Part 1: Up and Down

The terrain that awaits at O‑Ringen 2018 in Örnsköldsvik is not a type of terrain where I feel at home. I have raced a few times in this area and trained here a few (too few!) times during my years as a student in the nearby city of Umeå.

I take my responsibility of serving as an orienteering technique coach in preparation for O-Ringen very seriously and with humility and respect for the terrain that we will all encounter. I am not an expert on Norrland's coastal terrain, and my thoughts on technique and tactics are no guarantee for successfully solving this terrain type. Rather, this is simply an attempt to describe how I plan to take on the technical challenges that await.

I also think that one of the most wonderful aspects of orienteering is that we all have different strengths that we can use in different situations. This means that you, the reader, might have some tools or abilities that I do not have and can therefore find other solutions that are perfect for you on the legs and route choice problems that are shown here as examples.

One of the unique aspects of the terrain in Örnsköldsvik are the long, and often steep and detailed, slopes and hillsides. This means that we will face a real physical challenge with long, energy-sapping, climbs, as well as long downhills which require a whole different type of training. These slopes will also present a great technical challenge. You will have to navigate through dense contour detail while overcome by exhaustion and running on powerless legs. The steep slopes are relentless and unforgiving, and any mistake can cost a lot of time and energy.

It's important to have a plan

A full O-Ringen week includes running many kilometers of orienteering and finding numerous controls. A distinct tactic for how you will approach the orienteering is extremely important for maxmizing the numbers of controls you will spike. In theory, it sounds simple: first, make a plan for the leg, then execute your route according to plan. It requires great discipline to make a plan for each leg on a course, and it requires full concentration in order to execute your plan mistake-free.

In this section, the focus will be on uphill and downhill orienteering. Running uphill requires a fine balance between the level of physical exertion and technical precision. If you get close to your maximal physical capacity, the chance of making mistake increases. Running downhill requires a different version of the same balancing act: you can run very fast downhill without exerting a great physical effort, but can you manage to spike the control while flying full speed down the slope? This section shows four examples and descriptions of how I would try to approach and execute each of the legs in the examples.

Uphill, intermediate course

The control is located on the top of the hill, and the leg features a swamp that can serve as a solid attackpoint. Stop at the previous control, take a moment to carefully set your bearing, and get going. Try to look up as you run, and not down at your shoes, even though the hill is steep and the ground gnarly. When I pass the swamp, I would take another look at the compass. I would also make sure to create a careful picture in my head of what the control location will look like on that hilltop, and then run the last bit towards the flag.

Downhill, intermediate course

This is a leg where you can really save some time by executing the first part of the leg well. Instead of just running off on a straight line towards my next control, I would start this leg by veering off to the right of the line to make sure I end up on top of the ridge that will lead me right to the flag. This will actually involve climbing one contour to get onto the ridge, even though the control is located lower than the previous one.

Once I am on top of the ridge, I can follow it straight down to the contol while maintaining high speed. Along the way, I would check off the smaller hilltops that I pass and keep my eyes looking high and wide to make sure I see the flag once I am in the circle.

Uphill, difficult course

This leg starts in the lower part of the slope, where the contour lines are smoother and not as squiggly as they are closer to the top. I also expect this lower part of the slope to have worse visibility, which means I need to rely on my compass more than on being able to see far and wide. I notice that there is route choice option to the right of the line, following the ride for a while, but the approach to the control looks even more difficult from that direction than it would be going straight on the line.

I would choose to run straight on the line, with a focus on maintaining my direction in the first part of the leg until I get into the more open forest higher up. There, I would continue to keep an eye on my compass, byt would also make sure to look up in order to use the excellent visibility in these wods. I would make sure to check off the hill with the cliff about halfway through the leg, and then approach even more carefully into the control circle. The cliff before the control is the last reliable attackpoint, and from there I have to rely on being careful and patient: the control will come, I just need to keep going until I see the flag. I would probably veer just a little off the line to the left or right at the end, so I can focus my glance in one direction as I approach the control. This allows me to maintain a higher speed all the way to the end.

Downhill, difficult course

This is a somewhat longer leg, one where I want to be able to run as much of it as possible at high speed. A left route choice is longer than going straight, of course, but it allows me to run fast for a large section of the leg since it passes several distinct features that I will use along the way.

I do not need to physically pass through all the features that I want to see; it's enough to spot them at a distance. I will see the large cliffs along the way, and as I approach the control, I want to use the hilltop to the east of it as an attackpoint. For the last section in towards the flag, I need to rely on a very precise bearing and, like on the uphill leg, need to be self-confident and patient to dare continue in the right direction all the way to the control. I have to trust my distance judgmenet, and need to keep looking around me as broadly as I can on the way down the slope.

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