Getting to Know Old Maps
David Healy, GEN
To prepare for an orienteering race you can do much more than you think you can.
Although it might seem/feel like cheating to learn the old race map, rest assured that all of the seniors and the top JWOC juniors will do this.
So what can you do? The first thing you can do is to draw as many mock courses as you can stomach. Use different starts and finishes (unless the bulletin of information already tells you where either of these are going to be situated). Don’t forget to read those bulletins early in the year for this exact reason!
Then with those mock courses you plan your routes and analyze with a coach what the best strategies will be for choosing routes and features to navigate off of. If you do 100 courses like this you’ll surely learn the map off by heart. This is what seniors have done to win WOCs (Thomas Bürher 2003 long distance gold).
Then there is a drawing exercise presented here with these Crohane map tracings. The Irish Championship long race is going to be held on Crohane Mountain this year. It is very much possible to draw the old map onto tracing paper. In these examples you can see the contour lines are drawn onto tracing paper and then what you’re left with is a contour only map just for yourself! This is useful information to pour yourself over. It is good practice to isolate this feature and be aware of the true layout of the land minus all the other features. What other features might you draw so as to learn the race map?
You can see there is also an index contour map just to simplify things even further.
Orienteering is a lot about simplification; pulling in some details and choosing to ignore and filter out others. The more you know about the map you will race on the better prepared you will be to race it when the time comes. This is not cheating. If you DON’T do this at JWOC then someone else WILL. And you will be at a disadvantage for NOT doing it. Always be prepared.
It isn’t always easy to get old race maps from the organizers. But it should be. Coming up to a major event a few years ago, the organisers didn’t want to give me physical copies of an old race map because they said it would be unfair for other competitors. They told me to look at old routegadgets (that doesn’t have a good resolution quality when printed off a computer). That was a little nonsensical because there were races held there before and some of the upcoming competitors will have run in that old race unlike me. And they would have their own race maps in storage from it. So you may have to plead the case of fair competition. And offer to pay for postage.