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Discussion: US Champs

in: Orienteering; General

Oct 28, 2006 10:55 PM # 
jfredrickson:
I have heard people discussing the current format of the US Champs (sprint, short, long, classic 2-day) recently and I am curious as to what the general consensus in USOF is. I know that this isn't the best forum to get USOF consensus from, but maybe some people know more than I do.

Let's say that on average there are 30 A-Meet days per year in the US (last year there were 28). With 5 championship days (1 sprint, 1 middle, 1 long, 2 classic), that is 1 out of every 6 race days. Throw in 3 Team Trials races and 3 NA Champs races every other year and you are up to 8 or 11 races a year that we are expecting our Elite to focus on. Last year, the top 10 men in M21 averaged 8.8 races, and the top women averaged 9.7.

One of the main challenges that we face is that we are geographically spread out, making it hard to get together decent competition at all events. Asking our elites to focus on 8 or 11 races a year forces them to take those races less seriously and thus we are not going to see as serious a level of competition at those races.

Obviously there are many things that we need to improve our international results, but making it easier for our elites to focus on the important events is one of those things that we can easily take care of. It is also important that each and every US Champs is a prestigious event, and not just another in the plethora of championships that we host every year.

I am currently in the process of planning out my training and racing schedule for next year and I know that I would like to focus on the Sprint and Middle Distance Champs. Unfortunately those races don't appear to have been scheduled yet, and according to Randy's sanctioning queue only the Middle distance has been bid on yet.

Reducing the number of different Championship days around the year, and also consigning them to one weekend should make it easier to find clubs to host all the Championships, and perhaps even create some competition in the bidding on these events. At the moment it appears that USOF is almost struggling to find clubs to host all of the different Championship events. While I don't had any complaints regarding any specific Championship events, I can only imagine that some competition in the bidding process will only raise the quality of the event. If a club knows that it had to work hard to convince USOF that it was capable of holding the only US Champs events of the year it will be more likely to take the event more seriously than just a normal A-Meet.

Also, if the US Champs only take place on one weekend we are likely to see a much higher number of competitors than at other normal A-Meets, and so the event would become even more sought-after by the well-established clubs because it will bring in higher revenue than a normal A-Meet.

The Canadians adopted a new Canadian Champs format this year that brings all 3 official individual World Champs disciplines into one weekend of racing. That means that with their Team Trials and the NA Champs also on single weekends the Canadian elite only have to focus on 2 or 3 weekends a year.

It seems to me that this would be the best system to make the US Champs a more prestigious event as both the hosting clubs and the general Orienteering population will take the event more seriously.

Oh, and back to my main point. It will make it possible for our elites to focus on all of the events that matter and not have to pick and choose because there are too many spread out over thousands of miles over the year.

Now I know that USOF often isn't quick to jump on issues that concern only the elite athletes, especially if it means changing things for everyone else. But aren't there enough other reasons to make this a sensible change? I have heard people state that it will be impossible to get such a change through USOF. Does anyone know why that might be? Surely there are enough reasons that the entire Orienteering community can identify with here.
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Oct 28, 2006 11:56 PM # 
smittyo:
Some good questions John. I'll give my version of the answers.

1) There is significant support to maintain a two-day classic length individual Champs. This support comes primarily from older long-term orienteers who got into the sport because they liked this format and don't want to see it go away. These are also by far the most powerful people in USOF. They are the bulk of the folks who run the clubs, the BOD, and serve as delegates to the AGM. Therefore, what they say goes.

2) A few years ago, there was a proposal to establish a separate elite Championship that would be middle/long and would be held in conjunction with the team trials. The existing two-day classic would become a separate age-class championship w/o any official champs for the elite. This proposal passed the BOD, but was overturned by the membership at the AGM. At the time, Silva was sponsoring the US Champs and they went on record against the proposal, preferring a single premiere Championship weekend with all age classes.

Until the makeup of USOF changes to the point where the AGM is controlled by people who want to see this change, it will be difficult to lose the 2-day classic format as the premiere Championship. Of course, the BOD and many members support providing championships in alternate formats for our elite members, thereby creating the mess that we have now.

One thought that occurred to me recently was the possibility of taking bids for only two Championship events per year. One would be the traditional 2-day classic event and this bid could potentially include other Championship events as well as part of a larger festival. Then we would award one additional set of Championships which could be spread over as much as two weekends in a reasonable geographic region. The bid could contain any assortment of the remaining championships the host clubs wanted. Some specific Championships might not occur in every year, but we would have two Championship festivals annually to cover as many formats as possible. In addition, we could expand the NA Champs to an annual sprint/middle/long format.

BTW, I believe I may have been mistaken. In an earlier email I said I thought that the IOF would only approve extra WREs for regional Champs every two years, but the wording on the WRE application reads annually.
Oct 29, 2006 12:05 AM # 
jjcote:
Addressing just one small point, and not the general point of John's post:
Also, if the US Champs only take place on one weekend we are likely to see a much higher number of competitors than at other normal A-Meets, and so the event would become even more sought-after by the well-established clubs because it will bring in higher revenue than a normal A-Meet.

Somewhat higher, but I'm not so sure about "much higher". There's a point at which "all" of the orienteers are in attendance, and there's nothing you can do to increase it beyond that. There may also be an effect where the increase in number of competitors is viewed more as additional labor than additional revenue. The result may be that some smaller clubs are dissuaded from bidding at all, feeling that they can't handle the numbers. This is already the case for some clubs even with generic A-meets. The result could be that even more than now, the US Champs would be of interest to only a small number of clubs (eventually just alternating between DVOA and BAOC?).
Oct 29, 2006 12:34 AM # 
Barbie:
I am super excited that Canada has adopted that format. When the motion was passed 2 years ago a number of clubs turned around and changed their championship format to S/M/L right away. BC and Alberta have already had quite a few provincial championships in that format and so have been our selection races for at least the last 2 years. I believe having more of these races is the only way to prepare athletes for international competition and even eventually allow athletes to specialize.
I say Johnny for president ;-)
Oct 29, 2006 12:54 AM # 
div:
I would prefer M/S/L format.
Oct 29, 2006 2:06 AM # 
randy:

I''ve been on record for years for having sprint, middle, long, relay, and interscholastics, and dropping everything else until the discipline/competition has some number of non-championship A meet starts per year above a certain threshold.

When you throw in regional and local "championships", it really does begin to seem that every race is a championship. The dilution/inflation whatever you want to call it just becomes plain silly, at least to me.

(being a geek, I just looked over my race log for 06, and of 22 racing weekends in North America this year, 10 of those contained a "championship" of some sort (tho admittedly I wasn't eligible for all of them). And I didn't even go to the "classic championships").

But, as Clare said, there isn't alot of traction for these ideas in USOF by the people who actually make the decisions. I've tried. Vote for different board people; again, back to what Clare said, my guess is that it is a minority opinion that wants this change, but you never know. I will give the board credit for accepting the proposal of NAOC 08 following IOF formats.

(I'll be off the board as of this summer, so if one wants my vote on this issue, a proposal is needed soon ...)
Oct 29, 2006 2:31 AM # 
Hammer:
> I will give the board credit for accepting the proposal of NAOC 08 following IOF formats.

Yes, and USOF board also approved COF's request to allow S,M, L for all classes in NAOC'06. Thanks!
(so a carefully worded motion may work).

When GHO bid for NAOC'06 we were told it would not be popular because: a) it was in the autumn, b) it was not 2-day classic, and c) "because only elites like sprint". I think the North American O community proved those myths wrong a few weekends ago.
Oct 29, 2006 2:47 AM # 
Cristina:
A quick note about notion c above. I think the that reason some of the older orienteers think that they don't like sprint is because often they have to run the same sprint course as the fast guys. If you've got courses that are short enough (as they did at the NAOC), then the appeal is greater. Not everyone likes sprint, even when it's the appropriate length, but I think that helps.
Oct 29, 2006 2:51 AM # 
kendal:
our local club calls it a short course...especially when you want older people involved, we found the word sprint (which is great for elites) turns away older people because they arent fit/fast. when they come along to 'short course' they like it as they can go their pace (not feel like they have to sprint) and still get enjoyment!
Though i guess you kinda have to call it a sprint for major events.
Oct 30, 2006 5:14 PM # 
rm:
I'm also a fan of the SML format; our club has been using it a lot for years.

If the old timers (though I suppose I'm in that category...the exception to the rule I guess) prefer two day classic, why not? Leave the older categories as the classic distances, and just propose to change the elite, and maybe the older juniors, and maybe for practical reasons M35, to Sprint, Middle and Long. If the elite are keen for SML (and certainly on this forum they seem to be heavily in favour), then the BOD and membership have much less reason to object. It means that the host would have to set, for the elite (and maybe juniors), a longer-than-Classic Long, a shorter-than-classic Middle, plus a Sprint. The extra effort is really only the Sprint, which could be Friday evening or before or after the Middle on Saturday.

If an organizer of a future US Champs could be put on record as being willing to implement the new format, then I think that'd go a long way toward getting a favourable vote.
Oct 30, 2006 5:24 PM # 
rm:
By the way, for the older categories, there's little difference between Middle/Long (as usually implemented for older categories) and Classic anyway. Many older categories have target winning times (for US or Canadian A meets or for WMOC) of 30 to 50 minutes...not much longer than the 30-35 of a Middle. And the newly adopted Canadian standards for the Long aren't much longer than the old Classic distances...an hour or less, not 70-100 minutes like for the elite. So changing older categories seems less worth fussing over anyway. The biggest difference is in the elite categories, where the difference in winning times is huge (90-100 minutes is a lot different than 30-35), and also the character should be a lot different. (The course length and character are not unrelated. The distance of the Long helps enable the epic route choice legs...it's often hard to set a truly interesting 2-3 km leg for, say, a 40 minute course. And the 30-35 minutes of a Middle makes it feasible to set a course that's continually navigationally intense from start to finish...an hour long course might need 40 controls to do that, depending on terrain. (Not that mega-O's aren't fun.))
Oct 30, 2006 5:39 PM # 
randy:
It means that the host would have to set, for the elite (and maybe juniors), a longer-than-Classic Long, a shorter-than-classic Middle, plus a Sprint.

That's been done at A meets, but I'm not sure you're always getting championship quality terrain for each different discipline at the same venue on the same day (i.e., is setting the shorter than classic middle at the classic venue really going to be something that looks like an IOF middle? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, I think).

If a compromise is truly tenable (and I'm not sure that it has been demonstrated that it is necessary, but we'll take that as axiomatic for now), then perhaps compromise in time rather than space (i.e, odd years it is sprint/middle/long, even years it is 2 day classic :-)).

Another potential compromise is to have NAOC every year with sprint/middle/long, and keep USOC the same. Of course, this creates even more championship days :-)
Oct 30, 2006 6:17 PM # 
rm:
That's been done at A meets, but I'm not sure you're always getting championship quality terrain for each different discipline at the same venue on the same day

Then perhaps propose a SML format for everyone, with the different Middle and Long characters, but have the course winning times similar to the old Classic winning times for the older categories. (A 40-45 minute winning time for an older category might actually let it be put on the same course as an elite 30-35 minute winning time category, conceivably cutting down on the number of courses required.) I wonder if the promise of route choice on Sunday and intricate detail on Saturday might not actually be attractive to a lot of older orienteers, since a lot of older orienteers do enjoy those things, but sometimes currently courses offer only a little of either. For older orienteers, I suspect the issue is that they really aren't going to go much faster or orienteer much differently for a 30 minute Middle than a 90 minute Long, so the Middle ends up just being less time in the woods, not a more intense experience, and thus it's just unsatisfyingly brief, and the Long ends up being longer than some have endurance for. If the distance issue were removed for the older categories, then I suspect that the resistance would be reduced a lot. And maybe even you'd get a few new supporters eager for the promise of specific course characteristics. like continual technical navigation or epic route choice.
Oct 30, 2006 6:30 PM # 
rm:
Note that the differences in course desires may be not so much a difference in age as a difference in orienteering level and tastes.

A friend of mine has been promoting the idea of replacing age category-centric courses with courses distinguished by skill level and character, with a few broad age categories on each:

Elite: international standard
Expert: technical, but for the weekend warrior who doesn't want to go as long or as hard
Sport: intermediate navigation, but maybe longish, for adventure racers and runners as well as newer orienteers progressing upwards
Challenge: advanced beginner
Adventure: beginner

Have an open, sub-masters, masters, veterans, junior and super junior on each course. Some older and younger people might want to challenge themselves on the elite course. A twenty-something might want to do an intermediate difficulty course (without it being a B or C or N category of two people). Etc.

(I'm sure that I have the names and details of his courses wrong, but I think that's the general idea.)
Oct 30, 2006 6:51 PM # 
randy:
so the Middle ends up just being less time in the woods, not a more intense experience

I'm not convinced of this. I have no way to know, but I speculate that intensity is a function of percentage of personal max capacity, not a function of some absolute or "elite" speed, and thus the experience could occur at any age. Age may be more pertinent in terms of agility (i.e., it is impossible for older people to reach for capacity in certain terrains due to limits on agility (I have this problem in certain venues))


then I suspect that the resistance would be reduced a lot


I was willing to let this be an axiom in the last post, but how much actual resistance from masters classes is there to sprint/middle/long. Has anyone asked? Do we know?


so the Middle ends up just being less time in the woods


I'd actually not been sold on sprint/middle/long due to the less time in the woods theory. I'd rather run 160 minutes (80+80), than 130 minutes (15+25+90). This is even more true since true 90 min WT classics in the US seem rare, even at sprint/middle/long meets.

But when you think about it, the meet is more than just the racing, and the lost minutes as a total percentage of the experience are less than it seems. Moreover, there is compensation for this loss in terms of the different formats, terrains, course settings, if things are done correctly. And, I think intense races seem longer than they are, that is, the brain's perception of time is better measured in terms of information per unit time rather than simply the passage of time (one simply has to listen to good punk rock and droning epic prog rock back to back to understand this concept :-)).

So, there may be less to the "time in the woods theory" than some people think (at least that was my experience), but I would like to see those longs start clocking in at 90+ on a regular basis ...
Oct 30, 2006 6:56 PM # 
j-man:
"droning epic prog rock?"

Uh? I'll have a hard-core boson spin-1 version, thanks.
Oct 30, 2006 7:35 PM # 
rm:
I agree about the less time in the woods thing...not a real issue I find. And age does not prevent the Middle experience from being intense. (I just ran Adrian's first draft Middle course for the 2007 COCs on Saturday, and man was it intense. Amazing terrain.)

My point was more about the experience of the weekend warriors who have been coming to orienteering meets for decades, but may or may not train at all, and really are just out for a pleasant challenge in the woods, plus maybe the chance to beat their (similar interest) buddies. For them, 2-3 hours in the woods may be more pleasant divided equally between the two days, rather than 1/4 of the time one day and 3/4 the other, if they're not going to run the races any differently. From several orienteers over the years, I've heard the comment that they see no difference between a Middle and a Long (or a Short and a Classic), other than distance. I've come to believe that this is due to how they approach orienteering, with much the same approach to every leg, and much the same pace regardless. (If a runner ran 3K races and 10K races at the same pace, then he or she might see little difference other than length between them, and just want to be out for the "right" amount of time, whichever race gave them that.)

Yes, poll orienteers. You might find less resistance than expected to SML...Canada did. But if there is resistance from people who just want an hour in the woods each day because that's what they enjoy, I'd suggest offerring them the option of continuing as they were, rather than giving up on SML because they won't "convert".
Oct 30, 2006 9:24 PM # 
Pink Socks:
This is my first AP comment, so for full disclosure:

Age: 25
Experience: 3 years (~ 50 total events)
A-Meets attended: 5 (starting with PNWOF '05)
US Classic Champs: 2 (red in '05 and blue in '06)
Category: I guess I'd be a "weekend warrior" as I do orienteering purely for challenging fun. I don't really train too seriously for it, but I attend about 90% of all events in the Seattle area, and I plan on making a few A-meets a year.
----

1) I pretty much completely agree with John's comments. SML seems a lot more internationally compatible, and I'm all for that. Also, as a newbie, I'm still confused with all of the different US Champs. When I went to the US Classic Champs in Oregon, I thought I was going to the real deal champs race. And then I find out there's a long. And a middle. And a short. And so on.

2) As an active recreational orienteer, I'd rather see a SML than the status quo because it makes it more interesting for me. In a weekend, I can experience three different distances, which to me, is more fun than running two of the same.

3) I still like my "time in the woods", so if a SML does indeed get me less time in the woods, I'd encourage clubs to add a 4th course, just for fun. Maybe another sprint, or something like the Anza-Borrego Maze-O. Something short and fun.

4) I don't really have a problem with the current age class system. Having Elite/Expert/Challenge/Etc. with Open/Masters/Juniors/Etc. seems like having just as many categories as there are now. For my first 4 A-meets, I ran in Open Red because I didn't want to go "as long or as hard." I didn't mind being in a category of two, because no matter how you organize it, there were only two 20-somethings who didn't want to run elite.

If I were to propose a new category, it would be a Long Orange, as a crossover to attract more trail runners and adventure racers. I have hiker/runner friends who are hesitant to try some of the more rugged Washington state meets because the easy courses are too short (not worth the drive) and the long courses are too hard.

5) With a SML format, would there be four champions? You'd have the winners of the sprint, middle, and long, but you could also have an overall champion, who has the best time over all three. To me, winning that seems a lot more prestigious than winning a 2-day classic champs.
Oct 30, 2006 10:22 PM # 
randy:
With a SML format, would there be four champions?

I'm personally in favor of three, one for each discipline. The combined thing gets bogged down in sometimes confusing talk of weighting algorithms, etc. I prefer something simple to understand on race day.

I don't follow other sports, but do they have overall champions say of the winners of the 100m, 400m, etc. on race weekend? Is this even an appropriate question, or does it totally expose my ignorance of other sports? :)

Oct 30, 2006 10:49 PM # 
Barbie:
Well well, interesting point from Kupackwhateverthenamewas. A new comer finds it confusing how many US championships there are... and his hiking firends won`t drive an hour for a 30 minute orange course. I think there is very precious information in there, both pointing towards "competence-based" categories as a great solution, and the adoption of the SML system (which by the way is 10 minutes longer than estimated by Randy since middle has a 35 minute winning time - not ot be confused with the old 25-minute "short").
My 2 cents - Johnny for prez
Oct 30, 2006 11:02 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Looking at the Olympics, I can think of a few "overall" type champions. There's the decathlon/hepathlon and modern pentathlon (what a weird collection of 5 events).

And in the subjective sports, there's ice skating, which has a long and short program. Gymnastics also awards "overall" medals, well as medals for each individual event.

And, of course, there are the events where you do various disciplines all in one race: biathlon, triathlon, and medley swimming.
Oct 30, 2006 11:20 PM # 
jjcote:
In events like the decathlon, those people aren't competing for medals in the individual events (and if they were, they'd generally being turning in relatively poor performances, anyway).
Oct 30, 2006 11:31 PM # 
Tim S:
Modern Pentathalon is based on the potential skills required by a messanger to deliver his message. Horse-riding, swimming across rivers, shooting, fencing, and cross country. Makes more sense than the Athletics Decathalon in a way

Modern day equivalent could be rally driving, orienteering, Ultimate fighting, shooting and dog handling.

Any takers?

Oct 31, 2006 12:41 AM # 
jfredrickson:
One of the problems I have noticed in the States regarding the S/M/L format is that people think of it purely in terms of winning times when in fact the seperate disciplines should be three completely different kinds of races. The Long (which is actually the same as our "Classic" by international standards) is meant to focus on mental and physical endurance, and a juxtaposition of long route-choice legs with short, detailed-navigation legs and direction changes.

The Middle is supposed to focus mainly on the short, detailed navigation legs and direction changes, and the Sprint is really just a more extreme version of the middle.

Most course setters in the US tend to set courses that average out the difference between the middle and long. Legs tend to be medium length and lack seroius route choice, highly detailed navigation and much, if any direction change.

The length and winning time of each discipline is just one aspect of what makes the seperate disciplines interesting. The main thing is how the course is set. As such, you could really have a middle and a long style course be the same distance and still be a very different experience.

I think that if the people who are opposed to scrapping the 2-day classic champs really experienced the differences in course setting styles for the different disciplines they would be much more excited about adopting the S/M/L format as the official US Champs.
Oct 31, 2006 3:57 AM # 
smittyo:
I'm just conjecturing here, but one thing that I think some of the 2-day Classic proponents like about it is the combined time format. I think there are a lot of people who like the fact that their performance can be slightly evened out by this system. While this may not be a huge factor in the elite categories - in some of the smaller categories, it's possible to recover from a poor run and still walk away with a medal.

One of the problems we have with acceptance of the S/M/L format is that most of our members never experience these formats outside of the few A-meets that have them. I'm working to have the USOF course-setting guidelines rewritten to reflect all of the different formats - right now they don't and many club level course setters are unaware of how to set these courses as a result. Here in LAOC, it's very difficult to convince course setters to do anything other than classic. They read the USOF course setting guidelines, assume classic is it, and say "I want to set real orienteering"

It's hard to convince people that they should want their premiere Championships to be something different than what they get to practice locally.
Oct 31, 2006 4:29 PM # 
jfredrickson:
Exactly. It sounds like getting the course setting guidelines updated is the first step we need to take to bring this change about. Thanks for working on that Clare. Let me know if I can help in any way.
Oct 31, 2006 11:04 PM # 
rm:
One of the problems I have noticed in the States regarding the S/M/L format is that people think of it purely in terms of winning times when in fact the seperate disciplines should be three completely different kinds of races.

Exactly! A key point.
Oct 31, 2006 11:07 PM # 
rm:
Note that Canada recently developed and adopted new target winning time standards for A meets, for Sprint, Middle and Long. These might be of use in developing standards for the US. In terms of course design standards, I think that the IOF descriptions of the desired course character are what should be adopted.
Nov 1, 2006 2:59 AM # 
Ricka:
As a 56 year old orienteer with 'okay' O skills, a 24 minute 5K pace, and push myself in competition, here are my opinions.

I've done 1-2 woods sprints and 2 campus sprints and enjoyed them more than I expected. I was not 'sprinting' at NAOC, but certainly was orienteering much faster than in any other venue and was focussed on looking ahead and not pausing. I do appreciate having at least 2 sprints. If 'our' winning time is 15, I can finish in about 17 which is much more a sprint than a 25 minute course. I prefer the Sprint to be on a Friday, but if travel plans cause me to miss it it is no big deal (and I save $20 :) ).

Though my pace is not very much different between Middle (I'm so unaccustomed to running 30-40 minute O'courses that I probably do not push the pace as much as I could) and Long, I do feel the difference: short & medium legs on Middle certainly require a different concentration than the 1 or 2 long legs of Long. NAOC provided an excellent contrast.

An unmentioned advantage of the 2-Day total time Classic is that consistency is rewarded. Personally, I have a better chance to medal on the 1-day events; but I admire those guys (yes, Gord and Walter) who usually put in two very good days. The concept that the US Champ needs to execute two 'routines' does have some appeal to me.

Personally, I choose which A-meets to attend based on convenience, terrain, and championship event (in that order), not on Classic vs. SML.
Nov 1, 2006 10:41 PM # 
tdgood:
I guess I would be considered an old timer. I prefer the two day classic champs. As stated, the two days helps even out any minor mistakes or "Luck" factor so the winner really has proven themselves to be the best and not just the best that day on that course.

In terms of the SML courses. I enjoy a Short and Medium course every now and again. I go out of my way to avoid the long races as I don't have the endurance. This means I will skip SML type race weekends.
My biggest problem with combined weekend of all the champs is that each race as a championship should be all out. If I run a sprint then I am running at my maximum pace. When I finish I am beat and have nothing left for another race the same day. The second race then becomes a condintioning race and not necessarily who is best. This would be especially true for the non elite categories where conditioning isn't as good. This doesn't mean want just a sprint course on an "A" day as that would be a waste of travel time.
The muscles and techniques used for the different length races differs. If we truly were trying to grow the sport then wouldn't we grow different specialist in each event so not everyone would want to go to every championship type race?

Regarding local events training for SML races I think the opportunity is there. This is the second year our club (QOC) has been holding some sprint courses. They are great for smaller parks which is one of the areas we have been using them for. In terms of a middle distrance training, just run a shorter course (an elite could run a green course for instance). Our club like most, only conducts one event during a weekend and not two on both weekend days. I doubt any club has the resources to constantly do local events both weekend days to similate the SML type format.
Nov 1, 2006 11:34 PM # 
rm:
I go out of my way to avoid the long races as I don't have the endurance.

Note that the IOF Long course is not much different in length than the old Classic. What US calls a Long is now called Ultra Long by IOF.

In terms of a middle distrance training, just run a shorter course (an elite could run a green course for instance).

Hmmm. Possibly, except that Middle is not just a different length but a different character, with continuous navigational detail, changes of direction, etc. Green is sometimes that, but not always. Often Middles have more controls than a typical Green. Likewise, for instance, Long is supposed to emphasize route choice, including some 2-3 km legs (on the elite courses, presumably somewhat shorter on age category courses for practical reasons)...and so a Classic course with the longest leg 1000m isn't quite what's desired either.
Nov 2, 2006 12:04 AM # 
Barbie:
I'll second Jim on the middle/green course topic (In terms of a middle distrance training, just run a shorter course (an elite could run a green course for instance). )
At our local events I've tried a few times to run the Green-type course in an effort to train for middle distance, but what it turned out to be was just a short classic, which really didn't do much for my training other than allow me to run a little faster given the shorter distance, and eventually screw up the middle distance at NAOC's really badly because I was running too fast ;-)
Nov 2, 2006 12:49 AM # 
pi:
Isn't almost every championship race, in any sport, about who is best on that particular day, under those particular circumstances? Chance, or "luck" if you prefer, is a part of sport which you cannot get away from. The person who trains and prepares the best for a championship is also the person with the highest _probability_ to win. If you happen to be "unlucky" in the single championship race, you have to train harder and come back next year!

I have two counter arguments to those who argue that it is a good thing to even "luck" out with a two day champs.

1: A key skill in the specific sport of orienteering is the ability to adapt quickly to new terrain and map. In my opinion, the essence of the sport is to navigate fast through _unknown_ land. This is the ability that should be awarded the most and therefore I argue that the best orienteer is the person who win a single race championship in "virgin" terrain.

2: The two day total champ is not too much fun if you, for some reason, DSQ on the first day. In a weekend with several single race champs, you can still recharge your mental batteries and go for a medal the next day.

And again, it has been said many times now, but the sprint, middle and long are _different_ kind of orienteering, in different arenas with different course character. They're not just different lengths of the same thing.
Nov 2, 2006 1:26 AM # 
Barbie:
Why do I get the impression that it's Canadians trying to convince the Americans to change their system? ;-)
Nov 2, 2006 9:44 AM # 
Hammer:
>Why do I get the impression that it's Canadians trying to convince the Americans to change their system? ;-)

Beause we are now following the IOF format and have seen the tremendous advantages of sprint, middle and long while the US are likely the only country in the World that uses 2-day total time classic for their National Championship ....and because Johnny F that started this thread is a wannabe Canuck.
Nov 2, 2006 11:38 AM # 
kendal:
our nationals in Australia are only one day but i live in Western Australia and our State Champs are two days...we feel we need two days to justify travelling the distance most of us have to travel.
Nov 2, 2006 3:31 PM # 
jfredrickson:
Does anyone know where the IOF course setting guidelines are?

I have noticed that the majority of courses that try to follow the SML format have between 20-25 controls for each discipline. That gives you a good picture of how different each discipline is. I have run sprint courses with 10 controls and it really just feels like a short, boring course. That is not what sprint should be.

Regardless of whether or not the US scraps the 2 day classic champs and adopts the SML format, I would still like to see a move by USOF to try to enforce more course setting requirements for A-Meet sanctioning. No more 10-control courses that just go around in a boring circle.
Nov 2, 2006 3:31 PM # 
pi:
But put on bonus races around the single race champs instead.
Nov 2, 2006 4:27 PM # 
coach:
>"20-25 controls for each discipline"<
>"No more 10-control courses that just go around in a boring circle."<
IN the old days... :-) ... one of the marks of a good, especially long O course in great terrain, was the LACK of controls. The original goal in orienteering was to have legs with lots of route choice. This may not be possible with terrain with lots of trails, but nevertheless, a good course setter will be throwing out controls.
Sprint races may not have much route choice, maybe a this way or that around an obstacle. With lots of controls close together the emphasis is not on route choice, but just keeping your navigation process up to your running speed. Quick decisions and fast map reading are emphasized.
I think the diciplines ARE different, and I would hate to see longer courses become like sprints. In that regard I think the best venues for sprint are parks and residential areas. Forest is not so useful for the type of orienteering of sprints. Plus the sprint format allows the use of areas not normally usable by the middle and longer races.
I'm fine with eliminating the 2 day format. I think a weekend such as CNYO's recent meet with Sprint & Middle on Saturday and Long on Sunday was great.
And then you can have unique events which have cumalative days of racing, such as the 1000 Day and other multi day events.
Nov 2, 2006 5:29 PM # 
rm:
I think Jeff is right on the money, on all remarks.

In particular, Long might actually have fewer controls than Middle, due to the emphasis on route choice over finding the control. And apropos is the quote I saw recently about knowing that your design is finished is not when there's nothing left to add, but rather nothing left to take away. (Maybe on AP?) The key though is not control counts per se, but, for the Long, having some mega long route choice legs, for instance, and for the Middle having continual navigational stress...should always be pressed to keep up with the navigation...and Sprint should be fast pace (no slow sections), demanding perfect control flow and quick decisions. (There's some route choice, but of a very different quality...detecting quickly bad routes that will get you caught up.)

Sprint should definitely be urban when feasible. Not just for the character, but for the promo and visibility...the original reason for the format. Reporters don't like making long trips, and few people see you way out in the forest. But the character is definitely different urban than forest. Having college age orienteers make sprint maps for a summer job is a great way to get this done, and give those students good training as well. It also tends to result in more interesting local races that don't require a long drive.
Nov 2, 2006 5:31 PM # 
rm:
kendal, wouldn't SML format give you three championship races for the journey, rather than two? And three different ones, rather than two similar?
Nov 2, 2006 5:52 PM # 
randy:
I would still like to see a move by USOF to try to enforce more course setting requirements for A-Meet sanctioning.

Any sussgestions on how this is to be done? I've suggested event controllers, but that has turned out to be a non-starter at the higher levels.

Were not hitting the present guidelines consistently, and while I applaud attempts to spell out how formats other than classic should be set, I'm not optimistic that, after they are published, course setters will all of the sudden start following them since they are not consistently following what is on the books now.

The intent isn't to sound negative, but to genuinely solicit imput on how, once good-intentioned people write more guidelines, that what happens in the woods actually match the guidelines.

And I'm not sure this is a function of sanctioning; once a meet is sanctioned (which is basically a promise by the host club to follow the guidelines, and an opinion by the committee that the mentioned personel have the ability to follow the guidelnes), sanctioning has no actual control as to what happens in the woods afterwards (the closest would be the course consulting committee, which is not part of sanctioning and I am totally clueless of its workings).

The only recourse sanctioning has would be to retroactively strip sanctioning, or deny it going forward, and realistically that won't happen (and probably shouldn't, in most cases).

So, to summarize, how does USOF make the guidelines actually happen, once written (and this applies to all things (mainly printing promises), not just course setting styles)?
Nov 2, 2006 6:03 PM # 
pi:
I don't think you need to write guidelines for the sprint, middle and long. It has already been done by IOF several years ago.

Canada just approved a new course structure. In this document the IOF guidelines are available in the appendix: http://www.orienteering.ca/pdfs/Course_Category_gu...
Nov 2, 2006 6:51 PM # 
jfredrickson:
That's a good point Randy. Is there no way to make the sanctioning process a slightly longer one that includes review of courses by the sanctioning committee? I guess that would fall more under the duties of an event controller. There is something to be said for having an event controller work with the course setter as the WRE events in North America are consistently the ones with the highest quality courses that meet the specifications of the specific discipline.

Would it be that hard to make event controlling part of all sanctioned A-Meets? If USOF isn't able to find volunteers that could fill the positions, I would think that this would be a perfect place to spend some cash and see a serious improvement in event quality for the money. And since event quality is an extremely important step in achieving just about every goal that USOF has, it should be easy enough to convince the people in charge to take this step.

What could we do to make this happen?
Nov 2, 2006 6:55 PM # 
jfredrickson:
Thanks for posting that link Magnus. Those guidelines look great. Are the current USOF course setting guidelines posted anywhere?
Nov 2, 2006 7:03 PM # 
rm:
I think that part of the problem is that in the US, course setters (and meet directors) learn their craft by osmosis, and are often not ever told formally "here's what you need to know".

In Canada, there's an officials training program, with manuals and presentations, including, gasp, slides about good and bad control points and good and bad legs, how to set various level courses from beginner on up, and so forth. All the things you'd typically want a course setter to think about.

If USOF had an A meet Course Setters class each convention (and maybe a B meet Course Setters class as an intro level course), this could go a long way toward getting consistent standards, including understanding the different characters of Sprint, Middle, Long, Ultra Long, Relay and so forth. (The IOF does a good job I think of describing and contrasting the characters of all the World Champs disciplines; that's a good source for that material. The COF manuals and course materials might be a good start for the rest.) Here in Alberta, many organizers are actually keen to take a class and learn before organizing...more confidence before that first event, or first A meet. If it were clear that the class would be well prepared, I don't think you'd have to twist arms to get people attending.
Nov 2, 2006 7:45 PM # 
randy:

Is there no way to make the sanctioning process a slightly longer one that includes review of courses by the sanctioning committee?

In many cases, the map isn't even complete yet (or even started), at the time of sanctioning. Course setting almost always happens way after sanctioning.


If USOF isn't able to find volunteers that could fill the positions, I would think that this would be a perfect place to spend some cash and see a serious improvement in event quality for the money.


This idea has been floated (pretty much in these words), and has not gotten traction. I don't know how to make it happen.
Nov 2, 2006 7:56 PM # 
JanetT:
I do believe that USOF has had several Course Setters classes (thank you, tonyf) at their conventions, but they don't have conventions every year, and not all potential course setters attend them.

EMPO's course setter for their last 3 A-meet days has used the USOF-suggested course consultant who has picked up things the course setter may have missed and made suggestions. As long as course setters DO rely on their course consultants and as long as the course consultants know their stuff (or can ask the right questions), US Ameets should not have course-setting deficiencies.

There are course-setting guidelines linked from the USOF website/Club Resources page, but they probably need to be updated (a process that I believe is going on at the moment... ask the board).

Re: sprint popularity, of the 300+ registered for the DVOA Batona A meet this month, only 1/3rd are registered for the sprint. My guess is that they're mostly young or elite runners who can quickly bounce back from their morning run, do a sprint, and then be able to orienteer well the next morning. Not me (50+).
Nov 2, 2006 8:31 PM # 
Sandy:
I don't think finding qualified course consultants is the problem. I think the problem is what do you do when the course setter doesn't confer with the course consultant or having conferred, take the advice offered.
Nov 2, 2006 9:25 PM # 
PG:
In Canada, there's an officials training program, with manuals and presentations, including, gasp, slides about good and bad control points and good and bad legs, how to set various level courses from beginner on up, and so forth. All the things you'd typically want a course setter to think about.

-----

Nice to see the folks north of the border so pleased with themselves. And so willing to point out to those of us south of the border what we are doing wrong. :-)

But weren't the latest Canadian Champs a disaster? I'm curious what COF has come up with to keep that from happening again. Because all your fine systems sure didn't get the job done.
Nov 2, 2006 9:27 PM # 
Tim S:
Meow!
Nov 2, 2006 9:42 PM # 
jfredrickson:
So it's really an issue of enforcing the rules? Is it stated in the sanctioning rules that all sanctioned courses must follow USOF course-setting guidelines and must be reviewed by a course consultant before the sanctioning process is complete?

Of course you need to announce sanctioned meets as being sanctioned long before the courses are complete, but you could still hold the right to revoke the sanction if the club does not follow through with the rest of the process. The rule could state that the courses have to be finished and OK'ed by the course consultant 2 or 3 weeks before the meet and that only minor changes are allowed after that.

The problem is that any consequence that you could enforce would only hurt the people who had been planning on going to the event and not really the club itself, but the threat of consequences itself could probably have a large enough effect. Such consequences could range from simply announcing to the public that the meet is no longer sanctioned by USOF (which would mean the results wouldn't be included in the rankings) to suspending the club from hosting any A-Meets for a given period of time.

It's hard to take such an authoritative stand, but if the rules are there and people aren't following them you have to enforce them. Without consequences people won't take the rules seriously, and that seems to be exactly what is currently happening.

The fact that USOF has adopted these rules shows that they understand that there is a need for the rules. If they are going to allow clubs to ignore their rules they might as well not have any.

Just out of curiosity, where are the rules posted, and how are the clubs applying for sanctioning made aware of the rules they are supposed to follow regarding a sanctioned event?
Nov 2, 2006 10:02 PM # 
Barbie:
Yikes, the Gagarin does have claws ;-)
Nov 2, 2006 10:55 PM # 
rm:
I didn't attend the COCs, but from what I heard about the event, the problem seemed to be too few people stretched too thinly.

Having an officials training program, mandated or not, doesn't prevent all problems. But it does help with the problem randy mentioned about We're not hitting the present guidelines consistently, and while I applaud attempts to spell out how formats other than classic should be set, I'm not optimistic that, after they are published, course setters will all of the sudden start following them since they are not consistently following what is on the books now.

If there are problems, the only way to not have them is to come up with ways to fix them. Suggestions for how to fix the problem of too few people trying to do too much are welcome.
Nov 2, 2006 11:32 PM # 
jjcote:
On the other hand...

The S/M/L format is to better prepare for international competition? Maybe so... for a dozen people. This is really only true for the people going to the WOC (or maybe some World Cup races, but as we know, not many people from North America do that). It's much more common for international competition to consist of a trip to the O-Ringen, Scottish 6-Day, Swiss O-Week, etc. Or the WMOC. Combined time (or some other scoring system) from multiple days. And it's not just old people who this applies to. It's also where people in the elite age bracket are more likely to be competing. So what format is really the best preparation, for the most people?

Then, consider that the S/M/L scheme is the result of what some people (ahem) consider to be a harebrained scheme on the part of the IOF to groom orienteering for consideration by the Olympics. (I've previously outlined what I consider a better plan, but I won't go into that right now.)

And... just maybe, the best way to set courses isn't to follow some structure for the characteristics the course should have, but rather to set a style of course that's appropriate for the terrain. It's not simply a matter of how big the map is, it's that certain terrain types work better with different styles of legs. At Pawtuckaway, the best route is going to be more or less straight, and the challenge is in keeping track of where you are. Harriman is route-choice terrain, where on a long leg you want to give some serious thought to the best way of getting where you need to go. Those aren't hard and fast rules by any means, but they illustrate a point. There are places where long legs just aren't going to make sense, and others where short legs will become trivial. I'd rather see courses set appropriately for the map than courses that fit some S/M/L mandate.

Consider the recent CNYO meet. Much praise around here for the S/M/L course, but is that really what we got? Sunday's Blue had 21 controls in about 10 km, with the longest leg being about 1000m (but there wasn't much route choice on that one). Is that an IOF Long course? But the course was quite nicely matched to the terrain.

Personally, I don't care one way or the other on this issue. It's all orienteering. Actually, it seems like a perfect situation to let market forces be in control. If S/M/L is what people want, then you'd think that by offering that, clubs would get better attendance at their meets. But if the public wants two days of the same length, then that's what you'll see being offered. Or so I'd imagine, anyway. Doesn't strike me as something that you'd need legislation for.
Nov 3, 2006 12:05 AM # 
rm:
Good points.

(But note that those going to WOC (someday) is more than a dozen people. We tend to focus on the current elite, but development should really be aimed at least as much at those who will be elite in two, five or ten years. Counting juniors who may someday go to WOC, probably ten times as many people, though still not the majority of the US O population, most of whom are middle aged or elderly.)

Yeah, I wish the summer holiday events included more middles and sprints (or other formats, for that matter...MicrO seems cool, and mega O was fun). The weeklong sequence of classic days is one reason I don't do those events much anymore.

Not legislating would of course be one option...in which case the US Champs would be whichever format the host wants (SML, two-day total time, score O). Currently the US Champs format is legislated to be two-day total time (plus relay, ultra long, short and night I think). I don't think that A meet format is legislated...sanctioning requests can list the format the host desires? Or maybe there are only certain formats the host can choose from?

Probably legislating the US Champs format makes sense, for consistency. But maybe more A meets should be SML before a change is requested. (We did SML meets around Calgary for years before the COC change.)
Nov 3, 2006 12:41 AM # 
randy:
Just out of curiosity, where are the rules posted

USOF rules (tho they are quite out of date)


but you could still hold the right to revoke the sanction if the club does not follow through with the rest of the process.


You could, but if a "middle" comes in with a WT of 52 minutes, are you going to revoke sanctioning? Probably not, but people will grumble (to me, unfortunately). If a sanctioned sprint does not look like an IOF sprint, is that actionable by sanctioning? Not really. If a club promises offset printing for a major meet on the sanctioning app, yet prints with inferior technology and draws lots of complaints, is that actionable? IMO yes, but realistically is sanctioning going to do anything after the fact?

The course setting stuff is just guidelines -- its impossible to legislate winning times and other matters of style. IMO, the only way to get close is event consultants (paid or otherwise), not legislation or enforcement.


It's hard to take such an authoritative stand, but if the rules are there and people aren't following them you have to enforce them.


Yes, I've tried once, and it didn't go particularily well. I think that is part of my personal reluctance to attempt more enforcement actions going forward :-)


If they are going to allow clubs to ignore their rules they might as well not have any.


Agreed. But, forgetting the question of whether or not enforcement is desirable, the mechanics of enforcement remain elusive.


The S/M/L format is to better prepare for international competition? [...] Or the WMOC


In 2008, there will be a WMOC sprint championship. Most European meets I go to have a sprint, often a middle in masters classes. My understanding is that the Swedes don't care for sprints, so perhaps it will be a while before we see one at O Ringen. But there certainly was one at the Swiss O Week.


And... just maybe, the best way to set courses isn't to follow some structure for the characteristics the course should have, but rather to set a style of course that's appropriate for the terrain


Agreed. However, it might be appropriate to suggest selecting terrain based on the proscribed disciplines, and in this case, you may need some sort of legislation, or at least guidelines.


Actually, it seems like a perfect situation to let market forces be in control. If S/M/L is what people want, then you'd think that by offering that, clubs would get better attendance at their meets.


Agreed in principle, however, in the US, demand exceeds supply by such a wide margin that I think market forces simply are not present. Clubs can offer whatever they want, and people will come. So I don't think market forces will settle the issue, especially for the premeire championship question (unless we follow my suggestion of alternating every other year, and looking at attendence figures :-))

Market forces would also solve the enforcement issue if there was more of a market. People would simply ignore meets that have been poor in the past if they had more alternatives.

These issues need someone smarter than me to write about them further, tho I do believe I've succeeded in jacking up my AP ranking :) I'll admit that it is extremely frustrating to be asked to enforce rules, have people complain to me about meet quality, yet have absolutely no tools to get it done other than the nuclear option of revoking sanctioning.
Nov 3, 2006 1:13 AM # 
rm:
By the way, the valid argument about certain terrains being optimal for certain formats, works in reverse too. A meets are often held in 8 sq km areas because that's what's seen as needed for a two day classic A meet. Middles can be done in detailed one square kilometer forests, possibly closer to where people live. Sprints can be done in city parks or on college campuses. Longs can make good use of areas that are otherwise a bit too hilly.

A small club could perhaps organize its first A meet as a Sprint and Middle, perhaps paired with a four hour ROGAINE on a topo, or a relay, or just two days of Middle.
Nov 3, 2006 2:27 AM # 
ebuckley:
I've been staying out of this one as people wiser than me have been making some very good points. I do feel compelled to speak up on one side issue: poor meet quality is NOT the result of people being spread too thin. We (SLOC) have been putting on A-meets that have recieved consistently high praise for course quality with very small staffs. For Team Trials ALL the technical work (mapping, setting, and vetting) was done by only three people (with some excellent input from two more course consultants). A small group of knowledgable and willing folks beats a big group any day.
Nov 3, 2006 2:40 AM # 
coach:
To be realistic, not many people are willing to complain directly to anyone who volunteered putting on an A meet, many of us know how much work it is.
Many years past, USOF had course consultants, and they were used. These days I don't know. The last time I was asked was for the US Champs in Alaska! And as a consultant, you sometimes must be willing to condemn some legs, and some course setters really don't want that kind of advice.........
Nov 3, 2006 2:44 AM # 
j-man:
Eric,

With all due respect befitting SLOC for a well-run meet, it is not atypical for meets to be staffed (on the technical side) by few people. But not all benefit from the calibre of consulting or mapping that you received. The problems of the COCs (speculation, as I wasn't there) and other meets often arise from a confluence of factors outside the purview of the core technical people. Meets larger than the TT pose challenges beyond designing courses and hanging bags in the right place.
Nov 3, 2006 2:53 AM # 
j-man:
On the subject of a way to encourage higher meet quality... I suggested that USOF take more "pride of ownership" or something like that, with sanctioning. I envisioned the sanctioning page being integrated into the USOF page (prominently) with the salinet features of the upcoming meets (those that sanctioning cares about) clearly enumerated and publicized for all to see. Then, afterward, the same list is publicized, again prominently, for people to see to what extent meet admins followed through on their promises (which I understand is a challenge.)

While this isn't perfect, I know that markets become more efficient with better information, to say nothing of equilibrated supply and demand. If we can't force meet admins to follow-through maybe we just bring their successes (and failures) to light.

Admittedly, there is the question of objectivity, but I think this is a quibble. If a meet is supposed to have a 35 minute WT, publicize that in advance. If it comes across with a 52 minute WT, so be it. Let the market decide if they care.

If every meet featured this kind of accountability, and we had a historical track record, the public, to the extent they care, of course, can vote with their feet and $s.
Nov 3, 2006 3:08 AM # 
cedarcreek:
I guess I don't really see a difference in course setting philosphy between classic and IOF long, except perhaps a small winning time difference. Am I missing something?

I'd argue the reason 2-3km long legs aren't seen more in the US is related to the setters inability to find them on the map. I'm being a little facetious, but I'm trying to say two things. First, you won't see them if you don't recognize the need for them, and second, you can't find them if the terrain is inappropriate. On a lot of maps, I won't set a long long leg because it can become trivial or boring if there is too much trail or road running.

I have been working to stop saying "Classic" and to start saying "Long", but I'm having second thoughts. Everyone knows what a classic is, but "Long" is now ambiguous---for example, read tdgood's paragraph 2 above. Why is it ambiguous? Because IOF stole it and changed the definition to suit their needs. IOF really needs to call the longest WOC course a classic.

I think I will:
Call a real long a "Long",
Call a classic a classic, and
Call the longest WOC course an "IOF Long".
Nov 3, 2006 3:24 AM # 
ebuckley:
Wow Clem, are you running for office this fall? I had to read that one a few times.

Anyway, not to belabor the point because I don't think we disagree, but to state my position more clearly:

We were talking about course oversite.

PG noted a problem with COC (of which I have absolutely no knowledge).

Mr. Baker responded that people were stretched too thin.

From that exchange one could reasonably infer that the point was that having too small a technical team may result in bad courses. While certainly a possibility, my position is that this is not axiomatic and, in fact, under proper circumstances (ie., the technical staff know what they are doing, have the means to do it, and listen to feedback from qualified consultants), the chances of purely technical problems with the courses are decreased rather than increased with a small staff.

Obviously, there are many other things that can go wrong, and having an adequate crew on meet day is a good thing. I'd still argue for lower levels than what most meets employ, but that's another matter and one that I'm less sure of.

Nov 3, 2006 11:40 AM # 
j-man:
More speculation, and to Eric's point broadly... it's been my experience that it really makes sense for the technical side of meet admin to be as discrete from the rest of the admin as possible. If the technical people have to wear general admin hats (or vice versa) things can get bad quickly. Perhaps that was a problem at the COCs?
Nov 3, 2006 11:59 AM # 
Nick:
Wow . quite an extented discussion.

for all : I was part of the organizing team for COC.
things were up and down thru that week ( review if you want ALL comments posted here in AP in early sept or late august). one should not read only one aspect about organizing the event, and that make a conclusion. does not matter if they are regulation how the outcome will be, it depends on the people willing to do a job above the expectations. all probably want, but then the experience ( not necessarily of how to, but how many meets one attend , what calibre, what went wrong, understand why and so on).GHO did a great job at NAOC, but some key people there have more events under their belt ( locally, in Canada, in US in Europe, at WOC you name it ) then people can count ..and they were commited , with good planning. ( see how many races Wad,Mark Adams and Hans come top 3 at the races they attend in US in last few years, and probably you have way over 50 % )

Good planning means having map ready 1.5 years at least in advance, having elite course setters, doing searching of all kinds.....

Canadians should not try to teach Americans. Pointing out what we have does not mean you have to do it or it is great, neither that lets see how ugly can be. get the good and use it . learn from others mistakes. move ahead.
its good when insiders ( in this case people from US ) notice the flaws and try to have it better.
trying to pet your own shoulder, and see where it will lead. ( available in Canada too )
Nov 3, 2006 6:34 PM # 
MW:
I attended the Candian Orienteering Champs. There were some big organizational problems, but course design was not one of them.

The sprint, middle, and long each had a different and challenging character. Although I was grumpy about having to wait for a long time to start each day, overall I came away from the weekend happy with the experience.

A big part of the pleasure of that weekend was the technically interesting terrain. This is essential for a good quality middle distance course.

I'm in favor of the SML format, but the different technical demands of the races (particularly the middle) should imply an additional mapping burden, which not all clubs would wish or be able to undertake.

The sprint is also a little problematic for older runners (I include myself - M40, with too much travel to be able to train seriously). With top fitness, and the ability to run at high speed, a sprint can be a lot of fun as you try to avoid making even two seconds of hesitation. But if run at normal long-distance speed, it's just 3 km of low-quality orienteering added into the weekend, making it harder to back up for the race the next day. Perhaps even shorter sprints are needed for older runners, rather than the usual one-size fits all.

Nov 3, 2006 10:25 PM # 
bmay:
Some comments regarding US meet organization (which is a bit aside from the whole SML issue).

Many meet organizers DO read the relevant USOF guidelines and attempt to follow them. The first thing I did before tackling the US Champs courses was to download every bit of relevant material from the USOF web site. In addition, MNOC provides a set of instructions for its local course planners and tries quite hard to set courses appropriately.

Regarding course consultants, for the US Champs at Telemark, a USOF course consultant was appointed. I got lots of good feedback (particularly on my easy courses). With Vlad as a WRE consultant as well, there was lots of good advice to be had. My experience is that the system is there and (with willing participants) should work.
Nov 3, 2006 10:44 PM # 
bmay:
Regarding SML ...

A re-writing of the USOF rules would certainly help encourage SML format events. The rules implicitly make it seem like "two-day classic" is the norm, while sprint, middle and long are the odd-balls.

As a recreational orienteer, I really like the SML format. All three events have much different character - they are all intense in their own way. I really like the variety of racing different formats on a given weekend. I do pay attention to "how much" orienteering I get in a given weekend - I feel like I get more bang for my travel/time buck from a Long than for a Sprint or Middle - but doing 3 events - S, M, L certainly is at least as much orienteering as 2-day classic, so it does the trick. I did 6 major weekend events this year, all SML!

A down-side of replacing a single national championship (what we used to have) with 3 is that the value of the championship is diminished. I have heard it said that the US Individual Champs are the "real" Us Champs, somehow implying that the Short and Long are "lesser" Championship events. I think the adoption of SML brings equality to the 3 events, but still won't give a single "US Champion".

If race organizers are concerned about having to hand out 3 sets of awards rather than 1 set for a weekend of events, it might make sense to combine SML results into "overall results". I don't see any problem with this, and don't even mind total time. It works for the Tour de France (with prologue, time trials, flat road races, mtn stages, and even team time trials!).

Variety is the spice of life and it should be encouraged!

This discussion thread is closed.