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Discussion: What question to ask...

in: Orienteering; General

Aug 3, 2016 8:03 PM # 
When we made a new set of Long courses last Friday for the Canadian champs race the following Sunday a lot of people asked us about the length of the new courses. We didn't see this would make much difference to anyone (since the winning times were unchanged and hence preparation more or less the same for both races) so we didn't make much effort to publish the information.

What nobody asked and I wish they had is about how much water was on the course. This IS very important for preparing for a race.

I realise curiosity leads to the first question, but if you trust the course planner then the second question is much more important ;-)
Aug 3, 2016 9:27 PM # 
At the recent O'France event there was no water on any courses, the organisers were quite clear about it in their information, but as far as I can tell only on the day. So we were not prepared for the need to carry water. It is very clear in Australia that water must be provided on the courses so it was somewhat of a surprise.

It was a hot start to the week and quite a concern that with difficult courses and the expectation that long times might occur, and that carrying water would be a good idea. As it turned out the weather changed and while some people's times on the course were long it was doable without water, well at least for me.

Are there IOF guidelines on the requirements for water?
Aug 3, 2016 10:21 PM # 
There are IOF rules (actually, more than guidelines) about it -
If the estimated winning time is more than 30 minutes, refreshments shall be
available at least every 25 minutes at the estimated speed of the winner.

We met this requirement. The problem was we didn't tell anyone we were going to - so they had to guess and a valid assumption was (I think) that we wouldn't. In addition, we didn't put the water at controls as we normally do, but at water drops along a powerline - and some people might not have recognised the "cup" symbol that designated the location.
Aug 3, 2016 10:47 PM # 
If you are dehydrated a powerline or a road is easier to find than a control.
Aug 4, 2016 12:22 AM # 
In Switzerland there is currently an ongoing heated debate about refreshments in the mountains during the Swiss-O-Week. I'm just curious why you didn't put anything about the refreshments in the race information, especially for the long?

Also I looked at the map of the long. The Men Elite will realistically have their first refreshment after 10, but more likely after 14 only. At this point of the race the runners were already roughly 1 hour running. The closest refreshment at control 5 could have been moved to the control with the additional benefit that many courses used that control.

Of course there is always the trade-off of giving away the location of the control. However, in this case I believe it would have been a good compromise.

PS. if you really planned the new courses only one week ahead I congratulate you on hitting the expected winning-times quite accurately.
Aug 4, 2016 1:23 AM # 
This has been discussed before but the requirement is only that there be provided enough water drops for every 25 minutes of the course, not that there's a water drop every 25 minutes. So if the course has a winning time of 90 minutes, there only needs to be 3 water drops but these can be at the final three controls if the setter so chooses.

Also if you don't recognise the cup symbol, you cannot call yourself an orienteer and probably deserve to dehydrate :-)
Aug 4, 2016 2:03 AM # 
The event website and information bulletin state that races would be conducted under the rules of Orienteering Canada and the International Orienteering Federation (WRE classes), and both sets of rules mandate the availability of refreshments (13.7 and 19.8 respectively). If the course changes affected these rules, information should have been provided, otherwise organizers could reasonably assume that competitors would be aware of water availability (at the intervals specified in the rules).
Aug 4, 2016 2:32 AM # 
@LRunner - it was a mistake that we didn't put information about refreshments in the information in the first place - we simply overlooked it (oops). This is why, when I look back, I'm surprised that nobody asked us about it because I think it is pretty important information.

@LRunner - thanks for looking at the course. I didn't give full information - sorry. There was also one control with water - it was #79 which was control 8 on the M21 course, so they did get water fairly early on. Your idea about moving water to control #5 is also probably a good one.

@LRunner - re the PS - we didn't have a week, we only had two and a half days ;-). It was cancelled at 4pm on Thursday and the race was 10am on Sunday. Though we did start to think about new courses Wednesday night ;-) Yeh, we were pretty pleased with hitting the winning times.

@tRicky - that can't be right?? I read the IOF rule that the drink does have to come every 25 minutes. But maybe I'm letting common sense cloud my interpretation?

@Hawkeye - I agree. We just made a mistake. And I guess that's my point - that nobody pointed it out to us, and I'm a little surprised I suppose. But maybe you're right - the competitors might have assumed that we'd according to the rules without the need for us to say anything about it.
Aug 4, 2016 4:06 AM # 
I assumed that the courses would be the right length and that there would be enough water, which is what the pre-event details said and is what happened. Changing the map scale was a tad less welcome.
Aug 4, 2016 4:28 AM # 
U should try trail/ultra running instead. The organizers in this sport provide water and so forth at reasonable places cuz its just the right thing to do, and it is more fun, and they view aid stations beyond their primary purpose so as to also add a social experience (translation: friendly volunteers and a hangout spot; not a couple of gallon jugs of water hidden behind a rock that everyone before you has mouthed on), and they don't worry about it and they don't debate it. They just do it. They are not bound by an arcane rulebook nor Executive Dysfunction.

So, put out friendly aid stations staffed by friendly people every 2.5 miles/4000m. And even better, have the OUSA board run trail races, and see why they are better than the experience of a couple of mouthed-on jugs hidden behind a rock.

But they won't. And it will always be what it is. So sad.
Aug 4, 2016 4:35 AM # 
@tRicky - that can't be right?? I read the IOF rule that the drink does have to come every 25 minutes. But maybe I'm letting common sense cloud my interpretation?

I thought so too but apparently that's what it is. I ran a long distance race on the east side of Australia last year and my first water drop was an hour in, with two more following very quickly afterwards (two of the drops were at a pivot control to save the need for more water) and all in the second half of the course. I queried this with several technical type people and the above is what I was told.
Aug 4, 2016 4:50 AM # 
I wouldn't bet on IOF technical-type people either knowing the rules or letting common sense cloud their judgment.

Mind you, providing water on courses in Scotland seems like taking the piss...
Aug 4, 2016 5:08 AM # 
Is that why there was no water whatsoever anywhere at the Scottish 6-Days last year (apart from the streams bridged by the army to get to the start/finish)?

@tRicky - you were misinformed. Or maybe the event controllers were clueless. That's not what the OA rules mean!
Aug 4, 2016 5:19 AM # 
@randy - sorry dude, I call bs on that. Of course I have no idea what I'm talking about but I did google "ultra running world championships" and the first thing that came up was the IAU (International Association of Ultra Runners) so I looked up its guidelines and here's what it say in just one place, which I think is no better than orienteering rules...

See ‘The Competition Guidelines’!!
 This zone must completely be ready before any team arrives.
 The tables for the personal drinks are at least 150cmx60cm per team and per
country and will be placed in alphabetic order (following the IAAF Abbreviation).
 In the case of 24H, the LOC will provide for each team per country a space of
minimum 9m² (3x3m)
 the drinks will also be placed in numeric order by country.
 The tables will be signed by the official IAAF abbreviation codes.
 These codes will be marked in A3 white board, at 2M high, above the table.
 For the open-race-runners who are not running for the national team of their
country, there will be special “personal drink” tables where the drinks and foods
will be placed in numeric order.
 Other regulations of the personal refreshment stations can be found in ‘The
competition Guidelines’"
Aug 4, 2016 6:47 AM # 
you were misinformed. Or maybe the event controllers were clueless. That's not what the OA rules mean!

Tell that to the ACT and also to WA.
Aug 4, 2016 7:24 AM # 
@AZ: Personally, I find length information very valuable for personal mental race preparation. I can reasonably assume that winning times will be met and that national guidelines for frequency of water stations will be followed. But length gives a good idea of the physical runnability of the terrain. If WT is a given, and length is known, you can better prepare for physical expectations.

Of course it is very valuable to know if water wil be at controls or between, since as often than not, water that is not at a control is not optimally placed for runners on my course, so you can plan on the likelihood of not passing close enough to stop.
Aug 4, 2016 8:35 AM # 
A water stop should ALWAYS be at a control. Otherwise one is required to choose between doing extra navigation and/or running, or skipping the water. It's no excuse if the extra navigation is easy and the extra running is short, it's still a penalty for taking water.

If for whatever logistical reasons you must put the water other than at one of the designed controls, then you must add a control where the water is. If this damages the designed route choice or any other aspect of the course, then that just proves my point: You are penalizing competitors who need water with extra navigation and/or running.

Take the COC Long Course 6 (M65) for example. The water stop between control 4 and 5 was not on either my first-choice route or my second-choice route. I would have had to take what I considered (whether erroneously or not is irrelevant) to be an inferior route to get water.

But that didn't really matter because I didn't even realize there was a water stop at all until after my run when other competitors mentioned it. The cup symbol was not easy see with all the vegetation and contour coloration in that area, and anyway there is no reason I should have been searching for a cup symbol on the map--that would be just another manifestation of the penalty for seeking water. I *did* scan the clue sheet at the start and noticed to my minor dismay that there were no water stops indicated on the whole course.

The above is not a statement about the rules of any organization. It is just my considered opinion based on decades of competition and course setting experience.

Nor is it a contradiction of my comment on another thread commending the COC organizers on an excellent event. Although I might have felt differently had I been on the course for two or three hours (as many were).
Aug 4, 2016 8:48 AM # 
IOF doesn't mandate water being at controls but the Australian rules do, for reasons including those suggested above. Other countries may or may not choose to make that a rule.

And Ricky - one of my controlling fails was to think that for a course with a 40 min winning time, having water at just the start and the finish was good enough. It probably was for the winners, but the median time taken was 60 min on a sunny spring day and those people who took 80+ got pretty thirsty...I won't make that mistake again.
Aug 4, 2016 9:07 AM # 
tRicky they were clueless - I quote the IOF/OA Rule (19.8) 'if the winning time is more than 30 minutes, refreshments shall be available at least EVERY 25 minutes at the estimated speed of the winner.' (my emphasis of 'every')

Why bring WA into it, I haven't heard of any our course setters breaching the rule - if they have then please bring it to my attention.

@ o-maps; water can also be located at compulsory crossing points.

It is difficult at some maps to carry water to control points, but controls on features where it is easier to have water can be added without necessarily ruining a leg or course. In some circumstances such a control can even be used to create an excellent leg.
Aug 4, 2016 9:15 AM # 
In Sweden it's unusual with water at controls, it's almost always several cup symbols along a trail or road.
Aug 4, 2016 9:29 AM # 
Simmo, I wasn't implying that this happens at WA events but after a discussion with a former WA Tech Convenor we came to the conclusion that what I stated above was correct.
Aug 4, 2016 10:08 AM # 
To Adrian's original question, it's definitely something we talked about but Pam said there was for sure water out there. That seemed like good enough information and not worth bothering the organizers for more details.
Aug 4, 2016 4:23 PM # 
@jennycas Yes, there's essentially never any water on any courses in Scotland, unless mandated by an IOF rule. Something worth knowing for foreign runners if you're lucky enough to encounter a too-hot day. Rule-following drinks controls "for elites only" are not unusual. I've never felt the need to carry or drink water at a Scottish event (unlike in the Americas, where it makes a lot of sense).
Aug 4, 2016 4:59 PM # 
Lost Richard, I can't remember how I knew there would not be water on the O France courses but I definitely did. Maybe it was at event registration the day before. Others must have known beforehand as well because there were many with bottles and hydration packs.

In any case, personally, I'd dump the water requirement altogether. Carrying water is so easy these days and so I see no reason why it shouldn't be an individual's responsibility. Rarely are we out longer than 3 hours and so refilling a reasonably sized pack would rarely be necessary. It just seems like a waste of resources and time that event organizers could put to better use elsewhere.

I am generally sympathetic to Randy's critiques but the analogy to trail running doesn't resonate with me in this case. First, I could careless about friendly volunteers being out in the middle of the woods (except if it is Mike Minium with cookies at a scenic overlook). Second, the logistics of moving refreshments out to the middle of an orienteering course are a bigger burden then a trail race. The only way around it is to put the water stops on trails, as mentioned above, which we are not supposed to do (supposed to be at controls). The counter would be to just put a control (and water) on a trail. But now this becomes a course setting constraint and doesn't always lend itself to an easy or ideal course setting solution.

All and all, given that carrying water is so easy, other than on ultralongs or similar, why are we messing with this any more?
Aug 4, 2016 5:21 PM # 
Yes I found out at the registration, which is a tad late in the day when you come half way around the world (as you did as well). I am fine with carrying my own water but I need to know at the right time.

Fortunately the weather turned for O'France and it was not an issue after the sprint day.
Aug 4, 2016 9:49 PM # 
@iamstillhungry says: I'd dump the water requirement altogether. Carrying water is so easy these days

+1, other than WREs or such. I remember hauling a significant fraction of a metric tonne of water into the forest for the 1992 World Cup Final, with the help of J-J Coté and Steve Tarry. I'd rather spend organizing effort on maps, courses, trainings, etc. And sometimes the event format makes it unfeasible (just as Goats that allow skips).
Aug 4, 2016 9:54 PM # 
@LRunner - I should also say our last-second course setting wasn't entirely from scratch (so perhaps not as magical as it might appear). The middle distance terrain was held the previous day in the same area so we had about 50 fixed control sites to work with and a pretty decent understanding of running speeds in the terrain.

@Graeme - oh, right. The scale thing was a bit naughty. I made a 1:10,000 and 1:15,000 layout, both on legal size paper. The M35 course was the same as the W21 - and our intention was to print them at different scales. But the course didn't fit onto the 1:10,000 layout with legal paper. So since the layouts take about an hour to build, and I wasn't sure of our tabloid paper supply levels and plastic bag availability, and since I'm not as nice as I might seem I decided to do it at 1:15,000. This should definitely have been announced.

@o-maps - no offence taken, instead I appreciate the candid comments.

I started this thread as a round about way to acknowledge that we overlooked some things and to make a kind of apology for that. It's been interesting to see that (a) people generally trusted us to get it right (thanks), and (b) we made more mistakes than I first realized ;-)

One mistake you might find funny - we collected the Middle distance race maps on Saturday because we were using many of the same control sites the following day. That night, despite a voice shouting in my head "don't do it! don't do it!", I posted the Middle maps to the website. Duh!

I've added to my catalog of mistakes.
Aug 4, 2016 11:15 PM # 
If you make a move to not have water on courses in the US, expect strong pushback from people (not me) who consider water to be an essential safety item, and who will claim that such a move would be criminally irresponsible.
Aug 5, 2016 1:16 AM # 
Personally I heard quite a number of folks asking each other if anyone had seen the course distances posted anywhere. I wasn't particularly worried about that because I figured you would adjust accordingly to get them to the expected winning times. It never occurred to me that there might not be water... until I was about 30 or 40 mins in and scanned down my control description sheet to see no water symbols on the whole course.

At that point I unfolded and scanned across the map for cup symbols and found none. "Wow, this was unexpected," said I. "I guess they were more panicked putting new courses together than they let on." Only now, reading this thread, I looked again and I see the cups neatly hidden under the most difficult area of the map to spot them.

But honestly, even when I was disappointed at the "lack of water", my only complaint at the time was that this hadn't been announced in advance so we would know to carry our own.
Aug 5, 2016 2:24 AM # 
I carry my own water whenever I think I'll need it, ever since having an experience where the first water control's water had never been delivered and the second had nothing but empty jugs. If not for encountering some guy who shared his own water, I would have been in pretty bad shape by the time I got done. Long courses, difficult terrain, hot weather, or any combination of the three mean my camelbak comes along.
Aug 5, 2016 3:37 AM # 
@furlong47 story makes the point that providing water is in some ways riskier...if it runs out, or gets contaminated, or is stepped on by cows, or tips over, someone depending on it could be without. I'd be interesting to hear what others think about water versus no.
Aug 5, 2016 3:46 AM # 
Don't agree with hungry that carrying water is easy. I simply cannot run at all with anything around my waist or shoulders, and as for orienteering where I would have to be able to run and concentrate on navigating while ignoring the constant jigging of the container and sloshing of the water, well absolutely I can't do it. It may be a mental thing, but I don't intend to change.
Aug 5, 2016 4:06 AM # 
Simmo I've seen you get changed before. It wasn't pretty and I am mentally scarred from the experience.
Aug 5, 2016 4:28 AM # 
Needless to say, the solipsism of orienteering doesn't augur well for its ongoing viability.
Aug 5, 2016 6:31 AM # 
Like simmo, I don't like to run with something on my back, so I definitely prefer water on the course. It usually isn't too hard to provide it; most of our local B-meets have water controls, so it's a bit strange from my point of view to argue whether A-meets should have water. As for the risks, yes, things happen, but in the same way someone could steal a control, for example, which does not mean we should not orienteer at all.
Aug 6, 2016 11:08 AM # 
Other things that could happen despite meticulous planning:
Aug 6, 2016 1:29 PM # 
Is that a strange translation or do they really fly water onto the course???? Makes our backpacks and wheelbarrows look a little, well, little ;-)
Aug 6, 2016 3:12 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@o-maps: I have run Jukola a number of times, both back in my senior days in the 1980'ies and since I passed 50, there the norm is to have water/sports drink available between controls and only very rarely on a control!

Remember that every single leg on Jukola is forked, this means that when you do get a control with a cup symbol you _know_ that this control is a common one, so everyone will be going in the same direction.

These controls are typically a ditch junction in the middle of an open field, quite often they will also have a TV camera.

The normal drinks controls are located along major paths and roads, with multiple alternative locations so that no matter which route you take you will almost certainly pass one of them. When you have 1500-2000 runners on each leg it is a big advantage that not all of them will use the same water supply!
Aug 6, 2016 3:26 PM # 
AZ: I thought it was a little bit strange too. They could probably have driven there with ATV but then they would maybe destroy the sensitive soil in the alpine area? Map:
Aug 6, 2016 4:22 PM # 
while waiting for a bus at end of one of the alpine days at Swiss O week a helicopter assisting with arena take down flew overhead with four portapotties hanging below. "holy flying shit" an observer yelled.
Aug 7, 2016 12:40 AM # 
There's a difference between large Nordic meets where there's a road that legs cross, with several water stations located such that everyone will pass near one of them, and small North American meets with a single water station that may not be on any given runner's route choice. I can see that in the Nordic case, putting water at the controls could be quite impractical.
Aug 7, 2016 7:57 AM # 
*hammer..... priceless!
Aug 7, 2016 7:59 AM # 
Terje, I ran in a long distance event last year where the setters had deviously not used a common control for water but had instead used a cluster of nearby controls and put water at each of them. When I spotted the water on the way to my control, I thought it had to be mine, despite the fact it looked like it was one gully early. This was an event with ~800 people in attendance.
Aug 8, 2016 2:15 AM # 
To jump in and answer the original question:

I asked about course stats (not just length) because knowing not just the length but also the climb and number of controls gives you an idea of what the course will be like and therefore help you prepare for it. To use an example from the COC middle - the M21E course had only 15 controls over 4.3km. Knowing that it had fewer controls instead of the 20+ that it could have told me that there were likely several longer legs across vaguer terrain and so I prepared to do that (I still failed royally on one such leg...). If there were 20 controls I would assume the course had more shorter legs in the super detailed sections and I would have focused on different techniques pre-race.

As for not asking about water - I tend to assume the course setters follow the rules and put enough water out on course. It wasn't due to be a hot day so I didn't worry about it any more than that.

This discussion thread is closed.