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.

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