I had a good series of races in Scotland. I stuck to my plan, and goals,
for the most part, and think I was successful. Day 1, in particular, is
one of those possible best race candidates, certainly best overseas. I
didn't spike all that many controls that day, but most booms and bobbles
were in the 10 second range. It was a very difficult map, and the field
had more problems than I did, I think. My placings were slightly worse
the following days, despite my orienteering perhaps being a little cleaner.
I think it was a case of the field being able to take more advantage of
the faster and easier maps than I was able to. I held 15th overall for
the first 4 days, until the field was able to drop day 1 in the scoring
system, and I ended up 23rd out of 63 in M35. Wanted to be in the top
3rd, but I orienteered well, and that seems more important. I think I
regret a little bit not running 21, since the goal was training, but I
guess there is something to be said for placing in the top half once in
a while for confidence.
I found 130 controls, bobbled 12 (10 sec range), boomed 12 (30-120 sec
range, most on the low end), had one 3 min error in the technical dunes,
one 4 min error on a very tough leg, and one 10 minute disaster on a very
easy leg. I guess the rest are spikes, by my definition anyway, since
I don't count en route contact corrections as "booms" unless I slow down.
Of the 6 days, I boomed or bobbled the first control 4 times. Fortunately,
the 10 minute disaster didn't affect my placing or scoring, and was not
a result of failing to follow my plans.
Overall, I would rate the event good, but not great, as previous UK
events I've been to. Only one day of open moorland, which I really love,
and too much felled and semi felled areas. Also, some of the orienteering
seemed too easy. I think that is an absolute, not because I'm better
than two years ago. Certainly there were plenty of interesting technical
but I also found myself doing alot of trail running and slogging thru
fell. Not like the nonstop 9K of technical moorland of Arisaig
and Ardchattan from two years ago.
Day 1: Dallaschyle
Here is the Day 1 map with routes
This map was used for the '99 WOC. I wasn't sure what to expect. In my
first few years of orienteering, I used to have "breakthru races" -- every
once in a while I would learn some new important concept, like how to
read contours or something. Something would just dawn on me and I'd have
a new, important idea. I've had about 6-10 of these. But then I hadn't
had one for a couple of years, tho I've learned little things along the
way of course. This race felt like a breakthru race.
I was warming up in the start area, and knew it was going to be really
hard. I wasn't sure why. I've often wondered why some maps are hard,
and some are easy -- obviously intensely technical terrain will be hard,
but often there is nothing to clue you in that it will be hard from
looking at the map. Sometimes the map looks straightforward, and its
really hard; sometimes the map looks hard, and its fairly easy. This was
going to be one of those hard days. It was the first time I knew that
before the race, tho.
Then I figured it out. I put together what was in common with other races
that were like this. It was the forest. What I'm going to call "shinny
woods" (after a term called "shinny hockey" that a local hockey broadcaster
used to use). Basically not smooth. Lots of ripples, wiggles, and bumps
in the land that would be below the mapping threshold. Choppy vegetation,
not in the physical sense, but in the visual sense -- different sorts of
plants and undergrowth, in sort of a random patchwork. Not like the visually
smooth hardwood forests I'm used to. So the land and the vegetation would
be visually distracting, not fade into the irrelevant background. The
brain would have extra stuff to deal with. And, of course, this sort of
forest would obviously be more physically challenging and visibility would
Once I realised the problem, my mind was able to deal with it. So I had
a decent race. I could not have run faster, I don't think. It was one
of those forests where, in the States, you would have won at 10min/k, and
regretted "inexplicable contact loss" and running 12. I was able to run 9.
I also discovered something else about my orienteering, and the extent to
which I'm a relative orienteer and can't tell the size of things between
map and woods. I really have gotten to the point where I neither know nor
care what the scale or interval is. On this leg,
I saw the hill with
cliff, but did not see it on the map at the time. I happily bent it into the
larger hill (the one farther along to the right), without a second thought,
despite its much larger size, and simply willed the cliff out of existence
(Oh, I guess its unmapped). I never think 'this is a big or little hill',
just 'this contour feature relative to lines that aren't this contour
feature'. I think I could use a little more absolute contour feature
recognition in my playbook. Fortunately, I picked up the ripples after
the hill, and a part of mind kept nagging that I did not see a ruin anywhere,
so I just ignored the whole thing and decided to mark it up to 'did not like
map'. I only saw the true picture during my post-mortem.
I also have a problem with fences. I while back, I wrote about semiotic
codes and O, and how the mind can filter out straight black things
(like roads if they are abnormally straight), on maps. I have the same
problem with fences. I always hit them, but never see them on the map.
Same sort of thing, my mind is filtering them because they look like the
magnetic north lines. This was a problem of my boom on 7. I saw the fence
in the woods, but not on the map. But then I saw it, then didn't see it.
Just like the Necker cube effect where the state of the cube in your mind
flips back and forth. In this case, 2 competing codes in my mind pushed
the fence in and out of awareness. Unfortunately, the no fence code won,
and I lost a little time. But this experience may be useful in the future.
Day 2: Roseisle
Here is the Day 2 map with routes
This was the first day in the dunes. My plan was to walk areas I could
not read on the run. The woods were fast, and the visibility good, for
the most part, unlike Woodhill. For the most part, it was easier than I
expected, but there were some tough sections. This was the only day I
did not have my top energy, so the fast terrain was more of a penalty
The green on these legs was brutal
Zero vis and zero mobility.
I walked all of them. I think that was smart. People were lost in
here, and I spiked them all. I'd probably still be there if I tried
to run. It took me 8.5 minutes to do the 600 meters. You play the
cards you're dealt.
The map was a joke from 8 to 9. The course notes mentioned it, but it
was worse. Oh well.
10 to 11 was a safe route choice.
I was following my game plan. I think I overdid it tho, on this leg. I had no
confidence I would find the ride going straight, as they were hard
to see in the model event. I had no confidence I would get the contours
right, either. The ride was a turnpike, I could have safely gone
straight and collected, but the model indicated it was a risk. I boomed
the control anyway on my absurdly safe route, but it was a small boom. A
boom going straight, with the ride not apparent, could have been 4-5 min.
No game plan is perfect, but I think I made profit over the six days by
emphasizing safety and change of speed when they are warranted. It is
a new style for me, and it will take some fine tuning.
I had alot of fun in the dunes. I think sand dune terrain is growing
Day 3: Loch Vaa
Here is the Day 3 map with routes
Loch Vaa was also used in the '99 WOC. It was mostly open moorland with
deep heather. This was statistically (time per adj-k) my best day, but
in reality it was my worst orienteering wise. On top of that, I had
trouble running in the heather. Somehow my competitors where putting
up fast times, but I could not get thru the heather quickly, even when
I was in full contact and could see where I wanted to go 500 meters away.
It was frustrating. Perhaps it is an acquired skill.
I found the orienteering to be difficult. Only day 1, I think, was harder.
I was not as sharp, and it took me some time to get used to the map. I
think fighting the heather made it harder to concentrate.
I boomed the first control. My strategy on first legs is to take it
slow, but this was a long leg. Long first legs are a pet peeve of
mine, you have no idea what the map is like and the actual cost of
vegetation. I couldn't take the long leg slow. So I decided to run
hard, collect in what was mapped in what I call "golf course open",
and then take it slow. But the golf course open had just as much
heather, and scattered trees. I could not make out exactly where I
was. 4 minute boom.
I believe there is a first control syndrome. At least there is for me.
There are certainly reasons there should be one, in particular, not
being calibrated or having a frame of reference set, and not being
used to the map and terrain. No flow and more to think about. Also,
only about 5-10% of the controls you train on are first controls, the
other 90% are non-first controls, so you get more practice on those. I
used to be worse on first controls -- the little training I've gotten
over the years is helping.
It doesn't show up in elite splits, I would speculate, because the
elite have developed a strategy to deal with it. It must be
second nature, like other orienteering problems. That is what
makes them elite, they have solutions for all orienteering problems
they encounter, thru talent, training, etc.
But for me, it is a distinct orienteering problem that costs real
minutes. On short legs, I deal with it by taking it slow until I
get calibrated. On long legs, I try to collect or simplify and make
it a short leg. But I have yet to develop a strategy for a leg like
leg 1. This may have been the fifth, (or possibly the first) time I
have seen a longish first leg without good simplification opportunity.
I do think I hit that biggish basin midway, but I wasn't sure. Simply
wasn't calibrated nor comfortable yet.
I liked Loch Vaa. I wish they would have had another day on similar
terrain, but over a bigger area with more long leg options that could
not be simplified.
Day 4: Phorp
Here is the Day 4 map with routes
I found Phorp easy. All controls were spiked except, of course, the
first leg. Another longish first leg. I picked up contact tho, and
even found that small reentrant to the northeast of the circle. I
wasn't quite in synch, tho, and did not realise I had to drop, and made
a parallel error. Not a big loss of time. The woods were again
"shinny" at the start, and for the first 5 controls. Then they cleared
up. Lots of changes in terrain.
There was way too much trail running for my taste. Some people even
ran trail from 9-10. I thought my route was better, but I did not
analyze splits. There were tons of people on the trail, yet none
on my route. Obviously people were on different courses so no
conclusion could be drawn. I think the most interesting route
choice leg was 10-11, but in any case too much trail running for
The map was a joke from 11-12, and this time it was not in the course
notes. There was a road. I never saw the green. There were tons
of rides in the woods on the approach to the control. There was what
seemed to be a huge unmapped clearing to the left on the approach
to the control. And the contours didn't look right. I didn't look
at the splits to see if people had trouble with this leg. I was
fortunate I found enough stuff I knew was right, and had the confidence
to spike it anyway.
Day 5: Lossie
Here is the Day 5 map with routes
Lossie had the most intense dune terrain. The course setter threw us right
into it, ran us around lightning quick woods with subtle contour reading,
then gave us a second dose after we were perhaps more tired, or running
in a higher gear. I like the style, tho I would have enjoyed 9K in the
technical dunes. It would have been nice if we got a tour of the open
dunes to the NW.
I think the course setter went easy on us in the dunes, giving simplification
options for most legs. I studied the sample map for 10 minutes before the race looking
for all the simplification features, so my mind would be primed. I think
But I still boomed the first control. The ride/beach simplification looked
too expensive, and the cost of a boom did not look high. I was right on
the second count; I collected on the edge and found it. My plan was to
collect on the green, but the green was not obvious. The boom was a wake
up call. I was out of my game plan. I took the other dune controls slower,
and only boomed one of them; #5 for which I could not find the simplification.
This terrain was intense, and alot of fun. This stuff is really tough, but
if you concentrate, take it slow, and are on the lookout for simplification
features, you can get thru it without them sending a search party.
The flat fast area was also fun. Its fun to run fast, and try to read form
line features. I did ok with it, until I started to get cocky. I've never
had cocky thoughts before that I can remember, but I had been doing pretty
well so far in the week. So I was thinking cocky thoughts and preceded to
make a 10 minute error on #22. Its an easy control. This is a blessing;
I'll never have to worry about cocky thoughts again. I have no idea why I
had them -- I'm not a cocky person and I'm not all that good.
Why did I boom that control? I think because I'd been reading contours for
21 controls, and this one had vegetation. I read the vegetation rather than
the contours, and misread it/its boundaries were vague. But that didn't dawn
on me, and I kept making the same mistake, probably panicked, and probably
had bad luck. I kept finding a similarly situated control on the next
hill with a similar code. I had doubt that it was misnumbered. Plus I
twisted my knee in there. Not a good combination.
Well, the boom was an anomaly. Still a good race and good time per k if I
Day 6: Clunas
Here is the Day 6 map with routes
Despite ice and advil and the like, I woke up with a pretty sore knee from
the day before. I wasn't sure if I was going to go out. It was the inside
ligament. I'm not sure if that is the ACL or not, but I know knee injuries
are never anything to take lightly no matter what the problem. But this
seemed really mild. I decided it was nothing more advil couldn't handle,
and I decided to walk or jog the course.
But once I turned over the map and saw a trail run, I started running to
see how it felt. It felt ok. I boomed the first control, and this one
was an easy one, or so it looked. But the bag was hung in green on the
side of a hill, not a point feature. I found the hill ok. Oh well.
This map was tough. Felled areas and white woods that were semi-felled
areas. Brutal. And no reasonable route choices to avoid the misery
in many cases. The brutal terrain didn't let up 'til bag 12. 12-17 were
in really sweet white woods, and were fun, but the first 11 controls were
8-9 and 9-10 were the most brutal, but I can see how they are the signature
navigation legs of the course. In a perverse way, I appreciated what the
course setter was doing here. He was forcing you to figure out the best of
a bad situation. Knuckle down and figure out the fastest, or least
unpleasant, way to deal with it. Fair enough once in a while, its just that
some of the other more straightforward legs thru the rough seemed a bit
I think I had a decent plan for these legs, but did boom both of them mildly.
The green around 9 was absolutely brutal, thick, low-branched pines with
blowdown to boot. I could not find that 3 contour hill. Some people, tho,
say they lost 40 minutes in there -- I had a backup plan in case I could
not find the hill -- bail immediately to the rough open (as if I could
find that, but I did), and reattack. Brutal control. I'm not sure the
road is better than my route -- the white is slow in this area, and the
light green is almost as nasty as the medium. In retrospect, its possible
that the best route to 9 is the right trail run all the way to the sliver
of rough open way east of the control, and take that down to the field
of "rough open scattered trees" (which was more rough than open), and backdoor
the control. That is a gutsy route choice, tho, especially when you don't
know how nasty the med green will be.
Overall, I think I had a good run here -- I think it was my second or
third best placing.
And for the week, I think my best set of international races so far.