Disaster struck early. I was pulling clothes out of my bag – looking, searching, but something was missing. No sports bra. Shit, shit, shit. I had everything else, I had two types of socks to choose from, short sleeve top, long sleeve top, headband or cap, half a dozen different types of food to take. But no bra. Event starts at 9:30, now to find a shop in Canberra that opens early enough to get there, try some on, buy one, get changed and then get to the start with enough time to sign in, toilet, snack, plan… Could we do it?
In short – mostly. The miracle happened and we were in and out of the shops in 10 minutes, Nick picked up snacks and we made it to the hash house by 8:30. Checked in, picked up our maps and headed back to the car to start looking over the details. Read all the course setters notes, checked out the novice route suggestions and quickly picked a direction to start in. Seemed like an ok route, plenty of points, a couple of long slogs between controls, but not too bad. Then we checked some other areas and realised we probably hadn’t made the best choice, but only ten minutes until start and we still had to check in a planned route and make toilet stops, so we locked it in.
With minimal running this winter and still having a slightly dodgy ankle (it was firmly taped up!) the plan was to walk the first couple of kilometres, so to help out with that we had put the biggest hill on the map up first. The weather was much warmer than we had even hoped for, so the fleece was left in the car and at 9:30, along with everyone else, we headed for the hills.
It was a great course and had people heading off in all directions straight away, always a good thing for reducing queues at the first controls. The first two controls were still quite busy but the speedy people were well ahead and the walkers had all spread out. A steady trail of competitors were heading in the same direction and we soon started the steep climb up Mt Arawang. It certainly got the heart rate up and by the time we got to the trig point at the top we were more than ready to take off the long sleeved tops and comfortably spent the rest of the day in short sleeves. The control was down in the saddle and then the field spread further apart, we saw half a dozen groups heading to the same next control as us and then we didn’t see anyone else for almost another two hours! We made our way along some very pleasant farm trails, with amazing views to the mountains and wattle in full blossom everywhere. We had to make one change to our route due to an unmarked gate that was marked “strictly no access” – luckily backtracking wasn’t too far. Had a chat with a cyclist who actually asked if we were out for a rogaine! Very unusual to bump into someone who knows what we’re doing. Then it was into the streets of Kambah for the next several controls. We were able to hold up a steady jog along much of this area, most of the area was pretty flat, navigation is a bit curly in Canberra thanks to the street layout but luckily it’s very pedestrian friendly, with connecting paths everywhere. For the first couple of hours we were feeling good with no particular aches or pains.
We had been snacking on tiny teddies (remnants from the 5 year olds birthday party the previous weekend) and sipping on water from our hydration packs, but after a couple of hours I felt the need for something saltier. Checking our location, we could make the nearest shops via a couple more controls and with any luck might be able to pick up something hot and salty to eat. I was starting to struggle a little, desperately in need of something a bit more substantial to eat and my hip was starting to niggle a bit. Beautiful location for a couple of controls around the north end of Lake Tuggeranong and stopped in at local shops. Unfortunately there wasn’t much choice, but we ordered some hot chips from the local pizza joint, picked up powerade and chips from the IGA and waited for the hot chips. And waited. And waited. What a disappointment… Not cooked enough, not crispy, oven fried so minimal fat content, not much salt. Ate a few but let Nick polish off most of them. Had to do some walking shortly after this too as they did not sit well at all in our tummies.
We had lost a bit more time than expected for our lunch, but had still managed to cover 16km in under three hours (including the break)! Wow! Well on our way to a best effort, distance wise anyway. We had also dropped visiting one high point control due to time/distance, but saw where we could pick up some others instead. A slight route change also gave us more potential for adjusting our route on the fly depending on how our bodies were holding up.
First control after lunch was labelled “Nissan Hut” – that sounded pretty easy to find. How wrong we were… Probably the hardest control to find for us in the entire event. We went round in circles so many times until we finally found it tucked in the corner of a shed and the fence for a community garden, everything sitting on the ground so that you would only see it once you were almost on top of it. Certainly nothing saying “Nissan” or anything car-like anywhere near. We took a quick break for Nick to look after a blister that had started on his foot, I polished off the last of my chips and we headed off again to find a way to cross the dual carriageway and get to the next control.
At this point we were still able to raise a jog and alternated jogging and walking making decent time. We found a path not marked on the map that gave us a nice shortcut through to the next set of shops which conveniently had some toilets for us to make a much needed stop at – those hot chips really hadn’t been a good idea!
On we went, both hips starting to give a little trouble, less jogging and more walking taking place. The ankle was still going well though and my knees weren’t troubling me at all. A few easy points and a few more people around in this area – we were actually passing within less than a kilometre of the hash house, but we had a very adjustable loop planned out which we would modify on the go based on how we felt. The loop rapidly got smaller as we went.
With an hour to go, everything had started hurting and our brains were starting to fade a little. It required a lot more effort to push into a jog now, although we still pushed it on the flats and downhills. One final uphill and we made the call that after the next control, even though there was only 40 minutes to go, we would stop at the nearby shops for a coke – caffeine and sugar hit was much needed. Nick stopped in and grabbed the cokes and we drank while we walked. I was also out of water at this point, lucky we were nearly done. Within minutes, the fog lifted and with 20 minutes left, we were confident it would be an easy finish – one final control and then straight home.
Of course, nothing is ever that easy! We crossed the road and started across the park when a stabbing pain inserted itself in my ankle. I was gasping in pain and grabbed hold of Nick. The pain continued on and off for the remaining time, we grabbed our final control and then limped towards home. That 1.3km from the final control to home, with 15 minutes remaining, was starting to look a lot less of a sure thing. I wasn’t game to run, as if the stabbing pain hit while running I would probably go down, but it was getting really, really tight. The scout hall finish line was in sight and my watch was telling me we had less than two minutes – we were going to have to run… So run we did. Kind of. But it was enough! We made it with barely 20 seconds to spare – not too shabby.
We went inside to drop off our navlight recorders and find out our score. A different approach to the rogaines we have been to before and gives an instant gratification that we were more used to with orienteering events. A disappointing score of 990 (our original route had mapped out just over 1400). But – we had hit over the magical 30km in a 6hr event! I was pretty stoked with that, now to improve our route planning and we can achieve a lot more now that we can cover more distance.
Our legs were complaining loudly from the way we had pushed them and feet were aching. Nick stopped off for a bite to eat while I made my way to the car and took a seat without even bothering to stretch. My ankle was throbbing, my hips ached and it felt like the bottoms of my feet were bruised. The shoes had to stay on though, as I didn’t like my chances of making it from the car to our hotel room without the support of shoes and my compression socks still in place.
The shower back at the hotel was bliss. Taking stock afterwards, apart from the puffy ankle, the worst I had was tired legs and slightly achy hips – we were actually in pretty good shape. We had kept enough food up, sipping constantly from our hydration packs, a little more substantial food midway through had seen us through. I had put some fixomull tape on some hotspots on my feet before we started nad I came out of it with no blisters – pretty impressive since the longest run I had done on these shoes prior to this had been 10km which had given me an annoying blister. No chafing from the new bra or anything else. Nick didn’t get out quite as well, some chafing and a decent blister was the worst of it though, so it definitely could have been worse.
A fantastic day out in the fresh air, together and rounded the day out with a steak and a pint at a nearby Irish pub.