Wednesday, November 24, 2010

SummerNav - Point England

What was I thinking letting myself get talked into running course 1 only 2 days after the World Rogaine Champs?! I just set off at a fairly casual jog with Allan, Owen and Steve setting off in minute intervals in front of me.

I was reduced to a walk with a bit of jogging after #12...any slight hill and I was completely done. Oh man, if I could have finished by then it would have been great! But then I caught up to Owen at about #14 so that meant I had to run again! I was so dead by the end that it was ridiculous (Owen and I raced each other across the field to the finish). Nice to see that my legs sort of still work though!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

World Rogaine Champs - Cheviot

I've talked about what a rogaine is before, but just to recap, you have a certain amount of time to find as many controls as you can and there are penalties for each minute or part minute you are late back. Controls are worth different amounts of points depending on difficulty. For the World Rogaine Champs you have 24 hours, from midday Saturday until midday Sunday, with points ranging between 10 and 100 points. Once you'd registered, you had 3 hours with the map to work out your plan of attack.

There were about 250 teams and each team had to have between 2 and 5 members. I was racing with Andy who is a Canterbury local so he'd actually done a rogaine in the Cheviot area before...very handy! He'd also actually done a 24 hour rogaine before...whereas my longest was 12 hours!! We actually worked quite well together in planning our route, both thinking along the same lines which was useful. We decided it wasn't going to work to come back to the hash house so we were going to keep going over the whole 24 hours...or at least that was the plan.

Anxiously waiting in the start pen

I was pretty nervous before the start. After all, 8 and a half weeks before the race I got a stress fracture on my foot and had been off it entirely for 6 weeks (just cycling and mountain biking). Only a few days after being back on my feet I'd done an 8-hour rogaine and it had felt pretty disastrous and my feet were in pain after only 4 hours! And the South Island orienteering champs the weekend before had been a bit uncomfortable. Probably not surprising that I was anxious!

We all filed into the holding pen after getting our bands reset and waited nervously during the final instructions. And then we were off! There didn't feel like any hurry...after all, there was another 24 hours to go!! There was a huge queue of teams at the first control we went to so we probably should have run there to beat the rush but after that we never had any problems. It's amazing how quickly the field spreads out with everyone taking entirely different routes. I was feeling heaps better once we were moving and decided the best idea would be to, well, just not think about my feet!

The first hill

My hope that the rain wouldn't come (despite it clearly being on its way), it arrived not long after we started...nothing too bad, just a little drizzle which was actually quite refreshing, but the sky was definitely looking dark. We'd only been going an hour when Andy encountered a problem with his shoes. The inner sole kept slipping inside, probably caused by being so wet, and no tape was going to hold them. He struggled along for a little while before ditching them altogether and wearing 2 pairs of socks instead!

A local farmer keeping his cattle at bay as several hundred mad people stampede across his paddock not long after the start!

Our first stop was at about 6pm a the drinks station high above the coast. We refilled our bladders and I had my first portion of satay tofu and rice. It was a struggle to get even such a tiny portion down but I definitely felt better afterwards. We didn't stop for long though, maybe 15 minutes? We met up with another team at the waterstop who traveled down the hill towards the coast with us for a little while but we split before the next control when we took a different route (and got there quite a lot faster as it turns out when we encountered about 3 hours later!).

Rolling hills...pretty standard

Everything was going pretty well and we were working well as a team, especially on the fences which we had down pat. Want to know more about the fences (it felt like we crossed hundreds of them during the race)? Go here...these were our official instructions. We were finding controls without any real problem and making okay speed especially considering the terrain (it was a lot steeper than I had expected although we had chosen the steepest and roughest side of the map to start). We encountered Tim and Tane (fellow orienteers and Andy's flatmates) a couple of times in the first 6 hours with Tim looking worse for wear. We ended up having to give him some salt and electrolyte tablets at one point. But other than that we didn't really encounter many teams at all.

Tim and Tane

It was just on dark as we were trying to find #45 but with no luck. It felt like we searched every possible gully in the area. It was fully dark by 9pm so we only had our headlights but even then you couldn't see very far as the mist was pretty thick in places. The weather was also starting to pack in even more as we gave up and started climbing the hill up to #83. I think we both felt pretty defeated after that so thankfully we found the next few controls no problem.

Fairly typical countryside on the eastern side of the highway

It was about midnight when we got to #63. We then slithered down through the mud to a flat area by the stream under the cover of the bush. There was another team also resting here and we joined them for break number 2 (and my second portion of satay tofu and rice...oh yeah!). I changed my socks and put on another layer of polypro under my jacket as well as my hat and buff. It was definitely getting colder...and more miserable as the rain had got more persistent.

Looking down to the wild coastline.

We knew getting to the next control was going to be tricky but it was way worse than we ever would have imagined! We thought we'd found the gap between the two cliffs but with the darkness, rain and mist it was really too hard to tell so we started to head up. The grass seemed to vanish and be replaced by mud. My shoes didn't have the best of grip and there were moments when I thought I might go sliding down the hill. There was no way I was going to look down because it was way too frightening. This was probably my one and only mini meltdown but we got through it and got to the top (never been so glad to be on my hands and knees in the grass!). Then the control (#75), a little further along, seemed to be impossible to find. We encountered another team looking too who were also stuck. It was bitterly cold and the wind and rain had really picked up by then. I was beginning to freeze and getting pretty grumpy! We were just about to give up when Andy decided he needed to change the batteries in his headlamp and he walked about 2 metres away and had one final glance...and there was the control, about 10 metres from where we'd been standing!! When we called out to the other team, they thought we were kidding!

Punching will register the time we arrived at each control electronically on our wristbands and since we both had to punch each control it shows that we both went there.

Then it was down the ridgeline to Gore Bay (via a couple of controls). I'd run out of water so we were hoping to find something down there otherwise we'd have to run a few ks up the road to the waterstop and back and we really didn't want to have to do that. Thankfully when we got down to the bay we found a small campground with an outdoor kitchen area (and toilets!!!! You would not believe how awesome toilets are...!) and we filled up our bladders and sheltered for a few minutes under the cover as the rain just bucketed down. A couple of other teams came and joined us too. Oh yeah, and there was even a light we could turn on. Bliss! But seriously, if we'd been closer to the hash house at this point I think we would have considered bailing...that's how awful the weather was.

This was about as pleasant as it looks...about 3:30am and soaking wet but at least we found a little bit of shelter, and some water, at Gore Bay

Then suddenly, at just before 4am and as we stepped out from under our shelter at Gore Bay, the rain stopped! It was like a miracle and we both felt energised again. The next few controls were pretty easy as we walked up the road and across gently rolling farmland. You didn't really even need torchlight on the road which was cool. It was pretty much daylight by 5am (well, light enough to see without needing your headlights).

Just after 6am we got to #82 then trouped up to the track above into the shelter of the forest for our last real stop and "breakfast" (my last portion of satay tofu and rice) and another change of the socks which were soaked through. My feet didn't look too good but never mind. Not long to go!

6am "breakfast" stop...only 6 hours to go!

As the sun came up the weather seemed to be clearing up too which really was about time. My feet were getting too sore for jumping over fences any more though so I was reduced to throwing my pack over the fence and squeezing through the middle wires. We also seemed to be making some silly navigational errors too. Any chance I got I would sit down, even for a couple of seconds, just to get off my feet. The pain was pretty intense. Andy was struggling getting up the hills. I was struggling getting down them. But somehow there were even some controls we jogged to!

It's pretty steep

Once we got down to the road from #37 and made our way along to #11 my feet hurt so much I had a permanent grimace on my face and was pretty much just forcing myself onwards. I don't think they have ever hurt that much, well, ever! The final bit to the finish fro #11 was like torture but knowing what you'd just been through and that it would be over soon was plenty to keep me going. It was so awesome to walk onto the court and see the finish banner and all the people and know we had done it.


We crossed the line after 23 hours, 35 minutes and 30 seconds (those seconds count man!). Michael was there to greet me (with his camera) at the finish which was awesome but I really just couldn't wait to sit down and take off my shoes!

Andy and I

At the finish we discovered Tim and Tane were already back after having to pull out after about 15 hours. Sounds like Tim had a rough time out there. He hadn't taken enough gear or the right kind of food and had ended up getting way too cold and wet to continue...and they weren't the only team who ended up in this position and had to pull out. This made me even more thankful and proud that we'd pushed through.

My feet hurt! Thankfully for you viewers my feet look washed out here so you can't see how terrible they looked by the end. 24 hours in wet shoes and socks isn't pretty.

We were all starting to get just a little bit anxious with 10 minutes to go until midday as Chris Forne and his team mate (Marcel Hagener) hadn't got back yet. If any kiwi team was going to win it was going to be these guys. Turns out they had plenty of time to spare, arriving a few minutes later. They ended up winning by such a huge margin it was ridiculous! Chris is a god!

Chris Forne (and Marcel). Chris is a god!

I was so tired by the time I finally got home that I thought I would just fall asleep but it didn't happen. Probably too much going on in my head! My legs (mostly the ankles, feet and thighs) felt in absolute agony...the pain seemed to get worse after a few hours of finishing so by the time I was home I was so uncomfortable and had to get Michael to help me to the bathroom! Having a shower was saved until I actually felt like I could keep myself steady long enough! I didn't fall asleep until 8:30 (just after I finally managed to have a shower!!) that night which meant I was up for 38 hours. No wonder it took so long to feel like I wasn't tired all the time!

Using Michael as a prop so I could stand up without keeling over!

I have to say though, I survived a lot better than expected and I actually really enjoyed it...okay, apart from the dead of the night when the weather was just plain awful! Now I can't wait to do another one! Does that mean I'm crazy?

Monday, November 22, 2010

23 hours, 35 minutes and 30 seconds later

More on the World Rogaine Champs to come...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The sign of the kiwi

It was a cold, windy evening down in Christchurch so we decided to go for a ride up to the sign of the kiwi and back! I think Michael was secretly hoping I'd need to go down into granny gear but I'm tough like that and stuck it out in my middle chain ring no sweat.

Coming back down though was absolutely freezing and I swear the wind was trying to blow me right off the road.

Monday, November 15, 2010

South Island Middle Distance - Rotoiti

Rotoiti is a mysterious map. There is no other way to describe it. Virtually flat, so using contours to navigate is impossible. Thick kanuka and manuka scrub so you can't really see where you are going. Clearings that all look the same as each other. It's no wonder that no one who had run there before had anything other than terrifying stories to tell...except Michael who is clearly a bit crazy! So clearly I was pretty nervous lining up at the start.

It was all very well to go out there with a plan of attack but oh my know you're off to a flying start when you get hopelessly lost trying to find the first control!! I pretty much walked (otherwise known as bush-bashed) my whole way round...round in circles!!! After finally finding #1 I was going along as okay as you were going to get until #4 which was really quite mysterious. Turns out I wasn't the only one thinking this which is always encouraging.

Then somehow I got #5 no problem (a miracle!). This was only to be followed by going round in circles for quite some time for the next control. #7 and #8 were easy which then lulled me into a false sense of security. With only 1 more control to go I figured not much could go wrong (hahaha!). Oh man. The first half of the control went really well and I thought I had my attackpoint but it just didn't seem to work out. Once I realised I had no chance, it took me forever to get back to the telephone pole so I could start again. Somehow the second attempt worked out fine but it was so frustrating because once I got to the control I realised I must have been so close the whole time but just never managed to find it. It felt like trying to find a needle in a haystack!

I will have to come back to this map some day and see if I can get it to make a little more sense!

South Island Long Distance - Forest Creek

Oh man, it was so hot before I'd even got to the start and I spent the drive down from Nelson drinking and trying not to get car sick again.

I felt like I hadn't done a proper orienteering course in ages (sprint races are different) and I really wasn't sure how my foot was going to handle it. The first section was in the farmland which was mostly okay apart from the second control where I wasn't low enough and the control was behind some gorse. I ended up near the end of the ridge before dropping down lower and heading back. It was so hot though which made it hard to think straight.

Once I got into the forest my feet started to really hurt so it was mostly walking by that stage and even that felt hard. It was really steep and the ground was very rough under foot (I think I managed to fall over quite a few times!). There was one control where we had to go up something like 17 contours only to have to come right back down a couple of controls later which was just ridiculous and all the sidling was causing my feet to blister (they have seriously gone all soft since my stress fracture).

The final few controls were out on the farmland again. It was pretty cruel to have to go all the way up the hill in front of everyone chilling back at the event centre but such a relief to get out of the forest!

I was so glad to finish the course and see Michael standing at the finish with some water. It was brutally hot, steep and rugged and I'd managed to get some wicked blisters by the end. This was not turning out to be my weekend!

South Island Sprint Champs - Founders Park

To make up for having to miss the North Island Orienteering Champs I decided to tackle the South Island Champs instead! These events were held out of Nelson which is up near the top of the South Island. We were driving up from Christchurch and got there with 2 minutes to spare before Michael was called up to his start and about 15 minutes before I was called about enough time to get changed and try to get over feeling a bit car sick!

So I found the first control all right...or at least where I thought it should be but I couldn't see it so I went backwards and forwards around the fences wondering what was going on until I spotted the control in the first place I looked, rather camouflaged against the trees (it was a bit faded). Then I headed off to #2...except I was heading off to #3 instead and almost got all the way there before realising so had to go back again! And the worst thing was that I missed the good gap in the fence both times so had to go the long way round!

What are you doing taking photos of me? I'm trying to concentrate here!

It was about this time that I died! Man, my running fitness has gone out the window with the stress fracture. Sure, I'm fit and my bike fitness is really good at the moment but running is another kettle of fish. Anyway, navigation went fine for the next few controls up until about #11 at the far end of the map where I got confused about what they were classing as a building (I mistook this weird fence structure as a building) so fluffed around there a little bit and then again on #12. After that it was a slow, painful grind through the last few controls and on to the finish.

Oh dear!

So basically to sum up...I'm slow and can't orienteer!!! Excellent! Oh, and it was ridiculously hot, even at 5:30pm. Summer is going to be a killer.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Great Forest Rogaine - Rotorua

The Great Forest Rogaine was an 8-hour rogaine in Rotorua in the Whakarewarewa Forest (also known as the Redwoods) organised by Brent from the top adventure racing team Orion Health. I was racing with Michael again (how does he put up with me?!).

We had an hour to plan our route and when we got the maps it was pretty daunting 'cause it was HUGE! It was also really unclear just how much of the bush you'd be able to bash through and what the terrain would be like. I've been to the forest a few times before but only for mountain bike orienteering so I had never really paid attention to the forest. Our planned route turned out to be way too ambitious but you never really know until you get out there and we didn't know how my foot was going to handle it.

I must have been pretty happy at this point!

We were pretty much walking the whole way in order to look after my foot and also because I haven't been on my feet much (spending the last 6 weeks almost purely on bikes) which meant there was plenty of time to suss out routes and work out what we were doing.

Navigation seemed pretty easy as most of the controls were on tracks or clearings just off tracks, and if they weren't then they were on pretty obvious features like tops of hills (obvious but not always that easy to get to through the bush). We discovered fairly early on that bashing though the bush didn't save you that much time and, if possible, it was best to stick to the tracks. It was frustrating because we are much better at tricky navigation and sticking to tracks when you can't go fast just feels tedious.

Unfortunately I started to feel really ill after only an hour which was probably because I hadn't hydrated nearly enough before the race (it started at 2pm). There were some pretty painful periods as I struggled to keep going and I was finding it next to impossible to get food into me even stuff I normally race with fine. This is something I'm really going to have to be conscious of for the Worlds since that starts at midday.

Changing your socks helps your feet feel better again for a little while...perhaps I should have gone round with 8 pairs of socks!

I started to feel better eventually (maybe 2 or 3 hours later?!) but by then my feet were screaming at me. Not good. They had gotten so soft from not being used! And I wasn't super comfortable in the shoes I'd chosen but they did have more support and cushioning for the balls of my feet which I figured would be important to keep from refracturing my foot.

At least the scenery was pretty right?!

With about an hour and a half to go I got pretty moody and got really pissed off at Michael when I thought he was bush bashing to try and cut a corner. Turns out he was following an indistinct track to the control but hadn't told me and I hadn't been concentrating on the map so it was a classic case of miscommunication. Sigh.

We had about couple of hours of darkness as the race finished at 10pm

We were 3 minutes late back which was frustrating but oh well. Michael told me I was crazy for running the last section despite how much my feet hurt but I am terribly stubborn sometimes. Luckily it does appear my left foot is mostly okay still.

The Worlds are in 2 weeks. ARGH!!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

SummerNav - Hamlins Hill

SummerNav is a series of orienteering events held once a week after work during the summer at various parks in the Auckland region. It's one of my favourite things about summer. Is that sad?!

I missed the first event at the Auckland Domain as I was still nursing my foot injury but thought I'd tackle the next event at Hamlins Hill. On Monday night I'd gone for my first run in 6 weeks, all of 10 minutes, and the foot seemed okay but I wasn't going to push my luck since I had an 8-hour rogaine in the weekend so opted for course 2 instead of the usual course 1.

The ground is really rutted since it has cattle in it so it's real 'ankle breaking' stuff so running was tough and my foot wasn't too impressed. I tried to make sure that when I climbed the fences I landed on my right foot instead but it was weird because my normal climbing method involves me jumping down onto my left foot so I felt a bit unco. It was so cool to be out there running and orienteering again (orienteering on the mountain bike feels quite different) but I wasn't concentrating and made heaps of silly mistakes which is embarrassing because it was super easy navigation!

I thought I did terribly, feeling slow and orienteering SO badly (I was constantly worrying about my foot, feeling excited about running again and consequently not thinking about the map at all!), but everyone else must have done worse since I ended up doing quite well in the results!