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Discussion: Technical orienteering?

in: Orienteering; General

Oct 15, 2010 1:12 PM # 
Maybe this is discussed before, but I ask it here anyway. What "technical orienteering" actually is? If you say course/terrain/race was technical, what do you mean by it? And what is non technical orienteering. Add is technical better than non technical? I am asking because I believe people may see it quite differently.

As I see it, course is technical if to be fast you should not use the same O technique all the time. Instead you need to change your technique constantly. And you can't or shouldn't go straight for there is obstacles like cliffs, impassable features, too big hill, dark green, paths etc. so you need to you need to make sharp turns inside a leg, not just at controls. Also needed navigation accuracy changes, sometimes it's enough you hit a big hill, sometimes you need to hit path T crossing along optimal route choice. Also optimal way to interpret/simplify map changes during the course - best if terrain is highly detailed but map is simplified, so map is easy to read but you need to simplify what you see in your mind to make it match with the map - here you can't easily spike the control either by reading tiny details (since those are not mapped) so instead you need to have other ways o do it, like sense of climb/distance and/or compass and understand a "bigger picture" - shape of the hill or something. And some "easier" legs meaning details are big enough to be mapped, so you just read essential stuff on your way to the control.

For example we have kind of in turns controls at detailed areas, and then control(s) at areas with no much details, like lonely point feature on a hills side, legs over area without details and then control right after at front edge of a detailed terrain. Obstacles you should go around, paths to hit and leave smoothly. And so on.

Not technical courses are either too "easy" (of course speed makes anything easy, but I guess you get the point) or typical today's scandi courses on over-mapped areas - short legs, lots of details, always about straight, just read details, no sharp turn except at controls.

How do you see it?
Oct 15, 2010 2:17 PM # 
I think that the technicality of a course has a lot to do with what you are used to. After years of running it, I find the SF Bay Area terrain to be steep, but technically easy . But I have always found it fascinating that some Scandinavians come here and at first have real trouble with judging elevation and planning legs with multiple contour options. Conversely I am baffled by most Scandinavian maps which my Swedish friends can run through in their sleep.
Oct 15, 2010 3:38 PM # 
The more map symbols you have to read to complete a course, the more technical the course is.
Oct 15, 2010 4:30 PM # 
But as ndobbs and I said at Ansonia the other day, the "technical" bits are the easy bits - we were getting lost in the vaguey stuff in between them.
Oct 15, 2010 6:09 PM # 
I really like the AP description - technicality can roughly be equated to amount of concentration required.
This definition also covers Geoman's issue of different people finding different terrains more challenging.
Oct 15, 2010 6:10 PM # 
I always thought that Scandi terrain was 'technical' until I organized a training day for the Swedish team in the Dundas Valley in 1992. The Swedish women commented that they found the Dundas Valley terrain difficult because the terrain lacked 'point' features like cliffs or boulders to tell them exactly where they were. I was surprised by this so I asked why. One team member said that "a big boulder or cliff is like a sky scraper in a city. you know exactly where you are."

Looking at the route gadget analysis from GLOF last weekend and there were some very big errors made. Likely bigger errors than occurred in what I would consider more 'technical' terrain at the Canadian Champs. As my coach always said if you ran perfect you either didn't run fast enough, simplify enough or you chose a simple route choice. And speaking of the latter. You can have terrain that may appear technically easier to execute but much much harder to choose the correct route choice. One participant at GLOF told me that the constant thinking of route choice started to hurt their brain. In more technical terrain like Harriman the best route is often straight.

So I agree orienteering terrain and difficulty varies depending on your experience and what you are used to.
Oct 16, 2010 11:28 PM # 
technical orienteering to me is when you really have to use fine details to navigate, and having to be more precise. Some good examples were 10Mila and 25Manna this year, where 25Manna was some of the hardest orienteering ive ever done for a long time; but also the orienteering was quite "real", and not so bingo.

good example for not so technical:
Although less details, still possible to orienteer.

I however dont find when having difficulties finding a green "x" in a semi-green hillside forest as technical orienteering, which i unfortunatelly had to experience a few times.
Oct 17, 2010 4:41 PM # 
In 25manna there was no need to plan ahead (always enough details around), no need to be accurate (it really did not matter exactly where you end up running, terrain was equally fast everywhere). You just had to know where you are and be accurate at controls, no need to be accurate between controls. No need to make route choices (always straight). No need to make accurate turns, no impassable or slow areas one should be able to avoid by navigating accurately. Maybe it can be called techncal, but I'd say it was not technically challenging. I'd say it was more mechanical, no need to be clever or think much during the race.

For me swiss and O in the oaks courses look far more technically challenging. You need to change your tecnique, do contouring, most likely use compass in places without detauls and read details when available. Also it matters are you spot on most of the time or not. Like halfway between controls, if you are slightly off you often end up climbing lots of extra meters and easily loose tens of seconds. If same happens at 25 manna you end up loosing virtually nothing (if you know where you are).

25 Manna techicality is mosty just fake, a bluff. I mean, isn't 25 manna map good example of bad mapping? Same seems to apply US Classic Champs this weekend. What has happenned to today's mappers? Have they never heard of ISOM? And do they think orienteers are brain dead and not able to understand normal full contours? Why they neeed to fill all possible white space with useless form lines? Manna map is one of the worst I have ever raced with. If technical orienteering means adding maps full of unnecessary form lines with 80 cm interval (like in 25map map) I'd say technical orientering is bad, not recommended and should be avoided.

Just look at maps made by top, world class mappers', like maps made by Swampfox. You will not find such form lines armies, not even in flat places where he runs out of contours.

Clip of 25mamma map.

Contour interval was 4 meters, you can see there is 4 stacked form lines, makses 80 cm interval. Note also form line and tag direction on top of the hill at SW corner. Rest of the form lines there aren't quite ISOM either, but not as spectacular. Last leg had control on this clip.
Oct 17, 2010 6:43 PM # 
It's too bad you didnt like the 25manna terrain, cuz i loved it. I'll admit there were places were the only thing i saw in the terrain was one big marsh, but on the map there were all these countour lines and details, but the map was accurate, and the orienteering was real. There wasnt any bingo involved and although it was just a matter of going straight all the time, you still needed to know where you were. I can give you a bunch of people who had their year's worst race that day.

Looking at the US champs map, it seemed very interesting, and it certainly looks something i would want to be apart of; Im a very fan of the "if its there, map it" principle, even if it means a few extra contours.

btw. a map that enables a ton of route choice legs, i dont feel it means its any technical orienteering. Even if i have trouble figuring out how im going to attack a leg, doesnt make it any harder to actually finding the control. I think thats about my 2 cents on it.
Oct 17, 2010 7:08 PM # 
I'd define how technical the orienteering is for a certain runner in a given terrain as how much the orienteering difficulties make it necessary for the runner to slow down to orienteer compared to the running speed the runner would be able to keep without orienteering/map-reading. I.e. technical orienteering will vary with person, skills and experience.
Oct 19, 2010 8:53 AM # 
I like jankoc's describtion. But there should be also something speeding up by navigating well.
Like technicality is combination of how much faster certain runner can run in given section of terrain by optimal navigation compared to the speed he runs just straight without trying to navigate and
how much the orienteering difficulties make it necessary for the runner to slow down to orienteer compared to the running speed the runner would be able to keep without orienteering/map-reading.

Second part vary with person, but first part will not vary that much.


mnipen, I liked the 25manna terrain and event overall. I am familiar with that terrain type, we have lots of that here where I live. I just did not like the map, it was inaccurate, erroneous and confusing. No wonder people had bad races there, it may have nothing to do with technicality. Maybe explanation is needed here, below is the same map clip (upside down):

Imagine approaching from down (black line) and while running the side of the hill you plan ahead and try to figure in advance how the profile between A and B will look like when you climb to the long knoll (at end of black line). Knolls A and B are drawn with same full contour level, so they should be at same level. All form lines are going down to left and the one near knoll A is the lowest of them all, so it should be quite near to the level of the lower full contour. This all isn't possible unless knoll A is high and steep, like tower. It must be the most prominent feature there! It sure doesn't look like that at first glance of the map, so one can say it's not that well mapped. Then, if it's not that prominent, then knolls A and B most likely are not at same level at all, and that makes it even worse mapping - it means you can't trust full controls more than form lines - it means you really can't know how it looks in 3d by looking at contours, you will have to there and read controls as 2d objects instead of 3d. This usually happens when mappers start using stacked form lines. At minimum the third dimension becomes shaky, you can't know is form lines in halfway between contours at all. But almost always level inaccuracy spreads to full contours too and 3D isn't just shaky any more, it gets broken. In 25manna map most of time i didn't matter where did you looked, profiles and levels looked all wrong. So one had to read contours as 2D point features and usually it was pointless to read them in advance you had to read them saw them. That made the navigation quite annoying. This mapping style punishes skilled athletes, they just can't use their skills, they have to navigate like less skilled athletes do, mechanical reading of 2d objects instead of understanding the big picture in 3d well in advance.

So, as you said, if it is there map it. Altitudes, levels, all that 3d surface is there, it's the most prominent feature out there. I'd like to see it mapped instead of obsolete point feature style 2D reentrants. Mapping "everything" with stacks of form lines leads to lots of countours but less information, worse legibility, requests of larger map scale / using loops and so on.
Oct 19, 2010 7:52 PM # 
Nice example Jagge. This takes a bit of work to understand. However, I think the analysis is slightly (only slightly) flawed. A and B being mapped at the same contour level just means their heights overlap, possibly up to 3 or 4 metres different.

A is bigger than the form-line hill beside it (guess 1-2m high?), so I guess it is a proper 4-7m hill, one would hope. It should at least be higher than the form-line spur, which is as you have drawn. I would expect the top of B to be a little above the top of A, but this does not imply incorrect mapping.

Worse is going from the hill your black arrowhead is on to the control... the top of the knoll where the control is is lower than the top of the arrow hill, despite the two uphill form-lines...
Ahhh... now go from arrow hill to control to B... and it gets worse, four uphill formlines... you're giving me a headache... point made :)
Oct 19, 2010 9:19 PM # 
btw. Ive heard that in some sweedish maps instead of having form lines they use a principle of average 4 meter contour intervals, but the contour itself can vary from 2-7 meters, so that the mapper then fits the contours to match the terrain as best as possible. Is this often the case?
Oct 19, 2010 9:28 PM # 
isn't that the case everywhere?
Oct 19, 2010 11:12 PM # 
I have a few Swedish maps labeled "ekvidistans 4m", and one labeled "ekvidistans 3-5m".
Oct 20, 2010 4:40 AM # 
Pink Socks:
Simply, I would say that technicality is a ratio of point features vs linear features.
Oct 20, 2010 11:20 AM # 
ekvidistans 4m and 2-5m means the same and is only used around Stockholm, other parts of Sweden use either 2.5m (south) and 5m (west and north).

The mapping style around Stockholm is very different from the rest part, as you may have noted but still the 25manna map was way over Stockholm standard and fully readable at least for me. The 4m ekvidistans means roughly 1-2m on the flat parts and 5m on the steep hillsides. Which basically means the mapmaker can do whatever he wants and nobody can complain..
Oct 20, 2010 10:40 PM # 
I think technicality is proportional to the feature density * homogeneity.

You can have difficult terrain which is not at all technical.
Oct 22, 2010 3:13 PM # 
j-man >> I understand what you mean and I guess that "feature density..." is very much a common understanding of tecnicality. I may even agree, but a difficult area without features also requires some kind of technique. So if it is my technique that decides whether I find the control or not (and not just pure luck) then this area must also be technical, even if it´s a different technique than in detailed terrain.

For some reason the best orienteers master all kinds of terrain and all kinds of maps - even the bad ones. It can´t always be luck...
Oct 22, 2010 8:50 PM # 
Right, usually best orienteers just win with bigger marginal if the map is "bad". Why?

Here is one example of typical change o fmaps between 1990 -2000. Terrain is the same.

With the new map whan you hit any spot, lets say a knoll, you ll know it's the right one because the characteristic (shape, all the nearby features, everything) is mapped and the place looks right, so you'll do fine even if you are unsure for beeing sloppy while approaching the place. With the old map half of the details are not mapped and when you hit the place you know it's the right one because you navigated there accurately - you know it's the right place because the location is right. If you were sloppy and you are unsure you are in deep trouble.

Is orinteering with the new 2000 map more technical just because there is more details? I's say its not, it's the opposite. With new map everything is mapped, the challenge is seeing he map well enough. With the old one seeing the map is no problem, the challenge is navigatonal, you need to be more accurate, you need to use compass, stay focused all the time, be sure al the time, you need to interprete the map, simplify what you see and so on. These days most orienteers does not use compass much, we just carry compass with our thumb and just read details and if there is challenging vague areas we blame the map instead of admitting it was too techical for our skills. And mappers we blame - of course - do what customers like, they add more and more details. And maps become less readable. But even bigger price is the fact the navigational challenge becomes more limited, basicly mostly need to read details and see the map. But this is the way it is and I think smart course planners know this well and use the vague parts of maps to make courses challenging. For example, if you look at first controls of men's middle qual at WOC you'll see what I am talking about. If you wondered why they used the vague light green area when there was plenty of nice "technical" terrain around, here is the ansver. So, to do well we still need to master vague areas, the more techical orientering that the one more often regarded as technical.

What I would like to see is getting at least some maps mapped as ISOM says, more readable and generalized than today, but not like 80's maps - maps could be made accurate, height differences and absolute positions mapped right, it could be done with LIDAR and gps, accurate positions and levels makes it possible to have much less deatails without making controls bingo. But I can imagine it will not happen.
Oct 22, 2010 9:13 PM # 
This may be splitting hairs or a matter of semantics, but I still think "technical orienteering" is something different than orienteering requiring good technique.

Finding a control 300 meters away in medium green on a constant slope is very difficult, and requires good technique. Finding a control on [fill in requisite feature-dense map] is more "technical", all things equal. It may, in fact, be easier.
Oct 22, 2010 11:46 PM # 
The Lost Pole:
NEOOC had a local event at South Chagrin Reservation that was technical in a different sort. Competitors carried no map. It was a good exercise in focusing on the next control and not having a map as a reference.

At the start the competitor was allowed to see a piece of map from the start to the 1st control, and the map stayed at the start. Affixed to control point 1 there was a map showing where control point 2 was located. This process was repeated throughout the course. The technical part, running the course off a leg to leg memory. Very interesting and challenging. The course was designed by Olga Rachitskaya.
Oct 24, 2010 5:16 AM # 
Two events a few weeks apart. The first on Mount Kooyoora was designed to take the most of the highly technical terrain. The second was on Mosquito Creek, an area with almost no point features, few tracks and flat to undulating terrain. It is not often described as technical terrain. The evidence from route gadget is that the technical terrain was easier, probably because of the multitude of features from which one could relocate.
Oct 25, 2010 12:59 AM # 
I too think that "technical" is very close to being equivalent to the amount of concentration required. Other things (such as point features / line features, number of turns, type of terrain, etc) are things that a good course planner mixes together to create courses which require more (or less) concentration
Oct 25, 2010 2:06 PM # 
Well, what's the alternative to "technical", anyway? "Physical"? Or something else?
Oct 25, 2010 8:16 PM # 
Bit late on this, but maps are meant to aid navigation, they aint meant to be a meter accurate survey of topography, so having variable contour heights and using form-lines to show smaller shapes is a good idea.

Jagge, you are spoiled in Finland with such good maps!
Oct 26, 2010 4:45 AM # 
In my opinion "technical course" means a course, which never forgive your mistakes. For me "mistake" stands for "incorrect actions" but not a "time loss" like many orienteers think. "Time loss" is just a consequence of a mistake. In other words "technical course" is such a course where each your mistake leads to a time loss.

"Technical course" does not necessarily means "detailed terrain". In contrary a very simple terrain (terrain with a few details/features) can be used but the course is set such that every time you loose concentration/loos contact with map/make a bad decision because of speed-time pressure you loose time.

This discussion thread is closed.