2017 Billygoat Recap

Hudson Valley Orienteering and Western Connecticut Orienteering teamed up to host this year's edition of the Billygoat Race at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in New York, which was also site of the 2016 U.S. Two-day Classic Championships. The annual Billygoat is a well-known and generally much-loved tradition among orienteers in the Northeast region of the United States, with this year's race being the 39th in the series.

The Billygoat has a number of traditional features, the most prominent of which are a mass start,  a skipped control (each competitor may skip one control, and which to skip is an important choice), and a forked control (both forks are shown on the map, and each competitor chooses which he or she wishes to visit). I'll say a bit more about these and other traditions in a moment, but first a summary of this year's competition.

(note: click images to enlarge them)

The Race

The year's competition was especially close, both for the top 3 men (Jordan Laughlin, Will Hawkins, and Giacomo Barbone) and the top 3 women (Alex Jospe, Kseniya Popova, and Isabel Bryant). All 3 men skipped control 14 and completed the next long leg (nearly 2 km) with similar times, punching at control 15 within 10 seconds of each other, and then arriving together at 16, the start of the final (roughly 4 km) loop. They remained close for the next 3 controls, but during the climb to 20 Jordan pulled ahead by 14 seconds. Jordan seemed to bobble 21, and Will and Giacomo punched 21 (the start of the fork) about 12 seconds ahead of Jordan. They now looked at the forked control, which offered two distinct options. The northern option is much longer (1.5 km) but flatter, mostly on trails, and with little navigational challenge. The southern loop is 500 meters shorter, but with much more climb, steep climb, and with at least the chance of a navigational bobble. Will and Giacomo, 12 seconds ahead of Jordan, opted for the longer northern fork, while Jordan chose the shorter but steeper southern fork. All 3 times on the fork are close, with Jordan giving up an additional 1 second. Jordan arrived to 23 (the end of the fork) 13 seconds behind Will and Giacomo. Two controls remained, covering about 1100 meters total. In the 600 meters to the next control Jordan overtook Will and Giacomo, gaining a 6 second lead at 24, and picking up another 7 seconds in the 500 meters to the GO (final) control. Jordan finished with a winning time of 87:16, with Will a close 18 seconds back, with Giacomo another 13 seconds behind that.

The top 3 women (Alex, Kseniya, Izzy) were equally close. Kseniya had a strong first half, opening up nearly a 5 minute lead at one point. But by 16, the start of the final loop, their times were close and everyone had made their skip (Izzy skipped 10; Alex and Kseniya skipped 14). Alex had a slight lead at this point, 6 seconds ahead of Izzy and 24 seconds ahead of Kseniya. But by the end of the climb to 20 Kseniya regained a slight lead, and punched ahead of Alex by 4 seconds and ahead of Izzy by 7. All 3 opted for the northern fork option, and at the northern control 22 Alex was back in the lead, 9 seconds over Izzy and 15 over Kseniya. Kseniya then put on a burst of speed, passed both, and arrived at 23 with a 4 second lead over Alex, 13 over  Izzy. Kseniya and Alex were neck and neck starting on the final 1100 meters and last 2 controls, with Alex pulling just a bit ahead, taking a 4 second lead at 24 and staying ahead through the GO control, finishing with a winning time of 121:52. Kseniya was second at 122:19, and Izzy third at 122:55.

Complete results, together with an analysis by Niels Olsen of the fork options, are available at WCOC results page.

Quick Billygoat Specs

This year's race was held at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, NY, the site of last fall's U.S. Classic Champs. The course was 13.3 km, with 470 meters climb and 25 controls (map on RouteGadget). We had 88 starters and 83 finishers, with 77 (87%) finishing within the 3:30 t-shirt deadline (more on this below).

A shout-out to Steve Tarry, the only person at 39 for 39 in Billygoat starts and finishes, all within the time limit to earn a t-shirt (although, according to Steve, the T-shirt tradition started a few years after the first Billygoat).

We also offered a shorter Pygmygoat course, which was 7.5 km, with 290 meters climb and 11 controls. There were 25 starters and 25 finishers. Top men were Daniel Westerberg (62:52), Krum Sergiev (69:24), and Carl Childs (69:45). Top women were Albina Zakrevski (80:21), Mary Jo Childs (90:01), and Anne Billman (92:02).

Billygoat Traditions

The Billygoat has developed a number of traditions since its first incarnation long ago. Here is a summary of some of the key traditions.

The Billygoat is a mass start event, with following explicitly allowed. This opens the door for a wider range of participants (trail runners who are shy on navigational skills, skilled orienteers who might ordinarily have difficulty completing a longer hillier course in the t-shirt time limit, and so on). Another consequence of following tends to be good stories. More on this below.

Custom designed t-shirts are a key tradition, but are only awarded to those finishing within a strict 3:30:00 time limit. This time limit is ruthlessly enforced; finishing in 3:30:00 gets you a t-shirt; finishing in 3:30:01 gets you condolences. This year's final finishers within the t-shirt time limit were Bob Bullions and Francis Hogle, cutting it close with less than 3 minutes to spare.

Skipped Control:   As mentioned earlier, this is one of the primary Billygoat traditions. Runners may skip one and only one control. They may skip the first control, the last control, the control before or after the forked control or the forked control itself, or any other control. But only one. It is important for competitors to choose wisely.

Following:  Following other competitors is neither encouraged nor discouraged; just explicitly allowed. (This is in contrast to OUSA rules for national events that call following unsportsmanlike.)

'Saeger' Loop:   This is sort of an on-again/off-again tradition. This year it was on, with not one but two Saeger Loops. These are short loopy legs with deliberate doglegs in areas of good visibility, which allow runners to see who is within a few minutes ahead or behind. This year the second Saeger Loop was at the start of the final loop of the course, so the top runners would have known who they were up against in the final few kilometers. (Named for Jeff Saeger who developed the course design technique for other races.)

Forked Control: Another on-again/off-again tradition, a forked control gives the runner the option of one or another control site on a given leg (both have same description and code); both forks are shown on the map, and each competitor chooses which he or she wishes to visit (or neither, should the competitor choose to skip the fork).

Jockstuffer/Brastuffer Award:  From the semi-official Billygoat page (www.billygoat.org): "A jockstuffer is the masculine orienteering analog to a cyclist’s wheelsucker. When a jockstuffer finds a suitably skilled orienteer, he puts his map away and lets the other person do the driving. The feminine equivalent is 'brastuffer,' of course." More on this year's award below.

Jockstuffer/Brastuffer Award

As usual, there were a number of contenders. But this year's award has to go to Giacomo B. I can't swear this is true, but it's a good story, and that’s good enough. The word is that Giacomo, now in the second half of his third decade on earth (did you know people lived that long?), wanted to relive some of the glory of his youth, and spent the night before the Billygoat partying like he did when he was still a strapping youth of 20. The morning of the Billygoat — it wasn't just that he was not hitting on all cylinders; rather, word is he could barely see straight. But he clawed his way through the first half by sticking within sight of Jordan and Will, and even managed to recover a bit by the end and lead to a couple of controls, coming in with a 3rd place finish.

Finally, I'd like to reiterate a big thanks to the many volunteers who helped this year's Billygoat run smoothly, not only Craig Weber (Meet Director) and Geof Connor (permissions and lots else) who did tons, but also to the many others who provided invaluable assistance.

If you haven't yet tried the Billygoat, try to get out to the New England area next year. It's great fun. We hope to see you all next year.

Rick DeWitt
Western Connecticut Orienteering

posted 22 May 2017