Coming back after a second placing at World Rogaine Champs, Tim and I had planned to set out to back up that and our 2018 NZ champs win at the NZ Rogaine Champs. This was all fine back in August straight after our return, but a lot of water went under the bridge in the intervening time. I continued to train with the plan to race, then in Mid October at Aaron’s 40th birthday party I slipped and fell on a log and damaged my ribs quite badly. In the interests of full disclosure, this happened on the 4 lap of the “Booze-O”…after being out for almost 1.5 hours and a lot more beer than I would normally drink! The pain never really subsided after that and by the Tuesday night afterwards, I conceded that I had most likely fractured one or two ribs. The Doctor was less convinced, I mean its usually pretty bad if I have to go see a doctor about an injury, and I’m reasonably used to an average amount of pain, but this was another level. Sleeping or lying down was the worst and it was difficult to find a position to sleep in without excruciating pain. Anyway, that almost became the end of the NZ Rogaine champs then and there, as well as the Kepler which was only two weeks afterwards.
The ribs took several weeks to come right before I could do attempt to do any pain free running, so after bouncing around ideas and talking with Tim, I made the choice to pull out of both races. And in the end too Tim wasn’t so sure he was ready to go back and do a 24 hour Rogaine again anyway. So in the end it was easy to through the towel in and call time on it…. Or so I thought…. two weeks beforehand, Greig, who was still looking for a team mate called me up and it wasn’t really that hard to agree.
Orangapai, on the edge of the Rock and Pillar range, near Ranfurly and around 100km Inland from Dunedin was where the race was to be held. Being is just down the road from Pateroa, where the first Cambridge’s came to mine for gold in the 1870’s, it felt almost like a home coming of sorts to go and race down there. The event centre itself based out of a former Tuberculosis Sanitorium which is now pretty deserted – a bit different from 150 years ago when the area was home to around 4000 people and included 25 hotels!
No luxurious plane flights in this year and just as well as a ton of flights all around the country were cancelled. It was a big drive down after work on Friday, and it was a real mission just getting out of Christchurch. I left work around 3:30pm (drove right past Greig’s work) and picked up Georgia in town, then back out towards Greig’s house to a random street to pick him up. Next it was off to grab Dennis who’s flight had been redirected to Christchurch…. All this back and forwards across town and around and back again with a few detours meant that we arrived pretty late on Friday night at the Sanitorium.
The forecast for the race was about as opposite as it could have been to last year with no rain and hot and dry conditions. Planning was fairly straight forward, there were a few options but it looked touch and go whether we could get them all. Matt Bixley assured us it was possible, we still had some doubts, and these doubts meant we needed to rejig our plan to include a 30 pointer it would have been nice to drop early on.
From the start we ended up neck and neck with Dave and Darron. They were moving fast, probably faster than us but possibly not as efficient as us navigationally. It was almost looking like a repeat of the Amuri rogaine, but luckily we took different routes after meeting at the second control together.
It seemed like our route was intended to maximise climb… well at least it felt like that early on. The hills were very steep, they never look as steep as they really are on a map. 1 hour in and already I was struggling to keep up with Greig on the steep downs and the power walking uphill. A little bit of flat terrain was nicer for me, but it was starting to really heat up. I wondered how long we could keep moving at this speed in this heat. And then as we were sneaking out of one control I hit my head super hard into a rock face. It brained me for a good few minutes and to make matters worse my water supply was drying up pretty quickly.
Thought I was pacing myself sort of well, just hanging onto Greig, it was going to be a bit of a sufferfest and I was secretly hoping he was going to slow down a bit at some point. Eventually the time came and heat got a bit much, and the brakes came on. Greig had to sit in a creek for a little bit to cool his body down and thats when the cramping started… now it was time for Greig to do a bit of suffering, the SIS cola sports drink had worked its magic on me and just in time as I caught Greig wandering towards a large gully well of track. At last I had settled down and was starting to feel alright.
The tussocks were pretty tough going in that middle ground between the farm paddocks and the swampy tops. The purported top ground was also fairly swampy and definitely not the 4min per k terrain we were lead to believe. Despite the battle across the tops we were still on schedule and about “touch and go” to clear the course. A little bit of poor searching cost us 10mins on one control, just walking right past it and not realising it was really just tucked away on a bush. It was a Dumb mistake and it cost us probably more than we thought at the time, but it got us somewhat motivated to continue pushing.
More tops travel was littered with nasty Spaniards between the tussocks, but every now and then there was a sneaky animal track we could use as a “magic carpet” to get us through. Up here there were a lot of other teams around and at one point we managed to accidentally fool a few teams into following us. Unfortunately for them, we had pulled up short and when checking the control, and realised almost immediately. We kept going with a purpose, which kind of made it look like we had got it. Our bunch of followers were not so switched on and spent quite a bit of time searching around the first rock we came to in vain!
At around 8 hours in we crossed over with Chris and Matt. No time for chatting… Chris apparently was struggling at this point, the only hint of this at the time was a the lack of conversation when passing by. Light was starting to fade a bit as we had a long leg ahead of us as I lead us through the low hebe bushes to the furthermost control out on the course.
It was good travel on the road after this point, which allowed Greig to perk up again. We got a good number of the controls in the Twilight. It was hard going at this point as the tussocks made for difficult travel and it was very windy and almost cold enough to toy with the thought of putting some more clothes on. However, we did neither, we pressed on collecting 3 more controls in pretty much darkness until we reached a track. I thought we might stop to get headlamps out, but Greig just preceded to put his headlamp on while on the go. I had decided the track was a good time for food and was busy eating as I watched Greig continue on. Oh well now I had to do the same, it was a bit of a flaff and I struggled and then as I was almost finished…. I slipped, tripped and landed in a rather gross looking mid-track puddle. The team I was passing as the time had a good giggle to themselves!
Once I had dusted myself off we were pretty much at the point where we needed to cut off the track, so along with another party of followers we headed into the void. We nailed the control, but just didn’t see the flag, so by the time we had walked around the Rock Tor (Description: Boulder???) and figured it out we were back with the following masses. The next control we again cut off track, taking the straight line which allowed us to not only get away from them, but gain a good lead on them!
Greig was still struggling with small bouts of cramp every now and then and he put me out in front to navigate through a couple of controls. I kept us mostly in control but then I faded big time and then truely went down the rabbit hole. I have a feeling I hadn’t eaten enough, or at least enough of the type of food I was craving and probably not enough water/electrolyte, which is not an uncommon occurrence for me, I am possible more used to people telling me/reminding me to eat, so far Greig had been about 20m in front of me the whole way. I had a good old mope for a couple of controls, and then the weather decided to rained for about 15mins, which was enough that if I didn’t put my jacket on I was going to get really cold. I really slowed the team pace down here. Greig was going fine and I was feeling bad for dragging him back, which made me grumpy and the whole situation worse. Finally we got to a control where there was water near by and I had a chance to fuel up again. While the food digested, the tow rope came out and after a few sleepy minutes being dragged along with no idea of where we were I was feeling alive again. It worked a treat.
Several controls in the dead of the night involved some steep descents and steep climbs. All this climbing and descending appeared to use up a lot of time. The worse of the early morning hours were behind us, there was still lots of the course to go and we felt we might be still touch and go for our plan. A nice gorse bashing leg got me pretty grumpy just before dawn and then and almost all of a sudden the terrain and vegetation just got a whole lot worse….
Daylight didn’t make it much better, we could just see the steep hills and wide open spaces where we had to go. My food situation had started to get a bit poor, I was having to ration a little, and eat some of the stuff I really didn’t want. At 6am out the back of the course once again we had a long road ahead of us and my legs were feeling the climb and were pretty smashed.
With just on 5 hours to go we caught up with Dave and Darron once again, they didn’t appear to be having a great race which inspired a little bit more confidence in us as despite all of our misgivings there was a small possibility that we could stick to most of our plan. We still were racing like we could do it but at around 8am we had to start making some calls on cutting back our route. Disappointment set in a bit and now not only were my legs sore but when I stepped into a swampy bit my toes were feeling very tender. Greig then almost walked 90deg off the map in a bit of a daze but luckily the compass saved us before we headed into unrecoverable territory. Pain killers helped reduce the toe pain, but not the muscle soreness.
Time started to melt away in the middle of the morning, along with the heat ramping up. It was almost already insufferably hot and it was only 9am. After a bit of track travel and enforced running we made the climb back into the hills to continue on our plan. Once up onto the flat looking (on the map at least) hills, we had the realisation that our abbreviated course was also going to be too ambitious, so again our course plan got trimmed back.
With almost 2 hours to go, we wandered around in some very very thick tussocky scrub, losing great chunks of time here and there looking for once control that just about broke the both of us. We battled through, and through the wind, and down to somewhere where we could get some nice fresh water, in sight of the end.
Then just 1 hour to go and Greig gave me the option of heading directly back, but I thought surely we should give at least one of the close by 50 pointers a go. After finally getting some fresh water into the tank, I managed to craw out of the dark place I was in and found my running legs. One trait I appear to have is that I am very good at conserving energy for the final few hours. That and the fact that Greig told me to make it back we needed to run fast!
So with the finish line fever pushing me on, Greig then had to muster some extra energy as it didn’t appear he was counting on needing to run too fast to the finish. On the last section to the finish we caught up with Dave and Darron again just meandering to the finish. I felt it could have been close so I made us run to try to stay in front which we were able to maintain, however we opted to go around someones back yard while they went through (dubious legality) and stole a finish time slot from us.
Matt and Chris had just finished by the looks of things too, and they had managed to get all the controls, which put us in a likely 2nd position. Only a couple of minutes later Dennis and Georgia turned up as well a good old fashioned Southerly Storm party!
Overall I was reasonably happy with Second place, considering my lack of running due to cracked ribs, I think I proved my worth on the Navigation front and was able to help to Greig on the navigation in some places… but held him back quite a bit on the fitness point of things. I struggled quite a bit mentally in a few places, lacking motivation, and possibly this was due to a lack of useful food. I think I needed much more savory food, shapes and rice crackers went down such a treat and I really did not like Gels and sweet things in warm conditions… and again the conditions were so warm and dry I felt like I did a good job on hydration given the lack of good places to fill up with water, but still ended up pretty dehydrated after the race.