18, 2007

No complaints...almost


I had a nice day today. No complaints. I ran an interesting course in Georgia (Andreas Haldi set the course) at a well organized event (Thanks, GAOC). I made it home without any problems. The flight was on time. The luggage all made it. No complaints....except, I missed watching the Daytona 500 on TV.

Many readers know that I like watching car races and, in particular, Nascar races. The racing is interesting and I like to watch and think about how it relates to orienteering. And I'm not alone in seeing the parallels between car racing and orienteering. Here is what Sandy Hott Johansen wrote the other day:

Watching other athletes from other sports on TV is actually a valuable learning experience. I was, for instance, surprised to learn how much Rally and slalom have in common with orienteering. Although I know nothing about rally and alpine skiing, speed adjustment, control and concentration seem to be central factors also for these sports… an over-aggressive attack or lack of concentration will more often than not land you in the ditch or outside the gate. Going all-out after a mistake in an effort to “make up time” also seems like a sure-fire way to end up in the ditch.

You can read all of Sandy's post here.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:46 PM


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Georgia on my mind


The second part of today's M21 course:

I was mostly satisfied with my race. Tennessee's best orienteer destroyed me by about 18 minutes over just under 10K. On the other hand, I think I managed my race fairly well, though I got quite tired of climbing the hills. I haven't seen final results. When I left I was 3rd about a minute back of Vlad.

One of the strange features of today's race was how noisy it was in the forest. The terrain is covered by several inches of lose, dead leaves. Running makes a constant rustling sound. You had to make an effort to come to a complete dead standstill at each control if you wanted to hear the SI unit "beep."

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 3:13 PM


Friday, February 16, 2007

Orienteering Today renewed...I think


Good news - without too much trouble I seem to have managed to renew my subscription to Orienteering Today. The only real difficulty I had was getting my password emailed to me. My spam filter caught it and it took me a while to think to check the spam folder.

Meanwhile, I'm off to race head-to-head with Tennessee's best orienteer.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 3:24 PM


Thursday, February 15, 2007

World Champion Gardening


"You won't become world champion in your backyard; all you'll become is a gardner."

It sounds a lot better in Swedish and coming from Kent Olsson. Olsson was talking about the need for orienteers to travel to other places to become a better orienteer. Travel gives you a chance to run in new terrain, experience different mapping and course setting styles, race against different (and often stronger) competition. As much as anything, traveling to races teaches you to deal with travel and is inspiring.

I'm looking forward to getting out of my backyard this weekend and racing in Georgia (and paying a visit to The Thinking Man.)

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:08 AM


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A couple of quick notes


I've got just a couple of minutes to write something before the end of halftime of the basketball game I'm watching. So...

Check out this page of examples of how to simplify controls. The text is all Norwegian, but you understand the examples even without reading the text.

Check out this collection of orienteering videos.

Back to the game...Go Jayhawks!

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:04 PM


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Eva Jurenikova's story


Fanatic Okansas readers will know that I'm interested in orienteers' stories (see what I wrote last year for details). Eva Jurenikova put her story on her web page, take a look at the PDF version.

The problem is that her story is in Swedish. So, I should give you a rough idea of what some of it says...

On page 4, she writes about her first visit to Sweden (check out the map to see a good orienteer having a lot of trouble finding some controls).

On page 5, she's having a lot of success, winning a JWOC relay and finishing 3rd in F18E at the Swedish 5-day. She also started working with the Czech national coach.

On page 6, she started running for one of my former clubs, IFK Lidingo. She also decided to train without a coach.

As an aside, I remember reading an interview with her that was published in Skogssport when she'd won a Swedish Junior Cup race. The main point that came across in the story was that she felt that the Swedish juniors didn't train enough.

Jumping ahead to page 9, she wins 10-mila and gets a bronze medal in the Swedish Champs middle distance, but isn't having fun anymore.

On page 10, she finishes 15th in the middle distance WOC in Finland, but isn't really having fun and decides to take a break from orienteering and takes up adventure racing.

On page 14, after some years of adventure racing, she gets motivated to do a come back in orienteering.

On page 17, she describes her plan for 2007:

Better focus.
Train more.
Work less.
Stay healthy.

Finally, on page 18, she offers some tips:

Don't compete too much.
Get experience from different types of terrains.
Learn to set good courses (especially true for women).
Be independent, don't wait for someone to take care of you.
Don't get comfortable.

Interesting reading, it'd probably be a lot more interesting to have heard the presentation that went with the slides. If you don't have it in your bookmarks, you should add www.evajurenikova.com (nearly all of it is in English).

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:42 PM


Monday, February 12, 2007

Trying to find a lost orienteer


At a training camp a few years ago I spent an hour or so trying to find a lost orienteer. It was at the Texas Junior O' Camp. I'd just finished eating dinner when someone came and asked me to get prepared to go back into the forest and search for the missing orienteer.

The organizers got a group of maybe 15-20 orienteers to go out and search. They had a map with a grid drawn over it. They assigned specific grids to groups of 2 orienteers. We were supposed to stay together and search our assigned grid. I went with Tom.

A couple of things struck me as strange about the search. First, having us go together seemed like a waste of resources (we had radios so that we could call for help if we found the missing orienteer). If we'd split up, we could cover twice as much ground. Second, the search seemed to treat each part of the forest equally. Wouldn't it make more sense to focus on specific areas? My thinking was that the biggest risk was that the kid had fallen and injured himself. It seemed like we ought to focus on the areas where that was most likely (say in the areas with lots of rocks and cliffs).

We didn't spend much time searching before someone found the kid (wandering the wrong direction on a road far from the section of forest we were searching).

Even a few years later, I'm struck by how strange the search method seemed to be. There must be good ways to search for someone who is missing. Today, I came across something called Bayesian search theory which seems like a much better way to search and, in fact, adaptable to orienteering.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:52 PM


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Season start


Less than a week left until the season's first A-meet. I can hardly wait.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:17 PM


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Wondering about training


As I was running back to my car after some O' practice at Rockcrusher, I was thinking about training. My thoughts wandered through two general themes: uncertainty and long-term v. short-term.


Training is full of uncertainty. It is pretty easy to put together a plan, but it is really tough to know that the plan is going to work, let alone to know that the plan is the best.

I suppose there are lots of ways to reduce the uncertainty. You can ignore it and just assume that your plan is going to work and that it is the best. Ignorance is bliss. You can also do what you can to reduce the uncertainty - keep a detailed training log, run with a heart rate monitor, work with a coach, and so on.

Long-term v. short-term

I was thinking about my own goals and that got me thinking about both long-term and short-term goals. Sometimes those goals conflict (i.e. to reach a short-term goal might not be the best way to reach a long-term goal).

I also came across this little note from an MIT conference on sports business where Baseball Musings summarizes a bit of Bill James' presentation:

How do you balance long term and short term deals? Bill says humans don't think long term. Bill sees his job as making people look at the long term. If you go to a resturant and the food is bad, you don't say it's a small sample size. If your rookie shortstop doesn't play well for two weeks, you have to be aware of the small sample size.

Transferring that idea to orienteering would suggest that most of us tend to favor short-term preparations and goals over long-term ones. Maybe so.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 5:29 PM


Friday, February 09, 2007

Be a better orienteer


What does it take to be a better orienteer?

...to get better and better at something, one needs to be one's own toughest critic -- fair, but always honest, humble and tough. You don't want to be demoralizing, needlessly tearing at the fabric of your self-esteem, but at every turn, you do want to be saying: "Well, that's not quite good enough -- I can do better." In fact, it seems to me that you want to attach self-esteem to the process of becoming better, instead of letting it become attached to any static result. That way, you can be critical of a performance and not become demoralized about what it says about you as a person. The self-criticism actually becomes a self-esteem booster because you feel good about doing the hard work to constantly improve.

The quote, from a writer named David Shenk, is consistent with my experience in talking to and watching very good orienteers. I like to think that it fits my own experience back in the day.

Shenk writes a blog about his latest book. Take a look if you're interested in things like deliberate practice.

And now for some Kansas City politics...

My former boss is running for Mayor. He's got a online video where a puppy endorses him. Apparently, it is gaining national attention.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:11 PM


Thursday, February 08, 2007

DQ? What the @#%%&!?


When you run a relay, you make sure to punch at the right control. The last thing you want to do is to mispunch or skip a control.

Way back in 1991, I ran the first leg at Siljanskavlen (that's Aspleaf's map and routes below). I ran hard and had a decent race. I remember feeling pretty satisfied as I ran up the last hill and exchanged to the second runner.

It wasn't long before a clubmate, Kjell Oberger, showed me the results board - DQ. What the @#%%&!? I felt like a complete idiot. How could I mispunch on a relay?

Fortunately, Kjell went over to the event organizers and got them to show us my punch card. One of the organizers showed us the card and asked, "what is wrong with it?" We looked pretty carefully and it looked like nothing was wrong with it. Sure enough, the organizers made a mistake. I'd punched all of the correct controls.

I'm glad I got a chance to simulate what it would feel like to mispunch at a relay...but mostly I'm glad Kjell had the sense to find out what had gone on. I'm happy to say that I've never DQ'd at a relay...though I've had a few bad races, but that's another problem.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:00 PM


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Big Fire = Big News


When I looked out the window of my office this afternoon I saw a huge fire.

Some sort of chemical storage business exploded and has been burning now for a good 6 hours. The fire department is letting the fire burn itself out rather than risk sending people close to the fire.

When I left work, I discoved that the downtown area was covered with bits of ash. Most of the ash was tiny. But some of the ash was a lot bigger. The snapshot shows a bit that was next to my car (roughly a mile from the fire). That's a big bit of ash.

I can't imagine that breathing the air downtown was a good idea. I was glad that the wind was not blowing toward home.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:47 PM


More video


I just found Alessio Tenani's CatchingFeatures video. Worth a look. If I understand Google's translation of the original Italian, the map is a JWOC training area.

I guess I'll have to load this one to my player...but I should probably stop looking at it and go to work.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:18 AM


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Loading some videos


I was poking around the web this evening, looking for O' videos, when I came across this map. Mats Troeng put all 5 of his courses from last summer's Swedish 5-days together as one big map.

I collected a few videos to put on a little mp3 player - something I've been thinking about since last June when I wrote this.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:47 PM


Monday, February 05, 2007

Sprint training camp


The sprint orienteering training camp in Vancouver looks like a lot of fun.

Thinking about a sprint training camp got me day dreaming...what would the perfect location for a sprint training camp be? You'd look for somewhere with plenty of variety - a couple of college campuses and some nearby forests. You'd look for someplace that wasn't so big that a camp would involve a lot of time driving around from map to map. You'd look for a place that'd be interesting and convenient to visit.

How about a road-trip camp? Spend a weekend traveling from point-to-point, map-to-map, stopping to run sprint courses along the way. You could, for example, start in Lawrence, running on the KU Campus. Travel to Kansas City and race around Shawnee Mission Park (mostly forest). Then drive a couple of hours to Columbia (another campus event and a forest race at one of the parks near the city). The next day, drive to St Louis, with a stop at Cuivre River and a final race at Forest Park.

More Google Earth Orienteering

Tom ran this course a week or so ago:

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:11 PM


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Okansas Superbowl Edition


After running today's local race I'm hurting. My knee hurts. My ankle hurts. My foot hurts. My legs are tired. Nothing serious...just getting old, I guess.

So while I recover, I plan to put my feet up, drink a Smithwicks, and watch the Superbowl.

I Finished "The Blind Side" yesterday. So, I'll try to pay extra attention to the left tackles. With a good 15 minutes before the game begins, I'll post a little quote from the book that I found interesting:

The frantic search for the right combination of players reflected their more general football worldview: they believed in talent rather than strategy. They placed less emphasis on how players were used than who they were. Whoever had the best players won; it was as simple as that.

It was a bleak and deterministic worldview, implying, as it did, that there was little a strategist could do to raise the value of his players. More to the point, it was a false view, at least for running a football offense. The beauty of the football offense was that it allowed for a smart strategist to compensate for his players' limitations. He might find better ways to use players, to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. He might even change the players' sense of themselves....There wasn't a soul on the Ole Miss sidelines thiking seriously how to make the most of what another person could do. They were all stuck dwelling on what other people couldn't do.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 5:07 PM


TV report covers orienteering in Texas


A local TV station in Dallas covered an O' event. It is worth a look at the story and video, if only for the close up of some of the Texas thorns!

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:22 AM


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Orienteers cleaned up


When you're at a big orienteering race, say a World Champs, you can't help but notice that there are a lot of very attractive orienteers. They're attractive in an particular way. They look more like athletes than movie stars.

OPN reports on three Norwegian O' stars who - after some work at "Hair and There" in Oslo - came out looking more like movie stars than athletes. I can make out most of the Norwegian in OPN's report, but I'm still a bit puzzled about why these orienteers got cleaned up. Check out the "after" pics of Marianne Andersen, Anne Margrethe Hausken and Birte Riddervold below:

I was reminded of another orienteer getting cleaned up...

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 1:12 PM


Friday, February 02, 2007

Some quick notes


I try to write something about orienteering everyday. Most days it is easy. Some days I don't feel like writing. Today is one of those days.

So, I'll just post a couple of things I came across in the last few days.

From South Africa, a graphic race simulator
that shows the progress of a race.

From Aspleaf a few big booms from his youth.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:48 PM


Thursday, February 01, 2007

What the heck is that on Holger's head?


Is that something on Holger's head? Is that a camera? I can't really tell. But, it might be. At the recent Norwegian training camp in France they experimented with video cameras.

From Anders Nordberg (roughly translated):

On the first hard workout, I ran with a video camera on my head for the first time....The little camera was taped to a headlamp frame, but to get a real picture of the runners view we wished we had filmed another angle....Later in the training camp the camera was used by the coach or by runners who followed behind. That was probably a better solution.

And from Marianne Andersen (roughly translated):

...I was followed again, but this time not by a dog but by Christian Froyd with a camera. You don't often get a chance to study yourself in an O' race. I think it makes it easier to see the things you do well or poorly when you orienteer. Combined with feedback from the person who runs behind, I think the video can be a useful tool for training.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:15 PM


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