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…
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.
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
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!