Have Dental Floss, Will Travel

Mapping the world, one waxy strand at a time…

Guest Blogger: Rogaining for Health…

I’m going to start this off with a plea for help: “Guest Blogger” just doesn’t seem to do it for me. It lacks spark. No creativity. Doesn’t quite convey “me”…So, I’m looking for inspiration in coming up with a new title to identify my occasional ramblings on Abby’s blog…I am of course drawn to some cliché involving the word “half”, but what half might I be? I dare not propose “better” as this would surely raise eyebrows, not to mention the fact that other than being better at say, going to the bathroom in the woods, or perhaps appreciating geeky sci-fi/fantasy literature, film and television, I wouldn’t feel comfortable referring to myself as such compared to the inspiration behind “Have Dental Floss Will Travel”, and I’m not sure I’m proud of these things in the first place. So! Help me out; I know many of you might not know me or know me simply by the rumors you here from Abby, but I’m not necessarily looking for a name based in the purest form of reality. I’m looking for creative juice here in coming up with a better pseudonym than “Guest Blogger”…

Now that that’s out there…”Rogaining for Health”:

What exactly is “rogaining” you might ask? Well, actually, I’m sure some of you are asking at this very moment whether I am in fact pondering using Rogaine® for my steadily thinning hairline…Could this be the call for some divine muse to help discover my new blogging identity?!…Perhaps, but I’m sad to say that despite my loss, I’m not considering running to the nearest pharmacy. Though there have been times when Rogaine® would have helped my mental health…

No, a rogaine is a long distance orienteering event during which solo competitors or teams of two or more have a given amount of time to visit as many checkpoints (CPs) as possible using only a map and compass. Teams can only travel by foot, and each CP is assigned a specific point value. The team or competitor with the highest point value at the end of the event wins, and there are usually stiff penalties involving the loss of points if you do not return to the start/finish before the time limit is reached. Typically, “serious” Rogaines (sometimes said to stand for: Rugged Outdoor Group Activity Involving Navigation and Endurance) last for 12 or 24 hours, though some are as short as a couple of hours. As I often am the primary navigator for my adventure racing team, I LOVE orienteering, and I have wanted to do a rogaine since I began my adventures a couple of years ago. Unfortunately my hopes to do a 12 or 24 hour rogaine this year fell through, but my local O-Club, DVOA put together a terrific 6 hour event this past weekend. Not only was it a great experience, but it also benefitted DVOA’s junior orienteers, who often travel to compete in national events and who very well may be among the nation’s elite navigators in coming years.

Now, many people come out to these events to hike and walk in the woods. Granted, this alone can be quite a physical challenge as one is almost exclusively traversing uneven trails, crossing running creeks, climbing over rocks, traveling through open, wild fields of tall grass, nettles and hidden holes under an unrelenting sun, forcing ones way through thorn bushes or meandering in the woods with no trails whatsoever and cobwebs sticking to sweaty skin as the realization hits that there are still hours to go and that water is running out fast.

For others, like myself, the goal is to compete, in which case throw in the added rigor of running through all the above. In a race that lasts six hours, the competitive racers run for a majority of the time. And so it was that I set out with quite a bit of uncertainty this past Sunday at the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area in northern Maryland. You see, other than my race in the Green Mountains, I shut down the run this summer due to IT Band issues, and I only resumed running two weeks ago. Until Sunday I had run approximately six times, never going beyond 5 miles or so. Needless to say, I didn’t think six hours of running would leave my knee and hip in good shape, but if you are wondering why I would try to run for six hours after so little training, you should ask Abby to explain how I work when it comes to physical activity and racing…

Don’t get me wrong, I would have stopped had it been necessary, but I was pleasantly bewildered to find that I made it through the entire six hours, running most of the way (though always grateful for those uphill slogs when I could feel fine about walking, and yes occasionally losing the will to run for a few minutes in the middle of the day). Long after finishing, I went back to my map to estimate my mileage for the day, and I was happy to find I had come within a mile or so of a marathon out there in those woods. So, after 3 months of knee pain that at times was debilitating thanks to my strained and taut IT Band, I suddenly found myself running nearly 25 miles, and almost entirely on trails or in the woods without cleared dirt to traverse! I’ve been doing this sort of thing now for almost three years between my training, adventure racing and orienteering, and I still have almost no idea how my body actually works…

As for the rogaine itself. There was some stiff competition with a few of the country’s best orienteers out there either alone or on teams and several more I have come to know and who I am usually looking to for inspiration in my local orienteering events. My goal was to simply do well, and if I could finish anywhere within a few hundred points of the likes of Eddie Bergeron, Wyatt and Angelica Riley (all three on the National team this year), Randy Hall, the Ahlswedes or some of the studs from Westpoint, I’d consider it a victory.

I’ll save you the fine details as the course included a whopping 53 CPs, divided into two halves, north and south, and countless of wandering trails, steaming fields and cool, rocky creeks. I set out with the goal, of course, of clearing the course, though it was clear this would be a challenge beyond most if not all racers. I began by setting out on the northern half, and I felt I was making good progress for the first three hours, covering the larger northern quadrant in what seemed like decent time. But about an hour after hitting the first water stop I began to feel that hot, summer sun begin to wear me down. I drank, but I just couldn’t keep up, and though I ate, I felt my energy dissipating. I began to realize as I crossed into the southern half of the course that I would likely have to start considering which CPs to skip in order to make it back by the 4 PM deadline. Rule was: for the first minute past 4, one would lose 10 points. For the second minute past 4, one would lose an additional 20 points. 3 minutes late? Tack on an extra 30 point deduction…You can see where this is going. Being late was not much of an option. I say “much”, because after a hard push over the last hour, I got myself back to the finish and went for one final CP, hoping I would come in under the 1 minute late, 10 point deduction line. I managed this, coming in 44 seconds after 4 PM, having ultimately skipped 6 CPs on the way back, but bagging a 64 point CP at the buzzer while only sacrificing 10 points. This proved to be the decisive moment and the difference between second and third in my division.

All in all, it was a successful say. I was thrilled to come in second to Eddie Bergeron, one of the nation’s finest, and knowing that the gap was less than the value of a single CP. That said, Randy Hall was only a mere 8 points behind ME, so it really could not have been any closer, and on most days, I’m looking up in the standing to Randy. John Campbell and Jordan Laughlin managed to sweep the course, and the speedy Rileys took second overall, edging out Eddie by a handful of points. So, considering my conditioning was less than ideal, I was that much happier to find myself in such esteemed and accomplished company. On most days I’m shaking my head as to HOW I am so FAR behind all of these guys as well as many others who came out for the Fair Hill Rogaine.

So! While I am not an advocate for running a marathon of ANY sort after a long training run of 5 miles, I would encourage everyone to get out there for a R.O.G.A.I.N.E. of your own. It doesn’t have to include a map and compass, or woods, thorns and spiders. You don’t have to run, or bake on a sunny 90 degree summer day, and it can be any length you want. But challenge yourself; go for a hike in Wissahickon or a short jog on the trails behind Valley Green if you’ve never tried trail running. Get that bike out and ride down the Schuylkill River Trail if you’ve never biked the river. In short, enjoy those “rugged” moments of life; it sure does feel good when you’re done:)

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One response to “Guest Blogger: Rogaining for Health…

  1. Abby September 4, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    My husband – ever the ludite – seems to enjoy commandeering my blog every now and again!At least he’s got good stories to share 🙂

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