10 reasons why you should compete in the 24 hour NSW Championship

There are many reasons why you should compete in the 24 hour at the NSW Championship and here are some:

1. Is is cheaper than the 8 hour event
Both the 8 hour event and the 24 hour event costs $100 ($75 concession) and therefore the 24 hour event costs $4.17 per hour rather than $12.5 per hour. So rather than subsidising those elite rogainers you can become one and have others subsidise you.

2. It’s good for your ego.
I don’t know about you but after I have been in a 24 hour event I tell everyone and I expect them to be impressed. Even if your ego is not as fragile as mine and you do not feel the need to tell everyone you can still eye yourself in the mirror and say “yeah I did that” to yourself.

3. You will create permanent memories.
I can guarantee you that you will remember the experience. I remember every 24 hour event I ever did. Even when I am a drooling mess in my nursing home and I can’t remember my own children, I reckon I will still be reliving some 24 hour rogaine in my head.

4. You will challenge yourself.
I used to think, if only I were fitter then rogaining would be easier. After 23 years of rogaining I have realised that the fitter you are the harder and faster you go so the rogaine still hurts about the same, and possibly more, because you are driven to try and get a place on the podium.

5. Why drive for 6 hours and compete for 8 when you can compete for 24.
For most of us Mount Werong is a 3+ hour trip each way. It seems sub optimal to drive for over six hours and only compete for 8.

6. You will improve your navigation.

The course setters have assured us that the controls have been set in a fashion commensurate with a state championship. This means that there will be few gifts. Do not expect controls to be on creek or road junctions or on the top of some peak. You will have to work for your points. Every point will be hard won and you can be proud of every point you get, particularly after dark.
As a result your navigation will be challenged and will improve.

7. You will get to know your team mate(s) really well.
It is hard to be your polite, accommodating and jovial self for a full 24 hours of competition. At some stage during the 24 hours your team mates will reveal themselves under stress and you will see a new side of them which, in my experience, will help to cement the friendship (or destroy it).

8. You will see more of Mount Werong.
For those of you who have not done an event at Mount Werong it is a really lovely area of bush with some interesting features and it is difficult to do it justice in a mere 8 hours.

9. You will get fitter.
This is obvious. Fitter people live longer and enjoy a higher quality of life.

10. The 8 hour event is not the Championship event.
You can’t really brag about competing in the NSW Championships unless you enter the 24 hour event. The 8 hour event is not the championship event.

11. Sleep is overrated.
Life is great and I resent the fact that I lose a third of it to sleep. A 24 hour event is a chance to rail against the gods of sleep and get more out of your life.

12. Join rogaining’s upper class.
Your social status in rogaining is not defined by what car you drive or what you do for a living. It is defined by how hard and how long you compete. Competing for longer moves you up the social strata of rogaining. (There will be more about roagining’s class structure in a subsequent post.)

13. You do not have to compete for 24 hours.
A family friendly weekend can be had rogaining, it is not all about competition. You can grab your spouse and your kids and have a weekend away at Mount Werong, which is a lovely place. In between camping and sitting around the fire you can grab the odd control.

I look forward to seeing you all on the field of battle in the wee hours of Sunday the 8th of October. Even if you can’t do the 24 hour event, make sure you do the 8 since it will be a great event.

Those of you who are observant will notice I promised ten reasons but have delivered thirteen. If this annoys you then you missed your opportunity to stop reading after ten. If this doesn’t annoy you then enjoy the added value. You can pick your top 10 favourite reasons and cite them to your spouse when begging for leave, or better still, while persuading them to join you in the 24 hour event.

Ciara Smart’s account of the 2017 World Rogaining Championships in Rēzekne, Latvia

And they say Australia is inhospitable!
This year I was lucky enough to travel to Latvia to compete in the World Rogaining Championships, along with nearly a thousand others. At the closing ceremony of the previous World Championships, held near Alice Springs in Australia, I recall the Latvian representative finishing her spiel by stating this Rogaine would be ‘spinifex free.’ While that might have been true this Rogaine definitely challenged my vision of Europe as a landscape defined by open, rolling green countryside!
At this rogaine Australia was the sixth most represented country with a healthy 30 participants. Unsurprisingly, Latvia dominated the field with 409 participants followed by Russia with 165. I was competing with Murray Pinnock.

The event was held in Rēzekne National Park in the south east part of the country. Upon arrival the night before the competition, we were treated to Latvian folk music and discovered that a catering company was providing beer on tap! A display was also set up to familiarise us with the plethora of hazardous flora in the region. In particular we were to look out for a tall plant called ‘hogweed’ which causes the skin to blister upon contact with its sap. Additionally we were to avoid ticks as they carry a number of diseases in this region including Lyme disease. The bears however were harmless!

On the morning of the big day we awoke to extremely heavy rain and the campsite soon became awash with mud. At 9am we balanced umbrellas as we diligently queued for the map handout. The map itself was exceptionally detailed and was dotted with small farmsteads encircled by (supposedly) open farmland. It was much closer to an orienteering map than a standard rogaine map. Looking at the map revealed the extent of the marshland and rivers that define this region. The course area alone included 193 lakes and ponds!

In addition to the standard compulsory equipment, this rogaine also required us to carry our passports in case we should become so geographically misplaced that we wander over the nearby Russian border, or encounter any Russian border police. The top teams in this event were carrying GPS devices that relayed their position back to the hash house and then onto the web. All other teams also had their scores broadcast as they passed set recording points. This was highly successful in making this notoriously spectator unfriendly sport enjoyable to watch.
As it approached noon the weather cleared to reveal an exceptionally sunny, humid day. At midday we set off in a huge crowd. As usual, we travelled to the first few checkpoints in an ant-trail but soon lost the crowds. I was not entirely sure what to expect of the Latvian landscape but the name of one Australian team, ‘Flatvia,’ was quite appropriate. While the landscape was not steep, off-track progress was very slow due to the thickness of the undergrowth. I had made the poor decision of wearing standard Australian rogaining kit of shorts, t-shirt and gaiters. I very quickly regretted this decision once I was breaking a trail through head high nettles. You could easily tell the Australians from the Europeans, the Australians wearing broad-brimmed hats and loose fitting clothing in comparison to European lycra.

Shortly we realized that many of the marked river ‘crossings’ were in fact large beaver dams. They proved remarkably stable considering the hundreds of feet that crossed them in the space of a few short hours. But the marshlands and swamp were impossible to avoid. Within two hours of the start we were in shin-high mud. The particular dampness of this Rogaine led to worse than usual blister problems among competitors. While Murray and I avoided blisters, there were a large number of early withdrawals for this reason. The marshes also led to huge mosquito problems.
Our first few hours went well until we made the costly error of overshooting a control, hitting an unmarked trail and becoming totally disorientated. We lost considerable time here and for a while I had terrible visions of us wandering off into Belarus. Unlike an Australian event, I had truly no idea where I was in the broader context of the region! It also proved challenging adapting to reading a map in a landscape where I had no familiarity. Unlike an Australian rogaine, all the marked rivers had water and there was scarcely a gully to be seen!
Eventually we hit a major road and re-orientated ourselves. The next control involved crossing more than 2 kilometers through a supposedly open ‘field.’ In reality this field was like many others in the region, largely overgrown and the marked road was little more than a narrow foot-track through head high vegetation. The population of Latvia is in decline and this is most marked in rural areas where many farms are abandoned and the fields have been left to wildflowers and nettles.
As it became dark and the competition progressed, navigation became easier. The soft soil quickly developed defined foot tracks that were easy to follow. This very much suited running teams who were already in their element on the flat terrain.

Map handout in the rain

It was interesting to be competing in an area that was not ‘wilderness’ in the Australian sense as it meant that the event had points of cultural interest, like drawing murky water from a well at a marked waterpoint! Around midnight we had the eerie experience of stumbling out of the forest onto a large soviet-era apartment block. It was totally abandoned and stood on the outskirts of a tiny village. Later, at 2am we were confused as we watched bright lights travel at foot-pace towards us. As it came closer, we realized in fact it was a man leading a large horse on the road, being guided by a car. I’ll never know why it was necessary to walk a horse at such an hour.

Locals had been informed that the event was taking place so most of the farm dogs were locked away but it was still nerve-racking to cross farms in the dark to unfriendly barking. The locals themselves seemed understandably perplexed by the hordes of muddy sports-wear clad foreigners ducking in and out of forest and across their farms.
As the sun rose in the morning the temperature increased exponentially. Like many rogaines, the final hour was defined by a slog along a road. We finished on 187 points, placing ourselves 76 out of 156 mixed open teams and fifth in the mixed juniors. We had walked 74km in total. Considering this was our first overseas event, we were pleased with our respectable result. We had scratches, stings and sore knees to show for it and spent the next few days recuperating in the beautiful capital city of Riga.