As my contract comes to an end this Friday, we were forced to use up my final 3 days of holiday and so we decided to go to Ireland and partake in a spot of walking.
A spot of walking actually meant competing in the Setanta 24 hour Rogaine. A rogaine isn’t a way to maximise hair growth as some may be led to believe, it is in fact a sport which requires the competitor to navigate over country and find as many control sites as possible in a period of 24 hours! A little more than your average country walk then!
The location was the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin. We arrived at the event centre for the race which started at 12 noon on Saturday. It was really quite wet and very windy, but nevertheless we apprehensively donned our fell shoes and waterproofs and lined up with the other competitors with the only questions being “are you 6 or 24?” meaning are you going out in this weather for 6 or 24 hours? We had to do the 24 hours of course … one of the reasons being that Richard kindly entered us for the World Rogaining Championships in Estonia and having never done such an event, we thought we must have at least one attempt at a 24 hour race beforehand. With map in hand we were given 32 grid references and the event started. We mapped out all the control sites on the map (with orange pen first, then black as we realised that the orange ink ran off in the rain!) and set off. Our very first obstacle, within 10 m of the start was a waist high and rising river. This did not deter us as we waded through and started up the first hill. We visited 13 controls in total on the first day heading over mountain after mountain and crossing stream after stream. Every few hours we’d stop for a sausage roll and then continue on. Highlights were the beautiful scenery … low lights were the rain, which fell in buckets, the cold river crossings, the bogs we crossed for hours and the areas of turf cutting that were hard on the tired legs. Nevertheless we continued and thankfully our plans to come off the moors before dark fell into place nicely which left us some easy controls near roads to find by torchlight. Our plan was to continue until about midnight, then get 3-4 hours sleep at the base camp and then restart in the early morning. Unfortunately this didn’t go completely to plan, as when we started to head back to the base camp after our last control we realised that there was a large river in the way that would definitely we impassable after all the rain. The only answer was to take a huge diversion adding about 1 hr onto our walk home. Eventually we made it back to the event centre … we’d been wondering whether we’d be able to wade the river next to the campsite for the past few hours and as we got closer it looked very high and very fast. Then we saw an organiser with a lantern and his friend with a piece of rope highlighting the best part of the river to cross. What a relief, my legs weren’t really up to walking much further to find a bridge after 13 hours of walking. He threw us the rope and helped Richard and I across the river, after which we gorged ourselves on pot noodle (supplied by them) and went to bed.
After tending to various wounds we fell asleep with alarms set for 4.45 am. We awoke and tried to get moving, this took a little time, but soon we were back on the road. Richard and I were amazed however at how tired our legs were and although we managed to get a further 4 controls in the morning we were absolutely knackered. The wind had also increased and was almost blowing me off the mountain tops which wasn’t particularly pleasant. We arrived back at camp a few hours before midday. It would have been possible to collect another control, but Richard and I were so knackered that we just couldn’t face another hill. Back at camp we measured our distance … 40 miles in 24 hours over the hills! And we came joint 3rd, not bad for our first 24 hour rogaine, bring on the world champs in September!