Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Map reading frequency


A rough translation of something Johan Ivarsson wrote:

Both Pasi [Ikonen] and Jörgen [Rostrup] must have an amazing ability to read the map and to read the map at full speed in the forest. I think they can do that because they take many looks at the map each leg.

At a training camp with the Norwegian team before the 1999 WOC, they did a simple study of the number of times each runner looked at a map on a leg. The best men in the world that year -- Petter Thoresen and Bjørnar Valstad -- read the map more than 20 times on a 400 meter leg. Hanne Staff, who has been the best woman the last few years, read the map 15 times, while the worst of the women in the test read the map just 5 times.

Jörgen and Pasi probably take a lot of looks at the map. They get it. Read the map a lot and you won't miss much. And they're able to read the map at full speed!

You've got to get out and train and, as Bjørnar says, "it will pay off!"

I found this in the archives and thought it was worth a repeat.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:11 PM


worth repeating and repeating...
...and of course on the other hand it's important to train these other things so you don't necessarily have to read the map 20 times!
1. Memory so that you don't read the same thing over and over again
2. Simplification (Thierry's good at this) so that you don't have to read everything
This comment has been removed by the author.
I think frequent looks and simplification can go together.

I think memory is over-rated as an orienteering skill (or maybe I'm just hoping it is as I get older and my mind gets weaker!). Memory is a great way to practice - by forcing you to simplify.

I second that comment as well.

Memory, agreed, is very over rated as a competition skill, but yes, useful for practice because, in my slightly different words, it forces you to form the image, to visualize the terrain. However remembering the image is of very little consequence, when you can reform it with a minimal glimpse a full speed. No need to put 5 min, or even 5 sec at risk for want of a split second.

Also I think that "simplification" is a very misleading, even dangerous description of Tero's practices or teachings, even if he uses the word himself. I'll suggest that "prioritization of features" is a more appropriate description, along with a load of other genetically given and trained skills. No bleepin' way are those simplified images (great grapics) the only thing going on in his head.

He may be the best technical orienteer ever, maybe even best total orienteer, but he's still a homo sapien, and at his best only on the order of 1% better than the others. And when someone gives a description (verbal, visual, whatever) of what is going on inside their own head, I think the thoughts need to be handled with great discretion, perhaps even a large shaker of salt. Granted the lessons can still be interesting and valuable, but they still need to be kept in perspective.

The good point of the 'small study' was to show, that mapreading does not make you slow.

But then Ivarsson made a mistake, conluding that all fast runners have many map contacts. At Ikonen, how should he really know? At Rostrup he even was probably wrong: As Rostrup took part at the WOC99 he should have been mentioned as one of the 'most reader' but was not.

The proper conclusion would be, that there is a very successful mapreading pattern with realtively many map contacts.

A hypothesis there is, that the found pattern consisted in only one or few longer map contacts (for overview, routechoice and generalisation) and a lot of very short map contacts for affirmation and detailing (for more about these terms see here)

So mapreading a lot does not make you slow, but neither does mapreading more make you faster. :)
Thierry uses simplifications as a method in orienteering and also uses simplifications to describe his methods. In most cases these simplifications sound good, seem to make sens and are blessed with the aura of his performance. Mostly they are so simple, that they can't be wrong, but this does not necessarily mean that they get to the core.
I remember the WOC in Japan, he mentioned three simplifications about running in japanese terrain. Two of them were wrong or irrelevant.
So I am with Eric. Be careful! And maybe the truth is even simpler than the simple wisdoms around in orienteering. I saw Thierry running in the Provence this autumn and it seems that he is just orienteering good and fast.
Alistair, Eric, and Martin - thanks for the comments. Interesting stuff.

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