O Log - Older Archives

    I'm in a slump.

    I'd been doing fairly well since last fall, but pretty much fell apart in Chicago. Day 1 I spike the first 5 controls, and am cruising along towards #6, and find a swamp the size of Lake Michigan. I'm not sure if I'm the discoverer of this as yet unnamed lake, but I don't believe the field checker had yet had the pleasure of gazing across its shores. Yeah, blame it on the map. 6 minutes down the drain. I guess what it was was this tiny swamp that had ballooned from all the rain. I had already seen one swamp on the map and in the terrain like this, but did not see a second on the map. I didn't do a good job of figuring out what the deal was. I may have panicked. The green turned a small problem into a much larger penalty than normal, as visibility and mobility were compromised. O is like golf in so many ways. In this case, the rough was very heavy.

    In the course of relocating, Sergei comes along. I could have followed, but I didn't. That decision cost 2 of the 6 minutes, but it was still the right thing to do. Pack running with contact is ok (I mean, what are you going to do, slow down or take an inferior route?), but following someone to relocate is cheating. The good news is that once I relocated, I started spiking controls again, and beat Sergei to 18. My core orienteering is fine. My splits were ok. But the big errors are creeping back. Could be overconfidence or being too aggressive.

    On 18, the bag and the feature were hidden in the green. I was 2 meters away and didn't see either. The feature was a ruin, and there was also an unmapped ruin or well or whatever in the circle. This feature should not have been used, IMHO. Also, the connector line on the map covered a rootstock very near the circle. There were two in the terrain, yet only one visible on the map. The circle was in a big, lazy reentrant, so I had to rely on these point features. I don't think there is anything I could have done about it. Lost a minute and Sergei caught up. Not to worry.

    I was actually somewhat pleased with day 1. Aside from these problems, I felt like I knew how to orienteer out there. Of course, you can say that about anything -- eliminate the problems, and its all fine. But its not like that.

    I guess since I've written alot, I don't have to write about day 2. Day 2 was too bizarre to find words for, I think. I have no idea how I did it, but on the way from 2 to 3, I ended up in a large patch of green that had not been field checked. I managed to bend the features I came across into features elsewhere on the map. I didn't have confidence in the map. I didn't have confidence in the mapping of the vegetation. And once I realised I was hopelessly hosed, it took forever to get out of the green. And I ended up far away from anywhere. I've never made a 25 minute error before. And I never will again. It is quite embarrassing, really. And then wet, cold, morale down, and burnt out on the green and route choices that in some cases were a reverse of day 1, it was tough to put in a stellar effort from then on. It just became a training session at that point. I guess keeping the damage to under two hours was a minor victory.

    I guess I should try to write about this more. Figure out what happened. But I have no idea, really. I was careless. I guess I could beat myself up about it, but this seems one case to just forget about it and move on.


    FWIW, I feel like writing about some of the talk on the USOF Clubnet lately. There seems to be alot of talk about promoting O, about who it should be promoted to (basically to athletes as a sport or to recreational "map hikers" as a family outing), and how it should be promoted, should it be changed for "growth", etc.

    First of all, I think any promotion is good. I spent 5 weeks of my life in Scandinavia about 10 years ago, and never even realised it existed. A few years later, wandering around these super white woods in Estonia with real interesting topography up on the Gulf of Finland, I'm thinking -- wouldn't it be cool to do something interesting in these woods? If only I knew at the time ... Of course, if I was fluent in the local languages, I would have been aware of it, but as an American, I knew nothing about it before going over there.

    I didn't learn of O's existence until 1998 from a DVOA flyer in an REI store. Since then, outside of the O community, I have yet to see a single promotional anything on O anywhere. So I'd still be in the dark were it not for that one day I went to REI.

    So just get the word out somehow. I don't know how, but there must be other people like me who would love it if they only knew about it.

    And there is a problem with the name. People scoff at my suggestion that "orienteering" does not accurately describe the sport, but to almost every American I talk to, that word conjures images of pace and azimuth at camp. Vlad apparently gets the same impression when talking to people on airplanes. Not that pace and azimuth isn't a fine activity, but it is not what "orienteering" is, so it seems counterproductive to use a word that conjures the wrong image in many people's minds. Try calling it "map racing" and see if this piece of short language conveys the idea better.

    It is ironic that I went to my first meet expecting to do pace and azimuth, as it turned out. I wasn't too keen on either of those activities I just wanted an excuse to wander thru the woods off-trail. I didn't even realise a detailed topo map was involved. I was lucky that I had a real hankering to just be in the woods, or I would have never done it. I guess the point of all this is that the sport, in both its name and brief descriptions, never seems to convey what it is all about all that well.

    So, if you want to attract people who would be interested in doing O for what it is, name and describe it accurately, to overcome those people's pre-conceived notions.

    Which leads into some other points. Some would change O for the sake of growing it. I guess that is fine, but I see a problem with the logic. There has been talk of "dumbing it down" to attract "racers", or "weekenders" who can't handle the complex navigational problems. More emphasis on running prowess or hiking, and less on the mental, navigational aspect. I guess for my part, being more mentally than physically fit, I would hate to see this, but that is not the point. The logic will be wrong, at least for some people -- I imagine most of the current O community in fact.

    I guess the point is that if you change the sport to something else for the sake of growth, that that is just plain illogical unless you like the thing it is changed to as much as the current sport. Why would you do something less fun just to get more people doing it? Taken to a logical extreme -- change it to trail running, and more people will do it, but unless the O community likes trail running in lieu of O, what would be the point? And if there is another format that is as enjoyable as the current one, then make the change, but don't make changes just for the sake of "growth". Promote O for what it is so people know about it, and any or all who think it is cool are welcome aboard, or tinker with it to make it more fun for its current participants, but don't just change it to something less cool for the sake of "growth". It just doesn't seem logical to me. I guess the point of this clumsily-written section is to somehow counter the notion that "growth is an absolute good".

    I'd love it if more people O'd, but not at the cost of dumbing down what makes O cool.

    Now, on recruiting "athletes" or "map hikers", the question comes up on how should the sport be presented. As a "leisure outing" or a "competitive sport". O is a sport, therefore it should be presented as a sport. Present it for what it is. Basketball is a sport, and elite basketball players are athletes. This doesn't mean basketball cannot be practiced recreationally and casually, but present it for what it is, and give people credit for being able to realise that they can do a competitive sport casually. Most Americans have been exposed to basketball and similar sports, and already know this, or they can even have this point reinforced, but I think people (athletes anyway) may not make the connection as easily the other way.

    For example, unlike basketball, hiking is a recreational pastime, not a sport. Competitive hiking is rare; in fact, the AT community makes a point of eschewing the competitive trappings of sport. Presenting O in the hiking family thus could have the effect of shielding the sport aspect from athletes. Given the "orienteering" name and the way it is often promoted, it doesn't surprise me that some athletes have the wrong idea of what O is.

    I guess I'd just like to see O promoted for what it is, a competitive sport where serious athletes spend tons of time training, yet where anyone is welcome to do it casually, just like basketball.

    One final series of observations in this vein. To the newbie, O often doesn't look like the sport it is. When I showed up for my first meet, I remember telling Sandy I wanted to do about 5 miles (8k) (and I certainly was no athlete). I ended up doing the yellow course, which was about 2.3k. It seemed way too short. Some felt I should do the white, which was even shorter (and perhaps I should have started on white if my goal was to become good at O, but that is beside the point). I didn't feel the yellow was challenging enough. Too short and too easy. Had I not been a map person, and a woods person, perhaps I would have missed the potential. I could see how an "athlete" at their first meet, if presented with choices that are too easy, would miss out.

    It seems perhaps the problem is that both the mental and physical growth are coupled, but I don't think it has to be that way. It seems to make more sense to present a 10k white course (pink) to "athlete" beginners. Sometimes adventure racers show up and start on blue because they can handle it physically, but more often than not, they DNF. Give them a pink, or even a 10k orange, and let them move up mentally to the 10k blue. Yes, this has been said before, but from my experience, I can see how it makes sense, and I can see how "athletes" presented with the extremes of the 2k white and 10k blue can miss out as beginners and either end up frustrated or unchallenged physically.

    So, I think for beginners events, it makes sense to offer white, yellow, orange, and pink. Orange? Because again, for some people, it makes sense to start on orange. I could have started on orange. I'm aware of one team member who started on orange. It is not an outlandish idea. It also allows "athletes" who handled yellow a place to go that day, before going home. Presenting an orange at a beginners event can perhaps give a better taste of what it is about. If they want to go back to white and yellow to train, that is fine. I train on yellow myself. But "athletes" who are serious about O will figure this out, if they want to get good, and they think it will help them get good. No need to protect them from themselves by not offering the option of orange.

    One final note. Copying the map on the clock or imprecise timing. I realise why these things are done. However, to an "athlete" these things do not give the impression of serious sport. If the goal is to recruit athletes, don't copy on the clock, and use precise timing. It looks less bush league and more like a sport. I was at one meet where not only did I have to copy the map from the master on the clock, but there was a queue to do so, that had to be waited in ON THE CLOCK! I was first, so it didn't affect me except that people in the queue behind me were on the clock, so I felt pressure to copy fast. No offense, but it did not give the impression of serious competitive sport.

    Oh well, off to Chicago. Perhaps I'll here the Mekons on the radio while I'm out there. The Mekons are one of my favorite bands. One music critic said 'the Mekons aren't the best obscure band in the world, they are the best band in the world'. I don't know if that is true, but I do know they are obscure (tho they are better known in the midwest/Chicago area, despite being British), so I thought I'd pass along the recommendation since I was listening to them as I wrote this.

[22-Apr-02]  Billygoat Blue Mountain, NY

    I've been too busy to write much of anything lately.

    I had a good Billygoat. Same place (10th), same time/k as last year, though the field was much stronger, and the map, I think, much harder. I was about 9 minutes behind the winner, Kenny Walker Jr, and less than a minute behind a handful of places. I've never been that close in one of these races, tho the course was on the short side, and further shortened by some trail runs at the end.

    There is no denying that pack running helps, tho I was on the map and thinking for myself most of the race. It still helps, tho; no doubt I would have had some blunders had the pack not been there. I was followed again for a good part of the race, and I didn't even realise it. I'd like to think that it was because of my improved concentration, tho it was probably just because I didn't realise it.

    On the positive side of the concentration front, I had a good memory of how I did the legs, tho a poorer memory of who else was around. These races are such good training, you can learn why people better than you are better, and you learn how to concentrate with others around. You can also learn what some of your strengths are. If you can't get to Scandinavia, I think it makes sense to get in as many of these goat races with strong fields as you can.

    I've written in some detail about my race on AttackPoint. I believe a map is available on-line; its fun to read all the comments from all the runners and follow along.

    Splits and comments on AttackPoint


    I had one of my best races ever on day 1 of the Pig. Spiked all the controls but one, which was a 10 second boom. It was billed as a sprint, but it was a little over 4k and 300m climb on red. I wasn't doing much sprinting, not that I really have much sprint in me anyway. I lost some time on route choice, but not much. I'm not a short race guy, so I was pretty happy with my pace as compared to others on red or blue. If I had run blue at the same pace, it would have been a very nice race, and there was less percentage climb on blue.

    Days 2 and 3 I ran blue, and it was extremely physical. 6% climb, and torrential rain made everything slick, and the gullies, which were flooded in some cases, pretty tricky. It was nearly impossible to get up the steep contours.

    I ran off the map on day 2. I fell down a six contour hill and hurt my knee. I was ok, but shaken up. A little dazed. The loss in concentration caused me to run off the map into a parallel situation. 7 minutes it cost. Freak mistake but the key is to retain concentration, even when you slide down a hill in extreme circumstances. Another 4 minutes lost when I was worn down, and decided to let another orienteer drive. I'm much more upset about this than the 7 minute mistake. There is no excuse for it. I ran a 97; an 86 would have looked good, and was under my control to obtain.

    An interesting thing about this race. I ran the first 4 controls by myself. Then I picked up 2 other runners at 4, and was with them for a while. My relative splits were better when I was by myself than with the pack. Usually, being with the pack speeds you up, but in this case I think I failed to push to outrun them, like I should have, and let them set the pace. I think the physical conditions made it easier for me to allow them to set the pace, even though I didn't think about it at the time.

    Day 3 was a farsta. I like farstas, tho this park doesn't seem the best place for them. It was fun, but farstas seem more fun in faster conditions. I'm not sure why. I had a clean, tho slow race. I took it somewhat easy, tho it was hard to do otherwise after 2 days of racing and being so extreme physically. I proved I could learn, tho. Same thing happened. Fell down a big hill, but didn't let myself lose focus. Also managed to break out of some packs, rather than being lulled into the pack pace.


    Off to chase some pigs on the wing in Ohio. The forecast calls for rain all weekend. The Sat course is shortish with lots of climb; I think it will run longer than the advertised length due to the extreme topography.

    I've never orienteered in Ohio. I've orienteered once in Indiana, and remember second growth with lots of saplings and slowish running. I'm expecting more of the same, but we'll see.

    When I started O'ing, I set a handful of outlandish goals. One of them was to O in all 50 states. I think I've hit 21 or 22 so far. So OH will be a new one. The rules were it had to be a legitimate advanced course at a meet, on a legitimate O map.

    I've been wondering about some states lately. What about Mississippi or Hawaii? I wonder if any O maps have ever been made there. What about Nebraska or South Dakota? I haven't been around that long; I wonder if there were ever any clubs or meets in some of these states. Some other out of the way states look promising someday; Maine has a new club, and I heard a rumor that someone in QOC was making a map in West Virginia. I came up with this goal because I wanted to experience terrain in all parts of the country. I once heard of a rogaine on Drummond Island in Michigan. Now that would be really cool, tho I heard it was a black and white map. What would be cool is a rogaine on the Apostle Islands of Wisconsin. An event combining foot and kayak navigation. Safety concerns would likely trump the idea, but if I ever win the lottery, it is something I would pursue organizing.

    I guess I'm a map snob. Give me offset printing and a high quality map case. There is a thread on the O net about this now. Some people liked the West Point map, but I didn't. It was not offset print. And there was no case. I found both of these factors to be annoyances, personally. I did not see the marshes J-J mentions either, tho I did see the stream pretty plainly. Perhaps there is a variance in quality issue. Anyway, I figure I'm gonna spend $300 or so to go to the Flying Pig, and that is with sharing expenses (and not to mention the cost of all my O gear) -- I'd gladly fork over another $20 to assure that the map package is as high a quality as it can be. After all, the sport is first and foremost about the maps, please don't skimp on them (and yeah, don't hide the bags either ...).

[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 tenative with navigation.

    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


    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.


    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.