Coming into this, it was pretty clear that Ross was the favorite, but I was hoping to run a good race for a 1-2 CSU finish. However, it's a mass start, and anything can happen if you let people hang around long enough. The plan, therefore, was to make it a two-person race as early as possible by starting out hard, and to make Ross win it by running a good, clean race. Also, I wanted to skip as late as possible and, given the amount of climb in this year's course, the skip had to save me climb.
S-1: 7:00 (2nd)
During the pre-race announcement, Phil "The Head Goat" Bricker mentioned repeatedly that we could not use the road that we walked up to the start as a route to #1. So I took a chance and positioned myself towards the right side of the start field, hoping that the leg went off in that direction. Start. Flip over the map, quickly decide against skipping 1 and take off. I immediately decide to take the small, winding trail along the stream and am pleased to have guessed right about the direction of #1. Ross is quickly on the trail with me, passes me, and flies on ahead. I wanted to push hard, so I was doing more following than reading the map here, which meant I was unsure of where we left the trail to attack. We end up west of #1, confused by unmapped cliffs, but quickly figure it out. I climb up the cliff with teeth to the NW of 1, and punch it a few seconds behind Ross. Probably 30-45 seconds lost here, which kills the advantage gained by a quick start. Grr. Michael Lucente (ML) from Canada is with us, and I hear more leaf crunching behind us.
1-2 (8:39): 1st
Ross runs off, and I lose sight of him after the first reentrant. I want to go straight and be careful about neither gaining nor losing too much elevation, so I run pretty carefully here, not wanting to risk a big mistake. ML is with me during the first part of the leg, then Eddie catches up, running faster than me and looking confident. I am tempted to follow him, but he swoops down the hillside far lower than I want to be, so I just keep my steady pace and let him go. When I cross the last stream on this leg and see the line of rocks and long cliff that point right to the control, I am completely alone and hear no on. Climb up and punch. The beep and red light take a while to show up. Am I really waking up this unit?
2-3 (3:49): 1st
I was afraid of this leg, as we were told the area was not fieldchecked, and I did not want to run off the map. Go along the saddle out of the control, then down the reentrant a bit and contour. I see the flat spur below me and decide to climb up to the hilltop that's right on the line, just to be absolutely sure. From there, it's easy, the contours make sense, and I find the control, still no one around me.
3-4 (3:42): 1st
The first hill. Jog a bit to get out of sight, then walk and read ahead. Here I decide to skip 14, as it was the latest acceptable skip in the course, saved 11 contours and some distance, gave me a much easier attack into 15 than from above, and did not force me into two energy-sapping climbing legs in a row. I also decide to take the right (flat) fork on 23.
The control itself is no problem.
4-5 (2:29): 1st
I hadn't seen anyone for so long that I start doubting that I am in the lead and wonder if Ross and Eddie are simply far ahead of me. Coming into 5, I see a bunch of people coming down the ridge, including Andis and Pavlina, and wonder where they are going. I decide they must be on their way to 2, having skipped one, though it doesn't make much sense, as Andis is going uphill unlike all the others. Now I see that he was actually skipping 3 and going to 4. I hit the ridge below 5 and have to run up.
5-6 (3:07): 1st
Another "get to the top of the highest mountain around" leg. I suppose it's the Billygoat, so this is part of the game. Easy leg, just have to keep pushing uphill. Hear and see no one. Drink some water, which I definitely needed here.
6-7 (5:33): 1st
It takes me a while to get down this mountain, and I am careful going along the hillside and picking the right reentrants, so my split is a bit slow on this leg, but I was trying to be very sure of where I was the whole time, as I often screw up legs that follow massive climbs.
7-8 (4:40): 1st
I contour around the hill, across the trail and down the reentrant. Cross the road, run down, see what looks like a spring. No control. I am very sure of where I am, so I actually assume the control has been moved or stolen, but decide to check from the trail. Go to the trail, attack, come to the same spot. Now panic sets in. Decide to run west along the hillside, still nothing. I hear footsteps and leaves crunching, and turn back east, stumbling into the control, which sat very low and, I still maintain, about 30 meters west of where it is on the map. About 1:15 gone. Ross sees me, and the race is on.
8-9 (2:00): 2nd
Ross tells me of his woes on #2, which he never found and was forced to skip. Still, the race is his to win, as he is moving much quicker than me. I hit the ridge that 9 is on too high, and Ross is gone.
9-10 (3:24): 2nd
This is not a fun leg. Up the road, then up the really steep four contours to another mountaintop. Some dude with a dog is standing on top of the tower and playing some musical instrument. Or I am hallucinating.
I think 10 would have been a great skip, especially if it came later in the race.
10-11 (4:55): 2nd
With every step I feel like my chances of winning are slipping away, and I do all I can from going into panic mode. Very sloppy orienteering on this leg: I run too far down the trail, then get stuck in the deadfall going along the ridge to the control. Ugh.
11-12 (3:01): 2nd
Take the left road here to avoid climb.
12-13 (6:42): 2nd
I consider going around , but see that it doesnt save climb, so I go straight instead, taking the worst of the climb on the small trail, walking and panting. Then up the reentrant from the trail, through the saddle, and up a couple of contours to get to the flatter part of the slope. Across the small trail and reentrant that follows it, and then get pushed down by the blueberries so I have to come back up a bit to the control.
14-15 (3:18): 1st
With the memories of the "skip gone terribly wrong" at the last Mt.Tom Billygoat (2004), I had spent time planning this leg while climbing up to 13. Contour along the slope through blueberry world, find the indistinct trail, and run along it till its bend. Then read each cliff and reentrant all the way to the control. I punch, waking up the unit. No one around. I am leading the Billygoat.
15-16 (7:27): 1st
From here in, I am running and looking over my shoulder. Slog up through the blueberries to the trail, hitting it right at the bend. I tell myself that this is the last hill, so I might as well push hard. I run most of the way, hoping to spot 18 on the hill to the right before I turn off the trail and contour across the ski slopes. Don't manage to spot 18. Across the ski slopes, and to the pond. About a dozen frogs leap into the pond, startled by me, another confirmation that no one has been here.
16-17 (1:38): 1st
Run up most of the way, looking back when I am on the trail. I see no one. Take a drink at yet another mountaintop control and take off to the start the way back home.
17-18 (1:53): 1st
As I approach 18, I see Eddie running up the trail. This has to be a good sign. Second place, at the very least, seems secure barring a meltdown. I leave the trail, climb the hill, but see no flag. I figure out that I am low, run back up, still no flag. About to panic, I see it hidden in the blueberries, Harriman-style. About 30 seconds lost.
18-19 (4:53): 1st
Trail all the way down, see Carl Underwood, Mike Lucente, and a few others along the way, all on the way up. Run to the trail bend, attack past the big rock, go a bit further than I expected to, but no problems.
19-20 (8:27): 1st
I am running as hard as I can here, first downhill, and then along the slope. Check off the cliffs below me, then the reentrants, and then the east-facing line of cliffs and rocks. I was probably running a bit too fast, as I suddenly out of energy and I eat my gu hereas I climb up to get back to the height of the control. I see the long cliff with green on its other side and follow its ridgeline past the dot knolls to the big rock. Am relieved, as this was the last difficult control.
20-21 (3:30): 1st
Flog myself downhill, as I know Ross will be flying here. Spiked the control, but Ross still took 45 seconds out of me.
21-22 (3:18): 1st
Not much left now. Sruggle through the reentrants and all the deadfall, cursing every wasted second. Finally climb the last hill and the woods open up. I run down the ridge to the trail and still her no one. I punch.
22-23 (right fork) (2:21): 2nd
At this point, I tell myself that if I don't see Ross by the time I hit the bridge across the pond, then the win is in the bag. I ran off and hear leaves crunching, and then see Ross come tearing down the hillside, punching 22 as I near the bridge. It's on. I know he will take the other fork, so I just have to run as hard as I can and hope I don't blow it. Thankfully, the control is not hidden and I don't lose any time. From the splits, Ross actually punched his 23 a second before I punched mine, but I had a shorter way to the finish.
23-24 (1:15): 1st
Down the road past the finish to the control. No Ross yet. Some people are cheering.
24-F (0:09): 1st
As I punch and turn around, I hear the first cheers of "Go Ross!", so I run hard to the finish and collapse. Ross joins me in a few seconds. I won.
I have no doubt that Ross will win many of the coming Billygoats as he is only getting better and better, but it was really nice to win this one and get to take home the doorstop, extending the drought to 8 years without an American-born winner.
It was a brutal, but enjoyable course, set in the true Billygoat tradition. Thanks to Phil and everyone else who helped organize this finest of events!
Write-up late, QR at http://www.dxdeluxe.se/linnekartparmen/show_map.ph...