O Log - Older Archives
[07-Apr-02]  West Point 2 Day A meet, NY

    Its tough facing your olog when you have a lame race. Even tougher when you have two lame races in a row. I lost about 9 minutes in booms, and 3 on route choice on day 1; day 2 was about 7 and 8 including a totally braindead run-in. On top of that, I am not a very fast runner in rocky terrain. I never did see the results, but I imagine I was about 10ish or so in a toughish field. But my navigation was shoddy. 10 to 11 min/k range. 25 min or so off the winning time each day. I'm not sure who won. They were having a bit of a tough time with the results, and the times were wrong by varying amounts, at least on day 1, but otherwise it was an excellent meet and fine course setting. I haven't had races this bad in 6 months, since day 1 at Rochester.

    So what went wrong and what can we do about it? What went wrong was rock. Lots of it, and lots of it unmapped. I'm not great at separating the mapped from the unmapped. The rock on the map, and in the woods, distracted me from the contour features. I think the O was harder than I've been used to in the past 6 months. I think my concentration was fine, and visualization was fine, but the problems in some cases were beyond my ken at the speed I was trying to deal with them. I think the map was a bit hard to read and a bit out of date. But it was nothing I should not have been able to deal with. What do do about it? Train on this type of terrain.

    I did have some fine parts of the races. Leg 5 on day 2 is the sort of leg that often kills me. But I spiked it at pretty good speed. Leg 6 was probably the most interesting leg; I took the low route, giving myself the benefit an easier attack and an uphill attack, where I'm forced to slow down and read the map ... but all the while I was running the leg I was analyzing the high route to see if it was better ...

    The most fun, I think, was on day 1. 5 minute boom on control 4, and Greg Balter catches up to me at the bag. That's always discouraging when that happens. I decide I'm gonna try to beat him in -- I'm already so far in the tank on this race I have to try for something. I stay ahead for 3 controls. We both boom the 4th a bit, then we alternate finding controls. It was so much fun. He beats me in by about a minute or so.

    Day 2 was over 11K. I wasn't even tired at the end. That's how slow I am in the rock. It was frustrating. I think I was afraid of getting injured. Hudson Valley rock put me in the ER once. I think that makes you cautious. Or maybe I didn't push myself, after getting off to a lousy start on day 1. Or maybe I was too cautious.

    The club has put the maps on the web, so I hope they don't mind if I put mine up with the courses.

    Blue Day 1
    Blue Day 2

    Splits and comments on AttackPoint

[05-Apr-02] 

    Off to West Point. Never done the West Point A meet. I hear it can be quite an adventure. On Sunday, I have an 8 oclock start, with a shuttle to the remote start. I'll prolly have to be there by 6:30 or something. Sheesh.

    My ISP is going thru some chaos over the next few weeks. My olog may be even more sporadic and unavailable. On the other hand, there have been lots of topics on the Clubnet to write about -- I hope to write my thoughts next week.

[03-Apr-02] 

    Some of my treasurebox clues were published in an article on letterboxing in one of those magazines you get on an airplane. Lisa thinks that is cool. I guess its cool, tho I'd trade it for a strategy for getting a fast start in the start triangle.

    I usually try to find an obvious feature in the terrain that I can see from the start triangle in the anticipated direction of travel that I will find quickly on the map, but I often don't find such a feature, or have trouble finding the start triange itself on the map. I wonder what the elite do to solve this problem. I have some ideas which I will be trying out in the next few meets.

    Anyway, the article is here.

[30-Mar-02]  Great Falls, MD [Long Stumble, 15200/455, 112:57, 7.43, 5/?]

    Fifth place in the Stumble. I think this is a good result, tho it feels neutral. I would have been happy finishing higher, and disappointed finishing lower, and sort of feel neutral. I'm sore, both hamstrings and right calf, after 2 days; that can't be good. I guess I'll take it easy training the week.

    It was a runners park. Extremely fast but hilly. Eddie thought the winning time might be under 6min/k. The winner was Mattias Mahr at around 101 minutes, or 6.64/k using the official measurements. I was about 11 minutes behind.

    I didn't make that many mistakes. People who finished ahead of me made a couple more mistakes, I think. I guess that means I'm slow. I didn't follow too much, just a couple of controls in the beginning. Then there is the 'navigating with the confidence of the pack', which isn't exactly following, but having others around you makes you feel good about your choices and navigation. That describes the second third of the first loop. Then I was pretty much on my own when the leaders dropped me. I was only followed on 1 or 2 controls. I found a few controls for people who eventually finished ahead of me. Somehow I feel good about that.

    I think the forcing to eat and drink worked out. I spend 71 seconds at the map exchange eating and drinking. One Gu and a full jar of Gatorade. I had to force it, I didn't want it but I wanted to stick with my game plan. I passed one runner near the end of the race, and held off another, so it may have been worth 2 places. On the other hand, I lost a place due to the delay itself to a runner who did not stop. I probably would have lost that place anyway, just later in the second loop.

    It was a large start field -- 86 runners for both the long and short. By far the biggest Stumble to date. Hopefully more people can come in for next year.

    And I really want one of those Wheaties boxes. I don't collect stuff (except race maps), but I've been thinking about that for a couple of years. I'm shocked to see something like that on ebay, but think it is cool. $250 is pretty stiff, tho ... but it is good to see a market for O memorabilia ...

    Splits and comments on AttackPoint

[28-Mar-02] 

    Susquehanna Stumble this Saturday. I had a good race in last year's Stumble. This year, I must force myself to eat and drink enough at the map exchange. I bonked at the Highlander last fall because I cut corners on this to save 30 seconds, and it cost me 10 minutes. The map exchange will be at 8K, so I won't feel the need to eat or drink, especially since its going to only be 60 with rain. But I must force myself to. I have to be willing to give up places at the map exchange knowing I'll make them up later in the race.

    This is the fifth running of the Stumble. This year we will have the largest and strongest start field yet. It should be interesting. I will probably be unable to resist the temptation to attempt to run with the lead pack, at least for the first couple of controls. As I've started to improve, I've had people follow me at goat races. I was followed for almost two thirds of the Billygoat. Its a strange feeling. I didn't know the follower, so how did he know I knew what I was doing? In this race, I don't think I'll be followed unless I get separated from the lead pack. Now there is some incentive, as I don't particularly like to be followed.

    The map is Great Falls, MD. Ridge and Valley, steep climbs, lollipop terrain with some small technical areas. My kind of stuff except the map is small, out of date, and others will have a home field advantage, especially in regards to the map problems. Should be fun. Keep your eye on the ball and the folks in front of you.

    The Stumble was my first goat race 3 years ago. I was the last finisher who qualified for a towel on the short race. I didn't train in those days, good thing it was a small race with a small start field. It is a good race. I'm glad the start field seems to get bigger each year.

[24-Mar-02]  Raven Rock, NC [Blue, 8150/230, 83:40, 10.27, 1/11]
[23-Mar-02]  Raven Rock, NC [Blue, 8475/276, 78:50, 9.30, 1/11]

    Raven Rock was as tough as I remembered it, and I think having been there before and having a game plan to deal with the "vegetation hazards" was helpful.

    My game plan was to concentrate on map-reading around the vegetation and deadfall, and to look for trail running and other safe route choices. I was willing to pay some time for these route choices rather than roll the dice on the deadfall or rhodo jungles. I'm usually the opposite, fairly aggressive, but Raven Rock is not the place to take chances.

    As it worked out, I was very sharp on map contact in general, and pretty good on seeing route choices. Working hard on these goals for a specific reason ended up working to the general good.

    Day 1 I had a one minute boom, and this was a bag hung in the deadfall, as far as I was concerned. I had no energy on day 1 -- I felt I was wearing ankle weights. I'm not sure why, I think it was because I had an afternoon start and didn't eat enough. Spiking the controls and avoiding the hazards was the saving grace. I was happy with my route choices. I was happy with my O but not my speed.

    Day 2 I had more energy. It was also much more physical, I thought. I followed the same game plan. On two occasions near the end of the race I got lazy and strayed from my game plan. From 9 to 10 the right move was to go around some deadfall in a reentrant, but that required two more contours of climb, and going farther out of the way. I decided to take a chance and cut thru it. I got disoriented and thrown off course. I fell several times and lost my bib and punch card, but fortunately found both. I got into the really heavy stuff, but made it out with only two minutes of damage. I was lucky. I'll have to remember that the brain can get lazy near the end of day two.

    On 11 to 12, the right route choice was a trail run. But it required exiting the control the way I came in, an immediate 3 contour climb, and going the wrong way initially. My tired brain chose a lazier route. Knowing there was a good chance I had the race won, I should have taken the safe route. But the brain does strange things when tired. My route was fairly safe, just 30 seconds slower, but more physical in the long run.

    I thought the O was harder on day two. The viz was poorer. I was almost as sharp, though, as on day 1, and held together fairly well, despite my couple of route choice blunders. I had a couple of other time losses, but feel they can be legitimately blamed on map problems. Other runners complained of the same problems. Precision O was important due to the poor viz and mobility, and I was happy I was in contact virtually the whole race both days, and generally making good decisions.

    I'm banged up. Tons of scratches, bruises, and muscle aches. This turned out to be good training and I'm glad I went after all. I can see how my technique has improved in two years.

    Attackpoint seems down now, hopefully I can post my notes later.

[21-Mar-02] 

    Off to Raven Rock to play in the deadfall. Look for trail runs, and map read around the stuff. Should be interesting.

[19-Mar-02] 

    I'm terrible at estimating time lost. Looking at the splits for leg 4 on Sunday, I lost 2:30. I only estimated 1:00. To me, it seems like I'm losing less time than I am at the time. I stopped for water and "gu" at the control 15 water stop. I've never taken "gu" before, and I rarely take water, but wanted to Sunday because I figured I'd have to in a longer race someday. I wanted practice with the "gu" packet and wanted to see how much time it took. I took a split, and it took 29 seconds. I was first one thru, so I had to open the water jugs and the cups (when I'm the course setter, I usually do this for the first runner).

    I was surprised how long it took. I don't think I made a profit on the deal, though in a longer race, I might. Of course, that doesn't account for the fact that I was presumably sharper and didn't boom late in the race.

    Also, looking at the splits, I can now figure I lost 30 seconds on my lame route choice on #3.

    I'm not sure how this information will make me a better orienteer, but it is encouraging to know that there is more room for improvement than I thought there was, without anything else changing.

[17-Mar-02]  Colliers Mill, NJ [Blue, 9486/58, 64:07, 6.75]

    Fast and flat terrain. Good day to shoot for breaking 7min/k. Not that it means much, except in terms of the idea of aiming for goals, and trying to orienteer and maintain map contact at high speeds. The O wasn't especially difficult in the fast sections, but it was no means trivial. Unlike Mt. Joy (for me, since I know it so well), I still had to read the map, and in the south, viz was poor, and the contour features subtle that it was a somewhat good test of O. Still got smoked by Graeme and possibly others.

    The map was on the edge of the Pine Barrens. I really like orienteering in the Pine Barrens. Hopefully the club will make more maps down there. Most of the Pines are not as open as this map was, but have some of the other features that make it interesting and challenging, like subtle contour features, and variability of vegatation in terms of viz and speed. It makes for good practice. This map is just too fast, and easy, I think, for year after year use, at least in terms value as a training area. It is certainly a good workout area, if the courses are set long. I liked the course setting today.

    I know the Pines pretty well. If I ever get some free time, I'll scout for some areas. Problem is, the best areas are a long drive for everyone. It might be good A meet terrain, but I can see how some would find it frustrating. The club, I think, has better A meet terrain in the queue, and the rest of the world probably is not as enamored with the Pine Barrens as I am.

    Splits and comments on AttackPoint

[15-Mar-02] 

    The USOF rankings came out about a week ago. My blue ranking was 77.4 and red was 88.9. Then, they added a race I didn't compete in (the Canadian champs), and my rankings changed to 77.2 and 89.3. That seems a bit bizarre. The thing that really seems bizarre is that I only ran red twice, and the Canadian champs were _after_ my red races (the US champs). How a race in the future can affect the rankings is a bit of a mystery to me, although I sort of understand how it can happen, I guess. Perhaps I'm not looking at something correctly.

    If this is true, I think it should be changed. You should race, then have that race affect your ranking. That seems more logical to competitors and "fans". Of course, I don't pretend to come close to understanding what I'm talking about. Thats a problem in some sense also, because, as a competitor, I should. I've actually tried to understand it, but obviously not tried hard enough. (I also think it should be published somewhere obvious at the beginning of the season which races are going to count -- I had no idea which Canadian races would count, but that is another kettle of fish altogether).

    Anyway, I'm not going to worry about it. Run good races and let the numbers work themselves out. I think I'm more concerned about it from the point of view of having something simple for an onlooker or newbie to grasp.

    My goal at the beginning of the season was 80 on blue. That seemed pretty ambitious for my first season on the course. At one point in the season I didn't think I'd make 70. My goal for this season will be 84 on blue.

[12-Mar-02] 

    I was asked by Clare on the course/class comittee to look into the affects of aging on physical performance. This was my answer -

    Quoting Clare -
    > How does physical performance increase and degrade with age? Is it
    > consistent and gradual or are their specific points where degradation is
    > more significant than at other times?
    

    Runners reach their physical peak around ages 25-27. From age 30, performance (and V02Max) declines at 5% per decade (on average) for runners who train vigorously (though this decline does not appear to be linear). For others, including those who train casually, the rate is about 10% per decade. (See notes at end) > Are their any studies specific to the sport of orienteering that > correlate this physical degradation with a sport that also involves > mental acuity?

    I did not find any. The only thing I found remotely relevant was from the Scientific Journal of Orienteering (Vol 3, #1 - 1987; http://www.ped.gu.se/scijo/v3n1.html). Quoting from the abstract titled "Efficiency of map interpretation whilst fatigued" -

    > The results showed that exercising at or above the anaerobic threshold > does have a statistically significant inhibiting over-all effect on > the ability to perform mental tasks. In detail, a significant decrease > of the high level cognitive skill "descriptive abilities" was shown > under the fatigue condition, whilst low level cognitive abilities were not > affected.

    The study does not appear to have been age-related. Certainly, age was not one of the control factors. The only control factor was "individual anaerobic threshold". Since this declines with age, one can include that "map interpretation efficiency" also declines with age, but _only_ (in concluding from this study) when the anaerobic threshold has been reached. I'm not sure that this particular conclusion from this logic has much value.

    I then looked for studies on general mental performance as related to age. Two problems were encountered. First, mental performance is too broad a question. Mental performance can be broken down several ways (memory, spatial relations, cognitive abilities, creativity, etc.) Secondly, there did not seem to be a good way to relate any quantitative results from these studies to the mental aspect of orienteering.

    I did not see a productive way to relate these studies to the sport of orienteering. I did not feel right (nor did I have the time), in saying the mental aspect of O is x% memory, x% spatial, and x% planning, and attempting to pull something out of the hat.

    =========================== Notes on the first question ===========================

    My goal in answering the first question was to find a peer-reviewed published study that basically asked and answered that question. Mostly what I found was along the lines of: "studies show that physical performance for (elite, serious) runners declines at 5% per decade, past 30, and 10% for everyone else"). I never found the actual studies, but I found so much of this, with these numbers, that I felt fairly confident with it. Moreover, I did not find anything that really said anything else.

    I then attempted to verify this conclusion with any real data I could find. For sake of convenience, I tried to focus on performance data for 10K running races (as opposed to 100m or marathons). I had to start somewhere.

    ===== The first thing I found that looked good were the "WAVA tables". WAVA stands for World Association of Veteran Athletes. Basically, the WAVA tables are a method of "Age Grading" a running race. Each runner's time is multiplied by a factor based on their age. The runner with the lowest adjusted time is the winner. For example, 28 year old male runners have a factor of 1, while 40 year old male runners have a factor of .9679 (in a 10K race).

    I presumed that the folks who came up with this table have crunched alot of numbers from running races, and looked at alot of studies and data, as this table is used in many running races (with large purses), and seems to be the universal standard in running races where age grading is used. I was curious if the factors used would correlate with the 5% rule, or at least answer Clare's question in more detail about at what ages things happen.

    For men, runners aged 20 thru 35 were considered equal (with a factor of 1). Here are the factors for other ages (along with % decline from previous decade, for veterans). (First number is age, second is WAVA factor).

    16: 0.9685 3.2% 18: 0.9858 1.4% 40: 0.9679 3.2% 50: 0.8980 7.2% 60: 0.8236 8.2% 70: 0.7403 10.1% 80: 0.6419 13.3%

    One can see that the _average_ decline per decade is in the 5-6% range (at least thru age 60 or 70), but that the decline is _not_ linear.

    For women, runners aged 20 thru 34 were considered equal, the numbers are -

    16: 0.9711 2.9% 18: 0.9879 1.2% 40: 0.9595 4.1% 50: 0.8792 8.4% 60: 0.7954 9.5% 70: 0.7027 11.7% 80: 0.5949 15.3%

    Remember that this data is for a 10K distance, for athletes who train vigorously. I have the entire WAVA spreadsheet for anyone interested, which contains many other race distances, and many other ages, but I feel the above gives the general idea. The spreadsheet is also available off of the following web site (which also has a useful web-based calculator) -

    http://www.rdg.ac.uk/~snsgrubb/athletics/wavalookup.html

    ===== Next I looked at world records for the 10K and 1 hour run. They seemed to validate the WAVA numbers. I believe the WAVA numbers may be based partly on world record numbers, tho I'm not certain. It at least provided a sanity check for the numbers. Various world record numbers by age/race distance are at - http://www.nationalmastersnews.com/world_outdoor.html

    ===== Finally, I found the following summary of a 22 year Longitudinal Study of Elite Distance Runners.

    http://home.hia.no/~stephens/oldelite.htm

    This study fits with the other information presented in this note.

    ===== Obviously, I focused on serious athletes who train vigorously, as opposed to casual runners or hikers. Not only do I feel this is more appropriate, but, more importantly, this was the only group for which I could find a wealth of data, so I had little choice in the time that was available to me.

    I would love to find WAVA numbers for casual joggers, and see if the 10% rule can be confirmed. The one study cited above does seem to confirm it, in the table under the heading "VO2 max, Heart Rate max etc. Then and Now (22 years later)". A safe rule of thumb, for now, may be to double the presented numbers for runners who do not train seriously.

[10-Mar-02]  White Clay Creek, DE [Red, 6190/230, 51:34, 8.49]

    Clean run. Not much to say. Was on the slow side. Was disappointed with my time. Was happy with route choices after further review. I was even happy with my micro decisions. Was about 4 mins behind Graeme.

    Splits and comments on AttackPoint

[09-Mar-02]  Rutgers, NJ [Red, 8000/210, 62:25, 7.8, 2/?]

    Rutgers is a small forested section in an urban setting, at Rutger's University. You could drive by it and never know it was there. It is fast, bland, and the viz is poor in many places. The three meter contours lazily meander around the northwest section of the map, while the southeast section has slightly more relief, and tons of trails. There is also the infamous maze area, (at right), which is lots of little trails twisting thru non-runnable green.

    All the sorts of things that usually give me trouble, but I had a decent run anyway. Was sloppy, but not big sloppy. Think I could of broke 7 with a perfect run, tho. Would have been close. Winning time was just around 7. I'm told I was second. Its the kind of terrain I need more practice on -- lightning fast woods where constant concentration is a must.

    There was something odd about parts of the woods. The running was super white, but the viz was like medium green. I've only seen that once before, and that was in Scotland on a training map. It is hard to describe how that happens, except from the sorts of bushes and trees with lots of eye level green that you can sort of run thru fast. As a composite, the eye level green blocks out everything. In this case, it looked like some of the vegetation was the remains of an overgrown landscaping farm.

    As for the maze, I'd love to see a huge area of terrain just like that. I wonder if there is such an area anywhere. Its quite interesting, and I imagine good training to try to keep a decent pace thru it.

    Splits and comments on AttackPoint

[06-Mar-02] 

    I had an excellent day field checking. I was having this devil of a time with a ruin that sat up on a spur. The base map showed an odd contour feature on the spur that had the right shape and size of the ruin. I was planning to use this feature as an anchor to move into unmapped territory. Unfortunately, I could not get the feature to agree in position with the rest of the features I had already mapped. One day I spent about an hour trying to figure this out. I determined that there was alot of metal in the structure, and it was throwing my compass off, but once I figured this out, I still could not successfully position it against the rest of the map. I was worried my whole map was wrong.

    I wasn't sure what to do. There is a winding trail next to the ruin that is not on the base map. I was hoping to use the ruin to position the complex bends of the trail. I was frustrated. Since this was a contour feature on the base map, I was not comfortable trying to map the contours, since the ruin seemed to be the only thing in the terrain that matched the contour.

    I decided to start at the other end of the trail in a completely virgin area of the map and work down to the ruin. The trail crossed at a stream junction that was on the base map, and the contours in the area made sense. After three days of meticulous mapping of the trail and surrounding contours, I came to the ruin. I positioned the ruin from the trail and other trail side eatures. Its position agreed with the rest of what I mapped. The only thing it did not agree with was the odd contour feature on the base map.

    I don't know what this means. But it seems to have worked. I guess I'll have to ignore the odd contour feature. I'll get Eric to look at it. I guess I have alot to learn about field checking, but it is certainly enjoyable.

[03-Mar-02]  Patuxent, MD Blue, 10200/225, 82:15, 8.05]

    I think Patuxent is a hard map. At least it doesn't suit my style, as there are lots of bland, green areas, and there are decent doses of mountain laurel and greenbriar. I think its fairly physical, tho not so much as Elk Neck. In many ways it reminds me of Elk Neck. Most of the contour features are drainages, sometimes deep gullies and ravines. There are alot of subtle contour features off of the bigger ones. I really enjoy this map.

    My pre-race goal was 8min/k. I had been orienteering fairly well, and wanted to prove I could do decently on this sort of map. I had a pretty clean run. Two small booms. I was reading the map well, and it helped that the course setter, for the most part, avoided the bland areas. I still thought it was a challenging, physical course, the sort of course I could have had a bad run on. I thught at the time 8min/k was an ambitious goal on this map, but what do I know?

    On the other hand, I felt really slow. I felt like I was going to throw up. I'm not sure what that means. When I finished, I felt I had a great race, and had a chance to win. I have no idea if I did or who showed up. Winning time I'm guessing could be about 7.75m/k. I felt really good about it, though. I think no matter if I had the best time, I feel really good after a race if I had a clean run. This was my cleanest race of the year, even if it wasn't my fastest. I'm happy because I'm orienteering well on more and more different styles of terrain.

    I feel I'm missing something. I cannot put my finger on it. I think it has to do with training. Its that nagging feeling like you get when you think you've forgotten something as you drive to the airport. Perhaps it has to do with goals. My goals are either pretty outlandish or pretty vague. How do you set a specific goal to get to 7min/K? It makes no sense. It seems like the sort of thing that can't be controlled. What if it isn't possible? Should I train for speed or endurance? Do I have a choice? Am I doing the right or wrong kind of training to reach my goals?

    I realise I'm totally self-taught on training and O technique. I just started doing these things. I really never had a clue, but just started doing stuff that seemed to work out, in some sense anyway. I guess that is what the nagging feeling is. I could have flaws in my training or technique that could be costing me time. I'd never know it, when I think I have a decent run.

    To me, a decent run is finding all the controls without getting lost. I have to think beyond being happy to find the orange, and look for smaller and smaller optimizations. I used to be able to analyze my race afterwards and see all sorts of things I did wrong. Now, I'm not so sure. I see some areas for optimization, but I look at my split on #14 and realise I lost some time, but don't know how. I feel I had the best route, ran hard, read the map, and spiked the control. Why was the split 30 seconds slow, compared to the competition?

    I'm thinking way too much about this. I had a decent run. I'll try to think about that. It is cool to know, though, that there will always be new areas of improvement to discover, at least it seems that way.

    Splits and comments on AttackPoint

[02-Mar-02] 

    Race at Patuxent, MD tomorrow. 10K and it looks like rain. Last year, the course was long, physical, and wet as well. I did not have a good run last year.

    This means I will miss some college hoops. I'm not much of a sports fan, except in March. I'm a diehard college hoops fan. My favorite memory of the sport is when our local boys Villanova beat Georgetown in 1985 to win the national championship. The Georgetown team with Pat Ewing was one of the best college basketball teams of all time. Not many people expected them to lose that year. Villanova was only a number 8 seed, and did not have any real standout players. It was a classic case of overachieving. They played a mistake-free tournament, didn't miss many shots (they set a shooing percentage record at the time), and were masters of the patient, no shot clock game. I think an upset is more likely in basketball than in running sports, such as O, at least at the elite level. An equivalent upset in O would be the 32nd ranked runner winning a race in a field of the top 64. It just doesn't seem as likely.

    This year, I think Maryland is the team to beat (sorry Spike :-)). Its to early to tell, of course, but if they win, or lose to Duke in the ACC tourney, I would write them in. If they have a bad ACC tourney, however, I would write them off. Duke will most likely win the ACC tourney, so I would not say it reflects bad on Maryland if they lose to Duke. I don't think Duke is a good enough team to win it all this year, but they are a tough team to bet against.

    I've won alot of "bracket pools" over the years. I think these are the three things to look for when picking teams in the big dance -

    * Look for the senior factor. Look for teams whose heart and sole player(s) are seniors with tourney experience. These teams generally out-perform their seeding. I had Kansas the year Danny Manning was a senior, and I believe they were a #6 seed. This is also a good way to pick the unknown teams who are going to surprise people and make the sweet 16 round.

    * Look for teams with players who make outside shots under pressure. Teams who rely on the inside game too much rack up impressive records during the regular season, but find that that is less of an advantage in the tougher, more physical tourney field. There isn't much defense, however, against ice-veined players who can make outside shots anytime, anywhere. You have to watch alot of hoops to get a sense of who these players are, unfortunately. I had way too much time on my hands in those days.

    * Look for teams who over achieve to win their conference tourney unexpectedly (in major conferences). These are often good picks for surprise final four teams. If Wake or GT, for example, won the ACC, I would pick them as a final four team (I would not pick Virginia for other reasons). This means they are playing well at the right time, playing well in the tourney format, and have what it takes to beat great teams under pressure.

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