B ending the map

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Spike had posted this in his blog and on many of my bad O'runs, I've certainly have bent the map (& trees & compasses). Since the blog page currently can't take comments, I hope this forum is OK for others to respond. I would list this thought as one of the top 10 hints to turn from a bad to a good orienteer:

> My brother-in-law (the guy who memorized 1000+ digits of Pi) asked me an orienteering question:

I was reading an article about getting lost in the woods in Nat Geo's "Adventure." Very interesting stuff about how the mind gets weird when lost. Anyway, they claim there's an expression in orienteering called "bending the map" where people make up all sorts of weird explanations for why the terrain is different from the map. When they think they should be at Point A, and the map shows something else, they doubt the map and compass. E.g. you get to the top of a hill and expect to see a lake on the other side. No lake? The map must be wrong! Ever heard of this?

Here is the email I wrote in response:

I have never heard the expression "bending the map." But the concept is very common. It is common for orienteers to get in the wrong area and start trying to make the terrain fit the map (or decide that the map is wrong).

I should point out that it is most common among bad orienteers.

The key to avoiding "bending the map" is to have a good idea of what the terrain is going to look like before you get there. For example, you run along expecting to see a hill that is two contours high and steeper on the north side. As you run, you are looking for the feature before you get to it. Then, if you come to a feature that is a hill, but it is three contours high and steeper on the south side, a little alarm bell goes off in your head and you figure out what is wrong.

The alternative is to just run along until you see something -- say a three contour hill that is steeper on the south side. Then look at the map and see if there is a feature that fits. The problem is it is a lot easier to talk youself in to thinking you are at the right spot when you use that approach. So, even though you are at the wrong hill the alarm bells are not going off.

A very good orienteer describe the first (better) technique as being a "that is where I'm going orienteer." The second technique is a "that is where I am (or have been) orienteer."

The hard part of orienteering is making the right decisions when you are really tired. If you look at how races happen, you'll find that the usual pattern is for people to be fairly even for the first 2/3 of the course, then people start making mistakes (getting lost) as they get tired. The winners are the ones who manage to think well at the end of the race as well as at the beginning.

-- mean gene (gmw@ku.edu), December 19, 2001

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