NZ Rogaine Champs 2020 with Jo Williams.
Map, route and results at http://rogaine-results.com/event/results/2020/nz-c...
A very cold and wet race this year. I was a bit apprehensive going into this event. I had been working for about 8 months towards the Kepler Challenge, but a few setbacks (broken wrist, car accident and a bout of giardia) had been derailing my training in recent months. To compound matters, the NZRA committee were keen on a date of 21/22 November - a date which was definitely too close to Kepler. Fortunately a bit of lobbying was enough to give a further two weeks breathing space. Not ideal, but enough to manage.
Now to find a teammate. I set out to consult with the sage and wise rogainers. Unfortunately, none were available, so I defaulted to Greig Hamilton. With the usual amount of cageyness he suggested that I find a wise woman to team up with. I deduced that there were three reasons. First, he held genuine concern for my running form and wanted me to manage myself in a responsible fashion and not push too hard, such that I could recover quickly and beat the bigger president (Matt Bixley) at Kepler.
Second, he had grave concerns for his own performance. The competition was already heating up in the MO grade with Matt and Duncan, plus Struan and Rhys to contend with. Why add fuel to the fire with another team?
Lastly, I think he gains some sort of perverse enjoyment from seeing others suffer. More to the point, I think he wanted to see a showdown in the XO grade and what better than to see us battle it out with Tane and Georgia. All these possibilities have equal merit, so I will not dwell on them.
I fired off an email to Jo Williams, and thankfully she was keen!
Map handout at 9am, and the 3hrs of planning begins. Jo has an institution of a morning coffee before starting the day, so we began with that. Looking at the map, there were a lot of hills and a relatively narrow weather window to climb them in. We planned to head up Mt Isobel first, then work our way along the ridgeline to the east, picking up a few controls as out-and-backs. We were a bit surprised when the field split at the first control, but on review it looks like the others had a similar route – they just picked up a few more controls near the start first.
Things were tracking well at control #57 and it was at this point that we decided to link #105 and #97 via a grand bush bash onto our route (we weren’t planning to get either of these points). I am not sure whether it was Jo’s goading, or my reckless ambition but we dived in. Took around 45 minutes to complete the bush bash, which seemed OK.
It was about this point that our route merged with Tane and Georgia’s. We were pleased to see them. I don’t know if they were pleased to see us. We matched step through to #71. At this point we had a bit of scope creep. First, we thought it would be just as quick to pop through #21 on route up to #92 (possibly true), then we thought we could swing by the bush café and pick up some fresh supplies (and a coffee for Jo). This was a bit of a waste of time as the bush café hadn’t been set up yet, but it did give us an opportunity to drop our spare fleeces and thermals and food to pick up later.
The ski field loop was next. We formed a bit of a pack with Tane & Georgia plus the Victory Vets on this loop. It was pretty reassuring to have some good company on the exposed section. Would have been a rough night if anyone had broken an ankle. I was relieved when we all got off the mountain.
It was the middle of the night and the next few were a bit hit and miss. I stopped to fill up water on route to #77 and lost my bearings a bit. Relocated twice before finding #80 on a rock which we had already looked at once before! At this point I was embarrassed how pear-shaped things were going and felt sure that Jo would be on the lookout for a new teammate.
We probably went within about 500 metres of #59 and #50, but whether it was lack of time or lack of confidence we ditched them in favour of the easier yellow-level controls which were directly on route. We also had another loop up the top of the course, but we were well behind schedule and I didn’t back our chances.
The southerly was really screaming now as we ran into a headwind down the Rainbow Road. We arrived at the bush café about 1.5 hours (and several points) behind schedule. There was now some officious person barring us from entering the nice warn hut (seemed a bit mean spirited), but we retrieved our dry warm clothes (and Jo got her coffee), so it felt like a win.
Confidence in my navigation and the battery life of Jo's headtorch did not extend to ridge travel from #93 to #64, so we dropped #93 and took a bit of a roundabout way to #64 and #94 via a track north of #54. This felt like a rubbish route choice, but I couldn’t see a better approach without adding more risk.
The next few were reasonably straightforward, except for some rather under-mapped scrub in the Jollies Pass area. This became a bit of an issue when the rain turned to snow and started settling. Our little merino gloves just weren’t cutting the mustard and despite re-purposing our map and dry bags as overmitts, we both got very cold. We couldn’t get to #73 or #86. There was no way we could get through the broom folded in snow, so we bailed out to the road and headed for home. I was feeling quite shit at this point and was struggling to eat. I think this was a reflection of my core body temperature and possibly because I couldn’t feel my face. I don't know whether this was a symptom of hypothermia, but my body also concluded that I had no need for fluid at my extremities and embarked on a project to urinate out about 5L of fluid. I probably only drank 500mls in the last 12 hours!
Despite its challenges I really enjoyed the course. The hosts got a bit unlucky with the weather, but there was great variety in the terrain, navigation and the control placement were generally good. As an event it challenged us. Our route had some subtle differences from the others, but I was pretty happy with it. The execution however was not as efficient as the planning. We certainly blew a lot of time on course (and I suspect others will have similar stories). At an estimate, there was around an hour of general inefficiencies (mostly spending too long at bush cafés!), but the most time was time lost on night navigation – two hours would probably only scratch the surface.
Thanks to Jo for putting up with me for 24 hours. I think she must be the happiest teammate of all time. Pre-race or on course, she was always cheery and my multitude of f*ck-ups went unscolded. Thanks for being keen!