The Billy Pig 2002 Event Report

A competitor's view by participant Eric Buckley of the St Louis Orienteering Club (SLOC)
    After having such a good time at the Billy Pig last year, I went back to
St. Louis and told everyone what a great event it was. It seemed like a
good idea at the time. As a result, Dave Frei joined me this year. For
those readers not familiar with the Buckley-Frei Death Match, suffice it
to say that we tend to go a tad harder at events we are both entered in.
Dave's presence, combined with the steep slopes of Fort Ancient
guaranteed that this year's event would require my best performance if I
was to score a repeat win.
    Some people look at our finishes in mass start events and conclude that
we must just attach ourselves at the hip for the whole event. Nothing
could be further from the truth. In fact, we are so desperate to
separate we take wildly different (and often bizarre) routes to get away
from each other. It never seems to work, though, and we always meet up
near the end.
    This year's event featured a map exchange and you could skip 1 control
per map. Some legs were also forked, meaning you could choose which of
two controls you wanted to go to. Total distance was advertised as
12-15K straight line (varying on skip and fork decisions). Climb for the
two loops was listed as "A Lot" and "More" respectively. Those who
weren't there may want to refer to the attached maps.
Start - 6:
    The first leg is forked and it's immediately clear that the "B" fork is
faster. Running down the road to 1B, I decide that skipping #9 is at
least as good as any skips in the first 6 so I defer the skip decision
and focus on getting through the first few controls near the front of
the pack. A few runners, including Dave, decide to go to 1A and skip 2A,
cutting out a lot of climb, but not much distance.
    I reach 1B in the lead, but another half dozen folks queue up in just
the few seconds it takes me to punch. I lead most of the way to 2B, but
drift a bit right, allowing Tim Good and Tom Possert to get by. On the
way to 3, Tom and I take the straight line while Tim heads up the trail
up to the field. Our route is faster and we arrive at 3 clear of the
rest of the field. Dave is ahead and out of sight.
    I lead to Tom to 4 and 5, still taking direct routes. Dave says he saw
me at 5 while he was leaving 6 (only 70 meters away, but across a very
deep reentrant). I wish I had seen him, because I would have also seen
that 6 was in the wrong saddle. Tom and I reach the correct saddle and
look around a bit in confusion. There's no doubt as to where we are, but
there's no control either. Tom decides to check down the spur while I
turn up. Luck is on my side and I find the control in the next saddle

Split Times:
Control    Eric     Dave
1B          1:49   +0:15 (indicates Dave was about 15 seconds behind)
2B          2:25   --
3            4:04   -2:00
4            1:30   -2:00
5            3:42   -1:30
6            2:03   -1:45
6 - 11 (exchange):
    Somewhere prior to control 6 I got another look at the whole map and
realized that 6 to 8B was a 1K road run. That seals my choice and I skip
7. On the way down the road, I stop in at the start area for a gulp of
water. With the temperature still close to freezing, I'm not thirsty
yet, but I figure better safe than sorry. Tom is still a ways back (he
ended up forgetting to skip a control, which put him well behind at the
end of the first loop), but Tim has caught up by skipping 6. He ducks
off into the woods looking for 7 and leaves me on my own to 8B.
    I take the trail out of 8 even though the woods look pretty open. The
straight line is probably faster, but I only lose a few seconds. I pick
up the trail again on the way to 10, leaving it at the first clearing. I
move along quickly and just when I start to feel I'm both missing left
and losing contact with the map, I practically trip over the control. So
far, I'm getting all the breaks. As I reach the exchange at 11, I'm
told I'm in the lead. Total time for the first map is 29:27.

Split Times:
Control   Eric     Dave
7          --         --
8B          6:07   +2:30
9            3:04   +2:15
10          2:58   +2:30
11          1:45   +2:30
11 - 15:
    Now I should really know better. The last 15 minutes has been mostly
hard running on roads and trails. Added to that is the excitement of
being in the lead. Good time to sloooooooooow down and take a good look
at the new map. Nope! Instead I misread the finish circle for the start
triangle, turn the map 180 degrees from what my compass says, and it all
makes sense! I start running south on the road I came in on. I catch
myself after about 30 seconds and turn around. The kids at the map
exchange get a good chuckle out of that maneuver.
    I'm not done yet, though. The leg to 12 includes 600 meters on roads, so
I unfold the map to try to figure out my skip and fork strategy. The
second loop is much more complicated and I get so engrossed in it that I
run off the road and start drifting around the field. I finally pull
myself together enough to decide that the earliest possible skip is 15,
so I'll just get my head back into navigating for the moment.
    The steep slope down to 12 is uneven enough that I can't really run down
it. Just as I get to the bottom, I see Dave running down the nose of the
spur. I'm not too surprised by this since I've certainly been wasting
time and I knew my lead couldn't be that big. Kind of a bummer to
squander a lead on what was one of the easiest legs, though.
    Heading up the hill to 13, I take another look at the map. The skip
decision is really important now because it may be my only chance to
separate from Dave. A sprint finish is definitely in his favor. The skip
at 15 still looks OK, but the long legs near the end of the course seem
to offer more. Besides, if I skip 15 and mess up, Dave could catch back
up and still have a skip in hand - then I'd be toast. Three late skips
look promising: 24 (taking the long way around on the road to 25), 25
(most distance saved), or 26 (most climb saved).
    Dave follows me into 13 and down to 14, but I bobble the approach and he
passes me. As he bolts down to follow the stream to 15, I decide to take
the high route on the trail. This is quick going but I run into some
thick vegetation cutting down to the stream. Just before reaching the
stream, Dave pops out from behind the spur. That split accomplished
nothing. Dave leads into 15 by about 10 seconds.
Split Times:
Control   Eric     Dave
12          7:32   +0:15
13          2:49   +0:20
14          6:11   -0:15
15          8:40   -0:10
15 - 23:
    Given that neither of us skipped 15, there's not much chance of
separating for a while. We both take the road to 16, with Dave pushing
the pace and opening up the gap. He stays along the edge of the field
too long heading to 17 and I close back up. I take the lead heading to
18 and pick up the pace. At the control, I've got a small lead, but am
delayed by removing the safety seal from the water jug (never lead into
a water control!) Dave gives the time back by finding the only hole in
the field and doing a face plant just before the control. He gets back
up and takes the jug from me (thanking me for removing the top).
    I get hung up in some deadfall approaching 19 and lose track of where I
am. Dave hits it cleanly and stretches out a bit of a lead. Visibility
is good, though, so I have no trouble running him down by 20. We both
take the obvious fork to 21B and I pass him leaving the control. I
overrun 22 by a few meters and he resumes the head. I surge up the hill
to 23 and punch first but he's right behind me.
    The race is in the balance as we face our biggest decision. I feel like
I'm doing a bit better on the flat legs, while Dave is gaining time on
the steep stuff. Therefore I decide to skip 26 and cut out the big
valley between 26 and 27B. Dave's done nothing to tip his intentions,
but he usually goes for shortest route, so I assume he plans to skip 25.
Split Times:
Control  Eric     Dave
16        4:22     -0:20
17        1:46     -0:01
18        2:18     +0:05
19        4:60     -0:20
20        4:22     -0:05
21B      1:58     -0:01
22        3:08     -0:01
23        2:42     +0:01
23 - 27B:
    Perhaps it's fatigue from pushing up the hill to 23, but at this point I
have my second post-control brain lapse. As I get to the top, I can't
spot the trail heading east and get a bit confused as to where I am (the
fact that I'm standing 20 meters from the last control should have given
me a bit more confidence as to my location). Dave bolts by me and starts
down the trail at breakneck speed. I take after him until I realize that
he's heading southwest! I can hardly believe it - I never imagined that
Dave would take the skip that produced the longest route. I turn around
and head back the other way on the trail, cursing myself for blindly
following at the most crucial junction. I console myself with the
thought that our routes are so radically different that a minute lost
here won't amount to anything. Yeah, right.
    I take the trail, and then the road back to the camping area and then
head down into the deep valley to follow the reentrant up to 24. For
such a long, complicated leg, it turns out to be pretty easy. The medium
green woods aren't too bad and I make good time heading to 25. I pick up
a ditch on my right, but I'm not sure which one it is. When I get to the
stream, I figure I'm on the ditch closer to the control (even though I'm
thinking the map isn't quite matching up). I head straight south another
50 meters and hit another stream. The control should be in sight. This
is another time when taking a deep breath and a good long look at the
map would have been a good idea. Instead I wander around a bit refusing
to admit that I've done something seriously wrong.
    Fortunately, sanity restores itself fairly quickly and I head back west
to get a good relocation point. When I get to the stream/ditch junction
I recognize my position and find the control quickly. Although it's not
a small error (probably 2-3 minutes lost), I'm still pretty optimistic
about my chances. Dave has had to cover a lot more ground and he's still
got the big climb after 26.
    I head straight out to the road and start trying to lift the pace since
it's basically a running race from here. I'm within sight of 27B when
suddenly Dave pops out of the woods. "You have got to be kidding me!" I
exclaim. OK, I didn't actually use the word "kidding" but I like to keep
my race reports rated G.
Split Times:
Control   Eric    Dave
24        12:50   --
25          8:04   -4:00
26        --         --
27B        4:56   +0:01
27B - Finish:
    Dave's got me where he wants me now. My only hope is to take some of the
starch out of his legs before the last 100m. I push a bit to 28 while he
makes some sort of wisecrack that I'm too tired to comprehend. I surge
twice on the final 800m road run to the finish and he shows some signs
of trouble, but manages to hang on. Once the finish is in site, he bolts
by to take the win.

Split Times:
Control   Eric     Dave
28          1:47   +0:01
Finish     3:09   -0:01
    The official time disagrees with mine by about a minute. I had 1:51:28
for 12.3K and just under 4% climb.
    Obviously, I'm a bit disappointed to loose such a close one, but there
will be other races to avenge the loss. In the meantime, I have to hand
it to Dave - he did exactly what he had to do to win: good pace, clean
navigation, and a better finish.
    Thanks to OCIN for once again putting on an excellent meet. I'll be back
next year, and I imagine Dave will as well.

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