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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: Billygoat

in: Orienteering; General

Apr 10, 2005 10:23 PM # 
Map and my routes. A tough course, maybe the toughest ever. I'm pretty sure it was the lowest finishing percentage under 3:30. Glad I'd done some training this winter.
Apr 11, 2005 7:20 PM # 
My billygoat pics are now posted. Will be here for a week or so. The first 13 pics are from an SVO local meet at Kings Gap the day before the goat. It took me a while to find the streamer in the pit, since the 1m deep pit was filled to the brim with water and my streamer was submerged. For a brief moment I considered hanging the flag under the water, but a recent thread came to mind and I didn't. Links to various image resolutions are below each thumb as usual.
Apr 12, 2005 2:36 AM # 
Medium resolution pictures I took at Billygoat are posted here ( If you want to get original ones please email me your request with an image(s) name(s). Keep in mind that original images are quite huge (up to 5-6 MB). Enjoy.
Apr 12, 2005 2:42 AM # 
More pictures, these taken by Sergei throughout the Goat and afterwards.

Apr 12, 2005 3:19 PM # 
Alas, my first OT finish since my initial 'goat in 1984, and quite a feeling of emptiness. Many reasons to have finished OT, certainly including overall length, climb and difficulty, but the primary one was my inability to see that #7 was in a re-entrant, and not atop a spur. As I traversed the spurs in the area over and over, seeing waves of later orienteers come and go, it just never occurred to me to look down! I'd probably still be there if Charlie Leonard hadn't pulled my arm and pointed it out to me.
Apr 12, 2005 4:01 PM # 
You're not alone, Charlie: I did exactly the same... however after Jon and I were caught by the trailing pack, a bit of judicious following worked just fine. However, when the pack I was following headed into the re-entrant the control was in but too low down, I realized what was going on and let them keep heading down towards South Hadley, and headed back up the re-entrant to the control - only to see Randy Hall, Vadim and Wyatt who I think were surprised to be in the lead...
Apr 12, 2005 4:21 PM # 
Feedback for Course Setter requested

(I am still learning to utilize the resources here on Attack Point, so I apologize for a duplicate posting on the race specific discussions site. It seems to me that this discussion site may be more visible and lead to more feedback.)

Well, yes, in retrospect, it would have been better to cut about 1.5 km off the course. And to those of you who entered the race with legitimate T-shirt aspirations but finished in the 3:30-4:00 range, I offer you my sincerest apologies. But seeing as I have thoughts of possibly hosting another Billygoat or similar caliber event, I thought I would use this forum to invite some more specific feedback with the hopes of providing as optimal an experience as possible in the future. In particular, I would be interested in the opinions of the competitors regarding the number of controls, the possible need for more trail-running options, the possible need for a greater number of less challenging controls, the adequacy of the bag placement, the adequacy of the water stops, any problems with specific control locations (above and beyond the inaccurate mapping of the open area south of control #21, which clearly affected the route choice of some competitors), or any other issues you wish to bring to my attention (excluding the failure to provide multiple punches at controls 1 and 2, which had been my intention, but became impossible when I forgot to pack the extra punches in my backpack and then ran out of time to return to the controls). I hope to learn from your input, and will not be offended by your comments. If you prefer to send me your thoughts directly without posting them in this open forum, I can be reached at Thanks everyone in advance.
Apr 12, 2005 5:24 PM # 
At my usual level of conditioning, and with my less than perfect orienteering skills, whether or not I get the shirt has always been a matter of luck. Did I follow someone who was making good choices? Did I look left instead of right?(#7) This past Sunday my luck held. It could have just as easily run out. Some year soon, it will. As a former Head Goat who made one big error by not having enough water on the course at Gay City when the weather suddenly turned hot, I know how hard it is to cover all the bases. I don't think anyone can blame the wait to punch at #1 for failure to finish on time. The Billygoat is supposed to be "extreme O"- long, steep and hard. It was exactly what it should have been this year.
Apr 12, 2005 7:08 PM # 
I thought it was a great course! Especially the skip options were very well balanced.

This map definitely has some oddities though, and it would maybe have been a good idea to update it around some of the controls. (Or place the controls in places with less oddities.) I had the following problems:

5 - there are a lot of unmapped rock features. Some of these might deserve 'boulder cluster' or 'stony ground'.

8 - there is a very distinct stony ground just above the stone fence to the West of the control.

16 - the control was placed further down from the rock face than on the map.

21 - not sure if that clearing is still there.

There were definitely opportunities to add trail running to route choices - I used trails at least partly to 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 12, 16, 17, 20.
Apr 13, 2005 1:33 PM # 
Thank you Mikkel for your thoughtful comments. I'll share my thoughts on your observations.

5 - I think you point out a phenomenon that I have also observed on several (perhaps even the majority) of local maps. Many times, on steeper slopes and near the top of significant peaks, it feels like there are many very obvious rocky features that go unmapped, or sometimes get mapped as unimpressive dot knolls or some minor form line. I don't know if this is a case of the feature being relatively insignificant in comparison to the entirety of the slope or an attempt by the mapper to avoid unreadable clutter, or even possibly my own attempt at rationalization when I find myself unable to relocate on a significant hillside, but I definitely have shared your impression.

Regarding control #5, I was a little surprised to hear from several competitors that there were a significant number of people who stopped short of the control. I had expected virtually everyone to contour around at some level (higher having the advantage of being a little less steep) and then catching themselves if necessary on the large reentrant with the semi-open eastern edge below the control or on the ridge trail above the control.

In the same vein, I was not expecting people to have as much difficulty on #7, which I set for the purpose of providing several route choices rather than with the idea that the control would be particularly hard to locate. I believe the map to be a little questionable behind the line of cliffs paralleling the marshy waterway, but figured that people would have to cross the small NE trail along the indistinct ridge line and then fall into the reentrant where the control was located. Several people have mentioned that they mistook the reentrant for a spur. It is not quite clear to me why this was a problem, although perhaps the dot knoll just to south of the control gave the impression of high ground.

8 - I'm sure you're right, but I can't specifically recall this stony ground. The location was chosen with 12-16 inches of snow cover, so even an obvious area of stony ground may have been obscured. I placed the bag frantically on the day of the event coming off the top of the stone wall to the west. It was the first time I had been to the control since the snow melted, and I didn't stumble onto the stony ground coming in from that direction.

16 - Yes, and the reentrant didn't really extend into the green to any significant degree either. But on the other hand, the top of the reentrant was nicely defined, and I didn't really expect people to fight through the green to the rock face anyway when it would be much easier to just run around.

21 - This was a bad contol, and I apologize for being lazy. I wanted to control the direction of approach at the end, and the 3 boulders looked like a good way to accomplish this. However, the open area at this time does not extend over the spur as depicted on the map. This change should be possible on OCAD immediately

Thanks again to Mikkel for your input. I would enjoy any more observations about the map that others would care to make.
Apr 13, 2005 1:59 PM # 
My problems began when I first looked at the map and realized I had left my magnifiers in the car, then after deciding that following for awhile could be a good plan, I realized that for some reason, my legs had no Oomph and following Peter G. who I had spotted up ahead, was not going to work either.
Around 7 (which after thrashing for awhile I just happenned to spot from the trail north of it ," What's it doing down in that re-entrant?"), I realized that time was quickly passing and I had better make a concerted effort to do some map reading as best I could if I intended to make the cut-off.
But as to the course setting, I think that various course setters, and orienteerers in general, have different views of the challenges of orienteering.
For instance, Jim Henderson, a former BG head goat, opines that the BG is extreme orienteering. Certainly legs 3-4 and 4-5 were extreme in nature in my opinion.
But I don't regard the BG as an extreme O' event, leave that to the Adventure Racing venues. The BG is more of an O' event that appeals to the masses. It introduced the "mass start" to the sport and as such made it more appealling to racers outside the O' community. The course is long, but emphasizes running endurance as well as navigational challenges. which need not be especially difficult, in order to accomodate a wider variety of competitors.
The well conditioned orienteerer will be victorious if interesting route choices, and control skips and forks are utilized. But the other competitors should have fun also, and have a reasonable chance of earning a T shirt.
In a course such as Sunday's, the well conditioned will fall within the winning time guidlines, but the fall off to the middle of packers will be severe.
There will always be differences in courses because of differences in interpretation by course setters of the challenges involved in orienteering. Experience in variety of meets, terrain and venues will help as would "rules" which is something which I know the Divine Billy Goat Committee abhors.
Apr 13, 2005 3:06 PM # 
Get out your old BG maps of Norwottuck ( I wish I could post these).
After a review of the 3 past BGs at Mt Norwottuck, several things come to mind.
Past BGs had fewer controls, 18 in '89, 17 in '90, 19 in '98, 21 this year.
The lengths are about equal, but the 05' edition has 640 meters of climb vs 360 in '98. Peter didn't measure it for 89 and 90 but it's obviously in the 300-400 range.
Legs 4-5-6 and 15-16-17, each about 1 Km, totalled about 200 meters of climb. That's an average climb of 10%, once at about 1/3, then again around 3/4 through the course. Pretty brutal IMHO.
Amazingly there are a few similiar, almost exact legs.
In '98 legs 10-11 is a virtual replica of 4-5-6, (if you skipped 5 as JJ did you got this leg). By inserting #5 into the 98 leg Jeff forces everyone to do much more climb and do a sidehill traverse vs a choice of 2 trail runs.
In 89, Peter's 15-16 is virtually identical to Jeff's 15-16, but where as in 05 you then climbed up to 17, in 89 you had a mostly trail run over to the area north of 19 (of 05).
Just these factors alone added considerably to the time spent on the course. (in '98 I finished a minute BEFORE Will Hawkins did this year!)
Then again I'm not the man I was then.................
Apr 13, 2005 3:11 PM # 
Jeff - just to be clear - if I were a better navigator I probably should not have had any problems finding those controls. There were definitely several competitors who found them without any problems.

I did a very poor job of relocating on 5) once I failed to spike it. In fact, I made a parallel error because I mistook the 2 saddles..

On my way down to that stone wall West of 8) I was with several others, none of which had any doubts about where we were.

And the only reason I came through the green down to 16) was that I had skipped 15 and made a poor route choice to 16, and I was looking for some boulder in the reentrant on the other side to guide me in. (Never saw it.)

So like you say - 21) is the only obvious black sheep. :)
Apr 13, 2005 3:33 PM # 
It's a very interesting question why 7 appears to many as a spur at first glance (including me). It is not the course setter's fault, and I don't think it's the mapper's fault either - rather, it's the runners' fault. The approach direction is crucial - imagine a leg coming up the re-entrant from the SW - then nobody would be confused at all. But covering up the area SW of the control, I find it very easy to get this illusion. An important part of it is the way the control circle cuts a contour line NW of the control, which means I can see the knoll WNW of the control and the knoll in the circle SW of the control as separate high features. The contour the circle cuts gets eliminated during simplification, leading to completely the wrong picture, but leading to a terrain pattern that would be easily possible too.

I'll have to be more awake to this kind of mistake in the future... it's an interesting one on a cognitive level (an orienteering version of a classic optical illusion).

On mapping quality - the whole map is a little bit imperfect, and one has to adjust and navigate with that in mind. It's a difficult area to map, but I don't have too many easily fixable complaints (OK, apart from the clearing near 21).

While I enjoyed the course a lot, I do wonder about the tradition of the Billygoat. Basically the Billygoat is a day when everybody goes out to run a blue course, which this year was a slightly long blue course. People are getting older, but the time limit remains the same. It's an odd tradition... :)
Apr 13, 2005 4:18 PM # 
Actually the "tradition" is a little murky. The original concept in 1979 (Fred's idea) was to just have a long, hard course, and his course at Mt. Tom was certainly that. My main contribution was the name.

Having organized it once, and only drawn 6 starters, Fred moved on to other things. I organized editions 2 and 4-13. My concept borrowed a little from the Boston Marathon -- a long course where the best would race to win, where most everyone could finish, where there was some time goal for the "masses," and where there was a better social aspect because everyone started at the same time and ran the same course.

My recollection is that I was aiming to set a long course but not a really hard course. Something like a long Orange course, with a good number of opportunities to run on trails, and some hard controls mixed with some not so hard. The idea of skipping a control came as the field got larger, as did having a fork (which now gets used only rarely).

The essence of all this was that the "masses" were just as important as the best. And with everyone starting together and doing the same course, it was a unique social atmosphere. We certainly had some fun.

My gut feeling is that the BG in recent years has gotten harder. I'll try to post some of the old courses this evening so you can judge for yourself.

I thought this year's course was too hard/long. 15 minutes shorter for the leaders would have meant 30-40 minutes shorter for the people trying to break 3:30. On the other hand, time moves on and things change, and maybe the desire is for a longer/harder course....
Apr 13, 2005 4:25 PM # 
I also saw 7 as being on a spur. Very interesting.

The Billygoat is the best - my favorite race each year. Its a good, sometimes tough course, only bragging-rights at stake, and its very social. Just good, clean fun! The Highlander ranks up there too for all the same reasons, with massive distance all in Harriman terrain, but because of the length fewer people run it. The Billygoat strikes a good balance and the traditions can't be beat. Choosing a skip this year was difficult, which is great! After last year's #10 I was especially looking for things like that, but even the most basic dog-leg cutoffs weren't obvious this time. I don't think I've ever gotten past control #4 without at least having an idea of what to skip, but I had nothing until after #7 this year - halfway through the course, and even had to ask for help choosing! It wasn't for lack of looking.

By the way, has anyone been nominated for the special "stuffer" awards and "club" award?
Apr 13, 2005 5:05 PM # 
I can't blame the line at #1 for a failure to get a shirt since I still got one but it certainly had an influence on my race. Coming into #1, I was just a bit behind Peter G who I have have great success following in many Billygoats. I was considering it again but the line at the punch allowed Peter and his entourage to get far enough away that when they skipped #2, I was not with them. Had I skipped 2, I probably would not have blown #3. If I had spiked 3, I might have still been with Peter at #5 or been dropped and actually navigated to it instead of being drawn off by those I was with. Then I might have been fresher for #7. etc. etc. Who knows how much better I might have ran? Of course I could have just been dropped 300m later, ended up between 2 & 3 with no idea where I was and stumbled into the same race I did.
Apr 13, 2005 6:54 PM # 
I was looking for a spur at 7 until I relocated on the green mess just to the north. Then coming down around the small hill NNE I read the map correctly. During the race I was not conscious about the fact that I was suddenly looking for a different feature. This now bothers me.
Apr 13, 2005 7:42 PM # 
The Billygoat doesn't have "rules" exactly, but it definitely has an extensive set of guidelines. Rules aren't all that useful in terms of getting the course length and difficulty right. In this case, the course setter had a vetter and a consultant who he worked with, both very experienced. As it turned out, the course was on the upper end of the range, and the nice weather gave people some trouble as well. It boils down to the course being something like 30% gnarlier than the ideal. This sort of thing happens from time to time. And sometimes it turns out easier.

I did think there were a few places where the map was... funny. Not clearly wrong, but if I went back, I might decide that things weren't lined up right. The basemap for this area wasn't very good, which may explain some of this (though not necessarily excuse it). But only one of these map issues cost me any time (~3 minutes), if it were a map problem at all, and not just my being dumb, which is more likely.

On another topic, at #7 I was a little foggy in the head, but it did occur to me that I might need to look in a reentrant. I was looking on top of spurs at first, but if you zoom out a bit, it's obvious that the spurs in that area point SW, not NE. NE is uphill.
Apr 13, 2005 8:44 PM # 
#7 looks like a spur primarily because the control circle completes it. The visible re-entrant (at least to an older person) starts with the index contour 100m SW. I disagree with J-J. On the ground there were plenty of spurs facing NE. I was amused to see Mikkel's comment about crossing the small NE trail on the indistinct ridge line. That is exactly the kind of thing a person of a certain age can't possibly see on the map. Sitting at my desk with a bright light, glasses and a magnifier, I can see this feature, but one of the problems I had in the field was hitting that trail and thinking that it must be the trail beyond the control, since the earlier trail (based on the evidence of my weakish eyes) was not on the map. I made several forays backward when I bounced into that trail, until Rick DeWitt mentioned that there was an additional trail on the map.

Map difficulties aside, my biggest problem was a poor skip. I skipped 15 because it looked like the biggest deviation from a straight line, but it was an easy control, and could have saved some climb. #5 would have been ideal, #9 or #11 much better, too.
Apr 13, 2005 9:22 PM # 
Yeah, I had the same problem with 7, I didn't see the trail before is, in fact the control circle covers part of it. ANd that's why I joined Charlie looking north of the small trail, we thought we were on the bigger trail to the south.
I think the biggest thing that fooled me (which was easy without my magnifier) was the small knoll shown in the re-entrant just south of the control feature (boulder) . This inferred the surrounding lines formed a nose.
Interestingly, the previous version of the map lacks both the boulder and knoll, and the re-entrant is much more noticeable. Peter used a re entrant just north of here in 89, but the new map seems to have lost that feature.........
Apr 13, 2005 10:42 PM # 
I struggled with 7. After coming across the open woods to the west, climbed the middle of the cliffs on the loopy trail and was met by a lot of unmapped green and a lot of folks roaming in various directions in that area. I worked my way over thru the green, hit the small trail, realized where I was and took a bearing off a bend in the trail. Wander thru more green and hit the bigger trail to the east. Oh my!!! Ran north to a curve and rocky ground which lined up with the map and headed back in on a bearing from the bend, again thru what seemed to be more green than indicated. Passed Mark D heading away grumping about an old man (and I felt it) and then Tim G who pointed downwards. I hadn't focussed on up or down except my expectation was that it was a spur. Like many, it was a feel not a concentrated focus. Without going back, I'd say there was something wrong with the trails and the veg, and probably how the reentrant was drawn with the control circle masking features.

My other concern was the extensive trail between 8-9. This was a major confusing aspect for many it seems and should have been added or avoided. There is a good trail map available. Not exactly accurate for O, but could be used to show trails in the area for warning.

Otherwise I must say I enjoyed the run though bonked and was seriously overtime. Lessons about going out too fast keep being ignored and I may have to try to act my age (one of these years;-)
Apr 14, 2005 12:34 AM # 
George, I am impressed by your ability to provide a fairly detailed and up-to-date trail map of the event area. I was not aware that any such resource existed, and had not even thought about the possibility of researching the information on the web. The trail maps at the Visitor Center were clearly limited to only the larger trails depicted on the event map. Phil Bricker had made me aware that some new bike trails existed, but as all of the course setting was done with significant snow cover, I was unable to assess the location of the new trails in the field. Under the circumstances, I was forced to rely upon the skill of the competitors to recogize unmapped trails and use them at their own peril. Perhaps an argument could be made that I should have scheduled the event later (or ordered less snow during the winter), to allow the courses to be set in conditions similar to those expected at the time the event was to be held, but I was also worried that waiting would result in significant foliage which would be detrimental to the event given the already fairly thick vegetation.
Apr 14, 2005 10:14 PM # 

Don't worry. I just found the map after the BG while searching a Mt Bike site and happened upon it. For other areas, check out I realize there was not much you could do about the map with the date of selection, the snow and minor things like leafs wrt event date. I'm just concerned with my own "skill of the competitors to recogize" capability which failed me at that point. So frustrated is my status - wait till next year though.

This discussion thread is closed.