Andrew Kennedy and Zara Soden only missed punching two controls at last weekend’s 6 hour rogaine. Read Andrew’s report to gain an insight into how two people achieved such stunning results…
We’d arranged to meet at 7.30am race day. I arrived at 7.31am and Zara was out, ready and waiting. We were both pretty pumped up for the event after only making a last minute decision to enter while consuming pizza in Burra the previous weekend. We’d strategised during the week and thought a top 5 finish was possible. We arrived at Saunders Gorge just on 8.45am and set up for maps at 9am.
At first glance of the map, no ‘best route’ jumped out at us, so we mulled over a few ideas. The flat section to the north east was always going to be our best route home, with plenty of bail-out options, although every conversation returned to how we could optimally visit every control.
We contemplated heading west then north, but didn’t want to give up on attempting to find the best/shortest route to clean up the course, so added in a little north loop at the start. Zara was really thorough with the whole distance vs time calculations and planned where we needed to be at any point in time. The coloured measuring string was well utilised! So, in the end, we decided on a little, inner-anti-clockwise loop followed by a clockwise rotation of the map. Our flight plan had all 35 controls being reached. May as well be ambitious, if nothing else! While we actually modified and optimised our route out on course, our basic plan of attack was pretty robust.
It was cold, but no breeze so the decision was to travel very light. A few snacks and gels and enough water to get to W2. We determined that we’d need to cover around 37kms, with a number of bail-out options at various distance/time points along the way, depending on terrain speed, fitness etc.
I kind-of listened to the briefing (beware of approaching 90 from the north – which we hadn’t planned on doing – and something about something something and here’s the time check, navlite something….), while nervously edging to the north of the assembly area for a quick getaway! The countdown was on and we were away along with the 100 odd other groups in their various chosen directions. We bounced out and picked up 22, 21 and 36 quickly, then had a minor hiccup at 50 as didn’t find the correct vegetation boundary straight away so wasted maybe 3 to 4 mins of sideways activity. Then came the first of numerous fences for the day and our first hill up to 60. Getting to 32 was a grunt, as expected, although we tried to contour as much as possible. 40 was uphill and 31 steep downhill (we were just over an hour in). We dropped 20 (40/20/31 was planned) out of the loop at this stage as we were a bit slower at 40 than expected and figured if we had enough time we’d get 20 at the end.
Up the hill and along the stone wall to 51 was spectacular, then back down and up to 61 and the feet got wet -first time of many – shin deep crossing the creek to 52 and our first stop at the ruins where I took some pics, we ate and refilled water. Then wet feet twice more to 35 and grunted up the hill to 65, right on 2 hours (hoping/wishing it was lower on the spur but of course it wasn’t). We now encountered other teams, including meeting Sally and Sonja yet again, before tripping back down the rocky spur and across to 41. Wet feet again on the way to 81 and was surprised to see the dam had very little water. There were more teams out here on the popular west route.
We made a route-choice change at this point as we were falling behind the best-case scenario schedule, and dropping 2 – 3 controls seemed inevitable. 54 was going to be too hard so instead of going 63/70/54/71 we instead crawled up to 70 where many teams were relaxing at the lookout and enjoying the view after the climb. Some 4WD’s were passed as we went along the ridge line and contoured into 63 before trudging slowly up to 71 via the stone wall. We arrived here just after the 3 hour mark, having covered around 17-18kms. Next route choice decision was the difficult task of dropping the 90 pointer in favour of making sure we had enough time for 64 and 72. Looking at the splits of the team that came second it took them 41mins to do the 71/93/73 loop where we were 10mins flat from 71/73. So perhaps we could have got 90 and dropped 72. It was at 73 that I got a touch of cramp for the first time and wasn’t particularly pleased about it. We passed Troy and Slatts moving in the other direction at this point and wondered how they were travelling.
73, 53, 62, 55 then 64 (right on 4 hours) we were moving pretty well apart from a 2 min stop when I wasn’t quite sure about 62 due an unexpected cliff on the north side of the creek. We dropped our packs for a quick out-and-back to 72. I cramped up quite badly so needed to stop and stretch for a few minutes. Zara was very patient and was probably questioning why I was cramping before we’d travelled 30kms in ideal weather. There was a photographer on the way to 72 who thought we knew what we were doing as we straight-lined the control up and over the hill, but there weren’t many other options to get to it from where we were! Back to our packs and off to 34 for water reload including dropping one of Zara’s special tablets into the water. We had planned to be there by 3.45pm in order to ensure we could comfortably get the last 7-8kms home on time. We arrived at 3.43pm!
We moved pretty slowly on the way back as I wasn’t capable of running any faster, but we still managed to say hi to a large numbers of teams enjoying the walk back to the hash house as we jogged along. 42, 80 – wet feet again and just over 5 hours in – 33, 30, 23, 37. We caught Bruce and Steve on the way to 43 and Bruce was hobbling on a bad knee, but they had done so well for a couple of old fellas! So we chatted for a bit before Steve’s competitive juices kicked in and he wanted to race for the finish. They darted off while we squeezed in 20 (dropped from the early loop) before getting to the finish with 5 mins to spare. The hard part was running within 100m of the HH from 43 to 20, where the smell of food was overwhelming and enticing!
We covered 37kms without cleaning up the course, as we’d contoured more than planned and covered a bit more distance fluffing around at 50. We had originally thought 37kms would nail all controls, and were confident we could cover that distance. So we got the distance part spot on!
In hindsight, I wonder whether we could have gone 63, 54, 90, 71 and dropped 72 with some cheap points bailout on the way in if required. Hard to know. I was pretty stuffed at the end and it took a few minutes to get my shoes and socks off as I started to cramp whenever I reached down! Then came the queue at the Hash House – where was the express line for folks who were really tired, cold and hungry until I realised that was everyone!! That said, it was soooo worth the very short wait and the volunteers did an amazing job feeding so many folks in such a short time! I always say the best part of a rogaine is the HH with a plate full of hot food and swapping stories in the twilight with everyone and anyone, sharing the soaring successes and abject failures that are part and parcel of every rogaine. Young, old, new, veterans all looking tired but contented after a great day’s work. I bet I wasn’t the only one thinking about the next event.
So, 1530 out of 1670, 33 of the 35 controls. I had a fantastic day, in excellent and skilled company, while getting constantly distracted by the amazing scenery. We only found out we won by 20pts when Kate and Evelyn read out all 100 results. Interestingly, if we hadn’t picked up that last 20 pointer on the way in we would have come equal on points but second on time by around 1 min!