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Some Navigation Training Ideas

I thought I'd try to record for posterity some of the more unique and interesting events we've done during our informal TNT (Tuesday Night Training) sessions.

December 2008 (Stephen & Kari) - "The Orienteerduobowlathlon".

This was a great cross-training idea. Stephen set up a 25-point, skip-3 urban course on the U of M Minneapolis campus (duct tape and flagging tape), but we all met a little ways away at Memory Lanes, on 26th Ave in the Seward neighborhood. He distributed the maps, and we all road ran over to the West Bank, did the course (including two crossings of the Washington Avenue Bridge), then returned to Memory Lanes for part two - the bowling! When everyone got back from the first section, we divided up into four teams of four and bowled two games apiece. An individual's two games were averaged, substracted from 200, and added to the course time (in minutes) to crown the first (ever) Orienteerduobowlathlon World Champion. Beer and breakfast burritos were optional.

October 2008 (Pete) - Team Memory-O at Battle Creek

I set up 15 points in the area of Battle Creek between Upper and Lower Afton Roads, including the dog park. At each point I put three strips of flagging tape - red, yellow, and pink, and also printed out three maps showing all the locations. I was prepared for more people, but only four showed up, so I split them into two teams of two - let's call them the Young Guns and the Old Farts - and assigned them each a tape color. The object of the event was simply to return all the tapes with your team's color, subject to some rules.

We took a quick warmup jog to a place I designated as the start, centrally located in the park at a three-way trail junction. Then I announced the object and the rules, which were simple. The maps stayed with me at the start, and teams could use any means they wanted to coordinate retrieval of the tapes. They could go together or split up; retrieve one at a time or multiple; or any combination in between. Thinking through, you could see how each approach had its risks. The tapes were not numbered, so if a team split up they would have to spent some time coordinating, to prevent going after a tape that had already been retrieved by their teammate. Some of tapes were easy trail junctions, others required remembering a sequence of several attack points. The distances were distributed between 150 and 900 meters from the start.

Oh - and it was also dark by now, so it was a night memory-O.

The Young Guns took an early lead, but eventually the Old Farts pulled even and nipped the competition by less than two minutes. The total time was a little longer than I wanted, about 80 minutes, but that's because there were only two people per team. This format also had the advantage that control retrieval was part of the training.

September 2008 (Todd) - Flow course at Como

On a nice warm day in September, Todd set our own little nighttime "Mega-O" course at Como, a small, feature rich urban park with lots of open running. He mapped 74 control locations, many only a couple of tens of meters apart, but didn't actually tape them. Nevertheless, they were all placed on obvious features with little room for debate. The idea of the event was to practice, by repetition, moving smoothly through the course, without lots of sprinting, then stopping to consult the map, and so on. We were supposed to practice executing a route to a control while being aware of, or if possible, planning the next leg. Also trying to be quick into and out of the circle, and being aware of what direction to leave the control.

As I logged on AP, I'd specifically practiced this kind of fluidity before and settled into a good flow, planning one leg ahead about 70% of the time, not able to about 15% of the time, and planning more than one leg ahead the remaining 15%. Most of the failures were because of subtleties on a short leg that forced me to focus on the current task at hand, without leaving any time to look ahead. And once, I almost run headfirst into a big oak tree.

August 2008 (Mo & Biz) - "Search for the One-Eyed Hooker" at Wirth Park

This was a reprise of the like-named game from the year before. Justin and Molly prepared a course ahead of time with about 12 controls. At each location, they placed two small (5 inch high) surveyor's flags with wire stems. They also placed two large (2 foot) orange flags with wooden handles at the first control. Nine of us started from the Eloise Butler parking lot with marked maps, and the object of the game was to successfully transport a large flag from one control to the following one, without being tagged by a competitor. Each time someone successfully moved a flag forward, they could take one of the small surveyor flags and return it to the center location, drop it off, and perform an extra physical task (ranging from pushups to a couple of hill repeats) to obtain a point. While one or two competitors were doing this, the rest continued the game, thus preventing the scoring from being dominated by any one or two people. A competitor claiming a point had to take the time to run back out, locate, and rejoin the game. The presence or absence of the small flags was the way to tell whether the big flags were ahead or behind.

Anyone seen carrying a large flag was eligibile to be tagged - if they were caught before reaching a 15 meter "safe zone" around the next control, they had to turn over the flag to the tagger and stand still for 60 seconds.

This was a great workout because it involved navigation, lots of running both on and off trail, and some healthy competition.

July 2008 (Mike) - "Leader of the Pack" plus sprint at Hyland

Mike set a midsummer course at Hyland. We all met at the school parking just outside the east border of Hyland. He distributed three maps that were marked with staggered (untaped) locations: 1, 4, 7, etc. on map A; 2, 5, 8 on Map B; 3, 6, 9 on Map C. We all jogged as a pack, mostly down trails, and one person navigated to the next location (off the correct map). When we reached the spot, that person handed off the map to someone else, and the person carrying the next map in sequence took over. Anyone carrying a map not being used, obviously, had to keep track of where we were, in preparation for their turn to lead.

We finished at the north lot near Jan's Place, and then Mike had surprise #2 for us - he set about 15 tapes in the visitor center area, and we then did an individual sprint to collect as many as possible and return to the finish. Finally, we all grouped up again and jogged back to the cars.

August 2007 (Darryn) - Trail course at Wirth

Darryn set a fun course at Wirth Park. He taped 22 control locations that were either trail junctions, intersections, or ends (where the trail ended, e.g. at a marsh or at a city street.) But we didn't have any marked maps - instead he gave us a blank one and a pen, and told us to run around and map as many tapes at possible. Not only did we have to find them, we had to know where to mark them down. Plus, we had to keep track of which trail segments we'd already covered.