O Log - Older Archives
[26-Aug-01]  Warwick, PA [Red, 6300/125, 61:25, 9.75/8.14, 2/16]

    Sometimes you make a mistake so stupid you just want to forget it, not write about it. I managed to orienteer to the same control twice. I was having a fast, clean run as the end of the course led into the series of controls on the bland hillside, all the legs going basically the same direction. As I left 12, I headed for 14. Ok, like a 180, that has happened to people before. As the hillside was bland, and I was ignoring detail, I didn't notice anything amiss except for the absense of a big boulder I expected to see along the way. That's happened before too, no big deal.

    So I end up at a flag, and the code is wrong, for 14 (as I prememorize the codes of flags I'm heading for). I look at my punchcard and realise I have not punched 13. I look at my map, and realised I skipped 13 in my plan. I look at my punchcard again and see the code of the flag I'm at matches 13, so I punch 13. The part of my brain that thinks I skipped 13 wins out over the part of my brain that knows I'm at 13, so I run back looking for 13, from 13. Of course I get confused, relocate, and navigate to 13. Only then to I put it altogether.

    I took splits even, the whole fiasco cost me 7 minutes and first place. Otherwise a clean run with a couple of 5 second hesitations. I showed noticable improvment at my loitering at the controls problem.

[25-Aug-01]  Hillbilly Goat III, Dryden, NY [Gruff, 16080/605, 151:02, 9.39/6.82, 2/?]

    I had trouble finding a place to stay due to a motocross race in the area and ended up at a fleabag motel. My room backed up to a bar, where a southern rock cover band was playing. I got about two hours sleep.

    I had a decent, though slowish race on the second loop. I don't think I would have had first place even with a clean, fast race. The woods were as predicted, thick and bland, not my speciality, but there were decent vegatation boundries to work with. The race was more physical than mental, though I made a couple of mental mistakes. I love goat-O, though I'm still not sure about following. It seems like the best strategy, but I just don't like following as a general rule. I got burned following in this race as the pack boomed the first control. I failed to stay with the lead pack due to a queue up to punch at the second control.

    The bike option was interesting. The second loop was about 9k, with an option of foot O or mountain bike O. I've never ridden a mountain bike so I ran it. Charlie Leonard had the best time on the loop, on bike; fortunately I built up enough cushion on the first loop. Some riders had real problems though. It was really a case of you had to take the mode that best suited you, even if the other mode, in an absolute sense, was "faster".

    My splits and comments are on AttackPoint


    I'm starting to get juiced for the Hillybilly Goat this weekend. This was the first goat race I ever did, two years ago. It took me 5 hours and 18 minutes back then. Goat races are fun because they are socialising with O people, talking about O, with a long O race thrown in.

    This one promises to be tough. The map is green, and it is August. The bugs may be out. It doesn't look like it will be overly hot, though. Thick vegetation gives me problems, as it compromises my vision and ability to read contours, as well as "quick hunt" relocation.

    This one will be 14-16K. That is a good length for me, I think. I'm hoping to be up near the front of the pack, if the vegatation doesn't get to me. I dislike following in Goat races, though I may be tempted to. Its the one thing I always decide at the last minute. I'll have to remember to take special care with the compass if the map is as green as I remember it to be. A good race will put me in the two hour neighborhood if it isn't too hot or too green.

[19-Aug-01]  Mount Joy, Valley Forge, PA [Red, 7390/155, 50:55, 6.89/5.70, 2/17]

    As usual on this map, this was a race I felt I had a pretty good shot at. I have an unfair advantage in the fact that have been coming to this park regularly for 30 years and know every inch of it inside and out. I was there the very day President Carter declared it a National Park. I expected a clean, fast run in the open terrain, and was hoping to improve on March's race where I made a 1 to 2 minute mistake which may have cost me the race. The map reminds me of Laramie, though the grass is taller and the air thicker, and there is little rock. It is definitely a runner's map, and I hoped my unfair advantage would compensate for the disadvantage I face on pure runner's maps.

    I had a clean run except for a 5 second bobble on #13 and another 10 seconds lost when I had to avoid spooking some horses. I didn't see any chance for route choice improvement except for perhaps on the first control, and then, not much. Mark Voit had an excellent run and smoked me by about 6 minutes.

    I was concerned about my speed after the race. No improvement from March, despite cleaner orienteering. Last time I was up against Mark on this map he got me by about 2 minutes. The only external factors I could think of vs March was the heat, and the fact that the grass was taller (waist high in some places), and the race was about a K longer. I'm not sure if these factors affected the other runners much. On the other hand, I've been training harder since March. I have no idea what factors affect the variability of running speed. Perhaps I should find out.

    1: High along veg bndy to the north, cut in at reasonable distance from the veg knob. The trail thru the woods looks like a better choice, as it avoids 2 contours of climb and has a slightly better attack point (just before the second bend). I avoided this as it puts you in the woods for slightly longer, and I know that those woods are trashy with pine deadfall.

    2: Trail to parking lot.

    3: Cut to open land as fast as possible and head towards swamp, which you could see for miles.

    4: North of woods rather than the more direct route which requires a cut thru medium green, then southwest along copse until cutting into woods to bag.

    5: Bail to road off parking lot.

    6: Road. Cut in just at right place past end.

    7: Straight knowing the parking lot would be my attack point.

    8: Straight to upper road then cut into super white woods at right time to maintain contours.

    9: Trail run to indistinct trail avoid green and aim off high in reentrant, but hit bag. I agree with Nadim that the bag seemed high.

    10: Take water at 9 which I so rarely do, angle in off trail/road junction at proper angle. I realise I am sort of zenning my way thru the course, not really using the compass at all, thinking with a short-o mentality that every second will count, and using a compass slows me down.

    11: Straight, the grass seemed very think to this easy control -- try to find elephant paths.

    12: I was losing it a bit on this leg. I rested at the control, and rested a bit on the leg. Not good. I forgot my watch, and wished I had splits.

    13: Again feeling tired on the uphill leg. I feel perhaps I pushed it too much in the beginning of the race. Missed ctrl by 5 sec or so to the right; saw Ron Bortz heading for 14.

    14: Straight, excellent vis, know Ron will find it anyway.

    15: Road. Ron is walking some and I still haven't caught him. Need to investigate goo or something.

    16: Know this block of woods very well. Finally get some energy again and put on the jets and run there. Have to play a game of find the best path thru the grass.

    17: Toughest grass yet. Finish strong.

    Then I did a training jog on orange to practice not loitering at the controls, a terrible weakness of mine. I forced myself to punch n go no matter what, and was fine with it. I was not using a compass, though, as one is not needed at this park. Must repeat training on harder map, such as French Creek, where compass is needed.

[Aug-01]  Scottish 6 Days, Lochaber/Highlands Scotland, Fort William area

    Lisa and I love Scotland. This is our third trip, though my first for O. I had orienteered in Wales last year and expected similar terrain -- open moorland and contour marshes, which, until you can get used to them, are quite dissonate.

    I entered M35L with a goal of running better than 75 minutes each day, and running much better than in Wales. That was a year ago and I hoped my technique and fitness had both improved. Since the terrain was so different than anything in the States, Wales was the only thing to compare to. The moorland is difficult to run in due to potholes, grass, cow patties, and general wetness, and those contour marshes are difficult for me to read -- you have to either look for a slight change in the grass, or wetness underfoot, and that is difficult if it has been raining, which it often does in the Highlands. There is no vegatation or linear features to work with, so it is all subtle contour reading -- imagine French Creek with only brown and rock features mapped. Moreover, the bags are hung low -- you cannot see them until you are at the feature despite the treeless terrain -- unlike the way bags are generally hung at meets in the States.

    Though I had a blast, I was somewhat disappointed with my results. The scoring system was such that you could throw away your 2 worst days, and I ended up 31st out of 63 overall in M35L. After the first 4 days, before any mulligans were tossed, I was 20th or so. I ran only one day of 75 minutes; all other days were 80 to 89 minutes, with one turkey of 109 minutes, on by far the hardest map of the competetion. I did orienteer better than in Wales, though not substantially better, comparing best days to best days. Comparing worse days to worse days though, my consistency has improved dramatically.

[11-Aug-01]  Scotland Day 6 - Fersig [M35L, 9400/475, 82:35, 8.79/5.84, 39/70]

    Map available on-line here

    I was needing a good run after yesterday's disaster at Arisiag, especially with the long flight coming tomorrow. The course was the longest, with the most climb, by far, of any of the six days. I was looking forward to a physical, longer, less technical course today after yesterday's non-stop intricate fare, where I could seldom run full speed.

    The course was "at my level", and challenging and fun. I was strong and sharp, and only made about 4 minutes of mistakes -- 1 minute of navigation bobbles, and perhaps 3 minutes of route choice. When I finished, I was happy to have done such a course in a little over 80 minutes, and felt it was one of my better runs ever, especially for Europe. I really needed to be a little sharper and faster though, as I finished just in the bottom half of the field. 4 minutes cost many, many places.

    One thing that was really cool about the setup was the trail near the start, were we could warm up, had an excellent view of the hill across the glen, where orienteers could be seen crawling all over it. It was really cool to watch them and try to anticipate the route choice problems the course setter had set using that hill.

    1: I blew the first control, coming into the first reentrant. Recovered quickly losing about 30 sec.

    2: Easy navigation using the white copses and the pond. I realised what some of my problems were with the open moorland -- no vegatation at all to work with, and that makes it harder. I need more practice on pure subtle contour navigation.

    3: Powerline to marsh to trail. I felt that with this sort of course setting, that I was going to have a good one. So was the rest of the presumably faster field, and so it was.

    4: As usual when I get cocky, I pay. Bad route choice on this one. Rather than take the obvious route to the water stop, I saw hill to avoid and the powerline as a continued handrail, so I cut around to the north of the hill where the line was, then into the village. This was my first time of "village O", and it was pretty cool. On the other side of the village I cut around the swamp to the hill, and navigated nicely on the hill where the flag was.

    5: This was the sort of leg that can get me, but I was sharp in reading the open moorland this time.

    7: For some reason, this leg gave me trouble, though it was very similar to 5. I couldn't read it well -- I had trouble relating. There was no feature that stood out that I was sure of that I could use for perspective. I don't know why this was harder than 5. I tried relating the knobby hill southeast of the ctrl but wasn't sure of myself. I relied on the marshes, which I hate doing, and hit the stream high at the bend, and did identify the knobby thing. Clean, but slow and shaky. Split analysis showed about a minute penalty for taking it slow.

    8: The hard part was over. Time to turn on the jets and make this a clean run. 8 was easy, up and over the hill and then down and in.

    9: Cocky again. Bobbled it, which often happens after a trail run, when I am really pushing it. Couple of elite runners came thru and I was just amazed at how they blow thru the control with no hesitation.

    10: Trail runs to the white reentrant. Missed a little right but no real time loss.

    11: I wasted alot of time thinking about this one. I should have been doing this thinking on the trail runs, but I am not that good yet. These kind of legs often kill me. Down and around looked like a trap (though the trail would be much faster than the rough open for running) so I decided to go a little right of the line and cut the steep part at the same contour level as the flag. Hit the rock just at the steep part and knew I was in good shape. Then found some elephant tracks that were much faster running -- going around just as I wanted to, but I followed them too far and they did not cut towards the flag; instead they eventually went downhill. Cost me two contours for overstaying my welcome. No elephant tracks to my flag.

    12: A little hesitant as I had to make sure I had the right spur. Braken control would be tough. Control was buried in the braken -- later runners will have an advantage.

    16: Another bad habit rears its head -- turning my brain off on the GO control. I usually look for a linear feature out of the control and go for it. This time got trapped down at the uncrossable fence and had to slowly climb out of the basin. Many people cheated and climbed the fence, but the course notes specifically said crossing uncrossable fences was grounds for DSQ. Wonder how many places this cost me ... was disappointed to see cheating, and another runner yelled at the cheaters.

[10-Aug-01]  Scotland Day 5 - Arisaig [M35L, 8630/285, 109:35, 12.7/9.55, 50/78]

    Map available on-line here

    Arisaig is on the west coast, about 15 minutes from the ferry for the Isle of Skye. Lisa decided to come with me and we would catch the ferry, and spend the afternoon there. I needed a run of 90 minutes or less to have time to catch the ferry. Seemed like a plan, as I was running in the 80 minute range.

    There was a hard, driving rain as we drove out there. I like orienteering in the rain in the woods, but being up on an exposed moor in the stuff was not appealing. And it was cold, and I hate the cold. But miraculously it cleared, nothing but blue sky as we drove up to the assembly area.

    The walk to the start was long and up a hill, but the views across to the Isle of Skye and other islands were absolutely breathtaking. This was the most beautiful orienteering venue I had ever been too.

    As we were warming up, another nasty-looking storm could be seen coming across the water. Everyone was hoping to at least get started before it hit. I had 30 minutes to wait for my start time, but I got started just before it hit -- it hit me on the way to the second control, and lasted only 15 minutes.

    This was possibly the hardest map I have ever been on, with the possible exception of Surebridge Mountain -- it is certainly the hardest one I've been on since I felt I had an idea of what was going on in this sport. 2 blowouts and a handful of other shaky controls, coming in at 109 minutes. So much for improving my place. On the bright side, my orienteering on controls 8 and 9 was probably the best orienteering I've ever done. Somehow I felt I learned alot on the day, and I enjoyed the beautiful setting and excellent map. Looking back, I think its more a case that my orienteering skills haven't come far enough rather than 'I blew it'.

    And the map looks easy. All that open land -- just look for a feature and run there. Some open maps are like that, but this one was not -- for me anyway, on this day.

    1: I was fast and sharp and had the advantage of the confidence that comes from seeing how the runners ahead of me headed for the control out of the triangle. Spiked it and was feeling good.

    2: Stayed high and on top -- as I counted the big spurs. As I crested the third on the other side of the fence, I experienced something I never have before orienteering -- one look at the terrain and I was a deer in the headlights. Simply a vast ocean of endless moorland, with nothing standing out for perspective. Rock everywhere, much of it not mapped (as noted in the course setters notes), and just ripples and bubbles of little knolls of moorland. Grass everywhere, I could not distinguish the marshes. Almost every knoll of any size had an orienteer standing on it, just looking around. I think that spooked me more than anything else.

    I did not have a good plan to get to the control. Since I don't pace count I rely on map reading and features to lend perspective. I decided to look for the stream that came halfway up, then the contour marsh that fronted the knoll complex where the control was. I found neither, and then found how difficult it is to relocate in this stuff. All told 13 minutes wandering around the moors, joining the crowd in finding a hilltop to stand on. 27 minutes total on the leg. Another runner spent 65 minutes -- now that is persistence. I wish I could say I learned something -- I guess concentrate and go slower. The boulder to the west seems the obvious attack point, but I did not see that at the time. Get a plan.

    3-4: Solid orienteering here -- reading the map better.

    5-7: Shakier orienteering on these, but no disasters. As soon as I tried for any speed, keeping contact was near impossible, and there was no chance I was going to risk losing contact again.

    8: Oh my -- deer in the headlights feeling again. I had no idea what to do. I decided to just take it slow, one feature at a time, using the stream as a handrail for the beginning of the leg. Keep contact even if you have to walk. As I gained confidence, I went faster and faster until I found I actually could keep contact with this stuff at competetion speed. It was a sweet feeling. Cruised in and spiked the control while several runners were treasure hunting in the circle. Had 18th best split on this one, and felt it was one of my better orienteering legs. Caught up with a runner who blew by me from 6 to 7.

    9: Out orienteered all the runners to this one. Had the 8th best split and was reading the detail of the map very well. Perhaps my best orienteering ever on these two legs, all things considered.

    10: After leading to the last two controls, I feel an urgent need to stay ahead of the field, and of course I'm thinking of this, instead of the map. Its a hard control, and I blow it. I do learn, thru all this, that I can orienteer at speed in tough terrain if I concentrate, and cannot if I don't. I still need more work in tough, unforgiving terrain, with tough course setting, though. I realise that American terrain and orienteering seems much more forgiving -- you can afford to be sloppy because a strong feature will often bail you out if you miss. The trick is to know the difference and adjust your orienteering.

    11: Worn out an demoralised, I fail to see that you should stay high, and I get low and take a long time slogging to the control, banging my knee along the way.

    12-16: I orienteer fine to 12, but am sloppy in the circle of each of the remaining controls. That happens to me after a tough early race, especially when I am hurt and tired. We barely make the ferry to Skye. The field had tremendous difficulty on this course as well. It was hard, but I feel I learned alot about this sport today. I'm not sure what yet, except that I love it ...

[9-Aug-01]  Scotland Day 4 - Strathmashie [M35L, 8750/270, 85:38, 9.79/7.48, 48/72]

    Due to the foot and mouth fears, this was the second day on this map as they could not get permission for the area they had originally planned to use. I expected a good run, as I already had a good run on this map, and the mixed woodland was more what I was used to in the States.

    It was raining and cold. I do not like the cold. I did have a decent run, though slower than I would have liked. I bobbled a couple of controls and had one bigger error that cost a boatload of places. I cut my hand really bad when I took a fall and that slowed me down. One 700m leg (pointlessly) climbed 19 contours, only to come down the hill over the next two legs, and I think that took alot out of me. One thing I found odd was that they reused controls from day 2's courses a few times -- they just came at them from different angles.

    The biggish error I made, on the second control, was really odd. It was a case of not reading the control description, but usually that isn't necessary for me, except in a real technical area, and this was not. It was a case of which boulder -- there were two in the circle. I mistakenly navigate to the wrong one (the far one, and usually its the far one), but don't see the other one when there was no flag at the one I navigate to. There is a nearby clear area to use for relocation, but that is where they are staging the start people for another course, so I cannot use that.

    I wonder what is going on. Turns out the other boulder is a contour up, even though it looks "next" to the one I'm at, and that is why I miss it. I look at the control desc and figure out what is going on, and feel like an idiot. No concentration. Second control syndrome. I've had such a problem with the first control, that I concentrate and don't have first control problems anymore -- I have second control problems. Concentrate!

    Will add map from day three in the next few days ...