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For the past five years, I’ve been writing a book. I’ve also kept it secret, so I managed to surprise everybody at the General Assembly of the ISOA (Israel Sport Orienteering Association).

The book is my orienteering autobiography, and I called it “ניתוח ציר – סיפורו של נווט”, which translates as “Route Choice – an Orienteer’s Story”. Obviously it’s in Hebrew, with no translation available (the cover is below), and it includes 317 pages, 229 pictures/maps (in retrospect, I should have added more), and about 118,000 words.

The main reason I wrote a book that I had less time for outside pursuits because of the children, so I found a way to use my “armchair” time. I also felt that a lot of our orienteering history is going missing, with few options to expose newer orienteers to it, and this is my contribution. I’ve been heavily involved in Israeli orienteering for almost 30 years, in almost all areas (competing, national teams, mapping, clubs, instructing, planning, management, etc.), so the book covers a lot.

I’ve printed 200 copies (at my own expense) for now, and they are being sold at a reasonable price (50 NIS, about 12€) and going well. I hope both newer and more experienced orienteers find it interesting.

I intend to publish some of the charts from the book later on, translated to English, and they summarize parts of my career.

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Our club relay this year was a sprint.

The event was initially scheduled for January (in the forest), then postponed to March, then May, June 15th, and finally June 22nd. And at this time of year it had to be a sprint because of the heat.

I don’t think our only major relay race should be on a sprint map, and lots of people agree with me. I participated only because the club needed me. The event was on the Tel-Aviv University map, which is flat and very easy, so for any team with three competent orienteers it was basically a running race, and the fastest runners won.

After the event someone actually suggested that we can have a sprint relay like in international championships – two women and two men – but here it would have to be three men and one woman in each team.

For the first time, I could run in the Senior category (50+), and we had a strong team and finished second – in my opinion, on more technical terrain we would have won. Our women’s 7-year winning streak was ended because we had to put a first-year youth on the anchor leg, and she made a large mistake (but she’ll be great in a year or two). My route is below – nothing interesting and no mistakes (the GPS went crazy between the buildings, so I drew it manually).

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I mean the next generation in my family…

Last Saturday we went to a sprint event in Jerusalem. Roni ran, and then Alon (8 years old) did the family course with me. I showed him where to start, made sure he crossed the roads safely, and corrected him once when he left a control in the wrong direction. Apart from that he completed the entire course on his own. He knows how to orient the map, make route choices and execute them, find the controls, and of course read the map symbols. He’s made lots of progress this year, and is also very enthusiastic about orienteering. And his dad is proud of him.

Route choices of an 8 year old

Thanks to Emek Hefer O-Club and especially Alex Lipovich, who is steadily expanding the mapped area in the centre of Jerusalem. Below is an overview of his work to date.

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On Friday we had a small Long-O mass start event in Kiryat Ata Forest, not far from home. It was organised by the youths of Technion Carmel O-Club, who did a great job, but for me personally it was a case of bad timing:

  1. Not the right season – the heat wasn’t an issue (the start was at 6:30), but the vegetation in the open areas is terrible at this time of year. I would have loved to run the course in November (and I probably will – for training).
  2. Not in shape – I finished my season after the rogaine, so I haven’t been training for a couple of months – just jogging twice a week in maintenance mode. That’s enough to win a sprint in flat terrain, but not for a 12.8 km competitive course in the hills.
  3. Not awake – I’m not a morning runner, and for me this was a bit too early for a race. I was also a bit tired from other stuff going on.

To cut a long course short, I quit mentally after control 4 (crossed the path without seeing it) and physically after control 9. This was no fault of the organisers, who did a great job technically and logistically. The second half of the course was probably nicer than the first, so I’m sorry I missed it.

The course planning was good, but I didn’t like the binary legs: contour through the thorns or go up/down, along the path, and then down/up. I would have really liked to see a massive route choice leg in such a course, for example from 9 to 19.

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It’s already sprint season here. There are very few forest orienteering events planned, and even some of those are being cancelled because of hot weather. Combine that with a very wet winter that caused lots of cancellations because of rain, and the growing trend towards sprint events anyway, and it’s been a rotten season.

But we take what we get, and last weekend the last two league events of the season were sprint races near home, so there was no reason to ignore them. I skipped the first (on Friday) and stayed with the kids, while Roni ran D21A and then assisted Alon on the H12 course, which was much too difficult for children. Then on Saturday Roni wanted to ride home, and I had an early start, so at the last minute I decided to run there in the morning.

So I jogged from Ramat Yishai to Mizra (below), 19.8 km at 5:40 pace, basically crossing most of the Jezreel Valley. Then I had 25 minutes to get organised, and ran the H50A course – slower than usual, of course. Roni arrived later with the kids, ran her course, followed Alon again (on a more suitable course), and then rode home on her bike using the same route as me.

Unbelievably, I still won the category, though some H45’s beat me. I had no interest in the league this year, so I can only imagine what would have happened if I’d tried to win. I won all three sprint races (out of four) that I ran, but I didn’t run any of the eight forest events in this category – and I’m definitely better in the forest. Maybe next season I’ll give it a go.

The whole weekend of races was an anti-climax to the league season. The organisation wasn’t great, they combined the Long and Medium+ courses (all 6 top categories) for no real reason, and Saturday’s area (Mizra kibbutz) was much too easy for an important league race. If I was racing for a ranking position I’d be very disappointed.

There’s nothing much left – a long, hot summer, with very little orienteering. I’ve been on maintenance mode since the Rogaine in early April, and I’ll start training again in mid-June, focusing on strength and core exercises until it gets cool enough to hit the forest again.

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This year’s Rogaine was originally planned for March 16th, and as usual Roni and I had booked her parents months in advance to look after the kids, but it was postponed because of rain and I had to find a different partner.

The obvious choice was Itay Manor, whom I’ve been coaching for years, is one of the top orienteers in the country (he ran the WOC Long distance last year), and also coaches the national junior team. He had never run an 8-hour rogaine, but is less than half my age and in top form, so there was no doubt he could finish the distance.

For the first time, I was running with someone fitter and better than me at orienteering. The rogaine was on the map of Ben-Shemen forest, which is moderately hilly, mostly has a dense network of tracks, and is very well orienteered – and Itay lives just off the map. Our plan was that I would set the pace, based on my experience, and we were hoping to run 50-55 km overall, and maintain a straight line pace of 5 km/hour.

Based on the preliminary information (an area of 55 km² with 28 controls) I did some basic maths and had a feeling that 40 km (straight line) would be enough to collect all the controls, so we started our planning under that assumption, which turned out to be correct. The most “expensive control” was no. 52, on the eastern edge, adding a full 3 km to the route, so we decided to arrive there relatively late and make a decision based on our progress, with the additional option of skipping no. 62 on the north side just before we finished.

Basically, everything went as planned. We gained about 15 minutes on the target pace in the first two hours, held on to it until the decision point at the road crossing before 52, decided not to skip it, and fought through to the finish without any real fear of being late. I was a mess at the end, with no specific pains but total exhaustion, and Itay was much better off but definitely feeling the distance. We were the only team to collect all the controls, in 7:51:17, 54.5 km (by far the most I’ve ever run an 8-hour rogaine) and about 1200m climb, and of course we won the event – but obviously any team of two elite orienteers would have beaten us easily. I also recovered faster than usual, with less stiffness on the following day despite the distance, probably due to the fact that I’m doing more strength and core training than in the past.

Our full route and highlights:

Start – 34 (missed the single-track and lost a minute) – 46 – 45 – 72 – 53 – 51 (totally alone)

83 (met the first Bike-O teams arriving from the start) – 55 (short break, 2 hours)

91 (filled up water) – 33 – 42 – 84 – 43 – 82 – 63 – 61 (second short break, 4 hours)

44 – this was a major route choice decision, we went left and heard that the paths on the right weren’t there. Then the path west of 44 was missing, so we lost at least 5 minutes fighting through the bushes.

Road passage (filled up water and I went sliding down the embankment on my right thigh, no real damage) – 52 – 92 – 32 – 73 – third short break, 6 hours – 31 – 81 – 74 – 41 – 62 – 93 – road passage – 71 – stagger to the finish.

I have major issues with the map. It was based on an MTBO map which covers most of the area, with an additional section mapped recently in the south-east. The symbols were inconsistent, with most roads being drawn thinner than regular tracks, and parts of the map were woefully out of date – the path near 44 was correctly not marked on the previous rogaine map from 2009. Paths on the new section were nowhere near as runnable as marked, and I felt sorry for any of the MTBO teams who tried to use them.

Thanks to Roni for allowing me to go it alone, and to Itay for coming along and dragging me over the finish line – I enjoyed it immensely. Thanks to HaSharon O-Club and especially Nir Kalkstein for all the planning and execution. Next year it’s my turn to organise, and I’ve already started mapping…

The last control – you can see how knackered I am (photo by Gidi Zorea)

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Last week was the Israeli Championship, and this time I didn’t participate because I was planning the first day, so I had a longer weekend than usual.

Our winter is especially rainy this year, and orienteering events are being cancelled or postponed all the time, but for the championship we had beautiful weather. I was in the terrain at Kfar Hahoresh all Thursday afternoon, and of course on Friday throughout the race and until the last control was collected. Then on Saturday we went to Hasolelim with all the children, and after the race I returned there with Roni’s map and ran her course (without controls, of course) for fun.

Roni finished second in D21A, which is both a reflection on the state of women’s elite orienteering in Israel, and on her toughness and experience – she’s 38, with three small children, doesn’t train at all (and was sick the week before), quit the team 10 years ago, but has won 4 Israeli championships and represented us in two WOCs. The children are growing – I think she can still win another championship in D21A!

Alon, nearly 8 years old, is now orienteering regularly, and loves it. He finished the children’s course on Friday (Instead of school! Yippeeee!) with Roni and on Saturday with me. He’s really started to understand the map, notice various features, and orientate himself correctly, and we’re enjoying it very much.

Planning the courses was a rush job – I received the first version of the map, without a few sections, only 6 weeks before the race, and the final section 3 weeks before, so I didn’t have much time. I’m sure I could have done a better job given more time, but the feedback was very good (very tough – as promised – but fair).

After the race I published an overview of the courses on Tableau Public, exporting the xml data from Ocad – so now I can create a similar analysis for any event within minutes. I’ll probably improve the visualization over time as well.

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Fun
Dan Chissick's Orienteering Blog by Dchissick - 6M ago

Unlike last year, I ran the long course at this year’s Billygoat, because it’s probably the longest course we’ll have in Israel this season, and “the more the merrier”. After several weeks of rain and mud, we had perfect weather on great terrain at Beit Anaba, so everything came together and this was probably the race that I have most enjoyed for several years.

The course was 12.2 km, with three controls to skip. I finished 14th in 1:30:51, which was more or less what I aimed for, and I had no problem coping with the distance – I’d love to see more long courses. I skipped controls 4, 14 and 26 – probably 8 was better than 4 for those in the leading pack, but I opted to skip a tricky control and also gained some planning time on the path from 3 to 5.

Despite the mass start, most of the time I was orienteering almost alone. For the first half of the race one of the juniors was running in front of me, and in the second half I was being followed quite obviously by a much faster runner, who showed little ability to find the controls by himself and usually appeared just after I had punched, then ran forward and lost contact again. I managed to run away from him at 24, then he caught me at the last control and outsprinted me to the finish. The truth is that I couldn’t care less – I was orienteering for fun and not for the competition.

Many thanks to my protégé Itay Manor for the mapping and planning of the course. I’m proud to be his coach, but he’s learnt most of this stuff without my help. And he’s still less than half my age!

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This weekend was the Winter Cup, and for a change it was actually in winter – unbelievably, it even rained on both days. That’s not an excuse for my orienteering, just a fact of life.

Day 1, Menahamiya – totally new terrain, very steep and muddy. Roni’s VJ Falcon fell apart and she quit, barefoot, around the middle of the course. I was running H35 because, I quote my whatsapp to a friend: “I’m fed up with these shorty courses and to hell with the medals”. Even this was only 6 km, but with 310m climb it felt like more. I had no problem coping with the distance, but the mud was terrible and some of the contouring was like walking a tightrope. My orienteering was actually quite solid, and I finished in 71:09, 6th place in the category and more or less as expected.

Day 2, Ein Tzur – a new map of well-known terrain that had never been mapped in such detail. Roni stayed at home with the two toddlers and I took Alon (7.5) with me. He waited around with an O-friend while I ran, and then I took them around the children’s course, which they enjoyed very much.

My run was simply “a bad day at the races”. As usual, my performance was on par with the amount of pressure: no pressure, so no performance. I felt as if my compass was messing with my head, and had difficulty reading the details around some of the controls (that’s partly due to my eyesight and wet glasses). By control 18 I was fed up with myself and couldn’t be bothered to try and attack it properly, with predictable results. I finished the 5.8 km course in 76:50 and dropped to 8th overall, but I should have run 10 minutes less. The course, by the way, planned by Shachar Hershman, was very good, except for the start which was an invitation to skip the start triangle.

Note 1: Ages of top 8 in H35: 50, 40, 38, 46, 46, 39, 44, 50 (in that order). Our courses are too short, and the H40, 45 and 50 categories are getting it easy. I’d love to hold a special “Real Age Championship” in which you have to run your real age group.

Note 2: I need to work on my technique. The eyesight issue is affecting my orienteering style and I need to adapt and train this new style, otherwise I’ll mess up again. Day 1 suited this style so I performed well, day 2 was different. I have time – there’s no important race coming up, as I’m the planner for day 1 of the Israeli Championships.

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A couple of weeks ago I organised a rogaine in Beit Keshet forest, not far from home. Israel is a small country, so we don’t have many areas suitable for our full length (8 hour) rogaines, but there are some smaller ones that can be used for mini-rogaines, and this was the first time in this area.

An overview of the terrain from the south

I was preparing the event in my spare time, and had been thinking about the area for more than a year. The map includes 5 existing orienteering maps, which I combined and standardised on the computer, and then over the summer I went on four headcam mapping runs to cover the unmapped areas. I made two more runs later on to map a few small patches and mark the controls in the southern part of the map – overall 90 km of running in the terrain, mostly on paths, of course. The map below shows all six of my routes in varying colours, and the borders of the existing maps (labelled A to E).

For the organisation itself I had lots of help from our club, and 76 teams of orienteers participated in the 4-hour race. There were 23 controls, and no team manged to collect all of them. As usual, I prepared a visual analysis of their results. Overall it was very successful and I think most of the participants had great fun. I was especially pleased with the spread of the control visits, which showed that the planning was good enough to send the teams out across the whole area.

I’ll probably be planning a full rogaine next – my last was in 2014.

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