Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fieldchecking video


You don't see orienteering mappers in action very often. I came across this video of Perola Olsson mapping in Taiwan.

Street boat

I looked up from my desk at work today and saw a boat passing by.

I ran the photo through Tiltshiftmaker.com

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:59 PM


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Signature Significance"


"Signature Significance is the term I [Bill James] use for small-sample events so extraordinary that it is essentially impossible for them to happen to an average team or an average player."

The concept is interesting - a single performance that signals future performance. I have always wondered about short cuts to recognizing orienteering potential. I have some theories. Maybe seeing how quickly an orienteer adapts to a new (for them) type of terrain or situation. The idea being that quickly figuring out how to orienteer in some sort of special terrain signals future performance.

Signature significance
can also be used to identify especially bad performance. In fact, the Bill James quote is from an article where he looks at the Kansas City Royals recent streak of losing 5 baseball games in a row by the scores of 12-5, 12-5, 10-5, 7-1, and 12-6.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:16 PM


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Learning something new


Neil Dobbs wrote in a discussion at Attackpoint:

In most long/classic races, one spends a fair amount of time not actually reading the map or making decisions.

In a good sprint, there are decisions to be made every few seconds. It tests navigation at speed perhaps more than map interpretation, but I wouldn't knock it as a form of orienteering. There are plenty of middles and longs which aren't particularly challenging technically.

A French guy who was at one point one place off the national XC team and still winning national club relay golds, so a damn fast runner, joined our orienteering club and loved it. Even after two years I was still beating him in sprints - even without mistakes his running-speed while map-reading was slower than mine.

This isn't to say the cash-prize idea won't work, and I'd love to see it tried. But it could be orienteers that win the prize money for a while yet :)

I thought Neil's comment (especially the part where I added the emphasis) was interesting because it helped me better understand what people mean when they say sprint orienteering is easy. I think they mean that "map interpretation" is comparatively easy. I guess it is obvious, but it is something I never really understood.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:26 PM


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Yesterday's second sprint course


This is the sprint course from the second race yesterday. I didn't run the race. I made the map (which is still in progress) and set the course.

The challenge in setting the course was to keep the distance short and to try to find some way to force some map reading. The purple area on the map hasn't been fieldchecked. It is mostly flat forest. You wouldn't go through it when the summer vegetation is out.

I tried to have a few simple route choice problems in the beginning (legs 2, 3 and 6). My intent was that the different options should jump out at you, and that the better route should be pretty clear. I think the best routes are: left on 2; right on 3; and right on 6 (i.e. begin going south on the gravel road, turn left as soon as possible, then straight on the purple line to the control). I think most people went left on 6.

I couldn't see good route choice options once the runners left the north end of the map, so I went with short legs with direction changes near the finish. It might have been worth making the legs a little more difficult by having them less visible. It wasn't really planned for spectating, but it turned out well. You could watch the runners as they took the last 5 controls.

I added control 7 late in the course planning. After testing a version of the course with controls only at the far north end and the area around the finish, I decided that something to break up the long run on the trail would be nice. It doesn't take much navigating, but it forces you to look at the map a couple of times. I was a bit worried that the orienteers might skip the 7th control. Nobody did.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 4:02 PM


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sprint race this morning


My map and track from this morning's first sprint race. I don't know what was going on on the second half of the 6th leg. I obviously slowed down. The tack is a bit off. I guess I got lazy.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 4:03 PM


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Running in the terrain


Baekkelagets Sportklubb (a Norwegian orienteering club) has a terrain running test. You can check out the course by looking at the PDF of the map that you can find here.

One of the cool things about BSK's test is that they've got lots of historical data (which I've put in a Google spreadsheet or you can find from the link above as an Excel file.

Sometimes the test results are for two laps. I think they run the two laps back to back, to give an idea of how you tire. You'll also notice that they have split times. The splits are marked on the map and are different types of terrain. For example, the 4th split is for a 300 meter segment that goes down 60 meters. The 5th split is for a 300 meter split that climbs 60 meters.

Look through the historical data and you'll see some interesting names. You can compare Britt Volden to Anne Margrethe Hausken. How fast would a world class skier run the course and how does that compare to a world class orienteer? You can compare Hanne Staff to Bente Skari. How much better an uphill runner was Oyvin Thon compared to Oystein Sorensen? Well, you can get an idea by looking at the data.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:22 PM


Monday, June 15, 2009

A little thought experiment


It is quite easy to measure running ability. Just put someone on a track and time them. It isn't perfect. Running on a track isn't quite the same as running in the forest. But it gives you a pretty good measure of running. It isn't so easy to measure navigation ability.

What if it was the other way around? What if you could hook someone up to a machine and find out how well they could navigate? Imagine that you couldn't easily measure someone's running ability.

I think that the current situation - with it easy to measure and compare running, but harder to measure and compare map reading - we're missing something.

It is a bit like Moneyball, where teams that didn't pay attention to on-base percentage didn't value on-base percentage.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:59 PM


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Looking at some GPS tracks from Jukola


I spent a few minutes studying GPS tracks from Jukola. It feels like following the race live...without the actual drama, of course, since you know how the race turns out.

Watching the tracks of the Halden SK and IFK Goteborg runners on the 2nd leg I was struck by how much time could be made up with some good trail routes. On the leg below, Halden and Goteborg were together at the trail junction at the south edge of this map clip. Mattias Karlsson from Halden sticks to the trail. Tobias Noborn from Goteborg head off trail, through the marsh. In just three minutes of running time (the tails on the track are 3 minutes long), Karlsson gets a minute lead.

Noborn might have learned something from that leg because on the next leg he stuck to the trail route. Noborn made up about 30 seconds with the route choice (and a bobble by Karlsson at the fourth control cost 30 seconds).

If I didn't have a job, I'd probably spend all day tomorrow looking at GPS tracks.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:15 PM


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Long trip from the last control


I'm watching Jukola on the web. Damien Renard just took about 3 minutes to go from last control, to the finish punch, to the map board, and then to the hand off. He was really moving fast. I hate to think of how long it'd take me.

Jukola finishes brings back fond memories of the long trip from the last control at Jukola in 1991. Check out the map Asplovet posted.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:39 PM


Friday, June 12, 2009

Practicing not skipping controls


One of my sprint orienteering tips is to "practice not skipping controls (which is remarkably common in sprint races)."

A respondent brought up a good question, "how exactly does one practice not doing something?"

A flippant answer is "the same way you practice not making parallel errors." That's flippant, but actually true.

So, how would I practice not skipping controls?

I'd spend a lot of time looking at sprint courses and thinking about which controls would be easiest to skip. I haven't studied it systematically, but it seems like controls that tend to get skipped are:

1. When a straight line connects three controls;
2. When there are several short legs with sharp angles; and
3. Within a couple of legs of the end of the course.

I'd also run sprint training courses and work on my routine for taking a control and heading to the next control. Ideally, do the training with some added stress (like mass starts with three or four runners going head to head for a few legs with some forked controls).

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:30 PM


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Breakfast at McDonald's


It is always fun to read about a Norwegian orienteer's experiences and thoughts about orienteering in the U.S. If you can manage Norwegian, check out the report. And if you can't you can still take a look at the photos and maps from Wyoming.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:36 PM


Monday, June 08, 2009

Some thoughts on land access issues


Land access issues have come up in a couple of recent Attackpoint discussions. A park in Kentucky and state parks in California have been considered for closure to close budget gaps. I thought I'd write a few "tips" for dealing with governments in this sort of issue.

My suggestion would be to start with a mid-level management person. They probably won't have the authority to, for example, open a park that would otherwise be closed. But, they are a good starting point. They can help you understand the situation and deal with other involved parties.

1. Ask questions to understand the situation. You probably learn about a potential land access issue through a news story or a comment from someone who works in the park. You're not getting the whole picture. That's just the nature of communication. Start by learning more about the situation. Get a meeting with someone in the government, tell them what you read in the paper (or heard), tell them you like the park, ask them to help you understand the situation. The idea is to learn what is going on and start building a relationship.

2. Try to speak with a person, ideally in person, but over the phone is ok. Sending email and letters is easy. But, it isn't going to be as effective.

3. Recognize the difficulty in making budget decisions. Governments aren't looking to close parks because they don't like you. They are faced with difficult trade offs. Money that goes to parks might be competing with child care, police and fire, replacing decaying bridges, etc. These are really difficult decisions. Recognize that the decisions are complex. It is tempting to come up with an alternative to close a budget gap, but it is really difficult because government budgets can be complicated.

4. Don't assume ulterior motives. Assuming motives, especially if you go on the record about those motives, isn't usually productive.

5. Communicate concisely, especially with elected officials and top management. Whoever you are dealing with probably has a lot to get done. Keep that in mind. Once you've built up a relationship, you can expect a bit more of their time. Imagine how much email and other correspondence an elected official must get. Now double it. Now double it again. Now you've probably got a reasonable idea of how much elected officials are expected to read and digest.

6. Build relationships - good relationships - in advance. When you use a park, take the time to thank the people who work there. Thank everyone you can. Thank the maintenance crews. Thank their supervisors. Thank the park director. Thank the park director's boss.

7. Don't threaten legal action unless you intend to pursue it.

I could go on...but I think it is time to make dinner.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:13 PM


Sunday, June 07, 2009

A Lidar contour comparison


I found this comparison of different basemap contours on the Chatahoochee Bend Mapping Project web page. The image shows three sources for contours: green are USGS, blue are USGS DEM, and purple are Lidar. The main lesson to take from this comparison is probably that USGS DEM are nearly worthless as base material for orienteering maps. Now, I knew that already. Some years ago I ran an A-meet on maps made with USGS DEMs and the contours were just terrible.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:05 PM


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Donwtown map update


I did a bit of fieldchecking on the downtown sprint map today. Most of today's work was putting in the individual trees in the west half of South Park.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 5:22 PM


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Patrick looking at the map


The video shows Patrick G on a sprint course at a training camp. Take a look and try to count how many times he looks at his map. It is a bit tricky, but I think he looks at the map 6 times. Some of those looks are just quick glances. Six looks in 20 seconds (and by my count he takes his 6th look at about the 13 second mark). That's a lot of looks at the map.

Check out Brent's blog for a few more notes about this little video clip.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:17 PM


Monday, June 01, 2009

7 Signs of ...


Watching some TV yesterday I saw an announcement that included:

The first sign is someone...drawing diagrams or annotating on maps,...MAY be an indicator that something is not right and should be reported immediately. Nothing is too insignificant.

That's part of the first of "7 signs of terrorism." The announcement was encouraging people who saw someone mapping to call the police and report them. As someone who likes mapping and has been doing some fieldchecking of sprint orienteering maps, where lots of people see what I'm doing, I hope I don't attract police attention. I suppose it is just a matter of time.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 5:57 PM


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