I really enjoyed the 2018 Paddy Pallin event at Kitchener. I had not rogained in the area before, but I look forward to competing there again if the opportunity arises.
The course was interesting because it was large and very well mapped. The map included detail from three Newcastle Orienteering Clubs’ maps and it showed. There was a lot of detail built into the 1:25000 scale. In many respects it was a orienteerer’s course because you needed to constantly check the fine detail on the map to score well.
My team mates and I had a pretty good rogaine. We really only made two errors that cost us more than a minute or so. The first mistake was mine and it was a bit embarrassing. We were looking for control 76 “The Bridge – East side of tunnel”. Because we were looking for a bridge I switched off mentally, because how could anyone walk over a bridge and not notice. Team mate Julian suggested we had just crossed “the bridge” and I ignored him, but I had to eat humble pie about a minute later when I saw a side trail which told me that Julian was right (again). In fairness it wasn’t much of a bridge, it was just a pipe with dirt over it, but this was one of those courses where you just cannot afford to switch off.
The landscape was interesting. There had been mining in the area up until the 60’s and there were many remnants of mining works. There were also many tracks, most of them seemed to be kept open by trail bikes. The course also resembled a bit of a used car cemetery as there were many very old abandoned cars on the course. There were also a lot of controls on the course and they were not so far apart which kept us constantly scanning the map.
The vegetation was almost perfect for rogaining. Much of it was open forest and the thick stuff was marked with the accuracy of an orienteering map. The ground was easy underfoot and notably neither my team mates or I fell over during the event, which is a bit unusual. The weather was also perfect for rogaining it was a cool 15C which is perfect going hard and avoiding heat stress.
Team mate Julian camped at the Kitchener public school on Saturday night while John Clancy and I spent a very civilised night in a motel in Aberdare. I do not mind camping, but with 4C forecasted and lots of motels near by, it was an easy decision. We also got to watch France down Australia in the World Cup in our motel room. We even let Julian watch since his 30+ year old tent did not include a television. In fact the arrangement was perfect, Julian picked up the maps first thing in the morning, and then drove to our motel room to pick us up. We then spent a pleasant hour course planning in McDonalds at Cessnock. My theory is that Julian likes camping just so he can show off his very old tent with dual chimneys. To be fair it is the only tent I know that has dual chimneys, it is also Australian made (Wilderness Equipment), but takes about two days to erect and it’s time he bought himself a new one, without the bloody chimneys.
The day was also notable because the event included many competitors who are legends of our sport. At the end of the event, Peter Tuft, one of the founders of rogaining in NSW spoke about the 2019 Australian Champs which he is organising in Tasmania (book your holiday now). Another one of the founders of our sport, Bert van Netten, competed and he and his partner, Ted Woodley, beat my team. Not only did they score 190 points more than we did, they also walked about 2 kms less. We will get them next time. Another founder of our sport, Ian Dempsey, vetted the course.
Historically rogaine maps were off the shelf maps (the Navshield event still is) with red circles drawn on freehand. The 2018 PP rogaine has set a new standard in terms of mapping detail and accuracy for a 1:25000 map. Is this the natural evolution of our sport or are we in danger of going overboard? Certainly this event set a mapping standard that can only be maintained with the aid of orienteering base maps. Having said that, the fine detail was appreciated when trying to find controls in a complex jigsaw of eroded gulleys.
Overall, we had a really enjoyable event and we hope everyone else did as well. Sam Howe did a great job with the course. There was a heap of route choice and teams spread out nicely across the course. Bob Gilbert did a great job coordinating the event and acting as MC at the presentation. Bob and the Newcastle team are very active supporters of rogaining and their work is greatly appreciated. Also a big thank you to the Paddy Pallin organisation for their ongoing support of our sport.
The only thing that could have made the day better would have been beating Ted and Bert, but we will have to wait to the next event to do that.
On Saturday I competed in the Wingello Wingaine and I was very glad I did.
I have competed at Wingello before and I like the area. The bush varies from pine tree plantations to open forest and fight scrub. My partner Julian, and I, elected to do the 12 hour event and I was very much looking forward to putting my night navigation skills to the test and wow were they tested.
Having picked up our maps on Saturday morning, the first thing we noticed was that there were no 90 or 100 pointers on the course and there was only one really easy control on the entire course (Control 21 on a road junction). I think course setter Mike Hotchkis must have been channelling his Scottish heritage because he wasn’t giving any points away, in fact I think Mike had set a couple of the most difficult 20 pointers in rogaining history. There was control 22 which was only 400 meters from the hash house but was in a huge section of pine forest but with no helping features for at least 300 metres. The average time taken to bag control 22 was 18 minutes and 20 secs. I am not sure how many people found this control at night time but they deserve real kudos (and a mental health check for even attempting it). The map also included control number 24 which was only about 80 metres from a fire trail on a supposed knoll. This “knoll”, it turned out, was only about 3mm higher than the surrounding ground. Julian and I forgot to take our micrometre and theodolite and found the control in the dark through sheer luck.
Soon after the event started so did the rain, in fact it rained for 3 hours. I had a token raincoat on but it made no difference I was wet and cold the entire event (and loving it). In fact the warmest I was at anytime during the event was when I fell, waist deep, into the creek between controls 82 and 63.
Julian and I had a very good start. Despite walking at a leisurely pace we were the first team to control 64, via 35 and 46. The wheels fell off a bit when we tried an open country traverse from controls 74 to 83. We spent too long in fight scrub, travelling about 1 km per hour. We both decided that we were not having fun fighting through this dense scrub so we turned and headed north looking for easier going. Fortunately, we found the going easier once we crossed over the watershed of the ridge and the detour through the thick stuff didn’t end up costing us much. It is interesting that the average time taken for the traverse from 74 to 83 was 1:00:56. That is a long time just to gain 80 points. Once again evidence that Mike wasn’t giving anything away.
I confess I am a pine forest junkie. I like rogaining through pine forest at night. There is something about pine forest navigation that draws me in and I am not really sure why why. Perhaps it is the fact that pine forests are usually on relatively flat, featureless ground and it can take real navigational skill to find a control in the middle of a section of pine forest. I was pretty happy with Julian and my navigation skills during this event. We found everything we looked for, which many good teams didn’t, and we scored 40% of our points after dark. Admittedly, things were not perfect. It took us two attempts to bag controls 32 and 31 and as mentioned before we found control 24 by pure luck as we were on our way back to the road to try again. The other thing to note about the event is how lonely it was out on the course. We saw a bunch of people on the creek traverse from control 82 to 63 but other than that we spent most of the day and night alone. Mind you I am not complaining. I like finding the controls with my team mate and not being distracted by other teams. The problem with following other teams is that the “herd” mentality gets to you and you tend to follow rather than rely on your own skills. Julian and I have about 160 events under our belts between us and we really should know better than to try and follow someone else. Having said this I was very grateful to follow another team into control 41 last night because we got there about 7pm and were were both pretty knackered at that stage (we both perked up a bit when we got into the pine forest).
While wandering around last night trying to squeeze points out of Mike’s course, my thoughts turned to the Novices. This was not an easy event for the novices, but I noted that a novice 12 hour team, the Migrating Wombats, scored 850 points. Great job guys. The other thing to note about the course is that it was a great leveller. I think a few of the teams that usually score really well might have found their navigation skills fully tested by Mike’s course.
Mike Hotchkis was ably assisted in the course setting by David Griffith, Ian Almond and Chris Waring. Thanks to all. Julian and I had a really good time testing our navigation skills against this course, in the light and in the dark. If you didn’t take up the 12 hour option at yesterday’s event you missed a great opportunity to test your skills against quite a challenging course.
The navigation workshop was just great fun. Many newbies and some experienced rogainers learned how to improve their skill of bush navigation from some of our sport’s pros. For my part I was one of the coaches and despite 24 years of rogaining I also learned a few things from the sport’s real pros.
My wife, Dianne, and good friend John Clancy volunteered to do the catering and we arrived late on Friday night and started unloading food from the car into the kitchen at the Rydal Showground. As soon as the kitchen door was opened, in popped Gertrude, the campground’s pet sheep. Apparently no one told Gertrude that we had hired the Campground for the weekend, because according to Gertrude if the kitchen door is open it was her right to be in there. We must have ejected Gertrude from the kitchen about a dozen times. Gertrude was also trying to make friends with our dog Maple. Maple is a cavoodle and about 1/20th the size of Gertrude and was quite wary of this huge woolly thing that was trying to make friends.
We eventually unloaded all of our food and ejected Gertrude one more time and went to bed. The next exciting thing that happened was that a huge wind followed by a brief rain storm thundered across the campground. Thankfully, Di, Sophie, my 11 year old daughter, and I had decided to camp inside the hall and were not out in the wind storm in a tent. I am sure those who stayed in a tent on Friday night were very concerned about being blown to Mudgee while still in their tent. The wind raged all night and I am sure those in a tent probably got little sleep.
Saturday morning broke and the 50+ participants and 15 coaches arrived at the Campground and coaches and teams were matched up. The first exercise was held east of the showground in a mix of natural bush and pine forest. After a brief chat about compasses and navigation basics we set off hunting for controls. The path to the first control we selected was made unusually difficult by a mess of fallen pine trees in the gully. I have been rogaining at Rydal several times and it is lovely open forest which is almost perfect for rogaining but navigating this mess of fallen pine trees was not what I had planned for the day. It seems I should not have worried since once we had bagged the first control we moved away from pine tree hell and into some lovely open forest.
My team of coachees were very fast learners and after the first couple of controls they were taking compass bearings and heading off into the wilderness like seasoned pros. After a couple of hours of this we returned to the hash house to be lectured by a couple of our sport’s elite athletes. Gill Fowler spoke on the theory and practice of navigation and Joel Mackay spoke about what food and equipment to take on a rogaine.
I am sure everyone found these talks fascinating. I was reminded by Gill about “aiming off”. This is something I plan to put in practice in future rogaines. I was also fascinated by Joel’s talk and on what to eat and what to carry. Until Joel’s talk I was a keen advocate of carrying sports drink in my hydration bladder. Having learned that it probably makes no difference, I will, in future, be content just carrying water.
After Joel’s talk the participants were all invited to measure their stride length in preparation for a night navigation exercise and after dinner we set off. Navigating at night time can be quite daunting for newbies, so I was keen to make the experience a good one.
We found the first control with relative ease and heading towards control number “9”. When arrived at where I thought control 9 should have been, we found other teams but no control. My team had navigated straight for the control so we had to eliminate the possibility of it being further up or down the gully. Once we had eliminated both of these possibilities, I doubted my own navigation skills and we headed to the next gully to check if we had pulled up short. I was thinking “Great coach I am, I cannot find a control only 300 metres from the last one in a reasonably well defined gully”.
We still didn’t find the control and at this stage, I knew it was my mistake and we headed for a known feature, a fire trail and track junction, to try again. This time I was making sure that our bearing and pace counting was perfect and a few minutes later we arrived at the exact same spot with no control in sight. By this stage I had to face up to the fact that I was rubbish at night navigation or the flag was not where it should be. There were other teams about, so I left my team standing in the dark while I sought out the other coaches to ask them if they had found the control. Having spoken to Ted Woodley and Joel Mackay both of whom could also not find the control we determined that the control was indeed not where it should be and we headed off to try a different control.
In hindsight, this was probably a really good lesson in what to do when you cannot find a control and it even occurred to me that perhaps this was some sort of sadistic test Gill had set for us. The reality was a little more mundane because the control has simply been hung in the wrong gully. I was very pleased by my team’s quick learning and after the fiasco with control number 9 they quickly found a couple of difficult controls in the pitch black and everyone’s confidence, including mine, was restored.
My Scary Experience
I am not often scared rogaining at night, but this night proved to be an exception. When we got near one of the controls I thought I could see movement behind one of the trees. Normally, I would just pass this off as an animal, but the movement was human height and seemed to be staying behind the tree. I am over 6 foot tall, male and almost 100kg, so I am not usually the timid type, but having someone watching you from behind a tree late at night, in the middle of the bush, has got to ring some alarm bells. I was wondering whether Ivan Milat had been let out early, when all of a sudden Mike Hotchkis popped out from behind the tree and scared several precious years from my remaining life.
It seems that Mike had set his team the task of finding this particular control unaided and was going to surprise them when they eventually found the control. Mike is a fine athlete and an outstanding rogainer. In real life Mike is lovely and not a very scary person at all, but what would you think when someone is clearly hiding and watching you from behind a tree, in the forest, in the pitch black?
The next morning we headed out for another practice session in Falnash Forest near Wallerawang. I hadn’t been walking in Falnash Forest before and it was a really lovely experience. It is a gently undulating, open forest, perfect for rogaining.
My team were now behaving like rogaining pros and we bagged control after control with no navigational missteps. I was quite proud of my coachees when they found a control on a poorly defined broad ridge about 400m away from the nearest well defined point.
After Falnash Forest we headed back for lunch and a three hour minigaine starting from the hash house. We were all tired by this stage and we were more interested in navigation than point scoring for this event. Our navigation for this event was good but we were let down by our route choice and ended up getting only 60 points and then lost 30 of these by being 3 minutes late back. At the end of the day the point of the weekend was learning navigation and I sensed that my team were now pretty confident of their abilities.
Rogainers, as a general rule, are capable and intelligent people and I am continually impressed by their willingness to help and to solve problems. A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into a weekend like this to make it a success and we come to expect this but I am still continually surprised by how people just pitch in and get the job done. Some examples were:
• Andrew Duerden, who had also volunteered as coach, listened to me ranting about how much I hate barbequing at close to midnight and volunteered to get up a 5:30am to take the task off my hands. Andrew cooked bacon and eggs for 70 people with a great deal of skill and good humour.
• Ronnie Taib, also there as a coach, spent every spare moment he had washing up and otherwise helping in the kitchen.
• I also must acknowledge the efforts of my wife, Di, and good friend John Clancy who spent the whole weekend doing nothing but feeding 70 hungry rogainers. The food was fabulous and more closely resembled a restaurant than a rogaine.
• Mike Hotchkis, Toni, Smiffy and Phil Titterton who, after a long and tiring weekend of walking, happily disappeared into the bush, once more, to pick up controls by themselves for a few hours.
• Thanks also to Richard Sage for bringing the catering trailer to the event. Not only did he have to drive across the mountains towing a heavy trailer, which is an unpleasant task, but towing the trailer means that he has to be one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave.
• I don’t know all the names of the people that helped. Some women I had didn’t recognise cut veggies for 70 with the speed and skill of a Michelin chef. Gary Roberts was also a regular presence in the kitchen doing what he could, including the unpleasant task of taking home bags of rubbish for disposal.
• I also need to acknowledge the 15 coaches who willingly gave up their weekend to share their skills with others.
• The final thanks must go to Gill. Without Gill’s efforts the event simply would not have taken place
I am continually impressed by the generosity and capability of the rogaining community.
With the Navigation Workshop coming up in April, I thought I would write some of my thoughts and experiences about night navigation.
My first experience of night navigation was during my first event, which was the 1994 Australian Championships at Bethungra (near Cootamundra). Prior to entering this event I had never used a compass at night, but that still made me the team expert, because my two companions had never used a compass at all.
I was really pleased with my control finding ability until the wheels fell off about 2 in the morning. We found a tricky control about midnight and then proceeded to the next control about a kilometre away. We never found it.
By 2am I had to admit that not only did we not find the control, but I had absolutely no idea where we were. We could see teams moving by headlight in the distance, but pride prevented me from trying to find them and ask for assistance. So rather than move around and get more lost (if that was possible) we slept on the ground until dawn. Once the sun rose the surrounding mountains made it pretty clear where we were and we headed back to the hash house.
From that night on I was hooked on rogaining and rogaining at night still has a special place in my heart. Rogaining at night is an interesting emotional roller coaster. With many emotions playing out as the night unfolds.
The first phase is panic as you rush to get as many controls as possible by the failing light.
The second phase is melancholy. Being at home just after dark usually means food, company and TV (or Youtube these days). Home, just after dark, is a very hospitable place. The bush, just after dark, is quite an inhospitable place and demons tend to lurk in your brain. More than once, just after it has gone dark on a rogaine, I have asked myself “What the hell am I doing here?”
The third phase of this emotional roller coaster is acceptance. Acceptance of the fact that it is dark and you need to shift mentally into night mode. Night mode means pace counting and careful navigation using the lesser number of clues that are available at night.
The fourth phase of night navigation is confidence. Confidence comes at the time you have bagged a couple of controls in the dark and you have your pace counting distance down pat and you are starting to score serious points despite the handicap of the darkness. It’s a great feeling, but it never lasts.
The fifth phase of night navigation is “the fog”. No not a literal fog, it is the fog that enters your brain from fatigue and being awake when your body is screaming for sleep. This fog has caused me (and my rogaining colleagues) to make some horrible navigation decisions. I distinctly recall my partner, Julian Ledger, and me walking up the wrong valley for 45 mins, at the Garland valley rogaine, and then looking for a control that wasn’t there before realising we had made an appalling mistake. That is what the “fog” does to you. Human beings just weren’t meant to be awake between 2 and 5 in the morning. My sister is a long term nurse on night shift and she gets my respect.
Assuming you don’t walk off a cliff while enduring “the fog” the next phase of night navigation is optimism. This is the optimism brought on by more points under your belt and an emerging dawn. There is something special about the optimism combined with the inevitable fatigue of rogaining into morning’s first light.
Night navigation also brings funny moments. I can’t remember which rogaine it was, but it had been raining and we had to ford the upper reaches of Cox’s river. It was a very cloudy night so it was pitch black. I had no idea how deep the river was going to be at the the ford so, pushed for time, I proceeded straight in. My rogaining partner baulked when the water reached chest deep, but I told him he was being precious and we proceeded across the river. Halfway across the river, chest deep in water, I could hear some people crossing the river next to us. I turned my light to look and see another team crossing the barely ankle deep river at the ford which was only about 3 metres away.
That partner never did another rogaine. I am not sure if it was the “ford incident” or the fact that it rained most of the night or the fact that one of our headlights failed and we had to share a headlight for the rest of the night (when I say share, he wore it all night).
In conclusion, I love night navigation. At the risk of being a bigot, the best rogaining is done at night and the best rogainers barely slow down as they trot uphill and down dale finding control after control regardless of what challenges stand in their way.
Rather than learning night navigation the hard way, like I did, come along to Navigation Workshop in April. Imbued by the skills learnt at the Navigation Workshop your nights in the bush will be full of confidence until “the fog” gets you.
What’s wrong with Rogaining? I reckon there is nothing wrong with rogaining. I love the sport and I have been happily competing for 23 years now and I am looking forward to giving the Super Veterans a run for their money when I qualify next year. So I am probably the wrong person to answer this question.
Consider the following graph:
This graph tells us that about half of all rogainers only ever attend 1 event and few rogainers ever compete in more than 4 events.
Why do few rogainers ever attend more than 4 events? I do not know.
What I do know is that while rogaining participation rates have been growing gradually, participation in other adventure sports have been growing exponentially.
What I also know is that most rogainers prefer the shorter events.
This year’s NSW Champs was a fabulous event but only 81 people took the field for the 24 hour Championship event and numbers for the NSW Champs have historically been well less than half the number that attend the Paddy Pallin event each year.
I am on the NSW Rogaining Committee and contributed to the Strategic Plan, so I think this Strategic Plan embraces a series of strategies that we need to put into place to improve the participation rates in our sport, but I would love to hear from those with other ideas. I would also love to hear from those who think these are the right set of strategies to improve participation rates in our sport.
I do not remember much about studying ancient history at school but I do remember the class structure of Ancient Greek society and the “Pentacosiomedimni” whose wealth can be defined as being greater than 500 bags of wheat. Like Ancient Greek society rogaining has its own class structure, of which I have been a student for more than 20 years. For those of you who have noticed the different classes but have been unable to put you finger on the differences, or have confused them for competition categories, read on and I will de-mystify them.
The lowest class in rogaining society is the carefree. You can tell The Carefree because they are actually enjoying themselves. They do not care much for the point score, they are out for a day’s walk enjoying the weather and the scenery. You can tell The Carefree because they score about 1/10th of the winner’s score and are smiling before, during and after the event. They are sometimes accompanied by children and often camp at the events, enjoying the conversation around the campfire as much as scoring points. The Carefree use the whole event as a excuse to go camping with the bunch of others. The Carefree might be regular participants at events, however are quite content to leave mid event if the timetable does not suit them. They do not wear gaiters since they are not required. The Carefree are not interested in climbing the rogaining social ladder and can be described at “earthy” or “spiritual” people. They will stop mid rogaine and have a three course lunch.
The Casual rogainer can be easily differentiated from The Carefree because they care about their point score but not enough to improve their rogaining. The Casual rogainers will attend at most two events a year and only then if they are held in convenient or attractive locations. These people enjoy rogaines but would not really call themselves rogainers or list it as one of their past times on their cv. The Paddy Pallin events attract a lot of casual rogainers. Casual rogainers will compete to the finish of the event but probably not stay for the awards. They might or might not check their score on the web site over the next few days. Casual rogainers will take a full meal for lunch and stop and eat it. They also take regular stops throughout the event.
The Competent are the back bone of rogaining. They know how to use their compass but prefer straight lines to contouring on the course. Typically the competent will attend 10-15 rogaines over their lifetime and score somewhere between half and 2/3 of the winner’s score. The Competent do not run and do not do night rogaines since both of these activities seem pointless or too hard. The Competent will stop briefly for lunch or dinner during the event.
The Committed list rogaining as one of their hobbies on their cv. Typically they go to 4 or more events each year and will do more than 20 events in their life time. The committed probably train for rogaines and can be seen studying their rogaining map for days after the event. The Committed do not throw out their rogaining maps and keep them forever and sometimes break them out to show friends. The committed usually score around 2/3 of the winners’ score and one day hope to make the podium. The Committed will only rogaine with someone of similar ability since they do not want to be slowed by a less capable partner, no matter how good looking they are.
The Committed are jealous of The Crazys and want to join their ranks but either their body fails them or they have job or family commitments which prevent them from doing 10 hours of bush running each week. The Committed may be seen running part of an event but do not have the legs to run for more an hour or so. The Committed love night navigation because it gets them closer to The Crazys who can not run as quickly in the dark. The Committed hate to stop during an event and will only do so for a nature break or a food stop if they are forced to.
The Crazy are easy to recognise, they are the ones on the podium. They are the ones that actually win events. The Crazies do not attend events unless they have a free weekend between climbing Mt Everest naked or swimming the Nile with lead weights around their arms and legs. I first identified The Crazy as a class of rogainers during the 1995 Australian Champs. The event started at midday and it bucketed down rain for seven hours. One of my team was suffering hypothermia and we had all had a gut full when we gave it away about midnight. I remember sticking my head out of my tent about 2am and I saw a team jogging on it way to the next control. At this point I realised the existence of The Crazy class of rogainers. The Crazys are the ones who run for the entire event and measure their distance covered to the nearest 10 kms. The Crazys do not eat anything other than gel and protein bars during an event. It is easy to identify The Crazys at an event they are the ones dressed in running gear at the start of an event.
Rogaining Classes and their Cars
Understanding the social structure of rogaining can give you valuable insights into the people and their preferences. Look around the car park at an event, for example, and you will be able to identify from which class the owner belongs. For example if you spy a Prius, A Hyundai or a Kia it probably belongs to one the The Carefree, who do not want to work too hard and are not out to impress, other than with their green credentials.
If you see a luxury European car it is likely to be driven a member of The Casual class of rogainers. More experienced rogainers would not risk bring a nice car along the roads lead to a rogaine. One of The Competent class would probably drive a sensible family car, possibly a four wheel drive but one that you would be happy to take to golf or church. The Competent may well have a nice European car in the garage at home but would not risk bringing it to the event.
The Committed will usually drive a serious four wheel drive car to the event. They spend a lot of time in the bush and need a capable car. If you see a crappy car in the car park at a rogaine it will probably belong to one of The Crazys. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, The Crazys spend so much time training and competing that they do not climb the work totem pole very well and can’t afford a flashy car. Secondly, The Crazys would prefer to spend their money on a carbon fibre paddle for their racing kayak or on air tickets to compete at an event in Ulaanbaatar. Thirdly the Crazys experience little no joy from possessions, their pleasure is derived from beating everyone else on the sporting field.
Moving Between Classes
The good news is that you can move between classes, although once you are a part of The Crazy you normally staff there. As they grow old they win veteran, then the super veteran and ultra veteran category at events, they do not usually move down in class. The Carefree also do not often move classes competition is not really in their DNA and have no desire to chase a point score. There is however regular movement between the other classes. A member of The Casual may move to The Competent and ultimately to The Committed. Equally a member of The Committed class may move to be a member of The Casuals as family time pressure lessens their commitment.
What about me?
I am a member of The Committed. I wish I was good enough to be one of The Crazys but I have never found the training time and now I am have more time in my mid 50s my body is starting to limit my potential. I have only been a member of The Committed for the last 5 or so years. For the 18 years of rogaining before that I was a member of The Competent.
Finally, a small puzzle…
Dave Williams nominated as his favourite place on the course, “the dramatic knife-edge spur above 92 on the way from 70. We timed it perfectly with great views east just before sunset.”
Here is a great example of the difficult country that the top teams encountered on the eastern side of the course.
Which route would you choose between 70 and 92?
a) 50m climb SE to top of mountain, 80m descent S to the knife-edge ridge, 200m descent SSW to Devils Creek & 50m climb to the flag, or
b) Contour around the first summit to the knife-edge ridge, avoiding the 50m climb & descent, or you might
c) Contour SW from 70 to that contour with “1000” on it, take the 150m descent S on the spur, past the “E” in Devils, down the creek to the junction N of 92, or
d) Is there a better alternate option?, or
e) Better still, avoid that area altogether View the full map here …
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.
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.
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.
I confess I was a bit nervous when I read pre-event information which included the line “Gaiters or other leg coverings (full body cover recommended)”. I have done the Lake Macquarie event a few times over my last 23 years of rogaining and I have had my fair share of wrestling with lawyer vine. Therefore I was prepared for a “tough day at the office”. So I was pleasantly surprised that my team mate Carl and I did very little scrub fighting during the event. In fact the only tough stuff we encountered was on a western approach to Control 50.
It was team mate Carl’s 3rd rogaine (the previous two were not really bush rogaines) and I think he was a bit aghast when I dived off the track into a patch of fairly impenetrable bush on the way to 50, but being an experienced Lake Macquarie rogainer I realised that once we got through the rubbish on the creek bank the creek itself would probably be easier going. To his credit Carl just followed, picking his own way through the lawyer vine.
Carl had lashed out and bought himself a new compass for the event, which he was using to good effect until we left control 83 and he realised he now had the lanyard with no compass attached. The compass came with a plastic clip which connected the compass to the lanyard. Ironically, during the car ride we had discussed the fact that the clip was not very secure, these words turned out to be prophetic as somewhere Control 83 the plastic clip and compass separated itself from the lanyard. So if anyone found a new looking compass near control 83 Carl would love to get it back since it had only been used for 4 controls.
This year’s Lake Macquarie’s course was an interesting one. The HH was on the east of the course and surrounded by out of bounds areas. Carl and I decided to try a slightly risky strategy of starting the event with a road bash south to Control 102. This was risky because conventional wisdom would have been to do the road bash in the dark on the way back, but I preferred the route choices offered by coming back through the bush. In fact a couple of teams returning along the road were late back. Notably, team 120 of Andrew Wisniewski and Jeremy Crisp did their score a bit of damage by arriving back 20 mins late from Control 102. In fact they would have placed 1st in the Men’s Veteran’s if they had managed to get back on time.
The other thing to note about the course was the number of unmarked trails. There were heaps of them and at least one of them got me. We were en-route from Control 73 to 72 when we came across a fire trail that looked a lot like the one of the map. Carl and I both commented that we thought the fire trail had come too early, but it even had the “Y” head that matched the map. Carl and I charged down this fire trail and started looking for the Control along the gully junction, but sure enough we could not find anything. We were just about to give up looking when I spied Andrew and Nicole Haigh (the overall 6 hour winners – great job guys) and they didn’t seem interested in looking where we were, which was a big hint. In fact, it might be my paranoia creeping up on me, but I think I saw a look of “what on earth are they doing looking there” on Andrew’s face as they flashed by. I have been behind the Haighs during a couple of rogaines over the years and their navigation seems flawless. Watching them rogaine is like reading good poetry. As you can see from the mistakes, on our GPS track below, our rogaining was more like punk than poetry.
We did find control 72 but wasted 19 minutes of valuable time in the process. We also lost a few minutes at Control 102 by not looking far enough down the gully on the first pass and we looked for Control 40 but missed it – but that was more darkness and time pressure than poor navigation. We ended up two and a bit minutes late back having tried to jog back from control 40. It is never much fun trying to jog the last bit of a rogaine and I am continually impressed by those who jog the whole event.
I was reasonably happy with our results:
3rd in Men’s Veteran’s
24 klms covered
1.1 klms up (and down)
Overall I found this year’s (the 25th) Lake Macquarie event really enjoyable and the course was well set. There was good route choice despite the limitation of the out of bounds areas and it was a good test of your rogaining ability. Thanks very much to Bert Van Neten and Ian Dempsey for the course and everyone else helping out to make the event a great success.