Scheyville Minigaine

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

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

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

Ponies!

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

Not a cloud in sight

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

Water drop

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

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

A bit of shade

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

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

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

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

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Metrogaine – Bondi to Bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Still more steps!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.