I’ve heard these 24 hour navigation events — rogaines — described as 8 hours of fun followedby 16 hours of character building. They’re tough, but I enjoy the challenge in a perverse way, as well as the odd assortment of eccentric and analytical masochists which they seem to attract. This was the North American Rogaine Championships, held on September 10th to 11th at Lundblom Lake, just east of Merritt, BC.
I went with Kathrin, as one of three teams in the Superveterans Women’s (over 55) category. Kathrin can move across the landscape faster than I can, but I felt I earned my keep in the navigation department. Several times I found controls while Kathrin was still poking around the not-quite-right place. At control 75, we were right near Marion and Althea – who were still searching – when I found it. Rather than yell “I’ve found it!” to Kathrin while within earshot of M&A, I called something like “Kathrin …come quick…I’ve stepped on a bees’ nest!” (M and A were our only serious friendly-competitors, a pair of formidable athletes who eventually beat us by a small margin.) Soon “Bees’ nest!” became our code for having found the control, if we were slightly separated when one of us found it.
Night was falling as we reached where control 103 should have been, but we’d heard it was misplaced so did not spend much time searching. It’s the night portion of the event that is most difficult by far. We were pleased with ourselves to find 73 and 92 relatively easily in the dark and in dense forest, where others were having more trouble; perhaps we got a bit cocky as a result, and met our comeuppance later on.
The first rest we got was at midnight,when we sat down for about twenty minutes at control 101, overlooking the lights of the Hash House below. Things fell apart soon afterwards when we failed to find 56 or 84, neither of which should have been that difficult. In hindsight, we should have relocated from the nearby fence for 56, but at 3 or 4 a.m., after moving for 15 hours,things aren’t ever simple – we were just hanging on. After a long bushwhack, we failed to find 45 from the obvious fence junction attack point in the pre-dawn hours, so we took about 40 minutes much-needed rest -curled in space blankets with packs as pillows- till it got light and things became relatively easy again.
Moving on from 58, to 95, 67 and 104 in the morning was tough. This portion of the map was steep terrain which we’d probably have been best to avoid. The descent from 67 to the two small lakes involved down-climbing a cliff band, so I can see why the event organizer warned all of us firmly to avoid this area at night.
By the end, I was in death march mode, popping Advils to dull the pain of blisters forming on the bottoms of my feet, as well as to ease a sore back. Kathrin was valiantly carrying my jacket and extra water bottle. We arrived at the Hash House with a comfortable 45 minutes to spare, having been on the hoof for more than 22 hours during which we covered between 50 and 60 rough kilometres and collected a respectable 2040 points, considerably more than I’d ever managed to get in previous rogaines.
|Margo and Kathrin’s Route
(Map is 1:40,000 with 30m contours)
Chris had paired up with John, a very experienced rogainer from Idaho.They were well matched for speed, with one only slightly faster uphill and the other slightly faster down. Their beards matched, too! Chris – a relative newbie to rogaining – learned a lot from John, who works by moving nearly entirely on compass bearings while precisely estimating distance either by pace-counting or by timing.
They returned to the Hash House for a feed and an hour’s rest just before dawn, and left again having been able to leave their lights behind. When they returned, they’d collected a highly respectable 2390 points to earn themselves a satisfying second place in the rather competitive Superveteran Men’s category.
|Chris and John’s route|
Louise went with Christoph, and they handily won the Open Mixed category with 2980 points, but there were a few sighs afterwards from our highly competitive daughter for not having given the top Open (Men’s) team a better run for their money.
|Louise and Christoph’s route|
We survived the weary drive back to Vancouver, and for two of us the subsequent dash to the airport to catch a red eye flight to Montreal. In the following days and weeks there’s been much discussion and analysis and tentative planning for the next one. But there’s also been nursing of sore feet and aching old bodies, and wondering how long it takes till the pain and the memories thereof to fade enough to consider doing another rogaine.
My feet seem to be telling me “not just yet.”
More photos on Flickr.