Thursday, June 27, 2013

CNYO Regaine

Central New York Orienteering puts on an interesting event every spring called the "Regaine".  It's like a rogaine where you collect controls in any order for as many points as you can get within a specified time period.  The differences are that you run it solo instead of on a team and you have to return to base camp to rest for at least an hour in between 4 periods of running in the woods.  I was excited to return to this event after having fun with it in 2011, and John was excited to try it for the first time.  It was a downer that John got sick a couple days before we started our drive back from Texas, so he was still recovering by Regaine weekend and had to take it easy.

We were returning to the same park as the Snowgaine from earlier this year, so we were quite curious how the swamps were going to play into the strategy this time.  Last time we learned to aim for large frozen-over water features, but we were pretty sure that strategy no longer applied.

The map turned out to cover a lot more area compared to the Snowgaine, including a fish hatchery up north and several points around town way south.  I opted for the standard "start out on the run" plan instead of taking an hour to strategize at the start so I wouldn't lose 2 hours of daylight later in the race this time.  We had only a couple minutes with the maps before the clock started on our first leg, and with such a huge map it was hard to really know how to approach it.  I made my best guess based on what I knew from the Snowgaine and aimed for the large swamp area to the south.  I figured swamps might be best navigated in daylight if possible, and there were a couple high-value controls there.

I started with a couple close points and did OK.  Then I began a running conversation with myself about whether to try a wide swamp crossing (I went around), whether the little logging track I was on was the faint trail marked on the map (not sure but I suspect not), and how best to approach #34 (working harder to find the more obvious east-west trail first would have been a good start).  I ended up going around a large hill-peninsula thing, mostly knowing where I was but not with enough accuracy to locate the control.  Finally I reached the southern shoreline, figured it out, turned around and walked right to it.  Could have been worse.

On the other hand, 5 hours is not a lot of time for a big loop if I had many more issues like this.  I worked back out to a small road and debated about skipping a control or 2 along the way.  I was standing there at an impasse on this question when a guy emerged from the woods above #17.  Aw heck, it's right there, just go get it and stop arguing with yourself!  So I did.

The next couple controls went well, then I made a long cross-country attempt toward #44.  I was slow and careful until I found an overgrown road that was much easier to follow than the map indicated, so that helped me zero in on #44 without delay (also saw the same guy coming back out from that point).  I thought I had a good plan for #24 but ended up quite a bit southwest of it and marveled at my ability to mess it up while I figured out to recover.

Not a clean start, to be sure.  Argh.

I had better luck with #14 right off a road and then #61 along a rock wall.  Well, the trail to #61 wasn't obvious from the road even through I was pace-counting and really looking for it, but a decent compass bearing from the top of the hill took me right to the wall and down to the point.

There were 2 more controls in the swamps to the south and I really wanted to try for them.  Hoping I wouldn't regret it, I headed that way.  I really wanted to see this section after tromping through here in the snow a few months ago.  There are long narrow ridges with interesting shapes above low swampland, pretty fun to navigate.

In between the little land masses were short sections of swamp.  I used a pokey stick to test for a bottom and found that I could get across in knee-deep muddy water, stepping up on grass tufts and branches here and there.  That went well.  A couple more little pieces of land alternating with little swamp crossings, and I found #55 on a swamp island.  Very cool!

I thought I had time to try for #46 also.  There was major water (areas of blue) in the way, including an obvious pond with a creek coming out the bottom.  There had been mention of beaver dams in the pre-race briefing, so I went to see if there might be one here.  Otherwise I could back-track out of the area and skip #46 if necessary.

There is a beaver dam, excellent!  I used a stick to test it and for balance as I walked across.  It was really stable and I marveled at the engineering ability of beavers to create something so solid out of sticks and logs.  Well, if nothing else, I had that experience so I was pleased.

I ran around the south side of a hill and found an unmapped trail to follow.  I was getting skeptical of the trail mapping by this point.  #46 was a little ways north next to a marsh, then I continued following the trail (with one set of footprints going the same way) until it came out on a road.  That was really helpful, because a bushwhack out of there would have been way slow.

OK, time to work on getting back to TA.  I started by running up the road and jumping off to grab #63, another nice high point.  Hmm, not much time left, I began to wonder if I had gotten myself stuck in needing to get back from this part of the map.  I figured I might as well cut across the middle of the map in the direction of #53 and maybe I could bag an extra control on the way to a spot where I could run back on a road.

I moved as quickly as I could along a small trail, over a hill, across a small marsh, and over another hill.  OK, #53 is somewhere on the side of this hill overlooking a swamp to the north.  Yikes, there were a ton of little contours and drainages without an obvious feature to work toward, topped off with a bunch of vegetation that made it difficult to see very far.  Well, I had one shot at this so I estimated a distance up from the swamp and started a traverse.  I would either find it or I wouldn't... and I walked right into it!  I called that one a minor miracle.

Time to move it!  I aimed for another pond outlet where we had seen a beaver dam in the Snowgaine, yep that's a good place to cross.  No time for #15 nearby, I had to go.  I ran up to the road and started for home.  I did a couple calculations as I ran and looked for anything close by.  #35 wasn't far off the road.  As I neared it I could read the contours and see that the woods were wide open, so I gave myself a couple minutes to run in and see if I could nail it.  Downhill on a spur - there it is!  Nice one.

I ran back to TA with a couple minutes to spare, happy with my "salvage mission" after a shaky start on this loop.

Change of socks, try to rehydrate, prep my pack while also trying to figure out an overall strategy.  This map was absolutely huge for having to come back to the TA every few hours.  There were roads to get places but although I can run for quite a while I'm also not fast.  Looking at the map later, I think this course would have been really fun for a 24-hour rogaine where you had to time to explore all the edges and different areas and ways to connect them without getting pulled back to TA all the time.  As it was, it was a bit frustrating.

Anyway, no time to ponder, I had 1 hour and then I was off on a 4-hour leg.  It started OK with a couple points just to the north.  I really wanted to get up to the fish hatchery area where there were several points close together and an interesting map.  But just getting there gave me fits, with a couple spots marked "private" on the map without obvious boundaries.  I tried following the 4x4 trail but it went way out of the way, eventually taking me to the main road.

Finally I could run better and I got myself in the area of #64.  I had a supplemental close-up map of this spot, with a whole bunch of deep depressions and strange shapes.  Just getting started took a couple tries, then I had a good point of reference and approached slowly to try and work it out.  I kept running into questions and soon wasn't sure where I was.  I would try something, it didn't match up, here's a ridge with a trail (no trail on the map), I don't get it, there's a huge depression, let's go around it.  I found another little trail, maybe one of the 2 on the little map?  I looked into a little drainage, no control.

Making this whole exercise more challenging was the mosquito issue.  Every time I stopped to look at the map they descended on me and started biting.  I tried to take quick looks and memorize what I could.  But boy, what annoying little buggers!

Down, up, back to the trail on the ridge.  I knew I was wasting so much time (and getting bitten up) but I wanted to figure it out.  I pulled out my main map and there was the trail I was standing on (it wasn't marked on the little map).  Suddenly everything was clear.  It would have been nice if this had happened sooner, but I'll take it!  I went around the big depression the other way and walked right up the drainage to the control.  I suspect I had walked very close to it on my previous pass but didn't start looking soon enough.

So there was that.  On my way up the trail to the northwest it started raining.  Then pouring.  I kind of lost it at that point.  I looked at the map to see if I should try for #47, but it was in another area full of depressions and I didn't think I had it in me at that point.  So I briefly "gave up" and started back to the TA, getting soaked and feeling like crap.

I noticed that #27 was just off to the west of my route back.  Might as well try for it, I'm here anyway.  The rain stopped and I worked my way around a big field and down to nab the control.  Funny how finding checkpoints can make me feel better immediately.

It got dark as I continued down the road.  I decided to try for another one, but with less luck this time.  I followed a creek and the edge of a marsh for what seemed like too far based on my pace-counting, but I kept running into more water pushing me in a northward direction.  Finally I found a small hill and climbed it in the dark. No control.  Out of time.  Bummer.  I'm still not sure what went wrong with that one.

Starting back toward the road I heard a rustling in a tree.  I trained my bright light on it and saw a large black and white furry animal scrambling to get up.  Skunk!  I'm outta here!  I think the skunk was also thinking "I'm outta here!" the way it was trying to get up that tree.  That kick-started my run back to the road.

I would have liked to try for another control on the way back, but I suspected I didn't quite have time.  I returned to the TA in a low mood, proclaiming that leg to be a disaster.  It only missed being a "complete disaster" by having located #64 eventually.

With my current state, I knew I needed to use my long break (5 hours) at that point.  I crawled into the back of the truck with John and went to sleep.  The whole event was now a "salvage mission" and basically I would treat it as navigation practice and long run training.

That helped me get up and get ready for my 3-hour run to town and back.  It started in the dark, a nice quiet mosquito-free few miles on pavement.  Eventually I found the turn-off toward #52 and worked my way across a small marsh to find it at a boundary intersection.  Getting out of there proved more challenging, especially when I started 90 degrees off from the direction I wanted.

Yikes, OK, recalculating.  I went south through a bunch of crap vegetation, along crappy old roads full of water, back into the rough bushes, fighting to just get out of there.  Finally I found the trail I wanted and ran around and up to a road.  I jumped off the road short of a "private" house and went down to a small lake.  It was really pretty in the dim pre-dawn light, with frogs singing away.  I found #50 with no trouble and then followed trails out to another road.

I ran up to a small cemetery to locate #36 and knew I didn't have time for the other 2 controls down there, oh well.  Lots of running, hello horses!, no traffic along the main road, good training.  Not sure if that was the most effective use of my 3-hour time block, but it was really pleasant so I didn't second-guess it.

Back to TA for my final break.  I had 2 hours to prepare for my last loop, 4 morning hours to finish this up.  It finally felt like I actually had some time to plan a route.  There were 3 60-pointers remaining and I wanted to get them all.

So I started with a long-ish road run, turned off on a trail, and headed up to #62 with no issues.  Retrace steps on the trail and road, then pop over to get #23 just off the pavement.  I debated going back out to the road to go around to #60 but decided instead for a kilometer in the woods that worked out well because there was very little underbrush in here and it was fairly easy going.  I found a trail along with several unexpected little hillocks.  Taking a guess at which one I was standing on, I took a bearing and walked right to #60 which seemed a bit more hidden than normal (although I might be remembering that wrong).  It felt like another lucky find, anyway.

Still, I didn't have much time to muck around, so I skipped a couple far points and instead ran down the road and along a trail through some wet areas.  It had been nice to run with dry feet for a while, that's why I left this part for the end.  #43 was next to a marsh, then there was the easiest water crossing of the whole race - rock hopping over a creek.  What a joy!

The mosquitoes were still out in force (and they didn't seem to give a darn how much DEET I put on my arms) so I tried to keep moving and keep swatting.  I made a brief detour to a little island in the swamp too early, corrected my mistake, and continued on to find the beaver dam with #65 on the other side.  One more beaver dam crossing (and back), and the 60's were complete.

Now for a few small points on the way back to TA.  I climbed a hill and followed a road and over to #19 next to a pond.  Back around to the main road and finally I would get a chance to get #31 that I had been eyeing most of the race.  Just as I had suspected, it included another beaver dam crossing that was easy but took a couple minutes.  Not something I would have wanted to do in a hurry in the middle of the night, so I was glad I hadn't gone down the hill to try it at the end of loop 2.

#31 done, back up the hill to the road, then across to climb up to #12 in the woods.  Back to the finish line - I was so ready to be done!  I about had enough of the mosquitoes and mud and swamps, certainly I got my money's worth, plenty of good orienteering and running training for one weekend.

One last surprise... Two top navigators battled it out for the lead spot, with Joe Brautigam scoring just a few more points than Andreas Wibmer.  They both completed an amazing percentage of the course.  The rest of us were a ways behind, however somehow I managed to come out at the top of that pack for 3rd place overall again?!  I'm still really not sure how that happened.

There is one more event in the CNYO "Trifecta Cup", a rogaine in July that John and I will be running.  I'm currently in 2nd place in the standings, but if Joe (who is leading) shows up it's all over.  Maybe I can get top female  :)

As always, lots of fun running around in the woods, that was quite a challenge!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice to meet you yesterday! Your regaine stories are very similar to mine - especially your path through the southern swampy areas - Frank B.