Training Regimes & Gear of Elite Rogainers – An Interview with WRC Runner-Up Tane Cambridge

By Tristan White 

Rogaining is the sport of paradoxes. An integral part of the sport is an appreciation for the natural environment and for the simple things, yet it is full of tech-heads and it utilises sophisticated technology actually developed by some of these tech-heads such as the Navlight scoring system and nswtopo mapping software. It can be a highly competitive activity, yet people will engage in friendly dialogue with teams, out on course and at the end of the event, that they are also desperately trying to beat (and in many cases give them lifts to the event!)

But perhaps the biggest paradox of all is that on the one hand, it is the sport that people can do if they are too young, old or otherwise unable to do more mainstream sports such as rugby, tennis or running. But on the other hand, championship rogaines can be viewed as one of the craziest, physically & mentally demanding activities on the planet. This of course is a key ingredient to making the sport unique.

I consider myself a relatively competitive rogainer. Although there are many others who are more experienced, physically fitter and better at navigation, I rarely enter an event without trying to give 100% physically and particularly mentally. I can say from personal experience that careful training and preparation has inexorably improved my performance at the event. Anecdotal feedback from rogainers everywhere on the competitiveness spectrum indicates that they would like to read about what sort of preparation it takes to achieve the results I have.  

But my second place at the NSW Champs and twice 4th place in Australasian Champs is nowhere near the stunning (very narrow) 2nd by Kiwi guns Tane Cambridge and Tim Farrant in last year’s WRC in Spain. Tane has kindly agreed to share insights about his training regime, to provide some ideas for the more mortal person. He also answers a few questions about equipment in conjunction with the “Get Into Gear” series.

Tane Cambridge (L) and Tim Farrant following the 2019 World Rogaining Championships in La Molina, Spain

Tristan White: What have you studied/trained in and what do you do as a profession?

Tane Cambridge: I studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch and am now a Mechanical Engineer at Enphase Energy, so I am involved in the testing and the design of Micro-inverters and the associated accessories. 

TW: When/how did you get into rogaining in the first place and approximately (or exactly) how many have you done?

TC: I got into Rogaining through Orienteering. The two sports are pretty closely related and especially here in Christchurch and there is quite a lot of crossover so it’s hard to say when I actually started doing Rogaines! I think I have done about six 24-hour rogaines, no idea how many shorter ones (12,6,3 etc) but would like be over 50?

TW: What other sports have you done?

TC: I’ve been lucky enough to try out a lot of sports. As a kid growing up in Wanaka with parents into the outdoors, I was skiing (downhill and XC) from an early age, sailing (dinghies and trailer-sailers), mountain biking, running, triathlon and climbing (mountain and rock). At school I played team sports such as rugby, cricket and soccer as well as cross-country and orienteering. Now I am still heavily involved in orienteering, running (road, cross-country, trail, mountain), kayaking, cycling, mountain biking, multisport, and adventure racing!

TW: How many countries have you rogained in?

TC: Australia, NZ, Spain & France – the WRC last year in Catalunya had controls in both countries!

TW: What is the most memorable rogaine you’ve ever done?

TC: WRC 2019 – getting 2nd place was an exceptional achievement! We had as close as you could get to a perfect race and it was a fantastic area!

Tane and Tim celebrate their 2nd place – by a mere 5 points – in the WRC19 in Spain

TW: Would you be able to list what you would typically wear and carry in a 24-hour rogaine (excluding shoes), and how much does it weigh at the start?

TC: In a typical NZ rogaine I would take the following:

BASE CLOTHING

  • Asics White Cap
  • Polarised Sunglasses
  • Long sleeve polypropylene top
  • Arm Sleeves – to keep sun off arms
  • Trimtex Orienteering top, with collar
  • Trimtex 3/4 orienteering pants
  • La Sportiva Bushido II trail running shoes
  • O-speed Gaiters or long orienteering socks
  • Underwear

ADDITIONAL CLOTHING

  • Jacket –  Outdoor Research Helium (light) or Interstellar (heavy)
  • Polar Fleece top  (in cold or wet weather)
  • The North Face waterproof over trousers
  • Warm gloves
  • Buff

OTHER

  • Osprey Duro 15L pack
  • Gemini headlamp
  • Icebreaker socks
  • Thumb compass
  • Water bladder and bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Anti-chafe
  • Survival bag/blanket
  • Food*

Typically it would weigh 6-7kg at the commencement of the event

[*- stay hungry for a dedicated article on nutrition later this year. ]

TW: How do you modify your clothes and gear based on differing weather & terrain?

TC: If it’s forecast to be wet I will take a heavier weight rain jacket and polypro leggings. If it’s scrubby, I use matagouri/gorse/speargrass Orienteering Gaiters. If it’s farmland with no undergrowth I might wear shorts. In Alice Springs I used Gore-Tex shoes and Tramping Gaiters for the spinifex.

TW: What would a typical month of training consist of for you, particularly in the lead up to a major rogaine?

TC: The weeks usually consist of:

  • Mon: Easy run
  • Tue: Hill repeats
  • Wed: Long run
  • Thu: Interval training
  • Fri: Easy/rest
  • Sat: Fast run
  • Sun: Long run

In the last two weeks before a competitive rogaine there would be less long/hard stuff in there, but follow the same rough pattern.

TW: How much training is done with your teammate and how important do you think it is to prepare for big events together?

TC: We are lucky we live in the same city (Christchurch) so we would probably train together once or twice a week. It’s important to be on the same page together and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses as a team but then the individual side of training or preparation for a big event is important to tailor things to our own levels of fitness and state of recovery. Often it can be difficult to find ideal times to train together – I prefer to train in the evenings after work, while Tim prefers in the mornings before work. So a balance is always good.

TW: What impact do you think your other assortment of sports has on your rogaining performance?

TC: Any long distance type event helps you build the resilience needed for staying up all night and keeping on going when your feet hurt. Orienteering is good for the navigation side of things. Physically speaking, running is good for training the legs, heart and lungs, whereas mountain biking and kayaking are great for building core and balance strength. Aside from that “cross training” is a good break from the day in, day out slog of training, breaking things up and reducing physical strain on one’s body.

Mountain Biking

TW: Are there any activities that you either avoid or moderate to prevent injury or illness?

TC: Avoiding over-training is super important – you need to have rest days, or low activity days. I like to have a balance of hard and easy training sessions (the very reason why I don’t use Strava!) In the lead-up to any big event I avoid any “extreme” mountain biking – I managed to sprain (possibly fracture) my thumb the week before the World Adventure Racing Champs in 2017 crashing my mountain bike while out training beforehand. I learned my lesson there!

TW: How much overlap is there between rogaining and orienteering training and what differences are there in preparing for them?

TC: The overlap is huge. In Christchurch, there are a lot of opportunities to do both orienteering and rogaining, so I will do both when it suits me. I am still more involved in orienteering than rogaining. The training is pretty much the same, maybe some longer runs are required for the rogaining but the longer training can be beneficial for orienteering too.

The major difference is in the planning that occurs in a rogaine – it is something I have had to work on a lot to get better at choosing which controls to get rather than being told which ones to go to and just doing it as fast as possible. Calculating point and climb rates per kilometre comes into rogaine preparation a lot more than orienteering as you are typically making educated guesses on the spot in the latter. Physical endurance is important to both, but more so in rogaining and speed is more important in orienteering. Efficiency is the key to both!

TW: You know as well as anyone that physical fitness alone is not going to prepare you to be highly competitive in a rogaine. How much of your training includes navigation practice, and aside from other rogaines/orienteering events are there other ways that you practice your navigation?

TC: I would try to incorporate at least 1 or 2 navigation specific training sessions, such as a rogaine or orienteering event, per week. Other ways to practice would be to research the race area, look at maps of the typical terrain old maps of the same area and “armchair” practice. This involves looking at other rogaine maps to plan my own route and analysing other people’s routes in the results. Thanks to fellow Kiwi Peter Squires the Navlight system has made this easily possible!

TW: Do you have any special dietary habits?

TC: I tend to avoid spicy foods, chicken, fish and mushrooms before a race, and to minimise the risk of food poisoning or an upset stomach!

TW: Being able to motivate yourself to keep going throughout the night is tough. Outside of other night events, are there any methods you have to better prepare yourself for the slog of keeping going for 24 hours?

TC: Making sure you are well prepared and well rested beforehand, so that it’s not such a big deal to stay up all night. When I’m getting sleepy, talking about route choice and focusing on the navigation usually is enough to get through the low patches.

TW: Do you have any recovery techniques for after 12/24hr rogaines (stretches, food types, etc), and how long does it take before you feel “normal” again?

TC: First thing is usually food and drink, then sleep! Usually it takes at least 2 weeks to feel normal again.

Thanks for sharing some of your “secrets” Tane! All the best in your future endeavours!

Get Into Gear Part 2 – A Hot Topic: Hydration & Dealing with the Heat

If you think this is hot
By Tristan White

I have a theory that for every person, there is about a 20 degree Celsius range in which most people can comfortably participate in vigorous outdoor activities. I have known many a cold-blooded species who will happily go running and cycling in near 40°C temperatures, but wear a jacket if it drops below 25°C. And then there are other extremes, myself included, who are relatively comfortable as the temperature drops to near freezing provided they keep moving, but  start to complain about overheating once the temperature rises much above 20°C.

One of the beauties of rogaining is the disparity of weather conditions across the year that test the limits of people anywhere on this spectrum. I will discuss gear for the cold later this year, as I expect it is probably as far from most people’s minds as a 100-pointer is from the Hash House. However, with the extreme heat we’ve experienced lately, strategies for dealing with hot weather – particularly regarding hydration – seem very relevant.

As an organiser for the Springwood MG when a rogainer’s body shut down in 35°C in the middle of the bush, and having personally become delirious in the similarly hot Scheyville Minigaine 2018, I am keen to consider gear and strategies to reduce the likelihood of such incidents.

When seeking other people’s experiences on heat and hydration, my mind immediately went to our friends up north in Queensland, who on average experience temperatures 5 degrees warmer than NSW.

Paul Guard – former QRA president, current ARA secretary, and longtime competitive rogainer, kindly offered to give a few insights about facing high levels of mercury, or alternatively, about handling conditions when the mercury is high.

Paul (2nd from left) with teammate Bevan following their win in 2017 Qld Champs

Richard Robinson, who featured in last month’s gear article, also shared some of his experiences.

Tristan White: What issues have you experienced or seen from rogainers who have suffered by going too hard and not drinking enough in the heat?

Paul Guard: The worst I experienced was at the Warrumbungles WRC in 2006 where both my teammate Tony and I ran out of water and suffered heat exhaustion. In Tony’s case it was quite severe and he ended up in the first aid tent. We both became quite disoriented on our way back to the HH.

Richard Robinson: I have two vivid experiences. The first was WRC1998 in Canada. It was 40°C and quite humid. One of the hottest days ever recorded at the location. From early on I could see my partner, Peter Merrotsy, sweating profusely and with a lot of salt build up on his shirt. Some 6 hours in he was getting very slow and saying he felt unwell. He started to stagger a bit and then fell briefly unconscious and started vomiting. I thought “this is not ideal!” I got him up and we crawled to the next CP by which time it was dark and he was no better. We made our way very slowly to the nearest WP, about 3km away and I wrapped him in the space blankets that we had because it was starting to get quite cool (and the mosquitoes were so thick you could barely see through them!) and then left him as I jogged the 8km back to the HH and they sent a vehicle out to collect him.

The second incident was the 1999 Croc’n’Rock 24hr Rogaine in the NT, having pulled out early in the afternoon due to an injured teammate. On Sunday morning I was dropped at the furthest point of the almost trackless map just after daylight to start picking up CP markers as anyone who was out there with 5hrs to go would not finish in time. There was plenty of water on course but it was a hot day. I started feeling unwell and then started cramping so badly that at one stage I couldn’t bend down to pick up water and took 10 minutes to get up a 0.6m high rock face. I took the decision to head for the road. As I neared the HH I started vomiting though the strange thing was that everything I had eaten or drunk in the previous 3 hours was still in my stomach. My digestive system had shut down and I was not absorbing anything. I had formed a view over those four or so hours that I was so badly affected that if I lay down and went to sleep I would never wake up and see my children again. It may well not have been true but it was obviously very scary.

When I got back to the HH I was immediately given 1 litre of IV fluid as the event was run by a bunch of doctors and they happened to have it there. It made no difference, so they took me into Run Jungle where I was given a further 2 litres of IV fluid and I was good as gold!

TW: In addition to slowing down your pace, what can rogainers do to ensure that they do not suffer from the effects heat exhaustion?

RR: Cooling your core temperature is key. Drinking should assist but, as noted above, past a certain point that no longer works. Basically in the worst situations stop in the shade and if you can wet yourself or lie in a stream even better. Withdrawing from the event is a better outcome than DSQ due to death!

TW: What signs should you notice if out on a rogaine that you need to slow down due to dehydration or heat stress?

RR: In yourself, slowing down, feeling sick, cramping. In your partner, the same plus irrational or slurred speech and lots of stupid errors.

PG: Remember that even if you have a high threshold to extreme weather, it doesn’t mean your teammate will. When a teammate goes quiet, it’s usually a sign that something is going wrong. Keep talking to your team so these matters can be addressed before they get worse.

TW: Do you have any suggestions for how people can know how much they need to drink based on the temperature?

PG: I usually start with 3L in hot weather depending on water point availability. 2L can suffice in cooler weather. Overnight your body does usually consume a lot less, but good to carry plenty still.

RR: I work on the theory that having a litre of water you don’t use is way better than having an hour or three with none. I can generally get through a 6-hour afternoon on 3 litres and a 12 hour night on the same unless it is very hot so I adjust the volume carried dependent upon when I will be getting water through the event. I am a fairly high water user, my long time rogaine partner, Viv Prince, drinks about half what I do. We have had event stages where I have started with 3 litres and she with 1½ and I have run out and drunk some of hers.

TW: In addition to water, can you recommend any electrolytes or supplements that reduce the effects of overheating/dehydration?

RR: I use Endura at about 2½ times recommended strength. I start with 600ml and then mix up a second 600ml about halfway through. I try to drink some each hour such that it is all gone in 12 hours. My wife Tamsin prefers Tailwind. We also both take Exceed S! Caps and look to take two of these every 2-3 hours. I used to cramp a lot in rogaines but have been essentially cramp free since using the combination of Endura and S! Caps.

TW: How would your route plans change if extreme heat is forecast?

PG: Water point visitation planning is a key part of route planning, particularly when water points are limited or spaced out. If the weather is hot, it just increases the importance of good planning. Case in point: WRC 2016 (Ross River, NT) where many teams had to change plans due to insufficient consideration of water point locations.

RR: I cannot recall an occasion I changed my pace estimation due to heat but I have carried additional water and/or planned to get to the first water after 4 hours (instead of 6) in very hot conditions.

TW: My Sea to Summit 40x80cm Microfibre Towel. In hot events I soak in water and tie around my head

TW: Water bladders are a fantastic invention, however the one problem they come with is the need to physically take it out of your pack to determine how much water is left (and hence how much you’ve drunk). Do you have any suggestions on how to monitor your rate of water consumption with a bladder.

RR: Over time you get a feel for it but it is at times useful to stop and check if you are at a point where you might have an option to either add an emergency water stop or bypass a planned one.

TW: What sort of sunscreen do you carry and how often do you reapply? Does the frequency change depending on the temperature?

RR: Any good quality SPF30+ sunscreen. I am currently using a SPF50+ we bought at Tesco in Pilsen last year which seems to work all day. I put a good amount on before the start and apply another lot a bit after dawn. I do have an olive skin and Tamsin has some African genes so neither of us are massively sun sensitive, so I would imagine those with fair skin would need to reapply more regularly.

TW: Here’s my zinc sunscreen of choice for rogaines, carried in a small perfume container, which lasts longer and is more resilient to sweat than standard 30+ sunscreen. I have fair skin so aim to reapply around 3:30pm and again in the morning – ideally I should reapply even more regularly.

TW: What other clothing do you wear for sun protection?

RR: I wear a hat that stops the top of my head burning as I don’t have a lot of hair (good perimeter but low density) but allows good air flow for cooling. I would cook in a broard-brimmed hat or legionnaires type cap. I do wear sunglasses, well they are prescription glasses with transition lenses, but I wear them to see not for sun protection. I use Adidas glasses as does Tamsin. Note that those with blue eyes are more prone to UV damage.

Richard and Tamsin finishing the 2017 Rogue Adventure Race, with matching hats and sunglasses.

TW: As I have blue eyes, sunglasses are indispensable on a rogaine. My choice of eye-wear, BBB Sports Glasses (primarily made for cycling), can generally be purchased with 3 sets of lenses including dark, clear and light, and at night I change to clear ones to protect my eyes from swinging branches.

TW: What can organisers do as they set courses and plan the on-the-day running of the events that consider the impacts of high temperatures and ensure participants are aware of the risks associated with the heat? Aside from imminent bushfire danger, do you think there are reasonable grounds to call off or otherwise modify a rogaine due to heat?

RR: Ensuring that the water points are accurately marked on the map and never run out of water is the key. I see no reason to change the course due to increased temperature but you should be making participants very well aware of the conditions, the need to take account of them and the need to be prepared to withdraw if they become badly heat affected. I believe that the competitors need to take personal responsibility as each person handles adverse weather difficulty.

A well set course requires competitors to make conscious choices about when and where they collect water. If a team can set their preferred route and they just “trip across” water on a regular basis without having to plan for it then that is a poorly set course. (I know some others do not agree with this view!)

So in summary:

  • Be aware of the weather forecast on the event day, and know your heat threshold – what temperature your performance starts becoming impeded. Withdrawing or not being competitive may be the best bet if a team member is sensitive to the heat.
  • Be willing to revise your route – not just in terms of distance, but also regularity of water refills, reducing climbing and where possible seeking shade and passing near water bodies.
  • Take sufficient sunscreen, and reapply it regularly, particularly if you have fair skin. I would consider putting thick sunscreen on dirty, sweaty skin about the least enjoyable component of a rogaine, but far less unpleasant than the effects of sunburn later on! If your skin/eyes are sensitive to the heat then take additional precautions.
  • Just keep drinking! When you’re exerting yourself, it’s very easy to get dehydrated but very hard to come back from. Make sure you are well hydrated before the event start.

Thank you, Paul & Richard, for sharing your wealth of experiences! Keep cool in the Sunshine State!

A Tale of The Deceptive Lands

The Story Behind the Australasian Rogaining Championships 2020, May 9-10 

“30 Years Ago; The Story begins…” writes SA Rogaining Association’s Chief Conspirator Jenny Casanova, “…on a dark, rainy, windswept night in 1989, the young girl trudged up the road in the glow of torchlight after 14 hours in the wilderness, lagging behind her companion who turned back to her, map in hand, and they conferred about whether to head towards the hash house and a warm bed in a dry* tent, or else to venture further into the Deceptive Lands…”

(*) it turned out that the tent had leaked, anyway!

I have asked Jenny, the not-so-young-anymore girl, to expand upon what to expect at the Deceptive Lands 2020 Australasian Rogaining Championships:

Tristan White: Introduce us to the organising team.

Jenny Casanova: After the magnificent and extremely well-organised 2012 ARC at Angorichina in the Northern Flinders Ranges I started thinking about who I could get to help me showcase my favourite rogaining terrain to the rest of Australia. So I asked my favourite past-and-present South Aussie team mates: Zara Soden (L) Mark Corbett, and Steve Cooper, to be part of the setting team. The extended Corbett clan has also been giving us assistance and advice.

The setting team: Zara, Steve, Jenny, Mark

We are also very lucky to have Craig Colwell as the event coordinator; he focuses on all the logistics and we primarily need only concern ourselves with preparing a 24-hour which we wish we ourselves could compete in.

TW: Where are the Deceptive Lands?

JC: Only half as far from Adelaide as the Northern Flinders! (Approximately 240km, just over 3 hours’ drive depending on how often you stop at a bakery.)

TW: Why did you choose this area for the Australasian Championships?

JC: I’ve always loved the mallee country east of the Barrier Highway, and we’ve been coming here for 30 years now, orienteering in little pockets of it, and have built up a good relationship with a number of the farmers in the region. With my parents and Zara, I set the 2013 God’s Country; Beyond Hell’s Gates 12-hour in this vicinity and we enjoyed every minute of doing so.

There is nothing quite like the view to the north and east from a high hill, with wedge-tailed eagles soaring overhead. When I am out there, I never want to go back to the city!

TW: Tell us what the terrain is like?

JC: Rolling hills, deeply-incised dry creek networks more numerous than can possibly all be shown on the map, some enormous channels which have actually been flowing when the tail end of a summer cyclone comes through, very little undergrowth in the mallee scrub, some fast open flood plains, and absolutely no spinifex…

TW: Why is the rogaine titled “Deceptive Lands”?

JC: We toyed initially with something on the Goyder Council theme; Goyder having been the surveyor who in the 1860s undertook a detailed study of South Australia’s vegetation, and identified that crops would not be viable north of a virtual boundary which he drew on maps. In this region, Goyder’s Line is almost visibly painted on the ground in a drought year.

The name “Deceptive Lands” came about because it’s the title of a book written in the 1960s about the history of the Terowie region, referencing the fact that in a good rainfall year this can seem like excellent cropping & grazing country, but appearances can be deceptive…as they can also be when following up a watercourse amongst the mallee, looking for a side gully at two in the morning.

TW: How has recent extreme weather in SA affected this area?

JC: In the midst of the mallee, nothing appears to change, although local farmers had been carting water and feed for their stock for over a year now, so it’s an absolute blessing that there have been recent summer rains. There are some permanent springs & soaks in the area, as the original Ngadjuri people would have been well aware. These must have been a lifeline for them in dry years.

TW: How can we get to the 2020 ARC?

JC: By standing on the side of main North Road and thumbing a lift as fellow rogainers go past!

Although the HH is not so very far from an airstrip, you would need to bring your own light aircraft, and the trains eventually stopped running to Terowie over 40 years after General MacArthur stood on the platform and famously declared “I came out of Bataan and I shall return”.

Seriously though, buses will be organised for competitors who require transport to/from the airport, and info on booking the bus can be found on the ARC website plus there are plenty of car hire options.

TW: Why should we come to the Deceptive Lands?

JC: Because it will be such a fun event, with great catering at the centrally-located hash house, unlimited space for free camping Fri-Sun nights, and 80 controls to choose from, plus there’s an 8-hour option for those who don’t feel inclined to do an entire 24 hours. And you can check out the antiques in Burra, or the wineries of the Clare Valley, on your way to & from the Deceptive Lands. And don’t forget to purchase a commemorative Deceptive Lands shirt.

Thanks Jenny! Hope to see you in May!