Monday, November 12, 2012

Blowing Up

My goal this Winter O' season is to eliminate what I call "blow-up" mistakes. Mistakes big enough to cost me the podium on their own. While even the best orienteers make mistakes, their mistakes are small: quickly realized and quickly corrected.

The chart above shows error-free time and time lost (errors) at the 2012-13 Winter O' season opener at Lincoln Park where I had my most recent blow-up. Notice that my chunk of red (errors) is HUGE compared to the those above me. Now subtract everyone's errors and where does that put me? In 2nd place, and in striking distance of 1st. These blow-ups are costly.

Here's another way to look at it. The chart below is from a meet last year where I had a pretty bad blow-up on one control. My performance is reflected in the green dots, the winner's (our internationally ranked Norwegian friend ;) in red, and another local orienteer in blue. Even though the local (blue) finished 34 minutes behind the winner (red), I'd say they both had successful races because their peaks are very high and consolidated. This means that they were both consistent, the winner just ran faster. My race, however, was all over the place. I had second place splits and I had fourteenth place splits- there was no consistency in my race, so my line is a long mountain range with no dominating peak.

Another way to look at it. The chart below is from another Winter O' race last year. Twelve out of 19 controls, I had a top 5 or better split. Most of those splits were second fastest behind our speedy Norweigan friend. But them BLAMM-O! Watch my green dotted line tank to control 16.

So what happened at Lincoln Park? It's a trails only venue! I went into it thinking, "PFF! Walk in the park. Literally."

Then I entered the Maze of Terror.

Seems easy enough on paper, but number 9 did me in- where I lost.. TWELVE MINUTES.

At the time I thought I managed the situation okay. I changed my pace from a run to a brisk walk when I entered the maze. I didn't panic or scramble when I made the mistake. To fix it, I got back out to the main trail, re-confirmed where I was, and attacked again. And attacked from different attack points. ..several times.

What did I do wrong? I tried to study my GPS tracks afterwards, but it reads like illegible scribbles. I even had video footage, but my camera was pointed up at the tops of the trees the whole time!

So what did I do that I could fix for next time? Being able to articulate what went wrong and how to fix it is how you become a better orienteer. If you're content being strictly recreational, by all means, shrug it off and wash it down with a good beer. But if you want to improve, it's best to be as specific as possible about your mistakes and weaknesses so that your future training can target those weaknesses. It's not enough to just practice- you must commit to deliberate practice.

So what did I do wrong? I'm still not sure. But here's what I should do to fix it! :)


  1. I'm fairly new, so this may be a silly question but, how you determine the error time? Are you using some specific software for these charts/data?