Register | Login
Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: GPS watches not allowed

in: Birkhead Wilderness Classic (US Classic Champs) (Mar 10–11, 2012 - Asheboro, NC, US)

Feb 23, 2012 10:23 PM # 
Ther has been a discussion going on in PG's log on this topic, but it probably deserves a wider audience, so I'm moving it out here. The BOK US Champs events (as well as the GAOC US Champs events) list on their websites a policy that no GPS devices that have a display will be allowed. Assuming I'm reading this correctly, it applies to all classes (all championship classes in the case of BOK), not just the WRE classes which have to follow IOF rules.

There seem to be two schools of thought on this matter:
1) Orienteers can be trusted to not use a GPS watch for navigation, but just to record the track. Orienteers in the USA do not, by and large, do anything that would be considered cheating. Banning the carrying of such a device is too strong a measure for a problem that likely does not even exist, and is outweighed by the benefits of having the track for post-race analysis. Requiring people to have a separate non-display GPS logger if they want a track is an unnecessary expense.
2) GPS devices can be used in various ways to recover from an error, thereby resulting in a time saving. Orienteers cannot be trusted to resist the temptation to use this capability if they have the device with them, much as some other forms of cheating do occur with reasonable frequency. Excluding the use of watches like this at a limited number of races (e.g. championships) is not an onerous hardship, and competitors need to abide by whatever reasonable interpretation of the rules is set down by the organizer (and in this case, okayed by Sanctioning).

Please correct me if anyone feels that I have misrepresented the points of view, or if they have a point of view different from those two. And feel free to continue the discussion.

(The people in Group 1 would prefer to see the policy changed so that the commonly used GPS watches are allowed.)
Feb 24, 2012 3:31 AM # 
I don't know if orienteering is a large enough revenue source for the GPS watch makers to go through with this, but I think the best solution to this problem would be for them to develop an orienteering mode for their watches. While the watch was in orienteering mode the only display options would be for information of no navigational value. Ideally this mode would only be able to be turned on/off from the docking station so people could not change it back once they are in the woods.
Feb 24, 2012 3:53 AM # 
Displayless GPS trackers are hardly much more expensive than watches with a screen—the root cause of the problem is that orienteers are too cheap to buy proper equipment.
Feb 24, 2012 4:00 AM # 
Too cheap to buy duplicate equipment, you mean. The popular watch that's convenient to use would have supplanted by redundant equipment that's more klutzy. Or is there some other device that has the functions that everyone wants, but is just too pricey?
Feb 24, 2012 4:16 AM # 
Not too cheap to travel to multiple events per year, though!
Feb 24, 2012 5:04 AM # 
My QstarZ gps logger is difficult to use (bad software) and only gets reasonable tracks 50-75% of the time. The FR 305 just works, and integrates well with AP and quickroute. I essentially no longer use the logger. I probably won't even bother using it for the events in question; it's just too much of a hassle. Although it cost roughly the same as what I paid for my FR 305 which has satisfied all the functionality I desire, I'm sure the price falls far short of whatever Vlad would consider the bare minimum expenditure for a gps unit. Admittedly, it's true that I'm too cheap to fly to California for a weekend of low-profile sprints. God, I wish someone would castigate me.
Feb 24, 2012 5:26 AM # 
Can't the display portion be taped over? Of course it would then rely on the honour system for the person not to just take it off after they start then replace it just before finishing. But that would only be one of umpteen things the sport relies on the honour system for - not to follow; not to check out the terrain beforehand, not to cross an uncrossable boundary when no one else is around, not to put the GPS in a wee pouch hanging inside the front of one's trousers then pull it out once in the woods (the gps that is)....
Feb 24, 2012 5:27 AM # 
I need another bowl of popcorn for this brilliant thread!
Feb 24, 2012 5:35 AM # 
Can't the display portion be taped over?

This is exactly what BOK did at the last A-event they held, in 2010. That was also a Championship -- Intercollegiate.

I'm pretty sure it was done at the start using duct tape.
Feb 24, 2012 7:39 AM # 
RE:GPS devices can be used in various ways to recover from an error
I don't understand how unless you carry smartphone/PC with map loaded on it.

Can anyone explain?
Not so I use it just out of curiosity. As mentioned before ,
If people want to cheat, they will...
Feb 24, 2012 12:52 PM # 
The FR305 that Bshields mentions above has a display that shows your track as a line, although this line is not really presented on top of a map. If you get lost you can change to the screen that shows the line of your travel and see where you actually went and it shows where you actually are currently. This feature can be effectively used in a non-competition setting to retrace your steps or to get back to where you parked your car/bike.

However much I personally would argue to have the rule changed to allow the use of GPS watches with displays, I think that it is good to have rules in place at our most prestigious events that show we take our sport seriously. It is a shame to lose the opportunity to have one's GPS track after the race, but I think it's good to have a national championship race with high standards of fairness.

For instance, athletes need to remove their GPS watches with displays at World Orienteering Championship races... not because the elite would cheat otherwise, but because at the pinnacle of competition, little details of fairness make a difference to how the race is perceived by the athletes and the audience.
Feb 24, 2012 1:50 PM # 
We could adopt a bunch of other useless and annoying rules too, to show that we take our sport really seriously. And to make sure that the audiences in North Carolina and Georgia are duly impressed.
Feb 24, 2012 2:37 PM # 
it is good to have rules in place at our most prestigious events that show we take our sport seriously

Thank you. For me personally, it's all too easy to forget to turn off the total-distance screen on the 305, since it's normally on in my user configuration. That's a navigation aid if I've ever seen one.

other useless and annoying rules

There's ranting and there's due process... talk to your favorite Board rep, suggest the matter be referred to a Board vote, enjoy the results!
Feb 24, 2012 2:49 PM # 
Exactly. J-J, you are even on the rules committee and there is an open (currently inactive) discussion on the matter, which might be a more useful place to comment than here.
Feb 24, 2012 4:18 PM # 
Nope, I'm not on the Rules Committee. I'm just copied on their email discussion so that I'll be aware of what's new, because I'm the chairman of Grievance. (And I try to just listen and not say anything, but sometimes I do make comments when I think the Rules Committee ought to consider some particular detail.)

"Ranting" does have value, by the way. There have been issues in the past that I felt strongly about, and after having an online discussion and seeing what other people's opinions were, I decided to not pursue the matter through political channels. I'd rather see issues get discussed among the "public" before the BoD acts on them, rather than having legislation happen on matters that people haven't given enough thought to. It's better if a substantial number of people think about something and contact their BoD reps witheir opinions than if one person does, and the BoD then makes a decision by themselves. Or sometimes useful alternative solutions come out of a discussion. It certainly had an impact on the Orienteering USA logo selection process, right?
Feb 24, 2012 5:36 PM # 
Using a GPS watch that tells you distance and can even help you pace count without thinking about it too much. Could make the difference in a race with a lot of bearings and pace counting.
Feb 24, 2012 10:06 PM # 
Linear Ice:
I think a tamper evident tape, such as is used in electronics, drug industry, and on license plate tabs could be a solution. If you try to pull it off, it destructs and comes off in pieces. It would be pretty easy to get this material. If you left the start with a GPS, you'd have to show the GPS at the finish with the tape still intact. It does add another step at the finish though.
Feb 24, 2012 10:37 PM # 
Also, the start would have to inform the finish that the runner had a taped GPS watch to check. Not always an easy task.
Feb 24, 2012 10:52 PM # 
Yeah, as I recall, the finish crew at the 2010 BOK meet was not overly intent on checking for untaped watches.
Feb 24, 2012 10:58 PM # 
Tamper evident tape is not a welcome approach if you can't get it off later on. Is there some readily-available solvent that removes the tape but won't damage the watch? (I may be thinking of a different kind of tape than what you have in mind -- maybe yours just shreds but doesn't leave any residue?)

Honestly, I believe there's some over-thinking going on here. If someone intends to use the watch for nefarious purposes, I think they'd simply have it in a pocket at the start. Tamper evident tape to keep someone from giving in to the temptation of peeking sounds like overkill. If there's any tape to be used, I would suggest the blue painter's tape that comes off easily without leaving residue, to block out the siren song of whatever it is the watch has to say.
Feb 25, 2012 12:58 AM # 
Honestly, I believe there's some over-thinking going on here.

Feb 25, 2012 2:41 AM # 

"Me thinks thou dost protest too much" (then).

Me protests thou dost think too much (here & now).
Feb 25, 2012 3:06 AM # 
The question isn't as much "intends to use" as "inadvertently uses". Once you take evil intent out of the issue, it's simply prudent to make things fairer for everyone by eliminating a possible source of interference.
Feb 25, 2012 4:02 AM # 
Inadvertently uses? Seriously?
Feb 25, 2012 4:08 AM # 
I described the scenario above. Need I repeat? I left the distance display on at an A meet I shall not mention. I was just getting used to the watch at the time. Each time I glanced at the screen, I felt bad. I tried not to look at the screen but couldn't really avoid it altogether.
Feb 25, 2012 4:31 AM # 
So this was showing the distance since the last control (where you had taken a split) every time you looked at it?

I'll take your word for it, but I can't relate. I almost never look at my watch when I'm orienteering. But I realize that there are people who do (maybe to check their heart rate?).

I do have to ask, though: if you felt bad, why didn't you just switch what it was displaying? Or is that not an option while it's running?
Feb 25, 2012 5:06 AM # 
"Each time I glanced at the screen, I felt bad. I tried not to look at the screen but couldn't really avoid it altogether. Wow. What a poor, shallow argument in favour of a GPS ban. Firstly, every time you look at your watch/GPS you are losing time. Not only that you have distracted yourself from the real thing you should be doing which is matching the map to the terrain. Thirdly ask most elites what they do about distance measurement - very few pace count or measure distance in any quantitative way; they read the map. They have worked out that reading the map is far quicker and more efficient than trying to do calculations on the run.
Cheating kind of requires that you gain some sort of advantage over the normal activity. That's not happening here, and despite all the theorising from the banners, no-one has demonstrated instances of someone actually gaining time in a significant race by looking at their GPS. That is because it is not faster than reading the map.
Compare this with following. To take Tundra/Deserts example, does he feel bad every time he runs in someone's footsteps in a race. If he is coming in to a control and happens to see someone punching it or leaving it does he feel bad? Does he feel he has cheated? It happens in every race and we accept the unfairness.
As a compromise the current rule looks OK - as I interpret it its OK to carry a GPS as long as you don't use it for navigation (not that it would be better than using the map and compass anyway). 99% of orienteers would respect that and it wouldn't matter if the 1% cheated - they are not going to win Orienteering's magnificent prizes by using a GPS.
Feb 25, 2012 5:18 AM # 
Firstly, every time you look at your watch/GPS you are losing time

I use the Garmin's HR monitor to avoid going too fast in the first hour of a Long course so that I have energy for the second hour. On a Long, even the best elites have plenty of matching-map-to-terrain-free time.

Cheating kind of requires that you gain some sort of advantage over the normal activity. That's not happening here

That didn't happen on that particular day for me in particular. I have been in a situation on a training course in which I had turned on a Polar's barometric altimeter and made up time on people who were semi-lost in the middle of a several-hundred-meter-high slope. Substitute elevation for distance, and you get the GPS situation. True elites wouldn't benefit, but back-of-the-pack runners like me easily can.

no-one has demonstrated instances of someone actually gaining time in a significant race by looking at their GPS

A theoretical case was demonstrated by Jagge. Second Jukola leg records the route, third leg (on a different team with same forking) just follows the dot. The whole "you can't really cheat with a GPS" argument was thoroughly debunked in the course of that discussion, which I am too lazy to look up.

why didn't you just switch what it was displaying? Or is that not an option while it's running?

I can turn it off and restart. That would require reacquiring the satellites, and the acquisition takes more time if you aren't standing still. There is no option on the 305 (at least I don't know of it now and I didn't know at the time) to reconfigure which data are displayed when the chronometer is going.
Feb 25, 2012 5:47 AM # 
I know a WOC top-20 runner who was training in Halden, at night, and got dropped by pack, and lost, during the butterfly... and just for kicks tried gpsing back to the central butterfly control. It worked pretty well, he said. It can be done. It won't.
Feb 25, 2012 7:11 AM # 
There is no option on the 305 (at least I don't know of it now and I didn't know at the time) to reconfigure which data are displayed when the chronometer is going.

It's the same as configuring the displayed fields when the timer isn't running - go in through "Settings", "General", "Data Fields". No need to stop the timer or turn off the watch.

If you are concerned about forgetting to change the display before the start and then losing time fiddling with reconfiguration mid-race, preconfigure one of the two "main" displays to display only safe fields such as time of day. Cycle between displays using the arrow buttons - it can be done while the timer is running and takes at most two button presses to get to the desired display.

(On a side note, you can also stop and restart the timer without turning off the watch / having to reacquire satellites.)
Feb 25, 2012 1:06 PM # 
I suppose if you really feel bad, and can't resist the temptation to look, you could also impose the policy on yourself by either turning off the damn watch or putting it in your pocket. It's not like the watch is tapping you on the shoulder saying, "Vladimir, I know where you are, and I'm going to tell you!".
Feb 25, 2012 1:22 PM # 
If there are people in this forum that have either used a GPS watch, or been tempted to use a GPS watch to help them in a race situation, then it is good to have a rule in place to limit this activity at championship caliber races.

A rule surely is better than having JJ personally admonish every runner beforehand and remind them that they are only cheating themselves --though that might be pretty fun for JJ and we could sell popcorn as a junior fundraiser :).

Taping over the display might be a good enough rule, but outlawing them altogether is perhaps easier to enforce by a limited number of volunteer staff at a race.

The argument of "well, I personally would never cheat" is a weak thing on which to base a solution to the GPS question...
Feb 25, 2012 2:02 PM # 
I may be about to change my mind on this issue, as I have on other issues after participating in a discussion on the matter.

Unrelated question: does anyone out there have a Garmin GPS watch of the type we are discussing that has broken, and is now just gathering dust in a drawer?
Feb 25, 2012 2:46 PM # 
I need one, too. I need to figure out how they manufacture that four-contact thing (watch side). If anyone has links, please send.

No need to stop the timer or turn off the watch.

Thank you! Now I know. I didn't know until today.
Feb 25, 2012 6:15 PM # 
In fact, there are three screens on the 305 that you can cycle through, each with from one to four fields of data. So plenty of options for data: time of data so you make start time, HR so you don't bonk too early , or the other more specious types like: total time, total distance, lap time and distance, pace, sunrise and on and on. Lots to distract you from the map and compass.
Feb 25, 2012 10:36 PM # 
I may be observing the obvious, but I'm amused by something -- some people (e.g. PG and Charlie) mention that even if they bring their GPS watches, they're not clever enough to use them to cheat. In contrast, Tundra/Desert explains how, if he brings his GPS watch, he's not clever enough not to cheat. Knowing Vladimir to the extent that I do, I'm guessing this is intentional.
Feb 26, 2012 12:03 AM # 
I wrote to the meet directors and asked if they would consider a change on the ban, or if the ban was set, or if they were open to discussion. Laurie Searle (GAOC) has replied on Attackpoint.

Here is the response I received from Joseph Huberman of BOK:

Thanks for the links to the discussion. I'm glad this issue is being discussed and I'm looking forward to a decision by the Rules Committee.

I have the self sealing tape, and we will be happy to wrap your GPS display with it. It won't stick to the watch, but is impossible to remove without tearing it. It is a silicone rigging tape I use on my sailboat. It comes in a bunch of colors.

Feel free to post this reply. I'll be putting this information in the Event Notes and sending it to the event mail list in a few days.
Feb 26, 2012 2:52 AM # 
GPS watch ban = solution in search of a problem.
Feb 26, 2012 3:17 AM # 
Was I just accused of intentionally cheating?
Feb 26, 2012 3:24 AM # 
I think you're in the clear, Vlad; JJ has never seldom used a Garmin, so it's hard to imagine he knows what he's talking about.
Feb 26, 2012 3:24 AM # 
Wait wait. Need to go get another bowl of popcorn.
Feb 26, 2012 3:24 AM # 
Not by me. I meant that I thought your comment was intentionally in contrast to those of the other people.

(Actually, I have used a Garmin, but not a 305. Valerie briefly loaned me some predecessor a few years ago. And I own a Garmin 76S, although I haven't used it much yet.)
Feb 26, 2012 3:54 AM # 
I am with JJ on this issue. The observations of cultural differences in attitude toward cheating is just too funny. I feel that the strong does not need it, while the weak won’t be helped by it to the extent that it would matter. No championship will be decided by someone using fr305 screen to trace one back to the start, while it may be a useful last-resort tool for recovery for someone hopelessly lost in the woods. Yes, there is a possibility for someone, who is rather poor , to gain a little, but banning the watch just to prevent this scenario is an overkill, considering the value of having the data for course analysis.
This could be different for rogaine, I do not know, and do not care.
A little off-topic @JJ re: duly impressing audiences in GA and NC, they will hardly notice, just do not wear tights and you’ll be fine, blue overalls are best.
Feb 26, 2012 9:32 AM # 
Leaving the question of whether a GPS can help or not, I am interested in the discussion on ethics. Orienteers are no different from the general population, we cheat. A minute proportion are real criminals. Most of us cheat in small ways that the people around us find acceptable, or that we justify to ourselves that "no harm is done". Who has not told small lies, broken a speed limit or a parking restriction? In foot-o with cards, people took controls out of order. Before e-punching could monitor it in rogaines, one member of the team would climb the hill to the control with the card. In MTBO where travel is sometimes restricted to tracks, riders cut across. In Scandinavia people grab your map.

When the GPS tools advance and we learn how to use them better, I think we may have to face this sooner or later.
Feb 26, 2012 2:33 PM # 
I'm not a luddite, but the multitide of screens and the depth of the menus on the 305 did produce an I-don't-care-to-rtfm-cause-you-can't-ever-cover-it-fully-in-a-reasonable-time effect on me. Hence the depths of ignorance, and that's mainly how I found myself on my second-ever A course with the 305 with the distance display on and a belief that I can't easily turn it off.

No championship will be decided by someone using fr305

Early Interscholastic Champs starter records the course. Late starter reruns the line, straightening out the loops.
Feb 26, 2012 3:03 PM # 
If people want to cheat, they will.

Early Interscholastic Champs starter runs the course, turns in map, gets an old map of the area, marks control locations from memory,shares map with late starter.
Feb 26, 2012 5:23 PM # 
The interesting thing about this described "partner exercise" is that only one of them can win.

* If the first one has a good race, why share it?
* If he/she has a bad race - why use it for a later starter? Is it really of any help?

The same applies to showing your map after the race. The one you´re showing your course may end up beating you - is that really what you want?
Feb 26, 2012 8:03 PM # 
If I were to make a GPS device for O'ing, I would make a device that used a numeric keypad to input a "go to" location - bearing (335°) and a distance (meters). Then have the device emit an audible (this could be an LED display the for hearing impaired) beep that would decrease in rate the further I strayed from the straight line distance between the starting point and the "go to" location. I wonder if there is a patent for this type of device yet. Too unconcerned to look it up.
Feb 26, 2012 8:05 PM # 
why use it for a later starter

Ah. Here in the United States, we have teams. The Interscholastic Champs is about the only event that matters to those under age 18 and their coaches, and individual results don't matter nearly as much as team awards. Granted there's not a qualitative difference between sharing a GPS track and marking locations on an old map, but the degree to which the former will help a relatively inexperienced navigator should make interested parties think at least a little.
Feb 26, 2012 9:04 PM # 
An inexperienced navigator could benefit a lot by having somebody go through a course preview with them, pointing out good routes and what features to look for.
Feb 27, 2012 12:06 AM # 
I've personally witnessed an elite orienteer cheat during a World Cup race in Denmark. I've personally witnessed two prospective US WOC team orienteers cheat at a WOC qualifying race in St. Louis, MO (I even have this one recorded digitally). I've personally witnessed a Swedish orienteer cheat at a US national race near Laramie, WY. I've personally witnessed an affluent Mid-Atlantic orienteer cheat at a local race near Warwick, PA.

All of this observed cheating is material (ie, not following and the like), but cutting thru olive-mapped terrain to gain a material advantage contrary to the course setter's intentions, or taking controls out of order.

The evidence suggests, at least to me, that, at all levels, some people cheat when they think no one is looking. The economic literature (at least that I've worked to become familiar with), is consistent with both my conjecture and my observations.

Therefore, there is no question in my mind that someone will eventually use the GPS device to cheat gain a material advantage. Its just a question of "possibilities" vs "probabilities" (and I won't go down that road for now).

I thus support banning of GPS devices that have the possibility to facilitate cheating. (Of course, no one cares about my opinion, and that's fine, it doesn't make the science and observations behind it less valid -- I'm only an observer, and my observations don't change these things).

Feb 27, 2012 2:06 AM # 
So you are saying that in a sport littered with cheating possibilities and riddled with cheaters you support banning new technology where no-one has shown a single instance of a GPS device being used to gain an advantage (despite the theorising)? And lets ignore the other stuff?
That's a pretty dim view of the sport in general and not one I share.

This discussion thread is closed.