Last weekend I organised a mini-rogaine (only 4 hours) in Birya Forest, which is a very steep and very nice area that contains three separate orienteering maps. My work was divided into two parts:
- Mapping a small extension, planning and marking controls, and redrawing parts of the existing MTBO map (which I made ten years ago).
- Using my BI (Business Intelligence) skills, which I usually get paid for, to create a dynamic analysis of the results on Tableau Public. Most of the preparation was done in advance, with a sample data set, and after the event I just had to switch the data and add some finishing touches.
The results, of both efforts, were successful. 180 orienteers enjoyed the event, in almost perfect weather conditions, and there were none of our usual mishaps (controls stolen, emptied water controls, not enough maps, etc.). The feedback on the results was good as well, and the nice thing is that I can now reuse the code for future events. Below is a sample screenshot, and clicking on it will link you to the interactive results – all the explanations and headings are in English, but the team names are in Hebrew.
This rogaine started a year ago, when it was cancelled due to the heat and air pollution. I immediately informed Itay Manor, who I am coaching and is one of the best orienteers in the country, that he should plan on participating, because Roni and I were already planning another child and I knew we wouldn’t be able to run together.
Then it was decided that the national team would have a training camp with their foreign coach on the date of the rogaine, and a month before, after I finally gave up on my efforts to get the date changed (and we weren’t the only team affected), I was left without a partner. I called up Ronen Shurer from my club, who is probably the closest to me in ability (we’re almost level in the H35 rankings), and he agreed readily. A week later his employer rescheduled a business trip for that date, and I was alone again.
After a few phone calls to potential partners from the orienteering scene, I started thinking “outside the box” and checked up with Veronika Ulychny, who is in our work team for the Mountain to Valley relay (coming up in a couple of months – 8 runners, 24 legs, 200+ km) and theoretically the second fastest on the team after myself. She’s younger than me (30), runs marathons and goes trekking and climbing, and she agreed to participate as my teammate with only two weeks notice.
So there we were on Saturday morning at the crack of dawn, with some light rain just starting on a cloudy day, ready for an 8-hour rogaine. I was as ready as I could be, hoping to hold up better than all the previous times, praying that Veronika could run in terrain as well as I expected. I also knew that we were going to battle Noam and Naomi Ravid, as usual, for first place in the “mixed” category.
Our planning was based on an estimated straight line pace of 4.5 km/hour, or 36 km overall. The route we planned was 34.5 km, so there was margin for error, and we had a plan for extending it if we were really fast.
We could have won. During the race I made three orienteering mistakes that cost us 11 points, and we lost to Noam and Naomi by 9 points. None of the mistakes would have happened if I’d had an experienced orienteer such as Itay or Ronen beside me, but Veronika was orienteering for the first time in her life. She can read a map well, but obviously I had to make all the decisions and I didn’t expect her to have the confidence to second-guess me on any of them, though I consulted with her and explained all the route choices.
First, we missed our first control, number 81 (8 points). It was in thick forest, the map had lots of missing features, and after looking around for a few minutes with a few other teams I decided to cut our losses and continue. The planner has admitted to being partly at fault, and the features on the map are too small for my eyesight, but we didn’t get the control and that’s it.
Secondly, I made a parallel error at 83 (stopped for gel after a steep climb and restarted somewhere else…) and lost around 10 valuable minutes.
Third, I decided to skip control 53 between 93 and 84 (the only actual change to our plan), but didn’t notice that the new route needed only a small detour to collect no. 33 (3 more points) as well.
After about 6 hours my knees started acting up, and my running ability slowly deteriorated to the level where I had severe pain running downhill and a bit less on the flat (we weren’t running uphill anyway). Luckily the last hour was mostly uphill, and Noam and Naomi went past us at the last control (74) so we knew they were in front and I could walk the steep downhill to the finish, where we arrived with two minutes to spare.
We finished 5th overall and 2nd in our category with 122 points. It rained only at the start, we dried out after a couple of hours, and the weather was perfect (cool and cloudy) the rest of the time. My GPS logged 49.1 km and almost 1300m climb, though Veronika’s died out showing 49.5 km about 15 minutes before the end, so maybe we ran over 50. We filled up with water only once (at E), and ate lots of gels and some other stuff.
Veronika was magnificent. Physically she held up much better than me and was skipping around at the end as if she’d just finished the warmup. Her shoes were not suited for terrain, but she didn’t complain even once. She was on my heels wherever I led her into the bush just like an experienced orienteer. In the first hour something got into her eye and she carried on for the rest of the race with one eye mostly shut, despite our best attempts to wash it – afterwards the doctor diagnosed it as a scratch and gave her a few days off work… She also had one bad fall (it looked bad to me) and carried on as if nothing had happened. I’ll be eternally grateful to her for agreeing to come on this adventure at such short notice and enabling me to participate.
Next year Roni will be back, even if it’s just at walking pace, and I’ll be with her. I went further than before this time, despite being a few years older, and I know how to get even better, so maybe I can still run a painless rogaine before I get too old.
Thanks to Pavel Levitsky for the planning, and to Noam Ravid for the mapping. Let’s hope that there are many more rogaines like this one!
Our first orienteering race of this season was an evening mini-rogaine of 4 hours starting in Park HaYarkon, in the centre of Tel-Aviv, last Friday. Basically it’s a very long and flat stretch of park and some orchards on both sides of the Yarkon river, from the Mediterranean Sea in the west and almost 9 km inland to the east.
Roni and myself are nowhere near competitive fitness, but we saw this as a unique opportunity for some quality time together, and knew we could last the course, even though our last competitive rogaine (12 hours and hilly) was 2.5 years ago. We also assumed that we could get all 29 controls, and planned accordingly without measuring distances. In the end we were 3:20 minutes late, mostly due to a planning error on our part – we misread the X marking the bridge near 93 as blocked, and had to detour to take the control.
It was a long race: 32.4 km, running most of the time, with a couple of strategic spells of walking. The map (rotated – east is up) is below, with some annotations. We had perfectly even splits – at 2:01:40 the distance covered was exactly 16.2 km. Our plan was to minimise river crossings (though there were 15 bridges) by going east on the south side, crossing to the north, back all the way to the west on the north, and then back to the start on the south. We lost very little time on the orienteering, but the last hour or so of running was really tough on Roni, especially as we already knew we’d be late and had decided to take all the controls anyway as long as we could make it without being disqualified (over 15 minutes late). The race against time from the tip of the pier (92) to the finish was murder, and looking for the last control (72) in pitch dark woods was a challenge, but it was worth it. We both ran again yesterday morning (2.5 days after), so there are no ill effects. Thanks to Pavel Levitsky for planning a great course, as usual.
And hopefully there will be some real orienteering stuff soon – it’s getting a bit cooler at last.