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Thursday, 28 May 2009

1st Control Blues

I have to admit Jamie did a post on this a few months back when I emailed him with advice. After Katoa Po weekend I was really frustrated in that I would completely mess up either the first control or one of the first three. It has been a hallmark of my orienteering career from when I started a couple of years ago to now. For the life of me I haven't been able to figure out what I am doing wrong until now, perhaps!

Jamie's first bit of advice to me when orienteering was navigate before you run. This has been my mantra since then (Labour weekend 2007) and despite that it is the one thing that I consistently do poorly on either the first control (9 times out of 10) or one of the first three controls (1 time out of 10). So, can the solution be that easy?

I have realised in my process of getting going at the start of a race I just pick up the map and go. No time taken to aligning it properly, read the terrain to the first control or anything. Instead I am running around like a headless chicken trying to work out every 50 metres where the hell am I. It must look great to watch to those observing. However, not fun when it is happening to you.

It is clear I need to slow down and take an extra 10 seconds at the start of an event to read the map properly even if I don't move at all from the start. Surely this will give me some time to think things through and plan properly. As much as this has come as a revelation to me I still haven't had the chance to put it into practice - maybe at the Heights of Winter rogaine when I take off for the first control and leave my more calm and collected partner (wife) doing things properly.

If anyone thinks I am on the wrong track comments are appreciated. Or, just add in your own experiences and techniques for dealing with the problem if you have come across it.

Good luck for all those competing at Queen's Birthday weekend. I will be keeping up my training regime with a wedding at a winery in the Hawkes Bay!


Alistair said...


"Every step I take should be in the right direction" Thierry Gueorgiou

"I decided to walk to the first control" Kent Olsson (commenting on his plan starting WOC 1987 in France which he not only won but had the fastest time to the first control!) how you approach a first control should be a derivative of the combination of these two quotes - it's a mental thing as to how you approach the problem at race-start. Of course you won't "walk" but you should at least be "in control"!

Neil K said...

I believe that the first control technique should be very similar to the rest of the course. However your gonna need to spend more time at the start to plan the leg (because you haven't had a chance to plan yet). You will also be adviced to take a risk free route choice (especially in foriegn terrain/mapping) to adjust to the subtleties of the map.

Taking more time to read the map does not neccessarily mean you need to stand still. In most terrains it is clear beforehand wheather straight route choices are possible or not. Generally setting off on a straight bearing until you quickly come up with a plan is enough. The important thing is not to try and work out where you are now (your at the start triangle, but to come with a plan for finding the control safely. That means working backwards from the control, with Attackpoints, catching features, line features and stepping stones. Also try and look as far forward on the ground as possible and relate it to the map. Disregard what is at the start triangle when you can see what it is in the distance that you want to go too.

I don't believe in wasting 10 seconds at the start to get settled. That is 10 seconds onto your race time (12 places at O-ringen!). But I do agree with Al and Theirry that every step should be in the right direction and that you should be in control. So it is therefore sensible to not race hectically off but too "invest" in map reading and compass time to ensure your heading in the right direction.