Rogaining for 2018

The NSW Rogaining calendar for the year has been updated and there are now locations against most of the events. This lets us start looking to see if any of them are feasible for us to get to.

There are usually two within metro Sydney – the 6hr Metrogaine and the 3hr Minigaine – and both again look like we should be able to make them. The big one we want to get to is the 24hr NSW Champs and then it’s a matter of looking at how far out any of the others are and whether we can look at getting a babysitter for the day for the girls, a day or overnight visit with the grandparents or see if we can convince the grandparents to join us for a weekend away somewhere and turn it into a long weekend holiday for us all. There’s also the ACT rogaining calendar, dates are available but locations for these aren’t up yet, so decisions there will have to wait until closer to the dates.

So far the event list looks like this:
– February: 6hr Metrogaine – Coogee
– April: 3hr Minigaine – Scheyville
– May: 6/12hr Autumngaine – Wingello
– June: Paddy Pallin 6hr – Cessnock
– August: Lake Macquarie 6/12hr – Sugarloaf SCA
– September: 24hr NSW Champs – Abercrombie NP
– November: 6hr Socialgaine – Berowra

Out of these, it again looks like we should be able to make the Metrogaine, Minigaine and Socialgaine as they are all within the Sydney Metro area with less than an hour travel time each way. The three 6/12hr rogaines are all under 2hrs drive away – makes for a long day for a 6hr event, but could be fun to do the 12hr and make a weekend of it.  We also need some practice at night orienteering before we hit another 24hr rogaine!  The 24hr is very near the location of last years, making it a 3:30-4hr drive, this one will definitely be a full weekend away.

It is exciting to put this together. While we enjoy the pace of the shorter orienteering events and getting to regularly explore areas close to home, it’s the rogaines that we really enjoy. The longer style event really pushes us physically – as we slowly get fitter we have adjusted our goals from merely lasting the time out, to gradually increasing the distance we can cover. We also get to work as a team and spend an extended number of hours together.  Mostly we have to stay focused on the task at hand, but there’s time enough too for rambling conversations and contented silence, just enjoying being together, with a common goal in the peace of the bush. It’s a far cry from the constant busyness of life in the city with young kids.

Bring on this year!  I know we won’t get to all of them, but rogaines provide a great motivation to keep moving and getting fitter and stronger.


Huntergaine – The Map

Forgot to post the map in my main blog for the rogaine, so here it is.

This is Nick’s copy of the map and shows our initial plan – there was a slight change at the start and we added on a lot of the south west corner at the end.  Having it marked up like this also meant that as our brains got tired towards the second half of the event, we didn’t have to try and remember what our plan was and could just follow the lines – much easier!

Newcastle Rogaine – The “Huntergaine”!

Uninjured and with a little more consistent running in the previous couple of months, I was looking forward to this rogaine and seeing what ground we could cover. The weather forecast had progressively improved from a max of 28, down to a max of 25, although the humidity wouldn’t be pleasant. We made good time heading off from home and arrived at the hash house with around 45 minutes to go. Quick toilet stop and in to pick up our maps and tags.

The map was A2 at 1:20,000 with 10 metre contours – and damn, there were a lot of contours! Nick scanned the map for routes, while I marked up mine highlighting the highest point controls purple, mid point controls in orange and leaving the lowest scoring controls unmarked. We had also brought along some knotted and marked string for measuring our route, so as Nick plotted a course we had a rough idea of the distance we would need to cover to complete it. Our chosen course was approx 22km taking straight line between controls – perfect! We hurriedly shoveled in some food, marked up our proposed route on Nick’s map and the “flight plan” that we had to hand in and finished getting set up for the start.  This was definitely the quickest we had put together a route that we were still happy with after the event as well, maybe there’s something to this highlighter/string/organisation thing.

Before we knew it, the siren started and everyone was off. Well, sort of. First point of call was another toilet stop – and we weren’t the only ones with the same plan! Then we headed of for an easy walk towards the first control. Our plan was to start easy and warm up our legs before doing any running, knowing that there would be plenty of opportunity to stretch out the legs later.  Others were also taking their time and the first few controls were quite busy. It was actually the “busiest” rogaine we have been on – there was barely a control all day that didn’t have at least one other group around it while we were there and other than one quieter section, we would have had barely 5 minutes go by without seeing another team.

We managed to separate from the bulk of other competitors by the third control as we headed up our first hill for the day. It was stinking hot already and we were already starting to raise a sweat despite not having gone above a walk. I had to get Nick to slow down a bit a couple of times as we were pushing quite hard and my tummy wasn’t feeling great either. I tried to shake it off – drank some of the tailwind I had filled my hydration pack with and we managed to finally raise a jog along some gentle downhills and flats towards the next control.

We had been warned of daleks on the course and found our first (and only, for us) dalek here. There was a photo competition for the best snap of a “team with dalek” and some teams had some great entries. With all the hills on the course, there were also some fantastic views on offer. On we went, along hot, open streets that seemed to head straight up and down the steepest part of the hills. An in and out to grab a control which headed first down a steep hill, steps and then back up and out to continue on was especially cruel. Then it was finally in to the first bush area to grab some controls there. Finally, some shade!

But of course, it wasn’t going to be that easy. Yes, there was shade, but parts of the course were a popular mountain biking area, with trails criss-crossing all over the place. We avoided the worst of it thank goodness, but still hit a few patches where a compass would have been handy. Sections of the trails were very pretty and quiet. But for the most part it was steep up or down, with controls predominantly set in gullies or on watercourses where the mossies were gathering and it was rare to not be either within sight or earshot of another team.

Back out onto some roads briefly and I was struggling with the heat, humidity and my stomach. There were no shops indicated in the area but I didn’t think I Was going to be much good unless I could get something to eat soon – I was craving salty chips. So we took a slight detour to the local hospital and picked up some chips and soft drink (didn’t really need the drink…) and stumbled across another team enjoying the air conditioned cafe.


We didn’t stay long and pushed on still finishing off our drinks. Back down into the bush again on wider, easier trails this time. Still all hills though and after collecting a couple more controls and seeing yet another loooong hill, we were passed by another team who informed us that the hill formed part of the Blackbutt Parkrun – yikes, we’ve only been to flat parkruns, this one would be hard! The first hill was followed shortly after by another, steeper hill to take us up and out of the park and spit us back into the heat of the streets for the remainder of the event.

The chips had worked some magic, and we had refilled our hydration packs while in the park – me with some caffeinated tailwind, yeehaa!! We found ourselves able to start jogging parts of the course and making ground on several other teams in the area. The roads were still steep though, so running was saved for the flat or gentle downhills – walking on uphills and anything steep. We managed to do a decent clip this way and after several quite busy controls we took stock and realised we were well ahead of schedule. We updated our route to add in several more controls (and hills!) and continued on.

We then hit a long stretch between controls and it was all uphill… I think it was just over 1km of steady up, the body was unimpressed at this point and my calves started giving the occasional jab. My knees were feeling a bit wobbly after a bit too much downhill running, but otherwise I felt good. The tailwind was brilliant to keep me going and we paused briefly at the control once we got to the top of the hill – although the control itself was slightly down again with the description being “a gully”. We were seeing fewer other teams around at this point with around an hour to go and several kilometres ahead of us still.

With two controls to go, there were other teams all over the place picking up some final points before finishing up. We made it in with 10 minutes to spare – perfect! We had planned an appropriate route and were able to add on some extras when we realised we were ahead of where we expected. In the end we covered over 26km in just under 6 hours and picked up 1690 points (out of a total 3310 available). A quick check of the scoreboard showed the highest score that had been logged was 2800 with most under 1500, however we had not been added yet and we knew the majority of high scoring teams would probably be cutting it fine and coming in close to the buzzer.

Final control!

We had to get going though, so made our way back to the car to stretch, get changed and head of in search of a servo for some food and drink. We heard the final siren just before we got going and could see some of the last teams charging to the finish to reduce any point loss. I did some quick sums in the car while Nick drove, my guess was we would be around 1/3 of the way through the overall standings, while Nick was more pessimistic and thought we would be in the bottom half overall.

Despite stretching before we left, we had over an hours driving ahead of us and by the time we stopped our feet and legs were feeling a bit tender. Nick had some sunburn and I discovered some nasty chafing. Overall we felt tired, but generally pretty good. We had walked for most of the day which helped, although our running shoes are definitely not the best walking shoes. One day later, and my glutes are really the only thing giving me grief, seizing up whenever I sit at my desk for more than 10 minutes (ie all the time).  We both got a little much sun, but nothing too bad.

Elevation profile – so many hills!

So how did we go? Results were out quickly and our 1690 points gave us an overall standing of 34 out of a total 90 teams. The highest scoring team collected 3170 points! Within the Mixed category we placed 21 out of 52 teams and in Mixed Veterans we were 13 out of 23. We’re pretty happy with that effort. We covered 26.5km and strava gave us 750m elevation for our route – no wonder we were feeling it!  Another awesome rogaine – and the final one for the year.

NSW Orienteering Sprint Champs

The orienteering NSW Sprint Champs! A very different event to what we are used to where you just turn up and run whenever you feel like it. We had to pre-register for this one, choosing which difficulty level we wanted to do and this, combined with our age, would put us in a specific competition category. There were three different “Hard” categories of varying distances, but controls would be located in a way to provide a challenge on every leg on each. Hard 1 was only for the youngest and fittest male competitors (very sexist), Hard 2 was for most men and the start of the women’s classes, while Hard 3 was for the more senior age groups and for those that wanted a slightly shorter but still challenging course. Nick and I both entered the Hard 2 course – the most difficult/longest we could.

There were also a Moderate, Easy, Very Easy and Wheelchair course along with a String course for the little kids and a maze challenge. We had been assigned set start times – they were 40 minutes apart, they must know we have to keep an eye on kids so can’t be running at the same time. Nick had the first start time at 10:17am and as we pulled up to the venue (a school) we could see tents and flags set up along the oval. We parked on the street near an entrance gate which turned out to be very close to where we were headed – very convenient with two girls in tow.

We wandered up to the main oval where everyone seemed to be gathered. There was a large inflatable finish arch, a control set up in the far corner of the oval which forced most runners to do a “spectator leg” and the loud speaker system set up to provide commentary. We passed a small sign with “Start” written on it and an arrow pointing down the hill away from everything else, but couldn’t see where it led. So we checked out everything in the main area before finding someone to ask how the whole thing worked and what we had to do – this was on a much bigger scale than we usually see. not long until Nicks start time, so we made a pit stop and followed the start sign to find ourselves at the start corral.

There were two clocks set up, the first 3 minutes ahead and when your time showed up on it you made your way to the starting area to get checked in. Then it was a step forward at each minute – two minutes to go you could pick up a control list. 1 minute to go and you picked up your map (but no peeking!) and waited for the countdown as you are given final instructions which are just a repeat of things already mentioned – don’t cross the flower beds, olive colour on the map is out of bounds – then BUZZZZZZ – and you’re off. Two runners head off at the same time, but each running on different courses so there can be no following.

It was an unusual start to an event, since no one has looked at a map at the start, you don’t even know which direction to start heading in. Look at the map, make sure you are on the right side of it, find the start, find the first control, pick a route and only then do you start moving with any sort of purpose. Nick was off, so the girls and I headed back to the main area to have something to eat and look out to see when he would make the run across the oval to the spectator control. It seemed to come around very quickly, with his name called out over the loud speaker giving a time and current standing, time behind/ahead of other competitors in his class.

We finished our snacks, had a quick chat with my uncle – who had just finished running the Hard 3 course – and before we knew it Nick was finished in around 23 minutes! We had both been expecting the course to take closer to 30 minutes, so this was a surprise and a nice indication to me that the course wouldn’t be as long as we had feared. Unlike most courses where you already have a map and can compare course notes, the only “advice” Nick could offer up was that the start was “hard”. Which is what my uncle had already let me know and didn’t offer anything in the way of guidance – just as it should be. Although I think he did say there were a lot more stairs than he expected.

Event photo of Nick running around the side of the oval – ha has air!

Not long and it was time to head down for my turn. The start area was thinning out a bit now with only one runner starting in the group ahead of me and no other runner starting with me. I nervously waited my last couple of minutes in the corral, picked up my map, listened to the final instructions and then I was off! Well, I wandered off looking at my map – upside down, then the wrong side, then struggled to find the start location (got it) then had to find the next control – the only leg that wasn’t drawn asa straight line on the map! Then tossing up which way to go, dammit, stop wasting time, pick a line and just get moving – so off I went. Despite the dithering, once I got going the first control was an easy one as was the next. My Garmin buzzed – huh? There’s no way I’ve already done a kilometre. Nope, I’d forgotten to start it and it was threatening to turn off. Great, get the Garmin going, better late than never.

I made my way to the third control and it wasn’t where I expected. Was I in the right building? Had I somehow gone straight past it, or not gone far enough. I wandered a bit further, back again, off to each side, but I couldn’t see it. That was it, I saw another control and thought if it was on my map then I could confirm my location and work backwards. Yep – this control was on the second side of my map and had me exactly where I thought I was. I headed back again – aha! It was tucked away just inside the building stairwell, if I had looked over my shoulder just a smidge further when I first stopped I would have saved nearly two minutes! Can’t dwell on mistakes though or I’ll bomb the whole thing, move on and just keep running. Controls 4, 5, 6 and 7 passed by and I started getting in the swing of things. Quick decision to be made about route choice from 7 to 8, up dozens of stairs, then down some into the middle of a small amphitheatre.

My event photo – I smiled, but it doesn’t look like I’m doing much.

Back up and out of the mess of buildings and into the open for the longer legs across ovals. This was easier and I could just run without having to glance at the map every 2 seconds. Straight across the large oval, up a road and then back in for the spectator leg. The runner before me was announced, but as I ran across, nothing was said – wow, I must be doing badly! A glance at my Garmin showed I was doing sub-6 minute pace which I was happy with. Picked up the control and turned to make my way back out of the main area, two more controls, a run back past the start area and time to flip the map to the second side!

I’m in there somewhere!

First control on this side was all the way up to the top of the ridge and back down the other side – so many stairs. Then another longish leg to control 15 that had me winding my way up stairs and around buildings. A quick dash out to 16, split decision as to which way to head for 17 as two speedier runners behind me caught up and headed the opposite way I did. One beat me there but then took longer getting to the next one – then it was up more stairs and the both passed me. Finally, the end was in sight. One more control, smile for the photographer as I run past and on up through the finish arch. Done.

My final time was 27:59 and as the final competitor in my age group put me in fourth place.  There were only five in my category, but shhh, no one needs to know that!  I was less than one minute off third place and fifth place was just under a minute after me – so it was all pretty close.  Other than when I thought I was completely lost at control 3, I had so much fun doing this event.  I started slowly, but by the second half of the event I was picking up a lot – only one of my legs between controls in the second half wasn’t a top 3 effort, I even had one that I was fastest for.

While I ran, Nick had taken the girls off to do the string course which they loved.  On bumping into my uncle again after my run, he asked how the girls went on their course at which my youngest declared “We won!”.  She was terribly proud of it.  So I asked my uncle if he won too – and he did, first in his age category!  Got to be some good genes in there with my uncle still running well at 80.

Summer Series – Belrose

A bit warmer than recent weeks but the wind kept the heat off, although the headwind was a bit rough at times. There was no apparent design to the way the points had been scattered across the map, with high and low points placed all over. A lot of the points were “in and out” options, positioned in dead end streets or trails, making it trickier to piece together a smooth route.

With almost identical plans in place, Nick and I headed off at the same time for the first in and out 30 pointer. As usual, the first kilometre or so was a struggle and only a couple hundred metres in my breathing was rough – no idea what my pace was, but probably too fast as I struggled to keep Nick in sight.

The controls were fairly easy to spot, so there was little stopping to search anywhere, but I slowed to a walk on the short hills. A decent bit of bush track which we covered half of. I felt almost on my own out here, there was a young teenager out getting a bit lost on the map, but he had the advantage of speed on me – after tagging a few controls ahead of him we parted ways as we chased different controls. My brain was in gear at least and tracking my location was easy, not so good for one guy I passed looking a little confused on the trails who I ended up passing again later on as he flew straight past another control.

Unknowingly, Nick had me in sight from my third control (his fourth) and was able to conveniently follow me around the course for the next eight controls!! He gained on me almost every step of the way, but never quite caught up as we then headed in different directions. I had a long but easy run ahead of me still, I had planned for avoiding hills this week and luckily the map allowed for it. The final section of the map was a constant debate working out which controls to get in the time remaining to ensure I made it back under the 45 minutes.

I grabbed the high scoring controls, but made the (wrong) decision to leave a 10 pointer out as I was worried about time. In the end, despite some walking, I was back with nearly two minutes to spare and could have picked it up. I was reasonably happy with my effort – the course required a lot of distance for the points, with many in and outs and a couple of big hills (which I avoided) to get many of them.

I finished with 320 points in just over 43 minutes and covered spot on 6km. Nick picked up 360 points, having picked up the extra 30 pointer near the start and the 10 pointer I had left out. Other than those, the only difference in our routes was an extra 30 pointer we each picked up – mine left me with an optional 30 pointer near the end which could be added on if time permitted, while Nick finished with 4 minutes to spare but no extra controls to add on.

My legs were tired at the end, I had pushed them a bit this week, but my pace is definitely picking up – it’s nice to see some improvement. The most obvious sign to me is how long it took Nick to catch up.. I still managed to come last in my age group, however since there were only 3 of us in it this week and the other two are very strong, I expected nothing else.

For those following the map, my route was 27-4-24-14-3-23-13-12-5-16-17-30-19-29-18.

More Events!

Most of the orienteering we do can be entered on the day of the event.  You turn up, pay your money and run.  If you don’t feel up to it on the day, the weather is complete crap or the kids are sick, then you don’t turn up and nothing is lost.  So it was a bit unusual this week to enter TWO events in advance.

First up is this weekend – the Bandaged Bear Boost.  This is an orienteering Sprint event that also happens to be the NSW state championships in combination with a fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.  There are multiple different courses available and we’ve decided to go all out and entered the Championship event.  I’m sure it will be a lot tougher than the sprint events we have done so far, but that’s half the fun.

At the other end of the spectrum, this morning I signed us up to the final rogaine for the year up near Newcastle.  Calling itself the “Huntergaine“, it is on the weekend after the sprint and is a 6 hour “social” rogaine.  This one will be similar to the metro events as there will be a considerable amount of road navigation along with some bush sections.  The convenience of shops for extra food or drink is always a nice bonus.  I’m really looking forward to this!

In the meantime, we have another Summer Series taking place this evening (first time this season I get to run in a location I’ve done before).  And another Summer Series only a couple of suburbs away next week as well.  I’ve only managed one non-orienteering run in the past couple of weeks, but hopefully I can slip in a couple more to build up my consistency.  My goal for Summer Series tonight is to see if I can cover more distance than I did last time – I managed 5.6km last February, so it may be a tough call.

Summer Series – Up and Down in Woolwich

Another hilly week by the water for this weeks Summer Series out at Woolwich. More cool weather, which has been fantastic for running, but with brilliant blue skies made for a very picturesque evening looking out over the harbour – if only we had more time to look at it! No easy path to take on this weeks map, so we pieced together a route, slightly different ways of putting the pieces together but basically following a similar path with Nick adding a few extra points on the end than I expected to pick up. The map covered most of the point which is basically a ridge line with steep hills to the water on either side.

The girls went in search of a playground (with grandparents in tow), Nick headed off a few minutes early while I chatted and waited for my gps to pick up a signal. A short walk to the start, I eyed the location of the first control and headed off. An easy first pick before heading into the network of trails in Kelly’s Bush – a chance comment before starting out had warned me of the potential confusion that lay within this area – so I kept it simple for the start. Darting in and up some stone steps I landed quickly on control 16. Down some more well worn steps and across to the paved path down to the water and the control sitting on the end of the sculpture.

It was a gorgeous location down by the water, with yachts moored nearby and the Harbour Bridge in the background. I had foolishly forgotten to take my phone out of my pocket before starting, and was carrying it with me. A perfect photo opportunity, but there was a gaggle of school kids also doing the course that were right on my heels that I didn’t think would appreciate being part of my picture. So I left them to it and headed back up into the scrub to the next control.

My route then popped me back onto the roads again and up a short bit of hill to a control midway up some stairs before having an easy run along flat roads to the next control before heading back downhill again. It was a beautiful area to be running through, with gorgeous old stone houses aplenty and jacarandas in full flower against the clear blue sky. Many of the roads followed the contours which made for a surprising amount of fast, level running, while the hills on either side slowed things right down being difficult to run comfortably either up or down on some.

Down through some long grass (probably should have stayed on the road there!) and spotted Nick with us both landing on the control at the same time, coming at it from either side. This made it easy for me, as I knew we had the same route planned for the next several controls. I was a bit slower than him this week, but kept him in sight for the next five controls before we both headed in different directions to pick up a control the other had already grabbed.

Time was starting to get away and I knew I needed to head back, but it still looked like I should get back in time with my planned route. I hadn’t expected to be running as well I was – I’d had head cold for a few days that was affecting my breathing – but when I got the chance to check my watch on a flat running section, it was showing sub 6 min/km pace. Past the playground my girls were playing at and a quick wave before the next control. And this is where I made my mistake. I thought there should be a “quicker” way through the dense scrub to where I wanted to go, but a few minutes meandering around, a branch across my eye, several scratching my legs, I was out to where I would have been in just one minute if I’d followed the longer, but clear, route.

I still had time, but couldn’t find the trail entry into the bush again and ended up far too low. I headed up the trail, picked up control 8(!) and headed up some more to see if I could quickly get 20 as well. A check of my watch and I realised if I wanted to get back before time I had to pick up the pace and get straight back. So I turned around and pushed on out of the bush tracks towards the finish line. A headwind and less than 30 seconds on the clock were not doing me any favours. It felt like I was pushing through jelly, my Garmin showed 44min and 52sec… 53. 54. 55. 56. so close… 57. I fumbled to get my stick in the finish control. Did I make it under 45 minutes? I think so, but it was too close to call, I would only know once I made it over to get my results on the computer.

I headed over and – yes! I had made it with 2 seconds to spare. Admittedly, I might have scored higher had I picked up control 20 and only been one minute later, but I hadn’t been prepared to take the risk (plus I’m really trying to be back within time this year). A final score of 310, not amazing, but not too bad either. I covered 5.7km and according to Strava took in 160 metres of elevation.

Running over our different paths later that evening, there were a couple of things we might have done differently, but overall I was satisfied with my results. I’m running better (very surprising given my head cold) and we’re paying more attention to our route choices. Nick picked up an additional 80 points over me, but also had a 3 minute time penalty, so was 50 points up for an additional kilometre of distance. For those wondering where on the map I went, my route was – 7-16-17-29-15-9-14-25-19-27-28-4-26-11-8. Without the mix up around 11, I should have had time to pick up 20 and also 1 on my way back in. A decent run again this week, especially with the elevation involved. My quads and glutes were feeling the workout and needed a good stretch but pulled up well the next day – the interval and hill work I have been trying to make a regular habit this year would appear to be starting to pay off!

Summer Series South Turramurra

We were in for a surprise with this weeks map at South Turramurra. At the sign up desk the notifications let us know this would be a high scoring course and it certainly looked that way. All the 30 pointers were clustered in the centre of the map with very little change in elevation involved. It looked like an easy pick up even for those walking the course. The 20 pointers were distributed in the next “ring”, but still on roads and with a little more elevation involved but nothing like the past couple of weeks. The 10 pointers were then tossed in the outer ring of the map and mostly out on the bush tracks involving a good amount of elevation. So high scores should be on the cards, but it looked pretty challenging for the top scorers to be able to string together all the controls in the allowed time.

Nick and I planned similar routes, stringing together all the 30 pointers – I had thought about dropping one, but Nick convinced me to add it in – and most of the 20 pointers as well. I guessed my route at around 5.5km while Nick estimated his at 6.5km – a good bit more than we had managed at an event so far this year, but we were hoping the lack of elevation would let us get there. I still had a plan to be able to head back early if I started running low on time.

Time to head off and we set off together, not a good start as we dropped down off the corner of the oval to pick up control 27 and didn’t see it. We ended up making our way to pick up 28 first, then 29. Our pace was fast! Checking my garmin it showed 6min/km pace or quicker, if I kept this up I would crash pretty quickly. So I let Nick pull away and tried to settle into a more sustainable pace. Control 21 was down a short trail between houses, and with plenty of people heading for it, there was no problem finding the flag.

Back up and out onto the road again for a 500m loop out to control 22, again, flat and fast. Control 23 was an easy grab, then slight backtrack to start heading down a hill (faster) and onto the fire trails that surround the suburb. I got a little mixed up here and misjudged distances. I stopped at the trail intersection I though control 3 should be at, but couldn’t see it. No point wasting time here though on a 10 pointer, so on I went. Not much further and I spotted control 14 a little way up a minor trail, then it was back to the roads and up the gentle hill towards control 12.

Hindsight being what it is, I should have done the out and back for control 15 here, but I decided to stick to my plan and keep moving, picking up controls 24 and 17. This is where I saw Nick again, the only difference in our routes to this point was that he picked up control 15 while I didn’t, so my pace was still surprisingly fast – Nick would usually be far ahead by now! I kept moving, trying to see how long I could stay ahead of him, but was overtaken just before we reached control 25 – that hill had been a bit steep.

I could just slip in behind him now and follow to control 30. He turned and headed off for 26, while I did a quick check to see if I could grab 27 first, but the dog park was solidly fenced off, so I turned back and headed for 26 as well. Some more gentle hills, moving comfortably still and keeping Nick in sight, I picked up 18 then 19 while he headed farther afield for more points. I stuck to the plan and headed for control 20 while my stomach started cramping again. I slowed to a walk for a little, it settled and I picked up the pace again.

I knew I was making it back with plenty of time to spare so it was getting difficult to convince my legs to put in some effort. I came upon another person looking for control 20 – they were expecting it in plain sight, but it was on the far side of the transformer box from where they had approached. Then a quick trot up the trail to control 27, scaring some bunnies along the way, up onto the oval and getting control 7 on the far side and on to the finish. Wow – 4 mintues to spare, 5.9km covered and a respectable 430 points picked up. Nick came in 3 minutes later having picked up an additional 50 points and covering 6.9km.

It was a very satisfying run this week and I felt great afterwards. I had settled quickly into a good pace on the roads and my legs felt really strong and I didn’t feel like I had overdone it. I averaged a sub-7min/km pace, which is a very quick (for me) orienteering pace. This was definitely a feel-good week after a rough one last week – just what I needed!

Suffering Summer Series in Chatswood

This weeks summer series was a doozy! Looking at the map, the striping of 5m contours patterned the sheet and we knew we were in for a leg burning event. A quick scan showed us two main options – stay “high” on the roads, where distance between points was definitely further but faster, and still so many hills. Or take the “low” route down into the creek valley with loads of contours but closer controls (and likely slower going). As I do, my preference pulled me to the trails and I mapped out a route, then reversed it and plotted multiple endings depending on time. Nick planned similar, but added on a substantial out-and-back to a 30 pointer at the start which meant we would likely cross paths a little way in.

After stalling at the start for a few minutes, I headed out and up the first hill – harsh start. Luckily it was then an easy downhill run to nab the first control – 18 – tucked in next to an electricity box. Off again for more easy downhill to control 14 and down further to get 8 as well. Then it was a slight uphill, turn off into a park to grab control 4 before heading heading back up and out (wave to Nick heading into the park), along a little more road before hitting the first bit of trail. It had been easy going to here – the controls were easy to spot and the road running was easy with plenty of downhill.

Onto the trail and down 6 or 7 contour lines towards control 27. I can usually move pretty quickly on the trails, especially with a bit of downhill, but this was steep, rocky, slightly slippery stairs and I had to slow right down. Then it got even worse – spider webs!!! Seriously? This meant that no one else had been along this section yet – not a good sign and made me wish that Nick would hurry and catch up to me so he could get rid of them for me. Down, down, down, then off down a rocky, leaf covered “trail”, that barely deserved the name, to get control 27 at the sewer vent. Scramble back out and then onto a slightly more level trail along the creek towards 26 (and more spiderwebs!).

The trail was barely runnable – narrow with roots and rocks ready to trip you up at every step and branches sticking out over the path. It was slow going. I saw an “almost trail” and headed up it, hopefully towards 26. A few mintues bashing around and I was pretty sure I was in the wrong spot when Nick caught up to me, told me it was too soon and headed off. Turns out the trail up to 26 was very obvious and and the control was a quick find, although more slow, twisty trail and contours were involved. At lest there was someone in front of me now, no more spiderwebs.  Continued along the creek trail just behind Nick now towards 12. He disappeared in front of me, only to backtrack asking if we had overshot. Nope – still a bit further, we had just passed a small offshoot trail marked on the map, so not there yet. Then we did overshoot. Luckily another runner passed us and told us we were in the wrong spot.

Nick decided to skip the control and keep moving, while I headed back to get it. Checking my watch I was startled to see how long we had been out, these trails were taking a lot longer than expected and it was almost my “should be heading back” time, but there was no quick return path. So I had to keep moving and accept that I would be getting time penalties this week. It was somewhere around here I was jabbed in the leg by a stick, I noticed it at the time and it hurt, there was blood, but nothing too serious. A little later, I checked my leg and noticed something on where it had been jabbed – a fly? a mozzie? I flicked it off to discover it was a piece of the stick that had broken of into my leg! Ouch – there were splinters to dig out later that night too (and the next night).

Across the creek and onwards to control 19. I passed a mother-daughter team coming along the trail in the other direction who assured me the control was there but a little hidden. I was passing a burnt out area in which control 23 would be hiding and was glad that I had already decided not to get it.  Nick had headed into this area and later confirmed it was a bad choice, slow going and lots of sticks out to scratch and trip.  I picked up 19 easily – I paused right next to it, looked to my right and there it was.

Then it was up, up the hill and up a little more heading to control 10. And then the stomach cramps hit – just as a hit I runnable section of road. Can not catch a break today! Walking now, pick up control 10, tried jogging again and hoped for clear trails on the final section. My stomach settled itself out shortly before control 11 so I jogged down the road and was glad to see someone coming up out of the bush so I could identify where to head. This section was awful – there was pink tape down a rocky drainage ditch, very slow and precarious going and eventually made my way to control 30. Phew!

Only a little further to go, but I was already at 45 minutes so I was losing points quickly now (it’s 10 point down for every minute, or part thereof, you are over the 45 minute time limit). More pink tape along an ill-defined trail to control 6. I tried to pick up the pace, but there was too much vegetation doing its best to trip me up, so it was still slow. Another runner at control 6 had dropped his SI stick somewhere after the last control he was at, so figuring I was running late anyway, I helped him search, but with no luck. Nick passed me again along here, both of us on our way back and running late. Picked up control 15 before getting back on the roads and, surprise, up another hill to our final control 9.

Just before grabbing 9, I noticed someone looking a bit lost – they were near us at the start and had mentioned they were a beginner – so I stopped and asked how they were going. They admitted to being a bit “navigationally challenged”, so I stopped and helped them out a bit – more time lost, but hey, what’s another minute now? I got them on their way, grabbed control 9 and made a dash to finish. 10 minutes late! A low scoring week, little distance covered and over time.

Both Nick and I agreed that, in hindsight, while we made some wrong route choices, it was a frustrating event with the track being a lot slower and more difficult than expected. Last week the trail was easier, but it had warning of its difficulty while there was no indication this week that care was needed which would have let us know it would be slower going.  Live and learn though and we can do better next week.  With the results out, we both scored poorly, but even the best runners didn’t score high with only one person getting over 500 and over 80% of people returning late.

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!