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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: Macr-o, Butterflies and spreading of runners

in: Orienteering; General

Apr 23, 2007 8:57 AM # 
I have written a long and thorough analysis of Macr-o as a spreading method in orienteering over at World of O, based on the trial of Macr-o at Norwegian Spring last weekend. You find the article here - including a description of what Macr-o is, and comments from many top runners:

As I have no discussion forum at World of O, I thought I'd set up a discussion about the topic here at Attackpoint (I link to this discussion from the article).

In my opinion, the short butterflies as we saw them at WOC in Denmark in 2006 is at least not the ideal way to spread runners, so looking at alternatives is definitely necessary. Macr-o is one such alternative.

- Is Macr-o a fair means for spreading of runners?
- Are there better alternatives for spreading of runners on the long distance?
Apr 23, 2007 11:51 AM # 
1. Are there better alternatives for spreading of runners on the long distance?
I still think this might work better:
Not very well described, but I hope you can get it. Maybe I should draw a example course/image to make it more clear.

EDIT: Example course, the very same loop is used here both times, and it's located at event center.

2. Macr-o
Personally I don't like the idea of "no codes & penalty loops". Same with control codes might work much better, I wrote something about it some time ago:

As far as I know these method hasn't yet been tested anywhere.
Apr 23, 2007 2:54 PM # 
As for the long butterfly variant, I usually (and I know a few others who do the same) call it an "english fork" because of its use at the WC event in 2006 or 2005. But I dont know when or where it was first introduced.

Your suggestion about fairness issue: "every runner runs all the same splits" - is it something like this? there is only one ok control at a macro spot, with others being "blind controls"? (macro control D as example) - of course, it breaks the spreading purpose... Well, there is something I dont understand here.

Pure technical question: how long does it take to read the card and compute the number of penalty loops? (reading a SI card takes a few second, it kind of breaks the flow) - oops, didnt bother to see the video before writing - with emit it takes less than 2 seconds.

(mmm, reminds me of a recurrent bug with SI reading: a bug in the communication protocol or hardware sometimes produces a "missing bit", resulting in false codes and lots of missing codes (that's the symptom) when the soft checks the sequence - reading the SI card another time resolves the issue. But if this bug occurs while the timer is running (as in macro), it is also a penalty)
Apr 23, 2007 4:08 PM # 
simon, I guess they read the card while competitor is running a short loop without the card.
Apr 23, 2007 4:12 PM # 
Surely the only fair way to do it is a longer start interval of 4-5 mins? Nowadays with spectator controls, GPS tracking, video controls, etc there is enough to keep the spectators interested. With the mens and womens race taking place simultaneously there should be more than enough to see.

A compromise at WOC level would be a 5 min interval in the qualifier followed by a shorter interval in the final. At least that way it would be impossible to follow your way to a good start position in the final.

Butterflies don't work - they just bunch twice the number of runners together in a small bit of the terrain. More often than not I've left the butterfly in a pack having caught/been caught in that bit of the course.

Macr-o cannot possibly be fair and the added complexity worries me. The sport is hard to explain to 'non-orienteers' anyway and this adds a whole extra dimension of confusion!
Apr 23, 2007 4:34 PM # 
If you run different courses, it isn't fair, no matter how similar the courses are.

Perhaps you could have just one real control and several blind controls on the macro-controls. That way, everyone has the same course but there is still the chance for penalty loops and increased accuracy is necessary since there aren't control codes.

Granted, this gets rid of the splitting based on people going to different controls. But, I see two reasons why people would split while going to different controls: 1. one person is better at finding the right control quickly among distracting controls or 2. the controls are actually unfair and going to one is faster than going to the other. In the first case, people might split anyway even if they have the same control as they are distracted by the blind controls. In the second case, it's unfair so even if it accomplishes the goal of splitting it's not something that we would want in the races.

For somebody who is just blindly following, they might as well just follow in either scenario and risk the penalty loops. Granted, that is less risky if everyone has the same control but certainly possible either way.

I think that having people actually run different courses will cause far more problems than any reduced following by splitting would solve. For the concept to work, I think there needs to be a way for people to run the same course in the end (through loops or something as suggested on the website).
Apr 23, 2007 5:39 PM # 
Lots of things are unfair in orienteering, in particular start times and following. The unfairness on MacrO is tiny compared with these, and if it breaks up packs, it would be good.

But I cannot see why it would. In general anything which leads to people slowing down in the region of the control makes it more likely competitors will see each other, and so more rather than less likely packs will form. Existing packs will only break up if mistakes are made in the circle - unlikely if we try to ensure controls are equally hard.

Aside from bigger start intervals, long butterflies are a good solution (according to my computer simulations :) ). Rob Hart introduced them in the UK for the JOK Chasing Sprint in 1996 - no doubt others have invented them independently. There doesn't seem to be much evidence that short butterflies work at elite level.

Another working option is a 1 min stop for anyone who gets caught, or at (different) fixed points on the course similar to Jagges idea without th road loop - but this would require policing in the woods.

Apr 23, 2007 5:53 PM # 
Another working option is a 1 min stop

The method I described should do about that, in a quite sophisticated way. Can you tell reasons why it wouldn't work? Is it possible to try this method with you computer simulation?
Apr 23, 2007 7:00 PM # 
After reading the comments from Jagge in his previous postings, I kind of like the idea of not removing codes from the Macr-o/Micr-o controls, but instead printing the control codes with so small numbers that you have to be very close to the control to read them (This is for the TV-friendliness issue, and not for the spreading method). Would be very nice for TV, looking at the runners running from control to control to try to find the correct one ....
Apr 23, 2007 11:38 PM # 
I'm not sure having a bunch of runners looking like they don't know where they're going is really good for tv. I mean, current orienteers would probably find it amusing. But people unfamiliar with the sport would just think it was a treasure hunt or geocaching or something.
Apr 24, 2007 1:32 AM # 
I completely agree with OJ - longer start intervals is the answer. However I think the interval should be the same in the Final, because sometimes the best runners don't qualify fastest, and if they start in the middle of the field a lesser runner can be dragged into a 2nd or 3rd place.

One problem not mentioned with macr-o is that there might not be enough complex areas on the map. If every time you came to a detailed area it was a macr-o section, then perhaps the rest of the course would be a boring waste of time.

One of the video respondents suggested a chasing start would be better. I still prefer the longer interval, but a chasing start final would make it hard for lesser runners to follow. For tv however, the race would be over as soon as the winner arrives. Maybe that's not a bad thing - its the same as a track or road running or cycle race.
Apr 24, 2007 1:51 AM # 
the race would be over as soon as the winner arrives

That's certainly what spectators are used to, because it's the way that virtually every other kind of race operates. But a chasing start or a mass start does not reduce following, although a mass start does present everyone with the same opportunity for following.
Apr 24, 2007 2:50 AM # 
It depends what type of chasing start is used. If it is an interval start, with the fastest qualifier starting first (instead of last as the present system dictates), then theoretically it is more difficult to catch the runner in front of you, especially with a 4-5 minute start interval.

Regarding the supposed need for macr-o, there was a lot of bunching in Japan, but I watched most of the internet coverage of Denmark, and I didn't notice many large bunches, and those times when there were two or three of the more fancied runners bunched, it didn't seem to last long, and I don't think many results were decided by bunching. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think 1st and 2nd in any of the 6 individual races were together at any time. Certainly that was the impression given by the live coverage of the races.

The Japan bunching was possibly due to the extreme steepness and thick vegetation of the terrain, and the heat and humidity, so maybe it was a one-off.

Apr 24, 2007 6:03 AM # 
Packs and following are a real problems, no doubt about it. It's a good idea to discuss what are the alternatives, is there any new ones we haven't tried yet. Before changing orienteering as much as we has to do with macro, we should first try all other alternatives. If then clearly see nothing but macro works, then it's much more easy everyone to accept the macro. So to make macro acceptable, all other spreading methods should be tested.

Very long (4-5) min start I ntervals will partly solve it, of course, but lang start intervals has disadvantages. And still if you have 4 min start interval, runners may find each others due early mistakes and competitors will end up running together the whole race.

The only problem isn't the advantage follower gets. As we know the pack/pair usually can keep up a little bit better pace than one individual runner. So the pack leader also get some advantage over an other runner who has to do all the work alone. So if there is very long start interval and the other runner of the pair has already lost all chances to win a medal, we still have a problem. We need a method for breaking packs.

The problems with butterfiles is mentioned in the video. Butterflies spoil the course (too much controls, easy controls, same controls several times) and classic shourt don't usually work at all.

As far as I can see the best way to break pairs/packs is delaying/stopping runners for a moment, so the other runner (faster) gets some lead over the more slowly one, so he/she gets chance to get away. Or if he/she prefers running together, she/he has to slow down/wait a bit, so the pair's advantage over a lonely runner is lost.

This is why the loops I described were designed like that, at first the later startes has one loop less that the previous runner, so she/he gets the 40 sec advantage. Or 2 loops more, so there is again 1:20 to catch. And the second loops basicly just equals the used time, but it also spreads competitors again.

Note, you don't have use the same loop both times as I did in my example course. If both loops flat road, you can make both loops equal.

I can't see macro will be accepted unless all methds like this are not tested and proven they don't work.

Apr 24, 2007 7:58 AM # 
Fat Rat:
i just dont get why packs are so bad. sure it helps some, disadvantages others in that particular race. but thats sport. surely the pack dimension provides another interest point anyway. packs can make people make mistakes as well as help them, has anyone watched a big night relay????
macro is perhaps good for tv, but it surely just creates more packs like any bottle-neck will. but really, why break up packs, if someone gets caught, or catches someone - good on em, thats their luck. everyone else just needs to get over it, they will get an advantage from it one day themselves.

get over the "pack" problem
Apr 24, 2007 8:32 AM # 
There is already lots of pack races: relays, mass start races, chase starts etc. I would like to see at least one long distance (classic) format without the pack problem. But well said, it's true packs are part of the sport and we should live with it. Pack/following can also make O better sport to betting, you need to think these things to guess results right.

What it comes forking, take a look at the latest mass start ultra long champs in Sweden and Finland. It's clearly something wrong with the format if after 2,5 hour of orienteering most competitors finish only one minute after the winner. If we try formats with forking (=all competitors will not run the same course), long mass start is the format to try it with, not middle/long. For example forking during first half, last hour without forking (maybe some butterflies). If one gets 10-15 sec advantage by having faster course, it would be equalized during the last hour - the person 10 sec behind gets the advantage of follower. But no-one can simply follow someone during first hour.
Apr 24, 2007 8:42 AM # 
Lack of packs is one of the reasons I tend to prefer middle distance - I think these days it is the best test of one's orienteering. If someone catches you in a middle distance, you've already lost the race, no medal or anything to speak of.
Apr 24, 2007 9:10 AM # 
Boris: you obviously missed the British elite champs results...

1 Oliver Johnson SYO 35:06
2 Neil Northrop SYO 36:52
3 Scott Fraser INT 37:03

where Oli and Scott finished together...

Although they didn't in fact join up until the end, Scott *could* still have medalled by waiting for Oli at #1.
Apr 24, 2007 12:24 PM # 
This is one of the upsides of orienteering in North America: we don't have enough elite competitors to make packs possible. Following happens, but it certainly isn't rampant.

That said, given the rise of middle distance as the super technical event, I'm wondering if we shouldn't start holding more of the classic/long events as mass start. Goat events are pretty popular in the US, are they common in Europe? I think that mass start introduces a lot of strategy into the sport (that is, when is it best to stay with the group and when to break) and also provides a more spectator-friendly format.
Apr 24, 2007 12:30 PM # 
I set a goat-type course for the H21's at an OK Linne club event in November. Those who ran it seemed to enjoy it, but it was just a few guys. I might be willing to try it again.
Apr 24, 2007 12:33 PM # 
Mass start events also provide the competitors with motivation to break up packs at some point. With interval starts, you have one runner who started earlier, who wants to stay with the (presumably "better") runner who caught him, and one runner who started later who already has a lead on the other runner, and has nothing to lose by having a companion to help him avoid mistakes. That's a simplification, and only addresses the case of two runners, but it illustrates the point. With a mass start, though, you're in a direct race with anyone near you, and if you want to win, you have to figure out how to shake them. Makes for different race tactics.
Apr 24, 2007 1:02 PM # 
Whilst mass start races are a lot of fun I don't believe there is any place for an ungaffled mass start race in international competition. Any race where it is possible to win without actually looking at your map is surely not acceptable. The common tactic in this situation (as we have seen in, for example WC ultra long in Idre) is let someone take on the navigation at the front then sprint as fast as possible to the line. The main problem being that it's near impossible to break from a group of strong following runners if you have to navigate.

A chasing start would be fairer, but there still should be some form of splitting, butterflies or hagaby.
Apr 24, 2007 5:10 PM # 
Jon W:
I agree that packs are part of the sport and there probably isn't any way of really dealing with it. Longer start intervals might work, but wouldn't in teh situation where a competitor makes a significant error early in the course. They might get caught, but then form a pack by running the rest of the course.

It is against the rules and a couple of upheld protests might help.

Breaking up a pack is difficult, but actually losing the rest of a pack that are following you is a great feeling. (Or it could be that they have a very low opinion of you navigating ability!)
Apr 24, 2007 11:51 PM # 
Before we think about gimmicks (some are intriguing), I think the first approach to remedy pack formation and following should be the simple tool of course design. For the Classic/Long course, I believe a return to the past with a reemphasis on longer legs and route choice will make a serious impact on pack formation. I believe others have voiced this opinion as well, and I believe the experience of the two recent WOC's, Japan and Denmark, is very strong evidence of this. Granted, route choice, and sight distances are not easy to quantify. Graeme, want to work on this?

The Japan "Long" course started out with a series of short legs, trying to squeeze weak technical interest out of fantastic route choice terrain. I believe it finished up the same way. If I remember correctly there was only one long route choice leg, certainly far less than the potential of the terrain. A Finnish(?) course designer demonstarted the potential of this terrain on this web site(?), with a fantastic course with many great long legs that exploited the rough O and route choice strength of this WOC terrain, and would have seriously reduced the pack issue.

Now look at the Danish Classic/Long course. The Men's course had 32 controls, but 6 or 7 of these were used (wasted?) for the butterfly loops. There were 4 excellent route choice legs over 1.0 km, but even so this is not a large number of long legs. I'll suggest the key to this course was in the short and medium length legs, which still contained great route choices. The "cramped" section returning to the start area with many controls was was justified, not by the technical interest, but by the great short route choice legs it contained. Granted, this terrain had better than average route choice potential, but I think the course setters deserve great credit for getting the most of it, and deserve much of the credit for the alleged reduction in pack formation.

Classic/Long courses can still have technical challenge, but this should only be part of a balanced variety. The challenge and impact of technical orienteering is only improved when it occurs as a change of pace, mixed in with generally less technical route choice legs. Let the Middle have the max technical character, where the issue of pack formation is as least easier to deal with, given the time frames involved.
Apr 25, 2007 6:01 AM # 
This off topic (about the TV and micro).

I'm not sure having a bunch of runners looking like they don't know where they're going is really good for tv. I mean, current orienteers would probably find it amusing. But people unfamiliar with the sport would just think it was a treasure hunt or geocaching or something.

TV audience is used to compare succesfull and unsuccesfull attempts. I knothing about pole vault, but when I look at ti on tv I can see the difference between. Seeing someone spinking the right control with great speed and an other one hesitating and reading codes at wrong controls, that's closest we can get to pole vault. Unsuccesfull pole vault attemps are amusing, but that doesn't make me think it's not a real sport.

We could even have some sort of timing system to put timer on only 50-100 meters before the control (a shourt leg, or a just some sort of sensor sensor before control) to be able to show on tv screen how many seconds is used/lost to spike to right one.

Two days a go I wathed O on tv (it regularly on tv here these days) and Novikov, Ikonen (and exhausted Jani Lakanen desperately trying to hang behind Pasi) showed such a speed on screen it's difficult to think someone could think it's just a treasure hunt game. But we didn't see much difference between winners and the rest. With appropriate micro controls with codes(!!) we might see some "unsuccesfull pole vault attempts" on tv screen. And also succesfull ones. And any non orienteer could see the difference.
Apr 25, 2007 5:36 PM # 
If you want route choice, come to the Canadian Championships Long event this year. Lots of route choice, especially for the longer courses, but some on all courses.
Apr 25, 2007 5:42 PM # 
Very appealing. But it is sure a long route (with lots of choices) from Missouri. Maybe.
Apr 25, 2007 6:04 PM # 
Here's a long event that breaks up packs:

Mass-start team event. The map has, say, 40 controls on it (and the start and finish). Teams of 4, say. The team members run separately. Between the team members, they have to visit all 40 controls. First full team back wins. The teams get to see the map a few minutes before the start. Before the start, each team member must declare to the organizer, in secret (except to their own teammates), one control that they will visit.

Because you don't know what controls the members of other teams have declared, you can't just follow them so easily.

Lots of strategy. Made for television! :-)
Apr 25, 2007 6:14 PM # 
Here's another anti-pack course:

A normal Long course, but no control markers. When the competitor reaches the correct feature, they press a button on an electronic card that they carry with them. If this "punching" is suitably discreet, then other competitors won't necessarily know when another competitor has punched. Sure, you could follow someone the whole course, but would you have the correct punches?

How to implement the gadgetry? A few ways seem possible, such as devices hidden in the bushes around a control site, allowing triangulation of the control card's location, or perhaps differential GPS would be close enough. But this being AttackPoint...I'll leave the wizardry as an exercise for the reader! ;-)

It'd be interesting to see which competitors could complete such a course correctly.
Apr 25, 2007 6:49 PM # 
I really find Jagge's idea of flat running sections of different lengths at different times appealing. However, have you considered that it could also help to bunch people together? For example, the runner with the start time at 00.00 gets to control 7, runs his two loops and then meets the runner with the start time 02.00 go through not having to run any loops - a following scenario created. The same way, if the 00.00 runner is still about 100 meters from the end of the loop and he sees the 02.00 runner go through, he will dash like crazy in the general direction of control 8 to catch up.
Apr 25, 2007 7:19 PM # 
I think JimBaker's second idea is brilliant. It may not be orienteering as we know it, but it's brilliant.

Of course, it wouldn't be great TV unless mispunching gave you some kind of electric shock.
Apr 25, 2007 7:26 PM # 
It sounds like Micro-O with no controls at all! I think it would be a hoot. Also, the first idea is something I've seen implemented at the start of an adventure race. It does a nice job of spreading the teams (and rewarding the teams that have more than one person who can read a map).
Apr 25, 2007 9:27 PM # 
the runner with the start time at 00.00 gets to control 7, runs his two loops and then meets the runner with the start time 02.00 go through not having to run any loops

Take a better look at loop counts at #7. Next runner has always only one lap less than previous one (or two laps more). So even with 2 min start interval there should be 1:20 left, and with 3 min interval 2:20. So if next runner catches the previous one, it's mainly because he has been a lot faster and only partly because of the loops.

But it's true, competitors might end up running together if timing is right. But they can't run the rest of the race together, there will be soon loops again. Today's problem is the pack will very likely stay together all the way to finish. And it's also true it's only 40 sec so they may find each other again. But in that case they can't have had optimal run and a lone runner has better changes against this pack.

What I like in this method is it's quite simple, straight forward, mechanical (no judges needed to decde who will have to wait) and it will not spoil the course with lots of controls. It isn't as effective for spreading packs as some other methods, so there will be some pack running left, but it should be effective enough for our needs.

You can take any old classic WOC course (like -93) and try adding this method there and see how badly it would spoil the good old course.

But it's never tested anywhere, so it might not work for some reason we can't think of. And there may be better methods. So let's hear about them.

(I like JimBaker's second idea too. I run most of my O trainings a lot like that. Without flags but with gps and I check afterwards did I got controls right. As feet said, not be orienteering as we know, but I can tell you it really is fun)
Apr 26, 2007 12:26 AM # 
Usuccessful pole vault attempts are indeed exciting, and so are crashes in Rally racing. However the attraction is not in the mistake, but the visual excitement created for the lay viewer.

Watching people running slowly and tentatively in the forest is more akin to watching a mistake in a chess match, only weirder. In Micro O even the winner will look unspectacular, not much different to those making mistakes. Granted this is a subjective issue, but obviously I think Micro O makes pathetic video, and I think Cristina's comment above has it exactly right, only more diplomatically.

Please put Micro O in front of a TV test group of non orienteers, in a part of the O world with developement potential, and I'll bet that finally puts it out of its misery.
Apr 26, 2007 5:55 AM # 
EricW, don't get me wrong. I wasn't trying to support mirco. I was just trying to say say they got it all wrong for the reasons you described, and there is lots of easy ways to make it much better, one of them is putting codes back where they belong to. And also putting fake controls in real control points, not middle of nowhere. Then no-one needs to run slowly and tentatively.But competitors without any map contact may end up making some unsuccesfull pole vaulting - dashing like mad between fake controls. I have no idea will it be much better or good enough, but I am sure it would make better entertainment than regular mirco.

My opinion is the Micro o is doomed to die as it is today, I can't see any point trying it with any test audience. If any try outs will be made, the concept should be first changed one way or an other.
Apr 27, 2007 9:47 AM # 
The first idea from JimBaker looks something similar what is one of the most exciting event at ISF School meetings. What I heard it is great fun for the kids and good closing event.

Maybe some similar official/unofficial event at WOC will be good for promotion. Closing event like it was introduced at Skiing world championships with mixed national teams.

Look under 5.4.2.
Apr 27, 2007 3:30 PM # 
> Please put Micro O in front of a TV test group of non
> orienteers, in a part of the O world with developement
> potential, and I'll bet that finally puts it out of its misery.

Actually, there was positive response from many (non-orienteer) viewers after NOC 2005 in Notodden with Micro O, which was sent live on Norwegian TV 2. I also talked to many non-orienteers myself which watched it, and they said that they really got caught by the excitement, saying "No, no - the one to the left" when the runners approached the wrong control. I'd love to put up part of the production to show people how it was, as it was actually quite interesting to watch, but unfortunately there is the copyright issue. However, using Jagge's suggestion with control codes on the controls, would still give the same effect.

On the other hand, viewers found it just as interesting to see the runners fall into a pool of mud...

(but I am drifting away from the original point of the discussion: spreading runners at the long distance)
Apr 28, 2007 2:07 AM # 
" a part of the O world with developement
Apr 30, 2007 12:11 AM # 
There seems to be a whole heap of bullshit written here.

I come from a country where orienteering isn't the biggest. To be honest, it seems that many don't give a damn about competitors from the smaller countries.

You all talk about fairness.
- Increasing start intervals infact makes it unfair. How can you compare competitors running in the cool morning, with those running in massive heat in the middle of a hot day? How can you compare it when it rains for the whole course for one competitor, compared with it being completely fine and dry for another? These can all happen on the same day.
- Micro / Macro is supposedly all about TV. I just watched some cycling on TV this morning, imagine if cycling was staggered starts how boring would it be then for TV.

Surely the only honest way of making it more TV friendly whilst making it fair, is to have a mass start race. The rest of the stuff I read here is just crap.
Apr 30, 2007 5:09 AM # 
I dunno, I enjoy watching downhill skiing, bobsledding and luge events on TV and those are not mass started - time trial format, much like orienteering. The coverage is interesting because the live footage is produced to make it so. I don't see why the same can't be done with orienteering. In fact, I think the staggered starts with the top seeded runners going last is great for close-to-live coverage.
Apr 30, 2007 7:03 AM # 
Imagine how exciting it would be to watch mass start downhill skiing.

On a different note, when I got back to my corridor after Tiomila, a friend down the hall told me that he'd seen the women's race on TV on Saturday. He was impressed that it was so cool to watch with the GPS so you could see exactly where one of the girls went a different way and lost time to the faster pack. Granted, this is Sweden so everyone knows what orienteering is in the first place. But, this was the kind-of guy who usually watches football (soccer) when he watches sports and remembers orienteering as that thing they had to do in school. Clearly it can be made tv-friendly without adapting the sport much or at all. Even in non-relays, it is easy to overlap GPS to be as if it were a mass-start to show where they gain/lose time.... or show it in real time where you could see the last starter trying to catch up or see the groups that form and disappear. Of course, it's good to have the TV in the forest too so that it's more than just dots moving on a screen. So, perhaps the sport is fine, with some adapatations like choice of start/finish/stadium and spectator controls, while it's the TV that needs to and can step up and be in top form?
Apr 30, 2007 8:25 AM # 
Addison, some of the most exciting cycling races I've watched on tv are the Tour de France time trials - with staggered starts! Lots of other sports also have a long start period where changing weather conditions affect the competitors who might start early or late, eg golf. The elite competitors in every sport just deal with it - that's why they are elites! I agree with Suzanne that we have to make every effort to adapt tv to our sport, rather than the other way round.
Apr 30, 2007 10:27 AM # 
The gaffling used at 10Mila's last leg with three loops of different length seemed at least to work a lot better as a spreading method than the traditional butterflies. But by using that much of the course length for spreading, there is not much left for the "real" long distance orienteering...
Apr 30, 2007 12:13 PM # 
Imagine how exciting it would be to watch mass start downhill skiing.

No need to use your imagination - they have this in the X-games. It's fun, to be sure, but I actually find the razor-edge precision of the staggered start event more exciting. Seeing that little whisp of snow come off the back of the ski and asking yourself, "was that .01 or .02 they just lost?"
Aug 26, 2009 8:48 AM # 

Here is example of the proposed spreading method, impelented to men's WOC long course 2009. Delay is made with back and forth running using extra control.

Course A
Course B
Course C

Course Name Federation Start Time

A - 1 Haldin Mats FIN 12:01
B - 2 Lenkei Zsolt HUN 12:03
C - 3 Tsvetkov Dmitry RUS 12:05
A - 4 Marchuk Oleksandr UKR 12:07
B - 5 Mrázek Jan CZE 12:09
C - 6 Omelchenko Yuriy UKR 12:11
A - 7 Christensen Christian DEN 12:13
B - 8 Sirmais Martins LAT 12:15
C - 9 Mihalkin Dmitry BLR 12:17
A - 10 Barták Lukás SVK 12:19
B - 11 Banach Robert POL 12:21
C - 12 Pasquasy Fabien BEL 12:23
A - 13 Schgaguler Klaus ITA 12:25
B - 14 Forne Chris NZL 12:27
C - 15 Krajcík Michal SVK 12:29
A - 16 Kowalski Wojciech POL 12:31
B - 17 Nikolov Kiril BUL 12:33
C - 18 Mazulis Marius LTU 12:35
A - 19 Procházka Jan CZE 12:37
B - 20 Bortnik Alexey RUS 12:39
C - 21 Kärner Olle EST 12:41
A - 22 Krepsta Simonas LTU 12:43
B - 23 Glibov Ruslan UKR 12:45
C - 24 Fraser Scott GBR 12:47
A - 25 Wingstedt Emil SWE 12:49
B - 26 Puusepp Markus EST 12:51
C - 27 Lundanes Olav NOR 12:53
A - 28 Adamski Philippe FRA 12:55
B - 29 Anjala Topi FIN 12:57
C - 30 Sedivy Jan CZE 12:59
A - 31 Zinca Ionut ROM 13:01
B - 32 Nordberg Anders NOR 13:03
C - 33 Lauenstein Marc SUI 13:05
A - 34 Khramov Andrey RUS 13:07
B - 35 Mamleev Mikhail ITA 13:09
C - 36 Öberg Peter SWE 13:11
A - 37 Hubmann Daniel SUI 13:13
B - 38 Johansson Martin SWE 13:15
C - 39 Kovács Ádám HUN 13:17
A - 40 Merz Matthias SUI 13:19
B - 41 Gonon Francois FRA 13:21
C - 42 Föhr Tero FIN 13:23
A - 43 Gristwood Graham GBR 13:25
B - 44 Rollier Baptiste SUI 13:27
C - 45 Gueorgiou Thierry FRA 13:29

As you can see, at the first spreading the later starter gets in most cases shifted forward 40 sec compared to the person who started before him. In 33% of cases later starter gets shifted 1:20 backwards. At the second spreading runners get eaven.

Runners would know they forking before they start (eg. one knows he will have to run back and forth twice at first sperading and not at all at second), so control numbering 8/10/12 would not be confusing.

Summary of advantages over butterfly loops:
- Three consecutive has different forking. With 2 min start interval your 6 minute man has same forking and with 3 min interval your 9 min man.
- If runners has different forking they always get separated. Short butterfly loops usually will not break packs of equally fast runners (like Kauppi & Niggli 2009).
- Course character can be classic with long legs and not too many controls. If butterfly loops are used a big part of the course usually turns into a boring middle distance style control picking course. If you look at the example course and compare it to the original course you will notice there is some new longer legs instead of original middle distance style butterflies (one might plan these legs better for sure). The original butterfly loops did not work well, more or longer butterflies would have spoiled the classic/long character even more.
Aug 26, 2009 10:03 AM # 
I agree that butterflies dont often work, especially not if you're on the same one! But your scheme also has problems.

40 sec means your 2min man becomes a 1:20 man, etc. So if you haven't been caught yet, its far more likely.

40sec of dead running early means some runners get an extra 40sec free to study difficult route choices: this is a big objection because the advantage is determined ahead of time, rather than by the "luck" of the race. I suppose you could let people earn those better start times from qualifying.

To be fair to you, I doubt whether either problem will make as much difference as packing. There's plenty of stats out there: blind following gains about 8%, even for the elites, so its easy to see Mamleev benefitted by 4-5mins. Getting a big route choice right might save you 2-3.
Aug 26, 2009 10:47 AM # 
Course A runners has 1:20 extra study time compared to C. But you can get rid of the study problem by having map exhange right after each speading. Or simply by banning map reading during the dead running section.

Right, some 2 minute men become 1:20 men and some 2 minute men become 3:20 men. That happens about after 40 min of racing with the 2 min interval. It's difficult to say what it means and how big problem this is. One could study splits from old races and see what would have happened.

Looks like 40 sec shift at #11 would not have much new packs, at least not right away. gaps between packs/individual runners were usually bigger than at start. There is some runner so close this 40 shift would have joined them together, but butterfly loop had the same joining effect too.

It's also intresting to see there was at least as many packs after the butterfy section than before it.
Feb 6, 2010 6:34 PM # 
Because following in O is now officially allowed, I decided to do some graphs how this "dead loop" spreading method descibed above would have worked.

Here is some graphs:

1) Men, original course (butterfly forking):

2) "Dead running" spreading right after control 11 using start list and loop order as described above.

I did'n draw graph after spreading because thet would have been just guessing. But there would be second spreading couple of controls after this one to make things even and spread runners again.

About 17 runners came in together with someone, all went out alone. Lots of good luck here I guess, but pretty promising anyway.
Feb 7, 2010 10:10 AM # 
Here is same implemented to WOC long men 2006 and 2008. Again first spreading at control 15:


28 came in together with someone, 8 (or 10) runners went out together with someone. Wuold have worked pretty well here too.


18 runners came together, and only two (or four) went out. Excelllent spreading result, lots of luck again I guess.

Maps here:
Feb 8, 2010 5:52 PM # 
If you're a newbie as confused by H-groups, phi-loops, and micr-O as I am, take a look at this thorough guide from the NOF (in English):
Feb 9, 2010 10:22 AM # 
My favourite way to implement this dead runnig method would be using terrain instead of road. Just 70m string from control and control (punch unit) at the end of it. Like this we could implement this to almost any course without having to have any additional navigationally less challenging sections. But this would need common agreement these terrain string sections can be made equal or at least equal enough.

Here is how much 1993 WOC men's course would have to be changed to implement this spreading method:

Controls 7 and 12, that's all. So runners would have to run either #7 loop twice, 12 loop twice or once at both controls. Depending on start number.

But are orienteers ready to agree that could be accepted? if we think 200m or 400m running, inner track and outmost track are not equal, but they happily race even at olympics. Maybe this could be accepted too.
Feb 9, 2010 12:33 PM # 
For the WOC Long Champs I want to see a return to the Classic race of old. Forget all these loops and dead running. How? Don't have qualification races. Instead adjust the Rankings so that they can show separate rankings in Long (and middle and sprint if you want). The top 60-70 runners can run the WOC Long Distance final, in reverse order, with the top ranked runner starting last. Reserve say 10 places for 'wild cards' (eg runners whose ranking was affected by injury, or the top 3 in JWOC Long) - but they start first. Start interval of at least 3 minutes. Course should be tough, long distance with lots of climbing, several long route choice legs, shorter legs in detailed areas. At least if some groups form, then they are top runners, and all except the last have already lost 3 minutes.
Feb 9, 2010 1:37 PM # 
Sounds like you don't like the dead runing spreading idea. Can you explain why?

WOC long 2009 bronze medalis started four minutes before winner. He took medal with over 1 min margin, so where should have been at least 6 min start interval to avoid getting medals by following. 60 runners with 6 min start interval is 6 hours, so race would last 8 hours.
Feb 10, 2010 12:58 AM # 
If the rankings and 3 minute interval were used in 2009, Mamleev would have started at least 33 minutes before Hubmann. (That's based on Mamleev's current ranking of 12 - before WOC he would most likely have been even lower).

Using today's ranking list (not based entirely on Long distance though), Hubmann would start last, Thierry 3 minutes in front, and Khramov 6 minutes. I don 't believe Hubmann could catch Khramov, but let's assume Khramov makes a mistake and is caught first by Thierry. These two would probably then go too fast for Hubmann to catch them. Result - either Hubmann or Thierry 1st, Khramov probably couldn't be 3rd as another runner would have a good enough time to beat him. So, the top two ranked runners finish 1st and 2nd - a good result wouldn't you think?

Another possibility - Khramov catches his marker (at the moment - Merz), so they work together a bit, and have good times. Will it be enough to beat both Thierry and Hubmann? Maybe, maybe not, but even if Khramov wins it is not a surprise, and not undeserved, as he ran well enough over the year to earn his high ranking and a good start position. Even if Thierry and Hubmann have a bad day, then Merz is probably 2nd - that's not bad as he is after all the 4th ranked runner in the World.

With 3 minute intervals, you may get packs forming with weaker runners, but at the business end of the field, the most you would probably have is two runners together, occasionally three. The problem with the current system is that the qualification races don't ensure the highest quality runners all start near the back, so you get weaker runners mixed with good, and packs form.

I don't like dead running, period. Who does? Don't use it for spreading.
Feb 10, 2010 5:02 AM # 
I rather like Jagge's idea. 1:20 of straight out running seems like a small price to pay to break up the packs on a 70 or 90 minute race.
Feb 10, 2010 5:57 AM # 
Another thing about dead running is that it sure is good for TV coverage - finally, the cameras know where someone will be for an entire 40 seconds.

I'm interested. I keep trying to think about which is the "best" combination - would I prefer my two loops early on (for map reading, to get them out the way), split up (for two 'mental breaks'), or both late. If there is a definitive answer to this, then I'm not sure the system is very fair, but if there's no real advantage to any combo then I do like the simplicity of Jagge's idea which in my mind out-weighs the repulsiveness of the dead-running.
Feb 10, 2010 6:48 AM # 
Simmo, rankings never can predict who is stronges at given day. Now Mats Haldin almost took medal, he started frist. Ranking is now 26. It's possible one day someone with 40 ranked wins. Women are often away for months (child birth), rankings go down. Imagine someone like Simone coming back win low ranking, winning the race and dragging other 50-60 ranked girls to medals.

I agree with Simmo, we all want the classic style courses back and we like to get rid of those butterflies with lots of controls. That's exactly why I work on this new spreading method, it would make it possible to do good old scool courses again. WOC 1993 is good example. Thats why I would like to see these streamered forest running stretches be one day acceptable way to implement this. Simple "add on" spreading method for any course, so corse planner could focus on making interesting O challenge, not sacrifice it all for spreading.

AZ, I used to think map exhange right after each spreading should solve most of the poblems. It's difficult to say is mental break good or bad, some may find the short rest as advantage, some as disadvantage (for having to loose focus / flow).
Feb 10, 2010 4:31 PM # 
I agree, the theoretical effectiveness of the dead running proposal is promising, and agree that it might be worth the price, if adjusting start intervals is deemed insufficient by itself. I also like the idea of putting the dead running in "terrain".

However, if the proposal is to do these theoretically equal loops in multiple locations, at different points along the course, I think we would be prescribing controversy. Yes, maybe the course setter and controller, can agree that the different sections are equal enough, and reasonable pre race testing testing may even support the claim, but I doubt you will ever get a satisfactory post race concensus (athletes, coaches, fans) that will ever agree on the equality of the physical and non-physical factors.

I think the track lane analogy is overly optimistic, naive by 1 or 2 decimal places. To start with, lane choice differences are earned, not randomly assigned. The physical differences are measured in tenths (hundredths?) of a second, compared to 10? seconds (understood difference in race length). The surface is precisely engineered, not subjectively evaluated. I think this list could be much longer.

On the positive side, I am very encouraged to hear others speak of the goal of "classic" course design.
Feb 10, 2010 5:01 PM # 
What would IOF's objection to Simmo's suggestion of going back to the way it was with no qualification and 3 minute intervals? A long long day? But isn't that already happening in JWOC? WOuld it mean that B countries have fewer participants? Well given that many don't get athletes into the Long final as it is this all that bad? I understand that the original idea of the qualifications was to package the race into a shorter time frame to make it more media friendly. But when compared to the sprint, middle and relay the long will always be a tough race to televise. Also, if you take the WOC week as a whole it could probably gain a lot by not having to have a long quali. Heck it could even open up space for a sprint relay race. That means more finals in the same number of days including a high visibility race and most importantly a fairer long race that tests what it was meant to be: Long, tough, and lots of route choice legs.
Feb 10, 2010 10:14 PM # 
Personally I wouldn't like to see more than 50..60 runners in any final unless maybe urban sprint. After about 100 runners there is trail from control to control and it's not O any more (that's why I don't like Forssa Games and think it's wrong it has had WRE status). And long long day means different conditions, temperature, rain and so on.

I guess EricW is right, track lane comparison was't that good. But 10 seconds difference (like 37.5 and 42.5 second loops) makes longer one 13.3 % difference. I'd say thats quite sloppy. It should be easy to get it lot more accurate than that, 5 x out and back runs would give about one minute difference and anyone should see that. I'd think with some sort of standard test method loop difference should be possible to get down to lot lot less.

If we think for example phi-loops, I am not so sure how equal those are either after all. Competitors will run same legs, but they will have to visit same control(s) twice. You'll remember how the place looked like and use that on second round. Control are not equally easy to spike and equally visible from all directions, so half of the competitors may get a little advantage by seeing it the control and surrondings before having to do the more tricky approach. One might say there could be couple of seconds difference on average too.

I don't know a single person who likes butterflies and those current spreading loops. And everyone I know would love to see classic style courses. It's kind of sad if that "not getting a satisfactory post race concensus" will stop us from having real world champs in classic O and I doubt can that post race consensus be much worse that it was after latest woc long.
Feb 11, 2010 5:48 AM # 
how about making the first spreading deliberately shorter and faster than the second one. About a second or two, just so that we would be sure it's the faster one. Qual winners would get last starting slots of that forking. Rest of the starting list would be assigned as today. In lesser races those slots would be earned by ranking. Like this the advantage of getting better spreading and the opportunity to read map in advance while running these terrain stretches could be earned and not just randomly assigned. So if someone complains we might just say you should have run better time in qualification race.

Would this approach make this terrain dead running spreading more acceptable?
Feb 11, 2010 8:10 AM # 
Jagge, I allowed for the situations you describe with the Wild Card entry. As in Tennis Grand Slams, it would be unusual - but not impossible - that a wild card entrant is the winner. The wild cards start first, so as with Mats Haldin in 2009 noone else even sees him - no packs forming there!

Its also possible that Mats Haldin or Simone would already be in the top 50 rankings rather than a wild card, but lower in the rankings than expected due to injury or pregnancy. I this case they would catch their 3 minute marker very quickly, probably in the first 20-25% of the course. Would that person then be able to stay with them over the remaining distance of a long, tough course? If they are fully back to top form, I doubt it. If they are still affected by their injury or baby-break, then they aren't going to win anyway, so neither will anyone following them get a place.

Another possibility is to use the rankings to separate packs at the spectator control. If two or more runners arrive at the same time, the lower ranked runners each have to wait 10 seconds (in a 'sin bin'?). This is similar to the 'no drafting' rule in a cycling time trial when a faster rider passes the one who started before him. From a television point of view, I think this would work better than watching runners doing pointless dead running loops.
Feb 11, 2010 9:18 AM # 
Mikhail Mamleev was ranked 396th before WOC 2009 and 36th at WOC long final and he could happily run together with Hubmann who won.

Ionut Zinca was 35th at the day of Middle final and more than happily run together with Thierry G. In TV he was actually most of time in front of Thierry.

That spectator coutrol would spoil classic course at least as much as dead loops.
Feb 11, 2010 2:13 PM # 
Would this approach make this terrain dead running spreading more acceptable?

Well, maybe, I guess? :-)
I am not sure I understand it well enough to endorse it, and I'd like to hear input from others, but I give you credit for thinking in a good direction.
Feb 11, 2010 3:07 PM # 
Simmo, only addressing this one issue-
Would that person then be able to stay with them over the remaining distance of a long, tough course?

I will yeild to a number cruncher, but I think the answer is actually yes, at least half the time, even recognizing that the supposedly underranked runner will not turn out to be a medal contender. Still, their pack will be pulled along to undeserved top ten, or top twenty "bragging" positions, which I think is a consideration, albeit minor.

First overtaking is often, perhaps usually due to technical errors, and the overtaken runner is at least the physical equal of the better orienteer. Then there is the simple advantage of being the follower, allowing a physically slower runner to hang onto a faster runner who is doing the navigating. I think this is very significant, having been the follower on one memorable occaision when I was clearly the weaker runner. The only exception to this would be a course which is exceptionally easy, technically, coupled with low visibility, which is rarely seen at the WOC/WCup level.

I am not necessarily against your general proposal, in fact I find it intriguing.
Feb 12, 2010 9:40 AM # 
I treid to put it all together:
Feb 12, 2010 3:45 PM # 

Are you for real?? Have a runner stop for 10seconds and do nothing? This is a race. You wouldn't expect someone in any other race to stop and pull over and wait (excluding F1).

How would you feel if you were running along and your class winner passed you out just before the spectator control and some offical stopped you and told you to wait for 10sec.... which resulted in you losing flow and due to the 10sec forced pause dropping out of the top 5 or top 10 or what ever your having.

Interesting how its all the older orienteers who are complaining about grouping.
When you get caught it becomes tactical - look at all the big relays - 10mila and Jukola for example.
Feb 13, 2010 10:54 PM # 
Excuse my ignorance, but what does this:

Because following in O is now officially allowed

mean? Has there been a rule change, or is this statement just reflecting the apparent fact that no one will actually be DQ'd in a major event for this (like the clear examples at recent WOCs)?
Feb 14, 2010 5:33 AM # 
c.hill I'd prefer to have no spreading system at WOC long distance, as explained in my earlier posts. Perhaps the reason us 'older guys' don't like grouping is that we don't do it - I've never seen blatant following in a veteran race and certainly no big groups, but you young guys have to be watched apparently, or you would do it all the time. :-)

Anyway, I wasn't really serious about the stopping suggestion, just making a point that Jagge's 10-second separations by dead running could just as easily be done another way. And some people actually might like the stop, rather than break their flow, it would give them a breather and a chance to look at the map, which if they'd really been following they wouldn't have done for a while - and now they'd need to! :p
Feb 14, 2010 7:24 AM # 
When I wrote that, there was news in biggest scandinacvian newspapers most O sites and SOFT web site (Swedish O federation) that IOF had had meeting and removed the following rule (26.2) and allowed following. Now week later it looks like they got it wrong, that 26.2 really dissapeared but they just copied it to elswhere. It will be included in chapter 1.2. I think most scandinavina orienteers still believe it's allowed from now on and are pretty pissed about it.

simmo, I have never been suggesting any 10 second delays. It's all too short. I have been talking about 35..40 sec delays.
Feb 14, 2010 11:37 PM # 
@Jagge: As far as I can understand, they rephrased the rule back towards its old wording from the 2007-edition of the rules, and moved it from rule 26.2 to rule 1.2.

The wording in the 2009-edition:
In an individual interval start race, competitors shall navigate and run through the terrain independently.

The new wording (and the 2007-version):
The competitors are expected to navigate independently

Thus, earlier the rule was formulated in a way which made it possible (in theory) to disqualify runners. Now, it does not look like a rule which is supposed to be acted upon.

Rule 1.2 defines what orienteering is, including that you should take controls in the correct order, etc. Thus, this is not a rule which is going to be enforced, but rather a rule which says something about the fundamentals of the sport.

If somebody knows more - please correct me - but this is my understanding based on what the IOF has published on their website.

This discussion thread is closed.