Jenny Casanova’s report on the Ridgy Didge 2017 Australian Champs rogaine near Cooma with Alex Tyson.

We hadn’t rogained together for 15 years; not since the 2002 ARC in Namadgi NP which her late husband Geoff Mercer set when their daughters were very small (and very cold on that frosty night). Obviously our fitness is a long way from when we came 3rd women’s in the 2000 World Rogaining Champs in NZ, but we were well matched and it was easy to fall back into the old partnership. I’d been looking forward to this event because the photos on the website made it look like nice open forest, not too steep and with hopefully no nasty surprises, and so it proved. There were lots of subtle contours out there and a complex network of ridgelines and creeks, some with steep erosion gullies often skirted by strips of dense bushiness.

The HH was in the far west of the map, with an All Night Cafe pretty much in the middle, and 2 other water drops a few km north and southeast of there. Alex says she doesnt run, so we planned a walking loop of approx. 60km straight line, trying to maximize the time/distance between water drops: around the NW perimeter to W2 in the afternoon, inner-northern loop to ANC in the evening, NE loop to W1 in the wee sma’s then finishing off across the south in the morning with plenty of options for adding or subtracting controls near the end as time permitted. Speaking of time, I was surprised at how early we’d finished making our plan, but suddenly Alex told me it was 5 minutes to the briefing, and I still had to tape my ankles! Turned out that my watch had reset itself to SA time 

For the first 3 hours I felt great, strolling across the hills on a glorious autumn afternoon, but then my toenails started to become painful – wearing my oldest runners with holes in the sides should have meant that toes had lots of space but in fact the looseness of shoes meant that my socks bunched up around heels, compressing toes uncomfortably. Once I’d fed them some painkillers though, didn’t notice my dodgy hamstring at all.

HH->41->80->50->83->45->99->70->63->92->52->84->95->W2 = 5 hrs, 12 controls, 16km(ish)

Reached the water drop about 5pm and we got torches out in anticipation of the fast-falling darkness. Picked off controls pretty well in the night, although annoyingly made a couple of control-circle errors where my instinctive guess as to location was correct, but we checked the ‘alternate facts’ location first. Reached ANC before 11pm and so allowed ourselves half an hour there, both rearranging shoes & socks and I finally put on a 2nd layer – despite a frosty forecast, it turned out to be only a one-thermal night.

W2-> 46->74-> 100->65->71->102->60->81->61->53->ANC = 6hrs, 10 controls, 15km(ish)

2 cups of tea and 2 cheese toasties at the amazing ANC (you should have seen the volunteers’ especially-made orange-and-white rogaining aprons) weren’t enough to ward off my usual 11pm slump; in fact they may have contributed to it because my body was more interested in digesting than in rogaining! But thankfully the feeling of overwhelming fatigue passed. We’d decided not to get any controls in the far NE or SE and instead to go a fair way east for some high-pointers, and were making good time with these, so much so that I was starting to think we’d get to the next water drop not much after 5am. Pride goes before a fall, of course, and we came unstuck on a leg which I’d previously identified as being the hardest on the whole course (at night, anyway).

Following up a flat creek valley to the south and unsure precisely how many junctions we’d passed, we twice stopped less than 200m from the control and did a big loop around to the next creek north, because some of the watercourses marked on the map ceased to exist on the ground in a flat marshy area and we couldn’t work out how/where to find them again. We got confused by a clear area too – generally the vegetation was mapped really well but because there wasn’t a distinct creek channel running through the middle of this one like there should have been, thought we were on the next clearing further south. If only we’d remembered the mantra of “distance and direction is key” but sometimes it’s a bit hard to focus at 4 in the morning.

Yeah, so having lost an hour on that control (56) we thought we’d play it safe on the next one (98) by a direct southerly bearing across 2 obvious saddles and the control being on the 3rd saddle in this line. Which should have worked apart from the minor detail of crossing the final creek and climbing the final spur at 90 degrees to the direction which we should have gone…was pretty pleased with my persistence in finally figuring out what we’d done; even if it did take me half an hour to catch on, at least we didn’t have to wait for the sun to come up in order to do so.

ANC->75->77->89->103->49-> 94->56->98->W1 = 8hrs, 9 controls, 14km?

So it was 7am by the time we reached the next water and what we had to do fairly directly back to the HH in the next 5 hours was about 80% of what we’d done in the initial 5 hours, but my toes were really hurting and Alex was having to wait for me at controls and hilltops. The one time I did get ahead of her was when we got separated in a green creek valley and she thought I was still behind, when in fact I’d powered on to the control and then heard her calling me from about 400m away – oops. But that was the only miscommunication we had all rogaine, and were in agreement that there was definitely no time for controls in the far SW if we wanted to be able to do the 150m ascent and descent to/from 90 on the top of the Black Ridge just east of the HH. This was a hard control to be finishing on, but at Capertee ARC 2015 all the controls were like that…

W1->85-> 101->73->82->51->44->40->90->31-HH with 7 min to spare = 5 hrs, 9 controls, 15km?

Anyway, despite the time lost in the night, our efforts were good enough for 3rd women’s (2nd women’s vets) and surprisingly less than 200 points behind Tamsin & Thor; we were moving slightly faster than them in the day time but obviously they had a better night. We were in 21st place which is the same as at Capertee with Zara. Had only about 2/3 of the winning score of the incredible Julie & David, of course, and I don’t think that even in peak fitness I could match the winning women’s team, but then Jess & Gill are the sort of people who run Six Foot Track in not much over 4 hours! And the best bit about the presentations was that the organisers had hand-made rogaining aprons for the winners, and bags for second place, so now I have a little orange & white bag to keep my rogaining gear in 🙂

Still can’t believe that it was possible to drive back to Alex’s in Canberra, have a shower and pack my gear, catch a 6pm flight and drive myself home from the airport all before 8pm Sunday night. The walk to the long term car park with rucksack was a bit much for bruised & blistered toes; maybe I should blog it as a microgaine?