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.
[22-Apr-02] Billygoat Blue Mountain, NY
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
[07-Apr-02] West Point 2 Day A meet, NY
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
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
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
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.
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
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.