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Discussion: Designing a goat event

in: Orienteering; Off-Course

Sep 4, 2012 11:59 AM # 
Fly on the Wall:
Hi everyone, (1) I'm looking to design a goat event to add a little variety to our calendar and spotted some advice on a similar thread in about 2008. Can anyone pls provide a sample of a goat course map, and explain what goes into a good goat design? Does it have to be a mass start? Does it have to be a line course? How can I best avoid mass following (although that is not discouraged in a goat event)? Grateful for any really constructive suggestions.
(2) also appreciate any tips on running a Farsta or Motala event, particularly course design
Sep 5, 2012 12:18 AM # 
Check out the Rocky Mountain Goat thread on Events Discussion for a recent example. Has to be a mass start, and following is part of what makes it fun and interesting. Of course, you can also have an event that doesn't feature a mass start, and it may be a fine thing, though not a "goat" as the term is generally understood. (Also note that the first and third editions of the original Billygoat Run were not in fact mass start events.)
Sep 5, 2012 12:26 AM # 
I'm toying with the idea of mass starting a goat event but then immediately going in to a handicapped THOMASS box where the top level have to get all the controls before heading out on the point to point and the high handicappers, esentially would head straight to the point to point. The rest would fall somewhere in between
Does that destroy the spirit of a goat event?
Sep 5, 2012 12:27 AM # 
Sounds fine to me.
Sep 5, 2012 12:33 AM # 
Gord, the other way of doing it, which would perhaps be more in the spirit of a goat, would be to simply allow people with higher handicaps to skip more controls but they can't be two controls in a row.
Sep 5, 2012 12:36 AM # 
Pink Socks:
How can I best avoid mass following (although that is not discouraged in a goat event)?

Many goat events throw in a twist or two so that it's not just a herd of people running 'round the course. Sometimes you're allowed to skip a control or two (sometimes consecutive skips are allowed). If you go this route, then your course design should offer up a lot of potential skips, so that the best skips aren't obvious. Some people prefer to skip distance. Others will skip to reduce climb or navigational complexity, or others just for race strategy.

Other twists would be forked legs or loops. Or you could have a box that's essentially a mini score-o in the middle of the race, which again can have variations: get 'em all in any order, get any two, whatever.

If you're expecting a large startlist, I'd recommend opening the course with a long-ish leg, so that you don't get a backup at the first control. Or, if you go with a shorter leg, to have multiple punches or SI boxes.
Sep 5, 2012 1:16 AM # 
A long first leg with a variety of route choice options forces folks to 'pick their train' quickly and will often fragment the field right from the start before really having a chance to digest the overall course design and developing a strategy.

I like the concept of handicapped skip quota too...
Sep 5, 2012 1:16 AM # 
I've only set one goat event. But here are some of my observations:

1. Try to understand the strategies people use for goats. For example, leaders really like to run with the pack, so some people prefer late skips to earlier skips, all things being equal (which they rarely are).

2. The most pure start technique is for competitors to not see the map until the race starts. If you do this, it's considered bad form for the best skip to be the first control. (See 1, above).

3. You must consider each control as a possible skip. Methodically cover up 1, 2, 3, and so on and see how your course is affected. People will also skip forks, if you haven't excluded that. You should also consider what happens if people skip the control before or after each fork. Sometimes the setter hasn't considered that (guilty), and some of the runners figure it out. If you have a dangerous stream crossing, for example, consider what happens if people skip unexpectedly. In the goat I set, some people went through freezing cold water 18 inches deep (.45m) because I didn't think anyone would be crazy enough to risk the freezing cold runoff. (It was by far the best skip.)

4. Goat courses tend to bend gently control-to-control. Large acute angles are obvious skips. It's not that they're bad, it's just hard to provide a large number of possible skips if a few look really tempting.

5. Try to give a variety of skip options. Specifically, try to have skips that save distance, that save climb, and that save other things, like fight. Other options can be road v. trail v. forest.

6. We (OCIN) usually have a short course (6km or so), so we tend to allow one skip on the short course, and two on the long, plus one or more forks. I had a section of the course that had a long leg out to two controls and then a long leg back. If I allowed two skips in a row, I would've had to put three controls way out so those two distant controls weren't the only obvious skip. So I said, "Two skips, but not two in a row". The effect of that, I think, is to greatly simplify the skip decisions. Allowing two in row means you have to consider that during course planning and it starts to get really complicated. My advice is: Whatever you decide the rules are, be complete and methodical during planning so you understand the effect of every possible skip and combination of skips.
Sep 5, 2012 2:07 AM # 
Good summary, but why is it bad form for the first control to be a good skip option? Because people like to save the skips for late? That seems like a really good reason to throw in an early skip option.

For the Grunt, I've also used the 1 skip on short, 2 on long, but not consecutive. Allowing two skips in a row can make the course design harder.
Sep 5, 2012 2:17 AM # 
The one good thing about two skips in a row is that it favors orienteers who are very good reading the map. But it makes the course design really hard.

It's bad form because one of the main points of a goat is to simulate pack running in a big relay. We don't have many big relays in the US, so a goat is a reasonable facsimile. If the first control is a good skip, you break up the pack immediately.

One thing I've always wanted to do is to design the long and short courses so the short course (which tends to have slower runners) is a "shortcut" of the long course, so the faster runners are repeatedly running through the slower short course runners, again, to increase the amount of pack running.
Sep 5, 2012 3:06 AM # 
Another reason to not have the first control be a good skip is that runners ought to be able to have a reasonable opportunity to evaluate the skip options. One leg worth of map study ought to be enough.

A related point is that if you allow a skip, then you can't have a map exchange*, because that would make it a roll of the dice. You might hang onto your skip until the second map, and then find out that there's nothing worth skipping in the second half. or conversely, you might skip on map 1, and then you get map 2 and find out that there's an option that saves a ton of distance, but it's too late for you.

(* Unless the runners have both maps from the start, e.g. if they're back-to-back in the map case.)
Sep 5, 2012 3:12 AM # 
I did not know about that point wrt a goat event. But it comes down to map reading and choices. I'm guessing there's a bit of 'follow the first one out of the gate' syndrome. A top runner takes off and the rest are sure to follow?

The midwest events that I've attended haven't drawn enough attendance to create a really large pack. Probably (at most?) 5 or 6 runners that quickly leave everyone else behind.

For the Grunt/Runt, 2nd half of the Grunt = Runt. Delay the start of the Runt so the lead runners from the Grunt will probably see many of the Runt runners somewhere on the course. Hadn't thought of the 'repeatedly' aspect. Would be interesting.
Sep 5, 2012 4:06 AM # 
Pink Socks:
I'm with JJ. Let the race have a running start. One of the appeals to a goat is the mass start. If the gun goes off and everyone is standing there trying to figure out if #1 is the best skip or not (basically needing to analyze the entire course), then it's not a very exciting start.

Which is why I like long first legs for a goat. Let the mass start sizzle for a while, and give everyone enough time to plan their strategies.


Obviously, another option for a map-exchange goat is to allow a skip per map.
Sep 5, 2012 4:42 AM # 
Some opinions:
-Make sure your first leg is long enough that the pack has some time to sort out, and maybe install a couple extra punches so you don't get a long queue.

-Don't focus too much on breaking up the pack. Half the point of a mass start event is that I finally get to run in a pack. Even when I'm lucky, there are generally only a half dozen people in the race who run at my speed. Why break up the fun?

-Do look to include tricky route choices, especially later in the race. This makes for fun strategy as people try to break away from the pack.

-In typical course setting, there isn't much point to having two roughly equivalent route options. That's a coin flip, and it doesn't really add anything to the challenge. In a mass start event, that rule can be relaxed. There is some strategy involved. Do you stick with your plan, or stick with the pack. Do you play it safe and hope you've got enough speed to seal the win, or do you gamble by taking a different route than the rest of the pack?

-I've long felt that the goat format has somehow failed to reach its potential. Done right, I feel like the goat could be a sublimely marketable race for people outside regular o-community. In practice, they seem to have become a niche event for the most hard-core orienteers. Could this be improved? Dunno. I've been told that BAOC's new TrailCross format is aiming to find that sweet spot.
Sep 5, 2012 7:40 AM # 
Change the name to the Boomer to attract participants.
Sep 5, 2012 9:54 AM # 
Check the Billy Goat website. On the Schedule page there is a link to an archive.

I've run two Goats in Western Australia - we call them The Boomer, after a big male kangaroo (as tRicky alluded to). Unfortunately they haven't made it to our Routegadget page as apparently putting them on RG is awkward (or so our tech-o reckons).
Sep 5, 2012 12:08 PM # 
You could probably do it but then you couldn't enter your route manually because you'd be missing controls - you'd need a GPS trace.
Sep 5, 2012 12:51 PM # 
Is a young child navigating badly in this event called a Sloppy Joey?
Sep 5, 2012 1:25 PM # 
Only in Australia.
Sep 5, 2012 1:44 PM # 
Unfortunately they haven't made it to our Routegadget page as apparently putting them on RG is awkward...

I know it is possible. There is supposedly a checkbox or something in routegadget that lets each runner run a different course as defined by the SI csv file. It also works for forked relays.
Sep 5, 2012 2:38 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
The internet suggested one option for non standard route gadget was to upload a map with the circles already on it, then just put in the start and finish in routegadget - the user is no longer required to cross through every spot. I did it for a score o and it worked fine. I am not a routegadget power user.
Sep 5, 2012 4:08 PM # 
With respect to the finish, one thing that I tried to do when I designed a goat last year was to insert a known dog-leg to an unlikely-to-be-skipped control near the end of the course. Then I followed the dog-leg with a fork, one of whose branches was safe/flat/long and the other of which was technical/hilly/short. The idea was to give competitors a chance to see whom they were near, and how much ground they needed to make up--then give them a choice about how they wanted to gain or preserve a lead.

I also like the run-in to the go control to have a tiny bit of route choice, to enable a heroic last-minute stealing of the lead.
Sep 6, 2012 4:26 AM # 
We use RouteGadget all the time for Score-O events. You just can't put a list of entrants on it, which is not really a necessity anyway unless you're trying to 'average' each leg's speed rather than averaging the whole race (for animation purposes).

It may look a bit weird on a line course if you don't know where the runner is meant to be going and you have every single control across all courses on the one map. That could amount to up to 60 70 80 lots of controls.
Sep 6, 2012 6:03 PM # 
RouteGadget process a Score event that used electronic punching.

Sounds like you guys might not be doing score-O correct if you use epunching in RouteGadget. In the video the important part comes at 1:30. Also use that option for goat events as it says on the description. Remember to check the start and finish drop down boxes.
Sep 7, 2012 2:14 AM # 
Fly on the Wall:
Thanks everyone so far for their contributions. The BillyGoat site is actually very light on for detail so I appreciate your comments. I'd love it if some of you could post on here some goat course maps (esp ones inc forked controls) so I can get a better handle on designing my course. I saw Swampfox's map on the Rocky Mt Goat but it does not have any forked controls. I love the idea of a Thomass box in the middle of the course.
Sep 7, 2012 2:52 AM # 
A copy of this year's Billygoat is on Routegadget at . One skip was allowed. Leg 5 was forked. The best skip options include 11, 12, 18, 22, and 23 (in my opinion, people skipped others). There wasn't really a good "early skip". I think the first leg spread the field out pretty well.
Sep 7, 2012 3:16 AM # 
Fly on the Wall:
Thanks Glen, that is an insane course. Mine will be far more urban but through strips of national park - want to offer choice between longer road legs and shorter bush legs which might also help to spread the field.
Sep 7, 2012 10:50 AM # 
'89 & '90 from PG's archive...
Sep 8, 2012 6:33 AM # 
Farsta and Motala described here, along with Vannas
Sep 10, 2012 7:08 AM # 
Fly on the Wall:
thanks Hawkeye - is that document available anywhere to download? Could not find it on the IOF site.
Sep 10, 2012 8:36 AM # 
Not that I'm aware, other than as jpg images.I asked the IOF office if was available in PDF, but it never made it to PDF and a revision is long overdue.
Sep 10, 2012 2:46 PM # 
Relay Orienteering PDF
Converted those jpgs to pdf for myself not too long ago when they were posted before. You can use this if it is more convenient.
Dec 5, 2012 3:38 AM # 
Fly on the Wall:
thanks to everyone for their advice. The inaugural GOanna was a big hit with the 52 participants. Courses, results and splits are here and the courses are now on Routegadget. The long course (9km but about 8.1km once the skips were taken into account) was too complex to program into SI so we had to program it as a scatter course and checked manually that everyone had been to the correct controls. Anyone got a better way to program it? The post-race feedback was overwhelmingly positive - even from those gun orienteers who got tricked and went to #1 on the GeckO instead of #10a on the GOanna. Pays to check the descriptions ! We were limited by the urban environment to a degree but this made the mass start and 'following allowed' rule a lot of fun.
Dec 5, 2012 5:39 AM # 
a direct link to the GOanna GOat event on Routegadget

the NSW Routegadget page has all of the event instructions under the "i" information button

it got a bit messy trying to fit everything into one RG display, but it was helped by the 2 shorter courses just cutting off the early parts of the main course. I took off all the control numbers, but left the GOanna controls, course line and forks on the map image.
Nov 4, 2013 10:45 AM # 
Fly on the Wall:
Hi everyone, conducted the second Garingal Goat races yesterday and some very good feedback again. Courses are on under Nov 3 'The Goanna'. Before you look at the splits, I'd be interested to know which controls you'd fork and which one(s) you'd skip. Instructions are on the maps, control descriptions were on paper slips.
Nov 4, 2013 10:57 AM # 
do you want me to load the event on Routegadget this year?
Nov 4, 2013 12:03 PM # 
Fly on the Wall:
Rockman, the GO web crew have the maps but feel free to load them up by all means. NC shd put on a goat race - they're loads of fun. Great feedback again.
Nov 4, 2013 12:30 PM # 
Goanna2013 is on Routegadget as a course without results or splits - the map is georeferenced to make gps tracks easier to load.

Let me know if the splits files are available.

This discussion thread is closed.