Rogaine race (CNYO 24h Sugar Hill Roga ) 22:39:40  *** 69.7 km (19:30 / km) +1700m 17:23 / km
27c rhr:1 slept:0.0 weight:161lbs
This was the first FULL 24h Rogaine I participated in. In the one I attempted in Stokesville last May, I only lasted 18h, the last 4-5 of which were a painful retreat to the finish.
First, stats: Totals: Duration– 22h39m:11s. Distance – ~69.7 Km. Ascent –¬ ~1,700m. Calories – ~3,400. 27/50 controls found, no attacked control unfound. One glorious porcupine almost stepped upon. One pair of wide-apart eyes on a huge, round dark head (bear?!, likely) ogled our headlights from a safe distance of about 50m (safe for whom?). One badly swollen right ankle – √. Contused (but gladly not broken) left wrist – √. Cramped muscles – √ – none worse than the calves. Blisters – too many to count on both soles and on almost every toe, nasty gashes around the Achilles areas, and on the right shoulder from the Camelbak strap (who’d have thunk).
This list of nasties belies the fun and sense of accomplishment of Team ThunderSnail (a ThunderRoad/SnailTrail chimera). If one ignores the last four grueling, torturous hours, which are to be expected, this was a true blast. Despite teaming up for the first time, Ken Lohiser and I jived really well, found out that we had a very similar approach to orienteering, had a balanced, complementary, harmonious teamwork and kept high spirits even when the going got tough; it did not hurt that our general orienteering skills and speed are very compatible.
We had the chance to practice by email a dry run of route planning on an older map of the venue (from the 2010 event), which helped coming up with a generalized attack strategy. So when the maps were distributed at 10am, we had a clear sense of what we wanted to do: start with a near-sweep of the block of controls around the hash house (HH) on the NE part, move south to the center-east block, proceed to the next block south of that one, and then loop back in the HH direction through the west extension of Beaver Dams, NY (which I interchangeably refer to here as Monterey, after the eponymous correctional facility located at center map), collecting as many last controls as time and energy permit. One major twist was the collage of public land and private property, the latter being an absolute do-not-trespass – except for traversing on vehicular roads or the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) – at times requiring contorted approaches between controls. We knew perfectly well that our ambitious plan of 1,970 total points is a pie in the sky, from which we will undoubtedly shave controls as we move forward and run out of time and stamina. But that’s the way both of us like to approach the game.
43: The race went on its way at noon sharp, and we started with control #43, heading westbound from the HH and taking a bearing from the trail bend just NW of the control.
73: Back to the trail, crossing paths with the Rycrofts who went to 73 first and then to 43. North and down to the stream, we cut to the northern bank west of 73, climbed until the steepness subsided, and ventured east until seeing the prominent spur of the control and finding it easily.
35: We bushwhacked SE back to the jeep road and took a very distinct, shortcutting trail up to the road bend just SW of 35. We attacked up the moderate spur from the crest of the road and nabbed the control.
34: Back to the northbound road, we cut to the eastbound trail, and from its sharp southbound bend took a bearing to 34, aiming a bit left and descending down the reentrant to pick it up.
54: The only way out of 34 was a narrow west-east strip of state land, which we bushwhacked to the road. We took it south and turned east on Tower Hill Road until the crest, climbing the shallow spur to 54 on a bearing. The e-punch battery was dead, so we punched manually.
36: Back to the trail, then to the trail jxn NW of the control , quick SE bearing. Another dead battery.
66: Back north to the trail, taking it east, following as it bent 90° northward and at the next, sharp westward bend climbed a tiny bit to clear the rough banks of the stream and bushwhacked north parallel to it, counting steps until it was almost time to peer back and look for the bend, we easily spotted the 180° arc just SE of the control and just upstream of it the correct bend with the control to boot.
74: The first challenge of the day. We bushwhacked east and then SE out of 66 with the goal of staying high and avoiding steep, wet stream crossings. The idea was to cross the two streams NNW of 74 and find the mapped trail that heads SW, then use the start of its sharp descent into the stream as an attack point. Alas, we did not find the trail. We did become hopeful for a second after finding a heavily streamered ruin, but it was unmapped, dashing our hope to reorient. A streamered indistinct trail led SW of it, but it never really dived into the stream like the mapped one (or we just were too leery to go that far). So Ken suggested we wander to the stream on our west and locate the sharp S-to-SW bend as an alternate attack point. The bend was more gradual and less distinct than shown on the map, but we were convinced this is it and took a bearing and step count. At about the right time, two clearings appeared ahead, one to our north and one to our south. The northern one was at best a marsh, but no cigar. To our relief and utter glee, the southern one had the pond and the control to boot.
44: Bushwhacked on a bearing, aiming slightly upstream of the intended stream bend. Arrived at the correct stream, where a supervet coed trio was also looking for the control. We were certain it was downstream and found it posthaste. A young coed team was resting and refueling just feet below, and as we were leaving, a fourth team (DVOA’s Chris Hand + one) was just arriving from downstream. Weird seeing three teams after not running into any since the first control.
83: All four teams continued south on the trail on the east bank. We and the young coed team opted to follow the south-to-north switchback for dry stream crossing, while Chris + one left the trail to run SE, likely to connect to FLT downstream w/o the long-cut. In hindsight, their approach was likely the right one, as the trail ended up not providing dry crossing, but did lengthen the approach. We climbed up to the FLT intersection, and thankfully, Ken insisted that the middling white-blazed trail is FLT; I thought it was too narrow to be, and preferred the wide grassy trail going NE. After following Ken’s trail for a bit, I realized it was indeed FLT – error averted. We followed FLT south, on the way crossing paths with Chris’s team already heading back from 83. At the public land boundary, we took a direct bearing, finding the control easily.
65 (wet ditch/intermittent stream jxn): We started bushwhacking south towards the FLT, stopping for our first refueling rest about 100m after 83, so as not to make its location too obvious to the teams behind us. Where FLT curved sharply, we left it for the intersecting WNW trail, took the N→S trail to the E→W trail turn jeep road, until the SW bend. The GHO-Slo team was just coming out of the bush heading SW on the road, while we headed in on a bearing. This one was tough, as the substantial undergrowth messed with both our bearing and pace count. But, as Ken astutely figure out, we ended up at the mapped marshes near the top, giving us a new, presumptive attack point. The idea was to head straight west in hope of hitting part of the wet ditch and move from there. Fortuitously, we just spiked the control. Unbelievable! Ditch, what ditch? Intermittent stream? Ditto! When leaving the control Chris + one showed up from the south. We were puzzled, as we encountered them heading north out of 83, and here they come up from the south. I guess they must have tried to approach the control from FLT on the north, got a bit lost, and corrected from the south after hearing our chatter at the control.
37: Having finished the NE block, it was time to hit the center east block. The challenge was that the block is encased by private land on the entire NE and most of the east, with the only legitimate approach being a public road at center north that requires a long slog – I will discuss later what in hindsight could have been a better overall starting block plan to avert some of the futility of this journey.
First, we had to come back south from 65 to the road. As it turned out, the return was even harder than the approach. Keeping a bearing was impossible due to the insane amount of undergrowth, deadfall and thornberries. We ended up fighting the bush for much longer than made sense, only to find out, when we hit the road at long last, that we veered off about 200m to the east, while earlier being misled by the elements into worrying about being too much to the west and into private property.
We then headed W, SW, and W again for the long slog. Our original plan was 33-55-82-37-56-51-47-W1 (water station)-48-57-64-75 and out. However, we were already roughly 1.5-2h behind our estimated schedule, and on the go decided to amend. First, it seemed more logical to start with the western controls of 37 and 56, while dropping 51, which was a bit out of the way and requiring two wet crossings. Then, we thought we’d climb 47 and 57, maybe 48, definitely drop 64, which seemed now a long uphill, hard-to-find bushwhack which might be a huge time/effort sink, fill water at W1, loop 55, 33 and 82, and finish with 75 and the steep drop to the road.
A minor hiccup is that we came up with the amendment while already decided on the southern approach into the block, not noticing that going west on the road until it meets the streamside trail that goes straight to 37, would save us some distance and unnecessary up and down slog. Other than that, the road to 37 was uneventful, except for a friendly bull terrier that decided to join us for a few hundred meters until giving up. The last few trails were mud galore, but the control was an easy nab.
56: Heading further down the streamside trail, we took a bearing from the northern edge of the clearing on the east, spiking yet another control.
57: At this point, night was about to fall, and we took our headlamps out in anticipation. Around this time, I also just ran out of water, but was not worried, as W1 was not too far ahead. We bushwhacked SW to the road through a very walkable pine forest, continued SSE, turned east on the jeep trail and south again on the road, were greeted by a very menacing mutt that threatened to jump us, forcing us to shout and wave, and proceeded to climb east on the main approach road. At the bend, we turned our lamps on and took a bearing to hit 57 smack on.
47: Back to the road on a reverse bearing, up a bit to the road-stream jxn and another bearing to the spur, aiming a bit west, so that when we are sure the control is up from the point we hit the spur. Another one in the books.
48: We decided we should go for 48 after all, especially after figuring out a way to do it without adding net climb. First, we took an eastward bearing down from 47 to the road, conserving as many contours as possible w/o infringing private property. Then, we climbed shortly to the bend, for a distinct attack point. We took a south bearing, aiming slightly lower than the target stream bend, climbed up the reentrant and found the control.
W1 and 55: To save climb, we contoured out of 48 with a bearing for safety, hit the road and 300m east found the water station. We each filled our bladders, had a short food rest, and went back to the main road. Heading another 100m east, we then followed the northbound trail as it curved NE and E until it hit the T jxn. From there, direct bearing and reentrant counting led us to the correct stream jxn.
33: Another unanticipated problematic control. Back from 55, climbing the road, we chose the point between the two cross-road stream as an attack point to climb up the spur to the saddle with the control. The two problems were nasty vegetation obstructing a straight bearing or pace count, and shallow features that at night obscured unambiguous identification of peaks and nadirs. The first, futile attack attempt ended up at some shiny metal pins on trees, which we mistook for public/private boundary markings, and followed west to the road. Mistaking our location, we took the road back down to the stream confluence point, this time hitting an ankle-deep marsh on entry and scurrying out posthaste. I was ready to move on, but Ken really wanted to nab the control, and I don’t blame him. I am exactly like that, to a fault, when orienteering solo, absolutely not willing to give up. This time, Ken suggested we head up to the trail jxn for a clearer attack., which we did, and were extremely lucky, as the woods, as well as the contour features, were completely clear from that angle. We noticed when we passed the high point, corrected, and landed on the control. Although we spent an impractical 42 minutes (!!) on this 30 point control, I am glad we have not given up, as a matter of pride.
82: Back from 33 to the trail jxn, and from there, a no-worry bearing to the stream confluence, expecting to be caught by one or the other streams and then following it down as a handrail to the control. Vegetation was quite nasty, and we ended up slogging very slowly, eventually caught up on the left, westward stream. Following it down its banks was equally thorny, so we moved up a bit until we hit the SW stream and on to the confluence point.
75 (clearing) and wild beasts: Back SE up to the trail was surprisingly open. Then, up & down back to W1, and then on the SSW-turn-east trail to the jeep road, crossing paths with a coed duo who were apparently heading up from 75. At the trail-jeep road junction took a straight bearing at the control, worrying a little, as either a right or left miss leaves us with no collecting feature. I think it was here (but if not, perhaps earlier at 48 or 55) that a few steps in Ken shouted behind me: “Stop!”, which was extremely opportune, as my next step was going to hit a huge porcupine, which I did not initially see, being focused on my compass. As the beast waddled away, puffing its thorny mane and sneaking frightened looks back, it turned out Ken stopped me to dispute my bearing, not save me from a porcupine counterattack, but in any case, our first bearing dispute had perfect timing. I wish I had my camera handy, but I stashed it in the backpack when night fell and was too tired to take it out. We rapidly settled the bearing issue and continued. At about the correct pace count, we luckily hit the reentrant that streams from the clearing, and headed up a very short distance to punch the control. So glad we did not just parallel the reentrant and dived unnecessarily more down than needed on this slope.
W2, more wild beasts, Sheriff and chafing: At this point, we needed another adjustment to our route, and agreed to get to it as soon as we finish the scary descent to the road from 75. In the HH, I was not sure whether the hill east of 75 is passable. The contours are so dense, that I was afraid it is cliffy. However, the counterthought was that since this is the most logical route out of the center block, the pre-race meeting should have warned us if that were the case. So we decided to go for it. It was a very steep hill, but we made it safely. As we reached the end of the steep part and approached the road, Ken’s headlamp reflected in a pair of shiny eyes about 50m NE. We debated what this could be – a deer, raccoon or bear – but the huge distance between the eyes and the shadowy contours of a big, round dark head around them were consistent only with the more dangerous of the three. So we quietly scurried to the road and ambled quickly SW to avoid an unwanted encounter.
Going down the road, we identified the big pond on the south by the vocalizations of hundreds of bullfrogs. After worrying about finding the opening for W2, the streamers assuaged our concerns. We were happy to leave the road, as traffic was too busy for comfort; we did not want do end this Rogaine as an asphalt splat… Just as we were about to climb the streamer line, another car drove by and stopped just next to us. It was a sheriff. I am sure he thought “what the heck”. He asked whether we need some help, and I explained that we are in a race, competition, with the HQ up in the Fire Tower. The explanation seemed to satisfy him, and he went on his way.
At this point, I have been suffering for a while from a growing chafe behind my right Achilles, a painful blister on my second right toe and also started to develop ass rash from all the sweat and moving parts. So as soon as we were up the streamers, I asked Ken for 5 minutes of privacy, during which he refueled and I just vaselined my crack with baby wipes. It did not completely calm the pain, but it definitely worked, as I had nothing to report on that front the next day. Not so much with the Achilles and toe blister. The latter popped and bled sometime later and the former evolved into a triplet of nasty gashes by the end of the race. Flat walking was reasonable, but every step up a hill hurt a lot; still, after a while, I just did my best to ignore the pain and pushed on.
From our stop area, we located the water. I still had enough in my bladder, and Ken refilled his. We also took a few minutes to readjust the remainder of our route, deciding to attack 84, 63 and 62, drop the remaining controls on that side and head to Monterey, from where we will try to complete our homecoming pickup route.
84, and a mini-meltdown: The start of the trail was not as visible, but Ken found an opening in the grass that looked like the path of earlier Rogainers. After that section, we lost the trail for a second, but immediately relocated it to our east. The stage of the race and the prospective climb suggested that this is as good a time as any to take out our trekking poles. With the injuries and exhaustion, the climb was tough, and half way through – about 15h and 45Km in – I reached a mental and physical breakpoint. I needed to stop, rest, refuel and recharge, or else, collapse… Ken was gracious, and gave me all the time I needed to sit, relax eat a little, get a 5h energy shot until I reacquired my bearings. Twenty precious minutes later, I was ready to move again. This was the first time in my life I took 5hr energy. I was afraid it would crush me, but it just gave me a little, barely noticeable pick-me-up. I did not become a wall-bouncing bundle of energy, just regained the ability to move on.
We then climbed the rest of the way to the crest of he trail, and from there, on a bearing, crossed the wide summit to find the control at the triangulation (Trig) marker.
63: Reinvigorated, we descended to the trail on the west and hiked it south to its jxn with the private land boundary. From there, we decided to pretty much contour to the control on two bearings. First to an intervening reentrant, which turned out much steeper than expected, taking a bit of time to cross and then to the control’s reentrant, aiming below the control and climbing up to nab it.
62: We chose to avoid off-trail climbs, so we contoured NW to the trail and then scaled it to the curve and continued west on the jeep road. We crossed path again with the Rycrofts, who seemed a bit deflated; knowing them, they have likely covered much more ground than us to this point. My GPS watch battery died, so I put on my second one and we continued to the northern bend, from which we attacked the control. When we first crossed the correct stream, it was at the correct pace count, but to me, looked much shallower on the ground than the map suggested, so I asked to continue a bit on the bearing to see if we hit a more significant reentrant. When we did not, we went back, only to realize the control description is clearing. Indeed, shortly down the stream, a clearing showed up, with the control to boot.
Monterey and another change of plans: From 62 we climbed back to the jeep road for the long slog to Monterey. It was, disappointingly, another deflating uphill climb for the most part. On the way, the birds started waking up– it is very special to hear their busy “good morning” chatter after a long night. Dawn has broken, and with it came light rain. Ken put on a shell, but I kept mine in the pack, enjoying the cooling, calming effect of the drizzle.
Our original plan was to approach Monterey from the SW, circle west to capture 41, climb to 81, take FLT to 68 and back and more. That was not gonna happen, especially as we were arriving the NE part of Monterey. We still thought for a second to circle wide for 41 and 81, but at the last moment, spotted the option of nabbing the same amount of points by simply heading north to 52 and climbing to 72. The latter was one of several options for the unavoidable climb necessary to reach the finish, so there was no detour involved. We then thought we would perhaps nab 53, 67, 46 and 45 before the finish.
52: Feet were hurting bad, the blisters flared up some more, but we were on autopilot. As we headed north on the main road, households and small farms were waking up, some trucks left for errands and we were slogging steadily. 52 was an easy in n’ out, if the blister aggravation associated with any deviation from the main road can be called easy. Navigationally easy: Trail– stream jxn – conifer grove to control and back.
W3 and 72: Ken was OK with H2O, but I needed a bit more to finish the race, so we stopped at W3 to refill and a bit to rest sore feet. Then, we started the climb up the trail North of 72. The start of the climb was very easy, and even the steeper part was short enough to not pose a major issue beyond the ones we were already dealing with. From the trail bend, we took a bearing on a contour to 72. At the end of my own pace count Ken’s were still 100m short, but even at the completion of his pace count + ~50m we still could not see the control. We decided to spread a sweep: him up the hill and me down. Considering the pace count we swept backwards, but nothing. Then, in a Hail Mary attempt, we just went further forward than our original stop. This paid off: we spotted the control down ahead. So if Ken’s pace count was off, mine was waaay off.
53: The jeep road on the east looked like the safest bet to avoid extra ups and downs heading north, so we bushwhacked towards it and then took it to the intersection just NW of 53. We headed to the bend and from there, a quick bearing landed us on the spur within the pine grove. As the clue was vegetation boundary, all we had to do was look east and spot the control.
67: This was surprisingly tough. Back to the road, then west to the jxn. NE on the trail and after the stream crossing NW to the FLT intersection. The control was supposed to be 100m on a bearing from this intersection, but was not even 150m in. So we went back to the intersection, and Ken proposed an interesting idea. I would retake the bearing from the intersection, while he would go further NW on FLT until the crest, and then follow the spur; our meeting point should have the control. On my second try, I also noticed that the center of the circle is north of the pine trees, which we did not clear on first run. Long story short, the cross-attack strategy worked, and the control was found, indeed north of the vegetation boundary, at our intersecting bearings. Interestingly, it was almost 250m from the jxn. The GPS track now shows, that the black-dashed trail, and as a result its jxn w/ FLT, were about 100m SW on the ground compared to the map, explaining the failure of the first approach.
Finish – We took FLT east to the road, then crossed and took the ESE trail down half the slope to the NNE-bound trail. Earlier, we nixed the idea of collecting 46. We had the time, but no longer the wherewithal to lose that much elevation that we need to gain back to reach the top of the finish hill. Halfway up the mud-soaked NNE trail I also gave up on 45, which would require an extra 1Km and maybe 30m in extra climb. I re-entertained the idea, half in jest, when we re-intersected with FLT 600m before the finish, but at this point Ken already would have none of it. We were just aching to stop. Last push up the hill, and we finally finished, at ~10:40am. The hydration/hot dog/burger/veggie soup/beef stew, were what the doctor ordered.
In summary, we collected 1,430 points, good enough for 6th place out of 16 overall and 3rd in the Veteran category.
Could we have done that better? Probably. One challenge is our speed. I believe it is what it is for us at this stage. However, the biggest challenge was route optimization and the long control-free slogs between the NE and center-east blocks and then at the end of the SE block. In hindsight, we could have perhaps added #45 and 46 to connect 65 to 37, with a negligible addition of distance and climb. However, at that stage we thought we would pick these up on the homecoming leg. Still, compare to any other event post-mortem I have done, this is the first one where I have no regrets. I think we did a darn good job planning, sticking to the plan on the ground, and then modifying responsibly at critical junctures based on time and energy left. Moreover, with a few exceptions noted above, I think our individual leg plans, attacks and safeties were very methodical and efficient. I have never had a Rogaine where I found every control I set out to find and so many dead-on spikes. And, at least as far as I am concerned, I left everything I had on the course.
This has been some major league fun!