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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: How to out of control point

in: Orienteering; Training & Technique

Sep 10, 2015 3:31 PM # 
Hi all,

As far as I analized most of our orienteers (age 11-15 and sometimes olders also) spend a lots of time to find the most accurate direction to run out of control point. Sometimes they stop there and spend long long seconds to pick the new direction.

My questions are: How to train them to spend less time? Do you have any trick or training exercise? Any suggestion?

Thanks for your help
Sep 10, 2015 3:56 PM # 
Maybe don't rush them - better to take too long and get it right, than to rush off in the wrong direction ;-) That is the most important lesson, IMHO.

Then a good training trick that I was taught that is when arriving at the control do the following:
1. when you see the control most people speed up and rush to it. Do the opposite - slow down (maybe even walk), refold the map for the next leg, make route choice (if not already done so), check compass to get correct direction, then if you haven't reached the control yet it is okay to run fast to the control and you are ready to leave in the right way

(PS: Small English language tip: Analyzed is spelled with a "y". What you wrote (with an "i") is a little bit disturbing '=)
Sep 10, 2015 4:21 PM # 
The only way to reliably exit cleanly and quickly from a control point is to go in prepared. (Although instinct helps too...).

But beginners frequently only plan one step ahead and it's very hard to make any plans as you attack the control. Attacking a control is the most intense part of any leg. You are not sure of your location, and you are looking very carefully for the bag. You NEED to be focused too, because simple geometry dictates that the closer you are to finding a control, the bigger the time-penalty for a step in the wrong direction. With all of this pressure, this is a bad time to plan your exit strategy. (Edit... AZ's comment about slowing down for approach is good)

It's best to plan the your control exit well in advance... for example, sometime during the middle of the previous leg when you have a little thoughtless running. But this thinking-ahead is not how most beginners operate. I suspect that a pause on the exit is often a symptom that the runner failed to plan ahead,and was overwhelmed on the approach. Once you're at that stage, it's really better to pause and get your bearings than to run off in the wrong direction.

There are some simple things that can make the transition smoother though. Proper map grip (thumbing the map) makes it easier to relocate yourself on the map and shift your focus to the next leg.
Sep 10, 2015 4:21 PM # 
Wrote this in response to a junior reflecting on their orienteering technique.

"After I see my control...I generally sprint directly to it....then I spend the next 5-10 seconds stopped still at the control, and maybe the next minute slowly starting up to jog away on the next leg"

This is one of the biggest things to improve your orienteering and a very common...error in technique for mostly younger people but also many new to the sport. If you think about a regular running race a generally even pace will give you the best time.

Once you have spotted the flag your navigational task is complete and all mental focus should shift to the next leg. Keep an even pace through the whole course (or effort). When you see the flag slow down or even stop on your way to punch and don't let yourself punch until you have selected the your route for the next leg. With practice you will get better at pacing near the control and will barely need to pause while punching and be on your way to the next one. You will probably notice older orienteers that are moving slow but still have impressive course times, a lot from experience but also moving at a speed that they can maintain full navigational focus while always moving along their route.

Speeding up running to the flag is the worst thing you can do. That will raise your heart rate at the time when you need blood going to your brain to make clear decisions and not make careless mistakes because you weren't able to think straight. The only control that matters getting to a few seconds earlier is the finish, save your speed for that. However, you should be pacing yourself so you are coming in on the go control (last control before the finish) or even the one before at your final finishing speed. Again, a rapid change in speed will raise your heart rate to more easily make mistakes at the end of a well executed course. Stretch out the harder effort over a longer distance to finish fast but still navigationally sound.

[More controversial personal aside: Don't use control codes or control descriptions.
If you aren't sure you have navigated your way to the location of the circle and that your observed surroundings match what is in and around the circle, you have already failed.
My opinion of control descriptions is they are antiquated and of a time when people had to personally copy from a master map or it was inked over a blank map and the center of the circle wasn't always precisely where the flag was; now that isn't the case. Control code numbers are meaningless distractions to mental focus. I very rarely check codes when I have spotted the flag but something minor in the surroundings doesn't match my mental picture I have made with the map.

Instead of shifting your focus to another section of the map or separate clue sheet and memorizing numbers and descriptions, use all that mental energy to focus on the course on the map. And if needed slow or even stop and shove the map right up to your eyeballs to get the final fine nav details.
The map gives you all you need to know to navigate the course and what is at and around each control and its precise location at the center of that circle.]
Sep 10, 2015 6:17 PM # 
Controls are often in re-entrants or up against a crag or in some other spot with limited visibility. You should at least pick your exit features while you can still see them.
Sep 10, 2015 6:41 PM # 
Along the lines of what everyone else said I start with the red light, yellow light, green light exercise. The red light area is where you slow down getting close to the control and have a safe entry. If you slow down even to a walk once you spot the feature the control is on or the control, you can identify the direction to leave. One of the most important steps to this is having your map oriented. When the map is oriented you can identify the angle spatially that you need to leave and the features along that line looking up. You can do this with your compass as well by setting the bearing on the map for the next leg walking into the control and identifying it in the terrain.
So Map orientation, and looking up are key in the transition from one leg to the next at the basic level.

I think what is important is starting slow for a younger kid. giving them a few things to focus on in a clear process such as: see the control, check your next leg, identify a point in the terrain or feature along the route or line of your plan, punch control. This way they have some steps and they are not thinking about everything at once. Start walking a couple times until they can do the process in order consistently, then jog, slow run, etc.
Sep 10, 2015 7:30 PM # 
Difficult to evaluate individual orienteers, but for most 11- 15 year olds, I think AZ gives the best advice, don't rush them. Yes, this is a sign of primitive technique, but the greater time loss potential is at the other end of the leg, or possibly along the way. Get a clear picture of what you should do, before doing it.
Sep 10, 2015 7:44 PM # 
I'm a really slow orienteer, but I disagree with the idea that you should walk into a control. It's the one time on a course where you have almost zero doubt where you are or where you need to go, so why not gain some seconds and just run?

Using shirminator's terminology, I'm usually spatially aware enough to walk out of the control in the right direction while I'm planning the next leg.

There are occasionally legs where the way you leave the control is a huge deal. Try to recognize those. Most of the time, especially in the woods, generally going toward the next control is the right choice.

I place a huge emphasis on "flash reading the map"---looking at a leg you've never seen before and deciding on a route as fast as you can. If it's a long leg or you sense a trap, take a longer look. If it looks direct and straightforward, just start moving and adjust your angle while you're moving.

A lot of people have elaborate strategies to read ahead. I actively avoid reading ahead unless the course crosses over itself, for example, and I'll look to spot a future attackpoint. But I prefer to just take each leg one-at-a-time, and just get really good at looking at the current leg and picking a good route as fast as possible.

I've been meaning to work on Powerpoint animation settings so I can go to slideshow mode and have a presentation of single legs (aligned bottom-of-page to top) that display for a few seconds and then go blank (waiting on a button press or a next page command). I might do it for our junior camp around Thanksgiving just to show the juniors how fast the experienced orienteers can flash read a leg. My first relay experience in the 80s was a shock---all the old people were ahead, obviously navigating off the straight line of the start corridor and I hadn't found the start triangle.
Sep 10, 2015 8:54 PM # 
so why not gain some seconds and just run?

Because the time you save by speeding up can evaporate almost instantly if you punch and then don't know what to do next. If you already have your exit plan, continue on at your normal speed. If you don't, then you're going to run out of ideas as soon as you get to the control, so you need to come up with one before that happens.

As for not checking control descriptions, well, that's great until you mispunch. 100% sure? OK, if that works for you, great. I've managed to come up with a way to check the number without it costing me any significant time (this is why I dislike it when I have to unfold the map to find the control descriptions), and I just note that the number matches as I punch. Have I ever gotten to a control and had the number be not what I expected. Yup. Not often, but I prefer to not mispunch in that situation. The description itself is something that I rarely need to look at, but it's occasionally necessary in a very busy area where you can't tell what the feature is, or if you want to know which side of the large boulder to go to (instead of going 3/4 of the way around it), or when you get to the cliff and there's no control and you realize that it's on top instead of at the bottom. Corner of an uncrossable fence in a sprint? It's good to know what side to approach it from.
Sep 10, 2015 9:18 PM # 
spend long long seconds to pick the new direction.
I wouldn't worry about seconds until they're not getting lost for long, long minutes.

One exercise, which you only ever need to do once. Run with a group, then stop, for one minute to study your map (get someone to time you) while the others run off. Notice how long that minute seems, how you got all the information you needed in the first 15 sec, then think how many one-minute navigation errors you normally make...
Sep 10, 2015 11:44 PM # 
Two reasons to plan your exit before you get to the control ...

1) You can do it while moving (even if slowly) rather than standing stationary. This saves seconds.

2) I think it's easier to visualize the exit from the control when you are approaching it, rather than standing at it. Usually, as you come in, your map is oriented, you know what direction you are heading and can use the map to easily see which direction to leave (it can be as simple as turn left/turn right/go straight). Once you are at the control, you no longer have the control ahead of you to give a directional cue, you may have turned to get to the flag (i.e., other side of boulder, bottom of cliff), looked down to punch, etc. So, it is easier to be "disoriented" when you are standing at the flag than when you are on your final approach.
Sep 11, 2015 12:33 AM # 
When you see the flag slow down or even stop on your way to punch and don't let yourself punch until you have selected the your route for the next leg.

Don't use control codes or control descriptions... I very rarely check codes when I have spotted the flag but something minor in the surroundings doesn't match my mental picture I have made with the map.

I think these are two terrible bits of advice for juniors. If you don't punch the flag when you first come to it, you will probably forget to do so.

Also people new to the sport (probably even those not new to the sport) will not be aware of "something minor in the surrounding (that) doesn't match their mental picture". Control codes are necessary to ensure the correct location.

My opinion of control descriptions is they are antiquated and of a time when people had to personally copy from a master map or it was inked over a blank map

So you are able to immediately tell from the map that the black dot you are heading for is a 1.5m boulder and not a 4m boulder? Ridiculous.
Sep 11, 2015 12:57 AM # 
All the above advice aside, did others notice how many times Emma Klingenberg came to a complete stop at the Control during the Sprint Relay? It was at least twice and for a couple seconds anyway. She obviously wasn't going anywhere until she knew exactly how she was getting to the next control---and she hadn't planned it fully before getting to the current control

But she wasn't the only one. In reviewing gps tracking for the forest races (especially the long), I noticed sometimes where the dot hangs for a bit at the control,. especially before a long, route choice leg. I suppose it could have been a waterstop; but I am still convinced that some of the best in the world do occasionally stop and plan their route while they are standing at the controls. I do think they plan quickly though.
Sep 11, 2015 4:15 AM # 
I don't remember who told me this recently but, in my own words, flow through the control is no more important than flow through any other point on your course.

Is it better to stop halfway along your leg than right after a control? Having a plan for the leg is so important that if you have to stop at a control to figure out your plan that's well worth it. Ideally you should have the plan for your next leg some time before getting to the control. If you can read ahead and come up with a route and key features for the next leg where there's an opportunity* to then that's best of course but if you can't don't worry about stopping. A) it will save you time and b) coming up with that plan at the control is far better developmentally (ie it's a better habit) then orienteering one step at a time because you don't have a plan.

* what is an opportunity to read ahead for Thierry may be far different than what is an opportunity for an 11-15 year old kid.

You need to practice making plans then making plans on the run and then planning ahead. Perhaps these kids are simply at the stage of practicing making plans and not yet ready for the planning ahead stage. I would actually applaud them for stopping at the control rather than running off blindly.
Sep 11, 2015 5:15 AM # 
Slightly off topic but the above reminds me of teammates I have in AR who insist on having transitions as fast as possible but who then sit out on course fixing their shoes, having a rest or whatever. Time loss is the same no matter where you do it!

I would imagine the factor against stopping at a control is that you might give away its location to other competitors.
Sep 11, 2015 8:16 AM # 
Do you have any trick or training exercise?

Exercise 1: Ask them to every time see the flag and start going there to punch to refold the map for the next leg and also keep it oriented correctly when going there to punch.

Exercise 2: Ask them to try to peek the next leg once at some point during previous leg, and only if they think they have time and everything is under control. Not trying to make route choice or anything, just look at it to see what it is like.

First step is getting used to do these two things without getting distracted. At first it may not help much, but as skills get better faster one really can't do these two tasks without also spotting route choices and exit directions/features for the simplest legs, or alternatively figuring out the next leg is so complex it is just OK to use some time to sort it out properly after punching.
Sep 11, 2015 9:46 AM # 
I've always told myself 'know where you're going out of the control before you get there'.....

but then I saw Emma Klingenberg on the first leg of the mixed relay at WOC... She stopped for 4 or 5 seconds after punching a control to make sure she had the route to the next one sorted. and she finished with a 45 second lead.
Sep 11, 2015 12:51 PM # 
The common mistake that I've seen is that the inexperienced will sometimes treat every control as a finish line. They see the control, turn off their brains, and sprint to it, and then have no idea what to do next. Once you know what you're doing, the correct way to go through a control is a natural thing, but for beginners with the above tendency, telling them to walk and plan when they see the control can get them started.

Sprints are somewhat different from traditional forest orienteering in this regard, as it's possible to pick a route that simply won't work, so you need to be more sure of what you're doing. In the forest, starting out by heading directly toward the next control is a reasonable choice most of hte time.
Sep 14, 2015 10:10 AM # 
@carlch & @andrewd
In the sprint relay (I read this somewhere but can't remember where, maybe Tue Lassen's blog?) the Danes had a very good idea of the terrain, but were worried about artificial fences. From what I saw, Emma gained time on her competitors early (she is very fast) and then had time to slow down and check for fences and other tricks that the rest of the field didn't since they were trying to catch her.

In the forest relay Emma went out with a huge lead. When you know you are fast enough to maintain that lead, you take a much safer approach to your orienteering, and, change your technique a bit. For example, you double check that you are doing the correct forking when there are many controls on the map, as we saw on the TV.

I don't know that this is exactly what was happening, but it is my interpretation. Yes, the top runners in the world do stop, but only when it is necessary to prevent them from losing time running. Since running an even pace will get you the best time for a course, in an individual race accelerating is also to be advised against. In a relay, or if you catch someone, sometimes things can be different.

I would say in general one should not stop at control points to read ahead, and that they are a worse place to stop than others on the course as you may give your competitors the advantage of seeing a control site.

How to train it:
I really enjoy control pick exercises myself

As graeme pointed out, with juniors I would worry about the large mistakes first. When you are capable of running a course, and having no mistakes >1 minute say, then you need to start worrying about the 10-15s you might be losing by stopping at a control.
Sep 21, 2015 7:33 PM # 
I think what roar said makes sense; I have made it a habit to check my clue sheet while fumbling for the control hole, and the map later while running about 5 meters in the general direction of the next control. Stopping by the control also risks helping another person find it.
Sep 22, 2015 7:41 AM # 
So what if you stop for a few seconds - the least of your worries should be what other people on your course may or may not be doing. If that's in your mind then you have already failed to retain control of your own run by being distracted by the potential of someone seeing you. If they're that close they'll catch you anyway! (but it does *feel* important in the heat of battle not to give away the location).
Sep 22, 2015 12:25 PM # 
Usually the change of direction will do that anyway, unless you are one of these people who runs out of the control the wrong way to confuse people!

This discussion thread is closed.