“Karst Irony” – The Fun Rogaine

Julian Ledger and I lined up for the 6 hour event yesterday. We were not keen for the 12 hour event, having competed in the 24 hour Australian Championship only a fortnight before. The “Karst Irony” event was quite a contrast to the National Championship. In the National Championship we bagged 22 controls in 24 hours, yesterday we bagged 29 controls in under 6 hours. In the National Championship all points were hard won, but in yesterday’s event you could earn good points by visiting sign posted lookouts. My rough calculation tells me that you could get about 800 points just by visiting lookouts. Possibly the most spectacular being control 79 which had a fantastic view of Bungonia Gorge.

The map for yesterday’s events was an interesting one, the course was dominated by massive out of bounds areas due to the karst plateau which was unsafe to rogaine on. The course was further punctuated by deep impassible, cliff lined gorges. So the course really consisted of 6 distinct patches of controls and you picked which area in which you wanted to forage.  Two of the six areas, the southern ones, were really out of reach for the 6 hour competitors which left four distinct clusters of controls to choose from. Of these Julian and I decided to avoid going to the northern cluster because the description said that scrambling and a head for heights was needed in that part of the course. Julian and I are both comfortable with scrambling and with heights but the description implied slow progress, so we gambled and skipped that part of the course despite its proximity to the hash house.

What made yesterday’s event fun was the fact that there were many controls available and, if you were a half decent navigator with a modest level of fitness, you could bag a control every 10 – 15 minutes and there was just enough navigational challenge on offer to keep you interested. The only mistake Julian and I made was walking past control 82 and having to double back to get it. That mistake, which I made, cost us 8 minutes (sorry Julian) but the rest of the controls we found with ease. The relative ease of finding controls was also due to the sparseness of the bush and the fact that the controls were set on well defined features.

Our 6 hour course from “Karst Irony”

The other thing that made yesterday’s event fun was that there were no heroic climbs or perilous steep descents. With a sensible amount of contouring between controls there was relatively little elevation change. The biggest climb we did all day was 65 metres between controls 74 and 75, but we didn’t mind this climb because we picked up the three 70 pointers in under 30 minutes.

The only downside of the whole event was that there were few points on offer on the way back to the hash house from the middle section of the course and we scored only 80 points in the last hour.

I will always remember yesterday’s event fondly because, for the first time in 23 years of rogaining, I won my category. Julian and I came first in the men’s veterans category and were awarded a cup for our efforts. The fact that Julian and I won the category probably says more about who didn’t turn up than how good Julian and I were, but I don’t care we won the category and I am proud of it. My cup is going “straight to the pool room” and will never go through the dishwasher. I might fade over time, but I will make sure that this cup doesn’t. Yet another thing the kids can throw out after I die.

Thanks to Ian Almond, President Trev, Ian Cross and others for putting on a really good, fun event in some beautiful country. Even the weather gods smiled on the event.

My wrap of the Australian Championships

The Australian Championships were held over the weekend in an area near Bredbo, south of Canberra and I thought I would write down a few things that piqued my interest from the event.

Firstly, I must pay homage to David Baldwin and Julie Quinn who won the event and scored 10% more than 2nd place. I am in complete awe of their ability to run quickly over all sorts of landscapes and navigate flawlessly. It’s just a pity they are Canberrans when state (and territory) pride was on the line over the weekend. ACT won the State (and Territory) challenge with NSW a slightly distant 2nd.

Secondly, I will call out Rochelle Duerden who ran with two TAFE friends who had never before been to a rogaine. Rochelle is a very good rogainer and I could not imagine trying to keep up with her for 24 hours, especially on my first rogaine.  To the credit of Rochelle and her friends (Morgen Ely and Issy Allan) they were all smiling at the end and managed a creditable 2nd in the women’s junior event as well as 7th in the Open Women’s event as well as 7th in the Intervarsity event.

Rochelle’s team, aged 19-21. All studying Cert 3 in outdoor recreation, full time at TAFE Western Lithgow. They covered a laudable 65km during the event.

I must also discuss the All Night Cafe, it was like visiting a Michelin starred restaurant in the middle of the course. The All Night Cafe had everything your heart could desire and more. I made a pig of myself and I think I am not the only one. My only complaint is that it was very hard to pull myself, and my team mate Julian, away from this luxury oasis to chase more points in the dark, cold and unforgiving bush. The All Night Cafe had several main meals on offer as well as soups, hot drinks and a range of homemade cookies and slices. The All Night Cafe was run by Jean Douglass and her sister. Jean was also the course setter for the event, along with Ron Simpson, and she was also the event co-ordinator. Well done Jean, it was an amazing effort.

The course was interesting. It was set in a fashion commensurate with being an Australian Championship, that is there were no easy controls. All controls required skill to find. In fact I met a team at the water drop who were lamenting the fact that they had failed to find the last four controls they attempted. I think they were in good company, Julian and I duffered, but found, control 80 and failed to find control 46 in the dark. The other thing to note about the course is that it was huge covering about 140 sq km and full of controls, with 68 to choose from. All the controls Julian and I visited were fairly set and we enjoyed the hunt. It’s just a pity that we could only manage to get to about 1/3 of all the controls on offer.

Julian and I had planned a gentlemanly approach to the rogaine which involved coming back to the hash house for a well earned mid competition sleep. However, not all plans come to fruition and at midnight and we were several hours away from the hash house when Julian suggested that we “bivouac” instead of returning to the hash house. Bivouacing may sound exciting but it was cold and windy and I kept thinking about my mattress and two pillows in my tent. Anyway, we crawled off into the bush near control 60 and slept for several hours until we became so cold that we just had to get up and keep going. It got down to -1.1 degrees at nearby Cooma Airport with the wind chill making it feel like -5.1 degrees. Needless to say Julian and I were wearing everything we had with us and we also broke open our space blankets to stop from freezing. Sleeping rough, until the cold of night forces you to go on, is a strategy Julian and I also employed at the Garland Valley 24 hour event a couple of years ago.

Our warm and comfy tents which we didn’t get to use on Saturday night.

There were a number of performances from my NSW colleagues that were worth a mention. Gill Fowler and Jess Baker won the women’s category and came 8th overall. Mike Hotchkis and Tristan White teamed up to come 4th overall and 3rd in the men’s event. Mike and Tristan are an interesting pairing. Mike is a Super Veteran and Tristan was in the Under 23s until last year. Mike has been an outstanding rogainer for many years and is a bit of a legend in our sport. Tristan is at the vanguard of a new generation of outstanding rogainers. It would have been interesting to attach a GoPro to one of them to watch the action and hear the discussions. Mike would have won the men’s veterans and men’s super veterans if he had been competing with someone from his own age group, but having said that, there are very few super veterans who could keep up with Mike. Also well done to Colleen and Colin Mock who came 2nd in the mixed ultra veteran’s event.

Still on the subject of NSW performances Ivan Koudashev and his sister Elena won the Mixed Juniors and were the second placed junior team. I will be interested to see how well they perform when they are no longer juniors. If they stick with rogaining they may well be household names in the rogaining community for decades to come. Nihal Danis and Sue Clarke (now a Queenslander, but a former NSW rogainer) came 2nd in the Women’s Super Veterans and Ted Woodley and John Anderson came third in the Men’s Ultra veterans.

On the flip side of the coin Richard Sage and Walter Keleman (a Queenslander, but a former NSW rogainer) were so late that they were disqualified. Richard and Walter are both fine rogainers and have more than 40 years of rogaining between them. Rumour has it that not only did they miss a control, but they were also significantly topographically embarrassed (i.e. lost) and that is why they were very late back. What is certain is that Richard and Walter were soundly beaten by a team comprising their better halves (Nihal and Sue).

I can’t finish this post without talking about the terrain. It was similar to terrain in the Tarlo River rogaine. Its was great for rogaining but it is very marginal country with little evidence of life outside of the odd kangaroo and a wombat or two. Walking through that country you can understand why it is available for rogaining as it would be pretty useless for farming. Thanks to Laurie Scheele the owner of 30% of the course for sharing his country with us. I am told there are koalas on the course but I couldn’t find them, having said that though, it is hard to look for koalas during a rogaine without falling over, which is something I did regularly.

Overall the event was very well organised and there were a lot of tired but smiling people at the end. I confess a slight sense of regret that relatively few people took advantage of the event. There were only 153 teams in a course that could accommodate three or four times that.

Thanks very much to my ACT colleagues for putting on (and winning) a great event.

The End of an Era

It’s the end of an era. Welcome to the era of Teslin.

Teslin, for those of you not up with the latest innovations in rogaining, is that “paper” on which we have started to print maps. Teslin is water proof and very strong. I used an unprotected Teslin map in the National Championships on the weekend and the unprotected map survived the event in almost perfect condition, unlike its carrier who has a scratched head from walking into a tree branch.

For those of you are interested “Teslin” is a brand name of its manufacturer PPG and according to their website “PPG TESLIN® substrate is a microporous, dimensionally stable, highly filled, single-layer, polyolefin synthetic material. A non-abrasive inorganic filler comprises 60 percent of the weight, and it is 65 percent air by volume.
The porous, uncoated nature of Teslin substrate absorbs inks, adhesives, coatings, and laminating films to form strong interlocking bonds with the substrate that secure printed data.”

It is interesting that the word “paper” is not mentioned and while Teslin claims it is recyclable I am not sure if it is recycled as a plastic or a paper. In any case, I would not dream of recycling my rogaining maps. The kids can throw them out after I have passed on.

In days gone by the first thing competitors did at a rogaine was cover their map with contact but like the horse and buggy this is a rarely viewed sight these days.

The picture below is my team mate, Julian Ledger, who is not as yet convinced by the power of Teslin. Here he is displaying his contacting artistry having covered the huge National Championship map (bigger than two A3 sheets) without any air bubbles on the front. (The back was not so pretty :<)

Julian proudly displaying his map contacting skill.

The other thing to note about Teslin is that it was great at taking a significant portion of the skin off my lips. I put my map in my mouth, at one stage, to scramble up something and when I pulled it out again I found the skin of my lips were now part of the “microporous, dimensionally stable” substrate.

Personally, I never had much patience for contacting and in any case I used to delegate that task to my wife who is a school teacher and could contact a sand castle, without air bubbles, in her sleep.

Welcome to the era of Teslin!