A Crash Course on Sportident for COBOC…..

UK orienteering clubs use 2 types of electronic punching and timing systems, Sportident and Emit, with Sportident holding the major share. I have been involved with Sportident systems and kit since 2000 when it was first introduced into the UK. Originally my involvement was just with Chasers, but I have also worked for Sportident UK as an event consultant for several years.

Since 2006 several of the smaller West Midlands Orienteering clubs have taken the plunge and invested in their own kit, rather than hiring as they did before. I have therefore been helping Wrekin Orienteers, Potteries Orienteering Club and now City of Birmingham Orienteering Club to get their skills up to scratch to enable them to run events on their own.

So Saturday morning saw me knocking on the Stamp family door at 8.30am (waking them up) trying to retrieve my mobile phone which had the details of where I was supposed to be that morning, having left it at the club dinner the night before (sorry Iain!). I had decided to combine the trip down to Sutton Coldfield with a training ride, so off I went. It was a fairly pleasant ride…until I had a coming together with a car which came straight over a crossroads into my path with no time to take avoiding action.

My GPS plot afterwards showed I was doing 25kph at the time, and the car was accelerating across the main road along which I was travelling. I managed to turn slightly and crashed into her wing mirror and passenger door managing to lean onto her mirror as she slowed and took me round the corner into the side road, before I fell off onto the pavement. I was a little shaken but there was no damage to myself or the bike. A couple of other motorists stopped and ran to help, which was extremely kind, as were their offers to drive me home. The lady was very apologetic, almost in tears, saying she just had not seen me. I didn’t get stroppy or anything, there is just no point, she will be more careful next time so we all went our separate ways. I have posted a little diagram for those that need the full facts 😉

So a little late I arrived at Sutton Parks Outdoor Ed Centre and spent the day bringing a good turnout of COBOC members up to speed with the Sportident hardware and then Autodownload, the event software. After a lengthy explanation of the various components and some classroom practice they put out a small course and ran round deliberately making mistakes so we could practice using all aspects of the software, whilst I stayed in the warm drinking tea and trying to resist the enormous box of biscuits. Back from their run around we downloaded all the Si Cards and practiced the safety checks, query resolution and getting results out ready for the Internet. Job done it was time to get back into smelly cycle gear and ride home without sitting on the floor again.

Mark Stodgell ( stodge )

Eat Natural Website – News Item

The following appeared on the Eat Natural Site a couple of weeks back –
When you see the blackboard, use the arrows in the left hand corner and scroll through the stories!

Mud, sweat and orienteers…

Stodge, Eat Naturalist and Orienteer emailed us the other day. If you are like me, you may be wondering ‘what on earth is an orienteer?’. I’ve since found out that orienteering is a ‘challenging, outdoor adventure sport that exercises both the mind and the body’. The aim is to navigate between control points on a map and decide the best route to complete the course, in the quickest time by jogging, running, walking (or even in some cases, mountain biking). Sounds brilliant but I think I’ll stick with my car and SatNav for now, if that’s OK? Stodge is also a keen cyclist and he sent in this picture of himself at a three hour, mountain bike orienteering event in December.

After Dinner Speaking !

After the first choice of a local football manager fell through, I became the guest speaker at my orienteering clubs annual dinner and prize giving evening. Invited to talk about my experiences in Lithuania last September, I thought the easiest way was to hit the PowerPoint and show them a few photos & video clips to keep them entertained while I talked.
I started by giving a bit of an explanation about MTBO, Trailquests and a bit of history before getting into the trip to the European Champs. They seemed genuinely interested, and I don’t think I lost anyone to the land of nod, which I was happy with!
I finished with two stories which I will also share on here:

On the way to the sprint event we got stopped for speeding. I’m still not sure what speed we should have been doing as there were very few signs, however the policeman who stopped us seemed to be booking me for doing 83 in a 70 zone. His face, when he realised I was a Brit driving a Latvian car in Lithuania, was a picture. As we were at an event all day I had left all my papers back at the flat so had to pass off my Youth Hostel Association card as my driving license, which, incredibly, worked. He even wrote down the number! Continuing my luck, I then succeeded in negotiating the fine down to about £30, though I’m not sure it ever made it to the Lithuanian Police’s bank accounts. Suffice to say we all drove a little more conservatively for the rest of the week, and we heard of several other teams getting booked, too.

Staying in the same complex as us was the Swiss team. Being very keen, one of them went out one evening for a run. Unfortunately he ended up running into Russia (the border was only about 3km distant) by mistake and got picked up by the border guards. Cutting a long story short it ended with one of his team mates bringing his passport to the border and an exchange took place…..

So my story telling over, it was time to present the trophies, shake lots of hands and kiss a few cheeks!

Event Report – Dark & White Winter League # 5

The weather forecast and note on the Dark & White website warning of snow, made me wonder if I’d even get to the event, but dawn brought good conditions for rnd #5 of the winter league, centred on Macclesfield Forest.
I decided to have a good look at the map rather than dashing off this time as there were lots of route options available.

Deciding I didn’t fancy riding into the wind on the open moor and wanting a downhill finish off I went up towards Teggs Nose on an a clockwise route. On the way to #10 I was so engrossed in sorting out the finer points of my route I wasted 2 mins by riding straight past it. The climb up Teggs Nose by #10 has some history for me. I bonked on it at the end of my first ever Trailquest back in 2005 and was late back, suffice to say the reason I missed the control was I climbed it much much faster this time 🙂

I rode well, keeping an eye on the time and really thought at one point getting all but one of them was a possibility, however on the way to #2 on a slippery singletrack I had a minor off and bent the rear mech hanger slightly. Other than not being able to get top gear and a bit of chain noise things seemed OK so I carried on.

The crosswind on the Cat & Fiddle road was scary, but it was more uncomfortable when I turned to face it on the way to #15.

Then came the nightmare every mountain biker dreads, a major mechanical miles from anywhere. At the top of a very steep climb out of a farm the chain sucked badly and the rear mech hanger finally broke 🙁 Arrowed on the map

As this is now the third time on this bike over the years it is lucky I carry a spare. It’s one of those irreplaceable get you home bits that is mostly bike specific, so you can’t scrounge one. The heart rate and GPS plot shows I lost 6mins 20 secs, which to be honest isn’t bad considering, although my hands were freezing when I finished.

So back on the bike I was then on a serious mission to get back on time. I did a fair bit of head scratching but decided to stick to the original plan and bag the points. I however stupidly wasted another 4 mins by playing safe on a map correction as I was unsure of a right of way, so rode around on the roads.

The final climb back over to the finish was painful with me giving it everything, I necked a gel just before I started up it and I think its what kept me going.

So I ended up just over 7 mins late, losing me 11 points after riding 49km with 1650m climb. Looking at the results, if I hadn’t had the mechanical I would have probably won. I am really chuffed with the result and now seem to be able to keep up with the big boys ! The hours of winter training now seems to be paying off.
Full results available here

Mark Stodgell ( Stodge )

Event Report – Warwick University, League Event

I have thought for a while that sprint / street orienteering gives some of the best technical training for MTBO. The skills needed to navigate at speed in the complex path network of a campus university or old town are exactly the same as those needed on the bike.

The district foot orienteering event run by UWOC on their huge Warwick campus over the weekend therefore was an must. The forecasted weather did not materialise and though a little cold and muddy underfoot it was almost perfect for orienteering.

The map, drawn to sprint specifications at 1:5000 was extended out into some scrub parkland and a housing estate in order to give enough ‘room’ for the brown course (longest distance course available) that the West Midlands League requires.

I had an appalling start, running away from the startline I got about 30 metres before realising I should have run back through the start line to the first control. Flustered I then totally overshot the first track junction, not being used to the 1:5000 map, and was forced to run right around an out of bounds area. Luckily I only lost about 2 mins, but it is a lesson in preparation. If possible you should always watch the start area for a few mins to pick up what you can. I also should have focused before hand on being hyper aware of the map scale on the way to #1

The orienteering in the campus was amazing, with total concentration needed. We then had a bit of a slog through some grotty parkland and a long leg back through a housing estate, that to be honest I think the course could have done without. Another loop in the campus and a reduction in length would have made the course so much better. I made one mistake in the parkland, trying to cross a stream, well small river really, basically chickening out twice and then running round using the bridge.

Back in the campus I started enjoying myself again, but I had one frustrating moment losing about 20 secs waiting for a gap in the traffic.

Initially I was quite disappointed with my result, but if you remove my muppet moment on the way to #1 it was not too bad for someone who said they would be happy to jog round a green course if the operation on my foot worked !

Results available here…

Tired legs & WCH Junior Awards Party

Monday morning was painful, I was like an old man. Going downstairs was so painful on my right thigh I nearly had to go down backwards. I suppose I did over do it a little last weekend. So an easy week it was with just light recovery ride on Wednesday before I got back into it properly on Friday with the Watt Bike League, which was really busy with all 12 bikes filled in the races.

Saturday evening brought the Walton Chasers Club Junior Party and presentation evening, held at Brocton Village Hall. This event that has been running for years, and is surprisingly good fun. A description of it to outsiders consisting of Mums and Dads (past and present), ‘kids’ aging from 5 to 18, all playing party games doesn’t sound like it would work, but it does, and is an institution !
Cheesy music, pass the parcel, musical chairs, ‘the card game’, party food and so it went on.

When it came to the prize giving I was invited, after my exploits this summer to present the trophies. It was a great family night out. Link to Chasers Gallery here….


Event Report – WCH Club Champs, Brereton Spurs

After the long drive back from Dorset, I still had one event to go in the ‘mad weekend’, my club’s Annual Championships. This year its was held from the Style Cop Car park and used Brereton Spurs and Rawnsley. I had to run early as I was also responsible for producing the results.

My legs after Saturdays efforts were very sore, but after the first couple of controls they eased up a bit and I was running well. Brereton Spurs is actually quite tricky with quite a bit on contour detail on the steeply sided hill. There were lots of amused Downhill mountain bikers with the normal ‘witty’ comments as I ran past but I mentally took note of some of the tracks the trail fairies have been building that I must come back and ride sometime !

The planner then took us over the road into Ranwsley for a slog round the steep hills surrounding the main Chase Downhill area. I made a huge mistake when Myself and Ian Turner found a tag on a tree in the wrong re-entrant. (For non orienteers each control is taped with the code to be used in the weeks before the event and checked by a ‘controller’ for fairness). we assumed wrongly that the control had either been put out in the wrong place or nicked. When eventually we gave up and headed off for the next one it was obvious we had been looking in the wrong re-entrant. Note to self, look at the angle of the re-entrant next time !

The final pull back up the hill to finish just hurt and hurt, although I had some encouragement from the yappy little dog that chased me most of the way up it. In fact Dave Brown heading the other way thought I was taking it for a walk !

I was quite pleased with the result and without the mistake and Saturdays races in my legs would have been on the heels of the winner Iain Stamp.
Routegadget available here…      Results available here…..

Event Report: ‘Inside Park’ MTBO – Blandford Forum

Leaving Lichfield at 10pm after the Watt Bike League and driving for 3 hours in freezing fog to Dorset probably wasn’t the best preparation for the first MTBO of 2009. Alan Hartley (of Autodownload and Sportident UK) agreed to keep me company on this mad weekend, of which the MTBO was just a part. Wimbourne Orienteers organised the day, which started with the MTBO. There was then a normal local foot orienteering event and then area was used again in the early evening for a night league foot score competition.

Luckily for us we checked the event website rather than straying out into the cold to the car for the final details. We learned the event had been postponed by a couple of hours due to a pheasant shoot which had been double booked on the area, so rather than dashing off to the event we enjoyed a lazy breakfast with Alans parents whilst mending some hair curlers.

Arriving at ‘Inside Park’, a country estate and camping park near Balndford Forum, it was bitterly cold, with frozen ground and ice shining on the ground. I decided that the winning time would probably be shorter that the 1hr advertised so went out really hard. I had a slow split time to #1 as I played it safe and went round the estate roads rather than cutting across the park as others did (which was OK, but I didn’t want to risk it). I then got into the groove and was riding well with good control flow. A mistake at #6 cost me about 1.5 mins after some confusion with a couple of indistinct paths. Looking at the splits, I think several others also had problems here.

Talking to Alan afterwards, we both had the same moment on a farm track. The bike went light as I crested a hump traveling very quickly downhill, the trouble was the bump was concealing a hidden dip which was covered in ice. We both did the same thing: kept the bike straight and closed our eyes…..

I needed a good result, and I got it winning by just over a minute so I was very pleased. However the day was far from over with two more events left to do. The 3 consecutive events really showed what was possible with a small area and 50 controls (even though visiting one control 3 times I still lost time twice, for example).

My lack of lighting power raised its ugly head again that evening, however, I take my hat off to my old orienteering coach, Dale Padget, who ran with his trusty old 80s Petzl Zoom making my old Mila look powerful. Driving back to Stafford that evening my legs were very tired and certainly not looking forward to the Club Champs the following day, but I was pleased with my performance in the two foot races, being placed 4th behind good orienteers.

Results available here

Mark Stodgell (Stodge)