Discussion: Wide Route Choices
in: Orienteering; General;
While studying some of the route choices of people for Easter 2012 in Australia I came across a great example of why straight is not always best. My orienteering improved out of sight when I was encouraged by Rob Plowright to work backwards from the control, choose my attack feature (something I could find easily, run to fast and reduce the tricky navigation needed to find the control - reduce risk). This approach often resulted in wide route choices being far better. In some cases so wide that most don't even see it. From Easter I found This!
M17 to 20 Course 2. By comparing the route taken by Matt Hill to that of the winner from 2 to 3 it shows that Matt was significantly quicker than all others on the same course. Very smart by Matt.
The same principle could have applied to my own course 11. The leg from 2 to 3 proved to be the difference in the result for the winners in M55. My daughter, who I coach and nag continually about looking for wider, easier choices took one look at the course and said "why didn't you go north to the track, run around the hill and come into it from the other side". Der!! It would have been as fast, or in my case much faster and made a leg I hesitated on, a lot, into an easy leg.
The same principle applied to the course 3. W21E. Long leg from 8 to 9. My daughter applied this approach, went south to the track and then ran about half the leg on the track before working her way into the control. This gave her the fastest split on the leg. I do wish our Elite women would post their tracks. I only know which way they went from discussions with the athletes. To be fair in this case the straight option turned out to be much greener than the map indicated. However the wide route choice made the control easier to find and reduced the amount of risk significantly.
If only I could convince more to think this way.
I'd like to see a split time for heading right and going through the 2 obvious saddles and across the top of the stream as an attackpoint. Avoids lots of climb and green without going quite so wide...
Agreed, that was the way I thought when I looked at that leg at Easter.
In general I'm not a fan of the big wide road run being the fastest by a clear margin. It happens a lot and makes for boring courses, particularly where the road run goes around intricate detail e.g. some of the Aussie granite maps. Hint for people who run a course I set: I try and make the technical straightish route choice the fastest so that those who navigate well get the bonus.
Not enough people use Routegadget, particularly elites. What can be done to encourage more post-race analysis in Australia? What about 3DRerun
In general I'm not a fan of the big wide road run being the fastest by a clear margin.
that usuaｌｌｙ happens because course setters, like many orienteers, don't realise how much quicker running a wide route choice can be.
Matt was significantly quicker than all others on the same course.
Except for the two who were over a minute faster...
Fletch - that's the way I went on a pretty similar leg, although my execution wasn't great. Don't think it was a brilliant option, though.
Graeme - the two who did faster splits are much faster runners than Matt (who is normally midfield at best), and I wouldn't mind betting they went the road too.
In M21E, the wide route on the very long leg (e.g. Bruce Arthur's GPS) was almost the same as straight - Shep went straight, Simon wide, and they were within seconds of each other.
Go around on a track or go straight.... it ALL depends on what the terrain is like.
2-3 on Course 2, just comparing the routes
Straight: 336 with 40m climb
Track: 564 with 35m climb
So is your running speed in terrain 167% of your track speed?
eg 4:00min/k V 6:40min/k
If Oliver didn't get stuck in the green (was the green mapped right?), he would have smoked the leg.
If the forest is runnable, why bother go around? Your only running further than needed
Sorry graeme, I am humbled and crushed!!
I do know that Max took the same track option as Matt and he was the fastest.
The down side for Max was the long leg. He was so determined to run tracks that he ran all the way around on the track to where it crossed the watercourse on the western edge of the map. Now that was a bit too wide.
However, he made no mistakes and came second on the day. On the other 2 days of Easter he was much further down the field.
Yes, I would agree that generally a route choice is bad if the easy orienteering way is the faster way. The trickier and straighter route choice should always be better for the good navigators. People should be rewarded for choosing the technical option.
I think the right hand route choice would be the best on the M20 leg there. If Todd Neve had stayed a little lower at the start of the leg and gone up through the first re-entrant, and then followed the white, I think that would be the optimum routechoice. Unless this forest is really bad?
Funny that you picked that day and that event:
Look at leg 2-3 on course 7.
By the time you get to 2, you know that the white forest is slow, never mind the green.
What about the route round the tracks to the S ?
(this is a trick question - anyone who ran the course will know at least half of the answer).
Explanation?? Looks feasible on the map.
As a course setter, I have philosophical problems with always making the direct "navigation" route best. Even when I move the start and finish of a leg to where I can't decide which way is best---I think it means the choice is meaningless: Either way should be be about the same time. I prefer setting long legs with so many options I can't test them all. That way, I don't know which way is best. And if I don't know, hopefully the competitors will have a tough choice to make.
Doh O-ing, you gave it away.
Freemo found the second track turnoff (and in retrospect it was one that I had a look at, but really indistinct before I got frustrated and ran off the map :) )
Was the forest really that bad? I mean, it's a downhill leg, and you're choosing to go around...? Although the path not being there seems ridiculous.
Under 1km, mostly downhill and the winner (Jock) took 8:36 for the straight route. It was fairly bad.
"Yes, I would agree that generally a route choice is bad if the easy orienteering way is the faster way. The trickier and straighter route choice should always be better for the good navigators. "
If all course setters all would follow that opinion, that would render route choices meaningless. Where's the choice in the route choice if you know beforehand that the straighter route will be the faster one?
In my opinion, using that as a guideline for setting route choice legs would take an interesting element away from orienteering.
I was close enough to some M21 Elites at the end of their race to hear some of the conversation about this leg. Comments like going straighter but feeling that those demands left me physically shattered later in the course (it seems the poorly mapped vegetation encountered didn't help). Others saying they didn't wish to physically trash themselves, in the heat, too early in the course. Yet some others wondering if the extra distance going around ultimately came back to bite them later on in this long distance race. Some saying going around kept it simple.
I guess I'm challenging the opinions of ColmM, Oing and others of a similar opinion a little as well. The essence of route choice is all about the risk/reward, doing what you know will work best for you, and also the associated strategic considerations that might go into tackling a long distance race, in this instance over 15km in 30 degree heat by the time the M21E runners got to start.
Oooh a challenge. How unusual. In fact I agree with StK66 and cedarcreek, I think. Route choice is all about the particular leg and circumstance (early in the course, late etc). What I think I said in the previous post is that I don't like it when the wide road/track route avoids all the detail and gets a big time bonus. That doesn't apply to the Easter event Hawk08 posted - I thought those courses were well set and the choices were very interesting (I didn't run it so can't comment on terrain or map accuracy). And of course route choice is fundamental to various types of O (sprint, MTBO, SkiO, anything in Switzerland). Here is an example of what I'm talking about:
This is in fact a well set leg; I'm just not in agreement with giving a 2-5 minute bonus to those clever enough (not me obviously) to see that climbing north from the control gave you a downhill run to a track you couldn't miss, a downhill run on a track to an obvious bend and an easy attackpoiint into the flag. And look at all that detail basically wasted! Although there was lots more later on.
Nice leg. Most of my route choice failings on courses involve failures to perceive the wide option such as above. If I fail to see it i deserve a time penalty. Seems a fair ploy by the course setter to me, and two minutes an appropriate penalty. The extra three minutes of that 2-5 minute penalty you cite must be for failure to navigate the direct leg accurately? Surely that is a further part of the risk the competitor is choosing (or not choosing). It would be obvious to a competitor that the next few controls of the course are highly technical so saving the brain might also be part of the equation to consider while on the course. I'd be retrospectively happy to be given that leg to run although I may well not understand it during the race.
I think the best courses have a mix of best routes - sometimes the straight route is best, sometimes the around on the road is best, sometimes sidehilling is better sometimes not, etc. If the same solution is best for every leg then once you realise that it's no longer much of a route choice is it?
Ideally you should be rewarded for "solving the puzzle" as it were of finding the best route. On longs especially as route choice is primarily what that discipline is about as opposed to the middle where it's primarily about technical navigation.
The best long legs should be such that the best route is hard to find but once you find it it is obviously fastest. You should reward people for finding it.
"On longs especially as route choice is primarily what that discipline is about"
OK, once again as robplow will no doubt point out, I disagree with this concept which is embedded in the IOF Rules (Appendix 6, 3.1):
The format emphasises route choices and navigation in rough, demanding terrain, preferably hilly. The control is the end-point of a long leg with
demanding route choice, and is not necessarily in itself difficult to find
I think this "profile" is written poorly and fails to get across what a Long course should be all about. I'm thinking back to "Classic" courses like the World Championships used to have which were long and difficult. Yes you had to choose which way to go but it wasn't between a big wide road and straightish - there were lots of decisions to be made along the way.
Eoin. I wouldn't disagree with your preferences. They are also desirable. Its a bit like betting games. You can play lots of smaller bets reinvesting the winnings (classic format), or you can gamble one big bet (like the example above). I'd like to think a course had a mix of both characteristics. With the shift from classic to long format, there should be more scope to achieve both in elite classes. But in the age class I run, course setters will have to choose one or the other more often than not.
I thought the challenge was in finding the control. That's generally my failing anyway.
OK, I implied earlier that the wide routechoice should always be worse, I'm also going to retract that comment. But the leg where there is an obvious wide routechoice and it benefits the runner becomes silly, as everyone takes it, and it renders the routechoice aspect pointless, and the navigation too, as you're just running along a road. Ideally, yes, a routechoice should have many different options, with possibilities to mix options through different sections of the leg. But it is specific to the leg and race.
I also agree with Eoin, in that, I don't think Longs should be predominantly about long easy routechoice legs. It should still be technical navigation. It's going to be easier anyway, because you're navigating at a slower pace than a middle, so there is no need to make it technically any easier.
I agree with O-ing that the IOF Rule is badly worded, but all they need to do is leave out the second sentence. The first sentence 'emphasises route choice AND navigation' (my capitals) indicates that wide track routes in themselves do not provide good long distance orienteering.
Regarding O-ing's example (which is from the WMOC 2002) a couple of points:
Firstly, quite a few people may have thought they were not 'clever' enough to negotiate Kooyoora's rocks on the straight routes, and noticed that control 3 is only 50m and 2 contours from the saddle. My guess is that it is 'alertness' not 'cleverness' that is in play, especially so early in a championship long course.
Second, running downhill on Kooyoora's slopes is not easy!
Third - how many people after the easy track run failed to switch back on for the very difficult legs in less well-defined terrain North of number 5 and subsequently lost all the time they'd gained? (My course had the same control, and I lost 3 minutes at the next one.)
Fourth, O-ing appears to have executed his route from 3-4 particularly well, once he found the gully leading to the correct saddle. Perhaps (as his ? marks indicate) the first part of his route was uncertain and slower than it need have been, and the time difference against the track route should not have been as great.
OK, once again as robplow will no doubt point out, I disagree with this concept which is embedded in the IOF Rules (Appendix 6, 3.1):
What are you presuming I will say Eoin???? Are you predicting I will just automatically defend everything in the IOF rules?
Actually i am not a great fan of the IOF discipline guidelines. I think they are oversimpliistic. Obviously a long course has more scope for long route choice legs and a middle should be more focused on fine navigation but I expect a good middle to have some route choice as well and a good long should test fine navigation. But really I don't see a need for the discipline descriptions - the fact of the different wining times is enough. The type of courses you can set is very much more dependent on the terrain than the discipline. My approach to course setting doesn't vary much according the discipline - it is all about best utilisation of the terrain, testing a variety of skills, etc
It is surprising how little is written about route choice in books about o technique and how little study has been done. But If you are interested in this topic in the 70's Eystein (?) Weltzein (then Norwegian national team member, father of current Norwegian team member Audun Weltzein) did a study of route choice (for a masters or PhD or something) and published a book on it. It's called 'Veivalg' and I think the Norwegian Federation still sells it. The maps look a bit dated - but the basic conclusions still hold up well. - well worth a read - but you need to be able to read Norwegian.
I would be interested if anyone knows of anything else written on this topic (in any language).
Also if you want a account of tactical thinking about route choice (taking physically easy route choices early to save energy) Kent Olsson's account of his gold medal race at WOC 87 in France is worth reading. He wrote a book about his career and WOC is a chapter in that. I can't remember the name of the book and I think it was only in Swedish - but some chapters were translated and published in Orienteering Today magazine a few years back.
Scientific Journal of Orienteering (IOF website, Resources page) has published a number of articles about route choice.
This discussion thread is closed.