Joe Grant 2001: Course Reviews

by Vladimir Gusiatnikov

All of the courses were planned to USOF standards, as far as the level of navigational difficulty and winning times were concerned. The lengths were a little more than usual, and the climb numbers certainly made the courses appear steep. "I'm afraid to run Red, it is so steep," said one runner. "It has a lot of climb but it's not steep," I replied. "How's that possible?" In the end, she dared to check the course out, and did not think it was steep at all.

I spent eight years in the Midwest, and it is typical to have a course with 5%-6% climb in the Cincinnati area, runnable all the way because the climbs are very gradual. I tried to avoid the brutal head-on climb so often encountered in the Bay Area, and instead give the competitors opportunities to ascend the less-steep slopes "diagonally," along game paths, or face the climb along established trails which have to accommodate walkers and therefore aren't particularly steep.

The predicted and actual winning times (in minutes) were as follows:

          USOF 100-point    BAOC predicted    Actual
Course    runner's time     best time         winner
Blue           70               75             77
Red            60               70             69
Green          55               60             61
Brown          50               50             52
Orange         40               60             65
Yellow         30               30             28
White          25               30             30
All of the competitors agreed that the courses were navigatable at a high running speed, so the exact length and climb numbers are now irrelevant. You can look at the results and check them out if you so desire.

We now proceed to the route analysis. Sorry for the map image quality; some was lost in favor of the compression, which I entrusted to photoed.exe (graphics designers are free to laugh at these amateur efforts). Of the continuum of the possible routes connecting two controls, I chose to highlight the ones I thought (before the event) were most likely to enter into consideration for the majority of the runners. I added a small number of actual routes that were taken at the event that did not appear to me in the planning stage.

Note: Other routes are certainly possible. Although many competitors may have taken them, I did not mention them in the analysis because after careful consideration, the competitors mostly agreed with the course setter that taking those routes was not the best choice in view of other alternatives. Bear in mind that this course setter is quite opinionated, so if you think you had a great route, and it is not described below, or worse yet, has an honorable mention in the not-so-great category, do not despair and join the club. Drop me a note, or send your comments to the Bayonet, and if they are convincing enough (or if you go out to Joe Grant and do a test run), I'll update the grand epic below.

Bear in mind that the course setter has experimental data that indicates that a well-established road or trail is 15%-20% faster than average "white" forest, or open. Thus it is worth going 10% out of the way to join a trail, on the basis of running speed alone. I also feel that it is worth to climb 2-3, sometimes even 5, contours, to find better footing or a less steep portion of a slope. Footing plays a large role in the confidence of the runner, and sometimes affects navigational thinking as the competitor struggles with the surface and has to think about how to put the feet down (unless your first name is Jorgen and your last name is Martensson and you spent most of your time between ages 6 and 16 dashing through the crappiest, rockiest pieces of the woods you could find behind your parents' home in the mountains).

Walking up a 30% slope is approximately three times as slow as running along a slope of the same steepness; running down such a slope (if you can) is only a 50% speed gain. Running up a 5-7% slope is 20%-25% slower than the flat.

The Beginning

The End