Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cool Orienteering Mapping Blog


Rudi left a comment yesterday and that inspired me to take a look at his orienteering mapping blog orimaps.blogspot.com It is worth a look.

The first thing you'll notice is that it is written in Italian. Italian is a nice looking language, even if you can't make heads or tales of it (and the little Italian I knew when I was 5 years old is long gone). It also sounds nice to the ear. You can imagine Orimaps being sung in Italian...maybe it'd sound a bit like Gianna Nanini and Edoardo Bennato. Or maybe not. Probably better to use Google translate to read Orimaps.

Orimaps has a nice discussion of mapping with Lidar (aka laserscan) that includes the basemap, fieldnotes, and final map.

I also liked the little map of Matsee and the story of making the map by two mappers each working just 5 hours.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 1:28 PM


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Crazy idea of the day


What about having races where the organizers don't reveal the map scale in advance and don't use a "normal" scale? Instead of knowing, for example, that the race would be on a 1:10,000 map, you'd get a map at the starting line that would be something between, say 1:7,500 and 1:12,500. Maybe it'd be 1:9127, just some randomly selected scale.

I was thinking this would reward map reading a bit more than some of the more mechanical techniques (like pace counting or cheating with a GPS). You'd have to tune your measures of distance while you were on the clock.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 1:09 PM


Canada WOC team ages - 2009


Since I looked at the US WOC team ages, I figured I'd do the same for Canada.

Canada's WOC team averages 30.4 years old. The median is 29.

But, there is a caveat. I had trouble figuring out the ages of some of Canada's runners. My main source, runners.worldofo.com doesn't have much info for the Canadians.

The Canadian team has just two women - Louise Oram and Carol Ross. I don't know the Canadian selection rules, but I'm also disappointed when a nation doesn't send enough for a relay team.

The Canadian team also has someone I'd never heard of before. I don't spend a lot of time following Canadian orienteering, but I'm still a bit surprised to see a name I didn't know. Will Critchley is the guy.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 1:02 PM


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Swiss training


Some good stuff over at OPN.NO from Thomas Buhrer on how the Swiss national team trains. If you can't read Norwegian, here is one quote that struck me as interesting:

On his philosophy as a trainer, Buhrer said, "in an endurance sport like orienteering, 20 percent is about talent and 80 percent is about training. To reach the top, you've got to have a passion for orienteering, and instinct for competition, and to be able to practice an individual sport in a team environment as often as possible.

And for something completely different, I also came across some nice O' photos from Sindre Haverstad.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:48 PM


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thinking about rules


Here are three general things I think about when I'm thinking about rules:

1. In general, fewer rules is better than more.

2. It can be useful to think about the opposite of a proposed rule and think about the effects.

If your employer requires you to get formal permission before spending more than $500, the opposite of the rule would be to prohibit you from getting permission before spending more than $500. Does the opposite of the rule substantially change the situation? In this case, I think it does.

If orienteering required following other orienteers, would that change the nature of the sport? Well, yeah, it'd completely change the sport.

In the context of the rules about GSP, the opposite of the rule is to require runners to wear GPS watches. Does that substantially change orienteering? I think it does not.

3. If you were starting from scratch, would you create the rule?

If you started a new business, would you require employees to seek permission before spending $500? You might. Or maybe you'd require permission at a higher (or lower) threshold. Or maybe you'd randomly follow up on purchases and make sure they were appropriate after the fact.

If you invented orienteering, would you have a rule about GPS watches? I wouldn't, but reasonable people might.

You can use these three ideas to think about all sorts of rules. Rules about doping or following mapping standards or providing child care at O' events, and so on. It doesn't necessarily give me an answer about whether or not to have a rule, but it helps me think through it.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:26 PM


Monday, May 25, 2009

Why not require GPS watches?


Worldofo.com has a report about the IOF's decision to prohibit GPS watches at certain races (WREs, World Cups, and World Champs). I don't like the new rule and I think Mats Troeng's comment is pretty good.

If it were up to me, I'd have the IOF mandate that runners must wear GPS watches during big races and then organizers must make the data available.

But it isn't up to me.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 4:42 PM


Sunday, May 24, 2009

QR from yesterday's sprint


Not much to say about the sprint race yesterday.
Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:34 AM


Saturday, May 23, 2009

US WOC team ages - 2009 edition


I took my annual (or nearly annual) look at the ages of the US WOC team members. This year's team averages 32.4 years with the median of 30 years. For comparison, last year's team average was 31.4 and median was 30.5.

For more comparison, you can check out the distribution of all of the runners from the 2003 WOC and stuff I've written in the past about age distributions.

This year's team is split in half. Half the team have little WOC experience while half have a lot of WOC experience.

5 of the US Team have a total of 7 starts in WOC races (based on maprunners' WOC database). The other 5 runners have a total of 105 WOC starts.

Putting that that 105 WOC starts in context...that means the average for those five runners is 21 WOC starts. Here are the number of WOC races the five most experienced US WOC team runners have: 13, 13, 20, 23, and 36. How many WOC races do you think Mikell Platt and Sharon Crawford have? Mikell had 19. Of course, it is much easier to get a lot of WOC starts these days than it was back when Mikell and Sharon started. Back then, the WOC was every other year and you couldn't start more than 2 races in any given WOC.

Maprunner has a database of WOC results that is worth a look if you're interested in orienteering trivia.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 11:14 AM


Thursday, May 21, 2009

An idea lifted from The Talent Code


An interesting idea described in The Talent Code is that you can predict performance based on how people describe their practice. The author describes the results of research on volleyball players and notes the finding that 90 percent of the variation in skill could be explained by the players' answers to a set of questions about how they practice.

That's pretty interesting.

A few months ago I spent some time thinking about how you might screen a bunch of oreinteers quickly - maybe just a couple of hours. Obviously, you'd want to do some sort of orienteering, but you might also talk to them about how they practice. If they don't have much orienteering experience, maybe you could learn something by asking them about how they approach practicing some skill that they consider themselves to be good at.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:01 PM


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Special forests


An email arrived today from a Czech orienteer who is going to spend some time in California. I gave him a little advice and suggested that he should try to get to one of the redwood forests. And that got me thinking about forests, like the redwoods, that are really special.

Off hand, I can't think of any forests that I've run in that are as special as the redwoods. I have a strong memory of running in a mixed oak/palm tree forest on a map in Florida. It was nice - sort of a Gilligan's Island feel - but nothing like being in a redwood forest.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:21 PM


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Celebrating Norway's National Day


Check out this string of results for two runners in big international races:

60th - 8th
100th - 19th
DNS - 1st
7th - 1st
3rd - DNS
50th - DNS
24th - 1st
18th - 3rd

Can you guess the races and the runners? A hint, both are extremely good orienteers and are roughly the same age (one was born 4 months earlier than the other).

The races are middle distance championships, both JWOC and WOCs, beginning with 1995. The runners are Theirry Gueorgiou and Jorgen Rostrup. Just looking at that string of results wouldn't lead you to expect 5 of the next 6 middle distance races to be wins for Gueorgiou.

I began looking at the results as part of my celebration of Norway's National Day. I began by reading an old Skogssport interview with Rostrup. That inspired me to look at some results. Next on my celebration is to look at a Norwegian map or two.

If I had some, I'd even eat a bit of brown cheese. Fortunately, I don't have any.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 2:59 PM


30/90 O' technique intervals


While I'm following today's Giro stage, I'm also looking at some maps. I downloaded Jan Troeng's training at Siggefora and opened the file in QuickRoute to take a look. He was doing an interesting workout - an O' technique course run as intervals - 30 seconds hard followed by 90 seconds easy (or maybe easier) and repeated for a bit over an hour. He's running with a watch programmed to beep at 30 and 90 seconds. Looks like fun, and tough, training.

You can see the map better here.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 10:32 AM


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Learning to dance


I came across this process-v-outcome quote yesterday:

any method that encourages...to focus on the process of what they are doing rather than what others are doing (i.e., comparing themselves to others) would be beneficial in helping...attend to relevant cues and improve their skills.

The authors of the quote created a a two page questionnaire to fill out after a training to rate yourself on a set of skills. Filling out the questionnaire encourages "self reflection."

Now, the authors aren't writing about orienteering. They're writing about Salsa dancing. The approach could be easily adapted to orienteering - just change the skills and develop good descriptions of what constitutes "poor performance" and "good performance."

Check out the PDF Success in Salsa: Students' Evaluation of the Use of Self-Reflection When Learning to Dance and see if you can adapt it to orienteering training.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 2:44 PM


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Steve Martin's Talent Code


I spent some time reading The Talent Code at lunch today. The book's subtitle is "Greatness isn't born. It's grown. Here's how." Every page or two, I read something that makes me think about orienteering or raises a question. I making my way through the book very slowly, reading a couple of pages a day.

Over lunch, I was thinking about the parallels between the ideas in The Talent Code - ideas about practice and about how high-level performers develop - and Steve Martin's book about being a comedian. Here's a Steve Martin quote:

"...Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success."

I went back and took a look at some previous postings about the Steve Martin book.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:19 PM


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Orienteering "dream job"


Teaching orienteering is the "dream job" for a young orienteer. Read about it in the article from the Whitehorse Star. The paper covers a lot of orienteering (for a North American newspaper, that is).

The orienteering teaching position in Whitehorse reminds me a bit of something I wrote a couple of years ago.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 2:02 PM


Monday, May 04, 2009

"Plugging away, keep pushing past your boundaries"


One of the ideas Daniel Coyle describes in the Talent Code is practicing just beyond the point at which you begin to make mistakes. By making and correcting those mistakes in practice, you develop. Here's a bit of an article on snowboarding from yesterday's NY Times, the article is quoting Gretchen Bleiler:

“With any new trick, I’m always frustrated because it takes a lot more energy to do it than an easier, simpler trick,” she said. “It’s frustrating in a good way, though, because I am pushing myself.”

She added, “This is when you kind of just need to keep going, keep plugging away, keep pushing past your boundaries and then all of the sudden it’s just natural.”

That line of thinking is prevalent among snowboarders during the spring. Once the competitive season winds down and the temperature begins to rise, the race heats up among the sport’s elite athletes to come up with the next wave of tricks.

This has obvious parallels for orienteers, I think.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:32 PM


Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sprint orienteering = futsal?


Is sprint orienteering like futsal?

Futsal is a form of indoor soccer. Check out the video to get an idea (type "futsal" into youtube.com and you'll find a bunch of amazing videos).

I've just started reading The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. He presents the idea that one reason Brazil produces so many great soccer players is that they play a lot of futsal. Futsal is fast and rewards quick moves and quick decisions. After playing a lot of futsal, playing on a full-sized grass field would feel slow.

Sprint orienteering can be a bit futsal-like, I think. On a good sprint course, the course setter forces you to make a lot of decisions. Features on the map seem to come at you quickly. If the terrain is a bit complex, the orienteering feels like it speeds up.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 3:58 PM


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Process versus outcome


Compare these outcomes for the baseball pitcher Zack Greinke:

Spring training: pitched 28 innings and gave up 30 runs.

Regular season (to date): pitched 36 innings and gave up just 3 runs.

So in the regular season - in games against the best competition when it really counts - Zack has been much, much better.

What is going on?

It looks like he was practicing in spring training, trying to learn rather than to do his best. This isn't exactly process versus outcome, but it is related. Here's is a quote from Joe Posnanski's article in SI about Greinke:

...changeup - that's the pitch he spent all of spring training throwing even through hitters battered it like crazy.

"He didn't care about the results," Moore [the team's general manager] says. "He just wanted to get a feel for the changeup. That's what's so amazing about Zack. He doesn't need the changeup to be good. He's already good. He worked on it because it can help make him great. And that's what the great ones do."

The story of Greinke's spring isn't quite the normal illustration of process versus outcome. The normal illustration is more event based - by focusing on a process during a given competition, rather than the outcome of that competition, the athlete does best. In this case, it is more of a long-term focus. By working on a specific pitch - the changeup - Greinke had to think about the process of the season, beginning with the spring training where the focus was on developing and polishing some specific skill.

You'll see the same thing in orienteering. I remember club mates who used club training events to work on some specific skill, often resulting in less than stellar performances in the training. I also remember club mates who used club training events to race - focusing on the results of the training, making every session a race. There were very good orienteers in each group. But the absolute best fit more in the first group than the second. The absolute best didn't necessarily perform the best in the training events. They used to training events to practice, not to race.

To use training events to practice and to ignore the results takes some confidence and some comfort with the club. When you're new to a club, you feel like you need to show what you can do. You want to have good results in the training sessions. Once you're a bit more established, you feel a lot less pressure to have a good result in a training event.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 10:20 AM


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