Wow!! Where do I start?! It was one of the most memorable runs (or rather treks) that I have ever done. This is one of those courses, that would swallow you and spit you out – several times.
Drove up bright and early to Mt Buller on Friday morning, I promised to be there by 9:30. Easy drive, got there with about 13 minutes to spare. As I walked into HQ I was greeted by Chris [Ord] and Andy [Payne]. They told me we will be taking off to Lovick’s at 11.
I met Debbie, Shane, Shaun, Lucas, Jacquie and Jacyntha in the comms area. Thought that’s really interesting, so I hung around there for a while, listening to what’s going on, Shane and Shaun being briefed by Lucas… unless one hasn’t been on the “other” side of the fence, would never know how much effort, what kind of co-ordination goes into an event like this. In fact, the helicopter rescue of Paul [Edwards] was the best display of the kind of readiness the crew has been prepared for.
Brought my gear in. I only took the “essentials” (sleeping bag, mat, tent, another set of clothes for tomorrow), but the bag – of the massage table, as this was the only one big enough to house all that and waterproof – felt so huge!
Soon Kelly, then Al arrived. We got fitted with the radios, given the PLBs and the trackers, then at around 11 we got into Matt’s 4WD and took off. That ride was quite a rodeo – I really loved it. We were chatting away while sometimes airborne in the back of the Toyota. When we were about 9 minutes from Lovick’s, we saw a runner. He was really struggling. Stopped and gave him a few words of encouragement. He was Matty Munroe (more about him later), then later another team. It turned out one was Al’s team mate from the year before. We thought none of these people will make the cutoff at Lovick’s. And how wrong we were?!
Got to Lovick’s had some food and drink at the aid station – everyone was so lovely!! Found out that Robbie (another team mate of Al’s) is pulling out (kidney problems) and he is getting married on Mt Speculation tomorrow… Wow!! What a way and place to do that!!
Matty and the other team rolled in, which was awesome. Matty kept going, the team stayed the night.
At 2:00 pm we got started. It was quite warm and we were going uphill (definitely not my forte). Kelly and Al were doing it so easy, I was really struggling. The pack was heavier than usual, my legs are way shorter and I do need about 2 kms to “warm up”. So I soon found myself lagging at the back. We caught up with Matty and walked with him for a while, taking pictures and not believing our luck!! There were so many “Wow!! How beautiful this is?!” that can’t even count them. Kelly went ahead to make sure the cutoffs are met, while Al and I were encouraging Matty. He was unbelievable!!
Lucas asked Al to change the battery in the repeater on Mt Howitt. While Al did that, I went after Matty, who grew wings and got to Ganter’s with about 20 mins to spare. Al caught up with me and we saw the oncoming runners leaving Ganter’s – Georgie [Mungcal] and Peter, Bich [Jennings], Sabrina and her team mate, Jo [Noosgard] and Martine and a few more.
At Ganter’s we checked in (these vollies are just awesome!), Matty was sitting there and told us he’d be pulling out at Mt Speculation… Al was amazing with putting some hope into him.
We could hear on the radio that a runner is injured, on the trail and Shane and Shaun are to run in with all the first aid stuff. When I heard “andrenaline kit”, I thought this has to be bad… then the helicopter was mobilised… we could shortly hear it approaching. I told Al earlier about my chopper ride a year ago. We caught up with Georgie and Peter, then Matty and a few more runners before the incident and were really close when Paul was finally lifted into the chopper. Kelly was there with him and signalled us to stay put and down, which we all did. Everyone was filming the rescue, it was so incredible!
After the helicopter left, we started moving. Kelly went ahead first, then Shane, Shaun too, while we were moving with the troops.
The sunset was just incredible over Crosscut Saw. Al and I couldn’t get enough of taking pictures and being amazed by it. We caught up with another Matt we followed into the checkpoint. I tried to cheer him up with “the Power”, it only worked for a few steps. That climb on the rock (where the rope is) was quite hairy, but I loved it!
We got to Mt Speculation and saw Matty sitting there. Heard Bich pulled out here. I was looking around, but couldn’t see her. Had a coke (something I haven’t had for a very long time), some chips and took a banana with me. I’ve put on my jacket, I felt a bit cold, but soon after we started running (not much of this was happening), I had to take it off. We soon caught up with Georgie and Peter. Georgie was walking funnily, she had a huge blister on one of heels. I held her pack for a few moments while she checked the blister – gee, that was heavy!! No wonder her back was hurting on Crosscut Saw.
We caught up with Jo and Martine soon and walked with them all the way to King’s. I realised my phone is close to flat and I have forgotten the cable in the car… had the charger in the pack at King’s, but no cable. I mentioned this when walking with Jo and Martine. Jo offered her charger if the cable is good. It WAS!! (I charged the phone all the way to King’s – thanks so much Jo!!).
The moon was so beautiful, shiny and big!! Took a few shots, unfortunately they are not that good.
At the Muesli Spur turnoff Georgie and Peter took off, so it was the four of us struggling down Muesli. At the beginning I didn’t understand what everyone’s problem is with this track… well, if someone has done that many kilometres, and that much elevation no wonder. Another track that I consider even tougher is the one leading down from Mt Solitary in the Blue Mountains. Once you did that, Muesli doesn’t seem that bad.
It was around 1:00 am by the time we arrived to King’s. All the vollies were just unbelievably amazing there! It was lovely to see Danny Edmunds and Darren (whom I’ve not recognised – so sorry!!). I had some rice and a sausage, a chicken noodle and a beer. Wasn’t really looking forward to set the tent up in the dark… when one lady (so sorry, can’t remember her name. Might be Connie) said that our tents (the sweepers’) is already up. They also helped out Georgie and Peter and Jo and Martine with their tents.
I cleaned up a bit, put on the spare thermal top and was really looking forward to my first sleep in this brand new sleeping bag on the brand new sleeping mat in a brand new tent 😊 (yes, we went to Kathmandu with Otto on Wednesday and bought the bag and mat, while the tent was lent to me by Tash – thanks heaps Tash). Tried to call Otto, but had no service. Sent him an SMS, hoping it will push through, as he was waiting for my call. Set the alarm to 4:45, as we were supposed to be ready to go by 6:00 am, with the runners leaving between 5 and 6.
I didn’t lay out the mat in time, so it didn’t get the chance to self-inflate… thought stuff it, just sleep! The noises around the fire diminished, people went to bed, except for the person who kept the fire going.
Then I heard the snoring. Al was exhausted and must have slept on his back.
Didn’t sleep, tossed and turned and wished I’d brought that inflatable pillow… used the spare clothes but that didn’t really work.
Then I heard noises around the fire, people started talking, laughing, chatting, blowing the fire… looked at the time. It was 4:35. Got dressed, out of the tent. People were so nice and cheerful, in spite of the 1-2 hours of sleep. Caught up with Shane [Winzar] around the fire, I was so happy he was going this well. I went down to the creek, washed my face, neck and arms. If I knew it’s this accessible, would’ve come down before going to bed – it would’ve made a huge difference.
It bothered me that I couldn’t brush my teeth, but I was prepared for this, so just had to go with it.
Had some water, two slices of bread with butter and vegemite a “short black” (very strong Blend 43), more water, then packed my stuff. Lady told me not to worry about the tent, they’d do it for me. I felt like I’ve hit the jackpot!! I woke Al up at 5:22 so he can get ready, as well.
The runners started to leave the camp site. Darren told me there are two who are still in their tent. He went to let them know they have 30 minutes to get ready. Then pretty much every 5 minutes he went back trying to get hem going. I think Emilie checked with HQ, they weren’t allowed to continue if they haven’t left by 6. I went to the tent and realised it was Jo and Martine. I felt like kicking myself for not getting them out in time. True, they both had very sore legs and feet, but still…
We got ready and at 6:08 we got started. We were going to cross the creek, so I took off my shoes. I didn’t want to risk the blisters – had to be as injury-free as possible to be able to support others. After a little jog, the climb started. And it went on and on right until Craig’s Hut. We saw some of the sunrise, pity there were clouds but the views were amazing. So many berries!! Every now and then we munched on them (especially me). As Al said it doesn’t get any more organic than this.
We caught up with Meg and Trent, the young couple we ended up following all the way to the finish line. Craig’s Hut was showering in the sun’s orange rays – so beautiful!!
At the checkpoint we had instant noodles, some chips and I filled up one of my 250 ml bottles with coke. Said good bye to the lovely family mending it, then took off.
I didn’t remember this track going all up and up. True it was 3 years ago, but still… Trent had a torn ligament (I think there was more than one) on his left leg, so the uneven terrain and everything downhill was really hard for him, yet he soldiered on. It was really nice to get to know them, lovely people.
Next checkpoint was Mt Stirling. I was looking forward to catching up with Karen and my running buddy. Everyone was so cheerful there! Rebecca gave me a Hut2Hut sticker and lit up the checkpoint pronto. I had help with filling up my 250 ml plastic bottle with coke (I had the rest on the spot). Hugs, then off we went, knowing Meg and Trent were not that far away ahead of us.
We caught up with them on Mt Stirling at the trig. Took a few shots, tried to call Otto – the service was quite patchy – then headed downhill (saw a dirt bike rider!).
As we were walking on the dusty 4WD track, Meg slipped and as she fell, she swung her pole straight into my face. The tip hardly missed my eye, I thought it’s very bad at first, but after a few seconds I realised it’s OK; it was bleeding, but the eye didn’t get damaged.
Could tell Trent was really hurting on this section, yet they somehow stepped on it and got to the Howqua Gap checkpoint a few minutes before us.
Oh, something interesting!! We heard a 4WD (Ford Ranger) coming. Its rego was EW1NG. Al goes “Dallas!” and I started to nanana the tune. They stopped and took them a while to realise what that was all about.
At Howqua Gap I really loved the Dettol next to the toilet – lovely touch. Talked to Veronica (found out about 5 minutes into the conversation who she is), who told me that I saved them (her and Jenny Rickards) from going down the road at the Lightstation at the Prom last year. I didn’t recall that, but it feels really good to be remembered this way.
I had a few pieces of chips and a small apple.
Only about 8 kms to the finish line – we told Meg and Trent and we took off onto the sweet MTB single track. It would’ve made for a much better experience if we all had fresh legs here, but we were there to finish so we went on. It felt like we’ll never get there and it started to get warmer and warmer… on one of the trails I saw two MTBers who greeted me by my name. Took me a little while, but I recognised Lesa and Tomie Muir. Tomie pedalled on, but Lesa stopped for a hug and a short chat. What a small world!!!
Why is the course going around the village???!! It’s like having a lollie in front of you but you can’t reach it. In spite of that Trent was able to do some short runs, which was simply amazing. We saw Georgie and Peter on the way up to the top, they were already heading down. I was so thirsty, couldn’t wait for something cold and fluid at the finish.
On the top we saw a couple sitting down, enjoying the view. Meg and Trent took a page each from the book in the container, I took a few shots of them, then we headed down. Al was again so awesome with encouraging them, hats off to him!
On the concrete, our steps felt so differently, but the goal was so close now. It was really fulfilling as we watched this young couple go through the finish line hand in hand, finishing 100 of those cruel kms, with Trent doing his very first ultra!!
We were greeted by the RDs at the finish. They both thanked us for what we did, but frankly I was more grateful for the opportunity to experience all this and I think so was Al.
Handed back the radio, PLB and tracker, talked to Bich, then realised I was thirsty, so I had water, asked for a noodle, went to get my stuff from the car, gave a hug to and thanked Al, cleaned up a little, changed, had the noodle, wanted to call Otto (no service), got my gear (it felt so heavy!!), said good bye and got going.
Once off the mountain, I managed to talked to Otto. The drive home is a bit patchy, 33 C really made it so much harder to stay 100% alert, but I made it.