CAVE COUNTRY CONQUERED!
Written by Stephen Gray – one half of the winning team
I like the 15-hour roving rogaines in SA. Love them! 15 hours in 24. All the good bits of the 24 hour events without all that sleep deprivation. Hide and seek, chatting around the campfire, a good sleep, and a chance to go out again in the morning. Better than two rogaines in one weekend!
I tried to get my rogaining partner, Cath, to write a quick race report. She threatened to take a photo of my back and just write that she followed this. That’s not entirely true, but didn’t change who would write this.
The forests around Naracoorte gave us a significantly different rogaine. Soft underfoot, great! The feet thanked the setters for that. Electric fences, and plenty of them. Hmmm… Lots of trees, not so sure about ‘A pine tree’, in a sea of green. Some of the controls were challenging to find more so from certain directions than others. One presented us with quite a challenge when collecting it after the event.
After making a meal of the route planning at the last 24-hour event, I tried to be a bit more reasonable with the route choice at this event. We planned two loops that totalled about 70kms – 10 hours on Saturday, 5 hours on Sunday. We had a couple of shockers early on, having to relocate on the second control (#60 – we should have used the handrail on that one, but I was trying to be cute and spike it to beat super navigator Steve Cooper. We ended up 10 minutes behind Steve and Zara Soden after 2 controls…). Then ‘an arched tree’ in amongst lots of other arched trees took us about ½ an hour to find. After those two, we figured it was time to relax into just wandering around and trying not to get our feet too wet. We travelled north, past several caves, not missing any more controls, but not pushing too hard. After the first few challenges in the native scrub, we were far more careful with the navigation in and around the native vegetation, using every other feature we could find, including tracks… oh yeah, you shouldn’t rely on tracks… so we detangled ourselves again, and had fewer problems getting to the north of the map, turning left and heading down the western edge.
After all the excitement in the native scrub, we’d managed to put ourselves right in the middle of one of the biggest areas of native scrub as sunset approached. By rights we should have got lost looking for a ‘shallow gully’, in scrub at sunset (contours didn’t help a lot…). But somehow we got past this and, shortly after, a herd of inquisitive, practically invisible black cows in the moonless night – all we could see were their eyes as they followed us around the paddock.
I know other teams got a couple of electric shocks from the fences. Our fence story involves old runners, slippery wire, and a very inelegant head-first approach to coming off the top of the fence. Unfortunately, the pine upright got involved and made a bit of a gash in the back of my knee. The funny thing about this was I almost litererally fell into the control. I knew it was around there somewhere, but once I picked myself up it was right there in front of me.
We wandered around Straun House for a few minutes looking at the different fig trees, then dreaded a longish leg around an out-of-bounds farm into more *gulp* native forest. #66 was surrounded by bracken. So we bashed our way through it, found the control, right where it should have been then took a bearing to hit the edge of the forest on the way to #72. Something went wrong – we ended up pushing through chest high bracken and dodging the camo womat holes for way too long. Relocated, again, and found the rest of our night time controls fairly easily and adjusted our loop to get us back to the hash house at 10:07pm. Not too worried about dropping all of the high value controls in the SW, because, well, we’d stuffed up enough already that it wouldn’t matter.
We got back just in time to have a delicious dinner cooked by Wayne and co. Really. The food at Rogaines is normally amazingly good considering where it is served, but Wayne stepped it up a notch with his stir fry. Please come again soon Wayne 🙂
Another benefit of the 15-hour format is chatting to the other competitors at the HH / around the campfire. We don’t tend to talk as much at a 24-hour; too busy wolfing food down so you can go out again. But with the clock stopped for the next 9 or so hours, there is time to relax, take the shoes off, chat, eat the good food, compare notes and maybe even realise that you might not be as far off the pace as you thought you might be. And then sleep for almost as long as you might at home.
Rain was forecast for Sunday, and I don’t mind admitting that it would have taken something special to go out again had the rain appeared. But the rain held off and we ended up with a lovely morning to go out. Getting going again is a bit of a struggle with tired legs, but we forced ourselves out pretty much exactly 9 hours later, with a revised loop that would hoover up as many of the controls in the east and then south as we could. Somehow Cath convinced me to start running for the first control, and only by a bit of luck did we not overshoot this one by hundreds of metres. We readjusted to the speed of the open farmland (much faster than fighting through bracken) and started ticking off controls. These were a bit further apart than in the north, but thankfully the swamps were not as swampy as the map suggested. We only had to go around a couple (still keen on dry feet). The kangaroo fence caused a couple of detours, and we wondered if we should have paid more attention at the briefing just before deciding to cross the fence – we’d found a spot that was ideal to cross and saved a lot of distance. Luckily we were not breaking the rules, and didn’t damage the fence, and this took us into Dead Man’s Swamp. We took a chance based on the rest of the “swamps that weren’t” and crossed straight through Dead Man’s Swamp (not that it really saved that much time). Unfortunately, we’d ended up ‘planning’ a 4km leg directly back to the HH on the road – we’d already got the higher value controls on the way in on Saturday night, and we didn’t have time to get to the meaty points in the far south west. Somehow Cath whipped me into a run/walk on the way back and we found just enough energy to pick up a 30 and 20 on the way in, not expecting this to make any difference at all in our placing.
Fortunately for us – very bad luck for Steve and Zara – they were mere seconds late, lost ten points and ended up with exactly the same score as us! With all of the different route choices possible, we’d managed to get the same score over 15 hours! Incredible! As we were on time, we just snuck in as winners, and now get to dust the mixed ‘boot’ until next year!