O Log - Older Archives
[27-Aug-02] 

    Spike sent me a picture of me racing in Idaho. I lost a couple of seconds slowing down for this shot; I hope I don't regret it when the rankings come out ...

    I still have tons of stuff to write about from my trip out west, but I feel like writing about something that's been nagging at me lately. There seems to be some tension (and I'm certain tension isn't the right word), but maybe dissonance or something, in USOF between "recreational" and "competitive" orienteering. This seems to come up on many O-related lists I'm on, anyway.

    Here is a recent quote I saw relating to a discussion on promoting O as a competitive sport:

    The beauty of this sport is that it is what one wants to make out of it, ranging from serious competition to a fun hike in the woods. I fear that footage of a couple of A-meets and O-Ringen will turn off some potential recreational orienteers.

    I guess I feel the opposite is true. When I was a kid, the World Series and the All Star game drummed up my interest and excitement in baseball, even tho I realised I'd never appear in either of them. So I played "recreational" baseball (pretty poorly), yet kept an interest in "elite" baseball more so than other recreational baseball going on around me. I guess to me, it just seems natural to take an interest in what the elites are doing in my hobby, sport, pastime, whatever. It seems natural that since there is a really strong elite baseball program in this country, that there is a huge base of people that play recreational forms of baseball.

    As for O, I don't know if I'll ever make it to a WC race or the O-Ringen, but even when I was totally horrible I took an interest in what the elites were doing. I'm not sure how this could be a turnoff. That is where the excitement is. I wanted to know all this stuff, and actually thought it was lame that it was so hard to get information on what was going on competitively. (Of course, the 'net has grown in the last 4 years, which has helped).

    It seems a goal of USOF, its promotion, etc, is to have the strongest national teams possible.

    So, do you try to recruit/focus on athletes, and raise US results at WOC and JWOC, and hope that any publicity or excitement from that draws in a larger recreational base, or do you try to recruit a large recreational base, and hope that some portion of that grows into athletes that can raise the WOC and JWOC results?

    To be fair, the author of the example quote above is suggesting doing both in the promotional material being discussed. But I guess I feel USOF doesn't have the resources (volunteer time, money, whatever), to do an excellent job at both. If it does, fine. If not, it seems to me the choice would be to concentrate on the "top down" model. I guess that just seems natural to me. Portray and develop it as an elite racing sport. Show footage of US athletes in WOC, WC and JWOC races. I'll bet some O'ers, and elite athletes that could be prospective O'ers, don't even know this stuff exists. I didn't know about it for a long time.

    I guess this is one time I'm glad to not be an elite, because I can write this, and not be accused of elitism. I'm not sure who reads this, and I'm not trying to ruffle any feathers, I just felt like writing my opinion, right or wrong, for whatever its worth. I guess to sum it up, I have nothing against recreational orienteers, and I'll chat with anyone, no matter how competitive they are, but I just feel this void or lack of emphasis on elite orienteering, somehow.

    I don't think it would turn too many people off. Just the opposite.

[25-Aug-02] 

    Mt. Penn today. About 12min/k, which surprisingly wasn't that bad a time looking at the results, tho I felt I should have been a little faster in the last 25% of the course. Thick, rocky, and hilly. Some legs where I spiked the control averaged out to about 20min/k. I only had a couple of booms, and they were small. I'm still not really up to running hard on rock. Who is, I wonder? I guess some people are, but it still scares me. I found I was well under capacity most of the race, which is a frustrating feeling. Slowly stumbling thru jungle-like vegetation when you know you can easily run twice or three times as fast. The question is, was I slow in the veg because of the veg, or because I was tentative with the poor viz? I dunno. I guess like anything else, tho, improving your speed thru thick vegetation is a skill that can be trained. But there are too many other things to work on. A positive of this race is that I orienteered well in the conditions of poor visibility.

    I did something in this race I've never done before, and that is rehang a mishung control. On the second control, navigated right to the feature, in a fairly complicated boulder field, and no bag. A couple other people treasure hunting as well. Found the bag after 4 minutes, and knew it was mishung. So I rehung it and started over. I was pretty nervous about it, but people who got there afterwards told me I hung it in the right place.

[20-Aug-02] 

    I'm not sure what to think about my races in Idaho. On the one hand, I exceeded my expectations, on the other hand, I didn't live up to my potential. They told us both the contours and the vegetation could be unreliable. I don't deal with map problems well, nor do I deal with pine well, particularly lodgepole, which tends to have poor visibility and difficult deadfall. So I had low expectations of how well I would do. My strategy was to be safe, ignore the veg except as a general indication of relative runability, and to ignore contour features in the terrain that didn't make sense, yet assume everything on the map would make sense in the terrain.

    On day 1, I boomed one control (#12). 5 minutes. The good news is that on almost all of my booms lately, I've identified the control as high risk (my mental term is "runbreaker"). But I still boomed it. In this case, it was buried in various types of green with a couple of weak contour features in the area. I wasn't sure what I could trust, but normally one would have to mapread some of it to get there. I knew the viz would be poor. I considered 3 alternate route choices. The safer ones, over the top of the hill to the right, and round the trail to the left, both increased the climb by a few contours. I decided to go in on a line instead, and bail quickly to the hilltop if I got in trouble. A bit of a dicey plan, but at least it was a plan. But the veg made it impossible to hold the line. And I found an unmapped contour feature (that in retrospect) I mistook for a mapped one. That cost 2 minutes because I used it rather than bail to the hill. When I bailed to the hill, I still boomed, so the over the hill wasn't as safe as it looked. I eventually found a mapped contour feature and the flag. And the feature was more like 2 feet high, not 2 meters. I think this is a case where I would want to tag along with a good orienteer and see what they do.

    According to the splits, I also lost 3 minutes on #3. I spiked this control, but had a devil of a time getting thru the woods. I hit this unmapped patch of thick, impenetrable bushes, and found the running in the "white" woods, and even the meadows, quite slow. I even remember walking some of it. The veg pushed me off my planned route and I had to improvise. Not sure what the answer is on this one. Perhaps training in bland lodgepole marshes.

    I felt slow and weak on day 1. On day 2, I felt faster and stronger. I even orienteered better. Yet my relative and statistical results were worse. I apparently have no clue about how I'm doing out there, at least from a physical point of view.

    I took alot of trail running route choices on day 2. I usually don't do this, but they seemed so obvious. I think my lack of pure running speed hurts somewhat on these sorts of courses, even tho I felt stronger running today. Looking it over, I still would have done all the trail running.

    I boomed #7. I took a safe route choice (out to the road) and still boomed it. So much for safe route choices. I attacked from what looked like a solid attack point about 100m away. Boomed by alot. I don't know how. I thought it was only a minute, but the splits show 2 or 3 minutes. Perhaps some of the time lost is the cost of the safe route choice. I guess if you're going to take a safe route choice, then don't boom the control ...

    I think I'm mildly happy about Idaho, in retrospect. Clean orienteering would have meant a medal, but I think clean orienteering would have been tough, under the circumstances. I think I had a decent game plan. Damage control on #12 is the big regret. At least I had a damage control plan in place.

    I certainly don't understand the physical aspects of running. On day 1, I was weak and sick feeling, yet had a faster core rate than on day 2, when I felt strong. And the course was faster on day 2. I think I don't recover well, or perhaps I pushed harder on day 1, and it was an illusion of feeling weaker. Perhaps it was the heat. It was warmer on day 1. I don't think it was the climbs, as they seemed much less of a factor than advertised.

    I'm a little worried about my physical shape. I timed my training run today and was 7% slower than in March, the last time I timed myself. What could that mean? Is it the heat and humidity? Can heat and humidity cause that much of a decline? Could it be the month I missed because of my injury, then all the racing out west? Could it be that my injured leg remains weaker? 7% seems like alot.

    I poked around the net to find some science on how heat affects performance. I think intuitively we feel heat slows us down, but not that much. But I couldn't find any science on the subject. I dunno.

[15-Aug-02] 

    So many things on AttackPoint to write about, but I'm hardly qualified, except to say that the more I've trained, the better I've gotten, so I think I'll try to train more until that don't work, then worry about it. Keep it simple, I guess, is my philosophy, tho with my injury, then the 100 degree heat, its been tough to train at all, much less move up ...

    I think I'll write about APOC 2002. I guess to sum it up, I was somewhat disappointed with APOC, despite winning that championship in the relay and having the best race of my career in the APOC classic.

    What I didn't like about APOC was the maps. It was the classic case of the organizers going to all sorts of pains to put on a first class event, with all the activities, nice programs, tons of volunteers, housing, bussing, etc., but I think they skimped on the maps. Which is a shame because I spent a mountain of money to be there, and could have done without all of it, if the maps would have been as good as they could have been.

    They were not offset print, and I could tell. Why not? They just weren't as good. Yeah, I'm picky, I guess. But for all the money it cost for a first class international event, they should have been offset print. And they skimped by not using map bags. They printed on the Teslin paper, which I don't know much about, except the fact the toner comes off when you fold it hard. What they used wasn't as bad as what they used as West Point, but it wasn't as good as using the map bags. The only time I've ever been satisfied with that waterproof paper where you don't need bags is in Lithuania (WMOC '01). I don't know what that was, but it was what they should have used (or the printing technology on it) if they were going that route.

    Then there was the field checking. Contours were too generalized for my taste. Tons of contour features not on the map. I think these problems occurred in the pine, where they may not have been visible when the base was made. Worse was the vegetation, particularly in the swamps. Swamps mapped as white had thick, head high willow bushes that were almost impassable. Swamps mapped as med green had pines with no underbrush nor low branches that were some of the most runnable forest on the map. Again speculation that is from the way the photos looked when they made the base, and it was never corrected. Eddie and I joked about this all week.

    But who am I to criticize? I orienteered pretty poorly. I don't know what there is to gain by writing about it, except to note that I have no idea why I did so poorly. I think alot of it was that the nature of the terrain led to high penalties for booms. Especially for someone like me who doesn't pace count, is not a very good relocator, and was having problems with the contour generalization and poor mobility of the forest in general. And I blow thru the model events at 7min/k, the actual terrain and map looks nothing like the model, and I don't adjust. Big errors early and I try to make it up. Its a known problem. I'll figure it out someday. I do know I orienteer better when I'm right in my pre-race planning. But I did work on this as the week went on and came up with some rules. I also figured out that I always boomed to the left, just like in Whitehorse. Compass wasn't settling, and always did this 20 degree adjustment after a second or two, always in the same direction.

    So I'll write about what I did right. 6.9 min/k in 96 degree heat in the APOC classic. No booms, about 10 seconds in hesitations. I've never broken 7 at an A meet, much less a WRE/championship. As close to perfect as I've ever been. And it was long, about 13.5 k. But not alot of climb. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there is anything to be learned from this, either. The organizers went out of their way to stress how hard the terrain was navigationally, and how high the boom penalty would be. So I decided not to boom, and I didn't. I turned the map over, and it looked really hard. But it ended up being really easy. That was the general consensus. And I never really got in my "A" gear. I ran slow because I was timid, and afraid of the heat and the length. But it was easy in an absolute sense, not because I went slow. The penalty for losing contact did look high, but it was easy to keep contact. Had the terrain been truly hard, and I had a perfect run at under 7, I would have placed much higher. I should have ran harder because I think I could have. But I still got more WRE points at this race than any before it, so I think it was still a good race. I felt good about it anyway, and the goal is to have fun.

    Then there was Day 5, day 1 of the North American champs. I blow thru the first 9 controls fairly cleanly, small bobbles. I boom the 10th control on a parallel error on an unmapped feature. I'm mad. It was a formline reentrant with a patch of green at the top. Two things look like this, next to each other, one mapped, one not. The bag is on the mapped one. Eddie agreed with me. How do good people avoid these things. Yeah I can whine about it, but somehow the really good people aren't blinded by this sort of thing. What happens with me is that I don't know what to do, and I don't know what to do about it, so I mill around with everyone else in the same boat. I just don't know the situation at the time. I see the feature I expect to see, and don't see a flag, and don't see a parallel one on the map. Bland area, no other features to work with. 4.5 minutes down the drain. I have to solve this problem, but I just don't know how to yet. This happens alot to me. Perhaps my map reading, in terms of judging the _size_ of features, is weak. I've never thought of this possibility before, so maybe writing about this has helped.

    So I press on, and I'm a bit sloppier. And I bonk. I can't believe it. I've never bonked in a classic distance race, at least not that I can remember, anyway. I guess day after day of 90+ degrees can wear on you. So what was a near perfect race, for this terrain, is down about 15 minutes. And it turns out to be my best race of the week, relative to the field. I think it was a really hard course, and was one of the sloppier maps. Somehow I got a couple more WRE points for this race than I did in my perfect run in the classic champs. Go figure. Its my worst WRE race in terms of errors ever, yet my best in terms of points. Imagine what I could have done were I clean, and I could have been clean, if I didn't boom number 10. Never would have bonked in a clean run, that's for sure.

    Well, at least I had my good races in the relay and the 2 WRE's. It could have been worse.

[12-Aug-02] 

    I'm real excited about how well the Hickory Run Rogaine went. People had fun, and the weather was really nice for August. The week before it had been 100 deg/100 % humidity and we were worried. Many people had positive comments on the course Ed and I set. I really like the idea of a rogaine style race on an O map.

    I was surprised no one got them all. The route I would have taken was 34.66k, or 13.85min/k. The woods were green and the terrain rocky, tho. It was much more physical than it looks from the map. TGFQ were on a pace to get them all, but Bernie got injured. The winners, Sergei and Boris, came in with 45 minutes to spare. I didn't study their route; I wonder if it would have been possible?

    My biggest regret was assigning the points for each control. Since I assumed teams would competing to get them all, I weighted controls that were a pain in the butt for the ideal route more, and this seemed stupid in retrospect, and most teams wouldn't be looking to get them all anyway. I also weighted controls farther from the hash house higher, which again seemed to make some sense, but the house was in the extreme SE corner, so heading to the NW looked more obvious, while closer controls, which were more physical and difficult due to the green were undervalued. Given that you had 8 hours, you were going to get whereever you wanted and get to the NW anyway, so distance from the house prolly should have had a bit less weight. Fortunately, I did factor in navigational difficulty, physical difficulty, and a dose of randomness to the points, so it wasn't too bad. Its just that next time I'll have a better idea of how to make the weights more interesting. It could have been better, but it was satisfactory I think. No one complained about it.

    I'd like to set a "real" rogaine someday, tho that would prolly be less fun than this. I have some ideas for places in the Poconos and north central PA to scout out, for perhaps new O maps, or certainly a rogaine map.

[08-Aug-02] 

    So much to write about and so little time, and now I have to go set a rogaine. I guess I'll write about orienteering in the Yukon.

    Ever since I was a kid I've wanted to go to the Yukon. Then to learn that there was a 4 day O meet up there was too good to be true. It actually seems amazing that an area where the only city for hundreds of miles (Whitehorse) has a population of about 22,000 would even support a thriving O scene. I wonder what America's smallest O metro area is?

    The Whitehorse area is actually quite arid -- the soil was sandy, there was no underbrush, the forest was pine with few low branches. For the most part it was very fast with poor visibility. Generally not a good combination for me. The maps were very technical with no water features, few rock features, and very few trails and other handrails. It was alot of knob and kettle -- multi-contour depression stuff. Nothing to work with but contours and vegetation. The penalty for booms was very high, as it was tough stuff to relocate in. No lollipop features.

    Certainly not the sort of stuff that played to my strengths. I had problems. I always have trouble with knob/kettle sort of stuff. The only time I've seen it before was in Michigan and Lithuania. I tried to do all the right stuff, but just had trouble keeping contact anyway. I think the poor visibility contributed to that, but I'm not sure. I'm not sure why I'm strong on ridge and valley type stuff and so weak on this. O is O, right? Well, not really, I guess. There are some skills that still seem above me. I have some ideas about this that I have to remember to try to write about down the road.

    The average of the field on M21 was about 12 min/k. That seemed high, as the field was strong, evidently others had problems also or took it slow. That is about where I was but I was throwing buckets of time away. I could have done much better.

    I did about 4 hours of training in the stuff on the off day. That seemed to help somewhat, but one boom -- 20 minutes. I remember training in this really intense area of knobs and kettles, and feeling pretty good about it. Then this guy with a European accent runs by and says to me he's been looking for an hour and can't find it. That tiny distraction causes me to lose contact. Why? Why can't I just recover from the distraction and remember my entire O state? I boomed but did find it on the second try. This tells me that perhaps just as there are many gears of running, there may be many gears of concentration, and I need to find that high gear in stuff like this. I do know this gear, I have it sometimes, and sometimes not. I wonder if I have control of when I have it? Many things to think about, but until I get near some technical terrain like this again, will probably unknowingly continue to reinforce bad habits.

    Well, at least my last race was clean. I was getting the hang of it, but I was tired by then. I paid the price for the 4 hours of training on the rest day.

    There was another issue. My compass didn't work well. I think that hurt me. I think the problem was the latitude. My compass took along time to settle and I didn't wait. Others complained of this problem. When I boomed on bearing, I always boomed to the left. I didn't notice this, tho, until APOC. It is something to investigate for next time.

    But it was alot of fun. I would highly recommend going to Whitehorse for some O. The organization was excellent, the maps were good, fun, and fair, as were the courses. The Canadian Champs will be there in 2004. Perhaps I'll be back.

[05-Aug-02] 

    I guess I'll write about my disaster at the RM 1000 day Crystal Relay tonite.

    I was pretty juiced about our prospects coming off the APOC relay championships. On the one hand we had a faster team, on the other hand we had to compete against 4 point teams, and we were now a 7 point team. I still felt we could win.

    I hadn't felt well the whole week, except the first day when I ran 7 min/k. The other days I was closer to 8/8.5 min/k. I woke up feeling great for the relay, tho, and felt 7 or even 6.5 was possible, depending on the course. I felt strong and my legs felt light. I was running leg 2 and was told the leg was of "orange difficulty", so I prepared myself to run hard, but not at the expense of losing contact.

    The teams to worry about were RMOC and BAOC. I figured if I could get us in ahead of, or around the same time as J-J, that we had a decent chance. RMOC basically won leg 1, and I went out about 4 minutes behind J-J. That was going to be tough to make up on a 4k leg, but I was determined to give it a try. There was no sign of the BAOC team.

    I blew thru the first 4 controls pretty fast, including a technical control where I rescued a couple of other runners. Cruising to 5, about halfway there, I made a mistake: I looked back to see where the other runners were. I rarely do this and don't know why I did. I have to concentrate on my own race. I didn't see them and got spooked that I made some sort of mistake. The vegetation was tricky on the way to 5 and I lost focus. 30 second boom.

    I regained focus and spiked 6, which was a tricky control. Some really good runners boomed it. I was running hard. 7 was a longish leg thru the spectator area. My teammates were cheering me. I got distracted because of this and lost contact in a bland area. 45 more seconds lost. Its tough trying to relocate with the whole world watching you. I think I was running too hard.

    I was rested a bit from relocating. I blasted to 8 and spiked it. It was an easy control. I'm sure I had the fastest split. I was trying to make up the lost time. Eric Weyman says you can never make up lost time. I always forget that during a race. But I was still in good shape, running hard and only a minute or so in errors.

    Only 1 control to go, then the GO control. Almost home. But disaster strikes. I see the simplifying feature ahead, a big cluster of rocks. I look at the clue and read it as between two boulders. I run to the cluster, get to the boulders, and don't find the flag between them. This is a tough situation for me, when I'm sure I'm right, but there is no flag. I'm never sure where the error could be, and what to do about it. I conduct a boulder by boulder search. No flag. I verify I'm on the right cluster. I wait for help.

    Help arrives. Three runners. No one can find the flag. Two more minutes tick away. We check other outcroppings. The good news is no sign of BAOC's leg two runner. So were still in second place if I can find the damn thing.

    I see a bag on the next spur. I know its wrong but decide to check it out. I'm halfway there and see the other runners head for the GO control. They've found it. I look back and see it 100m behind me, basically by a boulder an inch from the ground. I go back and punch but can't catch the others in the chute, bringing us in in 4th place by a few seconds. Fortunately no sign of BAOC yet. We end up in 2nd, well behind RMOC, and about a minute ahead of BAOC.

    I figure I lost about 5 minutes at 9, for about 7 minutes total. Not enough time to catch RMOC anyway, who beat us by 11 minutes, but had I had a clean run, perhaps the dynamics of the race change and we do have a chance. So I feel terrible.

    So what did I do wrong? I was thinking about the wrong things. Thinking about other runners, places, running hard, etc. I panicked when I didn't see the flag at 9. Turns out I misread the description on 9. It was actually middle of 3 rocks, not between rocks. This sort of mistake never matters, in my experience. But it did today, as I was at the right rock, knew it, but looked between it, rather than all sides of it (it was hung very low, on one side, only visible from that side, and the side was not described in the clue, which miffed me, but that is a different matter). This is also rarely a factor, because in most races, you get the descriptions ahead of time, so you know them. In a relay, however, you have to read them in the heat of the race.

    Looking back, it seems that if I ran a conservative 8 min/k race, we would have had no chance to beat RMOC. In some sense, running aggressively may have been the right thing to do from a game theory point of view anyway. Do you take a chance or run at an error-free pace? I was coached to run at an error free pace, and blew it, so in that sense let my team down, and gave us no chance to win. It will be tough to get over.

[01-Aug-02] 

    I guess I'll write about the 8 pt APOC relay championship first, since it was the biggest thrill of my O life, at least at the time. I don't think I've ever won any kind of championship before, anywhere, at any level.

    I guess one of the tricks to winning a relay is getting on a great team, and I knew we had a great team going in. My thoughts before the race were that as long as I don't screw up, we should at least win a medal. I had trouble on the same map the day before, so my plan was 100% contact, no matter how slow I had to go, and let Graeme worry about it.

    Our first two runners, Jane and Sandy, and perfect runs, leaving me about 5th out of 52 teams, and ahead of WCOC, who I thought was the team to worry about in our class. I was nervous as hell, but also inspired by their great runs. I went out slow and noticed the first couple of legs were easy, and the viz was good. I realised I could run hard and remain in contact. I was happy. The course got more technical and I slowed down. I passed a couple of teams ahead of us anyway. I knew we were going to win if I didn't screw up, so I didn't screw up. I even stopped once to be absolutely sure of parallel features. I ran 6min/k and put us in first. I was clean. I was thrilled. I had the second best time on our leg 3. I knew Graeme would blow the field away and we would win.

    It was a shame that such a wonderful experience had so many negatives. There was a mishung control that the leg 2 runners had to deal with. Looking at the splits, I don't think it affected any medals in our class, but it did in other classes. In the other classes, they gave dual silver medals, one for the team that placed as things were, and one for the results with that split taken out.

    The US 4 point team was DQ'd because the leg 4 map was printed on two sides, but the organizers never explained this, so the leg 4 runner only ran one side of the map. Based on the times per k, this probably cost them a medal. Another top leg 4 runner encountered this, and went to the organizers for an explanation, losing time in the process. Apparently the organizers then started explaining it to the runners who started later. This seemed a bit unfair.

    There were other aspects of the race that could have been improved as well. They didn't have enough e-punch units at the controls. With the SI system, there is a delay (this has been debated, but there is no debate - there is a delay for the thing to register). Anyway, runners were having their finger unit knocked out of the punch unit by the next runner before it registered. This lead to some bogus mispunches, so I understand. Also, the announcing was lame. They never announced the teams as they crossed the finish line, and what place they were in. It seems like this would be the whole point of having an announcer. Instead, the announcer heckled runners who went the wrong way, or stopped to read their map at the spectator control. I guess its just me, but that didn't seem very nice.

    Oh well, it was still a thrill to have a near perfect race under pressure, forgetting whether or not it meant anything.

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