I knew I was undertrained for this but I had a plan: if I can manage the nutrition right, I can do it and I can do it better than two years ago. That was the plan.
I’ve been on the course three times in the four weeks leading up to the run. First time I got to Diamantina Spur, then turned back (work), following week I got to Mt Lock car park and had to take the “short cut” down on Bon Accord, because I bonked going up on Swindlers (same hot day as this). Third time I just wanted to close the loop: went to Mt Loch car park along the Razorback ridge and did the remaining 24 km in ideal conditions. This is when I tested the nutrition and it worked great – true, there was no Swindlers in the equation.
I picked up Otto at the airport and drove up to Harrietville, stopping in Bright for pizza. I’ve made a shitload of pasta and pesto, thinking we’ll have a big pasta night. Ani and Nelu (my sister and brother-in-law) left quite late and got stuck in the Melbourne Friday traffic…
We booked Feathertop Retreat as our base for this weekend. From outside it looks like a small country house but it’s quite big inside, it can sleep 8-10 people. We really loved the place, it has a rustic, down to earth feel.
Once Otto and I have carried all the stuff into the house, I started getting ready for the day, making the rice paper rolls and making sure everything I don’t need to take to gear check is also in sight. At 7.15 Otto took me down to the Harrietville Hotel Motel – this is where the registration, gear check and briefing happened. He didn’t get out of the car, because he was wearing the Parkroyal slippers, which looked rather funny on his feet. I always wondered why these kind of slippers never look like a pair…
Julie [Savage] and Paul were at the registration table; I got my bib (6441 this year), we had a chat, then I looked for Chris Spano – I’ve brought him a few pieces of mandatory gear that he was missing. Ended up giving the overpants to Mark [Boulet]. It was great to see Duncan from ASAR – he was doing the gear checks. Other runners were sitting around, waiting for the briefing, too. I was convinced it starts at 7.30, but Paul said it’s at 8.30, so I walked back to the house and continued with the preparation. At 8.25 Otto took me down to the HQ again. Paul – in his usual easygoing style – delivered the briefing; snake bandage, good weather – bad weather, course change in case the thunderstorm hits. I liked the idea of not having to carry the thermals and the long johns on a hot day to make room for more water in the pack and that there was a possibility to take the Bon Accord option if one was not feeling fit to go all along the ridge, then down Bungalow Spur.
After the briefing, I had a short chat with Coral and her husband, then Jacqui and Darren when Gabor and Dan came over. They were supposed to stay in the cottage I’ve booked first (when I didn’t know my sis is coming too) and got stuck with (thanks heaps Stayz!). Dan decided to stay with two other friends, so I went with Gabor to the cottage to make sure he finds it and all is kosher with the owners. It was pitch dark as we were driving down to Shady Brook – same as last year, although back then I walked there. We checked Gabor in, then he drove me back to Feathertop Retreat. Otto was really happy to see him, even if it was very briefly – we all needed to get going.
Ani and Nelu arrived after 10, both exhausted. We were already showered, packed for next day and Otto has boiled some pasta for Nelu. These two had some palinka (strong liquor made of prunes) and were in a great mood. Ani was trying to send us all to bed, looking at me and telling me they won’t stop if we don’t drag them. It was funny, but I like it when people around me are happy so I wasn’t much worried about being tired.
This house is really well partitioned: I suggested Ani and Nelu to stay in the master bedroom (with the ensuite ), because it’s behind two doors, so I can have a shower, make my coffee and toast without waking up anyone (except Otto, of course). Alarm went off at 4.15. I like to take my time and not rush. Woke Otto up an hour later, and we walked out at 5.30. It was pitch dark where the street lights didn’t reach. Saw the head torches walking up the street. The bakery was open and empty.
So nice to see familiar faces at the start line… big hug to Tash, Gabor, hello to Jacqui, Coral, Chris Roberts. We usually take a selfie with Gabor before start, have no idea why we didn’t do it now. Otto is always nervous – for me. Told him so many times not to be, nothing will go wrong and I’ll be fine, but he can’t help himself. Then Dan appeared at the back. I introduced him to Otto. Countdown, then start. The mass of shoes started moving with the lights. Someone made some noise with a cowbell, I wonder what the people living in the house close by were thinking… but I loved it.
Otto ran next to me until we were in the front of the house, then he wished me luck, gave me a kiss and headed right. It’s always nice seeing the line of headlights going up Bungalow Spur. I wanted to keep a steady pace on this section. I’ve spent most of the uphill with Erin [Nightingale], who did Mt Bogong Conquestathon the week before and now should be recovering… Erin is a lovely lady and I hope our paths will cross again in the near future. We passed each other with Luke a few times, his hike is very strong. I’ve met Saravana – a runner from India, who came to Australia for a two week visit and decided to sign up for Razorback 64 km. I wondered what made him do this? I caught up with Luke at Federation Hut, he was repacking. We took a selfie, then I got going.
I usually put my Bonatti on at Federation Hut, but now I thought it’s not that bad, I can keep going… I must have been around the MUMC turnoff when I realised I really need to put the jacket on, it’s getting very cold. Took my pack off and put the jacket on while trying to put the pack back… everything was hanging everywhere! This is so not like me! So I stopped, fixed the jacket, the pack and started going up the stairs when I realised I don’t have my Salomon belt! I must have dropped it when I put the jacket on… there were all the gels, Clif Shot bloks and some lollies in it – the stuff that I can have in between real food.
I looked back, it was a bit steep to go back for that, so I decided to pick it up on the way down. I saw Clare [Weatherly] and mentioned to her that I’ve lost my belt and asked her to leave it there, will pick it up on the way back. It was blinding going against the sunrise, but the fresh air and the thought of a great day has made me feel alive and ready for the adventure.
Many runners were already heading down (fast ones must have been halfway down Diamantina by now), carefully hopping over those rocks. I saw Jacqui, she gave me a hug and told me “Well done kiddo!!” – that’s so sweet!! Really cheered me up, especially since I am a few years older than her. Tash was coming, too and gave me a hug and lovely, encouraging words. Then I saw Vanessa! Haven’t spoken to her for a very long time, so a hug and a little chat followed. Wished each other all the best and went the opposite ways. When I got to the top, Ian was clicking away, a few other people taking pictures and repacking. Told Ian we need to take a selfie – so we took a few with my phone and I posted one to fb. Ian took some stunning shots of the runners arriving to Mt Feathertop, love his work.
On the way down I saw Erin and Luke – took a photo of them, then came the first 22 km runner. Congratulated him. What surprised me was, that he was nice, thanked me and said “well done” or something along those lines. The second 22 km runner was nice, too. Then Julie was coming, which meant there were no more runners in the 40- or 64 field. Asked her if she’s seen my belt by any chance, she said she didn’t, so I started to worry a bit… maybe the wind picked it up and it will end up in the valley???!! I was looking hard for that belt, risking a fall at every step, but I couldn’t find it. I also looked at branches, maybe someone picked it up and put it on a branch… when I got to The Cross and didn’t see the belt hanging off that tree branch, I knew I’m not going to find it, so I recalculated my food plan and made a conscious decision not to let this get to me. I will work with what I have. Shit happens all the time, just need to be positive. Called Otto to let him know and asked him to make a couple more rice paper rolls and bring it to Diamantina Hut.
This year I decided not to get out of every 22 km runner’s way as I did in the previous years. It worked!!! I did go sideway or they stopped and let me pass, which I really appreciated. Saw Sasha [Taplin] speeding. Her face lit up and stopped for a hug and a few nice words, which was great. James [Brennan] was not far behind her – got another hug and good wishes!! How lucky I am today?! Saw the guy with the two kids, then another two young girls and I was amazed by them. Praised them, as I admire these little humans going for such a run.
As I was getting closer to the Diamantina turnoff, I saw a runner coming back from the Razorback and turning onto it… must have missed the turn… that sucks! I held off taking off the Bonatti until I turned onto Diamantina to avoid holding up anyone on the Razorback track. Steve [Lewis] was approaching as I was getting going. I asked him if this was his first Razorback. He said he did it a few years ago and he got lost on Diamantina Spur. Told him I’ve been here twice in the last few months, there is no way we’ll get lost. So we stuck together and chatted all the way down the spur, constantly watching out for snakes.
We reached the bottom in no time. There was another runner at the creek, filling up her flasks. I went on the right side, after the bridge to refill whatever I could and I also had a few gulps of the fresh, cold water. Steve kept going and he was out of sight by the time I looked around after I packed my flasks away. I took a quick inventory of my food stash… I’ve already had two rice paper rolls, some chocolate and a date. Should have one more roll two pieces of banana, one mandarine, two more dates, ginger and chocolate. I forgot about the extra roll and mandarine I packed for just in case. I decided to have a piece of banana. Turned left at the sign, then again. Then I reached the Blair Hut sign, turned left again…
Didn’t bother taking photos of the hut now, just went past, hopped over the creek, then turned around to wet my triangle bandage, when I noticed a dead fish just 20 cm from where I was standing. Glad I didn’t leave refilling the flasks to this crossing! It started to get warm… and then came Westons Spur – there should be a sign there. At this point I was about 5 minutes behind the schedule. As I was going up on Westons I heard some noises from behind. As I looked back, saw Steve a few steps behind me. Asked him what happened. He said he missed the turn and had to come back. He hiked so fast, I didn’t even try to keep up with him.
The track got narrower and the wild raspberries appeared along it, with blackberries here and there. I had some of both, they were so sweet. Julie likes these, too. I welcomed the shade, thinking there will be nearly nada on Swindlers. Had a sip of the beer I brought with me – it did give me an umpf. I remembered the time when I climbed this with Tay, the damn hut seemed so far away! Now it just popped up. Didn’t bother with the spring further up, still had plenty of water. I started to feel the effects of not eating… not good! The bushes scratched my arms again, couldn’t wait to get out of that area.
Once on the high plains I tried to shuffle as much as possible, thinking I’ll have to get some jelly snakes at Pole 333… when I looked up, I could see some movement there. As I was getting closer, there was a lady whose top was the same colour as Julie’s and that confused me so much!!! I couldn’t fathom how she could’ve gotten there without passing me somewhere. I didn’t leave the course… until I realised it was someone else. The lady took a photo of Jordan (the lovely checkpoint minder) and me, then she and her mates picked up their pack and took off towards Cope Hut, wishing us all the best.
I saw Tailwind powder there and asked Jordan if I could have some. He said of course, it’s his personal stash, but he brought it for us. So thoughtful!!! Told him what happened with my belt, so he tried to pour some Tailwind into my flask, with most of if flying everywhere (it was very windy up there). I took a few snakes, too and gave Jordan the rubbish I had on me (picked some up on the trail). He wished me good luck and I took off, trying to shuffle as much as possible on the flat. I had a snake… tossed it in my mouth for some long minutes. Then I tried to call Otto, to let him know how I was going. Call went straight to his message bank, so they must be somewhere in the valley, around Washington Creek… later on I managed to talk to him. Tailwind doesn’t sit well with me, I could hardly swallow the little sips I was taking.
Saw a group of hikers coming up from Cobungra. Had a little chat with them, then told I don’t envy them for the pack they are carrying and kept going. I’ve never seen this many people at Cobungra Gap and around Dibbins Hut!! I’ve filled my flasks, added cold creek water to the ~50 ml of warm beer I had in the bottle and put it in the water to cool more while I soaked my triangle bandage, washed my head, neck, face and arms. Got dizzy as I suddenly stood up from squatting next to the water. Headed up the dreaded Swindlers… it was already nice and warm, around 1.45. On the way up I thought – since no one is coming – I could just listen to some upbeat music. So Whitney Houston and the Mas Que Nada (the latter about 5 times).
As I was getting closer to Derricks Hut, I tried to call Otto, but got to his message bank again. They must be driving up and no signal, so I called Paul. Let him know about my whereabouts and told him about the belt, just in case someone has brought it back to him. He told me he’ll look out for it, then called me back saying that yes, it was handed in, I can have it at Diamantina Hut. That was a relief!! By this time I couldn’t eat, the sips of the watered down beer didn’t feel good. Had two pieces of ginger at Derricks Hut for some calories… then Otto called and asked if I wanted them to come to Loch car park. I said yes, and bring some beer, too.
Had no idea where I got the energy from, as I was running on empty for a while – even water made me gag – I shuffled down and then hiked up when I saw the troops heading my way. They were all cheerful, taking pictures… sis with a bunch of yellow flowers… told her that we may get into trouble for this, they might be protected. Ooooops!!! Asked Otto where is the beer? He said they didn’t bring it down, it’s in the car, but headed straight up for it. Love this guy!!! When I was nearly at the car park, Otto got there and opened a Nut Brow Ale for me. I had a few sips of the cold beer, then hunched a little until it absorbed and I was able to continue. Nelu said he’ll come with me up to Mt Hotham – he’s never been that way, so we headed up, along the pole lines and pink signs.
As we were getting closer to the summit, I recognised the old emergency guy I’ve met two weeks ago. He was studying the area with binoculars. Said hello and he remembered me. Nelu and I took a few photos at the cairn, then headed down to the Diamantina check point. Otto and Paul was making noises to cheer us coming. It was great to see Duncan here and the other gentleman, who offered to fill up my flasks with water. I had plenty of water with me, so I just asked if I could have water melon. Must have had at least 10 pieces! I bet my body absorbed the juice and the sugar like a sponge! Then I rearranged my pack – stuffed the extra food Otto brought (realised I still had another roll and a mandarine), swapped the Red Lenser 5 I used in the morning for the Ay Ups (they’ll be much better going down Bungalow Spur in the dark).
I decided not to change shoes, but continue in the ones I started with – Otto was a bit disappointed, he carried all this stuff for nothing… I had another sip of beer (beer after watermelon you ask?! There is a joke about this!) then I took off onto the Razorback Track along the ridge. It was still warm, but the wind made it reasonable. Saw some hikers, they were treading carefully on the rocks, looking at me strangely. When I bumped into a couple – that was more interesting! Guy asked me how long I have been running today and how long I’ve got to go. When I told him, he signalled that I was crazy, he would never do that. We had a lovely chat anyway. Then for kilometres, I haven’t seen anyone. The Sun was heading down, producing some amazing lighting. I took a selfie and posted it on Facebook. Looking at it later, it clearly shows that I was quite tired by then.
My plan to have food from Diamantina Hut to the finish quickly evaporated when I tried to have one of the rice paper rolls. I just turned it around in my mouth and could hardly swallow it. I tried a sip of beer… that didn’t feel great, either – and THAT wasn’t a good sign!! Every time I was going up, I felt no energy. The downhills were a bit more manageable, but up… really hard, even with the poles. I had the mandarine, last bite nearly came back up. I looked ahead and saw Mt Feathertop – still nearly that far to go! I kept looking for the Champion Spur turnoff, but couldn’t see it. At least I wasn’t sure – saw a track looking something around 47 km, making a mental note – will check it out when I get home. There were a few drops of rain, which was great. I would’ve loved it if it rained.
Saw a rabbit as I was getting closer to the Twin Knobs. Then the Diamantina Spur turnoff!!! Yayy! From here is pretty much downhill. I felt nauseous and even water was making me gag. Called Otto to let him know I was nearly at Federation Hut. There were two guys coming from Mt Feathertop, turning towards the hut, not even bothering to say hello. I stopped to have a sip of beer, hoping it will give me a little energy, but it didn’t feel good. At Federation Hut there were many people in tents, setting up their tents. I saw/heard something very uplifting as I got closer – a family of three (mum, dad and little girl) in a small tent. Parents obviously tickling the kid, she was giggling and so cute. I waved hello to them as I passed.
Further down I bumped into a group of teenage boys, carrying water in plastic bottles and a pan. They must have been to the spring. They said hello and looked at me with respect – I really liked that. Then I mad a huge mistake: I had a sip of water and even though I only swirled it in my mouth and spit it out, I realized vomiting is next. Had to stop and everything I still had in me (hardly anything) – left. Funnily, I instantly felt better. I could even run!! So I stepped on it. When it started to get dark, I took the lamp out and put it on so it’s ready when I need it. Everything went well until I tripped in a root that was sticking out. Fell onto my right knee. The most hurting part was my right hand, as I pretty much landed with most of my weight on it. I had the poles in that hand, so it was a very weird feeling.
Dropped an F bomb or more, cleaned myself up with hand sanitiser and the water I had in one of my soft flasks, then kept going looking harder. I couldn’t wait to get to Tobias Gap… Picture point came so slow… then Otto called, asking how far I was. Told him a couple of kms from the finish line… he said they are here, heading up the track. I could see lights, but those looked more like bugs than head torches. They were bugs, by the way. Could hear music from the road, must be close! Then I tripped again! I didn’t fall this time, but hit my little left toes hard. More F bombs!
Then I could hear Otto calling my name. These guys were so happy, and so was I. I asked Otto if he had any cold water, whatever I was carrying was piss warm. I had a few gulps, then started running. Have no idea where I got the energy from, but pretty much after I threw up, I could just run. Remembered what Dan said – “just roll down”. I was in front, then Otto and then Nelu. Were have crossed the little bridge, then were nearly at the end of the track, when Nelu stopped. He rolled his ankle again! Felt so bad for him, because every time he runs with me, this happens. He was so supportive – he kept telling me how well I was going, especially now, towards the finish.
When I had that water earlier, Otto asked if I wanted beer. I told him I only crave water – mineral water. He called Ani, my sister and asked her to put a bottle of beer (Golden Ale for Julie at the finish) and a bottle of mineral water in front of the house, we’ll pick it up as we pass. Otto picked up the bottles (I had a big gulp, it felt so good!!) and ran with them in his hands, Nelu caught up with us and now all three of us running on the road. I didn’t look down, so I couldn’t see that Nelu is limping a little… but he ran with me to the finish line. As we were getting closer to the turnoff and the pub, people started cheering. I was running as fast as I could, but suddenly the water I had earlier came up, I was back to the throwing up phase again. What a way to finish!!! I feel so sorry for the people who had to see this!
Once I was able to move, I ran into the finishing chute – 15.01.47. There was no one there so Otto wrote the time on the sheet and we tried to figure out if we are supposed to switch the light off, or not. I knew there were more runners in the 64 km distance, but I haven’t seen anyone on the Razorback, so I thought they might have gone down Bon Accord Spur and there was no point sending Julie all the way along the Razorback and down Bungalow Spur for me. The other runners needed the help of her more then I did.
Paul came and told me well done, then Jacqui and Darren. I was please to learn Jacqui scored the third place. It was a strong field. We left the beer on the little table for Julie and headed towards the house. Otto has prepared the BBQ, Ani made the potatoes and the salad… it was raining. I kept peeking out, looking out for Julie and the other runners (Paul told us they went on to finish the 64 km), hoping I can cheer them. Had a shower, a few bites of beef, salad and kartoffel and a few sips of beer (couldn’t even finish a glass), then headed to bed. There was some party close by and noise pretty much all night. Had hardly any sleep.
Next morning we cleaned up the place and headed home. Huge winds and dust storm on the way.
All up, it was a good experience. Not necessarily “feel good” experience, but and experience I have learned a lot from. And being able to do a thing like this is something I don’t take for granted. One thing I’ve realised is that – at least the pace I was travelling at – one can’t do this without support. I tried it before and failed miserably. But maybe if I tweak the nutrition a little??!!…
- Lululemon crop, top, socks
- Bonatti jacket and Rainbird overpants
- Red Lenser 5 in the morning and Ay Up at night
- Salomon S-lab 12 l vest
- 4 rice paper rolls with beef, smoked cheese, lettuce, mint, coriander, red paprika and hommus
- 2 small mandarines
- 1 small banana cut in two
- A few Clif Shot Bloks – before I lost the belt
- A few pieces of uncrystallised ginger
- A couple of pieces of dark chocolate
- 2 dates
- Wild raspberries and blackberries
- 1.5 jelly snake
- About 10 pieces of watermelon – at the checkpoint
- About half a scoop of Tailwind naked – between Pole 333 and top of Swindlers
- About 400 ml of beer over the whole course
- Water – tap, bottle and creek
- Mineral water – just before the finish