The 2023 WRC was held in the Lake Tahoe area of California. The Hash House was in the ski resort area known as Northstar. Usually, in the summer the area is flooded with mountain bikers and in winter skiers of all persuasions. This summer there was an influx of rogainers for the last weekend in July.
The weather had been very hot and dry leading up to the rogaine and whilst the temperatures started out a bit cooler than previous weeks, it was still plenty hot enough to be slogging up and down the extremely steep hills. The terrain was criss-crossed by an extensive track network to support mountain bikes and skiing. They also proved helpful for rogaining.
Course planners had been very skilful in distributing the controls and their values across the map area. Perhaps the biggest challenge of the weekend was deciding on which route was going to be the most lucrative for the least amount of climb, distance and energy expenditure. Having competed in the WRC rogaine in a similar type of terrain in 2019 we knew it would be easy to waste energy on unnecessary climb. Loops were planned, kept or discarded until we felt we had the right route for us.
We started with one of the biggest climbs we would execute all weekend. We were fresh and whilst tough to do it was best to get it over early and set up the flatter loops for later when we were tired.
In the early part of the rogaine, Chris was bothered by a sore knee. In the week leading up to the rogaine we went hiking in Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest. Maybe it was a bit much for her knee, but it is amazing what Nurofen can do. The hikes in Yosemite and Stanislaus were amazing and good preparation for the high altitude, mountainous rogaine. The scenery in Yosemite was stunning; the weather was hot and dry; the mosquitos prolific and the crowds phenomenal. We won’t mention the dreadful booking system that needs to be navigated to do anything in Yosemite. It was a great experience, but the next visit might be outside peak season.
Back to the rogaine. With Chris’s knee placated, and about 3 hours done, it was back to business. As the rogaine progresses, you have no idea how any other team is going. We bumped into fellow Aussies Geoff Lawford and Rod Gray a few times and we knew that we were only a few points behind them. That was encouraging.
As day turned into night, and fatigue set in, Thor went through a patch of feeling less than ordinary and needed Chris to solo navigate for a while. But in typical Thor fashion, she soldiered on and eventually felt better.
We made one mistake in the dark, overshooting a checkpoint and relocating a further 600m later on a water checkpoint. Once fixed and back on track, navigation was again under control. We had our second big climb behind us and were travelling well. We used as many tracks as possible, and this meant we could keep up a solid pace. Despite Thor having another go-slow and a brief lie-down during the night due to nausea, we were several hours ahead of our planned schedule. Perhaps we were too conservative in our planning, but you never know until you have boots on the ground. As daylight dawned, we were both feeling good and knew we had time in hand. We were able to add in more checkpoints as there is no point in getting back to the HH too early.
Our feet were sore and our bodies tired, but the goal was always there. Could we be world champions? Thor was already the current world champion and wanted to repeat the feat; Chris had unfinished business from 2019. On we marched, adding in extra controls as we headed for home.
Once finished, we had no idea how we had done. We knew we had a competitive score. Any team that beat us would have also done well. What transpired at the end could not have been scripted beforehand.
We finished with 2440 points and so did another team from Latvia. However, we had finished 12 minutes earlier, making us the champions. When we reflected back there were so many “sliding doors” moments when the outcome could have been very different. When we had a two-minute rest during the night, Chris suggested that we could make it a bit longer, Thor said “This is the World Champs, let’s go”. After daybreak we navigated to a checkpoint but couldn’t find it. We were sure we were in the right gully. We couldn’t see it. We were on the verge of giving up and not wasting time on it when Chris looked right and saw it flutter in the breeze. It was hanging on the other side of a tree trunk from the side we were on and therefore not visible. That was worth 40 points. We added in a 70-point checkpoint in the furthest corner of an area where we were tempted to just bypass it. Heading back to the HH, we picked up a 20 pointer and a 30 pointer. It would have been so easy to just head straight into the HH. It was getting hot by midday, and we were cooked. It could have been so different.
In the end, it was our day, and we became the 2023 Women’s Super-Vets World Rogaining Champions. We were also surprised to finish second in Women’s Veteran behind another Aussie duo, Gill Fowler and Liz Dornam.
It was a hard day at the “proverbial office”. The navigation wasn’t hard, but you had to keep your wits about you, especially when tired. The area was physically challenging. The planning was critical. And the teamwork vital. Everything that makes the sport so great.