Night Navigation

With the Navigation Workshop coming up in April, I thought I would write some of my thoughts and experiences about night navigation.

My first experience of night navigation was during my first event, which was the 1994 Australian Championships at Bethungra (near Cootamundra). Prior to entering this event I had never used a compass at night, but that still made me the team expert, because my two companions had never used a compass at all.

I was really pleased with my control finding ability until the wheels fell off about 2 in the morning. We found a tricky control about midnight and then proceeded to the next control about a kilometre away. We never found it.

By 2am I had to admit that not only did we not find the control, but I had absolutely no idea where we were. We could see teams moving by headlight in the distance, but pride prevented me from trying to find them and ask for assistance. So rather than move around and get more lost (if that was possible) we slept on the ground until dawn. Once the sun rose the surrounding mountains made it pretty clear where we were and we headed back to the hash house.

From that night on I was hooked on rogaining and rogaining at night still has a special place in my heart. Rogaining at night is an interesting emotional roller coaster. With many emotions playing out as the night unfolds.

The first phase is panic as you rush to get as many controls as possible by the failing light.

The second phase is melancholy. Being at home just after dark usually means food, company and TV (or Youtube these days). Home, just after dark, is a very hospitable place. The bush, just after dark, is quite an inhospitable place and demons tend to lurk in your brain. More than once, just after it has gone dark on a rogaine, I have asked myself “What the hell am I doing here?”

The third phase of this emotional roller coaster is acceptance. Acceptance of the fact that it is dark and you need to shift mentally into night mode. Night mode means pace counting and careful navigation using the lesser number of clues that are available at night.

The fourth phase of night navigation is confidence. Confidence comes at the time you have bagged a couple of controls in the dark and you have your pace counting distance down pat and you are starting to score serious points despite the handicap of the darkness. It’s a great feeling, but it never lasts.

Night Rogaining
Me rogaining at night (I am on the left, smiling).
The fifth phase of night navigation is “the fog”. No not a literal fog, it is the fog that enters your brain from fatigue and being awake when your body is screaming for sleep. This fog has caused me (and my rogaining colleagues) to make some horrible navigation decisions. I distinctly recall my partner, Julian Ledger, and me walking up the wrong valley for 45 mins, at the Garland valley rogaine, and then looking for a control that wasn’t there before realising we had made an appalling mistake. That is what the “fog” does to you. Human beings just weren’t meant to be awake between 2 and 5 in the morning. My sister is a long term nurse on night shift and she gets my respect.

Assuming you don’t walk off a cliff while enduring “the fog” the next phase of night navigation is optimism. This is the optimism brought on by more points under your belt and an emerging dawn. There is something special about the optimism combined with the inevitable fatigue of rogaining into morning’s first light.

Night navigation also brings funny moments. I can’t remember which rogaine it was, but it had been raining and we had to ford the upper reaches of Cox’s river. It was a very cloudy night so it was pitch black. I had no idea how deep the river was going to be at the the ford so, pushed for time, I proceeded straight in. My rogaining partner baulked when the water reached chest deep, but I told him he was being precious and we proceeded across the river. Halfway across the river, chest deep in water, I could hear some people crossing the river next to us. I turned my light to look and see another team crossing the barely ankle deep river at the ford which was only about 3 metres away.

That partner never did another rogaine. I am not sure if it was the “ford incident” or the fact that it rained most of the night or the fact that one of our headlights failed and we had to share a headlight for the rest of the night (when I say share, he wore it all night).

In conclusion, I love night navigation. At the risk of being a bigot, the best rogaining is done at night and the best rogainers barely slow down as they trot uphill and down dale finding control after control regardless of what challenges stand in their way.

Rather than learning night navigation the hard way, like I did, come along to Navigation Workshop in April. Imbued by the skills learnt at the Navigation Workshop your nights in the bush will be full of confidence until “the fog” gets you.

The End of an Era

It’s the end of an era. Welcome to the era of Teslin.

Teslin, for those of you not up with the latest innovations in rogaining, is that “paper” on which we have started to print maps. Teslin is water proof and very strong. I used an unprotected Teslin map in the National Championships on the weekend and the unprotected map survived the event in almost perfect condition, unlike its carrier who has a scratched head from walking into a tree branch.

For those of you are interested “Teslin” is a brand name of its manufacturer PPG and according to their website “PPG TESLIN® substrate is a microporous, dimensionally stable, highly filled, single-layer, polyolefin synthetic material. A non-abrasive inorganic filler comprises 60 percent of the weight, and it is 65 percent air by volume.
The porous, uncoated nature of Teslin substrate absorbs inks, adhesives, coatings, and laminating films to form strong interlocking bonds with the substrate that secure printed data.”

It is interesting that the word “paper” is not mentioned and while Teslin claims it is recyclable I am not sure if it is recycled as a plastic or a paper. In any case, I would not dream of recycling my rogaining maps. The kids can throw them out after I have passed on.

In days gone by the first thing competitors did at a rogaine was cover their map with contact but like the horse and buggy this is a rarely viewed sight these days.

The picture below is my team mate, Julian Ledger, who is not as yet convinced by the power of Teslin. Here he is displaying his contacting artistry having covered the huge National Championship map (bigger than two A3 sheets) without any air bubbles on the front. (The back was not so pretty :<)

Julian proudly displaying his map contacting skill.

The other thing to note about Teslin is that it was great at taking a significant portion of the skin off my lips. I put my map in my mouth, at one stage, to scramble up something and when I pulled it out again I found the skin of my lips were now part of the “microporous, dimensionally stable” substrate.

Personally, I never had much patience for contacting and in any case I used to delegate that task to my wife who is a school teacher and could contact a sand castle, without air bubbles, in her sleep.

Welcome to the era of Teslin!

Avoiding the Lawrence of Arabia country

Congratulations to Steve Ryan course setter, Gill Fowler organiser and Anita Bickle admin, on the excellent Minigaine at Cronulla on Sunday. Exploring an area not so well known to many in very fair conditions was a great pleasure. The beaches, parks and views were all perfect. The dunes probably best avoided for mere mortals. The event was run efficiently and with a good atmosphere most fittingly as it coincided with the end of Gill Fowler’s fabulous five year term as President.
Steve stretched our legs and there was plenty of variety. Route choice was limited in parts but the mid section of the map gave rise to plenty of options none of which stood out as the best. I’ve got a feeling that’s where I lost some time but the good news is that I beat Chris (let’s just get one more check point) Stevenson. And as the old saying goes it is okay to come second last so long as you beat Chris!
The winner, Andrew Hill cleared the course with 2 minutes to spare – he looked good when we crossed paths and course setting doesn’t get any finer than that outcome.

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 as they did in Cronulla? When I started rogaining way back in Western Australia the thought was that three was the ideal team. One to map read, one to pace count at night and the other to help find the controls which tended to be a bit dodgy what with few contours, unreliable maps and no GPS for course setting in those days. On the other hand 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.

So which is best team or solo? Perhaps a teams versus solos challenge.

Meanwhile I’ve been hobbling around the city today with a sore heel. Is there a remedy or is it just rest is best? So long as it is healed by the Australian Champs on first weekend of May down south of Canberra so that I can keep up with partner Chris (victory or doom) Stevenson and guide him to good route choice.

By the way don’t be shy of the ‘championships’ moniker – all are welcome and it’s a regular rogaine which promises open bushland. On the Monday after to impress workmates and friends you can drop that what you were doing at the weekend was competing in the Australian championships.

Congrats to Trevor Gollan for his election as new President. We could not be in more experienced hands and no doubt the org will do well with the strong committee behind him.

Do you like it Soft or Hard ?

Judging by our attendance at 12 and 24 hour events I think most Rogainers like it soft. The NSW Organising Committee (of which I am a part) are wondering why relatively few people enter 12 or 24 hour events.

I have a number of theories I would like to share:

Sanity

Only a person with a tenuous hold on sanity would enjoy running around thick bush in the dark with a map and compass. “Normal” people simply do not feel the need to endure that much discomfort or have a competitive urge that will drive them for 24 hours. Yes, in case you were wondering, rogainers are not “normal” people.

Family

I lose a lot of “brownie” points when I disappear into the bush for a weekend with mates. My wife has done a 24 hour event with me, but now we have young kids we can’t both go. All married people with young children will understand that a weekend away leaving your significant other at home with the kids has a price that must be paid.

A suggestion from my fellow Committee Members is to take my family with me. Good idea, but unfortunately my family’s hold on sanity exceeds mine, and I cannot find the words to convince them that wandering around the bush in the dark is fun. To be honest, my son thinks going somewhere without wifi is an unnatural and completely avoidable act.

Work

I don’t know about the elite athletes, but my work on Monday suffers after a 24 hour event. No amount of coffee can replace the 20+ IQ points I sacrifice to fatigue. These days I take the Monday off after an event, but that also has a cost.

Pain

Most people do not like being in pain and it is almost impossible to do a 12 or 24 hour event without suffering some form of pain. I vividly remember ripping my big toe nail off 2 hours into the Garland Valley 24hr and also suffering heat stress around 3 hrs into the Gundy 24 hr. Let’s face it in today’s modern society you can avoid almost any form of pain, but it is very difficult to do a 12 or 24 hour event without suffering some level of pain, either during or after the event.

Risk

Getting home after a 12 or 24 hour event is tricky. If you have been going hard for 24 hours it is risky to drive a motor vehicle and given that often these events are held in remote locations this risk is amplified. Please, please please do not try and drive home straight after a 12 or 24 hour event.

But wait, I am on the Committee and I am supposed to be promoting 12 and 24 hour events on behalf of Organising Committee so here are some reasons why you absolutely must do a 12 or 24 hour Rogaine.

Memories

I am in my 50s now and having led a relatively full life I forget things. I forget people I have worked with, I forget parties, I forget trips away, I forget what possessions I have and I even forget who won My Kitchen Rules, but I remember every 12 and 24 hour rogaining event I have ever done. I remember where the event was, I remember who was with me and I remember which course we took and what navigational blunders we made. I even remember which of my team mates I pushed against the electric fence to see if it was live.

When I am too old to compete, these are the memories I want to re-live, not who won the 2016 My Kitchen Rules competition.

Achievement

I am an average rogainer, but I am proud of my ability to find an orange flag hanging on a tree in a valley which 99.9999% of the population will never visit. I am also proud of my ability to compete for 12 or 24 hours. I enjoy telling my work mates how I spent my weekend when the highlight of their weekend was seeing a movie none of us will remember in a year’s time.

Endorphins

I am not sure about others but there is something to be said about the chemicals that flows through your body for a few days or weeks after a 12 or 24 rogaine. Whatever the source; chemical, psychological or imagination I feel really good for a week or two following a rogaine and all I can think of is the next one.

Teamwork

I have worked in teams for many years both in my work life and also in my sporting life, having played many team sports such as indoor and outdoor cricket, yacht racing, volley ball, touch rugby and others. But you do not really know team work until you have done a 24 hour rogaine. Long rogaines take team work to the next level. You have a truly symbiotic relationship with your partner during the event. You might enter as strangers, but 24 hours later you will know that person well. My only real experience with team work comes from endurance events and not from an hour of sport or from a work conference get together.

Enjoying the Simple Things

A long Rogaine puts your life into perspective and helps you to enjoy the simple things. Simple things like stopping moving, eating something you didn’t carry and a toilet with a seat, all seem like luxury after a long rogaine. Possessions all seem like meaningless encumbrances when you are on a long rogaine.  Very few rogainers drive expensive cars and I think this is why. They value experience over possessions.

Sleep

Do you have trouble sleeping, well I know a sure fire cure, it’s called a 12 or 24 hour rogaine.

Pleasures

There are many pleasures of rogaining, such as finding a difficult control at night while others wander in circles around you or comparing scores with another team to find out you have soundly beaten them. The Australian bush can be hard but is also very beautiful and there is something special about rogaining through the last gasp of light in the evening or in morning’s first light.

Conclusion

In conclusion, my message is simple:

Enter a 12 and or a 24 hour rogaine.

You have not lived until you have added that to your life’s kitbag of experiences.

Funny Moments in Rogaining

Hi. It’s the off season for rogaining and it’s almost Christmas, so it is a time for reflection. Understanding this, I thought we could start a blog of funny moments in rogaining. If you want to contribute, simply comment on this post and once reviewed by the Webmaster (me) it will be made public (nothing libelous, please).
To start things off here is a couple of my funny recollections:

The first one is subtle, but I found it quite amusing and it involves Trevor Gollan one of the back bones of our sport. The occasion was the award ceremony for the 6 hour event at the Tarlo river Autumngaine and the overall winners Peter Preston, Ben Rattray were being summoned by Trev to come forward to collect their prize, when Trev warned them not to trip over the log, that was jutting out of the fire, situated between them and himself.

The irony of this resonated immediately with my team mate Danny and me. Can you imagine two people in the world less likely to fall over a log in the dark than two elite rogainers?

The second one is a bit more slap stick. I can’t remember which event it was, it might have been the “Gurnang Gallop” in 1997, and in any case it was a number of years ago. It was late at night my team mate and I were hurtling down a gully to cross a creek and climb out the other side on the way to a control.

I was a few metres ahead of my team mate when I came to the creek, which was quite deep. I quickly sized up that I could jump the creek, which I did and them started up the other side of the gully. Well I am almost 6’2″ tall (187.5 cms) and my team mate is probably 5-6 inches (13 -15 cms) shorter and has relatively short legs. Anyway I wondered, halfway up the hill, if my team mate could make that jump and a listened out for him in the silence of a late evening in the bush.

Sure enough, what I heard was a jump followed by the sound of hands sliding through sword grass followed by a splash. It seems my team mate had replicated my jump, but only just, and had grabbed the sword grass to steady himself, failed to do so, and fell back in the creek. Rogainers are a tough bunch and to his credit my partner didn’t mention the failed leap, but he was clearly wet and I could see some blood was dripping from his hands when we finally caught up to each other.

The Perfect Event

I am quite excited about the forthcoming NSW champs. I was wondering why I am excited and I reckon that the NSW Champs might be close to a perfect event. This led me to thinking what, for me, constitutes the perfect event. Here are my thoughts, feel free to add your own.

My perfect event includes the following features:

Location
The ideal location for me is somewhere in the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains is where my soul lives. I love the fact that it has 5 million people on the doorstep and yet you can walk for days without seeing anyone. The Blue Mountains has the advantage of being close to Sydney and relatively easy to get to, but also presenting some quite remote country with significant navigational challenges. I also like to explore, so I always enjoy rogaining in an area which is new to me.

Kowmung river
Kowmung river

Some people like mountain views, for me I love rarely visited open valleys with pristine creeks running down the middle. On many an event I will note a perfect secluded valley and promise myself that I will return one day, just to lie on the grass and take in the solitude, but I rarely do.

Duration
This will be controversial, but I think the best events are 12 hours. A 12 hour event takes in a significant portion of night navigation which separates the skilled navigators from the less skilled ones and also has the advantage of not occupying the entire weekend. For those with families, you can spend one day pursing your passion and the other day enjoying family time.

Map
I enjoy looking at a map that has a lot of route choice but no obvious high pointing route. I like a map whose secrets can only be unraveled after an hour of close study. I like a 1:25000 map because that is what I am used to and it requires less mental gymnastics to relate the map to the ground. I like a map that does not force a “do or die” loop. I like a map where good teams head in all different directions at the start. I enjoy maps with limited out of bounds areas. There is nothing worse than taking an inefficient route because of a set of red lines on a map.
It is sometimes difficult to achieve but I like a map where the Hash House is in the middle of the map since this usually offers better route choice. I also like a map with 10m contours. You can hide a lot in a 20m contour.

Contours
Contours

Terrain
The perfect terrain is a very personal thing. I am pretty good through thick scrub so I like a course that includes some thick scrub, but no more than 1 hour’s worth. I like navigating through pine plantations. I know it is a very artificial and sterile environment but there is something cosy about walking or running on the open, dark and slightly claustrophobic forest floor. I like creeks that you can actually walk along. Often walking along creeks can be a very slow and dangerous affair. I like creeks that you can actually walk down without being cut to shreds. I am not as fit as I should be so I like climbs that are no more than 150m. I like a course that is big enough that you can go a while without seeing competitors. I like a course that has fire trails but also forces some cross country navigation.

Chris on Mt Koorian
Chris on Mt Koorian

Partner
Partner selection is tricky. You want someone who is of a similar level of fitness, so you are not frustrated waiting or under pressure to keep up. You want a partner who will “take the piss” when you offer a bearing that is 180° wrong, but not make you feel bad when you can’t find a control. You want a partner who is happy to share the mental load and offer suggestions when things are getting uncertain. A partner who will take turns in pace counting and has a good feel for their stride length. Your partner also needs to know when to yield and when to “stick to their guns” over a questionable navigational choice. I like a partner who will take the initiative when I am tired, but let me lead when I am feeling strong.

My partner for the NSW Champs
My partner for the NSW Champs

The NSW Champs will be my 70th rogaining event. Having taken in all of these events I have to say that I have only competed in one event that I didn’t really enjoy. I remember crossing the finish line and being a bit underwhelmed by the experience. I can’t remember which event it was, but I am pretty sure it was a 3 or 6 hour one.

The importance of a good first aid kit

 

Ok so story goes…….
We had a really good start and were tracking well.
It got dark and we were tracking directly from 41 to 34 up a creek bed.
No rocks had been slippery or showed signs of any slip at all to be honest.
Malcolm was in front and just stepped from one rock to a bigger Boulder type rock and slipped and fell heavily.
I went to help and knew immediately that he had quite a head wound.
He never lost consciousness but was dazed, I had to drag him out backwards from the water and after some time encouraged him to sit down (after he noticed the blood streaming down his face-that helped !)

Out comes the first aid kit. What was missing from ours was some padding or gauze to place pressure on the wound, we had everything else. We also had a mouldy bandage but it did the trick, (note to self) must check first aid contents prior to next adventure but as far as the padding/ gauze went I needed some. I could have made do with what I had but noticed another bunch of rogainers following. They assisted with the contents of their first aid kit and had gauze which was perfect. Applied that plus a bandage and the Ay Ups also provided extra pressure to help stem the blood.

I then proceeded to gather Malcolm’s glasses out of the bottom of the creek with the assistance of the guy (sorry forgot his name) from the other group. He held me by the shorts whilst I dug around in the water to retrieve firstly the frames and then each lens…..

(Editor – I believe the team that helped was team 63 “Wild Rogue Women Rogainers”).

This lovely group decided to stay with us just to make sure Mal was ok. We then set off in search of check point 34 and on our way out we figured after a short time that it was harder to trek up the creek and that Mal and I should find the shortest way to the road so we could head back to T & D and then the road home

So we parted company and headed to the road, only to meet up shortly after with our original helpers and we all tracked to T & D together.

malcolm bradley

There we headed back to the Hash house after giving my lights to the Team of 4 who helped us out, as it became obvious they were going to run out of head torch light way before midnight and Mal and I figured that we only needed one set to get home with, but we had to get checkpoint 11 and 13 on the way back ….. 🙂 not that far off track really.

Then back to base, in the car, decided that since it was Saturday night and we would be up against drugs and alcohol issues at most hospitals we would opt for a small one and try our luck so as not to get stuck in casualty all night. Wyong was perfect, straight in, Drs were great, an hour later we left with 13 stitches in place and headed back to the Blue Mountains

Great day out really!
We will next time however take padding/gauze in our first aid kit 🙂

Thanks Catherine

Elevated to a new level of competition, but with a degree of indirection…

World Rogaining Championships, July 23-24, 2016, West McDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs, NT

Team 211 (Male Youth): Tristan White & Mitchell Lindbeck

Score: 2420/6190

Result: 3rd in MY, 47/299 overall

Few people would have guessed that when my adventurous neighbour (Martin Dearnley) brought up the concept of us entering this event called a “rogaine” for “a bit of fun” when I was only 12, it was going to lead to me winning an event outright, a category win in the national championships and last but not least, a podium in the world champs. I didn’t even know there were state, national and world championships when I was 12, or anything about rogaining for that matter. Times have certainly changed, but nonetheless, it has all still remained “a bit of fun” (okay, okay, not at 4am when I’ve messed up my fourth consecutive checkpoint but you get the picture).

Training

My quest to find an U23 to compete with me in the WRC was completed when Mitch sent me a message in late 2015 in regards to the same quest. Having never competed together but observed each other’s comparable results, there was no question that he was the optimum teammate for me, so I promptly signed us up, and we resolved that we would compete together in every event we could in the months leading up to it. This ended up being the Lane Cove River Metrogaine in February, Tarlo 12h event in May and Paddy Pallin near Lake Mac in June, in which we came to know each other’s strengths, weaknesses and styles.

In addition, we did four self-organized hikes, firstly, the 35km steep and rocky Mt Solitary hike starting at 4pm and finishing at 5am the next morning at a fairly casual pace though getting us accustomed to sleep deprivation, then a 7 hour hike through the Grose Valley from Blackheath to Mt Victoria, also at night. The final one, just over a week beforehand, was a more civilized (mostly) day walk based around the Benowie Track in Hornsby, though adding in any excuses to take some cross country shortcuts though in the end totalled almost 50km.

FiveSix

The most notable practice hike, however, was the third, made on the Queen’s “Birthday” weekend, and one could argue that it was harder than the WRC itself. The Katoomba to Kanangra hike (K2K) is a staple hike, allegedly 45km, so Mitch entertained thoughts of doing it there and back – the K2K2K – in 24h. After all, 90km is at least what we’d be likely to cover in the WRC which is mostly off track and constant navigation; could it really be that hard?

Starting out at 3:50am in very cold conditions, Mitch and I, along with rival Rochelle Duerden stepped out of his Katoomba home through the spectacular scenery from Narrow Neck, down to the Cox’s River and along the ridge towards Kanangra Walls. It was only late that day that we realised that 45km had been hiked and there were still 15 to Kanangra Walls.

After a very long night on the return leg with many breaks, we made it back at 5pm, 37.5 hours after starting out. 120km was a “bit” longer than anticipated, but ultimately this was an unforgettable experience nonetheless that pushed us all physically and mentally – an essential element of rogaine preparation. If we could do this, we can do any 24h rogaine!

 

Preparation

Flying up on the Thursday, we made it to the Ross River Resort in the late afternoon in the chartered bus and set up camp with other NSWRA teams – Marg and Rob Cook, Andrew and Rochelle with George, saving a spot for Martin and Graham who were due the next day. After a dinner around the campfire, Mitch and I were fortunate to hitch a lift with another team to the model course and had a chance to casually venture to several controls that evening. Having almost no judgment of any features other than ridgetops was a reminder of the importance of pacing and careful compass work as following the wrong spur or gully would be super easy to do.

One

We hit the model course again the next morning, this time when it was almost 30 degrees, making us hope that the forecast of 21 degrees for the subsequent 2 days was correct. I made sure that I packed everything I could the afternoon before, as well as put all my intended clothing in a bag so I didn’t have to fish around for it in the morning, and went to bed at 8:30pm. You can’t get too much sleep the night before a 24h rogaine!

Two Three

Planning

 

With such a massive course, it was impossible to tell if there were any obvious routes, but after a few minutes planning and colour coding controls, sections of route started to show – a myriad of high scoring CPs across the southern end of the course, a potential loop to the western end of the HH and a good helping of low hanging fruit reasonably close to the main road from east to west. Measuring distance of these sections, plus a possible extension in the far west, we conceded that it would be unlikely that we could cover it all, but there were numerous exit points that would get us back home in time. Ultimately the flight plan put in the western loop to do before dark, with the southern section mostly on ridgetops to be travelled from east to, and getting whatever we had time in the western corner before grabbing all the ones in easy reach near the road in final few hours.

Seven

 

12:00-18:30

 

(Map available for reference here)

WRC-StartWe were fortunate enough to be in the shot published in the ABC (far and second from far left at the front)!

We basically remembered the event in three stages – the afternoon, the night and the morning. We made good progress in the first few hours, moving along briskly and getting almost everything dead on, going from 36, to 81, 62, 41, 110, 96 and 42 through following the features closely, hardly needing the compass. The first glitch was needing to make a 1km detour to refill at W3 after getting 30 and 31 – I knew that if I became dehydrated 4 hours in, it’d be very hard to rehydrate myself! We got 70 and 40 by a fair bit of clambering up the side of ridges, and 100 and 60 were collected by following the wide river bed, and then to 34 after crossing the Ross River (actually with a bit of water flowing in it!), before arriving at W7 at 6:30pm just on dark, where we took the chance to completely refill and get out our lights.

 

18:30-06:30

 

The night leg started off well enough with us following up the watercourse to 74. Though dense with Spinifex, it seemed like a theoretically easy traverse, however in its density, we struggled to see the branching gully where the control was meant to be, and ended up going too far. Fortunately I was able to distinguish a nearby knoll from which I took a bearing, finding the control with minimal time loss. If only our subsequent mistakes were as quickly resolved.

We followed the road, then took a bearing off the river towards the foot of the main spur containing 85, and to avoid climbing any more we made the decision to handrail around the contour rather than drop in from above, but despite following the bearing carefully we managed to miss it so wasted 15 minutes or so trying to determine where we were, but by taking a back bearing we managed to find it, through the aid of lights from another team. Ditching 65, we took the long stretch to 92, which apart from a bit of confusion to the location of the bail off spur, we managed to find without incident. Oh, if only the subsequent 3 controls had been the same!

Seeing as hand-railing the contour on a bearing had worked a treat at 85, we nonetheless chose to do this again, with similar results. We ended up on a flat section which we perceived to be the region around 113 but the control was nowhere in sight. After 20 minutes searching the area, we were about to head to the top to take a bearing down when a team passed us showing it was much further below, where fortunately we found it.

Our hopes to make up for this goof up were not satisfied at 77. The plan had been to take an easy bearing down from the knoll, however, we couldn’t determine the knoll resulting in us taking the spur to the east. In the day, we’d have been able to tell this instantly, but being night it was difficult to tell if the right spur was across the gully and had to physically go over and find out. Fortunately it was right, but still soaked up another 20 precious minutes.

Our hopes for a better run to 103 were vanquished, theoretically a fairly simple decent on the spur at the end of the ridge, when somehow we managed to drop off the wrong one unknowingly. We ended up in the gully, of course, but unsure of which one, and missing the watercourse which we originally dismissed, at which point, almost 3am, I almost broke down emotionally until thankfully Mitch held it together to locate it just over the spur.

Our slow but careful trips to 114 and 93 were rewarded with us hitting them both dead on, as was our long trek across the field to 37 (though very steep climb down the rocky watercourse.) What would have been an easy trip to 106, by now approaching dawn, was made harder when I followed up to the saddle to the east and I became completely disorientated, though fortunately Mitch kept his bearings and successfully navigated us to it, just before 6:30am as the sun began to appear over the horizon.

 

06:30-12:00

 

Now we had 5 ½ hours to go and had some decisions to make. We were at the almost maximum distance from the Hash House so there was very little that could added in, however we hoped that if we got a good clip going, we could get the majority of the low hanging fruit near the road and still have some possible detours. Starting out with 78, there was a rapid change in the pace now that it was light and we were on a track. Our route then proceeded to collect 38, 107, 57, 94, checking in W8/ANC at 9am, too late to get any hot food, but was an opportunity to refill, and shove whatever “drugs” I had in my bag into my front pockets to chow down in the final hours. 76 was found easily, though we branched out too early at 35 and found ourselves wandering around the side of the wrong knoll for several minutes until it dawned on us.

It was just after 10am when we bagged 64, so we needed to make a unanimous decision of where to go from there. The options included running out to 54 and back via 44 (90 points), or to rush to 63, 52 and 73 (180 points). We chickened out of the latter unsure of the time available, though in retrospect we’ll we wishing we didn’t (more of that later).

54 was a long way, but was collected without incident, as was 44, just after 11am, where we happened to observe one of our rivals – the NZ M23 team – leaving. Knowing that there was a (tiny) chance that if we somehow accumulated the same score, but arrived back earlier we would beat them, we agreed to expend any energy we had left to run the remaining 2km on the road.

Putting it mildly, it hurt. An all-out assault on a 2km track hurts in any form, but when it’s done after 23 hours of all types of pain, it is beyond comprehension, particularly as the NZ team got the same idea, and in fact managed to overtake us. I would have loved to give chase, but when it was between that and getting back without passing out, I had to keep it a moderate jog. Finally, finally, the HH was nigh, and Mitch and I punched off at 11:20 – 40 minutes early, but realistically unable to collect anything else.

To our surprise though, our rivals had other ideas – we watched them drop their bags, attach their race numbers to their shirts and run off to 80, a 4km out and back, the same one we had all but ruled out, though of course now leaves us scratching our heads after seeing what it led to.

 

Results

 

After posing with our map for a post-battleground photo, Mitch and I settled down in the shade; the legs that had done so much over the past 23+ hours could do no more and we settled down briefly in the shade with a good portion of other tired faces, to be given a printout totalling 2420 points – less than half the final allotment but not surprising considering the course’s size. Having a shower immediately (albeit a cold one as the hot water had run out) was a luxury that had very rarely been offered, and it was a great feeling to put on clean clothes as I severed my links with the ones that were now covered in crystalized sweat.

After briefly catching up with other NSW teams and trying to eat a bit of lunch (not easy with my stomach still feeling like a blender), it was time for the formal presentations. To our benefit, the U23 teams were called out first, with our names called out as being… 3rd place, with the comment that it was very close with 2nd, though ~500 points behind first (another AU team I hadn’t heard of).

The NZ team beat us by 10 points. By making that all out sprint to 80 points. 10 points. Of course we will forever be wishing we could have collected something else, which would have been easily possible. On the other hand, I’m sure they were elated that they made the trip, and (dare I say it), they really earned their placing over us. That’s rogaining though – hindsight is the best course planning aid, and the only way to achieve a top place is to treat every control as having the potential to decide between first and second, or second and third!

Nonetheless, it is a 3rd in a world championship event, so can’t be too disappointed! It was nice to be given a medal each, as well as a picture frame as a memento.

We also came 47th in the general classification (out of almost 300 teams), putting us in the top sixth, though the overall winners are in a league of their own, with a score of 4400, almost double ours and over 500 ahead of 2nd place!

Eight

Gear and Food

 

I managed to get my hands on a Camelbak Ultra 10 (constructed for Ultramarathons) late last year which I’ve spent the past few months tweaking to fit properly and holding maximum gear. I was able to increase its capacity by using re-useable cable ties to attach my jacket and arm warmers on the outside, and it worked a treat in this event, managing to (just) hold everything in.

After some debate, I resolved to wear a short sleeved shirt (as I’d rather a few scratches), short pants above the Spinifex-proof (allegedly) gaiters. My Salomon trail runners, which had its gore-tex coated in a layer of silicon, had their tread completely destroyed due to the sharp rocks, but held up for the journey. The night didn’t get that cold, so managed to get by with a pair of arm warmers and a headband, having carried a raincoat as a backup.

Knowing what type of food to take on such an event is always a challenge as it needs to be substantial keep me full, but easy to digest. Ultimately, I ended up eating:

  • 5 Golden Circle fruit squeezes (I’d introduced them to Mitch at the metrogaine and he now swears by them!)
  • 2 apples (these were great at 10pm)
  • 1 mandarin (carried 2 more but didn’t feel up to eating them)
  • 6 fruit bars
  • 3 museli seed bars
  • About 8 gels. These came to taste putrid near the end, but would cram down whatever it took to get me over the line!
  • Block of Old Gold Cadbury dark chocolate, to help me through the night
  • 2 small bottles of a liquid, best described as “Red Bull on Steroids” to shove down at dawn. These things are amazing,
  • Bag of Snakes for the final few hours.

 

Needless to say, it’s not exactly what would satisfy the recommended “food triangle,” but in terms of getting us through the event, it couldn’t have been better.

 

What’s different about a World Championship Event?

 

Having now done all forms of NSWRA events, state champs, national (Australasian) champs and now a world championship event, I can now observe what makes this event special. In essence, it’s the same thing: You’re smashing yourself physically and mentally over 24 hours over tough, unfamiliar terrain. But there were some interesting differences.

 

  • The control values were between 30 and 110 points. No little crumbs of 10 and 20 pointers next to the road. I had thought that there was some standard that controls were a maximum of 100 points as that’s all I’ve ever experienced (other than the last minute 200 pointers at the Tarlo event) but this seems to be convention – the ARC 2007 in the same region went up to 120.
  • The size of the course was much bigger than any event I’ve done, being on an A1 sheet of paper. At 1:25,000, this covered about 20x12km2. This was in keeping with rule C2 “The course shall be designed so that the winning team is likely to visit most but not all checkpoints.
  • The controls were essentially all at least 1.5km apart.
  • As opposed with state level events, the rules were much more heavily enforced to crack down against cheating: the electronic punches were made out of cloth, and attached with an official crimping a ring around it so that the only way it could be taken off was by cutting it. GPSs were put in a tamper proof bag by an official and needed to be returned within an hour after the event or risked disqualification.
  • There was a practice course (this has occurred for the ARC on some occasions)
  • Unlike the state 24h events where most competitors arrive Friday evening at the earliest and leave straight after the event, it felt much more of a community pre and post event, where almost everyone arrived by Friday evening (with many getting there on Thursday). It gave us a chance to really enjoy the event rather than rush there and back.
  • There was a physical podium for the presentations, an opening and closing ceremony by the President of the IRF and medals given to every placegetter the presentations.
  • Teams were required to be either made of 2 or 3 members.
  • The ABC wrote an article about the event!

A bigger picture of rogaining

Having spent 5 days completely focussed on rogaining with people from all parts of the world, I was reminded of how this bizarre sport has taken off. From an unnamed activity invented by some university students in the 1960s, it has now spread into a sport with at least one formal organizing committee in each state and territory, a national Australian Rogaining Association with annual Australasian Champs, and an International Rogaining Federation that has its own 9 page document of official rules and has hosted world championships annually for the past 10 years all over the globe. The fact that it is a volunteer run sport all the way to the IRF is really awesome and shows the passion for people of all different nationalities to keep this activity going.

I once was chastened by a mate when I showed little interest in cricket, with him lecturing me how cricket was such an Australian sport and I needed to follow it. But if there is any Australian sport, surely it has to be rogaining; that was actively founded in Australia, and has taken its way all the way around the globe and meeting representatives from other nationalities helped remind me of this!

Nine

World Rogaining Championships

Well done to all the NSWRA members who went out to Alice Springs to compete in the 2016 World Rogaining Championships in the East McDonnell Ranges on the weekend. All would agree it was a spectacular, yet painful course, full of spiky spinifex, steep hills, sharp rocks and at times very hot, however an absolutely fantastic event overall. A full listing of finishers will be written in the subsequent bulletin, though a shout out to the NSW teams who got a podium position on this massive course of 89 controls and 6190 available points and A1 size map where nothing was given for free:

  • Andrew & Nicole Haigh: 2nd in Mixed Veterans, 2650 points.
  • Nic Pittman & Ciara Smart: 2nd in Mixed Youth (U23), 1900 points.
  • Mike Hotchkis & Neil Hawthorne: 2nd in Male Super Veterans, 2870 points.
  • Tristan White & Mitch Lindbeck: 3rd in Male Youth, 2420 points.
  • Andrew Smith & Toni Bachvarova: 1st in Mixed Veteran, 3rd in Mixed Open, 2690 points.

 The best result in the general classification by a NSW team was Ronnie Taib & David Williams, collecting 3250 points to put them in 10th, though the NZ winners, Greig Hamilton and Chris Forne put themselves in a league of their own, collecting 4400 points, over 500 points ahead of second!

Check out the ABC article, here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-23/competitors-race-off-in-the-world-rogaining-championship/7655304, Tristan and Mitch can seen running forth on the left side!

WRC-Start

Cheating?

The rules of rogaining are pretty explicit:
R7. Navigational Aids

(a) The only navigational aids that may be carried on the course are magnetic compasses, watches and copies of the competition map.

(b) The possession of other navigational aids, including pedometers, altimeters and GPS receivers on the course is prohibited except when event organisers provide a means by which information on the devices cannot be accessed whilst on the course.

Despite this rule, many people, the author included, carry navigational aids which, these days, come in many forms. I normally wear a GPS watch and a foot pod. I also carry a smart phone with GPS (I am sure when the rules were written GPS watches were not so prevalent.). The other thing to note is that a smart phone including a GPS is a really good safety measure. If a team, either lost or injured, can relay its GPS coordinates to the Hash House then search and rescues would be simple.

One view, may be that I should simply not carry such devices during an event, but the reality is that I really enjoy a post event review of my track which highlights speed and small (hopefully) errors. In many respects having a GPS during an event is of little benefit, but in one respect there is a real risk of cheating. GPS can be used to track distance and there is a significant risk that people who carry a GPS will use it for distance reckoning rather than relying on the imprecise science of pace counting.

I think we understand the problem, but what should we do about it? My view is that using a GPS device in any form during an event is rightly banned and should be viewed as cheating, but given that so many rogainers currently wear GPS I am not sure that a strict enforcement of the current rule is the right solution. Possibly the best solution is to modify the rules to say that GPS devices may be carried but must not be worn and teams consulting these devices outside of an emergency situation will be disqualified for cheating.

I would be interested in the thoughts of others.