Control Pickup as Training Session

By Andreas Johansson, NEOOC Member (cross-posted from

I volunteered to pick up a few controls after the Python Goat event a few weekend’s ago, and got my assignment for which controls to grab. They happened to be controls on the part of the course I didn’t run, so I took my time in navigating to each one, paying particular attention to the finer details of the map, or micro-orienteering, that I normally would during a race.

Then it hit me! Picking up controls is a great way to do a bit of training on just that – the finer details, honing azimuth readings, and really paying close attention to the terrain around you. After the first control pickup, I got real serious about what I was doing, and took some photos of each control in order to share here the map for each, and what it looked like in real life. Hope you get a bit of knowledge out of it all.

The controls may not be in order here, and they are all based off the master control list either way, and not necessarily in the order for the course (they were all on the 10K Python Goat course).


Here’s a boulder on the map, and I approached from the south. The boulder was located on a mini-spur, but when I got there, I had drifted a bit east, and so had to do a sweep around to find it. In addition, the control was placed very well, low to the ground, and I missed it the first time because my eyes were looking a bit higher in the terrain.

Once I swooped around from east to west, using the water feature as my definite limit, I found it. The lesson learned here was looking lower than I had before, as it was placed right on the downslope side of the spur, and behind a bunch of debris.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Stream Junction

The stream junction control was pretty easy to pickup, but here I also approached from the south (disregard the legs on the map) and I was able to run in using the southern most stream bed, and navigate right to the control. In the picture, that’s the stream in the top-right hand corner of the photo.

However, the control was placed just around the corner, again a bit lower, so seeing it required extra attention to the area. This type of placement though is pretty easy, considering there are some major features to dial in on like the two stream beds, and they catch you, especially coming from the south.

Depending on the direction of approach for this control, it may have been a different story, and I think for the Python course, runners approached from the west off of a pretty long leg, with additional navigational challenges, which made this one a bit tougher.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Earth Cliff

The earth cliff was located right on the border of the allowable area to run, so navigating to it wasn’t too hard. I again approached from the south. My initial approach was to navigate in and around the hills / saddle to the south, coming in from the south-west, but I ended up running more directly to the east of the saddle, and right in line with the border line (and found to my surprise a neighborhood to the direct east, about 200m out).

I found the water feature (sort of a dry stream) which was very deep / steep, and followed the edge of that in to the control. I figured based on the placement that it would be located on the back end of the wall, and indeed there it was.

I hopped a few rocks and mudbanks, and got the control unscathed for pickup. In this case the control was placed high, but didn’t matter as the approached was quite hidden from either direction (south, or from the west) and one needed to get right to it.

With a control location like this, I look for the obvious feature like the bank / cliff itself, and try to follow that in. Usually, as was the case here, it’s a matter of finding some good foot placement, but following the water here was not an option (at least not in it…).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Top of Knoll

I spotted the control here way early, by luck (see photo #1) and got right to it. If the control had been hung differently, I don’t think I would have seen it as early. It’s always a good idea to start scanning for the obvious placements once in the red zone, or even earlier, depending on your style of orienteering. I like to keep my head up as much as I can to spot the orange and white, and have good luck with that generally, as was the case here.

The nice thing about this control, is that it was placed just west of a major feature – the water. So regardless if coming from the east (which was the case) you can run fill steam until the water (assuming you’re okay with a basic direction / azimuth) or follow the terrain downward.

Once I hit the stream, my eyes went scanning and found it. It would have been more difficult had the control been placed a bit farther in, say up the ride to the west…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I really learned a lot about myself, and about the terrain here. I truly enjoyed being able to take it a bit slower, really get down to the fine details, and concentrate on being spot on. I use my step-count quite a bit, and find that I’m pretty accurate with that in wooded terrain at semi-running pace (~61 lefts per 100m). It really helps, especially making sure I don’t overshoot a control (as in going too far) before scanning and sweeping for the location.

By paying real attention to the terrain details, the compass becomes secondary, and just used for longer legs through multiple areas. But, at running speed, I try to combine the two to make sure I don’t get off course.

Here’s my track for the pickup, as logged with my Garmin 310XT, using QuickRoute to overlay the route on the map. Pretty easy to see where the controls are, but just in case, there’s one with them mapped as well.

So the next time you get a chance, volunteer to pickup a few controls – you might learn something in the process!

2 Replies to “Control Pickup as Training Session”

  1. Andreas, great job on the website. I read your blog about picking up controls and using it as a training exercise. Great idea. At the end of that entry you show your route, using the Garmin 310XT and QuickRoute. I am very interested in using those tools after events so that I can see where I went off course, etc. How do you load a particular event map into QuickRoute? I imagine the Garmin tracks your course, and per the device description you can wirelessly upload your track to your computer. But I do not know how you get our event map loaded into QuickRoute.


    1. Jeff,

      My next writeup will be a quick tutorial on how to do what I do – pretty easy really, once you get the hang of it. I’ll have it up soon… Thanks for the feedback!

Comments are closed.