IOF are currently considering several gimmicks for use during a sprint knockout competition at WOC2020. You can read the proposals here
. We tried the "course choice model" at the 2018 Vancouver Sprint Camp (also referred to as choose-your-forking).Our coursesHere are the three forkings competitors could choose from
. Competitors were given 30s to make their choice.
C was both the shortest AND least technical option.
There were a few interesting patterns:
* There was a pretty even split between selecting A/B/C.
* Most of the very fast people chose C.
* Several people who chose B did so because they preferred it to A, and didn't have enough time to study C.
* Several people who chose A didn't see the little trap that makes it longer.Choice analysis
To see which forking was fastest, I looked at the fraction of time of the race each competitor spent in the forked section. This should account for each competitor's speed, but there may still be outliers if people blew up at some point in the race.
At Sprint Camp we split people into Expert and Elite categories. The forkings were the same for both, but the Expert course was shorter before and after the forked section.
We see that C saved ~2% overall. This is ~15s for the fastest runners. This is actually less than the time some competitors lost by choosing a poor route to #1 in the full course
We had a show of hands at the evening banquet for "who liked the new format?". It was about 50/50. Some elite logs I've seen so far say they aren't convinced either.
The main issue seems to be that if you choose the same forking as another competitor, then it becomes a straight footrace. This could be negated with butterflies later on, if it wouldn't make the course too contrived.Organisational aspects
In the IOF proposal, there are 6 competitors starting in each wave, and each competitor has their own private start lane in which to make their decision. The goal of this is to make the decision in secret, so you only find out what the other 5 people chose when you reach that part of the course.
We did not have the infrastructure or the manpower for that. We used waves of 4, and had 4 copies of the "choices" map on a table. Each competitor had a volunteer stationed next to them. After the 30s inspection period, the runner whispered their choice to the volunteer, who then retrieved the full map for them from a cache that was out of sight. So, the whispering means that you don't know what the other 3 people are running; the hidden cache of maps means you can't tell what the 60 people before you chose by looking at the number of A/B/C maps left.
We needed twice as many volunteers in the start lane for this race than any other race during the weekend.
We needed to print 3 times as many maps for this race, as we needed enough in case everybody chose the same forking.Summary
This format is a lot of extra work, wastes a lot of paper, and received a lukewarm reception from competitors. Being able to quickly interpret the map and make good route choices are obviously key. But these skills are tested on any course; I'm not sure what the advantage is of also testing them while stood still.
If you were at Sprint Camp and want to leave feedback on the event (positive or negative), please do so. We will eventually compile a report to send to IOF.