We decided to make a holiday of this year’s National Champs being held in Gympie Queensland, driving via Brisbane to spend a couple of days with our youngest daughter.
We made our way to Gympie to arriving early enough to set up before Craig was to attend the ARA Delegates meeting at 2 pm. Doug Gillott, also from the SARA committee turned up for this in good time, so I was let off and could prepare my backpack and spend the rest of my time relaxing. A thunderstorm was forecast for the afternoon, and though some thunderous clouds came by, nothing came of them. This was quite fortunate as the grasses were very dry and lightning strikes could have been disastrous.
Saturday once again dawned clear and very warm and 9 am came all too soon to collect our maps. There were some very notable features regarding the map;
1. It was large, the size of a small tablecloth, though still a 1:40,000 scale;
2. There was an All-night cafe (ANC), yay;
3. The controls were really, really spread apart averaging 2.2 ks, we even had a 4k leg (groan); and
4. There were plenty of water stations (yay), only a few had controls nearby and none had points (groan).
As the terrain was of a similar type to our recent 15-hour roving, albeit with slightly higher grasses, we planned a 75k loop which we hoped would nicely cover the 24-hours. Initially, we were going to go through the south and middle (leaving off the outer controls) before hitting the ANC approx 43k straight line, leaving the top loop back 34k for the rest of the evening and Sunday as they were flatter and linked to the road networks.
Thinking much easier for tired feet and brains. Unfortunately, this route had little scope for collecting extra points if doing well (it can happen) but more importantly there were no cop-out routes if falling behind time due to a large out of bounds area. So we decided to reverse it. This meant a somewhat easy course to start off with, which suited me as the sun was quite hot and I hate the heat. We even had 6ks along a road, though rather boring, meant the brain could have a bit of a switch off. Not entirely though, and enjoyed a bit of a giggle at the expense of the team in front of us as we chose the correct location to go in for the control, whilst they continued on.
The clouds started building as the afternoon drew on, giving us a little relief however once again, the forecast rain which I was hoping for, did not happen.
By evening the full moon was quite visible and it was still warm. I was bemoaning that I had brought all this wet weather gear and thermals and I wasn’t going to wear them. Wrong. By the time we hit the ANC (after adding a loop to our course as we were ahead of schedule) the wind started to pick up, which wasn’t noticeable until we were sitting still. So out came the jackets, even though we knew they wouldn’t be worn for long. The food was delicious and bonus, we were given real crockery and cutlery to use. It was lovely being able to sit down for a while but after a decent break, about half an hour, it was time to continue.
We managed through the night with only minor and one slightly less minor glitches. Somewhere during the morning (around 1-2am), the clouds returned in earnest and it started drizzling. The drizzle then became rain then back to drizzle, then rain till around 9.00. We hit a control at 5.45 that was earmarked as 6 am so we decided to have a breakfast break and found a wet soggy log to sit on using our ample maps as a base, and eat the pasties I brought along. It was raining fairly heavily and I was trying to eat it whilst protecting what was left from the rain so the pastry would not go soggy.
By 6 am it was now light enough to see by without torches and we continued on our way. Ironically about 300 metres along we came across some yards that had a shelter where we could have breakfast in relative comfort. The terrain was now quite hilly and the cow tracks which were previously lovely runners tracks were now dangerous slippery traps. We slowed down – considerably. We could not keep to our time schedule and had to drop some controls, not a disaster as we had collected extras during the night but not quite to the same value.
Steep hills soon had us warmed up and around 9ish it finally stopped raining so it was a great relief to be able to take our jackets off and dry out. Only our top halves that is, as the long grass was quite wet so our legs never got the chance. My feet which managed to stay dry after numerous creek crossings (rivers by SA terms) were now sloshing in their boots.
Thus it was in the closing hours of the race Craig and I were going along the road, passing an escapee horse (incidental but noteworthy, nice horse) that we heard the rolling tones of an aeroplane coming from behind.
Only it wasn’t, it was the overdue thunderstorm coming with a vengeance. The cloud was black and it was moving our way. The last time we experienced a thunderstorm during a rogaine Craig and I were going up the highest very exposed hill on the course, holding metal walking sticks. In trying not to become walking conductors we managed a fasted time for that leg, amazing what a little fear of meeting god can do.
I haven’t checked this leg but I’m sure we did alright even though we left the walking sticks behind this time. Finished in good time, darn we had time to get that 60 pointers, oh well 24th instead of 23rd. Not bad for a couple of unfit oldies.
My new watch that claims to track for 24 hours actually worked for about 23 so we can say that we covered 90ks, which is a few ks further than we have done before – and my feet held out. yay!
~ Evelyn Colwell
The awesome photo, we must credit the talented team from Two Cats Photography.