32nd Annual Billygoat Run at Mt Tom
The temperature was a bit too warm, getting well up into the 70's; but the predicted showers never came. The vegetation had thickened significantly in the last month; the streams and marshes were bone dry from lack of recent rain; the ground, as always at Mt Tom, was rocky. It was time to start the 32nd annual Billygoat Run, the hilliest course ever with 680 meters of climb (taking optimal routes!).
116 orienteers (including a couple of orienteer wannabes) lined up for the mass start at 11:00; the most since 2004, the last time it was held at Mt Tom. There were 97 official finishers, completing the course in less than three-and-a-half hours; 84% of those who started finished in under three-and-a-half hours. 11 others completed the course, but were overtime. Only 8 did not finish.
The men's race was dramatic, with first and second separated by only seven seconds. With Will Hawkins out of commission, it figured to be a duel between Ross Smith and Boris Granovsky. Neither had won a Billygoat before; both were hungry. Given Ross's superior speed, it was his race to lose: he just had to avoid making any big mistakes ... But he bothched #2, in an area of the map where it can be devilishly hard to relocate. Then he bravely (or foolishly?) decided to skip #2 and head straight for #3. He arrived at #3 4:22 behind Boris, putting him efflectively 7-8 minutes behind. (Boris hadn't skipped; when he skipped #14, he gained 3:17 on Ross.) Could Ross make up that big a deficit? He clawed his way back into the race, beating Boris on all but three splits, until at #22, the beginning of the fork, he was only 26 seconds back. Boris forked right to take the longer, flat trail route around the lake. Ross forked left to take the shorter route through the woods with more climb. Ross was closing as they converged on the go control ... but it was too late. Boris was victorious in 1:37:10 – a superb run with almost no time lost.
The women's race, as in many previous years, was a sister act: Samantha and Hillary Saeger ran the course together, with Sam outpacing Hilary over the final stretch to win by 9 seconds in 1:52:52. It was a fine race for them both, finishing 6th and 7th out of the entire field; and a three-peat for Sam.
The men's and women's champions won $100 gift certificates from Berman's Orienteering Supply. There were $50 certificates for six age division winners. The male junior award went to Carl Underwood, M17, who was fourth overall in 1:43:55. The female junior award went to Meg Parsons, M16, who finished in 2:58:15. The M40 award went to Eddie Bergeron, M41, 4th overall, in 1:40:58. The fastest woman over 40 was Tracey Olafson, F55, who therefore took the F40 award. The M50 award went to Ernst Linder, M56, who was 15th overall in 1:59:31. Finally, Peggy Dickison, F50, won the F50 award in 2:33:33.
Other noteworthy accomplishments included the following. Steve Tarry, the only orienteer to do every Billygoat, returned to form with an 28th place finish in 2:11:40. Sharon Crawford completed her 30th Billygoat with plenty of time to spare in 3:23:45. Luke Lyons, age 8, became the youngest finisher ever of the Billygoat, doing the tour with big brother Nate in 3:15:51. His grandfather, Walt Lyons, M69, was the oldest finisher in 3:16:11. Six members of the Lyon's family, from three generations, finished the race; that too has to be a record. Most impressive feat, I think, goes to Joe Brautigam who was 17th in 2:02:51 after doing an 18-hour adventure race the day before. Finally, a new category: the best-looking finishing kick by a male was Carl Underwood, showing off some of his sub 4:30 mile speed; best finishing kick by a woman goes to Alex Jospe, third woman finisher, who looked like she was ready to go out for another loop. Worst finishing kick, no contest, goes to Greg Balter, who looked like he was trying mighty hard to jog as slow as possible.
Eight different skips were chosen by five or more people; just the sort of variety I was aiming for. The most popular skips (with number who skipped) were 15 (27), 14 (21), 6 (14), 20 (12), 7 (6), 10 (6), 3 (5), 21 (5). Looking over the splits, 14 and 15 were both very good skips; though, for 15, it is best to take the left trail option (and forgo the scenic ridge run). I was a bit surprised how few skipped 7 and 10, both of which allowed for fast road legs. (As did skipping the first control; but that would have been very risky to do prior to evaluating other skip options.) I suspect a lot of orienteers prefer to save their skip to the second half.
More than 75% of the field chose the right fork, the longer, flat route around the lake. The course was set so that anyone who could maintain a reasonable pace going up the hill would do better to take the left fork. (For example, Ross gained 19 seconds on Boris by going left.) But for most of the field, by the time they got to #22, they couldn't face another climb. I'm not surprised.
There are lots of aspirants this year for the Jockstuffer award. Ultramarathoner Monica Brookman showed up registration asking for instruction on how to use a compass. She was advised to follow someone all the way around the course, but unfortunately she picked another inexperienced orienteer to follow and did not finish. Then there were the twenty or thirty orienteers who followed the train led by J-J the wrong way out of the start. All of that group are deserving of the award (with the exception of Bob Lux, the only one who had the sense to come back to the open field and do it right). But I'm going to give the award to Sam and Hillary Saeger – because they should know better!
When I arrived at the Lake Bray shelter, there were two plates of home-baked cookies: one, oatmeal raison, the other, peanut butter. Yum. I figured this would be a good year for bribes. But someone forgot to tell the bribers that the bribe does no good if the bribee doesn't know where the bribe came from. Without any bribes to decide the issue, I turned to consider my favorite clubs, two small clubs with great members who put on great meets: UNO to the north, and WCOC to the south. Both clubs are always ready and willing to help in any way. Indeed, for this event, Lex and Pete hauled the map sealer down. Rick DeWitt offered map cases, when it seemed NEOC didn't have the right size; George Walker offered to lend rental e-punches in case we ran out. Both clubs are worthy, but the award this year goes to: WCOC. Just because.
This meet would not have been successful if I had not had a ton of help. Jim Paschetto designed and continually updated the website, ran the download station at the meet, and helped pick up controls. Steve Richardson vetted the course, helped out at the meet, and picked up controls. Sam Saeger was the meet registrar. Ross Smith got all the e-punch equipment and software ready, and helped crunch the results. Gail Gagarin manned the halfway station and helped with awards. My wife, Margi, also manned the halfway station, and was in charge of the food (pizza!). David Bryant designed the t-shirt, and mom Barb took care of the ordering. Caroline Fleming, Joanne Sankus, Paul Pearson, and Andy McIlvane ran the recreational meet. Mika Latva-Kokko designed the rec courses. Valerie Meyer ("the amazing Valerie") got the results up the evening of the race, got splits on Winsplits and AP, and got the course on RouteGadget. (Please enter your routes!) Peter Gagarin consulted on course design, helped announce the awards, and picked up some controls. J-J Cote prepared the map for printing, making nice use for the first time of the Orienteering USA logo. (Check it out, if you didn't notice it!) To all these people, a hearty thank you.
On a personal note, I'd like to thank Peter Gagarin for getting me into this sport, and always being supportive, no matter how badly I orienteer. The first time I saw an orange and white kite was when I followed Peter around picking up controls after a Mt Tom post-Thanksgiving meet in 1997. The next year, I ran my first orienteering race: the 1998 Billygoat at Mt Norwottuck. Although I was about 50% faster then than I am now, I was lucky to make the cut-off in 3:17:52. I've been hooked ever since. It's in my blood and in my dreams.
Head Goat and Coursesetter