O Log - Older Archives

    Some thoughts on the Vermont meet and relay champs.

    I thought this was a very high quality meet all the way around. I was happy about that, because I noticed I'd been whining a bit about the quality of stuff lately. Sometimes it is just intangible -- but there was a sense of quality about all aspects of the meet.

    I don't even know how to think about my day 1 run. All I know is it was average to sort of lame, but not the ways I usually have bad runs. Its almost as if the course and the terrain played into my weaknesses, but I bent and didn't break. I couldn't run, nor could I simplify all that often. I think I paid a huge navigational penalty on my running speed. I boomed 8 of the controls, but I don't think any boom was over a minute. Typically I spike almost all of them, and make 3 or 4 minute booms on the ones I blow.

    I know my boom on #3 was 11 seconds, because I took a split when I went to the wrong bag. It was that sort of day, a little off here, a little off there. My relocation skills were excellent. I easily could have been under 10min/k, but was 11 minutes over. I would have been please with 10min/k. Where did all the time go? I think I had lame route choices on the long legs, because I didn't see anyone. I think its not so much poor runnability of my choices, but that they were too navigationally complex. Perhaps the small booms were affecting my confidence, and thus affecting my running speed, or concentration. I need a coach ...

    Or perhaps it was my pants. I bought new real O pants, and hated them. They didn't drain water off my body like my grunge pants, they kept falling down, unlike my grunge pants, they didn't protect me from thorns like my grunge pants, and they constrained my left lifting, unlike my grunge pants. I'd hate to blame time on the pants, but there is an unexplained loss of time ...

    Since this will be my last log entry 'til about the week before the US champs, I'll write about the relay champs also.

    This was an important race for me, because I had a spectacular one at APOC, and blew one at the Crystal Relay. I was happy to be on the A team again, and was real worried about blowing 2 of 3.

    Before the race I thought about the competition. I don't know alot about all the teams, so the only teams on my radar were CSU, OK, COC, and the other DVOA team. I thought we had a decent chance at second, but figured CSU would have to make a big boom somewhere for us win. I was on the first leg, and my goal was to give our team a 2 minute lead on everyone but CSU. I was also going to try to run with Ross, but that didn't seem likely. My goal was to give him less than a minute.

    I line up next to Ross and Will, and Ross tells me he was instructed to follow me. This seemed like some sort of head game, as Ross obviously could outrun me. I think the days I could beat Ross have passed. I was hoping it was true in any case.

    The first leg was downhill, and I beat everyone to the first control. This was sort of a goal because I didn't want to lose time queuing to punch. I lead the pack towards the second control, and someone says to me "CSU is following you -- you must be doing something right", at which time I drift a little right and get caught in some debris and lose 5 seconds, and they blow past me.

    On the way to the third control, I'm behind CSU and Nadim, who has the speed to stay with them. I've got a couple of cadets and a teenager I don't know hanging on me (Max Judelson). I still have visions of catching Ross and Will, but the two of them together is going to be tough.

    Leg 4 is a trail run. I can't keep up with CSU. I can't shake the cadets or Max, who are just too strong. Who is this kid?

    I lose a bit of focus on the way to 5. Parallel error - 20 or so seconds. I was running too fast and overgeneralizing. I see Dan (OK) taking a trail run route choice to the left. I stay on plan (straight) hoping to beat him, but he has the better route.

    I hesitate for just a second on the way to 6, and my entourage, which includes Max and I think 3 cadets, stops with me. I think -- ok -- this isn't the billygoat, but a USOF championship -- is this really legal? I guess its in the spirit of relays, I dunno, but I decide that I actually like it, because it forces me to concentrate so as not to embarrass myself. The one thing that irked me, tho, was when I find the controls and someone else punches first because they outsprint me! Lets have some etiquette out there. But it doesn't matter because they have to wait for me to punch anyway.

    6, 7, 8 clean, but I don't manage to pass Dan until I'm on the way to 9. I see an UNO runner ahead of me who I cannot reel in; I figure to be in 5th, behind CSU, Nadim, and him. But then some of my entourage pass me on the run-in to the GO control. Thanks guys. Well, what do I expect, it is a race.

    So, I was really pleased. 7.75 min/k under pressure. They list me as 6th, but I feel like I was 4th (I don't know what happened to Nadim). About 30 seconds in booms. I was worried about running such a short leg, because I don't have that much sprint. I was disappointed in being 2.75 minutes behind Ross, but was somewhat pleased with my lead over the other teams.

    Now I could relax and enjoy the race. Sandy (leg 2), brought us in I think only about 30 seconds behind OK. I still thought we had a chance there, even tho we were in 12th or so at that point. CSU was clearly going to win the race, so it was a matter of watching the second and third place teams.

    These teams turned out to be UNO and HVO. Neither team was on my radar. But the bad news was that they went out together on the third leg. Two runners together is an advantage, of course. Greg (leg 3) went out about 9 minutes after them, and about 30 secs or so after OK. He brought us to within 4.5 minutes of HVO and UNO, in 4th place.

    With only a 6k leg left, it didn't look promising, but Sergei (leg 4), is really strong. He had made up a minute and a half by the spectator control halfway thru the course, and amazingly made up the last 3 minutes by the second to the last control, passing HVO for second place.

    It was quite a thrill, even though my part was very small. At least I didn't blow it, and eliminate all hope our team had. I would have been a long drive home.

    Kudo's have to go to HVO for winning a medal. Their team roster didn't show up on my radar (I didn't even know half the names), and they really got it done with a collection of excellent relay strategy and strong running. And of course congrats to CSU for winning.

    A couple of final thoughts on the relay. First, I thought making the second course brown rather than yellow was a good idea.

    Secondly, there was a mandatory 300m run to the start triangle for all but the first leg. Yet some people were complaining about some other people not following the mandatory route -- veering off early to save time. I wasn't there, but this seems the potential to create an unfair situation. It seems that if you want someone to go somewhere, then put a punch there. I'm not sure why that wasn't done. The only thing I can think of is that it would have created clutter printing the start triangle near the finish and GO, but that problem seems tractable, and seems at least worth solving to avoid a potentially unfair situation. Just a thought to avoid people being upset.

    Finally, I really enjoyed the course setting. I've not been in alot of relays, but it seems sometimes that the course setter goes out of his or her way to make the course spectator friendly, at the expense of interesting orienteering. I was happy that the orienteering seemed interesting. I think setting super spectator friendly relays is a bit silly, because the race is rarely decided in open field running (its decided in spectator unfriendly woods anyway), and spectator friendly open field running shortens the course, gives advantage to the stronger runners, and makes the O, in general, less interesting.

    The way to set a specator friendly course, yet keep the O interesting, is find a semi-prairie area with a big hill that can see the whole area. A map that comes to mind that I think would be excellent for this purpose is Fishtrap Lake near Spokane. I haven't been there since I've known O from apple butter, but from what I remember, this would be the ultimate place for a spectator relay that was interesting.


    I don't think I'm getting any better anymore. Its sad, because I'm not all that good, tho I've always gotten better. I'm not sure how to get better. Its like a water balloon, you press on one area to improve, and it just squishes into some other area that seems to be needing attention. I'm not even sure how to figure out what to work on, and then how to improve it. I don't know if I need more physical or technique training. I don't even know what I'm good at. I think I'm a good simplifier, tho perhaps as I've gotten better, I've done less simplification than I used to. I read alot on the way that I used to not. I wonder if that is slowing me down? I think alot of reading is a defensive tactic. I think I'm becoming more defensive. I used to be real aggressive, run there and look for a flag or relocation feature. Its like that water balloon, time squishes from one tact to the other, but remains the same. I guess my hope is that I can build speed on a base of being a decent map reader.

    I need to calibrate my navigational cost, I think. I need to determine my raw woods running speed, then my speed in the same terrain while navigating. I can hope there is a big navigational cost that I can work on. I don't think I have a significant navigational cost on a trail run. But running in the woods is different. I guess the navigational cost can be mental, meaning you have to go slower to think and read, or it can be physical, meaning you have to go slower while reading or you'll trip over rocks and forest debris. My sense is that in my case its more physical, but I'm not sure.

    I'm wondering what my goals should be at this point. I'm wondering if goals are silly. One of my three remaining goals should be met soon -- with a start field of 84 at WMOC in M35, top 80 making the A final, I'm fairly optimistic about that one, barring injury. Should my goal be to make the top 40? Both these goals are silly, as they are based on factors I cannot control, i.e., who shows up, and I'm not up enough on it to know how good the rest of the field is. (Its cool that someone who lists Ghana as their citizenship is in the field, I didn't realise there was any O in Ghana).

    So, what should my goals be? I always joke that my goal should be to win a world championship. I do believe goals should be based on things you can control. To train X amount, to get better, and to have fun. Beating person X or winning medal Y seems so out of my control. But how do you measure "getting better". Less than X minutes in booms doesn't make sense to me, because you could achieve that by walking the course. I generally feel the quality of my race, but sometimes a boom free race is too slow. The goal is to win races, better a core rate of 7min/k with 10 minutes of booms than 9 min/k clean. I guess my O life is like that water balloon that is squished to one or the other of these positions. I feel I'm close to putting my finger on what I should be working on, but I can't find it, at least not tonite.

    So, I have no goals that I can either quantify or control. I guess I'll up my training again after WMOC and the US champs, and see what happens. But what sort of training?


    Jukola 2003 is looking more and more like a possibility. My big problem, I guess like most people, will be time and money. Its not at a particularly convenient time. My must do trips for next year are the biannual family trip to the UK at the end of July, which by strange coincidence happens to be at the same time as the Scottish 6 Day, which happens to be my favorite event. Then there is the Colorado 5 day, which I think is a must do, at the beginning of July. And right between them are WMOC and O-Ringen, neither of which I consider must dos, but if I'm going to be in Europe for Scotland, they certainly are convenient from that standpoint, and they are convenient from a timing standpoint. I also think WOC is right after the Scottish 6 days in Switzerland, and I know the family wants to go to CH also.

    I wouldn't want to fly over to Jukola for the weekend. I would want to go over in advance, get over the jetlag, train on the terrain, and ideally do a race the weekend before somewhere. My family might want to go on such a trip, but I don't know when school is out. But I'm still optimistic about finding a way to go, one way or the other. I'd be more likely to go if I made the "A" team, I guess, tho I dunno.

    How will the team be decided? Rankings? Subjectively? Results at an A meet (US champs?)? Would I be able to buy a team suit? I couldn't go in my current duds, which are now featuring duck tape. What will the terrain be like? My impression is green, rocky, flat, yet with lots of small contour detail. What US map would this be like? It doesn't sound like my terrain, tho I have been expanding my horizons.

    This is the sort of thing that should generate more interest in competitive orienteering in USOF, but I'm not sure it would. I don't know if its the fault of the members, the media, or the runners, but other things like WOC, WC, and JWOC don't seem to trickle thru as much as perhaps they could. I guess its just me, I think I have an overly keen interest in this stuff.

    Well, I hope I can go. We'll see.


    I guess I'll write my random thoughts on route choice. Great topic, BTW.

    I think people like finding controls, so perhaps some course setting is about finding controls. People set courses that they are used to, so it feeds on itself, perhaps. I prefer to not have that many controls, both as a runner and as a course setter. I've gotten complaints from people who have run my courses that there weren't enough controls.

    I also think route choice often doesn't matter that much in the US because the start fields are usually so small, and people's abilities are spread out. Its rare that you're going to lose a place in a race because of route choice. 30 seconds here, minute there, its not going to add up to a place, especially when you consider that you're going to get it right some of the time. In a large start field, of course, several places are at stake.

    So perhaps people aren't worrying about it, and thus are not demanding it of course setters. Booms are bigger, but a single boom of 3 or 4 minutes may not mean a place either. But no one wants to make a mistake, so people try to avoid booms no matter what. The same logic doesn't apply. Losing 1 minute on 3 controls due to route choice isn't is bad as a 3 minute boom, or even a 2 minute boom, so perhaps people don't see route choice as a big deal. It just seems less important.

    Elsewhere, OTOH, where people can race around the course at 6min/k without making booms, and the athletic abilities are closer together, the market will demand something to make the race more interesting. So there will be more of a demand for route choice, both as a differentiator and to make the running more challenging. Course setters who don't provide this will get weeded out.

    The answer to better route choice races then seems to be to build better orienteers, and more of them.

    Its interesting that you often see more route choice in goat races (at least it seems that way). Perhaps this supports my theory -- stronger field, and the course setter is often forced into this to split up the mass start field, especially on the first leg. The market somehow demands it.

    I'm lucky, in that when I was starting out, I saw this map from Norway with a 4K leg. I thought it was the coolest thing. It made an impression on me, so I always think about long legs and route choice. I'm not sure I'm good at it, but I at least try to have a consciousness of it. I also try to think of route choice on short legs, and micro route choice. I think the best kind of route choice leg isn't do I go straight, right, or the road to the left, but which 6 lollipop features am I going to string together to get there, and what is the route choice between each of those. Its rare to see a leg set like that, and I don't think I've ever seen a map that could support a 4k leg in this country, but I'd like to see these things.

    As a competitor, route choice used to be one of my weak suits. Perhaps not enough practice, and not enough penalty for doing the wrong thing. But I've really worked hard on it. I'm happy when I see all the route choices, even if I make the wrong one. I'm not sure how to make the right one, really. I think lately I've been erring on the side of simplification, because I went thru a phase of lots of races with booms, and have had some fear of running really fast in difficult terrain due to injury. And often, unlike the recommendation of the Swedish book, the simplest route is also the fastest.

    I'm not sure how to learn to make the right choices. Running the simple route always seems better, because it feels like I'm running faster. But that is not objective. What I need to do is time myself in various running situations, both navigating and without navigation, to see my times per k in different conditions, so I have an objective measure of route choice cost, and my navigating cost. I've always wanted to do this, but have never had the time.

    I guess I've never made the time, as the course setting and race placing hasn't demanded it of me. But I do want to do it anyway.


    I finally have a little time to write about Laramie. The first thing to remember is how the altitude affected me. Felt good the first couple of days, felt sick the whole week, then felt good again for the last two days. Had no energy during the sick feeling days. The good news is that I finally remembered how to orienteer, and made less that 10 minutes of booms the whole week (not counting the night O, which, being a different sport in my mind, doesn't count. I just don't enjoy night O).

    I was sickest for the long O. I had already decided I wasn't going to go hard in that race, then when I turned the map over and looked the course over, it just didn't look that interesting to me, so I just did a light jog.

    My last day was the best, clean run over 13.5 k with decent energy level. Decent min/k. The course was a bit heavy on the running, tho, for my tastes, but it was still fun nonetheless.

    I took it easy on some of the early non A day races. I figured I'd save myself for the A days. But this was a mistake in retrospect, as it was less fun, and it didn't help my physical performance in the A days anyway.

    I finally got to do the "head fake", where you pretend to be looking for a recently punched control. Twice in the same race, on Bisbee hill. Unfortunately, the first time I did it, I lost focus on the way to my next control for a 4 minute error. Serves me right. The second time, tho, it worked like a charm. I made a 30 sec boom, but basically knew where I was, and a couple of other guys were in the area. They didn't see me as I made my way to the control feature, but they were still lost as they saw me coming across an openish area on the way to my next control. I slowed down and pretended to look for the control, and brought them with me, then I sprinted once out of sight in the trees. I made sure not to lose focus the second time and spiked my control. A rare display of extra mental capacity.

    I felt real guilty about doing this in retrospect. I'm not sure why. Certainly it is within race ethics, I think, tho sometimes there is a sense of cooperation out there, tho I've never intentionally helped anyone out there (except lost kids). I think for my part I should just ignore everyone out there. I'll be better off in the long run. Its amazing, tho, how many times people have come up to me and asked where we are. If they are an advanced runner, I deny knowing myself, even if I know. Somehow it seems like cheating. Would it be cheating if I intentionally told them we were 200m from where we are? I've heard stories that in Europe, they grab the map out of your hand until you tell them ...

    Anyway, after acclimatizing, I came home with all these extra red blood cells. Its interesting to note how it affected me. The first week after return, I felt really lethargic. Then, after that first week, I felt really strong with lots of energy and good training runs and a strong race. This is consistent with what I have read elsewhere on the 'net about altitude and coming back from it. I think the extra cells were gone by the time I got back to Idaho, tho.