The Calabash 6hr Rogaine

In 2010, members of team Rogue competed in the 6hr version of the Calabash rogaine west of Sommerset Dam (Darren paird with Liam and Craig paired with Glenn). The property west of Sommerset Dam proved to be perfect rogaining country and we had a great day with map in hand. This is how the race unfolded.

The past weekend saw Darren and I team up for a crack at the Calabash 6hr Rogaine. Team entry numbers have seen a spike this past year at QLD rogaines and this event was to be no exception, with a number of familiar names from strong AR teams competing including the Mountain Design sponsored athletes Gary and Brett in separate teams, along with our regular team mates Craig and Glenn, team SCAR and the Area51 guys to name a few. The area north west of Somerset Dam revealed it to be perfect rogaining country on the drive in – cleared cattle grazing country with sections of light forestry, granite outcrops and short, sharp hills all criss-crossed by a network of 4WD and cattle tracks. The weather was also playing its part with typical clear and cool June weather.

Upon receiving the maps, it was clear that the organisers had done a great job on control setting. No clear route was obvious, and we eventually changed our game plan from a loop to the north to a sweep on the southern section of the map, focussing just on the big point controls and leaving the smaller CPs behind. This route had fewer CPs available, and was in hillier country, but the check points were generally of larger value. It also had the advantage that we would pass both water points during the race.

For those playing along at home, we picked up CPs 61 and 36 where we instantly got a taste of the hills that were to come. After CP36, Gary and Jaysen who were the only team in front of us took a different route and we were out on our own. The scramble down from 36 to 49 was cliff-like in parts, requiring total concentration and was rather slow to boot. At the bottom, we hit Emu Creek which more likely resembled a small river. Tamsin and Richard caught us at this point and after a quick re-read of the control description we realised that the control was on the other bank. Leaving the others to find a crossing further upstream, we decided to wade across. Judiciously letting Darren go first, I saw the water reach up to his waist. About halfway across though, he took an extra step and disappeared in water over his head. It was only funny up until the point where I made the same mistake a second later.

While the swim did save us valuable time, it was clear we were already behind our ambitious schedule due to the slow descent from CP49 and hence it was decided after collecting CP40 to drop CP30 on the way to CP82. Normally I’d be happy with this strategy to leave smaller CPs early in the race to give more time to collect big points at the end of an event, but as it turned out, this proved to be a mistake (more on that later).

The view from CP82 was spectacular, and perhaps I should have been paying less attention to that and more attention to my footing on the way down a rocky scree at the top, when a boulder rolled under foot. The next thing I know I’m flat on my back. Hearing me call out, Darren turns around and asks me if I’ve just seen a spider. Things turned out to be a bit more serious than that, with a deep gash to my forearm which was bleeding profusely. A 5 hour visit to the emergency ward that night revealed that I had cut small artery below the skin, requiring several stitches. While trying to deal with the problem with our woefully inadequate first aid kit, Tamsin and Richard passed us, but had dropped their packs back up the trail and were unable to help. Shortly after though, Greg and Erin from ARea51 rocked up with a great supply of sterile swaps, gauze and bandages and took the time to stop and help patch me up. A big thank you to those guys, and a lesson in taking practical first aid items, and not just the bare minimum. All told, we lost approximately 15min, but were able to get back to the game plan.

From CP82, we picked up CP103 (with the pleasant discovery that it was actually worth 120 points), dropping to CP81 and climbing to CP55, spiking every control. Another wade across Emu Creek had us refilling water at CP10 – 3L down in 2.5 hours – the weather was getting warm. From CP10 it was also time to start coming up with a revised plan for the rest of the race. The open terrain meant we had been spot on with our nav without a single error, but the hills, while not massive (the biggest climb being 300m) were definitely sharp, and along with the injury we were again behind schedule.

Our revised plan had us ascend up the creek to CP102, up and over to CP62 (which could be seen on the side of the hill almost 500m away) and down to CP92. The climb out from CP92 to CP53 is where I fell a little flat for a while, and I must confess to switching off from the nav and just trying to hang on to the back of Darren, who is much stronger on the climbs (too many training days at Mt Barney), but Daz got us to the CP with no issues. I was happy however to take the lead on the Nav following a major creek line to CP72, which apparently gave a couple of teams trouble.

CP72 was the on the western most section of the map, and knowing that things would get slower as it got dark, it was decided to start heading back towards the finish. The run down the long ridge from CP72 to the water point at CP47 via a cattle single track as the sun started to fall was the highlight of the rogaine for me. Water and food meant that I had also perked up, or perhaps it was just knowing we were close to home and the return trip was relatively flat. We managed to run most of the next hour, picking up CPs 31, 43, 21 and 22, spurred on by Craig and Glenn who had also appeared from the bush on a similar route home. It was as we were crossing a field to CP43 that I noticed Darren suddenly start running backwards towards me. Looking up, an angry young bull had set to charge us. Not deterred by our stamping and yelling, it was to the accompaniment of laughter from another team behind us that we made a dash to the nearest fence line.

Ultimately, we finished just as it got too dark to read the map, guided home by the hash house bonfire. Finishing 24 minutes early on a 6hr course was a little disappointing, particularly when we found out our score of 1030 saw us fall just 20 points short of the eventual winners Gary and Jaysen. If only we had picked up that extra 30 pointer early on, or not lost time with the arm injury. But then again, I’m sure every team had their “if only” story, and it is not often I can say we had an almost navigationally flawless event, so all told we were quite happy with our day out. The Calabash was an excellently run event – thanks Tim and Paul – the vibe around the HH was great with a brilliant spread of food and a great hit out on the feet in the lead up to GeoQuest in August. I’m already looking forward to the next rogaine – a cyclegaine on the single track network at Old Hidden Vale – and of course there is the Rogue8 in October.

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