Getting Faster

As your experience in orienteering grows, there is a natural tendency to want to travel faster and become more competitive.  However, increasing your speed has some trade-offs in that you will have less time to focus on the map and are in danger of ‘over-running’ the map. 

This is where you can employ an additional skill to help you speed up when it is safe to do so, and slow down just at the right moment when more careful navigation may be needed. This technique is described as rough versus precision orienteering or traffic light orienteering.



Rough vs Precision (Traffic Light) Orienteering

Traffic Light orienteering refers to using three speed zones - green, amber and red. As their colour implies, green means go full speed, amber is slow down and red is the slowest and may even require a full stop as you orient your map, measure a bearing and/or establish your direction.

Let's discuss this in terms of a scenario. Have a look at the map below. From the Start to Control 1, looks easy. You just need to follow the handrail around. Running fast along the trail is suitable here, and you can go full speed (green).   Just focus on running the trail, until you reach the second trail junction, turn left and continue quickly to where the trail forks.  Once at the trail fork just outside the control circle, you should slow down (amber), as the number of small trails here will require your focus. If you are running too fast you may miss some of the subtleties and you will need to study your map to make sure the trails line up with how you visualize them on the map. 

Now it is time to move towards the control. The fork in the trail is your most likely attack point.  Really slow down here (red) and orient your map to make sure you select the correct trail to turn onto.  Once you have established the correct direction, you can move smoothly to the control flag on the knoll near to the trail. 

You have just experienced your first transition between rough orienteering and precision orienteering and moving through the three speed zones (green, amber and red). 

Let us look at Control 2, which is a bit more challenging since it is off-trail by a short distance.  However, you have an easily identifiable handrail that you can use to get you close.  So, with a quick glance at the map to establish direction you can head along the trail.  Running full speed (green), you quickly make sure you select the trail heading northeast until you reach the T-junction just southwest of Control 2.  Slow down here (amber), as this is your attack point. Now it is time to switch again to precision orienteering.  Take time to establish your direction with your compass (red). This is a time for precision orienteering. There are similar features in the control circle, so going slow and deliberate will ensure you find the right control the first time. By taking your time, you easily nailed the control! Awesome!

These examples should give you a good idea of why traffic light orienteering can be effective. If you simply ran in from the trail junction to what you perceived to be the location of the Control 2 (rough orienteering), it would be easy to get confused by the similar features and waste time looking at the other boulders which do not have the control flag.  Even though it means slowing down, measuring a compass bearing and focusing on choosing the correct route into your control will very likely save you valuable time in the end. When rushed, we tend to make mistakes, and in the worst case scenario it could cause you to miss the control completely, which could mean having to start over again back at the attack point. So, the end lesson really is: to be fast we need to slow down at the right time!



Getting Faster

Here is another excellent video produced by the Manchester & District Orienteering Club in the UK, which will discuss how traffic light orienteering can be applied.