Sprint orienteering – First Time!

Sprint orienteering is about as far from our recent 24hr rogaine as you can get in the orienteering world. I’ve noticed sprint events on the calendar over the last couple of years, but they are generally late in the day and just didn’t work for us with two very young kids. This year, however, the Saturday Orienteering Series run by Bold Horizons are focusing on sprint events which has given us the perfect opportunity to try it out and see what it’s actually like. The set up of a sprint event is usually in the format of a line course ie visit the controls in a set order, with a much shorter distance involved. It’s also usually set in a built environment eg school or university campus, so that there are constant route choices to be made in getting from one control to the next.

The first week we made it to Chatswood High, got ourselves signed up and decided to stick to the short line course for our first attempt at a sprint event. I was heading off first, so grabbed a map and had a minute studying it and getting myself oriented before setting off. There were 16 (I think) controls to be picked up in a specific order, but the pace was fast as there was rarely more than 200m between them. Having absolutely no familiarity with the location before today didn’t cause too many issues as the map is marked in great detail, although I made a couple of errors in route choice – one minor one and another that was quite expensive time-wise when I missed a marked solid wall between me and a control!

While it wasn’t a flat course, there weren’t too many hills and only a few sets of stairs. Overall, I finished up in 21:29 for 2.5km and  really enjoyed the format. It was very different to other types of orienteering we have done – the course was busy, with people running in all directions, some doing the same course and others on the long course. Everyone is constantly looking at maps to determine best route and check location while trying to keep moving at speed and not bump into other runners. Nick ran after me and finished two and a half minutes faster, being quicker than me on almost every leg of the course. Not many people ran the short line course with most choosing the long line course and Nick was second in the open division, while I was smack in the middle of the 11 of us that ran this course.

The second week was at Killara High – within walking distance for us. So again, we dragged our girls along for our second go. We had decided to give the long course a shot this time.  Although overall distance wasn’t much more than the previous week, there were a lot more controls in the line up. I ran first again and it was interesting how passing the school regularly and having walked through it once previously increased my confidence in moving around it. The course took me back past the registration area three times, which the girls loved, giving them the chance to wave and cheer me on (and later, Nick). There were a considerable number of steps in this route to keep the legs working hard and paying attention to footing.

I finished in 22:30 this week for 2.6km and again, thoroughly enjoyed the speed and constant decision making required for this format. A lot more competitors in the long line course and I managed a respectable 17th out of 48, while Nick was 13th and 40 seconds faster. This week we seemed to alternate which of us was quicker on any particular leg, with several legs having identical timings. In this particular event, there are no separate categories by gender or age, everyone is thrown into the same result list, with the exception of school age runners who are split into high school and primary school for the result listings.

I’m looking forward to next weeks event at St Ives High School – my old high school. Since the high school and primary school are joined, the course will take in both so distances have the potential to be further with less overlap within the course. It will be interesting to see if greater familiarity (although it’s been a while!) helps me get around any quicker!

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Summer Series – Wollstonecraft

Our next Summer Series was at Wollstonecraft, with the sign up area (and finish) at the Mens Shed right next to the train line. Our girls thought this was fabulous – with peak hours kicking in, the trains were passing every few minutes and they were running along beside as best they could. Of course, it all ended in tears when they both slipped on the gravel at full speed, one flying face down and the other somehow ending up in the other direction. Tears, blood and gravel rash to clean up – and this was before we had even started!

The start was down the hill – whichever way you looked at it, there was going to be a good amount of elevation on this course. Nick and I had different routes planned tonight – mine grabbed all but one of the 30 point controls and landed me on as much trail as I could find, while Nick took a wider sweep and avoided some of the rough dirt trails. We started in the same direction though, picking up 4 then up the hill to 29 before I lost sight of him and we went our separate ways.

Still on road, I made my way down to the trails and carefully down to the creek for control 16. Luckily I had read and taken note of the several “comments” about control access/location that was provided at the start or I might have made the same mistake others seemed to be which had them looking for the control on the bridge many metres above me. The track on this side was a twisty, rocky, root covered path and I was glad to be on the run early as trying to pass too many people in this section would have slowed things a lot. As it was, the footing was tricky and I was quick-stepping along and ducking branches, hoping control 18 would be nice and obvious – and it was.

Along a bit further and a bit of a hill to 17, the path along here wasn’t as well defined as some others and I was second guessing myself a couple of times, but I made my way up to the control just where I expected it. Back on the road again and along to control 30. An easy find and a spectacular view of the harbour and city – wish I had taken my phone along for some photos! I hit 30 just after a fit looking guy did and followed him down the steep bush stairs towards 27. It was satisfying to keep pace with him down here and as he stopped at the bottom to check his map, I kept moving and landed on control 27 before him.

I then headed out towards Berry Island along some more twisty, rocky track keeping an eye out for the tape that was suppsed to mark the start of the short path to my next control. It was easy to spot and I grabbed another 30 points at control 26 and kept moving around to control 7. Then onto the road for a bit before dropping down onto 15 – possibly should have stayed off road, but it was nice to move easily again. Then it was along the trail to 23 before the long, and steep, climb out of the bush and up to control 13. That was a tough one, but my legs are feeling a lot stronger this year than they have previously and after a brief recover I picked up the pace again.

Nick and I passed each other here, a quick wave as he ducked in to grab 13 and then we both headed for control 21 before going our separate ways again. I headed on the long, lovely, mostly downhill run to 25 at the foot of a birdbath. A time check showed I still had a bit of time up my sleeve, but again this week I chose to stick to my planned route and get back early rather than change plan mid-run and likely end up over time. So a quick run down to get control 24, then towards a playground for control 5 – had to go inside the playground for that one which I hadn’t expected, so initially overshot a bit. Then back along the paths and up the final bush steps to the finish.

I caught my breath quickly as our girls spotted me and came running up. I felt good and like I still had a lot left in my legs, which is a nice feeling at the end of a summer series, rather than feeling like I was dying. Time to start planning longer routes with a few more options in them and start pushing myself a bit more.

  • The numbers:
    – Distance: 4.3km
    – Elevation: 136m
    – Time: 41min
    – Score: 380

The map – my route in black

The event had been noted as high scoring, with all the 30 pointers clustered down the centre of the map for a change rather than near the edges. I managed to pick up all but one of them. Nick covered more than a kilometre further in distance than me, for only an additional 30 points and with similar elevation. Lots of fun on this outing, I loved the trails and it’s nice to be finishing within time rather than over time which I felt happened a lot last season.

 

Sydney Summer Series Kicks Off

Well, technically the orienteering Sydney Summer Series kicked off about two weeks ago, but the the first week was in a location tricky for us to coordinate with kids in tow, so the official “Week 2” was our start to the season.  We debated whether we would attend it or not, having just taken part in the 24hr rogaine on the weekend and the location a little further than we usually get to.  We had recovered reasonably well though and timing is getting a little easier to manage as our girls get a little bit older.

This week was at Henley (we had to google it), down on the water near Gladesville, an area neither of us had run before.  It was a gorgeous day – sunny, calm and not too hot.  Nick headed there straight from work, while I picked up the girls first.  We had decided that Nick would run first and he arrived just a few minutes before me, time to pick up a map but not route plan.  There was a great little playground for the girls to entertain themselves while we studied possible routes.

Plans made, Nick started off while I pushed swings and provided food for hungry mouths.  I kept an eye on which way people were heading out and returning, cast an eye over the map every now and then to refine my route choice and waited for Nicks return.  He came charging in a little over time having made an expensive wrong turn at one point.

I asked for any tips/pointers and he gave me one but my route was different enough to his that it wouldn’t really help.  I set off, my first actual run in about a month and a perfect day for it.  The first control was visible from the start, so that was an easy pick.  It took a little while to get my head into the map again though and I kept overshooting where I thought I should be.  There was a little backtracking for both of the next two controls, but I picked them up comfortably and noticed several others passing the turn off points to them as well.  That was controls 4 – 8 – 19 picked up.

Then it was along the shoreline a bit further and another out and back along a trail to pick up control 13, then out beneath the bridge to get 25.  On my way there, I was undecided whether to pick up control 6 as well, but as I reach the area I could see it would be an easy pick and another runner was headed that way, so I followed on as they went down to 6 then back to 25.  I expected 25 to be further than it was, so I ran straight past it a few metres before realising it was behind me.  Not sure of the best way to go from here I watched where others were going and followed on behind a Garingal person that seemed to know where they were going.  It was a good choice, and we came out ahead of those that had gone the other way.

There were lots of hills in this event and a good number of controls had us going up and down to the shoreline – a good test for the legs!  And so it was over the point and down again to grab control 3, then back up again and along to pick up 18 half way up an overpass ramp.  Back down again to pick up 27 at a pretty little spot by the water, then heading up a little for control 12 tucked away in some trees.

Then it was the longest slog of the evening.  My legs were tiring and I had to quickly decide if I could fit in control 26 or not.  I went with “not” and headed up to the lights to cross Victoria Rd.  And waited.  And waited.  Eventually the lights changed and I headed across and over towards control 14, tucked behind an old building.  It’s definitely a different experience running these events a bit later in the evening than usual.  Usually starting at 4:30, we don’t see too many others out on the course.  Heading out around an hour later, there were people everywhere coming and going from controls making it very easy to pick where they were without studying the map as much.

I possibly had some time to spare, so considered doing out and back to control 22, but decided against it.  No point overdoing things this early in the season and i still had three more controls I wanted to pick up.  I overshot 10 (twice!), then quickly grabbed 20 which was very close and headed for 30.  Had a little trouble finding the steep stairs down, which suddenly became very crowded with half a dozen of us all heading there at the same time.  Then it was time to head back up, up, up and back to the finish.  I finished with nearly 3 minutes to spare and 30 points ahead of Nick (my goal for the day).

Numbers:

  • Distance: 4.9km
  • Elevation: 109m
  • Time: 42:11
  • Score: 260

24hr Rogaine Part 4 – The Aftermath

After a very long two days with more time spent on our legs than we possibly had in the previous three months, it was good to be home and have a shower and sleep in our own bed again.

My legs took a few days to recover, especially my hamstrings which tightened up again if I stayed sitting for too long – great in a desk job.  Some good stretching though and it sorted itself out.  Monday was tough to stay focused, but I’d thought about this in advance and made sure I had some easy stuff lined up to move through the day.  Definitely a much quicker and easier recovery after an event with no running involved.

Our numbers:

  • Distance: 31km
  • Elevation: 740m
  • Time: Somewhere under 12 hours

Results came out pretty quickly and we were pleased to see we had succeeded in our goal of not coming last.  With 37 teams in the 24hr event we came 27th – good enough for our first shot at a long event.  Within Mixed Open we were 16th out of 22, and for Mixed Veteran 10th out of 11 teams – so not (quite) last any way we looked at it.

Out of a potential points available around 4000, we picked up 710.  The top 3 teams were extremely close with only 10 minutes between each place – top team tracking down 2960 points.  Looking at their route is impressive – the distance covered and the speed in which they covered the terrain!

The map below shows our route on part of the map we covered.

Then we plotted a few other teams:

  • Black  – us
  • Red – winning team
  • Blue – the team we got a photo with on Sunday

Really interesting checking out other teams routes and timings and plenty to learn from how they strung the controls together.

We learnt SO much on this rogaine about a wide range of things, more than all our other rogaines put together, in my reckoning.  Our navigation was pretty good and the thumb compass was brilliant, but our route planning is poor – that one will improve with time and looking over others routes shows a lot.  More time needed to plan our route and compare alternatives – not much we could have done this time due to our tight time limitations on getting to the event from Sydney on the morning it started.  However, measuring our planned route with string (which we had!) prior to settling on a route would have told us just how ambitious we were and let us reassess earlier and saved some wasted time.  We did however allow for cutting short our route at multiple places which worked well on both days, so at least it hadn’t left us stranded, but a lot of points we might have picked up otherwise.

Clothing-wise, was hit and miss.  Tops were perfect – warmth and compactness requirements met!  Bottoms need work (so to speak).  Nick had picked up some great hiking boots the week before the rogaine which worked brilliantly and bothered his feet a lot less than any of his running shoes would have.  My trail running shoes were super comfy as always, but lacked the “stomping” ability of boots which would be useful in this terrain and I had several sticks trying to jab through the upper at times which was a bit painful.  For further bush rogaines, I’ll likely invest in a hybrid hiking/trail running shoe so that my feet have a bit more protection but without the weight and inflexibility of a more solid hiking boot.  My gaiters were great – except that one of the strings broke before the third control… We replaced it with kitchen string on Day 2 though which worked well enough as a temporary measure.  Full length gaiters will probably be on the shopping list for next time though.  Also on the list will be hiking shorts/long pants.  Undecided which it will be, but now that we know we will be doing more of these, we’re prepared to put down money for some decent gear.  Not that what we wore gave us any issues, but long pants especially would have been better this time.

Food and hydration we did pretty well while out.  Tailwind was brilliant (mandarin on day one and green tea buzz on day two), but I could probably take in a bit more than I did.  Likewise for dinner back at camp, I don’t think I ate enough.  Sunday was hard, as I was lacking energy.  My trail mix (just sultanas, dark choc drops and jelly snakes) was yummy and didn’t bother my tummy.  I drank my hydration pack (1.5L) dry in the final kilometre on both days, so planning for water drops would be essential if we pick up our pace or stay out longer.  Nick had 3L on him though, so we weren’t going to run out too quickly.

A huge thank you to NSWRA and the organisers for putting on this event.  It’s a massive time commitment from them to get this all set up and it was amazingly well organised.

A week later, the cuts are healed, the body has recovered and we’re really looking forward to doing another bush rogaine in the future – already checked out the calendar for next year and thinking about how many we can manage).  For now, the summer season of orienteering beckons with our first Summer Series already completed on slightly tired legs.  But we can’t wait to get back out for the long haul again next year!

Check out the rest of our adventure at the 24hr NSW Rogaining Championships 2017:

24hr Rogaine Part 3 – Do Pigs Know They Have A Tail?

Part 3 sees us waking up early Sunday morning for day two.  A refreshing “bath” using baby wipes and then deciding which layers we needed for what was going to be a chilly start to the day.  I ended up going with my merino base layer, t-shirt and a long sleeve running top – we were trying to avoid anything bulky like fleeces to minimise how much we had to carry around once we warmed up.  This turned out to be an awesome combo and I was really glad I had thought to bring the merino top along.

Fleece on first though as we headed over to the kitchen for a port-a-loo visit and some bacon and eggs for breakfast. Needing a bit more, it was back to our tent for a bowl of Coco Pops I had put in just for this occasion!  We faffed around for a bit more, repacking our bags for the day, making sure we had enough “stuff” and I decided to add Tailwind to my water from the start today – caffeinated Green Tea flavour, yum.  It took forever, but we eventually set off , it was a bit more overcast today but still no wind so was quite pleasant.  We started off on the roads for a little way, enjoying the morning quiet.

Then it was back into watching the map and compass.  Find the bend in the road, take a bearing and head cross country.  Wow!  Soooooo much easier than yesterday.  A lot less trees, much less ground litter which made for quicker and easier moving.  Around 500m in and we landed straight on control 53.  With the easier passage through the bush today we picked another straight line to go from 53 to 44.  There was a fair bit of difference in our compass readings this morning with me constantly bearing off to the right of where Nick was.  Given the excellent visibility though, we weren’t too concerned if we headed a bit off course as we should still be able to make out the flag.  Needless to say, we were well to the “right” at 44, but heading down the slope it was an easy find.  We bumped into another team here, so I grabbed a photo.  We were all heading off to the same next control, but we decided to head uphill then along the spur while they were going the straight line option.

Again, the going was pretty easy, a few more contours now, but still managed to get right on the control (number 64) despite misjudging whether we had gone far enough or not – basically, if we weren’t sure, then we probably needed to go further.  Every. Single. Time.

Next was control 73 which we decided to do a straight line.  There were a number of side creeks to cross and we figured it would be an easy thing to count them off even if a couple of them were a bit steep.  Still, it wasn’t too bad and we made it to where we thought the flag should be – and it wasn’t there! Shock, horror!!!  Not a worry, we’ll head down a little way and over a bit, nope, Nick was sure we were one too far over, while I thought we needed to go just a little bit further and we’d be there.  I tried heading over, but Nick literally would not move and decided we should head back up the hill to get out and make our way home.  I made my case to keep going just a little further – my case consisted of “but it has to be just over there, it has to”.  Nope, I wasn’t convincing.  So up the hill we went, both of us frustrated at what looked to be the loss of 70 points, and quite a bit of time.  Across another small creek and I continued trying to move us a little further over, while looking down the hill and pointing that it had to be “just down there, really”.  Then – we saw other people!  Feeling that we were likely quite lost within the map at this point, Nick suggested we head down and ask them if they could point out where we were so we could start making our way back.  Not 10m on our way down the hill towards them – THERE WAS THE FLAG.  I would like to say I was magnanimous in this display of my obviously superior navigational skills, but there may have been just a teensy bit of gloating…

It was a huge relief to have those points in hand after having given up on them and we started planning our way to control 40, figuring it would be our last before making our final way back as it was already a bit later than we would have liked.  This time we planned an almost straight line path that would have us hit a creek and we then planned to follow the creeks all the way up to the control which would be sitting mid watercourse somewhere.  One steep slope down into the creek gully later and we carefully made our way along the creek bottom, being the easiest way to get through here.  It was a bit of a tangle though and we missed the first side creek, but somehow we still picked the right direction and after some time plodding along the creek we made our way to the control.

By this stage I was starting to tire quite a bit.  I was physically asking more of my body than I had in an awfully long time, combined with lack of sleep and probably a bit less fuel and hydration than I should have had, my brain and muscles were telling me they had had enough.  From 40 it was a climb up and out of the gully onto the road along the ridgeline – it seemed to take forever.  Nick asked if I was ok, I answered no.  He asked what he could do to help.  My response – get me home.  The conversation then proceeded like this:

Me: actually, I want a pony

N: how about a wallaby?

Me: I don’t think I’d fit in the pouch and I don’t think  it would take a saddle.  How about a pig?

N: I don’t know how cooperative it would be

Me: Pigs are smart, I could give it some caffeine, that should help.

N: probably just make it run in circles

Me: Do pigs chase their tails?  Hang on, do pigs even know that they have a tail?  I mean, they must know that other pigs have tails, but it’s not like they can see their own tail like a dog can.

The conversation deteriorated from there and we never reached a conclusion on the discussion, but at least we made it up the hill.  Just over two kilometres on easy road had us finishing up back at camp again.  We checked in, stuck our noses in at the kitchen and headed back to our tent to start the long process of packing up.  It felt great to be out of our walking gear (especially shoes!) and we were on our way just before the presentations started.

Not too many new cuts on our legs today (I was a bit more covered up as well), and with better fueling we potentially could have kept going for a while which is a good sign.  We were starving though by the time we stopped at Blaxland for something to eat.  Eventually making it home around 5pm, with a couple of very tired kids in tow.

Coming Next – Part 4 – The Aftermath

Catch up: Part 1 – Death by a Thousand Cuts

Catch up: Part 2 – Where’s the @$*! Track?!

 

24hr Rogaine Part 2 – Where’s the @$*! Track?!

We had a good solid feed from the kitchen and sat around the campfire with several others having a bit of a chat.  Tempting as it was, we couldn’t stay there forever, so with the temperature continuing to drop we headed back to our tent and grabbed some warmer clothes and the torches before heading back out again.

Having never attempted night navigation in the bush before, we had decided that we had to get at least one control (preferably a few) before calling it a night.  We chose control 21 – it was close to camp and was at the junction of a trail and a watercourse.  Surely that couldn’t be too hard?

The trail was supposed to start about 200m from our tent, so we started along the dirt road chatting away and looking about at the night.  The full moon wasn’t set to rise for a little while yet.  Looking up, we realised we were nearly at the intersection almost a kilometre away…  We walked slowly back along the road, scanning the bush for any sign of a path that might be the marked trail, venturing 20m or so off the road in the hopes that we would see something that would show us we had found the trail we were looking for.  Back and forth we went, over 40 minutes covering the same stretch of road – stubborn, us?

Just as we were about to call it quits, we stopped, and looking in just the right spot, we saw the trail!  It wasn’t the clearest, and wasn’t overly easy to follow in the dark, but we followed it and around 500m in landed straight on the control.  Finally!  Nick had led us in on the trail, so it was my job to lead us out.  Only I had unknowingly followed an unmarked trail and we headed in the wrong direction.  The ground wasn’t too rough though, so once we realised we were in completely the wrong spot we took a bearing and headed back to our road and back to camp.  It took us around an hour and a half, but we had 20 points more than if we hadn’t gone.

Our path on strava is almost embarrassing.  Except, we did find the control in the end, so I guess it could be worse.  Freezing cold, we headed for our tent to get what sleep we could.  The tent closest to ours had a good snorer, my hamstrings cramped horribly several times and the rustling of other people coming and going from tents ensured we didn’t sleep too much though.  Both awake at 5:30am on Sunday, we decided to give up attempting to get anymore sleep and start day two.

Check out Part 1 – Death by a Thousand Cuts

Part 3 – Do Pigs Know They Have a Tail?

Part 4 – The Aftermath

24hr Rogaine Part 1 – Death by a Thousand Cuts

Saturday morning seems such a long time ago now. After dropping the girls off to their grandparents for the weekend we made good time out to the campsite and base of operations for the weekend. After checking in and picking up our maps and various other bits and pieces, we drove back to pick a site (most people had already been there the previous night) and get set up.

11:45am was the compulsory briefing.  We were all set up at our site, however had not had a chance to cast more than a quick glance at the map. We dutifully attended the briefing and headed back to our tent to start planning our route. Ever optimistic, we plotted a route that potentially would see us at the All Night Cafe shortly before dusk or we could cut it short and head back to camp instead. Our aim for Saturday was to be back by sunset or shortly after, get a good feed and a decent nights sleep to keep going the next day.

A quick sandwich, our intention sheet filled out, port-a-loos visited and packs ready, we headed off to start our adventure shortly before 1pm. First goal was control 20 – near the hash house and not too far off the road. We reached the corner we planned to bear off from and put compass to map to line it up. I finally got to use my new compass! And my first time using a compass to actually navigate by, not just play around with. Throughout the event, we were both navigating and checking our bearing constantly and if we disagreed by too much, we rechecked until we were in agreement. While tiring to both be “on” the whole time, it worked well for our first real bush navigation event and we hit controls straight on nearly every time.

For being off trail, the ground was fairly clear and the going easy. A few checks of the compass and we made progress and found the first control with not too much trouble. Control 32 was next in our sights and we headed straight for the road – unfortunately there was a creek in our way, however a conveniently fallen tree provided us with a safe bridge to cross just where we needed it. Onto the road and we shortly came across another team or two who seemed to be stumbling around looking for the control as well. We didn’t feel that we were in the right spot yet, so made our way along a bit further and landed right on it, quickly moving on so as not to give away the location.

The ground was getting a little rougher now and we had to look a bit more carefully as to where we put our feet, the ground was littered with fallen branches ready to trip us up and small spiky plants constantly poked and scraped at our legs. The bush was otherwise easy to make our way through and visibility was excellent, so we continued on, putting compass to map. This control (43) took a little longer as the 10m contours and relatively level terrain made picking out features a bit tricky and we weren’t quite sure if we had gone far enough or too far. We kept at it and found our control not too far off where our line had taken us.

Being off trail was making for much slower going than we had expected, so the next one we headed for the road and stayed on trail for as long as we could. The going was much quicker and we could relax a bit and enjoy the day as we weren’t constantly taking bearings or having to pay such close attention to every step.

We had thought about going for 35 and 74, but with the late start and slower pace, crossed them off our list and moved on to 42. Round the trails we went and then cut across a small hill to hit the control at the same time as another group. Back on the trail again, however only for a short bit this time as we took a bearing to head straight off to control 93.

Oh boy – this one was interesting.  The going wasn’t too bad, more scratchy bushes, a bit of a hill and on we went. Then ahead of us we saw a wall of scratchy bushes towering over our heads that seemed to go on forever. We started following some trails into the thick of it, hoping they would pass through or that we could push through a bit. Then we hit an impenetrable wall of scratchiness. We backtracked a little and found our way around the “patch” and were hopefully back on our straight line again. Here we saw a member of another team moving off at an angle from us, not looking very happy. Then, a cry from over the ridge of “It’s here! It’s here!”. They turned around and ran back to their team – with us following at a more sedate pace, happy to know that we were on the right path and it was close by. Very satisfying to get that one and some good points.

We then took a bearing to head for 56 and after a short way found a fallen tree to sit and take a short break. I tipped some Tailwind into the remaining water in my hydration pack, had a handful of trail mix while Nick did the same and then continued on our way. I don’t recall much about this one, so it must have been fairly uneventful. We crossed a trail, followed a watercourse and found the control easily.

From control 56 to 47, there was a decent gully in the way. Steep sides and on the approach it was covered in ferns and rotting trees. It was impossible to go straight down, and another team was standing there assessing things as well. We picked a tree on the other side to aim for, and started slowly making our way across and down the slope, hoping to be able to get through. A few slippery spots and we made our it down to another conveniently fallen tree to provide a bridge across to the other side. Once on the north facing slope, the going was a lot drier and easier. Back on the move towards the control again and up, up, up we went to the top of the hill and bang on target.

Next was control 66 and the way to this one looked a bit more straightforward. A quick exit to a trail, then follow the windings onto another trail, then a third and we saw another team heading out of the bush from the direction we expected the control to be. I think this was our first major disagreement about which way to go. Nick thought we were at the right spot to cut in, while I didn’t think we had gone far enough yet. But in we went anyway, I kept trying to steer us right, while Nick stayed stubbornly to the left. It wasn’t where it “should” be, so, in the end, we followed my hunch and fancy that, we found it!

It was 5pm now and a reassessment of our position was needed. The hills out to the road looked steep, but following the trail out would put us a long way from the All Night Cafe and more points. Our legs were tiring a little and we made the call to do the long climb out of the valley and grab two more 30 pointers on the way back to the hash house in time for some dinner. That was a long, slow walk up and out but the going was easy and we found ourselves on the road. The temperature was quickly dropping and I put on my long sleeved top. Control 31 wasn’t too hard to find. We took a bearing off a slight dip in the road and hoped for the best, knowing we had the right spot when we heard multiple other teams crashing through the bush nearby. An easy in and out there.

One more control to go – 34. There were a few more teams around now – not a lot, but definitely more than we had seen the rest of the day. The 8hr competition had just under an hour to go. This was possibly the easiest control of the day. Up a small side trail and the flag was visible from the path – it didn’t hurt that we were right behind another team that also led us straight to it! A quick stop while Nick put some warmer clothes on too and a couple of kilometres easy walking back to camp. It was getting pretty cold and we hit camp just as the sun set. Put on some warmer gear and headed over to get some dinner.

We probably only grabbed half the controls we had “planned” on getting and for 6 hours out on course had picked up a measly 430 points. But for our first real navigational/bush rogaine, on a championship course, while making sure we didn’t put all our energy into the first outing, we were happy with what we had done. We found every control we started for with very few errors in navigation. We had kept energy levels up and stayed hydrated.

No injuries, but a bucketload of scratches on any part of our legs not covered – I couldn’t have even begun to count them and I only had about 6 inches showing around my knees! They were really starting to sting now that we had stopped and we slathered them with Savlon several times. Four days later, I can still see over 50 small cuts and scratches on my knees.

Part 2 – Where’s the @$&! Track?

Part 3 – Do Pigs Know They Have a Tail?

Part 4 – The Aftermath

Am I Crazy?

Moving straight on from the fact that I didn’t get to do my half marathon this year, I’ve signed us up for our “next big thing”.

Earlier this month I checked out the rogaining calendar for the rest of the year and identified two rogaines that we could potentially get to. Both of them were going to involve our girls staying with their grandparents overnight, so we decided it was only fair to let the grandparents decide which one worked best for them (if either). The stars aligned and everyone is excited to have a sleepover in about three weeks time.

Now, this isn’t just any rogaine either. We’ve done a couple of mini rogaines (3 hours) and several 6 hour rogaines – only one of which we stayed out for the full six hours. And they’ve all been in metro areas, so a good amount of road navigation or easy bush nav, with shops easily accessible. This time it’s the NSW Rogaine Championships – 24 hour event. You know, a big one. And it’s all bush, carry everything with you, camp out type of event. I’m equal parts excited and terrified!

Obviously there’s no way I will be out there for 24 hours straight. I value my sleep way too much and the legs just aren’t anywhere near ready for it. So our vague plan (for now), is to head out for 4-6 hours from the midday start with a goal of covering up to 20km. Back to base for regroup and some dinner, then with a full moon rising, head out for a small night navigation loop (1-2 hours?) to pick up a couple of controls and see how we go with it. More food and a good sleep. Up bright and early on the Sunday to head out for a further 3-4 hours and add some more points to the tally.

We will need to plan well for this three pronged approach, so if we need to take a bit more time at the start to make sure we’re happy with our starting plan, then that’s what we will do. We could be hopelessly optimistic with our planned routes, so we need to make sure there are options within each for cutting them short or, we can always dream, extending them if we’re making good time and feeling good. There’s a lot to organise as it’s a very long time since we’ve been camping. Luckily the event provides plenty of good food from dinner Saturday onwards, so that’s one less thing to worry about. Now to sort out camping gear, clothing and all the bits and pieces we need to carry with us.

It’s going to be a crazy weekend – I can’t wait.

ACT Metrogaine 2017 – The Long Version

Disaster struck early.  I was pulling clothes out of my bag – looking, searching, but something was missing.  No sports bra. Shit, shit, shit.  I had everything else, I had two types of socks to choose from, short sleeve top, long sleeve top, headband or cap, half a dozen different types of food to take.  But no bra.  Event starts at 9:30, now to find a shop in Canberra that opens early enough to get there, try some on, buy one, get changed and then get to the start with enough time to sign in, toilet, snack, plan… Could we do it?

In short – mostly.  The miracle happened and we were in and out of the shops in 10 minutes, Nick picked up snacks and we made it to the hash house by 8:30.  Checked in, picked up our maps and headed back to the car to start looking over the details.  Read all the course setters notes, checked out the novice route suggestions and quickly picked a direction to start in.  Seemed like an ok route, plenty of points, a couple of long slogs between controls, but not too bad.  Then we checked some other areas and realised we probably hadn’t made the best choice, but only ten minutes until start and we still had to check in a planned route and make toilet stops, so we locked it in.

With minimal running this winter and still having a slightly dodgy ankle (it was firmly taped up!) the plan was to walk the first couple of kilometres, so to help out with that we had put the biggest hill on the map up first.  The weather was much warmer than we had even hoped for, so the fleece was left in the car and at 9:30, along with everyone else, we headed for the hills.

It was a great course and had people heading off in all directions straight away, always a good thing for reducing queues at the first controls.  The first two controls were still quite busy but the speedy people were well ahead and the walkers had all spread out.  A steady trail of competitors were heading in the same direction and we soon started the steep climb up Mt Arawang.  It certainly got the heart rate up and by the time we got to the trig point at the top we were more than ready to take off the long sleeved tops and comfortably spent the rest of the day in short sleeves.  The control was down in the saddle and then the field spread further apart, we saw half a dozen groups heading to the same next control as us and then we didn’t see anyone else for almost another two hours!  We made our way along some very pleasant farm trails, with amazing views to the mountains and wattle in full blossom everywhere.  We had to make one change to our route due to an unmarked gate that was marked “strictly no access” – luckily backtracking wasn’t too far.  Had a chat with a cyclist who actually asked if we were out for a rogaine!  Very unusual to bump into someone who knows what we’re doing.  Then it was into the streets of Kambah for the next several controls.  We were able to hold up a steady jog along much of this area, most of the area was pretty flat, navigation is a bit curly in Canberra thanks to the street layout but luckily it’s very pedestrian friendly, with connecting paths everywhere.  For the first couple of hours we were feeling good with no particular aches or pains.

We had been snacking on tiny teddies (remnants from the 5 year olds birthday party the previous weekend) and sipping on water from our hydration packs, but after a couple of hours I felt the need for something saltier.  Checking our location, we could make the nearest shops via a couple more controls and with any luck might be able to pick up something hot and salty to eat.  I was starting to struggle a little, desperately in need of something a bit more substantial to eat and my hip was starting to niggle a bit.  Beautiful location for a couple of controls around the north end of Lake Tuggeranong and stopped in at local shops.  Unfortunately there wasn’t much choice, but we ordered some hot chips from the local pizza joint, picked up powerade and chips from the IGA and waited for the hot chips.  And waited.  And waited.  What a disappointment… Not cooked enough, not crispy, oven fried so minimal fat content, not much salt.  Ate a few but let Nick polish off most of them.  Had to do some walking shortly after this too as they did not sit well at all in our tummies.

We had lost a bit more time than expected for our lunch, but had still managed to cover 16km in under three hours (including the break)!  Wow!  Well on our way to a best effort, distance wise anyway.  We had also dropped visiting one high point control due to time/distance, but saw where we could pick up some others instead.  A slight route change also gave us more potential for adjusting our route on the fly depending on how our bodies were holding up.

First control after lunch was labelled “Nissan Hut” – that sounded pretty easy to find.  How wrong we were…  Probably the hardest control to find for us in the entire event.  We went round in circles so many times until we finally found it tucked in the corner of a shed and the fence for a community garden, everything sitting on the ground so that you would only see it once you were almost on top of it.  Certainly nothing saying “Nissan” or anything car-like anywhere near.  We took a quick break for Nick to look after a blister that had started on his foot, I polished off the last of my chips and we headed off again to find a way to cross the dual carriageway and get to the next control.

At this point we were still able to raise a jog and alternated jogging and walking making decent time.  We found a path not marked on the map that gave us a nice shortcut through to the next set of shops which conveniently had some toilets for us to make a much needed stop at – those hot chips really hadn’t been a good idea!

On we went, both hips starting to give a little trouble, less jogging and more walking taking place.  The ankle was still going well though and my knees weren’t troubling me at all.  A few easy points and a few more people around in this area – we were actually passing within less than a kilometre of the hash house, but we had a very adjustable loop planned out which we would modify on the go based on how we felt.  The loop rapidly got smaller as we went.

Lake Tuggeranong

With an hour to go, everything had started hurting and our brains were starting to fade a little.  It required a lot more effort to push into a jog now, although we still pushed it on the flats and downhills.  One final uphill and we made the call that after the next control, even though there was only 40 minutes to go, we would stop at the nearby shops for a coke – caffeine and sugar hit was much needed.  Nick stopped in and grabbed the cokes and we drank while we walked.  I was also out of water at this point, lucky we were nearly done.  Within minutes, the fog lifted and with 20 minutes left, we were confident it would be an easy finish – one final control and then straight home.

Of course, nothing is ever that easy!  We crossed the road and started across the park when a stabbing pain inserted itself in my ankle.  I was gasping in pain and grabbed hold of Nick.  The pain continued on and off for the remaining time, we grabbed our final control and then limped towards home.  That 1.3km from the final control to home, with 15 minutes remaining, was starting to look a lot less of a sure thing.  I wasn’t game to run, as if the stabbing pain hit while running I would probably go down, but it was getting really, really tight.  The scout hall finish line was in sight and my watch was telling me we had less than two minutes – we were going to have to run…  So run we did.  Kind of.  But it was enough!  We made it with barely 20 seconds to spare – not too shabby.

We went inside to drop off our navlight recorders and find out our score.  A different approach to the rogaines we have been to before and gives an instant gratification that we were more used to with orienteering events.  A disappointing score of 990 (our original route had mapped out just over 1400).  But – we had hit over the magical 30km in a 6hr event!  I was pretty stoked with that, now to improve our route planning and we can achieve a lot more now that we can cover more distance.

Our legs were complaining loudly from the way we had pushed them and feet were aching.  Nick stopped off for a bite to eat while I made my way to the car and took a seat without even bothering to stretch.  My ankle was throbbing, my hips ached and it felt like the bottoms of my feet were bruised.  The shoes had to stay  on though, as I didn’t like my chances of making it from the car to our hotel room without the support of shoes and my compression socks still in place.

The shower back at the hotel was bliss.  Taking stock afterwards, apart from the puffy ankle, the worst I had was tired legs and slightly achy hips – we were actually in pretty good shape.  We had kept enough food up, sipping constantly from our hydration packs, a little more substantial food midway through had seen us through.  I had put some fixomull tape on some hotspots on my feet before we started nad I came out of it with no blisters – pretty impressive since the longest run I had done on these shoes prior to this had been 10km which had given me an annoying blister.  No chafing from the new bra or anything else.  Nick didn’t get out quite as well, some chafing and a decent blister was the worst of it though, so it definitely could have been worse.

A fantastic day out in the fresh air, together and rounded the day out with a steak and a pint at a nearby Irish pub.

ACT Metrogaine – The Short Version

A sketchy start to the day and poor route planning (in part due to limited route planning time) meant we had a pretty disappointing score for the day. However, given all the other positives about the day and the event, I’m calling it a success. Full report coming soon, but for now – the numbers:

Score: 990 (possible 3000 points)

Position:
Overall – 67/84
Mixed – 18/24
Mixed Veterans – 5/6

Distance: 30.6km
Time: 5:59:32

A stunning winters day

I’ve had a long standing goal to reach 30km in a 6hr event which we achieved and scraped in under six hours by the skin of our teeth. Our route planning needs work and we can only get better the more we do. Right now – I am recovering well with only slightly stiff hips and sore glutes to show for it. No blisters, chafing, sunburn or even any scratches to show for the effort – that has to be a win in anyone’s book.