My First Rogaine
A Rogaine is a long-distance version of orienteering in which teams
of two or more visit as many checkpoints as possible within a set
time. Championship events are twenty-four hours long, but there
are many shorter variants of 4, 6, 8 or 12 hours. Teams select their
own route and controls are assigned varying point values based on
distance and difficulty. Significant time penalties are assigned
to teams returning after time expires. CAOC periodically holds a
shorter one-hour individual version of a Rogaine called a Score-O.
Last March I participated in my first Rogaine, the Lewis & Clark
Cup in Southern Indiana, west of Louisville. Both 4 and 8-hour competitions
were offered; most people did the 8-hour. The weather was perfect
for orienteering; although the overnight temperatures dipped below
freezing, it warmed up to the mid-50s during the event with bright
sun and beautiful blue skies.
The terrain was much different than Chicago. Harrison-Crawford
State Forest borders the Ohio River (elevation of 383'). The area
is very hilly, almost mountainous, and many of the hilltops are
over 800 feet above sea level. So with little flat land, that means
you are constantly going either up or down hill as you travel, climbing
one 400' hill after the next.
Prior to the event, my major concern was what footwear to use.
I normally wear high-topped orienteering shoes but I didn't believe
they would be comfortable enough for an 8-hour event. When I tried
on my old comfortable hiking boots I found they no longer fit; my
feet got had grown longer over the winter! Running shoes are probably
most comfortable, but they don't offer much ankle support. However
most people wore running shoes, and so did I.
I showed up at the event without a partner. Chicagoans Gale Teschendorf
and Dan Phillips graciously allowed my to join their team. We ended
up being the only three-member team; all others were two-member
teams, which tend to be more efficient.
The Start was on the Ohio River at the lowest, most southern end
of the Harrison-Crawford USGS topographic map (1:24 000, 10' contours).
Unlike an orienteering map, a USGS map shows no trails and few black,
green or yellow features, limiting itself mostly to a display of
contours and roads. So in a Rogaine, you get lots of practice navigating
by using brown contour lines!
Although some teams tried to reach all 41 controls, our plan was
to head for only the high point-value controls. The highest point
control was a 7-pointer at the far northern end of the map: we planned
to work our way toward it, getting as many 5- and 6-pointers as
we could along the way. We planned on skipping most of the 2- and
3-point controls. Teams normally plan a loop route, immediately
going out to the distant perimeter of the loop where the highest
point controls are located. This strategy requires good timing,
since it is easy to get greedy, and fail to give yourself enough
time to get back in. Clark Maxfield had suggested a counterclockwise
loop because as time ran out you'd be near the main road on the
left side of the map which could be used to rapidly run back to
the finish; his suggestion was most valuable.
At the 9 a.m. start, 18 teams set out and seemed to head to the
same control, but then scattered in several different directions.
We figured 8 hours was too long to run and thus we walked for most
of the day. Our route to our second control involved contouring
around a large hill; the steep side hill put a lot of pressure on
the bottoms of my feet and they became tender immediately and remained
that way for the rest of the day. Two weeks later they were still
Navigating on the 1:24 000 map was tough because the unfamiliar
scale caused us to misread small hills and reentrants and assume
they were larger features. Distances also seemed a lot longer. It
was daunting to stand in a deep gorge and realize your control was
a half-mile straight up the impossibly high ridge in front of you!
So it took us a while to find the first couple of controls, but
eventually we "got into the map" and things went more smoothly.
But by the seventh control, we were losing our confidence, and started
to use more attack points to ensure bullet-proof navigation. The
only problem with this strategy was that it caused us to travel
a lot more distance, since we first had to get to the attack point,
and then find the control feature: it was like making two legs out
After 3 of the 8 hours had passed, it became apparent that we wouldn't
have enough time or energy to get the 7-point control and we reluctantly
swung west to pick up nearby 4- and 5-point controls. This turned
out to be our best decision of the day, since it ensured we would
get back within the time limit.
Our dumbest mistake came when we navigated to a saddle where we
expected to find the control. Instead we saw another team resting
and drinking water, but no control. So we thrashed around the ridge
for a while, eventually returning to the same saddle where we now
plainly saw the control! Who knows why it was not evident on our
first visit....had it been mischieviously hidden by the other team?
Or were we getting so tired that our powers of simple observation
We carried our own water and food. A few water jugs were set out
at three controls but they were inadequate for the number of competitors
and quickly drunk dry. I carried a Camelbak partially filled with
60 ounces of water, which was about right. I had a few energy bars
and granola for food. One of my teammates had too much food. I generously
helped lighten his load by eating several of his tasty sandwiches.
Our route required us to climb two very steep hills where we were
forced to use our hands to help climb. It was more like technical
rock climbing than hiking. Efforts such as these took their toll
physically. We all became very tired. At the seven-hour mark, we
punched a 5-pointer that turned out to be our final control. Very
tired and fearful that we would be late, we picked up the nearby
main road and headed for the finish. For the first time all day
we ran brief downhill sections.
After a final steep climb we finished in 7 hours and 48 minutes,
twelve minutes under the time limit. We punched 15 of the 41 controls
and ended up with 65 out of 133 possible points. We finished third
in our category of Master Men and won medals. Other CAOCers also
did well. With 102 points, Brad Rogowski and Dave Brewer were sixth
overall. Scoring 87 points, Clark Maxfield and Sari Rantanen won
the Mixed Couples division, but were only one point ahead of Svetlana
Sergueeva and Mikhail Pekour who lost points for finishing 5 minutes
late. Overall, the top two teams visited every control within the
eight hours, the winner in that case being decided by the shortest
Next time we plan a more aggressive route at the beginning, with
several "escape" points planned if our pace falls short of expectations.
Our plan of going only for big point controls led us to a route
with lots of uphill sections. Other teams planned more logical loops
that took advantage of the several long ridges. Not only did they
avoid some of the uphill sections, but they were also able to follow
the unmapped trails along the tops of many of the ridges that enabled
them to make good time. We traveled a total of 15 miles and climbed
over half a mile up. But the winning team traveled over 25 miles
in order to visit every control.
I learned that teamwork is essential in Rogaining. The three of
us got along very well together but there was too much indecision
and no acknowledged leader. It took us too long to decide which
control to go for next. None of us wanted to be overly "bossy" and
we spent too much time talking politely without moving.
I did meet my goals. I did have fun and I did learn a lot. While
I'm not ready for a 24-hour Rogaine, I'm eager to try another 8-
or 12-hour Rogaine. Want to be my partner?