At the recent Australian Rogaining Championships in Goobang National Park near Parkes we were told it was the 43rd such event. That got me thinking about my own rogaining career, and I realised that it was indeed 43 years ago, in 1980, that I completed my first what we would now call rogaine. As many an ANU student will be remembering this month, adventure racing often first appears on the horizon in one’s first year at university. There was no IB for me at Adelaide Uni, and the event was still known as the ‘24 Hour Walk’ in South Australia then, but the concept was the same.

I ran (and my younger legs did do some running back then) with mates from school – shout out to @hugepossum @bucketsnijinsky and the late Mark Nicholls – for the first couple of years, and was the course-setter (with Anna Medlin) in 1982. One of my first trips to Canberra was for the InterVarsity rogaine (with Alex Tyson and Mark Leonard), but I left for overseas soon after. Fast forward a lot of years and you can take the boy out of uni but not rogaining out of the man. Going all night gets harder (boom, boom!) but there’s still the same challenge and satisfaction to be had from working with friends to navigate your way successfully through the bush.

StephenGrahamWhat have I learnt? It always pays to read the course-setter’s notes. With a 1:25 000 map printed on A1 teslin, there was no shortage of information real estate on the back of the ARC23 map. We were advised that the vegetation colouring on the map reflected canopy, not necessarily ground cover, and that the white areas may actually be harder going than green. And so it was – areas with no tree cover ranged from open fields to expanses of knee- and sometimes head-high vegetation. By nightfall our team of orienteers found itself somewhat counter-intuitively regularly aiming for green where the going was nearly always easier. There’s no disguising contours though, and there were plenty of those to be had on the map, but fortunately there were also quite a number of opportunities to follow rather than cross their imaginary lines in the terrain. And speaking of things going up steeply – what about those temperatures?! The forecast had been for low 30s, so when we arrived late on Friday afternoon the nip in the air was surprising. I don’t think I was alone in wishing I had warmer clothes in my tent that first night, and when we woke in the morning to find ice on any exposed water surfaces, I was thinking I was seriously under-prepared in the clothing department. I needn’t have worried though – by the time the event started at 11am it was well into the high 20s, and the more serious concern was clearly going to be for dehydration. But wait, 11am? In addition to all the other planning required by our friends at NSWRA, there was the small matter of daylight saving starting halfway through the event to factor in too. We’re softies, so when we got back to our tents after 12 hours it was still well short of midnight, though 5 would soon become the new 6am.

The chat out on course was all about the heat. From -1 it reached 31°C on Saturday afternoon after all, and even though it would only get down to the mid-teens overnight, many teams (the mere mortals among us anyway) were abandoning route choices left, right and centre. One in our team began cramping regularly, and by mid-evening another (OK, it was me) was fast succumbing to fatigue, so we were grateful that the metronomic Mr Glanville also accepted that we should cut the north-eastern loop from our planned itinerary. Note to self – always pack hydralite, and remember to keep eating little and often so your stomach doesn’t just feel like a sickly lake. I have never enjoyed reviving watermelon as much as I did at the HH that night, and by the time I fell asleep I was already imagining being able to get going again in the morning – which is saying something after last year’s ARC when one of us (OK, me again) could not face round 2!

I think it is fair to say I began October on a physical and figurative rollercoaster. There was quite a bit of up and down in the route we had plotted for ourselves in the SW of the map beyond Lake Endeavour on Sunday morning, but it’s fair to say we smashed it, continuing to hit every control with a minimum of error, even if the legs were less impressed than the eyes with the commanding westerly view from The Edge once we summited at control 103. We always knew we were not the likely winners of the event, and would be happy to finish on time and in one piece, but my personal goal is always to strive for at least half the points the winners achieve. Suffice it to say that while we again basked in the glory of the award to fellow ACTRA members David Baldwin & Julie Quinn – dubbed ‘Mr & Mrs Rogaine’ by the presenter, we had to settle for 47% of their enormous winning score. It was my pleasure, on behalf of the 34 ACTRA starters and you all, however, to share with NSWRA President Graham Field in receiving the Interstate Challenge trophy, this year won jointly by ACT and NSW, in no small part due also to the efforts of Tim Cochrane (1st MO/2nd overall) and the command performance of 1st WUV and WSV/2nd WV and WO rockstars The Douglass Sisters!

Many thanks to David Williams and Ronnie Taib for setting an excellent course, and to Trevor Gollan and all the volunteers for taking us to another part of the world in the way that only rogainers know. Results, footage and other information about the event are on the NSWRA website here. I’m not sure how many more 24 hour events I have in me – walk or run, but one thing’s for sure – it’s a blast while it lasts!