US National Rogaine Championship
October 11-12th, 2003
Brian and I raced as team Triangle Adventure Racing, and it was our 1st Rogaine for both of us. We are often found at the local orienteering races tackling the longest, hardest courses, but Rogaines are a bit different. A normal orienteering course has a set order that you follow to reach each control, and the best time wins. A score-o is a timed event in which each control has a different point value based on its distance from the start/finish and its difficulty. The top score wins (and time in is used as a tie breaker). A Rogaine is a 24 hour score-o (though sometimes 8 hour score-o’s are also called Rogaines).
We left Friday morning from NC and drove all the way to just north of Louisville, KY, to the very southern portion of Indiana. We decided to take a back roads highway instead of the interstate, to save about 100 miles, but this proved to be a mistake. The back roads of West Virginia slowed us down as we went through many small towns, got stuck behind slow moving coal trucks, etc. The 9-10 hour drive turned into an almost 12 hour ordeal!
We got up Saturday morning and were surprised to see it was still very dark at 7:30 a.m. as we went to breakfast! This would mean we’d have almost 12 hours of darkness during the race! After breakfast we picked up some groceries and drove to the park — Clark State Forest. We checked in, but had to wait a while to get the maps at 10 a.m.
Once we received the maps and studied them, we realized we would not really have an opportunity to come back to the car area until the very end of the race, so we had to pack enough gear and food for all 24 hours! There was a “hash house” on the far northern section of the course, where we could get drinks and food, and there were several water stations on the course. But I had hoped I’d be able to change shoes at least once! 😦
Most of the big point controls were on the far northern section, so our strategy was to pick up a couple of controls on the way north, and then get as many of the northern ones as we could before heading back south to the finish. As the race started, we discovered that most other teams had the same strategy!
It’s not as easy to write about a Rogaine as an adventure race, since we were basically on our feet in the woods for 24 hours, so I’ll just summarize a few points:
We should have worn gaiters or long pants. The thorns here were crazy, and we were both cut up very quickly. At one point, I had a very bad burning on my lower legs, which I had to douse with some of my drinking water. I’m guessing it was stinging nettle but I’m not really sure. I also ended up with some kind of rash a few days after the race, and I’m not sure what it was. It was perhaps remnants of the stinging nettle, though my research on that seems to indicate it should have been gone within 24 hours and this actually took 48-72 hours to appear after the race and has lasted for several days. At any rate, I did put on pants about 6 hours into the race, but it was too late by that point.
At one point the 1st evening, before it got dark, we were 10 – 20 minutes behind a very good team for several hours. We had to sign in at each point, marking the time and the next control you were heading for, so we knew exactly how we were doing compared to them, and we were the 1st 2 teams on this section of the course. This team ended up 3rd, so we know that when we were on, were pretty good. 🙂
We had lots of problems once it got dark. We need to be more careful, always keep pace counts or timing counts, and look at the map constantly. If you get lazy for one minute in the dark, it’s very difficult to keep exact track of where you are.
We had a few sections that cost us several hours. Some of that was due to darkness, some of it due to laziness, etc. If not for those sections, where we wasted lots of time and in one case could not find a control, we would have done much better.
My feet were toast by the end. As stated above, I had really hoped to change shoes at some point, but the course design didn’t really make that feasible. Part of the problem is that I’m not crazy about any of the shoes I have right now. My old reliable Soloman Wind Raids, that I used for several years, were just too old and I had to toss them. I haven’t found anything as comfortable since. I did change socks a few times, and that helped, but not enough!
We finished the course with about 10-20 minutes to spare, and Brian was right — we probably could have gotten 2 more low point controls on the way in and made it, but I was so worried that we’d miss the noon finish and incur high point penalties because I was not able to run at that point that we skipped them. We were totally amazed that 2 teams finished the whole course and got all controls, one in 22 hours and one in 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 30 seconds (barely beating the cut off). We got just over 1/2 of the controls, and skipped an entire quadrant of the course. A few days later Brian used a map wheel to show that we had covered around 40 miles, but the terrain in this park was quite steep, so our elevation change was probably very high!
We ended up 10th out of 15 teams in the open division, and about 20th out of 45 overall. It should be noted that this was the National Championship, so a lot of teams traveled a long distance to race. There were teams from CO, NY, NJ, WA, etc., that all converged on Indiana. For our 1st Rogaine, we are not really disappointed with how we fared. We learned a lot, learned what we need to practice, etc., and will be back for more. 🙂
After the awards the plan was to get some food, drive for a few hours until we got too tired, get a hotel, and continue in the morning. We ended up driving all the way home — all 10 hours, and got to my house around 11:00 p.m. By the time we got really tired, we were only a couple hours from home, so we made it somehow. Probably not very smart, but we did it anyway and lived to tell about it. I had not slept at all during the race (Brian only rested/slept for a few minutes), and I didn’t sleep in the car while Brian drove. I tried once, but we were on windy mountain roads, and just couldn’t do it. So I was up for about 41 hours with no sleep! Not quite my record but close. 🙂
I must say, for me, this has been one of the hardest races to recover from. My feet were pretty shot, and all my callous pads peeled off from my blisters. I got an awful rash on my legs and arms. I was very tired for a few days. I had a muscle strain/pull on the back of my left knee, etc. However, I still had a great time and will do more Rogaines!!