This rogaine started a year ago, when it was cancelled due to the heat and air pollution. I immediately informed Itay Manor, who I am coaching and is one of the best orienteers in the country, that he should plan on participating, because Roni and I were already planning another child and I knew we wouldn’t be able to run together.
Then it was decided that the national team would have a training camp with their foreign coach on the date of the rogaine, and a month before, after I finally gave up on my efforts to get the date changed (and we weren’t the only team affected), I was left without a partner. I called up Ronen Shurer from my club, who is probably the closest to me in ability (we’re almost level in the H35 rankings), and he agreed readily. A week later his employer rescheduled a business trip for that date, and I was alone again.
After a few phone calls to potential partners from the orienteering scene, I started thinking “outside the box” and checked up with Veronika Ulychny, who is in our work team for the Mountain to Valley relay (coming up in a couple of months – 8 runners, 24 legs, 200+ km) and theoretically the second fastest on the team after myself. She’s younger than me (30), runs marathons and goes trekking and climbing, and she agreed to participate as my teammate with only two weeks notice.
So there we were on Saturday morning at the crack of dawn, with some light rain just starting on a cloudy day, ready for an 8-hour rogaine. I was as ready as I could be, hoping to hold up better than all the previous times, praying that Veronika could run in terrain as well as I expected. I also knew that we were going to battle Noam and Naomi Ravid, as usual, for first place in the “mixed” category.
Our planning was based on an estimated straight line pace of 4.5 km/hour, or 36 km overall. The route we planned was 34.5 km, so there was margin for error, and we had a plan for extending it if we were really fast.
We could have won. During the race I made three orienteering mistakes that cost us 11 points, and we lost to Noam and Naomi by 9 points. None of the mistakes would have happened if I’d had an experienced orienteer such as Itay or Ronen beside me, but Veronika was orienteering for the first time in her life. She can read a map well, but obviously I had to make all the decisions and I didn’t expect her to have the confidence to second-guess me on any of them, though I consulted with her and explained all the route choices.
First, we missed our first control, number 81 (8 points). It was in thick forest, the map had lots of missing features, and after looking around for a few minutes with a few other teams I decided to cut our losses and continue. The planner has admitted to being partly at fault, and the features on the map are too small for my eyesight, but we didn’t get the control and that’s it.
Secondly, I made a parallel error at 83 (stopped for gel after a steep climb and restarted somewhere else…) and lost around 10 valuable minutes.
Third, I decided to skip control 53 between 93 and 84 (the only actual change to our plan), but didn’t notice that the new route needed only a small detour to collect no. 33 (3 more points) as well.
After about 6 hours my knees started acting up, and my running ability slowly deteriorated to the level where I had severe pain running downhill and a bit less on the flat (we weren’t running uphill anyway). Luckily the last hour was mostly uphill, and Noam and Naomi went past us at the last control (74) so we knew they were in front and I could walk the steep downhill to the finish, where we arrived with two minutes to spare.
We finished 5th overall and 2nd in our category with 122 points. It rained only at the start, we dried out after a couple of hours, and the weather was perfect (cool and cloudy) the rest of the time. My GPS logged 49.1 km and almost 1300m climb, though Veronika’s died out showing 49.5 km about 15 minutes before the end, so maybe we ran over 50. We filled up with water only once (at E), and ate lots of gels and some other stuff.
Veronika was magnificent. Physically she held up much better than me and was skipping around at the end as if she’d just finished the warmup. Her shoes were not suited for terrain, but she didn’t complain even once. She was on my heels wherever I led her into the bush just like an experienced orienteer. In the first hour something got into her eye and she carried on for the rest of the race with one eye mostly shut, despite our best attempts to wash it – afterwards the doctor diagnosed it as a scratch and gave her a few days off work… She also had one bad fall (it looked bad to me) and carried on as if nothing had happened. I’ll be eternally grateful to her for agreeing to come on this adventure at such short notice and enabling me to participate.
Next year Roni will be back, even if it’s just at walking pace, and I’ll be with her. I went further than before this time, despite being a few years older, and I know how to get even better, so maybe I can still run a painless rogaine before I get too old.
Thanks to Pavel Levitsky for the planning, and to Noam Ravid for the mapping. Let’s hope that there are many more rogaines like this one!