Suffering in Silence but no Retreating

The “Abercrombie River Silent Retreat” NSW 24 Rogaining Championships 2018 … by Tristan White

Team 50 – Tristan White & Mike Hotchkis, “Remote Control”

After plodding through cold paddocks and climbing over and under barbed wire fences in the pouring rain just a mere four weeks ago at the so-called “Sun SEQer Rogaine” Australasian Championships, I nonetheless once again decided to put my life on the line and take part in another 24 hours of pain and fatigue, this time being in the more local Abercrombie River National Park. I once again teamed up with Mike Hotchkis, who has been my teammate for about five events in the past couple of years. Although he is a super-veteran (I’d place the emphasis on the word “super” rather than “veteran”) Mike is an outstanding rogainer who rarely is far from the top in any general classification, and seeing his name plastered in several places on the trophy for the overall win, I knew that we were not going to be out there for a casual stroll!

What a place for a Hash House!

I got the train to interconnect with the organised bus at Lithgow station where I caught it with about a dozen other rogainers, a trip that was not without its fair share of excitement – the driver had to constantly slow down to avoid hitting kangaroos and we even chased one 500m down the road! We didn’t arrive till almost 10pm, meaning that all we could do was set up tents and sleep given that the latter wasn’t something I expected to do much of the following day!

We received the A2 maps at 9am and took a brief survey of the land to observe lots (even for 24h rogaine standards) of contours and very few roads so concluded that most of our movement would be off course. As per the typical strategy, we measured the total course distance to determine what portion of CPs we would be likely to collect. Including a 10% buffer margin in straight line distance, I estimated 80km, making us ignorantly optimistic that we could clear the course, and quickly started working out which few CPs we could knock off if we weren’t doing well for time.

In principle I have found 10 pointers in a 24 hour rogaine rarer than a 1930 Australian penny, but this course was littered with seven of them, and I could not get over how difficult many of them looked to get to. But as we both had learned from first-hand experience, 10 points can be the difference between first and second (or first and fourth!), so these had to all be in our planned itinerary for the moment! We planned a loop that went anti-clockwise, on the basis that there were more obscure low scoring CPs that we could knock off at the end, and lined up at the start line.

[It helps to read the rest of this saga with the course map nearby.  If you don’t have a copy you can download it here.]

 

We started off with the run down the watercourse to 65, before the serious climbing began across to 48, 76 and 38 where we saw several competitive faces including John and Mardi Barnes, David Williams and Ronnie Taib, and Gill Fowler and Steven Hanley, but by the time we headed along the western road towards 46 we were alone, followed by the campground at 28. 55 was collected after a minor glitch of running up the wrong watercourse, but was rectified quickly. 27 required a massive effort of descending for such a low score, but nor could we really miss it given it was en route to 57. Finding a Retreat River crossing took some work – despite me reaching the bottom first, Mike seemed to have much better luck with an easy place to cross.  After heading downstream and jumping my way across some precarious stones, I heard Mike’s cheerful voice at the flag itself, with about 200m thick scrub to fight my way through beforehand!

65 – the first triumph of the day

57 was yet another major climb up one spur and down the other (given the terrain we had just crossed we opted to Retreat from following the river).  49 was found uneventfully, and we managed to get to 50 after having a surprisingly easy time following the watercourse and up the spur. I felt that we had been moving reasonably comfortably, but it was 4pm by this time and we were aware that we weren’t nearly far enough in to clear the course. We reached 39 before an unexpected bash through scrub much of the way down to the watercourse near 31. Climbing up a very narrow spur to the CP we ran into our key opponents, David and Ronnie! With a treacherous scramble down to 60 (there had to be a catch to two CPs so close together) we climbed our way back to the road and up the hill to 12 and the water refill point for a much needed resupply, just as Dave and Ronnie were leaving.

Now it was just past 6pm and dusk, we were aware of two obvious things – now was the time to get out the torches, and being theoretically a quarter (20km) the total distance, expecting to clear the course at this point would be like leaving on a porch light for Harold Holt so it was time to think about what CPs could be deleted, in addition to the obvious 23 and 24 which were always big question marks. We made a decision to skip the low scoring 21 and subsequently 40, and instead follow the ridge around from 51 to 62, and get 75 in favour of 32. From the water point, we headed down the spur and curled around to 42, 52, and after a rather gnarly clamber up and down the river’s sides, to 34, where once again David and Ronnie showed their pretty faces (or more correctly, torches.)

D&R silently departed along Silent Creek, whilst we started clambering up the road to 20. As it turned out, they had collected 20 before 42, perhaps cleverly avoiding a massive climb upwards. Looking back that was a good idea, but in the planning stage neither of us blames ourselves for taking the road given the many unfavourable experiences we’ve had in waterlines!

The trip to 30 was surprisingly difficult going up the lower part of the gully, with a huge amount of scrub making us wonder if we were actually on the right track at all, but after several cuts, bruises and yelps we saw the flag, and made our way to 70, which turned out to also be more effort than expected – there was a 10m drop down to “Chain O’Ponds Creek” meaning we had to follow around the spur to the south to find a safe way down. 43 and 51 were found without incident, which was followed by a largely uneventful traverse of the ridge 62. Aside from D&R we had seen nobody since about 13:30 so was a pleasant surprise to run into recent Australasian Ultra Veteran champions Andy Macqueen and Greg King. However this seemed to throw us off, as once we dropped into the watercourse for 62 we saw no sign of it, forcing us to backtrack and realise we’d dropped down too late, a needless waste of 10 minutes, but a reminder to be more careful, particularly as time ticked into the early hours of the morning.

75 was a long way, but found without incident by carefully following a bearing, the same method used to find 33. As it was now after midnight we contemplated going straight to 59, the theoretical halfway point, but as it’d be easiest to head there via the watercourse to the west, decided to jump across to 22, which in turn led us to venture to 41 with minimal additional climbing, something we had become very accustomed to. We made a bold, possibly heart-wrenching decision to skip 71, but there was also a feeling of relief given how far and difficult it looked, and headed up the simple, albeit steep spur to 10, only to descend another 200m down to 68 and back up. This followed with 53, 74 along a welcome stretch of road, 26 and 54 where we could see the welcoming glow preceding sunrise over the horizon.

It’s worth mentioning the moon, which at this point had just disappeared. It was bright for most of the night, and did an excellent job of making out a silhouette of the landscape and meant that we could walk along the roads without torches. Notwithstanding the craziness of bashing around the bush when we should be asleep, this is one of the magical things about 24hr rogaines that 99.9% of other people would never experience.

We saw many emu eggs out there

We passed through 54 and got 61 just after dawn, about 06:15, and it was once again time to make some decisions. It was obvious that attempting 23 would be crazy, but we had to decide if we would ditch 25 to head to 36 and 67, or miss the latter two and make a run for 45. As painful as missing a 60 pointer was, we opted for the latter, given that there would inevitably be something else we would need to omit later on. 45, 73 and 44 were picked up and 58 was just before 9am, followed by handrailing around the heads of umpteen watercourses to get to the long ridge to the small knoll of 72. Needless to say we resisted the temptation to go 2km out to 13.

It was just past 09:30 so we had just under 2½ hours to get in. This is the point by which many rogainers are physically and mentally spent and want to get home ASAP. Fortunately Mike is not one of those people. He had the ambitious plan to do 35, 15, 56, 47, 16, 63, 64, 14, HH – that’s 9 legs, so we had to average 15mins per leg. To make a long story short, we made it, but not without a significant push on my part. After making 63 just past 11, the hardest bit of the course was yet to come. The final part of the course included going up 100m over the spur, then back down the same elevation to the foot of the 64 spur, another steep and narrow climb, before another clamber back to 14, where Mike almost left me for dead as I limped up feeling on the verge of collapse (be proud of yourself Mike – you’re someone who could break me!).

The only reason I’m not smiling more is even my lips didn’t have the energy

Words cannot describe the feeling of relief of seeing tents and cars in a delirious state as we stumbled back to the Hash House. Although it was “only” 11:52, we were the final team in and all eyes were on us, wondering if we indeed did clear the course as we had marked on our intention sheet. Oh yeah, did I mention that it was my birthday? It’s because I forgot as well. But fortunately Michael Watts and everyone else reminded me as they sung a slightly out-of-tune version of Happy Birthday to me at the finish line.

The verdict? Our score was 2300, 60 points short of David and Ronnie’s 2360, but we pipped Gill and Steve by 20 points, which was the source of immense satisfaction. As Mike’s GPS stopped we couldn’t measure our distance though I suspect it was around 70km or a bit more; not shabby at all in this terrain.

Of course, the million dollar question is, aside from moving faster, is there anything we could have done to get 60 more points AND arrive in earlier than D&R (11:45)? I don’t think so. Had we gone for 67, there is no way we could have made it back in time, certainly not if we got 36 as well. 71 could not have been bagged without biting significant time. Most of the other 10s, 20s and 30s that were a long way to go were basically en route to higher scores so there would have been no gain missing them either. Perhaps getting 20 en route to 42 would have saved time and energy overall but not enough to allow time for an additional CP. Anyhow, a second place overall in a State Championship is none too shabby and we were in no place to complain, particularly after receiving “champion” glasses anyway.

Okay, “champion” is a bit misleading, but I’ll accept it anyway!

FOOD & HYDRATION.  Knowing what to eat in a 24-hour rogaine is always a balancing act, as is drinking enough, and I went through phases of having too little, then too much, of each. Unlike a 6hr, it is impossible to get away with gels alone, but it is crucial to have food that is easy to digest. Aside from 3 amazing granny smith apples, I had a packet of grape tomatoes, fruit puree squeezes, seed bars, nuts, dried fruit and some chocolate for the end. The relatively mild weather meant we could get away with minimal water refills but I suspect I drank about 8 litres nonetheless.

ARC vs NSW Champs.  The Australasian Champs and the NSW Champs this year were both 24hrs in length, but that was where the similarities ended. With the ARC summed up by huge distances between CPs, open paddocks and more barbed wire fences than Australia has had PMs in the past dozen years.  The NSWRC was full of hills (mostly open) forest and hence very well defined features. For two people who are inherent climbers (remember Mike missed the minigaine as he was doing the national mountain running champs up Mt Wellington) this suited us just fine, as it meant we could walk the whole thing, unlike the ARC where jogging was mandated to any team wanting to place highly. The weather was quite a contrast – after plodding through the final 10 hours in sopping rain in Qld, it was a relief to have no clouds and very mild weather, both during the day and night.

COURSE REVIEW.  Every rogaine is different, but I did like the course area with some great views over the horizon from the high points, and fairly minimal scrub (though it popped up unexpectedly quite a few times). And there was no clear route either – whatever route you chose you’d be forced to do some long-winded traverses for very low courses to score highly. But that’s part of the challenge – otherwise it’d just be an ultra-marathon, and there’s plenty of those!  The fact that there is a range of scores means there is strategic thinking in planning a course, and that is what a rogaine is about. Another thing about the steep terrain is it makes the features more defined, and is a possible reason for our lack of blunders. That said, having subtle features (i.e. “A knoll,” “The middle watercourse” of about five or “The shallow gully”) rewards careful pace counting and bearing following and therefore has merit as well.

A SOLO ENTRY 24?  There has been talk in recent weeks on the Forum about opening rogaining up to solo entries. As someone who competes in the minigaine solo I definitely see the attraction to it. But even without the safety considerations, could I imagine doing a 24h rogaine alone? I couldn’t. Working as a team around the clock is much more interesting than plodding along alone. Even a 12h event would be hard to imagine alone. Would a 6h work with solo entries? Perhaps, but it would completely change the dynamic of the event and whilst I would possibly score more points, I’d find it a lot more physically painful and less enjoyable to have to go out alone. But this is a discussion for the next committee meeting!

Overall, as always, despite wondering what I was doing at 02:00 in the morning, I am very glad I did the event and really appreciate the work Michael, Trev and all the other volunteers have put into setting, hanging and collecting all the flags, as well as all Michael’s coordination. 24-hour rogaines are where the real challenge is at, and for that reason, if you were not at this event you should flag the 2019 NSW rogaining championships into your diary!

Go Your Own Way

Thoughts About the Future of Rogaining … by Brett Davis

The main feedback I would like to provide on the NSW Rogaining   Strategic Plan 2018 – 2022 is its failure to embrace rogaining for individuals rather than teams. 

I am aware that the definition of rogaining is “the sport of long distance cross-country navigation for teams travelling on foot” – and I think this is the crux of the sport’s problem, especially if one of your objectives is to “increase participation rates by 15% per annum”. Rogaining is essentially an individual sport that has been forced to become a team sport because of safety concerns that were quite reasonable when the sport was created, but which may now be holding it back.

Would sports like tennis, golf, running, triathlon, swimming and cycling be as popular as they are today if participants were forced to compete as teams rather than individuals?

When I started researching the history of rogaining to find out why the sport was limited to teams, I was astounded to find that solo rogaining was already happening in both NSW and the ACT – and had in fact been happening for years! Because I never go into events shorter than 12 hours, I had no idea that the 3 hour Minigaines in NSW had been allowing solo entries since at least 2010 (despite Rogaining being a team sport). A quick check of past ACT rogaines showed that the Ainslie 5 hour rogaine in 2011 allowed solo entries, as did all the 6 hour Metrogaines since 2014.

I examined the results of the NSW Minigaines and found that the percentage of competitors who chose to go solo varied from a low of 13.5% (in 2010) to a high of 28.73% (in 2013) – with an average solo participation rate of 21.8%. For the six ACT rogaines where solo entries have been allowed, the percentage of competitors who chose to go solo varied from 9.7% to 21.15% with an average solo participation rate of 16.2%. Whether the solo entries were made up of teams that had split up or not is open to conjecture, but at least some of the solo entries would have been competitors who would not have been at the event if solo entries were not allowed. 

While I was going through the stats I noticed that solo competitors did very well in the rogaines. In fact, I could only find one rogaine that had been won by a team in the 11 rogaines I found that allowed solo entries.

As Julian Ledger said in a post on the NSW Rogaining Association Forum in April 2017 – “Looking at the results one has to ask do Rogainers do better on their own? Safety considerations aside if longer rogaines allowed solo entry would the lone wolves clean sweep the places …?” He also said “going solo means no distracting conversations, less chance of forgetting what you are supposed to be doing or partners pulling up with cramp. Left only with your inner voice you can focus on the navigation.” 

On the same forum, Chris Stevenson said “I made a deliberate decision to enter yesterday’s event as a team because I recall from previous events the competitiveness of the individuals … To put it in context, the average score of the individuals was 1,390 whereas the average score in the teams was 855.” Chris also said “Perhaps that is why they can’t find a friend to be their partner” – and this certainly happens to me. I would compete in every rogaine I could if solo entries were allowed.

On the NSW Rogaining blog under “Strategic Plan – What’s Wrong with Rogaining” – Shanti wrote in November last year “I find that the main thing holding me back is finding a partner (the partner finding service is great for this and I usually have success, but a lot of people might not want to walk around the bush for a day with a complete stranger). The 3 hr ones are great because you can do them individually but it would be nice if some of the 6 hr Metrogaines had an individual option.”

Similar feedback has already been published in the outcomes from your 2017 survey. One comment was “Wish you would offer solo entries for 6-hr event” while another comment said “About 3 hours, solo entry, in a natural environment, would be perfect for me …”

So I am not the only one who would like to see more solo entries allowed in more – if not all – rogaines.

What are the advantages of going solo and the disadvantages of teams? As mentioned above, finding a suitable partner can be difficult or impossible, because partners should be a similar age with similar fitness and similar motivation. And even if you are lucky enough to find the perfect partner, they will not necessarily be available for all the rogaines you want to enter. This is not a problem if solo entries are allowed. 

The age categories for teams are based on the age of the youngest team member. I am 65 which means I am an ultra-veteran, but at the Wingello Rogaine recently I was teamed with a 54 year old, which meant our team was not even a super-veteran team, and I had to compete against veterans 25 years younger than me. Solo entries completely eliminates this problem.

Another disadvantage of compulsory teams is the risk that your event could be ruined due to the misfortune of your partner. If they are injured, or get sick, or tire early, get blisters, or have a gear failure like a dead torch or a hole in a hydration pack, then your event is ruined too and you have done your very expensive entry fee cold. With solo entries, you only have yourself to look after, and blame.

The obvious reason that solo entry was not allowed in early rogaines was the safety factor. Teams were, and still are, safer than going it alone. But these days we have mobile phones, satellite phones, personal locator beacons (PLBs) and even the Strategic Plan seeks to “implement GPS tracking”, so solo rogaining is much safer today than it was when the sport was invented 40 odd years ago.

GPS tracking – and solo rogaining in 24 hour rogaining championships – will inevitably happen one day, so why not let it happen now? We already sign waivers acknowledging the inherent risks associated with competing in a rogaine, and if we are prepared to die in our sport and sign a waiver acknowledging this, there should be no chance of repercussions on the organizers. The fact that solo rogaining is actually allowed in shorter events means that insurance and litigation considerations have already been taken into account.  To make it even safer for solo rogainers, allow them to compete only if they have a PLB.

Anyway, that’s my feedback.

My Personal Pitch for the 24

Why You Should Do 24-hour Rogaines … by Tristan White

Rogaining in its most so-called “traditional” form exists as a 24hr event, stretching from midday Saturday to midday Sunday. Yet statistically from the past few years, our annual 24h event has significantly lower attendance than all of our other shorter events, and of these attendees, a large portion will compete in the 8hr event held in conjunction with it. It seems that rogaining in its “pure” form has been won out by several other factors:

  • Time: Unlike a 6hr event that can normally be crammed into a day trip (depending on location), a 24h rogaine at the very least requires the entirety of the weekend, and often part of the Friday and/or the Monday. For those with family commitments and inflexible jobs, this can become a major challenge.
  • Cost: The entry cost of a 24hr rogaine in comparison to a 6 or a 12 is often not significantly greater, however unlike a 6hr event which one can put on some lightweight clothes and a take a bit of food and water, a 24hr rogaine requires more specialist gear such as camping equipment, a decent headtorch, a big enough backpack, gaiters, shoes and socks and lightweight warm/waterproof clothing. If one doesn’t have any of the gear, it is a big investment for your first event. The cost of fuel to the event can also be significant.
  • Inexperience: Whilst a complete novice will generally get away with locating flags on or near a track, at least some of the time, being an inexperienced navigator in the dark in the middle of the bush is unforgiving and hence requires some level of inherent skill to have a chance of success.
  • The Sanity Factor: Why would anyone want to wander around the bush for 24 hours in the absolute middle of nowhere anyway? (It’s a question that I’ll invariably ask myself at some point during the night of a 24hr event.)

 

But as significant as these factors are, I am the NSWRA publicity officer and it is my job to convince you that you must try a 24hr rogaine. With the Abercrombie NSW Champs coming up, 24hr rogaines are on our minds and we want you to join us at the latter! So here’s a list of reasons why you couldn’t possibly miss out on doing a 24hr rogaine.

Experience

Although I’m (coincidentally) only 24, it is safe to say that I’ve had a huge variety of experiences in my life so far, and hope that many more will follow, but inevitably I forget things. I forget assignments I’ve done at school and university; I forget what people look like; I forget projects I’ve been involved with at work, and I forget who was the most recent political leader to be dragged out by their own party.  I even forget which girls I’ve crushed on and how I’ve failed to win them (no, it’s not by taking them on a rogaine!), but I remember every 24 hour rogaine I’ve done in my life. I remember which event it was, which poor sod(s) I was with, I remember the route we took and the blunders we made, and I remember what our result was. I even remember how long it was before said poor sod would talk to me after the event.

When I look back at my life in 50 years time, these are things I want to remember doing.

Perspective

Irrespective of how a team ultimately places in the general classification at the end of the event, a 24hr rogaine will force participants to push themselves to do things they wouldn’t normally do. Whether it be to stay up long after they otherwise would (and should) have gone to sleep, to keep moving until the hours blend into each other, or to maintain concentration following a bearing or a subtle spur for 2km in the dark, a 24hr rogaine tests the limits of all competitors. Every time I have just completed a 24hr rogaine, the thought of getting through an 8hr day at work or study seems that much easier.

Novelty

Saying that you spend your spare time walking around in the bush at 2am looking for little flags is a pretty cool (albeit somewhat weird) thing to drop into a first date, an ice breaker activity or a job interview.*

(*) Really.  At a recent interview, the manager saw the sport listed on my resume.

 

I’m interested in your comments – other arguments for or against the longer rogaines…

Fields, Fences and Frogs

Report on The SunSEQer Rogaine Australasian Championships 2018 – by Tristan White

Team 5 – Tristan White & Mitchell Lindbeck, “A Degree of Indirection”

There were many reasons that led me to once again enter a 24 hour rogaine, but as someone who  does not typically get bothered by Sydney winters, “SEQing” the sun was not one of them. However, plodding into the finish in a wet and bedraggled mess after facing steady rain for the past 9 hours meant that I was most certainly “SEQing” it by then!

I teamed up with Mitchell Lindbeck who had famously been my partner in the 2016 World Champs near Alice Springs. As he moved up to the Sunshine Coast shortly after that, we hadn’t paired for any events since so it was a perfect chance to have another go together. Arriving on the late afternoon Friday, it was pleasing to see how many NSW teams made the effort to show up. Too often the Aus Champs are made up of 90% teams from the host state so it’s great to see a good mix of interstate & NZ teams joining the fun.  

The first thought that went through my mind when I saw the map was the sheer size of the course. It was significantly larger than the standard size in itself, but with a scale of 1:40,000, the line distance was over 50% longer than what I was used to. By a rough calculation, it was an average of 2km between checkpoints, and there were many places that it was significantly more. Whilst far from flat though, the contour lines looked much further apart than in the standard NSW bush event, and it was obviously 80% open grassland. It depended on one’s climbing/running ability to decide whether that made an easier event. Mitch and I planned a base route to the west around 70km that got to the ANC relatively early on, mostly on roads in the dead of the night and temptingly close to the HH around daybreak but resolved not to make a detour to visit it.

Starting out at a steady walk, we went to 65 and 32 with minimal difficulty, before going further off track to get 103, 70, 95, 92 and 61, before the extended trip of about 4km to 101, followed by 68. We then collected 52 and 93, by which point it was getting dark and we pulled out our torches for the trip up the watercourse to the very welcome All Night Cafe.

After a pact to stay no longer than 15 minutes, we departed the ANC for the long leg, mostly on the road, to 81. We had heard accounts from another team that there was an angry landowner who was unaware of the event being held (due to a miscommunication at his end) and had angrily chased people off his land surrounding 81, Walt Kowalski style.

Deciding to take a marked track coming in from the North West, that is where our problems started. After the apparently straight road took several zig-zags that threw us off where we were and walking through a fenced field that we later realized was that of the “Get Off My Lawn Guy” and immediately jumped off. we made an estimate of where we were from a nearby gully junction and guessed the CP was on the adjacent spur. After climbing up it and seeing no flag, we realized our troubles were going to be far from over. After umpteen sit downs, stand ups, and attempted relocations, we had realized it had been 2½ hours since we left the ANC and eventually we decided that we couldn’t waste any more time there and decided to move on. Unlike previous times I’ve been geographically embarrassed, at least we could use the road we had come down as a landmark.

We hadn’t completely run out of luck, as it turned out. By chance we ran into another team coming from the opposite direction, who had just come from 81. We had been on the wrong hillside the entire time!  With a mix of frustration and relief, we climbed up the hill and down into the adjacent gully, and there was a red and white flag. Another 80 points in the bag. We kept this lesson at the forefront of our mind for the rest of the night: don’t trust the tracks!

Now it was 11pm, and the clouds had uncovered a glorious full moon that acted as a guiding light as we continued along towards 66, which we found with relative ease. 106 was found with extreme care, being in one of the many shallow gullies. Taking a bearing directly to one of the creek crossing points, 85 was found without huge difficulty, before we reached W3 to refill at about 1am.

Did I say anything about the fences? Barbed wire fences were everywhere over the course, and extreme care was needed, particularly in the dead of the night, to ensure it didn’t leave a lasting impression on our skin. For some reason, the song “We’re going on a Bear Hunt (or Flag Hunt)” went through my head: “Uh-oh, barbed wire. We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it; we’ve got to go through it!” But practice made perfect; by this point we had been through so many that we had worked out the most efficient way possible to get through: I’d hold up the bottom wire and Mitch would crawl under on his belly and would subsequently hold apart the bottom two wires so I could climb through. Now that’s teamwork!

It’s worth noting the other forms of life we had run into at this point. There were cattle galore over much of the course (which at night became a series of glistening eyes), and plenty of (I think) pademelons and rabbits who would jump out of nowhere. But the most intriguing company that we kept was on the way to 72 as we walked under yet another barbed wire fence and a dozen sets of eyes started heading towards us; as it turned out it was a pack of curious horses, probably wondering what two crazy guys with torches were doing at 2am. Whether they wanted attention or food I do not know but they would not leave us alone.  We gave up two valuable minutes giving them a pat, resulting in them following us across the paddock and having another eight or so turn up and join the fun. The sight of twenty sets of disappointed eyes staring at us as we crossed the fence again was one of the most prominent memories of the event.

Shortly after bagging 72, the stars and the moon were replaced by little drops of water, lots of little drops, and by the time we were along the track towards 105 the rain had really set in and the jackets were out. Although the anchor point was a track junction in a watercourse, it was remarkably shallow and indistinct and if it hadn’t been for my alert partner I would have walked right past. Thanks Mitch!  Heading up the “watercourse,” we found the CP with minimal effort. For the first time ever, I had the ultimate rogaining triumph: bagging a 100 pointer, in a shallow gully, in the rain. It doesn’t get any more classic than that!

Heading back to the track we started working out whether or not to get 67, which was partway up a hill after over a kilometre over a flat field. By this time we were soaked through and I was really keen to take whatever route that would keep us moving. But the anguish of walking past a CP when all points were so hard to earn won out, and we carefully set our compasses across to the hill, climbed under the barbed wire and walked across the now soaking grass. Halfway along, Mitch spied an absolute godsend: a tiny 2 square metre shelter in which I could quickly pull on all my remaining warm gear.  It was amazing what a thermal top and a small headband could do to warm me up. In the process another curious four legged friend came over to me; in this case quite a sizable green tree frog, who briefly jumped up my leg!

Fortunately despite (or possibly because) of our wariness of it, we found 67 without issue and made our long way back to the track, towards 83. The sunrise (albeit with no break in the rain) lifted our spirits as we were once again able to see to get 33 and 78 with minimal effort. By this point it was about 8am and it was a decision point. It didn’t seem as though we had enough time for either 45 or 87, a long way to the east and west respectively (though we would regret this later), and resolved to get 97 and 78, and collect whatever we had time for of 31, 73 and 30. As it turned out the open and relatively flat land made our movements  relatively fast.  We hence returned to the Hash House at 10:30am without anything else we had the confidence to collect in the remaining hour and a half. A good excuse for an early shower before the queues got long!

We ended up with 1870 points, putting us 33/110 teams, and covering around a relatively civilized 70km. Although it was a far cry away from 4th in last years Aus Champs, the slower pace we opted for and the nature of the open & less hilly course meant I wasn’t disappointed in the least. The runners were well and truly rewarded for sheer distance covered, and I just had no interest in running for 24 hours.

It is worth paying homage to a number of great performances of NSW teams, the culmination of several podiums led to us winning the interstate competition! In the general classification, Gill Fowler and Joel Mackay were the highest ranking NSW teams, scoring an impressive 2750 points putting them in 5th. Mitch and I overtook Gill and Joel just after sunrise after Joel described himself as “cactus” so I can only imagine how they’d done had Joel had a better day, as Gill is a very good ultrarunner which would have been a great asset on a course like this. David Williams & Ronnie Taib placed themselves 9th with 2490 points. Also just scraping into the top 10% in 11th place were Andrew Smith and Toni Bachvarova with 2450 points, also taking out the Mixed Veterans. After having dinner with Toni and Smiffy a couple of nights to compare routes, we discovered they did a very similar route to us in the reverse direction and added a few extra CPs west of the ANC and in the NW corner. They made it from the HH to 81 by just after 6pm; we did the opposite route (with one or two extra CPs in over double that time!).

“The Royals,” Andy Macqueen and Greg King also collected a great 2260 points to take out the Men’s Ultra Veteran title, in 19th place overall. Andy and Greg were one of the unfortunate teams to have faced the “Get Off My Lawn,” actually chased off with a quad bike, forcing them to entirely change their route. Mike Hotchkis and Neil Hawthorne paired up once again after Neil’s departure to Tasmania, just ahead of us at 1930 points, after Neil had had some foot issues. Having seen them do numerous 24h events (Mike from personal experience) I know that they are both very experienced rogainers and can all but wonder how they would have done were circumstances on their side. (Mike and I will be teaming up for the NSW Champs shortly so hopefully I can find out!)

The Duerden team was certainly worth a mention. Andrew and Rochelle have competed together for many years before Rochelle moved up to Queensland recently, but it was the first time that 16yo Jemma, who has now started competing regularly in her place, embarked on a 24h. Whilst it sounds like their trip out was not without its issues, it was nonetheless a remarkable achievement for Jem to get through as much as she did!

Martin Dearnley and Graham Field, whom I used to compete with in the old days, just scraped into the top 50% with 1400 points. Given that they came back and slept 7 hours, that was a fantastic score!

 

Just thought I would take a last chance to pitch NSW teams to compete in championship events. Notwithstanding the fact that the travel (and necessary time off work) is a greater hassle and expense than our “local” events, there are many other reasons it is worth making the trip to Tasmania next year:

  • A chance to win a national sporting event (depending on your category!)
  • Experience the types of terrain that exists in other states to test your rogaining adaptability! For example, I’ve never had a 1:40,000 map and it was an added challenge to visualize the distance of points on the map!
  • Meet like-minded people from all over Australia and NZ and even potential future partners (Mitch and I met at an ARC several years ago!)
  • An excuse to see a new part of the country. Why not stay for a few extra days and make a holiday of it, as I did in the Gold Coast the week before?
  • Just like all NSW’s 24-hour events, whilst these are “championships,” teams are always equally free to head out on course for a few hours, have a night’s sleep and get a few more the next morning.
[For reference, you can download the map from the ARC website, at http://www.qldrogaine.asn.au/qraonline/html/wp/results/]

Outcomes from our 2017 Survey

We were most pleased with the number of people who participated in our survey over the summer. Thanks again to all who took the time and effort.  Further comments are always welcome – that’s what this Forum is for…

Tristan White, our Publicity Officer, collated the results and produced the following summary.

NSWRA 2017 Strategic & Planning Survey

We have received 75 responses from our 9-question survey which showed some trends though a lot of variation, which reflects the vast array of people who have competed in the sport.

1. Favourite Events

Analysis

The noted favourite events varied across the board so won’t go into detail describing them. Several noted the ARC as a great event (I concur), and most that flag the 24h events note them to be very memorable, the defining feature of a traditional rogaine in my opinion. Many also flagged the “Karst Irony” event as great in light of the numerous views that rarely exist in our off-track events.

Limitations

This only considered events from the past calendar year, and was limited to the events that respondents entered (which averaged at 2), so doesn’t give a great judgment deciding which events were best. (btw SC=State Champs)

2. Bad Experiences

Analysis

Of 76 respondents, only 12 claimed to have had some form of negative experiences (dismissing two complaints about ACT events) so I don’t think that’s too bad a record. But it’s worth noting down what these were, and my thoughts to them:

  • As it was our first event, very little connection with the organisers, (ie welcome new participants). Also, so many people (teams) got multiple awards… why? Enter one event and spread the love. We finished in the top 3 in the novice section, but our award was not announced, so we had to follow-up and about 3 months later we had to go and collect our “mugs”, no attempt to get them to us. A poor experience for newbies.

This is disappointing to read that a newcomer feels that way. It’s a pity they did not specify which event. Obviously it’s a reminder that we need to continue to ensure to provide instruction, welcome and inclusion to all newcomers to the sport. This should be reminded to long timers such as ourselves to greet visitors rather than stick in our “rogaine bubbles.” That said, I think it’s usually done well.

  • Insufficient food. Three people mentioned this and from looking at the events they entered they were all referring to the Cronulla minigaine where I remember the watermelon disappearing as abruptly as Harold Holt. People do notice food quality/quantity and we need to ensure it remains high.
  • “Some rogaines are too long.”

#suckitupprincess That’s the nature of the sport.

  • All rogaines were good although some were a bit far away – it would be good to take that into consideration when planning timing for event. Events that are 1hr + drive from the city would be better on Saturdays with a camping option that night.

It is New South Wales Rogaining Association, not Newcastle, Sydney & Wollongong Rogaining association and the open areas that can be freely accessed are often a while away. I’m assuming that they were referring to PP and something of that distance should have a camping option (though personally think that Saturday arrival/campout works fine.

  • Good camping spots are always a challenge – but I know you guys are limited as to what can be arranged.
  • The Lake Macquarie Rogaine encouraged kids to come along but I found that the easier course was still a bit too hard and checkpoints where a long distance between each other. Good for adults but a bit too hard for younger kids that are too big to carry.

Important to be realistic about what events can have young children. The fact that the Metrogaine, Minigaine, Paddy Pallin and Socialgaine usually are should be an asset, even if others can’t.

  • No bad experiences!! But some rogaines I do wish there was another water drop or two (on the long events). I do understand that’s part of route strategy/choice though.

Usually this is done well IMO though I have similar observations. In principle, a refill every 4-5hrs would be good (longer apart at night), meaning we’d want 2 in a 12h and at least 4 in a 24

  • Nothing that I particularly recall, although I don’t believe that rogaines where it is necessary to regularly/constantly fight the vegetation adds anything to the experience. If anything, my guess is that those types of experiences put people off doing bush / off-track rogaines.

That’s true and it can be an issue in the LM. We’ve tried to avoid this and we need to continue to ensure that a navigational challenge doesn’t become a fight against lawyer vine and the like

  • Rogaine near Goulburn-Marulan on University Station was good but didn’t like the checkpoints being out in the open. Getting accommodation nearby the night before wasn’t easy. Don’t like the checkpoints being in open paddocks where everyone can see so there is no map reading skill needed

Not having done the event I can’t judge but it’s a fair criticism.

  • There was no camping at the Paddy Pallin Rogaine

This seems to be a sore spot – 4 of our 12 criticisms mentioned it.

  • The heat on the socialgaine was a struggle – much more exposed than last years more bush focussed event. But calling it a “bad” experience is a bit of a stretch.

As someone who has a personal animus against the heat I wholeheartedly agree. With these events (SG and the MG) taking in the heat of the day from 9-3 on the fringes of summer is not a good idea.

  • No, the rogaining itself is always good between all 3 associations. The entry fees between each association varies significantly though and this year became a contributing factor for me in terms of which events I went to or whether I even did them at all, eg: NSWRA charged the same price for the 6 hr as the 12hr and same again with the 8hr being charged the same as the 24hr. $100 for an 8 hr event was a massive turnoff. VRA charged $45 for their 24hr event compared to $100 by NSWRA.

We generally aim to minimize the cost, but it does seem to vary from event to event. Perhaps we should standardize these across the year? $100 for an 8h event is excessive, but I also recognize that providing for a 6/12h entrant is usually the same wrt catering, equipment use, HH access etc.

  • I really don’t like when setters set with loops in mind, or use roads and tracks to ease their job. As a setter I know it’s tempting but as a competitor I think it kills the sport. Unmarked thick scrub near controls (Mt Werong NE corner) or too much elevation just for the sake of difficulty doesn’t appeal to me. Same with too many tracks. In that sense, the ACT champs was a bit of nightmare since it had both (walking along the beach at night was magical, though).

A matter of preference IMO. But for sanctioned bush events, focus should be made to ensure competitors access the CPs through good navigation rather than speed, whether it be following spurs and gullies, or pacing along a track to an attack point for the CP 100m away (out of sight), particularly where the scrub is thicker. Some people (myself included) like climbing. Not sure what they mean by “loops” – whether they mean one big course route or small obvious loops within a bigger course.

  • The LM course could have been designed better – having the winners clear the course with an hour to spare indicates it should be longer. And the fact that top two teams did exactly the same route (albeit in the opposite direction) indicates that there should have been greater effort to remove obvious route choices. I found the SG too hot and dull – the warm conditions were exacerbated by the sun shining off the bitumen (which 75% of the course was on). It too closely resembled an orienteering event, where I believe a SG should be 75% bush with a few streets to link it up.

Limitations

Only takes the concerns from a sample of the competitors (who actually completed the survey). Presumably, those with extremely negative experiences would be unlikely to be in the FB group, to read the website or newsletters.

3. Reasons for absence

Analysis

The single most cited answer was that our events clashed with other activities, with only a few noting that they are too expensive (and none that said they didn’t enjoy it at all!) and that they only enjoy certain types of events. Clashes will be a reality, and there isn’t any way around it, but we can make an effort not to put them the same time as other notable events (C2S, adventure races and other ARA events), as well as days such as Mother’s/Father’s Day.

It’s hard to read the graph; here’s the categories:

  • I did them all
  • Clash with other activities
  • Events too far away
  • Too expensive
  • Don’t enjoy other types (of rogaines)
  • Too much toll on my body
  • Can’t find team mates
  • Let me be frank, …
  • Other

Limitations

Those who are more frequently unable to make the events are less likely to have done the survey (and more likely to not enjoy the sport at all, or find it too expensive for what they get out of it)

4. Preferred Type of Event

Analysis

As expected there’s a wide variety of preferences for type of event, though an obvious number flagged 6-8h off track events, and more people than not preferenced off-track events – rogaining in its most traditional form!

It’s hard to read the graph; here’s the categories:

  • 3-4hr urban
  • 6-8hr urban
  • 6-8hr bush (on track)
  • 6-8hr bush (off track)
  • 12hr bush (on track)
  • 12hr bush (off track)
  • 24hr bush (off track)
  • Other

“Other” preferences or notes included:

  1. Events between 12 & 24h, including 15 in 24
  2. 3-4hr bush events
  3. Urban event must have a significant bushland component.
  4. Night only event
  5. Options to do on or off track depending on whether kids have had enough bush bashing

5. Additional events

Analysis

Over three quarters of respondents would try to attend additional events (which doesn’t mean they will in reality).

6. Event Variants

Analysis

Three quarters of respondents would be happy to see a variant of some form enter the calendar, with the primary suggestions being more novelty events, and a cyclegaine, the way ACTRA and VRA have. Over a third of respondents would also be keen to see an adventuregaine.

It’s hard to read the graph; here’s the categories:

  • Cyclegaine
  • Paddlegaine
  • Adventure race
  • Novelty style
  • No
  • Other

 

Other suggestions/comments included:

  1. Snowgaine
  2. I like all these ideas. Although I would ensure the core nav discipline is retained.
  3. Cyclegaine would need to be on road or track (not bush tracks that are single track)
  4. Would like to see nav skills workshops. Good news for you!
  5. Other companies offer these things. Stick to high quality bush rogaines (this is true in some cases and we should check this each time a variant is held.)
  6. They all sound good BUT, NOT at the expense of the usual program of events
  7. Climbgaines! (How would that work?)
  8. Teams event? Something like the 16hr in 24hr, but with 2 teams. Say a max/min split on team time of 10hr/6hr etc. I like the idea of including puzzles/problem solving to “flatten” the fitness advantage – test run at an urban event? (Don’t really understand this.)
  9. Family or kid friendly events… I plan on doing many (but not all) of my future rogaines with my kids and they love it. It would be great to make the events more kid friendly… or even just add awards for kids who reach certain milestones.

7. Volunteering

“I don’t have time” is the most common response, or “I don’t compete in enough to justify,” and with the average respondent entering 2/year that’s understandable.

It’s hard to read the graph; here’s the categories:

  • I already volunteer
  • I don’t compete in enough rogaines
  • I don’t have time
  • I can’t find a role that suits
  • I volunteer to other sports

A selection of the comments includes:

  1. Not sure how if it’s possible, but if I could volunteer for a couple of hours only I would be more available for volunteering. I do so few events, because of clashes with family commitments. However, the commitments often just make me unavailable from the entire Rogaine. I could still help out for a few hours. The only other problem is the long distance to travel.
  2. Provide more information about specific jobs and their expected time frame especially jobs with the least amount of time commitment. I’d really like to help more and have collected CPs after races but when travelling significant distances to get to events and with family commitments it helps to understand what you may be signing up for as a volunteer. Jobs that are able to be done by participants in the event would be great.
  3. Offer a more formalised or written guide to volunteers. Past volunteer experience felt like left on our own to sort out what and how to do it, and cop any flack if it’s not what was expected.
  4. If I was aware of small ways I could volunteer then I think I would. (There’s a good chance this is written someone where and I just haven’t seen it!)
  5. Describe some of the roles that are needed and whether they conflict with competing in that Rogaine
  6. Maybe a discount on other events (Yes, well this is done, but perhaps we could consider a discounted entry if they don’t qualify for a free entry.)
  7. Volunteer social nights to get to know the other people we’ll be working with (Volunteer weekend away?)

8. Other Suggestions

The “other suggestions” section, predictably, had a whole range of ideas, including the following. It was encouraging to see many suggestions that we are already doing, such as nav workshop, and planning to do.

  1. Better promotion, both online & in print – seems to be a hotspot, 10 people said this.
  2. Consider a way to respond to the increased spate of extreme heat which could be present in November/February.
  3. Cheaper Entries
  4. The photos of people having fun at the events are great. Especially including people of all ages and abilities to show how inclusive it is
  5. Wish you would offer solo entries for 6-hr events.
  6. Perhaps offer a 2 hour beginners course, where an experienced rogainer could take a group out for a couple hours and teach the skills of rogaining (Nav Workshop)
  7. Cross-pollinate with adventure racing / trail running people and maybe consider a ‘multisport’ weekend with some of these groups
  8. It would be great to have more details earlier – including the cost
  9. Love the improvements you are making. Continue to promote bring your own cups, plates etc to be environmentally aware – don’t provide plastic plates!
  10. Consider changing the sports name. Most people think it is a hair growth product. (Sorry guys, we didn’t name it, maybe have a word with the founders)
  11. About 3 hours, solo entry, in a natural environment, would be perfect for me personally…. (Bring on the Scheyville Minigaine!)
  12. Do more intro to newbies, and support. I find the experienced people chat and give each other advice on ways to select routes, and things like that, where newbies get ignored, and have to fend for themselves. (Same in Orienteering circles too). Tips for becoming better, (route choices, distance expectations, etc). 1 x 3 hr Minigaine every 6-8 weeks would be great. As mentioned. Why should a team be 2nd in 1 division and 1st in other… maybe too many divisions. Why not a handicap system, as well, so fairer to all competitors, like golf. Scratch and net scores if you know what I mean. More refreshments at the end for those who return late. I probably have more, but can only think of these now. Good luck and thanks for letting us provide feedback.
  13. I think you focus too much on serious competitors. Outsiders and people in it for fun can find it hard to work out what the events might be like.
  14. It would be nice to have a saved profile for a team or for individuals. We always enter the same team and it is pretty tedious having to type in all the details every time.