2014 Australasian Rogaining Championships

Team 84: “Milo the Moose” – Mike Hotchkis, Andrew Duerden, Tristan White (Competing in Men’s Open)
Australasian Rogaining Championships, 2014, Durmmond North, Victoria, Oct 11-12

A SPUR OF THE MOMENT DECISION

It’s 3am. I’m in the middle of the bush. It’s dark. I don’t know where I am. I’m tired. My feet are covered with blisters and my legs feel like cement. Why am I doing this? Actually, more to the point, why am I PAYING to fly down to Victoria to do this? That’s a snapshot of a particular part of my Australasian Rogaining Championships experience. And indeed, if that were all it was, why would anyone do it? But there’s more to a rogaine than that; read on for the whole picture.

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I had looked forward to the possibility of doing a national championship rogaine since two of my (then) regular teammates did it last year in Atherton, and particularly hoped that I could find someone to enter in the university division with, as I knew that with my ability, I would have potential do pretty well if I simply had someone who could keep up with me. Alas, it was to no avail, for no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get anyone to enter with me, and as a result, was unsure whether I should enter at all if I didn’t know of anyone I could enter with at my skill level, particularly because uni was at full pelt and I knew I’d have to study at every available opportunity.

Two weeks before the event, I found that Andrew Duerden and Mike Hotchkis were planning to compete with the intention to go hard, and they kindly let me know them under the basis that I could hopefully help keep the pace rolling at 3am in the morning, and since both were World Champs competitors, it was a great opportunity to compete with a high calibre team. Concurrently, I talked to a friend who happened to work for flight centre where I brought up the question of whether he could find me a good deal between Sydney and Melbourne on the Friday and Sunday. These two things prompted me to stop beating around the bush (figuratively) and register to the ARC near Castlemaine, VIC so I could beat around the bush (literally). Despite realizing that flight costs at this late a date were $400 return, I had my mind set on it at that did not deter me from making the trip.

PRE-EVENT

I arrived at the Hash House at around 7:30 for dinner with all the others, met some new faces and caught up with old ones. Had a good sleep in preparation for what was to come and rose at 7am, packed and ate a very sizeable breakfast, shoving down as much as I physically had room for before joining the massive queue for map collection at 9am on the dot. It was crucial that we made the most of the planning time available, for poor route choice can sacrifice a lot of points, even if the navigation itself is done well.

Upon a cursory glance at the course, the most striking thing I found was the distances between controls. On a typical championship course, they may typically 1km apart, where I found that here they were mostly around 1.5km from each other and, according to Mike’s formula (I never knew such formulae existed!) there was an average score of about 40points/km on the whole course. Consequently, it was important that our route choice would achieve a score greater than this, so this involved eliminating those controls that would put us under this rate.

THE WHOLEFOODS PHASE 12pm-8pm

I’ve broken down the event into 3 stages, which is how I remember it and have titled them in relation to they types of food I ate throughout. I’ll summarize each into a series of dot points to make it more readable.

– I loved the start tent they set up like in a big marathon, and seeing the number of starters was an experience
– The first 8 hours were fast. Navigation was basically bang on and made it to the first water point within 4 hours, about 20km away
– Hot spots on my feet developed 2 hours into the event – not a good sign
– I watched Andrew almost step on a pair of mating brown snakes and for the next two hours I thought every big stick that got flipped by us was another snake.
– The only bad terrain was about 200m worth of thick undergrowth, a stark contrast from many areas in NSW.
– As I had eaten a huge amount before the event, I only ate a bag of nuts in the first 5 hours, followed by two apples and a sandwich as dark approached

THE GEL PHASE 8pm-5am

We stopped (at 91) at 7:50pm as dusk approached to get out lights and for me to finally tend to my feet, one of which had a very sizeable blister on it. I taped it up and was determined not to let it hinder my progress.

– Aimed to take 1-2 gels every hour to give me fast acting energy, along with a mix of museli and fruit bars
– We goofed up a checkpoint (80) shortly after dark, possibly due to complacency and adjusting to night navigation, wasting about 20 minutes by not going far down enough on the spur it was on and tried the one adjacent, having to go back again.
– Reached W01 at 11:30pm and had a 30 minute rest there. My feet were still sore but luckily the blisters didn’t get worse.
– Had another break 2 hours later for a food/feet tending stop
– I was completely unaware of our whereabouts for some of the nighttime checkpoints if I missed hearing the discussion of how to arrive there and simply trusted they’d know what they were doing.
– The pace was much slower during the night, and each of us had our stumbling blocks with our individual performance
– The most memorable of these was Mike’s literal stumble at 3:30 am where he got a big cut on his hand. It was at this time I realized I left my map at the checkpoint. Despite it being only 50 metres back, I couldn’t find the flag at first.
– I personally felt gradually weaker between 12 and 5am, as physical exhaustion and sleep deprivation increased.
– Other memories of this period is a blur as time seems to warp throughout the night

THE CHOCOLATE PHASE

– Refilled at W20 and had a half hour break at 5am. Despite marked at the same place on the map, the checkpoint was 100m away from the water cans
– I drank a tiny bottle that could be best described at Red Bull on Steroids that was given to me as a promo sample that would give amazing energy with no lows. (It was a test as I’d never had it and was saving it for an emergency only)
– The combination of the drink and it getting light soon later resurfaced my energy and I was from then on well ahead of the other two
– Mike’s feet were visibly hurting – from what I understood it hurt a lot more than he let on, but despite that he kept pushing
– I was eating primarily chocolate from this point on, with the hope of giving me the caffeine hit I needed
– The pace was even slower, though not by our doing.
– We stopped at 8am (at 81) to discuss route changes. We decided against going in the SE quadrant of the course and picking up 5 more near the hash house.
– Walking across an open field at 9:30am, it felt really hot!
– I wanted to go get a 50 pointer (59) just before the end, but sanity took over and we retired to the finish at 11:10am.

AFTERMATH

After an amazing shower, it was lunchtime, and despite my exhaustion, I was able to get up and down to get many helpings of food to make up for all the gels I’d put down. We got a total score of 2610, just missing at top ten with 12th overall. It was great to see how others enjoyed it and find out each other’s score.  Hopefully next year I can get someone to compete with me in the uni division

I thought it was a great running event in terms of the organization, Hash House location (at a youth camp), the weather, the food and the management team acted professional, which is very impressive for a volunteer run organization. I was also very happy with the way our team worked together, pulling each other during low points, both physically and mentally meaning that we were very efficient, and something that I see a veteran competitor like Mike has learned over the years. It was definitely worth the time and the money to get myself down there, they are memories that I will cherish. I learned a lot about good course planning and navigation as well as how to execute a 24 hour event well physically, and I look forward to the ARC next year to improve more. I seriously recommend rogaining; it’s built me as an athlete and a person in so many ways.

EPILOGUE

To put things mildly, I was wrecked at the end of the event and was happy that it’d be a nice short flight back. As I’d printed my boarding pass on the Friday, I simply had to go through security and board. I checked at the Jetstar desk where to check my flight’s status, and the staff member I talked to said it’s on time and just to go in. When boarding time commenced, I looked for the gate number, but all it said on the screen was “Go to gate” with no number listed for my flight. So (with my buggered feet and all) asked several people where the info desk was, and ran across to it, only to find it was the Qantas desk and they didn’t know, so ran to the other side to the Jetstar desk, where they told me it was cancelled.

CANCELLED?! Well why didn’t they tell me on the screen? And why didn’t I get the text they’d allegedly sent me?! I was directed out of security back to the queries desk to find out what flight I could go on. I got transferred to a Qantas flight 50 minutes later, but I couldn’t get my boarding pass as it was still processing 15 minutes later, so eventually had to ask someone to print it. He told me to go back through security and get it printed at the Qantas service desk, which I managed to, and finally got on the flight. Looking for an aeroplane to Sydney made looking for a flag in the dark in the bush seem easy!

The flight itself went okay, though when I reached the train station, things weren’t over. It was 8:15pm so I figured I’d be sweet to connect with the 8:45 train to Hornsby, but for some unexplainable reason, the train from the airport decided to stop for 5 minutes at the station before Central, and pulled in at 8:44:30. I was not happy, as there was trackwork on the other line so I had to get an all stops back, arriving home 2 hours later than I wanted. And this time I slept well, about 13 hours all up!

Tristan White

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Autumn Rogaine May 2014

I’m sure there are some weary legs this afternoon after the 6 and 12 Hour Autumn Rogaine that took in parts of Gibraltar Rock NP, Kanangra NP, and Jenolan State Forest. particularly for this teams that dropped down to #93 at the river before climbing the 6ft track up to the Pluviometer.

Toni and Smiffy set a great course! and hung flags for us in the rain and snow last weekend. I was not out for 6 or 12 hours, but i was lucky enough to spend a few hours on the course this morning collecting flags (in the sun) and take in a loop that let me climb up on Gibraltar Rocks for some great views. I had a great time picking up 90, 55, 101, 91, 64, 81, 45 and 56.

Please let us know how you found the course?

Welcome to Rogaining – 2014 style

There’s a large bubble in my compass which has appeared from nowhere over summer. However as the first two events of the year have both been on tracks it has not yet been an issue.

The Boardwalk Bonanza Minigaine on the 29 March was at 1:10,000 scale and the detail of the Orienteering maps was appreciated as competitors zoomed (at least those doing some running) around the map which took in Boronia Park, East and North Ryde. There were plenty of pockets of bush and no shortage of contours. Course setters Jeremy Fowler and Steve Ryan had done an excellent job and there was sufficient route choice and variety to keep everyone thinking. Winner Andrew Hill got the lot (2750) with 6 minutes to spare and 4 minutes ahead of 2nd placed Richard Mountstephens. Outstanding! Personally I scored many less points and with just 30 seconds up my sleeve.

I only made one real error which arose due to avoiding the NPWS closed track. I cut off Pittwater Road too early and ending up squelching across mangroves to join the boardwalk. With unfortunate timing I was met by President Gill running past – “it’s an on track event Mr Ledger”! Gill, our brave and fearless leader who would not dob in a mate, was first woman and sixth overall with score of 2720.

Somewhat distracting was being repeatedly either overtaken or met by the winning women’s team, Jess Baker and Mel Criniti. They would go past then cruise off to get some additional control and then be going past again always cheerful, brightly coloured in orange and blue.

The event was well subscribed and any concerns that numbers would be down with it being out of the Orienteering Summer Series this year were not realised. In fact with the Summer Series just finished last week there seemed to be even more lycra, strider and 45 minute runner types eating up the ground.

I sometimes smile at the meeting of the social rogaining team and the serious orienteer at the same time and place – usually a control. The rogaining team is rather pleased and even surprised to have found the flag and this is an excuse for a rest. One team member might be starting a bit of lunch, another explaining the features of a rare orchid and a third disappeared in the bushes for a call of nature. Associated infants may be jumping around (first hour), holding a large stick (second hour) or looking for a carry (end of the event). Meanwhile the orienteer has already, within 50 metres of the control, sorted out something called an ‘exit strategy’. Then on punching is already balanced with weight on the push off foot to take them running in the direction of the next control. The only pause might be to double check the punch has registered as they miss the audible confirmation of the orienteering Sportident system.

Former Australian Rogaining Champion Mike Hotchkis was there and posted an excellent score. His wife Debbie, a more social rogainer, forgot to register the time when her team left and spent the event trying to work out when they had started. They failed and were late back. A highlight for Debbie was being invited into somebody’s garden which she said was remarkable. Meanwhile things might have been a bit tetchy comparing route choice at the Shingler household where both partners scored over 2000 points in individual efforts but with Paula just 30 points ahead of Mark. Just wait until the kids grow even bigger with those genes they’ll be fast for sure.

If the Minigaine was steamy and the vegetation lush the Metrogaine – Hornsbygaine on February 9th – was hot and dry. Some said too hot, hold it later but in fact you never know – had it been on the following Sunday there was a torrential day. The conditions are the same for all and you have to adapt.

Ted Woodley is to be congratulated for the course – nearly all in the bush. This was Ted’s first 6 hour Metrogaine after terrific service setting the 3 hour Minigaine for the past three years and building that event’s great reputation.

It was very warm and I had to slow down to deal with it and even took the opportunity for a swim at the delightful rockpool near # 71 taking care to keep head out of water. This brought body temperature down for a while but climbing out of the valley twice soon got me hot again.

It was a tricky question as usual knowing what to leave out. Partner Anne Newman who has a habit of building up speed as an event progresses was striding on as we struggled up the return track which was rough and tough – we had been warned at the start. Past # 83 at the top of a waterfall we speeded up and after some confusion leaving the last control made it back with three minutes to spare. Super fit Anne had not broken a sweat the whole way.

The use of electronic controls and flags has made a big difference to the administration (managed these days by ever competent Belinda Mclean and Anne Bickle) and now we are getting used to very quick results at the event and on the website. In the good old days we had clues, multiple choice, historical features, debates, ambiguity, letter box removed by a resident (what colour was it if it had still been there!), signs taken down between the vetting and the event, etc etc. I kind of miss that whimsical nature of at least the Metrogaine. Keep in mind the big amount of extra work for course setter, flag hanger and picker upper now that every control must be hung and collected. We are all grateful for your efforts.

Before the next event on 10 May at Gibraltor Rocks near Jenolan I’m going to invest in a luminescent compass with dampened needle. As I have explained to the family, I could have an expensive hobby like racing hotrods but I don’t and all I need are a few dollars for the best footwear and outdoor gear to be had for use in some remote bush in the middle of the night! Also bring some thermals – I’ve rogained before on that road – it reaches 1200 metres and can get chilly.

Finally, Webmaster Graeme, surely it is time to remove from the website those photographs of aging rogainers at dawn on some remote mountain top and find some pictures of younger attractive people who may bring more people to the sport. I recommend women’s champs Jess Baker and Mel Criniti!

By the way is there any rogainer out there with search engine optimisation skills who when you google NSWRA can get Rogaining placed ahead of the NSW Rifle Association. Their website is not as good as ours and they probably support hunting in national parks.

Julian Ledger