Monday, April 14, 2008

Billygoat 2008

Last year, I'd had surgery on my shin just before this race. This year, I'd taken two weeks mostly off before the race. Always great preparation! The Billygoat is a long distance orienteering event with some interesting rules-- you can skip one control of your choice, and you can follow other runners (in fact, following is encouraged). Each year, a Jockstuffer of the Year award is given to someone who does minimal navigating and maximal following. Some of the stories can be found here, and some are quite amusing. Anyway, the Billygoat is supposed to be tough, designed to break both souls and bodies. Last year was pretty easy, and I worried that they would overreact. Luckily, the course setter didn't overreact, although in one guy's words, this Billygoat was "a real Billygoat run. With rocks and hills and stuff!" I guess that is a good thing...

So, I didn't really have a plan, except to follow people to #1 while I looked at my map and tried to figure out which one to skip. I wasn't having much luck deciding on a control to skip, as there weren't too many obvious choices. I toyed with the idea of #13, which would save a jaunt into the woods off a trail, or with #18, just because it looked like it was in somewhat nasty terrain, but I didn't immediately see any trails around it. I was following Jeff Saeger (the father of the two girls who are like the best orienteers in the US)into #3, and when he headed towards 5 instead of 4, I figured, what the heck. May as well skip 4 and stick with a good orienteer. Heading towards 5 the fact that I am not in shape caught up to me, and I quickly fell into the "run where I can, walk everywhere else" mode. This meant that I was losing Jeff, and I'd have to actually navigate lest I lose myself.

Five and six were uneventful, I was trailing about 20 feet behind Jeff and Tracy Olafson had caught up to me. I ran with her to 7, but then convinced myself I'd come too far down the hillside, since I ran right by 7 on my way to 3. Luckily I was being passed by a stream of orienteers, who all seemed intent to keep heading downhill, so I raced downhill at breakneck speed to catch back up to Tracy and not lose her. We circumnavigated the swamp to get to 8, but I managed to get my foot stuck in mud anyway. Tracy and I started to pull away from people between 9 and 12, and then I mentioned that I would just hoof it along the ridge trail from 12 to 13. She agreed, and a kid came with us, his name was Calvin. He started making noises about how he was tired and getting hungry, but not in a whiny way, so it was ok. Coming off the trail near #9, we crossed the set of three stone walls and hit the big trail, which we followed all the way to the little pond next to 13. Tracy needs some reading glasses, as she couldn't see the map as well as she'd like, but us young folks helped her out and we nailed 14.

I was kind of dumb going to 15, heading down by the swamp instead of over the top, but Tracy and Calvin went over the top and we got there at the same time. Somehow I was deemed the good navigator, no pressure, don't fuck up your compass bearing in the relatively featureless woods to 16 and 17... we got there, and headed up a long-ass hill to 18. Maybe I was just tired, but I started walking and it felt like I was walking forever. Came to the top of the hill too far to my right, and then trudging to the north we hit the control. At this point we were all getting nervous that people would catch up to us, as we were doing quite well, so I picked up the pace going to 19. A group of guys caught up to us at 19, I think they had skipped 18, so I could ease off the navigation for a bit and just follow them to 20, planning my route from 21 to 22, which is essentially the finish, since I didn't feel like sprinting, even though I was pretty sure I could take Tracy in a head-on sprint. We nailed 20 and 21, and then I headed down to the trail to get to 22, with Tracy hot on my heels, but I was faster on the trail, and got there first, beating her to the line by 17 seconds or something.

Not a bad run, and it was definitely nice to have someone to run with and navigate with. We were ahead of some fast girls, so I think 4 was a good one to skip, although it would have been nice to skip 18, and miss out on all that climb. But I heard that there was some thick underbrush on the way to 4, so maybe I got lucky. Hopefully I can keep up this good streak and run a little faster next weekend at the US relay champs in Rochester!

The maps were scanned by Peter Gagarin, a fast orienteer, and his route is in pink, mine is in purple.

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