Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Friday, August 31, 2007

Next planned update in a couple of weeks


I plan to start daily updates again on September 15.

Until then, let me point you to a story about Emma and Brendan hiking the Great Wall in China. It is a great travel story. Lots of cool photos, too (check out, for example, the strange insects Emma and Brendan encountered in Gobi.

There is even an orienteering connection. Brendan (and maybe Emma?) have done at least some orienteering in and around Sydney, Australia.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 5:39 PM


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Running together (and not) at the WOC


Martin has done some interesting graphical analysis of orienteers running together at the WOC. Check out his discussion (in German). Some of the links in Martin's article are also worth a look.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 5:27 PM


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

9 Sick Orienteers


Just a very short note today...

I don't know how many orienteers had stomach troubles at the WOC, but I spent about 5 minutes looking at a few web pages and counted 9 reportedly sick orienteers (representing 6 nations). That's in just 5 minutes of looking.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 10:08 PM


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Sick Project


An idea for a sick project - go through online training logs, blogs, and news reports from the World Champs to figure out how many orienteers seem to have gotten sick at the WOC, and when they got sick.

Iceland note of the day

sounds like an interesting food.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:09 PM


Monday, August 27, 2007

Spider Season


The forest is full of big spiders. Orienteering through the spider-web filled forest is a good way to practice concentration. But it isn't so much fun.

Iceland note of the day

Hotel Hellnar looks like a nice place to stay.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:57 PM


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Orienteering or ????


A couple of interesting quotes:

The moment you have done one mistake, you have to accept that mistake. If you are bitter about it...usually you do another and another and another mistake. But that is so easy to say in this interview and so difficult to handle out there.

...you might be in the lead, but while the race is going on, you haven't won. So it's a psychological trick to just not count any results until they're signed off.

The quotes sound like they come from some good orienteers (even the just so lightly awkward English). But, they don't. The first quote is Alexander Wurz, a formula 1 driver. The second is Damon Hill, also a formula 1 driver. The drivers' quotes showed up in today's NY Times.

The article includes a bit of advice on how drivers and coaches try to stay focused and calm:

1. Wurz reminds himself before starting that he has done this hundreds of times. Essentially, that he knows what he is doing and that his preparations have put him in place to do well.

2. Graham Talyor, a "sporting director," said that there are different ways of communicating with drivers to help them focus, but that you want to do so in a "matter-of-fact, professional way....you give them an order...If you see his times dropping away,...you say, 'pick your pace up.'"

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:49 AM


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Screaming sports


I've been watching the track and field World Champs from Japan...and there is a lot of screaming. The shot putters, in particular, scream a lot.

You don't see many orienteers screaming. Maybe at tomorrow's sprint race in Ukraine?

Iceland note of the day

It turns out that Bjork owns some of Annette's earings.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:40 PM


Friday, August 24, 2007

Some words from Hanny Alston


From an interview with Hanny Alston in DagensNyheter:

I don't want to train much orienteering because then I get tired of it. Several months can go by when I don't hold a map. When, before a championship, I begin with map reading I'm able to quickly fix the mistakes I make. People who train orienteering on a daily basis, year after year, learn how to make mistakes instead of learning how to do it right.

It works for Alston.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:31 PM


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Focus on the Process


Sandra wrote about her sprint race (where she qualified for the final):

Of course I thought about the possibility of qualifying, but I was more focused on having a good race. In the finish I was very happy to have achieved a solid, good race. I felt like I had raced at my potential for the first time at WOC....

I have to admit that I had to spend a lot of mental energy not to think about trying to qualify and to concentrate on the process. I think this is the biggest challenge we face when we are at WOC, we want to make the final, and that becomes our focus, putting a little extra pressure on ourselves and therefore not being able to focus on the orienteering. Focusing on the process helped me a lot today.

The idea of process versus outcome focus is something of a theme on this blog, see, for example, this post from a few of months ago.


Reading the reports of the runners at the World Champs getting sick makes me wonder:

Is anyone doing an epidemiological investigation to track down the cause of the apparent outbreak?

Seems like something worth doing...

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:59 PM


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Why I "hate" Thierry Gueorgiou


He takes away the suspense. I woke up this morning, turned on the computer, wondering "who won?" Thierry Gueorgiou. No kidding. What about the women? Simone Niggli. No kidding.

Of course, I don't really hate Gueorgiou and Niggli. But, they do seem to take some of the uncertainty out of the sport.

When I looked at today's course, I have to say it looks like the organizers picked the terrain and designed the course to make sure Gueorgiou would win.

Maybe the organizers of next year's WOC will go out of their way to design a course that doesn't favor Gueorgiou....though I'm not exactly sure what that would look like.

Maybe I should just enjoy seeing Gueorgiou and Niggli...

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:07 PM


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Head to head against peer nations


How has the U.S. done against each of the peer nations?

U.S. orienteers have faced Belgians in 9 races at the WOC, winning twice and losing 7 times (for a .222 winning percentage). Here are the records after the qualifying races against each of the peer nations:

Belgium (.222,2-7)
New Zealand (.250,3-9)
Portugal (.583,7-5)
Canada (.667,12-6)
Ireland (.750,9-3)
Japan (.786,11-3)

A few things stand out. First, Belgium has dominated the U.S., but have had few head-to-head races. That's because doesn't send a full team to the WOC. Second, the closest match (i.e. the nation that is closest to even in head-to-head races) is Portugal. But, Portugal, like Belgium doesn't have a full team. Third, it is nice to see the U.S. dominating the friendly rivalry with Canada.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the U.S. matches up against the peer nations in the relays.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:22 PM


Monday, August 20, 2007

U.S. v Peer Nations - Middle Qualification


The U.S. went 12-14 (wins-losses) in today's middle qualification race. Not as good as either the sprint or long qualifiers.

Today's race also featured an interesting WOC trivia fact - Pavlina and Viktoria Bruatigam ran. Is that the first time a mother-daughter have both run at a WOC? It sems likely.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:00 PM


Sunday, August 19, 2007

US versus Peer Nations - Long Qualifying


The U.S. went 15-10 (wins-losses) against the peer nations in today's long qualification. That's basically the same as in yesterday's sprint qualifier.

It'll be interesting to see how the middle qualifier goes.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:12 PM


Age and the WOC Sprint


How old would you guess WOC sprint qualification race runners are? Give it some thought. Youngest? Oldest? Average age? Median age?

My guesses would have been something like 17 for the youngest, 43 for the oldest, and about 28 for average and median.

The WOC organizers made it quite easy to check. The results lists included year of birth. I pasted the results into a spreadsheet, made the calculations, and graphed the distribution (below).

Assuming the results list has the correct info...

It turns out the youngest was just 16 - Lulia Nahgibina from Moldova. She finished a bout a minute away from qualifying. The oldest was 49 - Khasanov from Kazakhstan. He finished 7 minutes away from qualifying. (I left Khasanov off the graph above because he is quite an outlier).

The average age was 26.6 and the median age was 26. So, I guess if you're over 26, you can start to think of yourself as old.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 1:39 PM


Saturday, August 18, 2007

4 Analyses on Wingstedt's Sprinting


Why is Emil Wingstedt so good at sprints?

DagensNyheter asked four experts. Here is a rough translation of their responses:

Anders Garderud - He is one of the worlds best orienteers and could have the same success at the other distances. The sprint race is in the beginning of championships and it is tough to get psyched up and ready after winning the sprint. If Emil hadn't won the sprint races, I think he'd have a good chance of doing really well at the classic distance.

Marita Skogum - Emil has the right phsyical strengths and a great ability to succeed when it matters.

Signar Eriksson - You have to be able to pick and chose among competitions. Emil is good at that. He has also proven he can stay cool under pressure.

Pekka Nikulainen - Emil is a very good orienteer. Living in Halden, where they train orinteering all year, has helped him.

Except for Skogum's, each of the quotes seems pretty interesting.

Garderud's analysis - that once you've won a race, it is tough to be ready for the next race - rings true. If I remember right, this year's WOC is set up a bit differently, with the sprint final at the end of the week. Maybe that means Wingstedt will will a medal at another distance and then tank the sprint...

Eriksson's quote reflects the idea that orienteers have a lot of races and a long season. For some (most?) orienteers, this means you've got to make some decisions about when to race, when to skip races and rest or train, and when to really focus.

Nikulainen's quote is interesting because it suggests a way to learn from Windgstedt's success. You see that Garderud, Skogum, and Eriksson are all talking about who Wingstedt is, while Nikulainen is talking about what Wingstedt does to prepare.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:40 AM


Quick analysis of U.S. Sprint Qualifying Results


17-9. That's the U.S. won-lost record against peer nations in today's sprint WOC qualifying race. That's a winning record. It is a good result.

In 2005, the U.S. went 5-12.
In 2006, the U.S. went 14-16.

Only one U.S. runner - Sandra Zurcher - qualified for the final. But, overall the team is showing some progress over the last two years.

From a U.S. standpoint, it is nice to see only one Canadian - Pam James - with a win over a U.S. orienteer today.

Peer nations for my comparison are: Portugal, New Zealand, Ireland, Belgium, Canada and Japan. Back in 2004, I put together groups of peer nations by looking at each IOF nation and measuring the depth of elite orienteering, the history of WOC participation, the size (area and population) of the nation, wealth of the nation, and whether or not the nation was European. I then grouped nations that shared common features. After lots of whinning, I dropped a couple of nations from my U.S. peer list because people didn't want to be compared to France or Slovakia (nations that are similar to the U.S. in many measures, but consistently have much better results).

When I first put the list together, I had an idea that it might catch on as a way to look at U.S. WOC results. It didn't. I'm pretty sure I'm the only person who ever makes these comparisons.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:40 AM


Friday, August 17, 2007

Some Sprint Thoughts From Sweden


Signar Eriksson, former national team leader for Sweden, from an article in DagensNyheter (roughly translated):

"The new distances haven't changed much in terms of the physical, but they have changed the mental aspects."

"We might not even have the best tools to prepare ourselves," said Eriksson, who is currently working on a survey of current and past elite orienteers to learn about the effect of the new distances.

"Emil [Wingstedt] is the one who has had the most success in the sprint. He has shown that he has the ability to stay cool under the big pressure of a sprint."

DagensNyheter also has an analysis of Emil Wingstedt's sprinting. I'll try to translate a bit of it later...

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:42 PM


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Crooked elected officials


No orienteering today...instead, I'll write about crooks....

A federal jury convicted former Kansas City Councilwoman Saundra McFadden-Weaver today on mortgage fraud charges, finding that she intentionally misrepresented information on loan applications for a Lee’s Summit house.

That's the breaking news in the Kansas City Star.

I worked in the City Auditor's Office for 14+ years. We worked for the City Council. Saundra McFadden-Weaver is the second of the Councilmembers during my career who was convicted in federal court.

It is disappointing to see elected officials convicted of crimes. But, it is good to see crooked elected officials get caught. It is a bit like watching the Tour De France. You hate to see riders doping, but you're glad to see dopers caught.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:18 PM


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Some Good Advice


Good luck to WOC. Have fun and don't try too much, just relax and let the good runs come to you. You don't have to do anything special there, just normal relaxed runs and you'll do just fine.

To avoid trying too much I usually try thinking like this: if my normal run is not enough for to achieve my goal, I don't deserve to achieve it this time and I need to train a bit better or more next time. It's as simple as that after all.

That's Jagge's comment on Boris' training log. Good advice, if you ask me.

Like most people, when I say "good advice" what I mean is that I agree with it. But it isn't just me and Jagge who think it is good advice. Shaq has similar advice.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:15 PM


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Some words from Emil Wingstedt


A rough translation of a bit of a pre-WOC interview with Emil Wingstedt:

I can say that I'm starting to feel good again. O-ringen was a highpoint physically but a low point technically. Afterwards, I got sick and wasn't able to run hard for the next two weeks. I did some good technique sessions at a training camp in Italy, so I had some technical improvements but physically a down point. But the last training week has been good so the physical side is beginning to come around.

O-ringen is a lot of fun, but it seems to be a good way to get sick.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:41 PM


Monday, August 13, 2007

Sprint Relay


Yesterday's race was a sprint relay. It was a blast.

The format was simple - three 2.4 km courses. The courses were forked. You could watch the runners on most of the first leg and see them pass two spectator controls. The best time was a fast 11:24 (turned in by a very, very good orienteer, Marius Bjugan from Norway).

John Fredrickson set the course. I thought he did a good job. The course was fast but interesting. It wasn't too physically demanding (which is important for a race at high altitude). Thanks.

I hope the sprint relay format gets used again. I'm not sure how best to fit it into a regular A-meet. It might work well as the second race on a day with a middle distance or individual sprint.

Giant Insect

When I looked our my office window, I spotted a giant insect on the glass.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:11 PM


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Long O' Champs Maps


Maps from the Long O' Champs below. This is my map (M40, also M20, F21, M35). The race was at a high altitude - 9000+ feet (2750+ meters). Running at that altitude feels a bit like having an asthma attack.

I didn't finish the course.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:30 PM


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Next update on Monday


The next update will be Monday. Instead of updating the blog, I'm going to be running in Colorado. I'm pretty sure the race on Saturday is the long O' champs. It should be tiring.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:11 PM


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Preparing for dogs in the forest


With less than two weeks left before the World Champs begin in Ukraine, a question comes to mind:

How do you prepare to orienteer when the terrain might be full of off-leash orienteer-biting dogs?

I can usually come up with a way to practice just about any situation that I expect to face during an O' race. But, I can't think of a way to prepare for facing off against a dog. It is a good thing I don't have to worry about dogs at the races I'm running this weekend...at least I hope I don't have to worry about dogs...

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:25 PM


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What I was doing 19 years ago


An email that arrived a few days ago got me thinking about orienteering around Goteborg (where JWOC 2008 takes place). I was inspired to pull out an old map book at look at some of the places I'd run near Goteborg.

I came across a map from a race (above). The race was memorable for a couple of reasons. First, I was sick and probably shouldn't have run. But, I didn't know better. I struggled to finish. Looking at my notes from the race, I am surprised that I only finished 1 min/km behind the winner (my main memory of the run is how lousy I felt...I'd have expected to be even further behind). Second, the showers at the finish were set up right next to a main highway. So as you stood in the shower, cars and trucks rolled by right next to you. It was a strange arrangement.

When you think about it, it is remarkable that looking at a piece of paper can bring back such distinct memories.

I just noticed something - the race was 19 years ago to the day. The competition was August 7, 1988.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:04 PM


Monday, August 06, 2007

More thoughts on doping


One of the ways to stop fraud - and doping is a kind of fraud - is creating something auditors call a strong "control environment." The control environment involves things like rules and policies, tone at the top, organizational culture, and so on.

Orienteering has a reasonably strong control environment (though there is a lot of room for improvement, I think). In particular, in comparison to other sports, orienteering is less "medicalized" (can't think of a better term).

I think most orienteers try to eat right and might take a multi-vitamin. But, they probably don't get vitamin injections. I'd guess that you could do an athlete survey across a range of sports asking one simple question:

Have you ever had a vitamin injection?

I wouldn't be surprised to see that sports with a high portion of athletes who have had vitamin injections are also sports with a high portion of known doping offenses.

I'd think doping is a smaller step from sports when injections are normal than from sports where injections are unusual. In other words, it is a small step from a vitamin injection to EPO than from a healthy diet to EPO.

I'm NOT suggesting that individuals who take vitamin injections are doping. I'm suggesting that sports where a lot of the athletes get injections are more likely to have doping. I'd also expect sports with more money to overlap with athletes getting injections.

I was thinking of this when I was reading a news story about U.S. sprinter, Justin Gatlin. Here is a bit of the story (from Yahoo News):

The top assistant to track coach Trevor Graham gave Justin Gatlin an injection, which he believed to be vitamin B12, two weeks before the world record-sharing sprinter tested positive for steroids.

After Randall Evans gave Gatlin the shot, the sprinter was given what he was told were anti-inflammatory pills as a follow-up, a person with knowledge of the case told The Associated Press on Monday.

I don't know anything about the Gatlin case. I don't know anything about vitamin B12. But, the story reminded me of my theory (another possibly flaky one) about vitamin injections and doping. Of course, Gatlin's argument might be that he intended to have B12 and somehow he got something else or that Evans thought he was injecting B12 when he was actually injecting something else (both scenarios are pretty scary, if you think about it).

Over the years, I've written a lot about doping. I find doping as fraud interesting (sort of a professional interest). But, I also feel like orienteers tend to down play doping in our sport...and doing so doesn't strengthen the "control environment." But maybe writing about it does.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:56 PM


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Mattias Karlsson interview in Halden newspaper


A few excerpts from an interview with Mattias Karlsson in Halden Arbeiderblad:

"To be selected for the WOC was something I hadn't expected when the season began, it was more of a dream."

"The sprint has been my best discipline this year. High speed and the importance of a error-free race have turned out to be a strength of mine. I also tend to perform best when I'm under some pressure and at the most important races."

In the Nordic Champs in the beginning of May, Karlsson was 8th overall and the next best Swede. He thinks that result mattered when he was selected for the WOC team.

"It was a bit unexpected that I was selected for the Nordic Champs, I was a reserve and got to run when Emil Wingstedt got sick."

At last week's Swedish 5-Days, he hit his knee on a rock and hasn't been able to run for a week.

"The knee has been stiff, I haven't been able to run, but I think I can start running again in the end of this week."

"Before the 5-Days my form was good, but I haven't been able to train well for a week, so I'm a unsure. I haven't, therefore, thought much about my performance at the WOC, but to finish in the top 10 is a goal."

With my recent interest in JWOC results, I took a quick look to see how Karlsson had run in previous JWOCs. Well, as best I can tell, he never ran a JWOC. That's interesting.

One thing that caught my eye in the interview was the recent injury. One of my (possibly flaky?) ideas is that a short term injury in the month or so leading up to a big race is often a good thing. Being forced to miss a week of training (or to do a week or so of alternative training) gives the legs an important break and has some mental benefits. You come back from the break feeling refreshed and focused. At least, that's my theory. It'll be interesting to follow Karlsson in Ukraine

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 3:56 PM


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Another look at some JWOC results


Once again, I spent some time looking at JWOC results. Today, I focused on one runner, who:

Ran the JWOC - middle distance race - and finished 60th.
Ran the JWOC the next year -middle and long - and finished 91st and 100th.
Ran a third JWOC - long race - and finished 43rd.
Ran a 4th JWOC - middle and long - and finished 7th and 2nd.

A couple of things stand out. First, the runner has done 4 JWOCs. That tells you that they are one of the best in their country from a young age. Second, you see some gradual improvement in the first three years and then a huge leap in the 4th.

Ran a 5th JWOC and finished 3rd and 8th.

While still a junior, the same runner raced against the seniors at a both World Champs and World Cups.

Ran a first WOC - middle distance - and finished 50th.
Ran 5 World Cup races the next year, finishing 51st, 37th, 22nd, 37th, and 35th.
Ran a second WOC - middle distance - and finished 24th.

Have you guessed who these results belong to? The answer is here.

When you attach the name to the results, I think you see the promise as a junior. But, I wonder if anyone looking at the results alone would see the promise.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 4:51 PM


Friday, August 03, 2007

Writing to improve


I used to write about each race or training. My "rule" was that I'd write at least a sentence about every leg. I figured it'd force me to carefully examine every leg and, I hoped, would teach me something. It didn't take long and I think it helped. These days - after 25+ years of orienteering - I don't have the discipline to write about each race.

KUpackman did something I never did. He wrote about each leg and spent more time writing than he did running the course. The race was a 5.2 km course he ran in just over 30 minutes. He wrote over 1,300 words about the course. Here is a bit of what he wrote (and something that reminds me of the sort of thing I used to write):

3 to 4: 200m. Very poor exit, as I didn't fully analyze this one, which is unforgivable since I had a plain-Jane leg before it. I took a really awkward and backwards way into the field. However, the alternate route choice here, which seemingly looks 10x better, is also pretty awkward, and only saves you 20 meters! So, even though I didn't pay enough attention, I made my decision fast enough that I didn't lose that much time (7 seconds or so).

4 to 5: 300m. Very good leg. Straight across the field and I headed left of the hill and tennis courts. Afterwards, I wanted to compare the alternative, heading straight at the hill and then to the right of the tennis courts. This route was only 10 meters shorter, but required 10 more meters of climb. I liked my gut instinct on this one.

I've no idea how many orienteers write up notes like this. I often recommended it to people who haven't been orienteering very long and want to improve. Judging by the reactions I get, I'm guessing that most people haven't taken my suggestion.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:31 PM


Thursday, August 02, 2007

A few quick thoughts on course setting


What makes a course interesting to you? What do you really like to see?

The simple answer is: variety; direction changes; solid control locations; and comfort.

By "variety," I mean different leg lengths and types of orienteering problems.

"Direction changes" should be self evident.

By "solid control lcoations," I mean features that are well mapped and distinct.

"Comfort" matters, too. Course setters sometimes needlessly hang markers in thorny areas, for example. That's not fun.

In the past, I've written a few relevant posts about course setting, like: A Wise Course Setter; Local Race in Rain; and Just Say No to Bingo Controls.

I almost forgot the most important thing - put the controls in the right spot.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:36 PM


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

An old man's dream


I never imagined I'd say it...but I'm starting to think it'd be fun to run the Old Man's Tio Mila (aka H43-kavlen).

Jagge posted a comment on my training log, pointing to something I wrote about a race I ran on the terrain where this weekend's "Gubb" Tio Mila takes place.

That inspired me to think about how much fun it'd be to put together a team and run the race next year. A full team is ten old men (average age of 43, with a minimum of 35). This year the legs vary from 4 km to 9 km. The first few legs involve some night orienteering.

I wonder if there is enough interest to put together an Attackpoint team? I'll have to go post the idea at Attackpoint and see if anyone bites.

Any Gubbar who are reading this and thinking, "hey, I might like to join an Attackpoint team for the 2008 H43-kavlen," should let me know.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:00 PM


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