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BillyPig VII

January 28, 2006

The BillyPig is Orienteering Cincinnati's annual goat event. With OCIN's excellent rep for putting on events, it's a bit of a wonder why this one doesn't attract a better field. Most of the local talent attends, but they don't get many heavyweights from out of town. I expect that the local terrain has something to do with it. Cincinnati's steep slopes and thorns are trying at normal distance, and truly punishing beyond that. At any rate, this was the third time I've run it and my experiences have been nothing but positive (except for the experience of getting outsprinted by David Frei to lose BP4 by a second).

This year's event is held at Miami Whitewater Forest. The hills aren't big, but they sure are steep in spots. The woods are fast particularly by SW Ohio standards. There are patches of thorns scattered throughout.

Maps: Start Finish

I warmup a little longer than usual as my stomach isn't feeling particularly settled (I really should know better than to eat the motel's free continental breakfast before a morning start). Maps are handed out five minutes before the start, so everyone has ample time to look over the course and make fork and skip decisions. I would prefer to do this on the fly, but as long as everybody gets to do it, it's fair either way. There doesn't appear to be any one skip that's way better than the others. Combining the skip of 8 with the 9B fork is probably best, but I prefer to skip late. I decide to skip 17.

The start is much faster than I expect. Running down the trail to towards #1 there are at least a half dozen runners ahead of me and pulling away. Even on a good day, I'd struggle to match their pace and I'm still not feeling quite right. My only option is to settle into my own pace a wait for them to boom.

I don't have to wait long. As I reach the first control, I see the pack coming back the other way, having overrun the flag. Gerald Yip hits the control cleanly to take the lead, 24 seconds ahead of me. If we were using standard clipper punching, the presence of the little pack between us would cause a log jam at the control. Fortunately, OCIN busted out their electronic punch units for the event so I get through without delay.

The second leg is fairly easy if you don't get bogged down in all the detail in the middle of the leg. I arrive first with several runners close behind. The third leg is the first really technical leg. I run it conservatively, using a dry ditch as a handrail up to the right contour and then cut across the hillside to the control. At this point I'm in the lead by about 30 seconds, despite not posting fast time on any of the first legs. It appears that consistency will win the day.

The 4A/4B fork looks like a wash to me. I take 4A because the route to 5 is cleaner. That doesn't stop me from messing it up. I drift left and when I hit the road I can't spot the little clearing that I'll take through the thick woods. I turn the wrong way on the road and run for about 50 meters before realizing the clearing is behind me. I lose about a minute to Marc Fochesato who is now back on my heels.

I run the next three legs well, winning two of them, and dropping the third by only 8 seconds. I then proceed to murder the leg from 8 to 9B. I choose a safe route that follows the spur down to the control. I completely miss the much simpler and considerably faster route of taking the red line to the road and then taking the trail down the adjacent spur. That would have replaced 500m of light/medium green with 400m of road/trail.

From 9B, the leg to 10 is practically an out and back. After I punch 10, I can hear several others heading my way. I decide I should push the pace a bit and get some separation. This results in my worst leg of the race. I fall several times trying to push through thick woods and run sloppy. Heading up to the control from the stream, I'm not sure which spur I'm on, so I have to stop about 300m from the control and check off some features to confirm my location. I lose 2 minutes to Gerald, who moves into second on the leg (Steve Noller is "virtually" between us, but he took a late start so he's not actually on the course at this point.)

Fortunately for me, Gerald is still a couple minutes behind, so he can't latch on heading to 12. This turns out to be a disaster leg for him and it takes him out of contention. I'm not sure whether I'm in first, figuring that I've made enough mistakes that someone could get by, particularly if they skipped a control. Control 12 is manned and it's with some relief that I learn I'm still in the lead.

The leg to 12 is a turning point for me. Up until now, I've been moving OK, but not great, and my navigation has been a bit rough as well. The leg to 12 is long, relatively easy, and predominantly fast running. Getting back to speeds more common to St. Louis terrain sharpens my focus a bit. I run cleanly the rest of the way, running a bit more confidently and having less trouble with the thick stuff. I take the 14A split, which results in a longer split to 15, but the leg to 14A is trivial whereas 14B is quite technical, so I gain on the fork.

Behind me, Marc and Gerald hook up for a duel over the last four controls that isn't resolved until Gerald unleashes a big sprint up the hill from the go control. Steve, who ran the course solo later, posts the second fastest time.

Afterwards there's the usual hanging around and exchanging routes. I decide I that since the course largely avoided the very technical area of the park (an appropriate choice for a goat event), I should go back out and get in some detailed nav practice. My legs are too tired to run it hard, but it's fun to do some control picking amongst the little knolls and depressions.

I drive back home with another set of good memories from the BillyPig. Maybe next year I'll try to talk David Frei into coming and risk another bad one.

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