Last weekend I went on another rogaine. This was a serious, hardcore rogaine; a 24 hour marathon as opposed to the 6 hour sprint last April
. I knew it would involve camping, which is to me what going to a Promise Keepers conference is to Christopher Hitchens, but even so I was looking forward to it.
I arrived a couple of hours before the rogaine was to commence, which for serious rogainers is the equivalent of snipping the blue wire just as the bomb’s timer counts down to 00:00:02. One is supposed to spend many hours poring over the map, closely examining the location of every control and creating intricate plans for reaching them in the least time and distance. Instead I glanced at the map, approved the rough plan that my teammates had devised, then set up my tent, ate some pretzels, had a brief reminder on how to use a compass, complained about the lack of mobile phone reception, and underwent the half-anticipated grilling on my total lack of preparedness.
Serious Rogaining Friend: Did you bring everything on the list?
Me: Er… probably not.
SRF: Did you bring a plate and a cup?
SRF: Eating utensils?
SRF: A camp chair?
SRF: Spare shoes?
SRF: What the hell did
Me: Let’s see… pretzels… electrical tape… and a bottle of whiskey. Ooh, and shot glasses!
SRF: You are beyond useless.
And so it was established that I am not a serious rogainer. If you’ve ever met a serious rogainer, you’ll immediately realise two things. One, they all own at least one Subaru Forester. And two, they dress as if they’re trying to give Scott Schuman
a stroke. Luridly coloured water-, fire- and bullet-proof jackets, huge ugly shoes, and cargo pants that are so overengineered that they could appear on ‘Grand Designs’.
Naturally I was wearing my understated Zamberlan walking shoes, a nice polo shirt from The Gap and some frayed Blazer chinos: basically cotton and leather in tasteful earth tones. The only reason why the serious rogainers did not immediately pick up torches and pitchforks and attempt to drive me into an old mill was that I also had a long, thick, heavy duty vinyl poncho in the world’s least attractive shade of beige. I looked like some sort of boring but kinky fetish monk.
At midday precisely we were sent on our way, the serious rogainers shooting off like startled gazelles, and my team wandering out with a sedate but purposeful dignity.
It was a much nicer time of year for a rogaine than last time. Birds sang in the trees. Tiny native orchids bloomed underfoot. Young kangaroos bounded through the undergrowth in a blur of fur, legs and tail.
It took us four and a half hours to cover around 15kms and nine controls, before we stumbled back to camp for some food, rest, and the treatment of my inevitable blisters. We were exhausted, but it’s surprising how quickly one recovers, and within two hours we were ready to head out again.
Our second session involved a little night rogaining. When we began there was only a spatter of intermittent drizzle, but after half an hour a small storm front moved in and proceeded to enthusiastically dump rain. And then, naturally, we got lost. It turns out that when storm clouds are blocking the moonlight, and you only have weak LED headlamps, it’s pretty hard to navigate through the bush. However with a mixture of luck and cleverness we not only made our way back onto a recognisable path, but also managed to find the control we’d been searching for to begin with… only an hour and a half later than we’d expected. After that it was relatively smooth sailing, “sailing” being the operative word as the gravel roads had become babbling brooks.
Getting back to the camp three and a half hours later, soaked, tired and sore after walking around 11kms, we discovered that the tent I’d pitched wasn’t waterproof. Everything in it had been soaked. Fortunately a friend who is one of the organisers had realised this and rescued our stuff, hanging it in his own, waterproof annex and blasting it with a heater hooked up to his generator. Within an hour or two it was dry enough to use again. We pitched another, better tent and went to sleep.
As the wind batted at our tent during the night I realised that my original tent, still set up outside, was a) not pegged and b) no longer weighed down by our possessions. But it was cold, and past midnight, and I was too tired to care.
Sure enough, the next morning my tent was nowhere to be seen. I eventually found it a hundred metres down the road, still in one piece and structurally intact, wedged upside down between a tree and someone’s Mitsubishi Magna.
Unlike the proper rogainers, who had either been out rogaining all night or had burst out of camp at daybreak in order to hit as many controls as possible, my team rose late and ambled out with less than two and a half hours remaining. We found another three controls, covering around 6kms, then trudged back for more bacon and cake.
Oddly enough, as it turns out, we didn’t win. We came 62nd. But it was out of 133 teams, so it wasn’t that bad. We scored 860 points, a mere 3,500 points behind the team that came 1st. They, of course, were serious rogainers, who had run rather than walked, and foregone sleep in order to rogaine continuously for almost 24 hours. So, you know, your basic sick freaks.