I felt motivated to write to let everyone know that the 2014 Socialgaine held last Sunday represents 20 years of rogaining for me. I still remember the day a friend described this sport with a funny name that was, in essence, competitive bushwalking. From that moment on I was hooked.
Not being one to tread lightly, my first event was the 24 hour, Australian Championships held at Bethungra, near Cootamundra in 1994. I have two three very strong memories from this event.
1. It was going dark and my team and I were having a rest near the top of some nameless hill in the sweltering heat when “Chippy” Le Carpentier, with sweat pouring off him in torrents, ran up the hill and past us. I remember commenting to my wife afterwards, that there were some really tough people out on the course.
2. We were doing quite well until about 11pm when we missed a control and suddenly I had no idea where we were. We stumbled around in the dark for another couple of hours getting even more lost until eventually we slept on the ground until dawn, worked out where we were and then wandered back to the Hash house with our tail between our legs.
3. My friend, who accompanied me, has never been on another rogaine. He was the fittest of the three of us, but he still reminds me, regularly, of the day of pain I put him through. Some people just don’t do endurance.
What I love about rogaining:
• The challenge, there is nothing quite like silently grabbing a difficult control in total darkness and then quietly melting into the bush in search of the next one as other competitors walk in circles nearby.
• There is also nothing quite like the pursuit of perfection. For a couple of days post event I am thinking about sub optimal route choices, poor navigation and what could have been, if only I was just a bit fitter or had the ticker to run the last few kilometres.
• I also love the fact that it doesn’t matter what sort of car you drive, what you wear, or what sort of job you do. The social structure of rogaining is solely based on how many points you can get.
• I love the beauty of the bush. You get into some very obscure, but beautiful, places when rogaining and I have very fond memories about some of the beautiful valleys, spectacular pagodas, and nameless mountains I have wandered over during the years.
• Conquering demons. I am pretty sure it is not just me, at sometime during a 24 hour event you have to meet and conquer your demons to keep going. In modern life you can almost always avoid doing something that is difficult. Rogainers know and conquer difficult.
• Lastly, as I get older, I love the fact that Super Veterans are still competitive. There are not too many sports where people over 55 can eyeball the 20 year olds, as an equal, on the sporting field.
What about me. I am part of the also rans. I am very happy if I finish in the top 10% and cranky if I finish outside of the top third of competitors. In reality my results have not changed much in the last twenty years. Experience has made my navigation and route choice sharper and this has compensated for a marginal loss of speed and power. I am looking forward to becoming a super veteran and also looking forward to once again plunging down some unnamed valley with a mate looking for a stupid orange flag on a tree.