Go Your Own Way

Thoughts About the Future of Rogaining … by Brett Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, that’s my feedback.

My Personal Pitch for the 24

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

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

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

 

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

Experience

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

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

Perspective

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

Novelty

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

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

 

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

Fields, Fences and Frogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Strategic Plan

After the Wingello wingaine (great event thanks all) I can’t help but wonder about the process of awarding wins in multiple categories. I have wondered about this for a while and can’t see the logic. Perhaps there could be some consideration to teams nominating their chosen category and also an open category, but seeing the same team trotted out for four categories does seem a bit dull.

I also feel as an aside that the sport is incredibly cheap for what is provided. Do you know an ironman triathlon entry rates above 1000 dollars currently? UTA may as well be 1000 dollars. Im pretty sure cost is not keeping people away. Could mean ,ore money in the coffers to think about some remuneration to prevent volunteer burnout.

Anyway this is not a Wingello inspired whinge just some thoughts I have had for some time. I think the strategic plan is a solid piece of work. Well done all.

2018 Lake Macquarie – Photos from an injured competitor

On Saturday Renae Martin (M &D – Team 61) had the misfortune to break her leg near Control 73.  This is the bad news.

The good news is that Renae is alive, well and recuperating. The other good news is that Renae broke here leg near control 73, shortly after the event started, where help was reasonably easily and quickly obtained.  

Aside from the photos (below) Renae shared the following with us

“I was briefly in the rogaine on Saturday but broke my ankle at control 73. I just wanted to pass on my thanks to the teams that stopped and helped. I didn’t get any names or numbers, but they were amazing. I ended up breaking my ankle in three places and dislocated it. (Trimalleolar fracture)
I had surgery on Sunday to put in plates and pins. 

Thanks also to Ian and others of SES getting me back to camp and calling the ambulance. 

I am so grateful for the help and humour on the day so would appreciate it if you could pass on my thanks. “

Renae, still in good humour.
Nobody seems too stressed in this photo
After
You do do not need a degree in radiology to tell things are not right here.
After – Looks painful.

I am sure the whole rogaining family wishes Renae a speedy and painless recovery and we look forward to seeing her on another rogaine very soon.

 

 

My Wrap of the 2018 Paddy Pallin

I really enjoyed the 2018 Paddy Pallin event at Kitchener. I had not rogained in the area before, but I look forward to competing there again if the opportunity arises.
The course was interesting because it was large and very well mapped. The map included detail from three Newcastle Orienteering Clubs’ maps and it showed. There was a lot of detail built into the 1:25000 scale. In many respects it was a orienteerer’s course because you needed to constantly check the fine detail on the map to score well.

My team mates and I had a pretty good rogaine. We really only made two errors that cost us more than a minute or so. The first mistake was mine and it was a bit embarrassing. We were looking for control 76 “The Bridge – East side of tunnel”. Because we were looking for a bridge I switched off mentally, because how could anyone walk over a bridge and not notice. Team mate Julian suggested we had just crossed “the bridge” and I ignored him, but I had to eat humble pie about a minute later when I saw a side trail which told me that Julian was right (again). In fairness it wasn’t much of a bridge, it was just a pipe with dirt over it, but this was one of those courses where you just cannot afford to switch off.

The landscape was interesting. There had been mining in the area up until the 60’s and there were many remnants of mining works. There were also many tracks, most of them seemed to be kept open by trail bikes. The course also resembled a bit of a used car cemetery as there were many very old abandoned cars on the course. There were also a lot of controls on the course and they were not so far apart which kept us constantly scanning the map.

The vegetation was almost perfect for rogaining. Much of it was open forest and the thick stuff was marked with the accuracy of an orienteering map. The ground was easy underfoot and notably neither my team mates or I fell over during the event, which is a bit unusual. The weather was also perfect for rogaining it was a cool 15C which is perfect going hard and avoiding heat stress.

Team mate Julian camped at the Kitchener public school on Saturday night while John Clancy and I spent a very civilised night in a motel in Aberdare. I do not mind camping, but with 4C forecasted and lots of motels near by, it was an easy decision. We also got to watch France down Australia in the World Cup in our motel room. We even let Julian watch since his 30+ year old tent did not include a television. In fact the arrangement was perfect, Julian picked up the maps first thing in the morning, and then drove to our motel room to pick us up. We then spent a pleasant hour course planning in McDonalds at Cessnock. My theory is that Julian likes camping just so he can show off his very old tent with dual chimneys. To be fair it is the only tent I know that has dual chimneys, it is also Australian made (Wilderness Equipment), but takes about two days to erect and it’s time he bought himself a new one, without the bloody chimneys.

Julian about two hours into his tent erection, with his chimneys on proud display.

The day was also notable because the event included many competitors who are legends of our sport. At the end of the event, Peter Tuft, one of the founders of rogaining in NSW spoke about the 2019 Australian Champs which he is organising in Tasmania (book your holiday now).  Another one of the founders of our sport, Bert van Netten, competed and he and his partner, Ted Woodley, beat my team. Not only did they score 190 points more than we did, they also walked about 2 kms less. We will get them next time. Another founder of our sport, Ian Dempsey, vetted the course.

Historically rogaine maps were off the shelf maps (the Navshield event still is) with red circles drawn on freehand. The 2018 PP rogaine has set a new standard in terms of mapping detail and accuracy for a 1:25000 map. Is this the natural evolution of our sport or are we in danger of going overboard? Certainly this event set a mapping standard that can only be maintained with the aid of orienteering base maps. Having said that, the fine detail was appreciated when trying to find controls in a complex jigsaw of eroded gulleys.

Chris Relaxing

Overall, we had a really enjoyable event and we hope everyone else did as well. Sam Howe did a great job with the course. There was a heap of route choice and teams spread out nicely across the course. Bob Gilbert did a great job coordinating the event and acting as MC at the presentation. Bob and the Newcastle team are very active supporters of rogaining and their work is greatly appreciated.  Also a big thank you to the Paddy Pallin organisation for their ongoing support of our sport.

The only thing that could have made the day better would have been beating Ted and Bert, but we will have to wait to the next event to do that.

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.

My Wrap of the Navigation Workshop at Rydal

Gertrude and Wind

The navigation workshop was just great fun. Many newbies and some experienced rogainers learned how to improve their skill of bush navigation from some of our sport’s pros. For my part I was one of the coaches and despite 24 years of rogaining I also learned a few things from the sport’s real pros.

My wife, Dianne, and good friend John Clancy volunteered to do the catering and we arrived late on Friday night and started unloading food from the car into the kitchen at the Rydal Showground. As soon as the kitchen door was opened, in popped Gertrude, the campground’s pet sheep. Apparently no one told Gertrude that we had hired the Campground for the weekend, because according to Gertrude if the kitchen door is open it was her right to be in there. We must have ejected Gertrude from the kitchen about a dozen times. Gertrude was also trying to make friends with our dog Maple. Maple is a cavoodle and about 1/20th the size of Gertrude and was quite wary of this huge woolly thing that was trying to make friends.

Gertrude checking out the intruders in her kitchen.

We eventually unloaded all of our food and ejected Gertrude one more time and went to bed. The next exciting thing that happened was that a huge wind followed by a brief rain storm thundered across the campground. Thankfully, Di, Sophie, my 11 year old daughter, and I had decided to camp inside the hall and were not out in the wind storm in a tent. I am sure those who stayed in a tent on Friday night were very concerned about being blown to Mudgee while still in their tent. The wind raged all night and I am sure those in a tent probably got little sleep.

Saturday

Saturday morning broke and the 50+ participants and 15 coaches arrived at the Campground and coaches and teams were matched up. The first exercise was held east of the showground in a mix of natural bush and pine forest. After a brief chat about compasses and navigation basics we set off hunting for controls. The path to the first control we selected was made unusually difficult by a mess of fallen pine trees in the gully. I have been rogaining at Rydal several times and it is lovely open forest which is almost perfect for rogaining but navigating this mess of fallen pine trees was not what I had planned for the day. It seems I should not have worried since once we had bagged the first control we moved away from pine tree hell and into some lovely open forest.

Joel Mackay showing what he carries in his pack for a 24 hour rogaine.

My team of coachees were very fast learners and after the first couple of controls they were taking compass bearings and heading off into the wilderness like seasoned pros. After a couple of hours of this we returned to the hash house to be lectured by a couple of our sport’s elite athletes. Gill Fowler spoke on the theory and practice of navigation and Joel Mackay spoke about what food and equipment to take on a rogaine.

I am sure everyone found these talks fascinating. I was reminded by Gill about “aiming off”. This is something I plan to put in practice in future rogaines. I was also fascinated by Joel’s talk and on what to eat and what to carry. Until Joel’s talk I was a keen advocate of carrying sports drink in my hydration bladder. Having learned that it probably makes no difference, I will, in future, be content just carrying water.

Read more about aiming off here…

Night Navigation and Nine Nightmares

After Joel’s talk the participants were all invited to measure their stride length in preparation for a night navigation exercise and after dinner we set off. Navigating at night time can be quite daunting for newbies, so I was keen to make the experience a good one.

We found the first control with relative ease and heading towards control number “9”. When arrived at where I thought control 9 should have been, we found other teams but no control. My team had navigated straight for the control so we had to eliminate the possibility of it being further up or down the gully. Once we had eliminated both of these possibilities, I doubted my own navigation skills and we headed to the next gully to check if we had pulled up short. I was thinking “Great coach I am, I cannot find a control only 300 metres from the last one in a reasonably well defined gully”.

We still didn’t find the control and at this stage, I knew it was my mistake and we headed for a known feature, a fire trail and track junction, to try again. This time I was making sure that our bearing and pace counting was perfect and a few minutes later we arrived at the exact same spot with no control in sight. By this stage I had to face up to the fact that I was rubbish at night navigation or the flag was not where it should be. There were other teams about, so I left my team standing in the dark while I sought out the other coaches to ask them if they had found the control. Having spoken to Ted Woodley and Joel Mackay both of whom could also not find the control we determined that the control was indeed not where it should be and we headed off to try a different control.

In hindsight, this was probably a really good lesson in what to do when you cannot find a control and it even occurred to me that perhaps this was some sort of sadistic test Gill had set for us. The reality was a little more mundane because the control has simply been hung in the wrong gully. I was very pleased by my team’s quick learning and after the fiasco with control number 9 they quickly found a couple of difficult controls in the pitch black and everyone’s confidence, including mine, was restored.

My Scary Experience

I am not often scared rogaining at night, but this night proved to be an exception. When we got near one of the controls I thought I could see movement behind one of the trees. Normally, I would just pass this off as an animal, but the movement was human height and seemed to be staying behind the tree. I am over 6 foot tall, male and almost 100kg, so I am not usually the timid type, but having someone watching you from behind a tree late at night, in the middle of the bush, has got to ring some alarm bells. I was wondering whether Ivan Milat had been let out early, when all of a sudden Mike Hotchkis popped out from behind the tree and scared several precious years from my remaining life.

It seems that Mike had set his team the task of finding this particular control unaided and was going to surprise them when they eventually found the control. Mike is a fine athlete and an outstanding rogainer. In real life Mike is lovely and not a very scary person at all, but what would you think when someone is clearly hiding and watching you from behind a tree, in the forest, in the pitch black?

Falnash Forest

The next morning we headed out for another practice session in Falnash Forest near Wallerawang. I hadn’t been walking in Falnash Forest before and it was a really lovely experience. It is a gently undulating, open forest, perfect for rogaining.

My team were now behaving like rogaining pros and we bagged control after control with no navigational missteps. I was quite proud of my coachees when they found a control on a poorly defined broad ridge about 400m away from the nearest well defined point.

Here is our well deserved selfie having bagged a difficult control

After Falnash Forest we headed back for lunch and a three hour minigaine starting from the hash house. We were all tired by this stage and we were more interested in navigation than point scoring for this event. Our navigation for this event was good but we were let down by our route choice and ended up getting only 60 points and then lost 30 of these by being 3 minutes late back. At the end of the day the point of the weekend was learning navigation and I sensed that my team were now pretty confident of their abilities.

Capable People

Rogainers, as a general rule, are capable and intelligent people and I am continually impressed by their willingness to help and to solve problems. A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into a weekend like this to make it a success and we come to expect this but I am still continually surprised by how people just pitch in and get the job done. Some examples were:
• Andrew Duerden, who had also volunteered as coach, listened to me ranting about how much I hate barbequing at close to midnight and volunteered to get up a 5:30am to take the task off my hands. Andrew cooked bacon and eggs for 70 people with a great deal of skill and good humour.
• Ronnie Taib, also there as a coach, spent every spare moment he had washing up and otherwise helping in the kitchen.
• I also must acknowledge the efforts of my wife, Di, and good friend John Clancy who spent the whole weekend doing nothing but feeding 70 hungry rogainers. The food was fabulous and more closely resembled a restaurant than a rogaine.
• Mike Hotchkis, Toni, Smiffy and Phil Titterton who, after a long and tiring weekend of walking, happily disappeared into the bush, once more, to pick up controls by themselves for a few hours.
• Thanks also to Richard Sage for bringing the catering trailer to the event. Not only did he have to drive across the mountains towing a heavy trailer, which is an unpleasant task, but towing the trailer means that he has to be one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave.
• I don’t know all the names of the people that helped. Some women I had didn’t recognise cut veggies for 70 with the speed and skill of a Michelin chef. Gary Roberts was also a regular presence in the kitchen doing what he could, including the unpleasant task of taking home bags of rubbish for disposal.

Ronnie, Gary and Andrew helping out in the kitchen

• I also need to acknowledge the 15 coaches who willingly gave up their weekend to share their skills with others.
• The final thanks must go to Gill. Without Gill’s efforts the event simply would not have taken place

I am continually impressed by the generosity and capability of the rogaining community.

Outcomes from our 2017 Survey

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

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

NSWRA 2017 Strategic & Planning Survey

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

1. Favourite Events

Analysis

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

Limitations

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

2. Bad Experiences

Analysis

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

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

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

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

#suckitupprincess That’s the nature of the sport.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • There was no camping at the Paddy Pallin Rogaine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Limitations

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

3. Reasons for absence

Analysis

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

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

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

Limitations

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

4. Preferred Type of Event

Analysis

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

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

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

“Other” preferences or notes included:

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

5. Additional events

Analysis

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

6. Event Variants

Analysis

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

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

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

 

Other suggestions/comments included:

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

7. Volunteering

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

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

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

A selection of the comments includes:

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

8. Other Suggestions

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

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

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.