Discussion: need some mentoring/advice
in: Orienteering; Training & Technique;
My orienteering events have been barely ok to disastrous in the last year or two. (more the latter). I'll get all keyed up, go out like a rocket, get anaerobic, make some really big mistake and then settle down and become more methodical when its too late for a good result.
I know the answer is probably to force myself to slow down at the beginning, or maybe to go for a long warmup with some imaginary controls before the race but I have a real hard time doing that, because I keep doing the same thing over and over. Any suggestions?
One technological solution is to get an HRM. Set the max HR alarm to beep above a certain threshold. When you hear the beeping, slow down until the alarm stops. Keep your pace there.
Not the most aesthetic solution for many reasons, but it does work.
20 minute warm up with a friend or two. Make a habit of it. Or go training three times a week on a map.
A warmup is good but I'd mainly suggest getting out on maps. This may mean treating some local races as training, i.e. not trying to race.
If you are making mistakes, you will benefit from technique practice. Most likely you have weaknesses in your skills that increase your risk of time-loss, and they only sometimes cause big problems. And it's also likely that your intended methods are not really habits yet, so you forget them under pressure.
My coach told me to repeat "I will walk to the first control" over and over in my head before the start. I don't actually walk to the first control but I go slow enough that I wouldn't gain anything by going slower. I think it's worth giving up a little bit of time on the first control to set the right tone for the rest of the race. Usually when I do this I actually have a perfectly respectable split, I just was more focused on being in control.
This may seem silly, but investing in a gps watch might help you analyse your mistakes. The forerunner 205 is sold a bit over a hundred, and combining it with Quick Route, it will be easier to see what went wrong, and figure out what insentives you should take to avoid those mistakes in the future.
There are people who have been surprised on how close they actually were to the control before suddenly doing a 90 degree turn or similar (often inside the circle). And certainly helps boost orienteering confidence which is important to run well.
I think the next level would be running with a head-cam as well, but I havent tried that, so I cant make that case.
Second on the GPS - it is very interesting to see where you actually did go vs where you thought you went. That gets to the root of "why did I end up here"?
Also - team up with someone else. You follow them once, have them follow you once. After each, the follower can suggest what might have gone on, or where different decisions might have been made. I've also enjoyed seeing the route choices the other makes. Use a somewhat old map that the follower brings, and call out "control should be here" - no prep required. ((And hope you don't hear "No, it's not...))
I've done this a couple times with good success. It can be helpful for both, and always makes for a nice morning out in the woods for training anyway.
I like ndobbs suggestion to get out on more maps. My guess is that the only orienteering you do is at events. Instead, try practicing by drawing a short course on a map and then run around to the points. Do this at least once but preferable 2-3 times per week for 3-4 weeks before your next event and I think you'll see it will make a huge difference.
You need to break the terrain down into pieces you can run really hard thru, and pieces you can't run really hard thru. With so much going on at the start, it seems likely that you have not identified the first piece you can run really hard thru before doing so.
Contrary to the advice of walking to the first control, I would walk (or stand still) until you have identified the first piece you can run really hard thru. Perhaps it will take you 30 seconds to identify this piece, but with a little practice, it should only take a second or less eventually. Even if it takes 10 seconds, I still think you make profit over walking to the first control.
But, whatever you do, don't run really hard thru terrain for which you haven''t identified as safe to do so, even if it takes 5 minutes.
Um, I don't actually walk to the first control. I just use that phrase as a reminder to be a bit more in control at the start to fight the impulse to just take off.
Also, I would say that the first control is when you set the tone for the rest of the race. Staying in control by moving a bit slower but continuously lets you get into a good flow, compared to stopping and thinking, then tearing off.
When teaching and working with the juniors we encourage them to take it slow to the first control like Carol mentioned to set the tone and get use to the mapping style of the mapper. Also we encourage them to check their compass for north before starting so that they know which way to turn their map at the start, it saves a little time and hopefully prevents doing a 180 out of the start. Also if you can find someone to shadow you to see how you are navigating it could be very helpful, they could see a very simple mistake that you are making continually that could really mess you up. We do this with the juniors at training camps. After shadowing there is a discussion between the two with suggestions for improvement and encouragement on what they are doing correctly. Lastly get on as many maps as often as possible. even if there is only 1 or 2 maps close to where you live go there as often as possible to train and run. Also use local events as trainings for A events. Good luck!
Picking up controls after the meet is another thing that can help you as well as to help the meet organizers. I found that that was very helpful when I was starting. I had been to the control once and now I could look at the route I took as I was going slower. I also allowed me to get to one control and then, perhaps, to do a shorter leg to a control near it. Because I was tired from my course, I also was not going to run fast (there was no timing of my "course") so I spent more time thinking about my route and thinking about the map.
When I was just starting to learn O, I went to a seminar given by Al Smith. He told us to try to make the first control into a Yellow Course control. This means going out of your way to run trails or other linear features. I think this works because you can get used to the map at a time when the risk of an error is low. Can't do it all the time but I always have this in my head at the start line.
Some great suggestions, thanks. Time spent in the woods is sporadically present, but not usually at speed...the remarks point out the need to practice at race speed to race better, just as we would do intervals to run faster. And to treat the thought process as a major muscle that needs to be trained instead of just taken for granted, the tendency is to want to intuit everything.
I had the very same problem. I would get all keyed up. I would show up as soon as registration opened and anxiously await the first starts. That anxiety would build as more and more people showed up and rush to register and get ready.
My solution was to show up just before registration closed. The registrars were relaxed, most people were out on the course. Those that were back may be discussing the course. But most of that prerace rush and tension was gone. The atmosphere was more relaxed, thus I was too.
This is to some extent event dependent, but I do it when I can, and this calms me, and surprisingly helps at events where I cannot practice this method.
I see it as analogous to being stuck in a conference with a long winded speaker who won't shut up, delaying lunch and everyone is hungry. Compared with coming to a conference as lunch is almost over and browsing on morsels.
It is all about mind set for me.
I agree that it is about the mind set. Though I'm not quite sure the "coming at the last minute" is the best way ;-) For some people this could increase the stress.
My technique for handling the first control well is to use both a physical and a mental warm up. The mental preparation begins usually the night before when I answer a number of questions about the event - such as "what is the map scale", "who is the course planner", "what type of terrain is this", "what is the visibility like", "what features will stand out". In the hour before my start I continue the mental preparation by doing visualization - and I especially work on visualizing the first leg. I imagine a number of scenarios: flipping my map over and seeing a very short leg, seeing a long route choice leg, seeing any kind of leg I find tough.
By adding these mental warm-ups I find I usually do okay at the start of a race (and don't make my big mistakes till I get tired - usually these days after about 25 minutes ;-)
Your statement of the problem reveals that you know what's wrong. There's a lot more to be lost from making mistakes than there is to be gained from going as fast as you can. Not knowing your personality, I have to wonder whether you might benefit from not warming up, and instead making the first part of your course be the warmup, taking it at a suitable speed. If you're all revved up and hell bent for leather at the starting line, that may spell disaster for you (although some people operate very well in that mode).
it sounds counter intuitive but I think you need to do some relaxation exercises for your "warmup"
anxiety is common before races and can be good because it shows that you are ready and your body is preparing for the effort ahead. However, too much and you can't think logically which is key at the start of an O race.
I suggest you start practicing some progressive muscle relaxation. Although it involves relaxing your muscles, this kind of exercise actually forces you to focus and clears your head. Basically take 10-15 to relax all the muscles in your body by clenching and releasing in combination with deep breathing. Once you get pretty good at clenching and releasing to relax, move to just using the breathing. After that, add a key word each time you achieve a good relaxed feeling. Eventually, you will be able to achieve a nice relaxed state with just a couple of breaths and your key word. It is a very useful skill in any stressful situation, not just the start. For example, you could use it if you have just made a mistake and get flustered.
I'd second what JJ said. After my first couple years of orienteering (which were generally pretty ragged), I started racing with no warmup. It helped a lot. I wouldn't start running hard until 15-20 minutes into the course, by which time I was comfortable navigating. Since then, I've learned how to use my "warmup" to simulate those first 15-20 minutes. If it's a map (or at least mapper) that I know, I run a course in my head while I'm jogging. I do this not in a daydreamy way, but really concentrating on the map and what I should expect to be seeing. I might even carry the example map with me, but I can usually conjure it from memory. If I'm not familiar with the mapper, I just do my best with the memory of a map from relevant terrain. I arrive at the line with my head already dialed in to navigation and I'm ready to go.
Typically, there's one or two aspects of technique that I'm actively focusing on in my training. Right now, for example, I'm working on looking further ahead and trying to pick out my micro routes through the terrain from further away. Right before the start, I'll just say those things out loud and also recite any "lessons learned" from previous meets on similar terrain.
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