How do you handle the moment when you realize that the image you had in your head from reading the map is not what the actual terrain looks like in front of you?
If I were doing an education PhD, I think this might make a good dissertation topic. ;-)
This is a good question!
I try to find features in the terrain that I still know are the ones I can see on the map, relocate through those and let them guide me to the control. But if this doesn't happen in the immediate proximity of the control, I tend to just forget it and keep going(if I'm sure of my direction and distance).
I've done a few trainings tho where the whole point is to only visualize a certain area and then run to it to see how good of a picture I had in my head.
I love watching my son when this happens. He's 11, and processes a bit slower than most (Down Syndrome has that effect). He sees something that doesn't make sense, stops, finds himself on the map, realizes it is not where he wanted to be and usually that he will have to go back to where he last knew his location. Then, he throws down his map and announces "I quit!" I usually wait a few minutes before reminding him the quitting place is at the finish, and he's the one with the map, so...at which point, he gets up, goes to a spot he recognizes, and carries on. In Pete's case, it's more handling the emotion of being wrong, I think.
It sounds like you have trained a very adaptive response, and you don't trip over trying to make what you see fit the picture you have in your head, which is a great way to adjust quickly. Your point about "keep going" is also well taken - and it takes a mature athlete to know when that's a good strategy, and when it spells disaster. Awesome.
I sometimes find it takes days into a multi-day event to adjust to new terrain (Sweden...that actually took a terrain walk on the rest day to understand the mapping). Do you have an approach to model maps in unfamiliar terrain that helps you visualize during a race?
Sounds like Pete is doing exactly like I did a few years back... I've promised to quit orienteering so many times after not finding my way or just not understanding the map. I think I'm now in the phase where I already start accepting the fact that I'm not always right but I still demand a lot from myself. For example, here in Spain, if I didn't arrive straight at the control I would get mad at myself for not knowing what I was looking for.
To your question about getting into unfamiliar terrains: This is actually a thing that happens many times at big events. You go to wold cups or WOC or another international race and you have maybe one or two chances to get on a model map before the actual race. In these situations, what I try to focus on is the way they have mapped vegetations, rocks and detailed contours. Those three key things will already help you 90% of the way in a race. Then the last 10%, in my opinion, comes from small details like what size of a rock is mapped, what is mapped as bare rock, what is defined as a cliff(such obvious things but mapped so differently in many different places).
Well, it sounds like you've developed a really healthy attitude towards realizing you can't see perfectly into the future. And mappers aren't perfect, either. One thing Jon (husband and my own personal mapper who fixes maps that make me angry when I course set) and I have been realizing is that even with mapping standards, each mapper is different. So I think it's not just getting to run in the area and learning to visualize the terrain, but also having a model map made by the same mapper that is most desirable. But that's often hard to do.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I find I'm quite interested in what the neuro-types consider "self monitoring and error correcting." Possibly an under-appreciated skill in our top orienteers! ;-)