Monte Bello, Palo Alto

Sunday, Oct. 24, 1999

by Dennis Wildfogel and Hugh Wright, 408-343-1365

Can't get enough of those Bay Area hills? Then come on up for the 4th Annual Golden Goat at Monte Bello Open Space Preserve. This endurance event is a mere 10.2 km long with 790 meters of climb. (Smelling salts, please.) But hey, you get a nifty T-shirt if (when) you finish! Prefer something a bit tamer? We're also offering the Golden Kid, which is 2/3 as long as the Goat - 4.6 km long, 380 m climb. Really tame? We'll also have the usual White, Yellow, and Orange courses.

If you're interested in the Goat or Kid: The registration deadline of Tuesday, Oct. 19, is rapidly approaching. You don't even need to pay in advance - just e-mail your intentions to Hugh Wright and pay on-site. Entry fee for the Goat is $18, which includes a T-shirt for those who successfully complete it. Cost for the Kid is $12 and does not include a T-shirt. For the Kid, you can either sign up in advance or make the decision while you are on the course. To register in advance, send your check (payable to BAOC) to Hugh Wright, 12243 Goleta Ave., Saratoga, CA 95070.

T-shirt: To get the coveted Golden Goat T-shirt, you must complete the full Goat course within the time limits, including those for the intermediate check points. If you paid the entry fee for the Goat but in mid-course opt for the Kid, you will receive a credit for $6 towards a future entry fee at a BAOC meet. If, however, you opt for the Goat but don't meet the time limits, there will be no refund. (Note: We will not hand out the T-shirts at the event, because the printer needs two weeks to make them. We will get a T-shirt to you about two weeks afterward.)

Ready to climb? Be sure to read course designer Dennis Wildfogel's course-setter's notes and FAQ.

Recreational Courses

We will have the usual White, Yellow, and Orange courses for those who don't want to run the Goat or Kid (standard BAOC fees will apply). These events will start at 10:00 am, with starts until 12:00 noon.

Groups of four or more should contact Hugh Wright in advance to let him know you are coming. In the past, the Monte Bello rangers have limited our group to 200, and we may need to restrict the number of WYO groups.

Course statistics:

		Length	Climb	Controls
	White	1.9k	105m	12 
	Yellow	2.1k	135m	11 
	Orange	2.9k	280m	11 


We will again be using the south side of the preserve, adjacent to Skyline Blvd. To get there, take Page Mill Road to Skyline Blvd. (about 10 miles), and turn left at the stop sign. Go about one mile down the road and turn right into the parking lot for Skyline OSP. Park in the lot to the left (the equestrian lot). Please park close together, as the parking is limited. Carpool if possible.

The Golden Goat

The brown, brown hills of home. Now that Briones has rudely reminded us about the hilly "pleasures" of orienteering in the Bay Area, it's time to get psyched for the 4th Annual Golden Goat. And what better test of "goatness" could there be than Monte Bello: the slopes are slippery and steep, the forest floors are fecund with flora, and the fields are festooned with prickly plants. Yes, we're gonna put the original Billy Goat, the Rocky Mountain Goat, and all those other pretenders to shame!

Get me to the mass on time. Mass start at 10:30. Registration closes at 10:15. Even if you've preregistered and prepaid, you have to pick up your punch card and bib number by 10:15.

I am curious, Yellow? What is a "Goat", anyway? To quote from our last two Golden Goat meet directors: "The Goat is essentially a long Yellow course" (1997); "The Goat is essentially a long Blue course" (1998). OK, now we've got that cleared up. What is true of all Goats, though, is that they're long, there's a mass start, following is explicitly allowed, and there's always some sort of twist.

Come on and twist. This year's twist is that you may skip any TWO controls. Well, not really ANY two - there are two restrictions: (1) you may not skip any of the three manned controls (two manned controls if you're running the Kid), and (2) you may not skip two consecutive controls. Kid runners will not be visiting #9 through #16 (which includes the manned control #13), but those don't count as skips - that is, you can still skip 2 other controls. Remember: when you skip a control, skip a box on your punch card, too.

Did you ever have to make up your mind? My aim is to provide a significant challenge for both the elite Blue orienteer and the middle-of-the-pack Green orienteer (no easy feat, as you might well imagine). This will be a physically challenging course for all participants. Almost every control can be approached by a route on which only Orange-level skills are needed, though such routes are generally not the optimal ones. The technical challenge will focus much more on route choice than on finely detailed navigation. This is especially true because of the skip-two-controls rule, which will require reading the map ahead. More on this below.

Here's looking at you, Kid. This year we will introduce the Golden Kid, designed to be about two-thirds as long as the Goat. The Kid will be run simultaneously with the Goat, and the same rules apply (e.g., with regard to skipping controls). You can sign up for the Goat but change your mind at #8 and switch to the Kid.

Everyone will receive a map with the full Goat course on it. Kid runners will do #1 through #8, and then proceed from #8 to #17; from there they will follow the Goat course to the finish. The fact that you have to go from #8 to #17 for the Kid is NOT indicated on the map; there will be an indication on the clue sheet, though. You don't have to make up your mind about whether you're running the Goat or the Kid until you leave #8. There will be a meet official at #8 (assuming we find a volunteer). Please tell that person whether you're going for the Goat or the Kid. Remember, if it takes you longer than 2 hours to get to #8 (see checkpoint time limits, below), you MUST go for the Kid. Getting to #8 is pretty much a full, hilly, Bay Area Green course; if you don't usually finish a Green course in under 2 hours, it is unlikely that you will get to #8 in under 2 hours.

Just the facts, ma'am. The full Goat has 23 controls and is 10.2 km long with 790 meters of climb. (Smelling salts, please.) Now that you've recovered from reading that climb figure, let me point out a couple of things. First, since you can skip a couple of controls, the actual stats are somewhat shorter than that full figure. Second, the 8% climb is typical for Monte Bello (which may or may not be a comfort to you). Anyway, back to the facts: The Kid is 6.7 km long with 520 meters of climb, and to get to the control where the Goat and Kid diverge is 4.6 km, 380 m.

Punching: You should punch your control card in the box corresponding to the control number, even if you're running the Kid. For instance, you should record the punch for #17 in box #17; that means that if you're running the Kid, boxes #9 through #16 will be blank. (If you don't get this right, we'll sort it out at the finish.)

Baby, baby, baby, you're out of time. Four and a half hours. Everyone has to be back within four and half hours, no matter what. This isn't a finish-by-then-in-order-to-get-a-t-shirt kind of deadline; it's a get-back-by-then-or-we'll-be-really-mad-at-you-deadline. If it looks like you're not going to be able to finish the Goat within 4.5 hours, switch to the Kid. If it looks like you're not going to finish the Kid within 4.5 hours, bail out and take a trail back to the finish. Just be back within 4.5 hours, kapisch? We gotta go home, too.

Checkpoint time limits: You must reach the first manned checkpoint, control #8, within 2 hours in order to continue on the Goat course. If you do meet that time requirement, you still must reach the second manned control, #13, within 2.5 hours or you will be disqualified from the Goat. This means that, even if you get to #8 within the two hours, you still may run a risk of not getting to #13 within 2.5 hours, so if you get to #8 only a little ahead of the 2-hour limit, you would be wise to consider carefully whether you'd be better off opting for the Kid anyway. To put that another way: At #8, you still have options, but if you head for #13 and don't make it in time, you're pretty much out of luck. (It's a LONG way from #13 back to the start.)

Skip, skip, skip to my Lou. Deciding which controls to skip will be the most important decisions of the race. I'm not saying that making good choices would enable someone like me to beat someone like James, but amongst peers, the race is likely to be won or lost based on your control-skipping decisions. But be careful how you choose. The ones that at first glance may seem the best to skip may in fact not be. Remember that it's not distance or climb that you're trying to save, but time.

Clever choices of what to skip could enable you to skip a particularly difficult technical leg or a particularly demanding physical leg. And you can skip a leg in two ways: by skipping the control at the start of the leg, or the one at the end of it. And each choice you consider will bring a new set of route choices to ponder. There'll be a lot to think about. In addition, there are likely to be other people around you who are making their own decisions. Will you have the courage of your convictions?

I can see for miles and miles. Even Neeme will approve of the control placements: some of the control markers can be seen from a mile away - literally! The course has been set with the spectators at the finish area in mind: at least half a dozen of the controls are visible from the spectator area, and there are at least half a dozen more places where competitors will be visible running along distant hillsides. (Bring binoculars if you want to spectate.) Of course, runners will be approaching the controls from a direction different from which spectators will be viewing them, but the controls will still be very visible. (Binoculars are not required for runners.) With perhaps one exception (a somewhat overgrown reentrant - the only reentrant on the course, by the way - some sort of Bay Area record, I would think), you should not have any trouble finding the control markers once you're in the control circle.

Get ready to runnable. Believe it or not, a great deal of the course is actually runnable (if you have any strength left in your legs). I have sought out and found the most benign terrain the park has to offer. For example, at the higher elevations, there are hardly any star thistles. (Of course, that means you have to GET to the higher elevations, which is why the climb is what it is.)

Though it's always hard to estimate, I expect that times will be about 10% longer than at last year's Golden Goat at Briones. Thorsten Graeve did a test run this past weekend which seemed to confirm this estimate. Thorsten said that the course was "surprisingly runnable" and that he "almost enjoyed it."

Water, water everywhere. Seven of the 23 controls will be water stops. Two of them will have Gookinaid in addition. One of those will also have oranges and bananas. None of them will have showers, though you might wish for that. Given the recent flurry of emails about water stops, I checked and, fortunately, the interval between water stops in all cases but one is less than two kilometers, and in that one case it is 2.2 km - and I hadn't known previously about the 2.5 km rule!

Nevertheless, keep in mind that it can be very hot at Monte Bello, and you may wish to heed the advice of Ian Ramsay, who pointed out that carrying your own and sipping it is better than gulping it at water stops. By the way, Joe's comments about the effect of the water stops on last year's Goat competition are well taken. Fortunately, I already had that in mind. Without giving away any secrets, I can tell you that I believe that things have been arranged so that the location of the water stops won't change anyone's strategy regarding which controls to skip.

The age of Aquarius. (Aquarius is the water bearer, in case you didn't know.) Note to those who are concerned about the water stops getting dry before all competitors have visited them: we're going to try to bring enough water out, and for the most part we CAN drive to fairly close to the appropriate locations, but volunteers to help in this task are most welcome. You can help without affecting your status in the competition, as us water bearers will be approaching controls from completely different directions from those which the competitors will be. Call me at 408-354-1686 to volunteer.

(The Head Goat sez: "If you don't make the call, don't complain if there's no water when you get to a water stop." Seriously, one or two people who could volunteer an hour of their time on the Friday or Saturday before the Goat would be a real help.)

The bottom line. All kidding aside: If you're in reasonably good shape and are an experienced orienteer, you ought to come out and try the Goat. There's no getting around the fact that Monte Bello is a physically tough place, but I've worked really hard to avoid the nastiest areas and to provide an intellectually challenging course without making the detailed navigation too hard. The skip-two-controls feature will provide an experience different from any straight forward orienteering course. It should be fun. C'mon, what have you got to lose (besides a few days in bed recovering afterwards)?!?

Golden Goat FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Will I need to be airlifted off one of those steep hillsides?
There may be some downhill legs that will make you feel that way, but do persevere: it really is possible to get down without sliding on your rump. (Rolling head over heels is highly discouraged. It's fast, but it makes it SO difficult to stop.) Etiquette tip: Should you find yourself speeding down a hillside and unable to stop long enough at a control to punch, please try not to drag the whole control marker down with you. Makes it difficult for the next person.

Is one of the best skipping strategies to skip the whole event?
No, not really. I mean, there may be some who think so, but Neeme won't be among them. Really, this could be a very fun event. Then again, it could not. We'll see.

Will I get my feet wet? I hate getting my feet wet.
It's very dry out there. There are some adorable little ponds and marshes, but you should have no trouble avoiding stepping in them. There is one leg, though, where, if you're not careful, you may find yourself sliding down an incredibly steep hill, over a big earthbank, and into a little pond. It is recommended that you take one of the available, slightly (but only slightly) safer routes.

My ten year old son and his friends have never gone orienteering, but they'd like to give it a try. Should I just drop them off at 10:30? (Actual message received on my answering machine.)
Sure, if you never want to see your son and his friends again, just drop them off at 10:30 and we'll send them out on the Goat.

Is it true that spectators will be able to see me at more than a dozen places along the course?
Smile, you're on candid camera. I'm thinking of those close up shots of baseball players in the dugout, unaware that they're on camera, doing strange things with their chewing gum. Try not to do anything embarrassing. Give us a wave, eh? Every move you make, every breath you take, we'll be watching you. Actually, since we'll be looking through binoculars from as much as a mile away, I'm sure it's safe to scratch yourself without us seeing. And, of course, "us" may turn out to be just me.