Posted by: Brent | August 4, 2015

Relocation training

A nice training activity without controls is relocation. Trevor and I took turns leading. The leader navigated near the control without going to it while the other followed without looking at the map. The follower then has to relocate before continuing on to the control. This is a good way to do some intervals as part of our O training as well because it isn’t critical if the leader maintains exact map contact.

Aug3_15 relocation

Posted by: Brent | July 30, 2015

Icebug OLX Spirit

We just had a low-key local event last night. Here is the map with my routes.

Yukon College July 29

Anyway, it seemed like a good opportunity to try out some new shoes. I received a pair of Icebug OLX Spirit as part of Orienteering Canada’s new sponsorship deal.


This is definitely a nice perk of being a Coach in the High Performance Program. I should state that we are under no obligation to use the shoes. After all, shoes are very much about fit and no shoe is going to fit everyone. However, if one session is any indication, these shoes are my new favourites.


I was really keen to see how these Icebugs fit. I owned a pair of the first generation Icebug OLX Spirits and they were the most comfortable pair of orienteering shoes I have ever owned. Nevertheless, I was definitely not going to try out new shoes at a big competition. Last night the Icebugs got me through a very hilly 50 min course with lots of sidehill and hard bare rock surfaces without any blisters or hotspots. I typically wear a US size 8.5 or Euro 41.5 but it was suggested that I go with a US 8 (Euro 41) and that was a good decision. Upper is really flexible and wraps around the foot even on the first go. The forefoot fit my average D width foot snugly. I actually thought it might be a bit narrow to start with but as soon as I got going I didn’t think about it again. I have a bigger second toe than big toe so my other worry was that my toe would touch the end of the shoe but the shoe tapers to a bit of a point that prevented this. The heelcup held my foot in place firmly without any slip with just a regular lacing pattern. The OLX Spirits do have the extra eyelets there if you need to really cinch your heel down.


As I mentioned, the first gen OLX Spirits were super comfy. This was in part due to their very lightweight uppers. Unfortunately, this meant they were not very durable at all. The top of my old shoes ripped right open from a stick after just a month. Of course it is impossible to tell after just one session but it seems that Icebug has remedied that downfall of earlier versions. The material on the upper is much tougher. There is also a rand above the sole to protect against sticks and rocks. The best part is that these features have been added without sacrificing that amazing comfort. Another nice touch are the long laces. You can easily use the extra eyelets in a locking lace pattern and still double knot your shoes easily (essential in o shoes).


The OLX Spirits are light but still employ several features that are absolutely essential in a pair of O-shoes. They have enough cushioning for hard surfaces yet have a low profile with minimal rise for stability. The sidehills last night were no problem at all. The traction from the studs was great on the barerock. As someone who just did a spectacular wipeout into a marsh at Oringen from stepping on a log, I can tell you the extra stud in the arch is brilliant! The lugs on the bottom of the shoes are really aggressive. Last night’s terrain was dry so I can’t comment on how they would handle mud but they certainly handled the moss well. What can sometimes happen is that heavy lugs and studs can be felt through the sole when running on harder surfaces but that was absolutely not the case with the Icebugs.


Overall, I encourage you to try a pair of these on the next time you are shopping for a pair of orienteering shoes (or even a light pair of winter running shoes). is a good place to start. Now if only the shoes could have helped me navigate better to number 14…

Posted by: Brent | May 8, 2015

Time Saving Tips for Orienteering Coaches

One of the biggest challenges of orienteering is that it is labour intensive. I think there is often a belief that training sessions have to be “full service” with printed maps and flags in the forest. These things are preferable but they are not necessary every time, particularly when most of us are coaching on a volunteer basis. If the choice is between having a training session without all the extras versus not having one at all, I know which one I would choose. So here are some time-saving tips:

Preparing Maps

  1. Do relocation without a course. Give the athletes blank maps and guide them various locations and have them practice relocation. A nice way to do intervals, too: run hard then relocate. You can do this as a group or in pairs.
  2. Athletes can copy their own course. Print the course for one map and bring some blanks. We do this sometimes because we have some offset printed maps left over.
  3. Have athletes choose control locations. This can work well with having them hang their own flags (see below)

Hanging Flags

  1. Have athletes hang the flags. The best ways are if there is a combination of the athletes hanging and visiting. The athletes hanging flags has the benefit of giving them an appreciation of the work that typically goes into putting on a training session. It is also good practice at precision or vetting if they end up putting on an event themselves. Here are some possible exercises:
    1. Pie-plate relay – paired exercise with central start/finish where partners take turns finding the pie plate and moving it over to the next control.
    2. Circular shaped course – each athlete hangs some controls and then continues around the course and visits the flags that their teammates have hung.
    3. 6 of one, half dozen of the other – paired exercise where the person hanging is given a headstart. Person following collects and tries to catch the leader. Switch roles when the hanger is caught or the hanger runs out of flags.
  2. Controls in clusters. Controls don’t have to be spread really far apart. Even a nice long course can be created by hanging several clusters with long legs to connect them.
  3. Controls close to roads or trails. By having controls close to roads and trails you can access them quickly with a car or bicycle.
  4. Set courses that use same controls multiple times. A control approached from a different angle will seem like a completely new site. This means you can hang fewer flags and the athletes can still visit the same number of controls. Also good practice for the athletes to experience course design such as butterfly loops.
  5. Set courses that require few controls such as Line-o and corridor-o

Picking up flags

  1. Get someone who missed training to pick up the flags. This allows him or her to get some training in and helps you out as well.
  2. Get your quickest athletes to get extra training by picking up. Get them to approach the controls from a different direction than they did in the initial training exercise.
  3. Design training so flag pickup is part of the training. Some of the exercises above lend themselves to that.
  4. Use biodegradable flagging. If you are in a wilderness area and have remote control locations, you could use biodegradable flagging tape or even toilet paper and leave it hanging.

Let me know if you have any other time-saving tips. I hope this encourages you to put on some training.

Posted by: Brent | February 17, 2015

Vancouver Sprint Camp Presentations

I had a great time coaching at Vancouver Sprint Camp this past weekend. I put on 4 training sessions and did a couple of talks. I hope to reflect a bit more on the weekend in the coming days. For now, here are the slides for the presentations I did:

Making the Most of Training Presentation

Course Leg Analysis

Posted by: Brent | October 2, 2014

Alberta Orienteering Camp

Thanks to Alberta Orienteering Association for inviting me to coach at their training camp. We had a great weekend on the Beaver Lake and Coyote Canyon maps near Sundre. I thought I would share a little bit of what we covered.

My first talk on Friday night was about making the most of the camp and specifically about using visualization and goal-setting to ensure that we optimized our training sessions. AOA Camp Presentation 1

On Saturday morning, the main focus was on simplification and seeing “lines” in the terrain. We looked for handrails and catching features to help us navigate quickly and safely. In this Beaver Lake terrain, ridges and linear depressions were the contour features we looked at. Marshes were the other major helpful features.


In the afternoon, we worked on reading ahead or “the inch worm”. The goal was to make sure that our minds were always ahead of our bodies so that we were anticipating what we would see in 100m rather than seeing a feature in the terrain and then trying to find it on the map.

The map memory partner exercise that we did at the end of the day was an example of how be fast we can be in the terrain if we simplify well. It was also good practice for the person following to practice reading ahead to the next leg.

Saturday night, I did a presentation on Race Preparation for North Americans. We used the Race Preparation form to help focus our thoughts about the upcoming races. We identified some key features of the maps, which will inform what techniques we will use. We also talked about some possible strategies we could employ depending on our personal strengths. Finally, we picked a couple of task-based goals that we would focus on for our races.
Here is the presentation:

Here is a race preparation sheet for you to use in the future. Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 9.18.56 PM

Here are copies of some earlier courses in the NAOC terrain.

05231402 - Version 2

On Sunday we went to Coyote Canyon. The main goal for the morning session was to practice legs that used multiple handrails. The key was to identify the tricky sections between the handrails where we had to maintain very high focus and be very secure in our technique.


The second session at Coyote Canyon was a Dice-o which was a fun paired relay training that forced people to concentrate with lots of people around and the pressure of a competitive situation. It was a chance for people to use their keywords to refocus when they got distracted. The important elements of a keyword to refocus are that the word gets you back to doing the task at hand, namely reading the map and that the word has an association with that task so that it works as an automatic reaction to snap you back to the task. No surprise that the effectiveness of the keyword also improves significantly with practice.


Older Posts »