Oh where to go with our 12 hours? A look at the point distribution made it clear that we needed to go to the northern section and to the SW corner with some options through the western section depending on time. But I.could.not.resist the little cluster of points to the East. Sure the pine forest was sparse for points but a little run along the fire trail would be worth it I reckoned. So I convinced Brooner to trade in some of the off-track controls out west that were ~60pts/km for a longer distance but mostly on tracks for ~60pts/km.
This was risky as we had now set a course of 42km, which didn’t match our current training levels (lots of desk work and not much sleep). So yeah, it was ambitious but we had already discussed what we could chop if needed and had some options for adding little 1km or 3km sections if speed was on our side. We were concerned about the control descriptions – ‘Top of cliff’ did not sound like controls we wanted to find in the dark, especially without accurate contour lines and a warning of unmarked cliffs. As always, where did all the planning time go?
No one followed our route from the HH. We would have to wait for the results to see that we were the only team in the top 10 finishers of the 12hr event to visit 104 and surrounds. Straight to 38 with no dramas. Then Brooner suggested we get 44 as well. I did not squash this idea firmly enough and found myself agreeing. It did not go well.
Lesson #1: Do not add controls in the first 30 mins of the event.
We overshot it while getting through a patch of scrub and then found very massive cliffs but no control. This was a quick lesson on getting our heads into the map and figuring out what was and what was not mapped. Also… pace counting! The epic cliffs were not mapped and were where the control lines were closer together. The less epic cliff was mapped and had our control on top. We hoped this lesson would stand us in good stead for the night section because we were now well behind schedule!
We nabbed 83 and then chuckled as we could already see 104. That was nice! Round to 64 and some nice rock. A sense of dread was starting to set in – this was my 4km marker and we were 1.25hrs into the event. AND I was hungry. I couldn’t help berating myself… we should not have gone East!
We set off to come in just south of 55. Finding a nice track we took it so I could jog a little – we figured this bonus track would connect with the track on our map. We hit a junction, turned right without bothering to check the compass, kept going and were surprised to happen upon the control already. Hmm ok. The original plan was to continue on the track north but it’s undulating so we opted to go south on the flatter trails hoping I could move a bit faster. Nothing was making sense until we realised #55 was hung in the wrong place. But this also meant we were close to #34 so added that control too (nice).
Now we were finally on our original route before I added the eastern controls, which would have a better points to km ratio. At least there were a few trods to follow given we were almost 2 hrs behind everyone else now. We got through the next 5 controls without issue and stopped to fill all our bottles up as we wouldn’t reach the next water point for a long time.
Lesson #2: Be careful after taking a break.
We missed a control in broad daylight (#68). We’d rushed too much trying to get out of the water control. Went in at the right point (hindsight) but didn’t push down far enough. Tried once again and then abandoned it. I can’t remember the last time I missed a control in daylight. We were not happy about this and purposefully dropped our next 2 controls (42 & 77) to catch up some time.
The northern section was lovely and I was perked up by seeing some familiar faces even if it was just a quick hello. I haven’t done much outside the pine forest of Belanglo so I was impressed by this ridge and many of the views on the course. Along here we met a family with a little boy who.just.did.not.stop.talking. He was kind enough to offer for us to join his team to find 103, how could we resist?
There was a sense of foreboding gathering – coming into 93 was my 16km marker and it was 4:30pm… The sun set before we reached 33. We often have trouble with our first control in the dark but were happy we have finally learnt that lesson! 102 was our first one in the pitch black and we were happy to find it (an “overhang opening” ?!?!) and not fall off any cliffs.
After collecting the triple 20s we needed to do a re-plan. This was the 20km marker. I was pretty bummed that I was this unfit and letting the team down so much! We’d already planned to drop a fair few controls but we knew we had to cut significantly more. This ‘discussion’ didn’t go well and our team almost broke up around here. Rogaining is truly a test of team work. But we got ourselves back on a track and got our teamwork back on track and continued on to execute the new plan. First up leftovers of the old plan 48-35-74-65.
We were worried about getting down to 65 from 74 and justifiably so. It took a long time and a lot of maneuvering north to find safe passage through the cliffs. Goodbye another hour – will we make it back to the HH before disqualification? We finally reached the creek and Brooner impressed me yet again with his ability to read the changes in contour and announce where along the creek we were. (I didn’t believe him… but he was right.) Sure enough, shortly afterwards he had us up on the correct spur. For those who didn’t get to experience all these hours in the dark, please imagine 9pm and you are stumbling through a creek unsure when you would end up waist deep (another team did) with vegetation tripping you up everywhere. What a party on a Saturday night 🙂
My contribution was to acknowledge how many contours we climbed and go off rummaging for a flag as it was not obvious on the spur. I found it hung low and a little tucked away. Thank goodness for that. (I acknowledge how hard it is to set night courses, having tried my hand at it for Loftus last year.)
Now the maths is really being crunched as we acknowledge how little time is left (2 hrs) and how many kms the HH is away. 47 tick. Fingers crossed for a quick duck into 85, we can juuuuust manage it. Except.for.the.cliffs. We were bluffed out. We both agreed we were on the nose of the spur but we just couldn’t get down. 1h15m to go – we should abandon ship. But it’s soooo hard to do that. We headed around to the north and finally managed to get down. We got to the cliffs on the map (we think) but couldn’t find the control. With just over 1hr to go, and a belief that we just needed to head a little more NW (yep, that would have done it) we pulled the plug. The taste of disappointment was strong.
Now it’s a trail run to get us back. ~5km in 55 mins. This would be our fastest km/hr rate of the entire 12 hours. We are trying not to think about how many points we are running past. We only manage to add 56 and 26 before arriving back with 5 mins to spare. All I could think about was cheese toasties….
I was a bit disappointed. What had we managed… maybe 28km in 12 hours and we’d missed a control in daylight. I needed to stop working so much and move more. It was hard to admit how many points we’d haemorrhaged. Next time (SA in 3 weeks) we need to plan a much shorter km rate per hour.
Lesson #3: (And a lesson of most rogaines I’ve done lately) No matter how much your adventure is not going to your plan, you have to not let it get to you. Usually if you are having issues, so are other teams.
Listening to everyone else, including the overall winners, regale their adventures I learnt that many teams had to re-work their plans and others also missed controls who wouldn’t normally. Now I felt a lot better about our outing. The software didn’t seem to recognise our team so we didn’t know our placing. We retired to bed to collapse.
Lesson #4: Do not do a rushed job of measuring out your course and km markings in the few minutes before starting.
We wouldn’t find out for another day these two things. 1) We’d come 4th overall (2nd in the Mixed) and 2) my km markings were WAY OFF. When we finished the triple 20s and I thought we’d only gone 20kms we’d done 28. We did 39km in total.
It was a tough day out but I do love rogaining. Thanks to Rick and Tassia for putting on such a good challenge – even more impressive was taking on a 12hr bush rogaine for your first course setting experience! Thanks to everyone else involved too. That warm veggie pie at the end was delicious. (Yes, I rogaine for the food and social chat at the end.)
Nicole, your ‘from the heart’ recount of your adventure is wonderful, capturing the excitement, anxiety, exhilaration, mental gymnastics, physical ups and downs (excuse the pun) and more, of your 12h Saturday night party! You even took time for photos! I really liked your genuine description of ‘party-night’ dynamics and the zone it puts you in that involves that balance of character-building-expand-your-comfort-zone feeling with testing-my-patience-and-resilience-but-trying-to-stay-calm feeling!
Very nice to learn that the 3 x 20 drew you in, even as experienced rogainers! Really rewarding ‘seeing’ your smiles for checkpoints like 83 to 104 where you encountered a manageable cliff but could see the flag. It’s also interesting hearing about controls like 68 which you missed during the day, and I know some others found it impossible at night while again others found it perfect to navigate to in the dark. Or 65, which you found after coming down from a scramble from 74 and up from the WC, contrasting with Xanda/Ivan/Tristan’s team which came down 65 and went SO close to it but JUST missed it and yes, went up to their waist (Ivan) in water crossing the WC on the way up to 74.
You’ve provided me with a chance to rattle off a bit of reflection about the rogaine which I’ve gleaned from our experience of seeing the event unfold, plus HIGHLY APPRECIATED FEEDBACK from ACT/NSW rogainers.
1) As far as I know only 55 was misplaced (by me),
2) the course looked easier on paper than it was,
3) the large/concentrated number of check points enabled teams to drop some if they weren’t easily found because others could be chosen,
4) the large choice was fun but also confounded decision-making,
5) the specific approach to controls had a marked influence on the difficulty and time taken, particularly impacted by cliffs at night, and generally by vegetation (e.g., approaching 75 from 36 easy, but approaching 75 from 26 very scrubby),
6) as is typical for night rogaines, day vs night nav impacted progress,
7) as is typical of rogaines, if it is tough for you there is a better than average chance it’s also tough for others (so keep at it!),
8) the previous wet weather added a fair bit of wet slipperiness challenge,
9) a few features, like the 102 overhang, were appreciated by some (who found it easily) and hated by others (who took ages to find it or didn’t find it), due largely to not being unambiguously featured on the map,
10) trails that run near controls (such as to 62 and 102) should/must-be/would-preferably-be/it-would-be-nice-if-they-were marked on the map,
11) late night management of the presentation takes more concentration and effort than doing a bloody rogaine and if you don’t very carefully arrange the prizes and remember where you placed them for the 6h vs 12h event you might end up with the impressive champagne that was meant for the winners of the 12h event going to someone (no idea who) in the 6h event,
12) the course was a lot of fun and had some great views and nice native bush,
13) can’t wait to do this all again!