French Creek R.O.G.A.I.N.E.
June 30, 2001
Okay, for those of you who want the quick story, Carolyn Gernand and Valerie Meyer placed 1st among the four women teams with 1100 points at the French Creek Rogaine on June 30, 2001. They were also 20th overall out of 49 teams (male, female, and coed).
A special thanks to the meet director, Sandy Fillebrown for putting this event together. I really appreciated the huge amount of work Sandy put into the event. She also had an excellent group of volunteers who helped to make this a great experience.
Now, here is the rest of the story. First, a few definitions:
Ultra running - a distance greater than a marathon, usually on trails. In the past 18 months, I have done 3 races of 50K (31 miles). I am maybe training to do a 50 mile race in November. Since I am not fast, I am working on endurance as my niche.
Orienteering - navigating through the woods with map and compass to find predetermined points (controls). I have been doing this for about 5 years. My abilities are at times intermediate/advanced level and sometimes worse.
R.O.G.A.I.N.E. - No, not the hair stuff - It is an acronym for an activity which I think of as Ultra Orienteering (Ultra O) - Rugged Outdoor Group Activity Involving Navigation and Endurance. With a partner, you see how many controls you can locate over a certain length of time - generally 6, 12 or 24 hours. I was interested in doing a 24 hour Rogaine, but when a 12 hour Rogaine was offered within driving distance, the game was on.
Since in my mind this was Ultra O, I asked my ultra running friend Carolyn to be my partner and Team O'SLUG was born. Or was it Team SLUG'O? Either way, I figured our endurance would override my suspect navigational skills. Carolyn and I did two local meets together to prepare - one of them on the very outdated Fountainhead, VA map. We did quite well with the exception of the controls on spurs. This would also be a factor during the Rogaine...
The temperatures and humidity were high on the big day. I packed my Camelbak with everything I thought I would need for 12 hours. Okay, so what did I lug around with me, and what did I use? Food: 2 sandwiches (ate 1), 3 Powerbars (ate 0), 6 GU (ate 0 - usually my staple on long runs), Fritos (ate half), and Combos (ate half). Liquid: 100 ounces of green Gatorade which I drank straight until I topped it off with water about 4.5 hours into the event). Useful/useless things: light, pens, paper, Band-Aids, Kleenex, socks, sun screen, bug repellent, bandana, cloth diaper, sweatband, and money. I used the bug repellent, a pen, the bandana, and the money. I removed another half dozen items before we started out. It was heavy and caused a few twinges in my lower back which encouraged me to drink to lighten the load. I didn't use the light until after we came through the assembly area around 7 pm.
Carolyn and I made grand plans to be organized when we set out but ended up starting poorly. Most people headed north out of the start area, so we decided to go west. We went to Control #57 fairly easily after a bit of difficulty finding the trail from the clearing (24 minutes). We didn't really have the next control planned and ended up going to #24 (19 mins). Next we went to 72 (30 mins), 55 (20 mins), and 36 (18 mins). This required a bunch of back tracking between 72 and 55 since we stayed on the trail. We had the most difficulty finding #72 on the spur. From #36, we stumbled into the nasty stuff on the park boundary on our way to #32 (28 mins). From #32 to #40 was more junk, but #40 also had water, so we didn't want to pass it up (12 mins).
The leg to #63 was easy via the road and trail (21 mins). With the time approaching 1 p.m., energy was starting to decrease. We decided to get two more and than take a break at the park office area. We picked up #82 with a bit of difficulty finding the rocky spur (43 mins). We took a poor route down the hill and spent a lot of time climbing down a steep rocky slope. We ended up having to skirt the private property and eventually made it to #25 (40 mins). This gave us 10 controls in 4 hours and 15 minutes with a distance of 13.2 km.
We headed to the park office area and used the facilities and filled up our water containers. After some food and cold beverages, we decided to tackle another 10 controls. My goal was to do it in 4 hours. After a bit of discussion, we decided to do the loop around the Hopewell Village National Historic Site starting with #71. This was a long steep haul, but easy to find (36 mins). We carefully skirted the private property and headed to #62 on the road. Another easy one in 31 minutes. It was coming out of here that I tripped over a rock and did a compete spread eagle face plant. I was a bit shook, but luckily landed on dirt and not rocks. I earned a "10" for style.
Off to #81 next. After going along in the field parallel to the stream for a ways, we ducked onto the thorny path. We decided trudging through the stream was easier, and cooler. No problem finding the control, but we did need to climb out of the stream to get to it. (18 mins). From #81 we headed to #44. We headed west through the wrong field before Carolyn caught us and headed us back in the right direction to the road. We hit the trail and went along the park property and then headed up the hill. Unfortunately, I took us up a route up every possible contour. What a climb!! We finally reached the top in 30 minutes.
From here we headed across the fields to #30. In the heat of the day, not the most desirable route, but I was going for most direct route. That grass was sure tall in parts! I probably picked up my tick friend here. Found #30 with little problem in 20 minutes. We hit the road to get to #26 and found it in 23 minutes. Some indecision on how to tackle #56 led to a time of 21 minutes for a fairly short leg.
We took the safe way to #74 on the trail (25 mins) and then Carolyn guided us to #43 with her compass. We reached the area and I said, "If life is good, it will be right here." And damn, if it wasn't!! It took 29 minutes and we headed to #46 just as it started to rain. After reaching this control in 18 minutes, our elapsed time for the 10 controls was just under 4 hours and the distance was 13.8 km.
We decided to head back to the assembly area and get something to eat. It was a long haul. It was a little after 7 when we returned. I had a hot dog - and a fine hot dog it was. Sandy asked how it was going, and I reported that we were pleased to have gotten 20 controls. She estimated this to be about 1000 points. Well, I had only been thinking about number of controls all day and never thought about how many points we had. On the way out of camp, I finally counted up our points - 950. A new goal was born - getting 1000!
Carolyn and I headed out to get #31. What a long leg, especially since we stayed on the trail to the camp grounds, then headed north on the road. This was another rocky spur. Our record remained intact, we again had problems with it, though not as much as the previous two spurs. (I didn't write down our times for the last 3 controls.) We headed out of here to the water tower and set the compass to go to #73. At this point, I totally shut down and asked to return to the finish. I was whining about my legs. Carolyn reminded me that we were still under 1000 points, and my competitive nature took over again. Carolyn was guiding us to #73, but I too impatient with her pace and took us off in a whole different direction. She encouraged me to get back in line with her and took us to the general vicinity of the control. I did not have any idea where we were. After ending up in the mountain laurel, I repositioned us and them started using my high beams to find the reflective tape on the control. Finally, success!! And now we had 1050 points.
We decided to head back in via control #52. Carolyn lead us down to the path and then I lead us to the reentrant and up to the control. Loved the reflective tape on the control! Carolyn took the lead again to the next trail. This was probably the hardest part of the whole day. I found it difficult to be patient while Carolyn guided us on a bearing. She did a fine job and got us back to the finish with about 30 minutes to spare. This leg took about 2 hours and was 4.6 km long. Total distance covered was about 32 km (20 miles) in 11 hours for 23 controls.
Those hot dogs at the finish were sure tasty. All that great food, and I could only eat hot dogs! Three hot dogs, that was it.
I used some water jugs to shampoo and shower afterwards. I crawled into my tent with a very stiff and sore body and got very little, if any, sleep, but I was clean. I found my little tick friend on my wrist the next morning.
Carolyn was a great partner and was especially useful with the map scale at 1:30,000. She did a good job keeping up and reigning me in when necessary. My initial reaction was that I never what to do this again, not 12 hours and especially not the 24 hour format. This was the longest amount of time I have kept moving. Those training miles in the heat sure paid off. Now that my feet are healing, and there are no other major aches and pains, I may have to reconsider doing another Rogaine. I had a good time. And hey, a 24 hour would be good training for the 50 miler, right? But darn, Carolyn isn't available for the 24 hour in New York in a couple of weeks. I guess I'll have to stay home. :)