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Discussion: Sportident for Thomass O-event?

in: Orienteering; General

Oct 26, 2011 5:49 PM # 
Anyone have a cheat sheet for using Sportident for a Thomass O-event?

e.g. 6 controls that must be visited in order
then N of 8 controls that can be visited in any order where N is determined by handicap and can vary from 2 to 8
then 6 controls that must be visited in order.
Oct 26, 2011 7:32 PM # 
A Thomass was done as a pre-NAOC race, in BC, back in July 2010.
Oct 26, 2011 9:06 PM # 
Wow how our little THOMASS has grown up. Now in the USA. Wow!

The THOMASS format was always meant to be a simple race so what we do is program the SI for your 12 mandatory controls and then very quickly manually check to see if a person has visited the correct number of additional 'box' controls depending on their handicap. THose extra 'punches' should show up on their SI splits.

From a course planning perspective the best way to increase 'variety' in the box portion of the course is to force runners to start and end the box at the same (central) control. This allows runners to 'break-up' more - especially if that control is central.

Have fun.
Oct 26, 2011 9:58 PM # 
@hammer: Thanks! Makes sense.

I did one in LAOC-land a year ago and when I was setting this year's GAOC schedule I thought I would give it a go for my own meet. I've been reading about it a bit - and what I've read doesn't resemble the LAOC meet so much, so I'm still figuring things out. Are there any resources out there that you would recommend? I've read some stuff on the Gators website which seems good.
Oct 26, 2011 9:59 PM # 
@hammer: Does it have to be all-caps?
Oct 26, 2011 10:08 PM # 
Pink Socks:
As someone who's trying to bring orienteering to the masses, I'd consider giving THOMASS a new name for popular consumption, one that's not so acronym-y and insider-y. I don't have any ready alternatives, though, and I would immediately veto "handicap-o".
Oct 26, 2011 10:13 PM # 
Yeah I actually requested the BC folks not use the term THOMASS. I mean that is our series man and from the founders (myself, Dave Donaldson who ran the US Champs this past weekend, and Johan Hoegberg) it is totally inside'y and acronym'y. It was meant as a training race and it was never expected to catch on but given how easy it is to organize why shouldn't it!

It is an orienteering course with a handicap system.

Here is how a similar system is marketed in road running here in Ontario

I started to work on a system where the handicap is not static and that it changes like in golf after I read a great article by AZ about how golf is better than O.

The idea was 'can you beat your handicap'. The idea being instead of people racing head-to-head like can be done, instead come up with a 'par time' for the race. If you are faster than that time you 'beat your handicap'.
Oct 26, 2011 11:40 PM # 
I am pretty sure THOMASS stands for Toronto Hamilton Oakville Mississauga Awesome Snow Series. So, it doesn't make sense for somewhere in BC or the US to be called that.

I would be the first to support how great this format is. Because of the mass start element, it allows fit people without much nav experience to be competitive relatively quickly without enduring the frustration and the standing around in utter confusion that occurs with traditional O courses. I can honestly say THOMASS is the reason I am an orienteer today.
Oct 27, 2011 2:00 AM # 
I can honestly say THOMASS is the reason I am an orienteer today.

Oct 27, 2011 3:09 AM # 
I proposed a new acronym

the handicap orienteering method and scoring

if you have never seen the Thomas the
orienteer video you gotta!
Oct 27, 2011 6:17 PM # 
It takes good planning to set a course in such a way that you get both genders and a variety of ages in the top ten. It's actually a fun challenge! There have been a number of Thomass events where the male elites or female masters were shut out of the top positions and with 20/20 hindsight, it's usually easy to see why.

A common mistake by a new Thomass course setter is making the Thomass Box too small. The optional controls level the playing field for different ages and genders. If everyone is visiting 12 mandatory controls then there needs to be a *lot* of extra distance in the Box to even things out between faster and slower competitors.

We've had decent success using running speed factors obtained from a masters athletics organization. For example, a fit 50-year-old woman runs about 60% as fast as a fit 25-year-old man, thus the distance she runs should be about 60% of the distance that the young man would run. (We assume similar nav ability.) Naturally, it's not as simple as that. If we make the young men scramble up a steep hill or travel through thick forest, then their distance doesn't have to be quite that much longer to even things out. Phatty developed an Excel spreadsheet that works with our handicap system. I'm sure he'd be happy to share it if you contact him. Jim Waddington (aka Hammer's Dad) is also really good at this.
Oct 27, 2011 7:23 PM # 
As an example, the THOMASS Chase courses have been designed for this mid December. The course is 2.8 or 2.9km. All participants must get at least one CP in the box which would add .4km to the distance so the high handicappers are running 3.2km while the elites will and run about 5.7km.

In our THOMASS Chase race last year we had seven different categories represented in the top ten! (W12, W14, W45, M12, M Elite, M35, M45). I'm not sure what the record is for different categories in the top 10. I don't think we have ever achieved 10 different categories but anything over 5 or 6 is a good success!
Oct 27, 2011 7:27 PM # 
Last year's THOMASS Chase course.
Feb 1, 2012 2:51 AM # 
Uncle JiM:
Does this qualify as a THOMASS
Feb 1, 2012 6:35 AM # 
It sounds like all competitors chose 5 of 7 controls, which would not be a Thomass-style race. If 70-year-old women could choose 1 of 7 controls, and elite males had to do 6 of 7 controls, that would be more like a Thomass event.

This map only shows one leg of a race that presumably included a dozen controls or more. It is unlikely that this course would produce the desired Thomass mass finish since there isn't enough "map area" dedicated to leveling the playing field for competitors of different age/gender. Chances are good that the elites would be back in the lead after a few more controls, then they'd hold it till the end.
Feb 1, 2012 10:37 PM # 
How close do THOMASS course planners get to the ideal mass finish? I have been trying for years with time handicapped events and it rarely happens. The more challenging the navigation, the less likely is the desired outcome. Orienteers have much more variability in their performances than runners not having to navigate.
Feb 3, 2012 7:06 PM # 
Not every Thomass course planner does detailed analysis of the different handicaps, but even the ones who do have to rely on an element of luck - similar to designing a championship O event to have a particular winning time.

I'd say that the people who have done detailed analysis to design for a mass finish have done reasonably well, plus or minus a little luck (e.g. big snowfall on race day making the race course more physically challenging and thus favouring stronger people).

We try to design the course so that the most competitive people (fast and accurate) within a handicap (age/gender category) should have a chance to win the race if he/she has a really good day. It's a small sport and depending on who signs up for a race, we may know that we don't have any handicap 3 people who are likely to challenge for the win, even on their best day. Just because there are no people in the top 10 with handicap 3 doesn't mean that the course wasn't designed so that the best handicap 3 racers couldn't have completed the course in that time. It just means that they didn't attend - or they did attend and made errors.

I guess the key is that handicapped races should be done primarily for fun since there is no way they can be perfect. In southern Ontario, our Thomass races are part of a multiple race series where only our best races count in the points standings, so if there was a race that did not favour our handicap, we have a chance to make up for it on another day.
Feb 3, 2012 8:23 PM # 
I think another key factor, which Invis touched on is the technical difficulty of the map. I would call any of the maps I've done Thomass' on in Ontario very demanding, so the main function of the course setter is to get the correct ratio of course lengths for each handicap (I believe the general rule of thumb is that the course length for 0 handicap be double that of a 6 handicap).
I'd say you'd have the most luck getting a mass finish in Bendigo on an easier, gentle spur/gully map than any of that mining stuff. The problem then becomes finding enough control locations the right distance apart in the box to get the course length ratios right.
Feb 4, 2012 3:32 AM # 
Do Thomass's have interval or mass start? How do you handle interval starts if there is a biggish field (say 60+), which is likely even in a small competition given that all classes are essentially doing the same course. Is a one-minute interval too small? Or do you start one from each age class per interval and hope that the speed/ability differential will separate them? That would probably require a longish first leg.

Could you use a mass start with some forking in the first mandatory box?
Feb 4, 2012 5:12 AM # 
Typically a mass start although sometimes the field is spread out a little by starting different handicap categories at a short interval (30-60 seconds). Once competitors get to the Thomass Box, people go in different directions because (a) they're doing a different number of controls, and (b) they can do the controls in any order. At our event last weekend, we started with a Thomass Box so competitors headed for 4 different controls off the start. (The first box had 3 controls.)

The mass start is one reason that Thomass is promoted as a fun race vs. a serious, competitive navigation race - although we still get some of southern Ontario's top navigators running as hard as they can!
Feb 4, 2012 11:06 PM # 
The best way to utilize a box and slowly clubs are doing it this way is to have a checkpoint in the middle of the box. Then people run box but are forced to return to the checkpoint they went to before the box. This increases the number of options that the order the box checkpoints are taken in. It also increases strategy.

One of the reasons I started this race format in southern Ontario was to provide a way to make the top athletes push harder to win a race. Because there are so many age groups that have a chance of winning it increases competition.

We generally use mass starts because the races are usually in winter with snow on the ground. that is the fairest way to do a race with snow. However, I think this format would also be a really fun (and challenging) interval start format.
Feb 4, 2012 11:16 PM # 
"was to provide a way to make the top athletes push harder to win a race
The local Ironman is base don a similar philosophy. It is interval starts with start times designed in theory so that everyone has a chance to win if they run above themselves. Everyone realises that the handicapper thinks you can catch the person in front of you by race end, and that the person behind you should be able to catch you by race end. There are three or four races, each about 3 kilometres. Some of the national representative runners who have competed report their highest average heart rate for the year.
Feb 4, 2012 11:20 PM # 
GHO used to have their club championships done this way. All participants were seeded according to how they had raced in the autumn. The organizer determined their average min/km. Worst went out first, best out last and first into the finish won. One year I think 75% of the participants punched the 2nd last control about 400m from the finish together. It almost worked for that 'mass finish'. GHO now calls our THOMASS race 'The Chase' because of this old club champs format.
Feb 6, 2012 4:11 PM # 
With the numbers of THOMASS participants increasing in recent years, more effort is needed to spread out runners early in the course so that you don't get one long line of runners following one another. For the THOMASS course I set last month I used two complete 6 control boxes. The first, near the beginning, was more of a park sprint level of difficulty for the purpose of spreading out the field before getting to the more interesting orienteering. The second box was more technical, once runners had been spread out.

I was very lucky in the way the handicapping worked out because I didn't measure anything on the course after the ribboned run at the beginning - I just kept on eyeballing the map as a whole while picking control locations. 3 different handicaps finished within 25 seconds at the top of the standings, and the 8 first finishers included runners with handicaps 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4. The first 5 handicapper finished 13th, but only a few runners had a 5 handicap, and no one had a 6 handicap. I also targeted a 50 minute winning time and the first runner finished in 49:00. (One of the original THOMASS philosophies is that course setting was not to take too much time.)

One year, when I thought the course otherwise didn't have enough distance for the elites, I added an extra control at the beginning for anyone ranked in the top 10 nationally, either male or female. My recollection is that the first finisher that year was the 11th ranked Canadian male. One benefit of that extra control is that a fast runner couldn't just follow a top 10 ranked orienteer from the start.

One of the fun aspects of being a THOMASS course setter is that you're allowed to make up your own rules within the THOMASS format.
Feb 6, 2012 8:07 PM # 
I don't think there is one best way to design a Thomass-style handicapped race course. Different maps and terrain lend themselves to using the handicap in different ways. When returning to a map that has been used before, it is more interesting to do things differently from the previous Thomass held at that location.

The key is to avoid confusing participants with things like, "First, run to the control that equals your handicap number plus 1. Then for the first box, divide your handicap by two and if it is not a whole number, round up, then skip that many controls, then in the second box, take the square root of..." I'm not exaggerating as much as you may think but luckily it's been quite awhile since I've been to one of those events.

Note that when we talk about a "mass finish", we are not aiming to have 70 racers cross the finish line at the same time. The mass finish - when it occurs - involves the subset of racers who had a great race within their age/gender category, and also within the other age/gender categories that have the same handicap.

An individual handicapping system would work differently but the Thomass handicap system gives (for example) every man aged 65-74 the same advantage in the race, with the idea that someone like PG should be able to win overall if he races well. People within the same age/gender category who do not normally beat PG are just as unlikely to finish ahead of him in a Thomass event as they are in the North American Champs. So the "mass finish" is still a mass finish of the best competitors representing different ages/genders/handicaps. And if top competitors with a particular handicap do not participate or make an error, it is unlikely that anyone with that handicap will be represented in the "mass finish".
Feb 6, 2012 10:16 PM # 
BAOC is planning to have a THOMASS style course at our Point Pinole meet April 1. It sounds like fun. I agree that the name is clumsy. How about simply calling it a Canadian Chase? We have the Eastern Massachusetts Rules Score-O (a specific number of controls in any order); motala, farsta, and hagaby are all named after places.
Feb 6, 2012 10:24 PM # 
If you want to see some race courses I've worked on, e-mail me and I'd be happy to send a few examples.
Feb 6, 2012 11:46 PM # 
"Canadian" would be excessively broad geographical coverage. Looking at your Mass. example, perhaps something more like "Southern Ontario Handicapped Orienteering".
Feb 7, 2012 12:05 AM # 
SOHO? That might give people the wrong idea.
Feb 7, 2012 1:11 AM # 
Eastern Massachusetts Rules Score-O (a specific number of controls in any order

Ahem. That should read Western Mass Rules.
Feb 7, 2012 1:36 AM # 
Nooooo! Pink Socks! You've got to be more careful spouting off the verboten phrases. It appears that you have already set a dangerous ball in motion...
Feb 7, 2012 1:43 AM # 
Pink Socks:
Wait, what did I do exactly?
Feb 7, 2012 2:06 AM # 
Once I saw your pre-vetoed title, I knew it was just a matter of time before people started using that phrase. It looked to enticing for an orienteer to resist. It appears we are just inches away from the precipice :-)
Feb 7, 2012 2:16 AM # 
Pink Socks:
Oh wow, I did comment on this thread.... back in October!
Feb 7, 2012 7:02 AM # 
Hah, I didn't even notice this was a resuscitated thread! Back in Oct, I was too busy to check in with Attackpoint much.
Feb 8, 2012 3:03 PM # 
I was hoping to find some examples of THOMASS event maps and compare the splits of runners in different classes. However I can't find any THOMASS events on the OC Routegadget page, and none of the Ontario clubs which run the THOMASS series seems to have a Routegadget page, or to publish splits.

On the sample posted by Hammer above it's not clear where the box begins and ends. Also, the course looks way too hard for 12 year-olds, even for 14 year-olds.
Feb 8, 2012 3:25 PM # 
Results from the last GHO Thomass with links to splits and maps.
Go to the individual Ontario club page and you'll be able to find more results and splits. Some pages are better organised than others. Stars and TOC results pages are easy to find.
My DOMA has a handful of Thomass courses on there.

As for the course, I guess Ontario juniors are just better than West Australians. They have better coaches.
Feb 8, 2012 3:58 PM # 
On the link that Patrick provided the race starts with the sprint map. Runners followed a marked route to the start triangle. CP1 marked the start and end of the box (it has a box instead of circle to designate this). Participants then switched to one of two maps. Participants 14 and under ran on the ARK Chase map while adults ran the Full Chase map. In each case CP4 was the start/end of the box on the 2nd map and the box was common to both sets of participants. 14 year olds just had to get one of those box checkpoints. Hope that clarifies things...and yes we also likely have better coaches.
Feb 8, 2012 4:09 PM # 
I will try to pull together all of the THOMASS courses that GHO has organized in the last few years. We don't use RG that much but most of our results are on winsplits

2011 is here
Jan 7, 2018 4:01 PM # 
Any tips for setting the course using normal course setting software? How do people usually set it up? Should I set one long course, obliterate the lines in the box, and custom number/letter everything?
Jan 7, 2018 6:27 PM # 
I make the box checkpoints a score-o course and export the course. Import that course on to a copy of the map file and format as desired and use that as the background map. Then set the common required course on top of that. Format adding notes between the checkpoints for the boxes on the descriptions.

Here is this if helpful for handicap ratio lengths. Use and tweak by your experience, save copy and yellow cells inputs.
Jan 9, 2018 7:38 AM # 
That spreadsheet would be helpful. We generally use different ratios. Handicap 6 (e.g. 65 year old woman) runs half as far as Handicap 0 (e.g. 25 year old man).
Jan 26, 2018 11:38 PM # 
Since 2012 I have hosted three Thomass style events in Florida. They are now called the Navi-Gator. I think folks should just give the event a regional name and orienteering insiders can refer to it amongst each other as a Thomass.
Fun for the participants but when you are a crew of one they are hard to stage.

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