EMPO Times Fall 1997

A Bad Start for Spring Meets


Unfortunately, the Peebles Island meet didn't happen in April. The morning of the meet, there was snow on the ground, it was still snowing, and in nearby areas as much as six inches of snow had already fallen. A decision had to be made quickly, and it was felt that holding the event might not only be un-fun but dangerous, considering the possibility of slippery terrain combined with high bluffs. To those who did turn up, our apologies. We don't usually do this, canceling events, that is. We'll get back to Peebles soon, and let's hope next time we can get the snow in the Winter when we're trying to ski instead of after we've packed the skis away for the Spring.


For our next event, at least we had a beautiful day. It gets hard to prepare somewhat "new" courses on a map we've used many times, so this time around the Meet Director tried going back to the southern extension of the Thacher map, which has seen limited use since its inauguration at our first "A" meet back in May of 1993. Since it actually extends beyond the Park boundaries, this involves getting permission from the landowners, who were gracious enough to allow us to use their land. The simple fact of the 55mph-road crossing makes the area poor for use on White, Yellow and even Orange. Then, the course setter is somewhat limited to sending Green/Red people either clockwise or counter-clockwise around the area, and the amount of climb makes it tough to send even the Green course runners across much of the terrain. In the end, only the Red course had the full climb to the top of the ridge, but several Green course runners apparently didn't want to miss those vistas, and went all the way up there anyway. So, I guess that maybe I overdid it a bit, once again. The results on White and Orange seem appropriate, and Red was only a bit high (10-15 minutes?), but Yellow and Green seem to have been too difficult. For the Green I can maybe blame the map. It just never occurred to me that the lack of a trail indication in the "Open" corridor going up the hill would seem so confusing to so many people. For the record, "Open" areas, mapped as yellow, often don't have black trail marks across them, despite trails being very visible on the ground. On the Yellow course, I think I needed more controls, because a couple of legs (#2 & #4) were too long for this level, where distance judging is not too well advanced. Well, I keep learning. I think almost everyone still really did "Have Fun Anyway." And for a change we got the nicest day out of many for our event. Didn't lose any flags this year either, although curiously one punch did manage to disappear, causing a few folks to spend some time hunting around for it. It may turn up again. A few years ago while setting a course, I found the remains of an old control on the ground up by the ruin just off the big spur at the top of the Southeast section of the map. The cloth was all gone from the wires, but it still had its punch attached. Those things last! We'll probably be back next year, and we may well find it. Depending somewhat on where that crazed course setter sends everyone then!

[Rita Reed] [Katie Choiniere]
Rita Reed and Katie Choiniere come in to the Finish Line at Thacher Park

[Team Rauhauser]
Team Rauhauser prepares their map


The ideal weather (clear, sunny and temperatures around 70) made this meet a stark contrast to the usual conditions I experience when hosting a meet. The weather I usually am dealt is wind driven rain; severe floods; or a blizzard no matter if it's a ski or running "O". Times for each of these courses were longer than usual, but it was impossible not to get distracted by Nature's splendor. This is an excellent time of the year to see all the wildlife. Amphibians, crustaceans, reptiles and birds all were abundant. As I set the Red course I flushed out a family of Canadian geese and six goslings and watched an English sparrow flutter off into the underbrush, faking a broken wing to attract the intruders attention away from her nest. Add to this all the wild flowers in bloom and a dusting of cottonwood seeds thick enough in spots to ski on (almost), it made a beautiful picture. It was unfortunate that the bird population was not able to keep ahead of the deer flies!

[Rob Tryson and friend, Eric Hamilton]
Rob Tryson and his friend Andrew Curtiss receive ribbons from Meet Director Eric Hamilton

EMPO's Vischer Ferry Meet Director, Eric Hamilton, went on to win the Silver Medal in Orienteering at the Empire State Senior Games, held at Green Lakes State Park in the Syracuse area this summer.

EMPO Goes West

Seven EMPO members (comprising two families) went out to Colorado this summer for the Colorado 1000 Day orienteering event(s). Everyone had a fun and successful time, and in fact everyone finished "in the money" in at least one event. Different EMPO members won their age/sex classes in the Multi-day event, and each of three US Championships: the Night-O, the Short-O and the Long-O, along with several 2nd's and 3rd's. And to top it off, the Relay Team not only finished this time, but came in 3rd out of 11 "8-point" teams (you get points for older, younger, and female team members), and a respectable 25th (out of 41 teams) overall.

[Relay Team]
The Relay Team in the Rockies, in the order they ran: Phil, Greg, Janet, Glen

Orienteering in Colorado is somewhat different than in the Northeast. First you have to get used to the altitude. When you first arrive, you can get pretty pooped walking to the refrigerator. But you have to keep making that walk for cold (and non-caffienated and non-alcoholic!) drinks because the second problem is you get very dehydrated, both from the altitude and the extremely dry air. Then, when you venture outside, you have to be extra careful of the sun, which can burn you rapidly through the thin atmosphere. And once you actually start orienteering, you're not running under a canopy of forest very much; it's generally much more open, which is easy in some ways, but the openness is partly because there are very few clear and distinct features to use for locations and handrails. One day the Red course had ten re-entrants for controls! In that type of terrain, you cannot lose track of where you are, or, as the saying goes, you're toast. You'll take forever trying to relocate yourself.

The Relay course was long compared to other years. Supposedly this was because the site of that event was a fairly open park, and fast times were expected. Well, regardless of the openness, it sure felt Long. It wasn't up there with the Long-O courses, where the Green course was 13.3k, the Red 15.7k, and the Blue a whopping 22.7k; but the 8.2k (1st) and 10.5k (4th) leg lengths were beyond the upper reach of normal Red courses. In fact they were long enough that teams were given a choice of splitting these two longer legs up, and running as five- or six-person teams, but EMPO opted for the basic four-person format. Your Editor had an OK first leg going, despite a less than optimal route choice on #2, until seriously blowing it on #5, taking three tries from a couple of relocation points before hitting the control. This cost about five minutes off the clock, and a lot more off my composure, but from then on the remaining 14 controls went pretty well. Greg Tryson on Leg 2 had no big problems, and gained some ground on the field; and Janet Tryson on Leg 3 kept it going, dropping a few places but very little time. Then Glen "DNF" Tryson made up for his last Colorado anchor leg, two years ago, with a particularly fine outing, covering the 10.5k in 53:50. No doubt he wishes he could turn in per kilometer times like that in the East. In all, it was another beautiful day in the mountains, and fun running (and climbing and jumping and rolling and...).

[Marty Hawkes-Teeter]
Marty Hawkes-Teeter heads off to the first control on the Yellow course at Round Mountain

This was the last year the event will be held as the "Colorado" However-many-day, as it will move to Wyoming next year and be re-titled the "Rocky Mountain" ????-day. They'll have a new bunch of maps and a new event center, but the same not-overly-serious approach. It's a trip one can't make every year, but maybe next year we'll try it one more time.

Orienteering Basics

There aren't really a lot of resource materials readily available if you want to learn a bit more about how to orienteer. You have to hunt a bit. A couple of good sources which we have mentioned before are the magazine Orienteering North America, which you get free with a membership to the United States Orienteering Federation (USOF; see page 9), and the "O-Net", which is made up of the Usenet newsgroup rec.sport.orienteering and the e-mail "O-Net Digest". However, many beginners don't feel ready to join USOF, and others may not have Internet access, and both these sources are somewhat slanted towards more experienced orienteers anyway. There are some good instruction books available, but they aren't easy to find (though the Albany Public Library does have one) except from a few specialty orienteering supply operations, which mostly operate by mail order (and they often bring some items for sale to "A" level meets). I would encourage anyone to buy some of these materials (and if you don't know how to contact them, ask any EMPO Meet Director), but in the meantime the EMPO Times will try to regularly include a few pieces of basic orienteering instruction. Sometimes this will be a definition of a term, sometimes a "what to do when ", and sometimes an example of a good (or bad) approach to solving an "O" problem.

First Things: What's the first thing you do when you start off on your course? Orient your map! That's the most important reason for having a compass with you. Yes, you may sometimes run on a compass bearing, but generally you should be trying to go on the basis of your ability to match what you see on the map with what you see around you. So, look at which direction your compass is telling you is North, then turn your map so that the North-South lines are pointing in that same direction. Now, whichever direction you happen to be facing, you should be able to see the same features just beyond the Start triangle on the map and just beyond you on the ground. Pick out the trail (or whatever) that you want to be on leaving the Start area on the map, then pick it out on the ground. As you go along, try to keep the map oriented properly, which means you'll be turning it a lot. For instance if you're headed West, you should be holding the map so that the North line points to your right; if you then turn South, turn the map so that the line is pointing towards you. If you need to check your compass to make sure the map is lined up properly, then do it. Once you've done this a few times, it should come fairly easily.

Attack Point: Once you move past the White course level, there will be controls on your courses which are not right on a handy linear feature like a trail. How will you get there? You could try taking a compass bearing from wherever you are (at the Start, or another control), but it is very hard (and slow) to keep on a precise bearing once you get beyond a few hundred meters. If the feature you're looking for is small, you might well miss it. What you need to do is look for an Attack Point near the control, which would be something you're sure to find easily. Say your control feature is a 1/2 meter boulder. That might be hard to find, but you see it is within 100 meters of a sharp bend in the trail. Now you know you can go as fast as you want until you reach the sharp bend, then you take a rough compass bearing to get to the boulder. Any obvious feature can be used as an Attack Point: a large pond, a hilltop, or a junction. So make it easier for yourself: get close to the control first by heading to an Attack Point, then slow down a little while you move on from there to get the flag.

Are these two ideas clear? If not, then ask another experienced orienteer at the next Meet you attend to explain them better. Everyone has different ways of thinking about these things, and someone else's may click better with you.

Fall Meets Include A Special Event

This season we bring back an old map from the past: the Five Rivers Environmental Center. It's not a big area, but has quite varied terrain, which can make for fine White/Yellow/Orange courses. The Orange course will be on the longer side to give those who normally run Green or Red a bit more of a challenge. Remember the Colorado maxim: if it's too easy, you're not running fast enough! Next up comes Grafton Lakes, where we'll do a "Western Mass. Rules" Score-O: how quickly can you get a certain number of controls, in any order. It really isn't as far to Grafton as you might think, and it's a beautiful park. The week after that we're going to try something new: a Bike-O on the trails at Thacher Park. If you have a mountain bike and are looking for something interesting to do with it, come join us, along with some of the Mohawk-Hudson Wheelmen, for our first try at the newest official orienteering category. Finally, the EMPO Club Champs will return once again to Schenectady Museum Nature Preserve in November. Challenging terrain and courses set by our president will make this a great finale. It should be another great series of events. Hope you can make them ALL!