I’m filthy. I’m worn out. My legs and arms are covered in itchy scratches. And I feel bloody great! Welcome to rogaining!
Today I got my first taste of a rogaine – a race where you are given a map marked with checkpoints, and have to find as many as possible in a fixed time. You are penalised for missing checkpoints and for arriving back late.
Usually rogaines are done on foot, but in this variation – called a Reuben (Rural-Urban) – we had a run (minimum 60 mins, maximum 90 mins) followed by a mountain bike ride. We had a maximum of three hours to find as many of the 22 checkpoints as we could.
This was an informal event in Nerang Forest Park, with a dozen people of varying levels of experience. It was my first attempt, so I was looking forward to having fun, getting fit, and perhaps finding some secret single-track!
I got off to a shocker, even before the race began. I was 15 mins late for the briefing, which left me 5 mins to plan my route. (Note to self: bring a highlighter to draw your route – a dark felt pen obscures the trails on the map!)
Here’s a chunk of the map:
The map shows the major trails in the area (not all trails are shown!). Checkpoints are shown as a dot on the map with a text description like “Dead Tree on Trail”. Run to where you think the checkpoint is, and then start searching! We were looking for a circled letter. Some of these buggers were bloody hard to find! When you find the letter, write it on the space on the map. Sounds easy enough.
The one, very helpful, clue I got before we started was “If you stick to the trails, you’ll be out there all day!”
Now this being Australia (the land of the poisonous just-about-everything), and me being from New Zealand (the land of nothing is bigger than a bird), the idea of going off-trail was pure insanity. But I was here for a new experience, so insanity it was!
I boosted my off-trail bravado by cutting across a few switchbacks in the trail. Then, after the 2nd checkpoint, I veered east into the dense undergrowth for (hopefully) 150m of bush-whacking to a trail I could see on the map. There were so many sharp things scratching my legs, I wondered if I would even feel the bite of a snake! (I noticed that the experienced racers were wearing gaiters).
As I dodged the golden orb weaver webs, hopped over rotten logs and waded through knee-deep grass, I marvelled at the lack of poisonous critters. The best I managed all day was a petrified echidna, who resolutely dug his head under a log as I tried to talk him out for a photo. He did not oblige!
I made it safely to the other track. For the rest of the race, I did off-trail shortcuts wherever I could.
The run leg was great fun. I covered 8.5km in 70 minutes, climbed 212m, and picked up 7 checkpoints. Another 3 checkpoints I searched for but couldn’t find. With the constant stopping to navigate and search for checkpoints, there is plenty of time for recovery.
Rogaine Tips for Next Time
It’s bloody frustrating to grovel your way up a track and then spend 10 minutes searching in vain for a checkpoint. I quickly learned a few things:
- You really need to take time to find out EXACTLY where you are on the map.
- Often there are more than one landmark which fits the description (eg.”cut log on track”).
- The checkpoints were pretty clearly marked; if you can’t find the checkpoint within a minute or so, move on to see if there is another landmark further along the trail.
- Stop, Think and Plan! Especially on the MTB. It is very easy to travel too far and then have to backtrack. Better to get the map out, have a bit of a rest and then go directly to the checkpoint.
- You need a mapboard, or at least a pocket, for the MTB portion. Sticking the map in your mouth makes for a soggy, smudged mess at the end of the day!
- Persevere. One checkpoint I got on the third time back to that area. That got a Whoop! I was pretty happy to find that tricky, little bugger!
- It’s a roller-coaster of moods – one minute you’re cursing the stupid race for a checkpoint you can’t find; the next you’re on fire, flitting from checkpoint to checkpoint like a pro. Soak it all in!
The MTB leg ended up being slower than the run! I covered 10.2km in 1:45, climbed 231m and found all of the remaining 12 checkpoints. Some of the trails were unrideable, sheer boulder-fests; others were sweet singletrack. The tactic became: get to the checkpoint area, drop the bike off the track (so no-one would nick it LOL) and then search on foot.
Somehow I managed to get back within the cutoff, even after a 10 min detour down some nice-looking single track. Once the times were tallied, and penalties added, I came out on top. I was expecting to be last. Bizarre, but cool!
I enjoyed it so much, I have plans to go back there and find the three checkpoints that eluded me!