I am quite excited about the forthcoming NSW champs. I was wondering why I am excited and I reckon that the NSW Champs might be close to a perfect event. This led me to thinking what, for me, constitutes the perfect event. Here are my thoughts, feel free to add your own.
My perfect event includes the following features:
The ideal location for me is somewhere in the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains is where my soul lives. I love the fact that it has 5 million people on the doorstep and yet you can walk for days without seeing anyone. The Blue Mountains has the advantage of being close to Sydney and relatively easy to get to, but also presenting some quite remote country with significant navigational challenges. I also like to explore, so I always enjoy rogaining in an area which is new to me.
Some people like mountain views, for me I love rarely visited open valleys with pristine creeks running down the middle. On many an event I will note a perfect secluded valley and promise myself that I will return one day, just to lie on the grass and take in the solitude, but I rarely do.
This will be controversial, but I think the best events are 12 hours. A 12 hour event takes in a significant portion of night navigation which separates the skilled navigators from the less skilled ones and also has the advantage of not occupying the entire weekend. For those with families, you can spend one day pursing your passion and the other day enjoying family time.
I enjoy looking at a map that has a lot of route choice but no obvious high pointing route. I like a map whose secrets can only be unraveled after an hour of close study. I like a 1:25000 map because that is what I am used to and it requires less mental gymnastics to relate the map to the ground. I like a map that does not force a “do or die” loop. I like a map where good teams head in all different directions at the start. I enjoy maps with limited out of bounds areas. There is nothing worse than taking an inefficient route because of a set of red lines on a map.
It is sometimes difficult to achieve but I like a map where the Hash House is in the middle of the map since this usually offers better route choice. I also like a map with 10m contours. You can hide a lot in a 20m contour.
The perfect terrain is a very personal thing. I am pretty good through thick scrub so I like a course that includes some thick scrub, but no more than 1 hour’s worth. I like navigating through pine plantations. I know it is a very artificial and sterile environment but there is something cosy about walking or running on the open, dark and slightly claustrophobic forest floor. I like creeks that you can actually walk along. Often walking along creeks can be a very slow and dangerous affair. I like creeks that you can actually walk down without being cut to shreds. I am not as fit as I should be so I like climbs that are no more than 150m. I like a course that is big enough that you can go a while without seeing competitors. I like a course that has fire trails but also forces some cross country navigation.
Partner selection is tricky. You want someone who is of a similar level of fitness, so you are not frustrated waiting or under pressure to keep up. You want a partner who will “take the piss” when you offer a bearing that is 180° wrong, but not make you feel bad when you can’t find a control. You want a partner who is happy to share the mental load and offer suggestions when things are getting uncertain. A partner who will take turns in pace counting and has a good feel for their stride length. Your partner also needs to know when to yield and when to “stick to their guns” over a questionable navigational choice. I like a partner who will take the initiative when I am tired, but let me lead when I am feeling strong.
The NSW Champs will be my 70th rogaining event. Having taken in all of these events I have to say that I have only competed in one event that I didn’t really enjoy. I remember crossing the finish line and being a bit underwhelmed by the experience. I can’t remember which event it was, but I am pretty sure it was a 3 or 6 hour one.