Tuesday, July 16, 2013

24 hour race

Rogaining is a sport of long distance cross-country navigation involving both route planning and navigation between checkpoints using a variety of map types. In a rogaine, teams of 2-5 people choose which checkpoints to visit within a time limit with the intent of maximizing their score. Teamwork, endurance, competition and an appreciation for the natural environment are features of the sport. Championship rogaines are 24 hours long; however rogaines can be as short as 2 hours

I haven’t done much Orienteering in the last 5 years but I’ve done over 200 events in the last 20 years.  The last rogaine I did was a 24 hour event in 2008 (with Al Bernier).  Up North Orienteer (UNO) teammate Ernst Linder was looking for a partner for the U.S. championships and it was an open weekend for me, so off we went.

The 7 hour drive to the Connecticut Hills (near Ithaca NY) wasn’t too bad, we arrived in time to set up our tent before it was fully dark.  Race morning came quickly and we seemed to have little time to get all of our gear sorted before the noon start time.  The huge 1-24,000 scale maps were handed out at 10:00am and we set about planning our course.  Ernst devised a loop that would be about 75km, measured in a straight line (add at least another 25km to get an idea of the actual distance we’d need to cover).

We got our packs together and at noon about 50 teams headed off in all directions.  Some teams were doing the 12 or 6 hour versions but most were running the championship 24 hour race.  We were pretty lucky that Saturday was mostly cloudy which kept the temperature reasonable for mid-July.  I carried 1.5 liters of water along with bars, gels, jelly beans, and a dozen fig newtons.  We’d be able to get more water along the way at the 5 water stops spread throughout the map.  We made a major mistake on the second control, doing a 180, and by the time we realized where we were we had to bag a different control.  The mistake cost us over an hour, but it was very early in the event and pushing the pace is not really an option in a 24 hour race.

The day went by pretty quickly as we worked our way south and did a loop that included some of the steeper more difficult climbing and descending (while we were still relatively “fresh”).  After the second control we didn’t see another team during the remaining daylight hours.  I guess that isn’t so unusual when you are spread out over 64 square miles!  We covered about 27 miles during the daylight hours.

I was hoping it would be a nice cool night but it turned out to be warm and humid.  I was uncomfortably damp the whole time, but I guess that beats overheating.  The night-time hours seemed to go by very quickly.  We had one major problem with one control we went back to a very distinct bend in the Finger Lakes Trail twice but still could not locate the control.  After an hour we moved on to the next control and found out that a lot of people had trouble with that one.  The pace was much slower in the dark, but the woods were mostly nice for running with very little rock under foot.  Ernst set a very determined pace and I jogged behind him.  Even when he was walking I was jogging to keep pace, his pace reminded me a lot of Al Bernier’s hiking pace.  It is just a bit too fast for me to walk, so I did a very slow run which felt comfortable.  I would fall behind Ernst on any downhill as my feet were really sore, but I’d have to slow up on any uphill…so I guess it all evened out.  Ernst is one heck of a navigator; I swear I wasn’t sure where we were for a fair amount of the time.

By 5am it was light enough to turn off headlamps and we chugged on.  During the hours of darkness (9:30 PM – 5:00 AM) we covered about 13 miles.  The final 7 hours were foggy, not due to fog but due to brain function getting less reliable.  It seemed like everywhere I looked I saw a control flag.
We adjusted the plan a bit overnight and then refined it over the last few hours.  I was running out of steam and with 2 hours to go, we had to choose between heading in and picking up 4 controls or throwing in an extra loop then going for those final controls.  I knew the timing would be tight and was worried about having to push the pace during the last hour.  I told Ernst I thought it was better to get in a little early rather than chance going over-time (there is a severe penalty for every minute over 24 hours).  Ernst agreed and we picked up our final controls and crossed the line exactly 1 hour short of the full 24.  Our total of 2200 points was good enough to get us 5th place in the male open category and 3rd place in the masters.  We ended up covering just about 80km or about 50 miles.  All in all it was a good day out in the woods and I was happy to medal at a U.S. championship.

Now I have 13 months to recover and get myself ready for the WORLD championships which will take place in South Dakota in August of 2014.  Woo hoo!
A very small section of the map

No comments: