Preparation – what to do and is it worth it?
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.
This quote is generally attributed to Benjamin Franklin – and has relevance to how you might go about being an even better orienteer than you are just now.
Preparation – quite often referred to as ‘geeking’.
What is involved and what do I do?
First of all, think about your orienteering season – the BASOC calendar can help you with this.
Decide on which are your key events for the year – how many should this be? Well it depends. . . Juniors might have certain races identified as selection races, the rest of us need to think about two to five races where we want to be the best we can be. Highlight these races on the calendar (remember that this can be flexible, you might be ill or injured and your training does not go to plan) and in the interests of peace and harmony at home put in the other main family demands!
What can help you to prepare for your key orienteering event/s?
First of all, make sure that you read the event details thoroughly (it is really surprising how many miss out this step!). The event details should give you some information about the area and could even link to past events held there. These are also often updated close to the event so go back and check the website as part of your final preparations. The JK 2020 website has been excellent for the detail given about the areas with links to follow for past maps / courses.
All or some of the following could be used.
Orienteering technique is very personal - what is of most value is personal to you and can be particular to an area. It also depends on the time you wish to allocate to it.
- Prior knowledge – have you been to the area before? What do you remember from it?
- Do you know someone else who has orienteered there before, or more recently than you have?
- Old maps of the area – these are often on the club website along with RouteGadget.
- Previous courses – how was the area used? RouteGadget informs this process as well. Were there any spots where many competitors had problems? Take a look at the GPS tracks for the leg 4 to 5 on the Medium course at the NNC6 on Findhorn 2019
- Satellite images, using Google or equivalent.
- Walk around parts of the area with the ‘Mr Google man’.
How do you use your ‘geeking’?
Again this will be personal to you, both with regard to how you actually orienteer and the time you have available.
- From the maps – what is the area like? This will be explored in more detail below as I take a different approach for urban areas compared to forest & moorland areas.
- What are you able to remember? For many of us, this will be quite limited! Simplify things or concentrate on a few key points.
- What navigational techniques will be really important during your race? This comes back to the Plan – Direction – Picture methodology mentioned in the ‘Improving your orienteering technique’ article.
You might wish to develop this further with ‘Simplification’ and ‘Bomb proof Attack Points’, depending on your navigational strengths and the competition (for instance, how you navigate during the day on an area could change at night for the same area).
What is the area like?
As previously mentioned, I take a different approach in an urban area to a forest / moorland area.
There are a few things I concentrate on here:
- Are there any multi-levels to be aware of? How will you know this? Look at the screen shot of the map ‘Edinburgh’; here you can see a line of black dots, indicating a lower level and an upper level. You could then use Google Street view to take a walk around the area to increase your understanding. If you look at ‘X’ on the map and then look at the ‘Streetview at X’ screen shot, you can start to get an understanding of the area in 3-D.
- I look to see if there are areas where all the buildings will look the same and it could be easy to make parallel errors. Take a look at Erskine. Can you spot where there are areas of similar buildings?
- I also check to see if there is anything unexpected in the area – for the JK2020 Sprint, there is the Teeside White Water Course – could be noisy with the rushing water if it is turned on!
Forest / Moorland
- I try to understand the shape of the area by looking at the past maps. This can be quite complex so I will often spend about half an hour drawing up a simplified map on a large sheet of paper using coloured pens. I identify the main shapes of the land (is there a general slope, for instance a hillside descending from SW to NE?). If it is a complex area then I will often look for the river valleys, the ridges between the valleys, the steepness (or not) of the slopes between the river valley, any other key features (lochs, open areas, etc.).
- What is the vegetation like? Satellite photos can help a bit here, sometimes the ‘Mr. Google man’ has also taken a walk around! Search for ‘Cader Idris’ and you can walk around and up this mountain in Wales! I leave this out if I am short of time.
- What is the pattern of the main roads and tracks in the area?
It comes down to what I can remember from this investigation – and also using the pre-event details to work out where the Arena / Finish is and maybe even the area for the Start if details are given regarding the direction & distance from the Arena to the Start.
So, happy geeking, chat to other BASOC people going to the same event, what are they expecting, have you missed something really key or are you better informed than others?
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