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Let's Get Ready...to Billygoat!

Imagine an orienteering race where everyone starts at the same time, following is not only allowed but encouraged, and discussions between competitors about route choices and strategies occur throughout the entire event. Sounds like an orienteering party in the woods, right? Well, in a way, it is, and now's your chance to experience one of these races first hand when the fall Billygoat season begins across the country.

These billygoat-style races are great, casual events that incorporate a lot of climb and long, challenging courses. The format for the event is the brainchild of the legendary Peter Gagarin who wanted to offer a more sociable, laid-back event that fostered friendly competition, and incorporated a bit of the European mountain marathon concept.

If some of you are worried that the race will be too long to tackle, don't worry; many folks walk the entire event. Although there is always an intense race going on among the leaders, the most fun is often had by those in the middle and back of the pack. For these folks, they want to enjoy the day in the woods, strolling sociably with others, having plenty of exercise, and laughing about the lead pack as it appears and disappears from time to time like a pack of ravening hounds. And there are usually White, Yellow, and Orange Courses for those in your party who would like to participate in the fun in a more limited manner.

Below is a brief listing of the four Billygoats and other long orienteering-related events this Fall.

Date Event and Location
Oct 12-13   Highland Chase, Harriman, New York
Oct 19   Lewis & Clark 4, 8, and 12 hr Rogaine, Hoosier NF, IN
Oct 27   Minnesota Billygoat, Murphy-Hanrahan SP, Minnesota
Nov 17   Cincinnati Billygoat, Fort Ancient, Ohio
Nov 30   Turkey-O 3-hour Score event, St.Francois SP, Missouri
Dec 7   Louisville Billygoat, Tom Wallace Lake Park
Dec 8   Kansas City Possum Trot Billygoat, Knob Noster SP

Many different long-event formats exist. The first event, the 2-day Highland Chase in beautiful but technically difficult Harriman State Park north of New York City. The Chase is a Scatter-O format in which competitors must find a given number of controls in any order and return to the finish line; the quickest person to find the required number of controls over the two-day period is the winner. Chase organizers estimate distances each day will be around 26 kilometers (long course) or 16 km (short).

The Lewis & Clark Rogaine is a 4, 8, or 12 hour event which requires teams of 2 persons and is a score-type event in the rough terrain along the Ohio River. Unless you come in early, the 12-hour event will include a couple hours of night orienteering. Since it is a reasonable drive from Chicago, many Club members attend this event each year.

For those of you who have never participated in a 'goat-style race, we bet you're wondering what the best "survival strategies" are. Well, here are a few clues:

  1. Pick a really good orienteer to follow. Hey, it's allowed! Just be sure you keep checking on them to make certain they know what they are doing. Mass starts tend to make people run too fast and go brain-dead very early in the race. It is no fun to find that the guy you've been following frantically for 20 minutes has no idea where he is either.
  2. Drink fluids whenever you get a chance. Granted, most of these events are scheduled for the cool days of Fall, but you can never be too hydrated in these kind of races. It also helps to down a couple of power gels or a sports bar sometime during the first part of the race.
  3. Have fun and share your route choices with other people during the race. Quite often, several orienteers will confer with each other mid-race about route choices, particularly when approaching windows (areas where multiple controls can be taken in any order). In these kinds of situations, it's kind of an unspoken etiquette among orienteers in a small pack or group to help each other out. That way, you can help your pack get through an area quicker than another group (kind of like a breakaway group in a bicycle race). Of course, as the race nears the end, you'll have to start thinking about a place where you can out-fox your group, break away, and leave them in the dust! Some goat racers might not agree with the "sharing" aspects of the race, but many do, so go for it.
  4. Make sure you pace yourself. Not much needs to be said here, right? Well, what happens if you don't pace yourself— hallucinations, plain and simple—as evidenced here by a quote from a past Billygoater and top orienteer: "....thought I was in the right place because I saw that oval knoll on the way in....eventually found [the control bag]..... have no idea what went wrong....must have attacked off the wrong trail junction and hallucinated the oval knoll."

Well, we hope we've prepared you properly. Take advantage of the calendar and join us, and many others, for the fun. Who knows? We might be hosting a Billygoat or other long event in Chicago next year.

In closing, we would just like to say, "Let's Get Ready....to Billygoat!!!!"

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