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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: Simple Orienteering Formats

in: Orienteering; General

Mar 14, 2017 11:02 PM # 
A place to discuss ways of providing orienteering competitions which take less work.
Mar 14, 2017 11:12 PM # 
There is some discussion in topic "ISOM201X" from about 11 Mar 2017 along these lines. And maybe in some other threads too, apologies if I've reinvented the wheel.

"Toddler Orienteering" is logically part of this, but worth maintaining for things to do with the very young.
Mar 14, 2017 11:32 PM # 
11 March was when our state swapped governments from Liberal to Labor. I don't know if our lives became simpler or more difficult.
Mar 14, 2017 11:39 PM # 
Flexolop has an admirable goal - everyone in a Norwegian o-club will organise an orienteering. That's something we have to address round here - starting with going out in the terrain and placing a marker on a feature. The other barrier is the increasing expectation of fancy facilities.

We'll be able to learn from Flexolop (English speakers try Google translate). I'm also interested in a level far below that - the one-person event with no computers, and no equipment beyond what everyone has in their house.
Mar 14, 2017 11:48 PM # 
Visible markers might be the hardest using just what one has in one's house. Perhaps one could use translucent four liter plastic bottles with a bit of bright paint poured in and shaken up, to make a bright marker. Or brightly coloured rags. Streamers are often hard to find in the forest for many, I've noticed.
Mar 15, 2017 9:17 AM # 
...the one-person event with no computers...

Or the one-person event with computers...
Mar 15, 2017 9:36 AM # 
OK maybe a computer, as long as you're talking simple software. But timing is something that participants can do. Jim, around here we use fluoro orange material torn into strips 4-5cm wide. OK I had to buy some but it wasn't so much that I needed to ask the club for reimbursement, so it qualifies as "in my house". You can fit all you need in a pocket.
Mar 15, 2017 9:48 AM # 
Lightpole orienteering works well as a simple navigation training run in metro areas. (Assuming your local power utility labels their poles). No need to put out or collect markers...
Mar 15, 2017 8:26 PM # 
The Flexoløp format is four courses with four different levels of technical difficulty. It's interesting that in Ottawa, where I started, the standard local event format is also four courses, but three difficulty levels: novice, intermediate, and two advanced courses of different lengths (typically 3-4 and 6-8 km). The Ottawa format makes more sense to me, because it's hard to make both older and younger people happy with the same course length: either old people will not come because the course is too long for them, or younger people won't bother coming because it's too short to justify the travel. But it's also true that, particularly in more technical terrain, the jump from either novice to intermediate or from intermediate to advanced can be too large. So I wonder what format people prefer: if you were restricted to just four courses, what lengths and difficulty levels would you choose and what will it depend on (the terrain, the kind of potential participants you are trying to attract, etc.)?
Mar 15, 2017 11:51 PM # 
I believe in additional difficulty levels, specifically an additional one between intermediate and advanced. However, I think that it's a bit possible to dual-purpose a course...technical direct routes, and somewhat less technical at a cost of greater time and least in some terrain. With just four, I might try...

Beginner/American White
Advanced beginner/American Yellow
Intermediate/advanced...American Brown if done via direct routes, American Orange if done by longer, less difficult routes/attacks
Advanced/American Red/Blue

But I'd probably also adapt this based on participant interest (registration numbers and such).
Mar 16, 2017 3:31 AM # 
@jimbaker - We've found that "macho" first timers (trail runners, adventure racers, etc) are not satisfied with doing anything less than an "advanced" course, and end up taking 3 or 4 hours or more, or not finishing at all. We've found that a very simple re-naming solution steers them toward a more appropriate orange or yellow, and also does away with the oxymoronic "advanced beginner". Since we started using these names a few years ago, hardly any of these hard-core first timers insist on doing an "expert" course their first time out.

white - "beginner"
yellow - "intermediate"
orange - "advanced"
brown and above - "expert"
Mar 16, 2017 4:54 AM # 
Clearly "Simple" means different things to different people. We're NOT going to achieve our goal of everyone in the club organising orienteering if we have 4 courses of differing standards, or try to cater for everyone.

I AM interested in these notions, and Flexolop, they will be useful to reduce effort for our "normal" club events.

But it is evident that we need a new word for what is necessary to buck the trend towards ever more sophistication. As a working title, I will use "shoestring". Our trials involve participants printing their own maps, putting out a couple of markers each, running a course, and bringing the markers in. (Or not bringing the markers in if they are biodegradable.) Differing levels of expertise are handled ad hoc (hey miss out numbers 3 and 4...) No permission. No timing (those who want it have a device on their wrist.)
Mar 16, 2017 7:40 AM # 
@mikeminium, good idea. I've seen the same here.

@gruver, sounds like what I've heard called a training event, worth doing, but we have a need for there to be sufficient events at each level for people to progress up the levels. What level orienteering do your events offer?
Mar 16, 2017 1:20 PM # 
Simplification #1: off-the-shelf maps:
A huge amount of work could be removed, and thousands more orienteering locations opened up, by promoting an orienteering-style event that uses existing maps rather than custom-made orienteering maps. Technical/expert orienteering will always need the specialized maps, but White, Yellow, and Orangish-level experiences could be had on an OpenStreetMap-style map with contour lines. (And if the level of detail isn't there today, it will be in a few years.) Off-the-shelf maps also simplify the learning curve for new participants, since they should be able to instantly recognize the trails, roads, hills, and water features that define their courses, without getting distracted by the extreme detail and esoteric mapping language of an orienteering-specific map.

Simplification #2: A single app for creating courses, discovering courses, and running courses at events or on your own time.

I should be able to set a course by walking the trails with an app on my smartphone, pushing a button and tying a streamer to a tree at various prominent features, and pushing another button at the end to save and upload the course.

You should be able to run my course at any time by launching the app, selecting one of the pre-defined courses at your location, and pushing a button to load the map and start running. Every time you get to a streamer, push a button, and run to the next.

Those two simplifications (off-the-shelf maps, app-based events) would provide a easy entry point for people into the sport, and free up resources for the die-hards to set and run expert-level courses on specialized orienteering maps.
Mar 16, 2017 1:49 PM # 
I agree with Gruver. If you are trying to simplify the organisational aspect of an event, having four courses of three different difficulty levels isn't going to achieve that. All the comments I hear from setters is that setting the 4-5 'hard' standard courses is straightforward because you can reuse controls. It's having to add a moderate and easy (or two easy) course that tends to end up doubling the overall control count.
Mar 16, 2017 2:28 PM # 
About 10 years ago, I was doing this regularly. I'd put out one course of intermediate difficulty but "reddish" length on an existing map (maybe an O map, maybe something else). I billed it as "Adventure Running" both to broaden the appeal and to defuse any complaints the purists might have. I tried (not always successfully) to have an obvious shortcut if somebody wanted to do a shorter version. People kept their own times.

It was easy and fun. Everybody (including me) got to run. It was called the "Third Thursday" series because it was always the third Thursday evening of the month. I stopped doing it not because it required much effort, but because attendance leveled off at around a dozen folks and that didn't really seem like enough to sustain it. Maybe with better promotion, it could have grown into something larger, but still manageable.
Mar 16, 2017 7:41 PM # 
Every year I put on a scout orienteering festival at our local scout camp. It is a 30 control-60 minute score-O. From the 30 controls I design a white, green and red course. For club members it is a self serve event where they time themselves and do what they want. One person always goes out and visits all the controls (but not in 60 minutes).
Mar 16, 2017 9:37 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
With gps tracking you can easily host (training) events without any forest markers, NTNUI pioneered this concept for their night relay trainings, with several forked controls.

Add in free lidar and topo data so you can map totally virgin areas and "Bob's your Uncle".

Here abouts we use which provides all the computer help you need to handle up to about 200 competitors with a single organizer.
Mar 17, 2017 8:56 AM # 
That's really cool Terje, those things will be very useful for our bigger events. But terms like "ranking", "new page for each class", "invoice data", "connection of networks" are not appropriate for a "shoestring event". Ebuckley's "Adventure Running" is closer to what I have in mind. But it sounds as though you did the greater part of the course planning and set-out. What about the other dozen? What's wrong with a dozen?

The significant thing I took from Flexolop is the goal of everyone in the club organising orienteering. This means being able to go into unmarked terrain, put a marker on a feature, and mark that feature accurately on a map. Everything else to do with an event provides an excuse (and an obstacle) not to get involved. We. Must. Strip. Them. Away.

Jim, the level of orienteering can depend on the area and who turns up. Being in a club means getting to know your fellow members. (Fred, you go with Sally, she'll give you some tips. Kathy you want some extra distance, go out to that junction between 3 and 4.) Yes you can call it training. I look at people kicking a ball round and I see footy.
Mar 17, 2017 11:15 AM # 
Fly on the Wall:
PurplePen is great for setting courses using just a pdf instead of having to know OCAD. MyOMaps is a smartphone app for which you don't even need a hard-copy map.
Mar 17, 2017 2:20 PM # 
Any idea what's the reason for the various permissions the app requests? Are you the author Fly?
Mar 17, 2017 10:35 PM # 
I think the statement that "everyone" in the club should be organising orienteering needs clarification. It's probably true that in most clubs most members are not regular orienteers - perhaps they orienteer a few times a year. It's unreasonable to expect from them that they organise anything. On the other hand, at least in Ottawa many if not most regular, dedicated orienteers do take part in organising something from time to time, so the standard 4-course format does not seem to be a significant burden. Certainly in a smaller club or for smaller, more informal events some bells and whistles can be eliminated, e.g., no timing or the course setter can take care of registration instead of dedicated people doing it. But some things are more essential: for example, I do think that four courses is the absolute minimum to make everybody happy from beginners to elites. If you are just organising training for yourself and your friends, that's another matter, of course. Similarly, one can compromise on the course quality, e.g., less fieldchecking, no map updates, less thoughtful design. But again, that may be acceptable to your buddies, but if someone who does not orienteer often comes and cannot find a control for a long time because the map is bad around there, will he/she ever come again?

That said, here are a few more informal formats I saw when I was in Ottawa (sorry if I got some details wrong):

1) Weekly intermediate and advanced training sessions. Usually around 20 attendees in total. Organised by 1 or 2 people. Participants sign up in advance, either for the whole season or email the organisers before the session so they know how many maps to print. Markers: sometimes small flags, sometimes streamers, sometimes toilet paper (biodegradable :). Timing: often none, sometimes SI with a portable printer (no computer).

2) Weekly running training. Organised by Francis Kawam (fkawam). Anywhere between 5 and 30 people show up depending on the weather etc. Sometimes just running intervals, but often some sort of map is involved to make it more fun. It can be an unfinished orienteering map that Francis is working on or an OpenOrienteeringMap ( The tasks can be to run on a route drawn on the map and count the mailboxes; or run fast on E-W streets and slow on N-S streets, or run each interval between two points using a different route, etc. Sometimes, when terrain running is involved, streamers are used for controls. In winter, Francis also organises longer (13-15 km) map runs, urban or in parks or both, depending on how much snow there is, sometimes on proper orienteering maps, sometimes on something else, depending on what is available. Once it was an orienteering map with a sketch showing how to get to it; another time it was a very old orienteering map (from the 70s) combined with a new one. Again, no markers usually and no timing. The emphasis is on running, but maps make it more fun.

3) a "winter solstice" informal night event. Eric and Randy Kemp were working on a map and had a small piece ready. There was unusually little snow, so they organised an event on their map on the longest night of the year. The map with the course was emailed in advance to everybody who wanted to come. About 20 people showed up. There were flags but no timing. The course consisted of 3 loops, everybody did as many loops as they wanted and had time to do and in whatever order they wanted.
Mar 18, 2017 5:31 AM # 
I have a different view of "simple". A small group of colleagues are discussing a different format for next year.
1. Pre-entry via eventor... no enter on day. All payments via eventor.
2. Possibly limits to number of entries.This may be necessary to remove the need to seek permits from the manager of our forests.
3. Only one or two courses. Navigationally challenging on interesting maps.
4. Possibly mass start events such as a hagaby.
5. Upload results from the arena via eventor manager.
6. All competitors expected to help retrieve controls.
This takes advantage of the technology. It shunts the preparation to before the event. On the day its just a matter of handing out the pre-printed maps to each competitor, turning on the computer and taking downloads. Hopefully this will make race day enjoyable for the one organiser. Its the race day stress that repels many would be organisers.
Mar 19, 2017 7:06 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@gruver: The brikkesys program was originally developed by a NTNUI orienteer for their club training events, it has since then accumulated a lot of feaures you can simply ignore for a simple event:

Entry on the day is via e-tag reader, so anyone who has raced at any previous event can enter simply by placing their tag on the reader and then verify that the info (name, club, class/course) is correct.

At the finish a second reader, normally with attached splits printer, is used to download the results into the computer.

When everyone (or enough) people have finished you generate html files with results and split times and upload them to the club web server. If you have paid the very reasonable licence fee to the brikkesys author you can do this with a single button click which puts the results into the results page.

Since the URL of those results is pre-determined you can even publish the link before the race.

@TheInvisibleLog: Forget about (1)! This is by far the most important part about OBIK and GeoForm races, and the main feature Flex-O-løp knew they had to keep. You can easily allow pre-entry, but do not require it!
Mar 19, 2017 9:48 AM # 
Our club runs events every Saturday with enter on the day only and supposedly a single organiser. We use OE on a laptop with O-Lynx on a networked tablet. When it works its wonderful. But the last few events I appear and am asked to troubleshoot. This week it was the serial port was not enabled. Last week I couldn't work it out and ended up entering manually. I want to run a separate event on some Sundays aimed at the segment of the orienteering market that seeks more challenging orienteering on interesting maps. This segment is quite comfortable with pre-entry. And it allows me to do things like organise a hagaby, knowing how many will be turning up and being able to pre-allocate variants before the event. I have tried this before with enter on the day. Not again. Another problem we have is that we need permits for events with over 30 people. The permit process now takes 6-9 months and is a heap of entanglement with a number of organisations that have trouble communicating with each other. We pre-entry I can limit the entries to 29 with confidence I won't be breaking regulations if I run an event without a permit. So my definition of simple is somewhat situational.
Mar 19, 2017 2:21 PM # 
Maybe beginners and intermediates should be handled differently. In university, I taught a ten week class in orienteering several semesters. Each semester, I'd get a dozen or so beginners, few of whom had ever orienteered. By the end of the semester they were all doing a short advanced course.

Rather than increase the work of every event by enabling newcomers to orienteer, and often flounder, sometimes for years, perhaps they'd be better served by a ten lesson class that got them up to advanced. Then, all events could be advanced, which makes the course setting much simpler. And, newer orienteers might be less frustrated, and not need years on easier courses.
Mar 19, 2017 5:20 PM # 
New people are coming all the time, so it's not like you can do one course for newcomers and then not do it again for 10 years. You will have to do it every year or even twice a year. But then, in effect, you will have two separate series running in parallel, one for beginners and the other for advanced orienteers. I don't see how this is going to reduce the workload.
Mar 20, 2017 3:00 AM # 
You could charge for a class, enough to pay someone. Teaching orienteering was a way I earned money in university. Most orienteering events need volunteers. Yes, it'd have to be once or twice a year. But I remember that curling was similar (if you wanted to join, you came at a certain time of year in order to get in on the instructional series). With hang gliding, one needed classes. Plus, with the focus of a class, people can progress faster, I find, often much faster.
Mar 20, 2017 3:20 AM # 
Compared to orienteering its a little easier to die hang gliding. That means that in this jurisdiction, you need to qualify for a limited pilot's license. That limits the strategies to develop newcomers.
Mar 20, 2017 4:05 AM # 
In the USA, no certification or training is required for hang gliding. Any idiot can buy (or build) a hang glider and fly it legally with no instruction (although in much of the country, it would be difficult to find a landowner or land manager who would allow you to launch from his property).

But yeah, when things go really bad orienteering, you typically just don't finish the course. There's no need to worry about that pesky "safe landing" business.

This discussion thread is closed.