Thanks to Covid disruptions, the NSW Championships haven’t run since Yengo 2019, which means we are greatly looking forward to a 24-hour event this year, using a new and exciting area in the far north-west of the state.

Thinking of the long history of the Championships, since the original event in Bungonia 1984, a question arose: who have been the stand-out competitors and who are the people who have won more than the others?  By searching our Newsletter archives I can reveal the top rogainers are:

Julie Quinn8
David Baldwin7
Mike Hotchkis5
Robert Vincent4
Peter Watterson3
Andrew Blakers2
David Williams2
Phil Whitten2
Ronnie Taib2
Shane Trotter2
Susie Sprague2
People who have won the NSW Champs Open category more than once

It is no surprise that Julie Quinn and David Baldwin, the elite rogaining team from Canberra who have dominated for 15-20 years, are at the top of the list.  The interesting twist is that Julie is one win ahead of David, because she won Kanangra 2016 with Susie Sprague … the only time a Women’s team has won the Champs, by the way.

This seemed an ideal opportunity to ask Julie about her sport.

What’s your origins and how did that get you into rogaining?

I grew up in Porirua, about 30 km north of Wellington in New Zealand. My parents were trampers (bushwalkers) so all of our family holidays were a trip somewhere. My first memorable experience with a map and route finding was in north-west Nelson up a valley, when my father handed me the map and asked me where we were – I was about five years old at the time.

I moved to Australia to do a PhD at the Australian National University.  While there I met David so stayed!  A housemate took me out on an event in 1999 after I moved to Canberra and I was hooked immediately, totally taken by a sport that needed both physical and mental excellence.

Now a public servant in the Federal Department of the Environment, I generally have flexible hours so can get out and train, and being a desk job provides good recovery time!

How often do you get back to NZ, and have you rogained there?

I do like to get back to NZ to visit family as well as exploring new areas, or re-exploring places I visited when young. My most recent trip included an overnight walk in the Tararua Ranges.

I’ve only done a couple of rogaines in NZ:-  the 2010 Worlds at Cheviot, and 2017 Emperor Australasian Champs in Southland. I’d be keen sometime to do the Heights of Winter as this is the classic event everyone talks about. Those two rogaines were quite different to Australia, featuring lots of farmland, fences and pockets of bush. Hills of course too!  In NZ you have to think and look about the landscape in a more vertical sense, rather than horizontal as you do in Australia.

How many rogaines have you done, and do you have a favourite?

I have no idea! We have a huge pile of maps in a drawer but I haven’t particularly kept a tally. I did do a count of 24-hour events for an International Rogaining Federation nomination and came to over 50 of that length.

I love most places that I have rogained in – generally they are set in really interesting places. However, I can’t go past the arid ranges of central Australia or the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Spectacular.  I am very proud of the event that I helped put on in central Australia for the World Rogaine Champs in 2016. 

Is 24-hour your preferred distance?

Yes, I like the 24-hour events because you really get a huge experience, seeing an area day and night, as well as the obvious physical challenge. But then, I also love the intensity of the shorter events where you must be quick, sharp and on the ball to do well.

You‘ve won at State, National and World Championships, which confirms you are fit, determined, smart and know how to select good teammates…

Good teammates really make a rogaine. Having someone who is compatible in fitness or speed and ambition makes it lots of fun. Early on, I remember doing a shorter 6-hour with a friend and saying we’d have a picnic during the event. Fortunately, she knew me well and, when we got to lunchtime and I said “we’re doing so well, we have to keep going”, she understood!

Congratulations on your (and David’s) effort last year at Aus Champs (Burra 2021), 400 points clear of the competition.

Burra was a super interesting course. We knew it would be a fast area with terrain for running but there were intricacies in the map, particularly in the west and south that needed lots of care. I think it is the first rogaine that I’ve been able to use the stars to navigate.  (A slight exaggeration perhaps…) but in the more open country we had some long bearings between controls on the flat, middle part of the course where the best feature to follow were the stars!  The other fun fact for us was that David’s parents made the first orienteering map of the area, to the south of the Hash House.

Julie Quinn & David Baldwin, after the 2021 Australasian Champs

Do you think much about your competitors when planning and executing an event?

No, I don’t. While I am competitive, a rogaine is about my team and the course. I have made lots of friends rogaining, and it is good to see them out on the course, but very annoying if they beat us to a control – especially if they have been more cunning than us!

How do you keep fit?

By running and cycling predominantly, with a little swimming and kayaking. Ultra trail-running is quite complementary to rogaining and a nice way to explore bush areas as well. I haven’t done as many ultras as some other rogainers but the UTA100 in the Blue Mountains (when it was the TNF100), the Great North Walk 100 km and Six Foot Track race are some close to Sydney that I’ve done.

Have you had much in the way of injuries?

I am lucky to have had very few injuries, although a broken toe stopped me running for a while earlier this year. I think some of this is due to cross training and also good recovery (e.g. lots of stretching) and knowing how hard I can push my body.

One of my key strategies for a rogaine is sleep banking.  I try to get lots of sleep in the week before the event and a side effect of this is less time to train, which makes a good taper going in. It takes me 2-3 weeks after a 24-hour event to feel recovered again so lots of easy activity is the key for that.

Do you use performance enhancing drugs?

I would never use illegal performance enhancing drugs!  But if you are talking about acceptable foods, then yes!!  Sugar can be as much a performance enhancer as caffeine. If we are messed up in our navigation or I am starting to get grumpy, stopping for something to eat makes such a difference – I can start to think clearly again.

What’s your best rogaining tips?

Oh, golly, that’s a hard question. Most tips are those that I’ve got sharing stories sitting around after an event, or when I’ve looked at GPS trails of circle work around a control afterwards and piecing together the mistake we’d made. Trusting your compass at night is pretty critical and generally, in the dark, you probably haven’t gone as far as you think, or hope.  (Therefore, in the dark, pace count all the time!)

What has been the hardest and or strangest moment you can recall on a rogaine?

I remember coming up onto a broad knoll in the dark in Arizona at the World Rogaining Champs and seeing a row of eyes glowing back.  Of course, I immediately thought of all of the things out there that could be dangerous (e.g. mountain lions) and got concerned, much to the amusement of my partner David. They were deer.

One final question… do you intend going to the NSW Champs at Gundabooka this year?

Yes, we are planning to go to Gundabooka, new job permitting. We went to the area a couple of years ago, at the time it had been originally scheduled, and it is a stunning area.  I expect the Spring wildflowers to be just as good this year and the escarpment and “pound” area are complex and intricate. I am anticipating challenges in the flatter areas with less visibility but careful compass work should reward teams.

Thanks Julie

[Note this article includes extracts from an interview with Julie for the 2018 Australasian Champs.]

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