Richmond Times Dispatch Mill Mtn AR_OGAINE story by Andy Thompson: http://www2.timesdispatch.com/rtd/sport ... 33/119455/
Scenery takes a back seat in outdoors race
ANDY THOMPSON TIMES-DISPATCH COLUMNIST
Published: November 23, 2008
Hairy hike for weary trekkers There we were, my teammates and I, at a gorgeous overlook in the mountains of western Virginia and our mood could hardly have been more foul. We were tired; we were hungry; our legs ached; the freezing wind whipped our faces with 30 mph gusts. We were in no way inclined to appreciate the beauty all around us, and, frankly, we didn't have the time.
The picture of teamwork all day, Jay Miller, Drew Shoaff and I were close to losing hope: Where was that lousy checkpoint?
Somewhere between a Sunday stroll in the woods and being left for dead in a forsaken wilderness far from civilization lies a strange and wonderful sport that the average person might confuse with a male-pattern baldness product.
Practitioners, which I now count myself among, call the sport "rogaining," an activity that may best be described as orienteering on steroids. The details vary from race to race but the concept is generally the same. Teams of racers or soloists are given a map and checkpoints that they must plot then go find in a certain amount of time (they can use a compass). Checkpoints are assigned point values based on how hard they are to find. The team with the most points wins.
Our race was eight hours, and it was run concurrently with a 24-hour version. If we were unstable, those people were crazy. But what drew us was the same thing that drew them to Douthat State Park for the event organized by Odyssey Adventure Racing.
"You're using your body and your brain at the same time," explained Richmonder Tim Dunkum, an experienced orienteer also there for the eight-hour race. "It's a thinking man's sport."
Too much speed wasn't a danger for my team. This was our first Rogaine - Rugged Outdoor Group Activity Involving Navigation and Endurance - and our goal was to stay at "purposeful-hike" pace. More important was to work on the "thinking man's" aspects of the sport.
"The path you choose is going to determine how fast you get there," Dunkum told me. "You really have to pick and choose when you want to go off road and when you want to stay on a known path."
It's amazing how easy it was to lose faith in our decisions out there when things don't work out exactly as we thought they would. The thing we were looking for always seemed a little farther away than we thought possible. Of course, we couldn't know any of this until we were handed a map and kicked out the door. Experience is the only true teacher out in the woods.
We found six of the seven checkpoints we tried for before noon. That gave us confidence going into the afternoon section of the race, one that featured steeper climbs and more difficult checkpoints. But as our brains were getting better at reading terrain, our bodies were beginning to wear down.
The best navigators can look at a topographic map and see in 3D. They can look down, look up and know where they are. We were inching closer to that point, but our legs were balking.
We found one checkpoint in a ravine, then began a long climb that took us up about 1,000 feet in elevation over less than 2 miles of hiking. It was brutal. We found a checkpoint in a saddle between two ridges on the way up, but it took a while. Then we failed on one that we could have sworn was right near the trail. We searched everywhere for the orange and white flag. Nothing.
Eventually we realized the clock was working against us. We knew the last one was on an overlook. Hadn't we just passed two or three overlooks? Where was it? We figured we couldn't wait any longer, so we started down the mountain.
And there it was, of course. Right there around the bend, shielded from view by some trees and our own desperation. It was probably beautiful there, looking out over the rugged Alleghenies buffeted by distant snowstorms. Earlier in the day, we may have noted it well. Instead we turned and headed for home.
Upcoming OAR Events:
Advanced Nav. Clinic - Oct. 3: http://www.oarevents.com/events/2009/Ad ... inic.shtml
Land Nav. Clinics - Oct. 17, Nov. 14, Dec. 12: http://www.oarevents.com/events/2008/na ... inic.shtml
AR-OGAINE - Nov. 7 & 8: http://www.oarevents.com/events/2009/Od ... aine.shtml
Odyssey Adventure Racing