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Discussion: Start procedure on US orienteering events

in: Orienteering; General

Nov 26, 2003 7:16 AM # 
Do you think that start procedure is used on almost all orienteering events in US is not fair? I mean participants should have some time to look at the map before the actual start.

First of all if participants start to look at the map after the start it is like a lottery: some of them may find the first leg on the map immediately by chance and for others it might take 5-10-15sec. This delay is not too big but I remember that only ~4sec divided Syd Reader and Boris Granovskiy in last year rankings cost to Syd the place in the US team.

Second, usually the start point is visible to everybody. So the people who start later can see what earlier people are doing and can save some time just running in right direction.

Third, an orienteering event is a stress for any orienteerer. Currently used start procedure just increases the stress. And under a stress the possibility of accidental error is very high. Striking example is Event in Kent, October 25, first day where the first control was just in 100m from the start so many people just did not see it on the map and ran to the 2nd control by mistake losing 2-3min and more. If you look at the splits you’ll find that William Hawkins lost 17!sec to Sergei Zhyk on this leg which I believe would never happen in ‘normal’ situation.

So, my conclusion is might be it’s time to stop playing lotteries and use others, more civilized start procedures. For example, 1min might be given to the participants to look at the map before the start. Or, that I think is preferable, the participants take the map at the moment of the start and run on the streamered route to the orienteering start point. So, the participants would have enough time to find the first leg on the map and choose their rout and nobody could see what direction they run to the first control. These start procedures are not new, of course, and widely used everywhere except of US. Why? I don’t know. Should we change the situation? I think so.

What do you think?
Nov 26, 2003 7:36 AM # 
This is the procedure used in all "elite" level events around the world. In fact, the only large scale event I know of that allows you to look at the map before hand is the Oringen, and even then this is only in non-elite classes, and only for 1 minute prior to the start.

What they do do though is put the start triangle up to 150 meters from the actual starting point so that runners have an opportunity to read the map before they have to make any real route decisions in the terrain. This also gets runners away from the starting point before they begin to navigate so that runners who haven't started yet don't have an advantage by watching them. I think that clubs should consider this in A-level events.
Nov 26, 2003 7:36 AM # 
It is entirely within the preogative of the course setter to ensure that runners waiting can't see where first leg runners go. I always thought this was a fundamental tenet of course design, i.e., that 2 call up line are created with enough distance and terrain obstacles so that no one that has not yet received their map can see where runners are going. In the three A-meet courses I have designed, and most that I can remember DVOA doing, this was the procedure. In any case, achieving this degree of "fairness" does not seem to require any fundamental change in starting procedures, just responsible course setting.

As to the other facet of this proposal... stress is to be expected in any competitive sport. The best learn how to contend with this along with the other physical and mental challenges the sport entails.

I think it is incumbent upon the runner to read the map and not eliminate from consideration legs that can be 100m or 2km. At this particular control at Kent, I lost several minutes - a loss that I attribute to inadequately dealing with the "stress" of the situation. However, the fault was entirely my own. If the course printing had been poor, illegible, etc..., it may have been a different. In this case, I fail to see how a "lottery" analogy is relevant.

The one point that does seem debatable (though not justified from these arguments) is the notion of allowing runners to see the map/course a minute in advance. I wasn't aware that it was being widely used everywhere but in the US - if so there may be other reasons for it. However, I don't see how this makes the starts more "fair" - just different.

Personally, I feel that the clock should start running when people look at the map. If you need a streamered route to get people out of sight, so be it - I have seen situations where this could be useful. But, I think that we should be careful when alleging that start procedures are "unfair" if this charge is not strictly true.

Nov 26, 2003 8:05 AM # 
Let me make it clear. I said that a streamered rout to the start point is preferable. 1min before the start is obsolete and everybody knows it. It was just example.

But my point is a participant should see the map before the ORIENTEERING start point.

Why ‘a "lottery" analogy is relevant’ with usual start procedure? Because of one participant can take the map from one side and another participant from another side. So, first one will see the first leg immediately and the second one will loose some time. This process has nothing common with orienteering mastery – it is pure luck. And this luck might cost you 15sec. Is it fair?

Of course, today ‘it is entirely within the preogative of the course setter’. But I am talking to put it as a rule.
Nov 26, 2003 1:16 PM # 
I take Alexei's point about the luck of finding the start triangle on the map - there is a lot of luck involved, especially if the printing is faint. However, I am not a big fan of "maps at -1" because it takes some of the fun out of it...(and it some ways it just moves the problem to -1, you still lose your 15secs, not on the run but of "route choice planning time").

I am wondering whether there are other ways of eliminating this luck factor, other than giving the map at -1. Examples could include: A bigger or fatter start triangle print so it "jumps out" more, or always displaying empty maps before the start with a printed start triangle on it so you know where it is (but then, with control descriptions you could try and figure out the first control...)?

I guess having a reasonable length run to the start triangle with the map at least reduces the problem, but it doesn't eliminate the luck factor
Nov 26, 2003 4:25 PM # 
Does anyone know how the "luck" of finding the start triange is handled at elite sprint events? Or is it just a fact of life?

I can't imagine this particular luck item being meaningful at longer races, or races in forest. From personal experience anyway, I think taking 15 seconds to find the triangle is a high estimate; I can't remember personally taking longer than 3-4 unless the map is a real horse blanket, in which case I don't think it matters.

I say this about long races and races in forest because I think this luck will easily be just one of many pieces of other luck, such as unmapped terrain obstacles, other runners, weather changes over time, elephant tracks, and start time draw (I've read in the past where start time draw alone is estimated to add a 3 minute advantage in elite classic distance races with a large field (I don't recall the source)).

Some could also say that route choice of any kind on the first leg is a matter of luck (or at least an opportunity for gamble) that will dwarf the luck of finding the triangle.
Nov 26, 2003 5:15 PM # 
I definitely prefer a *well marked* start triangle out of sight of the other starters. I sometimes have trouble finding the damn triangle, but I consider it just a part of the race.

Another start variant that I dislike is when the competitors have to run to the triangle *then* pick up their maps on the clock. There seems to be much more error introduced this way--picking up of wrong maps, 180s out of the start, etc. It is much better to have the map in hand, without looking at it, before the running begins.

Nov 26, 2003 5:35 PM # 
Just to insert some facts about your example, Alexei: I usually either lose 15 seconds or gain 2 minutes on Sergei on the first leg since (in my humble opinion) he runs too fast at the beginning of the course and generates his own private lottery... Also I take splits after punching, which made a difference here because I had to wait.
Nov 26, 2003 6:43 PM # 
Aleksei raised few important issues. However, let's first split problems and solutions. So far I can see the following two problems:
1. Luck factor should be eliminated in finding the start triangle and initial map orientation.
2. Directions to the first control should not be visible to a participant without the competition map.
A preprinted start triangle (precision isn't an issue) and north arrow on the map's back will require a second to get started with route planning after getting your map. Just have you compass ready. There could be other solutions. I think, a participant should see the course only AFTER the time is started. I don't like the '-1 min' (why not .5, 2, 4, ...???) or 'run with map to the start' (100m, 200m 1 km???) ideas since they don't eliminate the luck factor. Few minutes is not an issue for many, but even few seconds matter for elite runners pushing very hard to win a race. Just look results on major international events from short to long courses.
As for the second problem, I prefer a streamered route from the initial start point to the point where a participant receives the map. I think, it is a VERY bad idea of making a short first leg. By the way, such legs are usually shared by different courses. In addition to the 'stress' factor I would mention an increased probability of seeing other participants hanging near the first control.
I'm not sure if IOF has any limitations in the scope of this discussion thread. In general, USOF should not introduce ANY rule that doesn't comply with IOF's rules. At least for elite courses...
Nov 26, 2003 6:47 PM # 
William: here we tolking about 100m leg. I believe you would not loose 15sec to Sergey (more than 1/2 of the total leg time) on a leg like this if it were the second leg or any leg in the middle of the course.

Randy: ‘at elite sprint events’ they usually have streamered route to the orienteering start point. Regarding your statement about ‘this luck will easily be just one of many pieces of other luck’ I can say yes, there are a lot of luck points on any orienteering course. But if we can eliminate even one of them it will make the competition more fair. So, why not? Also you said ‘15 seconds to find the triangle is a high estimate’. Yes, but there were cases when people lost 1sec to the World Championship.
Nov 26, 2003 6:54 PM # 
At the risk of Baltering, and in support of Alexei's observations, despite liking the meet overall, I thought there were two features of the Event in Kent that were arguably unfair - or at least not optimal - though I believe these were exceptions rather than the rule in A-meets (though that was the first "A-meet" I had been to in several years, so things may be different now."

1) The day 2 start seemed much more appropriate for a local meet than an a event. Throngs of starters were gathered around the actual start with hardly any physical separation and no visual separation. The net effect was that I was able to watch Sergei for a long while as he ran diagonally up the hill. For me, it simplified my first leg somewhat as I knew exactly where to go. Someone with a different start time may not have enjoyed this advantage. I believe, (if my memory serves me correctly about the topography there) that this situation would have been completely avoided with a two-stage start and one minute call up with a staging area slightly down the hill.

2) Identical start lists both days. I assume that the start seeding was random (though it need not be) but I think it was identical both days. In any case, Boris, a better Orienteer, conveniently started six minutes after me both days. And conveniently, he caught up to me at some point in both courses and from that point on we ran together. Even if there was no navigational benefit (which there probably was) I definitely got a speed/motivation boost and this may have helped him as well. I don't see a need to have the same start sequence both days and I think it can cause such biases to creep into the results. Might a mirror-image be better, i.e., a day 1 start of 9:00 + margin becomes a day 2 start of 12:00 - margin?
Nov 26, 2003 6:59 PM # 
I think almost everybody agrees that running to the start point on streamered route is better than start looking at the map at the start point.

Why it is not used widely in US? (Or is the first statement wrong?)
Nov 26, 2003 7:16 PM # 
Do you mean running to the start point with or without a map?

I think that this streamered route solution is not bad, but would only need to be done to ensure fairness in certain instances. More often, I think a rational start interval and call-up lines are sufficient to achieve fairness.

I agree with Jeff's point about having the map in hand...
Nov 26, 2003 7:32 PM # 
I mean running to the start point WITH the map.
Nov 27, 2003 1:30 AM # 
Finding the start triangle at the beginning of a race is an orienteering skill just like any other. If you practice it you can get better. I often have trouble with this. Brad Whitmore taught me to locate a number on the course with your eye, follow both lines connecting to it to figure out which way goes to a lower number. Then follow that path backwards to the triangle. This is faster than a random scan of the "horse blanket" :) and has the added bonus of giving you a quick overview of the course. This process rarely takes more than 5s - usually less. And you can practice this skill. Do it at local meets. Do it at home on the toilet. Borrow your kid's connect-the-dots coloring book and practice on each of those. Also note that when leaving the start line you only have 180 angular degrees from which to choose as your first direction. Its rare to go backwards across a start line. Usually the angle is even narrower - something like 120-90 degrees. This is not always true, but it usually a good bet. On average if you start moving perpendicular to the start line you will be very close to the right direction. How far off course can you get in 5s while you locate the triangle?
I agree with Clem - its all up to the course setter to get this right and make it fair. There's more luck to be had with catching up with or being caught by your cronies or hearing some "Baltering" off in the distance or hitting a long line of streamers heading out of the GO control or hearing cheers from the finish or not having to open a water jug. Otherwise you could say that people who are well hydrated have an unfair advantage. Everyone should be required to pee at the start. This would take care of our drug testing issues as well.
Nov 27, 2003 7:42 AM # 
I agree Alexei. If event directors want to make the event more "professional", they should consider a streamered route to the start triangle, with a map pick-up on the way. The map pickup can be just past the start line, and would eliminate the possibility of someone getting a glimpse of their course before they actually start. I believe this is the criteria for World Championship events (at least it is in JWOC), and maybe USOF should think about making it a standard at A-Meets.
Nov 28, 2003 7:33 PM # 
Clem - Start Lists - I just reviewed the Blue course start times. No they were not identical nor reversed, but several runners had the same relative position to other runners both days: You and Boris, and the group of Staats, Conradi and Azerov had the same sequencing both days. I have not talked to the Registrat about methodology but the remaining runners seem mostly randomized. Then even totally random selection can produce identical results.
Nov 28, 2003 8:07 PM # 
I agree that random selection can produce similar sequences (though the odds of more than 3 people having the same relative order is really low) but I think that producing one random sequence and reversing it would eliminate any advantages over a weekend.
Nov 30, 2003 6:29 AM # 
Guys, can we please forget about this idea of picking up maps somewhere other than the timed start line (or visually next to the start line), at least for A events in the US! This is an invitation for major problems by requiring every competitor to find and pick up the correct map, on the run, on the clock, with no clue how the maps are arranged or labeled. This puts an awful lot of trust in the organizers, and adds non-orienteering responsibility to the competitor.

Every "unfairnes" issue mentioned above is trivial compared picking up the wrong map, or having the wrong map in the right pile. BAOC did this "pickup on the run" at the US Champs and and was damn lucky that everybody(?) got the correct map. This procedure is only appropriate for relays and small-field elite events with a high proportion of experienced organizers making absolutely sure that each competitor gets the right map, or allowing the competitor to see exactly where their map is hanging.

As others have mentioned, the first and simplest (for everyone) solution is for the course setter to think for two minutes to setup and stage the start properly. A marked route (with map) to the triangle is a reasonable fallback, but I'll suggest that a short giveaway-simple control will do the same thing and doesn't require any explanation for less experienced participants.

As for short first legs, or the "luck"(?!) in finding the triangle, I have absolutely no sympathy for these complaints, these issues are simply part of orienteering. On all first legs I will argue against major route choice or extreme situations becaue the competitor has no basis for evaluating conditions. All first controls should be unique to all people with the same start time, or if a simple movement control is used it should have enough punches to avoid backups.
Nov 30, 2003 8:22 PM # 
A few years ago at a North Carolina A meet, the first leg both days was a few hundred meters or so down a trail, and on the trail. The control was common for all courses. This situation was explained in the meet notes, and there were multiple punches. The effect was moving the start triangle to this more remote point without having a longer walk to the start, as well as allowing courses to then go off in various directions and avoid giving away the direction people were going to people waiting at the start. I think this worked just fine and would probably address everyone's concerns mentioned above.
Nov 30, 2003 10:50 PM # 
Peggy, that is essentially what they do in Europe, except that the route is streamered, and the first control is the start triangle with no punch.

Eric, I don't see how this is a problem. All you have to do is put the map box out of reach. It doesn't have to be 10 meters away, simply just past the start line. You can check the maps the same as usual, and it shouldn't be any different except that the person will grab the map when the clock starts instead of before-hand. You don't even have to move it from the start line if that is such a big problem. You can do it exactly as it is done now, except enforce a rule disallowing people from touching the map before the start. This would eliminate any potential "cheating", and it shouldn't require any more work or organization.
Dec 1, 2003 6:51 AM # 
John, perhaps a miscommunication, but no strong problem with what you describe. I added "(or visually next to the start line)" to cover "this" exact concept. I am assuming "this" means the procedure of picking up the map at, or next to the timed start line and running a marked route to the remote release triangle. As I tried to explain before, I do not see a major problem with this. The serious problem is the procedure where the map pick-up is at the remote triangle while the clock is running (BAOC US Champs).

Still, there are two procedures which are simpler, and therefore preferable to "this" procedure for inexperienced competitors and inexperienced organizers which applies to every A event. "This" procedure requires set up, communicating the procedure, and monitoring of the marked route to make sure everyone follows the route the whole way. "This" procedure was used at the VT US Relay event(my proposal). For course printing clarity we needed to get the triangle away from the finish/changeover. However numerous people did not in fact follow the route to the triangle control, whether out of ignorance or malice we'll never know. This event is as select a combination of competitors and organizers as you'll find at a North American A event, and still "this" solution was a small problem. Ask again in 15 years, we as a group might be ready then.

To restate, the most preferable option is a simple traditional staged start using topography or vegetation to prevent the undesireable line of sight. If this cannot be done, the next best solution is Peggy's North Carolina dummy 1st control because it doesn't require anything except a couple extra punches. I think "Peggy's" start deserves more promotion. The third best, but reasonable option, which I believe John is describing, is the marked route to remote triangle, but PLEASE don't put the maps at the remote triangle. The overriding point is the KISS principle- Keep It Simple Stupid. ("Stupid" being self directed, no insult intended).
Dec 1, 2003 8:24 PM # 
So reading through this, I was preparing to add my comments, and I found that eventually Peggy and Eric chimed in with the voices of reason. But I'll elaborate anyway:

1) Picking up maps before the clock starts has a lot of benefit with the way we operate in the US. As Eric points out, it reduces the chances of people getting wrong maps (although that still happens). It also gives people a chance to write their names of the backs of the maps so they can get their own maps back after the race, which is something we like. (Of course, when I'm in charge, we just let people keep their maps when they finish, but I'm not always in charge.)

2) The trivial first control is an excellent idea, one that I've been using consistently for meets that I've set or consulted on since about 1997. First leg is just up the trail and over the hill (or along the fence or whatever). If it's a suitable first control for White, then it's probably a good choice. This gives people a minute or so to look for the triangle while on the run. And it's a much better idea than the remote start triangle, common practice though that might be. The main reason is that with a remote start triangle, there's no way to ensure that people will go there. I'll freely admit that I've run at least one A-meet course where there was, e.g., a triangle a way south on the trail from where we started, but the first control was west of there. Was I going to run to the triangle? You can guess. And at another meet, they made a point of the fact that going to the triangle was mandatory, and they had someone there with a clipboard to make sure. This strikes me as "people unclear on the concept". We already have a mechanism established for making sure people go to particular places: it's called punching. Having the first leg be a trivial trail route common to all courses also eliminates the need for multiple callup lines (in the same way that a remote start triangle does), as there's no issue of knowing which way the previous people went.

3) Having a map sample available before the start showing the location of the start triangle is also a fine idea, regardless of what else is done, although I don't think it should be required. I can't imagine any argument against doing this if the map has been used before, and for a new map, the argument would be weak. As far as allowing people to then "figure out" the location of the first control -- get a grip.

I like the simplicity of the map issue point, the place where the clock starts, and the triangle shown on the map all being the same. With a little thought, such a setup can be used with no problems.
Dec 2, 2003 5:04 AM # 
Side topic: Figuring out a course, given meet information.
JJ writes: "As far as allowing people to then "figure out" the location of the first control -- get a grip."
I presume he means this is unlikely to be possible... Perhaps given a 30 second glance at the start it wouldn't be that possible. But given more time.

However, at one PNWOF event, I recount the following tale, which, aside from some numbers I don't remember precisely, is true.

After the Day 1 course, the Day 2 event was to be on exactly the same map, although at a new start location that as not directly disclosed. However, Syd & I noticed that there was a mini-map of how to get to the start, and a precise distance along the trail (e.g. '1.83 km walk to start'), we figured out where the start was. The map didn't have a zillion features, so for a control description like "southeastern pit", we merely had to look at the 10 pits on the map, find the only two arranged NW/SE, and you know where the bag was. Given 3 or so of these map-unique control descriptions, you could then start localizing parts of the course, and search smaller areas for the intervening less unique control descriptions, such as NE-reentrant.

Using this method, we identified 5 or 6 probable control sites, including contigous controls for which we pre-planned route choices. Given our chances for success though, this was probably not much more than a good map familiarity exercise, but interesting and probably useful nonetheless.

Unbeknownst to me, Syd continued the process later that evening, eventually predicting an entire 17(or so) control course that matched the control descriptions (some of which were quite guesses, e.g. 'reentrant').

Picking up the map the next day, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had picked #1 right and had a route choice ready to go! And later in the course I think I had two other legs matched exactly as well.

Syd though, who'd guessed a full course found, as I did that he had #1 right. On his way to #1, he glanced around the rest of the course, and found that he had precisely nailed about 11 of the 17 controls, and was quite close on about 3 more.

I don't recall how much that helped him on the run, but it was quite interesting nonetheless.

On many maps and given many sets of control descriptions, this isn't likely to be nearly as useful, but occasionally it's possible.
Dec 2, 2003 5:57 AM # 
Nah, I mean that it's unlikely to be important. Specifically, that posting a map at the start that shows where the start triangle is won't be significant. If it's not a new map, then it's hardly a revelation. If it is a new map, then assuming that we're talking about getting a look at an otherwise blank map a minute before you start, I don't think that revealing the location of the start on said map is going to have any adverse effect on the competition.

I've also had situations where I was able to guess in advance where some (or many) of the controls were going to be, given an existing map and a set of control descriptions. And I've known of others to do likewise. Seems like people wind up blowing controls like that as often as they benefit from the knowledge (though that's anecdotal). But this is a separate issue. I don't consider it enough of a problem that I'd be disinclined to hand out control descriptions in advance.
Dec 2, 2003 9:23 AM # 
it's great fun though, that "trying to guess your course in advance" thing. sometimes you get it right, and it helps. sometimes you get it wrong, in which case it can be quite distracting when you had the "right" route choice figured out and the planner didn't listen to you. and sometimes you run on pawtuckaway, where there's not much point in trying..

it doesn't work very often (hence not much of a problem), but I believe it's one of the reasons why in some countries, descriptions are only given out at the start.
Dec 2, 2003 4:44 PM # 
I don't normally do this but I did do it at day 2 of the Water Gap meet this year (I tried it on Day 1 too but not as successfully). I had the start and 3 controls precisely right (though the last one shouldn't count) and had a really good picture of what the course layout would be.

I had carefully planned to route to the first control the night before, and lo! that's where it was. I think it was the only split I won...
Dec 2, 2003 8:16 PM # 
At the Navigator Cup last January, The first control for Red/Blue day 2 was easy enough to predict. Dave Frei looked at it for quite some time, but I didn't bother because the area around the start was easy navigation. Dave missed his start time by about 30 seconds and blasted by the starter picking up his map on the fly. The first time he looked at it was leaving #1. Dave had the fast time on Red, but he did that the day before also, so I doubt it made much difference.

I generally don't have a really good split to the first control. I like to start slow and get into the map. I think doing a bunch of planning in advance can mess you up as much as it helps. Sooner or later, you are going to have to start navigating.
Dec 2, 2003 10:51 PM # 
JJ--Above, you wrote:

"Having the first leg be a trivial trail route common to all courses also eliminates the need for multiple callup lines (in the same way that a remote start triangle does), as there's no issue of knowing which way the previous people went."

I don't get that. The first group of starters learns the nature and direction of the trivial leg by reading the map (which takes some time) while later starters get that information by watching those who started earlier. That defeats the purpose of moving the start of navigation out of view of those waiting. I guess the start worker could try to even things out by telling every group which way to go, but that seems a haphazard way to reach the goal of providing the same conditions for all starters.

To me, it's always unfair to have the start of navigation in view of those waiting. Reading the map and using information on it to determine one's direction is navigation, even if the leg is trivial.

I agree with JJ that a remote triangle/streamered route system requires enforcement if the map is already in hand. Therefore I see only two solutions:

1. The multiple-line start, with the map pickup, time start and triangle all at the final line, which is out of sight of earlier lines. Why has this system become less common than it used to be?

2. BAOC's system, in which maps are picked up at the remote triangle, which is out of sight of the start line but is reached by a streamered route. BAOC has done this at every event for several years, and I don't remember ever hearing of anyone picking up the wrong map. The boxes are clearly labeled and are arranged in the normal course order. If the issue is just that this method is unknown in advance (because it's different than what other clubs do), then I agree that this should be addressed in the event notes and at the model event.

I think that both methods are fine. The multi-line start has an advantage in that it makes it possible for an official to look at the picked-up map to verify the course prior to the start of timing. The BAOC start has advantages in that it makes it impossible for the competitor to cheat by peeking at the map prior to the start of timing, and that it may require fewer start workers. If picking up the wrong map was something that actually occurred in BAOC's experience then I would strongly favor the multi-line start, but I haven't known that to be the case.
Dec 3, 2003 1:23 AM # 
At the US Champs at Fallen Leaf Lake, someone did pick up the *wrong* map from the *correct* bin. The theory is that a previous competitor grabbed the wrong map, realized their mistake, then ran back and put it back in the incorrect bin.

Another issue with remote map pick up is the possibility of doing a 180 out of the start. I'm probably the only one in the whole world who does this so don't change the system on my account.

The start procedure I plan to use based on this discussion is to have the last call up line at the start triangle. Everyone calmly stands next to their map bin. At the start signal, everyone can then pick up their map, and run/mosey to the trivial first control the location of which will be published in the meet notes and maybe even streamered.
Dec 3, 2003 7:15 PM # 
In response to Dan:

When I say a trivial leg, I mean a trivial leg. No navigation required. It should be as easy as a remote start triangle that has a streamered route. In fact, there's no reason why it couldn't be streamered. If you didn't have the map in your hand, you should still be able to do the leg. In practice, I've generally found that the streamers are unnecessary, if the first leg leads along a major trail or something. And you don't have to keep that secret, you can tell everyone (in the meet notes, perhaps) that the first leg leads along the trail, if you think it isn't obvious.

I've once had a start crew chief tell me (with a grin), "Since you're the first starter, I'll give you the information that everyone else will get by watching you: The first control is thataway!". I think this was at the meet in North Carolina that Peggy mentioned. This information was completely superfluous, of course, as it was obvious that this was going to be the case.

The only difference between the method I prefer, and the commonly-used remote start triangle system, is that I have people punch at that first place they're supposed to go to. And if the leg can be done without the map, then you aren't really navigating, and I don't think there's a problem if people can see you start. Is there an inherent problem with people seeing you once you have the map in hand? I don't think so.

One reason for moving away from the multiple callup line system is that it takes more personnel. And those people are physically separated from each other, so that coordination can be a problem (I've seen the lines get out of sync.)
Dec 5, 2003 10:41 PM # 
Back in the old days""", whoah who is this guy? I was taught that the first leg should not be short, and fairly easy.
Using that idea produces legs that get people away from the start, along a trail, while they figure their route.
The first leg at Kent was too short, and not along a handrail, and shared by too many courses. Fortunately for me, the course setter mentioned this to me as i was going to the start.
As for finding the triangle, it can be frustrating, but if the course starts as it should, it shouldn't cost anyone time, and I have always considered it one of theskills of the race.
Thanks Eddie for passing along Brad's tip.
Here is mine, figure out where north is in the terrain, and where north is on the map you are holding.
Then again you can employ the Crawford map sneak technique.............
Dec 6, 2003 1:34 AM # 
Quite the thread ... two comments:

1) As a competitor, the start is a skill (as described by Eddie), which is worth thinking about. You want to size up the terrain before you see the map, figure out where north is. Upon receiving map: immediately orient, find start triangle, and head in the right direction; then you can start working on the route. Whether you can do this while running or whether you need remain stationary depends on the circumstances. Best case scenario is a trail heading in generally the "right" direction. Worst case scenario is a trail junction where it's not at all clear a priori which way to go. There is bound to be some guess work if you want to run before you've seen your map. Regardless, any time spent finding the start triangle (5 s?) is likely totally irrelevant in the grand scheme of things (i.e., it doesn't explain why Eric beat me by 13 minutes at Fallen Leaf Lake!).

2) As an organizer, it makes sense to plan a start location that can't be seen from the call-up area. At the maps is fine; streamered route to start triangle is fine too. If the start is remote, then it is definitely best if the start triangle is on the optimum route to control 1. Then, any issue of monitoring who goes/doesn't go to the start triangle is moot. If the start triangle is at the maps, there should not be a crucial route choice within the first ~100 m. e.g., the maps shouldn't be at a trail junction where one trail is a much better option than the other; or at the base of a hill where contouring one direction is much better than contouring the other.

As for the trivial first control ... this seems a little bogus to me. We should be finding controls based on reading a map, not by remembering where the meet directions told us the control would be, or by any "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" from the starter. Finding the start triangle and getting going should take on the order of 5-15 seconds ... hardly need to dedicate an entire leg to this procedure.
Dec 6, 2003 5:05 AM # 
As a competitor, I think you should be as prepared as legally and ethically possible at the start for whatever the organizers might throw at you. At that point it doesn't matter whether what they do is the best system or the worst, or whether it's fair or unfair. You have to accept what's presented and then do your best. I've experienced a variety of first legs over the years, and I have to think my O' memories are the richer for it - even though I might not have been so forgiving at the time!
See my web page for some examples (

This discussion thread is closed.