Watagaine never again

The 2018 Watagans mountains rogaine was the third I’ve attended in this area, and definitely the last. The lack of route choices means everyone is doing the same course, with the only choice being which direction . No navigation was needed at all on this course. When nearing a checkpoint, one is inevitably greeted by someone else emerging from the bush and a well worn track directly to the checkpoint.
No real choice of route selection possible, no navigation necessary, and large queues at every control. This is not rogaining. Unfortunately, it has been the same every time in the Watagans. Please , please, change the area and the course setter!

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/]

My Wrap of the Wingello Wingaine

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.

I can’t wait until the next Wingello rogaine.

Great finish to the NSW Champs – U23s

From the Event page – “Congratulations to Rochelle Duerden and Mitchell Lindbeck who, after the correction of a punch failure, have been propelled to 1st place in the U23 category. Commiserations to Ivan Koudashev and Elena Koudasheva who have been bounced into 2nd place in the U23 category as a consequence. Ivan and Elena are fine athletes who, as a team, are well under 23 and will be competing and presumably winning the U23 category for years to come.” I saw I believe Ivan & Elena run in to the finish line, it was fun to watch a sibling cheer them on, and to see an obviously young team finish so strongly on a glorious day in a glorious location. It turns out that their’s as was Rochelle & Mitchell’s performances were good also.

Thanks to the competitors and organizing team it was a fun event to provide the catering for.

Great location, fine weather and may be the best Hash House site I have seen a part from the westerly wind.

What? You missed it?

The NSW Championship last weekend was an event not to be missed, if you didn’t make it you missed out on a superb, classic rogaine. We had 200 starters which was 41 teams in the 8 hour event and 46 teams in the 24 hour championship event.

I was very excited to be rogaining in the Kanangra area. It is an area in which I have bushwalked over years and I was keen to get to see more of it and having completed the event I will have memories that will endure as long as I do.

The Maps
Having arrived at the event, the first challenge after setting up the tent was to cover the map. The map for the event were two A3 maps arranged in the perpendicular. In general there seems to be three different approaches to map management:
1. Cover with contact
2. Use a map case
3. Au naturel

In days gone by, covering a map or using a map case was essential because maps were printed on normal paper and were unlikely to last the event. Over recent years the quality of the paper has improved dramatically and it is feasible for a map to last a 24 hour event unprotected.

I would not risk using an unprotected map, there is too much risk of it being a damaged from abrasion or spills such as blood, sweat or water. My team mate, Julian, is a keen student of the contacting approach and covering two joined A3 maps in the outdoors, without air bubbles the size of a small planet, is a tricky task. There are many factors to be considered such as wind conditions, the curl of the contact, the size and flatness of the table, as well as the competence and manual dexterity of the assistant. I am very pleased to report that Julian’s map was covered perfectly which is an achievement only rivalled by finding a 100 pointer in a poorly defined gully, in the rain, at 3am, on a moonless night.

Personally, I cannot be bothered with the artistry of contacting. Having said that, there are clear advantages to contacting a map. About 5-6 times during the event I was forced to try and re-arrange my maps in the map case, while Julian looked on with impatience and a touch of superiority.

Julian proudly displaying contacting perfection.
Julian proudly displaying contacting perfection.

The Course
The area of the event (western side of Kanangra Walls road) is truly beautiful. It is a high at 1,300 m in parts and lightly forested with lots of beautiful grassy plains, punctuated with swamp land. Every 5-10 minutes I would pass a natural grassy area in which I would have loved to stop and have a lie down to take in the serenity. The swamps were, in some cases, surrounded by a bit of dense scrub but typically this was only a few metres thick so it didn’t become frustrating. The course was full of wombats and kangaroos as well as black cockatoos.

From a rogaining perspective the course was magnificent. There were lots of controls on offer and lots of route choice. Julian and I had an objective of setting a course with not too many hills (we are getting soft) and one that got us back to the hash house for a well-earned, mid competition sleep. There were enough controls on offer that we could return to the hash house and set out again without much unproductive time.

All of the controls we visited were set to test participants, at a standard appropriate for a NSW Championship. Interestingly, there were no novice teams entered in the event, which is probably a good thing, because a real novice team (not a just social climbing orienteerer) would have struggled to find anything. Lots of controls were set in shallow gullies or subtle knolls and if your concentration lapsed you were going to be wandering in circles for a long time.

I am proud to report that Julian and I found every control we went for and only really wasted material amounts of time at control 50. Control 50 was a rocky knoll. The knoll and its rocks were so subtle it was hard to find it from 20 metres away. That is, the “rocky knoll” was neither very “rocky” nor was it very “knolly”, but having said that all rocky knolls are hard to find if you are looking in the wrong spot, which is what Julian and I were doing having done a compass bearing from 63 which was 700m away.

On the subject of knolls there was control 56 – The knoll, on an outstanding natural feature made up of huge pink granite boulders with a great outlook. (Recommended for control picker uppers which are still needed over next two weeks – those who would like a bush walk on the map should contact Trevor Gollan on 0408 230 593 )

The weather during the event was about as close to perfect as you could get the day was not too hot and the night not too cold and the wind at the start of the event was perfect for contacting excellence.

The Results
Julian and I were content with our 17th out of 41 teams in the Championship event. We scored 1860 points which is just over half of our overall winners, Julie Quinn and Susan Sprague, who scored an impressive 3,600 points. How many sports are there where a women’s veteran team can win an open competition?
In fact our results are a bit of a tribute to diversity:

Place Category
1st Women’s Veteran
2nd Men’s Veteran
3rd Men’s Super Veteran
7th Open Mixed
9th U23 Mixed

And in the 8 hour event, Hugh Stodart and Jamie Stodart, a family team, finished 2nd.

It is interesting that average age of competitor was 41 years old.

Count   24 hour Championship
Ave Age
8 hour event
Ave Age
Overall
Ave Age
62 Female 37.8 37.4 37.5
138 Male 46.5 39.1 43.1
200 Grand Total 44.2 38.5 41.4

The Organisers / Volunteers
I am in awe of the people who volunteered to support this event. If you think about all the roles that rely on volunteers in our sport you will appreciate the effort that goes into an event like this. We had:

• Event co-ordinator – Trevor Gollan (Excellent organisation as always)
• Course setters – Ronnie Taib and David Williams (Great map guys)
• Course vetters – Trevor Gollan, Vivien de Remy de Courcelles and Emmanuelle Covert
• Flag hangers – Vivien de Remy de Courcelles and Emmanuelle Covert
• Flag retrievers (I hope there are some volunteers)
• Administration staff – Vivien de Remy de Courcelles, Corinna Lueg and Oliver Pitman
• Safety – Dug Floyd (A fairly incident free weekend, fortunately)
• Catering (Alan Mansfield, Somia Kupina and 2nd Enfield Scouts)

There was plenty of room on the course for more people, in fact Julian and I went 7 hours without seeing anybody at all. If we didn’t see everybody at the start, we would have thought we were doing it on the wrong day.

Thanks to everyone involved, It was a memorable event.

25 Year Legends – The Organisers of the Lake Macquarie Rogaine

This is an expanded version of the tribute I gave at the 6 hours presentation of the 25th Lake Macquarie Rogaine on behalf of President, Gill Fowler, to recognize the extraordinary contribution made by two rogaine stalwarts – Bert Van Netten and Bob Gilbert.
It was in September 1992 that Bert gained support from Lake Macquarie Council to include a rogaine each year in the Lake Macquarie City Games. The support came in the form of some cash. Our still new sport of rogaining was gaining a level of respectability! Who could have imagined that the relationship with the Council would have continued successfully every year to this day.
Bert together with Ian Dempsey and others of what we called the Newcastle/Central Coast mob were amongst the founders of rogaining in New South Wales. Bert’s courses were often challenging and always original just like the man. The Lake Macquarie 12 hour become established and was held around August/September each year and later with a 6 hour option. We came to know the Watagans and Sugarloaf Range, the varied bush and views both east to the coast and west out towards Wollemi. The fabulous waratahs, the unspeakable lawyer vines, variety of tree types, pockets of rainforest in gullies sometimes chocked with enormous rocks, waterfalls, cliffs, bush trails, swinging vines, lilly pilly, gymea lilies, lyre birds and cabbage tree palms.
In 1992 rogaining in NSW was growing quickly with more and more people attracted to the sport mostly through word of mouth. At the Paddy Pallin 6 hour event numbers had increased to over 400 – just a dream a couple of years prior. In October of that year the first World Rogaining Championships was to be held in Victoria. Bert had the idea that for his first Lake Macquarie event he would offer prize money in a bid to attract elite athletes like marathon runners. I remember being on the Rogaining Committee and this idea being controversial. Surely we were amateurs competing for the love of the sport. Would prize money taint the event and encourage cheating? Eg teams sending the strongest member to the ‘out and back’ controls (a single punch card per team in those days). The Lake Macquarie became tagged as “the Dash for Cash” a cheeky name when everyone knows that whilst this sport needs strong fast legs it also requires cunning and strategy.
A few new speedster competitors did compete but whether their navigation was not up to scratch or they found some of the tougher aspects of rogaining not to their liking I’m not sure but they didn’t seem to stick with it. In fact in 1992 the usual rogaining suspects were winners – I think our team was third creating an ethical dilemma of what do with the (modest) prize money.
At that 1992 event we started on the east side of the range near where the freeway was under construction. A memory is trotting down a long empty stretch of straight road after 11.00pm in a rush to get back on time. Looking at the old map this morning after the efforts at the event this year and on a post rogaine endorphic high I can still remember some moments at that first event. By the fifth control I had lost my compass but compensated later at night by becoming the specialist pace counter on the team. I also note that control 30 this year was control 33 in 1992 but of course did not recognize that one.
Bert had the ability to attract others around him and reminded me of an unorthodox field marshal coordinating the troups. An advantage was that on hand were the Newcastle orienteering community who brought rigor to course setting. Names like Rob Vincent, Ian Dempsey and Dug Floyd come to mind and forgive me for not remembering more. However at the centre of it all has been Bert who has contributed to course setting 22 of the 25 Lake Macquarie rogaines.
But there is one other name who has become most associated with the Lake Macquarie event and that is Bob Gilbert. Bob took over as Event Controller some years in and has brought his skills and organising ability contributing a huge effort to consistently put on a great event each year. Many of us have run events from time to time. It is a very rewarding activity but does require focus, time and commitment and most are happy to hand on the batten. Bob is different because he has continued to carry the responsibility over many years. Not only that but this year he also organised the Paddy Pallin at Catherine Hill Bay in some very very wet conditions. He told me on Saturday that those of us who got bogged left a sufficient mess behind that the rogaine bond to Council was forfeited for remediation work. Such things are the life of an event organiser.
Over the years the Lake Macquarie event has been held in fair and foul conditions and everything in between. Whilst the areas have been similar the event has never got stale. There was the period where Bert experimented with making all controls the same value. Another year almost every control was little more than 20 metres off a track – a so called runners’ course. I also remember a year where many teams cleared the course. Then last year the event doubled as the NSW Championships.
The Lake Macquarie has been a success and always well supported by rogainers. My impression is that numbers have averaged 300-350 per year. Besides raising money for, and involving, many local organisations like the scouts it has together with the Paddy Pallin been a financial contributor to the New South Wales Rogaining Association. It has helped ensure there has always been a strong bank balance, monies available for things like insurances and new nav lights not to mention underwriting occasional events like hosting the Australian Championships and back in 2006 the World Championships out at the Warrumbungles.
Thank go to Bert, Bob and all the others who have made the Lake Macquarie event such a success over 25 years.

NavShield 2016 – Crappy Maps and Big Country

I have been rogaining more than 20 years, but I have never tried a NavShield until now. Julian, my regular rogaining partner suggested we “have a go” at this year’s event.
For those of you who are not familiar with the NavShield its purpose is to train emergency services personnel in the art of bush navigation so they can be of assistance in a bush rescue.

The NavShield includes a division for rogainiers to join in using rogaining rules. This is key, because all of the other divisions have to take enough gear to be self sufficient over night, including a sleeping bag. This year’s event was held at Wombeyan Caves and the very last thing I wanted to do was carry a pack full of camping gear up and down the mountains surrounding Wombeyan Caves. The other key difference with the Navshield is that you have to mark your own controls on the map. You are given a map and a set of co-ordinates which you use to mark controls on the map yourself.

Julian studying the map.
Julian studying the map.

I confess that I wasn’t really looking forward to marking my own controls on the map. It just sounded like hard work, but actually it was worse than that. It was about 8 degrees and windy and maps were not available for collection until 6pm. Having collected our maps, Julian and I spent well over an hour marking controls on our maps out in the open, in the cold. It was definitely glove weather but marking maps with gloves on is too difficult so it was better to risk hypothermia for the sake of mapping accuracy. Bear in mind that every millimetre mistake in marking a control would be 25 metres of mountainous thick bush on the ground, so a 1 cm mistake could cost a lot of time.

The other thing to note about the map, was that it was not a very good print. It was very hard to see the creeks on the map. The blue lines were very thin and very faint and very hard to read. These thin and hard to read lines represented huge chasms in real life, so not being able to see them properly was less than ideal. In fact a couple of times during the event Julian and I had navigational disagreements because he could see a faint blue line on the map that I couldn’t.

One of the prettier blue thin lines.
One of the prettier thin blue lines.

Also on the subject of maps, because the intention of the NavShield is to train rescue services in bush navigation they use an unaltered base map. So if the base map is wrong, bad luck. Julian and I found this out the hard way. At the end of the event we left ourselves 40 minutes to get a 50 pointer near the hash house, which relied on us using a trail clearly marked on the map, but did not exist in real life. The net result was that we got within metres of the control but due to time pressure we had to turn around and sprint home empty handed.

There were two events on offer 10 hrs 45 min event (8:45am to 7:30pm ) or 29 hrs 15 mins event (8:45am Sat to 2:00pm Sun). Julian and I decided to do the 29 hours event. If we had to drive all the way to and from Wombeyan Caves and camp, we may as well make a full weekend of it. Julian and I had planned to take the gentleman’s approach to the 29hr event by going out for 12 hours and coming back to the hash house to have a good night’s sleep in a tent and then get up early and do some more on Sunday morning. The problem with this gentlemanly approach to the event was that this meant that we needed enough points near the hash house so we did not walk to and from the hash house empty handed. So we were a bit disappointed to find that the hash house was on the SE corner of the map and we would do a lot of walking to and from the hash house with few controls.

The first 12 hours went well with no real navigational mistakes. In fact, Julian and I were about to make a serious navigational error when along came Ted Woodley and his team and it was clear from the direction they came from that we were about to start looking in the wrong spot (thanks Ted). We even picked up a couple of difficult controls in the dark with no time wasted. The rogaining gods got their revenge on us the next day when we missed two 50 pointers in the last couple of hours of the event and ended up with a slightly disappointing 950 points.

20160702_131808
Me, standing next to a termite mound.

The other thing to note is the organisation. The NavShield was well organised but the Rogaining Association sets a high standard. Some of the key differences were:

  • Electronic scoring vs manual scoring
  • Corrected maps vs uncorrected maps
  • All night hash house vs closing at 8:30 pm
  • Little or no queues for maps vs a bit of a queue in the dark and cold
  • Full results, generally within 30 minutes vs partial results 1 hr after the event
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Julian, punch card in hand, ready to bag another control.

I didn’t attend the 2012 NSW Champs that were held based at Wombeyan Caves so the country was new to me but it was clear from the map there was a lot of hard work ahead of us. Even with our gentlemanly approach, we did 2.5 vertical km ascent. Hats off to the rogaine divison winners, Ronnie Taib and David Williams with 2170 points. Their vertical kms must have been Everest like. The other thing to note about the area was the fern bushes. All of the south facing slopes on the south of the course seemed to be covered with waist high ferns. This was quite pretty, but waist high ferns can cover all sorts of obstacles under foot and tripping over and falling in holes was all part of the adventure.

Wombeyan Caves is pretty marginal country, but I did see an eagle, some gang gangs, a dead pig and lots of kangaroos. The other benefit of going to the NavShield this year is that we missed out on the election. The feeling of missing out on an election weekend has been well described by Michael Leunig here:

http://www.smh.com.au/content/dam/images/g/q/1/t/y/i/image.imgtype.articleLeadwide.620×349.png/1468018028937.jpg

I must complain to the Electoral Commission about the lack of a polling station at Wombeyan Caves. :>

Also I need to acknowledge Vivien de Remy de Courcelles. Vivien is one our rogaining administrators, a fine rogainer and was also the course setter for the 2016 Navshield.

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Vivien giving his course setter’s address

Overall Julian and I had a great weekend. Thanks to everyone involved for making the event a success and for inviting rogainers to attend.

Map of our 12 hour leg.
Map of our 12 hour leg.

Snogaine – 7th August

After a bit of arm twisting by some ACT rogainers the NSW Ski-orienteering event at Perisher on 7th August will include a 2 hour “Snogaine”, mass start at noon.
More details at: http://www.bigfootorienteers.com/drupal_2/skio2016

Hope to see some of you there.

A Few Good Men (Team 97) and a lot of rain

The 2016 Paddy Pallin did not disappoint. The Bureau of Meteorology delivered the expected amount of rain. It rained 27.8mm during the 6 hours of the event.
Looking around at the start there seemed to be three takes on how to dress for the weather:
1. Wear very little and go hard to stay warm.
2. Do what you can to stop the rain from getting in.
3. Hybrid between 1. and 2. Token raincoat with light weight clothing.
My team mates and I opted for option 3. I must admit I was mildly amused by some teams trying to keep their feet dry jumping little creeks just after the start, my strategy was don’t bother, get them wet and get used to it. In fact the warmest my feet were during the entire event was when a wave washed over them on the traverse between 32 and 74.

Rogainers you have my respect. Out of 204 teams registered, when entries closed for the event, 181 teams competed so only 12% of teams decided to spend their day in a cafe rather than out in the rain. Just shows what a hardy (or slightly mad) bunch we rogainers are.

I hadn’t rogained near Catherine Hill Bay before, I was sick for the last rogaine in the area and I admit I was not expecting the amount of bush we encountered, nor was I expecting as much complex navigation as we did. In fact I am embarrassed to admit we duffered control 91. We can see our route below:

Wandering in circles
Wandering in circles

Our compass bearing into 91 was pretty good. After skirting around the creek which looked very deep, we followed our compass bearing but stopped just 30 metres from the control and then decided to walk in circles for 30 minutes trying to understand what had gone wrong.  What made matters worse was that I was leading at this stage, so I could not blame my team mates. At least we found the control in the end. I felt better when I spoke to another team at the finish who looked for 91 and didn’t find it. It is amazing what a lonely place a rogaine can be when you are off the main path.

I am pleased to report that control 91 was our only real error, every other control more of less went to plan and we ended up with 1050 points. I can’t help thinking what might have been if we hadn’t lost that precious 30 minutes. I also can’t help wondering what that event would be like in the dry. It certainly would have been a different experience. The view were spectacular in the rain and the mist, they would have been very special on a nice day.

Overall I had a lot of fun and I really appreciate the efforts of all the volunteers for their hard work in making an event like this happen and thanks also to the Catherine Hill Bay Bowling Club who will be spending a lot of tomorrow cleaning rogainer’s mud off their floor.  I normally do not eat much after events but today I stuffed myself with two sausage sandwiches, thanks to Waitara Scouts.

Also thanks to the Paddy Pallin organisation and Chris Mein for their continued support of our sport.

 

My Blind Date with Danny

The Autumngaine at Tarlo river found me partnerless, so I tried our partner finding service. I first tried hooking up with Mal. Mal subsequently jilted me, preferring instead to recover from the flu, which he contracted after agreeing to partner, so I went back to the partner finding services for another go.
The second attempt yielded Danny. Danny was rated himself as an 8 /10, which is pretty much how I would rate myself. (Anyone who knows me will know for certain that the 8/10 is for rogaining ability, not looks.)
Danny and I agreed to spend Friday night together, on a property close to the event to which he has access, and then drive home together after the event.
Having agreed logistics with Danny, it occurred to me that I had just agreed to spend a bit over 24 hours with a person I have never met, in a very out of the way location. If Danny was an axe murderer, as well as a rogainer (not that there’s a frequent correlation between the two), I was in deep trouble.
As it turned out that Danny was not an axe murderer, he was worse than that. Rather than the pain associated with a quick death inflicted by an axe, he tortured me over 6 hours. You see, it turns out that Danny is significantly fitter than me. Danny is used to rogaining with his, now 11 year old son, and was keen to see how he would go with someone of similar ability (which I wasn’t).
Things started out okay, we more of less jogged the first couple of controls (31, 32) and then headed downhill towards 54, 55 and 61, 70 and 100. By this stage it was clear that Danny was significantly quicker than me up hill and quicker downhill as well.
From 100 we went to 50 and then climbed up the hill from 50 to the fire trail. This hill was 130+ metres and by this stage I was fully focused on survival, that is, climbing the hill as quickly as I could without doing so much damage that I could not continue of the next 3+ hours. To his credit, Danny was very patient. It was clear to me that these hills presented little challenge to him, at least not at my pace. We kept going and relatively quickly got 80, 51, 71, 72, 62 and then climbed to 63 and over the ridge to 48 and 47. My next physical challenge was the climb from 47 to the fire trail near 56.
By this stage I have having significant cramping in both quads, which I attribute to having spent the last few hours traversing across scree slopes. I confess that 2/3 the way up the hill from 47, I had to sit down for a couple of minutes to try and work the lactic acid from the legs. This rest was refreshing and I managed to get to the top of the hill and then down again to 56 and 45. From 45 we began the long 180m climb towards the finish via 33 and 20. Because the event was nearing its end we were joined on this tortuous climb by a number of other teams heading back and I was pleased to see a number of other teams moving as slowly as I was. Once at the top we could see the Hash House and even jogged a bit to make sure we would arrive back within time.
The net result of my torture was 2nd in the men’s veterans and 9th overall, which made all the pain seem worthwhile and my torturer Danny now a trusted companion, even if he is more like a 9/10.