The start of the new year has been busy for Members of Orienteering SA despite holidays for most, with a range of sprint events presented. Included was a series of five sprint events run in Adelaide over the long weekend forming a training event for elite orienteers Australia wide. Thanks are due to Bridget Anderson and Jim Russell, the head OA coach, for their lead in running this event. The Sprint Championships at Aberfoyle Park HS was a worthy culmination of the sprint series, and many thanks to the Arrows for their work in organising the series.
This year will be busy for many members carrying out the myriad of tasks essential for keeping Orienteering interesting and challenging, including growing participation. We have an enthusiastic involvement to include Orienteering in the schools sports programs, and a broad plan of permanent Orienteering courses, which from the data received has attracted considerable use. There are also considerable club initiatives in updating existing and preparing new maps.
A good start to the year will be the Encounter Weekend: The Bluff, on the 23rd and 24th March followed by the AGM on the 31st March following The Paddocks event.
A reminder to clubs to consider applying for the Office for Recreation Sport, Active Club Grants which close on the 17th of April.
Finally, safe travelling and a successful event for all those going to the Easter Carnival in WA.
From the editor
Plenty to read again. In this newsletter there is a report on Sprint Adelaide, held over the Australia Day weekend, and two reports on the SA Sprint Championships, which include a review of each of the courses. There is an article on a suggested "natural" handicap system for orienteering events that could improve competitiveness and attractiveness for entrants of both genders and all ages. There is also a three part series of articles that provide insight into Thierry Gueorgiou's navigation techniques and illustrate why he was world orienteering champion for such a long period.
In addition, there are articles on the Encounter Weekend to be held on 23rd and 24th March and on plans for World Orienteering Day on 15th May.
Sprint Adelaide – Australia Day Weekend
The series of 5 sprint events was run in Adelaide over the long weekend, forming a training event for the elite orienteers from SA and interstate as well as lots of fun for other local orienteers. We even had 2 overseas entrants – orienteers from Macau – Jenny Kam (currently studying at Uni SA) and Kong Chak Lon.
The event was conceived by Bridget Anderson and Jim Russell, the OA Head Coach, who also ran all the SI each day. The course options were:
Course 1, Long, Hard Navigation, aimed at the Elite Orienteer:
2 Individual Sprint races
1 Night race
1 Knock out sprint race
1 3km track time trial
Course 2, Medium, Hard Navigation, nearly as long, for all other who want a challenge:
4 Individual Sprint races
1 Night race
Course 3, Short, Moderate Navigation, for all other competitors:
4 Individual Sprint races
1 Night race
The events were:
Friday 25th – night event on the Belair Golf Course part of Belair NP. Start time was a little after 9 PM to ensure that the orienteering was mostly in the dark! This proved challenging for many, being certain which fairway or which group of trees you were in at night. Course planner was Adrian Uppill.
Saturday 26th – AM – elites ran a time trial on the North Adelaide University loop. Not surprisingly the fastest was Martin Dent, who has previously represented Australia in athletics and cross country, and more recently has focused on orienteering.
Saturday 26th – PM – Heathfield – the sprint map of the high school has been extended into Woorabinda park area (previously a 1:10,000 map) by Olly Williams, who also planned the courses. The combination of bush and urban proved challenging to many.
Sunday 27th – AM – Flinders University South – here the elites ran heats with 2 starting together on different courses in the area north of the lake. This was followed by a semi-final mass start knockout on courses with looping, using the campus area south of the lake. This decided the final for the evening’s event. Others ran a normal course (Medium and Short). Locals Simon Uppill, Dante Afnan and Bridget Anderson made the A final. Courses were set by Patrick Jaffe and Jim Russell.
Sunday 27th – PM – Flinders University North – the elite A finals were mass starts on a course with no looping. A bunch of 6 men with Martin Dent leading ran past the finish, however a decisive route choice by Simon Uppill on the 2nd last control gave him the overall win. Courses were set by by Jenny Casanova.
Monday 28th – AM – to wrap up the weekend, the final event was at Mt Barker – with courses by Jim Russell. Presentations were made to the overall winners (best 4 of 5 races for men and women on each of the 3 courses), with successful SA Orienteers being:
Open Men – Simon Uppill
Medium Men – Max Grivell, just ahead of Steve Cooper
Medium Women – Zara Soden
Short- Jan Hillyard
All results are here – day by day and overall results (only shows those who ran all 5 races).
The MARCH edition of The Australian Orienteer is now on-line here.
Entry deadlines are looming for Easter Carnival 2019; the Hill End NOL Weekend; and the NSW MTBO Championships & AUS MTBOC Team selection trials; so check the magazine on-line soon for details.
There are 16 detailed maps in the March edition. Much of the map detail will appear a little blurred when viewed on-line so it’s best to download the magazine to view crisp map definition.
The MARCH edition features Sprints, Sprints and more Sprints as well as MTBO news. There’s some comment from CompassSport on the City Race European Tour; analysis of the OV Sprint Championships map and courses at Ballarat’s School of Mines, Sprint Adelaide maps and the EVOC Summer Cup; Jock Davis describes his experiences running at Jukola 2018; there’s a new club in the Red Centre; there’s news of the first Monash Indoor O event and of the Melbourne City Race, both later this year; Order of Australia medals to three Orienteers; the OA non-Elite Rankings; and new technology to be introduced at OCEANIA 2019. O-SPY reveals some more quite interesting facts (Stephen Fry would once again be pleased); and Spot the Difference will test your map reading skills (this time a MTBO map).
Compiled from reports by Craig Colwell & Robin Uppill
The SA Sprint Championships was the final event in 6 weeks of sprint orienteering events, with 5 events in Sprint Adelaide over the Australia Day Long Weekend, followed by 4 Arrows sprint series events.
The map area of Aberfoyle High School and the adjacent Happy Valley Sports Park was updated to sprint mapping specification by Oliver Williams, here over the summer from the UK to assist OSA with mapping and coaching. The event required negotiation with the school so that perimeter gates were open for the duration of the event.
The event was presented by Onkaparinga Hills OC, with courses planned by Craig Colwell. Hot muggy conditions were the order of the day, even for Craig and helpers who arrived early to start putting out controls, unlock gates and set-up the arena by 9am. Fortunately the overcast cloudy conditions protected participants from the sun for most of the event, except for a short spell in the middle, which combined with a short violent “whirly whirly” saw the destruction of one of the club's pop-up tents when it went airborne in a Mary Poppins fashion.
Courses for all classes except the sub-juniors had two maps, to enable the complex school campus to be visited twice over the course. All courses are available on Route Gadget, overall results for classes on Eventor and splits by course on WinSplits. The latter shows that many orienteers had small errors due the technical orienteering in the school campus section of the map. Winners of the open classes were Simon Uppill in M21A ahead of Olly Williams and Will Kennedy, and in W21A Olivia Sprod ahead of Bridget Anderson and Lanita Steer.
Looking at the results and run times most of the courses fell within the expected times, though this was a different story for the class times. The 4 senior course maps all had a map exchange (with second part of the map on the reverse side). This seemed to be of some surprise to a number of the older competitors receiving their starting instructions or to those who didn’t read the notes provided at the registration. The reason for the split map was to reduce the clutter (number of circles and numbers) on the map within the school zone.
For interest sake Craig worked out an approximate actual running distance for the 2.4Km (straight line) Course 4, which was 3.5km. George Reeves running M75 did that in approximately 36 minutes, Paul Hoopmann in M65 did approximately 22 minutes, Jemima Lloyd in W14 did approximately 26 minutes and Robin Uppill in W55 approximately 28 minutes.
The event appeared to meet expectations with numerous positive comments and only a very few disappointed ones.
Many thanks to all those who helped set-up, pack-up, run starts and finishes and registration and also collect the controls at the end. Bridget Anderson gets special mention for designing and organising the printing of the Championship certificates, as does Robin Uppill for all her behind the scenes SI computer magic and Adrian Uppill for finalising the map layout.
Sprint Champs Gallery
Click/tap to zoom. Then click/spread to see photos at full resolution. Click left/right arrows, or drag, to see the complete gallery.
SA Sprint Championships – Course setter’s comments
Thanks to everyone who braved the warm weather and attended the SA Sprint Championships. From a setter’s point of view, it was good to see such a high turn out and receive so many positive comments on the courses.
Given the small area of the school grounds and map in general it was a challenge to provide sufficient length of course without covering the map in circles, hence my decision on a map exchange for all courses (except the Course 5 for the 10/12 YO).
I dare say there was some surprise that both the C3 and C4 were the same straight-line length (2.4km). However, both courses were completely different and I was reluctant to reduce the distance for C4 (probably to the dismay of the W65 and M75 competitors), but I could have increased the C3 distance to make the Course display notice look appropriate.
The general building layout within the school fence line together with the slight height variations provided an opportunity for numerous route choices even for controls placed a short distance apart. In the above diagram the leg between Control 2 and Control 3 is a good example. The best route was to head NE out of the control (down the steps) and work your way between the building and the stone wall approaching the control from the NE. However, on the ground people tended to head directly towards the Control necessitating that they continue on through the gate and then come back at the control from the SE. Even from the Start some people got caught going to the first Control, getting confused and entering the first gate, heading back along the fence and arriving at Control 4 (sort of a parallel error).
The first part of Course 3 had a slightly less complicated layout, but which way was the quickest to Control 1. My thoughts lent towards running South to the middle oval entrance then West towards the Control. This seemed to be simplest route (both Aylwyn and David G chose this option). The leg from 5 to 6 also required some consideration. Do you take the southern route or weave your way through the middle (David and Aylwyn chose differently on this leg with David winning out by 23 seconds)? The southern route meant running away from the control to get out via the carpark gate, but it might have been a simpler route as long as you knew which side of the high fence the Control was on. How many owned up to being caught on the outside of the fence with the control only accessible via a narrow passage between the building and an impassable fence. Perhaps Phil Hazell can help us out here.
Course 1 had a number of Controls placed to the north of the map. Control 11 was placed at the base of an embankment with Control 12 tucked between two sheds. Possibly the most obvious route would have been to stay to the south of the creek utilizing the pathway, but I thought that going to the north of the olive OOB area past 13 might also have been a good option. Angus took the southern route option.
Most pleasing for the future of SA Orienteering was the performance of the 10/12 age category competing on the C5 map. Their course is shown below with Ben Marschall in Under 10s completing the course in a bit under 18 minutes, Finlay Horan and Mitchell Morcom competing in Under 12s taking under 16 minutes and for the girls Lucinda Fogarty and Jessica Jarvis both around the 22-minute mark in the W12 section. Good performances from all.
For this event to proceed access to the school grounds was essential and many thanks to Principal Marion Coady and David Edwards (Physical Educations teacher) who was the first point of call and also the School representative on the day coordinating gate opening and closing. Coach in residence Oliver Williams updated the map to a Sprint format mid February, I made some minor modifications and Adrian Uppill provided the ‘art work’ with the final version only completed 9 days before the event.
At worst, a bit of fun for everybody, or, at best, a method to eliminate age- and gender-related effects in open competitions and identify the highest performing orienteers.
If graphs are not your thing, you can go directly to the two applications at the bottom of this article.
The first application estimates times for courses of different length by using a known result and incorporating expected changes in running speed with distance to calculate a new time. The second application estimates natural age- and gender-related effects that influence running speed. It then uses this information to remove these effects and produce an adjusted time that enables the performance of all competitors in an event to be compared directly, regardless of gender, age and course length.
Both applications use runner/orienteer models derived from a study of world running and international orienteering championship results.
This article grew out of an interest in understanding how fast I could expect to run after a 25 year break. I restarted running three years ago. I knew how fast I could run in my late teens to early 40s but had no idea how much age will have slowed me down.
My quest to answer this question evolved into an idea for a result system that could enable 10 to 90 year old female and male orienteers to be competitive against elite male orienteers - a form of natural handicap system. This is achieved by determining natural influences that affect running speed and using this information to produce an adjusted time that is a measure of performance relative to M21s.
The blue line in the above graph is derived from a study of world running records (non-O) and represents the upper envelope of male relative running speeds for different ages that might be expected over courses of fixed distance. The red line represents the upper envelope of female running speeds relative to males. The shapes of the lines and their relationship with each other are similar to those found in orienteering events. Male competitors whose relative speed over a course are on the blue line and female competitors whose relative speed are on the red line would be performing at similar levels.
Running speed for M21E (or M21A in the absence of a M21E event) competition winners define the value of unity and all other age- and gender-based results would be adjusted and presented relative to this value. For example, M10, W14, W55, and M65 orienteers finishing with an average speed 0.75 of the M21 winner's speed would be classified as performing at the same level as the M21 winner and have the same adjusted times. If orienteers in the same classes finished with average speeds 0.375 (half of 0.75) of the M21 winner's speed, their adjusted times would be twice the M21 winner's time.
In State championship events, 10-year age groupings beyond age 35 mean that competitors at the younger end of the group have close to a 10% natural speed advantage (0.1 on the above graph for top males) over those at the older end. Records show that this is the amount that running speed declines naturally with age. For national events, age groupings are smaller, but the natural speed advantage for those at the younger end of the age range is still close to 5%. For youth and junior competitors there is a natural increase in running speed of on average about 25% of their top speed over the decade from age 10 to age 20.
Two articles in The Australian Orienteer magazine, namely David Hogg's article "Planning Courses for Older Orienteers" in the March 2017 Australian Orienteer, and "Winning Times Review" by Vincent Loye and Jenny Casanova in the December 2018 AO magazine, provided some confidence that I was on the right track in understanding age- and gender-related effects on running speed. In fact, it was David Hogg's article that was the inspiration for this article. It made me wonder whether logic similar to that used to estimate winner's speeds in orienteering competitions could be used in reverse to adjust recorded times to a common standard that represented actual performance for both genders across all age groups.
Below is a summary of some of the information that influenced this article.
Scientific papers on human physical development and subsequent decline with ageing.
Key factors that affect running speed are muscle mass and VO2 max (an indicator of aerobic capacity).
Starting at puberty, muscle mass in males increases at a faster rate than females and reaches a higher peak and remains approximately constant in both genders from about age 20 to 45. At about age 35, body weight tends to increase naturally because of increasing fat deposition and at age 45 muscle mass commences a near linear decline of 5-6%/decade. Fast twitch muscle fibres decline at a faster rate with age than slow twitch fibres, which produce sustained effort aerobically, are more fatigue resistant and recover faster.
VO2 max is generally considered to be a good aerobic, especially endurance, fitness indicator. VO2 max decline commences in the mid 30s by about 10%/decade regardless of activity.
Exercise by both males and females can offset some muscle decline, but exercise appears to offset VO2 max decline only in males.
The effects of other age-related factors that contribute to reducing speed in orienteering, such as eyesight, joints, bones, brain function, and disease, and work- and family-related influences that reduce opportunities to exercise and train, were not researched.
The above provides explanations of why female running speed is slower than male speed, why running speed initially increases to age 20 then declines with age above about age 35, and why sprint speed is affected more by ageing than endurance speed, but it does not answer the question "by how much?".
World running records (ie non-O) for male and female, over 1.5km, 5km, 10km and marathon, for age and age groups from 10 to 100.
From these, trends in running speed were identified. Running speed generally peaks between the ages of about 20 to 35. At about age 10, running speed is 75% of peak running speed and increases almost linearly to reach a peak after about age 20. After age 35, running speed decreases almost linearly to about 60% of peak speed at age 80, when it starts to decline more rapidly.
Between age 20 to 80, running speed declines with distance at a similar rate. Between ages 10 to 19 and after age 80 running speed declines more rapidly with distance, which is why there is a spread of some points at the younger and older end of the second graph below. Female running speed is generally about 0.1 (ie about 10% of maximum male speed) slower than male speed for all ages.
Finals' winner's times and course distances for World Orienteering Cup male and female sprint, long and middle championship events (64 courses in total, which included World and European Championships) for the period 2015 to 2018.
Although held over different courses, running speed trends could be observed. Female running speeds were generally about 20% slower than male speeds over both long and middle distance orienteering courses, and 12.5% slower for sprint events.
A-class finals' winner's times and course distances for World Masters Orienteering Championships male and female, sprint and long events (total of 224 courses) for the period 2015 to 2018.
Rates of decline in running speed with age had similar profiles to those for non-O running, although speed decline appeared to start later than 35 in male and female bush and sprint orienteering events. Also, relative speed generally starts to decline at a faster rate beyond age 70, compared with age 80 for non-O running. Female running speeds for the same age were 15 to 20% slower than males for long distance events, and less (10 to 15%) for sprint events.
Comparison with Australian Orienteering Championships.
The four-year average of relative running speeds for winners of all A and Elite age groups for long events are shown together with world running records and World Masters Orienteering Championships winning speeds in the following two graphs. Here, actual Australian Championship running speeds (ie raw and not adjusted to a common course length) are displayed relative to M21E winning speeds. The World Masters Orienteering Championship speeds are relative to M35, which analysis indicated was close to World Orienteering Cup speeds.
The first graph for males indicates that male youth and junior Australian Orienteering Championship winning speeds and M55 closely match the world running and World Masters Orienteering Championship relative speed profiles, with other age groups slower than the World Masters Orienteering Championship profiles. For females, most winning relative speeds were slower than world running and World Masters Orienteering Championship profiles. This latter observation can in part be explained by the W21E winner, Natasha Key, who by age was qualified to compete in W45 but competed well out of her age group. The difference between raw and adjusted (to a common 10km course length) relative speeds for World Masters Orienteering Championship was relatively small, being in the range 0 to about 0.04.
For top runners and orienteers, and probably lesser mortals such as you and me, running speed and rates of decline or increase are predictable to an acceptable degree of accuracy. The non-O runner model (several equations) matched all male records with an average time error of less than about 1.5% and all female records with an average error of less than 2.5%.
Note. Raw running speed for all orienteering courses was calculated as the winner's finishing times divided by the straight line distance between controls. Raw running speeds were also adjusted to common standard course lengths of 10km (long), 5km (middle), and 3km (sprint) using a model derived from world running records. Results for different courses at an event were assumed to scale similarly for length, climb, number of controls, and variations in terrain. Where age information was not available, world record and winners' ages within age groupings were assumed to be at the younger end of the group for ages greater than 35, and at the older end of the group for ages less than 20.
Because comprehensive, reliable data for youth and junior orienteering events could not be found, a model based on running records (ie non-O) was used for this group in the following examples. Also, a simplified model was initially used to represent competitors aged 75 and over. Note (13 April 2019): The model used to represent older age groups was updated and used in the examples below. This had greatest effect on the results for the over 70s, with minor changes to the results for males in the age range 35 to 70.
Application of orienteering model
In order to illustrate what can be done with the model, some examples are given below.
Determining equivalent performance of male and female competitors over courses of different length.
This applies when courses scale similarly for length, climb, terrain, and number of controls.
Example 1. In the 2018 Australian Middle Championships, Natasha Key (born 1971) recorded a time of 34:09 over a 5.0km course (speed 6:50/km) when winning W21E. When adjusted to a course length of 5.9km (the M21E course length), her time is estimated to be equivalent to 40:44 at a speed of 6:54/km. When natural age- and gender-effects are subtracted, her time reduces to 29:58, which is faster than the winner of M21E, Matthew Crane (31:28, no age-adjustment needed), born 1981. That is, Key's performance in W21E can be considered to be superior to that of Crane's in M21E.
Example 2. Key (then age 46) and Crane (then age 36) competed in the World Masters Orienteering Championship in 2017, and both won the Sprint competition in their respective classes of W45A (13:31 over 2.6km at a speed of 5:12/km) and M35A (15:15 over 3.5km at a speed of 4:21/km). Adjusting Crane's time to equivalent age 21 - 35, has no effect on his time - for sprint events, age does not start to affect speed on average until about age 38. Estimating Key's time for the equivalent of the M35A distance of 3.5km, her time increases to 18:33 (speed 5:18/km). Now, adjusting Key's time for gender and age reduces her time to 14:18 (speed 4:05/km). Again Key's performance in W45A can be considered to be superior to that of Crane in M35A.
Example 3. Warren Key, believed to be born in 1959, recorded a time of 43:56 (7:27/km) in the 2018 Australian Orienteering Championships Middle M21E (5.9km), although he was eligible to run in M55A. When adjusted for age, his performance in M21E reduces to an equivalent 34:57 (5:55/km), which would have placed him in 5th position. If he had competed in M55A (3.6km), his equivalent time (not age adjusted in order to compare with the actual class winner) would have been 25:56 (7:12/km), or about 2 minutes ahead of the actual M55A winner. Warren Key won the M55A long event at the same championships with a time of 42:35 (6:44/km) over a 6.32km course. The M21E course length was 15.68km. Estimating Key's time for the longer M21E course length yields an equivalent of 112:16 (7:10/km). Then adjusting for age yields a time of 89:18 (5:42/km), a performance that would have placed him in 2nd place behind the winner's time of 86:44.
Example 4. New. Added 13 April 2019 following comments made to the author on the performance of several women in the 2018 Australian Championships.
The following two graphs show the 2018 Australian Championship class winner running speeds (blue squares) relative to M21E. The relative speeds (red lines) expected from analysis of international orienteering championship results and those of the current Australian national standard (yellow lines) are also shown.
A relative speed close to or above the red line indicates that the class winner performed close to or better than that predicted by the performance of the M21E winner. The graphs indicate that M16, M20, M55 and M75 winners completed their courses at speeds close to the male line, that W16 and W60 winners appear to have run faster than predicted, and that W20, W21, W55, W75, and W80 were either close or slightly slower than predicted. Although finishing with an average running speed close to that predicted by the M21E profile for a 21 to 35 year old woman, the W21E winner was in fact aged 48 in 2018.
Using the applications at the bottom of this article, class winners' times were adjusted to an equivalent for the M21E course length, and then adjusted for age and gender. The results are recorded below. Adjusted times, which represent performance relative to M21E, are listed in order. The table indicates that three women class winners performed at a higher level than predicted by the performance of the M21E winner, which is consistent with the conclusion in the "Winning Times Review" by Vincent Loye and Jenny Casanova in the December 2018 AO magazine. The above graphs also indicate that most winners' speeds generally exceeded, in some cases significantly, national standard speeds used in the design of championship courses.
Tessa Burns (NZ)
John Le Carpentier
*Although qualified to compete in W45A, Natasha Key, age 48 in 2018, competed in and won W21E. Her adjusted time of 1:19:51 was based on her actual age. If she had been in the age range 21 to 35, her adjusted time would have been 1:26:55, which still represents a performance comparable with that of the M21E winner.
Estimating equivalent male and female performance from published results.
In the recent SA Snap Sprint series of four events, three courses (long, short and easy) at each venue were set by the organisers. The first step of this analysis was to re-scale all finish times for short and easy courses to the long course length using the runner/orienteer model in the first application below. The next step was to estimate age and gender adjustments using the second application. Year of birth information for each competitor was derived from a data base provided to the author. Year of birth information was not available for most casual registrations so many of these entrants were removed from the results.
Added 13 April. All results were updated using a more accurate representation of over-70s running speeds, which caused several competitors in this age group to move up the results table. Results for the SA Sprint Championships were added here after being scaled to the M21A course distance of 3300m before gender and age adjustments were made.
All results are re-ordered to that of adjusted times. Examples of adjustments in the first table are:
Dante Afnan (age at end of year 18) age-adjusted time: 15:21 becomes 14:31.
Robert Tucker (72) age-adjusted time: 24:00 becomes 15:06.
Joanna George (17) age- and gender-adjusted time: 19:59 becomes 16:06.
Oliver Williams (24) age-adjusted time: 16:12 becomes 16:12 (ie no change because M21).
Morris Allen (72) won the 2100m M Vet Short class in 21:46 (10:22/km). This time is equivalent to 27:20 (10:31/km) for the 2600m long course. When age-effects are removed, his adjusted time becomes 17:11 (6:37/km).
The described process has potential to be applied to events attracting both genders and all ages to a small number of open courses, and thus improve competitiveness for all. It could even be adapted to include an additional correction based on an individual's past results to produce a true handicap system. Many clubs have neither the time, membership nor competitors to justify designing courses that cater for all permutations of gender, age and ability. These courses could be well suited to this form of natural handicap system.
Application 1: estimate time for course of different length
Year of birth (4 digits) or age at end of year (2 digits)
Results for current event:
Distance in km (eg type 5.7)
Estimate time for course of distance in km (eg type 8.3)
Application 2: estimate age- and gender-adjusted time
This app can also be used to determine relative running speeds for different age groups based on estimated speeds for M21E class.
Year of birth (4 digits) or age at end of year (2 digits)
The following three articles are re-published with kind permission of Jan Kocbach (Norway, founder, site developer, author, photographer, analyst for WorldofO.com) and Martin Lerjen (Switzerland, currently chief mapper and member of the Mapping committee for the Swiss Oriienteering Federation). They were compiled with minor edits from:
The articles first appeared in the news section of the World of O website in 2007, four years after Thierry won his first World Orienteering Championship gold medal. They are re-published below so they can be read as a single document. They provide great insight into the techniques, training and commitment of one of the world's greatest orienteers.
Gueorgiou’s story - Part I
Author: Jan Kocbach November 27, 2007
Thierry Gueorgiou at World Orienteering Championships 2007
– One second mistake is still not good enough! This is what lies at the bottom of Thierry Gueorgiou’s orienteering philosophy – which he shared with the participants at the Norwegian O-Gala in the middle of November. Based on Gueorgiou’s two long presentations at the O-Gala, World of O presents a few short articles representing some of the secrets behind Gueorgiou’s success. Many thanks go to Gueorgiou for sharing his presentation slides.
A good illustration of the perfectionist Gueorgiou is the following short story:
– When I started running for the Finnish club Kalevan Rasti, they laughed at me when they saw my control descriptions in which I put up 1 second mistakes [see control description notes to the right of the map]. But their attitude soon turned, and they started doing the same themselves. I am not satisfied until there are only zeros along the right edge of that control description.
And as everybody can see – Gueorgiou is getting closer and closer to his “all-zeros” goal.
Thierry Gueorgiou at the Norwegian O-Gala. Picture: Øystein Kvaal Østerbø
PASSIONATE about O’technique
Thierry Gueorgiou’s father had an important role in Thierry’s development as an orienteer. – No training without a map, was the philosophy. Even when running on the track, the map was there. Thierry’s passion about O-technique is also mirrored in the new goal Thierry set after reaching his goal of becoming a World Champion in 2003: To become the best O’technician ever!
Thierry has increased his orienteering training from 170 hours in 1997 to 300 hours in 2007.
Following his father's philosophy, between 40% and 50% of Thierry’s training has been orienteering since 1997 – quite impressive compared to many others in the world orienteering elite. And also a result of Thierry’s passion about O-technique.
Looking for example at the Norwegian elite, many are satisfied when they get above 20-25%. When looking a Thierry’s training, Thierry has increased his orienteering training from 170 hours in 1997 to 300 hours in 2007. Below you see the development of orienteering training compared to other training between 1997 and 2007:
World Champion in his mind a hundred times
Over the years to come he continued becoming a World Champion in his mind.
At the World Orienteering Champs in France in 1987, Thierry’s dream of being a world champion was born – at the age of 8.
In 1991 at the spectator races of the World Orienteering Champs in Czechoslovakia, Thierry got World Champion in his mind when winning the spectator race in his age category. Over the years to come he continued becoming a World Champion in his mind – playing it before his inner mind time after time.
Until at the World Orienteering Champs in Finland in 2001: After a disappointing 18th place at the short distance in a close to mistake-free race, Thierry for the first time had to admit to himself that maybe he would not be a World Champion after all. – For the first time, I had to admit that my dream couldn’t come true, are Thierry’s words. This lead to Thierry taking his longest break from orienteering ever – a break of several months. Out of this break came Thierry’s rebirth as an orienteer: The “Full speed – no mistake” method – giving higher speed at lower risk. The “Full speed – no mistake” method will be the topic of the next article.
– For the first time, I had to admit that my dream couldn’t come true.
With this technique, Thierry regained his belief in becoming a World Champion – and the next one and a half years he won the 2003 World Championships in Trin, Switzerland over and over again in his mind. –The human brain makes no difference between reality and a mental picture. You have to feel that you are running in your garden. You have to feel that you have already run the World Orienteering Champs a hundred times, is Thierry’s attitude.
– It was “just once more becoming World Champion”.
The ultimate proof about how realistic Thierry’s mental picture of his winning the World Champs was: –When I ran into the finish as a World Champion in Trin in 2003, I was very happy – but not extremely happy. The reason: I had already seen this in my inner mind so many times before. It was “just once more becoming World Champion”.
–Thierry, you are one of the best map readers I have ever seen. But if you want to become the best, you must change your way of orienteering. You have to start building much simpler mental images of the terrain if you want to become faster. This was the message from Börje Vartiainen – Kalevan Rasti’s coach – to Thierry Gueorgiou in the autumn of 2001, at a time when Gueorgiou was in his deepest valley yet as an orienteer.
WOC 2001: Breakdown of a dream
To recap from part I of this article series from Thierry Gueorgiou’s presentation at the Norwegian O-gala – Thierry’s “breakdown” was after a very disappointing 18th place at the short distance in the World Orienteering Champs in Finland in a close to mistake-free race. After many years of believing strongly that he could be the World Champion, Thierry had, for the first time, admitted to himself that maybe he would not be a World Champion after all (map example – Vattula 2, WOC 2001, short distance final, Ari Anjala & Reijo Kujansuu).
– My technique is slow
Vartiainen’s message helped Thierry onto the right track. – The 2002 season was my rebirth as an orienteer, Thierry comments. A new technique, a new attitude and mental preparations were the key elements in this process.
As an excellent map reader already at that time, Thierry read all these details accurately and fast.
So what was the problem with the old technique? Let us take a look at one of Thierry’s examples on a fantasy map (below) for an illustration of the old technique. Following along the drawn route choice, you read the map passing the marsh, then the tree root, the cliff, then between the two hills, cross the small track, then the small cliff, and so on. As an excellent map reader already at that time, Thierry read all these details accurately and fast – running in full control from feature to feature.
And the problem? Even if you run fast and orienteer fast – reading all details takes extra time.
I don’t know if this is the right way to go, but it is a fact.
Thierry: – Maps get more and more detailed. I don’t know if this is the right way to go, but it is a fact. My new orienteering technique had to account for this. Also, there are different mapping styles. Different mappers give very different maps. And there is a large range of different terrain types. I had to try to find a general method anyway.
Mapping evolution from 1982 to 2005 in WC Final 2006 area.
16 mappers – 16 maps animated image from http://olles.cz/ (no longer available).
Maps from different terrain types.
It is obvious – and most orienteers make use of it in every race: Use the most visible and distinct features as key points in your orienteering. But how far do you go in your analysis of visibility and distinctness of features? Do you analyze visibility and distinctness for all features before planning your route choice, and create a “visibility map” in your head?
Thierry [see map]: – We can mark the areas from which we can see this control on the map. We can see the control from the hills, from this yellow area and from a part of the marsh.
But how far do you go in your analysis of visibility and distinctness of features?
These kinds of visibility maps are at the heart of Thierry’s new orienteering technique. Another example from Thierry’s presentation: The map below show visibility maps for two different features. The blue visibility map is for feature A, a stone in a small re-entrant. The red visibility map is for a large hill. Thierry again: – The stone you can see from only a very small area. The hill you can see from a large area.
Map: Ruläys, Rauno Asikainen
– You must identify the distinctive features.
Thierry again: – The next question I asked myself is what is important on a map. For this question, there is no general answer. This is different from terrain type to terrain type. – You must identify the distinctive features. The features which are both isolated and visible! Again – let’s use two of Thierry’s examples. The first example (to the left below) is for a special open French terrain with a lot of cliffs. As these cliffs are visible from far away, it would be tempting to base much of the orienteering on them. However, there is another set of details in this terrain type which are much more distinctive and isolated: Big characteristic trees (green ring on the map). The second example (Finnish terrain, to the right below) is very different. Here the cliffs are the distinctive and characteristic details which you can base your navigation on.
Left map: LES AUREDES, Pellegry Alain & Laurent. Right map: TAHKOVAARA, Rauno Asikainen, Jussi Silvennoinen & Börje Vartiainen
In short: Don’t use stones as a basis for your navigation in an area full of stones.
– Sometimes a contour line can be really like a motorway.
Visible and distinct features
We are nearly there – but what about all those different terrain types? –Contour details like hills and depressions are visible and distinct in many terrain types – they are usually very good to use for this technique, is Thierry’s tip to all the Norwegian listeners at the O-gala. – Sometimes a contour line can be really like a motorway. All you have to do is to follow it, Thierry commented the second leg on this year's World Orienteering Champs middle distance. Further key points in all terrain types are (1) trust your compass and (2) keep your head high. Also – and this is the main point – when using these visible and distinct features for your navigation, you can (and must) ignore all the other details. This is what makes you fast! (But don’t narrow the technique too much, or you will end up like Thierry Gueorgiou in the World Champs middle distance in 2006 – a miserable number four…)
“Full speed – no mistake”
Thierry: – The equation to solve is higher speed at lower risk. Piecing the above elements together, we arrive at what Thierry calls the “Full speed – no mistake” technique. Let us go back to the first example, and see how Thierry solves it with the “Full speed – no mistake” technique (see map). Thierry: – There is one perfect solution for every leg which you must find. The “Full speed – no mistake” technique helps you to find the optimal route choice. Runner A knows where he is – runner B knows where to go.
Let us analyze the leg and the two route choice alternatives using visibility maps (not shown explicitly). Along route choice alternative B, the visibility area for all three hills along the route choice is very good – so good that you can see from hill to hill, and maintaining full speed all the way. Along route choice A, you can argue that the first hill/cliff along the route choice is distinct and visible from quite a large distance.
You need to – again extremely fast – be able to visualize the terrain in 3D in your head from the physical map.
However, it is not visible from control number one, and thus lower speed and more orienteering is necessary for the first part of the leg. The next cliff you pass is again a nice, distinct feature, but visibility from the direction of the runner is rather limited. Visibility and distinctness for the rest of route choice A is also poorer than for route choice B.
See in 3D
What is needed to apply this technique effectively, is the ability to extremely fast get from the physical map to a visibility map for all distinct points in the terrain. To do this, you need to – again extremely fast – be able to visualize the terrain in 3D in your head from the physical map – as the 3D terrain model is the natural step to get from physical map to visibility map.
Master the technique
In the simple example above, this looks obvious. But let us take a look at a few of Thierry’s examples which are not that obvious. Both are from the World Cup Final in 2006 in France (Map: AYDAT, O’vert4) – a terrain which nobody masters as well as Thierry Gueorgiou.
Here it is not that obvious which features are distinct and visible. At first look, everything looks just the same, and it is tempting to use the round cliff just left of the line as your attack-point for the control, as it (a) looks like a distinct feature and (b) you have a good entrance to the control over the small hill between the cliff and the control.
A small error in compass bearing can be tolerated, and maximum speed can be held until close to the control.
However, when we look at visibility maps (not shown), we see that the cliff is only visible from a small area, and you might miss it if your compass bearing is not very accurate. OK you could say – “Let us take the hill just behind the round cliff. That is larger, and my compass bearing needn’t be that accurate.” But again visibility is an issue: Both the round cliff and the small hill to the right of the round cliff are “in the way”.
Let us take a look at Thierry’s approach: The hill just to the right of the control (marked with three red rings in the right part of the above figure). Due to the large flat area south of the hill, the hill is visible from a large region along the route the runner is coming from. Thus, a small error in compass bearing can be tolerated, and maximum speed can be held until close to the control.
Below you see the second example from the World Cup Final. Again, visibility and distinctness is the key – this time for the hill to the right of the leg:
Training and attitude
Training yourself to master the method…
The “full speed – no mistake”-technique outlined above is one thing – and in itself you might say it is nothing special. Similar ideas lie behind most elite-orienteers technique – even if it might not always be spelled out this clearly regarding visibility maps and tactics. Training yourself to master the method, having the correct attitude and – last but not least – the mental aspect, is something completely different! More about this in the next article in this series.
Follow-up of Gueorgiou-part-II: Analyze your map reading
Introduction: Jan Kocbach December 17, 2007
Main article: Martin Lerjen
Did you find the article on Thierry Gueorgiou’s “Full speed – no mistake” technique (Gueorgiou’s story part II) interesting? In that case, this follow-up article about “Analyzing your map reading in orienteering” by Martin Lerjen should interest you a lot. This article compares different map reading technique – one of them being part of Gueorgiou’s “Full speed – no mistake” technique. Reading this article might help you to find out how to change your orienteering technique to get closer to the technique of Gueorgiou. Thanks a lot to Martin for allowing me to publish this article on World of O.
Martin Lerjen’s introduction: In this discussion paper, I introduce five types of orienteering map reading: retrospective, reading-the-next-step, visionary, affirmative, and detailing. Four properties define the types and, in general, you can group the types as “bad” and “good.” I also introduce a way to visualize your map reading techniques. The paper is based on the concept of “visionary head start” and is inspired by several elite orienteers and my own work as an orienteering coach.
VISIONARY HEAD START
If you have visionary head start, then you can navigate and run at full speed.
Visionary head start happens when you have a vision of the terrain to come, including specific technically significant features. I call these significant features “beacons”. The beacons divide a leg into segments and provide points of navigation and confirmation. If you have visionary head start, then you can navigate and run at full speed.
Here’s a part of an interview with Thierrry Gueorigou published in o-sport 5-2004, where he gets it to the point:
o-sport: So, what would you say is the biggest difference between Thierry in 2001 and today? I would say that in 2001 I was an orienteer who knew all the time exactly where he was. At present, I’m an orienteer, who knows where he’ll be in the next 100 meters.
o-sport: So, you are all the time, in fact, running in the future?
… but, in my mind, I’m already some 200 meters ahead.
Yes, and that’s very important. I may actually be running through a certain space; but, in my mind, I’m already some 200 meters ahead. All the time I try to keep my head up and to look for features as distant as possible. Moreover, in 2001 I was reading the features only, when I passed them; so I was not really running in the present, but in the past. I think this is the case with most not-so-good, young orienteers. They orienteer the way I did in 2001, and it is natural. This is very comfortable and far less challenging than the way I orienteer now. And, of course, you have to work really hard to change that.
PROPERTIES OF MAP CONTACT
If you know where you want to read, then the map contact doesn’t take much time.
Where on the map do you want to read? (a) You know where you want to read
(b) You don’t know where you want to read
This property has a lot to do with how long the map contact takes. If you know where you want to read, then the map contact doesn’t take much time. But, if you don’t know where you want to read, then you have to first find yourself on the map. That takes more time.
Where are you focusing compared to your current position? (a) You are reading something you have passed
(b) You are reading the areas you are currently in
(c) You are reading something that is ahead of you (that you can’t yet see)
If you are reading something you’ve passed, you are behind. You have to find an explanation for what happened. This is dangerous. Sometimes you reach the wrong conclusion. When you read the area you are currently in, you are usually trying to get the map and terrain to fit together. When you are reading ahead, you are preparing for something that you can’t yet see.
Where are you focusing compared to your current vision? (a) You have no beacons in front of you
(b) You are reading areas where you already have a vision (e.g. between beacons)
(c) You are reading further ahead than your next beacon
With no beacons, you are running based on ideas (minimal and incomplete headstart) or “blind” with your compass. In the second case, you are adding details. When you read further ahead, you are preparing and extending your visionary headstart.
What is the result of the map contact? (a) You have a new beacon, so you have extended your vision
(b) You have a new beacon providing more detail to your existing vision
(c) You have an idea of what is coming next
(d) You have an explanation for what you did
(e) You now know where you are
TYPES OF MAP CONTACT
The properties of map contact combine into five main types of map contact.
Retrospective (1a -2a – 3a – 4d)
You ask yourself, “where am I?” You have to look at the area you have passed since you last knew where you were. You have to remember what you have passed and work with what you can see. After some time you might find out where you are (or not!).
Reading-the-next-step (1b – 2c – 3c – 4c)
It is not that you don’t know where you are, but that you ended your map contact with only the next step. This is probably the shortest type of map contact. You don’t usually have time to develop a vision but only an idea. Usually, you are forced to read the next step after the previous step is over. In the example, you decided to run along the left side of the lake. You will be forced to read the map again at the trail junction.
Visionary (1a – 2c – 3c – 4a)
Visionary map contact stretches out the visionary headstart – the area you have already prepared – the 200 meters in front of you that TG mentioned. Having this headstart lets you look ahead and concentrate on micro-routechoice. That lets you make your next map contact without bad surprises from the terrain. A sub-type of visionary map contact is preparing other legs. I call this “preloading map contact.” Ideally you would start a leg entirely preloaded.
Affirmative (1a – 2b – 3b – 4e)
Affirmative map contact is very short. You are sure about where you are and where you are going (between two beacons). It happens when you pass something you didn’t expect but that you think will be on the map (e.g. a boulder). You know where it should be on the map, you check, and there it is. Affirmative map contact usually happens when you first see something in the terrain rather than on the map.
Detailing (1a – 2c – 3b – 4b)
After you have the big picture of a leg, you might spend some time looking at the map to identify details you will pass. You are building
up steps and additional beacons that make your orienteering more stable.
MAP CONTACTS DISCUSSION
Retrospective map contact is bad. You never want to use it.
Different types of map contact take different amounts of time. I think that retrospective takes the most time, followed by visionary and detailing. Affirmative and next-step both take very little time. But, except for retrospective, the amount of time for map contact doesn’t really matter. How else could the best orienteers also be the ones with the most map contacts (and I’m assuming the most map contact time). I think the answer is that it isn’t the amount of time you invest reading the map, but the effect of it on your running and orientation in the terrain that makes you faster or slower.
Retrospective map contact is bad. You never want to use it. It is the price you pay for losing map contact and navigating based on just ideas.
Next-step map contact is quite short, but has to be done often. The specific time that you have next-step map contact is forced by the distance of your visionary head start. If you’re force to use next-step map contact where the map reading is hard to do (for example, in rocky footing), you might delay reading the map and keep running based on the general idea you have. Bad!
You may also be unwilling to invest in developing a vision after that. It is a vicious circle.
That will make the next map contact retrospective. It will take some time just to find out where you are. You may also be unwilling to invest in developing a vision after that. It is a vicious circle. This running on the edge has another negative effect. By getting closer to the end of your own visionary head start, details come into view that you can’t use because you haven’t prepared for them. So, although is uses little time, next-step reading has a lot of negatives because of the risk of falling off and the harm to fluent orienteering. I don’t think anyone uses only nextstep map reading. But, I think mistakes at the elite level often result from next-step reading in situations that look easy enough that longer looks at the map don’t seem necessary or when an orienteer doesn’t look at the map after preloading a general idea.
Your running speed is much higher because you can focus on the horizon.
Visionary map contact takes a little bit longer time, but it builds a base for more-or-less the entire leg. Your running speed is much higher because you can focus on the horizon and make good micro-route choices, reading the map when it fits best (i.e. when you can read without slowing down much).
Affirmative and detailing map contact give you a strong feeling of having full control. Affirmative and detailing map contacts depend on having previously had a visionary map contact. On the other hand, next-step and retrospective map reading happen when you haven’t previously had a visionary map contact. To turn this around, a visionary map contact is a good defence against next-step and retrospective reading.
Therefore it is always worth investing time in visionary map reading.
Therefore it is always worth investing time in visionary map reading. Do it at the beginning of the race and on the legs and you will always have a visionary head start. In races that are important: don’t neglect reading the map. If you feel like you are being forced to read and that you are starting to fall into the next-step trap, you can save yourself: invest three seconds in developing a visionary head start (and then you can run like the devil).
ANALYZE YOUR MAP READING
Here is a way to bring the visionary head start perspective to your orienteering and to analyze the reasons for your mistakes. It is easy. Take it leg-by-leg. Try to remember where on the leg you read the map and what the result was. Mark these points on your route and label them by the type of map contact. Sometimes two types come directly after each other. Next, project these points onto the direct line between the controls. Next, ask yourself ‘what was my visionary head start after the map contact?’ or, in other words, ‘what was the distance to the furthest “beacon” on this leg?’ Draw that distance at a right angle to the line connecting the controls from the point you noted for the map contact. As you advance on the leg, without reading, the distance to the furthest beacon diminishes, so draw your line of your visionary head start at an angle of 45 degrees towards the direct line between the controls (until your next map contact, where your visionary headstart might grow again).
In the above example you see a classic “take off”. Because the first part of the leg is very easy, the runner runs just down “to the road”. Arriving there he realizes that the situation is more complex, than just “the road” but a junction. As he asks himself how to proceed, he’s already on the junction and he has to decide fast. He finds the unexpected road on the map, decides to follow it until it crossed the river and then to continue towards the general direction. Under pressure, he only reads as long as necessary. So reading for the next part of the leg is dominated by the pressure to decide and he takes it step-by-step. He leaves the road, crosses the hill, runs down to the big road. As he realized that he is always a little behind, he makes a short stop on the road to read a bigger part of what is to come. He continues to run, gains more control and becomes more fluid in running and reading the map.
You don’t have to analyze each leg like this, but you can use it to analyze your technique in general from this point of view. And maybe you’ll gain a new understanding for some mistakes you made.
The strength of this method is, that it is able to explain fluid and non-fluid orienteering such as stable and risky orienteering. The strength of the model is, that it helps you to save yourself from falling out of the flow as it helps you to get back in. Just focus on a solid visual headstart.
The model of the visionary head start was inspired by an interview with Thierry Gueorgiou in O-Sport and his analysis “The Golden Route Choice” which documented his victory in the 2004 middle distance WOC in Sweden combined with the work of the Swiss psychologist Reto Venzl in the early nineties about mental issues in orienteering. I refined these ideas based on descriptions of good and bad races by Michal Smola, Matthias Merz, Daniel Hubmann, Benno Schuler, Emma Engstrand, David Schneider, Christian Rogenmoser and Martina Fritschy. Interesting to me is that analyses from international elite runners suggest that bad races and horrible mistakes often correspond with spending too little time map reading and in not building up a solid visionary head start. Perfect races are often described as “I was always in front” (Daniel Hubmann after winning the World Cup Sprint Final, Italy 2005).
Just counting the number of map contacts is, to me, quite useless because you don’t get information about the quality of the map contacts. We need research on the quality of map reading. For example, it would be very interesting to know how much time elite orienteers lose when orienteering as opposed to running full speed along a marked course. GPS technology can be used. Does the percentage of loss significantly vary
among the group and can therefore some conclusions be made referencing to their orienteering? I expect that visionary map reading lets you orienteer nearly as fast as you can run (or maybe even faster due to mental factors) .
Orienteering competitions have now moved from mainly park and street events held on Friday evenings to mainly bush events on Sundays. The Sunday event program runs from March to October. For program updates, go to the OSA Event page. The confirmed program for the next few months organised by Adelaide and surrounds, Lincoln and Saltbush clubs is as follows:
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