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Topo Lines for 24 Hours… Orienteering ‘Rogaining Champ’ Race

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Justin Bakken, captain of Team GearJunkie/WEDALI, partnered with Brian Mayer from Team SOG last weekend to compete in the 2013 U.S. Rogaining Championships, a wilderness orienteering event.

The pair raced for nearly 24 hours straight in the woods of Upstate New York. The objective was to navigate a complex map and find dozens of checkpoints scattered in the forest. It took more than 50 miles of running and trekking in the woods and on trail to make the goal.

(See the full course map on page 2 of this post)

(To clarify, the sport of rogaining, an Australian offshoot of orienteering invented in the 1970s, puts teams of two to four people on a choose-your-own-adventure course in wilderness dotted with flags. Rogaining has no connection to Rogaine, an anti-baldness drug made by Pfizer Inc.)

In New York, Bakken and Mayer came away with the overall win despite physical struggles to stay moving for so many hours and miles.

Deep woods… The starting area for 2013 U.S. Rogaining Champs!

Said Bakken, “Constantly wet feet slowed us (mostly me) down toward the end of the event with a few blisters caused from wrinkled feet.”

Despite the pain, the pair was ecstatic with the win, though Bakken noted his body was “pretty destroyed” after the race. Congrats to Mayer and Bakken on the solid effort and the crown of U.S. Orienteering Rogaine Champs!

—Stephen Regenold

(See the full course map on page 2 of this post)

Update: Here’s a first-person report from Justin Bakken on the 2013 U.S. Rogaining Championships experience…

Running down the last mile of dirt road I try to take soft steps on my raw feet, tenderized like a beef cut from 22 hours of running and trekking through the rugged woods of south-central New York with constantly wet shoes. Brian Mayer, a stalwart with adventure racing Team SOG, and I are pushing to the finish line — and by pushing I mean that he is literally pushing on my back to get us to the finish line faster.

I can barely propel myself forward due to blisters near the balls of my feet. We arrive at headquarters knowing we have cleared the course, but we are elated to find out that we are the first ones to return to the finish with all of the checkpoints!

Brian Mayer and Justin Bakken are the 2013 U.S. Rogaining Champs!

It was almost 10am, and we had just finished our first ever 24-hour ROGAINE. Some folks may wonder if we’re starting to bald and really want to make sure our hair grows well, but in the orienteering world, ROGAINE is an acronym for Rugged Outdoor Group Activity Involving Navigation and Endurance.

In a nutshell, a team of 2-5 navigates to checkpoints of varying point values using map and compass for a set duration of time. The Connecticut Hill ROGAINE, put on by the Central New York Orienteering Club near Newfield, NY, played host to the 2013 U.S. ROGAINE-ing Championships.

Starting at 12-noon the previous day, Brian and I had traveled 55+ miles in search of a dizzying array of 60 checkpoints. In a race like this, route selection and execution are of equal importance to fitness.

This is especially true at night, when time can easily be squandered by traveling in circles, lost in the woods. A ROGAINE of any length is a great way to test your navigational abilities and stamina, but as Brian and I found out, a 24-hour ROGAINE will also push your limits of mental focus and pain tolerance.

—Justin Bakken

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