Discussion: Score O tips?
in: Orienteering; Training & Technique;
I don't usually do Score Os, but decided to to take the plunge--any tips on tactics or best practices--should I plot out my route right at the start or get my feet wet first at a close control to get some confidence? Should I be wary of high scoring controls that are on the further reaches of the course?
Run really fast to get ahead of the pack then regret your decision later on when you don't win.
Otherwise just have fun. Score O is not serious orienteering after all.
Plot a course before heading out. If you know approximately how far you can travel within the time limit, you can plan a route that will maximize your score while providing some convenient route truncation options should you need them as you make your way back to the finish. It is a Traveling Salesman Problem. Look that up.
Should I be wary of high scoring controls that are on the further reaches of the course?
Maybe. Depends on the course design, control location, difficulty and distance. Focus on maximizing your score within the allotted time. Keep your options open as you plan a good route.
Plan for a sweep of the course. You can always subtract from your plan towards the end. Don't be afraid to cut it close at the end. You'll probably make it back on time. Even if you're late a minute, an extra control will cancel out the penalty.
I strongly disagree on planning for a sweep. Don't plan for a sweep unless sweeping might be possible for you. Plan an optimistic route at the edge of your abilities. If you are a mediocre orienteer and you plan a sweep route that only an elite could finish, it will undoubtedly diminish your score.
A mediocre orienteer with good route planning can beat an elite that overreaches for a sweep and then shows up late. That is part of the fun of score-o.
You may waste time lining up to punch with many others who went to the nearest control first.
Have an idea before you start how far you can get in the terrain in the time given.
Plan a rough route of approx that distance (which you think will get you the most points) when you get the map and set off. If you see things at this stage that you might have time to get but don't need to if short of time, great. Keep an eye on the time and readjust if you don't think you'll make it back in time (or if the late penalties aren't too bad, if you squeeze an extra control in and still benefit given points vs penalties)
I love Score events, wish they got more love!
If it's a nice map and area where a regular pt-to-pt course would be fun, I'd definitely spend a minute drawing a course, because it will then be more fun, even if your route isn't optimal for getting lots of points. :-)
I plan a route, keeping in mind places where I can easily cut out some of the controls if necessary.
If your route goes pretty far out, keep an eye on time and make sure when half the time is gone you start heading back towards the finish.
Don't grab all the easy ones right away. I always leave some of the controls close to the start/finish in case I get back a little early and can pick off a few more.
I’m around a lot of score-o events, and the number one rule I have is: be flexible
Every score-o is a little different. You could get the maps on the clock, or get the maps hours early. The checkpoints could be worth varying amounts, or they could be all worth the same. Maybe it’s easily achievable to visit all checkpoints, or maybe it’s impossible. Time limits can range from really short to really long. Competition areas could be urban, park, or forested. The checkpoints could be evenly spaced throughout the area, or maybe they are more compact near the event center. Maybe you start and finish at the same spot. Maybe you don’t.
There’s just a lot of uncertainty in a score-o. (Digressing, this may be why score-o’s are so polarizing in the orienteering community. Since a lot of orienteers are analytical, task-oriented personalities, perhaps they prefer the rigid structure of a point-to-point course, and dislike the unstructured scenario of a score-o.)
Here are some other tips:
Know your pace. You’ll know the time limit ahead of time, so you can estimate how far you’ll go during the race. You don’t need to be too precise with this, but knowing your general pace will prevent two things: 1) biting off way more than you can chew, which results in either aborting the plan (resulting in a really inefficient route) or coming back really late, or 2) finishing your intended route way too early.
I’ve run in a lot of Street Scrambles in Seattle over the years, and most of them have the same time limit, cover the same size area, and have the same scoring format, and have the same map scale. I can just eyeball a route now and know that it’ll be just about perfect for what I can do. It takes practice and experience, though.
Do some planning beforehand. If they give you time to plan before the race starts, great. If not, do some planning beforehand to perform some of the next tips. The “adventure runs” here in Seattle are basically 60-minute score-o’s with zero pre-planning time. So many people just run out of the gate at the start, and they generally end up with really inefficient routes. The best results are from the people who wait a few minutes, plan a route, and then go.
Look for skips. When I get a map where I know I can’t sweep the course, I eliminate the ones I know I won’t get. This will simplify the route-creation step. However, knowing which ones to skip will depend on how the course is designed. You may find it better to focus on half of the area (ie sweep everything to the south), or maybe it’ll be better to run an outer loop of high-point controls and skip lesser controls in the middle.
Sometimes, there will be what I call “decoy controls”, which are relatively low-point controls that are usually inconveniently located (location, elevation, obstacles), such that it’s hard to sequence them into a route. Saving the time and distance by skipping these may enable you earn more points elsewhere.
Back to my Street Scramble experience, I always run the 3-hour course, which oftentimes has a bike option, as well as shorter 90-minute options. This setup generally means that there are “bike only” checkpoints on the fringes of the area that I know I shouldn’t run to, as well as a relatively high checkpoint density closer to the start (for the 90-minute folks).
Plan escape hatches. Maybe you lost some time out there and your original plan isn’t going to work. I purposely try to plan in “escape hatches” into my route where I can take a shortcut and skip some of my planned controls while still maintaining an efficient route. Similarly, if you’re running ahead of schedule, try to plan in bonuses, too. I also like to plan “rungs on a ladder”. If things are going well, I can add an extra rung on my ladder. Or, if things are falling behind schedule, I can remove a rung or two.
The escape hatches and extra rungs usually determine whether I run clockwise or counter-clockwise. I want to have more flexibility later in the course, so I plan that into my route.
Play “clean up” at the end. If the course has a lot of low-value checkpoints near the start/finish, I save most of those for the end of the run, for a few reasons. One, it gives me more flexibility at the end of the run, which is where I want it. Two, it prevents waiting at controls. The larger urban score-o’s in Seattle have 500+ participants, which means that there could be some unnecessary time loss while waiting in line for checkpoint staff to hand out tickets, or waiting for people to clear away from a trivia question answer. The closer to the start (in both time and distance) will mean more people.
perhaps they prefer the rigid structure of a point-to-point course, and dislike the unstructured scenario of a score-o
I like that in point-to-point, I can have a lousy day and still find a few legs where I wasn't terrible. And the route discussions are more useful for me, as in what choices worked better for what reasons, rather than what order. I still enjoy score o of course.
Pink Socks mentions clockwise and counter-clockwise but I don't think anyone actually mentioned that the most efficient score-O course will be some variation on a loop: you get some controls on your way out to the most distant point on your course and then get some different controls on the way back from that distant point. After ten years of score-O, it seems so obvious now. However, I was so naive back in the day. I would sprint out to the most distant point on the map and then start punching controls as I raced back to the start. D'oh!
Thanks for the help--course will be 60 mins in semi-known field/park territory and time taken off at end for lateness...my biggest enemy is following which i want to avoid but not screw it up early and miss the obvious clock/counter clockwise route--do the course setters have a "best route" in mind that has to be almost deciphered on the hop when plotting their placements or is that too devious?
Depends on the setter.
I think I've done only one score O (rogaines excluded) but it was a 'surprise' event where we didn't find out point values until afterwards so kind of defeated the purpose really.
In rogaine situations, which are basically really long score-O's-- I've found that it's worth it to sprint to the perimeter of the course where the high-pointers lie.
The #1 tactic in score-O is to NOT get the low-point controls near the start/finish right at the start.. SAVE THESE for the end when you're heading back to the start. DON'T cut it close, but instead-- head back to the start with a nice cushion, and find the controls near the start/finish at the very end with the time you have left.
That's a good idea. In a 24hr rogaine I'll sprint 10km to the outside of the course, clean up the perimeter then fail to make it back to the start because I've killed myself in the process.
From a conservative point of view, I don't split my time in half, I do it into thirds and (terrain willing) I try a triangular approach. The problem for me with half-time split is that if tiring the second "half" is longer than the first and hence over time at the end. It doesn't seem to happen if I split into thirds. (yes you can fool some people some of the time and me most of the time)
You guys that advocate a route before seeing the course might be eliminating a really high scoring route prematurely. Circling the outside may work well on some courses, but not others.
do the course setters have a "best route" in mind that has to be almost deciphered on the hop when plotting their placements or is that too devious?
The best score courses tend to feature a shotgun pattern of controls that present a multitude of possible "good" routes, making it difficult to pick the best route, and thus splitting up the field, and forcing the runners to make many routing decisions based not just on distance, but also terrain difficulty and speed.
The worst score courses present only one "best" route that is obvious to all competitors, and that turns into a de facto point-to-point course with teams bunching up, and few routing decisions necessary.
Here is a link to the results from the 8th European Rogaining Championships of last year.
Click on each team name to see their route. These guys have skills and they certainly were not tiptoeing in a circle around the outside of the map. They were taking the shortest route to get the most points, diving back towards the center and then soaring back outside again leaving behind routes that have arms and legs akimbo.
I often look for a fairly direct route out to some high-point controls, but that still has me punching stuff along the way, while leaving a separate route open to punch on the way back. Made the mistake at my first Rogaine of going out to a high point control while picking up a lot along the way. We made it to the control, but didn't have enough time left and ended up spending the last two hours on a direct route to the finish without picking up any more points, and were 10 minutes late. You always want to be picking up points or it's just wasted travel time.
I designed a 3-hour score O' in a hilly smallish park using the shotgun approach, certain that there was no 'nice' route. Eric Buckley foiled my plans by running outer loop followed by inner loop. Brilliant! He was the only one to sweep - 2:59. (Maps were distributed 1-hour ahead of start.)
I'll say it again, because it's true: the best approach is to be flexible, because not all score-o's are built the same. What works for one won't work for another.
It's similar to traditional orienteering skills. You want a bag of skills. Sometimes you use your compass, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you aim off. Sometimes you don't.
Even the "save the close controls to the end" isn't always the best choice. At the last rogaine I did (4 hours), the controls close to the end seemed to be worth more proportionally than at other events. Nonetheless, we decided to go with the most flexible route, which got us those controls at the end.
We ended up tying the winning team, but we finished two minutes later. They picked up those controls first, which meant a slightly more efficient route, which is where they got us.
I was going to suggest this
as practice, jokingly - but after seeing the routes at LeMachine's link, it may actually be useful. App's a wee bit flaky and you may have to reload a few times. Credit where credit's due, I saw it on the Barebones
Similar to Pink Socks last Scottish Score Champs had some unusually high scores for controls close to (but behind) the start, so many people setting straight off for the traditionally higher pointed controls at the far end of the map missed these. I always outperform (relatively speaking) my linear O results on Score courses, which I put down to a combination of pre-planning how far I can run in the time avaialble on the specific area (as per Le Machine advice) and knowing how far that looks on the map, and not being afraid to ignore controls that tempt you off plan or look risky in terms of error.
I'd also disagree with Eelgrass man re penalties. Do your best to get back within time whatever. Penatlies are usually more severe than you'd think and cut in the second you are over. Remember if you get the same overall score as someone who got an extra control but went over time and was penalised - you win!
Not sure if this qualifies as a tip. ROC used to have a member who did fair amount of sailing before trying orienteering. Maybe it was just a coincidence but he was outstanding determining best Score-O sweep sequence. Furthermore he could articulate why his selected sequence was better and often shortest then alternatives after the race. Give me an hour or so and I might do the same but he could do it instantly. I don't think I ever beat him on Score-O course and I lost to him only once on regular course.
If it's the person I'm thinking of (Tim?), I remember asking him if his experience as a highly competitive sailor helped him take to orienteering so well and quickly. He said he had never thought of it before, but now that he was asked and thought about it, he did think there might be some correlation. He said that with sailboat racing, you know where you need to go but the conditions are frequently changing all the time, so you need to be able to quickly adjust to unanticipated changes in conditions (wind direction and speed, waves, current, other boats). He thought that might help him with orienteering, maybe (although he didn't say so) particularly score-O's because there is often a need to make adjustments to the original plan on the fly.
Yes - it was Tim I was referencing to.
Speaking of the "Travelling Salesman Problem"
a Sydney orienteer has been applying this to the Summer Score Series for a couple of years now - estimating the optimum route by comparing
millions of different options.
Of course he does that afterwards, not before, but it is still useful to look at and learn.
I definitely do a route and adjust based on circumstances through the run, seems to work well, nd I plan a route whether given time to do so or not. If time is allowed this could be the most important use of time during the race, don't waste time, carefully consider the route. If no time available for planning I still jist my route and take it a little slow in the beginning instead of bursting out of the gate guns blazing. Still haven't won one yet but got second place solo runner on a 6 hr night score-o rogaine once and a few strong finishes..always seems to be because I miss one of the really tough high-score controls that I have difficulty finding and then give up on it but the winner got it, so I'm probably not spending enough time planning my attack points and routes to the difficult controls. Most score-os or rogaines I've been to have had the winner nab all the controls, but that could be different in other races, so flexibility is key...one of the reasons I like score-os is the element of improvisation. It's nice to get off the beaten path sometimes.
I think the best score-os have 1~3 controls more than the best team can clear, then even the best teams are obligated to calculate the best skip options, like everyone else. If the best teams know they can sweep, it really simplifies the routing for them. They just have to calculate the shortest route. Calculating the shortest route while knowing the you must leave some controls on the table is a much more complicated problem. Why make it easier for the people that are the best at the game? Set a few extra controls out there to make em think! Like everyone else!
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