I had been tossing up between the NZ Rogaine Champs and the ARC adventure race (both were on the same weekend) but Michael pretty much refused to do a 24 hour rogaine so the ARC it was. We had really wanted to do the 12-hr but getting a double racing kayak is pretty hard and I was pretty disorganised in getting on to it so we settled on the 8-hr with the intention of racing it as hard as we could. But as the day was approaching I was feeling less and less keen...not helped by the fact I'd been sick for 2 weeks and had a lot of other things on my mind. It felt like deja vu from last year.
Michael working on the raft
We had race briefing the night before and I have to admit, I started to feel quite excited, although pretty apprehensive, especially about the final mountain bike stage which had the potential to be the make or break section of the race and we all know how anxious I feel about mountain biking (well, you might not but basically it scares me half to death no matter how much of it I do). Then the morning of the race we had to get there early to build our raft...we were able to use 2 inner tubes, 2 lengths of wood and some rope and were supplied with wooden paddles.
The 12-hr and 24-hr teams set off on their first kayak leg
We finished our raft in time to see the 12-hr and 24-hr teams set off for their first kayaking leg and I really started to get excited, anxious and a bit jealous that we weren't out there kayaking (although also secretly relieved as the thought of a surf landing sounded pretty scary).
Our first stage was the rafting. We were starting in the second wave of 8-hr teams at 8:20am and had to paddle our rafts across the estuary to the other side and pick up a couple of checkpoints then paddle back.
Stage 1: Rafting
Let's just say that our raft was, um, not so good. I think we needed the tubes further apart as it would tip over when Michael would try and get on so he basically swum the whole way while I swam most of the way. There was a bit of a current on the way over but on the way back it had got pretty strong and I got tangled up in some boats! The checkpoints were also a bit mysterious as the checkpoints ended up being round the wrong way which caused a bit of confusion. I was pretty relieved to get out of the water 'cause I was knackered! Swimming in shoes is tough work.
The first 8-hr teams set off on the rafting section
After a fairly quick transition and a change of clothes and shoes we set off on the second stage which involved a mountain bike ride to the rifle shoot then on to the transition area at Wentworth Valley.
Stage 2: Mtb and rifle shoot
It was a pretty easy ride along the main highway then on to some gravel roads. At the rifle shoot we each had 5 shots at the "ducks". Last year I'd got 5 out of 5 but clearly I was feeling a bit cocky this year because I stuffed up the first two shots which really frustrated me. Fortunately I managed to pull it together for the final 3 shots. Then it was a fairly short ride to the transition area where we dropped the bikes, grabbed quick bite to eat and a swig of water and then changed shoes for the trek stage.
Stage 3 was a trek through the Wentworth Valley and up through the bush as well as an abseil down the Wentworth Falls (you can see a picture of the falls here). We caught up to a few teams on our way up the gravel road to the first checkpoint and raced onto the mining track we figured CP0 would be on. Found a mine (it said Danger Do Not Enter) but couldn't find the checkpoint. A few other teams turned up and also went in and had a look but we were racing off to see if there was another one by then. Success. So then we were off as fast as we could to keep ahead. CP1 was pretty simple. But then we made our mistake...although we didn't realise it until much later.
Stage 3: Trek and Abseil
From CP1 we bashed up a very indistinct trail through the thick native bush to CP2 and then bashed even further up (scaling some cliff at one point and passing some teams who started in the first 8-hr group - one of the guys we passed called me a 'bloody machine'!) to CP3 where there was the most incredible view down to the coast at Whangamata and beyond. I wish we'd had time to take a picture really. Then it was down through the bush (trying not to slide over although I did have a couple of falls) to try and find CP4. This was when Michael started to question what was going on. For some reason he'd thought the abseil was at CP4 but we were no where near water. We both started to freak out until I had a look at the checkpoint descriptions and realised we were supposed to have gone to the abseil from CP1 then start up through the bush. Bugger.
Instead, we raced on to CP5 then down to the transition and raced back up the way we'd already come at the beginning of the trek to get to the abseil. It felt like a hell of a distance going back and we were going pretty fast to try and make up time so by the time I got to the waterfall I was knackered. I was in such a hurry I wasn't really thinking about how cool it was that we were abseiling down a 25 metre waterfall. Would so have loved to have done it again!
We made it back to the transition again in record time and got back on our bikes for Stage 4 which was a ride back to base. Pretty easy and so nice to be cruising on the bikes again after a pretty intense trek stage. I was definitely starting to feel weary by then too as I don't normally race longer events like this so hard!
We got back to base pretty quick and I attempted to get some more food down before we were off again for the final stage, a 2-hour mountain bike rogaine on the local tracks. It was pretty confusing as we were given 2 maps - a topo map and a trails map that you had to try and merge together to try and work out what was going on!
Stage 5: Mtb Rogaine
Fortunately Michael was doing the navigating while I was just attempting to keep up! But that got a bit tough so we loaded most of my gear into his pack which helped quite a lot on the hills. The route he'd planned out took us up to the highest point of the map before we slowly weaved our way down (with the odd steep uphill thrown in for good measure). The single track was pretty awesome riding (fortunately the rain the night before hadn't been too bad so the trails weren't too wet which was good 'cause they appeared to be clay based) but you had to be on your toes in case you missed the track you wanted or rode right past a checkpoint! We didn't see that many teams out there which I thought was a little weird but probably good as it's a bit frightening to be riding down a trail and meeting a team coming up.
The bike park map for stage 5
We had trouble with a few of the controls mostly due to the mysteriousness of the maps (and the descriptions given for where some of the checkpoints were)!! But we actually managed to find all the checkpoints before we had to race back to the finish as quick as possible as the 2 hours was nearly up (we found out later that we were the only 8 hour team to get all the checkpoints for the mountain bike rogaine stage). Michael was pushing me from behind for parts of the ride along the road at the end to keep me moving fast and we came screaming into the finish but we were still a couple of minutes late. Worth it though for the points we made getting all the checkpoints. I pretty much wanted to lie down on the grass at this point!
Awesome race but probably a bit short as we finished in 6 hours 30 minutes (probably should have been more like 6 hours without the mistake in the trek) but I was dead by the end anyway! 12 hour race next year?
Did I mention we won?
"A few weeks ago I'm sitting on a three-ply tea chest which some enemy had left at my place for kindling"
- Half Gallon Jar by Hori
So, umm, I did a race a little while ago, hence my travels down south (and before you know it I'll be heading south again...yay!). It was quite a long race (24 hours anyone?). So long in fact that I even took some satay tofu (and rice) with me!
No, not that much! But I did cook a rather epic amount so was eating it for days...literally (well, 3 days). We even made some of it up into a pasta dish for the night before with some added veggies...
I would give you a recipe but really it just consists of cooking up some veggies and then throwing in a disturbing amount of peanut butter (okay, slightly simplified but I'm sure you can imagine it...right?). I did actually once try to write it out for my lovely cousin D but I got a bit thrown when it came to amounts of stuff. So basically, I'll just tell you what I normally put in it and you can do the rest...
This particular one was a lot plainer than normal since I was going to be eating it on the go but normally I'd cook up a whole heap of veggies like onion, red capsicum, grated carrot, broccoli etc. Drizzle in a little soy sauce/tamari and sweet chilli sauce. Then start scooping in big spoonfuls of peanut butter (and I mean BIG). I normally add one spoonful at a time with a little bit of water. You can also add a big handful of raisins or sultanas (or even chopped dates) at this stage. Crumble in your tofu. Add some more peanut butter and water. I'll be totally honest here and say I can easily use over two thirds of a 300g jar of peanut butter for a whole block of tofu. That's why it tastes so good! Then chuck in a big handful of cashews and voila!
It's awesome on rice, pasta, toast, quinoa...anything really. I've eaten it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, middle of the night, snacks...oh, and it's also great unheated later on. I've even made it with cashew butter instead!
I've talked about what a rogaine is before, but just to recap, you have a certain amount of time to find as many controls as you can and there are penalties for each minute or part minute you are late back. Controls are worth different amounts of points depending on difficulty. For the World Rogaine Champs you have 24 hours, from midday Saturday until midday Sunday, with points ranging between 10 and 100 points. Once you'd registered, you had 3 hours with the map to work out your plan of attack.
There were about 250 teams and each team had to have between 2 and 5 members. I was racing with Andy who is a Canterbury local so he'd actually done a rogaine in the Cheviot area before...very handy! He'd also actually done a 24 hour rogaine before...whereas my longest was 12 hours!! We actually worked quite well together in planning our route, both thinking along the same lines which was useful. We decided it wasn't going to work to come back to the hash house so we were going to keep going over the whole 24 hours...or at least that was the plan.
Anxiously waiting in the start pen
I was pretty nervous before the start. After all, 8 and a half weeks before the race I got a stress fracture on my foot and had been off it entirely for 6 weeks (just cycling and mountain biking). Only a few days after being back on my feet I'd done an 8-hour rogaine and it had felt pretty disastrous and my feet were in pain after only 4 hours! And the South Island orienteering champs the weekend before had been a bit uncomfortable. Probably not surprising that I was anxious!
We all filed into the holding pen after getting our bands reset and waited nervously during the final instructions. And then we were off! There didn't feel like any hurry...after all, there was another 24 hours to go!! There was a huge queue of teams at the first control we went to so we probably should have run there to beat the rush but after that we never had any problems. It's amazing how quickly the field spreads out with everyone taking entirely different routes. I was feeling heaps better once we were moving and decided the best idea would be to, well, just not think about my feet!
The first hill
My hope that the rain wouldn't come (despite it clearly being on its way), it arrived not long after we started...nothing too bad, just a little drizzle which was actually quite refreshing, but the sky was definitely looking dark. We'd only been going an hour when Andy encountered a problem with his shoes. The inner sole kept slipping inside, probably caused by being so wet, and no tape was going to hold them. He struggled along for a little while before ditching them altogether and wearing 2 pairs of socks instead!
A local farmer keeping his cattle at bay as several hundred mad people stampede across his paddock not long after the start!
Our first stop was at about 6pm a the drinks station high above the coast. We refilled our bladders and I had my first portion of satay tofu and rice. It was a struggle to get even such a tiny portion down but I definitely felt better afterwards. We didn't stop for long though, maybe 15 minutes? We met up with another team at the waterstop who traveled down the hill towards the coast with us for a little while but we split before the next control when we took a different route (and got there quite a lot faster as it turns out when we encountered about 3 hours later!).
Rolling hills...pretty standard
Everything was going pretty well and we were working well as a team, especially on the fences which we had down pat. Want to know more about the fences (it felt like we crossed hundreds of them during the race)? Go here...these were our official instructions. We were finding controls without any real problem and making okay speed especially considering the terrain (it was a lot steeper than I had expected although we had chosen the steepest and roughest side of the map to start). We encountered Tim and Tane (fellow orienteers and Andy's flatmates) a couple of times in the first 6 hours with Tim looking worse for wear. We ended up having to give him some salt and electrolyte tablets at one point. But other than that we didn't really encounter many teams at all.
Tim and Tane
It was just on dark as we were trying to find #45 but with no luck. It felt like we searched every possible gully in the area. It was fully dark by 9pm so we only had our headlights but even then you couldn't see very far as the mist was pretty thick in places. The weather was also starting to pack in even more as we gave up and started climbing the hill up to #83. I think we both felt pretty defeated after that so thankfully we found the next few controls no problem.
Fairly typical countryside on the eastern side of the highway
It was about midnight when we got to #63. We then slithered down through the mud to a flat area by the stream under the cover of the bush. There was another team also resting here and we joined them for break number 2 (and my second portion of satay tofu and rice...oh yeah!). I changed my socks and put on another layer of polypro under my jacket as well as my hat and buff. It was definitely getting colder...and more miserable as the rain had got more persistent.
Looking down to the wild coastline.
We knew getting to the next control was going to be tricky but it was way worse than we ever would have imagined! We thought we'd found the gap between the two cliffs but with the darkness, rain and mist it was really too hard to tell so we started to head up. The grass seemed to vanish and be replaced by mud. My shoes didn't have the best of grip and there were moments when I thought I might go sliding down the hill. There was no way I was going to look down because it was way too frightening. This was probably my one and only mini meltdown but we got through it and got to the top (never been so glad to be on my hands and knees in the grass!). Then the control (#75), a little further along, seemed to be impossible to find. We encountered another team looking too who were also stuck. It was bitterly cold and the wind and rain had really picked up by then. I was beginning to freeze and getting pretty grumpy! We were just about to give up when Andy decided he needed to change the batteries in his headlamp and he walked about 2 metres away and had one final glance...and there was the control, about 10 metres from where we'd been standing!! When we called out to the other team, they thought we were kidding!
Punching in...it will register the time we arrived at each control electronically on our wristbands and since we both had to punch each control it shows that we both went there.
Then it was down the ridgeline to Gore Bay (via a couple of controls). I'd run out of water so we were hoping to find something down there otherwise we'd have to run a few ks up the road to the waterstop and back and we really didn't want to have to do that. Thankfully when we got down to the bay we found a small campground with an outdoor kitchen area (and toilets!!!! You would not believe how awesome toilets are...!) and we filled up our bladders and sheltered for a few minutes under the cover as the rain just bucketed down. A couple of other teams came and joined us too. Oh yeah, and there was even a light we could turn on. Bliss! But seriously, if we'd been closer to the hash house at this point I think we would have considered bailing...that's how awful the weather was.
This was about as pleasant as it looks...about 3:30am and soaking wet but at least we found a little bit of shelter, and some water, at Gore Bay
Then suddenly, at just before 4am and as we stepped out from under our shelter at Gore Bay, the rain stopped! It was like a miracle and we both felt energised again. The next few controls were pretty easy as we walked up the road and across gently rolling farmland. You didn't really even need torchlight on the road which was cool. It was pretty much daylight by 5am (well, light enough to see without needing your headlights).
Just after 6am we got to #82 then trouped up to the track above into the shelter of the forest for our last real stop and "breakfast" (my last portion of satay tofu and rice) and another change of the socks which were soaked through. My feet didn't look too good but never mind. Not long to go!
6am "breakfast" stop...only 6 hours to go!
As the sun came up the weather seemed to be clearing up too which really was about time. My feet were getting too sore for jumping over fences any more though so I was reduced to throwing my pack over the fence and squeezing through the middle wires. We also seemed to be making some silly navigational errors too. Any chance I got I would sit down, even for a couple of seconds, just to get off my feet. The pain was pretty intense. Andy was struggling getting up the hills. I was struggling getting down them. But somehow there were even some controls we jogged to!
It's pretty steep
Once we got down to the road from #37 and made our way along to #11 my feet hurt so much I had a permanent grimace on my face and was pretty much just forcing myself onwards. I don't think they have ever hurt that much, well, ever! The final bit to the finish fro #11 was like torture but knowing what you'd just been through and that it would be over soon was plenty to keep me going. It was so awesome to walk onto the court and see the finish banner and all the people and know we had done it.
We crossed the line after 23 hours, 35 minutes and 30 seconds (those seconds count man!). Michael was there to greet me (with his camera) at the finish which was awesome but I really just couldn't wait to sit down and take off my shoes!
Andy and I
At the finish we discovered Tim and Tane were already back after having to pull out after about 15 hours. Sounds like Tim had a rough time out there. He hadn't taken enough gear or the right kind of food and had ended up getting way too cold and wet to continue...and they weren't the only team who ended up in this position and had to pull out. This made me even more thankful and proud that we'd pushed through.
My feet hurt! Thankfully for you viewers my feet look washed out here so you can't see how terrible they looked by the end. 24 hours in wet shoes and socks isn't pretty.
We were all starting to get just a little bit anxious with 10 minutes to go until midday as Chris Forne and his team mate (Marcel Hagener) hadn't got back yet. If any kiwi team was going to win it was going to be these guys. Turns out they had plenty of time to spare, arriving a few minutes later. They ended up winning by such a huge margin it was ridiculous! Chris is a god!
Chris Forne (and Marcel). Chris is a god!
I was so tired by the time I finally got home that I thought I would just fall asleep but it didn't happen. Probably too much going on in my head! My legs (mostly the ankles, feet and thighs) felt in absolute agony...the pain seemed to get worse after a few hours of finishing so by the time I was home I was so uncomfortable and had to get Michael to help me to the bathroom! Having a shower was saved until I actually felt like I could keep myself steady long enough! I didn't fall asleep until 8:30 (just after I finally managed to have a shower!!) that night which meant I was up for 38 hours. No wonder it took so long to feel like I wasn't tired all the time!
Using Michael as a prop so I could stand up without keeling over!
I have to say though, I survived a lot better than expected and I actually really enjoyed it...okay, apart from the dead of the night when the weather was just plain awful! Now I can't wait to do another one! Does that mean I'm crazy?
"The world is lighter," he said, "because of you."
- Winter Of Fire by Sherryl Jordan
I am off to Christchurch tonight. Exciting!! Anyway, while I was starting to pack the other night I thought it was ridiculous just how many pairs of shoes I had to pack for this trip (umm, 6 pairs of sports shoes including climbing and cycling shoes, a pair of jandals and some sneakers - it's a busy trip). I'd only just unpacked from going to Rotorua last weekend...some days I think I should just live out of a bag. Oh wait, I've done that before too. If you are getting the idea that I am pretty much never home then you might be right!
Anyway, like I said, I was in Rotorua over the weekend for a race. M flew up on Thursday night and, after feeling too lazy to make our own breakfast we headed off to find food. I heard via the grapevine (well, you know, through an auckland vegan's blog) that the Vegan Revellers was back on the menu at Revel and since I remember it being delicious and I hadn't been to Revel in ages anyway I thought I'd drag M along there for breakfast.
It is slightly different to the old version in that it has fried tofu in place of the falafel but otherwise I can't think of anything different about it. Still delicious. Still awesome. Still super filling. Yay!
But we still needed dessert (yes, even at breakfast time). I sent M up to the counter to get me a slice of their peanut butter pie...
...but he also came back with something else, vegan mint slice. Oh man, this was so amazing we debated going up and getting a few more pieces but since the guy serving us already thought we were crazy for eating so much sugar we decided against it but I really wish we had!
Unfortunately the ginger crunch at Revel (pictured in the background) isn't vegan so that was for M but I will definitely be stocking up on it when I get to Christchurch!
The drive to Rotorua takes several hours so we had to stop along the way for a picnic lunch. I'd made big Blueberry Ginger Spelt Muffins from Vegan Brunch but with extra crystalised ginger 'cause we both love ginger.
I'd also made some sweetcorn and bean fritter things roughly adapted from the Edmonds sweetcorn fritter recipe (using cornflour instead of normal flour, a mixture of ground flaxseed and water instead of the normal egg, added sweet chilli sauce and a tin of cannellini beans, mashed up). I served this with a random chutney we'd bought at the supermarket and a whole lot of grapes. Much healthier than our car food!
I had no idea what we were going to have for dinner so we just wandered round the supermarket in Rotorua hoping stuff would jump out at us.
In the end I cooked up some pasta with a box of Fry's Vegetarian Chicken Style Strips ('cause it seemed amusing at the time) with some veggies and a bought pasta sauce. It was surprisingly good.
The Great Forest Rogaine was an 8-hour rogaine in Rotorua in the Whakarewarewa Forest (also known as the Redwoods) organised by Brent from the top adventure racing team Orion Health. I was racing with Michael again (how does he put up with me?!).
We had an hour to plan our route and when we got the maps it was pretty daunting 'cause it was HUGE! It was also really unclear just how much of the bush you'd be able to bash through and what the terrain would be like. I've been to the forest a few times before but only for mountain bike orienteering so I had never really paid attention to the forest. Our planned route turned out to be way too ambitious but you never really know until you get out there and we didn't know how my foot was going to handle it.
I must have been pretty happy at this point!
We were pretty much walking the whole way in order to look after my foot and also because I haven't been on my feet much (spending the last 6 weeks almost purely on bikes) which meant there was plenty of time to suss out routes and work out what we were doing.
Navigation seemed pretty easy as most of the controls were on tracks or clearings just off tracks, and if they weren't then they were on pretty obvious features like tops of hills (obvious but not always that easy to get to through the bush). We discovered fairly early on that bashing though the bush didn't save you that much time and, if possible, it was best to stick to the tracks. It was frustrating because we are much better at tricky navigation and sticking to tracks when you can't go fast just feels tedious.
Unfortunately I started to feel really ill after only an hour which was probably because I hadn't hydrated nearly enough before the race (it started at 2pm). There were some pretty painful periods as I struggled to keep going and I was finding it next to impossible to get food into me even stuff I normally race with fine. This is something I'm really going to have to be conscious of for the Worlds since that starts at midday.
Changing your socks helps your feet feel better again for a little while...perhaps I should have gone round with 8 pairs of socks!
I started to feel better eventually (maybe 2 or 3 hours later?!) but by then my feet were screaming at me. Not good. They had gotten so soft from not being used! And I wasn't super comfortable in the shoes I'd chosen but they did have more support and cushioning for the balls of my feet which I figured would be important to keep from refracturing my foot.
At least the scenery was pretty right?!
With about an hour and a half to go I got pretty moody and got really pissed off at Michael when I thought he was bush bashing to try and cut a corner. Turns out he was following an indistinct track to the control but hadn't told me and I hadn't been concentrating on the map so it was a classic case of miscommunication. Sigh.
We had about couple of hours of darkness as the race finished at 10pm
We were 3 minutes late back which was frustrating but oh well. Michael told me I was crazy for running the last section despite how much my feet hurt but I am terribly stubborn sometimes. Luckily it does appear my left foot is mostly okay still.
The Worlds are in 2 weeks. ARGH!!!