A Great Location
I really like Cherrybrook as a location for a short or city based event. The suburb is literally surrounded by bushy creeks with Pye Creek to the north and Berowra Creek to the east and south. There is a nice bush plateau area NE out to Refuge Rock (Control 71) and the Berowra Creek River Valley provides some reasonable changes in elevation and the feel of a remote location. There is also a good number of picturesque walking tracks within easy reach of the main shopping centre.
The 1st Cherrybrook Scout Hall was a good location for the Hash House given that it is close to the bushier end of Cherrybrook.
A Reluctant Organiser
I didn’t want to organise the Cherry Pye-gaine minigaine, I wanted to compete, but as the event got closer and closer it was clear that no one else was going to volunteer so I, with a little nudging from Graham Field our Volunteer Co-ordinater, reluctantly put my hand up. Fortunately my friend and very experienced rogainer Julian Ledger volunteered to help me, so that made it easier.
Usually organising a rogaine isn’t very hard and can be slightly tedious. The key issues in organising a rogaine are:
- Hash house venue,
- NPWS and other landholder permissions,
- Water (not a problem in our case).
Once these big issues are taken care of the other tasks that confront the organising team are mostly administrative.
For this event Salomé (Sam) Hussein was course setter and Hamish Mackie had agreed to produce the map. I also vetted the course along with Grant Elliot. With pretty accurate GPS on phones in recent years, the job of vetting a suburban course requires more IT knowledge and common sense than actual rogaining knowledge.
Weather Gods Taking the Mickey
When I say organising an event is fairly straight forward, that is the case until something bad happens. In this case the rain provided us a certain amount of stress. It rained solidly for the two weeks before the event and the creeks were clearly up and the northern part of Berowra creek was, for most of this time, tricky (i.e. slightly dangerous) to cross.
The creeks around Cherrybrook do not have big catchments. Berowra creek starts on the northern side of Pennant Hills road only about 3kms from the Hash House. The downside of having smallish catchments is that these creeks rise and fall quite quickly in response to local rain events. All the ground around was completely water logged so any rain was going straight into the creeks and would be flooding the course in a matter of minutes.
As you can see from the table above the rain was very heavy on the Saturday and was expected to be in excess of 20mm on the Sunday, in fact between 4 and 10 mm was expected during the event.
Sam, Julian and I all made reconnoitres of creek crossings on the course on Friday and Saturday to try and assess the danger of crossing flooded creeks. I did my final check at about 6pm on Saturday evening.
The team putting together the event had a meeting on the Saturday night before the event and made the decision to remove 17 controls from the course in the interest of competitor safety. If the predicted rainfall had occurred during the event then many of the creek crossings would have been unsafe. We might have had competitors cross creeks and then not be able to cross back later in the event.
As it turned out the Weather Gods had the last laugh by producing an unexpected rain free period for the event. Had we known this, many of the controls we had ruled out the previous evening could have remained in the course.
I thought about titling this post as “Leechageddon” but in reality I think the team working on the course were more troubled by leeches than the competitors, although a few competitors did tell me about encounters with leeches during the event.
I reckon I had a leech bite every day for the two weeks before the event. Despite spending much of the day of the event in the Hash House I still managed to get two leech bites on the Sunday. The Monday after the event I stayed at home and didn’t go into the bush at all, but still managed to get a leech bite by putting on my walking shoes. It seems a leech hidden in there from the day before.
Even my trusty vicious killer attack dogs, Maple (a spoodle) and Phoebe (a short haired foxy) were not immune. Maple and Phoebe helped me vet and hang controls (outside of the National Park) and both suffered regular leech bites, with their lips and between their toes being the most common place for them to attach.
To give you an indication of how bad the leeches were, on the Saturday night before the event I spent just over an hour checking out some critical creek crossings. Having arrived back at my car just before dark I removed 8 leeches before hopping into the car.
Some people hate leeches and think they are disgusting. I really only have two objections to leeches:
- “It’s my blood and no you can’t have any of it.”
- They itch like crazy for a couple of days after being bitten.
The slightly good news is that I have had so many leech bites over the last few weeks that my body has given up reacting to them and they no longer cause as much of an itch.
Despite taking a significant number of controls out of the course the organising team speculated that no one would complete the course under 3 hours. How wrong we were. Two teams and 12 individuals cleared the course under 3 hours. The fastest were Richard Mountstephens and Chris Turnbull and I confess that when they walked into the Hash House only 2:12 after the event had started I assumed that they had pulled out for some reason, they didn’t event appear to be puffing.
I think most competitors had a good time and while the organising team regretted cutting the course and removing some of the more remote tracks and controls, I am sure most competitors enjoyed the remaining course which still took in a fair bit of the bush surrounding Cherrybrook. 419 people registered to compete, of these 357 showed up and competed in what seemed likely to be a very wet event.
I was expecting a number of injuries given how slippery parts of the course were. In fact, I spent the time just after dawn on the day of the event deck scrubbing the concrete path down to 54 so that competitors were less likely to fall over and hit their heads. The concrete path had been like walking on ice for the week before the event and you could literally stand on the top of the path and slide to the bottom using gravity alone.
Steve Young, our volunteer first aider, was ready to treat an influx of slip and fall victims but fortunately he had little to do other than treat a couple of leech bites and a gashed head from one of the better competitiors who ran on and completed the course in very good time after his accident.
“No volunteers = No Events” and I would like to thank the people who made it happen.
- Sam Hussein did a great job on her first go at course setting.
- Hamish Mackie did a fine job on the map. Hamish arranged the printing of the maps from two different sources on two different waterproof paper stocks which yielded interesting results. It seems that even in the world of map printing you get what you pay for with the more expensive map $3.30 each copy being more durable in the wet condition and having better colours.
- Julian Ledger for helping out on a wide variety of tasks.
- Grant Elliot for vetting and hanging flags
- Tristan White for sharing his detailed knowledge of the area.
- Steve Young for his first aid work.
- Nigel McDonald for towing the admin trailer to and from the event
- 1st Cherrybrook Scouts for the loan of their Scout Hall
- 1st North Sydney Scouts for their catering
- Anita Bickle for doing the administration and Bert van Netten for helping with setup.
- Steve Ryan, John and Cath Anderson and John Barnes for flag collecting
- John Clancy and Hamish Mackie for helping on the day
One of the things I really like about the rogaining community is that they are practical people and just step in to “get the job done”. Thanks to all of these who stepped in to make this event a success.