On Saturday, March 7, 2020 I woke up early, packed my bags, and walked to Prisma, the local grocery store, to meet my friends, Jaakko, Esa, and Teemu. We all piled into Esa’s station wagon just after 7.00 am to travel to Nuuksio Talvipäivä 6 hour Rogaining contest in Nuuksio National Park, not too far from Helsinki.
We picked up Jouni along the way. And, of course, Finns being Finns, we had to stop on the way for coffee, even though it caused us to arrive slightly late. This idea of stopping for warm food/coffee on any trip longer than 30 minutes is a cultural phenomenon that sometimes rubs me the wrong way, but I write this with a smile on my face. 🙂 But honestly, I am actually kind of now hooked on stopping for warm food on road trips rather than relying on the oft-heard parental trope “We have food in the car”.
This was my third trip to this event and actually the third time it has been organized. In 2018, my team started really well but we imploded after 4 hours and essentially collected almost no points during the last two hours. Somehow we still managed a top 10 finish (results here). In 2019, everything went swimmingly and Jouni Nurminen and I took first place (results here)! In 2020, Jouni and I were the defending champions, though this year we added the rising trail running star, Esa Lehti, to our team. These 3 amigos were confident we could muster a strong performance and possibly retain our title.
To save the reader from disappointment, guess what (?) we actually did win again this year and were even awarded with a token 1st place thermos! And then…we were moved to 2nd place after we had already departed from the event. It turns out that another team proved that their point tracking system had malfunctioned and they had ended up with more points than us. We were a bit disappointed, but we can’t complain because we were legitimately bettered by another team. And then it happened again and we ended up officially in 3rd place (results here – for some reason this still shows us in 2nd place… so maybe something happened with one of the other teams – IDK).
The reason for the incorrect results stems from the point tracking system used in the competition. For some reason, this particular event uses QR codes that one person from each team ‘tags’ at each checkpoint using a smartphone. This practice has at least one advantage in that it is probably fairly cheap for the organizers and participants – who doesn’t have a smart phone these days? The obvious disadvantage is reliability: What happens when your phone battery dies after a few hours in the cold? How long will it take the NSA to run its analysis on each photo? 🙂 Most other rogaining events have used some type of electronic eCard device that each team carries and tags at each checkpoint. Those also have their own pros and cons, but I think I prefer them for ease and speed of use.
In the end, we ran just over 41km and collected 165 points in our 6 hours in the forest. We did well and I think we did the best we could. We only slightly modified our original plan en route. Jouni and Esa can both read terrain on maps faster and more precisely than me and helped me stay on course. I am getting better using my compass and maps, but I still make plenty of mistakes. I suppose my greatest contribution to the team was constantly ensuring that we were on the move and pushing hard.
I don’t have much of an analysis for this event and mostly just want to write that I enjoyed it thoroughly. The forest was beautiful, my team was enthusiastic, the other runners were friendly, and the organizers put together a top-notch event with an excellent map. I look forward to returning in 2021!
If you want to learn about what Rogaining actually is and how it works, check out this informative blog post from a guy in Australia.