Orienteering is a sport in which it is very easy to become obsessively geeky over. SI punching, GPS and the growth of the internet have all contributed towards made this easier than ever, taking the conversations along the lines of “how did you get from control X to control Y” to a whole new level. At a very informal local event recently I was surprised at how fast I’d run compared to others (a somewhat unusual situation) and as there was no punching I used my gps trace to check I’d been to all the controls! I use various tools to log and analyse my orienteering / training so thought I’d share them all here!
The catalyst to all this geekery is undoubtedly my wrist-worn GPS. I use a Garmin Forerunner 305.
I like this device, it’s easy to use and has some nice tools, when I’m just running I use it for pacing but more importantly (for me anyway) is for orienteering analysis (mostly in QuickRoute, below). My Dad has a 405 which is smaller, sleeker and meant to be more advanced, but I found it somewhat painful to use. I’ll be sticking to my chunkier, uglier but easier to use 305 for now. I use a bit of software called SportTracks to analyse and store all the data from it. I don’t use SportTracks much as I have other tools I’m about to explain that I use a lot more, but it’s a nice place to store data from the GPS device. I also have a heart rate monitor I wear with this, but I rarely analyse this data.
QuickRoute is an excellent piece of software developed by a top Swedish orienteer – Mats Troeng. It allows the user to superimpose their GPS route onto an orienteering map. After scanning (or obtaining from the organisers) your map you can create a new QuickRoute file by selecting the map and the GPS route directly from your device. You then need to match the route to the course, the vast majority of the time this is very simple as GPS is very accurate, it is made even easier if you take splits at each control (I always seem to forget) as these are displayed. The ‘line’ displayed on the map shows your pace by default (as a colour, red for slow going through to green for fast) and you can change lots of settings to do with this or even change the line to show your heart rate or other such numbers.
Here’s an example of a gps trace from a recent event I attended:
If you open the above you will see the route from the start, through the controls and to the finish (eventually). You can see I made mistakes at numbers 3 and 14, just before the control. I also made a mistake coming out of number 7 and got stuck in the thick forest for some time.
There are some excellent new developments with QuickRoute, you can import any file generated by it as all the data is stored within the image file itself which is great for analysing routes from other people. It also means you don’t need to save any of the data yourself, if you have the image you’re good to go! Another is integration with Google Earth where you can overlay the map onto the actual terrain so you can visualise the hills in intricate detail! The final thing is that Mats has released the code as open source, on Google Code, it’s written in C# so I probably won’t be offering any assistance but I certainly wouldn’t mind a look at some point!
DOMA, or Digital Orienteering Map Archive, is another excellent piece of software from Mats, though rather being a desktop application, this is a web application you need to install yourself. You can access my install here. This is a simple but highly effective place to store my map files, most of which I generate using QuickRoute. One of the best features of this is a web service which allows you to upload files directly from QuickRoute without having to create the image file, log in to DOMA, upload the file… It does it all in one click!
I really like this tool, it takes away the pain of dealing with uploads through ftp, creating links and all the other drudgery that comes with website maintenance.
I’ve been using Attackpoint for a year and half now, and it has completely changed my approach to orienteering. It’s an online training diary built by an enthusiastic American orienteer, Ken Walker Jr. I had heard about it prior to using but never really thought about even keeping a training diary. Between leaving University at the end of 2004 and the start of 2008 I didn’t really orienteer that much and when I did I was a bit crap as I hadn’t been training. So after attending (and loving) the JK2008 I decided to put a bit more energy into orienteering and actually see if I could get half-decent at it, attackpoint was a major catalyst in this process. It adds a’peer pressure’ aspect to training that I’ve never really had before having never been part of a regular training group. This might sound a bit odd a concept but basically I’m a lazy lazy person, I love orienteering and I love running but unless I have good reason to do it… I won’t! So this helped coerce me into doing more, I love it! Injury (see previous post) is the worst thing about it though as all you want to be doing is getting out there and doing some training, but I seem to be becoming less injured as time goes on (sitting on your arse for 3 years is bad, kids)
At the moment I sometimes write a bit about the races I run in Attackpoint but I’m thinking I might alter my approach and write a blog entry for each race (or race weekend if it’s a smaller thing) and link to that from Attackpoint, we’ll see how it goes!