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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: Thanks!

in: BorisGr; BorisGr > 2018-07-28

Jul 30, 2018 11:11 PM # 
I had a great time despite the heat and a parking ticket. I appreciate all of the work you did to make this happen. And Alli!
Jul 31, 2018 3:36 AM # 
It was fun!
Jul 31, 2018 1:40 PM # 
Question for those who attended: would you also have attended if we had the UMD sprints on a weeknight?

(We are contemplating getting some summer weeknight orienteering going in the Maryland suburbs, and I am curious what the interest would be from existing active orienteers in the area.)
Jul 31, 2018 9:08 PM # 
I won’t come on a weeknight but I would come to the SML champs you suggested
Aug 1, 2018 6:49 PM # 
Boris: The World's largest geosciences academic conference will be in DC from Dec 10-14. What QOC event on the weekend before or after is the best terrain? Are there any sprint maps around the mall? I haven't been to DC in over 40 years.
Aug 1, 2018 8:25 PM # 
I'd say it's more or less a wash comparing the terrain quality for the planned events on Dec 9 and Dec 16. The one on Dec 9 will be the Mid-Atlantic Champs so lots of DVOA people to add to the depth of the field.

A sprint map of a large part of the National Mall and surroundings does exist, a personal project of Gary Smith's. It has to date only been used for very small scale informal summer training events. There's nothing else closer than UMD, College Park in MD and George Mason U in VA, the latter being a decent ISSOM map, the former not so much. In my dreams, we'd make a sprint map that we could get permisson to use of Catholic University (pretty good, in NE) and Georgetown (awesome, verging on SFU-like).

ETA: summer weeknight sprints might be problematic due to geographic dispersion of potential attendees and the near legendary rush hour traffic. Maybe it would work better to stick to weekends, presumably Sundays since summer short series is traditionally a Saturday afternoon thing. So perhaps a series of Sunday evening sprints. Or maybe early Sunday morning to beat the heat, with brunch gatherings afterwards for those interested.
Aug 2, 2018 1:35 PM # 
Boris, when you say "weeknight," do you mean daylight hours in the evening, or night-O? I would run in the former, not so much the latter.

Our houseguest really enjoyed the UMD event, after hearing us talking about orienteering for the last few weeks. She's a Senior geography major at Ohio State (where they have a for-credit course in orienteering). I gave her a data dump and some contact info to take back with her. Most of it is to the northeast and southwest of Columbus, but I did see an item on AP which led me to believe that NEOOC once had a map of the OSU campus. I also learned that you have connections there.
Aug 2, 2018 1:49 PM # 
I would be a "maybe" on weeknights depending on location (traffic).
Aug 2, 2018 3:14 PM # 
Hi Tom, I'll respond to your questions one at a time. First, Columbus:

Yup, my parents live there, and have been there for about 20 years, though I never lived there. The COO club isn't very active, but there are a few people there who travel and do quite a bit (the Shimizus, in particular). There is a ton of potential in the city for developing orienteering but, as usual, not much in the way of actual orienteers. There are a few maps right in Coumbus (Alley Pond, Alum Creek), but they aren't of the highest quality.
Aug 2, 2018 3:29 PM # 
Ok, Alli and I have been discussing a couple of visions for expanding orienteering opportunities in the northern suburbs of DC, where there is a fairly high concentration of very active orienteers.

Option 1, geared towards existing orienteers with a view to drawing new people:
A summer weeknight series modeled on the Sydney Summer Series:
Have a rotating series of events on, say, Wednesday nights, with start times between 5-630pm during daylight savings time. Keep the format the same each week (either a single course, a score-O, or something similar), and keep overall standings based on X minimum events attended. Use urban or easy-to-get to maps (College Park, Wheaton, Bethesda, Rock Creek (in an ideal world), Cabin John, simple street-O maps, etc.)

Option 2, geared towards attracting and retaining beginners, based on the model used by clubs in Copenhagen when their membership was dwindling a few years back. Pick a single park (say, Wheaton). Have an event at the same time and day each week (say Wednesday between 5-630) all summer. Offer the same set of courses (beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate, advanced) each week and encourage competitors who complete one course to come back the following week and try the harder version. Those completing all four get a free start at a regular QOC event. (Advanced orienteers could take this as speed training, and try to break their own records for the advanced course each week.)

Aug 2, 2018 8:59 PM # 
I think option 2 would struggle to attract many advanced orienteers (at least more than once per person), so how well it succeeded would depend mostly on how many beginners can be attracted, a very uncertain figure.

Something along the lines of option 1, OTOH, could certainly work for drawing enough existing orienteers to make the effort seem worthwhile even if the beginner numbers don't always rise to hopes if not expectations. My similar experience is with OOC's Summer Solstice series - age and skill handicapped mass start one hour score-Os, starting at 6:30pm, on maps mostly within metro Ottawa or the surrounding greenbelt. Series standing based on best 3 of 5 races or something along those lines. The mass start is very good for making it social. Also gives people more time to get to the venue than a format which only works if some people arrive early enough to start shortly after 5pm. Although there are fewer parks in the MD suburbs where this would work than in and around Ottawa, so maybe sprints would work better (opens up the possibility we could map things like MLK Recreation Park). We could offer a shorter and a longer sprint option, with little to no overlap between them, to give options for people who want more or less running.

That all said, I really worry that traffic will make this difficult to impossible to get off the ground if we try it on weeknights. Back in the summer of 2015 in Ottawa, I had a fair bit of stress about making it to the venues in time for the mass start and Ottawa at rush hour isn't great but it's nowhere near as bad as Metro DC.
Aug 3, 2018 1:18 AM # 
So last year Nate and I proposed a Wednesday evening series of sprints on DVOA maps during the summer. Granted our traffic is not DC terrible but it's no picnic either. We did 8 events last summer and 7 this summer. Each event starts at 6pm (earlier if the event director wants) and controls are picked up starting at 7:30. This gets us out of the park by 8pm or a little after, which works fine for the summer. We offer two sprints, one generally shorter than the other - say 1.8k and 2.4k or something like that. Some of the venues are regular forest venues but with a good trail network and others are more sprint-like. Beginners have come and enjoyed themselves and we actually have half a dozen folks who have come regularly after attending one as a complete novice. One nice thing is that it's at least a little cooler in the evenings.

We generally get 20-25 doing each course with about half the participants doing both. There is definitely a group that shows up mostly at the events that are in the western suburbs and a group that shows up at the ones that are closer to the city but there is also a group that shows up at all of them.

There was a lot of push-back from some club members when Nate and I proposed this, especially as we did it as a fund raiser for the National Team. And there are a lot of club members who don't come to any - either they can't make it work with their work schedules or they don't like sprints. But they were popular enough that we did it again this year and got a few people to volunteer to organize some so Nate and I didn't have to do them all.

We didn't please everyone but there are a lot of people who have enjoyed these weekly (or almost weekly) events and I expect we'll keep doing these as long as we get volunteers to host them.
Aug 3, 2018 1:53 AM # 
This is very encouraging, Sandy!
Aug 3, 2018 7:13 PM # 
We have a very successful Summer Park series in London:

Typically around 100+ people attend and the key success factors are:
- Event centre is always at a pub to ensure there is a social element (most stay for food and drink post race)
- Good promotion on Facebook targeting newcomers
- The main course is 5km (we also have 2.5km) which is long enough to challenge everyone including experienced runners, but not so long as to put off newcomers. Running times are typically 25-60 minutes.
- Free SI Air hire

We also have a good public transport network which makes it easy to get most places, even if slightly out of town.
Aug 4, 2018 3:32 PM # 
I love both those options, Boris. Though of course I'd have more fun at Option 1.
I am a rare person in DC who could make it to a weeknight evening event (I'm off work at 3, giving me lots of time to get training in!). It's worth trying, though just know that lots of people would have trouble getting to a venue on time. When the SSS started, we tried Thursday or Friday nights (can't remember which) and that *really* didn't work, which is why we moved them to Saturdays.

I like the idea of standings. (The SSS, despite its name, obviously isn't a series of races with results & standings ...) For me, those make it more fun to do or at least makes it worth the effort to attend. Nadim's downtown Bethesda map would be fun (though it needs updating). And I am sure downtown Silver Spring would be great too. Both might be a bit hairy during weeknight evenings though ...

Hammer, we're running on Gary Smith's mall map tomorrow. This will be his 4th (?) year of hosting this training run on his ever-expanding map. It's not perfect but pretty good. It might be the best option for your conference. We can get you in touch w/ Gary if you'd like. Lots of time to plan at least!
Aug 4, 2018 3:33 PM # 
And Boris & Alli, I agree, the event was really fun. I enjoyed myself a lot. I think it was a lot more fun than Cabin John would have been!
Aug 4, 2018 6:17 PM # 
I would definitely try to get to these. Working downtown might even make it easier to get to some of them.
Aug 6, 2018 6:18 PM # 
Your Option 1 basically describes the Wednesday evening series we've put on for the past few years in the Seattle area. We generally have an event every 3-4 weeks, so 5-6 over the course of the summer, some in the city, some north, south, Eastside, etc. We have a 5-7 start window to give people time to get there, and always do a simple BBQ spread. We average 60-70 starts per event and we try to find that balance between attracting beginners and experienced orienteers.

This year the geographic spread between our farthest two events was fully 50 miles, yet we got the same number of starts (58) at each. On a macro level I haven't seen much variance in the numbers that I can attribute to geography (other than the obvious "go farther from highest population density, get less people"). I've definitely heard a few anecdotes (i.e. "that one was just too far away/I couldn't get away from work in time") but that's unavoidable with a weeknight series. In other words, for us it affects which particular individuals are likely to come, but not the overall numbers.

Anyway, the point is I see no reason y'all couldn't do the same or better. You would obviously face the traffic/distance issue but my experience is that with a critical mass of orienteers in the area you can always draw enough to make the effort worthwhile - with the caveat that our traffic is bad but I have no real conception of how it compares to DC :) [As an aside, honestly the biggest obstacle I face is not attracting participation, but getting the organizers (AKA me) away from work in time to get everything set and ready.]

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