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
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.
||Event and Location
Chase, Harriman, New York
& Clark 4, 8, and 12 hr Rogaine, Hoosier NF, IN
Murphy-Hanrahan SP, Minnesota
Billygoat, Fort Ancient, Ohio
3-hour Score event, St.Francois SP, Missouri
||Louisville Billygoat, Tom Wallace Lake Park
Possum Trot Billygoat, Knob Noster SP
Many different long-event formats exist. The first event, the
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
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
In closing, we would just like to say, "Let's Get Ready....to