Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Rogaining World Champs, Estonia

The event terrain of the 8th Rogaining World Championships in Estonia includes the Karula National Park (start location at 57°42.75'N and 26°30.3'E), which is in the southern part of the country. The map covers an area 250km2 and the map is 1:40 000 scale.

Although the difference between the highest point and lowest point is only 80 metres, the area is not flat. There are no big mountains but the area is known for its rolling landscape of hillocks, moraines and eskers, which are glacial in origin. It seems to be like Valley of a Thousand Hills on a lower scale. There are many lakes, marshes and bogs, which immediately means that we can count on wet feet for much of the race. Some of the marshes and ditches are wide and difficult to cross or impassable.

Some of the areas are open grassland, nice for as-the-crow-flies routes; and other are forested. Forested terrain ranges from open and runnable to thick, impassable undergrowth. Accurate map reading and terrain interpretation will be very important, so that we don't get trapped.

Apparently there is a network of tracks and also rides within the forests, which make for faster travel.

Rolling hillocks, typical of the area

There is not much in the way of hazards with the exception of the normal things you can trip over (roots, logs, ditches). We can expect to be bothered by deer flies and stinging nettles will need to be avoided at all costs. They "grow in marshy forest and by some ditches". We've been advised to wear long leg protection.

The weather at this time of year is mild, with daytime temperatures of 12-20°C dropping to 5-15°C at night. Night frost is not unlikely and conditions could be clear and dry, low clouds with intermittant showers or rain with strong wind. We're obviously hoping for the former rather than the latter.

What kind of distance could we cover? At the rogaines here at home we've covered 45-55km in 8 hours. We could easily log +100km in the 24hr period.

We do run through the night; and I'm very, very lucky to have my hands on the new Petzl Ultra, which beams brighter than a Care Bear Stare. The maximum beam (highest of the three settings; distance of 120m) will be great for spotting the reflective strips on the controls at night. Duration on max is only about 1h30, so this beam will be saved for when we're in the vicinity of the control.

We get maps at 10h00 and the start is at 12h00. We will carry most of our food with us (there are 5 water stations out there) and there is the option to pass through the event centre (hash house) during the race to get a bigger meal. We'll probably stash food at the has house anyway, build it in as an option when we look at the maps and then make the call when we're out there, depending on where we are and how long it is taking us to move through our intended route plan, which we have to submit to the race organisers before the start.

Heather and I will not be the only South African entrants. Nicholas Mulder and Liz Mulder will compete as a mixed pair. Liz and Pieter have immigrated to Switzerland, so it will be super to see Liz again. I fly out on Saturday night. Nic departs on Monday night.

More news on the Rogaine, next week, from Estonia. WwwwwoooooHooooo!

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