A bit of a story about the 2023 Australian Rogaine Championships held in the Goobang National Park about 4 hours drive west of Sydney.
I enjoyed the 2022 Australian Rogaine champs so much I decided to have another go in 2023!
To my astonishment, my little social media story about last year’s event resulted in a request to join my team! So, when last year’s teammate ditched me (so he could bike across America!) I had a keen replacement.
Glenn and I have been mates for 30 years but because he lives in far North West Australia (Kununurra) I don’t get to see him very often. Ironically, he lives further from the Goobang National park then I do and surely we were the furthest travelled team!
I convinced my lovely wife that we could build a holiday around the event that started with flights to the town of Orange (pop 41,000) via Sydney. Meanwhile, Glenn and his wife Jackie spent a week driving across Australia! We had day of reunion and preparation before Jackie took us to the event in their campervan.
As I discovered last year, Australian Rogaine’s are a well organised event and we arrived to the edge of a lake to find the tent city well advanced. The organisers magically produced a meal for the competitors before I climbed into the tent for an early night.
How did we do? 7th ‘old men’s’ team and 19th overall (out of 81) meant no glory this year but I had no room in my luggage for the trophy anyhow.
Some of the more memorable stuff:
Australian bush is a very harsh environment, but we did spot various living things. Goats, Kangaroos, a large Aussie Hawk, Frogs, Lizards, Heaps of spiders (but nothing big thank goodness), Wombat Poo
(but sadly did not see the nocturnal wombat). The most exciting moment was when I spotted a black snake 3 steps before I stood on it! This was the first snake I have seen in the wild. Glenn just laughed as he made me get down off his shoulders!
We experienced a bewildering temperature swing. The night before the event was freezing! So cold that a bucket of water froze outside the tent and I was forced to wear multiple layers of merino in my sleeping bag to stay warm. Yet when the event started (at noon) it was stinking hot for this Kiwi coming straight from a Waikato winter. I suppose the temperature was in the high 20s and I had to be careful not to cook myself!
Map geek heaven! In 40 years of doing navigation sports, this was the biggest map I have ever had! I posed for a special photo to give you an idea of what I am talking about.
Out finish timing was sensational! We had to run the last 10minutes to make it with 21 seconds to spare!
Things seldom go to plan in these events. The organisers clearly explained that green meant denser canopy. However, I did not really understand the implications of this. The Orienteer in me struggled to see green as anything but slow going and we planned our race accordingly. The reality was that the denser canopy was usually faster travel. Thus our plan was not ideal and once we had figured out my mistake, we had to adapt a bit.
The navigation win was successfully navigating some tricky areas at night a long way from any safety features (ie tracks). Glenn and I made a good team and kept the compass work and timing working well.
The navigation failure was spending over an hour off the map trying to find a control. We had given up and were heading to the next control before we figured out our error and were then able to find it easily!
A big thanks to Glenn for joining me. He does Ironmen for fun so knows how to push through a bit of suffering! This was his first 24 hour event and he did a great job of helping with the navigation and keeping us focused. There were a few other kiwis in attendance. Congratulations to Nick Harris (NWOC) who was silver in the Vet Mens category with his mate from NSW.
by Rolf Boswell
And a footnote to Rolf’s story from Nick:
Like Rolf I made the trip to inland NSW for the Australian 24hr Rogaining Champs 2023, racing as usual with my Sydney-based friend Robb.
I can attest to the bizarre temperatures we experienced. The night before the race we camped at the event centre – with all our clothes on inside our sleeping bags we were still freezing and we barely slept. Ice on everything in the morning… not the ideal preparation! But by the time the gun went it was hot as and we toiled through the afternoon trying to make our water last to the first water stop. The night was warm and still – this was the first 24hr rogaine where I’ve not needed an extra layer at night. And the second day got hot again – especially in the last hour as we all rushed to scoop up our last controls and get home on time.
We planned our course to clear an area of the map with a lot of high point controls – a pretty common strategy for rogaine planning – and once off the farmland and into the bush we found to our dismay that we were pushing through scrub that we couldn’t see on the map. It was dry, hard, pointy and scratchy… The going was slow and knew we’d need to adapt our route plan later in the night… sure enough we cut off a small section early. We were happy with our navigation, staying pretty tidy even in the dark, but after 12 hours pushing through and around unmapped scrub we were fed up with it. We hit the All Night Cafe about 3 or 4 am… redesigned the remainder of our route as we forced down water and food… and set off again. It was bittersweet to discover that the other side of the map was scrub-free – fast travel everywhere. It was a relief to be moving freely, but frustrating that we didn’t clear *this* side of the map instead. There was no way of telling from the map where the travel would be good… the mapped used lidar to indicate canopy cover, not runnability… so green meant tree cover, and white meant no tree cover… but neither colour indicated runnability. On one side of the map white was scrub, on the other it meant open grass… Suffice to say I do not agree with this approach to mapping. Anyway, Robb endured me loudly expressing my thoughts about the mapping and fairness of the event as we bustled through the rest of the morning, over a big eucalypt clad hill bagging controls as we went… it was actually really beautiful and fun and I eventually cheered up. To be fair, one thing about the scrubby side of the map was it was full of little flowers… yellow, orange, purple, white… since we were going so slow we sure got a good look at them. Nice scenery to make up for the slow scratchy progress.
Mapping aside, it was another great experience. I got to hang out with Robb, have an adventure in a beautiful new place, and enjoy the challenge of planning and executing a 24hr rogaine. We were satisfied with our efforts in the end – it didn’t go smoothly but we handled it OK which is kinda what rogaining is all about. We wound up second in Mens Veterans, smashed by a Super Veteran team who took our grade as well their own The Aussies do a good 24hr rogaine alright so I would recommend a trip for anyone so inclined. Congrats to Rolf and Glenn – great job on Glenn’s first 24hr race!
If you are a map geek you can check out the course and our route via https://rogaine-results.com/…/2023/australian-champs/24hr