Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Support USA Trail Orienteering

Orienteering USA's Annual Fund Drive is underway. We hope you will consider making a donation earmarked to support the US Trail Orienteering Team.

How to Donate:
Orienteering USA's DONATE page provides information for making both online donations and mailing in a donation. Donations must be directed to "Team USA: Trail O Team" to insure that the team receives your support.

USA Team Member Mika Latva-Kokko focuses on a problem while Italian paralympic competitors look on
Why should I support Trail Orienteering?
Trail Orienteering is a precision map reading competition developed to provide an orienteering discipline for the disabled. The US Trail Orienteering Team fields a squad of both paralympic and open competitors for the World Championships annually. In addition, team members attend National competitions to hone their skills and qualify for the team. Travel and competition costs are born almost entirely by the competitors. Your support helps to defray these costs making it possible for those with limited resources to participate. This is especially critical for those disabled competitors with fixed disability incomes.

We are currently working to recruit new paralympic team members. Funding may be critical to enable potential candidates to afford the travel costs associated with training and competition.

How will my donation be used?
US Trail Orienteering funds may be used for the following purposes:
1) To pay entry and accreditation fees for team members at international competitions.
2) To defray travel expenses for team members at international competitions.
3) To support expenses related to recruitment and training of promising paralympic team candidates.

Thank you for your support!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Sharon Crawford at O-Ringen

Sharon competed in a five-stage PreO competition at O-Ringen, placing 34th of 60 competitors. Sharon's results were fairly consistent over the five days, with some higher scores on the last two days. Her score of 75 compared with a top score of 95 by Jens Andersson. Second and third place went to Vetle Ruud Braten and Marit Wiksell.

I did find a map posted on WorldofO. This map is not from the Elite Class, but still gives an idea of the terrain from this competition.

Congratulations to Sharon on this competition. I'm sure all of this European experience will make her a more formidable opponent in the upcoming year.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Final words from WTOC 2015

On our last day in Croatia, I asked the team to share their thoughts about the competition and the future:

Mika Latva-Kokko: Very good problems. A lot of work that I need to do - contour reading, sight lines, sighting to a distance, being more accurate about reading all the stuff on the map when it's needed to figure out the flag. Overall, I'm happy. Every day could have gone better, but all the mistakes I did were my mistakes. Some of them were punching mistakes, some of them were other type of mistakes. They're my mistakes that I can fix for the future. Hopefully, someday we'll get the same level of competition in the US.

David Irving: I thought it was pretty well done, especially after the weekend at Varazdin. They need to do more to speed up at the timed controls - more separation of the Paralympic and the Open. Particularly today at the tempO relay. If they had sent all the third leg runners to the timed controls after the start, you could have got them done instead of stacking everybody up so much that you give up on trying to get the third runners through the timed control.

Karen Dennis: Yeah, I'd like to see them work on the relay some more because that was almost exciting. They need to fine tune it.

Clare: I'm really happy with how I did this year. I mean, it still wasn't close to a podium or anything, but it's been overall just about my best trail-O yet. I don't remember exactly where I landed in the final results in the Czech Republic, but this has definitely been a good one. I was especially happy with my day two Pre-O performance and with the fact that the work I did to increase my speed on the TempO really seems to have paid off. I'm still not way up there, but I can see that there was progress so I'm hoping that continued work will get me further. So I'm looking forward to hopefully making the team again next year and going to Sweden and improving even further. That's my goal.

Sharon Crawford was not available for this interview.

Pictures of the U.S. Team courtesy of the Portuguese orienteering blog


Friday, July 17, 2015

Punch Routine

The final event at this year's WTOC was a demo relay event. This year's course consisted of a single loop of 11 controls that each team member visited. Each team member's map was slightly different, with varying tasks at each control site. Team USA had a complete open team (Mika, Sharon, and Clare) and David teamed up with Russia on a paralympic team. Our team did reasonably well, coming in 26th out of 47 teams, but the real point of today's post is lessons to be learned from Sharon's only mistake on this course. She would have had a perfect score, but mispunched on number 5 -- choosing the correct control, but naming it incorrectly.

What led to this mistake? Parallax was the culprit. Sharon named the controls based on the view from the punch rather than the viewing station. An easy mistake to make given how close they were to each other, but changing the name of all but one control.

View station and Punch 
View from the view station
View from the punch

Foot orienteers often practice their routine for moving through a control site to improve their efficiency and avoid errors. Trail-O is no different. I think it's important to have a punching routine that becomes habit. By punching routine I mean the steps you take between choosing which control answers the problem and punching a box on your control card. Here is a rundown of how I handle this.
  • Solve all problems that use the same viewing station and punch.
  • Return to the viewing station and properly identify the name of each control.
  • Look at the map and check the number of the control(s) that you solved. If there are multiple controls, take note of their proper order.
  • From the viewing station, label your answers in the proper order. I might, for example, walk away from the viewing station thinking 4-B, 5-A, 6-Z.
  • Proceed to the punch and punch carefully in the proper boxes.
I follow this routine even when my solution is Z. Partly to avoid giving away that Z is my answer, but also to make sure that this routine remains a habit and I won't miss an important step when it matters.

Would love to hear what routines others use to be sure their punch card truly reflects their decisions.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

PreO Day 2

We're home now, catching up on all the things we put off while we were in Croatia, one of which was posting about the final competitions. Day 2 of the PreO was not as difficult as Day 1. Partly just because of the high visibility of Golf Course terrain, but also because the weather cooperated this time. The course consisted of 26 problems requiring subtle contour reading, feature identification, distance estimation, and just figuring where best to sight from.

This was also the team competition day. For team competition, each country gets to enter a team of three, which must include one paralympic competitor. We haven't competed in the team category for a few years because we haven't had a paralympic member for a while. This year we had David Irving and the question was who else should make up our team? Clare had the highest, most consistent results thus far, so she seemed like an obvious pick. Mika had the next best results, but was also a newer team member with less experience. Sharon had a lot of past experience under her belt. In the end, Sharon deferred to Mika, since his results had been better. This turned out to be a fortuitous call.

Clare had an excellent day, missing only one of the controls. Despite that, she only placed 16th. Many competitors did well and Clare had already missed two timed controls on Day 1, so she was very careful to be correct today, even at the expense of being slow. Mika and David also had good results and we all aced the timed control for the team event. The result was a placing of 13th out of 20 teams, just behind Great Britain. In terms of percentile ranking and percentage of controls correct compared with the winning team, this was our best showing in all of the years that the team competition has had it's current format.

Overall, a successful WTOC for Team USA. While we did not achieve any new top ranking compared with past performances, we did manage to show improvement in TempO and Team competition and had some individual performances to be proud of. I know there is motivation to work to be even better next year.

Most Missed Control of the Day - #5

Number 5 was a Z answer that caught about 40% of the competitors. The viewing point was across the lake and the control description was reentrant. You could clearly see the four controls and try to line them up with various trees to determine which might be correct. What doesn't show on this solutions map is the streamered pathway that competitors had to stay on. This was a N/S path on the flat area between number 3 and 6. It allowed travel to the south toward the end of the lake. From there it was clear that the line of controls wasn't anywhere near the center line of the reentrant or the control circle.

Here is a link to a nice video of photos from the WTOC. These photos are by Joaquim Margarido, who runs the Portuguese Orienteering Blog.

I intend to keep this blog running through the year. I'll be adding posts every Thursday, starting with some more recaps and review of this year's WTOC and then covering training and competition issues of interest nationally. See you next week!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Slow and right or fast and wrong?

That is the question? Whether 'tis a better strategy for TempO to consider carefully whilst the clock ticks or to suffer through uncertainty with haste. Unfortunately for Team USA, the answer is fast and right. We were neither. Rather, the two strategies employed within our team led to almost identical results. At first, the results were more disparate, due to the difficulty of station 8. This station was a long distance station. Competitors were seated on a terrace overlooking the river and controls were scattered across approximately 300 meters on the far river bank. Changing lighting conditions through the day and the sheer distance to controls affected visibility. Many competitors reported never actually seeing all six controls. Eventually, the organizers decided that the right thing was to void that station. This hurt Clare who had done well there, but was a welcome relief to David, Sharon, and Mika, who had difficulty with the station.


The course therefore ended up having seven stations with four tasks at each. Sharon took her time at every station, and the outcome was an almost perfect set of answers. She missed only two and at least one of those was a naming mistake. Clare and Mika, on the other hand, were working harder on their speed, and missed more tasks as a result. They both averaged about 50 seconds per station with Mika missing six controls and Clare missing seven. In the final results, Mika, Sharon, and Clare finished right next to each other in places 66, 67, and 68.


Despite seemingly low placings. This is quite an improvement for Team USA in TempO. Mika's top result represents a placing of 83% down the results list and his score was about 181% behind the winner's time. Our top result in the past has been 90% down the results list and 236% behind the winner. Not only is this top result an improvement, but three of our four competitors were all at about that same level. Much preferred to having all three in the bottom 10 of the results.


Link to maps, results and start lists


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Muddy Trails and Team Travails

After a rainy night, Team USA set forth to conquer the first day of PreO competition at the World Trail Orienteering Championships. The rain created extremely muddy trail conditions such as the organizers had never seen in their two years of preparations. They had worked valiantly to build bridges, provide volunteer escorts and make the trail as suitable as possible, but the competitors, especially those in wheelchairs, had a very slippery and muddy experience.

Technically, the course was quite good, with many difficult controls, yet little to argue about upon seeing the solutions. For the first time in Championship competition, the organizers provided competitors with guidance on the tolerance distance for zero answers. This helped to prevent frustration when controls seemed minorly displaced. It was very nice to be able to safely choose a control knowing that the task at hand was not about the difference of one or two meters in control placement.

As of this writing only preliminary results have been released and it seems likely that these include errors in calculating overtime (including for at least one Team USA member) so we will hold off on discussing our personal placings other than to say - there's always Day 2!
Tomorrow is the TempO qualification day. TempO has traditionally been a weak point for Team USA so we figure there is nowhere to go but up. We are hoping for some faster times than in the past and perhaps to not be at the bottom of the results. The top 36 competitors will move on to Thursday's final round.

Control of the Day:
Controls 10 and 18
This was an interesting course set-up and control 10 was one of the most missed of the day. Even many of the top competitors missed this one. The course had two sections. We started out traveling northwest on the trail in the top corner of the solution map. The viewing station for 10 was there. From that viewpoint it looked like the river cut through just by control C and it was hard to determine that the terrace inside the river bend continued beyond the control.
At a break point, we turned in our map and got a new one. This second part of the course traveled southeast on the other trail closer to the river. Now the same controls were used for a new problem. This time it was easy to determine that B was the control on the proper knoll because the view was much closer and you could see what the river was actually doing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Model Day 1

The weekend events are over and it's time to move on to the actual WTOC. None of the team had stellar results over the weekend, but we can certainly say that we learned a lot.

Today was the first model event. We had a PreO course with 12 controls and one timed control station plus two TempO stations. The area included very subtle terrain and extremely detailed mapping. Clare got all of the PreO controls correct, although she took her time to really understand the mapping. Mika worked on his speed at the timed controls and solved the TempO stations much more quickly than past Saturday.

Team Interview Question:
"After last weekend and today's model, what have you learned that you will bring with you into the competition?"
David: The model was a lot better done than last weekend. It gave me a better feeling that they are going to do a competent job for the rest of the competition. It was good to see them doing the timing. I think it was as much for them to iron out their practice as it was for us to learn how they're doing it.
Clare: To use the contour detail and relative height to solve problems. Many US Trail-O maps don't have accurate enough contour detail for that to be the best solution method, but it's clear that they are using that significantly here.
Mika: I'm not going to be as zero happy as I have been in the past. So I'm going to make sure that my zeros are clear zeros. I'm not going to pick zero just because the flag does not appear to be exactly in the right place.
Sharon: I think to analyze and keep my confidence up. Don't hesitate -- choose and move on.
Karen: (advice to the team) Wear insect repellent.

Control of the Day:
Control Cluster number 8 and 9

This cluster of four controls was used for two problems. Number eight required determining which of the first three flags was on the proper knoll and number nine was basically like an A control problem, trying to decide whether flag "D" was or was not in the correct position. From the viewing point, control eight was difficult. Many of the details in the area were hard to see. It was much easier to solve by viewing from the west, where this was the view:
In the first photo you can see that flag "B" is properly situated relative to the rootstock and that "A" is much too far south. In the second photo, you can see that flag "C" is on the wrong side of the trail. With this information you needed only to verify from the viewing site that control "B" was actually on the knoll.

Number 9 was solved by noting that the contour line ran directly between the rootstocks. You could then follow that contour over to the reentrant to determine that the control was at the correct position within the reentrant.

Solutions: 8-B, 9-D

Sunday, June 21, 2015

TempO Results

The TempO results from yesterday were published late last night. You can find them here.
Best US result was from Clare who placed 71 of 123 competitors, missing 4 controls along the way. Mika Latva-Kokko missed 5 controls and placed 87th. While these placings may seem low, they are quite an improvement for Team USA, who have had disappointing TempO results in earlier years. Let's hope we keep it up for the actual WTOC competition in a few days.

Control of the Day -- Control Cluster 1:
Three of the top seven competitors missed the first control in this cluster -- the only control missed by any of them. Clearly they hit us with something tricky right out of the chute. Clare missed this one because she really didn't know the control description for hedge and was confused by it's similarity to wall. Mika, David, and Karen all missed control number three, which was a very commonly missed control. It was necessary to clearly identify that the tree indicated by the circle and the control description was on the other side of the wall, so couldn't possibly be the answer.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

ECTO TempO in Varazdin

Today we competed on a TempO course as part of a pre-WTOC competition in nearby Varazdin. The solutions and results had not yet been released when we left, so we are in suspense until tomorrow. Clare had the fastest times of our team, and thinks she did fairly well, but only time will tell. The competition was held on the old castle grounds in the center of town. Problems mostly involved corners of buildings or individual trees and bushes. As always, many of the trickiest were Z controls where you had to realize that the featured circle was one that you couldn't really see from your vantage point. The coolest part was a small trail that went around the top of a berm surrounding the castle. A few of the viewing stations were up on the berm looking down toward the castle or out toward the town. Sharon has not yet arrived, so did not compete today.

The Varazdin events also include Foot-O, so Clare and Mika enjoyed a fast and furious park-O sprint in the morning before the temp-O. For more details you can visit Clare's attackpoint log.

Control of the Day:
Since we don't have solution maps yet available, I'll give you a taste of the sprint course. The craziest leg was 10 to 11. That opening between the building and fence north of #10 was a locked gate, so we had to run all the way around to approach #11 from the east.

Friday, June 19, 2015

On the Road Again

We are on the way to Croatia for the 2015 WTOC!.

This year's team consists of:
Sharon Crawford (RMOC) - Open Class
Clare Durand (LAOC) - Open Class
David Irving (SDO) - Paralympic Class
Mika Latva-Kokko (NEOC) - Open Class

Spots on the team were contested earlier this year at the amazingly exciting 2015 US Trail-O Championships. While team spots are awarded on the basis of National Ranking, that ranking consists of your top three scores from the last seven ranked competitions. Since this year's champs had two courses it counted as two scores and therefore was a significant component in team selections. Especially harrowing was the fight for the third Open spot, which came down to the last day at the Championships. Clare succeeded in bringing in the best result for the day, inching her above Mike Poulsen in the rankings and winning her the spot for the WTOC.

Sharon, Clare, and David have all attended multiple previous WTOCs, but this is the first for Mika Latva-Kokko, who is happy to represent USA and to celebrate his new citizenship.