The view from Telegraph Tk

2021 Prom 60ish

01 May 2021

No, I haven’t gone off course—this year we did a modified run due to Sealers Track being rebuilt because of the heavy rains earlier in the year.

Quick background to the week leading up to the Prom run.
For the first time, my left hip flexors were giving me a grief, so in the usual Babi fashion I did a Mt St Leonard (20.91 km, 1,170 m) on Tuesday to suss it out/fix it. This method works for me.

The letterbox

I signed up for a study at Monash BASE and thought I would be doing a one-hour run on the treadmill on Thursday. I must have blinked when I read the description, because I obviously haven’t retained these three little words “in random order” when I booked the trials with the lovely Stephanie.

My lower back was already crooked when I showed up (just like the letter box I had knocked out the other day) and the 6 x 30 minutes treadmill run totaling just under 29 kms didn’t help. I felt more tired and dizzy after it, than doing these 66 kms.

The Friday Maria and I have road tripped to the Prom was hectic, too with Otto and I taking care of our little grandson, him doing his work, the food shopping, me getting ready for the Prom… proper madhouse.
We left at around 4:30 and were stuck in the outbound Friday afternoon traffic all the way to Pakenham. Stopped at BP in Leongatha to get the Prom Rooftop map, then drove to the Foster Caravan park to check in before going down to do the registration and gear check in Tidal River.
Had to buy a snake bandage, have no idea how I could NOT pack that—it’s always the first thing I put in the pack when going for a run. Maria was in the same boat, too.
We drove back to the cabin, chatting away and trying to avoid hitting the wombats.
We had a beer, pasta with pesto and another beer, then packed, shower and straight to bed.
As usual, haven’t slept much. This time there was some motor switching on every few minutes, making a loud noise.
It was dark and surprisingly not that cold when we left the cabin and by the time we got started we didn’t need the head torches.

Tidal River from the track to Lily Pily

It was really nice to see some of the people I only get to see at these events. Those hugs are priceless!

We agreed that I will drop the car key off with Duncan at Telegraph Junction and Maria will pick it up so she can have a shower when she finishes.
I only carried enough food and water for the first 20 km loop, planning to use the car as a check point.
We took off at 7 am. This time there was no roll call, just a brief briefing.
I believe this was the best weather I have ever done the Prom race in—not too cold and not too hot. Just perfect.
Considering the kilometers this week and knowing that if I relax into it my back will come good, I decided to just take it easy and simply enjoy the day.

So glad I chose this strategy – it worked perfectly.

I was happy to be the last and just cruised along. There were some parts of the 20 km Lily Pily loop I haven’t done before and there were parts where I haven’t been for years, so it was a mix of new and going down memory lane.
When I got to the little board walk, I saw Maria and another lady. They were heading into the wrong direction, so I yelled out to warn them. Then I saw everyone running towards me… we were supposed to do this loop anti-clockwise. Wondered why is everyone running clockwise.
I caught up with two runners—Mark Falls and Michelle and started chatting. Then the fasties were flying down, so nice to say hello and telling them that they were doing great. Hi-fived Jacqui, Maria and Ray, then saw Velta on the big boulder near the summit. We took a selfie after she did the shots with that amazing background.
At the summit Michelle took a photo of me, then she disappeared (she’s fast). I wished Mark all the best an headed down. There was another runner I was bunny hopping to Tidal River, I think his name is Barry (?).

I waved at each car and people waved back. The road running (even though I am not a fan) wasn’t that bad. Loved Picnic Bay and the connecting trail to Squeaky Beach. The tide was low, the sand runnable and that salty mist with the sea breeze!! LOVED IT!! I also remembered all the family outings here, the barefoot runs along the beach on hot days when we got burnt… never thought I’d be officially running here one day. Ran and chatted with the other runner for a while.

The track out of Squeaky Beach was muddy and there were a few hikers on the way up. It seemed much easier to get up the mountain this time and the views—as always—were priceless.

Got back to Tidal River, as I was running towards the toilet block, a man with his son said hello and called me by my name, then told the child that “this is a lady who goes everywhere”. So sorry I have no idea who this man was, even though his face looked familiar.

Paul and the lovely volunteers were at the start/finish line; they told me I was doing well and recorded my number. I headed to the car to ditch the hot pink vest and stock up with some food and hydration for the rest of the run. I had the smoked salmon, philly and capers toasted sandwich and a mini can of ginger beer and was stuffing my pack with food when Darren (Jacqui’s husband) came over and said what a good check point I have.

I turned around at the first chalet, and went back to the car because I forgot my sunnies, then headed towards Mt Oberon (again). The hike up to the car park didn’t seem as bad as other times. I guess it was because I wasn’t pushing it.

There were many hikers on Telegraph Tk. All kind. I said hello and airplaned along on the steeper parts, walking the ups.

At the Oberon Tk intersection there was another hiking group; said hello, then the boss lady asked if this is Telegraph Junction. I pointed the bench out and told her that Telegraph Junction is where that bench is.

Duncan’s partner (so sorry can’t remember her name) asked me for the key and read out my number to the lovely young lady, who recorded it. I asked for water and an electrolyte tablet, then I headed towards Waterloo Bay.

That track was just lovely! Other times I wasn’t fond of it, but now I didn’t mind the sand and steps. At that boulder, just below the Christmas Island rocks I thought how nice it would be just to sit on it a little… after passing it and going for about 20 m, I turned around, walked back and sat on it for while. Have no idea how long, I enjoyed the calm, the sound of the birds, the soothing breeze against my face… then it was time to move.

I was really looking forward to Waterloo Bay and it didn’t disappoint. The water was crystal clear and calm, just the way I like it. I so wished I could just take my clothes off and go for a swim as I usually do on my training runs… I ran/walked along the beach, then started the hike out. I was also looking forward to the ginger beer I planned to have at the beginning of this hike. It was lukewarm, but still a great source of energy.

I know it’s hard to believe that this hike can be enjoyable, but this time I actually did enjoy it; probably because it wasn’t as hot as it usually is when I get here. I kept looking back and catching a glance at the stunning view of the bay. Didn’t take as many pictures as I normally would.

I bumped into some hikers, they were nice, then when running through the forest, on the wet autumn leaves (it smelled like autumn, too), I got really emotional—even teared up for a moment. It didn’t last long—soon I could hear music… someone isn’t into peace and quiet. It was a hiker. I said hello and exchanged a few words as I passed him, but in spite of the music being good, I wanted to get away as fast as possible.

I was just thinking how good it is that I haven’t tripped (only once) or fallen so far, when I looked up, saw Mark [Falls] getting up from a fall and promptly fell. No big damage, popped up and asked Mark if he was OK. He said he did a head butt and some scratches. Asked him if he wanted me to stay with him. He said he’ll be fine.

Bit closer to the Lighthouse I saw a lady with a 60 bib running towards me. It was a lady called Liz—told her she is going the wrong way, she turned right instead of left after the Lighthouse return. I think others did this, too.

At the junction to the Lighthouse there were two groups of hikers, they were really nice and cheered us on. On the way up I bumped into Michelle and a few 100 kayers. Told Michelle Mark was hurt, but OK and exchanged a few nice words with the other runners, then kept going. It’s usually so hot on this section (the steep concrete), but this time it was just perfect.

There were a few people when I got there: Remy, the new ranger (found out Renata and Colin have moved to QLD 🙁 ), Ian, a few other runners and Claire Hart. Toilet, touched the Lighthouse door (Ian took a few shots), then got some water from the tap, chatted to Ian and Claire and headed down, eating my little square of butter and vegemite toast.

I usually dread the hike out, but now I was fine with it. Bit worried about the food and drinks—I should’ve put some cordial in the soft flask I carried in the pack and a bit more savoury food (I always end up throwing sandwiches out, so I decided on this occasion not to take too many with me).

At some point I felt, I should sit down on one of those rocks, so I did. Perfect view, as well with the Lighthouse appearing/disappearing in clouds. Sat there for a few minutes in some state of meditation, then hopped up and continued. I ran whatever I could and walked/hiked the rest.

Saw some hikers on the way to Roaring Meg, they asked me if we always use this track or is it by choice (road or track). Told them it’s always the track.

Didn’t fly down on this portion as the last time, when I’ve raced it. When I got to Roaring Meg, I saw Mark. I think he stopped only for a short time at the Lighthouse and got here before me. He asked me if he’s going in the right direction. Told him yes, he is, then pulled out the can of ginger beer I’ve been carrying for this portion of the course and got a good hit of sugar.

I soon caught up with Mark, asked him if he was OK, whether he wanted me to stick with him. He said he’s tired, but OK, so I went ahead, trying to avoid the puddles on the track.

It was strange… Otto usually calls me by this time. Called him and he said he didn’t get the link to track me. It turned out it was because my domain name expired (it’s a nightmare finding the registrar) and my email wasn’t working. Anyway, I assured him I was going well, I can eat, drink and I still have about 16 km to go. Well, the eat and drink was a white lie; I ran out of savoury things and the sweets didn’t appeal anymore. I was really hoping there is something at the checkpoint that could fix that.

Once on the fire track I found it hard to get into a good rhythm. I stopped to take some photos of the stunning sunset, then somehow picked up a manageable pace. There were children playing in the Halfway Hut camp ground when I passed—it was really good to hear.

There were quite a few 100 kayers at the Telegraph Junction checkpoint, refueling, re-shuffling their packs. I asked Noreen if there was anything savoury. She said there should be some chips there, but the box was empty. Then the lovely young lady, who did the registration yesterday offered me some of her corn chips. She said “take as many as you want”. I only needed a few to reset my taste buds and gain some energy. Forever grateful for this!! Checked with the runners if they were OK, then headed off.

Not a fan of this track and especially in that direction, but I somehow didn’t miss the sandy 4WD track to Oberon Bay and the hike out Little Oberon Bay.

Caught up with the last 44 km runner and the sweep (I last saw them when I was heading up to the Lighthouse), then two 100 kayers ran past me. They said they are tired, but they will make it. I told them to have a ginger beer and organised with Maria to wait for them at the car.

I then passed another 100 km runner, I think his name was Brian. Exchanged a few words, then I saw another 44 km runner who called me by my name. It took me a few moments to recognise him—he was David whom I’ve swept Red Wood Forest with in March. He could only walk because of his knee. Wished him all the best and kept going.

I soon caught up with the two 100 km runners—Alex and Stewart. We chatted all the way down to the finish.

I was surprised I could step on it pretty much for the last few hundred meters and do sub 6 minute pace.

Maria was waiting at the finish. Got the Caramello, shook hands with the boys, big hug to Velta and we said good bye. Maria and I went to have the first beer, then we shared the beef from the Thermos with a slice of bread. I had a shower, we had another beer, then headed back.

We stopped in Meenyan to get some more light beer (for re-hydration) and chatted all the way home, where Otto waited for us with a nice big slice of steak and a beautiful Riddoch Reserve Cab Sav.

This was an event I really enjoyed. Not only because the Prom is my favourite place, but somehow everything worked out.

Gear

  • Salomon S/LAB NSO Mid Tight—light and very comfy
  • iOMerino Zodiac crop
  • iOMerino Altitude Racerback Tank
  • iOMerino Altitude Zip
  • iOMerino Multi-sport socks
  • Saucony Excursion TR14—maiden run
  • Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Set pack

Hydration and Food

  • 2 x 500 ml water with Dextrose Monohydrate and a bit of cordial
  • 1 x 250 ml + 4 x 200 ml of ginger beer
  • 2 x Farmers Union Greek Yogurt pouches (Peach and Mango)
  • Spring Energy gels—1 Canaberry, 1 Long Haul and 1 SpeedNut
  • Coco Pops Rice Bar—from Maria
  • Piece of toast with Philly, smoked salmon and capers
  • 2 x squares of butter and Vegemite toast
  • Dark chocolate and crystallised ginger
  • 4 cubes of Black Cherry Shot Bloks
  • 2 pieces of banana

Map

Total distance: 68.11 km
Max elevation: 321 m
Min elevation: -20 m
Total climbing: 3011 m
Total descent: -3001 m
Total time: 11:00:16
Download file: Wilsons_Prom_2021_66_km.gpx
Sunset on Mt Feathertop

Everesting Mt Feathertop – Take 1

03 December 2020

My check point
My check point

Everesting Mt Feathertop has been brewing inside me for a while, but didn’t have the guts to give it a go… yet. Until now, when GOW was cancelled, Alpine Challenge postponed… and I madly needed a challenge. A challenge of my own, one that breaks me down, then makes me stronger.

It was a last minute decision to do it this Thursday, 03 December. Sweeping Prom 60 was following weekend, then nearly Christmas… HAD to do it now! I messaged Bich (she told me earlier that she wants to support me whenever I do this), she had work, but happy to drive up on Friday night. I also messaged Byron and to my surprise he was right into it, he said he’ll be there on Friday morning/around noon. Frankly, I didn’t expect anyone to be able to come up and support me at such short notice and was ready to do it solo.
My training consisted of a Mt St Leonard (via Condons), Prom 60 about a week earlier and a few short runs at Lysty.

Preparation, especially food prep was the most time consuming and stressful. Thursday morning I was making crepes, sandwiches, etc before I headed off to Harrietville at 12:30. I was already exhausted. It was a hot day, the drive was sticky, followed a police car that was escorting an ambulance from Alexandra to about Bonnie Doon (very exciting).
I miscalculated the drive and start – ended up heading out an hour later, at 17:26 instead of 16:30. According to Whearterzone it was supposed to be 12-23 C in Harrietville and 5-16 on Mt Feathertop – perfect weather!!

The trail head
The trail head

It was quite warm, 30 C but I enjoyed the taste of adventure as I signed into the book and headed up Bungalow Spur. I was 1 km in, when I saw the first snake… I thought they’ll be more later on. Interestingly, I haven’t seen any during my 20+ hr trip. The sandwich I had before I started has not provided enough calories. I’ve had bites every half an hour, but on a hike like this it’s not enough. On the way up I realised I forgot to pack a Spring gel and should’ve brought the Bilby for the downhill…

There were campers at Federation Hut, chatted with a few of them. I’ve put on my jacket, swapped a few things around and headed up to Mt Feathertop. Got there at 20:08, the sunset was magnificent. Saw a few people in different spot enjoying it, just sitting and chilling… one day I should do that, too. Took a few pics for a couple of Asian girls – they were really happy 😊

The first summit
The first summit

I had a sandwich and some other foods on the way down. Felt a bit funny, tired, tripped a lot, but OK overall. I got to the car in about 4:40 – not a bad time, I thought. Then I’ve spent 20 minutes recharging and reshuffling stuff. I had a lot of ice cold mineral water, tasted great and I was clearly dehydrated. I changed my clothes – the crops felt too tight on my tummy and the tank was pushing on my diaphragm. I was 5:05 hrs into it when I started the second ascent. Signed into the book again and continued. It felt slower and harder, but I thought I’m in for the long haul, it will get slower at every go. Eating was getting harder and drinking, too. Saw a few possums with their orangey eye.

When someone switched on the lights 🙂

I’ve stopped, switched off the torch and enjoyed the silence and the darkness for a few moments. Lots of stars in the sky. I must have been somewhere around old Federation Hut site, when I felt like someone switched on a light – it was the shiny Moon! So beautiful!!

Got to Federation Hut, had to put my jacket on – it’s always windy and chilly up there. I laid down on the bench outside, waiting for my tummy to settle, then I felt I was getting cold and fast, so I went into the hut. Laid on the bench, looking at the stars, waiting for the nausea to go away. I managed to eat the half banana I brought (had more food with me, but nothing felt appetizing), then I headed out towards the summit. I was shaking. Amazing how fast the body cools down. Realised I should’ve put my overpants on, so I stopped, took the shoes off, on the pants, then everything felt somehow better.

Going up to the summit in the dark is so much different to daylight!! There was a point, where I stopped and had to really look around to see the track.
Then all of the sudden, it seemed so bright! I sat down on a rock, switched my light off and enjoyed the moment thinking how f$%^ing hard it is to get up here, but oh, so rewarding! That moon was so shiny and beautiful!

Second summit
Second summit

Up on the top, in spite of the windchill it felt amazing! It was 2:05. Took a couple of shots, then headed down, making sure I don’t wake up the people camping there.
I tripped a lot and was annoyed with the Nebo (it was bouncing a lot, ended up carrying it in my hand), but I didn’t fall. I think it was about 4:30 when I got to the car (should’ve brought a pen to write it down).

This time around it took a bit longer to get organised and ready for round 3. I had a 3 min chicken noodle soup – the instant kind and it tasted amazing!! I can’t recall what else I had or did, except that I was annoyed with my Fenix 5 for autosaving the activity. I thought at least the Fenix 3 is still going – great!! Restarted the 5 when I got onto the trail again, around 5:05.

The hike up felt really hard; stopped a few times to recoup then just put one foot in front of the other. At Federation Hut saw a guy walking toward his tent, he asked me when I came up and looked a bit puzzled when I told him this is the third time I am here. They were heading to Mt Bogong. Gave him a few tips, they’ve never been that way. Then I saw the elderly (not that, but older than me) couple, getting ready for hiking along the Razorback and down Bon Accord. They haven’t done that, either so I gave them some tips, too.

Third time on the summit

Took a deep breath and headed towards the summit. I always wondered how that track might be to the MUMC Hut and beyond… one day! Had to stop a few times and take a breather on the way up. Wasn’t that bad, since I could enjoy the views when I turned around. There was a couple up at the summit… said hello to them, they weren’t that talkative, so I just kept going. I went a few meters further this time – so much different during the day!! Took a few shots, then headed down.
Saw more people on Bungalow Spur on my way down… I managed to have some Greek yogurt, tasted really good.

Can’t recall the exact time, but I’ve opened a Spring gel and I just couldn’t finish it, so I was putting it from one pocket to the other… then forgot about it.

I thought I’ll slightly step on it downhill, I’ve wasted so much time with stops. I was going quite nicely, thinking I intimately know all these rocks, trees I had to climb over and under, roots… and what an amazing body I have! No, I don’t mean the shape, but the functionality, the structure – took me through so much… when I tripped and landed on my hands and knees. If anyone landed this way on a downhill, would know that it’s not that easy to stand up. First thing I did, I swore. There is no one nearby – I thought. Then I slowly pulled myself together, stood up, checked the damages, then walked on. A few hundred meters later, after a switchback, I see this couple sitting and enjoying their tea. First thing I’ve asked was if they heard me swear -they said no, then we talked about what I was doing, what they were doing, where they were from, where I was from, what shoes I was wearing and so on… surely a few minutes and it was getting hot.

By the time I got to the car, it felt hot. I’ve wetted the triangle bandage in the creek, washed the dirt off the scratches and cooled myself down a little.
Had to change crops again, didn’t want the dust to sit in the wounds, giving a drive by something to look at. It was hot. Very hot. Unpleasant hot near the car. Had some cold watermelon (yummmm), took some mineral water in a plastic bottle then get on with it.

Byron messaged me that he’s getting on the bus, should be in Harrietville by 1:45, he’ll head straight up Bungalow and will catch me on the way. I kept looking back and thinking that things are getting really out of hand – I’m so out of the schedule, it’s not funny and this heat is not helping. Can’t eat, can’t drink. Even the water made me sick. How am I going to do another 3.5 of this?! As I was hiking up, I decided to pull the pin. Go up to 5000 m, then turn around and head straight back. It wouldn’t be fair on Byron and Bich.

Then Byron messaged me that he has a taxi booked to Harrietville, will be there at 14:30. I asked him to cancel the taxi, I won’t be going on. I sat down on a log and tried to reach Bich, so she doesn’t leave. Told Otto, then kept going up. It felt soooo hard!! It was really hot and I knew every step I go forward, I’ll need to come back. There were hikers on the track, some of them not so kind – must be from Melbourne… the locals were all very nice.

On the way down to the car

I was looking at my watch (Fenix 3) until I reached 5000, then took a U turn and headed down. Have no idea how I got to the car… I know I spoke to Suzie, Otto, Byron… kinda sleep walking. I was and also wasn’t looking forward to that ice cold beer at the pub – was afraid I’ll just throw up.

Once at the car, I’ve changed my top (the car was an oven inside), had some chips, then drove to Harrietville Hotel Motel – where I managed to book the night. Everything seemed to be booked out, apparently there was a music festival in Harrietville that weekend.

Bought a pint of Harrietville Lager, checked in (with the beer in my hand), then walked down to the river, sat down and rested my legs in the ice cold water – felt really good.
Had some of the food I’ve brought in the Thermos, steak and mash potato with cornishons. Never slept this well in a motel before.

This icy cold water was amazing to rest my legs in

All up it was a great experience. I still pushed the limits and feel I came out stronger. Realised I can still climb and recover quickly. I didn’t use my poles; brought them along but only for safety. Since there were people up at Federation Hut, I didn’t feel I needed them.

What worked

  • Greek Yoghurt satchel
  • Cold chocolate milk
  • Mineral water
  • Oranges
  • Pineapples
  • Mangoes
  • Spring gels – I think I had the Hill Aid and Canabery, Long Haul got all over my pack in the pocket, had to wash it at the creek
  • 3 minute chicken noodle
  • Coffee – from my usual cup

What I would do differently

  • Need to find a system for charging electronics – I’ve spent too much time fiddling with cables and making sure things are charged (2 watches, phone, head torches)
  • Use the good torches on the downhill as planned – and not forget about them – makes a huge difference
  • Find a way to carry the gear that I need to put on at Federation Hut and to be able to do that quickly – I stuffed around for too long with this
  • Start fresh
  • Minimise idle time – it adds up very quick
  • Have food, drinks and clothes at Federation Hut, if possible
  • Not rush the first hike
  • Take some more pics
  • Jot down the actual time next to planned time
  • Make sure the Fenix 5 doesn’t autosave

Gear

  • Lululemon Fast and Free crops and tanks
  • Salomon jackets – a light one and a thicker one for the night segment
  • Salomon W/P overpants – LOVE these!! They are lightweight and they fit like a glove. They are so comfortable and yet protective. One of my dearest gear.
  • Saucony Peregrine 10 – this pair has already made some pretty long runs. I have 737 kms in them and they are still good.
  • Salomon S-Lab 12 l pack – maybe the 2018 model, but I like it because of the pockets in the front, I can keep my phone (with the charger) in one of them.
  • I started with a pair of possum/merino socks (Salamanca market), but they started to hurt my heels. Only on the uphills. I’ve swapped them for the iOMerino socks.
  • Brought along a few lamps (Ay Up, Bilby, Atomic Beam), but I ended up using the LED Lenser 5, Nebo and carried a mini Petzl as a backup backup.
  • Triangle bandage – multi-use 😀

Map

Total distance: 88.16 km
Max elevation: 1920 m
Min elevation: 561 m
Total climbing: 5233 m
Total descent: -5204 m
Total time: 22:39:10
Download file: everesting_mt_feathertop_take1.gpx

prom with bich

Prom 44 with Bich

23 May 2020

Those who know me, also know by now that the Prom is my favourite place to run – it’s my

Bich on the board walk

happy place. It’s special. And when (and if) I share it with someone, that person is pretty special in my soul, too.

So when Bich messaged me with the proposition of doing the loop, I was in. I knew I had to negotiate the day with Otto (he doesn’t want me to go away on the weekends), but so missed the place that he was finally OK with it.

Looked up the weather and the tides and figured if we can get going by approx. 7.45, we have a chance of missing the high tide. Last time I’ve been to the Prom, it opened at 7.00, so I thought we’ll be OK. Otto told me to double check, but I must have been preoccupied with something – I forgot.

We left my place at around 5.40, normally 2.15 hrs to Tidal River. I drove Bich’s car and probably all the way under the limit, because we got to the park entrance at about 7.40. The ranger said they open at 8.00 because of the daylight and close at 6.00. He told us to park a bit further until then.

To cut the story short(er), we started our run at 8.40 – one hour later than planned, which meant nearly high tide. We’ve warmed up on the flat and hiked the road part, chatting and being passed by a few cars. By the time we got to Telegraph car park, there were about 10 cars there. The track was taped diagonally to stop people getting onto them. There was a notice close by saying that no hiking on the tracks and everyone should leave the park by 6 pm. We quickly agreed that this doesn’t apply to us, because we’ll be back way before that time, so we went around it and started running.

We’ve agreed at the beginning, that we’ll just take it easy – Bich hasn’t done any long runs since Archie and I still needed to recover (according to my Garmin) from my previous runs – and enjoy the day.

We’ve noticed that there is at least one person in front of us. The fresh threads were Saucony, so the person must be a trail runner. I won’t mention it as many times as we actually spoke about it, but it came up several times during the day.

On the way there I imagined sliding and sloshing in mud as it usually happens after prolonged rain at the Prom but Sealers Tk wasn’t as wet and muddy as I expected. There were trees down we had to get around, over or under along the day (won’t mention all of them, either) which slowed us down and amounted to some of the 1.10 hrs of non-moving time.

Lots of beautiful funghi around

The board walk was like and ice skating surface where the chicken wire was missing. I was running in front and tippy toeing or slowing down completely at those spots. There was this tree, fallen across the walk, not too big, maybe 20 cm in diameter. As I stepped over it, I was grateful I didn’t jump, I would’ve landed straight on my bum, because it was so slippery. Bich slowed down as well, but must have taken a wrong step, because she slipped and scratched her arm. The hand sanitizer must have stung, but she soldiered on. When we’ve checked if nothing else is damaged, I’ve noticed her impressive tatt, which became the subject of our conversation for a few kms.

We’ve stopped on the bridge to admire the spooky creek with its dark water and black-grey branches entwined almost like protecting it. Always reminds me of Julie – she loves it.

When we walked out to Sealers, we have noticed a few more footprints and that the tide is high… took our shoes off and walked along the narrow beach, which was full of beautiful shells. And a dead starfish.

The spot we figured would be OK to get through the creek suggested the water would reach somewhere around our belly button – which proved to be true. I went first. The water was really cold and quite rapid and getting across the rocks was the more challenging part. I’ve been in this situation before, it was nothing new, but after I got out, I felt very cold. Bich made it through without any problems, as well and then we’ve agreed that the relatively dry socks and shoes was a really nice thing to put on.

The best selfie of the day

We’ve hiked the ups and run the rest and the conversation was really good. Long runs and long drives are the best ways to get to know someone.

At Refuge Cove North (one of my favourite beaches with its golden sand) I’ve noticed the waves hitting and going around the big rock closer to the beach exit. There is a creek behind it with very dark (nearly black) water that looked really deep. As we stood there, trying to figure out how we’ll get through it, a wave came and nearly washed Bich away. I was standing on the top of the rock, she was preparing to run across when the water was retracted, when the wave came. We got her up on the rock, then when the moment was right, she shot across, then waited for me. I must have been like those old ladies turning left… letting a few cars pass… in this case the waves. Then I ran across as well. I think Bich has filmed it and it will be fun to watch later on.

Refuge Cove at high tide

Refuge Cove was at total high tide when we arrived, I’ve  never seen it like this before. We’ve fetched some water at the tap, which took forever, because I forgot to soak the filter of the BeFree bottle. Our pants were still wet… then we headed up towards Kersops Peak. Stopped for a few minutes on The Rock and sat down, hoping the calming moment I’ve experienced the first time I’ve done that will happen, but it was way too cold to sit there and the water wasn’t as beautiful as it was every other time I had the privilege to see it, so after a few minutes we got going.

We so got sunk into talking, that I haven’t even noticed how we got up to the junction. I usually stop there, look around and enjoy the vista, but this time the wind and the drizzle cut it short. We agreed that another time we’ll go up to the peak – Bich hasn’t been there before – then we headed down.

Waterloo Bay North

All the beaches we’ve went along on this side of the peninsula had some kind of obstacle in store for us which also made this trip more “interesting”.  When we got to Waterloo Bay, the wind and drizzle got a little bit wilder. Told Bich, as long as we keep moving, we’ll be OK. This is where I usually start to feel fatigued and then again on Oberon Bay Tk, so picking up the pace even slightly was an extra effort. I kept checking on Bich, as this must have been even harder for her. She is a tough cookie. We’ve run the flats and downs and hiked the ups.

About 1.5 km in we’ve bumped into the owners of the two extra footprints we’ve noticed on the beaches; they’ve told us there is another guy in front of us, running. We’ve exchanges some pleasantries, then wished them a nice day and kept running. We thought the runner will take Telegraph Tk, because we haven’t seen him between Tidal River and Telegraph car park. We were wrong, he went via Oberon Bay, just like we did.

At the junction there were a few hills of gravel, ready to be spread along the main tracks. We went around them (they pretty much blocked the track), then turned onto Oberon Bay Tk. More of them there… I was really hoping there will be not that many, as it really broke our rhythm. The 4WD track didn’t seem as hard to run as other times. I guess that was thanks to the lack of heat and perhaps because the sand was a bit more compact after the rain. We were able to shuffle all the way to Oberon Bay without many slow downs. Based on my calculations, we could finish in about 1.45 hrs.

Oberon Bay

Oberon Bay was flat and the sand just perfect for running, so we made the most of it and ran along, taking a few shots and talking very little. At the end of the beach we sloshed across the creek (it didn’t matter anymore), then headed up on the track. The waves were very angry at Lt Oberon Bay and the hike out still hard, but not that bad as other times.

We finished strong, had a hug, a beer, a shower, some food, some more beer, then promised the rangers that we’ll be out in no time and way before they need to close.

Loved the drive back, too. I must have bored Bich to death with Lago di Como Ultra 😃 but we needed to stay alert for the drive. Otto was waiting for us with the garage door open. We had some of the beautiful sourdough bread Bich brought (straight out the oven) in the morning and a beer, while telling some stories to Otto (who was still baking his cakes for next day).

It was a great day. In spite of (or thanks to) the weather we had a great (I know this is not correct linguistically, but it is what it is) time, got to know each other better and looking forward to the adventures the future brings.

Gear

  • Lululemon crop and tank
  • iOMerino Altitude zip thermal
  • Possum and merino socks
  • Saucony Peregrine 10 – no blisters in spite of my feet being wet for most of the trip
  • Salomon WP jacket
  • Salomon pack
  • Packed the Salomon WP pants, but didn’t use them

 

Food and Hydration

  • 2 avocado and haloumi toasted sandwich quarters
  • 1 mandarin
  • ½ banana
  • Dates
  • Clif Bloks
  • 1.5 l electrolyte (GU Tri Berry, Scratch Passionfruit, Bulk Nutrients Electrolyte+ Orange – 500 ml each)

A few more shots from the day

Waterloo Bay with double rainbow from the Decision Rock
Bich at Lt Waterloo Bay
Lt Waterloo Bay – stunning as always
Oberon Bay
Waterloo Bay
Bich on the home stretch

Map

Total distance: 45.83 km
Max elevation: 355 m
Min elevation: 29 m
Total climbing: 1781 m
Total descent: -1762 m
Total time: 07:35:37
Download file: Prom_44_with_Bich.gpx

Lesson 1

30 March 2020

OK, so the first lesson. Starts with the construction of the foot: 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and 38 tendons. The bones of the two feet make up about 25% of all bones in our body. The feet are the body’s shock absorbing system.

Our arches do double duty: they support the load of our body weight and collapse to help reduce the impact of landing.”They also have a built-in spring action that both decreases the impact of landing by compressing (coiling), and releases this potential energy into motion by expanding (springing)”.

I really like this reference: “Longtime USA Track & Field coach Rodney Wiltshire once explained why the heel strike is inefficient in very simple terms: ‘Biomechanically, when you heel strike you’re literally putting on the brakes. Great runners don’t put on the brakes with every stride’.”

The big toe and the first metatarsal bear more weight, the smaller toes function to increase our awareness (and perception) of our foot’s position.

Then it deconstructs the landings:

  • heel strike – landing on your heel first
  • midfoot strike – landing simultaneously and with equal weight on your heel and ball of your foot. It is also called flat-foot landing.
  • forefoot landing – landing on the balls of your feet

Then it breaks it down into frames:

  • beginning frame – as the foot gets ready to make contact with the ground it slightly supinates
  • middle frame – when contact with the ground is made, the foot rolls inward, pronating toward the big toes as the spring system coils
  • end frame – the spring uncoils and body weight unloads over the ball of the foot and the big toe

The takeaway: “Besides absorbing the shock of your body weight, landing on the ball of the foot unleashes the muscular-tendon elastic system, decreasing both impact and energy expenditure, while helping propel you into your next stride. The heel strike, by contrast, takes this beautifully evolved system out of the equation and the ankle, knee and hip have to handle the impact of running.”

Did my movement preparation routine – a sequence of stretches – first. Took about 10 minutes and it hurt. My muscles are so tight!

Then came the body weight perception drills. The first one was about shifting the weight of my body from the pringiness position. The goal was to increase perception of where I felt my body weight in my feet.

The second drill was about running gently in place feeling the spring action in my feet and registering each landing and paying attention at how I perceive my body in space – alignment, running posture, etc.

The workout was about shifting from my normal everyday position into my springiness position at least 5 times.

Then followed the strength routine – 8 reps for every exercise.

Prom 44 with David

Prom 44 with David

25 March 2020

Such a beautiful day at the Prom!
Only day visitors from 7 am to 7 pm. We bumped into the ranger who was sweeping the track and evacuating the campers. Best job in the world at the moment!

We also bumped into an elderly (maybe not that old but older than us) couple, they were anchored in Refuge Cove with their catamaran and on their way to New Caledonia (if they could leave the country) along the coast – on a leisurely hike… best life!! I wanna be one of these when I grow old! Maybe shouldn’t wait until I grow old.

I checked out Mt Ramsay – always wanted to do this. It’s a discretely signed track (pink tape), quite rough. Didn’t go all the way to the top, because one of the rocks looked like a problem coming down. Anyway, the beginning of the track is a landmine of shit and used toilet paper, but the view is priceless!

I was struggling with the uphills, especially when combined with sand, still not recovered from Razorback. They felt very hard, not that much in the legs, but more in the trunk. Thankfully, my companion was very patient with me – thank you David.

I have been practicing the “be present” mantra for most of the day. What that did to me was that I was able to run effortlessly. It worked on the flats and most of the downhills. On the more technical downhills I was mindful of the still recovering ACL and my proprioception still not being 100%.

Landing on the ball of my feet felt light and easy. In spite of all my efforts to be present, I did loose concentration, tripped and took two falls that ended me covered with dirt and leaves. Hit my knees, my tummy, my right ISIS. Right shoulder and lower arm scratched. Had to wash my arms off at the next beach.

There were lots of “look at that coulour!!” along these 45 kms and also “how lucky we are to be here?!” We also took a lot of pictures – at least I did.

Saw two snakes between Oberon Bay and Lt Oberon Bay. I ran by the first one obliviously when David told me. We’ve been talking about this – people running by snakes and not even noticing them… I must have been tired by then, because I usually look. And I usually look hard for snakes.

 

Trying to be present

This Be Present stuff is harder than I thought. Especially in this COVID-19 epidemic. My mind keeps wandering off to “I hope I won’t bump into anyone on this trail”, something that I wasn’t worried before.

Otto and I went for a run to Cardinia today. It is his birthday and he wanted to start it with a healthy dose of exercise. We went different ways, we both have our own course there.

My muscles and system is still recovering from Razorback, thighs felt heavy and so was pushing uphill, too. The only thing I’ve managed to do right is not over striding.

I am going for a run…

I am reading this book… The Running Revolution by Dr Nicholas Romanov (with Kurt Brungardt). It’s about the Pose Method. I’ve just only scraped the surface, but have learned heaps about running technique, perception, etc. In it, dr Romanov encourages the reader to set up a running journal (any kind).  This is mine.

Reflections

I became a runner in my early forties. I’ve been run/walking a 3.63 km loop at Cardinia Reservoir Park for ages, but the real thing began when Otto dared me into the Asics 5 km at Melbourne Marathon in 2011. It must have been August when I signed up. Then the training began.

I had no clue about how to train. Just went out to Cardinia and ran along the dam wall. First time it took me over 35 minutes and it felt really hard. Then I tried a different approach—I started out with 0.5 km and added to it bit-by-bit and tried faster. It worked.

I ran that 5 km race in 28:01 and I was really happy with the result.  Within 2 months I have built up to 20 km, same approach (bit-by-bit) and along the same dam wall. Frankly, it was quite boring, but I enjoyed the power the progress gave me.

Next year I’ve signed up for the Morning Herald Sun Half Marathon in Sydney and wanted to finish within 2:30. I did it in 2:09:55. Then City 2 Surf, followed by Blackmores Half and City 2 Sea (Melbourne).

In 2013 I only did the Sydney runs and I didn’t get any better but at the Christmas party one of my former colleagues talked me into doing a marathon. So I signed up to the 2014 Melbourne Marathon besides doing the usual Sydney halves and City 2 Surf. The same person mentioned the Trail Running Series and that the upcoming race is in Olinda, close to where we live…

It seamed like a feasible challenge, so we (Otto and I) both signed up for the 15 km medium course. About a week earlier I checked out the course… I knew what was coming, but he didn’t. Race day came, thick fog and cold, but boy that was fun!! We could hardly walk for a week and I got hooked on trail running.

2014 was a good running year—scored a half mara PB, did the full marathon, the first trail race and signed up for the only race on my birthday, the Great Alpine Road Half Marathon at Dinner Plain. This is how I got to know Paul Ashton and Running Wild. And from here I was hooked on mountains and surely the ultras started winking at me.

2015 was full on. Did Two Bays 28 km, Kilcunda Half, The Prom 44, both half marathons in Sydney, the first 3 races in the Salomon Trail Running series (the long distances, naturally), City 2 Surf, the inaugural Hounslow Classic 23 km in the Blue Mountains and 70 km of Alpine Challenge 60 km (took a wrong turn at Cope Saddle Hut which costed 10 km). The latter was my first true ultra.

2016 happened all in Victoria – Two Bays, Kilcunda Half, Razorback 64 km, Mt Buller 45 km, The Prom 60 km and upped it at Alpine Challenge to 100 km.

2017 started out with Bogong to Landfords 35 km (didn’t make the 7 hr cutoff), Wilsons Prom 60 km, did City 2 Surf supporting a good  friend of ours, the Sydney Blackmores Marathon as a qualifier for 6 ft Tk (which didn’t go too well) and signed up for the Alpine Challenge miler. Well, stuffed up with the shoe/socks combination, didn’t take them off at river crossings and ended up with blisters from around 34 km into the race. I’ve downgraded to 100 km, which was a 2 hr PB.

Not much happened from racing point of view in 2018. The year started with sweeping the Langfords to Hotham course with Dan, then Kilcunda half, Razorback 64, the Prom 60 and my DNF in the miler at Alpine Challenge, with a 60 km finish. I pulled the plug at Cope Hut (92 km). This was the year the course changed because of the snow. We were doing 35 km loops, alternating the direction.

2019 was a pretty good racing year in spite of all the stupid injuries I clocked up. After sweeping the 63 km portion with Al at Oscars Hut 2 Hut, I’ve slipped and cut my right knee open on my local trail at Cardinia. While being stitched up, doc said I’d be able to run in 3 weeks.

He probably thought I’d start jogging, but I’ve cut back from Razorback 64 km to 40 km. It took me a bit longer to complete that course but I did it. I followed it up with Mt Buller 45 km, then a nearly 1 hr PB at the Prom 60. I dragged Maria into her first race at Silvan Long Course in August, then ran a great race in Italy—Lago di Como Ultra 60 km. This was supposed to be the lead up to GOW 100 km, which was altered due to the weather to 80 km.

GOW was meant to be the training race for Alpine Challenge miler. The AC course had to be changed due to the fires in the Alpine area, which meant the milers doing two of the original third loop as loop 2 was out. It was a hot day and heat and me don’t get along. Again, I cut it back to 100 km.

Two weeks later I went back to do it solo. The heat bit my arse again. Read the full story here.

…and this is how I got obsessed with finishing that miler…

This year (2020) started out with a grade II ACL tear which I’ve scored while skiing in Europe. I just refused to let it get to me and started with hiking, then jogging, then running. I’ve swept the Archie 55 km in Feburary, then Razorback 64 km was my first race of the year. With COVID-19, most of the races on the calendar are cancelled—have no idea what the year is going to shape into.

Goals

Main goal is to finish the miler

Other goals:

  • learn these new rules of running
  • run with precise and perfect technique
  • run effortlessly
  • learn to explore the powers of perception (sense data, awareness, feeling)
  • fix recent injuries and avoid getting new ones

Focus Preparation

This is going to be embedded into my run reports, won’t write them here.

Post-Session Thoughts

Same as with focus preparation, will write about them in the run reports.

Reframing

Goes as well into the run reports.

 

2020 Razorback 64 km Race

14 March 2020

Before the start

I had a pretty good racing year in 2019. Even the DNF in the miler at Alpine Challenge was a 100 km PB, so I was looking for the next big thing – the Razorback 64 km. It just HAD to be better than earlier years, given the training I’ve been putting in during the year.

Then Europe happened. I’ve partially torn my ACL just as I’ve started to enjoy the new skill I’ve learned – skiing. That meant my running training was reset to nearly 0 (zero). Two days after the accident I started hiking and did that every day until we came back. The very next day after landing I gave running (jogging) a go. Did about 2.5 km, then increased the distance bit by bit so by mid February I could honor my promise to sweep the Archie, the end of the month sweeping Mt Buller and the beginning of March I was down at the Prom doing the 60 loop. Strengthening the quads most of the times was Mt St Leonard.

All I needed to do is keep travelling in a straight line, not forcing knee flexion and avoiding knee internal rotation. I must admit, I didn’t always succeed at sticking to these, doing the one step back, three steps forward dance 😃

I was really looking forward to Razorback. Somehow it didn’t even crossed my mind that I might not be able to do it.

A week before Razorback, I asked Maria [Tsikouris] if she wanted to sweep Mt Baw Baw with me. She’s one of those crazies like me, so she naturally said yes. We had so much fun sweeping that course and she fit right in with the Running Wild culture, that she signed up for Razorback 64 km, pretty much last minute.

So there we were driving to Harrietville, talking everything running, nutrition, hydration and life. Stopped in Bright for pizza and beer – we were both really hungry by that time – then drove to Harrietville. Popped into Race HQ for the bib numbers and gear check. Gave a bum bump to Paul (no hugging because of COVID-19), got our numbers, said hello to Jacqui [Hansen], Lou [Clifton], Coral and her hubby and a few other runners I’ve recognized and see pretty much only at these events. Julie [Savage] and Peter [Hudec] were conducting the gear checks. We lined up in front of Peter, there was already a few people waiting for Julie.

We went to check into the accommodation – Autumn Leaf Cottage. Should’ve read the instructions more carefully and we would’ve saved some driving around… finally called Emma at Alpine Valley Getaways and she directed us to the cottage, which was right next to the Snowline Motel. Yayy!! Finish sorted!!

Settled in, had a beer, then started to prepare the food for tomorrow before heading back for briefing.

It was dark by the time we got to HQ, where the runners were already gathered and Paul delivering the briefing in his usual, low key, funny way.

Finished the food prep, we sorted who brings what, shower, set the alarm to 4:45, then went to bed. Few days earlier I’ve done Mt St Leonard and the overstride on the way down has caused the pinched nerve in my lower back to flare up. I was tossing and turning, trying to find a position it doesn’t hurt, then around 2 am I got up and took 2 Panadols. I figured, even if it takes about half an hour for them to kick in, I still get about an hour of sleep…

Alarm went off, pushed button on the espresso machine, shower, breakfast and off we went to the start line. It was a lovely morning – star studded sky and perfect weather. We’ve stuffed the heavier waterproof jacket in the bladder socket as it was supposed to get cold…
Paul did another short briefing, roll call, count down and off we went. The line of headtorches filling the GAR to Feathertop Lane. We didn’t push it. In fact we’ve kept a steady rhythm all the way to Federation Hut. We were followed by a 40 km “dude” – sorry forgot to ask for his name, although I usually do so.

With Fiona at Federation Hut

Maria wanted to use the toilet, it was locked at Fed Hut. While I waited for her, took a few selfies with Fiona [Hewson], messaged Otto and put on the W/P jacket. It was very windy and I expected to be worse on Mt Feathertop.

As soon as Maria was ready we headed up to Mt Feathertop. From the Cross, it was all virgin territory for her, as last time we’ve been here it was so foggy we didn’t go up.
We picked up the pace a little on the flatter parts, but the wind was really pushing us back and aside. As we were going further up, the fasties were already descending, hanging to the rocks. It was quite scary.
I said hello and well done to everyone coming towards me. Some answered, others didn’t. Lou, Jacqui and Byron gave me a hug, others called me by name, but I didn’t recognise them with the buff on their face and the sun in mine.

On Mt Feathertop

On the top I wanted to call Otto, but it was too cold, so we took a few shots and headed back. I was going to tell Maria to look around, she is the second tallest mountain in Victoria, but forgot.

Going downhill in the open was really challenging, then we finally got to the Cross and headed straight on the Razorback. There were portions where we were covered, but most of it was exposed and windy. At the turnoff to Diamantina Spur we caught up with Fiona again, who was telling us about her stack and encouraging us to go ahead if we wanted to. I told her there is a portion with a few drops where we need to be extra cautious and took the lead.

Kiewa Valley

The track goes up and down then just down. It’s a landmine of tripping hazards, with a stunning view. I kept pointing to Mt Feathertop and saying “that’s where we came from”. Then finally got to the rocky drop. Maria said she knew I was into crazy shit and Otto is right to be worried. Now he can be even more worried. Told her I knew what I was doing, did it a few times before, even in the dark. Looked back for Fiona, but I couldn’t see her. I’ve yelled out – no answer. Maybe she stopped to eat so we continued. She did say that she had studied the course, she has the GPX and also Avenza maps, so I thought she’ll be OK.

Still Kiewa Valley

This “Be present” stuff really works!! Every time I’ve found my mind wandering ahead, I reminded myself of that (somehow it was intertwined with some other thoughts though) and soon enough we were at the next cross point. Like the Kiewa Valley in this case.

It was so beautiful!! No wind, lovely sunshine – just perfect. We stopped to take a few shots, unfortunately the selfies are pretty rubbish. Told Maria the water running under the bridge is nice and cold on a hot day here, but we are going to fill up at the river crossing at Blairs Hut.
To my surprise Parks Vic has put a proper sign at the Blairs Hut turnoff (Blairs Hut 400 m) to replace the handwritten one. Lovely single trail all the way to the river crossing, where we took our shoes off to get across the water. It was freezing and slippery, but doing another 43 km in wet socks and shoes didn’t feel appealing. Especially since Maria was suffering from Raynaud syndrome. Poor girl had aching fingers all day and her CTS has flared up, as well.
We’ve filled our soft flasks as well with the help of the BeFree bottle and just head out when Fiona arrived, waded through the water and really happy to see us as we walked across the clearing in front of Blairs Hut. She said she can’t believe we took our shoes off…

Ginger beer at Westons Hut   Photo: Fiona Hewson

I’ve learned my lesson at Alpine Challenge, when I didn’t take my shoes off crossing Big River and not long after that (at around 34 km into the miler) I sat down to change my socks and noticed the blisters. These damn blisters hurt me for another 66 kms (cut back to 100 kms).

As we got onto Westons Spur, I suggested we share one of the electrolytes from Maria’s pack. We stopped, took my little GOW soft cup out and shared the drink. It felt really good and gave us an umf.
We took turns in leading the pack uphill not talking much as it’s quite steep. Told Maria we’ll have the can of ginger beer at Westons – we had something to look forward to.
Saw the wild raspberries along the track, these are so nice and sweet, but didn’t touch them this time. Be present.

We had a can of ginger beer at Westons – Fiona took a shot of us doing it. I was trying not to spill the sweet drink all over my jacket. Gosh it tasted great! Gave us the energy to complete the climb.

Arriving to Pole 333
Photo: Julie Savage

On the highlands Fiona fall behind. We kept going, the wind was so strong and cold, we really had to move. Hopped over and into sloshy grasses, shuffled most of it all the way to Pole 333, where Julie was waiting with jelly beans and to tick us off. She also took a great shot of us as we were approaching.
Big hug, quick check if all is well, then off we went towards Cobungra Gap. Again, hopping over rocks and into the sloshy grasses. I couldn’t wait to be out of the flat area and into the valley.

On the way down to Cobungra Gap we saw Byron. Big hug, he said he was waiting for Fiona. We kept going downhill. I tried to do this faster at Alpine Challenge and stacked it – twice!! This time I really took care where I stepped and how. I realised I haven’t been fueling properly pretty much since we headed up Westons. Had some jelly beans, but I guess that wasn’t enough.

Refilling at Cobungra River

There was no one at Cobungra. We went across the bridge, then I got down to fill up the flasks again, keeping a bit of water in the BeFree as well (just in case).
When we got to Swidlers, we pulled out the bottle of ginger beer and shared it, then headed uphill. It wasn’t windy and it started to be warmer. Even though it was way better than other times I’ve done this, it was still hard. Took my jacket off, carried it in my hand, thinking I’ll need it as soon as we get up.

I pretty much hit the wall there, didn’t talk much, only asked Maria if she was OK. She always said she was OK, but every now and then I could see she was just being brave. We picked up the pace where we could and were soon at Derricks Hut. The door was open, so I closed it, then we kept going.

As we were getting out in the open again, the wind was getting stronger and meaner. Showed Maria where we are going, which seemed ages away…
Turned left onto Machinery Spur, then realised there is reception, so we tried to call Otto. He didn’t answer so we kept going. We agreed on getting up and taking pics on the giant chair when we get there. Gosh I hate that climb!!

The giant chair at Mt Hotham

We didn’t muck around much at the chair, it was so cold, our fingers felt freezing as soon as we took our gloves off. Then Otto called. He could hardly hear us because of the wind. I thing the whole valley could hear me yelling “I need to hang up the phone, it’s really cold, my hand is freezing!”. The water in the dam looked so strikingly blue/green, I took a few shots before putting the phone back into my pocket.
We crossed the parking, the road, then headed up to the top across those damn bushes. I suggested to do 2 poles and stop for a few moments. It worked. We walked the rest up to the summit, then picked up the pace going down. The thought of getting to the Diamantina check point was truly alluring.

Nearly at Diamantina Hut
Photo: Ian Fellowes

Ian was shooting as we ran closer, gave him a hug once we stopped. Then I saw Duncan and his lovely wife. Duncan wearing a moon boot and sitting on the camping chair – he was checking in-out the runners. Gave him a hug, then we went into the hut to refuel. Bumped into Paul, who – in his usual funny way – instantly started to pick on me. We had some watermelon (used thongs, of course and only had a few pieces), banana, chocolate and dried apricots while Tall Caz refilled the soft flasks with electrolyte.

We thanked them, said good bye and headed towards the Razorback. I somehow wasn’t looking forward to that part… the wind was just mean. Really mean. The bouts caused us to loose balance on the narrow track, bumping into the grasses and rocks. Maria slipped at some point which gave me a fright – the valley to the right was steep and deep, not much to hang on to, but she hopped up instantly and ready to continue.

On the Razorback

A runner we saw talking to Paul while we were leaving the check point has appeared not that far away behind us, then caught up with us. Couldn’t understand everything he was saying, he was from Manchaster, UK and this was his first ultra. He took a few wrong turns earlier. He seemed pretty fresh and jumpy for this distance. Ran between the two of us for a little while then passed and we didn’t see him until later, when he was on a peak along the Razorback.

I stopped a few times for a few moments to pull myself together. Felt dizzy and lightheaded at some point. Wind was still blowing hard and so chilly, had to get the beanie out. Our eyelids and faces were puffy. Wasn’t eating much and it seemed the electrolyte wasn’t helping, either. The “be present” bit only helped with not tripping that much, given the nature of that trail.
Then my phone was complaining – it was running out of juice. No wonder, it was trying to get signal all day. Digged out the charger and the cable and put it on charge.

Mt Feathertop in the background

The views were amazing!! Told Maria how good is that we don’t need to climb Mt Feathertop again and look – there is Federation Hut! We stopped and took a few shots on the less windy side of the mountain, then arrived to the Diamantina Spur turnoff. Yayyy!! Another waypoint achieved. Then we bumped into the lovely runner who took the shot of us before the start (Thomas Kirchner). He took two wrong turns and added another 6 kms to his distance.

Once we started to head down towards Federation Hut, I felt a bit better. Have no idea why, but it was better. In front of Federation Hut the wind was just so strong, nearly blew us away. We couldn’t wait to get onto the track where it was a bit shielded. No wonder there was no one camping up there. We saw a tent a bit further down, though. There were people in it, we could hear the voices.

Mountains in the sunset – stunning views

Tried to keep a steady pace going down Bungalow Spur, thinking what Dan told me once “just roll down”. I also tried to be present – it was really important, as fatigue set in and I found myself harder to concentrate. We set out to finish before it gets dark. The sun was setting, colouring everything orange. Just beautiful!

We scrambled over the fallen trees, passed Tobias Gap, then about 5 kms before the finish I could hear the phone receiving a message (it wasn’t anything new, it was going on along the day), lost concentration for a split second and tripped on a rock. Next moment I realised I can’t save this, I’m going to fall. Hands stretched out, on the edge of the trail, halfway into the valley (lengthwise, so it’s quite weird). The only thing I thought of right then and there was “please, please just not the damaged knee!!”. Well the injured knee only copped a little bruise, but my right palm was missing a piece of skin of about 1 $ coin and all black from the dirt; a corkie on the left thenar eminence (it’s all bruised and has a small puncture); skin off the left knee – again, all black from the dirt – and a bruise on the right leg, about 5 cm above the ankle, next to the shin.
Maria came to my help. I asked her to let me just stay here a few moments until I recollect myself. I managed to sit up without rolling into the valley, then she pulled me up and back onto the track. She poured some water onto the wounds, but those needed some proper cleaning. I said let’s just go, we’ll get it looked at when we are there.

We slowly picked up the pace again when my watch was complaining of low battery. I’ve digged out the cable, plugged it into the charger and finally headed towards Harrietville, really looking where I was stepping and how.

Getting off the trail before dark seemed pretty attainable, which gave us a good vibe. Big Yayyy!! once we got onto the bitumen (which wasn’t that pleasant on its own). Then we spotted Thomas, looking left into one of the streets. I yelled out to keep straight and cross the bridge.

We were in good spirits as we were getting closer to the finish and it was also getting darker. It was strange that there is no one outside the Snowline Pub to cheer us in… we’ve realised the presentations was in progress, so ran into the finishing shute holding hands, about 30 seconds after Thomas. Registered the time the clock was showing 12.52.22, then had a piece of water melon, realised I forgot to stop the watch, so I stopped it, then tried to clean my hands with the solution in the pumpy container… it was very sticky… ah!! That’s why there was a water container next to it!! Should’ve washed it down. Couldn’t be bothered. It was all hurting anyway.

We walked with Thomas for a few meters and agreed to meet in the pub after we changed. Otto called, then we went to have a beer, shower (gosh that was painful – all those wounds stung), steak, red wine, when Fiona messaged that they are in the pub, and waiting for us.
There was a group of guys with Fiona and Byron – Nathan, Matthew, and two more which I can’t remember the names of. We had a glass of wine and talked and laughed, then went to bed for the well deserved rest.

In spite of the fall, the times I wasn’t feeling too well, the wind and the freezing cold, it was a great experience. I am really proud of Maria completing this beast of a course. She could’ve whinged for most of the time, but she’s a tough cookie.

Thank you Maria for being my partner in crime for all those 64 kms and to Paul for putting up this event. Huge gratitude to all the lovely vollies – Duncan, Peter, tall Caz and Julie.

Gear

  • Lululemon top and crop
  • iOMerino thermal top and socks
  • Saucony Peregrine 10 (brand new, 0 km)
  • DexShell gloves
  • Salomon AdvancedSkin jacket – the thicker version
  • beanie

Nutrition/Hydration

  • toasted yummy bread with avocado and haloumi
  • Musashi protein wafers – vanilla flavour
  • Scratch electrolyte – passionfruit
  • electrolyte – orange & mandarine + Hammer from check point
  • ginger beer
  • Scratch chews – 2 pieces
  • boiled potato with salt and butter
  • dates
  • jelly beans (all colours)
  • watermelon, chocolate Freddo from check point
  • original Pringles

The Course

Total distance: 65.59 km
Max elevation: 1926 m
Min elevation: 478 m
Total climbing: 4328 m
Total descent: -4355 m
Total time: 13:53:24
Download file: 2020_Razorback_64_km.gpx
Cope Hut

Miler vs Babi 4:0

16 December 2019

I’ve been wanting to do something crazy like this for years. This time – except for the weather – the planets aligned.
The initial plan was this: park the car at Cope Hut, ride back to Falls Creek, start run at 4:30 next morning, do the original Alpine Challenge course (with the Mt Bogong loop), fuel up, change into night gear when at Cope Hut (about 80 kms in), continue to Pole 333, then Harrietville, have a shower and a good breakfast there, then head back via the original course. Ride to Cope Hut next morning to pick up the car.
There were still fires near Bogong a week before, so I decided to go with the route we did (actually others did) at AC. On the day I drove up I checked again, the website said the tracks are opened, but the map showed otherwise, so I contacted Parks Vic and they confirmed that a part of the track falls into the fire danger area and it’s closed.

The goals:

1. Do the 160 kms
2. Thread effortlessly to conserve energy for as long as possible
3. Take my time – it’s not a race – check out those things/places that are along the course
4. Enjoy the food in Harrietville

The outcome:

1. 108 kms
2. It’s easy to thread effortlessly with no pack… when you add the pack into the equation it only works (well, kinda) if you slow down. For me effortless means no funny feeling in the stomach, like floating
3. I did take my time. Took lots of pics, tried to cool down my body at every opportunity (creek, stream), looked at the views, checked out creatures that moved in the bush
4. Well… there is nothing open on a Monday afternoon in Harrietville, except for the pubs and they only serve beer

Sunrise above Rocky Valley Dam

Drove up on Sunday afternoon. Dropped off two bags at Harrietville Caravan Park for resupplies and a set of change clothes for next morning. I also had an 18 A charger thinking while I eat and have a shower I can charge my phone and watch.
Butch was extremely helpful and so excited for me. He let me stash my stuff in the staff area, even use the fridge for the perishables.
Checked into Falls Creek Country Club Hotel (Jude was very nice) and then I got my things ready.
Started just after 4:30; I thought it would be freezing out there but it was OK, didn’t need long sleeves. I managed to get a tad lost before getting onto the track below the dam wall. I always followed the crowd at the start in the dark (I didn’t have these issues in daylight) and there were no pink flags, either 😃 I had to check the Avenza map!!

Couldn’t resist these colours

The sunrise was just spectacular, it always is there. I have also noticed the beauty of Heathy Spur as I wasn’t looking at someone else’s feet in front of me. After I turned onto Big River Spur I saw brumbies on the slope, beautiful creatures. Marum Pt track was beautiful, I enjoyed it.
Both the sun and the moon were visible… the shot I took at the little dam (?) before Langfords Gap has the moon reflected in the water. It was just a beautiful sight with some amazing colours. The mist sitting in the valley was another spectacular view.

After the Bogong Rover Chalet I saw a wild cat run across the road and into the bush. It was dark grey with light stripes in the front of its neck, the size of a young tiger. Stunning sight. It happened too fast for me to take a shot, but it got me thinking… what else is out there?!

The mist sitting over the valley

I left with 500 ml of sugary water in one flask and another with plain water + the BeFree flask with the filter. I was planning my water resupply points as I was going. There were streams and also the aqueduct at Cope Saddle Hut – I really had to get water there, because the sure next point is Cobungra River. After I filled up the flask I headed up towards Pole 333. There was a little breeze, but the heat was already cooking and the flies started to approach. I managed to fall, straight on my right knee – the one I’ve injured in February. Stood up, dusted off my pants, checked the damage, nothing serious.

The brumby that scared me

As I was getting closer to Pole 333, I’ve noticed a brumby maybe 15 m from the track. I pulled the phone out to take photos, when the horse did a sound trying to scare me off, then made a move like he wanted to charge. Well, that was scary!! I started to yell “go away!!” and stumped my foot to the ground, then slowly moved away. I kept looking back because the horse started to move around and tried to figure out what I would do if it was coming for me. My only option would be to stand behind a pole, since there was nothing else to move behind on the High Plains.

The famous Pole 333

At Pole 333 I took a few shots of the sign, then turned left and followed the pole line, noticing that I must have done -970 m. The sign at the intersection says 5 km to Cobungra Gap and the one a bit further says 6 km. Go figure.

Loved the perfume of the wild flowers the slight breeze brought towards me all along to pole 267. It was fun going down to Cobungra Gap. Took it slower – last time I fell twice and couldn’t afford that today. I could see Mt Hotham and thought how easy would be just to jump over.
I managed to eat so far and was looking forward to the cold creek water at Cobungra River.

When I got there, I thought it’s time to get the triangle bandages out, they will be handy on the way up Swindlers Spur. Drank some water, soaked the bandages, poured some water on my neck and cooled down my arms, then headed towards Swindlers Spur.

This, and Westons Spur are the two hardest hikes for me, the ones I struggle the most. These are the uphills I always get to in the heat of the day, making it even more painful. At AC I pretty much powered up and then paid for it dearly, now I just wanted to go up slow and steady. About 50 m in I realised the food I had wasn’t enough, so I pulled out the ginger beer and had it, then continued.

It was getting warmer and warmer, the flies wilder with their relentless attacks on my face. I wish I brought a fly screen. Gosh, how many times I repeated this sentence over the two days!

I really liked this sign

I eventually got to the flatter part, with some runnable sections, then reached Derricks Hut. I’ve never been in there, so I thought it’s time to check it out. It was nice and clean with some useful posters on the wall, although most of them reminded the visitors to stick to the etiquette. I took some pictures, then closed the door behind me and left. It was getting close to noon and quite hot.

At pole 60 I turned left towards Mt Loch car park. Machinery Spur is not that fun, it’s a gravel road all in the open, going up, then down, then up again. In the down bit I saw two hikers. Gee, I thought, these are the first humans I’ve seen along the 40 kms!! Had a little chat with the two ladies, they were going to Derricks Hut, then to Spargos. They had big packs and were totally covered.

I felt like a kid here

When I was close to Mt Loch car park, I thought I’ll check out the big chair. Never came this close to it even though I passed it several times before. I climbed up, took a few selfies and dangled my legs like a kid – it was fun! Short one, but it was. Because what followed a bit later, wasn’t.

The building the ASAR checkpoint was in was now empty. It says “Toilets” above the door, but when I went to open it, it was closed. You can clearly see the toilet doors with the signs on them through the window. It’s like showing a kid a candy, then not letting them have it! Shrugged my shoulders, said “That’s not funny!” and kept going.
I’m dreading the hike up to Mt Hotham!! Those bushes always scratch my legs and there’s no proper track to follow. Couldn’t wait to get to the top. There were a few guys working on the poles and another two cleaning some metal, with the music banging from their ute. They didn’t care about me, I said hello, they half heartedly said something back.
I felt that I really need some calories, so I got one of the Spring gels out and ripped the top off. The top came off, but the lining inside didn’t follow, so it was like pushing on a bubble that doesn’t want to burst. Eventually I bit it off, but didn’t need this extra struggle. With a gel!!
I saw there is someone in the tower, but by the time I got there, the person disappeared. It was a bit spooky, as the door was banging against something in an eerie way. I took a few shots, then headed down towards Diamantina Hut. The sign says Diamantina Springs, so I thought I’ll check out the back of the hut, maybe there is a spring there. Haven’t found any, so I crossed the road and headed along the Razorback. Saw a pink tape and smiled – last year I was collecting them on my way down at 4 Peaks.

Bon Accord, a tad overgrown

Bon Accord was a struggle in the heat, with temperatures over 30°C, reaching 35° for some time. The overgrown, scratchy bushes, the dry dust, rocks, branches so slippery and I couldn’t afford to fall, damage any ligaments or tendons today. Kept saying “Careful with that ACL!! Can’t get injured!”. I also couldn’t afford to get bitten by a snake, so I was extra attentive the whole day. I just wished it was raining… I can do rain any time, even enjoy it!
This constantly scanning the ground for snakes is quite tiring, just like when running at night – I’ll end up with HFP (Head Forward Posture) soon.
I could hear the sound of the water below and just couldn’t wait to get there. I already imagined taking off my shoes and soaking my feet in the cold water while cooling down my arms, face and neck. This cooling down arms, face and neck became one of my favourites on this trip, I did it at nearly every opportunity.
I loved that the water doesn’t taste plasticky from that BeFree flask, and it’s a luxury and privilege to have COLD water on such a hot day in the middle of nowhere.
When I got there, I found a spot with a little shade on the other side and I did exactly how I imagined, it felt great! Now I started to look forward to a proper meal and something cold… I bet they have non-alcoholic beer (yeah, I know that’s not like me, but I wanted to play it safe) at the pub…
There was a group of school girls bathing in the river, they made quite a noise. They said hello when they saw me, which I thought was really nice.
I first walked into the pub and had a beer (non-alcoholic), it felt sooo good! I had another one and had a chat to the bar tender (Matt) while another person walked in. He looked like a regular.
Then I headed down to the caravan park to get my charger. When I came back I asked where is the best place to have some food now in Harrietville. Both Matt and the other guy were looking at me strangely. When this person said that the Bakery is closed, the Ice Creamery might have something, if I hurry I might get there before they close… he saw the guy putting the chairs up. Well… that didn’t sound promising, but I headed that way anyway. The Bakery was closed, and so was the Ice Creamery. I thought I’ll check out the other pub – they usually have pizza or something. The sign in front does say that, but when I walked in the lady told me that they don’t have food, they just bought the place yesterday and will be making changes. I could see they are making changes, but to the stone work outside, which wasn’t much help for me.
I walked back, hoping the Snowline pub might have something (anything!!). Matt said the kitchen opens only on Wednesday, but I can have some beef jerky… in retrospective I should’ve had the beef jerky, but I was looking forward to something substantial. Something that will give me enough energy to get up to Mt Feathertop and through the night with some top ups from the stuff I packed. That alone (the stuff) wasn’t enough, I’ve already used up too much by that time and frankly, I didn’t feel like eating that anymore.
I had another beer while charging my phone and watch, and spoke to Robbie (the regular, who happened to come from WA, is a stone mason and is helping his friend out at the other pub). Matt asked me if I get spooked out by animals. Told him that deer sometimes do that, especially in the dark. Forgot to mention that a duck did that to me along the aqueduct in the morning. Then he went on to say that there are dingos in the mountains and they attack in a pack. I asked what do you do when you get attacked by dingos? Robbie said that just pick up a stick a whack around. I tried to imagine that and thought the walking poles now would be handy.
I went back to the caravan park to drop off the power bank and re-stash my pack, then headed towards Bungalow Spur. As I was walking across the little bridge, I thought I should just get some fresh water from the river, it’s cooler than the tap water I filled the BeFree flask with (as it turned out it even tasted like chlorine). I didn’t do it and I paid for it later.
It was hot, very hot, even though I left later compared to three weeks ago. The fact that I was energy depleted, didn’t help, either. I set myself a goal – at Tobias Gap sit down and eat a protein wafer. NO MATTER HOW!! So when I got there, I sat down on the Tobias Gap sign (just like I did 3 weeks ago) and bit into the wafer. It felt like and tasted like saw dust, so I poured a bit of water into my mouth to try to actually chew it. It didn’t feel good, but eventually finished it, then stood up and went on.
I’ve noticed it’s hard to breathe and tried to figure out why. I pulled away the top above the xiphoid process and was able to breathe easier, it made a huge difference. I decided to take the crop off and put the thermal on instead when I get to the hut. I also folded down the seam of my pants so it won’t press on my abdomen.

Bungalow Spur near Federation Hut

The colours of the trees and the sun setting were just spectacular! Saw a bird so beautiful. It let me take a shot, which made me forget about the hard part for a bit.
The tap water was simply yuck, couldn’t wait to get to the spring. I was hoping that the one closer, on the left will have some water flowing but that wasn’t the case, so my last chance was the one before the hut. Gosh, that water felt amazing!!! It was icy cold and tasted like water (if water can taste anything). I also wetted one of the triangle bandages, thinking it’s getting cold soon, no need for this much wet stuff.
The rays of the setting sun painted the trees pink, just stunning!!
I could hear voices when I was getting closer to Federation Hut. There was a group of youngsters camping there, ready to prepare dinner. We had a chat, then I went into the hut to take off the top and change into the thermal. I also got the torch out as it was getting dark. Before I left I asked if they had a walking pole. They didn’t, but one of them had a good walking stick, which he gave to me. They asked me if I was OK, which I think was very thoughtful of the. I thanked them, said good bye and headed up to Mt Feathertop.

The sunset from the way up to Mt Feathertop

By this time it was getting dark, I realized I forgot to eat at the hut, my energy levels were below functional, started tripping (more) and thought I need to come up with a plan. Got up to the first peak and turned around thinking I’ll go back to the hut, rest for a bit, hopefully I’ll be able to eat and then continue. I am glad Otto called me while I was up there, otherwise there is no reception in the hut. I told him what I will do and promised I’d only continue if it was safe.
When I was getting closer to the hut I could hear voices, but couldn’t see anyone until the torch found the youngsters. Few of them were sitting on a log, the rest standing around and gazing at the stars. I couldn’t help but let a “Wowww!” out, it was truly spectacular. Told them I’d stay until I get better. They asked if I needed anything… a pillow?! I said I’ll be OK, thanked them and went inside the hut.
It felt very cold in there, but since I wasn’t staying for long I didn’t light the fire. Took my shoes and socks off, pulled out whatever clothes I had from the pack, put the WP pants on, pulled the WP gloves over my feet and laid down on the hard bench to get some rest. It felt good and I think I dosed off for a short time. I couldn’t stay in the same position for long on the hard surface. When my body temperature fell I pulled out the space blanket. Kept the long johns and the beanie as pillow.
I looked at my watch, it was 22:31. If I get out and continue, I might get into trouble on the way down on Diamantina Spur. I will also have to go through the whole shebang as today – the heat, getting to Harrietville in the afternoon, no food, no energy. And those bloody dingoes!!! I couldn’t get them out of my mind!! The space blanket kept my body heat in and every time I wasn’t covered I could feel the freezing cold. I also thought that it must be very cold out there and the gear I am wearing is just simply not enough on upper body (the legs were ok).
I also contemplated getting out and getting along the Razorback and arriving to Harrietville in the morning… but then again, the cold could’ve been an issue. I decided to play it safe (not so much for my own sake, but for my loved ones) and stay until morning. Put my phone on charge and tried to get some sleep. The space blanket wasn’t helping, I should’ve just bought that Escape Bivvy that works like a sleeping bag but it’s very light and packable.
At some point I sat up and tried to eat – wasn’t happening, bit more rest required… then the morning came. I could hear some noises outside, thought an animal or one of the youngster went to the toilet. I managed to eat a protein wafer, so the prospects of going on for a while looked good.
When I looked outside, the youngsters were sitting on the log, having their coffees. How cool is that?! I thought it’s time to face the music and get out of the hut, expecting freezing cold. Big surprise! Outside it was much warmer than inside. Had a quick chat with them and headed up to Mt Feathertop.

Turned around and took this shot on the way up to Mt Feathertop

The sunrise was spectacular! I always wanted to experience this on that mountain. It took a weird twist of tale to actually end up here at this time, but I wanted to make the most of it. Took a few shots and stopped every now and then to really enjoy the view. As I looked back, I saw the youngsters heading up the mountain. They were going quite fast, which I admired, but then I thought how much easier is without a 4-5 kg pack. I was trying to avoid the same mistake I made at AC (powering up after just having recovered), I just took it slow, thinking of which point did I really reached the previous night.
I took a few shots on the top of the mountain, then took the WP pants off, packed them and headed down. I was a bit embarrassed taking the WP jacket as well, as all I had underneath was the thin ioMerino thermal (a tad transparent). Said hello and bye to the group as I saw them on my way down, then after the cross I stopped to take the jacket off – it was getting warm and I didn’t expect to see anyone for a while. Contemplated on rinsing, then putting the crop back on at Kiewa, but the thought of it restricting my breathing on the way up Westons made me dismiss the idea.

Kiewa River – in reality so much more beautiful

Diamantina Spur was as scratchy on the legs and arms and hard as always, with the bewildered flies as an added anguish. I was looking forward to getting some cold water from the Kiewa river, then take my shoes off and cool down at Blairs Hut before the Westons hike. Based on my calculations it would be about noon by the time I get to the top with a water top up at the Westons Hut stream.
The water was refreshing in both places. Standing in the icy cold water after Blairs Hut was pure bliss!!
As I was hiking relatively steadily, I remembered the time I was here with Tay (similar circumstances: heat, flies, ants… being tired), then at night time at AC, where I met the group I ended up travelling with for pretty much the rest of the course. How much better the darkness and cool was?! But today I also noticed the horse poo and footprint… which meant brumbies must have been on this track. Tried to work out where I’d jump if a heard came down towards me. I’m sure they’d be spooked to see this bright thing.
Eventually got to Westons Hut; saw a bench near the fire place and thought it would be nice just to lie down for a few minutes, so I took the pack off and did just that – lied down and stretched my back a little. Then I heard the hut’s door moving – sat up, looked and listened. It was the wind causing a draft, but I thought I should go anyway.
At the stream I dipped the bandages into the little waterhole, then cooled down my arms, neck and face. There is a bucket a bit further up, where I thought there’d be better flow, but it seemed too cumbersome to get up there, so I aborted the thought.
Did about 50 m (?) when I dropped one of the bandages, straight into dust. Went back and this time I climbed up and tried to wash it, as it was full of dirt and pieces of chips or something… wasn’t perfect, but I put that one around my neck and used the cleaner one on my head and face to fend off the wild flies. They were just maddening!
As I was reaching the High Plains, I could pick up the pace a little. Couldn’t really run, but walking faster was possible. I passed a few streams and did the arms, neck and face thing as often as I could (well, compared to how fast my sleeves were drying). The sun was getting stronger and the heat hotter – could feel it on my calves and forearms.
When I was getting closer to Pole 333, I saw a group of hikers sitting down to the right just next to the AWT. Waved them (they waved back), then I turned left, heading towards the Fainters turnoff. This part would’ve been fun if it wasn’t for the flies. It’s mostly downhill, even though the terrain is uneven and unpredictable (sloshy grass, moving rocks that splash mud on you). Then came the abrupt turn to the right onto Fainters with the rocky/grassy 4WD uphill… I thought it never ends. It even seemed longer than in the cold, mist and dark at AC. Probably the flies and the heat had something to do with it.
When I saw Pretty Valley Pondage, I had a wow moment – never seen it from this point in the daylight and it was beautiful! I soon bumped into a couple, the lady had such a fair skin, I thought she’d be burning very fast. They were heading just out to the hut. I was so over everything, that I forgot to ask which one. We wished each other the best, then I went on, crossing the wall (not sure if that’s it, though) and trying to distract myself with the view.
Saw cars in the parking lot, a guy unpacking his bicycle. I waved, but he didn’t bother waving back, even though I saw he was looking at me.
Then I saw this 4WD approaching. “Here we go, they won’t slow down, leaving me in the dust” – I thought, but to my surprise the Parks Vic car slowed and the window went down as well, revealing two ladies. The one at the wheel was older, maybe my age, the other one probably in her twenties. They were really nice; asked me if I was OK, if I needed a ride, or something. She offered cashews, which I couldn’t accept because I couldn’t eat anything. They asked me what I was doing. When I told them they were very excited about it, clearly liking the idea. The lady at the wheel told me that they will be coming back, I can still make up my mind about taking a ride back with them.
Two more cars came, none of them was this careful with slowing down. In fact one (obviously a cyclist, because he had a bicycle in the back) didn’t slow down at all, leaving me in the biggest dust. “What a dickhead!!” – I thought. What’s wrong with cyclists?! Aren’t they human?!
There were a few streams along the road and as soon as I felt that the bandage is drying, I stopped to get it wet, it seemed that there were fewer flies than as when it was dry. Besides, the water was icy cold and felt really good. At one of these streams I slipped and scratched my right little finger, which started to bleed and attract more flies… can’t win.
“Not much more to go” I thought. I decided long ago that I’ll give Mt McKay a miss – didn’t feel the urge to go up on this occasion and I was sure as hell to not take the scenic route (Ruined Castle track across The Desert) as we do at AC. I saw one more car after the Mt McKay turnoff, then another one just before Falls Creek. Those few kms felt like eternity in the heat and with the constant fly attacks.
I felt a relief when I saw the Last Hoot turnoff; headed down the grassy slope, when I saw a ute and 2 guys working on the right. One of them waved. “Wow! That’s a new one!!” I thought. I waved back then spoke to them as I passed them, mentioning a cold beer when finished.
I took a turn and ended up on one of the back streets of the village… I thought “Good one, that’s all what I need right now – a detour!!” Looked at the tiny village map when I got to the cul de sac and figured out how to get down to Slalom Plaza. Within a few minutes I was there, stopped my watch walked to my accommodation and was ready for that beer, toothbrush, food, beer and sleep.
What I took away from this experience
1. Don’t count on food in a small town – have a backup plan
2. Take a fly screen on a hot day – it will save the energy spent on waving the flies away or holding the bandage
3. Increase distance incrementally (10-15 km at a time for this distance) – it worked in the past, why reinvent the wheel?!
4. Take Otto out on each of the miler loops (one by one), so he knows what they are like and stops freaking out every time I head up to the mountains
5. Take the poles with me/get the lightweight ones eventually
6. Get the Escape Bivvy – it’s a tad bigger than the space blanket, but I think it’s a better option, especially on a solo outing
7. Carry extra clothing
What worked
• Vegemite and butter toast bites – with lots of vegemite
• Peanut butter and homemade cumquat jam – wasn’t that sweet, just perfect
• Banana
• Non-alcoholic beer
• Cold creek water
• Water with dextrose monohydrate although the tap water made it taste a bit like Cl
• Spring gel – even though I had to really push it down, it tasted like real food. Might have made a difference if I had it earlier (not last minute)
• Mashed potato – the tastiest food I had. Pity I forgot the pickled cucumbers to go with it 😃
• Ginger beer – still works, wish I took more with me
• Coke – wish I took more
• Love the Salomon WP pants – they are so comfy and they don’t feel baggy as my previous overpants
• Triangle bandages – will never go on a long run without them
• The new Salomon Advance Skin 12 l pack – it’s super light (when empty), but the new pocket arrangement and front hooks need a bit of getting used to. I will need to remove the small pocket that’s dangling inside the right front pocket – it gets caught when reaching in/out of the pocket
• Saucony Peregrine – very comfy, although they won’t last long. Why aren’t these shoes made for ultras?! Two long runs is all they can handle???
• DexShell WP socks – they ARE waterproof, but they collect a ton of dust and by the end chafed my legs a little (not complaining, though)
• 10 A power bank – I only had a 6 A at AC and ran out of juice, had to borrow one to charge my phone. The 10 A Belkin Pocket Power is 234 g (I know, nearly like the pack itself), but can charge the phone 3 x
• Stashing my resupply at the caravan park – true it’s a trip down the lane but when doing things solo it’s one of the best options, because I could’ve had a shower in the morning and started the last stretch fresh
• Going “effortless” – helped me hold on to the energy for a bit longer
What didn’t work
• Cherries when I got to a point when not feeling well. I mean they tasted great, but they felt too acidic once I had them. True they weren’t the super sweet ones to start with
• The Lululemon top I chose – need to go for an older one, the not-that-tight kind
Reflecting back to the whole experience
I might have slightly underestimated the magnitude of this undertaking and how it impacts my family. Truth is, I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. Encouragements were welcome (thank you), but I didn’t want the negativity that comes with worry. Of course there are “What if?!”s with a trip like this and let’s face it, things could go pear-shaped, but unless I give it a go I won’t know. I value experiences. Good or bad, they are experiences that shape me into who I am. The reason I put this all in writing is to share it with everyone who takes the time to read it and is interested in getting into the mountains or going these distances. So they learn and don’t make the same mistakes as I did.
After each big trip I take a look at my body – scratches, bruises, cuts, damaged toenails… I pretty much know where I got which, so next time I’m back in the same spot it doesn’t happen again (except for the damn bushes that scratch my legs, unless I wear something long I’ll have to put up with them).
I’d like to thank those who have messaged me, called me and supported me – you know who you are.