We arrived in La Molina on Wednesday afternoon, well before Saturday’s race. We were looking forward to doing nothing for a few days! (It’s been a good trip – but we’re ready to be lazy for a few days.)
We’d seen some dodgy characters on our Spanish train when we boarded inside the French border. Nothing happened to us, but they stole the suitcase of another Rogaining couple as the doors were closing. Thankfully none of their passports were stolen, but that suitcase contained her Rogaining shoes!
On Friday we did 2.5 hours on the Model course, which is a mini-practice version of the rogaine outside the embargoed area. It highlighted that this would be more like a 1:25000 orienteering map than rogaining map and that the controls would be more specific/harder. We had a funny chat with a taxi driving waiting to pick up passengers after completing the course. Why are you out here, he asks? This looks just like La Molina where you are all staying. Why drive 15km away?? Hahaha it took us awhile (language barriers) to explain that we weren’t allowed to practice in La Molina and it was good that these hills looked a lot like those hills.
The forecast for the event was terrible but thankfully the worst of it happened while we were planning. Maps were released at 9am and we needed to be through gear check and in the start pen by 11:30. This was later adjusted to 11:40 because of the thunderstorm :|
The map was detailed and large. It wasn’t immediately obvious what route we’d choose nor where we wanted to be for the night section. But it was clear one needed to think about how to cross from the top to the bottom of the map with a major road and train line that we could only cross in a few places.
This was B’s first 24hr rogaine and I had no idea if my foot could handle so much time on feet with so much elevation yet. Therefore our plan was to loop back through the Hash House (i.e. start/finish) during the night and see how we were both fairing. It was clear from the map that this wasn’t the most efficient route – but we knew it would be the best for us. Plus the added bonus of hot food and drinks would be welcomed then and also we wouldn’t have to carry all our race food from the start.
Soon we had a ~16 hour plan that tried to minimise climbing contours and would have us back at the Hash House around 4am. The thunder, lightening and heavy rain was quite atmospheric. Please stop before the start!!!
Thankfully the rain was light as we waited in the start pen after our gear check. I started removing some goretex as I knew I’d get hot as soon as we started.
And then we were off. We found 24 easily enough. The route down to 53 was quite slippery in the rain. Then the detail of the map hit home – we thought we were taking a track all the way around to near the control but suddenly we had a “sea” of waist high stinging nettles in front of us! A squint at the map revealed that the track actually stopped at a contour and started again on the other side….ye-ouch.
After 79 I got on the tow rope and B got us to the top quicker than I’d have managed on my own. (Yes, I’ve finally been convinced to try the tow rope.) 73-95-50 was led by B taking us efficiently (mostly straight-line) through the terrain then we had a decision to make. I wanted to go via 55 (a more gradual climb and easy nav) to the top ridge and B via 85 (pretty steep, harder nav but also more points). We went with 55 in the hope of keeping my foot happy. We came into 55 to find a male participant peeing into the bush right next to the control. This was to be seen many times over the event. Do some men just not think? I can’t imagine any woman squatting down right next to a control to pee!
B was doing a super job as teammate. He popped me on the tow rope for the climbs. Took my poles so I could eat when needed on the climbs. Took my poles so I could stare at the map when needed on the climbs. It’s certainly not easy rogaining with poles – but needs must.
By now we could finally ditch all the goretex and we hoped we’d have dry weather from here on in. 105-45-75 were all straightforward. Our plan was to next smash it down the road to 107. You know how we didn’t get that 80 pointer before Nicole? Let’s go add 63 and 29 on the way to 107. The creek looks lovely to run along. And it was… until the nettles started… hahaha
We stopped at 63 for a timer photo together and a Nutella and banana crepe (thanks Toni!!) We were going great guns!
The leg 63 to 29 involved some climb and negotiating around cliffs. There were a fair few bushes to climb through too. It felt like it took ages to go from 63 to 29 but it only took 16 minutes. B checked in at the control and then I looked down at my wrist in horror at the realisation that my SI Air wasn’t there anymore. The unremovable wrist strap I’d been given to secure it clearly wasn’t unremovable! I wanted to cry – we were now disqualified and we were only 4h20m into the race.
:( :( :(
What should we do? Hunt for a needle in a haystack? Or continue on and pretend it hadn’t happened. I couldn’t narrow down any sections where I knew it was definitely still on my wrist, other than punching the last control.
We agreed we’d loop back and re-do the leg from 63 to 29 in the hope we’d find it. We also agreed to only spend an hour looking. Sadly we didn’t find it so we carried on regardless having lost 50 minutes. This certainly affected my headspace.
As we headed to 107 B had a great idea – why don’t we take a photo of me at every control to prove I’d gone there. He was carrying a camera (our phone was inside a tramper proof bag). (I’ll include some of these photos below. It was cool looking through them all after finishing. Maybe we should do this every rogaine?)
Then 107-83-87, with hail coming down on us as we approached 87. Eeesh. Noone really wanted to get wet again – not much time to dry out again before nightfall. 77-88-W-108. All of this was fine but there were a hell of a lot of farms and electrified fences to climb over/under and cow poo to dodge. We took the roads around to 97, it was kinda fun to run through civilisation. Roads again to 60, where we heard a fair few people struggling to find this control but we got it easily enough.
It was now pizza and head torch time. Roads again to 106 as we started going up up up to wind our way back through the centre of the map and some high pointers. There was even a bit of a trod into 106 by now.
I was using my poles a lot from here and not really assisting with the navigation. Plus I was struggling to stay awake. Thankfully B was all over it. 86-96-56.
Finding control #96 was probably my favourite of the night as I watched B in action. “How are we going to find a specific crag without a spur or gully to lead us into it, and in the dark?!” I asked him. “We’ll go along the road a further ~200m after this road/creek junction and descend to a boulder, use it to contour across to a crag and then climb a few contours above to find the control.” Riiiiiiight…. ! To my amazement we left the road and hit the boulder bang on. The rest was easy after that. Helps having an orienteer in the team :D
We were now feeling pretty cold! It was about 1am and there was a hut nearby with a water refill point. We didn’t need water but we figured we’d head there and get out of the wind to put all our clothes on. I stepped inside and someone asked me “Would you like soup?” YES!!!!! So.good.
I took over on the nav. 68 was tricky but we found it after first being in the wrong ditch :D
We were going to straight line it once we hit the fire trail around to 90 but the terrain didn’t look as the map suggested so we took the road. Shortly after this control I struggled big time – I was so tired. I stopped and took a No Dose tablet (caffeine!)
We decided I’d navigate the next one (#93) to wake me up. I guess I should have read the control description and looked at the map properly before taking off – thankfully it wasn’t too much correction to find the control…
Somewhere on the way to 43 I woke up and was good to go again. Or maybe the dinosaur terror woke me up? ;)
43-33-48 and then back at the Hash House for hot drinks and food at the crazy hour of 4:50am. Apart from losing my SI stick, it’d been a good session.
Coke! Chips! Soup! Pasta! Lollies! Nom nom nom. We sat down to feast. An official came over to us and asked to check our wristbands/SI sticks. I told him what happened and about the photo evidence. To cut a long story short, they then got another official to come over, said I had to go and get a new stick from the Information Building before going out on the course again. Bleh. Then that only our points collected on my new stick would count. This is not the headache I wanted to deal with at 5am. Between that, changing our shirts and socks and eating we were at the Hash House for an hour. Waaaaaaay too long! I was freezing and shaking from the cold. Finally, we headed back out. It was still too early to ditch the headtorches. And miserable to know the bulk of our points wouldn’t count.
We had 6 hours to go and not a clear plan after the first 4 controls, as we’d have to watch the time. We headed off to 24. B was out ahead of me for the first time but I knew we were both pretty cold and needed to warm up! Now the plan was to take the mtb track up towards 71 and cut across from the bend. B put me on the tow rope and we sweated in all our goretex! There were many switch backs, which we were not expecting. At some point B was exclaiming that we shouldn’t be on this track – I didn’t understand why. This was the plan and I wasn’t looking at the map. Turns out we hadn’t seen a track around and through the valley that would have skipped some climbing (that’s how detailed the map was). And he must have figured out that the mtb trail wasn’t mapped correctly, which I’m only seeing now as I look at the gps track. B started contouring over as we exited the mtb track and was swearing at the bushes. I wasn’t sure why he was being so uncommunicative and grumpy all of a sudden. I asked and he said his knee was grumpy. Why the hell did he offer the tow rope to me?! I wasn’t going to use it again.
B was up the next hill and waiting for me again. I felt like I was really holding him back now, which I hadn’t felt during the first 17 hours of the rogaine. I was determined to get some communication happening again so I made a suggestion to contour around to 62. B snapped that that was adding too much distance. I regretted listening to him as we made our way down a steep section and back up the other side. I think he regretted it too as he stopped to take pain killers for his knee. Oh dear, this is not going well.
Now we said we’d contour around to 82. B was off again and I just couldn’t look at the map and keep up so I put my map away. Not that I could keep up without a map either! He then asked me where I wanted to go after 82 so I tried keeping up and figuring out a route for the rest of the rogaine but couldn’t keep up at all. We got onto a small section of mtb track and then back off again as the attack point into the control. There was a lot of rock around and a nice big cliff, and there was only one set of cliffs marked on the map. The control we were looking for was at the foot of an 8m cliff, which was basically what we were looking at but there was no control. B threw a tanty here, the biggest I’ve seen from him in any scenario, and it finally dawned on me that he was tired and not on top of things anymore! I should have realised much sooner!! He was swearing at small bushes before!! I felt fine, just still couldn’t match his pace. I hadn’t been watching the map and assumed he was in the right place so I had a scout around but it wasn’t there. Which meant there was a shit tonne of rock not mapped. B was over the control and wanted to blow it off and go and get 92. I was not going to do that – one we couldn’t be far from the control and two I was not handling his change in mood at all. I suggested going back to the mtb track and trying again and his snappy response was not pro to this idea at all. I did it anyway and saw that we had not gone far enough. So we kept contouring – I was feeling guilty for dragging him around with a sore knee and tiredness, esp since the sore knee might have been because of having me on the tow rope. I knew he had a 30km run next weekend pacing his friend who was running his first miler – so I felt I should back off and cut the rogaine short. We hadn’t seen the control yet and I was doubted my navigation so we sat down to have a rest and talk about going back early. This gave me a chance to think … I had observed many teams climbing up the hill but not right near us … surely the control wasn’t far away. Another 10 paces and I saw it. We’d made such a shambles out of that!
From here I told B we’d just head back to the Hash House and finish early. It’s not like we were competitive given the stick searching, hour at the hash house and now having a series of route choice blunders. His knee did really look like it was giving him a lot of grief now. So we took it easy getting down to the road and then along to 69. We were trying to remember the forbidden hours for using the mtb tracks: was it 7am-10pm, 10am-7pm, or something else?! Why wasn’t the time written on the map?! It was on my phone but that was back at the hotel…
Control 69 was dead easy. For 38 we decided to avoid the mtb trail since we couldn’t remember the times, and in hindsight the route we chose wasn’t the best one. I had in mind what we’d do but B was off in front again. This is the gully to which I told him I didn’t think we’d been far enough but he convinced me otherwise. But the nagging voice in my head made me question so I looked a little further along and realised that no, we hadn’t been far enough. When we found the gully it was very defined! From here it was straightforward down to 25, our last control. Which had human faeces next to it :( I presume it was a non-participant unimpressed with the flag there???
We ran a little of the flat streets – I was very impressed at how my legs were doing. Then we rounded the final, uphill street to the control. B wanted us to run it ?!?! I think he was disappointed when I started walking half way up. We were 1h15m early, why did we need to run?!?! So we walked until most of the way and then he convinced me to run to the finish. If I’d know he was going to do that, I would have made him go to more controls ! Hurrumph ;)
When we finished at 10:45 in slightly frustrated moods they told us they’d allow our score if the gps proved we went back to search for the stick! Yay. We later learnt that we weren’t the only ones to lose a stick either. Third place in the Junior men’s did too – they didn’t bother going back to search and were still awarded their score and place because the person who lost his stick was also carrying the gps. Another team lost their stick when changing shirts but thankfully noticed.
So, in summary, it was pretty epic! We’d executed a good 16 hour route – but need to work on the final hours. And I don’t think I’ll ever stop at the Hash House before the finish ever again! Too difficult to get started again. We did just over 70km with 4000m of vert and came 115th of 386 teams. We came 34th from 142 mixed gender teams. Not bad for B’s first 24 hr event, finishing early, and searching for a needle in a haystack. And I could still walk the next day!! Longest day out in 2 years :D
We headed back to our hotel for a shower. On the way B was looking at me strangely as I burst out laughing for no apparent reason. I’d just had a rather funny conversation in my head. Something along the lines of “Gosh I’m feeling a bit tired today and in need of a nap, I wonder why” to which I answered myself “Durr, you didn’t sleep last night”. Hahahahahaaaaaa.