Team 23 came in second at the recent More than Morialta! 4 hour rogaine, amassing an amazing 1930 points. How did they do it?! Dion Byas has shed some light on just how he did it.

Competing in a rogaine for the first time only happens once, although I can now see how different a 12 or 24 hour rogaine would be to the 4 hours spent hunting around Morialta on Saturday, 15 March. Having decided to enter the event after speaking to my neighbours, Trent & Jenny McInerney who are seasoned competitors and great advocates for the sport, I wanted to start with a duration that would suit my running background.

Basically I am a keen trail runner, with some previous orienteering experience to boot, which means that I have two of the three skills required to rogaine: endurance and navigation, but not necessarily the strategic wisdom. One other thing I should mention – I have a very competitive nature! So why not give it a crack and try to win outright? To do this I learnt that a ‘team’ requires two or more runners – so who to participate with? Fortunately for me, I had my requests answered fairly quickly by Alex Strachan, a fellow trail runner and experienced rogainer. Alex turned out to be an ideal partner in many respects, and made the 4 hours, plus preparation time, a very memorable experience.

Having entered and done some research via reading and speaking to Trent and Jenny, I was delighted to hear from Alex that he was in possession of a card table, cork board, highlighters, pins etc (I contributed string and a scale rule). We arrived on the afternoon of the event with around 2 hours to spare which seemed excessive to someone that turns up to a race 15 minutes beforehand, does a couple of run-throughs and is off!

Alex was waiting at the Hash House when I arrived, having already pre-filled the indemnity form. We quickly collected our maps and made for the carpark where the planning phase began in earnest. We set up the maps, coloured in the controls, and then started to analyse the course. We were both fairly familiar with Morialta Conservation Park, having done plenty of training runs there and also both having traversed it during the Yurebilla 56km Trail Ultra previously. What went really well in hindsight was that we agreed quickly on the route to take, choosing our path to form a clockwise loop. We pinned the controls and tested the distance with the string, estimating approximately 30km of distance to be covered. Some gear was packed, a bite to eat, and then with 15 minutes remaining we made our way down to the race briefing. Boy did those two hours pass quickly!

More than Morialta! fielded over 120 teams which seemed a large crowd for the race start. We chose to head straight up the Morialta Falls Road towards control 32 before ascending up to the ridge via the easy to grab 80 point controls along the way. At this early stage people seemed to be running in all directions and it took us 20-30 minutes before we felt that we were in clear air on Moore’s Track. But behold! Even as far away as control 40 on Montacute Road we kept catching up to other teams or passing them coming in the other direction! I was beginning to appreciate the social nature of the event, with one other team trying to trick us into thinking that we had passed a control coming up Chapman’s Track, haha! we weren’t fooled (for long).

Forgetting to mention the weather here: it had started to rain intermittently before race start and as we closed in on the eastern edge of the park the drizzle returned making the twilight hour a bit more miserable than it should have felt. At least we weren’t overheating. The roads were greasy and it felt just like winter. We kept pushing the pace along and detoured down to controls 61 and 62 before heading out to Morialta Cottage and backtracking up to Norton Summit. By this stage we needed to don our headlights, being on the Norton Summit Road with some traffic about, but at least it was downhill from here! As I kept track of time, Alex would check our navigation, and we would occasionally swap the punch card duty. I was really enjoying this bit with the conversation flowing, the hard navigation work and climbing done, and I remember commenting to Alex that rogaining felt a bit like an old fashioned hunt. The constant movement, adrenaline, sense of purpose and imposing time limit seemed a condition quite natural to humans although rarely experienced in the modern world. I would like to know how others feel about this.

As darkness settled in we hit the suburbs and took a left turn towards Wattle Park Reservoir in our attempt to sweep the plain clean. Unfortunately, we had spent more time than expected on the elevated section and now needed to press on quickly in order to make it back to the Hash House by 9:00pm. The 40 point control at Fergusson Conservation Park proved to be an instinctive find as we were back on dark trails scanning the verges for the white and orange square. What I learned was that the controls are quite reflective and illuminate well under a head torch beam.

During the last hour we made good progress darting through the regular street grid although the rain once again returned with vigour. We had just punched control 66 at the church and were headed east along Magill Rd when I spotted a couple of teams searching around ANOTHER church! Feeling a bit sorry for them (considering it was raining) I felt compelled to shout out across the road and give them a hint. It seemed like good sportsmanship at the time.

Not surprisingly, we were asked at one stage by a couple in a car whether we were lost? Seeing people racing through the streets at night with maps and head torches can’t be too commonplace in Magill!

In the end, we made it home just over a minute late which was a great effort by both of us; it cost us 20 points, but made no difference to the overall result. This had been the first race that I had ever done where everyone finished at the same time (in theory) and it was a fantastic atmosphere at the Hash House with everyone in a hyper mood. We tallied our score and knew that it was a big achievement, but were sodden and needed a change of clothes so dashed off to the car. Warm clothes: oh what a feeling!

I had been told by Alex not to mention the long neck of Stout in the cooler-bag during the run as this was not good race etiquette. As soon as I was able to get my hands on that thing it was my most valued possession and went down a treat. I thought the post-race festivities surpassed most other events that I’ve entered and I would probably do another rogaine for this alone!! Forgetting my curfew, I arrived home quite late that evening after sticking around for the results to be announced. The fruits of our labour turned out to be a close second place overall and an excellent introduction to rogaining for me. Undoubtedly others had similar enjoyable experiences and will be planning their next event. For me? No promises; the stars will need to align (including a full moon) to make a longer 12 hour rogaine possible, but I would love to try.