On the weekend, Team Xcite had a crack at the Australasian 24hr Rogaine Championships (ARC) at Manumbar, west of Goomeri, which is west of Kilkivan, which is west of Gympie. This race included a number of competitors from other states, NZ and Japan, and is the biggest race we have competed in. We have done a 24hr rogaine in which we did 10hrs on the course, then back for a meal and sleep, then off again in the morning for another 5hrs. This race, however, we decided to stay out for the full 24hrs, or as long as our frail old bodies would allow. There was an All Night Café (ANC) out on course, which made that decision much easier. In fact, one of our race goals was to get to the ANC just for a romantic late night feed.
Weather was nice and warm at the start of the race at 12pm Saturday. Unfortunately for us, we were given the news that rain was forecast from about 1am Sunday, but looking at the dry grounds and partially full dams, it must have been wonderful for the farmers that allowed us access to their properties. I think they appreciated the rains a lot more than we did. Rains hit us about 1.30am (good forecasting), and we were drenched from then on, but at least it wasn’t too cold.
Our tactic, as usual, is to go clockwise, cut out the corners, and do a donut. Sometimes not the most practical method, but is a good starting point for our planning. We also marked up the checkpoints of 70 points or more and targeted those, with some relatively easy CP of lesser points to be picked up near the hash house at the end (that proved to be a bad choice in the end). That gave us a good plan, with options of picking up lesser points along the way.
We headed off in a southerly direction picking up a couple of high value CPs, then hit a bloody big hill to CP78. That trek up or down would have been very tricky after the rains. We kept heading around in our clockwise direction approaching the ANC. On the way we met a guy living in a van, caretaking a property. He was very confused about what we were doing. I still don’t think we convince him what we were doing. We also met a million rabbits (is myxamatosis still being used?), grey kangaroos, wallabies, and bandicoots. None of which were pleased to see us at night.
We hit most of our CPs without much lost time, although there was a lot of time walking between CPs. As our strategy was to hit the higher points, this was not too much of a concern. We had a bit of luck on at CP105 which was located on the edge of a pine forest. The track we were on was supposed to finish in a forested area and we would have to bash through some pine trees. Luckily for us, they had cleared most of the area, then we found an old unmarked 4WD trail that led us right onto the CP. Thanks HQ Plantations.
We seemed to be doing a lot of trekking between points, but were able to get to the CP reasonably well. Until nightfall. Headlights came on at about 6pm. My fully charged AyUP gave up at 7pm (angry face inserted here), so I had to use my spare, a cheap but reliable Katmandu brand light. Thankfully, we had some good backup options including hand torches and recharging powerpacks. We were able to keep rotating the head and hand torches onto the power packs. I did try lightless trekking and navigating, when the moon was covered by clouds, and found that the longer I went, the better my night vision became. Something to continue to work on.
After much circling of CP57 (twice we thought we were on the correct knoll, twice we were wrong; the third time we got it!!!), we finally arrived at the ANC about 10pm, 3 hours after our planned time. Moonlight supper in the country under a full moon (how romantic). We had a few people for company, including the Gagels, whom we know are very good rogainers. We were relieved to hear they were making some hard yards, which made us feel better about our struggles.
Night navigating has not been a strong point (although I am not Robinson Crusoe in that regard), so the idea of staying out all night was also to gain some much needed race practice. After the ANC feed, we picked up some points really easy with good topography reading and bearing/pacing (CP93 and 68), but then completely fell over CP101, which should have been dead easy. An hour of walking around in circles, with some other teams for company, we finally thought “bugger this, let’s bugger off”. Lost and heading in a bit of a guessed line, we stumbled right over the top of the damn CP. On our way off from that area we ran into a herd of cows. The poor milkers grazing in their paddocks must have thought aliens had landed, watching us stumbling along with our headlights blazing away. A couple of times we caused a minor stampede and were a bit worried we might be taken out.
Sometime in the morning, we started having some weird visions. At one stage I thought I saw a couple of elderly religious hawkers under umbrellas just up the road. Turned out to be tree trunks. It was rainy and my glasses were fogging up a bit, so that was a good excuse. Fiona thought she was seeing snakes everywhere, but she was just jumping at shadows (literally). Poor excuse. Fi also thought she heard a baby crying then saw what she thought was a pram. It was actually a seat from an excavator ???
Twice we had a nature break just off the road, and finished up less than minute of the safety vehicle arriving. Amazingly great timing. We actually saw the patrol a few times, and thought what a good idea that was.
On our return to the hash house area at about 8am, we picked up a couple of relatively easy CPs, then headed off to pick up CP30. By this time we were pretty buggered, with sore knees, ankles, and a badly injured finger (me, courtesy of a fall on some rocks). We were so close to the hash house, with all it’s warm food, coffee, hot shower, and warm clothes to change into. That devil was too pleasant to resist, and we allowed ourselves the luxury of being dragged into it’s bosom for comfort.
We eventually finished at 9am, not grabbing the CPs within easy reach, but extremely happy with the way we handled the all-nighter and navigated well enough through the night. In the end we scored 1130 points, which put us within reach of the middle of the field of about 130 teams. We covered about 75km and well over 2500m of elevation.
Thanks to the QRA volunteers for making this event happen.