2022 Alpine Challenge 100 km

23-24 April 2022

So why not the miler?! Injured myself sometime in February (?) going up to Mt St Leonard – a stick got stuck in my calf, where the tendon meets the muscle (muscle tendon junction, we call it). My only treatment strategy was to move it. Not strain it, just move it, so it heals faster and the way is meant to. Couldn’t touch it for a long time as it was bruised. When I thought it was all good, I managed to re-strain it at Razorback… had to cut the 64 back to 40. The last test was Mt Buller – it behaved, but I wanted to play it safe. Want to be able to run however slow – but run.

Otto was my crew, I knew even though he freaks out for no reason, I can always count on him.

We were driving up on Friday, Thursday night I found out I haven’t registered. Everything organised, accommodation, food, gear… checked with Paul, the RD – nope, I wasn’t registered. He told me “don’t worry, I will look after you”.
On the way to registration I saw Maria, we agreed to catch up later to have a pasta and go through her course.
At registration everyone who knew me greeted me with “Hey Babi, you haven’t registered!!” – got sorted, then had my gear checked by Peter and Annabel, attended the later briefing, had dinner with Maria, we went through her course along with the beer, then packed some more (for Otto to bring to the check points) and went to bed. At 00:14 there were some people arriving above us… they finally got quiet an hour later… 15 mins later Otto started to snore – no sleep.

I usually arrive min 10 mins earlier to the briefings, this time I was nearly late because I decided to make a list with my cut off times last minute. It would have helped if I have sent this to Otto… Strangely, he didn’t see me off at the start line. I was Ok with it, as he needed the rest so I can get the best support when I needed it.
Anyway, we started. It was lovely to see those friendly faces I managed to recognise in the headlights. I was travelling easy, right behind Emma Tanzer. We were talking about all sorts of things (like who’s the eldest in the field 😊 ), then just before Howmans Gap she must have had enough of the slow going and took off. Haven’t seen her until the finish.

On Junction Spur I said hello to many people, but the person I’ve spent the most time with was Lilly Hooper, the youngest female in the field. It was her first miler and I was wondering why she picked exactly this one… then I realised I did exactly the same. Alpine Challenge 60 (70 for me) was my first ultra, then next year the 100 km, followed by 4 attempts at the miler. Anyway, I asked her if she’d like to know more about the course, then gave her some tips about turns, how steep some parts are, etc.

On the way down the very steep part, just before Spion Kopje, we saw a guy having some trouble. Asked him if he’s OK, he said something I couldn’t understand, then asked Lilly what did he say, so she translated 😃 then I stopped, turned around and asked him if I could help. He said he sprained his ankle and he’s already let Paul know and he’s going to get out at Bogong Village. How sad, to end a 100 mile journey after abour 7 kms?! Wished him all the best, then continued running along with the Berry couple. They were in the miler and we did a lot of yo-yoing along the day.

At Rocky Valley Creek I took my shoes off, crossed, then put them back on. On the other side a lovely lady told me that this is the best 10 min investment into this run – I happened to agree, a few years ago I decided to ditch the “takemyshoesoffatwatercrossings” do and ended up with unbelievably sore blisters for 62.5 kms – not fun and I am not willing to repeat that.

Lilly caught up with me, then after a few hundred meters she took off. “Way to go!!” – I thought. I yelled after her to take some shots now, then realised it wasn’t even her, the person I was talking to was Jacqui O’Donohoe. When I went pass her, she said she’s having a breather.

Velta surprised me before I got to Warby Corner – it was so nice to see her there!! Julie was the head crew at Warby, then I saw Otto with a worried smile… told him I was OK, going well. Changed shoes, stocked up then continued to Ropers. I was hoping there is no one using the toilet, but there was someone sitting in there with the window open. I waved and kept going – there is a lot of bush out there…

I must mention this – there was a man called Bill (William), who seemed so out of content there. He was overweight, shorts riding up his thighs… but somehow he always managed to be in front of me. He was doing the miler. On the way down to Big River I got stuck behind Bill and Geoff. I was chatting to Geoff, could’ve gone faster but felt good to just pull back a little. At Big River Bill went first, hanging onto the chains, then I went next, not hanging onto the chains, using the poles and falling onto my bum just before reaching the other side. Glad Geoff managed to record this, it was hilarious!

When I got out of the water, Bill was fiddling with something, then heading off, then there was a mother-son hiker team who we chatted with. I changed my pants (glad I brought the shorts, somewhat expecting this), put my shoes and socks back while Kate Bardy and her partner arrived, then Jacqui. I took off, then after about 200 m of hiking I realised I forgot the poles!! They weren’t even mine! Went back to grab them (Kate said they would’ve brought them), then hiked again. Saw Geoff’s hat on the ground, picked it up and clipped it to the Naked belt.

So far nutrition, hydration, energy, muscles – all good, but I felt that I will need to fuel at some point before Cleve Cole. Then this perfectly cut tree presented itself!!! Like a table in a quirky restaurant. Put my pack down on it, pulled the fried rice out, the collapsible spoon and the ginger beer and had a “picnic”. Kate Bardy (the lovely lady from the Rocky Valley crossing) and her partner came by and she said “I know you!! You are Babi, we read your blog…” Oh oh, I thought, then asked “when I was picked up by the chopper?!” We all laughed, then she said that that was what inspired them to do Razorback… That felt really good. Then Jacqui passed, wished well.

Finished my meal and drink and took off, took a few shots of the views (can’t resist), then bumped into Jacqui, she said she’s slow on the ups, told her me, too.

At Long Spur I decided not to get water from the creek, but get to Cleve Cole as soon as possible. Cleve Cole Hut was manned by Noreen, and … Noreen brought me water and filled my flask. I added some glucose and cordial then I saw Geoff and Jacqui coming in. I asked Bill his name, then told him I am so rooting for him to finish this miler – when he nonchalantly said “whatever, if I finish I finish, if I don’t, I don’t”… he took off way before me.

In the mean time I’ve heard on the radio that a runner called Maria had to pull out. Noreen asked if she was my friend and I said I hope it’s not her.  Tried to call Maria, when I finally could talk to her she said that yes, that’s her. She sprained her ankle pretty much on the same downhill where the other runner did.

I was so disappointed—really wanted her to do well in this run. We agreed that I’ll drive her home. Driving a manual with a sprained ankle is not the safest thing. Later Otto told me that she ended up driving home that afternoon.

That hike from Cleve Cole Hut to the top of Mt Bogong is not fun. We even coined it as a “bitch” with Jacqui. She mentioned that Paul asked her to sweep the 60 at the Prom and she said no… that got me thinking…

Plugged the watch to recharge at Cleve Cole (last year it did my head in) then called Otto, let him know where I was and that I was going well, then just hiked the f&*^ out of that hill, until I reached the summit. There was a group of youngsters sitting and very cheerful, with their Jetboil going. Asked them what is cooking, bet it’s something nice! They looked a bit strange, then asked if I wanted a cuppa. Thanked them and said no, thanks, I’d better get moving, then asked them to take a pic for me, though and I returned the favour before heading towards Quartz spur.

I could see Bill ahead, going really well, I was so happy for him!! When I caught up with him, he didn’t mind me passing. I would normally take lots of pictures here, but now I just looked and saved the views for later (like going up Timms). Took it easy going down Quartz Spur, I knew very well that any of my recent injuries have weakened my proprioception and I can re-injure myself in no time.
All of the sudden Jacqui caught up with me, bombing down asking if she could pass and saying that she’s got that second wind – she just got warmed up on Bogong. Told her of course and “Use it [second wind], Jacqui! Use it!” stepping off the track. So good to see someone pick herself up like this!!

At the bottom of Quartz, I filled up my BeFree bottle and while I was fiddling with my pack Bill got there. Told him about this water source being a better option that down at the crossing – just in case there are any dead animals… he thanked me and filled up his bottles while I took off (body started to get cold). I made sure I ate something before the all up Timms and took off my shoes at Big River while Bill waded through. I caught up with him a couple of hundred meters up and asked how he was going; offered to hike with him if that was better, but he said he’ll be fine so I hiked on.
That spur feels like it would never end, but on the top the sunset was just stunning. I couldn’t help myself, took a few shots, put my warmer clothes on and hiked on with some shuffling in between.

Wanted to get to Warby Corner before it got dark… Saw the couple stopping then starting, then Jacqui. Clouds started to gather and Warby Corner was all covered by them. I was thinking of Julie and the other two volunteers missing out on the beautiful sunset because of those clouds and imagined how cold it must be up there… so grateful for them doing this and helping us out in those conditions!! I have no words for that. Saw a group of hikers on Big River FT, asked them where are they heading. They said Ropers, at least that wasn’t far away.

Otto wanted to know about how long it would take me to get to Langfords. At the Warby checkpoint I had some fruit compote, picked up a packet of chips and a kit kat, got my head torch out, then called Otto on the way letting him know it might take about one and a half hour. He asked me if I was OK, told him yes, just very cold, better keep moving.

The mist made it hard to see into the distance. I was so fixated on the left hand side, so I won’t miss the turnoff. I was even worried about eating the chips, so I won’t blink and miss it. Ate them anyway, needed calories. Passed the couple, we talked a few words, and walked as fast as I could to keep warm and to finally get to Langfords where Otto was waiting with clean clothes and warm food and coffee.

Marum Point Tk was wet in places, but at that stage I didn’t care, dry socks and shoes were just a few kms ahead. Saw hikers at the camp site, waved and said hi, they said hi back which felt good.
Just before reaching the wooden bridge, I opened the kit kat. Felt a bit dry, but again – calories! Don’t know why, but I took a photo of that bridge in the dark, crossed it then turned right, trying to call/message Otto. There was no reception, so those were futile attempts.

Tried to shuffle, but I could feel the so well known nausea coming… speed walking it was, then.

It was a relief seeing the lights at Langfords. Peter asked me if I had a drop bag, told him I have Otto with food and I’ll be back.
Otto got everything ready for me. Changed in the car while trying to eat the hot 2 minute noodles and watching that I won’t kick the coffee in the little thermos. Swapped packs, too – transferred the stuff from the wet one. I have spent about 50 minutes there… not cool!! Then checked out and headed into the night.

I’ll never forget the first time I was there in the pitch dark with my brother-in-law, Nelu. We were checking every freaking pole… then we switched the headtorches off and enjoyed a few moments of darkness. I didn’t feel like doing that at this point, I also felt too warm (and the crop was chafing my already chafed back) – that down jacket under the waterproof was too much, so I thought I’d just get to Cope Hut and take off whatever I don’t need.

Saw a building, thought it was Cope Hut, but it was the toilet. Well, if I was already there… I might as well use it. Then got back onto the track and then up to the Hut. I could see two lights behind me, I knew one of them is Bill, but I was busy getting off my extra layers. The headtorch’s light was so strange in that dark hut, but I had to move fast before I get too cold. I’ve folded the down jacket around my hip, thinking I will surely need it somewhere around Pole 333.

The track to Pole 333 was as wet and painful as the very first time I’ve experienced it in the dark. I was trying to get around the water, just to step straight into the middle of it. I could see Bill ahead of me.
I kept a distance, then when I got about a few meters behind him I still didn’t feel like passing, just hung back. Then I got a message from Otto trying to find out how long it will take me to get to Pretty Valley. By the time I’ve replied (lost my balance and overstretched the left Achilles on a hump) Bill was a hundred meters ahead. I thought we’ll never reach Pole 333, when we finally saw the light…

Cameron was very helpful, offered a chair and a warm cover, but I told him I’ll just put the down jacket on, get some water and head out before I get too cold. He said that’s a great idea. He couldn’t find my number on the list… told him the reason. Bill sat down on the tarp, Cameron told him to sit on the chair, but Bill said he doesn’t want it to get dirty, when Cameron said, that that’s why this chair is there, then covered him with something like a sleeping bag. Bill haven’t decided if he’d continue down to Cobungra or pull the pin. I wished him all the best and took off into the misty night. In my mind I was happy about not doing the miler – it would feel like a huge disappointment right now.

It was so cold!! Getting the feet wet didn’t help the situation. At this point I couldn’t drink or eat, just put one painful foot in front of the other, slipping and sliding on the uneven, rocky, grassy, wet track.
Then I saw a light!! I started wondering who that might be… when we got close enough to each other, I realised it was Britta. She was sweeping the miler. Gosh, this lady!!! We had a hug and exchanged a few words, then we headed on our way. I’ve been thinking… if she started the sweeping with wet feet in this cold, it would be a not so pleasant night, for sure.
Then I saw two other head lights, both going to Pole 333.

Ever since Pole 333 I’ve been thinking that I only have 5 km to Pretty Valley Pondage and then 4.5 km to the finish… have no idea why I was fixated on this. Once on Fainters, I was really hurting, but I saw a bright light, just above Pole 333 and thought “Wow!! Looks like they are having a party!”. But that light just grew and it was so shiny and orange!! The moon!! Tried to take a few pictures, but this camera is not good enough for that.

Couldn’t wait to get to Pretty Valley Pondage. The lady at the checkpoint pointed out that we need to go up to the hut on Mt McKay, because there is a timing chip there. I wouldn’t even consider missing going up there, even though I am not a fan. Otto gave me some mineral water (that was the only thing I was OK with), gave me the bad news regarding the kms – 9, not 4.5 as I thought. I just wanted to finish. He drove behind me, then next to me, trying to talk, told me about the little one, then played music… at this point everything felt irritating, so I asked him to turn the music off.
Another thing that I was confused about was the hike up to Mt McKay – in my mind I had that track I was on, then I thought I’d have to turn left to climb up to the top and opposite that turnoff was the track going through the Desert.

I saw a light on the top and thought, I’ll probably miss the person, but no, it was one of the SA runners, we had a chat and he must have been confused by my confusion 😃 told him well done and wished him all the best, then headed up. He was right! I soon found myself near the top; followed the pink flags, passed the timing device a few times, as I wasn’t sure if it registered me or not, had a peek into the hut (some people left rubbish in there), then closed the door so at least animals don’t carry that shit out. Tried to take a picture with the door, but it was too misty, nothing showed, then headed down.

There was another runner heading up, going quite fast, which I really admired. Then the Desert!! Why?!!! There is a perfectly good road going in the same direction. My head torch suddenly switched off. Bugger!! Switched it back on, I knew it’s going to be OK to the finish, but also lamented on what would happen if I was going downhill and this happened. Or what if a rider was going downhill?! They could end up in the valley.

When I got back to the fire track, Otto was waiting and continued driving along trying to keep me entertained. Then all of the sudden two runners were coming. So fast as they were racing a Parkrun. I couldn’t help myself and said “Wow!! Awesome job, guys! Keep it up!”. They were the 100 miles winners!! I was broken after 98 kms, yet they sprinted like there’s no tomorrow.
Last Hoot seemed so far away!! Then going downhill when all the toes and knees were aching! Clenched my teeth and just kept going, the finish should be so close, yet it felt so far.

At the finish Ian said “switch your head light off” then I ran into Otto’s arms. I saw Emma and Katy from SA – so nice of them to wait up for me. Last year I’ve spent some time on the course with Emma and if I had anything left in the tank, we could’ve finished together. She’s a great runner, so happy she got a good time! And those finish line hugs felt great.

Can’t really recall who gave me the medal (I think it was Ian), then we walked into the HQ and Ian told me to have a sit for a few after shots. Oowan (the 100 miles winner) was flat on a bench, we congratulated each other and congratulated Joseph, and Pedro too.
Thanked everyone and went back to the accommodation. Shower, etc. the usual.