Three maps, a compass, 100 ounces of water, tights and trail-running shoes, a backpack, five energy bars, 10 packs of gel, and 5 hours 35 minutes of race time. . . that’s what it took to run the course and win the annual Badger Rogaine Orienteering Race, held this past weekend, April 2, in the Black River State Forest of Wisconsin.
Team GearJunkie/YogaSlackers, which for this race was Andrei Karpov and myself (Stephen Regenold), traveled about 22 miles in total for the day on foot. This included running on trails, bushwhacking through the woods, post-holing in snow, and, for one stretch, trudging knee-deep through an icy swamp.
As I have written before, despite its name, the sport of Rogaine has no connection to the anti-baldness drug made by Pfizer Inc. (The name comes from a combination of Rod, Gail and Neil, the first names of three Australian athletes credited with popularizing the sport in the 1970s.) It is a sport that challenges wilderness racers to chart their own course and run or hike for hours nonstop to tag control flags marked on a map.
In a rogaine race, a compass serves as the sole navigational tool, no GPS allowed. You imprint a punch card at each flag to prove you were there, and the team with the most punched points in the end wins.
In the Black River State Forest, Andrei and I charted an ambitious course before the clock began ticking. We wanted to clear the course, tagging all 35 control flags spread around the woods. But by about hour four in the event, weary and sore from running already 16 miles in the hilly woods, we changed our route to avoid a few distant flags.
In the end, we tagged 30 controls out of the possible 35 in the woods, which was enough for a first-place finish in the field of 11 teams. We stumbled into the finish area late in the afternoon with about 20 minutes to spare, physically spent but satisfied after a long run and a tough day.