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 in...it 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?