A Few Good Men (Team 97) and a lot of rain

Chris Stevenson

The 2016 Paddy Pallin did not disappoint. The Bureau of Meteorology delivered the expected amount of rain. It rained 27.8mm during the 6 hours of the event.

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Looking around at the start there seemed to be three takes on how to dress for the weather:

  1. Wear very little and go hard to stay warm.
  2. Do what you can to stop the rain from getting in.
  3. Hybrid between 1. and 2. Token raincoat with light weight clothing.

My team mates and I opted for option 3. I must admit I was mildly amused by some teams trying to keep their feet dry jumping little creeks just after the start, my strategy was don’t bother, get them wet and get used to it. In fact the warmest my feet were during the entire event was when a wave washed over them on the traverse between 32 and 74.

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Rogainers you have my respect. Out of 204 teams registered, when entries closed for the event, 181 teams competed so only 12% of teams decided to spend their day in a cafe rather than out in the rain. Just shows what a hardy (or slightly mad) bunch we rogainers are.

I hadn’t rogained near Catherine Hill Bay before, I was sick for the last rogaine in the area and I admit I was not expecting the amount of bush we encountered, nor was I expecting as much complex navigation as we did. In fact I am embarrassed to admit we duffered control 91. We can see our route below:

wandering

Wandering in circles

Our compass bearing into 91 was pretty good. After skirting around the creek which looked very deep, we followed our compass bearing but stopped just 30 metres from the control and then decided to walk in circles for 30 minutes trying to understand what had gone wrong.  What made matters worse was that I was leading at this stage, so I could not blame my team mates. At least we found the control in the end. I felt better when I spoke to another team at the finish who looked for 91 and didn’t find it. It is amazing what a lonely place a rogaine can be when you are off the main path.

I am pleased to report that control 91 was our only real error, every other control more or less went to plan and we ended up with 1050 points. I can’t help thinking what might have been if we hadn’t lost that precious 30 minutes. I also can’t help wondering what that event would be like in the dry. It certainly would have been a different experience. The views were spectacular in the rain and the mist, they would have been very special on a nice day.

coast

Overall I had a lot of fun and I really appreciate the efforts of all the volunteers for their hard work in making an event like this happen and thanks also to the Catherine Hill Bay Bowling Club who will be spending a lot of tomorrow cleaning rogainer’s mud off their floor.  I normally do not eat much after events but today I stuffed myself with two sausage sandwiches, thanks to Waitara Scouts.

Also thanks to the Paddy Pallin organisation and Chris Mein for their continued support of our sport.

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Lane Cove River – 21 Years Later

Posted on 28/02/2016 by Chris Stevenson

My wife, Dianne, and I competed in the Lane Cover river 6 hour event in 1995 and yesterday I fronted up for another go. What has changed?

  • My wife, now with 2 children and dodgy knees, is not really up for a 6 hr rogaine, so I had a change of partners and this time I was competing as a Men’s Veteran, with Chris Cunningham, rather than an open mixed team.
  • In 1995 my team beat 82% of teams, yesterday my team beat 78% of teams
  • In 1995 my team beat every women’s team and were the 7th mixed team. Yesterday our score was bettered by 3 women’s team and 7 mixed teams.
  • In 1995 the event was held in April and the max temperature was 21.4 yesterday the max temperature was 26.7.
  • I am probably about as fit (not very) and as heavy as I was 21 years ago as well (although the weight may have moved around a bit :<) .
  • Yesterday the map was drawn on computer and we had electronic scoring, 21 years ago the map was drawn by hand and we used punch cards.
  • Yesterday’s course was smaller than 21 years ago and it was nice feeling yesterday to get to more than 2/3 of all controls available.
  • My wife and I covered approx 32 klms 21 years ago in 6 hours, yesterday we covered 30 but had a course that took in more bush and less road
Team “Tochris” at the finish. Chris Stevenson on the left and Chris Cunningham on the right

It seemed to me that there were more teams running the event yesterday. It might be my imagination, but I think I see many more women competitors running than I did 21 years ago. Also I must call out Mike Hotchkis who finished 8th overall in 1995 and finished 5th overall yesterday, now competing as a super veteran. I strongly suspect that Mike will near the top of the leaderboard if this event is held again in 2037.

The Lane Cove river valley and much of the course has not changed much over the last 21 years. There has been a lot of development in and around Macquarie Park station, but other than that the course looks pretty similar.

Well done to Ted Woodley and all the volunteers for putting on the event yesterday. It was a great event. I am looking forward to 2037.

My Blind Date with Danny

Posted on 23/05/2016 by Chris Stevenson

The Autumngaine at Tarlo river found me partnerless, so I tried our partner finding service. I first tried hooking up with Mal. Mal subsequently jilted me, preferring instead to recover from the flu, which he contracted after agreeing to partner, so I went back to the partner finding services for another go.

The second attempt yielded Danny. Danny was rated himself as an 8 /10, which is pretty much how I would rate myself. (Anyone who knows me will know for certain that the 8/10 is for rogaining ability, not looks.)

Danny and I agreed to spend Friday night together, on a property close to the event to which he has access, and then drive home together after the event.

Having agreed logistics with Danny, it occurred to me that I had just agreed to spend a bit over 24 hours with a person I have never met, in a very out of the way location. If Danny was an axe murderer as well as a rogainer (not that there’s a frequent correlation between the two) I was in deep trouble.

As it turned out Danny was not an axe murderer, he was worse than that. Rather than the pain associated with a quick death inflicted by an axe, he tortured me over 6 hours. You see, it turns out that Danny is significantly fitter than me. Danny is used to rogaining with his, now 11 year old son, and was keen to see how he would go with someone of similar ability (which I wasn’t).

Things started out okay, we more of less jogged the first couple of controls (31, 32) and then headed downhill towards 54, 55 and 61, 70 and 100. By this stage it was clear that Danny was significantly quicker than me up hill and quicker downhill as well.

From 100 we went to 50 and then climbed up the hill from 50 to the fire trail. This hill was 130+ metres and by this stage I was fully focused on survival. That is, climbing the hill as quickly as I could without doing so much damage that I could not continue for the next 3+ hours. To his credit, Danny was very patient. It was clear to me that these hills presented little challenge to him, at least not at my pace. We kept going and relatively quickly got 80, 51, 71, 72, 62 and then climbed to 63 and over the ridge to 48 and 47. My next physical challenge was the climb from 47 to the fire trail near 56.

By this stage I was having significant cramping in both quads, which I attribute to having spent the last few hours traversing across scree slopes. I confess that 2/3 the way up the hill from 47, I had to sit down for a couple of minutes to try and work the lactic acid from the legs. This rest was refreshing and I managed to get to the top of the hill and then down again to 56 and 45. From 45 we began the long 180m climb towards the finish via 33 and 20. Because the event was nearing its end we were joined on this tortuous climb by a number of other teams heading back and I was pleased to see a number of other teams moving as slowly as I was. Once at the top we could see the Hash House and even jogged a bit to make sure we would arrive back within time.

The net result of my torture was 2nd in the men’s veterans and 9th overall, which made all the pain seem worthwhile and my torturer Danny now a trusted companion, even if he is more like a 9/10.

Snogaine – 7th August

Posted on 24/06/2016 by Andy Simpson

After a bit of arm twisting by some ACT rogainers the NSW Ski-orienteering event at Perisher on 7th August will include a 2 hour “Snogaine”, mass start at noon. More details at: http://www.bigfootorienteers.com/drupal_2/skio2016

Hope to see some of you there.

NavShield 2016 – Crappy Maps and Big Country

Posted on 10/07/2016 by Chris Stevenson

I have been rogaining more than 20 years, but I have never tried a NavShield until now. Julian, my regular rogaining partner suggested we “have a go” at this year’s event.

For those of you who are not familiar with the NavShield its purpose is to train emergency services personnel in the art of bush navigation so they can be of assistance in a bush rescue.

The NavShield includes a division for rogainiers to join in, using rogaining rules. This is key, because all of the other divisions have to take enough gear to be self-sufficient over night, including a sleeping bag. This year’s event was held at Wombeyan Caves and the very last thing I wanted to do was carry a pack full of camping gear up and down the mountains surrounding Wombeyan Caves. The other key difference with the Navshield is that you have to mark your own controls on the map. You are given a map and a set of co-ordinates which you use to mark controls on the map yourself.

Julian studying the map

I confess that I wasn’t really looking forward to marking my own controls on the map. It just sounded like hard work, but actually it was worse than that. It was about 8 degrees and windy and maps were not available for collection until 6pm. Having collected our maps, Julian and I spent well over an hour marking controls on our maps out in the open, in the cold. It was definitely glove weather but marking maps with gloves on is too difficult so it was better to risk hypothermia for the sake of mapping accuracy. Bear in mind that every millimetre mistake in marking a control would be 25 metres of mountainous thick bush on the ground, so a 1 cm mistake could cost a lot of time.

One of the prettier thin blue lines

The other thing to note about the map, was that it was not a very good print. It was very hard to see the creeks on the map. The blue lines were very thin and very faint and very hard to read. These thin and hard to read lines represented huge chasms in real life, so not being able to see them properly was less than ideal. In fact a couple of times during the event Julian and I had navigational disagreements because he could see a faint blue line on the map that I couldn’t.

Also on the subject of maps, because the intention of the NavShield is to train rescue services in bush navigation they use an unaltered base map. So if the base map is wrong, bad luck. Julian and I found this out the hard way. At the end of the event we left ourselves 40 minutes to get a 50 pointer near the hash house, which relied on us using a trail clearly marked on the map, but did not exist in real life. The net result was that we got within metres of the control but due to time pressure we had to turn around and sprint home empty handed.

There were two events on offer, the 10 hrs 45 min event (8:45am to 7:30pm ) or 29 hrs 15 mins event (8:45am Sat to 2:00pm Sun). Julian and I decided to do the 29 hours event. If we had to drive all the way to and from Wombeyan Caves and camp, we may as well make a full weekend of it. Julian and I had planned to take the gentleman’s approach to the 29hr event by going out for 12 hours and coming back to the hash house to have a good night’s sleep in a tent and then get up early and do some more on Sunday morning. The problem with this gentlemanly approach to the event was that this meant that we needed enough points near the hash house so we did not walk to and from the hash house empty handed. So we were a bit disappointed to find that the hash house was on the SE corner of the map and we would do a lot of walking to and from the hash house with few controls.

Me, standing next to a termite mound

The first 12 hours went well with no real navigational mistakes. In fact, Julian and I were about to make a serious navigational error when along came Ted Woodley and his team and it was clear from the direction they came from that we were about to start looking in the wrong spot (thanks Ted). We even picked up a couple of difficult controls in the dark with no time wasted. The rogaining gods got their revenge on us the next day when we missed two 50 pointers in the last couple of hours of the event and ended up with a slightly disappointing 950 points.

The other thing to note is the organisation. The NavShield was well organised but the Rogaining Association sets a high standard. Some of the key differences were:

  • Electronic scoring vs manual scoring
  • Corrected maps vs uncorrected maps
  • All night hash house vs closing at 8:30 pm
  • Little or no queues for maps vs a bit of a queue in the dark and cold
  • Full results, generally within 30 minutes vs partial results 1 hr after the event
Julian, punch card in hand, ready to bag another control

I didn’t attend the 2012 NSW Champs that were held at Wombeyan Caves so the country was new to me but it was clear from the map there was a lot of hard work ahead of us. Even with our gentlemanly approach, we did 2.5 vertical km ascent. Hats off to the rogaine divison winners, Ronnie Taib and David Williams with 2170 points. Their vertical kms must have been Everest like. The other thing to note about the area was the fern bushes. All of the south facing slopes on the south of the course seemed to be covered with waist high ferns. This was quite pretty, but waist high ferns can cover all sorts of obstacles under foot and tripping over and falling in holes was all part of the adventure.

Wombeyan Caves is pretty marginal country, but I did see an eagle, some gang gangs, a dead pig and lots of kangaroos. The other benefit of going to the NavShield this year is that we missed out on the election.

Vivien giving his course setter’s address

Also I need to acknowledge Vivien de Remy de Courcelles. Vivien is one our rogaining administrators, a fine rogainer and was also the course setter for the 2016 Navshield.

Overall Julian and I had a great weekend. Thanks to everyone involved for making the event a success and for inviting rogainers to attend.

Map of our 12 hour leg

One Response to NavShield 2016 – Crappy Maps and Big Country

  1. Trevor Gollan on 26/07/2016 at 5:30 pm says:

Thanks for the great report, Chris

I agree that NavShield is a weekend excursion. When there’s a 29¼ hour event on offer, why bother with a miserable six or twelve hour stroll. Fit your activity to the scope, and I would’ve been there with you Friday night marking the map with shivering fingers except for a family commitment. Ian Almond & I drove up Saturday morning, breakfast in Trappers, Goulburn, then we marked up our map on the car bonnet in the morning sunshine before setting off just a few hours after you

Yes, the map had problems with both contours and watercourses pale and somewhat indiscernible, especially at night. I noted a Bushranger map (with extra tracks marked) seemed to be well printed and clearly defined, so we mere participants seemed to get a lemon on that one. My previous NavShield experience used a standard LPI 1:25000 off-the-shelf map but this year’s event spanned four maps and they obviously lost some reproductive quality at the printery

Yes, it was tough countryside – either steep and rocky, else covered with waist-high bracken and fallen trees. The views around Jocks Creek valley were special on Sunday morning, and I wish we’d seen the quoll in the tree, salivating for that dead pig near #68

You didn’t mention the Radio checkpoints – that teams need to visit at least one checkpoint (Alpha, Bravo or Charlie) each day. Here’s another difference from rogaining, because those controls tend to have 20-50 people camped by a big fire, with a bunch of high-viz 4WD vehicles and tents deep in the bush – you can see and/or hear them from 1-2 kilometres, though they’re usually only worth 20-30 points

The NavShield is not a rogaine. Yeah, it’s got a “rogaine” category but that’s just to expand entrant numbers, maintain friendship between BWRS & NSWRA, and allow David and Ronnie to get all the controls. (BTW I heard they slept in Saturday morning and didn’t bother starting with the main pack. Maybe they are starting to get the right attitude)

The NavShield is a bushwalk with a few navigational and many physical challenges. With that mission statement the main priority is firstly to select your campsite on the course. We picked Jocks Creek as the most likely water supply, and our entire day was designed to get us there at, or just after, dark. That does mean a larger backpack with tent, and sleeping gear for mid-winter, and you need to carry nourishment. For dinner I chose a Coopers Green, cheese and crackers, tom yum soup, spaghetti bolognaise and a fresh fruit compote. The apple crumble remained untouched and excessive because we’d eaten so well, however the Bundy rum was a welcome nightcap as we settled into our cosy beds for the night. It was easy to forget the 200m climb waiting at first light, though that effort was compensated at the top of the ridge by a hearty cup of tea with a bacon and cheese roll

NavShield – a good excuse to explore new (wild) countryside and spend time in the bush

Elevated to a new level of competition, but with a degree of indirection…

Posted on 31/07/2016 by Chris, for Tristan White

World Rogaining Championships, July 23-24, 2016, East McDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs, NT

Team 211 (Male Youth): Tristan White & Mitchell Lindbeck

Score: 2420/6190

Result: 3rd in MY, 47/299 overall

Few people would have guessed that when my adventurous neighbour (Martin Dearnley) brought up the concept of us entering this event called a “rogaine” for “a bit of fun” when I was only 12, it was going to lead to me winning an event outright, a category win in the national championships and last but not least, a podium in the world champs. I didn’t even know there were state, national and world championships when I was 12, or anything about rogaining for that matter. Times have certainly changed, but nonetheless, it has all still remained “a bit of fun” (okay, okay, not at 4am when I’ve messed up my fourth consecutive checkpoint but you get the picture).

Training

My quest to find an U23 to compete with me in the WRC was completed when Mitch sent me a message in late 2015 in regards to the same quest. Having never competed together but observed each other’s comparable results, there was no question that he was the optimum teammate for me, so I promptly signed us up, and we resolved that we would compete together in every event we could in the months leading up to it. This ended up being the Lane Cove River Metrogaine in February, Tarlo 12-hr in May and the Paddy Pallin near Lake Mac in June, in which we came to know each other’s strengths, weaknesses and styles.

In addition, we did four self-organized hikes, firstly, the 35km steep and rocky Mt Solitary hike starting at 4pm and finishing at 5am the next morning at a fairly casual pace though getting us accustomed to sleep deprivation, then a 7-hour hike through the Grose Valley from Blackheath to Mt Victoria, also at night. The final one, just over a week beforehand, was a more civilized (mostly) day walk based around the Benowie Track in Hornsby, though adding in any excuses to take some cross-country shortcuts in the end totalled almost 50km.

The most notable practice hike, however, was the third, made on the Queen’s “Birthday” weekend, and one could argue that it was harder than the WRC itself. The Katoomba to Kanangra hike (K2K) is a staple hike, allegedly 45km, so Mitch entertained thoughts of doing it there and back – the K2K2K – in 24h. After all, 90km is at least what we’d be likely to cover in the WRC which is mostly off-track and constant navigation; could it really be that hard?

Starting out at 3:50am in very cold conditions, Mitch and I, along with rival Rochelle Duerden stepped out of his Katoomba home through the spectacular scenery from Narrow Neck, down to the Cox’s River and along the ridge towards Kanangra Walls. It was only late that day that we realised that 45km had been hiked and there were still 15 to Kanangra Walls.

After a very long night on the return leg with many breaks, we made it back at 5pm, 37.5 hours after starting out. 120km was a “bit” longer than anticipated, but ultimately this was an unforgettable experience nonetheless that pushed us all physically and mentally – an essential element of rogaine preparation. If we could do this, we can do any 24h rogaine!

Preparation

Flying up on the Thursday, we made it to the Ross River Resort in the late afternoon in the chartered bus and set up camp with other NSWRA teams – Marg and Rob Cook, Andrew and Rochelle with George, saving a spot for Martin and Graham who were due the next day. After a dinner around the campfire, Mitch and I were fortunate to hitch a lift with another team to the model course and had a chance to casually venture to several controls that evening. Having almost no judgment of any features other than ridgetops was a reminder of the importance of pacing and careful compass work as following the wrong spur or gully would be super easy to do.

We hit the model course again the next morning, this time when it was almost 30 degrees, making us hope that the forecast of 21 degrees for the subsequent 2 days was correct. I made sure that I packed everything I could the afternoon before, as well as put all my intended clothing in a bag so I didn’t have to fish around for it in the morning, and went to bed at 8:30pm. You can’t get too much sleep the night before a 24-hour rogaine!

Ross River Resort, Eastern McDonnell Ranges

Planning

With such a massive course, it was impossible to tell if there were any obvious routes, but after a few minutes planning and colour-coding controls, sections of route started to show – a myriad of high scoring CPs across the southern end of the course, a potential loop to the western end of the HH and a good helping of low hanging fruit reasonably close to the main road from east to west. Measuring distance of these sections, plus a possible extension in the far west, we conceded that it would be unlikely that we could cover it all, but there were numerous exit points that would get us back home in time. Ultimately the flight plan put in the western loop to do before dark, with the southern section mostly on ridgetops to be travelled from east to, and getting whatever we had time in the western corner before grabbing all the ones in easy reach near the road in final few hours.

(Map available for reference here)

We basically remembered the event in three stages – the afternoon, the night and the morning.

Afternoon, 12:00-18:30

We were fortunate enough to be in the shot published in the ABC (far and second from far left at the front!)

We made good progress in the first few hours, moving along briskly and getting almost everything dead on, going from 36, to 81, 62, 41, 110, 96 and 42 through following the features closely, hardly needing the compass. The first glitch was needing to make a 1km detour to refill at W3 after getting 30 and 31 – I knew that if I became dehydrated 4 hours in, it’d be very hard to rehydrate myself! We got 70 and 40 by a fair bit of clambering up the side of ridges, and 100 and 60 were collected by following the wide river bed, and then to 34 after crossing the Ross River (actually with a bit of water flowing in it!), before arriving at W7 at 6:30pm just on dark, where we took the chance to completely refill and get out our lights.

Night, 18:30-06:30

The night leg started off well enough with us following up the watercourse to 74. Though dense with Spinifex, it seemed like a theoretically easy traverse, however in its density, we struggled to see the branching gully where the control was meant to be, and ended up going too far. Fortunately I was able to distinguish a nearby knoll from which I took a bearing, finding the control with minimal time loss. If only our subsequent mistakes were as quickly resolved.

We followed the road, then took a bearing off the river towards the foot of the main spur containing 85, and to avoid climbing any more we made the decision to handrail around the contour rather than drop in from above, but despite following the bearing carefully we managed to miss it so wasted 15 minutes or so trying to determine where we were, but by taking a back bearing we managed to find it, through the aid of lights from another team. Ditching 65, we took the long stretch to 92, which apart from a bit of confusion to the location of the bail off spur, we managed to find without incident. Oh, if only the subsequent three controls had been the same!

Seeing as hand-railing the contour on a bearing had worked a treat at 85, we nonetheless chose to do this again, with similar results. We ended up on a flat section which we perceived to be the region around 113 but the control was nowhere in sight. After 20 minutes searching the area, we were about to head to the top to take a bearing down when a team passed us showing it was much further below, where fortunately we found it.

Our hopes to make up for this goof up were not satisfied at 77. The plan had been to take an easy bearing down from the knoll, however, we couldn’t determine the knoll resulting in us taking the spur to the east. In the day, we’d have been able to tell this instantly, but being night it was difficult to tell if the right spur was across the gully and had to physically go over and find out. Fortunately it was right, but still soaked up another 20 precious minutes.

Our hopes for a better run to 103 were vanquished, theoretically a fairly simple descent on the spur at the end of the ridge, when somehow we managed to drop off the wrong one unknowingly. We ended up in the gully, of course, but unsure of which one, and missing the watercourse which we originally dismissed, at which point, almost 3am, I almost broke down emotionally until thankfully Mitch held it together to locate it just over the spur.

Our slow but careful trips to 114 and 93 were rewarded with us hitting them both dead on, as was our long trek across the field to 37 (though very steep climb down the rocky watercourse.) What would have been an easy trip to 106, by now approaching dawn, was made harder when I followed up to the saddle to the east and I became completely disorientated, though fortunately Mitch kept his bearings and successfully navigated us to it, just before 6:30am as the sun began to appear over the horizon.

Morning, 06:30-12:00

Now we had 5½ hours to go and had some decisions to make. We were at the almost maximum distance from the Hash House so there was very little that could added in, however we hoped that if we got a good clip going, we could get the majority of the low hanging fruit near the road and still have some possible detours. Starting out with 78, there was a rapid change in the pace now that it was light and we were on a track. Our route then proceeded to collect 38, 107, 57, 94, checking in W8/ANC at 9am, too late to get any hot food, but was an opportunity to refill, and shove whatever “drugs” I had in my bag into my front pockets to chow down in the final hours. 76 was found easily, though we branched out too early at 35 and found ourselves wandering around the side of the wrong knoll for several minutes until it dawned on us.

It was just after 10am when we bagged 64, so we needed to make a unanimous decision of where to go from there. The options included running out to 54 and back via 44 (90 points), or to rush to 63, 52 and 73 (180 points). We chickened out of the latter unsure of the time available, though in retrospect we’ll we wishing we didn’t (more of that later).

54 was a long way, but was collected without incident, as was 44, just after 11am, where we happened to observe one of our rivals – the NZ M23 team – leaving. Knowing that there was a (tiny) chance that if we somehow accumulated the same score, but arrived back earlier we would beat them, we agreed to expend any energy we had left to run the remaining 2km on the road.

Putting it mildly, it hurt. An all-out assault on a 2km track hurts in any form, but when it’s done after 23 hours of all types of pain, it is beyond comprehension, particularly as the NZ team got the same idea, and in fact managed to overtake us. I would have loved to give chase, but when it was between that and getting back without passing out, I had to keep it a moderate jog. Finally, finally, the HH was nigh, and Mitch and I punched off at 11:20 – 40 minutes early, but realistically unable to collect anything else.

To our surprise though, our rivals had other ideas – we watched them drop their bags, attach their race numbers to their shirts and run off to 80, a 4km out and back, the same one we had all but ruled out, though of course now leaves us scratching our heads after seeing what it led to.

Results

After posing with our map for a post-battleground photo, Mitch and I settled down in the shade; the legs that had done so much over the past 23+ hours could do no more and we settled down briefly in the shade with a good portion of other tired faces, to be given a printout totalling 2420 points – less than half the final allotment but not surprising considering the course’s size. Having a shower immediately (albeit a cold one as the hot water had run out) was a luxury that had very rarely been offered, and it was a great feeling to put on clean clothes as I severed my links with the ones that were now covered in crystalized sweat.

After briefly catching up with other NSW teams and trying to eat a bit of lunch (not easy with my stomach still feeling like a blender), it was time for the formal presentations. To our benefit, the U23 teams were called out first, with our names called out as being… 3rd place, with the comment that it was very close with 2nd, though ~500 points behind first (another AU team I hadn’t heard of).

The NZ team beat us by 10 points. By making that all out sprint to 80 points. 10 points. Of course we will forever be wishing we could have collected something else, which would have been easily possible. On the other hand, I’m sure they were elated that they made the trip, and (dare I say it) they really earned their placing over us. That’s rogaining though – hindsight is the best course planning aid, and the only way to achieve a top place is to treat every control as having the potential to decide between first and second, or second and third!

Nonetheless, it is a 3rd in a world championship event, so can’t be too disappointed! It was nice to be given a medal each, as well as a picture frame as a memento.

We also came 47th in the general classification (out of almost 300 teams), putting us in the top sixth, though the overall winners are in a league of their own, with a score of 4400, almost double ours and over 500 ahead of 2nd place!

Gear and Food

I managed to get my hands on a Camelbak Ultra 10 (constructed for Ultramarathons) late last year which I’ve spent the past few months tweaking to fit properly and holding maximum gear. I was able to increase its capacity by using re-useable cable ties to attach my jacket and arm warmers on the outside, and it worked a treat in this event, managing to (just) hold everything in.

After some debate, I resolved to wear a short sleeved shirt (as I’d rather a few scratches), short pants above the Spinifex-proof (allegedly) gaiters. My Salomon trail runners, which had its gore-tex coated in a layer of silicon, had their tread completely destroyed due to the sharp rocks, but held up for the journey. The night didn’t get that cold, so managed to get by with a pair of arm warmers and a headband, having carried a raincoat as a backup.

Knowing what type of food to take on such an event is always a challenge as it needs to be substantial to keep me full, but easy to digest. Ultimately, I ended up eating:

  • 5 Golden Circle fruit squeezes (I’d introduced them to Mitch at the metrogaine and he now swears by them!)
  • 2 apples (these were great at 10pm)
  • 1 mandarin (carried 2 more but didn’t feel up to eating them)
  • 6 fruit bars
  • 3 muesli seed bars
  • About 8 gels. These came to taste putrid near the end, but I would cram down whatever it took to get over the line!
  • Block of Old Gold Cadbury dark chocolate, to help me through the night
  • 2 small bottles of a liquid, best described as “Red Bull on Steroids” to shove down at dawn. These things are amazing,
  • Bag of Snakes for the final few hours.

Needless to say, it’s not exactly what would satisfy the recommended “food triangle,” but in terms of getting us through the event, it couldn’t have been better.

What’s different about a World Championship Event?

Having now done all forms of NSWRA events, state champs, national (Australasian) champs and now a world championship event, I can now observe what makes this event special. In essence, it’s the same thing: you’re smashing yourself physically and mentally for 24 hours over tough, unfamiliar terrain. But there were some interesting differences.

  • The control values were between 30 and 110 points. No little crumbs of 10 and 20 pointers next to the road. I had thought that there was some standard that controls were a maximum of 100 points as that’s all I’ve ever experienced (other than the last-minute 200 pointers at the Tarlo event) but this seems to be convention – the ARC 2007 in the same region went up to 120.
  • The size of the course was much bigger than any event I’ve done, being on an A1 sheet of paper. At 1:25,000, this covered about 20x12km2. This was in keeping with rule C2 “The course shall be designed so that the winning team is likely to visit most but not all checkpoints.
  • The controls were essentially all at least 1.5km apart.
  • As opposed with state level events, the rules were much more heavily enforced to crack down against cheating: the electronic punches were made out of cloth, and attached with an official crimping a ring around it so that the only way it could be taken off was by cutting it. GPS’s were put in a tamper-proof bag by an official and needed to be returned within an hour after the event or risked disqualification.
  • There was a practice course (this has occurred for the ARC on some occasions)
  • Unlike the state 24hr events where most competitors arrive Friday evening at the earliest and leave straight after the event, it felt much more of a community pre and post event, where almost everyone arrived by Friday evening (with many getting there on Thursday). It gave us a chance to really enjoy the event rather than rush there and back.
  • There was a physical podium for the presentations, an opening and closing ceremony by the President of the IRF and medals given to every placegetter at the presentations.
  • Teams were required to be either made of 2 or 3 members.
  • The ABC wrote an article about the event!

A bigger picture of rogaining

Having spent 5 days completely focussed on rogaining with people from all parts of the world, I was reminded of how this bizarre sport has taken off. From an unnamed activity invented by some university students in the 1960s, it has now spread into a sport with at least one formal organizing committee in each state and territory, a national Australian Rogaining Association with annual Australasian Champs, and an International Rogaining Federation that has its own 9-page document of official rules and has hosted world championships annually for the past 10 years all over the globe. The fact that it is a volunteer run sport all the way to the IRF is really awesome and shows the passion for people of all different nationalities to keep this activity going.

I once was chastened by a mate when I showed little interest in cricket, with him lecturing me how cricket was such an Australian sport and I needed to follow it. But if there is any Australian sport, surely it has to be rogaining; that was actively founded in Australia, and has taken its way all the way around the globe and meeting representatives from other nationalities helped remind me of this!

3 Replies to “Elevated to a new level of competition, but with a degree of indirection…”

  1. Carolyn Rigby on 1/08/2016 at 6:39 pm says:

Great read Tristan. Really impressed that you took your preparation so seriously and completed well-planned practice “runs”. I have followed your progress over the past year of so and you should be very proud of your involvement and achievements. Finding a partner who can balance you is a real treasure. I’m sure you have done your share of supporting during the events. Congratulations to you both on your bronze!

2. Chris Stevenson on 2/08/2016 at 8:35 am says:

Tristan and team, I am very impressed by the training walk from Katoomba to Kanangra and return. That is a hell of a training walk.

3. Richard Robinson on 15/08/2016 at 8:39 am says:

Tristan, really enjoyed your story and reflections and glad you enjoyed the event. The knoll attack point for 77 was actually very easy to find, even in the dark, it had a bloody great radio tower on it which we only identified the Sunday before the event!

25 Year Legends – The Organisers of the Lake Macquarie Rogaine

This is an expanded version of the tribute I gave at the 6-hour presentation of the 25th Lake Macquarie Rogaine on behalf of President, Gill Fowler, to recognize the extraordinary contribution made by two rogaine stalwarts – Bert Van Netten and Bob Gilbert.

It was in September 1992 that Bert gained support from Lake Macquarie Council to include a rogaine each year in the Lake Macquarie City Games. The support came in the form of some cash. Our still new sport of rogaining was gaining a level of respectability! Who could have imagined that the relationship with the Council would have continued successfully every year to this day.

Bert together with Ian Dempsey and others of what we called the Newcastle/Central Coast mob were amongst the founders of rogaining in New South Wales. Bert’s courses were often challenging and always original just like the man. The Lake Macquarie 12-hour become established and was held around August/September each year and later with a 6-hour option. We came to know the Watagans and Sugarloaf Range, the varied bush and views both east to the coast and west out towards Wollemi. The fabulous waratahs, the unspeakable lawyer vines, a variety of tree types, pockets of rainforest in gullies sometimes chocked with enormous rocks, waterfalls, cliffs, bush trails, swinging vines, lilly pilly, gymea lilies, lyre birds and cabbage tree palms.

In 1992 rogaining in NSW was growing quickly with more and more people attracted to the sport mostly through word of mouth. At the Paddy Pallin 6-hour numbers had increased to over 400 – just a dream a couple of years prior. In October of that year the first World Rogaining Championships was to be held in Victoria. Bert had the idea that for his first Lake Macquarie event he would offer prize money in a bid to attract elite athletes like marathon runners. I remember being on the Rogaining Committee and this idea being controversial. Surely we were amateurs competing for the love of the sport. Would prize money taint the event and encourage cheating? Eg teams sending the strongest member to the ‘out and back’ controls (a single punch card per team in those days). The Lake Macquarie became tagged as “the Dash for Cash” a cheeky name when everyone knows that whilst this sport needs strong fast legs it also requires cunning and strategy.

A few new speedster competitors did compete but whether their navigation was not up to scratch or they found some of the tougher aspects of rogaining not to their liking I’m not sure but they didn’t seem to stick with it. In fact in 1992 the usual rogaining suspects were winners – I think our team was third creating an ethical dilemma of what do with the (modest) prize money.

At that 1992 event we started on the east side of the range near where the freeway was under construction. A memory is trotting down a long empty stretch of straight road after 11pm in a rush to get back on time. Looking at the old map this morning after the efforts at the event this year, and on a post-rogaine endorphic high, I can still remember some moments at that first event. By the fifth control I had lost my compass but compensated later at night by becoming the specialist pace counter on the team. I also note that control 30 this year was control 33 in 1992 but of course did not recognize that one.

Bert had the ability to attract others around him and reminded me of an unorthodox field marshal coordinating the troops. An advantage was that on hand were the Newcastle orienteering community who brought rigor to course setting. Names like Rob Vincent, Ian Dempsey and Dug Floyd come to mind and forgive me for not remembering more. However at the centre of it all has been Bert who has contributed to setting 22 of the 25 Lake Macquarie rogaines.

But there is one other name who has become most associated with the Lake Macquarie event and that is Bob Gilbert. Bob took over as Event Controller some years in and has brought his skills and organising ability contributing a huge effort to consistently put on a great event each year. Many of us have run events from time to time. It is a very rewarding activity but does require focus, time and commitment and most are happy to hand on the baton. Bob is different because he has continued to carry the responsibility over many years. Not only that but this year he also organised the Paddy Pallin at Catherine Hill Bay in some very, very, wet conditions. He told me on Saturday that those of us who got bogged left a sufficient mess behind that the rogaine bond to Council was forfeited for remediation work. Such things are the life of an event organiser.

Over the years the Lake Macquarie event has been held in fair and foul conditions and everything in between. Whilst the areas have been similar the event has never got stale. There was the period where Bert experimented with making all controls the same value. Another year almost every control was little more than 20 metres off a track – a so called runners’ course. I also remember a year where many teams cleared the course. Then last year the event doubled as the NSW Championships.

The Lake Macquarie has been a success and always well supported by rogainers. My impression is that numbers have averaged 300-350 per year. Besides raising money for, and involving, many local organisations like the scouts it has, together with the Paddy Pallin, been a financial contributor to the New South Wales Rogaining Association. It has helped ensure there has always been a strong bank balance, monies available for things like insurances and new navlights not to mention underwriting occasional events like hosting the Australian Championships and back in 2006 the World Championships out at the Warrumbungles.

Thank go to Bert, Bob and all the others who have made the Lake Macquarie event such a success over 25 years.

One Reply to “25 Year Legends – The Organisers of the Lake Macquarie Rogaine”

  1. Jamie van Netten on 1/09/2016 at 6:30 pm says:

Great article. Well written and heartfelt.

The importance of a good first aid kit

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Posted on 2/09/2016 by Catherine Wood

Ok so story goes…….

  • We had a really good start and were tracking well.
  • It got dark and we were tracking directly from 41 to 34 up a creek bed.
  • No rocks had been slippery or showed signs of any slip at all to be honest.
  • Malcolm was in front and just stepped from one rock to a bigger boulder-type rock and slipped and fell heavily.
  • I went to help and knew immediately that he had quite a head wound.
  • He never lost consciousness but was dazed, I had to drag him out backwards from the water and after some time encouraged him to sit down (after he noticed the blood streaming down his face, that helped !)

Out comes the first aid kit. What was missing from ours was some padding or gauze to place pressure on the wound, we had everything else. We also had a mouldy bandage but it did the trick, (note to self) must check first-aid contents prior to next adventure but as far as the padding/ gauze went I needed some. I could have made do with what I had but noticed another bunch of rogainers following. They assisted with the contents of their first aid kit and had gauze which was perfect. Applied that plus a bandage and the Ay Ups also provided extra pressure to help stem the blood.

I then proceeded to gather Malcolm’s glasses out of the bottom of the creek with the assistance of the guy (sorry forgot his name) from the other group. He held me by the shorts whilst I dug around in the water to retrieve firstly the frames and then each lens…

(Editor – I believe the team that helped was team 63 “Wild Rogue Women Rogainers”).

This lovely group decided to stay with us just to make sure Mal was ok. We then set off in search of checkpoint 34 and on our way out we figured after a short time that it was harder to trek up the creek and that Mal and I should find the shortest way to the road so we could head back to Tea & Damper and then the road home.

So we parted company and headed to the road, only to meet up shortly after with our original helpers and we all tracked to T & D together.

From there we headed back to the Hash House after giving my lights to the Team of four who helped us out, as it became obvious they were going to run out of headtorch light way before midnight and Mal and I figured that we only needed one set to get home with, but we had to get checkpoint 11 and 13 on the way back ….. 🙂 not that far off track really.

Then back to base, in the car, decided that since it was Saturday night and we would be up against drugs and alcohol issues at most hospitals we would opt for a small one and try our luck so as not to get stuck in casualty all night. Wyong was perfect, straight in, Drs were great, an hour later we left with 13 stitches in place and headed back to the Blue Mountains.

Great day out really!

We will next time however take padding/gauze in our first aid kit 🙂

Thanks, Catherine

The Perfect Event

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Posted on 10/09/2016 by Chris Stevenson

I am quite excited about the forthcoming NSW champs. I was wondering why I am excited and I reckon that the NSW Champs might be close to a perfect event. This led me to thinking what, for me, constitutes the perfect event. Here are my thoughts, feel free to add your own.

My perfect event includes the following features:

Location

The ideal location for me is somewhere in the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains is where my soul lives. I love the fact that it has 5 million people on the doorstep and yet you can walk for days without seeing anyone. The Blue Mountains has the advantage of being close to Sydney and relatively easy to get to, but also presenting some quite remote country with significant navigational challenges. I also like to explore, so I always enjoy rogaining in an area which is new to me.

Kowmung River

Some people like mountain views, for me I love rarely visited open valleys with pristine creeks running down the middle. On many an event I will note a perfect secluded valley and promise myself that I will return one day, just to lie on the grass and take in the solitude, but I rarely do.

Duration

This will be controversial, but I think the best events are 12 hours. A 12-hour event takes in a significant portion of night navigation which separates the skilled navigators from the less skilled ones and also has the advantage of not occupying the entire weekend. For those with families, you can spend one day pursing your passion and the other day enjoying family time.

Map

I enjoy looking at a map that has a lot of route choice but no obvious high pointing route. I like a map whose secrets can only be unraveled after an hour of close study. I like a 1:25000 map because that is what I am used to and it requires less mental gymnastics to relate the map to the ground. I like a map that does not force a “do or die” loop. I like a map where good teams head in all different directions at the start. I enjoy maps with limited out of bounds areas. There is nothing worse than taking an inefficient route because of a set of red lines on a map.

It is sometimes difficult to achieve but I like a map where the Hash House is in the middle of the map since this usually offers better route choice. I also like a map with 10m contours. You can hide a lot in a 20m contour.

Contours

Terrain

The perfect terrain is a very personal thing. I am pretty good through thick scrub so I like a course that includes some thick scrub, but no more than 1 hour’s worth. I like navigating through pine plantations. I know it is a very artificial and sterile environment but there is something cosy about walking or running on the open, dark and slightly claustrophobic forest floor. I like creeks that you can actually walk along. Often walking along creeks can be a very slow and dangerous affair. I like creeks that you can actually walk down without being cut to shreds. I am not as fit as I should be so I like climbs that are no more than 150m. I like a course that is big enough that you can go a while without seeing competitors. I like a course that has fire trails but also forces some cross country navigation.

Chris on Mt Koorian

Partner

Partner selection is tricky. You want someone who is of a similar level of fitness, so you are not frustrated waiting or under pressure to keep up. You want a partner who will “take the piss” when you offer a bearing that is 180° wrong, but not make you feel bad when you can’t find a control. You want a partner who is happy to share the mental load and offer suggestions when things are getting uncertain. A partner who will take turns in pace counting and has a good feel for their stride length. Your partner also needs to know when to yield and when to “stick to their guns” over a questionable navigational choice. I like a partner who will take the initiative when I am tired, but let me lead when I am feeling strong.

My partner for the NSW Champs

The NSW Champs will be my 70th rogaining event. Having taken in all of these events I have to say that I have only competed in one event that I didn’t really enjoy. I remember crossing the finish line and being a bit underwhelmed by the experience. I can’t remember which event it was, but I am pretty sure it was a 3 or 6 hour one.

2 Replies to “The Perfect Event”

  1. Trevor Gollan on 15/09/2016 at 9:47 am says:

Thanks for the thoughts, Chris, with which I’m in general agreement.

Duration isn’t a factor if you achieve the other criteria, however a perfect rogaine should include some night navigation.

I’d add that a good/great/perfect rogaine must have some surprise and adventure. That may be unexpected scenic beauty, a cliff-edge scramble, extreme weather perhaps, sunset and sunrise are often exceptional, finding a difficult flag in the dark. I recall being lashed by a spectacular thunderstorm at dusk, happening upon a shepherd’s hut that provided one cosy candle for our warmth, followed by a successful night-walk under a sparkling, starry sky. The people around you often contribute to your surprise and adventure too.

I wonder if the perfect rogaine is the one where you spike every control, including those through the night-time. But then that may indicate perfect rogainers rather than a perfect rogaine.

From a coursesetter’s perspective, my perfect rogaine would include stockyards, the summit, waterfalls and/or a pub.

  • Netta Holmes on 21/09/2016 at 8:23 pm says:

My perfect rogaine includes spectacular views at sunset or sunrise or moonrise, limited blackberries and no floods. I hate long road bashes and love slipping through some thickish bush while listening to another team trying to crash through. The perfect partner is someone who will sing when required, and is really good at navigating at sunset and sunrise when I feel rather sleepy.

Cheers to all the ‘older’ rogainers and I hope to catch up with you soon.

Great finish to the NSW Champs – U23’s

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Posted on 17/10/2016 by Alan Mansfield

From the Event page – “Congratulations to Rochelle Duerden and Mitchell Lindbeck who, after the correction of a punch failure, have been propelled to 1st place in the U23 category. Commiserations to Ivan Koudashev and Elena Koudasheva who have been bounced into 2nd place in the U23 category as a consequence. Ivan and Elena are fine athletes who, as a team, are well under 23 and will be competing and presumably winning the U23 category for years to come.”

I believe I saw Ivan & Elena run in to the finish line, it was fun to watch a sibling cheer them on, and to see an obviously young team finish so strongly on a glorious day in a glorious location.

Thanks to the competitors and organizing team it was a fun event to provide the catering for.

Great location, fine weather and maybe the best Hash House site I have seen apart from the westerly wind.

3 Replies to “Great finish to the NSW Champs – U23s”

  1. Trevor Gollan on 17/10/2016 at 9:32 pm says:

Don’t complain about the westerly wind, Alan, I didn’t enjoy it either, but at 5am today the rain squalls commenced – including the westerly wind

This morning it was 7° cold – bleak and unpleasant – so we had the best of the weather on the weekend. I waited in my car for the marquee and toilet collectors, with the engine running, heater on 20° and carseat warmer thumping

I’m very thankful we didn’t have that weather yesterday

2. Tristan White on 18/10/2016 at 10:09 pm says:

Worth noting that it really was Mitch’s last chance for a U23 victory – Sunday was his 23rd birthday! Well done to all!

3. Alan Mansfield on 19/10/2016 at 8:20 pm says:

An essential requirement for a competitive rogainer – good timing.
Trevor you paint a bleak picture of Monday.