Tim and I are racing together at the World Champs in Alice Springs in about a months time so it made sense to treat this as a warm up. The previous two times I have raced 12+ hour race with Tim it has ended in a bit of a disaster… both times it resulted in Tim doing a lot of suffering! However since wrist surgery I haven’t been able to do as much training as I would have liked so it felt like this time the pressure was on me not to end up in the hurt box.
I dislike the early starts for 12 hour rogaines, actually I dislike the early starts for any kind of races, or training for that matter, and it was a bit of an effort to drag my reluctant sole out of bed to get the Maps to do some planning ahead of our day out. Since this was a dress rehearsal I was keen to play an active role in planning, one thing that I definitely lack much skill in, being used to orienteering where you don’t have to make these decisions. We planned a relatively conservative route, taking into consideration that it was going to be pretty difficult to get all of the controls.
It was super cold hanging around at the start (There were reports of anything between -4 and -7 degrees) so the down jacket stayed on as long as possible! The sun had not quite reached us standing around so it was a relief to get underway, and get some blood circulating, to try and warm up. We started quite fast, probably too fast in hindsight but we made good progress getting through the first 3 hours. Points wise at this stage of the race I think we were even in the lead. The speed that we were moving though made us a bit weary and we managed to make a couple of small errors, costing us around 10-15mins all up, so not so great.
Into the 4th hour I started to go downhill, I needed to get some substantial food into me, and we had a bit of a march uphill to the next control. It was at this point we came to the realisation that we needed to consolidate our planned route a bit as we were not going to make it around the full loop in the next 8 hours. We made a few poor decisions here (in hindsight) that came back to bite us later in the race… we were not to know that at the time however! I started to feel like I was coming right, but after all that food I needed some water to wash my food down with. The more I drank the more metallic it tasted and more I felt unwell. I just thought that it was from going too hard that I was suffering a bit but after a few hours of continuing to drink the metallic tasting water I gave up and started to come right. I probably should have tipped it out as soon as I had figured it out but for some reason at the time it was a lot more difficult to do in practice!
I probably hit my lowest point at the top of Dogs Hill, and here we needed to make more decisions, only thing was that I was not in a great place to be making well thought-out decisions and was just a burden to the team at that point! We ended up doing something that I wasn’t entirely happy with, an out and back that ultimately cost us around 210 points. We didn’t know this at the time, so we didnt let it get us down. The darkness came pretty quickly after the sun went down and with it the temperature dropped rapidly and significantly. Almost all the compulsory gear came out!
During the evening we got a bit trapped in a few places by matagouri, which was difficult to spot and then made an error by not being confident enough to go just a bit further. This resulted in a costly relocation maneuver and set us back about 10mins. This ten minute set back was both good and bad, as we knew we didn’t have enough time to commit to the last loop in our plan, but it also meant that we were going to be a bit lacking in points for the last hour. So the last hour of the race we got a bit down on our luck and as a result of going too fast near the start we slowed down significantly, and crawled back to the finish with about 9-10 mins to spare.
For me, and our team we didn’t have a great day, it was just a good day. We did some good things and did some silly things, things didn’t go our way in a few places and I definitely had an “off” day. I think sometimes you just have to go with that and accept it, learn from it and take those learning with you to the next race!
The funniest moment of the day did happen upon us during the last hour, definitely one of the highlights of the race! While cruising through the rolling tussocks in some quite dense mist and darkness we came across a possum. It was quite out of place for a possum I thought, anyway I shown my light on it and it bolted, taking cover in a ridiculously small matagouri bush, squashing itself down as flat as possible to try and hide. It was a pretty poor hiding place and just in front of where we were heading so I ran right up to it, shinned my light on it and gave it a fright. In a state of panic it realised its hiding place was pretty poor and lept up and took off again. Meanwhile Tim had no idea what was happening and was busy reading his map, heading in a direction parallel to me. Blinded in panic by my light, the possum headed directly into Tim’s path and Tim tripped over the possum as it was sprinting away. I saw it all unfold in slow motion, it was a pretty funny sight, I’m not sure who out of Tim or the possum got more of a fright!