better contours with ‘nswtopo’ software

Just a quick note for any NSW setters who have used my ‘nswtopo’ software to make their maps.

I have just put out a tentative v2.0 of this software. The headline addition is a new feature for contours and spot heights. There is now really good, publicly available elevation for all of NSW, so I added a facility to make contours from this data very easily.

Obviously this is significant because contours are our bread and butter. We are used to contours from the NSW database, which are mostly manually created contours dating back decades. 5-metre contours from this new elevation data (derived from lidar) give a far more accurate depiction of terrain. (Also, they look fantastic. I suggest adding shaded relief for the full experience.)

OK, hope this is useful,
— Matthew

Tenth Mingaine Coming Up

Tenth Minigaine coming up

It’s that time of the year when injured toenails from past rogaines are growing out, February is nearly half gone, Mardi Gras is coming up and its Minigaine time.

2019 is the tenth annual Minigaine to be included in the NSW Rogaining Association annual program in and around Sydney. I remember the first one at Manly Dam. It was a bit controversial. Such a short event and with the option of going with a team or on your own. Would anyone come? It was the time of the first iPhone – everything was getting smaller and faster. In retrospect the NSWRA timing was pretty good. The popularity of the event took off – it was accessible, good for first timers and didn’t take over the whole weekend. At the competitive end it was suited to sharp navigators with a strong spring in their step. When the result came out sole combatants had done pretty well. Maybe two or more heads wasn’t an advantage after all. No oxygen wasted on discussing route choice, no conversations affecting concentration and causing navigational lapses. No one to blame. Any mistakes mine and mine alone.

This year the event is at Western Sydney Parklands. An expansive area. Given recent rains should be quite green. The 9.00am start will avoid some of the warmth of the day. I’m hoping for some bush as these days I like the navigational challenge as am not quick on the open spaces.

Last year the Hawkesbury Skygaine Mingaine was also west of Sydney and it was great. David Williams and crew did a good job first of all in finding yet another new area in Scheyville National Park. Can’t say there were ocean beaches like 2017 at Cronulla or harbour views like when we went to Mosman or the river views of when we went to Cooks River one year and Lane Cove River another. But what the Skygaine did have was a nice mix of open ground and forest, plenty of tracks but also opportunities for the odd short cut. There was also abundant route choice and a few traps for the unwary. The map itself was a fine piece of work at 1:15000 scale and 6 metre contours. There were chunks of out of bound but controls were judiciously set around them with no temptation to encroach. The whole map was surrounded by private land small holdings in a gentle mustard colour.

What can expect at the Parklands? The organisers say a mix of parkland and urban area with features of grassy fields, woodlands and lookouts. Sounds good to me.

Now, Rogaining started as a 24 hour event. Not by orienteers as many assume. It was bushwalkers down in Melbourne, Australia who invented the now worldwide sport of rogaining. It always had a strong social element and not to mention that the taking part was more important than the winning. Food provided during the event was a key. Some time later 12 hour events were introduced, then 8 hour and 6 hour. None of them ‘real’ 24 hour rogaines but hard to argue with what the people wanted through proof numbers entered. I would recommend the longer events to all. They take a different approach, no need to rush, take your time and enjoy the scenery. Come back to the Hash House for a meal, a rest or a sleep. The tortoise often does better than the hare.

However, at the short and speedy end of things and as its Minigaine time on February 24th, I forecast it is only a matter of time before the Committee comes up with the Microgaine – 90 minutes! Such an event would complete the virtuous circle right down to the Orienteering 45 minute ‘score’ event. Made hugely popular in Sydney through the Sydney Summer Series developed by Ross Barr and now in its 20 something year. In the event of the Microgaine (you read it here first) I would request that the Series Points Score introduced in 2018 have some kind of handicap or reduced score for the short event – we don’t want any gaming of the system!

Don’t forget to enter the Minigaine by deadline

Julian Ledger

48 Hours of Rogaining!

An interview with Toni and Smiffy on their experiences at the NZ and Tas Rogaining Championships

While many people, including regular “shorter duration” rogainers, believe that doing a 24-hour rogaine and staying out all night is crazy, longtime NSWRA competitors Antoniya Bachvarova and Andrew Smith decided it wasn’t enough and had to enter 24h events on two consecutive weekends. Publicity Officer Tristan White asked them a bunch of questions to hear about their experiences in the recent New Zealand Rogaining Championships (24-25 November) and the Tasmanian Rogaining Championships (1-2 December).

Smiffy & Toni receive their trophy at this year’s NSW Champs

Tristan: What was the location of each of the events?

Smiffy: The NZ Rogaining Champs were set on the outskirts of Dunedin with a small part of the course covering a suburban area, other parts explored the extensive network of walking and mountain bike tracks just NW of Dunedin.

The Tasmanian Rogaining Champs were held on the northern part of the Forestier Peninsula, 60km south-west of Hobart. While primarily on the Bangor farming property it also included parts of Tasman National Park.

Tristan: Tell us about the two courses and how they compared?

Smiffy: The course for the NZ Champs was unusual for New Zealand, set in the hills behind Dunedin, with altitude ranged between 80 and 700m. The terrain was mostly steep, and varied between native rainforest, pine forest, rough open areas overgrown with flax, gorse and other weeds, and sub-alpine tussock/shrub land. A lot of the off-track was almost impenetrable and the rest was slow. There were some patches of native forest with moderate undergrowth. A couple of reasonable size creeks intersecting the course were potentially tricky to cross in high water.

A rugged river crossing in the NZ Champs
(Credit: Matt Bixley, NZ Rogaining Association)

The course setter, Matt Bixley, and his team put a lot of effort into mapping all the tracks and variety of vegetation to make route planning easier.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t kind to us, nor to the organisers. There was a major rain event in the week before the Rogaine. As a result, the creeks were up and most of the vague tracks on the course had become unrecognizable. It also rained throughout the event, which not only made us wet and very cold for most of the time, it also made the already tough course even more challenging.

We were struggling to read the fine detail on the map, as our glasses were wet and foggy. At night our torch lights couldn’t penetrate the mist, so any navigation off track was almost impossible. As the rain intensified, all surfaces became extremely slippery, tracks turned to either muddy slides or ankle deep bogs. Some controls placed on creeks also became tricky to access, as water gushed down the waterfalls.

The persistent misty rain also meant we missed out on the many apparently great views from the high points on the course.

In contrast, the Tasmanian course was mostly open farmland and reasonably open forest. It was a lovely scenic landscape with rolling hills and beautiful coastline.

Fortunately there was some moderately dense scrub in the south-east otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to grumble about the setting. Elevation ranged from 0 to 330m, the weather was mild, and the forecast 10-25mm of rain forecast for the second half didn’t eventuate. There was a rain squall in the hour before dawn (which destroyed the Hash House tents) but after the weekend in New Zealand we hardly noticed it.

Farmland and bush in the Tasmanian Champs (Credit: RTas)

Tristan: How did you place in them?

Toni: As the wisdom goes, if we find the event tough, most likely other teams will as well. We finished the NZRC 11th overall on the same score with two other teams with 1860 (but finishing later than one of them) and 2nd mixed veteran – 70 points behind the winning mixed veteran team. The overall winners Tim Farrant and Tane Cambridge collected a smashing 3100 points – about 75% of the course score.

For the Tassie Champs, while there was a great turn out for the 6 and 15 hour events, only 18 teams did the 24 hour event. People just don’t realise how much better the 24 hour event is! To our surprise, we won overall! It’s the first time we’ve ever done that. Ciara Smart and Ben Armstrong put in a very solid performance to take second place (unfortunately we denied them the open mixed win – sorry guys!) and Gary Carroll and Ken McLean (MSV) took third after a navigation mishap took the wind out of their sails.

Tristan: What blunders did you make (if any) and what would you have done differently?

Smiffy: We had a few issues on the course during the NZ Champs.

The biggest frustration was a control placed in the rainforest, which was meant to be just 80m away from a track. First we had trouble following the vague track that was meant to intersect with the main track. After we found the right track junction, we tried to navigate to the control which was supposed to be placed on a junction of two minor watercourses. We thought we’d identified one of them and tried following it for a couple of hundred meters with no success. After a couple of back and forths we decided to abandon because it was just a 20-pointer. This is always the hardest decision – when do you pull the plug and abandon? We usually mull over these decisions for days. An even bigger disappointment was to later see our GPS track so close to the control – we must have somehow walked right past it twice!

After this experience we made a decision to avoid controls that required cross-country navigation for the dark part of the event and changed our route to some ‘easier’ controls.

There was still plenty of challenge finding knife-edge spurs on hill sides when all we could see was white mist in our torch light.

What we learnt the hard way in those weather conditions was a pair of rain overpants paired with a good quality rain jacket would have made all the difference to our level of comfort.

I got so cold, I didn’t have the motivation to keep pushing and try to do as much as possible right up to the end of the event. And that was the main reason I felt so frustrated after the rogaine.

Our route in the NZ Champs…

The Tassie Champs went quite smoothly.  I find Australian landscapes so much easier to navigate.  Partly because the maps are usually higher resolution (<=1:40,000 & 10m contours) but also because the spurs and gullies are less intricate and often the vegetation provides better visibility. We didn’t make any significant errors on the course – the closest we got was 75 where the spur was difficult to read in the scrub and I thought we’d climbed too high and missed it. Fortunately Toni was confident we should keep going and the control appeared 50m further up (I walked past it – Toni spotted it). Our plan was working well – we dropped a less valuable control here and there to stay on schedule and we were able to make the most of the critical final hours by timing our return to the hash house via a productive route. The last hours of a 24 are always stressful and hectic – trying to avoid serious navigational errors with a mind dulled by exhaustion while trying to pick up those last precious points and finish just before the bell. We often find these last few controls are the difference between a win or not. It’s extremely satisfying to finish just in time knowing you did everything you could.

… and our route in the Tassie Champs

Tristan: Given that, even among rogaining circles, competing in a 24h event and staying out all night is seen as crazy enough, what possessed you to fly out to two of them on consecutive weekends?

Toni: We only found out about the Tas Champs after we’d entered the NZ event. 24-hour rogaines are our favourite format, so we are usually keen to do as many as we can. Still, we decided it would be too much to do both events back to back. We had a pretty rough time in Dunedin. It was the first time I was happy to finish a 24-hour event with 4-5 hours to go. Thanks to Smiffy’s persistence we kept picking up controls but still finished an hour early, even though there were two more controls within reach. I was quite happy to finally warm up with a hot shower and change into dry clothes. Still, our capitulation made the whole experience unusually unsatisfying and was made worse by the fact that we would have won the category if we had pressed for those two controls in that final hour. So on Tuesday we had a look at the airfares to Tassie and entered the Return of the Oysters Rogaine in the hours before entries closed. We were both pretty keen to end the season on a positive note.

Some spectacular coastline in the Tasmanian Champs (Credit: RTas)

Tristan: Why do interstate and overseas rogaines?

Toni: Every time we’ve done a Rogaine outside NSW or ACT I’ve appreciated how lucky we are to have perfect terrain for rogaining right in our backyard – large areas of native bush, often open and pleasant, and mountain landscapes that can challenge our navigational skills while rewarding with spectacular views.

Yet, competing in different conditions and against rogainers from other parts of Australia or the world gives us a chance to get out of our comfort zone, adapt to different conditions and meet the local rogainers and learn from them.

Rogaines in NZ are always challenging – tough and physically demanding and weather is usually a big consideration. Other places might offer easier terrain but then you would be tempted to go further. So there is always something to learn, an experience to remember.

And there are always great people to meet and get to know. Rogainers are always lovely people – you have to be to survive long distance team sports.

Track and scrub in the NZ Champs
(Credit: Matt Bixley, NZ Rogaining Association)

Tristan: How do you feel now?

Toni: Surprisingly we didn’t feel that tired after the NZ Champs. The rough terrain and vegetation forces a slower pace and shorter distance which in turn takes less of a toll on our bodies.

We did pay for it after the Tassie Rogaine with both of us having a slow run at the Wednesday Sydney Summer Series. It all caught up with Smiffy one week later at the Western Sydney Summer Series – he really crashed afterwards and slept the rest of the day

Tristan: Finally, how did New Zealand and Tasmania compare with other 24-hour events you’ve done in 2018, especially our NSW Champs?

Smiffy: It’s interesting to look at our stats for the championship events we did this year:

<> ACT Champs Yarrangobilly: 78km 2942m
<> NavShield Yengo: 59km (no GPS track for this event)
<> Australasian Champs Manumbar, Qld: 99km 2860m
<> NSW Champs Abercrombie: 76km 3802m
<> NZ Champs Dunedin: 69km 3039m
<> Tas Champs Bangor: 89km 3219m

Abercrombie wins for vertical distance! And it was also the most demanding physically – our legs had absolutely no hills left in them at the end.

In Dunedin, where the vertical relief across the course was twice as big, the track network and minimal off-track options made it easier to minimise the ups and downs.

At Abercrombie there were very few controls you could link up without significant up and downs. Next time it would be nice to have a few more controls arranged so that it is worth doing a couple of ridge traverses to provide some relief from the vertical. But in a championship event you definitely can’t complain about it – it’s supposed to be demanding. However, it has prompted me to make a mental note next time I’m setting a course.

Tristan: Thanks for such a great update, Toni & Smiffy.  All the best for 2019!

First timers

Howdy all… my 11yo son and I were thinking of doing our first ever rogaine for a bit of fun and were wondering what the general process is.

I was thinking that the 3hr Minigaine at the end of Feb 2019 would be a good place to start… would you advise that we try and find someone to team up with, or could we just give it a crack by ourselves on the day? We’re both pretty fit, so I’m not super worried about the physical side of things… I’m more just thinking about stuff like logistics and knowing the rules, and so on. Are there “practice” courses that we could do in the meantime so we can get a bit better at navigation? Any advice would be great. Thanks heaps.

Cheers,
Craig

Berowra Bewilderness, “Rivers, Rocks & Ridges”

Coordinator’s Report, by Tristan White

4/8hr Socialgaine, Sunday 25th November 2018

November 25th saw the small town of Berowra become littered with orange and white flags, and a record turnout of well over 400 people on many different missions – to maximise their score, to have fun, to see a new place, to build fitness, etc. It was really a “choose your own adventure” with two duration choices and 62 checkpoints on the course at all sorts of landmarks, and people could really choose whatever scenery, terrain, distance & activities that suited them.

As I visited no CPs on the day, I really am unable to properly comment from a competitor’s perspective, but having visited every CP at least once and in many cases more over the past few months and heard all types of accounts, I certainly have a point of view that others don’t.

I was delighted to see what a positive day people had for a range of reasons – the social activities, the spectacular scenery, the route options and the wildcard strategic challenges that left them “bewildered” at what to do. Taking the highlights of multiple teams in the 4 and 8 hour timeframe, it is impossible to write a linear account of events as a competitor would, so instead I’m going to take anecdotes from each respective area of the course to get a full picture of the event and how it was received by as many teams as I can.

Trains

Probably the first thing that was of particular note to a lot of teams was the utilisation of the trains, as although it is certainly not the first NSW event it’s been allowed, they had never seen it. As Kim Eales put it, “We had noticed the suggestion to bring an Opal card along and were wondering how it would be worked into things.” Even to those who’d done events with trains, the event stood out due to the extent to which they were utilised. With only one other track out of the Cowan section, the train ride was a necessary component of completing the loop to the north, and for 4-hour teams that wanted to go to Mt Kuring-gai, it made it much more accessible. With the start time set to 10 minutes before the first train to Cowan, it was packed with well over 100 rogainers cramming into the rear 4 carriages, the only carriages that fit the platform at Cowan*, making me feel a moment’s sympathy for the “bewildered” train guard. Many more (couldn’t count as train was already at the station) jumped onto the first one to Mt Kuring-gai to head into Lyrebird Gully.

A scene that has probably never before occurred in a rogaine…Northbound platform at Berowra station at 09:33.

The challenge with trains of course, unless they were caught right at the start of the event, was how to get the timing right to avoid wasting time waiting for them, or worse, missing them. Nonetheless this seemed to be perfected by the team who scraped 2nd place, who did the southern loop before getting the 13:35 train up to Cowan, presumably adding in the nearby low-pointers to fill in the time. Well done.

Why did I make a stroller route anyway?

(*) I take this chance to send my commiserations to Adrian Plaskitt and Jon Sayers, who, after bagging a couple of extra CPs at the start and seeing the train already at the station, jumped into the front end of the train and only then realised that the front and rear 4 carriages were physically separated, thus they had an additional detour to Brooklyn and back. I did realise that, whilst the notes said “there will be no compensation for delayed or missed trains,” there was nothing about what would happen if one got in the wrong carriage. Needless to say, I gave no compensation and note, with amusement, that their team name was “Last Minute.”

Adrian & Jon weren’t the only victim of the idiosyncrasies of the rail network. Justin Stafford told me that he and his teammate missed the first train to Mt Kuring-gai due to its convention of having its doors close 20 seconds early. It fortunately didn’t seem to affect their placing too much – they managed to quickly work out an alternate route to put them in second place in the 4hr event.

Urban CPs (18, 29, 15, 19, 24, 46, 23, 24, 14)

I had no idea how many teams with strollers we’d end up getting along, but was careful to construct a loop that would be accessible by them, doubling up as the “Prime Ministers’ Loop,” where each CP had a quote by one of Australia’s (many) recent PMs, with prizes given to a team who could complete all the quotes. I was very impressed with those who had enough knowledge of political history to get all the quotes without even visiting all the CPs in the group.

CP19, only 200m from the HH, was by far the most visited CP, and I had to organize a traffic marshal across Berowra Waters Rd to avoid a backlog of cars. At right, Julia Gillard looks over the CP19 flag.

North Fringe of Berowra (17, 16, 36, 27, 60, 14, 22, 13, 12, 45, 44, 34)

This area tied together a series of tracks (excluding 27 and 60) to make a nice loop for those who wanted to stick close to the HH, and although not widely visited, it seemed to be well appreciated by those that did make the trip out. 18 and 17 obviously became time-filler CPs that teams would collect if they had time to spare at the finish or before a train. 60 was an effort to reach given the elevation but the lovely waterfall it was under made the trip worthwhile.

Many competitors were telling me how their partner was figuratively “cracking the whip” to keep up the pace. Rebecca Parsons was literally cracking the whip at CP46, Barnett’s Lookout, saying that “Rogaining takes hard work and discipline.” Bob Hawke looks on – to quote him on the Monday after a 24hr rogaine, “Any boss who sacks someone for not turning up [to work] today is a bum!”

45 (shown below) was probably the best view of the “urban” CPs as you’d never know it even was an urban CP when you got there. Set over the cliff of a popular rock climbing spot there were views for many kilometres. 34, the John F. Kennedy CP (on the grassy knoll), was really inserted as a waypoint to other more scenic locations but ended up to be one of the most visited CPs. Extra kudos for the teams that bothered to remember the bit of trivia on JFK that was hung there as well!

South Fringe of Berowra (35, 46, 80, 25, 37, 26, 38, 28, 29)

Another loop for families included most of these CPs, but there was unsurprisingly a large divergence between the popularity of each of them. 80 of course was a throwaway checkpoint, inserted to give all teams an easy 80 points at a great lookout, and was one of only 3 CPs to attract over 50% of all teams, and it seems that the poor flag really got very little time to itself all day with many teams setting up a picnic at the table and posing for a wide range of photos.

The steep climb between 80 and 46 was none too hard for these young participants

37, halfway along the GNW link track was unsurprisingly another widely visited CP, making 26 with an arguably nicer view, less popular. 28 stood out on the course as being the only CP not to be visited by any of the top five 8hr teams (and only 11 teams overall), indicating it was too low a score to be worthwhile.

Cowan (70, 51, 42, 32, 50, 40, 101)

The northernmost section of the course had a series of six CPs (excluding 101) that were physically isolated from the rest of the course by about 2km, a 150vm (vertical metre) valley on a single track and the train line.

The main CP of that little cluster was 70, perched at the end of a ridge, and in one way or other had the flag (not the punch) disappear soon into the event, presumably by a pissed off local.  This created some challenges. Being on a short side trail before a sharp bend and steep climb should be enough for people to notice, but there were many reports of teams running by it, which teaches a lesson about why the flags themselves need to be locked. 40 was a nice little playground in Cowan where several teams proved that a Socialgaine is playtime.

I was truly amazed at the volume of teams who went down over 100vm to collect 32 (having already bagged 40 and 50), particularly after both the vetter and the hanger pulled me up asking why I’d given it such low value. What was inserted as “bite” to the top teams became a CP that more than half the Cowan teams went to. I’m not sure whether the combined extra score and decreased distance made up for the climbing, or people really just didn’t study the topography in detail, but no fewer than 40 teams punched off there, out of the 57 that made the trip to Cowan in the first place.

Also the source of surprise was the 13 teams, including two 4-hour ones, that made the 5km, 200vm out-and-back journey to 101, Jerusalem Bay, which both the vetter and hanger asked me what I was putting it there for. It was inserted as an outlier, intentionally there to fluster teams trying to clear the course who would in all likelihood have just gotten the train up and be forced to make the decision at the beginning. Mike Hotchkis told me he didn’t read the larger scale in the inset (slow clap) so perhaps other teams overlooked this. Whether it was more trouble than it was worth is a decision for each team to decide, but either way they were rewarded for their efforts with a stunning view at the bay.

I was pleased to see the lovely, family-run cafe at Cowan being utilized. One of our top competitors “Danish Dave” Williams chose a casual day out with friends – his “Cafe Crew”
(from left) Su Li Sin, Christine Vibet, David Williams & Brent Roylance.

Most teams who went to Cowan did it at the start, but certainly not all of them. The team to take 2nd, place, Bart Vonhoff, Andrew Brown and Richard Mountstephens, started with the big loop in the south, and jumped on the train midway through (well timed given they only are once an hour). Longtime rogainers John and Mardi Barnes took the risk of finishing up there and almost missed the last train back. There was one novice 4hr team that did miss it and, as there was no other way back, they were disqualified. Perhaps a stark reminder that trains in a rogaine are a privilege and not a right!

NW Bushland, Berowra Hts (90, 30, 20, 21, 41, 31, 11, 33)

This is probably the section of the course that I ended up visiting the most in the setting process, and having also been mountain biking in the vicinity many times I knew the area well. 90 of course was by far the best lookout on the course (arguably one of the best in Sydney) and, as intended, was one of the most-visited CPs on the course. Many teams sat down for lunch on the rocks, and who could blame them, particularly if they had approached from the steep climb up from the ferry.

Mardi & John Barnes use up some precious time smiling for the camera at 90, a move they may have later regretted given how close they were to missing the last train!
“Beauties in the Bush” proved that the trip up from Berowra Waters to 90 was some “feat.”

21, 41, 31 and 20 all had interesting views of the valley from different perspectives and teams picked and chose which ones they’d go for when they were in the vicinity. I was surprised at the number of teams who had trouble finding 31 due to ambiguity of which track it was on (perhaps the clue should have clarified, though it said it overlooked the cliff). 11, placed as a waypoint for teams coming in from Turner Rd, also caused some confusion, due to multiple tracks in the vicinity. Again the clue of “a knoll” would have made this clear to more experienced teams, but I do know of at least one team that couldn’t find it at all. Really I saw it as a chance to give some points to teams that read the clue!

30, at the foot of a nice waterfall, was originally a potential out-and-back after teams saw the ferry’s position at 90 and knew if they had time to kill, before I’d found the track to 43. I’m not sure if anyone collected it for this reason but it was obviously visited and appreciated by a number of teams anyway.

Berowra to Mt Kuring-gai via Waratah Bay (91, 65, 74, 73, 54)

As Glenn DiSalvia put it, “First CP, easy to find then realising why it was worth high points when we got there…”

I thought that I had covered all the main details in the course setter’s notes with extensive information about train and ferry times, but I didn’t even think of showing a tidal chart on it as well, which may have made teams revise their route. CP 91, which hung on a boat wreck at Waratah Bay, ended up being in almost chest deep water when the first teams went through. Having run on this track many times I have never seen even knee-deep water so indeed that was a surprise, so was glad that teams understood the “no swimming” rule in the course notes to include Berowra Waters only. Oh well, one way to stop them overheating! The tide went down to normal levels within hours, certainly making the process easier for later teams. Nonetheless, the experience seemed to be a favourite to many competitors, including Open Women’s winner Melissa Richardson (despite noting it resulted in “lots of half-naked rogainers”!)

… but that wasn’t true! Here’s the scene when I put the marker up to prove it!

I had been uncertain whether to add this loop of such minimal navigation & decision making, but the very nature of commitment and lack of pull-out points made it one big decision in itself. I was surprised so many teams – 30 – took this route given the sparsity of scoring along the way, though on further analysis, the minimal navigation and relatively flat terrain – at least compared with other parts of the course – would have have been quite attractive. And as people found out, the scenery was very attractive as well. 73 was a lookout discovered by chance two months before the event, which was intended to be done as an out-and-back but it seemed nobody did this despite the easy terrain in contrast to many of the other high pointers.

Lyrebird Gully & Crosslands (47, 49, 71, 53, 81, 63, 72, 39)

This assortment of CPs in the SW corner obviously turned out to be an interesting challenge, and the beauty of the Lyrebird Gully trail made me regret not offering more points. Kim Eales raves about the view in her blog before she very unfortunately sprained her ankle. Understandably, only a handful of teams made the trip to 71 at Crosslands, but those that did had the bonus of at least being able to refill water and view Berowra Creek up close and personal.

The teams that braved the journey to 63 were rewarded with a great view
(credit: Kim Eales)

The bridge over Calna Creek at 47 has a fascinating history of being built (using two power poles), “upgraded”, broken and rebuilt – and upon further reflection was sorry I didn’t put the flag right on the sign giving that story. Nonetheless there were a couple of teams that remembered details about the sign who were rewarded with a form of chocolate goodness. I was surprised that two teams, including the 8hr winners, made the 3km round trip to 53 – intentionally inserted as an outlier – given how far anyone came from clearing the course. It was, however, the only CP to have no 4hr team visits and far lower than the next least popular CP of 101, with 13 teams. I’ve always found these teaser checkpoints add an interesting dimension, particularly to on-track events, and am glad I put it there.

For those who missed the chance to read about the history of the bridge over 47.

Gundah Ridge (48, 62, 52, 64, 61)

Any teams who could bear with the rather unflattering scenery of the Mt Kuring-gai Industrial area were certainly rewarded with the brilliant views of the creek at 62 and 48 (though the climb up to the latter was certainly an effort for teams heading south). 64 was also a nice view of the valley and quite a contrast to the ugly buildings behind it. People seemed to approach this region in multiple ways (in either direction) – some got 64 and 52 on a direct run between 54 and 29, others went between 54 and 61, and still others went between 61 to 64 and back up towards Berowra.

Jack Havranek climbs to 48 “the fun way”

Berowra Waters (43, 100)

If there were any CP that puts the event into the pages of rogaining history, CP100 would have to take the cake. As Colleen Mock said it will “surely become one of rogaining’s legendary CPs”. I just HAD to integrate the ferry into the course since it was there. I’m very grateful to see some photos of the crazy scene at 100 where at one point over 30 people caught the ferry across in one go. I’m also grateful to the ferrymaster (who was luckily forewarned in the morning) for being so accommodating of the 150+ people that made the trip across during the day. It was nice to hear how many teams saw this strategically as a place to stop and rest for 10 minutes as they planned their next phase of the event.

Despite my prior belief, I found out on the day that it was not the first ferry-gaine in NSW, with the first metrogaine in 2000 utilising the Mortlake Ferry and another metrogaine allowing usage of the Mosman-Circular Quay passage. I think it safe to claim, however, it is the first event to include trains and a ferry simultaneously!

My favourite story from 100 was a group of “bewildered” outsiders who surveyed the mob of rogainers punching on before getting back on the ferry thinking it was an electronic ticketing system! I only discovered the very faint track to 43 (and further up to Nayla Rd) several weeks out from the event, and this was a great find.

Kirrily Dear is delighted at the excuse to have a drink break in the midst of winning the Open Women’s category.
Another unique scene from this event as two dozen teams tap off at 100.
At least the route to 100 wasn’t navigationally challenging. Can you see how much low in the water the ferry is with 40 rogainers on board?

Route Anaylsis

Probably the main surprise for me and the vetters was how far any team was from clearing the course. Although I suspected that it was well out of reach, particularly with 53 and 101 added to ensure this, I was expecting teams to break 2,000 points but nobody even did that. It was clear that our winners, Brian Brannigan and Ivan Koudashev far from slacked off so it, above anything else, gave an indication to the difficulty multiple 200vm climbs that were a necessary component of high scores.

Brian Brannigan & Ivan Koudashev teamed up using the online partner finding service and are presented with their prizes after taking the overall 8hr win.
Colleen & Colin Mock certainly deserved their category win (1st, Mixed Ultra Vets) having made the trip up from Canberra. Colleen told me it was one of her most enjoyable events in 20 years.

 From a course-setter’s perspective I was delighted to see the huge divergence in route choice in the event, not just between high and low placing teams, but amongst the top few teams in both the 4 and 8hr events. By marking up the top 5 teams in each event, I found huge divergences between them.

The top five teams’ routes in the 8hr event. It was pleasing all but one CP got visited by at least one of these teams
The top five 4hr teams’ routes. Note that Daniel and Justin had to modify their route quickly after missing the train to Mt Kuring-gai!

New Event Duration

I took something of a risk to diverge from the well-known 6hr Socialgaine to offer the 4 or 8 hour options instead. This was done as I believed novice and family teams would prefer the shorter duration, but if other teams wanted to get to all the far reaches of Mt Kuring-gai and Cowan, they would need additional time to do it. I got a lot of positive feedback about it at the event itself, and am really glad I took that gamble. What do you think? Please message me or comment below on other duration ideas for subsequent events.

Other Prizes

I was delighted to see how many teams got into all the other “social” aspects of the event. In additional to the aforementioned “Political Bewilderness” challenge, teams were able to take note of the features at CPs to shout out for spot prizes. Every other team seemed to share my belief that it would be easier to score high points than it was, with about 30 teams placing bets on what the winning score would be, all of them higher than the actual winning score (team 134 ultimately won out in this challenge, betting the winning score would be 1770 points).

There were many great team names that I don’t have space to list, but some of my favourites include:

•  Trophy Wives (Nicole Sellin & Sharyn Robins)
•  1 Fast 1 Furious (Ellise Roper & Henry Williams)
•  Cannibal and Lunch (Melissa Robertson & Kirrily Dear. Melissa noted that “thankfully, no one got eaten”)
•  BE-fuddled, BE-wildered & BE-mused (Ted Woodley & Mike Ward)
•  Love your contours (Max Messenger & Emily Rowbotham. Another ironic name, it turned out. Emily unfortunately tripped over early on and sprained her ankle, forcing them to limp through the next four hours to Mt Kuring-gai station before getting a train back.)

Thanks

This report would not be complete without an essay on those to thank for their time and effort, without whose efforts this fabulous event would not have been able to happen.
•  First and foremost, I must thank Graham Field, who, in addition to sending around emails trying to muster up other volunteers in his capacity as volunteer coordinator, took many long hours putting the map together using a very dodgy topo base map and a zillion markups I made from GPX files over a number of months. The fact that there were no complaints about this map is a testament to his work. If that wasn’t enough, he also spent a day out hanging flags around Cowan.
•  Secondly, Antoniya Bachvarova and Andrew Smith, who ended up deciding to bail on us to compete in the NZ champs held the same weekend, became invaluable assistance as they helped vet the course, give feedback on my plans, and hung a number of flags at Waratah Bay (it was dry for them too!) and Gundah Ridge. I’m also indebted to Toni for some brilliant promotional posters and flyers made up to put up in the local area.
•  Marnie Holmes, Lisa Gyecsek, and Andrew Geelan were also very generous with their time in hanging flags, as was Phil Smyth, who put up the Berowra Ferry flag on the morning and warned the ferrymaster of the influx of people. Lisa and Andrew also rendered a great amount of assistance setting up and clearing up on the day.
•  Other on the day helpers included Bob Kenderes and his three children, John Havranek, Bob & Pam Montgomery and John and Mardi Barnes, whose help with setup, traffic marshalling and helping novice teams find their feet ensured the success of the event. Bob and Pam also collected flags right afterwards despite presumably having aching legs themselves. Julian Ledger, Adrian Plaskitt, John Anderson and Martin Dearnley.
•  I’m also very appreciative to Guy Micklethwait, a Berowra local, who reached out to help at the last minute upon reading about the event in the local paper. As it turned out, he had a degree in photography and he and his friend Nicola kindly spent the day getting some great photos at CPs 19, 46, 80, 100 and 90 and the HH.

NSW 2018 Champs, Abercrombie River NP – report from a middle-of-the-pack team (team 28)

Colleen Mock

While the rest of Australia was focussed on a football final of one code or another last weekend, I was hosing off the Abercrombie dust from our vehicle (a rainy day in Katoomba helped) and mentally composing my wrap-up of our NSW champs experience.  I very much enjoy reading other teams’ reports but so often they are the top teams and it occurs to me that some people may relate more to the experience of a middle-of-the-pack team.  On the off-chance, and at the risk of exposing the enormity of our rogaining ineptitude, here goes.

Having missed so many good rogaines this year for reasons beyond my control, I was determined to make the NSW champs despite the known intimidating topographic relief.  As to course planning, we were completely non-plussed to be unable to construct an efficient route comprising 2 loops with a break of up to 6 hours at HH in between, and without long track hikes in and out.  (Yes, I see from the results that some teams managed it).  Limited easy pickings around HH and/or just off the tracks.  What to do?!  The SE looked like it could easily swallow us in an unfriendly watercourse system so we eventually settled on a single anti-clockwise loop of 24 controls across the N half of the map that avoided the ‘problematic’ river crossing around 27 and 28, made the most of the cluster NE of HH, finishing…? whenever…?  The big unknown was vegetation density, which proved mercifully light!

We decided to save 65 to the end, so started off with the crowd to 16 and 63, but while they mostly headed N from there we cunningly doubled back to 48 (delightful shallow spur), 76 (the first of many killer climbs) and 38 (making good use of the track). 

Colleen and Colin check in to 38, the spur

More trackwork to the pleasant spur to 47, no navigational problems to 56 and the non-flashing 15.  Decision time – whether to take the straight-up-the-spur route to 72, or include 35 and face a steeper climb to 72.  I favoured the latter and we duly set off but I drifted too close to the river and as usual it was Colin who saved us by realising that we were one watercourse junction too far down.  Easy river crossing and a zig-zag climb up to the spur line saw us safely to 72, where we faced a particularly daunting descent to the track and across to 23.

Could not have managed this descent in one piece without my trusty trekking pole, as we angled down hoping to locate ourselves on the track for an accurate attack to the potentially tricky 23.  Colin correctly identified which saddle we were on on the track and we took great care following a spur/watercourse sequence to the right gully.  We were acutely aware of the climb penalty for errors.  I was later astonished to see in the control visits that we were one of only 2 teams overall who visited 23, the other team being in the 8-hour event. 

On with the story.   5:30 pm now, time to be aware of fading daylight.  We were on schedule to get across the vast interior to 61 before dark, and had a satisfactory average of 2 controls per hour.  The plan was to follow the high ridge SE then NE to 37, but we were too optimistic about how far we had come across the ridge and I insisted that we were at the right attack spur when in fact we hadn’t even made the SE/NE turn!  So it was that we descended on a parallel spur several hundred metres too soon and hit a major watercourse in a huge washed-out sweeping bend that didn’t fit expectations, to say the least.  Dark now, headlights out, look around, try to relocate.  By matching watercourse bends with the map, we theorised as to our position, and tested the theory by following the watercourse SE.  Fortunately the watercourse was broad and easy to walk along and – dare I say – a pleasant, if unintentional, route choice.  Our confidence grew as we ticked off each matching tributary and bend.  By the time we had made the NE turn and come to a flattish spur we had no doubt we would find 37 there, as indeed we did! 

But a greater, inexcusable mistake was yet to come, as in our elation over 37 we overshot 29 by staying too high on the spur and looking in parallel watercourses too far to the E.  In fact, so far to the E that in re-climbing the spur to relocate we stumbled across the track!  The decision not to go back for 29 proved most regrettable because our final score fell just 10 points under the magic 1,000.

61 was a rare gift, followed by a long track climb to 10 – nice to meet a few teams on this stretch – and then around to 74 just after midnight.  We had options for 69, 68, 53, 26 or 36 (most of which weren’t on our original plan though), but were deterred from attempting any of them because we feared becoming drained by the energy-sapping climbs.  54 was doable though, then a lovely moonlit track trek around to 67, by which time we had formulated the plan to rest up till daybreak, to be sure of not erring on the subtle-looking 73.

Spent 10 minutes teasing apart our space blankets to wrap around us for a chilly and uncomfortable hour and  a half ‘rest’ – oh for an all-night café – before welcoming the lightening sky at 5:30 am and bagging 45 with sunlight-boosted energy and enthusiasm. 

The closing sequence 73-44-58-13-64-14 was navigationally straightforward (despite some confusion over the track position N of 73), and we had plenty of time in hand.  I was dreading the descent from 58 and the climb to 64 and both seemed never-ending; I was certainly struggling to get to 14.

Made it at last, on easy street to HH, and with enough time to race down to 65, but absolutely no energy to even contemplate it.

Overall, a worthy area and a worthy course for a championship.  Much as the climbs were strenuous, the openness of the vegetation was a huge bonus.

With 990 points, Colleen and Colin were 1st in Mixed Supervets and
Ultravets, and 19th Overall

Suffering in Silence but no Retreating

The “Abercrombie River Silent Retreat” NSW 24 Rogaining Championships 2018 … by Tristan White

Team 50 – Tristan White & Mike Hotchkis, “Remote Control”

After plodding through cold paddocks and climbing over and under barbed wire fences in the pouring rain just a mere four weeks ago at the so-called “Sun SEQer Rogaine” Australasian Championships, I nonetheless once again decided to put my life on the line and take part in another 24 hours of pain and fatigue, this time being in the more local Abercrombie River National Park. I once again teamed up with Mike Hotchkis, who has been my teammate for about five events in the past couple of years. Although he is a super-veteran (I’d place the emphasis on the word “super” rather than “veteran”) Mike is an outstanding rogainer who rarely is far from the top in any general classification, and seeing his name plastered in several places on the trophy for the overall win, I knew that we were not going to be out there for a casual stroll!

What a place for a Hash House!

I got the train to interconnect with the organised bus at Lithgow station where I caught it with about a dozen other rogainers, a trip that was not without its fair share of excitement – the driver had to constantly slow down to avoid hitting kangaroos and we even chased one 500m down the road! We didn’t arrive till almost 10pm, meaning that all we could do was set up tents and sleep given that the latter wasn’t something I expected to do much of the following day!

We received the A2 maps at 9am and took a brief survey of the land to observe lots (even for 24h rogaine standards) of contours and very few roads so concluded that most of our movement would be off course. As per the typical strategy, we measured the total course distance to determine what portion of CPs we would be likely to collect. Including a 10% buffer margin in straight line distance, I estimated 80km, making us ignorantly optimistic that we could clear the course, and quickly started working out which few CPs we could knock off if we weren’t doing well for time.

In principle I have found 10 pointers in a 24 hour rogaine rarer than a 1930 Australian penny, but this course was littered with seven of them, and I could not get over how difficult many of them looked to get to. But as we both had learned from first-hand experience, 10 points can be the difference between first and second (or first and fourth!), so these had to all be in our planned itinerary for the moment! We planned a loop that went anti-clockwise, on the basis that there were more obscure low scoring CPs that we could knock off at the end, and lined up at the start line.

[It helps to read the rest of this saga with the course map nearby.  If you don’t have a copy you can download it here.]

 

We started off with the run down the watercourse to 65, before the serious climbing began across to 48, 76 and 38 where we saw several competitive faces including John and Mardi Barnes, David Williams and Ronnie Taib, and Gill Fowler and Steven Hanley, but by the time we headed along the western road towards 46 we were alone, followed by the campground at 28. 55 was collected after a minor glitch of running up the wrong watercourse, but was rectified quickly. 27 required a massive effort of descending for such a low score, but nor could we really miss it given it was en route to 57. Finding a Retreat River crossing took some work – despite me reaching the bottom first, Mike seemed to have much better luck with an easy place to cross.  After heading downstream and jumping my way across some precarious stones, I heard Mike’s cheerful voice at the flag itself, with about 200m thick scrub to fight my way through beforehand!

65 – the first triumph of the day

57 was yet another major climb up one spur and down the other (given the terrain we had just crossed we opted to Retreat from following the river).  49 was found uneventfully, and we managed to get to 50 after having a surprisingly easy time following the watercourse and up the spur. I felt that we had been moving reasonably comfortably, but it was 4pm by this time and we were aware that we weren’t nearly far enough in to clear the course. We reached 39 before an unexpected bash through scrub much of the way down to the watercourse near 31. Climbing up a very narrow spur to the CP we ran into our key opponents, David and Ronnie! With a treacherous scramble down to 60 (there had to be a catch to two CPs so close together) we climbed our way back to the road and up the hill to 12 and the water refill point for a much needed resupply, just as Dave and Ronnie were leaving.

Now it was just past 6pm and dusk, we were aware of two obvious things – now was the time to get out the torches, and being theoretically a quarter (20km) the total distance, expecting to clear the course at this point would be like leaving on a porch light for Harold Holt so it was time to think about what CPs could be deleted, in addition to the obvious 23 and 24 which were always big question marks. We made a decision to skip the low scoring 21 and subsequently 40, and instead follow the ridge around from 51 to 62, and get 75 in favour of 32. From the water point, we headed down the spur and curled around to 42, 52, and after a rather gnarly clamber up and down the river’s sides, to 34, where once again David and Ronnie showed their pretty faces (or more correctly, torches.)

D&R silently departed along Silent Creek, whilst we started clambering up the road to 20. As it turned out, they had collected 20 before 42, perhaps cleverly avoiding a massive climb upwards. Looking back that was a good idea, but in the planning stage neither of us blames ourselves for taking the road given the many unfavourable experiences we’ve had in waterlines!

The trip to 30 was surprisingly difficult going up the lower part of the gully, with a huge amount of scrub making us wonder if we were actually on the right track at all, but after several cuts, bruises and yelps we saw the flag, and made our way to 70, which turned out to also be more effort than expected – there was a 10m drop down to “Chain O’Ponds Creek” meaning we had to follow around the spur to the south to find a safe way down. 43 and 51 were found without incident, which was followed by a largely uneventful traverse of the ridge 62. Aside from D&R we had seen nobody since about 13:30 so was a pleasant surprise to run into recent Australasian Ultra Veteran champions Andy Macqueen and Greg King. However this seemed to throw us off, as once we dropped into the watercourse for 62 we saw no sign of it, forcing us to backtrack and realise we’d dropped down too late, a needless waste of 10 minutes, but a reminder to be more careful, particularly as time ticked into the early hours of the morning.

75 was a long way, but found without incident by carefully following a bearing, the same method used to find 33. As it was now after midnight we contemplated going straight to 59, the theoretical halfway point, but as it’d be easiest to head there via the watercourse to the west, decided to jump across to 22, which in turn led us to venture to 41 with minimal additional climbing, something we had become very accustomed to. We made a bold, possibly heart-wrenching decision to skip 71, but there was also a feeling of relief given how far and difficult it looked, and headed up the simple, albeit steep spur to 10, only to descend another 200m down to 68 and back up. This followed with 53, 74 along a welcome stretch of road, 26 and 54 where we could see the welcoming glow preceding sunrise over the horizon.

It’s worth mentioning the moon, which at this point had just disappeared. It was bright for most of the night, and did an excellent job of making out a silhouette of the landscape and meant that we could walk along the roads without torches. Notwithstanding the craziness of bashing around the bush when we should be asleep, this is one of the magical things about 24hr rogaines that 99.9% of other people would never experience.

We saw many emu eggs out there

We passed through 54 and got 61 just after dawn, about 06:15, and it was once again time to make some decisions. It was obvious that attempting 23 would be crazy, but we had to decide if we would ditch 25 to head to 36 and 67, or miss the latter two and make a run for 45. As painful as missing a 60 pointer was, we opted for the latter, given that there would inevitably be something else we would need to omit later on. 45, 73 and 44 were picked up and 58 was just before 9am, followed by handrailing around the heads of umpteen watercourses to get to the long ridge to the small knoll of 72. Needless to say we resisted the temptation to go 2km out to 13.

It was just past 09:30 so we had just under 2½ hours to get in. This is the point by which many rogainers are physically and mentally spent and want to get home ASAP. Fortunately Mike is not one of those people. He had the ambitious plan to do 35, 15, 56, 47, 16, 63, 64, 14, HH – that’s 9 legs, so we had to average 15mins per leg. To make a long story short, we made it, but not without a significant push on my part. After making 63 just past 11, the hardest bit of the course was yet to come. The final part of the course included going up 100m over the spur, then back down the same elevation to the foot of the 64 spur, another steep and narrow climb, before another clamber back to 14, where Mike almost left me for dead as I limped up feeling on the verge of collapse (be proud of yourself Mike – you’re someone who could break me!).

The only reason I’m not smiling more is even my lips didn’t have the energy

Words cannot describe the feeling of relief of seeing tents and cars in a delirious state as we stumbled back to the Hash House. Although it was “only” 11:52, we were the final team in and all eyes were on us, wondering if we indeed did clear the course as we had marked on our intention sheet. Oh yeah, did I mention that it was my birthday? It’s because I forgot as well. But fortunately Michael Watts and everyone else reminded me as they sung a slightly out-of-tune version of Happy Birthday to me at the finish line.

The verdict? Our score was 2300, 60 points short of David and Ronnie’s 2360, but we pipped Gill and Steve by 20 points, which was the source of immense satisfaction. As Mike’s GPS stopped we couldn’t measure our distance though I suspect it was around 70km or a bit more; not shabby at all in this terrain.

Of course, the million dollar question is, aside from moving faster, is there anything we could have done to get 60 more points AND arrive in earlier than D&R (11:45)? I don’t think so. Had we gone for 67, there is no way we could have made it back in time, certainly not if we got 36 as well. 71 could not have been bagged without biting significant time. Most of the other 10s, 20s and 30s that were a long way to go were basically en route to higher scores so there would have been no gain missing them either. Perhaps getting 20 en route to 42 would have saved time and energy overall but not enough to allow time for an additional CP. Anyhow, a second place overall in a State Championship is none too shabby and we were in no place to complain, particularly after receiving “champion” glasses anyway.

Okay, “champion” is a bit misleading, but I’ll accept it anyway!

FOOD & HYDRATION.  Knowing what to eat in a 24-hour rogaine is always a balancing act, as is drinking enough, and I went through phases of having too little, then too much, of each. Unlike a 6hr, it is impossible to get away with gels alone, but it is crucial to have food that is easy to digest. Aside from 3 amazing granny smith apples, I had a packet of grape tomatoes, fruit puree squeezes, seed bars, nuts, dried fruit and some chocolate for the end. The relatively mild weather meant we could get away with minimal water refills but I suspect I drank about 8 litres nonetheless.

ARC vs NSW Champs.  The Australasian Champs and the NSW Champs this year were both 24hrs in length, but that was where the similarities ended. With the ARC summed up by huge distances between CPs, open paddocks and more barbed wire fences than Australia has had PMs in the past dozen years.  The NSWRC was full of hills (mostly open) forest and hence very well defined features. For two people who are inherent climbers (remember Mike missed the minigaine as he was doing the national mountain running champs up Mt Wellington) this suited us just fine, as it meant we could walk the whole thing, unlike the ARC where jogging was mandated to any team wanting to place highly. The weather was quite a contrast – after plodding through the final 10 hours in sopping rain in Qld, it was a relief to have no clouds and very mild weather, both during the day and night.

COURSE REVIEW.  Every rogaine is different, but I did like the course area with some great views over the horizon from the high points, and fairly minimal scrub (though it popped up unexpectedly quite a few times). And there was no clear route either – whatever route you chose you’d be forced to do some long-winded traverses for very low courses to score highly. But that’s part of the challenge – otherwise it’d just be an ultra-marathon, and there’s plenty of those!  The fact that there is a range of scores means there is strategic thinking in planning a course, and that is what a rogaine is about. Another thing about the steep terrain is it makes the features more defined, and is a possible reason for our lack of blunders. That said, having subtle features (i.e. “A knoll,” “The middle watercourse” of about five or “The shallow gully”) rewards careful pace counting and bearing following and therefore has merit as well.

A SOLO ENTRY 24?  There has been talk in recent weeks on the Forum about opening rogaining up to solo entries. As someone who competes in the minigaine solo I definitely see the attraction to it. But even without the safety considerations, could I imagine doing a 24h rogaine alone? I couldn’t. Working as a team around the clock is much more interesting than plodding along alone. Even a 12h event would be hard to imagine alone. Would a 6h work with solo entries? Perhaps, but it would completely change the dynamic of the event and whilst I would possibly score more points, I’d find it a lot more physically painful and less enjoyable to have to go out alone. But this is a discussion for the next committee meeting!

Overall, as always, despite wondering what I was doing at 02:00 in the morning, I am very glad I did the event and really appreciate the work Michael, Trev and all the other volunteers have put into setting, hanging and collecting all the flags, as well as all Michael’s coordination. 24-hour rogaines are where the real challenge is at, and for that reason, if you were not at this event you should flag the 2019 NSW rogaining championships into your diary!

Watagaine never again

The 2018 Watagans mountains rogaine was the third I’ve attended in this area, and definitely the last. The lack of route choices means everyone is doing the same course, with the only choice being which direction . No navigation was needed at all on this course. When nearing a checkpoint, one is inevitably greeted by someone else emerging from the bush and a well worn track directly to the checkpoint.
No real choice of route selection possible, no navigation necessary, and large queues at every control. This is not rogaining. Unfortunately, it has been the same every time in the Watagans. Please , please, change the area and the course setter!

Go Your Own Way

Thoughts About the Future of Rogaining … by Brett Davis

The main feedback I would like to provide on the NSW Rogaining   Strategic Plan 2018 – 2022 is its failure to embrace rogaining for individuals rather than teams. 

I am aware that the definition of rogaining is “the sport of long distance cross-country navigation for teams travelling on foot” – and I think this is the crux of the sport’s problem, especially if one of your objectives is to “increase participation rates by 15% per annum”. Rogaining is essentially an individual sport that has been forced to become a team sport because of safety concerns that were quite reasonable when the sport was created, but which may now be holding it back.

Would sports like tennis, golf, running, triathlon, swimming and cycling be as popular as they are today if participants were forced to compete as teams rather than individuals?

When I started researching the history of rogaining to find out why the sport was limited to teams, I was astounded to find that solo rogaining was already happening in both NSW and the ACT – and had in fact been happening for years! Because I never go into events shorter than 12 hours, I had no idea that the 3 hour Minigaines in NSW had been allowing solo entries since at least 2010 (despite Rogaining being a team sport). A quick check of past ACT rogaines showed that the Ainslie 5 hour rogaine in 2011 allowed solo entries, as did all the 6 hour Metrogaines since 2014.

I examined the results of the NSW Minigaines and found that the percentage of competitors who chose to go solo varied from a low of 13.5% (in 2010) to a high of 28.73% (in 2013) – with an average solo participation rate of 21.8%. For the six ACT rogaines where solo entries have been allowed, the percentage of competitors who chose to go solo varied from 9.7% to 21.15% with an average solo participation rate of 16.2%. Whether the solo entries were made up of teams that had split up or not is open to conjecture, but at least some of the solo entries would have been competitors who would not have been at the event if solo entries were not allowed. 

While I was going through the stats I noticed that solo competitors did very well in the rogaines. In fact, I could only find one rogaine that had been won by a team in the 11 rogaines I found that allowed solo entries.

As Julian Ledger said in a post on the NSW Rogaining Association Forum in April 2017 – “Looking at the results one has to ask do Rogainers do better on their own? Safety considerations aside if longer rogaines allowed solo entry would the lone wolves clean sweep the places …?” He also said “going solo means no distracting conversations, less chance of forgetting what you are supposed to be doing or partners pulling up with cramp. Left only with your inner voice you can focus on the navigation.” 

On the same forum, Chris Stevenson said “I made a deliberate decision to enter yesterday’s event as a team because I recall from previous events the competitiveness of the individuals … To put it in context, the average score of the individuals was 1,390 whereas the average score in the teams was 855.” Chris also said “Perhaps that is why they can’t find a friend to be their partner” – and this certainly happens to me. I would compete in every rogaine I could if solo entries were allowed.

On the NSW Rogaining blog under “Strategic Plan – What’s Wrong with Rogaining” – Shanti wrote in November last year “I find that the main thing holding me back is finding a partner (the partner finding service is great for this and I usually have success, but a lot of people might not want to walk around the bush for a day with a complete stranger). The 3 hr ones are great because you can do them individually but it would be nice if some of the 6 hr Metrogaines had an individual option.”

Similar feedback has already been published in the outcomes from your 2017 survey. One comment was “Wish you would offer solo entries for 6-hr event” while another comment said “About 3 hours, solo entry, in a natural environment, would be perfect for me …”

So I am not the only one who would like to see more solo entries allowed in more – if not all – rogaines.

What are the advantages of going solo and the disadvantages of teams? As mentioned above, finding a suitable partner can be difficult or impossible, because partners should be a similar age with similar fitness and similar motivation. And even if you are lucky enough to find the perfect partner, they will not necessarily be available for all the rogaines you want to enter. This is not a problem if solo entries are allowed. 

The age categories for teams are based on the age of the youngest team member. I am 65 which means I am an ultra-veteran, but at the Wingello Rogaine recently I was teamed with a 54 year old, which meant our team was not even a super-veteran team, and I had to compete against veterans 25 years younger than me. Solo entries completely eliminates this problem.

Another disadvantage of compulsory teams is the risk that your event could be ruined due to the misfortune of your partner. If they are injured, or get sick, or tire early, get blisters, or have a gear failure like a dead torch or a hole in a hydration pack, then your event is ruined too and you have done your very expensive entry fee cold. With solo entries, you only have yourself to look after, and blame.

The obvious reason that solo entry was not allowed in early rogaines was the safety factor. Teams were, and still are, safer than going it alone. But these days we have mobile phones, satellite phones, personal locator beacons (PLBs) and even the Strategic Plan seeks to “implement GPS tracking”, so solo rogaining is much safer today than it was when the sport was invented 40 odd years ago.

GPS tracking – and solo rogaining in 24 hour rogaining championships – will inevitably happen one day, so why not let it happen now? We already sign waivers acknowledging the inherent risks associated with competing in a rogaine, and if we are prepared to die in our sport and sign a waiver acknowledging this, there should be no chance of repercussions on the organizers. The fact that solo rogaining is actually allowed in shorter events means that insurance and litigation considerations have already been taken into account.  To make it even safer for solo rogainers, allow them to compete only if they have a PLB.

Anyway, that’s my feedback.

My Personal Pitch for the 24

Why You Should Do 24-hour Rogaines … by Tristan White

Rogaining in its most so-called “traditional” form exists as a 24hr event, stretching from midday Saturday to midday Sunday. Yet statistically from the past few years, our annual 24h event has significantly lower attendance than all of our other shorter events, and of these attendees, a large portion will compete in the 8hr event held in conjunction with it. It seems that rogaining in its “pure” form has been won out by several other factors:

  • Time: Unlike a 6hr event that can normally be crammed into a day trip (depending on location), a 24h rogaine at the very least requires the entirety of the weekend, and often part of the Friday and/or the Monday. For those with family commitments and inflexible jobs, this can become a major challenge.
  • Cost: The entry cost of a 24hr rogaine in comparison to a 6 or a 12 is often not significantly greater, however unlike a 6hr event which one can put on some lightweight clothes and a take a bit of food and water, a 24hr rogaine requires more specialist gear such as camping equipment, a decent headtorch, a big enough backpack, gaiters, shoes and socks and lightweight warm/waterproof clothing. If one doesn’t have any of the gear, it is a big investment for your first event. The cost of fuel to the event can also be significant.
  • Inexperience: Whilst a complete novice will generally get away with locating flags on or near a track, at least some of the time, being an inexperienced navigator in the dark in the middle of the bush is unforgiving and hence requires some level of inherent skill to have a chance of success.
  • The Sanity Factor: Why would anyone want to wander around the bush for 24 hours in the absolute middle of nowhere anyway? (It’s a question that I’ll invariably ask myself at some point during the night of a 24hr event.)

 

But as significant as these factors are, I am the NSWRA publicity officer and it is my job to convince you that you must try a 24hr rogaine. With the Abercrombie NSW Champs coming up, 24hr rogaines are on our minds and we want you to join us at the latter! So here’s a list of reasons why you couldn’t possibly miss out on doing a 24hr rogaine.

Experience

Although I’m (coincidentally) only 24, it is safe to say that I’ve had a huge variety of experiences in my life so far, and hope that many more will follow, but inevitably I forget things. I forget assignments I’ve done at school and university; I forget what people look like; I forget projects I’ve been involved with at work, and I forget who was the most recent political leader to be dragged out by their own party.  I even forget which girls I’ve crushed on and how I’ve failed to win them (no, it’s not by taking them on a rogaine!), but I remember every 24 hour rogaine I’ve done in my life. I remember which event it was, which poor sod(s) I was with, I remember the route we took and the blunders we made, and I remember what our result was. I even remember how long it was before said poor sod would talk to me after the event.

When I look back at my life in 50 years time, these are things I want to remember doing.

Perspective

Irrespective of how a team ultimately places in the general classification at the end of the event, a 24hr rogaine will force participants to push themselves to do things they wouldn’t normally do. Whether it be to stay up long after they otherwise would (and should) have gone to sleep, to keep moving until the hours blend into each other, or to maintain concentration following a bearing or a subtle spur for 2km in the dark, a 24hr rogaine tests the limits of all competitors. Every time I have just completed a 24hr rogaine, the thought of getting through an 8hr day at work or study seems that much easier.

Novelty

Saying that you spend your spare time walking around in the bush at 2am looking for little flags is a pretty cool (albeit somewhat weird) thing to drop into a first date, an ice breaker activity or a job interview.*

(*) Really.  At a recent interview, the manager saw the sport listed on my resume.

 

I’m interested in your comments – other arguments for or against the longer rogaines…