Monday, December 14, 2009

Course Analysis: Sandra Zurcher in Trondheim

This week's US Team course analysis comes from a training camp for WOC 2010 in Trondheim that Sandra attended this fall together with the Swiss O-Team.

September 1st, 2009

In this training we had the objective to use the swamps as much as possible as navigational help. As this was only the 2nd day in the training camp and the first 2 trainings didn’t go very well for me, I was pleasantly surprised and also relieved to find some flow and confidence during this training. For the most part, I ran well and I felt like I understood how the terrain was mapped. I made a pretty big route choice error (control 6) and a parallel error (control 7), which were due to not being familiar with the terrain yet.

Here is a control-to-control analysis:

Start -1: The start was pretty tricky, because the terrain is really quiet vague. I basically ran on a compass and saw the change in the contours as I headed uphill. I felt pretty relieved to find the control right there where I thought it should be. I would not have had a good concept for relocating, since I wouldn’t have know if I was too far to the left or right. This can be a problem on the hillsides in Trondheim, they are vague and it’s hard to relocate.

1-2: With this initial wake-up call, I decided to run the next leg using the swamps (like we were told to) and therefore having a more precise plan. It was the safer way to run this control, but that turned out to be a good thing. Others had trouble with this one. I potentially could have used the lower swamp and the stream running in the direction of my control.

2-3: The yellow swamps light up in the forest really well and are great objects to use for navigation. I used the small swamp up the hill, out of the control, to the bigger yellow swamp. Afterwards, I used the stream down to the big yellow swamp. Saw the hunting stand at one edge and went along the hillside to the stream. Ran along the stream for a moment and then up the hill on the other side to the bigger swamp and then ran the swamp all the way to the control.

3-5: Straight shot to both controls

5-6: I took a bad route choice. My problem is that I didn’t see the bridge across the big stream just south of the line. I also thought it would be fast to get out to the road, but this actually felt like it took a long time. I guess it was way too distance, especially in this type of terrain, which is really quiet runnable and fast. The 2nd half of my route choice was good, using the swamps.

6-7: Left the control using my compass and seeing the small white patch in the swamp first and than the two green patches later. I must have drifted up a little after the green patches and did a parallel error, mixing up the forest patches, thinking I was running in the lower swamp. This doesn’t make sense in retrospect, because the swamp would have been open to the north, and I ran between two forest patches. I relocated on the two rocks. Nice to have a feature like that, it would have been trickier without them.

7-8: Surfing the swamps. This is when a good phase kicked in and I really “saw” everything I wanted to see.

8-9: Used the swamp to head down the hill and then saw the rock at the end of the swamp.

9-10: Contoured around the small hill and through the yellow swamp. Then went a little further on my compass and hit the small stream, kept going on my compass and the control appeared.

10-11: Used the small swamp running downhill and then used my compass in the forest until the hillside got steeper. Saw the cliff just below me and went around to the left of it and down to my control. The nose was not clear here and the terrain was pretty deep and tough, but everything had been correct up until then, so I just went down a little further and there it was.

11-12: Popped over into the yellow swamp, than contoured in the forest until the next swamp and followed it until I saw the swamp coming up from below and the control.

12-13: Ran the swamp down hill and kept on my compass. Simone Niggli passed me here and I tried to keep up with her running downhill. She is really very skilled at downhill running. I had trouble being as agile and limber. Landed in the big yellow swamp below and ran on the road for a few steps before running in the swamp around the hill. Ran through the big swamp into the woods and to the control.

13-14: Decided to climb a little and run the swamp on top (because they are SO great for navigating!!) and saw the small knoll at the end of the long flat hilltop and well as the vegetation boundary.

14-15: Ran on a compass down the hill, but it was pretty junky, so I got off my compass bearing. Ended up too far to the right and ran along the river back to the control.

Overall it was a good training, and it is really easy to learn from the two larger mistakes as well. I really enjoyed the accuracy and flow I had from 7 to 14. I think (or better said, I hope) that there will be orienteering like this in the middle distance at WOC. I also think that the long distance will have orienteering like the beginning 8 controls.


feet said...

You really need a bridge to cross the large stream on 5-6? It's not marked as uncrossable.

Eric Bone said...

Thanks for the analysis. So, what I get from reading this is that swamps are the orienteer's friend in this terrain and that it can be diffuse and hard to read when one is not in a swamp. I'm curious to learn more about what happened on 6-7. Was it hard to interpret how the vegetation was mapped? It sounds like you thought you knew where you were, but then you didn't end up in the right place. If you ran a similar leg 10 more times, what are the chances that you'd make the same mistake at least once? Do you have any insight on how this could be avoided?

Sandra said...

That's true feet, the stream is not marked as uncrossable. However, the stream was really pretty big, so I just asked Marc what he thought and he meant that you could cross it, but using the bridge is a good risk management.

Eric, you hit exactly on an important point. It's sometimes hard to tell if you are in a swamp or not. If the swamp is marked with yellow, than it's noticeable. If the swamp is blue with white under it it's harder to tell the difference between swamp and land. What happened to me on leg 6-7 is that I thought I was running in between the two patches of forest north of the line in the yellow swamp, but I was too far south running in between forest patches in a much smaller corridor. The mistake happened mostly because I didn't realize that I wasn't in yellow swamp anymore. This probably happened because I thought I was in the right place and maybe a lack of concentration for a moment. The area after the two light green patches was pretty diffuse.

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