It takes a long time to get proficient at orienteering, and we all work at it day after day. But occasionally we have "learning leaps" where something clicks and you make a big improvement all at once. Maybe someone says something that helps you understand; maybe you figure out something on your own; or maybe you saw something by watching a video or another runner.
What were those "ah ha" moments for you? When did your orienteering take a learning leap?
Contours were my big learning leap, a few years after I joined the sport, helped along with a contours-only map exercise. I highly recommend this exercise for those who just "point and shoot" a bearing without noting the subtleties of ups and downs.
Other than that, conversing with others about how to relocate, or keep onself from getting mislocated in the first place (as well as focusing on CAR).
Agreed. A contours-only map exercise was a great learning leap for me.
The light bulb came on while standing on the hill looking at the creek below. Now I can go anywhere, without following trails, or fences, or power lines.
I believe one of the keys to scandinavian orienteering dominance for many years was the fact that we have so many highly fractal terrains where it is possible to read the contours all the way from control to control, even without a compass.
I remember the huge shock it was for me to attend WMOC in Camp Ripley (around 25 years ago?) and realize that the contours were so smooth that I could not use them to relocate the same way as at home. It took me both the Q events to figure it out, then I ran very well for an hour in the final (same speed as the winner) before injuring my knee and hobbling to the finish. :-(
Camp Ripley was part of VWC 97, I believe. (Corrected the year.)
Following a (very) good orienteer around a course while he ran and provided commentary on what he was doing and why. Really opened my eyes to what I didn’t do well (I’d already been orienteering for over 20 years at this point... really wish I’d done it a lot earlier.)
Running head-to-head relay race against top North American senior athletes while I was still a junior. Opened my eyes to the speed at which good orienteers could run through the woods while still navigating well.
Probably navigating on my first colour map back in '71 when I saw that the road could look different from the contour line which could look different from the stream which could look different from the meridian line, etc. From then on the map replaced the compass as the most important navigating tool.
Running one of my first national league events and realising when I hooked in behind much better orienteers that came through that they navigated well while running FAST. That Eureka moment (it was on a map in Ballarat too...) made me realise orienteering was a 'proper' sport - I just had to learn to navigate on the run. Not long afterwards, a top orienteer said "Run fast when you know what you're running too." That worked, huge improvement instantly. Also known as, have a plan. Simple innit?
My story as I remember it:
1) Map contact. Finding out I was able to navigate just anywhere by having constant map contact whole way.
2) Memory. Noticing couple of years later I don't necessarily need to look at the map all the time, I can just memorize essential stuff then run just the whole leg without looking at the map. And it was safer and faster - I could run as fast as I can.
3) Keeping the memory filled. Soon after that I figured I could read map constantly just like before, but instead of reading and comparing features I could read what's ahead and keep memory filled and keep on running memory style without having to stop to memorize.
4) Shift from keeping focus to having habits. At some point I noticed can't control my navigation just by focusing. Even if I knew how I should navigate and I was easily capable of doing it I still did not do it. At some point I began to navigate the way I was most used to. Because this 14..15 year old kid I could not run hard all O sessions, especially at training camps with two sessions a day. At easy pace it was just so easy and entertaining to look a round, and spot and read everything. To get rid of the habit of constant map contact I decided to do most sessions with as race speed like navigation as possible, also low intensity sessions. Usually I simply allowed me to read map only 2..3 times per leg just to force me to memorize something ahead, look ahead and use compass a bit to hit them and to run over something I felt like ignoring. I did that a lot for couple of years and time to time ever since
I believe that period 4 had biggest influence on my navigation and explains my somewhat unorthodox style. For example I am still used to compare my running line against compass needle without looking at map. Back then I had thumb compass and I allowed me to look at it (but not map) to be able to hit the stuff I memorized. What I did was memorizing general direction and then comparing running line against needle. That became habit and what I still do. Even with base plate I never rotate bezel, it could be glued. I wonder how rare such technique is.
To sum it up: learn basics, use them always the style you hope to do to build right kind of habits. And avoid building bad habits. Focus as well as you can and enjoy how your good habits save you when you sometimes loose your focus.