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Discussion: Bad legs

in: Orienteering; General

Jan 29, 2021 8:40 PM # 
I'm organizing a course setting clinic for interested folks in the club I am starting, and I'd like to show some examples of badly designed legs to get them to identify why the leg is inappropriate for a particular course level.

And I thought "who better than AP to provide me with examples of poorly designed legs?"

So, please share them here or DM me. All levels of courses are welcome, but particularly interested in beginner/intermediate. Thanks in advance!
Jan 29, 2021 8:46 PM # 
Now I'm tempted to dig up dozens of examples of poorly designed white course legs. I don't have time for these fun requests, Boris.
Jan 29, 2021 8:47 PM # 
Yes you do.
Jan 29, 2021 9:16 PM # 
Clearly Boris is just setting up a neural network to automate course setting. DeepCourseSetter needs examples of good legs and bad legs to learn a classifier.
Jan 30, 2021 1:31 AM # 
You need to get the "World's hardest White (and Yellow) Courses" from PG. They're on his website somewhere. From an A-meet in... Arkansas? No, Tennessee, 1974. I found the White:
Jan 30, 2021 1:36 AM # 
And here's the Yellow:
Jan 30, 2021 1:43 AM # 
Boris might check RG of his former club. Problem will be solved in 10 minutes.
Jan 30, 2021 1:55 AM # 
My M10/12 years came at the tail end of that sort of course-setting in Australia, but I still managed to encounter a few beauties - most memorably an M12A course on the first day of my first national event at Easter 1982, which was 4.3km and contained some controls (in fairly flat featureless forest) which I'd consider a lottery if I had them on a course now. Somehow most of us managed to get around.
Jan 30, 2021 2:15 AM # 
Just repeat the classic observation that there are no bad legs, only bad dogs. And then there was Trump.
Jan 30, 2021 2:31 AM # 
Ok, this was obviously poorly thought out on my part. If you have any great suggestions, please DM me.
Jan 30, 2021 3:19 AM # 
Boris, might I suggest you make up a handful of bad legs to use yourself rather than using bad examples from some volunteer course setter that, presumably was trying their best to set good courses? No need to shame (however unintentionally) someone else's course setting.

If you want to use examples from others stick to using their good examples. :)

If I'm feeling generous I'll throw together some bad examples that you can use.
Jan 30, 2021 9:16 AM # 
So many to choose from :) I've sent a couple of particularly atrocious examples.
Jan 30, 2021 4:24 PM # 
Some white courses look perfect on paper, but aren't

A classic white-course mistake is to have the start kite on (say) EW path with the start itself some way to the south. Without using a compass*, there's no way to know whether to turn left or right at the start.

The "international" event with a small notice saying "suivre le chemin 750 jusqu'au point de départ" in the white start lane wasn't great either.

(the new symbol marking the prestart can help here)

*Not a white course skill in UK.
Jan 30, 2021 4:59 PM # 
Another typical problem with white courses --- map does not tell you which direction is up and which way is down. Without using a plumb bob*, there's no way to know.

*Not a white course skill in UK.
Jan 30, 2021 8:40 PM # 
What is it that I especially find utterly unendurable? That I cannot cope with, that makes me choke and faint? Bad legs! Bad legs!
Jan 30, 2021 8:55 PM # 
Did you try heat creams?
Jan 30, 2021 11:14 PM # 
On the Orienteering Canada website there are some technical manuals. I tried to link one of them here but for some reason the link doesn't take. Anyway what the level 3 one shows near the back are some examples of horrible legs - dog legs, bingo controls, etc etc.
I think the examples you seek are there.
However it may be a bit more than a white course to find them.
Jan 31, 2021 2:15 AM # 
Graeme - One of the courses I sent Boris was a "Yellow" course (M/W12 championship) with exactly that kind of start flaw.
Jan 31, 2021 6:54 AM # 
Follow-trail-legs for advanced classes.
Jan 31, 2021 6:55 AM # 
Like start to cp1 is a direct trail w/o route choice
Jan 31, 2021 11:24 AM # 
Was really slow on my tempo run this morning. I put it down to bad legs.
Jan 31, 2021 1:33 PM # 
Start to first control as a direct trail route is a common feature of courses that I set, with the same first control for all courses. The triangle marks the location where you are when you start. This makes way more sense than having the triangle mark some other place you're supposed to go to, with no method to ensure that you actually go there. Remote start locations are, in my opinion, a completely stupid concept.
Jan 31, 2021 2:08 PM # 
I ran in a local event a few years ago where to get from the pre-start to the start, you ran 100m down into a gully then the optimal (only) route to the first control was straight back through the pre-start.
Jan 31, 2021 8:03 PM # 
I won’t mention the club or meet, but the leg I have in mind had a direct route across a swollen creek that was mapped as crossable. The alternate route was a bridge across that creek over 200m upstream. After contemplating my existence at the creekside I opted for the bridge. Others fought through the rushing water.
Feb 1, 2021 12:14 AM # 
I think I know what you are describing. This was a Pig event, long course, East Fork, year 2008 or 2009 (?), I remember I had to walk about 1 km along steep overgrown slope above the flooded valley before I found a place to cross, otherwise people had to swim in water filled with debris.
Feb 1, 2021 8:16 AM # 
I remember a regional (i.e. state) ultralong championship where the only leg >1 km was along a path...
Feb 1, 2021 2:11 PM # 
One thing that might be mentioned is that a bad leg might be required but the property owners. At a national meeting in Pennsylvania, a few courses had a lot of nice terrain but instead headed down to a trail and then ran the trail for half a km. I was the course consultant and questioned this. The reply was that they needed to make sure that no one crossed a road or ran on it and that everyone went under the road in a tunnel. If the property owner saw runners on the road, they wouldn't allow future meets.
Feb 1, 2021 3:13 PM # 
I don't really understand why in a course planning clinic you would focus on bad legs.

To paraphrase Tolstoy: "All good legs are alike; each bad leg is bad in its own way"

OK, not all good legs are exactly alike but you can summarize the principles behind good legs quite quickly, whereas there are any endless ways of setting bad ones.

How do you avoid people setting bad legs? Teach them how to set good ones.

"Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative"
Johnny Mercer
Feb 1, 2021 4:34 PM # 
I think that's generally true, especially for advanced courses, but people do learn a lot from seeing why a particular leg that might initially look like a good leg really isn't appropriate for the level. This is especially true of a US white course, which often has legs designed to be "more interesting" by the course setter. There may not be anything wrong with the leg—for a yellow or orange course. It's useful to show how you can fix the leg to be a good leg, which might mean adding another control in between, or moving a control to a decision point.
Feb 1, 2021 4:59 PM # 
Yes, what Cristina said. I think (and i may be proven wrong) that a good exercise is to work with aspiring course setters on fixing poorly designed legs to improve them for the specific level of technical difficulty they are designed for.
Feb 1, 2021 5:00 PM # 
Or, to put it differently, there are a number of common mistakes that i have seen beginning course designers make over and over. My hope is that, by pointing out these mistakes up front, they may be avoided.
Feb 1, 2021 8:51 PM # 
One of the worst legs I've ever run had no route choice and took you 400m+ parallel to an open area. This open area was was out of bounds but the boundary between the open and wooded area had changed so you had very little idea where you where in relation to it. Plenty of undergrowth and brashings too
Feb 1, 2021 10:13 PM # 
I think planning easy courses is hard!

Barry Elkington wrote a number of guides on planning courses for all levels. I find them extremely clear and useful, with lots of good and bad examples. They follow the British colour* coded system, working up in technical difficulty from White through Yellow, Orange, Light Green, and Green (other colours* are just longer hard courses, Blue, Brown, Black).
I think a google for "Barry Elkington planning the xxxx Course" where xxxx is one of the above colours* should work.

*Yes, that is a very deliberately British spelling :-)
Feb 1, 2021 11:48 PM # 
Yes, it can be hard to set easier courses, and suggestions for improvements can also be less subjective.

Here's the planning the white course doc. Looks really good.
Feb 2, 2021 12:47 AM # 
*Yes, that is a very deliberately British spelling :-)

Don't you mean the non-American spelling?
Feb 2, 2021 2:04 AM # 
Do look at the Orienteering Canada 300 document, as it shows how to improve/change a bag leg into a good leg.

See the last section, 4.0 COURSE PLANNING EXAMPLES
Feb 2, 2021 3:50 AM # 
Really good resources. Thanks everyone!
Feb 2, 2021 5:14 PM # 
The reason that UK easy courses tend to be generally fine is that the guidelines (as reflected in Barry's docs) are REALLY clear, so both planner and then controller shouldn't be able to deviate.

White course = All controls on paths, a control at EVERY decision point
Yellow course = Controls on or visible from paths, maximum 2 decision points between controls, no real route choice.

If you follow these to the letter, you can't go too wrong. The only thing is you might end up with lots of extra controls to hang.

The orange course is a less clear-cut (although the guidelines try) and in my opinion the trickiest course to plan - "a little bit difficult but not too difficult" can often go wrong.
Feb 2, 2021 10:42 PM # 
Orange courses should always have good catching features.
Feb 3, 2021 12:09 AM # 
USA folks (maybe Canadians also?)-
Be careful when referring to the BOF guidelines. The color coded terms are similar, but the definitions are slightly different.
My recollection from very careful reading 5+ years ago, is that the British system uses 4 color steps to get to our equivalent third step.

Agreed, the BOF guidelines are well written, but you can't compare Oranges to Oranges.
Feb 3, 2021 1:01 AM # 
If we had white courses in WA (equivalent to our Very Easy (VE)) we'd not be able to stick to those guidelines. Half (or more) of our maps don't have enough (or in some cases any) tracks.
Feb 3, 2021 2:47 AM # 
I think you are lucky triCky. I'd contend that being sent out on a white course is the reason many first timers do not return for a second time. "Where's the beef," they ask and the next week they spend ten times as much money to totally pummel themselves for several hours in a Spartan Race.
So should we send them out right away on an Advanced course? No way but there is a middle ground where good adult novice legs can include some decision making and even route choice.
Feb 3, 2021 3:01 AM # 
It must be better value because it costs more.

Our VE courses do follow linear features but could also be fences or distinct watercourses. The E (Yellow) is a similar course but adds in decision making, usually by removing a control at a decision point.
Feb 3, 2021 3:09 AM # 
I'd contend that being sent out on a white course is the reason many first timers do not return for a second time.

I see no reason not to send out an adult who is a confident map reader on a yellow course their first time, as long as it is well set. That doesn't mean we shouldn't also have well set white courses for younger people and less confident adults. Mastery and accomplishment is a big motivator.
Feb 3, 2021 2:33 PM # 
The UK White course is squarely aimed at children who are starting off, to give them confidence. Novice adults or families normally do Yellow or Orange; in fact very few 'local' events offer white courses because the takeup is low unless you specifically invite scout groups or similar.
Feb 3, 2021 2:35 PM # 
Having said that, I would guess there are many more newcomers leaving the sport because it was 'too hard' than 'too easy'. If the latter, they can always go out again on a harder course.
Feb 4, 2021 7:17 AM # 
A second course is always free at our events, or if it's too late to do a second course on the day, offer newcomers a free pass for the next event.

We would generally encourage newcomers who say they have experience to do the second level course (Easy), then attempt the next level (Moderate), or part of it, if there is time. Sometimes a new person convinces us they can do M straight up, and invariably they take a very long time or dnf.

We run a Guided M course at intervals during our season, with a coach taking a group of 4-6 around the M, pointing out the best routes and techniques for developing orienteers.

For a course planning workshop for fairly new planners, I think you need to show both good and bad legs, but it's also worth demonstrating how a 'bad' leg can easily be transformed into a better one.
Feb 4, 2021 8:07 AM # 
A better bad leg?
Feb 4, 2021 10:27 AM # 
Everyone is different. There should be flexibility. I took a work colleague to a State Championship one year. He had never orienteered before, but finished 7th in M21. We didn’t discuss it with the organisers, I just entered him with confidence.
Feb 4, 2021 1:00 PM # 
Was that a WA state championship though? You could quite easily finish 7th in a field of three here.
Feb 4, 2021 5:36 PM # 
I would think it difficult to finish 7th in a field of 3...
Feb 5, 2021 12:04 AM # 
Daylight sometimes takes up many positions in our results.
Feb 5, 2021 1:00 AM # 
Focus - He had never orienteered before, but finished an M21 State Championship
And no it wasn't in WA.

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