Berowra Bewilderness Rogaine

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.

First climb of the day up to 63

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.

Control 49 – spectacular location

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!

Attempting a smile, haven’t put any weight on it yet though.

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!

The map – black line is our actual route

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!

Two days later

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Rogaining in the ACT – With Kids!

With school holidays coming up, we had planned a short trip to Dubbo so we could (finally!) show the girls the zoo and hopefully meet up with some cousins. A quick look at the rogaining calendar showed that the following weekend had a 4hr middle of the day rogaine just outside of Canberra. Plans changed to make it a week long jaunt taking in Dubbo, Cowra and Canberra, finishing with the ACT 4hr mid-winter rogaine before driving home afterwards.

The girls were excited about getting to come along on their first rogaine. To get them involved a bit more we bought them a small compass each and spent some time showing them how to use it and working out which direction we were facing. They quickly became pretty good at this and could tell us which way we were heading and which way to go if gave them a direction. Lots of “Let’s go North-East, which way is that?” from us and lots of excited pointing from them.

Canberra was cold – it seems to be a theme for rogaines. But really, Canberra was bloody freezing with temps at -5 overnight, at least the days were sunny with barely any wind. We rugged everyone up, layers on layers on layers for all of us and made our way to the hash house for around 9am. Lots of new experiences for the girls – first time using a portaloo… We picked up our maps and headed back to the car to stay warm, have a bite to eat and quickly plan a route. There were a couple of recommended family/novice routes suggested and we picked the shorter one, noting where it could be cut short if needed. We hoped to last around 3hrs out on course, but would take it quite literally, one step at a time and see how everyone was coping.

And they’re off!

The 10am start came around quickly and everyone headed off. A good number of people were heading the same way as us and we were soon near the back with a few other family groups nearby. The girls had quickly passed their maps back to us but kept the compass handy. It was a decent hike to the first control along wide, easy fire trails. The girls skipped around, ran a little, walked, galloped, and one complained about sore legs (uh oh!) after only 5 minutes. Short lived pain it would seem as two seconds later when she realised I wouldn’t carry her she ran off to catch up to her sister and they skipped along together for a bit.

First control was a little way off the main trail, with still plenty of people making their way in and out of the trees to show us where to go. And the first control was found! Just beside a small dam that was completely frozen over and provided endless entertainment by throwing pine cones and sticks and watching them skid over the surface. But we couldn’t stay there all day so we headed back out onto the trails, found a sunny spot to sit and had our first refueling break. Sandwich, water and a shared cookie hit the spot all round and after about a 10 minute break, we continued on.

First control!

Throwing pine cones onto the frozen dam

Our planned route took us mainly on wide dirt roads and fire trails with short forays into the pine forest to find the specific controls. We settled into a pattern of find two controls then stop as long as needed for food and water before continuing on. As the day warmed up, gloves and beanies came off first, then fleeces, but it never warmed up enough for anything more. There were hills galore, fallen trees to navigate, slippery pine needle ground cover and plenty of pine cones to throw around. There was only one control that was a little tricky to access and we had the girls sit down near the path while we headed into the eroded gully to nab it, but otherwise the controls were all easily accessible and had good visibility.

One of many food stops

Gorgeous day

Six controls in, we realised we would have to keep an eye on the time to make it back, so cut out a couple of controls and chose the easiest path. Little legs were starting to get tired, although the steady input of sandwiches, water and “something a little sweet” seemed to do the job and keep away the complaints. the final half hour was tough on the four year old, but she understood that the quickest way to get back was to just keep moving and she did an amazing job. The five year old managed to maintain enthusiasm and compass checking throughout the entire venture and they were excited to see the finish.

We were amazed at how well the girls handled the day. Previous adventures had never covered more than 2-3km and they managed an incredible 9 kilometres!!! No wonder they were tired. Included in that was around 250m of elevation and we were out for 3 hours and 40 minutes. We picked up 8 controls for a total of 310 points. Our effort had us 109 out of 115 teams, coming 13th out of 18 “family” teams. As we sorted ourselves out back by the car, we watched other teams making their way to the finish with our eldest asking if the people were aware that they would lose points if they were late back. This became especially important after the horn went off and we saw some of the final competitors straggling back in.

After another bite to eat, a visit to the portaloos again, it was time for us to make the trek home to Sydney. The girls were asleep about 20 minutes into the drive – no surprise there! The next day, we asked if they had enjoyed themselves and if they would be keen to do another. Miss 4 wasn’t so sure about it, but Miss 5 was keen as mustard and wanted to know when we could go again. Might be a while before we are ready to take them out again, but it was a great experience and real eye opener for us to see just what they are capable of.

Bit tired after all that exercise!

Sydney Turkey Trot 2018

Whinge Alert!!! I did not enjoy today’s event. At all.

This is our 4th year doing the Sydney Turkey Trot. It’s covered a variety of different areas, from routes through suburbia finding every bit of parkland available to a full bush experience in the Blue Mountains, so we thought we had a good idea of what to expect. This year the start and finish were in Cherrybrook, a leafy suburb with lots of bush parks and edging onto national park and parts of the Great North Walk. We expected a combination of street and bush orienteering, nothing too complex and a fun couple of hours out.

We made our way to the event in good time, checked out how it was set to work and then tried to find some sunshine to stand in and keep warm. I forgot to have a bite of muesli bar on the way out, but otherwise we felt ok and watched as the long course participants headed off at 9am. Then it was our turn to check our names off and grab the list of control locations – hmmm, all of them sounded like full “bush” locations, should probably have worn the trail shoes. No biggie, as long as it wasn’t too wet on course we’d be ok.

In the lead up, we were warned of steep contours and multiple big climbs, silppery creek crossings, it was starting to sound a bit more daunting. An email two days prior had also warned of potential need for gaiters and compass, but we decided not to bother. Then we were off – the speedy people charged out, while we settled towards the back of the pack. First intersection and people split out in three different directions – good setting when there’s no clear “best way” at this point! We headed for one way and Nick sadi it looked a bit messy, so I suggested we take another path, but he was already halway down the slippy slope so I slid down behind him. Then it was a matter of following the path those in front of us had made until we hit the main trail and headed towards the first control.

I already felt like I was struggling. The Turkey Trot seems to attract some very speedy people, so each year the rest of the pack flies off and we’re at the back with usually only one or two other people in sight. I’d forgotten to take my asthma preventer that morning and didn’t have my ventolin on me (I’m still not used to carrying it). Breathing was tough on a chilly morning and it felt like we were pushing the pace more than I should be (we weren’t really pushing at all though). Nick was in front of me, mostly with someone else between us, I wasn’t getting a chance to give my map more than a cursory glance which barely let me find where I was, and I just did my best to put my head down, follow the leader and try to keep up – not my idea of fun.

From the second control we saw a few people decide to cut across through the bush to the number three. We chose to stay on the paths where we could move faster and reached the control only just before the bush bashers. At least this section had some downhill on trail which let us stretch out our legs for a short bit. Going by trail from here was a lot of extra distance (and elevation), so we followed the example of others and headed up the hill through the scrub to the trail above us. Quick and easy, and we were back following trails again to the 4th control. Looping around on some minor trails had us pick up controls 4 and 5, then heading out onto a large, bare rocky area to track down number 6.

It was here that we ended up surrounded by other people – no idea which event they were on, but with several controls close together it seemed like a good area for people to end up milling around a bit. The next few controls definitely would have been a little easier with a compass. We somehow grabbed 6 quickly, then ended up popping out of the rocks at the right trail to head up for the next control. From there we went across country to control 8, but without a compass we headed too low and found a control from another course before heading further up the gully to grab ours.

We took a guess that there had to be a gap in the cliff between 8 and 9, only to find a photographer waiting just below the cliff, capturing people as they made their way through the narrow gap in the rocks and just before finding control 9. Time to flip the map and over then make the steep, treachorous descent to the bottom of the valley, this is where trail shoes would have really come in handy! Again, Nick sped forwared while I tried to keep up and just followed, trying not to slip over on my way down the hill. We made a decent pace along to control 10, headed into the scrub a bit early for 11, which allowed us to be overtaken, and then head a good way along the trails to 12 – our farthest point from the start.

 

 

 

 

 

At this point we were nearly 7km in and 1hr 20m had passed. We still had the full length of the second map to travel before we would pick up the third and final map – who knew what it had in store, but at this rate it was going to be a very long morning! I was knackered, frustrated and everything just felt too hard today. There wasn’t even a quick way back if I wanted to quit! At least that meant it wasn’t an option. I felt that we were so far behind everyone else it was ridiculous. Nothing to be done though but keep on moving. We had no food with us, but luckily Nick had water on him.

My only control photo from the course

From here we had a brief respite from the constant up and down of the trails and popped out onto the roads for a bit. It was very short lived though, one control and back down onto the trails again, almost dropping us right back to the same point we had been just over a kilometre earlier. It was a long hike along the trail to the map swap location with only one more control along the way, right on the track at a water crossing. Then a huge climb up out of the valley before making our way along a cliff line with what I’m sure was stunning views, but I just didn’t care at that point. We dropped off our first maps and picked up the next one and continued on.

Only 3 controls to go. I was getting slower and grumpier, the controls since 13 were all basically right on trail, so it felt like more of a hike than a treasure hunt. The hills were steep and nasty and as we headed back down into the valley it was getting cold again. I tried kicking up into a run again, but started getting twinges in my achilles on both legs – nooo! So walking it was. Another steep hill to head up and then back down again. Another creek to cross, our first real muddy, boggy patch of the day in which my shoe became half slimed. Then it was the home stretch. But not before a final, endless climb up to finish area.

It seemed almost deserted. There was no one hanging around the finish area, a couple dozen people around the front of the scout hall as we checked in and got our results – 18 out of 23 – so not quite last! Two apparently ended up with a “Did Not Finish”, which wasn’t too surprising. There seemed to be a couple in each category of the event which seemed higher than usual, I’m sure if I’d been doing it solo I would have been one of them as well. There were still people coming in from the other courses as well, it had been a tough day all round by the looks of it. One poor person on the long course had grabbed the wrong map at the map swap and picked up the final medium map instead. On getting to the end and finding out their error, they headed all the way back to the map swap, picked up the right map and proceeded to finish the long course – a very long route!

In the end we covered 12.5km (7.7km straight line course, minimum actual distance 12km) and almost 500m of elevation – no wonder my legs hurt!

So what went so wrong and why didn’t I enjoy it – it was a stunning cold winters day, with clear blue skies and no wind.  It was a chance to get out and explore a new area of bush while trotting around tracking down controls.  But nope, I just wasn’t getting into it yesterday.  The first half hour I felt like i was just following Nick, trying to keep up and slowing him down.  He was constantly well in front of me, and I had myself convinced he would be having a much better time on his own, able to go his own pace.  This felt like my view for most of the event:

It wasn’t, of course, but that’s how I felt at the time.  I always seem to feel a lot more pressure with line courses too, knowing you have to get every single control that’s set on your map.  Not like a score course, where you set your route and if you can’t find one you don’t get the points but at least you’re not out of the running.  Miss one on a line course and that’s it, event over.  Not that we often find ourselves unable to track down a control.  But, it makes me anxious.  And it would be even worse if I was doing it solo – I’d be right at the back of the pack, if not last, and constantly worried that I wouldn’t be able to find the next control – it’s just not a fun way to do things.

Yesterday I had myself convinced that there would be no more orienteering for me outside of Summer Series.  Stick to rogaines in winter.  Today, I think I just need to take a different approach.  This course was hard!  I’m completely lacking in confidence for my navigation, so maybe I need to take a step back, start giving the easy courses a go solo and build up my confidence and ability at the shorter courses and work up to the moderate ones again – along with building up my fitness so my lungs and legs don’t give up on me mid-course. So yes, I’ll probably be back for the Turkey Trot next year in one form or another.

Wingello Rogaine – Results and Maps

And now for the results, numbers, etc. First up though, the map.  This one is marked with our planned route (orange highlighter) and our actual route (black).

This one shows the team who scored just ahead of us (blue) and the winning team (green – bit hard to see):

So how did we go?
Time: 6hrs
Distance: 25km (pretty much exactly)
Points: 700

Results for 6hr event
Overall: 10/81 teams
Mixed: 5/43
Mixed Veterans: 1/8

Yep – we won our age category!!! Wish we had hung around for the results now though.

So a few days later, what are our thoughts on the whole thing. Overall we were really happy with how we went. We followed our plan, adjusted where needed and covered a decent distance. Even though we were knackered at the end, it wasn’t as debilitating as previous events – we must be getting fitter. We liked the cold weather a lot more for an event than the hot weather we’ve had at a few other recent rogaines. The navigation was quite tricky in parts, and we were pretty lazy about doing it too – it was only due to having over 300 others out doing the same thing that we found some of the controls so easily. Without that, it would have taken a lot longer to find what we did. Nick still has a distinct preference for veering right as we get near controls – we can see it happening a number of times. Our hydration/nutrition worked ok, we were pretty hungry by the end and it was only luck that we didn’t run out of water too early. We really should have topped up at the first water drop.

We still have some work to do with our gear for colder/wet weather. I feel the cold terribly, but was perfectly comfortable in my warm long sleeve top while Nick wasn’t nearly as comfortable in a fleece. It’s also time for me to splash out on a proper waterproof running jacket, if the drizzle had kept up for much longer I would have been cold, wet and very unhappy with only a spray jacket that had reached its limits. Nick bought and tried out some knee high gaiters – they were a huge help with the cold and did a good job of protecting his legs, however his preference would be to have long leggings to wear under shorts for warmth, reduced bulk and so his knees aren’t bare. Other than that everything worked well and we feel like we’re starting to get the hang of things.

Next event is a 6hr in mid-June. Not sure if we will be able to make that one, but we’ll certainly be doing our best to get there!

And just for interest, here is a couple of the high scoring routes from the 12 hour event. Overall winners in blue and Mixed winners in orange.

Wingello Rogaine –

We had been looking forward to the Wingello Rogaine for a while now, our first “normal” rogaine – a 6/12hr bush event, not the Mini, not the Metro and not the deep end experience that was the 24hr NSW Champs. Our plan was to enter the 12 hour option, getting as much as we could while it was still light and saving the hopefully easier controls for night and seeing if we could find any.

Then just over two weeks out, after having a persistent headache for a couple of weeks, my husband started getting impaired vision and was found to have considerable inflammation on his optic nerve. This started us on the rounds of specialists, treatments, side effects and recovery. Understandably, getting to a rogaine was the last thing on our minds. A week out and immense fatigue had set in, and although the eye was improving it still wasn’t 100%. We had no idea if the symptoms he was experiencing were temporary or would stick around indefinitely. I entered us anyway, thinking we needed something to give us some sense of normalcy and even if we only managed to walk a few hours and only on track, it was better than nothing. I entered us in the 12 hour event, and then two days later pulled us back to the more realistic 6hr event.

Rainbows (and rain!) on our way to the event

Two days before, the fatigue miraculously started to lift and we had hopes of holding out for the full event and maybe even being able to run a bit of it. Despite the forecast cold snap, with temperatures reaching zero at night, high winds and potential rain, we headed off early Saturday morning looking forward to seeing what we could do. A bite to eat at McDonalds along the way, then on to Wingello State Forest for the event itself – we had made it! Parking was getting busy and the hash house was packed with people already planning routes and trying to stay warm and dry as the rain fell gently, but persistently, across the course. We picked up our bits and pieces and made our way back to the car to start our planning and have a final bit of solid food before heading off. Our route planned, with multiple places to adjust on the fly, we layered up, rain jackets on and headed back to hand in our flight plans and await the final briefing.

And we were off, people heading in all directions with around 300 rogainers making their way in the light rain to their first control. We headed straight into the pine forest making our way to a parallel road and saving the distance, and hopefully a decent amount of time, avoiding the longer route via road. With only two other people now in sight, we made our way through the trees and popped out onto the road as planned and headed south. With only two other groups near us, it was more peaceful than expected. As we approached control 26, a group of four overtook us and stopped to check their navigation just as Nick spotted the control. We dashed in, determined to hit it first – success! Our first control and we were on our way, feeling good.

We leapfrogged with this team for the first hour and a bit

The next few controls were busier, only needing to get to the general vicinity before the passing of other teams indicated where we needed to go, and in this way we picked up 27-25-73-24-43-61. Control 73 was probably the trickiest of those with only one other group nearby, but as they headed into the bush at the same time as us and we spied them on their way out, we figured they had found the control and made our way up a bit higher to where they had been and found ourselves on top of it. It looked, and sounded, like a few others were also having some trouble pinpointing this one as we made our way out. The control had been down the bottom of a considerable hill and we warmed up a lot heading back up, stopping part way to strip off the wool base layer and pack the rain jackets away. This area of pine forest made for easy travel on the roads, with all the controls far enough into the woods to make decent navigation necessary.

By control 61 we were just over an hour and a half and 8km into things. This was one of the rare times we found ourselves on our own for a little way as we looped around via road and then stayed high as we headed for control 31. This appeared to be about midway between a higher and lower trail and we hoped the high road would give us some good visibility. We made the wrong choice as it turned out, the exit point from the road was easy enough to work out, but then it was a push through chest deep ferns and precarious footing as we trusted our map and hoped to come upon the control. We found it, only to realise as we then made our way to the low track that from the low path it was easily visible in passing and an easy walk in. But we had the points and continued on.

Control 20 was a tricky one, fortunately there were enough others around to have us heading in the right direction before making our way to 60. This was the most social control of the day! At the time we were there, upwards of 30 other competitors were also off track and within sight. Talk about an easy get! Nearing the first water drop and we decided we had enough water to be right through to the second one – we were about to hit the bush, but figured we should be ok. Picked up control 30 with ease – plenty of people around and we turned up just as one of the organisers was bringing in a new control punch, as the old one hadn’t been working properly. Snapped a quick photo with the phone and kept on going.

We next headed off trail for our one planned section of linked off-trail controls. A chance to test our bush navigation and see how well we could move. Nick had been managing well and we were making good time. We tracked with another group along the ridge line and down the spur to the area control 71 should be in. Took us some time to find it though and we worked with the other team to cover more ground. In the end it was a bit west of where we were looking, but we found it and took a bearing for the next control. This was definitely not a precise science at this point. The going was slow – the steep, rocky, fern covered gully made sure of this. We made it down one side and climbed up out again and started heading for the high ground, surely we would stumble across control 50 if we just kept going higher… We did find it, along with a group of two guys who we had been seeing along the way for nearly two hours. We parted ways here though as they headed further into the bush in search of more points since they had entered the 12 hour event.

At this point we made the call to change our route. The previous two controls had taken far too much time and we though it would be overly optimistic to stick to our original plan. So we replanned, adding on some extra distance, but via road so hopefully quicker. It was a long walk on trails to control 41, heading down a mountain bike track and then scouting a section of trail with some others until someone spied the control buried down the hill amongst the ferns. Fortunately enough people had already been there that there was a clear path to follow, we still landed on our butts as we slid down the steep, slippery trail, no harm done though.

Back out along the mountain bike trail and we took the first trail out onto the roads. Earlier than we had planned as it turned out, but easy enough to make our way. The wind was bitterly cold here though and we moved on quickly. Once in shelter again, we stopped for our final hit of Tailwind, I had some caffeinated to help me along the final stretch, and nabbed a decent amount of Nicks water to mix it up – yum! Back on the mountain bike trail and heading for control 51, it was an easy find. Many people had been here before us, and the wet weather made the trail in obvious giving us a quick in and out here.

With a bit over an hour to go, it was time to pick a quick track home and pick up any points we could along the way. Control 32 was nice and easy – the controls near dams had been some of the easiest ones – while 45 required a bit more effort. The trails were getting busier as the 6 hour event rogainers headed for home with us. We did a quick trip in for control 34, a bit tricky as it got darker. With half an hour to go we hoped to pick up 22 as well. However, after wandering around in the pine trees and ferns for 15 minutes, we called it a day and headed straight for the hash house, sneaking in with less than a minute left on the clock!

We dropped our packs back to the car and put on all our warm clothes again – it was dark and getting colder by the minute. Back at the hash house, the kitchen was flat out and we grabbed a toastie and some cake while waiting to see when the results would come through. It looked like they might take a while, as someone was injured out on the course, so that had to be looked after first. Nick was getting too cold, so we decided to call it a day and jumped in the car. Our destination was Bowral for the night, a hot shower, pub dinner and beer, then a motel room for a good nights sleep before picking up the girls on Sunday and running head first into Mothers Day.

This post is a bit long, so next one will be results and a few other bits and pieces.

Our course on Strava

Scheyville Minigaine

The forecast was for a hot day, the only question was – how hot? With the event running from 12-3pm, we would be out in the hottest part of the day, not something I particularly looked forward to. In the end I think it hit 32 degrees, not the most pleasant running weather especially in open areas, but bearable under the cover of trees and helped by the low humidity which almost instantly wicked any sweat away.

We made good time out to Scheyville National Park, arriving with just over an hour to go before the midday start. Checked in, toilet stop, then back to the car and pulled out the table and chairs to find a spot in the shade to set up and sort ourselves out. A quick look over the map, sunscreen on, sandwich in hand and then settle in to study the map and plan our route. There were a couple of suggested novice routes indicated on the back – these are always helpful as they give a point tally and distance to cover which can then usually be extended on to give a longer route. We pulled out the highlighters and string and linked some controls together and started putting a plan in place. The route looked a bit long, but there were a couple of places we could adjust and make changes based on how we were going, so we were happy enough with it as a starting point. Made sure our packs were ready, put everything else back in the car, a final toilet stop and then join the rest of the competitors up at the hash house for the final briefing.

There were over 300 people entered and at the sound of the siren people headed in all directions. A good number of people went the same way we had planned, so we settled in behind them, letting them trample a path through the hip high grass for us. We came on the first control easily – there were people everywhere still – someone had already ended their day with what was hopefully nothing worse than a bad ankle sprain, and then we followed more people streaming up the hill towards the next control. After the second control, numbers started thinning quite a bit, but there were still enough to lead us almost directly to the next couple of controls with little effort. This was nice, as they were “off track” controls and there was no need to pull the compass out. The footing was pretty uneven, but it was still possible to make decent time through most of it.

Ponies!

This first five controls were out in the open, then our plan had us heading for the trees. A short section of road before we cut across to the southern portion of the map to pick up the next 5 controls there. These were reasonably easy, mostly just off track with slightly overgrown gullies leading to them. Plenty of people on this section in both directions – we picked up the pace on the downhills and some of the flats while walking the uphills. The heat was already starting to take its toll hough, and despite having kept on top of my asthma meds after an annoying cold two weeks ago, I needed a couple of puffs on the ventolin in the first hour (once I realised my shortness of breath was possibly more to do with this than my current lack of fitness). Lots of kids out on course too doing an amazing job in the heat.

Not a cloud in sight

Back up to the road, and an unplanned stop while Nick had to do a bug check – he’d had several attach themselves to him in the last section we had gone through and we weren’t sure what they were. He was all clear though, so we continued along the road for a short while again before getting back on to wide, smooth gentle trails and jogged our way along to the next dam and another control. We realised we weren’t moving as quickly as we would have liked, and with water starting to get a bit low too, we changed plans to just grab a 90 pointer and head straight for the water drop. The 90 pointer proved a bit of a challenge to find the right entry point off the main track and a lot more pushing our way through scratchy tea trees than we would have liked. We saw more people making the same mistake we did as we returned to the main path and jogged our way along to the water drop via scenic control 36.

Water drop

The water drop was well stocked and looked like very few people had taken advantage of it when we were there. It was a time consuming stop and the national park sign was just the right height to clip Nick on the head while we were there (leaving him a nice bruise on the forehead today). We left here feeling refreshed and we hit an extended downhill section of the course making good time along clear paths to the next control. We had to pay attention in the next bit with a network of trails and then a very faint trail leading off for the next point. Another fight through the tea trees left us a little worse for wear but another 60 points in hand. With 45 minutes to go, we needed to start making a beeline back to the start, so we dropped our planned 80-30-50 route and went for a 30-50-20-20 instead. Probably the wrong choice, and the final section saw me in a world of pain on very tired legs as we pushed to the end. We finished in a clean 2:57, three minutes before finish.

The queue for the bbq was long, I would have loved a bit of fruit or cake, but Nick was keen to get moving and I had no energy to argue. We still had water in our packs and that would do for now. We slowly made our way back to the car. Now that we had stopped, I realised just how much I had pushed my body. It hadn’t been a hard run, but the heat, lack of running over the past couple of months and my recent head cold had conspired to ensure that the 15km we had covered felt more like twice that distance. I struggled to stand, to talk, to sit, my feet tingled and my legs ached, I was shattered.

A bit of shade

As always, the results were up within a couple of hours. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t do as well as we would have hoped, but we didn’t completely disgrace ourselves either. Our score of 980 put us in 6th spot (out of 17) in the mixed veteran teams with only 50 points between us and 4th place – the first 3 teams doing much better. In the open mixed teams we placed 15th out of 57, and overall we were 26th out of a total 96 teams. There were another 69 solo runners out on the course too.

Fuelling with Tailwind worked brilliantly again, but overall we were both disappointed with the day (Nick more so than me). We had planned far more optimistically than we were going to manage, and in cutting short our route we dropped a lot of planned points. In hindsight, an alternate middle section to our plan would have been much better – there was a lot of distance and time for few points in there. The tea tree was an unwelcome fixture in the northern parts of the course, a much hated obstacle for us and while I had knee high socks on, Nicks legs were fairly bare and copped a good scratching from the day. But mostly it was my current lack of running that slowed us down, so it’s back to regular running following physios orders to make sure I can stay uninjured and get back some consistency before we hit the trails again!

Two days post rogaine and my calf muscles are still suffering – more so than almost any other event we’ve done.  Dozens of scratches on arms and around knees from the tea trees, but otherwise pulled up ok after a good nights sleep.  Nick has a bump on his forehead from hitting the sign, but is otherwise fine.

It’s been a while since I posted, so will try and get maps up for this rogaine in another day or two and then do a catch up post – there’s been a lot happening!

Metrogaine – Bondi to Bar

A week out, the forecast was for a humid day with temps around 30. Three days out, 3-15mm of rain and max of 26 – that sounded a lot better! By Saturday the forecast was 25-40mm of rain and temps around 21 – this did NOT sound so good. I don’t mind a bit of rain while running, being drowned in a deluge and squelching along in sodden shoes and clothes while trying to read a map was a whole different thing though.

Sunday morning was warm, overcast and humid. Checking the radar, storms were raging to the south of Sydney, with small patchy showers creeping north. We crossed our fingers that the bulk of the rain would hold off until at least half way through the event and headed off.  We picked up our maps and tags and headed back to the car for planning. We had been lucky and found a park 2 spots away from the entry gate, so we could stay warm, dry and comfortable while we prepared. We followed a similar plan to our last rogaine – I highlighted the high and mid point controls on my map to give us a visual overview of what to make sure we looped in, and Nick’s map had our eventual route plan. There were some course planners notes on the back of the maps with warnings like – this control only for experienced navigators – and – cliffs are unfenced and dangerous near this control – as well as some recommended routes for novices. The recommended routes are usually a great starting point for putting our routes together, and this one was no different.

We plotted out a route that looked like it would take us to around 30km, with multiple places towards the end where we could easily alter plans to lengthen or shorten as needed while still maximising points. We gobbled down a honey sandwich, put on our wrist tags and made our way to the hash house. A quick loo stop, pre-race briefing and we were off. People headed off in all directions and within 100m of the start we were on our own! This was incredibly unusual and we didn’t see another runner for over half an hour. We headed straight south, planning to get around Malabar headland and pick up the 500 or so points in the area as quickly as possible. With it pretty much guaranteed to rain at some point, we didn’t want to be caught in the exposed rock platforms and dirt trails when it came.

One of the controls was down on the beach – we took it slow as I HATE getting sand in my shoes and were overtaken by a couple of teams here. Then it was up on the headland proper and keeping an eye out for what was described as “indistinct trails”. We ended up on an old rail line which made for easy running and then had to rock climb out of it to get to the control above us. We led another team through this section and saw several other teams as we headed out again. The exposed cliffs were incredibly windy and we could see the rain to the south. The coastline here was rugged and beautiful, I love how rogaines get me out to explore new areas of Sydney that I haven’t seen before. Then it was heading towards Maroubra Beach and a quick in and out along the new boardwalk for a 80 pointer, time to empty the shoes of dirt and sand before hitting what would now be almost all road.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a rogaine without some sort of injury, so I fulfilled this requirement as we headed back down the boardwalk. There were double gates at the entrance and as I lifted the latch and pushed the gate open, my thumb was squished between the two. Damn that hurt. The pain hit and a wave of nausea swept over me as I swore and held my thumb as still as possible – we kept walking though, after all, we still had a long way to go. Fortunately it was just soft tissue and despite continuing pain, it didn’t seem that anything serious had happened. And on we went…

A couple of shots from the organisers – we’re running in step!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next section of our route was taking us along the coastal walking path that goes from Maroubra to Bondi – we would be turning off probably around Bronte. This was going to be a continuously hilly section as the path headed from beach to headland cliff tops, again and again and again. There was clambering over slippery rocks, slow uphills, easy running downhills and a detour through Waverley Cemetry.

I had been keeping fueled using Tailwind – an energy/electrolyte mix added to the water in my hydration bladder. It had been working brilliantly, despite my legs getting a bit tired, I felt great and had needed no other fuel. It was time to move onto the caffeinated tailwind though for that extra boost for the final stretch. Good timing had us passing a water fill station at exactly the right time. In hindsight, I should have had less water this time around, as I didn’t drink it all, and a more concentrated solution would probably have helped. But otherwise it was brilliant! Still some fine tuning needed, but I think I’m finally getting fueling right.

It was time to head away from the coast – more hills to come and some decisions to be made regarding our route. We had covered about 20km in 3.5 hours, so were making good progress. We decided to combine our options and hit some really high points on our way towards Centennial Park. This involved a LOT of hills. Our legs were getting really tired now and starting to hurt, but on we went, running when it was flat or downhill and walking when it wasn’t. My walking pace slowed as my muscles tightened up and I couldn’t stretch out as much. We made it to the high point of the course at the Waverley Reservoir and picked up the 100 points on offer. Thank goodness for the long downhill that followed from there towards Centennial Park! Some nice flat running through the park, and then easy going for a while.

We were constantly reassessing our route now and dropped a couple of low point controls to take a more direct route and ensure we made it back in time. Our legs were really giving us problems now, but we knew we had to be able to push into a run wherever we could to make it back. One final steep hill (the footpath was just steps!), a long easy downhill and we were back on flatter ground again. And of course, less than 30 minutes to go and the rain hit. None of the light, misty stuff that had hit several times earlier in the day, this was serious cold, stinging, windy rain that quickly drenched us and started making the shoes soggy.

Still more steps!

It didn’t take long until we were soaked, but there was no point calling it quits now, so on we went to get our final 80 pointer. Thank goodness for waterproof maps! Cold, wet and almost hitting “miserable”, we made it back to the finish with less than 2 minutes left – perfect timing! We packed under the shelter along with everyone else, grabbing some of the food on offer – fruit, cake, and Nick joined the queue for the sausage sandwiches. I desperately needed to sit down and get off my feet, and was lucky to find a seat under cover and away from things to eat up the cake and biscuit I had nabbed. Nick headed inside to see if scores were available, but nothing was up, so he generously headed to the car to get towels and our dry gear and bring it back so we could get changed. What a relief to get the soggy shoes off and some dry clothes on. We made our way back to the car and “recovered” for a bit, getting some food and more drinks in before heading home.

Preliminary results were posted incredibly quickly – we’d had a great run!
Mixed Veterans: 4/30
Mixed Open: 6/65
Overall: 22/137
Distance: 34.5km
Points: 2080

Only 25 teams scored over 2000 points (out of a possibly 3070), and we were only 10 points behind 3rd place in our Mixed Veterans Category. The first two teams were 500 and 600 points in front of us, so a long way ahead, but this was by far our most competitive result to date.

A hot shower, putting on some compression tights and bbq for dinner had us feeling a lot better, although completely exhausted. We were very happy with our effort though – we had covered further than we’d managed in any previous rogaine and our placing was also our best effort yet. So what did we get right, and wrong, this time…

What we got right: A good, solid dinner the night before had both us feeling well fueled from the start. Last rogaine we made the mistake of trying to get too much fuel in too close to the start, so we stuck to a simple honey sandwich (after a decent, but normal breakfast) then just tailwind for fueling throughout the event. Tailwind worked a dream – can’t say enough good things about it, we usually lose over an hour of “stopped time”, mostly due to eating and needing some rest. We had it down to 40 minutes, most of which was probably map reading, a couple of toilet stops and refilling water. We got our planning right – we had the distance right and our points picked up right. For what we are capable of at the moment, we got it right. Not perfect, but we’re not complaining. My phone still takes a decent enough photo from inside a ziplock bag, and it stayed dry the whole day. Putting my hair up in pigtails removed the issue of it getting in my face and draping on my neck with sweat/rain and bugging me – another thing to get used to with shorter hair…

What we got wrong: My second Tailwind fuelling should have been stronger, that’s an easy fix for next time. Our changing of route right towards the end probably did us out of a number of points. We need to look at elevation and routes at the end more closely before heading out so that we’re not trying to make decisions when our brains are fried at the end. I need a good waterproof, running jacket. While we likely still wouldn’t have used it yesterday, it was pure luck that the rain didn’t hit earlier, and it was freezing! We would have had to finish early if that had happened, just because I would have been cold. Going to the physio and having him get stuck into my calves two days out from an event is too close – I still felt bruised on Sunday morning and was surprised they held out so well in the end.

The day after, I ache in my hips, the bottoms of my feet feel bruised and my knee is giving a few niggles. I’m tired, and all my muscles know they had a good thrashing yesterday, but I’ve already pulled up better than before. We got lucky with the weather – we ended up with over 70mm of rain falling in 24hrs, thank goodness it waited until the end of the event to hit. Here’s hoping that we can do even better next time!

Feb Stats

I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog for the last month.  It’s been a busy one for us, with the oldest starting school and all the adjustments to routines and additional tiredness associated with it all.  I also haven’t run as much due to a niggling calf/shin injury after doing a bit too much at the end of January.  Looks like I got to it in time though and with some help from the physio my running didn’t have to slow down too much.

Stats for Feb:

  • Distance: 72.15km
  • Elevation: 978m

What else has happened…  I finally made it to Brisbane in Run Down Under, it’s only taken me a little over two years to do the 1244km.  The next “big” town is around 4000km, so even with an increase in my annual distance, it might take me a while to get there!

Nearly half my kilometres this month were from a single rogaine last weekend (blog post coming tomorrow).  Despite the fact that I didn’t quite hit my goal this month that I need to reach the 1000km for the year, I still ran further than all but 2 months from last year.  It’s also the most elevation I’ve ever done in a single month.

January Stats

With January ending up a bit of a bust the last two years due to starting too enthusiastically and ending up with overuse injuries each time, this year is off to a much better start.  First, the numbers:

  • Distance: 92km
  • Elevation: 606m

Woohoo – biggest month ever for distance!  This month my focus was on taking it easy for all my non-orienteering runs.  I did a lot more on the treadmill than usual to escape the sun and heat, and this let me focus on keeping the pace down while I listened to some podcasts to pass the time.  As a result, I’ve hit my target of 20km/week and I’ve managed to avoid injury.  There have been only a few orienteering runs in there where I have pushed things and have been feeling  a lot fitter for it.

My goal of doing “something” active each day was almost achieved – I missed one day in January, close enough for me.  February has been off to a terrible start though with one run done and nothing else, at best that’s three days missed already.  Will have to see what I can do about that!

Weekend Finished on a Winner

The weekend just gone I managed two very different runs. The aim was to get a long run in Saturday morning before it got too hot and then, depending on the weather possibly do another sprint orienteering event on the Sunday evening.

Off to a bad start on the Saturday morning, when my stomach was rebelling – not sure if it was the curry I had for lunch on Friday or the meatballs we had Friday night… Whatever the case, I opted for the treadmill as it seemed quite likely some mid-run stops would be required. Then the bluetooth headphones wouldn’t connect to my phone. I’ve become used to listening to podcasts while I run on the treadmill to make the time pass, so no headphones and I had to focus to listen through the phone speaker to the chosen TED talks. Just over half a kilometre in and my watch buzzed a few times – connected to phone, disconnected to phone, buzz, buzz, buzz… tracking of my run stopped and started a few times. I ticked over a kilometre and checked how it was going on my watch. Only 740 metres registered. Somehow, my gps had kicked in again and, of course, it wasn’t recording any more distance – great! Turned gps off and kept going.

The run was already hard and with the issues already I was ready to quit, but I talked myself into doing a bit more. The first kilometre or two is often harder until I settle in, hopefully this would be the case here too. 1.5km and I was struggling badly and ready to call it quits when I reach 2km, instead, I dropped back the pace and talked myself into doing one more kilometre. Still wanting to quit, I told myself I could stop at 30 minutes. I was over 4km now, so how about I just go to 5km. Then, if I just go to 5.5km, I will only have 2km left to reach my weekly goal and sprint courses are usually at least 2.5km, so I can still reach my goal. Not wanting to fail in my weekly goal so early in the year, I talked myself into finishing the 5.5km, just as my stomach started to let its presence be known. Phew! Most uncomfortable run in a long time, my planned 8-10km didn’t happen, but I certainly did better than the 2km I had nearly stopped at, so I’ll count it as a win.

Sprint orinteering this week and it was our turn to help out. We had been put at the registration desk for the “first shift” – helping with set up of the tables and course info, then handling registrations, payments and handing out the control lists. Much easier job at a sprint event than a normal Summer Series for a few reasons – no maps to manage, only a single course and fewer participants with almost everyone a regular and knowing how it all works. We had a lovely area under some big gum trees for shade, the temperature had dropped back under 30 degrees and there was a lovely breeze. We also picked up our new Garingal team t-shirts. We had made the right call on sizing and they were lovely, light and comfortable.

We finished up our shift and sorted ourselves out, ready to run. Main problem was the site had no access to toilets or water. Water wasn’t an issue as we had brought our own, but no toilets was a bigger problem – we always try and do a “final visit” before a run, especially in summer when we have been drinking more water throughout the day. But today, it was not to be and we headed to the start, ready to make the best of it. It was the longest sprint course we had hit to date being advertised as just shy of 4km on the optimal route and was also called out as “flat”. Which it wasn’t. Admittedly, it didn’t have the steep hills of a typical north shore suburb, but it was enough to let you know there was definitely some elevation involved.

As a single option sprint course, a runner was given a map every 30 seconds to ensure no immediate following or crowding at the early controls. Nick took off before me and I followed next. First look at the map and it looked to be a tricky course, with a good number of route choices to be made getting around buildings between controls. The first few controls had Nick and I passing each other as we criss-crossed the map, until Nick got a bit more of a lead on me. Apparently he also saw me as he headed to the final control, as I headed towards the final 3. I passed a few people early one, and was passed by several more throughout the course.

The map was well marked, although I still had trouble at a couple of locations where controls were located up stairs, but I was looking at ground level. Overall though, with 23 controls to track down, I really only took more than a few seconds locating the control once – my gut and my brain disagreed, the brain took over but it turned out the gut had been right… Ah well, not too much time lost. And of course it was the only control I didn’t see a single other person nearby!

Around 2km in, the lack of toilet facilities at the start was starting to let itself be known. Yep – thanks very much kids for giving me a dodgy pelvic floor. The final 2kms was an exciting game of how fast can I run and not have a problem, and can I run down these stairs or not? Usually the answers were – not very – and – no. Not happy. As I approached the second last control, I was pushing along a flat stretch on tired legs and could hear someone just behind me, running ever so slightly faster than me. I just couldn’t push any harder though and they overtook me, getting to the last control slightly ahead of me. This wouldn’t do. It wasn’t far to the finish, downhill over ground littered with sticks. So I ran. Faster and faster. I overtook him with less than 100m to go and kept sprinting. That final 100m was at 3:30/km pace! And I was done.

Reviewing our runs later in the evening, our paths had been remarkably similar, with alternate routes taken only twice. While Nick was faster than me by almost 4 minutes over the 4+km course, I at least managed a few splits that were quicker than him. The results were published later the same night (very quick!) and we saw them this morning – neither of us came last in our category! We both came second last… Admittedly, for me at least, this was a great result as it meant I also came FIRST in my age category. Very happy with that . My only complaint regarding the event was the lack of toilest available. For future events, if there are no toilets available, I don’t think I will be running unless we can start as soon as we arrive…