Hello Wiliena???

I love Rogaines. By saying that, I also love racing well, racing in new places, and racing on difficult maps. I think these three usually do not peacefully co-exist. Anyway, I’m in Melbourne, and family is still back in Russia, so I thought I might do some training – racing – scouting and hanging outdoors on weekends as much as possible. 

With Josh we planned to go to the Hells Bells race in Brisbane straight after our win at Geo-half back in June. We were thinking to get together a team of four, but it is always a hard work. I was lucky enough to meet Sorcha, her athletic bio and attitude was looking promising, so I just went straight and proposed to race with us. She said “yes” in a matter of minutes and we started our dialog. 

Thinking of some training prior to the race, 8-hour Duo-rogaine in You Yangs looked cool, I’ve tried to register, but entries were sold out. Anyway I told Sorcha that it looked like we were out, but she said – well, there was SA 24h Rogaining Championships on the same weekend (we are talking 6 days away :). I was not particularly excited but went to their website. It looked quite cool, and I checked where that place was, thinking must be somewhere around Adelaide. It was, if you can refer 450km north as “around”. Hey, that started looking like really exciting trip!

Registered, booked Fri evening/Mon morning flights to Adelaide, Sorcha picked me up at the airport in the evening, and we kept clocking kilometres until Ororoo, where was a little pub we booked for a short sleep to resume our driving early next morning. 

When you drive in the dark, you can’t see much. In the morning surroundings appeared so different to Victoria that I got even more excited looking forward to find out how southern Flinders Ranges might look like. They were different, red, arid, lots of dry spinifex and no single inch without rocks. We turned off the sealed road for the final 50k to Holowiliena Station, where HQ was. Diesel was running out and light went on. There was no fuel at the little village where the turn was, so we hoped for the best and kept driving. We made it to HQ, but probably had only couple of litres left in the tank. At rego we found out, that Holowiliena Station owners have big diesel tank and fill diesel for 1.5 a litre. Cheaper than in VIC!

Got maps with 2.5 hours before the star and spent about an hour planning. Plan was simple, go for the bigger numbers, ignore South (or leave it for the finish loop), and go North, where rocky mountains can be seen and the bigger points are hidden. Got our food ready and water filled up, finished 5 min before the gun. I had heaps of food, I would think it was about 2 kg: sport nutrition including 20 Shotz gels and pack of Shotz electrolytes, four peanut butter sandwiches, 4 pieces of cheese pizza, and three pack of mixed sultanas, chocolate, lollies and nougat. 

wiliena start

Start and we were off running at 12kph till the first CP, or where I thought it is. It takes time to get your head into a new map, in the new terrain and with different scale (this one was 1:40000, which means 400m in 1 cm). Walked for 5 minutes and realised our creek is a bit further, and this one was not marked. Got it. Kept running and put some distance on chasers. Next CP spot on. Yes, I thought I got into the map! Only for next 10 minutes, where I was looking around and could not understand where we were and why it all looked not as it was supposed to look according to the map. We spend 40 minutes trying to find ourselves, until realised where we were and where we needed to go. Check out replay, this is when we started to climb up and circled around quite slowly. 

Anyway, we had some time to claim back, so we rushed towards CP passing those teams that we left behind after the first CP. 1:40000 is not a joke, it does require you to abstract from things and look for significant features. Next 10-15 CPs we were moving reasonably fast, and ticking them one by one. We were slightly behind the schedule, and I decided to make up some time by dropping 50 point CP with long distances to and from. It was good decision. 

wiliena landscape2

We went through difficult mountain section and picked up some high point CPs including 100-point one. It was already dark. Combination of darkness and more difficult terrain made us move slower. We were losing even more time to proposed plan. We also ran out of water and spend last 2 hours sharing 500ml bottle between us, and scrambling up and down some rocky outcrops. We made it to the water, passed couple of teams on the way.

Stopped for a while, refuelling, eating and putting warmer closes on. We went off when rain started, and fog went down. Next CP was in small valley between two mountains, where we supposed to go following creek bed up and looking for second right branch… I think it even sounds tricky, look for creek branches in the dark foggy and rainy night... 

I felt we were going for too long and a little bit off direction we needed to go. I did not take time back at water CP, I thought it would be easy (particularly because we nailed last 15 or so CPs). I thought I found ourselves on the map, when creek turned wrong direction, and went across to cut to our creek. That one was looking like ours, but again turned wrong direction in another 200m. Well, yes, there we were then, and we went across again. This creek was going almost right. And it was going up into higher mountains, so I convinced myself it was the good one. In another 500m it turned wrong way, and I understood that we got badly lost. Got lost in dark rainy and foggy night, in the middle of nowhere. Looking at the map and consuming another caffeinated gel did not help. We gotta do something, so we went up to small ridge next to us. 

I must be very proud, but I used technique we teach at navigation trainings, found three significant mountains barely visible though the rain and fog, took bearings to them, and tried to find a small ridge connecting two mountains and another mountain further apart, using bearings. There were a few places that looked like that, and it took some time, but I was confident the place was found. We overshoot our turn and ended up being one valley further South. I knew where CP was, and we went straight towards it. Massive 30 meter cliffs proved I was right, but it did not make traverse of those cliffs down easier. Anyway we made it, and the race was on again.

wiliena landscape3

We cut one more planned loop as it was going towards daylight and there were still few more CPs to visit closer to the HQ. Sorcha was happy and strong, and never dropped a step back, which I was exceptionally happy about. Terrain was very technical, and it is hard to find coordinated, experienced and strong teammate, who is so easy to get along with, I think, this is the main outcome of this rogaine. We will race together again. 

Last couple of hours we went close to HQ and terrain became exceptionally easy to traverse. We had to cut a few CPs, and I was feeling how we were losing those cheap points laying right on top of the ground, within 15-20 minutes. We had to cut them anyway. 

wiliena after finish

We finished 2ndMixed and 3rdoverall, beaten by winners David Baldwin and Julie Quinn (from Canberra) and another male team from WA (David Symons, Paul Williams). Julie and David got 3200 point, and we are only at 2500. Main reason in my opinion were those cheap CPs souths of HQ we should have taken right from the start. You could get over 200 points in 1 hour, where is in the northern part typical hunt for one CP is anywhere between 30minutes and 1 hour. If we only knew :). David and Julie are hard to beat, but I’d like to be closer…. Next time. By the way, check out SA Rogaining website, it is very cool – here is the link to results, map and more info.

Travel back was good, we had a nap before presentation, filled up tank at the owner’s place, and clocked those 450km in no time. Bed at 10pm, 4:20 am straight in the car. Sorcha dropped me off at the Adelaide airport, boarding, music plugged in the ears and next thing I remember was a guy waking me up to disembark in Melbourne. Thanks Sorcha for being awesome teammate and friend, we will keep our revenge for the next one!

wiliena landscape4