"The Practice Day"
Thank goodness for this day. After talking to previous Rebelles, the way this year's Prologue was formatted was different than previous years. It's always been a practice day to some extent, but today's practice would be a shortened version of what we would expect from a graded day at the Rebelle Rally. Given most of our practice leading up to the rally was focused on either the driving portion or the navigation, we didn't have a lot of practice putting it all together, let alone actually doing an Enduro (more on that later)! This day was a blessing to get the big errors out early and to learn how each day would flow.
Per the Rebelle Rally on our Prologue sheet: "The purpose of the Prologue Stage is to give teams a practice day. The On-Time Enduro ranking from Day 0 will determine start position for Day 1. We encourage teams to try all levels of CP difficulty. Upon finishing the final Blue CP9, return to base Camp by using the primary road passing the general location of Green CP4 in Silver Peak - highlighted on the master map."
Today would consist of nine checkpoints, an Enduro, and an assigned start time. The assigned start time was important because it was your first attempt at managing your time with plotting and preparing the vehicle prior to departure. The time was drawn upon arriving at base camp the night before, which was common for getting most start times throughout the rally. Having this time gave you the ability to backwards plan your morning. We drew a 0930 start, meaning that we needed to be in our vehicle and ready to go by 0900. The navigator's primary focus was plotting the checkpoints, which were given to you at a set time that morning based on your start time. Generally the driver would be the first out of the tent to snag a well-lit table for plotting, grab breakfast and coffee, pack up camp (if we were moving sites), get the necessary equipment to the vehicle, start the vehicle, and do whatever else the navigator needed to allow them to 100% focus on plotting.
The Enduro was part of today's Prologue. An enduro, per the Rebelle Rally rulebook addendum is, "intended to train and test a team's ability to stay on route and on time while using a roadblock with specific instructions...Teams will be notified in advance how many controls will be on each route and how many points each control will be worth. Rebelle Enduro Challenge sections will finish at the next green Checkpoint along the route if not started as ending before that." There were different Enduros we were tested on throughout the rally, which we'll get into on later days, but in general, the roadbook provided points on the route to look out for to know that you are on track, all while calculating your estimated arrival time at each point based on the distance and speed limit. That's where the 5am mathing comes into play!
For us, early on we agreed that we would rotate driving and navigating positions, which we later found out was uncommon for many teams. This was important for us, because we both had similar experience in both driving and navigating, and as rookies we wanted to gain experience in both areas. Not only did it give us the experience, as Irma pointed out in our Echoes of Adventure Podcast, it really gave one another empathy for what the other is going through, especially the navigator. The navigator works nonstop throughout the day, plotting points, planning the route, assessing the terrain to successfully navigate the team to the checkpoints. The driver spends their time keeping the team safe and preserving the vehicle, while taking directions from the navigator. If you haven't spent a lot of time in the navigator's seat, you may find yourself asking questions or providing suggestions to the navigator, when really what is probably best for them is silence. Blunt, we know, but as the driver, we found it best to be there for whatever the navigator needed, whether it was silence, water, snacks, a heading, etc. This is where we really started appreciating the necessity of teamwork and cohesion amongst the team to find those checkpoints.
As the description of the Prologue stated, it was strongly encouraged that Rebelles try to get all checkpoints, regardless of their difficulty. Difficulty meaning Green (easy), Blue (moderate), and Black (Difficult), similar to what you might find on a ski route. To go along with the difficulty the size of the checkpoint marker (if there is one), meaning for the Green, expect to find a large green flag. Greens are mandatory. They are meant to keep you on track and if you miss one, you have to skip all checkpoints in between until the next green and/or base camp. Don't miss the green before closing time! Oh yeah, and all check points have an open and close time, which also helps to keep you on track. Don't arrive too early, but definitely don't arrive late (more on that experience in a future post). The blue checkpoints are either smaller flags or a 3" blue PVC pipe in the ground. The black checkpoints, well, there is no marker. You rely solely on the terrain and your navigation plan to get you to where you think the checkpoint is, then you click. Because of this, unless you're pretty certain you're in the right spot, don't click the black checkpoints. We'll discuss those more in future posts and the strategy for tackling them, but for now, just know that they are difficult and for that reason, we learned that many rookies skipped them and opted for the visible markers. It's all based on your strategy though and your knowledge of navigation! Don't be scared of those black checkpoints! Nailing one is such a rewarding experience!
The score for the checkpoint's value are on your sheet you receive in the morning, so you use that to strategize your route once you plot the points. The green checkpoints are required, they are actually worth more points and are already pre-plotted on the map. This at first seems odd, but when you do the Rally, it makes more sense since they keep you on track and are also message bulletins if there are any updates throughout the day. So as you may have guessed it, the blue are worth less than the green, and the black checkpoints often worth the least amount, so all the more the reason you want to be really sure, you're in the right spot before clicking your tracker.
It's 0930 and we're off! Irma was behind the wheel with Mandy navigating. At the start line, there is usually about two minutes (at least) between each vehicle. Each vehicle is likely on a different route, so don't follow anyone (that's a general rule and common sense!), trust your navigation plan out of the gate. Oh yeah, and if you don't have a plan, get one. We'll share that funny story later on when we moved from base camp #1 to base camp #2! Since today was a practice day and we were planning on rotating roles each day, we planned to switch halfway through the day so that we both got a little practice in both seats.
From base camp, our first checkpoint was a green. Hooray, a large flag that should be easy to find. We found it without issue but very quickly the motion sickness kicked in for Mandy. Quick, find the pressure point bands and ginger gum! Important Prologue lesson: when you leave the start line, have your motion sickness bands on and be chewing the gum! Thankfully that trick worked (thank you former Rebelles that told us about this secret!), so rookie Rebelles, if you're prone to motion sickness. Get these. It's better to have them than to not, even if you don't think you are not prone to motion sickness!
After clicking and high fiving after our first official Rebelle Rally checkpoint, we were on to #2, which was a blue. We had heard what the blue should look like, but we wouldn't know until we found it. Mandy navigated to a general area where we though it might be. Meanwhile, other vehicles were parked at various spots along the side of the road, so either there are two checkpoints nearby or we're close because everyone is looking for the same one. Either way, we need to focus on the plan and find that blue. After navigating to walking range, we parked Uhambu on the side of the road and went for a walk, since the plot appeared just off of the side of the road. We walked around for a period of time you'd expect of a rookie team, looking for an object we had never seen (i.e., much longer than we should have). Looking back, it was definitely a lesson in "use your map to analyze the terrain, and trust your navigation." Which we thought we did, but after hitting the tracker over a wooden stick and plotting our lat/long returned from the tracker, we quickly realized our mistake. Mandy was set on her map and the distance they had traveled from the last checkpoint and that the checkpoint had to be there, so even when Irma stated, "I think the checkpoint should have something Rebelle on it," Mandy insisted that it had to be that wooden stick. Mandy's bad! We replotted the lat/long, measured to where the checkpoint actually was, and went and found it just for the sake of practice, because Prologue.
The remaining checkpoints went well, to include our attempts at the black checkpoints! We were 33 and 38 meters off our first even black checkpoints, meaning we would have gotten full points based on a 50m radius! Score!
After six checkpoints, we rolled into the dreaded Enduro. We had been cramming to practice the math the weeks leading up to the Rally, and it wasn't until the night before Tech Inspection that we realized we had both followed different videos and calculated our Enduros very differently. Not a huge deal, but it definitely made it more difficult to check each other's work! Irma ever so kindly offered to learned the way Mandy had been practicing, which appeared more straight forward after watching the video together, but it still was completely relearning. You're the best, Irma!
Given we were planning to swap roles halfway through the day, we had also split the Enduro math 50/50. This seemed like a great idea at the time but even with us calculating the math the same way, we also discovered that we write our notes VERY differently, so if you were the one reading the estimated arrival time but didn't do the math, it was very difficult to interpret the numbers. Again, today was prologue, so it was a great thing to learn on this practice day!
The Enduro is scored based on 3-4 timing checks along the way. You'll have no idea where in roadbook those timing checks are, so you're best to try to stay within a few seconds of your estimated arrival time since you usually could not see these timing checks until you were right on top of them. Of course that's intentional. If you're on track, then you have nothing to worry about! But most of the time, that's not the case, and being on track assumes your math and estimated arrival time is correct, so you do the best you can while driving safely!
We don't recall our score on that first Enduro. It probably wasn't great, but we at least remember getting some points. We definitely learned a lot! We agreed to not split the math after the confusion, so our rule coming out of the Prologue when it came to Enduros was that whomever was navigating the Enduro, would be the one doing the math since we both had such different styles. This is a bit different than what many teams did we were told. Most of the time the driver is the one that does the Enduro math, which works if you both understand how the other organizes their math. This allows the navigator to focus on plotting the checkpoints to come up with the route plan for the day. We opted to swap out plotting so the navigator could do the math, then the driver would double check the work. This worked well for us. Most of all, you just need to figure out what works for you so that you can find those darn timing clocks on time (on time being +/- 3 seconds usually from the arrival time). Any time beyond that results in a loss of points or no points at all.
Upon returning to base camp, we were feeling pretty great about our first day and having the opportunity of putting it all together. We had attempted each of the nine checkpoints and felt comfortable with the three difficulty levels. We learned a lot and had a better game plan going into day one! Now we needed to get our score back to see how many points we would have gotten and we'll be set!
Upon returning to basecamp, there are usually a few hours between arrival and the time you'll receive your score for the day. The scores will be in a hanging folder near the bulletin board, where various important pieces of information are posted throughout the day. Once the scores are posted, they also include the points for the Enduro. The rankings are posted as well, which for us didn't matter this first year. Another pact that we both agreed to was to not look at our placement for the entire rally. We knew that if we did, we would probably get in our own heads given we are both pretty competitive people in general. This was a difficult thing to do, but we knew that we really wanted to take it one day at a time. We'd adjust based on what we learned and to try to be the best version of ourselves each day! If we knew we were doing well, we might get a big head. Alternatively, if we were doing terrible, we knew we'd start beating ourselves up and would let it get to our heads. So this worked well for us and was recommended for the rookie teams.
So when the point summary was posted, which confirms whether or not you clicked at the proper checkpoint, we were SUPER bummed to see all zeros on our sheet. DID WE REALLY DO THAT POORLY?! No, no we hadn't. We did, however, have a malfunctioning tracker, so although we got the send and receive confirmations when we clicked the tracker, it didn't actually register with the team back at base camp recording the scores. There is another team, we believe in the United Kingdom, that oversees the scoring for the entire Rebelle, but given it was the end of the day for us in Nevada, it was definitely the middle of the night for the UK'ers, so this issue wouldn't be resolved until the following day. Thankfully, we had written down our Lat/Longs from the tracker after each click (thank you again, former Rebelles for that tip!), so we had a pretty good idea of how we had done, but still, a huge disappointment as a rookie when you really needed the feedbackto have no idea how you scored during the Prologue! We found out about five teams had the same issue with the tracker, but we were the only rookie team. We weren't sure whether that was a good or a bad thing, but we brushed it off and didn't let it get to us - start focusing on the next day! If the trackers were to malfunction, they had a back up plan to get the scores if it did happen during the rally, but better to happen on the practice day than during the rally! Thankfully this issue didn't happen again, but still gave us a brief heart attack at first!
Now it's time for some good food and some much needed sleep... Bring on the first official graded day of the Rally!
- Disclaimer -
Please remember, this recollection of each day is our view alone. Others definitely had different experiences. We wanted to share ours with you from our perspective, but definitely ask questions of other Rebelles and/or the Rebelle Staff if you are unsure of something. Also do your homework and read the rule book! Although we pulled snippets from the rule book, it changes some each year and is what you should refer to for the official Rebelle Rally rules and guidance.