Sealers Cove - photo credit: Ian Fellowes

2018 Prom 60 km Race

05 May 2018

On the way to the Prom
On the way to the Prom

It was pissing with rain as we were driving to the Prom on this Friday afternoon. The colours were amazing: the dark grey against the brilliant green of the pastures. Then there was the rainbow!! As we were getting “underneath” it, I was thinking this must be good…

Otto was tense all the way, he’s always like this when we drive to a race, no matter how many times I tell him everything will be okay, no need to worry about me. Got a message from my best friend with mixed news, but I was happy to hear from her – she always goes silent when things are not going well. We messaged for a while, then I thought stuff it, better call her. Viber is a bitch sometimes, cuts out when you least want it, but we still had a few good laughs.

Stopped in Leongatha to fuel up, then in Yanakie to buy a few more things (fresh eggs, yayy!) before heading down Foley Rd towards our accommodation. This year I booked a cottage at Tidal Dreaming Seaview Cottages. It’s on Dalgeish Rd, just off Foley, the view over Corner Inlet is just stunning. Unloaded the car then I headed down to Tidal River for registration and gear check. Otto asked me to try to get back before dark, he’ll get the dinner ready by then. I made the fresh pasta the day before, he made up the essence  –  the taste.

In spite of the strong wind that felt like it’s going to pick up the car like a feather, I enjoyed the drive and was looking forward to see the faces of fellow ultrarunners I only see at these races. Normally there are not many campers, but this time of the year Tidal River comes alive with all the runners and their families, walking with purpose. Said hello to some of them on the way to HQ then walked into the cabin, where the registration was happening. Paul greeted me with a “Babbbiii!!” then asked “Where is Otto?”. Told him what was going on, then the first thing he said was “show me your gloves!” – because I asked the other day if they are really necessary… I was very happy to see Duncan there. He is kind of “piece of mind” when he’s present.

Went to the registration desk, told Helen my name and bib number, then she asked me for my snake bandage and space blanket. Showed them both then chatted some more with Paul, saying hello to the fellow runners and the volunteers before heading back to the car. I thought that was OK, I’ll be back before it gets dark… then I saw this hair style. There is only one person I know who has it – Jacqui Hansen! Pulled over and got out to say hello to Jacqui and Darren. It turned out that none of us (Jacqui or I) should be running this weekend – doctor’s orders! Jacqui downgraded to the 44 km, I thought I’d just stick it out, que serra – serra!!

We wished each other all the best for next morning, then I headed off, driving carefully as the wombats and kangaroos were supposed to be along the road at this time. Called Otto to let him know I am just leaving.

Dinner was great and so was the red wine I washed it down with, too. Prepared the food and drinks for next morning, had a shower and went to bed. The wind was blowing so strong there and it was raining like there’s no tomorrow… didn’t sleep much.

Alarm went off at 3:45. Nothing unusual, this is the time I normally wake up when I head down to the Prom for a training run. Had my coffee, breakfast, had a shower, Otto woke up too, then we headed to Tidal River. It was pitch dark and windy. Otto worried. We saw a deer and there were others coming that way, too. In the Visitors Centre car park we pulled next to a white X-Trail, its passengers were getting out and realised they are our cottage neighbours, the man [Sam] is running, too. Felt a bit sorry for the two little girls being awake so early, both in their pjs.

At the start line
At the start line

We walked to HQ greeting other runners on the way. Paul was really happy to see Otto, then as we walked out I nearly bumped into Dan. Big hug, haven’t seen him since Razorback, then he went to register. Greeted Sean, the man I saw a few times on my Prom training runs. He just did the Marathon des Sables and didn’t expect a fast time today, but wanted to do this race for the UTMB points. Otto chatted with him some more while I said hello to a few more familiar faces. I was looking for David, he said he’ll be at the start in the morning, but couldn’t find him in the dark. Saw Gabor, Otto took a photo of us as we usually do before races. Roll call 100 km runners, then the 60, countdown then start!! Otto gave me another kiss and told me to go well as I was heading off.

I though I’d just go by feel, will try to get as close to the 10 hr mark as possible (beers were waiting at the end!!) and see what happens. The majority of the field took off, I was somewhere towards the tail end, waiting for someone to have a similar pace as mine to stick with for a while. Didn’t have to wait too long, this tall guy, who introduced himself as Hamish said he can’t run fast because he has a knee injury. It was his first 60 km at the Prom (he already did the 44 before) and he wasn’t sure about the course – although he had it loaded onto his watch. Described it to him in a short version, then Otto drove past, taking a photo. When we got to the Mt Oberon turnoff I saw Duncan –  he was marshalling at that point. Went to give him a big hug, which felt great then caught up with Hamish again. We ran/walked this concrete uphill, talking while the wind was helping us from behind, then soon arrived to Telegraph Saddle car park, where Otto was cheering everyone who ran. I already switched off my head torch and put it away – could see the track well (should be able to do it with my eyes closed). Another hug and kiss and he waved a good bye with “No swimming, please!”. I saw the shock on Hamish’s face, then on the downhill I told him why Otto said that – he laughed.

We ran together until we reached Windy Saddle talking and saying hello to the runners we passed and the ones who passed us. I saw Caz [Donovan], we greeted each other and she said that she’s so happy to finally be here when I am here (we’ve been trying to get the 60 km training run in for a while, pity it didn’t work out, it would’ve made a huge difference to her race) then she told me “go and do your magic, Babi!” – I said magic starts at Windy Saddle and I was really sorry about not sticking with her.

There were a few runners at Windy Saddle, I said hello, told Hamish that I’ll step on it from here, it’s my favourite part. I also told him that he’ll surely catch up with me on the uphills (which happened pretty much all the way to the Lighthouse: him going strong on the hills and me “flying” down on the downhills).

Sealers looked different today
Sealers looked different today

I really enjoy this part, even in the mud! This year was far away from what it was like last year and the year before; in fact it was just perfect – the track was soft enough for a good grip, but not muddy enough to slip in every direction. I’ve passed quite a few people here and the hikers were nice to get out of the way, probably thinking how crazy this bunch is. There was a runner who was close behind me, keeping the same pace as I did. I offered to let him pass, but he said he’s happy with this tempo. He lasted nearly to the board walk, then I lost him. I ran alone to Sealers, the colours of the water always amaze me. Now there were heavy clouds hovering over the water, making it look way darker than it was.

Refuge Cove Nth
Refuge Cove Nth

Ian was at the creek crossing shooting us as we approached. He said “you are the second person who takes their shoes off today!”. I told him why I was doing this, crossed the water, then went aside to put my shoes back on. Had an awful cramp somewhere under the lungs as I hunched to lift the right shoe. Stood there for a few moments until it went away, then finished with the socks and shoes and headed back to the track, saying good bye and thanking Ian for being there. In the mean time quite a few runners have crossed the creek and headed up towards the camp site. Hamish was back on as my running buddy. We ran/hiked together for a while, then he went ahead.

Hamish and Celeste at the Refuge Cove Nth exit
Hamish and Celeste at the Refuge Cove Nth exit

Celeste [Botton] took me over too before reaching Refuge Bay Nth. I took a few shots of them (not all clear, though) before I got there. The beach wasn’t as clean as it used to be, you can tell there was previously a storm from the debris scattered all over the sand. Refuge Cove came next. Didn’t need water this time, I had enough with me and only planned to refuel at the Lighthouse.

As soon as we started climbing out of Refuge Cove Hamish took off, then further in I could hear “Hey Babi, you are an animal!!” it was Steve Rennick, with two other runners. I looked back and was really happy to see them. Told him right now I wish I was a goat!! Gave him a hug, congratulated them  and wished them all the best. As the third runner passed me, I’ve noticed he is so familiar… he was Ash[ley Bennett], the fast kid, doing his first Prom run!!

Otto messaged me asking how far I was from Waterloo Bay. Sent him back “22”, then it clicked this is not exactly clear, so I sent another text with “I am at 22 km mark”.

Near the Kersops Junction
Near the Kersops Junction

As I was getting closer to the Kersops Junction I remembered how much different it was being here the previous two times… I stopped, looked back and pulled out the phone to take a picture, then Brett Godden popped up, so I took a few shots of him. He kindly returned the favour and took a few shots of me, then we wished each other all the best and he took off.

So far I’ve been eating and drinking well, tripped quite a few times (should’ve worn the Pro Max instead of the Sense Pro 2, the low drop is really a disadvantage here) and had some cramps which were manageable. Slipped and landed on my bum at the rock just after the junction (this is where Julie used to slip), but hey, it’s in the package!

Hamish on the tree
Hamish on the tree

On the way down to Waterloo Bay Nth I caught up with Hamish again, took a shot of him sitting on a tree that was across the track. It looked so funny! We walked along the beach admiring the water, when we caught up with a runner that (again) looked so familiar!! It was Ash, limping with the jacket’s hood on, he must have been very cold. I double checked and when I was sure it was him, gave him a big hug and told him that I was sorry I didn’t recognised him earlier with the top on. Hamish looked at Ash, then me with a strange look on his face. Had to clarify this, so I told him this is Ashley Ramond Bennett, the one who runs without a top. We all laughed, when Hamish said that he thought that I couldn’t recognise Ash with my top on! It was hilarious in that setting! Asked Ash if I could help him in any way, if he needs bandage or anything. He said he’s OK, he just needs to walk all the way to the finish and asked if that was far away – told him there is quite a fair bit to go (we must have been at around 24 kms), then wished him all the best and walked off.

We got to the big trees that were fallen across the track, climbed over, then hill was coming up, which meant Hamish lengthened his steps while I was dragging my butt. I stepped aside every time a faster runner approached. Saw Caroline [Gavin] somewhere earlier (can’t remember where exactly), congratulated her, gave her a hug and told her she’s the first lady, then wished her all the best. I was having cramps at some of the weirdest spots during this race – right now the vastus lateralis (I’m not that clever to remember that, had to look it up). I already had the piece of banana I brought with me on the way up to Kersops – as a remedy for calf cramps – so had to keep drinking the sports drinks…

I could feel someone approaching. When I looked back it was David. I was really happy to see him, he was travelling so fast. He gave me a hug and asked if I was OK. I said I was OK (cramp suddenly went away – thank you David) and asked if he was OK, too. We ran together for a very short portion, then told him to step on it, agreeing we’ll have beers at the finish!

Lt Waterloo Bay
Lt Waterloo Bay

Caught up with Hamish again, we yo-yoed to Lt Waterloo Bay, then to Waterloo Bay. Tried to run along the beautiful beach, but Hamish’s knee was really hurting so I stuck with him, speed walking all the way to the exit. I kept looking at the water… it was so inviting! If I was there alone I would’ve surely gone for a dip, even in that – not so hot – weather.

 

 

Waterloo Bay
Waterloo Bay

As soon as we got to the beach exit, the track goes steep up. Told Hamish to go ahead, will catch up on one of the downhills. Started the climb, which sometimes feels like it will never end. Every now and then I looked back over the beach (it’s so beautiful!), where others were running. It started to rain and I started to trip more often which was a bit of a worry, because it meant more chances to cramp, as well. Gosh, how lucky I was to avoid cramps for years!! Otto’s message came through “bummer, I left Waterloo Bay about 30 minutes ago!!” – meaning we just missed each other! For years I’ve been trying to convince him to do one of the loops with me – he MUST see Waterloo Bay… and now he’s seen it and I wasn’t there to witness it all.

Still Waterloo Bay
Still Waterloo Bay

I was already on the other side of the mountain, when I tripped and fell on my side. I lied there on the ground for a while (it felt like eternity), unable to stand up and watched my right calf moving around uncontrollably, thinking “hope no one is coming, I don’t want anyone to see me like this”. It was very painful! Surely Peter Coady and Heidi Gratton appears… they asked if I was OK, or I needed any help. Told them it’s a cramp and as soon as it goes away I’ll stand up and continue. Peter asked if I had any salt tablets. Told him I have one better: I have the real thing – salt!! Then told them to go ahead, I’ll be fine. As soon as I could, I stood up, walked a little, tried to clean up the mud – at least my hands. Glad I always carry that sanitizer, put some on the wound on my hand and my legs, it stung! Then picked up the pace and went as fast as I could, catching up with Hamish on a downhill. I was surprised I didn’t pick up any leeches…

In one of the corners (the ferny and mossy kind) Suzie rang. She has a knack for calling me during races (or training runs for that matter), casually asking “so how are you Mum?!” When she hears I am panting and telling her I am running, only then she realises that “ah! You are running!! Everything OK?! Take care, we’ll talk later!”

At the Lighthouse
At the Lighthouse

As I was getting closer to the Lighthouse I thought the fast 100 kms should be close by; I was really looking forward to greeting them, when about 2 kms from the Lighthouse Junction I spotted Dan. He was so fast and fresh as a daisy. Gave me a hug, then ran off. The next runner was very close behind him, then Shane Wheeler in third position. I realised too late it was Shane, otherwise I would’ve given him a hug, too. Got to the junction, headed left towards the Lighthouse. You could tell there is something going on here, usually not that many people get this far. I saw two hiker ladies going up, took them over – they both looked impressed. And tired. Then I saw Jenny [Rickards] and her friend Veronica coming down the concrete hill. Gave Jenny a big hug, asked her how she likes the course, then wished them all the best and headed up to the Lighthouse. Celeste was already filling her bladder, asked if she has finished – she said yes, but she’ll ask for more at Telegraph Junction.

I didn’t know who she was, we’ve never met in person before, but we were supposed to sweep Langfords to Hotham in January… I know one thing – she is a strong uphill runner and she’s got great legs!!

Lighthouse selfie

I filled my flasks and poured some in the bladder, then headed to take the Lighthouse selfie and then to the toilet. By this time my migraine that started somewhere around Waterloo Bay was becoming a nuisance (I only get them 3-4 times a year, this one was really badly timed) so I thought I’d just take two Panadols with the ginger beer I carried for “emergencies” – this was one of those emergencies! It was freezing up there!!! My fingers were a bit numb and my sweaty body was shivering underneath the Bonatti. I considered putting on the thermal, but the thought of having to take off the jacket and being exposed to that chilly wind didn’t sit well… as quick as possible I pulled out the Panadols and the ginger beer, took them, then headed out of the cover. Hamish has just gotten there, reminded him to take the selfie (otherwise it doesn’t count 😉 ), then kept walking/running downhill pondering over pulling out those mandatory gloves. Figured I should be out of this wind chill soon, not worth stopping for them.

I had some food and saw a few runners. Then at the Junction I bumped into Shane Winzar, who was doing the 100 km. Gave him a big hug, wished him all the best and headed out. I saw quite a few 100 km runners coming and was waiting to see Richard North, but I guess he must have been on the South Point out and back.

Otto took this shot on his way to Lt Oberon Bay
Otto took this shot on his way to Lt Oberon Bay

I have tried to run as much as I could (which was way more than other times), had cramps, then walked a bit. Around Roaring Meg I caught up with Celeste on the downhill. Asked her how she was, then told her she will surely take me over on the following uphill… pushed as hard as I could and on Telegraph Tk I called Otto as it was easier than typing a message. He told me I was travelling well and asked me what I would like him to bring. Told him a ginger beer would do wonders and I was already looking forward to catching up with him around Lt Oberon Bay… I don’t think I’ve ever pushed this much on Telegraph Tk, yet two runners I’ve ran from the start and then saw a few times during the day, have stepped on it and passed me on the 4WD tk (that’s pretty much downhill).

I was happy to see the veterans at the Junction. I’ve told them my name and number, they offered me sweets, water and chips. I reached for the chips (normally don’t, but now I craved the salty stuff), but when I heard they were salt and vinegar, my hand quickly stopped – can’t do vinegar. I said hello to David Shuterland, gave him a hug and wished him all the best as he took off, then I followed already dreading the sandy 4WD track to Oberon Bay. On this portion I was overtaken by Peter Coady and Heidi Gratton as I was shuffling along. Somehow I found energy and pushed to Oberon Bay wondering how high the tide would be here… I noticed Peter and Heidi were already there. It was windy, very windy, but runnable. Peter was tired, he slowed down to walking. We talked a little, then I told him I will try to go faster as my husband is waiting for me somewhere. Heidi was in a better shape, but she kept checking on Peter.

I got to the creek, walked through (the cold water felt really good), then started the climb thinking of that ginger beer and imagining how I am going to run through the finish and have proper beer with Karen, David and Otto. Heidi caught up with me and said something about Peter being slow as she passed me, then I saw her waiting just before Lt Oberon Bay. I was hoping to see Velta here, but all I saw was a girl sitting in a yoga pose on the top of the rock on the right and a few hiker boys arriving happily from the track. They were nice enough to let me get up the damn sand hill first, which I thanked them for. They also wished me luck – that was very nice, too.

See what a little ginger beer can do?!
See what a little ginger beer can do?!

That ginger beer!!! Where is Otto?!…

He appeared soon, very happy. Got the beer out, I drank almost the whole bottle and that gave me a boost. He asked me how I was, how IT was and told me how he got to Waterloo Bay. I like that he’s getting into this!! He also told me that the photographers are at the end of this track, then asked if I wanted to go along the beach or inland. Told him the tide is not that bad, still some sand to run on, let’s go via the beach – that’s the official course anyway.

I was very happy to see Ian and Velta when we got onto Norman Beach. They must have taken photos of us, but I haven’t seen any in the collection. The colours were striking here as the sun was setting and the clouds were so dark behind us. Otto took a few shots, then we ran/walked to the turnoff.

With the Boss of Organising
With the Boss of Organising

I could see someone familiar in a high-vis jacket – I recognised Duncan’s partner, Noreen from Bogong to Langfords last year, when Duncan and her were minding the Cope Hut checkpoint (and gave me as many orange slices as I wanted).  We greeted each other and then Otto and I climbed out of this last beach. Otto took off so he could take a shot when I finish and catch me (so I don’t run anyone over 😃 ).

As I was running through the first parking lot, I remembered the BBQ my friend Miri and I had two years ago, when Otto couldn’t make it. We forgot to bring glasses and had red wine (quite a nice drop, too) from plastic containers… all this while it was pissing with rain around us. It was hilarious!

 

The finish is getting closer…

I wish I could see the clock earlier, I would’ve stepped on it from further. There were people cheering, which felt really nice. Paul let a big “Babiiiii!” out and said well done. Then Otto caught me which was great, because there were people behind him. Paul gave me the Caramello Freddo. I looked around then David and Karen came to say well done with a hug, both holding a beer…

I said thank you to Paul and the volunteers before walking to the car for the beers as we agreed. It was nice to meet Karen and to share our stories of the day (and many more) while enjoying Otto’s home brew.

I didn’t have a shower at Tidal River this time. Otto and I drove back to the cottage where I could finally wash off all the mud and dirt I’ve collected during the day, then had a nice steak and red wine before going to bed. Body was burning, keeping me awake for most of the night. I guess the muscles were working hard on rebuilding themselves. As I moved my feet, I sensed that tingling itch and then I realised – damn suckers!!! They got me again!! Had two bites on both ankles, which by next day got inflamed, swollen and even more itchy…

Next morning we had breakfast, packed up, cleaned the cottage and headed home.

I was so undercooked for this race with around 108 km total training in the month leading up to it (two Prom 44s, two 7ish and a slow 4.5 km) I just winged it, ridiculously still hoping to finish around the 10 hr mark. I nearly did – 10.05.55. This time the planets aligned, it wasn’t that hot, I could eat and had energy for most of the time. The hugs and kind words I received and gave to others have overpowered the cramps hands down. There is so much love and camaraderie on those trails and I feel privileged to be a part of it!

Gear

  • Lululemon crop, top, socks
  • Bonatti jacket
  • Red Lenser 5 in the morning
  • Salomon S-lab 12 l vest
  • Salomon Sense Pro 2 – not the best choice, tripped too much in them
  • plus the rest of the mandatory gear

Food and hydration

  • 6 rice paper rolls with slices of meetballs, smoked cheese, lettuce, mint, coriander, red, yellow and green paprika and hommus
  • 1 small mandarin
  • 1 half banana
  • Clif Shot Bloks
  • A few pieces of uncrystallised ginger
  • A couple of pieces of dark chocolate and chocolate with filling
  • 2 dates
  • 330 ml of ginger beer at the Lighthouse and a bottle after Lt Oberon bay
  • GU Tri-Berry hydration tabs in about 1.5 l water

 

Strava Activity

Feel free to study this activity.

 

Total distance: 60.75 km
Max elevation: 341 m
Min elevation: -16 m
Total climbing: 2494 m
Total descent: -2519 m
Total time: 10:05:59
Download file: 2018_Prom_60_km_PB.gpx

 

 

On Mt Feathertop

2018 Razorback 64 km Race

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??!!…

Gear

  • 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

Food

  • 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