Discussion: Feedback Appreciated
in: 33rd West Point A Meet;
Thanks to you all for coming out to the meet - it was great to have you all.
If you have any comments for us on anything we can do to improve the meet (or anything you particularly liked) - from organizational aspects all the way to the courses - please post it up here. Your comments play a big role in helping us to evaluate the meet and begin to make decisions and changes for next year, as well as how we train up the guys who will be taking over these jobs in the next few years.
There were many things I liked this weekend, but the best of those was the appropriate length sprint courses. I think they were much enjoyed, and definitely appreciated.
Some things I liked were the excellent course setting (especially the middle), the nice sprint venue (good mix of woods and camp) and the fact that the middle and sprint were at the same location (nice for socializing). Oh, and the perfect running weather :) My only suggestion for improvement would be to post the results on the website (or Attackpoint) the same day, if possible. Thanks for another great weekend.
I wasn't there, sadly, but I just went to look up results and they seem a bit weird. Sunday's result seem to be listing the middle results in addition to or instead of the long results.
We spoke to Hannah on Saturday and she admitted that since the cadets do not do white and yellow courses that they can be weak in things pertaining to these courses. Hear me, everyone the cadets have made GREAT strides in the white and yellow courses since my kids were on those courses years ago. But as there was a yellow runner in our group this weekend a couple of small things were noticed that could help the beginner runners. There was no information in the course notes in the packet that stated that there were streamers for beginner runners to follow. The yellow maps only had IOF symbols no english on them and I will assume that the same was true for the white maps. WIth no english (words) the white and yellow runners must know the IOF symbols to be able to know what kind of feature they are looking for and I would guess that a number of them did not know this information and so there they would not know that there were streamers for them as well. I know that the yellow runner in our group didn't know the IOF symbols and was lucky in finding the controls without this information. But that should not be the way that our beginners get through a course. So just a couple of simple suggestions for white and yellow courses. Make sure that the course setter notes in the packets have all important information for the white and yellow courses just like the other courses and yes streamers are important information. Also add the english words to the clue sheets on the maps so that the runners will know what they are looking for as well. Otherwise a great job on these courses.
I also liked the appropriate length sprint courses. There were some great route choice legs even for Brown on the long. That Turkey Mt map is really excellent.
I thought the woods were great and the courses were fun, especially the sprint. The organization seemed to be pretty smooth and all the cadets were friendly and helpful, particularly the guys at the start.
I found the quality of the maps for the middle and long did not match the precision of locations used for some of the controls. For instance, the boulders at #16 on the Blue middle show a large gap on the map, whereas in reality there was a narrow crevice between them, making the approach to the feature critical in a way which was random and not evident from the map. A number of controls were also more hidden than is really necessary or, again, warranted by the map. Far side of knoll is fine, far side of knoll behind log under blueberry bushes is questionable. There are enough features out there to pick fair control locations and still have great courses.
Speaking of friendliness of the cadets at the start, I especially commend the one who was calling out the starts today (Long). When I was there, no less than 3 people were making special requests, and one of them quite insistently. I was very impressed with the patience of the cadet, and his ability to juggle the demands placed on him.
As for the courses I thought they were excellent. I second Brendan's motion relating to control placement, though -- no need to bury controls, and locations should be clear and in areas that are well-mapped.
We were given warning about the undermapping of green on the long map; the map could definitely use some updating in that regard.
We were given warning about the undermapping of green on the long map;
...and about the rock on Bull Pond. On the next revision, it needs to be brought up to the rock-mapping standards of the Turkey Mountain map.
just a couple of simple suggestions for white and yellow courses.
Another: On Sunday's yellow, route choice to #10 appeared to be one of choosing where to cut through the woods to a wide trail. However, a nearby White leg had a gap between an indistinct trail and the wide trail filled with a streamered route. Having that streamered route on the yellow maps would have removed the random effects of choosing how to get to the wide trail.
...since cadets do not do white and yellow courses ... they can be weak in things pertaining to these courses.
While true, that problem can be solved by having a course consultant, who is somewhat familiar with the terrain.
Overall, though, a well-planned and executed event!
I missed camping/not utilizing Camp Buckner. Missed the geese honking, gliding, landing in Popolopen. Buckner has been part of the WP social O "culture" for many years. Last year, runners were able to use Round Pond for camping. RP camping area was "wide open" Saturday eve (having camped there as a guest). Maybe a source of a reasonable amount of revenue? Certainly of benefit for many competitors who like to camp. Having an outside consultant is a good idea, even if plenty of expertise w/in the club itself. Brown and orange are courses that need extra scrutiny. Control descriptions in meet packet (which has been the case) would save a lot of last minute scrambling for everyone.
Having been responsible for some truly uninspired courses on the Bull Pond / Lake Frederick map for the '79 A-meet (hey, there's a hill, let's run them up it) - courses this weekend were overall very fine.
Control placement was an issue for a few controls - having it a couple feet out from the rockface, rather than tucked into a cranny in the rockface, is preferable.
Map cases - noticed my middle map case was a nice sturdy bag (4 mil ?), while the sprint and long maps were encased in a thinner and flimsier bag (3 mil ?). Thicker bag is preferable, particulary when running in an area with thick vegetation that can easily snag and tear the map case. 3 mil is on the low end of "ok", 4 mil is much better.
Control descriptions / meet notes - Was looking through my packet for control descriptions. When I didn't find them, went through the meet notes - no mention of when/where control descriptions would be available.
Are we (OUSA clubs) moving to a "normal practice" at A-Meets of only having control descriptions available once you are into the start sequence as "that's the way it is done at WOCs and international events"? Versus having them available at the start (before you are into the start sequence boxes - gives you a bit more time to get them set up - taped, into holder), or earlier as part of the meet packet?
Green X vs Y - really liked the label on my bib number with start times for each race. However, it just listed me on Green, without specifying X or Y. Meet notes said M50, M55 and M18 were on X, but start list showed us on Y. Need that to be consistent. Also having labeled boxes at control description pickup and map pickup, i.e. "Green-Y: M-18, M-50, M-55" can reduce the likelihood of someone grabbing the wrong clue sheet or map.
I forget, but I think USMA asked to be notified about stray concertina wire. I stepped on a roll (fortunately on it's side, in relatively 'harmless' form) on the Long, on the way from Start-to-Blue #1, very close to where the purple line crosses the North/South clearing/boundary line (or perhaps up to ~30m south of that point?), near the eastern side of the overgrown clearing. It was buried in blueberry, so you might have to be within about 2-3m of it to see it.
As for the thicker-than-white vegetation on the Long map - I would say that the 'average' change to a darker shade is not quite what would justify some map updates. If, indeed, almost all of the white was light green, or vertical slash green, it would be easier to just suck it up and deal with that.
However, the fact that ~30-50% of the white woods is still really fast and beautiful to run through (at least near Blue), and the rest was thicker & slower - and that there was little way to tell in advance from the map whether you were aiming for the good or bad stuff - that was a bit frustrating, because when I was in thick 'white', I kept wondering "was my other route choice really white?"
While this map is a fairly big area to fully remap, if you just hire a mapper out for a vegetation-update, that can often be much faster & cheaper than fully redoing it - something to consider in the future.
Thanks for a great weekend!
Brown had good trail options for the two long legs - maybe a little too good, as I suspect they were faster than going straighter for most folks. Perhaps that was why I didn't get into any trouble with green. The sections of the woods I was in were fine: good visibility, not too hard to get through.
I like getting my clue descriptions in the start chute - one less thing to think about ahead of time. I think this should be standardized at A events although obviously this is something that not everyone agrees on.
Labeling the map boxes with classes instead of just courses would also be a good practice.
I really enjoyed myself this weekend - every cadet that I talked to was knowledgeable and friendly and willing to help and that goes a long way towards making a good event.
i give a +1 to wyatt's comment on white vs. light green.
......& could you get a bulldozer up there to remove the un-mapped boulders? thx.
Since the white vs green vegetation is largely blueberry and of fairly uniform density where it occurs, I wonder if one could use lidar data - last return plus 1m or so to at least rough out most of the largest/densest of the blueberry thickets as an OCAD overlay - then just get out in the woods to confirm those extensive thickets. Would be quicker than a full re-survey of the map if the lidar data were available. I'm guessing Eddie would know if this is a reasonable approach.
Thanks to all of the cadets and Col. Hendricks for another great West Point meet. All cadets were (as always) very helpful and courteous.
If you follow the OUSA rules for course design you should have great courses. Reading the guidelines is also a step in the right direction (one or the other of hose addresses "hiding" control flags as being unfair; I didn't have trouble as I circled the feature I thought it should be on until I found a flag). Please also remember to indicate "which of" whenever there are several of the same feature in the circle.
I had one or two small errors because of circles obscuring important details but it's hard to do that on every course map.
Lastly, I'd like to ask the Long course designer to post a map with his suggested "best route" for the Brown course. I avoided running way around on the roads/trails because I'm not that fast a runner anyway, and I wanted more navigation challenge. I had fun going my way, but also apparently a lot more climb than intended/advertised.
I only orienteered on the Middle, and it was tough with much of the rock missng, and I too was frustrated by the Blue #16, with the narrow gap i could not squeeze through! A remnant of the old days of mapping I guess............
The Sprint area looked really cool, I was wandering around watching competors, and those training structures were facinating.
Note to future A meet directors, read this discussion!
Other than the few controls that were a bit hidden on the Middle (couldn't see some from 5m away at the wrong angle) I enjoyed the course setting and found the cadets to be quite friendly and helpful. I especially liked the change in terrain on the last part of the Blue Long to more of a continental style. It allowed for an increase in speed when you were almost out of energy so it was a good challenge.
There was a funny moment when one of the cadets made an announcement Sunday saying they would stop serving Nutella.. and shortly thereafter he said just kidding =)
Thanks for a great well-organized event!
I first started attending the West Point weekend in the 80's and then took a decade or so off but have participated the last four years and have really enjoyed it. The variety in the courses for S, M, and L were fantastic this weekend. I had a big grin on my face on that first leg on Red on Sunday. Don't often get a leg that tough and long with no trails to cross these days. Starting at Camp Shea? brought back many great memories of running on the old Turkey Mountain map.
I really enjoyed the organization and courses and timely results. Well done.
One thing that I think would make this race even better (and perhaps organizationally simpler) would be to consider setting up a nice(r) arena. On Saturday the finish line could have been in the paved area adjacent to registration for both the middle and sprint. It would have kept people (and organizers) closer together. Imagine people watching the start, spectator controls AND finish of the sprint all adjacent to the results and the silent auction! I realize that controlling access is difficult but the atmosphere of the race is enhanced when people can relax and also view the race at the same time. The sprint on the WP campus a few years ago with that 'bowl' was perfect as was the middle that same day on the ski hill. Already looking forward to next year.
Positives: Complexity of terrain, organizational skills of the cadets, meet notes, course design, event management, first aid availability, refreshments, water on courses, presence of vendors, ability for JWOC team to sell food and hold a silent auction.
Could improve: map quality (like Wyatt and others have said, the "white" vegetation as mapped actually varied from open to quite green), conviviality (no music, chairs/tables/social spaces, colorful streamers, Vlad-like announcer, etc), suitability for beginners and A-meet newbies.
Yes that would have been really great especially on Saturday though I imagine the WP announcer would be something like 'Here comes sir followed by sir and ma'am, and another ma'am oh and her comes sir into the finish line. Oh wait here comes miss and ma'am and oh yet another sir" ;-) Americans are so polite.
I really enjoyed it.
The website was more (and excessively) geared towards regulars than newbies.
On White/Yellow, it's understood that most Cadets have little experience with that - so perhaps add this to your internal best-practices 'rule book' for how to plan future White/Yellow courses:
White courses: keep it 100% on roads, trails, or following building walls, or, if those aren't available, then use a streamered leg (or two, or more) to connect the features listed above. If you stick with that, White would be a lot closer to standard.
Yellow courses: can add linear off-trail things like Stone-walls, fences, power lines, and distinct field edges to the list of things that the course can follow. Yellow can also add legs where there is an around route that follows the above items, but where cutting through the forest to a White-level linear feature (road or trail) is a much faster route.
As examples from this year's White Middle, leg 5-6 would've needed streamers at least from the trail end, and 7-8 would've needed streamers to the road bridge (and possibly a control there too).
I would like to do a course - setting class for all cadets on West Point Team somewhere in the fall, if it can be arranged: need a class-room, may be a digital projector. Is it even doable? If there is interest, I would talk to other experienced course setters in the area to pitch in. We will all benefit at the end.
Same can be done on a maps improvement side.
That would actually be great, Greg, and definitely doable. Nolan Miles will be the overall guy in charge of course-setting next year, so he, along with COL Michael Hendricks, would be the people to get in touch with about getting that set up. I will let them know about your interest as well. I would add that some time spent with group who will do the vetting for next years A Meet would be valuable as well - a lot of the issues that you mentioned, particularly on the middle, could have been resolved had the vetter really known what to be looking out for.
Overall, it was very enjoyable. The courses I did were fun & the terrain was as I expected (and thanks for the warning about the vegetation on Sunday).
Minor: for people requesting split starts (mostly parents, I guess), give early starts to one person one day, one person the next. So, for Saturday with two races, A gets early starts for both, and on Sunday, B gets the early start. (This year, Nadim started early both mornings, I had the early start for the Sprint. This meant, besides two early morning starts for my non-morning husband, that I had a short break between races. Not a big deal, but could be improved.)
Fewer ticks. (If possible, perhaps have cans of bug spray at the start/registration.)
When there's concertina wire shown on the map, overprinting it with tiny patches of purple crosshatching doesn't make things more clear. Yes, it's a dangerous area, and yes, the concertina wire symbol might be overlooked, but the purple obscures the wire, and doesn't cover enough area to even register visually as crosshatching. It's not intended to be used for tiny patches like that.
This discussion thread is closed.