The annually held Intervarsity Championships are held concurrently with the Australian National Rogaine Championships. This year, the championships were held south of Canberra on the 5th -7th of May. The Intervarsity competition pits teams of university students from the same university against each other.
I was lucky enough to receive support from the Nigel Aylott Memorial Fund to cover my travel expenses to and from the event. Representing the University of Adelaide, I had only competed in one 24hr rogaine before this event, so I knew what I was in for, but as it turned out, nothing could truly prepare us for 24 hours of ups and downs.
As with every rogaine, the fun started when we received our map. We looked at it and realised that this was going to be tough – there were no tracks or vegetation boundaries – only contour lines to navigate with. Getting over our initial shock, a route started to emerge and our confidence and enthusiasm grew. Then came the point where we got out our string and traced the route, only to discover that we were attempting a distance that was much longer than wed ever done previously. But this was a National Championship, so we went big, and before we knew it we were off and running with 140 other teams.
The first few hours are always the best. There is light, we could still see other teams, we were full of energy and finding controls was easy. The only thing on our mind was to take it easy as we knew there was a long way to go and we didnt want to burn out. Then the fun begun; blisters.
Having attended to those, we made good ground and slowly the day turned to night and we reached that point where torches became necessary. This is where the hard part starts. Navigating at night is so different compared to day time navigation and if you make a mistake, it could waste hours getting yourself back on track. Being aware of that, we made sure to pick the safest, easiest route from control to control and to my surprise, manged to hit every control perfectly; it was even easier than during the day.
But unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and as the night drew on, our water became depleted. We couldnt stop moving because it was that cold (below zero) and we realised that we had to cut the route short to get to water. A hard decision, but safety must come first. And then everything just went downhill from there. We started wondering why we had decided to enter a 24 hour rogaine as we were no longer having fun, and while we were wallowing in our misery our navigation took a back seat, resulting in us becoming lost. At our lowest, all we wanted to do was escape and get away, but that was easier said than done as we didnt even know where we were.
We finally manged to stagger onto one of the few tracks on the map and made our depressing crawl to the all-night cafe for some warmth and food. At this point, we didnt care about the controls we walked past. Our whole focus was on finding the all-night cafe. The relief at arriving there was totally overwhelming.
Having come through my lowest point, I now had the fun of trying to pick myself up and find the will to continue. Luckily for me, my team mate didnt share my lack of enthusiasm and, like the Energizer Bunny, just wanted to keep going. Eventually I caught his passion and we headed back out.
The enthusiasm didnt last long. Before we knew it, we were wandering around in the dark, trying to find a control that didnt want to be found. My optimistic partner took some time to realise that this control just wasnt going to be located.
As we descended yet again into despondency, we appreciated that if we wanted to get back to the finish, we still needed to navigate our way there. There was no magical helicopter to rescue us. As we trudged towards the vague direction of the Hash House, we suddenly found a highly treasured and sought-after orange and white square. Yay! A control!
Those long hours of plodding along not finding anything were finally over. And before we knew it, the warmth and light of the sun begun to appear. As quickly as we descended into our hole, we emerged on the other side. We were back on track, full of energy, trying hard to ignore our blistered feet, and were ready to find those last few controls and get back to the finish.
As we got closer to the finish, we started to meet other teams, but we stuck to our own slower path to the controls and our countdown begun: five to go, four to go! After checking our watches, we figured it was going to be close, but should be okay if we kept moving. Finally – we bagged our last control.
Then we could see the finish and the urge to look competitive overcame us. We picked up the pace and ran the last few hundred metres just for appearance. We knew it would make no difference, we had plenty of time, yet it felt like the right thing to do.
We crossed the finish line and a huge sense of relief washed over us. We made it! We were out for the full 24 hours! A personal goal and first had been achieved. The results no longer mattered. We did what we set out to do. When we did get our results, our sense of accomplishment increased when we found out that we finished quite competitively – a complete surprise.
The rewarding feeling of having completed a rogaine is incomparable to anything else. It is a mixture of sheer exhaustion and great euphoria that lasts for quite some time. The satisfaction of rising above adversity and pushing through exhaustion and despondency is enormous.
If you get the opportunity to compete in a rogaine, take it and know that no matter how hard it may be, how deep your dejection may be, the reward of knowing that you finished and pushed through all of that is well worth it. Just do it!