A Weekend of Many Firsts – Part 3 – Dung, Disorientation & Dirty Dancing.

Ahead of us was the thickest nastiest bush we had been through yet. The land was uneven and the bushes seemed to be taller and for me – all-consuming.

It was at this point that the stinging of the scratches on my legs became intolerable and the temperature was dropping so I decided to get changed into my long pants. Mark went ahead, while Bernadette trotted on and I fell back to change. I immediately regretted my superstition to wear my lucky undies for this event, because as per tradition my lucky undies were the brightest most fluoro pair I owned. And I just knew they’d be sticking out like dogs-balls if someone were looking my direction.

I resolved to being as quick as possible and then I jogged to catch up. I told Bernadette that I hoped no one had seen me. She said she had checked back to ensure I wasn’t too far behind and had noticed the reason why. I assured her it was my intention to be mistaken for a control in an attempt to put off the other teams and we had a laugh.

Thank god for the laughs. Somehow it was an ideal distraction.

The sandwiches and Perpetuem solids were flowing when we finally broke through to the farmland! Hurrah! It was amazing how straight away I wanted to do nothing but frolic, frolic and appreciate the grass, but there would be no such thing on such a serious adventure as we had a schedule to stick to.

Interestingly enough we made our way to a control right alongside a flowing river, which happened to also have a high point control that we could see on the other side. Not being able to resist the thought of picking up an extra 80 points, Mark went in to see how deep the water was. He was only about a third of the way across and it was up to his hips so we decided it was probably too deep to wade across with our packs. Next we searched up and down the river banks to find a shallower crossing point, and although we had no luck finding one, we did however find a fallen tree trunk stretched across about 50 metres up. It was nice and round and wide, which provided a good 15cm across of footing. It would be a balancing act, but was definitely doable. Mark already wet stood in the water to spot us girls as we made our way across. I bravely went first, criss crossing my feet showing off some dirty dancing log dancing moves as I made my way across before slipping in the thigh deep water at the end anyway.  Bernadette hesitantly inched her way over as well with Mark keeping close to her side in case she needed support. Piece of cake, Mark pushed his way through the water and we had all made it! A bit of grass pulling to pull ourselves up the small clay cliff and we had reached the control. Stoked! Things were looking up and there was only 4 hours to go!

Mark was picking up the pace as the last few hours of light fell upon us. Bernadette explained that this is the ‘panic hour’ for rogainers as they always push hard to get as many controls before dark as possible. I quietly reminded Mark that his height meant that one of his strides was about three of mine, because I was starting to struggle with the increase in speed and he backed off slightly. By this stage my knees were also starting to feel it and the slant of the land alongside the gullies was making it trickier.

The poo was aplenty as we were now crossing open paddocks to head to a control we had figured was right near a pine forest in front of us. Mark and Bernadette had joked that on previous rogains the first control they had to find in the dark had always been the one that had tripped them up the most, that for some reason just happened to be where they always made their first mistake. We laughed and continued on, following a fenceline and dodging the paddy’s before going through a gate and stopping to fit our headlamps. It was dark now and we would need light to find our way through the pine forest. We were following a watercourse up a major hill through the trees and had estimated the next control to be about two-thirds of the way to the top of the hill. And then it hit me.

The wall of fatigue. I’m not sure if it was the fact it was dark, or because it was an up hill slope covered in slippery pine needles and gravel but I was all of a sudden struggling. I could no longer feel my feet and although I was still going… I was going pretty slow. I huffed and puffed my way up the hill vowing in my head to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and then we were ona trail along the top of the hill. But where was the control…? Why hadn’t we seen it? Mark and Bernadette were discussing where it should’ve roughly been and they both head off in opposite directions about 30 metres apart to relook down the hill with their torches. No. Still no sign of the control.

While I fluffed about catching my breath and getting something down my gullet B and Mark discussed our location and the contours on the map and we decided to turn left and continue down the trail and double back down the hill if we needed. Off we trot again, walking and taking bearings trying to figure out where we were. By this stage I’d given up following on my map as my tiny brain just couldn’t conceive doing two things at once, and keeping myself going was priority one.

There was still no sign of the control we were trying to find and we veered left back down a gravelly slope downhill to the gate where we started. My light was bobbling around as I was barely kept my flailing legs from giving way down the hill. My knees and ankles were fatiguing and I could feel the thud of my steps resonate all the way up to my knees. Thank god there was little hard gravel on this course, I didn’t know how much more of this my body could take. We all stopped at the bottom to re-evaluate. Then we spotted it. Four or so headlamps huddled around a tree not far on the other side of the gate. The control! We had run straight past it earlier. Typical Mark said, as they had predicted earlier, that first control in the dark has tripped us up.

It was relief to punch the card and I found myself counting down the time knowing there were only a few hours left. I asked if we could slow the pace up the hills a bit to preserve my legs for the last little bit because otherwise I feared they would just give out altogether before the finish. We still had a few big hill climbs up to the next few controls and Bernadette offered to carry my pack up the next one. And that way Mark could also tow me.

Apparently it’s not unusual in longer rogains or multi day events for the guys to carry packs or tow the girls. This means the girl can hold onto the mans pack to be towed, and have some of their bodyweight pulled uphill so it wasn’t quite so strenuous on the person being towed. This was one way teams were able to be more efficient while travelling.

Now at that point it seemed like a reasonable idea to let Bernadette take my pack so I wouldn’t slow the team down. But a couple of minutes after handing her my pack and seeing her all sandwiched between two backpacks I began to wonder what the hell I’d just done. A realisation smacked me in the face….hard. I just couldn’t let someone else carry my backpack?!

To be continued….