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Discussion: US Championships news coverage

in: Orienteering; News

Mar 21, 2016 8:19 PM # 
Mar 21, 2016 8:56 PM # 
Mar 21, 2016 9:14 PM # 
Mar 22, 2016 12:48 AM # 
Pink Socks:
Some regionally-biased news about current and recent CascadeOC elites:

Will Enger won his first M21 national championship (Sprint).

Hannah Culberg won her first two F21 national championships (Middle & Long)

Eric Bone won his fifth M21 Long national championship in six years.

Tori Borish won her first F21 Sprint national championship, which now gives her a career sweep of the F21 SML championships (the other two were in 2010).
Mar 22, 2016 6:39 AM # 
Pink Socks picked up a few medals too. He's just too modest to include M35 in the categories of Cascade dominance. Nice work! Especially dominant in the sprint.
Mar 22, 2016 4:58 PM # 
Pink Socks:
I was also excited to see a pretty competitive field in F20 with Julia, Izzy, the Christophersons, and ├ůsne. This quintet is still fairly young, too, with a F16, F17, F18, and F19 (I'm not sure how old ├ůsne is).
Mar 22, 2016 7:23 PM # 
Middle and Long courses at Morgan Territory are now on RouteGadget.
Mar 23, 2016 1:40 AM # 
I have seen numerous Morgan Territory maps and events over the years, but I have never been there, nor have I checked to see who the course setter(s) is/are.

However, I feel motivated to comment that I am very impressed with both the Middle and Long courses, including all levels, at least on paper, given the terrain available. I think both sets of courses maximized the potential of the terrain within the character of the formats, which is a comment that I've only rarely had the privilege of thinking. This is especially notable for the advanced Middle courses, which have very limited possibilities in this terrain.

I am struck by the quite irregular division of start locations for the Middle, but I completely get the rationale for each location with the assigned courses, and I think this is a critical factor in the success of the routings.
Mar 23, 2016 3:07 AM # 
What I derived from the above was that terrain sucked, at the Championship level ?
Mar 23, 2016 3:14 AM # 
Nah, didn't suck at all. Terrain was good, courses were good, weather was good. There was some poison oak, but there's not much you can do about that, and I'm not itching. It wasn't terrain that needed 1:15000 symbols at a 1:10000 scale, but you can have have plenty of fine orienteering without that kind of eye chart.

(The map layout was atrocious. Seriously. But that hardly detracts from the essential qualities of the race.)
Mar 23, 2016 4:50 AM # 
It was a well run meet. The starts were remote but the volunteers got everything in place. The terrain was absolutely beautiful, yes, there was poison oak, but it was well discussed in the meet notes. Dark green is fight with poison oak, don't go there. Light green, watch out for it. The non-green parts were fields or woods with beautiful trees. The sky was blue and it was a fine temperature both days on the mountain. Thanks to BAOC.
Mar 23, 2016 4:52 PM # 
Sprint at Mills College is now also on RouteGadget.
Mar 24, 2016 4:10 PM # 
@jjcote: re your comment about the map layout being atrocious. We always aim to improve, but I'm really not sure what you're referring to. Could you be more specific?
Mar 24, 2016 5:37 PM # 
Pink Socks:
I'll bite.

It's the formatting and layout of the text, specifically on the Morgan Territory map. It's just ugly to look at.

On my Red Middle map, "Morgan Territory" is thrown in an odd spot, and it's not centered or justified, it's covering up a magnetic arrow. "Magnetic North" is similarly formatted.

The credits aren't justified either, plus the line spacing isn't consistent (some descenders are overlapping with the next row of letters). The spacing isn't consistent (the space after the colons).

The "500m" part of the scale isn't centered between the magnetic lines.

And then there's the legend, or maybe I should say legends. On my Middle map, about 2/3 of the legend is up top, and 1/3 down below. That's fair, I suppose, but they could have been better aligned with each other.

But it's the legends on the Long map that's insane. On my RedX Long map, I get the top 2/3 of the legend from the Middle map, but the bottom 1/3 is cropped out, as is the scale of the magnetic north lines. But what's most laughable is that there's another legend on the far left side of my map, but it's cropped in half (I can only see part of the text, and none of the symbols). So what I've got is two partial legends which is well short of a full one.

And what's ironic about this is that my map is GIANT at 13x19", and yet I have two incomplete legends. (An additional quibble with the formatting on my Long map is that "Regional Preserve" isn't centered under "Morgan Territory").

Obviously, none of this affected the quality and accuracy of the cartography and course design. I don't need a legend, I don't read the credits during the race, etc. But it looks really sloppy and unprofessional. I know a lot of orienteers don't care about image, but this sort of stuff does matter.

Just last night, I had some beers with my running group, and I brought along my US Champs maps for show and tell. These weren't orienteers, so they first gravitated towards the legends to figure out what the hell they were looking at, and that's when I realized that the Long didn't have a complete legend, and then they asked about the "mistake" of the far left legend being cropped in half. And at one point, I actually had to defend the quality of the cartography because the assumption from one person was that since the text and formatting was sloppy, that the cartography must also be sloppy.

But orienteers live in a bubble, so maybe this doesn't really matter that much. I haven't seen any media coverage of the event (the pinnacle of domestic US orienteering), so maybe the only non-orienteers to see these maps are just the 30 people at my local brewery.
Mar 24, 2016 8:24 PM # 
As someone whose run at Morgan Territory a half dozen times, the long blue course looks really good to my eye. Makes me think a lot. The middle course, by comparison, feels pretty simple... just point and shoot. But that's only if you know what you're doing and how to read the terrain. It looks like it could be pretty punishing for a momentary lapse of concentration. So I guess that's a good quality for a middle course.

Impressive composure by Jourdan Harvey on the Blue middle - starting the first leg with a 2-minute explosion but still finishing in first!
Mar 24, 2016 8:34 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Since I'm already in quibble mode, I'll mention that I feel that the Middle had some course setting faux pas, namely legs that ran one direction for one course, and the opposite direction for another.

For examples from the Middle:

Red 8-9 and GreenY 4-5 were the exact reverse of Blue 7-8
Red 11-12-13 was the exact reverse of BrownX 1-2-3
Red 7-8 was the exact reverse of GreenX 6-7

In addition to those exact reverses, there were also a number of shared controls that had opposite approaches. Because there were two separate starts and one finish, that meant that there was bound to be some course counter-flow. When I was taught how to design courses, I was always told to avoid this sort of thing. Maybe this isn't such a big deal.

I didn't feel that it affected my race. There were so many control flags out there that I never really paid attention to what other people were doing, they could have just as easily been coming from another control 50m away from mine.
Mar 24, 2016 11:01 PM # 
Pink Socks, thanks for a very good response on "layout"
On one hand I know Dennis W to be a very decent guy, deserving of a serious response.
On the other hand, I have all but run out of patience on this subject, and I suspect JJ may be close to that as well. Your response is much better than anything I was tempted to say.
Mar 24, 2016 11:33 PM # 
J-J, Patrick, Eric: Thanks for some specifics. I had nothing whatsoever to do with the production of the maps for the U.S. Champs; I asked for details so that I could direct them to the people in BAOC who do produce maps. For whatever reason, there are many people in BAOC who don't read AP, so please be patient with them even if you feel like you've explained these sorts of things over and over in this forum. The more helpful you can be, the better chance I have of calling these issues to the attention of the appropriate people in our club and of having them resolved. Thanks!
Mar 24, 2016 11:46 PM # 
Are people really critiquing the layout of fonts and labels on this map? This isn't Sweden and the simple fact the BAOC got accurate maps printed and controls placed for this event is a minor miracle that should be simply celebrated.
Mar 25, 2016 12:39 AM # 
Wait a minute. JJ posts this quite reasonable comment at the end of saying how great most things were:
"(The map layout was atrocious. Seriously. But that hardly detracts from the essential qualities of the race.)"

Seems like a fairly benign comment to me. Then, members of BAOC asked for details and so they were given. Again, hardly a reason to think anyone is bashing the event. And Dennis W. seemed genuinely appreciative of the feedback.

And why shouldn't we aim to have events that can rival those in Sweden? It may be unrealistic to think we'll get there anytime soon, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't always be aiming high.

And why was it a minor miracle that accurate maps were printed and controls placed? My impression from the weekend is that there are a lot of really experienced and dedicated members of BAOC committed to putting on great events. Which is what they did. If there wasn't confidence that BAOC could deliver, they would not have been awarded the championship. There's no minor miracle about it.
Mar 25, 2016 1:45 AM # 
Patrick hit the major points that I had in mind, I think (and he's perhaps more qualified to address these issues than I am). My guess is that some of these partial legends were copied and pasted in from another map. I honestly have no problem with not having a legend at all on an A-meet race map for advanced courses, and having a general-purpose, partial legend squeezed into some corner just makes things uglier without any benefit.

Back in the day, when printing a map was a big deal with a month of lead time and an order of 1000+ copies, some effort went into making the finished product look good. Not all came out as stellar examples, but a lot of the maps were drafted by a priesthood of skilled cartographers, and when you look at maps done by Kirby Milton, Peggy Dickison, Pat Dunlavey, etc., there's a world of difference compared to what we often see today. A lot more people can produce maps these days, thanks to user friendly (compared to pens and mylar) computer software, and it's also given us the ability to do a custom crop for every course. But that means that you sometimes have people with little to no graphic skills doing the final prep (which is entangled with course setting).

So who cares? Not me, when I'm out there running. I've got the map all folded up so I can't see much of the layout anyway. But when you're showing the map to reporters, or park officials, or your friends with the beers who might want to give it a try, or if you want to post the map on the wall of your cubicle at work, it's nice to have something presentable.

Is this Sweden? No, it isn't. But while Sweden may have more people who can navigate fast, and more people who can get out there and fieldcheck maps, they don't have a monopoly on graphic artists. We have plenty of people here (most of whom are not orienteers, but who might be friends of ours) who know how to create something that looks good. They don't even need to operate the software, they can just look over somebody's shoulder and give advice.

As for accurate maps and correctly placed controls... at the US Champs? That's not a minor miracle, it's basic essentials. Without those, we've got nothing. That was kind of my point in the first place, though: the things that matter in terms of the race, they got right, and if I'm looking for things to criticize, I have to reach to the aesthetics of the map.

A couple of technical details, though:
1) North lines. On my 1:10000 maps, the Middle has them spaced at 300 m, and the Long has them at 300 m in the east part and... various other distances in the west. Although ISOM2000 isn't specific, 250 m is customary for 1:10000, and a spacing that's close to that but not exact is confusing. They should at least be consistent.
2) I'm not positive, but I think the green X and O symbols (whatever they are, not in the partial legends) were printed with medium green instead of dark green. That what it looks like to me under a magnifying glass, anyway. In daylight, they're completely invisible to me (I have protanopia colorblindness). I don't normally have this much trouble.

One other thing that I found substandard, but that doesn't have much in the way of repercussions, was the posting of results at the meet site. Printed once in a while on letter-size paper in 10-point type or whatever, then taped to strings out in the breeze. It combined the worst aspects of epunching and pinpunching in that regard. But after a couple of hours, everybody leaves the meet site, and the results are perfectly legible online.
Mar 25, 2016 2:14 AM # 
In terms of legend, I think that it's worth including definitions of any special symbols, such as the various color x's and o's (excluding blue o for well, etc.) on advanced maps, and ideally in the event information.

In terms of results, I wonder whether it's feasible for an organizer to create a local area WiFi network (like I have between my Mac and my backup server), run a web server or file server, and output the results periodically to a folder served up by that web server or file server? Maybe there's other stuff needed like a DNS server or equivalent (WiFi router with DNS masquerading came up while Googling for info on such stuff); I haven't looked into all the details, just musing. Then participants could simply connect to that network and browse the results using their phone? No need for paper in the wind (nor internet access). Most people receive their own splits when downloading their e-punch card after the finish, and find their friends' results by talking to them.
Mar 25, 2016 2:22 AM # 
Live results on screens or devices is something that sounds easy, but is actually hard to do well. Valerie uses the Olynx software, which works well, and I use some custom developed javascript to run things in a web browser. It took me a few rounds of really poor presentation to figure out what worked well, what size things needed to be etc for it to be better than paper sheets.

Even with great software though, you need hardware, and reliable hardware tends to be bulky and expensive.

For local event wifi, that is also something that sounds so simple, just a router and let everyone connect to it! But how many events or conferences have you been to where the wifi sucks? Dense wifi with everyones phones connected is really hard to get right, and impossible with a single consumer access point. Lots of low power access points both spatially and spectrally distributed are the only way to make it work well.
Mar 25, 2016 2:25 AM # 
I've seen wifi results done, and it worked well. It's not a burden I'd want to put on organizers unless they had someone in the club who was psyched about doing it. I've also seen good results done on computer monitors, updated continuously. And you can do good results by printing, including by doing cards on strings, provided you do it right. The first rule is that whatever you do, it should be something where more than five people can look at the results at the same time. But you have to figure out what you're going to do ahead of time, and not just improvise on the day of the meet.
Mar 25, 2016 2:30 AM # 
And I'm not saying these things are hard because I don't want to see people do them. I just get frustrated to see a lot of aspects (mapping, printing, promotion, branding, design, results, timing, wifi, displays, video, etc) of event production trivialized to just a technology problem, as if knowing what the technology is to solve a problem actually solves the problem.
After lots of near failures at trying to throw lots of tech at o events to make them better, I've learned that the real problem you need to solve is how to make it all easy to setup, reliable, and integrate well with everything else, and who are you going to train to set it all up?
The system integration challenges between all these different systems can really be the hardest part. Identification of failure points, and plans for recovery, or at least an understanding of how to keep the meet and results working when everything fails around you is a must.
This actually applies to most engineering, not just orienteering.
Mar 25, 2016 2:39 AM # 
I certainly wasn't attempting to trivialize it. I was just presenting it as a possible alternative to shuttling back and forth between printer and results line trying to keep the displayed results up to date, which often seems like a bottleneck.

I agree that making event org simpler and more robust would be good. I'm appalled at the event software that I so often see used, and how fragile and unintelligible it seems. Trying to fix some problem with the results is normally a case of several people standing around saying "well, try this. OK, try closing that and reopening it. OK, try this other thing."
Mar 25, 2016 3:02 AM # 
Agree with J-J about the green X's being too light. Once I was standing next to a fallen tree, couldn't see any green X near where I thought I was, fortunately found the flag 15m away. Only later did I see that the green X was there on the map, right where I thought I was. That needs to be fixed. I will pass that information on.
Mar 25, 2016 3:46 AM # 
High tech results displays work great if you have Ed/Valerie/whoever did it up in Ottawa willing to put in a substantial amount of volunteer time to get it working (and even the people who get paid to do results are putting in a lot of unpaid effort ahead of time to develop the system). If not, cards on horizontal strings is a traditional method that works well. You can have results for each runner up within a minute or two of when downloading, printed nice and big, spread out for lots of people to peruse, rather than having to wait until there are enough additional finishers to warrant printing a new set of sheets. The worst (which is not what happened at this meet) is to post the sheets in one vertical strip, so that only two people can look at the results at a time.
Mar 25, 2016 2:16 PM # 
So what I read here, and as an engineer it was a rule I held to when designing equipment for everyone to use, is you need a simple to set up and robust against failure system.
As for the map layout problems, DW us on the right track, get everyone educated on what the standards and expectations are.
Mar 26, 2016 1:05 AM # 
The British O' Federation has a short guide on map layout that is worth a look:
Mar 26, 2016 1:19 AM # 
Very interesting Spike! That guide was a lot better than I was anticipating! That said I'm rather disappointed in the light green heavy map layouts throughout... Because of the prominence of the exact same shade of green in the maps, the green becomes overpowering and takes the eye away from the map itself which is where it should be....
Mar 26, 2016 4:57 AM # 
"Looks pretty" can be different from "optimal for orienteering". The referenced guide seems to prefer north lines that extwnd only a couple of millimeters beyond the map proper. (One reason given is to use the space for logos. ) However, for orienteering, it's useful to have the north lines extend one compass housing beyond the edge of the map. I think that one should have a goal of what one is trying to optimize for. If it's for maximum beauty to non orienteers, that's OK. But if it's for orienteers' benefit foremost, then maybe one chooses differently. Personally, I think that some balance of the two goals is probably best, and not the balance that the guide sets.
Mar 26, 2016 6:07 AM # 
None of the maps in that guide have control descriptions printed with them. Once you add those, the layout goes out the window.
Mar 27, 2016 1:11 AM # 
All you need to do is design the layout with space for control descriptions from the outset. After all, it's not like they are supposed to be an afterthought. It really isn't that hard.
Mar 27, 2016 1:59 AM # 
That works unless you're doing custom cropping for each course. In that situation, the legend may get cut off. Not a big deal for advanced course maps at an A-meet, but WYO should always have them, and likewise local meet maps, where you might have relative newcomers. Morgan Territory apparently does have a legend way over on the west side, but it basically got cropped away. Another option is universal legends, either enclosed with the map, in the registration packet (though there's a movement away from that), or on the registration web page.
Mar 27, 2016 2:05 AM # 
Custom cropping really is the source of most of these design problems. Once everyone is empowered to do something they may not be qualified to do (but think they are), you end up in an ugly place.
Mar 27, 2016 2:11 AM # 
While we're on the subject of criticism (this thread having been hijacked), there was one significant shortcoming last weekend in my mind: the fence on the way to control #1 (for all advanced courses except Brown Y). This was a serious fence. Five strands of tight barbed wire, very expertly built, with no feasible crossing spots within view as far as I could see left or right. It even went through a gully, where you can usually squeeze under, but not this one. I took a look at getting under, but I didn't like the prospects, nor of squeezing through. I ended up climbing over carefully at a post, which probably would have been beyond the abilities of many people. Somehow I guess everybody got past it, but this did not seem to me to be a reasonable obstacle. I talked to one person who very nearly quit upon getting there and not knowing how to get past it. If there was a good crossing point, finding it would have been a matter of luck. Not an easy problem to solve, I'll grant you. Wooden stiles would have worked, but that would have been a bit of work to construct. I have a ladder in my garage that I think would have worked, but I'm not positive it would have been stable enough. Or moving the start, but I don't know if that would have worked because it likely would have involved some terrain that's under my cluesheet. (Would you think have thought that I would have used the word "would" so many times in one paragraph?)
Mar 27, 2016 2:33 PM # 
All Things Are Fine, My Fair Lady
Mar 27, 2016 5:16 PM # 
The fence was also on the Brown X course. I found a loose strand about half a dozen or so segments to the right of where I had arrived. Like you I couldn't squeeze under anyplace else, and unlike you, I was not eager to try to climb at a fence post.
Mar 27, 2016 5:37 PM # 
Sorry, it was Brown Y that didn't have it (now corrected above). I think it would have been really beyond the pale for the F70s and M80s. They had a control just before the fence.
Mar 27, 2016 9:06 PM # 
For anyone who does attempt to climb a fence with the metal posts that have a T-section, always put a hand on top of the post. That way, if the wire slips and you are falling or just sliding down a few inches, you won't impale your torso on the post. It's kinda important.
Mar 28, 2016 12:25 AM # 
I wasn't there but, if the wire isn't super tight, you can take one strand and hook it over the strand above. Than take the lower stand and hook it over the strand below that. Maybe that will give you some space to step through???
Mar 28, 2016 12:29 AM # 
The wire was pretty tight. I went along the fence until I found a spot I could get under by laying down flat and scooching over. The second fence encounter was a little easier but I still ended up laying on the ground to get past it.
Mar 28, 2016 1:33 AM # 
Crossing barbed wire fences, some of them tight, some of them loose and tumbling, is pretty key when orienteering in some parts of the world.
Mar 28, 2016 2:14 AM # 
I wasn't there but, in case the wire is super tight, my first choice would be the Fosbury Flop, which I regularly practice as an essential orienteering technique. If not, and if the ground is soft, then digging a burrow underneath would work.
Mar 28, 2016 2:26 AM # 
Back in the day, living in Colorado, I used to be good at hurdling fences. Might have been that I could have done this one if it were downhill (uphill in this case), and if so, it would have been really impressive. (The ground was pretty hard, a shovel might not have been good enough.) I've crossed a lot of fences. This was probably the toughest "crossable" fence I've encountered. As I noted, everybody seems to have found a way past it, but that doesn't mean I consider it good course setting. (The other fences I encountered on the course were okay.)
Mar 28, 2016 2:29 AM # 
I thought the results display was fine. The whole meet was fantastic. Thank you BAOC for all your work to pull it off.
Mar 28, 2016 3:32 AM # 
So, at the end of the day, how was the news coverage?
Mar 30, 2016 5:37 AM # 
I don't remember having any trouble with the fence. I went midway between two posts (where you can get the most sag), pushed down the middle wire, bent over and stepped through it, being careful not to snag my shirt on the back. You can also use your map case to push down the middle wire; or else the top one, if you want to try stepping over the entire thing.

At the WRC (Rogaine) in New Zealand a few years ago, there were so many barbed wire sheep fences in the area that they didn't bother putting any of them on the map. I don't remember them as being as high or as tight as this one, just very aggravatingly plentiful.

We spent a great deal of time at the training area beforehand practicing crossing them using a piece of split plastic hose maybe 18" long that you wrapped around a strand of wire, barbs and all, pushed down on, then stepped over. We carried the pieces of hose with us in the rogaine, but ended up not using them so much because there were just too many fences and after a while it was easier just to use our map cases.

I agree with everyone above that BAOC put on a great meet as usual. The courses I did were challenging but fun. Thank you, BAOC, for your volunteers hard work, for high standards, and another fun three days of orienteering.

I can't say that I paid any attention to the map layout. Most IOF standard maps that I have run on in Europe never have legends printed on them, other than defining any special symbols used on the map, e.g. black x = an ant hill. (One should know the IOF standard mapping symbols/legend by heart, and review frequently, so that there are no surprises. I do agree, however, that the legend should be printed on WYO maps.))

The first thing I want to find on the map after flipping it over is the start triangle, though I will usually first check the top of the printed control description for the name of the course, e.g. "Red" or "Brown Y" to make sure I have the right map. Sometimes I will also look for the map scale/contour interval, in case I don't quite remember what the meet notes said, or if distances seem suspicious.

(The one thing I am not really fond of in map layouts, though sometimes necessary, though not the case here, is when the north lines are not aligned with the vertical edges of the map, because the map has been rotated somewhat to better fit on the paper; or if the north lines are thin blue and hard to find.)
Mar 30, 2016 11:50 AM # 
Back to the thread, you're in good company. A national championship round here, and nothing on the federation website, or AFAIK the mainstream media. Perhaps that only affects us fossils, there's probably a heap of excited chatter on grandson-of-twitter. But the map layouts were very good.

This discussion thread is closed.