Perfect day for a summer rogaine! A bit of cloud, cool morning and not forecast to get too hot. We made the now standard run to McDonalds on the way to the hash house – the salt and energy appears to be an essential to getting me started… We arrive with perfect timing to get one of the last couple of parking spots right next to the hash house, we were even backed up to a small grassy area just right for setting up our table right next to the car. Checked in and picked up our maps along with a seemingly extensive set of course setters notes – this looked interesting.
We made ourselves comfortable and started marking up the high point controls on one map. There were only 11 controls worth 70 points or more and they stretched towards the far edges of the map. A more generous spread of 40-60 point controls, but again these formed the outer ring of the map. The remaining plethora of low pointers were scattered generously across the central plateau, providing a good number of controls available for those that didn’t want to hit the steep trails but still wanted to be able to gain a good number of controls – nice course setting. A look at the setters notes and first surprise – we can catch trains!!! We had noticed the suggestion to bring an Opal card along and were wondering how it would be worked into things. It wasn’t necessarily an easy inclusion though as trains ran every half hour at best on a Sunday. There were also additional challenges of a quiz, a guessing competition, a photography comp, prizes for best team names (some very creative ones!), door prizes – a fantastic array of things going on to really bring the social aspect into the Socialgaine.
We looked for a loop we could work things into, checked train times, could we grab two 10 pointers before getting on the train? Yep. Nick was eyeing off the high points in the south west corner, so we looped those in, although I was a bit hesitant about how much time and distance it would add. Checked points, looked at where the major climbs in our route were, did some point calculations and marked out an optimistic route on our flight plan. Along with a “short cut” home for when we didn’t make it. Drop off the flight plan, toilet, pack up and put final things together and made our way up for the final briefing. Bit too much noise, and unfortunately we couldn’t hear most of it. And then, it was 9:25 and we were off.
Realising that we likely needed to push a little to make it to the train and that there would possibly be a bit of a queue at the first controls, we ran for the only time in the day. And it was downhill, crap, that means we will have a hill to get to the station. Not to worry. First control (17) done and dusted, then it was a walk and a huff and puff up the hill to control 18. Train was already at the station! Across the road and headed quickly down the stairs and on board with only two to spare. Perfect start to things, and it seemed that the only other people on the train were other rogainers.
Getting off the train, we followed everyone off the platform, past the group of scouts and across the bridge over the M1. While a few groups milled around checking maps, we spotted the path behind the houses and headed off towards checkpoint 54. Back over the M1 and down, down (damn that’s steep!), down into Lyrebird Gully. Off the paved path, it quickly turned into some very pretty and quiet single track – this is what we came for! It was a good distance along to checkpoint 72, but with the control hanging down in the middle of the path, we were never going to miss it and the cave location was spectacular.
Next on our route was control 63 – waaaay up above us, but first we had to find the indistinct trail up between the cliffs. The setters notes had mentioned that this track was not for the novice, so we had some warning of what to expect, but on finding the pink tape, we looked up and yikes, that was going to be steep. Covered in rocks, ferns and leaf litter, this was going to be slow going. In the end we made steady progress and it wasn’t as bad as we had first thought, although we were extremely glad for the pink tape showing us which way to go. It was still one heck of a climb though with around 80 metres elevation gain in only 300 metres. Then it was easy enough to find our way around to the control – finding our first spider webs across trails, why hadn’t someone been here before us?? And a spectacular view across the valley.
A nice easy bit of fire trail and then more scrambling along a partly overgrown track before reaching road. Aaaah, this was easier, a chance to stretch the legs a bit before off to more taped track to the top of a knoll and control 81. We saw a couple of other teams around here, but we had otherwise been pretty much on our own in the bush. It was a perfect day to be out and we were enjoying the whole thing.
Back on the road again we headed downhill and veered off to 49 just as a speedy team we had seen near 81 was coming back out again. Perfect timing. Fantastic view at 49 and I sat down to empty my shoes of a few bits of stick and prickles that had found their way in. Then back up to the road and down, down, down to Crosslands Park. The park was busy with picnickers and boaters, and was a great place to refill the water bladders and make use of the facilities after nabbing control 71. It was early lunchtime, so it was time to put the caffeinated tailwind into the bladder to get a bit of a kick going for the next section. Nick also checked out where his shoes had started rubbing a bit and put a bandaid on where it was getting a bit raw, but otherwise we were in good shape and kept on going.
We reached the end of the parking lot connecting to the first lot of duckboards. There looked to be a bit of a puddle around it, but not too bad, then the “speedy blue team” came charging past us and sploshed through calf deep water, jumping sideways and taken by surprise. Yep, there was no easy way through, the tide was in and shoes would be getting wet. All I can say is thank goodness for trail shoes that drain! We came across tidal flooding in three different sections of the track, some we managed to get around, others there was no avoiding – all part of the fun!
Having picked up control 47 and passed all the water, we were well on our way along the rivers edge towards 61 when *crack* – aaarrrrghh!!!!! Over my ankle rolled and with a definite cracking sound. I stood still while the pain washed over me. “Sit down”. I looked at Nick blankly. “Sit down” he repeated. That sounded like a good idea, where should I sit? The track’s a bit narrow, I’ll be in everyone’s way. “Just sit down.” So I did. Yep, that was a good one. Once the initial shock had passed, I tried to take stock. Not broken, but that was a pretty good effort. Ok, lets get it strapped up – bandage please. Hmmm, knee high compression socks will NOT go back on again if I take them off, leave them on and they will help control the swelling anyway. Bandage goes on over the sock – looking good! Shoe back on. A couple of other teams had passed us at this stage, all of them paused to make sure we were ok and see if any help was needed – many thanks, but we’re ok, and have a phone if it gets worse. I got Nick to help me up, now for the real test, could I put any weight on it – yes!! We’re in luck, I’ll be able to hobble out of here, but which way… Well, it would seem that the only way is up, and if we’re going to walk up that damn track, then we’re getting the points for it!
So off we set at a slow hobble in the direction of 61. Rough trails and rocky creek crossings were not my friend and we made slow but steady progress. then we were faced with the climb out of the river valley and up to control 80. Oh gees! Steps at least were better than rough trail, but that didn’t make it easy by any means. The quads and glutes did more than their fair share of work since I couldn’t push off my foot, all we could do was put one foot in front of the other and hope it would all hold together long enough. Despite being rough bush stairs, it was pretty good track with hand rails in many sections as well. After what seemed an eternity 180m elevation gained in less than 1km!), we made it up and turned down towards control 80. We saw several other teams and tourist types here enjoying what had turned into a spectacular blue sky day without being too warm.
Time to take a seat and study the map and work out the best way out of here. I’d drained my water from my pack again, so was keen to either head up the hill to control 46 for more water or swing by the shops near control 23. Another team noticed my strapped ankle and after giving sympathy suggested that going via 46 was probably not a good idea and suggested a smoother exit from the bush for us which was much appreciated – not sure who the team was, but, thank you! The level fire trail was much easier going, but the panadol I had taken seemed to be fading and I was getting shooting pains into the ankle now. We made it up to the shops and I parked myself on a seat and removed the now soggy bandage from my foot as it had started swelling a bit, and restrapped it with a dry one. Not too far to go now to make it back to the hash house. Nick offered to head back and get the car, but nope, we’d made it this far, I wasn’t going to default and lose what points we had managed to get! It was slow going, but we finally made it to the hash house and dropped off our tags. It had taken around 2.5hrs to make it the almost 6km back to the hash house after rolling my ankle. I’m just happy I was able to walk out on my own and didn’t need rescuing!
All up we managed just shy of 20km and a total of 580 points – should have been 600, but looks like I mispunched the last control of 23. We managed to come “not last”, which is better than expected given the circumstances. Disappointed to not get to complete the course we had planned, the weather was perfect and we were really enjoying the day. It was a great location for a rogaine and so close to home which was a big bonus too. Ah well, the ankle will heal and there will be more rogaines next year!
Three days later and the bruising is kicking in on the ankle, but it’s not too bad. It’s still pretty tender but walking with it strapped isn’t too bad. Might be a while before I’m running again though!