2017 AC 100 km

AC miler – turned AC 100 km

25-26 November 2017

Before the start with Gabor
Before the start with Gabor

Really missed the briefing this year. It’s a great show, I hope Paul is going to put it back on the program.

Otto told me he can’t make it as support this year – so the crew was like this: poor Nelu and Ani (tired since Europe) in Harrietville and Suzie at Langfords and Pretty Valley. Suzie couldn’t leave Melbourne earlier, so I organised some food to Warby Corner – Christian Day was really kind to offer.

I’ve seen Ben at Spine Consultants for a quick check up, then headed to Falls Creek with a few stops in between – Bright Brewery was one of them. Bought a pizza and two six packs, then smelled the pizza for an hour and bit until I finally checked into the room and wolfed down two slices on the spot.
It was nice to see Jacqui’s smile at the Country Club Hotel, then Carole’s at registration. John, who did the gear check told me he’s sorry he can’t get me a cold beer to Pole 333 – he remembered from Razorback, where he manned the checkpoint in March.

A bunch of us on Spion Kopje
A bunch of us on Spion Kopje

Missed out on the first Q & A session, so waited a bit for the second. In his usual low key style, Paul gave us a quick run-down about the course and what to expect, then after a few questions people went to mind their business. I guess I was the last one to go to bed that night – at 10:30 still packing my food and posting on facebook about a spare Ay Up battery/charger (forgot the charger at home). Thank you George Mihalakellis for offering.

When the alarm went off at 3 AM, I suddenly didn’t know where I was. This is what sleeping in several places does to you! Made the coffee, had a few bites, a shower, got dressed and headed to the start line with Jacqui and Darren, then Celesta and Adrian caught up with us. In the starting chute I saw Gabor (we took a selfie), met Kate Sanderson (such a lovely lady!!) and said hello to a few more runners around me. Paul said something about a storm (??), but we couldn’t hear well at the back, so just waited for the countdown and off we went. I was glad the watch started the LiveTrack properly, so there was no need to fiddle with it as I did last year. The weather was just perfect for running. I was hoping we’ll get some rain along the day…

Frank - we did the whole Spion Kopje together
Frank – we did the whole Spion Kopje together

Ran between Celesta and Todd [Freestone] until Junction Spur, chatting away. I ran with Todd at Lysterfield a few times, with the group before. I stopped the head torch, there was enough light to run safely on that track. Overtook a few people, then I was overtaken by others. The steep part was still steep, then on Spion Kopje Tk I saw two guys, one of them taking his top off. I told them “I didn’t order a pole dancer!!” and we all laughed.

This year I decided I’ll save time and won’t take off my shoes at the water crossings. I bought a pair of Salomon Sense Pro Max, the specs said high breathability – I thought I’ll be good. Took a pair of spare socks with me, just in case and planned to put them on around Cleve Cole. Crossed Rocky Valley Creek, the water was nice and cool, but that sloshing after?!!!… pain in the ears! As I started climbing, I’ve passed a few people, then again was passed by others, until someone shows up next to me and said he’s the pole dancer. That was so funny!! Great sense of humour! That was Frank [van Haren]. We kept talking and found many common things apart from trail running. Stopped for pictures every now and then and managed to get to Warby in record time (for me).

Velta took this awesome shot just before Warby Corner
Velta took this awesome shot just before Warby Corner

Velta was taking pictures just before Warby – awesome shots!! Checked in, grabbed my food, had a piece of banana and Otto rang to congratulate me on how well I was doing, as he could see me on the map. That was such a nice thing!! Told Frank that I’ll have to stop at Ropers, so he continued with his friend, Sean. I caught up with Tamyka and Stephanie – Tamyka wasn’t feeling that well, but she said she’ll be all right. At Ropers, I did a toilet stop, then went on. Didn’t rush down on Duane Spur as last year. I bumped into Ian (sorry don’t know his surname), who was checking his phone and map. Told him he can’t get lost here, there is only one track all the way to Big River. I passed a happy couple, exchanged a few words. They caught up with me at the crossing, then swiftly passed me on the hike. Especially the lady was going so strong, I was amazed.

On T-Spur - it was getting hotter and hotter
On T-Spur – it was getting hotter and hotter

Last year I pushed too fast on T Spur, trying to keep up with Lesley and Ryan [Noreiks], but now I decided to save my energy – it’s going to be a looooong day. The sloshing started to make me think this is not a good idea – need to put those dry sock on, otherwise it will be blisters later… so I looked for a tree across the track. Dunno who put it there, but it looked like it was especially for me. Sat down and changed the socks. In the mean time Tamyka and Steph caught up and passed (there was a lot of this during the day and night) – Tamyka even making a remark about changing socks being a good idea before it becomes an issue. Then I bumped into Thomas, trying to fabricate some poles from sticks. Told him about the trail head at Mt Donna Buang and the poles that line up for everyone to take.

It started to get warm, the ants were nuts, running up my feet and legs every time I stopped or slowed down. The flies weren’t pleasant, either. I have taken Gabor’s advice and ate every half an hour. A little something, but I ate. This seemed as a great strategy – it was working, but I was really looking forward to the cold water at Madison Creek. When I got there, Tamyka and Steph were already filling up/getting ready to fill up, chatting away cheerfully. I filled up my soft flask, too and wetted my triangle bandage. I am sure I’ve taken Tamyka’s spot – sorry Tamyka!! They took off and I went, too. They were using the run/walk strategy and got to Cleve Cole a few minutes earlier.

As I was approaching the check point, a SAAR volunteer was coming from the opposite direction. He asked me if I saw an injured runner. Told him I only saw Ian behind me and he wasn’t injured when I spoke to him.

The track towards Mt Bogong
The track towards Mt Bogong

Tamyka, Steph and Thomas were already at the checkpoint, the SAAR lady nursing Thomas’ blisters. I hoped there would be some fruit, but there was none. The milk chocolate and sweets didn’t appeal, so I added an electrolyte to one of my soft flasks – it was grape!!! My favourite!! I found out it was Ian, who was the injured runner – he has rolled his ankle on the way down Duane Spur. How sad?! Then after a toilet break I continued up to Mt Bogong. It was getting warmer and warmer. Remembered one of the SAAR volunteers at the checkpoint telling me that it will be a nice breeze at the top… I was so looking forward to that. Could see the girls in front and Thomas not that far behind me. Then some hikers heading up to the cairn at Mt Bogong.

That track is as painful as the one going to Pole 333 – uneven and full of rocks! At the cairn we took some photos. Me of the tourists, then they of me, then I took a few shots of Thomas. He shot off with great energy, which I was amazed by. I called Paul and asked about Celesta. I was really worried about her and pissed at myself for forgetting to ask at Cleve Cole. Paul said as far as he knows Celesta wasn’t feeling well from Nepal, but she didn’t pull out or anything. That was good news; that she was OK.

At Mt Bogong Summit
At Mt Bogong Summit

Saw two hikers coming down, laughing, said hello. Not far, I bumped into Thomas sitting on the ground. Asked him if he was ok, he said yes, but he needs to wait until the skin dries so he can stick the tape back before he continues. Further up I saw Tamyka and Steph, tightening their laces for the downhill.
Saw some snow close to the track, thought I’d touch it, at least. Looked a bit dirty, but I scraped the top and there was the clean, icy snow. Thought it would be a great idea to fill the cloth with it and cool down my neck, skin, face, back of my head… glad I did that, it kept me cool for a couple of kms. The sole of my feet started to make themselves known – this was something new for me. Never had blisters from running. The only big blister I scored before was from a beautiful hot pink shoe in Sydney… Damn!!! I should’ve taken those shoes off at the water crossings!!! Somehow I knew from the beginning I’d be doing this to myself!

On Quartz Spur - love those outcrops
On Quartz Spur – love those outcrops

Made it down to Big River Fire Tk. I filled my flasks at the pipe, cooled my neck and washed my face in the fresh, cold water. Felt awesome! I kept looking up the track, thought the girls or Thomas would’ve caught up with me by this time… Then I continued my journey on the grassy trail down to Big River crossing. I didn’t remember this track being this beautiful.

I started to run out of food that I was happy to eat. The Bloks got a bit too much, but still the only thing that felt good at that time, maybe because they were a bit sour. I’ve packed some bite size rice with peanut butter wrapped into nori sheet – that didn’t go down well in that heat. It was perfect when we were in cold and rain with Suzie, but in the warm weather it was just sticky and hard to swallow. Same with the rice, jam and peanut butter. Brought them back all!! Didn’t feel like anything sweet – the chocolate was melting in my pack and the dates were too dry to eat (bought these beautiful Bateel Medjool Dates in Doha). I only had a half of the quarter sandwiches I’ve packed – the one with cream cheese, capers, pickles, smoked salmon and grape tomatoes, but again the heat interfered with eating the last bit.

Thought I should treat that water, I had some Micropur tablets with me. Stopped in a corner and added a pastille to both 500 ml flasks, while drinking from the small flask that I was carrying in my hand. When I got to Big River, I could hear and see more runners. Tariq was lying on the ground, I went close to him and asked if he was OK. He signaled, he is, just taking a rest. I went to fill up my small flask and wet the triangle bandage at the nearby stream, then crossed the water, worrying about wetting my phone (should’ve taken it out from the thigh pocket for this crossing). On the other side there was James and Freya, getting ready to get going and I think two more runners… not sure. I said hello and told them how great they were doing, then kept going.

James and Freya were the first to pass me, Freya switched to high speed. I thought “how good is to be young and strong?!”, then Thomas and Tamyka and Steph. Could see Thomas was struggling, we yo-yoed each other for a few more times. It was warm. Could see the clouds gathering and I was hoping there will be at least a tiny rain to cool us down a little and make this never ending climb a bit more bearable and exciting.

I started to feel the lack of nutrition, then even the sips of water weren’t feeling good. Especially since the purifying tablets made the contents of the flasks taste like Melbourne tap water. I was thinking of last year… that I was pretty much in the same state here, except I knew I have support at Warby… this time no support until Langfords. Let’s hope there is some watermelon at the Warby checkpoint.

And this is when Suzie rang, letting me know she has arrived and she’s got beer!! She asked me how I was, so I told her that I can’t eat or drink and running out of juice. She said she’ll be waiting for me at Langfords. Then she rang back and said she’ll bring me beer to Warby. I was run/walking to that point, then I realised we won’t get there at the same time, it will take her longer, so I slowed down a bit. Saw Tamyka and Steph ahead and thought “Gee, I can’t recall this uphill being this steep?!” – it’s not even steep, just looks like it from that angle and from that state (both physical and mental). I could see the tent at Warby… on the top of the hill.

Someone is very serious
Someone is very serious

Got to the checkpoint, Graham was clapping and saying encouraging words – love this guy!! – then asked me what I would like, offering all the goodies available. It was so touching. Told him my daughter will bring me beer here, he wasn’t too impressed by that and said at least have a piece of water melon, which I did, and later on I regretted not having more of that. Everyone was so nice at that checkpoint, would love to give them a huge hug. The lady was knitting and another volunteer cooking in the front of the tent. I asked Graham if it’s Ok if I get that beer along the track, instead of waiting for Suzie to get here. He said of course it, OK, so I took off, speed walking, thinking of that beer…

Family reunion on Big River Fire Tk
Family reunion on Big River Fire Tk

Saw a group of hikers coming, when Suzie rang, asking me how far I was because she can’t see me. Told her I must be behind the hill. Then she called me again, we spotted each other (she was wearing white, so it wasn’t hard) and started walking faster… when I was getting closer, I was thinking… “how come Suzie is walking next to that older guy?! She is not that fond of meeting new people”… looked at her smiling pretty face first, then realised the person next to her was Otto!!! What a surprise!!!! I was really happy to see them both, but knowing he was there gave me a piece of mind – he is the BOSS OF ORGANISING! He knows what to do and what to say…

We took a few pictures, Otto opened a bottle of Bright amber ale with a stone, cutting his finger in the process… I had a few sips, about half the bottle and then instantly felt better, even though watermelon and beer???!!! There is a joke about that. Otto started the reasoning why I should only do the 100 km: your feet are hurting, you haven’t done it before (not working…), Ani and Nelu can get a proper sleep, they are tired (OK, that’s a good one), Suzie can drive back tomorrow, so Nelu doesn’t have to take her car (that’s a better one), I (Otto) need some rest (fair enough, the guy is on his toes for months and burning the candle at both ends) and then the last one – we can all have a decent lunch at Bright Brewery and celebrate your birthday in some way.

Because that’s why I signed up for the miler – I turned 50 a few days earlier and thought it’s a great way to celebrate.

I said to him, I’ll think about it until Langfords. Suzie said “if you want to do it, do it! This is why we came here for and I’ll be there at Pretty Valley to do the last stage with you”. At Marum Pt Tk we said good bye, big hugs and I took off on the single trail while they started running toward Watchbed Ck.

It would be so nice to run this track with fresh feet!!! Beautiful single track, but for me at that time it was a pain in the sole of my feet. Big one! I realised there must be a blister on my left big toe, another one on the sole just under the big toe and the next and one each on the inner and outer parts of my heels… I also thought about the track from Cope Saddle Hut to Fainters… how painful that was last year in the dark and so much water on the track…

I could see the foot marks of the people who ran there before me. I was wondering how fast they were going? Did they have sore feet like me?! …then I got to the little bridge. Love that crossing! I knew I must be getting close to Langfords, I only need to go around a few corners.

The white dots are hail pebbles
The white dots are hail pebbles

Last year I did this bit with Nelu, checking nearly every pole, looking at the map in the dark. As I was getting close to the corner with the pond, Otto calls me asking how far I was and said they’ll start coming towards me. Then the hail started, hitting my head through the hood and my face. One piece hit the tip of my nose – that was unfair!!! It hurt! Took a few shots, it was beautiful. I thought I should call them and tell them to stay, it’s hailing, but then I better stepped on it. This time it didn’t feel that long and I started jogging as I was approaching the check point. They were waiting there, with an umbrella!!

I told the volunteer at the check point that I am switching to the 100 km. He asked me if I was sure. Told him I am positive. Tamyka and Steph were already there, opening their drop bags. The guy told me to go change, do whatever I need to do and then come back. I went, changed shoes – gosh my feet looked like I have spent the day in the pool, all white and wrinkled – put my overpants on, got the Ay Up out, had another few sips of beer, then watermelon at the check point. Again, I should’ve had some more or taken some with me, as eating become a real problem. I’ve been going for 20 odd kms without proper nutrition. At least I could get some more Bloks – at least those worked and I also got a quarter sandwich (with butter, cheese, salami and grape tomatoes).

Went back to the checkpoint tent and told the man I was definitely cutting back to 100 kms, then headed off. It was raining, a few more people were going back into it, James and Freya were two of those, Freya speed walking like a daemon, James worried that she doesn’t know where she’s going. My total admiration for this girl!! I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, trying to avoid the puddles and hissing and cursing every now and then, as those blisters started to yell at me.

Pulled out the phone at some point to see how far I was from Cope Hut – it seemed like it takes too long, but the map assured me I wasn’t far away. Before reaching Cope Hut, I passed James and Freya again, then finally got to the road. Crossed it and looked for that sign that used to be on the other side… well Parks Vic must have changed it, all the writing was saying was, that the Australian Alpine Walking Trak is that way. Shrugged my shoulders and headed on, feeling each and every pebble under my feet. I was waiting for the rubber bit… didn’t come until later. I could see the light going on and then off at the check point in the distance. Gosh, how many poles?! 168?! That’s about 8.3 km and the worse comes later, after I pass Cope Saddle Hut… checked the Avenza map again, didn’t seem that far. I said so many ouches and some swear words along those kilometers.

As I was approaching Cope Saddle Hut, I could hear voices… looked back and saw two head lights. Must have been James and Freya. The bit between Cope Saddle Hut (with its beautiful red roof) and Pole 333 really hurt. I was walking like a drunk person on that uneven terrain with its sharp rocks and water puddles. Couldn’t eat or drink and could feel my energy levels going low. Nevertheless, I pushed on, walking as fast as I could. Every now and then silently swearing of course.

The sky lit up with the moon and shiny stars, it was a pretty sight. At some point I thought I saw someone with a head light coming from the left (Mt Jim), but then nothing. Only a fox with its eyes in the dark… yayyy!!! There was another creature out there, not only me. Then I could see lights heading to the left towards Youngs Tk – the milers!!! Brave people, probably also hurting, maybe not that bad as me. Gosh, that checkpoint felt like miles away! When I finally reached it, checked in, assured the man I have already let someone know about the downgrade. He offered me chips and snakes; I took a pinch of chips, but could hardly eat them. He told me which way to go. I thanked him, then I said I know, last year I missed the turn – learned my lesson.

The bit between Pole 333 and Fainters seemed like the hardest stage of my journey to that point. Those blisters hurt so badly that I could cry. I just swore instead and put on the gloves, as it was getting really cold – just like last year… I had to fiddle with the gloves a little as I made the mistake of clipping them together, but then it felt good once I put them on.

When I finally got to the Fainters turnoff I saw the car the volunteer told me about and promptly turned right toward Pretty Valley. Checked the pdf map just to make sure. A 4WD appeared on the road, strong lights. When it got in line with me, it stopped and I realised it was full of SAAR people, the ones I’ve seen at Warby. One of them even told me how great I was doing. In all hat pain I asked him “compared to what?!” – he said they saw me at Warby, then he said there is a bit of a hill, then all the way down Pretty Valley. I thanked them for all their help then kept on going, trying to avoid the rocks and the puddles. Didn’t always work.

Otto and Suzie called, asking me how far I was. Told them I just got onto Fainters, there must be about 3 kms to get there. They said they were coming to Pretty Valley. Surely a few minutes (or so it seemed to me) they called again. It was a pain in the butt taking off the gloves every time, risking freezing fingers, but I know they meant well. Told Otto I could see them, then shook my head so he can see which one I was (he said he could see three lights and wanted to know which one is mine). He laughed and said they are waiting for me at the check point. Those rocks!!! Each and one of them!!! Ouch!!!

1:11 am at Pretty Valley Pondage
1:11 am at Pretty Valley Pondage

When I got nearby, I got some big hugs! That was so worth it! Then Otto asked what I wanted, so he can get it ready while I checked in. I said I’d like some of that sour cherry juice. Had some and asked him to fill one of my soft flasks with it. If there was any watermelon at the check point I would have had some, but wasn’t sure I could eat oranges at that point. Suzie was ready to go, all cheerful and happy. This is someone who trains hard with weights, doesn’t run and is normally fast asleep at that time of the night.

The little climb up from Pretty Valley seemed like a mountain at that point, the rocks still not going away. When we were not talking, all you could hear is the swishing of the overpants. At the camp Otto was waiting – we started calling him “tha Stalker” – just making sure we are OK. A car was heading the pond way, the driver asked if he was going in the right direction. We told him yes, he was. Must have been someone’s support – no other person in their complete mind would have been driving there at that time. We could see lights moving up and down Mt McKay, at least we knew how far we needed to go.

I was watching this young, strong woman – my daughter. She made it look like walking up the hill way after midnight, all geared up, supporting her crazy mum was the most natural thing in the world. And I was so proud!!! We haven’t done anything together since she moved out about 6 years ago and now here we are second time in a week doing this crazy shit that makes me tick. She still has the little girl charm I always loved about her, but now she is a real tough cookie, as well. My total admiration.

As we were going up Mt McKay, runners were coming down, didn’t look up so I won’t blind them and ended up calling Todd – Sean… we had a laugh, wished each other all the best then went on. I thought we’ll never get to the top! Suzie checked out the snow. It was dirty, but it was snow. We talked about how different is now, compared to when we were here last time. At least is not raining… at the shelter we took a few shots after Suzie closed the door. Someone must have left it open. As we were coming down on that rocky road, we realised there were two runners going on the side, in the grass… Suzie asked if they were cutting it short, when we realised the orange markers there. It was us, who missed the course – well, we made the most of it, going around instead.

Each and every little rock, pebble and maybe sand hurt my feet at that point. Everything else was ok, but the soles. When we got to the bottom and about to cross the road, someone on the left greeted us – it was Paul, doing the sweeping. Tamyka and Steph (they were the two runners going to the shelter earlier) passed us and nearly went on the road, when Paul told them he’ll disqualify them if they won’t take the marked path across the shrubs. They laughed and went on chatting away cheerfully. Suzie and I followed path, looking for the markers. My Ay Up started to fade. I should’ve been disappointed in that highly regarded torch, but I knew very well it was my mistake not fully charging it before I left.

Yep - we finished it
Yep – we finished it

After a while the girls (Tamyka and Steph) disappeared, we were wondering if they took the wrong turn… because it looked as they were heading to the right, and I knew we’d need to go left after this trail. Suzie mentioned that this is indeed a pain in the ass – this track. It’s so uneven! Finally we got onto the Pretty Valley Rd so I could “enjoy” the rocks a little bit more.

As we were walking and talking, wondering how long we’ve got to go, Suzie held my hand. I thought that’s nice! We haven’t done that in ages!! Then she went on and asked whether I saw any animals on my way. Told her I only saw birds and a fox. And ants and lizards. Nothing else. Then she asked if I wasn’t scared alone, in the dark. Told her there is nothing to be afraid of. You are there in nature, not many people come this far. She said she would be shitting herself. “Really?!” – I asked. Then she “Why do you think I am holding your hand?!” – if I wasn’t hurting that much I would’ve pissed myself laughing. It was so funny!! Then we went on to talk about horror movies and what we were scared of when alone at home.

At the finish line
At the finish line

She has recognised some points we’ve passed when we came here the other week and we realised we must be close to The Last Hoot. Sure there was the sign to the left and onto the grass. That grass bit… gosh it was hurting!! Uneven and curly. I didn’t remember it this long from last year. We were looking for the finish line lights, when we could hear some “Whoo hoo!!” – recognised Otto’s voice. Made sure we ran into the chute and were greeted by a volunteer and Otto. The clock was showing 23.01. Big hugs, pictures, then off to the final check point. I showed my number, handed in the PLB and kindly asked the gentleman to put the medal around my neck. He took it out the plastic bag and did, remarking that I surely deserve to have it hung around my neck.

I thanked him, said hello to Todd, Tamyka and Steph, then headed out. Wanted to walk to the hotel, but Suzie thought I was nuts, so I got into the car, then had a shower, a beer and went to bed. I was really scared not to break the blisters in my sleep, it would have stained the bed linen. We woke up around 10.30?? called Nelu to see what we are going to do. We decided to catch up with them in Bright at the brewery for lunch, then drive back, pack up and drive home, while Suzie and them to drive home straight from Bright.

The bling was the license to wobble
The bling was the license to wobble

Had a great time at the Brewery. I asked for the ribs. I was hungry. And the matching beer. But I couldn’t eat even half of it + 2 slices of pizza. Celesta came by and we talked about how it went. She told me she pulled out at Warby 2 – she didn’t have her heart in it. This is impressive, going that far with a chest infection.

While we were there, a band was setting up. It would have been nice to stay there a little longer, but we had to break it up. We said good bye in the parking lot and Ani, Nelu and Suzie headed towards Melbourne, while Otto and I back to Falls Creek. We went to HQ to check out how everyone is going: someone just finished. I congratulated him and asked how he went. He said he just finished. Dan [Beard] was on the phone, would’ve loved to congratulate him. Paul thought it was a wise decision to change distance, then there was Jacqui, who did the same because of her hips. We had a little chat, checked out the chart, then headed off bumping into Carol on our way. Big hug from her.

And the boys!
And the boys!

At the end of the day I have done what I should’ve done a year ago 🙂 finish the 100 km in a decent time 23:01. I didn’t get what I really wanted – the miler – but I had a great time with my family, the runners on the course and the volunteers. I am eternally grateful for everything they’ve done for me. Even if it was a nod. It all counts.

 

 

Gear

  • Lululemon top and crop – top was old, the crop relatively new, but it worked, I’ll keep doing long distances in this. I like the thigh pocket, I can put the phone in it, keeping it at hand. Miss the back zippered pocket, though. None of them gave me a chafe.
  • Lululemon socks – might need to swap them for newer ones
  • Salomon Sense Pro Max shoes from start to Langfords – they are not that breathable as they claim to be. The Sense Mantras I first had were more reliable in this department.
  • Langfords to finish – Asics Fuji Trabucco – these are really good but not for this occasion. I mean running/walking with blisters. I’ve got many kms in them and their soles are quite thin.
  • Bonatti jacket – they were perfect to keep the rain away, but I was a tad cold when the temperatures got low. If I have put on the thermals, it would’ve been the best combination, just couldn’t be bothered.
  • Waterproof pants – Rainbird??? Something from Anaconda. Very cheap and effective. Worked a charm in those scratchy bushy areas.
  • Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin 3 12 set hydration pack with 2 x 500 ml and 1 x 125 ml soft flasks. I had the 1.5 l bladder with me until Langfords, but never used it. Carried it for backup.
  • XTM gloves
  • Thermals – polypropylene
  • PLB and heat pack as supplied by RW

Food

  • Toasted quarter sandwiches – butter, cheese, Revilla salami and grape tomatoes; philly, capers, pickled cucumber (in a paste) with whiskey cured Huon salmon and grape tomatoes – not sure exactly how many I had. Maybe 4-5??
  • Chocolate – had very little, maybe 2- 3 pieces. With crystallised ginger twice
  • Date – ½ it was too dry
  • Mandarins – had about 6
  • Mountain Berry Bloks – lots of them. They were a bit sour, which was perfect for me at the time
  • VFuel Gel – 1 and a bit. Didn’t go down well on Timms Spur
  • Rice with peanut butter and home made strawberry jam – 2 pieces. Couldn’t handle them
  • Rice with peanut butter in nori sheets – 1 small ball. Couldn’t have any more
  • Watermelon – from checkpoints
  • Chips – very little from checkpoint
  • Beer – about ¾ bottle all up
  • Sour cherry juice – about 500 ml
  • Electrolyte – 125 ml home made (boiled potatoes, carrots, celery, parsnips, turnips) and 1 tablet of
  • Fizz Grape
The view from Spion Kopje Tk

Alpine Challenge 36 km course attempt

03 June 2017

Before selfie
Before selfie

Picked up Nelu just after 4 and with a few attempts to get onto the freeway (night works), we finally were under way towards Falls Creek. I was the driver to Glenrowan, from there it was Otto’s turn. Celesta warned us about black ice on the road, so Otto was nervous even before we got there. Few pit stops, fuel… we got there sometime around 9.30, lots of cars in the parking lot – very different to what it was in November last year. Nelu wanted to get to a birthday party after we got back to Melbourne. We calculated about 8 hours to do the run, then another 5 driving home.

Parking, toilet, food, gear up.

Started running at 9.50, we were supposed to be well on Junction Spur by this time. There was snow on the mountains and along the road. Otto was pissed that I didn’t tell him about the snow – I didn’t think there would be any in Falls Creek, either. There was lots of it on Packhorse Track, but it was sunny and beautiful so we soon got into the swing of it, found the rhythm and started to enjoy it. We got to Howmans Gap in no time, even with the picture stops.

Junction Spur was clear of snow, but full of dry leaves, pieces of branches and rocks. We had some food. On one of the downhills Nelu twisted his ankle, we walked a little then kept jogging. We decided to take our time, we’ve got the day to do the 36 kms. When he took a bad step again, he decided to bandage it. By this time I gave him my walking poles for better balance. Nelu told me he’s going to stay about 5 minutes in the creek, that’s going to be good for his ankle. I told him that even one minute is too much – the water is really cold.

On Packhorse Tk
On Packhorse Tk

Otto was struggling in his road running shoes – this terrain is not suited for those. He’s got a brand new pair of Sense Pro 2s at home, I really hope he’ll start to use them.

We had some more food once we got onto Spion Kopje Tk – the climb needed energy. Could hear the water in Rocky Valley Creek and as the sun’s rays were shining through the trees it was a beautiful sight. We took our shoes off for the creek crossing – it was freezing cold. The boys were using the poles, I stepped through without them. Slipped once and managed to get wet much higher than the water level. Couldn’t wait to get out of there, my toes were totally numb. Took a video of Nelu crossing, he couldn’t wait to get out of that freezing water, too.

Put our shoes back, took some photos, I filled up my flask and started the climb.

At first there was not much snow. We took it easy, the air was thin and cold. Otto asked how it is during a race – do you talk to the others? I told him that yes, we do – this is how many runners meet and get to know the others. I told them about the trick: if one is faster, just ask them a question.

At Rocky Valley Ck
At Rocky Valley Ck

The snow appeared again… Otto soon got in the front and I thought he is going too fast. I stayed with Nelu, but he kept sending me ahead. At one point, as I turned around, waited for him, I have noticed his face was grey. I think the altitude and pushing himself has led to this. I kept asking if he was okay. The snow started to be thicker, with ice on top. As you stepped on it, broke, scratching your leg along. Otto was really pissed with me by this time. Why didn’t I tell him there is snow here?! And this much?! I told him I saw a picture with a bit of snow on the top (Aaron’s – from Mount Beauty Park Run), but didn’t expect it to be this much, either. Besides, I’ve never run in these conditions before.

It was beautiful!! Could see the footprints of foxes (?) and another animal (maybe deer?), bushes sticking out from under the snow. The top of the surrounding peaks was covered with white, too. Took a few pictures, then took the lead, so the boys could use my foot prints. I didn’t mind the extra work, this time it was all about them doing the course. Nelu was really struggling and every time they needed something from the pack, we had to stop – they weren’t using running packs, but the normal backpacks.

On Spion Kopje
On Spion Kopje

Getting out of the tree line opened up the view and the brightness of the snow was really blinding. Nelu had sunglasses but Otto and I didn’t. Otto kept stressing about the route. I mean it was covered with snow, but you could still see where it was going. After the Grey Hills turnoff (pulled out the map to show them how far we were from Warby Corner) the track was going left, but we could see it going up on the hill just behind the one in front of us, so we pulled the map out again to ascertain we weren’t lost. Nelu checked the GPS, as well – yes, we were going in the right direction. Because Otto has never done this bit before, he was stressing. Then he was stressing even more when we checked the time… we were so much behind schedule!!!

The ice was even worse in the open. There were steps that I could make on top of it, then suddenly my leg would go straight into it up to my knees, scratching the skin along (left a bit of blood on the white snow). I fell a few times, and so did Nelu. I was using the poles, going in front. The boys were stepping into my footsteps. I could see Timms Spur on the left. Otto decided to get Nelu in the middle, helping him along with encouragement. Nelu stopped quite often, bended forward, you could tell he’s not well, but we had to keep going. Being stuck here wasn’t an option. We ate quite often, didn’t feel like drinking much water.

On the ice
On the ice

There was a point that looked like the little dammed crossing, but there was no visible track – we checked the maps and GPS again. Otto can’t handle these too well. He’s an engineer – he needs to know the schedule and it better be by the minute, which wasn’t the case now. We finally got to the dammed crossing, then headed uphill. Warby Corner shouldn’t have been too far now. I went a bit faster to see it. Once I spotted the pole line coming up on the left, the pole at the junction, he calmed a bit down, but the sun started to go down and it got really cold. I knew we had to put on more layers, but Otto said let’s not stop until we reach Warby Corner. That 100 m felt like a lifetime. Just before Warby Corner there are some rocks, we stopped there, and started putting on the thermals, the extra pants and everything we carried with us.

My fingers were numb way before we got there – I took my gloves off to check the distances and the time – undoing and then re-doing the shoe laces was a real struggle. I also realised we’ve spent 7 hours to get here – so behind schedule!!… We hoped the track from Warby Corner would be a bit better in terms of sinking legs. It wasn’t, but wearing the long pants brought a relief for the legs. It started to get darker and darker, the sun was setting. It was a stunning view, but also scary, Otto was really worried by now. I was going in front waiting to spot the Heathy Spur turnoff. Asked “so I guess Big Foot Snow Marathon is out of question, isn’t it?!” – I believe Otto was close to explosion.

The boys
The Boys

We decided not to go down Heathy Spur, but continue on to Watchbed Creek and take the road from there. It got dark and foggy/misty, couldn’t see far. Glad we took the head torches – all of us. Nelu was feeling better, after Warby Corner I gave him the poles again. Then after the Mt Nelse turnoff we were happy to follow the tracks of a bobcat. There were stacks of some red poles in places, waiting to be spread along the tracks. We could also see a bright light ahead. At a point the bobcat track was split, with one going to the right and the other going straight. We had a look at the GPS map and decided to go right. I told them I might have missed the Heathy Spur turnoff (had a sandwich earlier and might have not looked for a few seconds while unwrapping it)… but then we should’ve seen the AWT turnoff to the left. My rationale was this: the bobcat would end up on the road, it wouldn’t be left in the middle of nowhere, so if we follow its tracks, sooner or later we’ll hit the road, too.  So we turned right, Big River Tk veers to the right, too thinking we were on it.

Otto was really nervous. He started yelling “Hello??!!!” hoping wherever that light was, there are some people and they’d hear us. He has also suggested I call SAR (“you should have the number in your phone from Alpine Challenge”). Drove me nuts! Told him no point calling out, only Nelu and I can hear him and just makes me nervous, too. Nelu’s phone died, he forgot to close the map earlier, so we pulled out mine, but Google Maps was showing the finger – no reception there. Ani called, asked if we were okay. Told her that we are still in the snow and will let her know once we are back in Falls Creek.

The track was not going the way we (Otto and I) remembered, he was even more worried. I’ve been thinking… how could I miss the Heathy Spur turnoff. It’s not that small and it’s not that far off the track. Then I realised what might have happened: the bobcat turned a few meters before the turnoff, thus missing the sign in the fog. I have also thought about checking if the Avenza map works. It has to!! Fair enough, we were on a track close to Heathy Spur. The bobcat couldn’t possibly drive on that – it is a single track. I remembered it from when I was there with Tash last year in November on a lovely sunny day.

Once we could see where we were on the map, and that we were getting closer to the road, Otto loosened up a bit. He told me, he just needs a hug and can’t wait to be on the road, then back to the car safely. We were tossing the idea of staying in Falls Creek over night. The dam was supposed to be on our left, but we couldn’t see it in the fog, our lamps wouldn’t be strong enough anyway. There was water running across the track every now and then, and couldn’t see under the snow, so we had to watch that, too. At some point the bobcat track ended – we could see it turned back from there, but there were human footprints heading down, so we followed them and soon enough we were on the road.

It wasn’t Heathy Spur, but being on the road – even if it was icy, slippery – it was a big relief, we were about 3 kms from Falls Creek. First thing we did was, to have a sip of palinka. That warmed us up. Nelu called Ani and told her that we’ll be staying overnight, then we’ve walked along the road, discussing the day and what we are going to do once we get back to the car. Told Otto if he drives us to Bright, I can drive home from there (I knew he wouldn’t let me drive on that winding road). I was going to go to Falls Creek Country Club Hotel and see if they can accommodate us, Nelu came with me then went to the car, telling Otto not to even think of driving up there – there was ice on the driveway. There were cars parked along the road, you could tell the resort is getting alive with the snow season opening next weekend.

There was no one at the reception at the hotel, so I called the number, but it went to message bank. Also tried the number on their website – no luck, either. Walked down to the car, I started to get really cold. Grabbed my clothes and headed to the toilet to change, while Otto went to check out if the other resort had any rooms available. Nelu and I drove back to the lower car park – he has left his shoes there – then he got some Solo from the wending machine. Nelu craved Solo, while I was having the ginger beer Ani packed for us. Otto called to let us know, that the guy has arrived, he’s got a 3 bedroom apartment for $600/night. Otto asked what we are going to do? Take it or sleep in the car? Nelu said – car it is, then.

While we went to pick Otto up, he chatted with the guy, who was very decent, told Otto he knows it’s very expensive, but they are a 5 star hotel and unfortunately he can’t give any discounts. He said he wouldn’t worry about the drive, Falls Creek is higher and it’s not that cold, it should be OK to drive down to Mount Beauty, accommodation prices are more acceptable there. He even looked up a few places on his phone.  We agreed that if we can get to Bright, we can also drive home. So there came the very slow drive to Mount Beauty – doing max 30-40 km/hr all the way (a police car honked us, then passed us after we pulled over to let them go). Otto said he’d let me drive from Bright if he drives from Glenrowan. Told him to take us to Glenrowan, then I’ll drive the rest. I knew his legs would hurt when driving, I’ve done that many times and it’s not easy.

Heated seats are best!!! I had lots of layers on me, still shivering. Nelu had a sleep in the back, I was on/off in the front, every now and then talking to Otto so he wouldn’t fall asleep. We agreed we’ll have some McDonalds at Glenrowan (haven’t had any for ages!!) and coffee. We fuelled up, then walked into the empty Mackas – it was already nearly 2 in the morning, only the manager working. She took our order, then waited. I only wanted chips. Otto and Nelu had coffee, Nelu also had a chicken wrap – he must have been very  hungry.

It was a very thick fog on the way to Melbourne. Otto was really freaking out on the passenger seat, his face glued to the windscreen. Had to slow down a bit to calm him. The plan was that we drop Otto off first, so he can light the fire and have a shower while I drop Nelu off. Then we’ll have some palinka!

It was strange how many cars were on the road at 3 A.M. – road works on the Tulla meant we had to follow the detour, driving around in places we’ve never been. Ani called after we were out of the tunnel, checking if we were okay. Told her we are not that far from getting home. It was around 4.20 when we dropped Nelu off, more than 24 hrs since we picked him up yesterday morning. It was also their wedding anniversary, I guess it ended up an interesting one…

It was freezing when we got home. Otto made the fire, while I’ve prepared some finger food, it was nearly 5, should’ve had scrambled eggs or something…

All up it was a great day. If I read a report like this the day before, things would’ve turned out different – less stress, for sure. Hats off to both Otto and Nelu for completing these 39 kms – none of them has trained for it.

Food: we had all 3 quarter sandwiches (one with salmon, goats cheese, capers and gherkins, one with butter and cheese and one with butter, cheese and Csabai sausage – all toasted, crusts cut) with 4 cherry tomatoes each, 2 dates, 1 mandarine, 4 pieces of chocolate and crystallized ginger and 1 Knoppers. Nelu and I have packed 3 gels each (didn’t used them), Otto and Nelu packed extra bars and snakes. We’ve shared the latter and I gave my mandarine to Nelu. I took 500 ml of water and two more soft flasks with the intention to fill them all up at Rocky Valley Creek. Didn’t have much water, so I only filled one, which Otto ended up having.

Gear: all the Alpine Challenge mandatory safety gear, except the PLB and hand warmers.

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