6-Hour Orienteering Race

Team GearJunkie.com wins! After trail running, bushwhacking, navigating, and — finally — stumbling up a stretch of road to the finish line, Team GearJunkie.com won the annual MNOC Rogaine Orienteering race. The event, held this year on August 14th in the Chequamegon National Forest of Wisconsin, included 25 flags hidden in a remote plot of forest land. About a dozen teams ran the race, which had a six-hour time cutoff and would entail up to 20 miles of on- and off-trail running.

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.

Annotated SPOT map shows Team GearJunkie.com’s route via a tracked GPS route

The sport, an offshoot of orienteering, puts teams of two to four people on a choose-your-own-adventure course in a wilderness dotted with flags. Race organizers hand out topographical maps at the start pre-marked with control flag locations. From there, teams scan the shotgun pattern of flag placements and pick a route through the woods.

In a rogaine race, a compass serves as your sole navigational tool, no GPS allowed. You chart a course and tag the control flags in any order, imprinting a punch card at each flag to prove you were there. The team with the most punched points in the end wins.

For the event last month, my teammate Andrei Karpov and I finished the course in about 5 hours and 20 minutes, netting a narrow victory. In an unexpected sprint finish, we edged out second-place “Rainbow Unicorns” by only 10 seconds and stumbled into the finish area exhausted but smiling — happy to win, and happy to be out of the woods.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com.