Orienteering race 1:28:13  11.0 km (8:01 / km)
shoes: VJ Supra Fall 2015
I ran the Billygoat!
I think it was my 12th.
The last couple of weeks my back has been feeling a bit looser. I don't know what to make of it - within a month it went from pretty good and improving, to so bad I could barely leave my bed for two days, to good enough that I got through a middle distance race at West Point. I have gotten a ton of encouragement and a ton of advice from my friends from all around the orienteering community. I am really thankful to everyone. We really have a great community in U.S. orienteering, and I love being a part of it.
So I am back in wait-and-see mode.
In the meantime, it was time for the Billygoat. I didn't sign up, but I told Alex before West Point that there was a 1% chance that I'd show up at the start line because, after all, it's the Billygoat - the best, most tradition-heavy race in U.S. orienteering, and the closest thing we have to Tiomila and Jukola in terms of history and epicness.
So I got a flight, spent the night hanging out with Ian and new friend Will E, and got to the Goat. At the start line, I had very modest expectations - try to finish and, if possible, get more points than DarthBalter and Joe, and not too many fewer than Wyatt.
The race was a blast! The terrain was great and varied, the course was fun and mercifully short, and the head-to-headness that makes this the Billygoat did not disappoint.
From the start I took off almost first, soon to be passed by the speedy Isak, Will E, Ian, and a few others. I took the trail all the way around, losing a bit of time, but ending up with Wyatt, Carl, and WillH, a bit behind Ian and Peter Z, ar #1.
On the way to #2 I discussed some skips with Will and said that 2 is too early for me, even if it looks like the best skip. Will agreed it was the best skip and skipped it. I figured I wouldn't see him again.
I was a bit too high going into 2 and got there with a big pack, including Wyatt, Peter Z, Carl U, Olaf, Andis , Zach, Balter, Ari, and Ted Good. Ian was ahead.
The way to 3 basically consisted of a string of people, so we made up a bit of ground on Ian and all bunched up together.
For the next few controls I was basically hanging out at the tail end of the big pack. I was feeling weak physically, but to my delight, my back was doing fine.
During these legs 4-9 we also passed a bunch of the people who skipped #2, including Evalin, Adrian, Joe, and Kestrel.
I had made up my mind that I would skip #10 as long as someone else from the pack chose to do the same. When we got to #9, Wyatt was first in the pack, and he headed for #10. Peter Z was next. He took a few steps towards 10, hesitated, and turned towards 11. Ian went for 11 without any hesitation, and my mind was made up. From our group, only Wyatt chose not to skip 10.
I went a bit high to 11 and lost a few seconds, but the group of eight was pretty much all together here: Ian, Carl, me, Andis, Balter, Olaf, Zach, and Peter Z, occupying places 4-11, with Isak and two Wills in front.
As we headed up towards 12 I was surprised to see Will H up ahead. He missed 12 and was suddenly with Ian at the front of our pack.
Will H went high to 13. I stayed low, losing sight of Ian in the distance. Got the control cleanly and could see Ian leaving it, but not sight of Will.
Andis, Carl, and Peter Z caught up to me through 14-15, and Ian was still in front.
#16 was my favorite leg on the course - downhill through beautiful, but technical white woods. I executed well, punching in 3rd, apparently just a minute down on Will E for 2nd place at that point.
The next control I pulled a little to the left, and the pack caught me as I corrected. Will H came through us here too, running quite a bit faster. He lost time in the circle, though, and everyone was together again, except Balter and Zach seem to have fallen off the back of the pack here.
On the way across the streams to 18 I started feeling my back tightening up. From this point the race would be a death march to the finish for me, hoping not to cramp up and just focusing on the orienteering.
I immediately missed 18, and Will H and Andis opened up a gap that we would not be able to make up.
On the trail towards 19 we saw Will E heading the other way. He looked strong.
I got 19 behind Olaf and Ian, and with Carl. Peter Z was by himself, behind the Will-Andis group, and ahead of our group.
20 was a struggle for me, as my back rebelled on every small uphill, but luckily my companions were also clearly at the limit of their strength, and so we (Ian, Olaf, and I) slogged along, drifting somewhat right of the line in the final attack through the vague green area. We probably lost a little over a minute on the approach. In the beginning of the leg, I saw Wyatt heading to 18. I was sure he would skip 19, and figured I had a little more than a 2 minute gap down to him at this point.
Having gotten past 20, it seemed like finishing the Billygoat was actually possible despite all the back trouble and the lack of training.
21 went ok, and we saw a confused Peter Z, still looking for 20, along the way.
On the way out to the trail for 22, Ian took a more direct line, Carl and Olaf went too far north, and I split the difference. I hit the trail well behind Ian, but with a good gap down to Carl and Olaf.
I was awfully slow on the trail run back through 23-24 and the finish. Carl passed me easily, but Olaf was as wiped as I was and did not manage to catch up. Wyatt crossed the finished line just 40 seconds after me - another 500m of course length, and he would definitely have gotten me.
I ended up 7th, a placing I am thrilled with, given today's circumstances.
Isak was a deserving winner, and Will E got an excellent 2nd place after running most of the race on his own.
I had a great time and was so glad I made the trip up. Alex and Ed did an excellent job organizing (and providing pizza for everyone!!), Izzy provided clutch help by carrying clothes back from the start, and seeing orienteering friends and soaking in the Billygoat atmosphere was wonderful.
Thanks to everyone involved!!