The Comeback: Beaches Unsupported Marathon Series (BUMS)

“My legs felt strong, my lungs felt clear, and as I looked around to take in the stunning water views I started to wonder if I’d missed one of the chalk arrows keeping me on course.  I looked ahead to try and spot Jane and the crew who I’d been running with earlier, but they were nowhere to be seen.”
Mental Note: Don’t forget to keep an eye out for chalk markings on the road or you’re going to get lost Hailey.

A couple of weeks ago I ran my first marathon in over 2 years. Why so long between races? In late 2016 I tore my plantar fasciia in my left foot. Initially it was diagnosed as Plantar Fasciitis which is treatable, so I’d kept running on my foot thinking it would get better. After starting the 2016 Coast2Kosci Ultra Marathon I got to 110km before the race organisers pulled me aside and made the tough decision to cut me from the race. They knew my pace had slowed during the day and it was certain that I wasn’t going to make the next checkpoint in time for the cut-off. They didn’t want to see me struggle through the night only to miss out, and I’ll be forever grateful they stopped me when they did or my injury could have been made a lot worse. After the race I took a break from running for almost 2 months and when I finally took myself out for a run I had instant pain. After an MRI and several doctor visits I was put into a cam boot for 5 1/2 months and since then I have had a long, steady recovery, ensuring that I don’t cause any further damage and pain. To say it’s been difficult is an understatement, but there are worse things in life and I’m lucky to have some wonderful, supportive people around me.

When the boot finally came off in June 2017, I made a conscious decision to not sign up for any races until I knew I was well and truly recovered. This meant there was no pressure on me to run a certain amount of time or km’s each week leading up to an event. I did have several bouts of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) over the months, especially after 2 European trips in mid 2017 to crew at races (Andorra Ultra Trail and Tor des Geants). During rehab an old knee injury flared up and I decided to take up mountain bike riding as cross training to lessen the impact on my joints.  I joined the Helensburgh Off Road Cycle Club (HORCC) and really loved seeing the trails from another perspective. I also used a wind-trainer with Zwift at home during the winter months to help keep up my fitness, and I found these sessions quite fun.

After getting a late entry into the UTA22 event in May 2018, I planned to use this as my ‘come-back race’ to get the ball rolling again. However the universe had other plans, and the night before the race I came down with a temperature and illness which had me bed-ridden. But all was not lost. In October 2017 a friend got in touch about a multi-day running trip she was planning for late 2018 and I had jumped at the chance. I knew I wasn’t ready for that kind of distance when I accepted the invite, but I had plenty of time to get myself fit and ready.

I kept riding and running, and in early 2018 I decided it was time to call in the experts. I contacted my coach Andy at Mile27 and he set about getting me back on track and accountable with my training. Finally in June 2018 I for to run my ‘come-back’ race at the Kendall Mountain Run in Silverton, Colorado. It was amazing and you can read about it here.

With all the hiking and running that I managed to do in Colorado, I thought it was time to do a marathon. It would be a good test of my fitness and recovery leading into the multi-day trip coming up in late September, so I did it, I signed up for the BUMS marathon being held on 1 September and I had a blast.

I was one of 15 runners who met outside the Bavarian Bier Cafe in Manly on a beautiful winters day. We each made last minute trips to the bathroom and then I caught up with some running friends who I had not seen for a while. At 7.00am (on the dot) Jane signalled for us to start and we headed south along the harbour towards the trails. Brick & Dave were up front and in charge of ‘chalking’ the course, they would draw arrows onto the road/pavements at the intersections where we needed to turn. Danny Spencer was just behind them and then there was Jane, Peter, Ben and myself. My plan was to stay with Jane and Peter for as long as I could. My coach had told me to run 25mins then walk 5mins, which I’ll admit that I did not stick to. But I knew there would be some walking involved as there was quite a lot of trail and stairs on many sections of the course.

It was a beautiful day to be running next to the harbour and this course followed Sydney Harbour all the way to Watsons Bay. I had presumed it was mostly road, but it turns out the course was mostly trail with only a few sections of road. I love trail so this was great for me, but I had worn road shoes so was a little more cautious with any technical sections that we encountered.

Catching up with Jane and Peter, and hearing about their recent Oxfam run was fantastic. Ben was great company too, having never met him before we spent time talking about past races and what we were both training for.

We caught up to our friend Greg just before the Kirribilli Pub, he had started an hour earlier than us because he knew his pace would be slow and he didn’t want to hold everybody up. Plus it meant he could have celebratory drinks with us at the finish line. We downed a traditional quick beer (well… I had a coke) and we headed out the pub door and towards the Harbour Bridge.

The bridge was full of tourists and we walked a lot of it because it was too hard to try and run through the crowds. Once across we headed down towards The Rocks, thorough the markets, past the Opera House and through the Centennial Park.

We hit a few streets after this section and I started to do some walking like my coach had said because it was much flatter for the last half of the course. My legs felt strong, my lungs felt clear, and as I looked around to take in the stunning water views I started to wonder if I’d missed one of the chalk arrows keeping me on course.  I looked ahead to try and spot Jane and the crew who I’d been running with earlier, but they were nowhere to be seen.

I kept running and eventually I caught up to Jane, Peter and Ben again. This happened a few times, I’d stop to walk and then when I started to run I would catch up to them again. However about 3kms from the finish I really started to slow. My muscles were tightening up quite a lot and I decided not to push it and drop back to take it easy.

I couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather. It had poured with rain the day before the race, so much so that I had packed my light-weight wet weather gear in case of rain but ended up ditching it into the car before the start. Roger had kindly offered to get up early and drive me to the start in Manly, a very early morning for him (especially for a weekend) and I was very grateful. I had been texting him throughout the morning so he could check on my progress, as he was also my back-up plan if the body wasn’t co-operating and I needed to cut the run short. But that wasn’t going to happen, I felt great.

Eventually I hit Watsons Bay and made my way to the finish outside Watsons Bay Hotel where our mates were waiting patiently for everybody to finish. They cheered me in and we headed to the bar for some celebratory food and drinks. It had taken 5 hours and 48 minutes, and the best part was how good I felt. I wasn’t fast, but I had achieved my goal to run a marathon and finish in one piece. And getting to run it with such good mates was a bonus. Life is good.

I may have dozed off in the car on the way home too, ha ha

Escaping Winter: Part 4 – The build up to Hardrock

Continued from Part 3.

On Monday, after a good nights sleep, we had a hearty breakfast with scrambled eggs, cheese and prosciutto on toast with good coffee. We chatted to another runner who was heading out from Cunningham to see some of the course and we got to meet his trail dog too, she was very lively and seemed to be playing hide and seek.

We headed back to Silverton as we both had massages booked with a lady called Megan. She lives in a place called Lafayette near Boulder and had travelled here to help get runners ready for Hardrock. I was booked in for 10am and Roger headed off to start the laundry, fuel up and get ice for the esky. The massage was great, she worked out some really tough knots in my glutes, calves and quads, it was just what I needed.

Rog took my place on the table and I headed off to wait for the dryer with our laundry. I felt like I was floating. After doing the laundry and enjoying a Blueberry Smoothie I went back to the car to read my book and wait for Roger, I may have also bought a ‘Coloradical’ t-shirt and some bicycle-shaped earrings along the way.

I read my book in the car for a while until Rog came out and then we headed for lunch. We chilled out for most of the day chatting to other runners and headed up to Cunningham Gulch to camp for our last night in the van. We had Cheese Enchilada Ranchero (dehydrated) for dinner and it was actually quite tasty. We also saw the most amazing pink sunset over the hills as we drifted off to sleep.

Tuesday we had a bit of a sleep-in and when we got up we chatted to a group of runners who were doing the ‘soft rock’. Soft rock is when you do the Hardrock course but spread over 3-5 days, so a much slower pace. These guys had decided to do the double which meant they would run the course in one direction then turn around and run it back the other way, that way on their second lap they would get to see the runners during the race too.

Before going to sleep the previous night I had decided that I would run the section from Cunningham Gulch to Silverton, the section I would be pacing for Roger during the race. So I geared up and got myself ready to do the 9 mile (approx. 14km) trail section over Little Giant. The sun was shining and there were hardly any clouds in the sky, it was going to be a good day.

I waved goodbye to Roger and headed over the creek to start the trail. I wasn’t looking forward to having wet feet from the start but my Speedgoats and Injinji socks actually dried up pretty quickly. The first section was a long hike that got steeper and steeper up over Little Giant and I had great views back down towards Cunningham.

 

I kept climbing and it was so nice to be out in the mountains enjoying the sunshine, I didn’t see another soul until I dropped back down in the valley over the other side and saw a couple of ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicle) near an abandoned mine. There were old mines everywhere in this district and most trails were originally formed by the miners and settlers who lived in this area many, many years ago.

The trail went down a long jeep road for quite a distance and their were a few turns and bends that were not marked. Lucky I had borrowed Roger’s Garmin and he had the course loaded into it so I could make sure I didn’t get lost. I also had the ‘Trail Run Project’ App in my phone which also had the course on it, as back up for if the watch didn’t work. Roger had also warned me that there was a sign warning people about a Moose and her babies, they can be quite aggressive, so my strategy was to be loud so that  wouldn’t creep up in them and hopefully they would run away before I got near them. I’ll admit I was a little nervous doing this run by myself and maybe that’s why I ran it quite quickly, but I did relax and enjoy it very much.

It took me just under 3 hours to run this section which meant I arrived in Silverton just in time for lunch. I was quite pleased to have done it in that time because we had estimated about 4+ hours to complete. Maybe I was getting used to the altitude and my climbing was getting better, either way I’ll take it. My foot and knee had both been holding up well too so this made me very happy.

Roger had checked us into the Prospector Motel and I met him as I was walking down the main street towards the Coffee Bear. He was stoked with my time too and so we celebrated with ice cold Frappe’s. I headed for a shower and then we had lunch.

On the way back from lunch we noticed that they had started to put together the start/finish chute with flags and the famous ‘Hardrock’, so we headed over to take a look. I got a few photos and we met a lovely couple from New York, Britney and Ryan, Britney was doing the race for the first time too.

For dinner we went to Handlebars and both had (huge) steaks, the meal also came with soup and fries and the waitress was very impressed that we both finished our plates. And because we weren’t full enough we ducked across the street and finished the day with a Smedleys Ice Cream, delicious!

We walked back to the hotel the long way to burn off some of our meal and got an early night.

Wednesday is when the nerves started to kick in for Roger, as it was the first day of registration and the expo was open for business from midday. Larry, Andy and Roger were all in line to register as soon as it opened, then they had a few questions from the medical team, were given a spot tracker and finally had their photos taken in front of the Hardrock sign.

I got talking to a runner who had done the race before and his crew had made him an awesome t-shirt, check it out.

I spent a lot of time checking out the expo and bought some more clothes, caps and a Limited Edition Hardrock UD hydration pack, you can never have too many packs, am I right?

We all headed for lunch at the Pickel Barrel and Britney and Ryan joined us when they showed up a few minutes later. It was another really good meal. After lunch, Larnie and I went to the ‘Women of Hardrock’ talk that was put on by Trail Sisters and we had an interesting discussion about the difference between Male and Female entrants, prize monies, how to get more women involved and all things running. It was more of an open discussion and anyone could contribute, which was great because we heard a lot of different opinions from all around the world. We also ran into the race director Dale Garland, a lovely gentleman and had a quick chat to him as he ran around getting everything organised.

I walked back to the hotel with Larnie and she was headed for a nap, jet lag was taking its hold and she needed the rest. Roger and I headed to the (long) course briefing held in the school hall, which turned out to be a very detailed, google maps, street view of the entire course. It was run by James who we had met earlier on the course marking days, and it was very informative. Charlie (Head of the course crew) and a few other organisers/runners gave some great tips on the different sections of the trail.

We snuck out when they got to Cunningham as we both knew that section now and we headed for dinner at Golden Block Brewery with a good friend of Roger’s, Vincent from Hoka in Annecy and Jim Walmsley (recent winner and record holder of Western States). We also met Joe Grant as we were walking into the restaurant and chatted to him about his recent Nolan’s 14, plus he gave Rog some great tips on the Hardrock course. The pizza was great and we had a lot of laughs, then headed back to the hotel. Vincent and Jim were headed for a campsite out of town that apparently Jim and his crew stay at every year, their ‘Forest Fortress’.

On Thursday we managed to catch up with Mike Wardian for breakfast, a Hoka athlete who knew Roger well. We had coffee and burritos at our favourite Coffee Bear, and also chatted with Lucy Bartholomew and Anna Frost, both who happened to come past for coffee. Lucy was heading to Ecuador a few days after the race, and then back to Colorado for some running. Frosty had organised a group to do Soft Rock after the race and would also be working at Kroger’s canteen (Virginius Pass A.S.), one of the scariest checkpoints on the Hardrock course. Being surrounded by all these elite, super fast runners was inspiring and makes me want to train smarter and harder myself.

After breakfast we headed to the grocery store with Mike to get the final items for Roger’s drop bags and on the way back we dropped into Mike’s accommodation to meet his wife and kids, however his wife was catching up on some sleep. Instead we got to meet Jeff Browning who was staying in the same house, another elite who I am lucky to have met here on our trip. We chatted about the Tour de France which was on the tv and then ducked back to our hotel to get the drop bags ready.

Just before midday we headed over to hand in the drop bags and attend the runner’s briefing. The school hall was packed with runners and crew and all of the amazing people that help put together such a big event. It was such a surreal experience being there in that hall with so many accomplished runners, some who are known and some who are unknown. It was very inspirational and I left wanting to come back and do this race myself one day. Did I just say that? Shit.

We had dinner with Andy, Larnie and Larry At Natalia’s, most of us had pasta and I also had strawberry cheesecake for dessert. Back at the room Roger and I prepared all of his race gear and nutrition, and Jill arrived just before 8pm too. Jill is our friend from Boulder who we had convinced to come and crew with me, she had crewed for Beat at this race before and has run many ultra marathons herself so it was great to have her onboard.

And now we are off to sleep as the race starts at 6am tomorrow. I’ll be updating facebook with Roger’s progress whenever we have reception, so stay tuned.

Escaping Winter: Part 3 – The Needles, Utah

Continued from Part 2. I decided to make Utah into it’s own blog post because I took so many photos, and because it was such a special trip.

While on the road to Utah we encountered huge storms and there was a grand display of lightning in every direction. Here are some pictures I got with photos and videos of the storm.

As we drove into Utah the rain got heavier and heavier, but by the time we reached the National Forest we had gotten ahead of the storm, and the views were spectacular as we approached our destination.

A friend had recommended The Needles in Canyonland to us, as being slightly closer than Arches National Park but just as spectacular. We got to the Needles Outpost on the edge of the park and a friendly man called Kaleb greeted us and told us we could camp there for the night and use the bathroom/showers. We could see the storm getting closer and closer, so we took him up on the offer as the rain bucketed down.

Roger got the water boiling so we could have our (dehydrated) Rice Burrito Bowl, we added some dried bacon pieces and it was pretty tasty. The storm eventually passed and we were not only lucky enough to see a storm in the desert, but there was a beautiful rainbow that formed just over the rocks behind our campsite. It was magic.

As you can see we took a lot of photos, mostly because the colour of the sky kept changing with every minute that passed, but we both crashed after a long exhausting day.

We woke up early on Sunday to the sound of a thousand frogs who were lapping up the rain and swimming about in the puddles. Rog made delicious eggs on toast and good strong coffee, and I was glad my legs didn’t feel too sore after the race yesterday.

We packed up the camper and headed to Cave Spring Trail where we saw amazing rock formations, elaborate cactus plants and primitive cave paintings.

The next stop was Elephant Hill Trailhead which took us through more impressive rock formations and towards a breathtaking view of The Needles.

As we drove along the road we saw a sign for Pothole Point Trail so we stopped and did the 1km loop, which had some great views but was not as impressive as what we had previously seen.

We also stopped at the Big Spring Canyon Overlook and went for a short hike which gave us some more impressive views of The Needles. There is nothing like this back home and it was such a worthwhile trip.

Eventually we got back in the camper and headed to Monticello for lunch at the Peace Tree Cafe. We stopped at the Needles Outpost to pay for our campground, as their Eftpos machine had stopped working during the storm the evening before, and we met a young man working behind the counter who had a gorgeous dog called Kukido (Cookie Dough).

Then I drove us back to Silverton for dinner at The Pickle Barrel. After our bellies were full we headed up to Cunningham Gulch to camp for the night.

We met Ben and Levi who were also camping near us, Ben had a beautiful big white dog called Gandalf (the White) and we chatted to them both as the night sky rolled in and the temperature dropped. They were Hardrockers coming back for more with good stories and insight on the race, like everyone who is here to run or crew or volunteer again. There were thousands of stars shining down on us as we drifted off to sleep.

Stay tuned for Escaping Winter: Part 4 – The build up to Hardrock

Escaping Winter: Part 2 – Silverton and Kendall Mountain Run

Continued from Part 1.

We landed in Denver and a cab met us at the airport (organised by Roger) and took us to pick up our camper. For the next few weeks we planned to live in a campervan, so we could run/hike as much of the Hardrock course as possible and save time travelling to places etc. because most of the checkpoint/trailhead locations were remote.

We met Ryan from Vango Durango and got the keys for Indigo Montoya (ha ha), sweet wheels.

I used Google to find the closest grocery store and we headed to the City Market in Durango to buy all our food and drink for the next few days. A lady at the store gave us directions to a campground near Molas Lake so we headed there to camp for the night. Roger cooked (dehydrated) Beef Stroganoff and we had some Banana Custard Pudding for dessert. We were both pretty tired but had a restless sleep, I’m not sure if it was because of the altitude (camped at 3,200m) or because of the dehydrated food.

On Sunday morning we woke up to the sounds of a generator from a nearby campervan, it was a huge mobile home. I headed off into the forest to visit the bathroom and Roger cooked porridge and coffee for breakfast.

We packed up the camper and drove to Silverton with the plan to hike up Kendall Mountain (3,982m). We called into the Prospector Hotel and met Andy at the reception desk, he was a funny character in a Blues Brothers T-shirt who had just sold the Hotel and would soon be on his way around the world for a much-needed holiday. After a few laughs we headed down the main street to find some real coffee and a local told us to go to Bear Café. They weren’t wrong, the coffee was great and they had free WIFI, so I could upload some more pictures to Instagram and check on Alana and the doggies back home.

The main street is not very big however there were lots of stores and galleries to explore. We bought some t-shirts and chatted to a photographer and a painter in the local gallery. Our last stop before our run was a native American gallery where we chatted to the owners about the old and new artefacts and jewellery they had in store. The history of both of the owners was fascinating, as well as the items they stocked.

We headed back to the car and got ready for our run up to Kendall Mountain. As we parked near the trailhead we noticed another race was going on and we walked over to find out more. You wouldn’t believe but it was Jamil Coury from Run Steep Get High, we had watched his Hardrock video from 2017 (among others) before leaving and it was great to meet him in person. As we chatted the weather turned foul and even started to hail so we hunkered down under their tent until the hail stopped. As we donned our rain jackets we headed out towards the Mountain and the weather didn’t look like it was going to get any better. I’ve been told that here in the mountains they get a thunderstorm every afternoon without fail, so we were in for a wet one. It was a good chance for Roger to test his gear and for me to try and keep up.

It stayed cloudy and wet for most of the run and a couple of times the lightning made us question whether we should keep going or not. However the clouds parted by the time we got closer to the top.

Roger and I had a lot of fun on this trail and the colours changed so many times with the constant changing weather. Lucky for us the rain stopped as we were approaching the top and the views were amazing when we got there. The spot that we had hiked up to was not actually Kendall Mountain because we had missed a turn (the trails here were not marked) but we were satisfied with what we had done.

It stayed completely dry for all of the run back down the mountain and I took it steady all the way. Roger did some hard downhill efforts as this day was the last chance he had for this before starting to back off a little. We ran into a local man and his dog called ‘Monkey Man’ near the bottom of the mountain and he turned out to be a local hiking, riding guide in the area. His dog was beautiful and loved attention, I was happy to oblige as I was missing my dogs back home.

On the way down we also saw a lot of ATV’s heading up the mountain, they are a small 4 wheel, buggy-style vehicle and there were hundreds of them in this local area. As we walked the last section to the car we ran into a man walking with his wife and dog, he was wearing a Hardrock t-shirt so Roger approached him to say hi. The man’s name was Geoff and he had completed Hardrock 7 times previously, what an achievement.

Back at the van we changed and drove back into town to find a good spot for dinner. We landed at the Eureka Station which looked relatively new, I had Bison Meatloaf and Roger had Bison Lasagna. We shared dishes and I must say that mine was the better choice. During Dinner our good friend Andy Hewat showed up and we had fun catching up on all the latest news and race talk. Andy suggested a place for us to camp in Cunningham, so we could then run part of the course the next day, so after dinner we drove there and camped for the night.

Unfortunately Roger didn’t get much sleep during the night as his blood-sugar levels didn’t want to play nice, so when we were woken early by the sun it was hard to get out of bed (like most Monday’s I guess?). Can you spot the camper van in the photo below?

As I was making breakfast we met some other campers called Gosia and Stan who live about a 1hr drive south of Durango. They had 2 dogs with them, Lunas and Martia, Spanish for Monday and Tuesday, the days they had rescued the dogs off the street. Gosia and I spent a good deal of time showing each other photos of our doggies, she was lots of fun. She dresses her dogs up for special days like Halloween and Valentine’s Day and the photos were fantastic. I’m not sure our dogs would ever sit that still in a costume for a photo.

It turns out that Stan was a runner too, and he was registered for the Kendall Mountain Race that I would be doing next weekend, so we chatted about that while Roger got his gear ready to go for a run.

As Roger took off for his run I kept chatting to the lovely couple and eventually they had to pack up and leave. We exchanged contact details so we could keep in touch and I looked forward to seeing Stan at the race the next weekend.

It was pretty cold so I sat in the campervan and updated my journal of the trip while tidying the van. A cheeky little Marmot came up close to the camper and sat on a rock in the sun.

Not long after Roger came back down the hill we sat down to have some tuna and avocado wraps for lunch. Soon after this Roger was back out the door and onto the trail towards Silverton. The plan was for me to meet him in town for dinner with Andy, and I would also resupply the camper with some food and water for the next few days.

While he was out running I got Petrol (you pay before you fill up here which was a bit weird as you have to guess the amount you want), got ice for the esky and visited the Information centre to find out how we could get more water. The information centre had some great hiking books and they were very helpful. I did some shopping in town and when Roger arrived we had frappes at the Bear Cafe, my chocolate mint flavour was delicious. We met up with Andy who offered us the use of his shower and we jumped at the chance. I felt so good after a nice warm shower, beats Wet Ones ha!

The three of us headed up the road for dinner at Handlebars, I had an Elk burger and Rog had a Buffalo burger, they were both very tasty but I think I liked the Buffalo most.

We said goodbye to Andy and made plans for the next day’s course marking adventure up to Handies Peak, this is the highest peak of the Hardrock Hundred course at 4,284m and would be not only a great hike but a good chance to see how we handled that altitude.

We camped at the bottom of Kendall Mountain, near the 5 day race that was still going on and we hoped nobody would ask us for a camping permit (which we didn’t have).

The alarm went off at 6am on Tuesday and just as I was getting up we heard a tap on the window and a voice saying ‘Do you have a parking permit?’, we didn’t respond and the voice asked the same question again, shit. Turns out it was Andy who had come past to let us know the course marking day had been changed, what a joker. He gave me a heart attack as there was a hefty fine for camping without a permit. He asked if we wanted to travel in the car with him and his friends Larry, Beth and Rachael, and of course we jumped at the chance.

We got up and rushed to get dressed, thankfully we had prepared our packs the night before so they didn’t have to wait too long. We squashed four of us into the back seat and headed towards Grouse Gulch the start of today’s hike/run. On the way we were lucky enough to see two Bull Moose feeding on some bushes next to the road. They were huge, strong and beautiful creatures. What a great way to start the day.

Photo: Roger Hanney

The road was very rocky but Larry’s car made it to the trailhead quite easily. We all geared up and headed up the trail under blue skies. I had been looking forward to this hike up to Handies Peak, I knew it was going to be a good day.

Rog and I ended up ahead of the others and unfortunately Beth was having knee issues (recovering from a recent meniscus tear) so she turned back early. Larry, Andy and Rachael were behind us and we waited for them at the first pass.

Andy got to the pass and we had a quick chat. Rachael was struggling a little so Larry was hanging back with her. Andy told us to go ahead and he would organise a turn around time if they didn’t make it to the peak on time.

The reason we had a turn around time is because every afternoon there were thunderstorms in these mountains – they create their own weather so you have to be prepared. We didn’t want to be up on the peak (or close to it) if there was lightning as it would be too dangerous.

We saw lots of Marmots and Pika again today and another runner told us she had seen Coyote so we kept a sharp eye out hoping to see one of those too.

It was a long, steep hike up to the peak and my pace slowed as it got steeper and steeper. The higher we climbed the more mountains started to reveal themselves around us’ and once we reached the top we felt like we were in another world.

Breathtaking.

Andy joined us a few minutes later and we chatted to a few other hikers. We took loads of photo and spent a long time soaking up the view. It’s hard to describe what we saw and felt, it was magical.

As we were about to head down we saw Larry and Rachael making their way up the peak, so we cheered them on and waited for them to arrive. The turn around time we had organised was midday and it was 11:52am when they reached the peak. Perfect. We took some more photos and then made our way back down the mountain. Andy was a great downhill runner and I took it nice and steady, stopping to take lots more photos. Every time the clouds moved the colours around us changed and I couldn’t help taking more and more photos.

Eventually we could see the car and we hit the last of the switchbacks down to the road.

We chatted with Beth who had been patiently waiting at the car and Andy realised there the rental car actually had another row of seats in the back, which would make the trip back to Silverton much more comfortable.

Once we were all back at the car we headed into town just in time to see the rain start and the storms rolling in. We had timed it perfectly.

We had pizza for dinner with the crew at Golden Block Brewery where we also met Arkansas local Billy Simpson for the first time, and then we walked up the road to have Funnell Cake for dessert.

After we filled our bellies we headed to Cunningham Gulch to camp and get an early night.

On Wednesday the alarm went off at 6am and I visited the pit toilet while Rog got up and ready. I drove us into town and on the way down we saw that the town was covered in a thick fog.

I dropped Roger at Andy’s hotel where Larry was meeting them to drive them to Grant swamp (via Ophir, a very sketchy road apparently). Coffee was on my mind so I went to Coffee Bear and ordered a sausage burrito and large coffee, then headed over to the laundry. While I was doing laundry the owner asked what channel I wanted to watch and I couldn’t think of anything so I just said ‘Maybe some Sports?’. I chatted to the owner some more and after he left I realised he had put the tv on the shopping channel, great (not).

I met Roger when he got back into town and we had frappes at the Bear Cafe. I think we were both feeling exhausted as all we could think about was finding a place to sleep for the night. So we drove up towards Minnie Gulch (past Cunningham Gulch) to set up camp for the night and the road was a bit scary. It was a dirt road and full of rocks, cliff edges. Eventually we turned around because I didn’t think the van would make it over the creek crossing. I doubled back and Roger took a short hike up another side road and found a great place to park the van for the night.

We were both feeling exhausted and crashed early.

A rest day was planned for Thursday so we woke up late and Roger cooked eggs on toast with avocado and we also had coffee. There was nobody around us for miles and I was feeling really good despite the altitude.

Once breakfast was cleaned up and the van repacked we headed to Orvis Hot Springs. This was a good chance for me to see the road to Ouray as I would be driving along it to checkpoints during the race, plus the hot springs would be relaxing. The drive to Ouray was along windy, cliff edge roads where you have to go quite slow due to all the hairpin turns. At one section along the ‘Million Dollar Highway’ it was down to one lane due to a mud slide earlier in the week. We later found out that there had actually been 8 land/mud slides along that section of  road but they had managed to clean most of them up.

The hot springs were another 10mins drive past Ouray and had been recommended to us by Steady, a friend of Roger’s who had worked as a high end bootfitter in Telluride. We parked and checked in to the reception, the lady gave us a tour and advised that in the outside area ‘clothing was optional’. There was no way I was going naked and I hoped that there weren’t too many old, wrinkly men/women lurking around.

We changed and got the indoor pool first, the coolest of the springs. A mother with her two children were playing in the pool (clothed) and we chatted to her about her upcoming move from Boulder to Ouray, she was here checking out schools for her girls before they moved, her husband had been transferred here for work.

After the indoor pool we headed over to the super cold and super hot (44 degrees) springs for some cold/hot treatment. At first I couldn’t get into the water past my knees with either of those springs, but on my second and third attempts I managed to get all the way under up to my neck. The main benefit of the hot/cold treatment was to help inflammation, but it also helps relax your muscles and my skin felt great afterwards too. The last spring we tried was the main pool and 80% of the people were clothed thankfully. The loose gravel pool bottom felt great for tired feet to walk across.

A storm rolled in and we decided to leave and grab some lunch in Ouray. I showered and we headed to The Ouray Brewery for lunch which was another great meal.

After (late) lunch we headed up to try and camp near Governor Basin, which was the starting point for tomorrow’s Course Marking day, however the road got too much for our camper and we ended up heading back to Molas Pass to camp for the night.

On Friday we woke up to the alarm at 6am and as we walked to our respective bathrooms (trees). Roger spotted a Deer and her 2 children, he called me over and i just got to see them before they ran off into the trees across the path. They were beautiful.

Once the camper was packed we headed to pick up Andy from his hotel and meet the group for course marking at Charlie’s house.

 

After a short briefing everyone packed into the cars and we headed for Camp Bird Road. The trip through the mountains was uneventful but the beauty of the mountains stole my heart at every turn.

I dropped Roger and Andy off with the other runners, they would get a lift with another runner in their 4WD as our van would not make it to Governors Basin. I headed into town for breakfast, shopping and some down time. After purchasing some gifts I headed to the hot springs in town, the weather was heating up and they had hot and cold pools at the one in town. The water was lovely and the place was really busy, it was much bigger and fully clothed thankfully (ha ha).

Roger, Andy and the rest of the course marking crew joined me at the hot springs after their run/hike, then we all headed to Mexican for late lunch. I had a good chat over Tacos with Beth, Larry and another lady called Annie, a really friendly bunch of people and such experienced ultra runners.

It was pouring with rain as we left the restaurant and headed back to Silverton over the mountains. I was getting nervous because on Saturday I was doing the Kendall Mountain Run, a 13 mile course from Silverton (9,318ft) to the top of Kendall Mountain (13,066ft) and back down. There is an interesting history to this race and you can read more about it here.

When we got back to Silverton we decided to try and get a room for the night so I could get a good nights sleep before my race. Roger managed to get us a room at The Bent Elbow in the notorious Blair Street and our room was funnily enough called the Bordello.

Across the street an Elvis impersonator was singing on a trailer parked outside the Avalanche Brewery (bought another lid to add to my collection too, see pic below), and the place looked busy so we headed there for dinner after picking up my race pack from the Avon Hotel. The funny line we heard as were leaving after eating was from a smiling father to his young daughter, “Well of course it sounds terrible honey, he’s a man in an Elvis suit singing out of the back of a campervan”.

Then it was back to our comfortable room to chill out and get an early night, and I just have to say it was so nice to have a proper bed and a toilet.

Saturday’s alarm went off at 6:30am and I was feeling very nervous for my race. Thankfully we had plenty of time and only a short walk from the hotel to the start line on the corner of Greene St and 12th St.

I had chosen to wear my Nathan pack with Tailwind in 2 soft flasks in the front and wet weather gear in the back, as I had been told there was 50% chance of rain and I hate being cold. That’s Kendall Mountain in the background of the below photos, piece of cake right?

We walked to the start line and there were lots of people queued up for the portable toilets. Roger walked up to get a coffee and I used the cafe’s bathroom which didn’t have a queue (score!). Beth and Larry found us at the start line and they wished me well. I positioned myself at the back of the runners and eventually we were off and running.

The course went for 2 blocks up the Main Street and then hooked right onto another street that eventually turned into a fire trail that circled its way up Kendall Mountain. I saw Andy at the start of the uphill section and he wished me good luck. The trail up to the peak was rocky, steep and endless, but I made some good friends along the way. There was a married couple Jake and Nicole, Jake was her coach and she was mostly training for triathlon. There was Ned an older man who had run this many times before. And then there was Alice, about my age and it was her first trail race ever. What a tough race to do first!!

I could really feel my breath struggling the whole way up, and had to slow my walking a few times to get my breath back. My calves were feeling tight too, and I tried to rest them by choosing ‘flat spots’ to give them a break every little while. A flat spot is when a rock is sitting at a certain ankle so that when you walk up the trail your foot ends up horizontal when planted, which gives the calves a break from the plantar flexion you’ve been doing mile after mile.

Before I reached the top I ended up alone and with a big gap in front and behind me, it was peaceful and I took in the amazing views around me.

I reached the arch we had hiked to the previous week and then braced myself for the rocky scramble up to the peak. The trail was super steep now and we had to crawl on all fours, slipping and sliding up the rocks. There was a false summit and so we kept on climbing and climbing.

I looked up and saw Jamil Coury (ultra running legend) standing at the summit and asked him for a photo.

There were a few small steps to the top now and as I reached the summit I cheered with excitement. Wahooo!

I had a quick chat to Jamil and his crew and then I was out of there, it was all downhill from here. I scrambled down off the top peak feeling confident and quicker than I expected, passing people along the way. Then I hit the fire trail and a stitch in my left side made running quite painful, so I alternated running and walking for the next few miles trying to get rid of it. Despite slowing down the stitch wouldn’t go away, so I tried to focus on relaxing my body and just running at a slow, steady pace, taking it easy like my coach said. I tried to take my mind off the pain and soak up what was around me, it worked and eventually I was feeling much better. I picked up some speed and started to pass people on my way back down the mountain, it felt great.

To my surprise Roger and Andy had hiked up part of the trail to cheer me on and it was so nice to see them, it really gave me a lift.

Photo: Andy Hewat

My pace got quicker again and I kept picking off people in front of me, while keeping some in reserve for the last run on the flat to the finish at Memorial Park. Where was that park? I had reached the flat now and the park I thought we would finish in was incorrect, I had to run another mile into town. I walked and ran this last section and kept a close eye on the gentleman behind me as I didn’t want him to beat me. As I approached the finish Larry and Beth were cheering me on and others heard them say my name so they started cheering for me too. A gentleman rushed to take my photo as I crossed the finish line underneath the inflatable finish arch, and was handed a mug and food voucher. I had done it!!

I waited for my (new) running friends who weren’t far behind me so that I could cheer them over the line and congratulate them, then I headed back to see Larry and Beth. We all headed over to the finish area for the bbq and to buy some gear at the Run Steep Get High shop. Roger and Andy joined me not long after and we watched others finishing the race. The atmosphere was great and I loved my finishers mug, so much more practical than a medal.

After the race, Roger had a burrito and Andy was kind enough to let me use his shower. Then we jumped in the campervan and headed to the The Needles in Utah. We had decided that this side trip would be a good break from Silverton/Hardrock and a great chance to see some different and amazing landscapes and get an extra dose of oxygen.

Stay tuned for Escaping Winter: Part 3 – The Needles, Utah

Escaping Winter: Part 1 – Boulder, Colorado

On Wednesday 4 July 2018 Roger and I landed in Denver at 1:30pm after roughly 20 hours flying, yet still managed to arrive just two and a half hours after we left. We jumped in an Uber and headed towards Boulder where our friends Jill and Beat were picking us up. They lived ‘up the mountain’ and I wasn’t sure what that meant but they said it involved a dirt road and the Uber driver probably wouldn’t want to drive on that. Our driver was very chatty and told us a lot of information about the area, including the fact that he had been a Pro Downhill skier at the age of 12yrs. After about 45 minutes we were dropped off in Boulder and 2 seconds later our friends drove around the corner to picked us up, great timing.

I first met Jill and Beat at the Tor des Geants race in Italy last year, Beat was running and Jill was going to do some hikes and crewing too. Beat has an amazing ultra running history that puts most of us to shame, and although Jill is a keen runner too she mostly enjoys biking, in particular snow biking. She has finished the Iditarod Trail Invitational (1,000 miles across Alaska), both on foot (350mi) and on bike and she won the Tour Divide (Banff to Mexico).  I could go on more about how badass this couple are but I’m sure it still wouldn’t do them justice.

So we got in the car and they drove us to their home on the mountain in Boulder and before I even stepped in the door I was totally jealous of their humble abode and its surroundings. They had 20+ acres of beautiful land to call their own, trails at their doorstep and views I could stare at for hours on end.

They even had little feeder bottles hung up outside on their balcony for the Hummingbirds and we watched those pretty little birds flying around, they were so fast. The ones with the red necks were the males and they tended to be bossy, only letting certain birds drink from their pots. The females had grey/white on their necks and they were less aggressive, one even landed on my finger to stand while it fed. They were fantastic to watch and I took a thousand photos.

We showered and had delicious burgers that Jill cooked and some yellow watermelon for our Independence Day celebrations. After dinner we all geared up and went for a short hike to the top of Bear Mountain to watch the fireworks. Unfortunately the clouds rolled in and there was a lot of storm action close by so we decided to head down out of harm’s way, people had been known to get struck by lightening here before.

On Thursday the alarm went off at 5:45am and we headed up to Roosevelt National Forest. Roger, Beat and Jill were heading out for a 50km run and I was headed for a shorter run/hike up to Mt Audobon (4,032m). The drive to the park took about 45 minutes and we chatted excitedly along the way. The countryside was beautiful and everything I had pictured it to be.

We started the hike together and it was very dry and rocky. We had Pine trees on either side as we started up the switchbacks and I had to stop to get rocks out of my shoes. I should have worn my gaiters because about another 1km up the trail I had rocks in my shoes again. I would have to suck it up.

After about 3km I said goodbye to the crew as I headed up towards my mountain. I was a little sad not to be able to go with them but I had only just recently increased my long run to 25km, so I wasn’t going to risk getting injured again. My coach had told me 40km over the next 2 days was my maximum so I planned to stick with that and not get carried away.

I enjoyed spending time alone on the trails and I’d been given advice on what to do if a bear/mountain lion should cross my path, so I felt pretty confident I would be okay. They had also assured me that despite the signs posted warning of these animals I would not see any of them today.

As I went up past the tree line I spotted a small rabbit-like shape moving ahead of me and it made a squeaky noise. I soon began to see lots of them, ‘What were they?’. I got closer to one of the little guys and I was quick enough to get a photo, he was adorable (he is in the shadows at the bottom of the photos below).

I hiked further up the trail I heard this same noise more and more. ‘Are they Marmots or maybe Beavers?’. I kept moving and eventually saw a larger version of what I thought was the same animal but it was brown/red in colour, it stopped to look at me and ran off. As I hiked I saw them more and more and I managed to get a few photos and videos of them along the way. I learnt later during my trip that they call the Marmots ‘Whistle Pigs’ because of the noise they make.

It turns out the small creature I had first seen was a Pika and they’re usually a lot more timid, so I should feel very lucky to have seen them up close and been able to get a photo. I was also lucky to see a Ptarmigan (silent ‘P’) which had its summer feathers on and he was very well camouflaged.

Just before the summit I ran into a man named John who told me the large animals were Marmot and that I should be careful because they might come over looking for food and try to bite me. Ha, so much for cute! He asked where I was from and we chatted for a while. He told me that he loved Kayak adventures when he was younger and had written a book called ‘Dance on Edge’. He said he was getting too old to kayak now but he loves going to hikes and seeking out mountains.

We wished each other happy travels and I began the boulder dash climb up to the top of Mt Audubon. I was glad I had my poles because the rocks were very uneven and most of them shifted and moved beneath my feet.

For most of this section I had to guess the trail because it wasn’t clearly visible, but you could guess where you needed to go so I just kept climbing up and up. I ran into a group coming back down and they pointed out the path which helped a little. It would be there one minute then gone the next. Imagine a big, big, big pile of rocks and that’s what I was climbing up. Eventually I reached the top and was rewarded with breathtaking views.

As I headed back down the mountain I ran into another large Marmot who seemed to be curious about me too. I managed to get him on video as I walked carefully along the rocks, he was very inquisitive and we had a good chat.

Making my way back down on the rocks was harder than I expected. You couldn’t really use poles because the rocks had jagged edges, nothing was flat. I held my poles horizontally in one hand and made my way down as best I could, sometimes sliding down on my butt. I laughed in my head at the ‘Trail run’ selection I had made on my Garmin watch earlier this morning because this was definitely not a run. Did I mention I was using the new Garmin Fenix 5X Plus? It’s a great watch, very customisable and lots of additional features that would come in handy for the type of terrain we would be hiking/running in the USA. I had literally got the new watch just before leaving Sydney and I have Roger to thank for that.

Back to the trail. The rocks eventually became scarce and the terrain became much more runnable, so I shed a few layers and put my poles in my pack so I could run most of the way back down. Okay, there was some running involved but mostly stopping to chat to other hikers and pat their dogs. I always miss my dogs when I’m away…

After 4hrs and 22mins I had travelled just 13.28km but I’d had a blast. The countryside was beautiful, and I enjoyed getting out and moving the legs again. I napped in the car for about 3hrs, visited the bathroom, read my book (On Trails, Robert Moor) and chatted to hikers while I waited for the rest of the crew to return. They had planned to be gone for about 10 hours from when we started so I had plenty of time to kill.

The crew got back just before 7pm and we headed to Nederland for some dinner. Jill had seen some good reviews on the ‘Ned Heads’ Facebook place for a Thai restaurant so we headed there. For drinks we had the Blue Moon tap beer which came with an orange slice in it and was very refreshing. For dinner Roger and I shared a Chicken Pad Thai and a Curry Mango Chicken, it was delicious and filled our hungry bellies. Back at the house we showered and chatted till late in the evening before I couldn’t keep myself awake any longer.

On Friday we had a sleep in, getting up to leave by 8.30am. We drove to Roosevelt National Forest again and all of us were headed to the South Arapahoe Peak (4,071m) which was roughly a 20km return trip.

The trail was a long uphill slog to the top and Beat was so fast that we only saw him for about the first 3km. Roger, Jill and I stayed at about the same pace the whole way and we chatted to other hikers who were out there enjoying the sunshine too. Many of them had dogs and were from the local area, they were surprised when we said we were from Sydney and this usually started a lengthier conversation which was nice.

We ran into Beat as he was coming back down from the peak and he said he would go down and then come back up to meet us at the top. He warned us of the false summit, a spot where you think you’ve made it but there is actually more climbing to do. For this last section we had to scramble over rocks and climb our way to the top. I didn’t seem to be feeling any of the effects of altitude which was great. Eventually we got to the top and Beat joined us for some lunch and treats. A few Marmots also tried to join us for lunch and were quick to check our spot when we started to move away again for the descent.

We ran into a man carrying his dog in his backpack, it was an unreal sight and the dog looked content, lucky bugger. On the way down we hiked fast and took in some more of the gorgeous views around us.

Eventually we got back to the trailhead and I was very pleased to see the toilets as I had been holding on for too long by this point. It was such a beautiful, memorable trail and it made me fall even more in love with the area.

Once we were all changed and back in the car we headed for Boulder to get dinner at a Vietnamese Restaurant that Beat and Jill frequently visit. We all ended up having the same dish which was a Combination Meat Bun, a dish with noodles and a variety of meat. For dessert we shared two plates of Mango Sticky Rice which was also delicious.

After dinner we headed across the road to visit the Boulder Running Company shop and I felt like I was in Runner Heaven. This shop was better than any running store I had ever seen and had everything for road and trail. I purchased a few shirts, a cap and some Tailwind and the cashier was a guy called Joshua Stevens, who it turns out is a sponsored runner and was also pacing at Hardrock. He gave us his Instagram information and told us to contact him if we needed anything or wanted to catch up during Hardrock. He was such a cool dude and he even gave us a generous discount.

We all jumped in the car and headed to the bus station to pick up Gabi, a friend of Beat’s who was going to be staying with them for a while to train and prepare for her race in August. When we got back to the house we showered, and all stayed up chatting till late again. Time flies when you’re having fun.

On Saturday afternoon we were flying from Denver to Durango so in the morning we went to the REI store in Boulder. Wow. This store is your outdoor adventure person’s dream come true, it had everything from kayaks and tents to running and snow gear. I bought some more clothes and trucker caps, and Roger got some great stuff too including a Katadyn water filter flask which would be great to use during his race if/when he needed to drink from the creeks and streams on course. We dragged ourselves out of the store before we spent too much more money and headed to lunch. We found a great Mexican place and I had a Beef Burrito with Ginger Beer.

We said goodbye to Gabi and jumped in the car with Beat and Jill heading for Denver airport. The day had been heating up and it was now 37.7 degrees outside, thankfully much warmer than Sydney had been this winter.

The trip to the airport was smooth and traffic-free, the highways here are well designed. We said goodbye to our friends and Jill was going to help crew for Roger’s race, so we would see her again in another week which was great. Check-In was relatively easy despite the airline trying to charge us for our baggage which we had already paid for. The line at Customs was long but it moved pretty quickly considering, and before long we were boarding our little 100 seat plane to Durango.

Stay tuned for ‘Escaping Winter Part 2: Silverton’

A long weekend in the Victorian Mountains

A couple of months ago we noticed a new race was being held in Victoria on the June long weekend and we thought this would be a great opportunity to experience some solid climbs in race conditions. So we signed up, me for the 14km (1,150m) and Roger for the 27km (2,250m).

We both managed to get Friday off work too which meant we could drive down on Thursday afternoon, and we arrived in Tawonga South (near Mount Beauty) close to midnight. Roger accidentally missed the driveway, and as we did a u-turn we were faced with a large deer that has previously camouflaged into the surrounding trees. It was beautiful.

Eventually we made it up the long, steep driveway and into our cosy, shed-looking Air BnB. It had a fireplace and plenty of room for us with all our running and hiking gear. I wondered what views it might have when we awoke the next morning…..

Friday morning was cold and I got the air conditioner firing as soon as I stumbled out of bed. I opened the curtains to a misty view of Mount Bogong and its surrounds, this was going to be a great weekend!

Today I was going to do a short hike and Roger would do a few repeats of Mount Bogong. He is in training for the 100 mile Hardrock Endurance run in the USA in July and he planned to do a lot of running with elevation over the next 3 days. We geared up and drove to the Mountain Creek Camping and Picnic Area which was about 20mins away. We parked the car and headed about 2km up the trail towards the staircase that heads to Mount Bogong.

I waved goodbye to Roger as he headed up the staircase and I kept going on the flat(ter) trail for a light hike.

Ever since being given the all clear to start training again a few months back, I have been cautiously easing back into running. I’ve also still been recovering from the flu and throat infection that saw me DNS (did not start) at the UTA22 a few weeks earlier, so I was conscious to wear a few more warm layers than usual, and I was thankful because it was foggy and cold with sprinkles of rain every now and then.

The sound of Black Cockatoos could be heard overhead so I stopped to take in their beautiful melody. I walked along a few more km’s along and came to a creek which covered the trail. If I walked through the creek it would mean getting my feet soaked, so I searched for another way to cross and found a thin log that had been put over the creek. I cautiously put one foot on the log and it wobbled under my feet, I tried to gain balance on one foot but the log was also slippery and impossible.

So I made the decision to stay warm and dry and turned around to head back down the hill to the car. There was nobody around, not one single person or car at the campground and I worried a little that Roger would be up on that mountain in the cold (snow?) by himself. What if something happened? I know he is very experienced in harsh conditions and he had packed very sensibly for the cold, but you cannot help worrying sometimes. I assured myself he would be fine and the regular text messages that he later kept sending helped to ease my nerves.

When I got back at the Air BnB I had a (long) hot shower and settled in to read my book with a cup of hot chocolate. Tough life. I picked up Roger from the campground at 6pm as planned and later headed to Flour + Water for a hard earned feast. After dinner we readied our gear for Saturday’s Wandi Cross race and got an early night. Check out the sunset below with Mount Bogong peeking through the clouds on the left.

Wandi Cross 14km – Race Report

We were up early to get organised and the drive over to Wandiligong would take at least 45 minutes unless we got stuck behind a slow truck/bus/camper on the mountain towards Bright. It was foggy and the temperature got down to about 4 degrees on the drive over. We arrived, parked and walked over to the Alpine Park to register and use the toilets. We collected our race bibs and headed back to the car to get our gear.

Unlike most of the past trail races I had done I knew nobody and that was largely due to the fact that we were in a different state. Still, it felt weird. We readied ourselves at the start line for a quick briefing and then we were off, the 14km and 27km runners all started together.

The first section of the course was along a hilly road section for about 2km before we ducked into a trail and started to climb the first hill. Most of the road section had been quite hilly but we had pushed ourselves to run it because everyone around us had been running too. I figured they were probably locals and knew the course well, turns out most of them were.

Our first climb was up Goldmine Spur and if there had not been runners ahead of me and pink tape to mark the way, then I’m pretty sure I would not have been able to make out the trail. It had clearly rained for quite a few days leading up the race and the ground was very wet and slippery underfoot, but thankfully my trusty new Speedgoats were up to the challenge.

I overtook a few people going up this mountain and got into a rhythm with my steps even though the terrain was quite steep and uneven. There was no clear trail aside from where the runners had pinned down the long grass,  and made way over the fallen branches and rocks. I think if I had been here outside of race conditions it would be easy to lose the trail.

Eventually we got to the top and I made my way downhill towards the first aid station. Here I said goodbye to Roger as the 27km course took off in a different direction, and headed down a fire trail which led to the first big descent. Talk about slippery! About 70% of this downhill section was slippery clay that meant you practically slid your way down the mountain. It was almost impossible to stay upright and I heard many streaks and groans from in front and behind me while going through that section. If you imagine the position you take while standing on a surfboard riding a wav, that was how I slid down the mountain for the best part. It’s a miracle that I didn’t land on my butt, as I noticed after the race most people came in with clay all over their legs and butt.

The course eventually looped back around towards the Alpine Park starting area where my race number was ticked off. I had carried all my own food and drink so I didn’t waste any time at the aid stations. Heading out of the park we took a right hand turn up a fire trail and then took a sharp left up into ‘The Goat’. The description on the race website said “hands in the dirt scrambling” and they were not wrong. There was actually a rope to pull yourself up the first section onto the trail because it was so steep. I had to really concentrate for this section as it was crucial to get your feet on the right surface/spot for every step up this mountain. One wrong foot and you would slide down and lose ground, banging your knees, ankles and elbows all over the place. This was really the toughest climb I have ever seen, and what made it harder was that so many other runners had come through here earlier today.

It got me thinking about the Tarawera Ultra Marathon in New Zealand that some of my friends and clients had raced in earlier this year, as they had completed 50-100 miles in conditions similar to (or worse than) this.

I passed a local going up ‘The Goat’ and he was starting to struggle big-time. We had a chat as I went past and I felt strong as I kept climbing further and further ahead. Surely it couldn’t be that much further to the top. It kept going, and going, and going. We would cross a fire trail and climb up the next section using ropes and whatever means possible. By the time I got to the top there was nobody around me, behind or in front and I kind of liked that. The view we had been promised was hidden by a curtain of mist and I could barely see 10 metres in front of me. There was a bell hanging from a tree at the top of Mystic Mountain so I gave it a ring and kept running towards the markers and the aid station. I rounded the cone, said hello to the volunteers, then smiled as I left because I knew it was all downhill from here.

This is the point where I got a bit excited and may not have been paying as much attention as I should have been. Somewhere as I pummelled down the steep first trail I missed a turn and ended up at the bottom of the mountain with not a pink trail marker to be seen. I walked back up the hill,, then down the hill, then up to another spot, then down. it was useless. I could not find a pink course marker anywhere. I was soo annoyed at myself and it upset me more than it should have. I looked at my watch and it said I had run 13.6km, my heart sank as I knew it was further than 400m to get to the finish now. I just hoped it wasn’t too much further as I had been pushing myself and wasn’t too sure how much was left in the tank.

Finally I got out my phone and worked out that the road below me should wind its way back to the Alpine Park and I hoped that it would link back up with the course. I ran along the road and thankfully it re-joined the course, however I had lost too many places to count and it made me disappointed with myself. I chatted to a guy who asked me where I had come from and I told him what had happened, I’d actually passed him going up the first hill and he had not seen me since then. There was another lady in front of me so I set my sights on trying to catch her, but it was useless as my legs didn’t have anymore speed to give. I felt like an idiot and had no-one to blame but myself for getting lost as I should have been paying more attention.

I tried to focus on the positives and snap myself out of the bad mood I’d fallen into. The trail followed the Horses Creek back which was trickling with water, a nice calming sound that helped improve my mood as it snaked its way towards Alpine Park. Once in the park we did a victory lap of the field and I crossed the finish line in 2hrs 55mins. My goal had been to finish in 2hrs 30mins, however my Garmin told me that I had run 16.5km so I’d say I would have been pretty close to that without the added kms. I’ll take it.

About 2 minutes after I crossed the finish line I saw Roger coming into the aid station at Alpine Park, great timing. He still had ‘The Goat’ to come and an another bonus trail that we did not travel on, so I wished him well and told him to be careful on the last downhill because I had missed the markers. He left in good spirits and I caught up with our good friend George Mihalakellis who had driven up from Melba to cheer us on and spend some time in the mountains. George and I then headed back to the car and off to get some brunch before heading back to wait for Roger’s race finish. Roger crossed the line in 5hrs 39minutes and we celebrated with a bacon & egg wrap and coffee.

The Wandi Cross organisers had advertised this as a ‘technology free run’ so I had decided not to take any photos while out on course, that is why I have not included any here in this blog. I did however wear my Garmin GPS watch during the run but I kept it hidden under a buff so I wouldn’t be tempted to use it, and the only time I looked at my watch was when I had gotten lost.

Once we were all back at the Air BnB showered and warm, I opened up a 13 yr old bottle of Sullivans Cove whisky that Roger had given me for my birthday. I had been saving it to celebrate my return to trail running/racing, and we even convinced George to have a glass too.

We went to Roi’s Restaurant for dinner on Saturday night and as always the food and service were top notch. We also found the Mt Beauty Taxi Service (a one man band) to be most helpful and friendly.

Sunday Hike – Mount Feathertop

On Sunday George and Roger were heading to Bogong for some more repeats and after looking up the local hiking trails I had decided to hike Bungalow Spur to Mount Feathertop. I drove about 45mins to get to the trailhead and the car told me that it was 2 degrees at the spot where I was starting my hike. I had worn a few layers of warm clothing and had some extras plus wet weather gear in my pack in case I needed it.

The first section of the trail was nice and flat and it followed along next to a small running creek, but the ‘flat’ would not last for long. The trail crossed the creek and started to wind up and up around the mountains before me. It was not too long before I had to remove my wind & water proof jacket because I was getting too hot. I stuffed the jacket into my pack and twisted my cap around so I could see the trail ahead and above me. About 2km up the trail I realised that my sunglasses had been on top of my hat and that when I had twisted the cap around I had dropped them. There was no way I was going back for them, or should I? I decided that I didn’t want to have to back-track and kept moving up the trail.

There was a large section of the trail that was overgrown with shrubs and I noticed as I pushed through them that it was soaking my clothes and making me feel a little cooler than I anticipated. I kept going and tried to steer clear of the branches but it was almost impossible. I decided I would just have to speed up and hike fast so my clothes would stay dry from the heat of my body. There was a small break in the shrubs and I stopped to look up….

It was about this point that it dawned on me I was actually hiking to the 2nd highest peak (1,899 metres) in Victoria, and that the entire trail to the summit would probably not have any flat or downhill sections. Great. My quads and calves had felt very stiff that morning when I had awoken and they were now reminding me that I probably wasn’t in as good shape as I could have been to attempt this, especially the day after my first trail race in 18 months. My coach had written ‘Easy Hike’ on my training program and I’m afraid this was nowhere close to being an easy hike. Sorry Andy!

Then I began to notice the ice had begun covering the leaves and the branches around me, and the trees were no longer green and flourishing. It was eerie and magical all at once.

The higher I got the more ice and snow I could see, and the temperature had dropped so much that I put my jacket and gloves on to keep warm.

My legs were burning by the time I reached the Federation Hut and thankfully it had only been about 8.6km to this point, not 10.5km as per the trail markers. I stopped at the Hut to chat to some campers so I could have a rest and take in the view while I also threw in some more food.

It was only about 2km from here to the summit so I put on all my warm clothes and wet weather gear and headed up the trail.

I passed a few walkers coming down the mountain and they commented on how lucky we were to be here on such a clear day. They were locals and had hiked this many times before but said this was the best weather they had ever seen. I felt lucky and sped up to reach the top.

I felt on top of the world. The couple at the top took my photo and then left me alone to enjoy the summit all by myself. It was magical. I felt like I was flying.

I must have taken a thousand photos at the top and I could have kept taking them all afternoon, but I started to get cold and knew I had already taken a lot longer than I had expected. I was not sure how long it would take me to get back down to the car so I took a final video and then made my way back down the slopes.

The trip down was painful. I felt like a robot as my quads and calves just didn’t want to budge, it was not pleasant. I tried running instead of walking and that seemed to feel better, for a little while anyway. I alternated between slow running and fast hiking back down the mountain and got back to the car about 5 hours after I had started. I was so relieved to get there.

Driving home was easy and I took in the views of the beautiful place I was in as I knew it was my last day before we headed home. I stopped halfway home to get a photo of Mt Feathertop from the road too. Today had been tough but it has been worth it. It reminded of the famous quote “The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow”.

I slumped into the door at the Air BnB and spent what felt like a lifetime under the hot stream of the shower, then spent the next few hours with my feet in the ‘Air pants’ by Air Relax Australia. They help circulation to help speed up recovery, kind of like a massage for your legs. At some point I fell asleep and I woke when the guys returned. We had dinner at Roi’s Restaurant again which was another delicious meal, and we all crashed into a slumber exhausted from the day’s work.

I felt so good to be free and alive.

On Monday morning we said our goodbyes to George and packed the car heading for home. What a top weekend in the mountains! All I could think about was the next time that I would be in mountains, and that would be in July as we were heading to Colorado, USA.

See you on the trails…

Stage 4 – Port to Port MTB

Don’t try this at home.

I had been sick in bed for over a week with cold/flu and only marginally started to feel better, so I thought I would try and tough out 45km at Stage 4 of the Port to Port MTB. I had a back up plan, Roger was going to meet me halfway so I could drop out if I felt like death. I’d already missed out on riding the 3 previous stages of the Port to Port MTB and I also missed out on running the UTA22 last weekend, so I was going a bit crazy.

In hindsight I probably should not have ridden because I feel a little worse again today, but I was feeling really grateful for the friends and family who had donated over $2,000 to the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse who looked after my beautiful young cousin who passed away from cancer earlier this year.

So there I was at the start line with Roger and a friend Roccet who I knew from Runlab in Newcastle, he was going to ride with me and he had also ridden at this event before. I warned him of my slowness and told him not to wait for me if he managed to get ahead, I promised myself I would take it super easy and just enjoy the ride as much as possible. There were self-seeded start waves and I was going to be in the last group, so we sat back and waited for the other riders to start and took in the sunshine, good weather and great atmosphere.

It was soon our turn to start the race and we rolled out through the big blow-up arch and onto a small road section. After this we motored through the beautiful Belmont Golf Course and onto some flat fire trail past the wetlands. The first 10km was very flat and we managed to get a bit of speed up and overtake a few riders. We wanted to be at the back, but not last!

We eventually hit Redhead single trails  and I lost Roccet who was riding much stronger than I was. I hoped he wouldn’t wait around for me too long as I don’t like holding people up and it’s hard to talk when riding on MTB trails anyway. This section was lots of fun and I played leap frog with a few riders while we twisted and turned through the trails. I could feel my lungs burning and I was coughing quite regularly, but I didn’t feel as bad as I had anticipated. I was surprised to see so many burnt out and rolled cars on the trails. Some of them were in quite obscure places so it was really strange, and they seemed to be everywhere.

I crossed Oakdale Road and into some more single track, you could see riders to the left and right on a few sections as we switched back and forth through the greenery. A rider came off ahead of me at one point and as she fell she twisted her ankle. I stopped to help her up and she tried to walk but sadly she was in too much pain even to stand. Eventually I rode ahead and got the medics sent back down the trail to her location, there wasn’t much else I could do to help so I carried on my way towards the half way point. I knew there was a beach section coming up too, and it was just before I would see Roger (my back up plan and exit strategy).

The trails were a hell of a lot smoother than Stromlo (thankfully) but still some technical and climby bits to get the legs and lungs pumping. I started to question whether I had the energy to keep going as my legs were feeling a bit jelly and my coughing was quite constant. I just told myself to keep moving.

Eventually I hit the sand section and the first part was quite rideable if you went down near the waves, but that didn’t last long. The sand got deep and boggy so we were all off our bikes and walking them, no pushing them through what felt like quicksand. I tried to keep my walking pace up to save time and because I was looking forward to seeing Roger, and I managed too pass about 8-10 riders.

I should mention that I had 98% decided that I was going to pull out here at Dudley Beach and get Roger to drive me to the finish line. That sand was super nasty and it left me feeling completely drained. So naturally when I saw Roger on the beach and told him how I felt, he replied with “Nah, you can do this and besides you don’t have far to go”. He checked with the course volunteers and there was only 16km to go from this point. I had made it way further than halfway and so with that I scoffed down some more Tailwind, got my bike cleaned to remove the sand from my brakes, and told Roger I’d see him at the finish.

As I was riding away there was a lovely course marshall with a big smile and a joke who sent me off with a better attitude than when I had come into the beach. Thank you whoever you were, it really helped!

This next section started with some fire trails and had some beautiful views of the ocean and the beach we had just ridden across, I mean walked across. I caught up to an older man and we chatted for a small section before I took off ahead of him to make up some time. The trail got technical again which always slows me down a bit, however I had gained a bit more confidence by now and was feeling more comfortable on the bike, so I sped up a little on sections I probably would have gone slower on in the past.

Then we hit a steep, steep climb that had loose gravel and leaves and I ended up off my bike pushing it up this climb as there’s no way I could have ridden. I caught up to a guy pushing his bike up the hill and we laughed about how the elite would have sprinted up here riding. I got to the top and a group of riders were stopped catching their breath and getting some food in, all I could manage to say in-between my panting and coughing was “Fuck that” (sorry Mum), which got high fives and a lot of laughs from the other riders.  This was Glenrock Mountain Bike Park and it really was lots of fun.

This section went very quickly and soon enough I had hit Scenic Road which was the big downhill to the finish at Dixon Park. I motored along and checked for cars behind me, then gunned it down that hill as fast as I could. Strava says my top speed was almost 50km down that hill, I don’t think I’ve ever ridden that fast before.

The final ride along the road beside the beach was great, lots of people out and about and cheering us through and finally I was riding under the big inflatable arch to get my finishers medal. I had made it, wow.

I looked around to find Roger and couldn’t see him anywhere so I grabbed my phone and gave him a call. He had gone to the spectator point that was a few kms back because he thought I would be going slower, and he said he was holding a Ginger Beer to give me to cheer me up for the final section to the finish. He was bummed that he had missed my finish but impressed that I had done the last section so quickly. He arrived shortly after to help me celebrate the finish and I scoffed down the Ginger Beer, always my favourite drink at the end of a hard ride or run, it’s the best!!

This one was for you Dylan #restinparadise

Bike: Focus, Spine
Nutrition: Tailwind
Donations: https://give.everydayhero.com/au/hailey-rides-point-to-point-mtb

AMB100 MTB Race

I probably should have done some research about this event before I signed up as I was in for a few (nasty) surprises. A few of my friends from the Helensburgh Off Road Cycle Club (HORCC) had posted about the event on facebook and I thought it would be a good training ride in preparation for the big Port to Port ride I’ll be taking on in May.

I chose the 66km (2 lap) event because my longest day at Port to Port would be 60km, however I probably should have taken into consideration that the longest mountain bike ride I have (ever) done was less than 20km. But I never do anything by halves and I couldn’t drive all the way to Canberra just to do 1 lap (30km). So….. why not.

We stayed with some good friends the night before and had fun catching up over pasta and wine (carb loading). I got to bed a little later than usual but was happy to be spending time in great company.

The alarm went off and my nerves kicked in straight away. What was I thinking?! I can’t ride 66km on hardly any training. Shit, this is going to hurt. I had only done a couple of rides over the past few weeks but not enough to have me prepared for this. Holy crap.

I had some porridge for breakfast and realised that it was very cold and wet outside. It had rained quite a lot overnight and this was a bit of a worry as stupidly I had not packed for cold and wet. Idiot. I borrowed some arm sleeves/warmers from my friend and packed a windproof jacket, it would have to do.

For my hydration and nutrition I had decided to use a Nathan Hydration vest so I could use Tailwind nutrition, mainly because I don’t like to take my hands off the handle bars and the bladder meant I could ride and take on everything needed (water, carbs, electrolytes) at the same time. I also packed some GU Stroopwafel as I’d used these for nutrition on some of my recent runs/hikes and it was really tasty. I also had some gels as backup if all else failed.

We headed outside and stored the bike on the roof rack of the car and headed off to Stromlo Forest Park. I checked in and met with Mille and Celia who were from HORCC and also doing the race. We setup an area with our extra food/gear and got ourselves ready for the start. Millie was a gun and would start up the front with the fast riders, while Celia and I both wanted to be back of the pack as we were both newbies. The race director did his briefing and then Celia, Millie and I made our way over to the start line. Millie seeded herself up the front and so she should have, she’s super speedy and had a high chance of winning. Celia and I made our way up the back and fought for the last spot with a couple of other novice riders.

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We had a few laughs with the other riders up the back as everybody wanted to be last, and eventually we were off.

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I chatted with Celia as we rode along the first section which was a dirt road that wound its way up a slight incline until we hit a single track. I realised during this first section that my friend Brett was just ahead of us and I caught up and chatted to him for a bit too. I rode behind Brett for a while and tried to keep up with him, but as soon as the trail got technical I slowed down as I wasn’t confident and really did not want to fall off my bike. Celia and I rode together for most of the first loop and this gave me someone to follow which I liked because I could follow her line and relax a little.

However I took a tumble near a rocky secton and slid a few times going up and around the steep bends, I really did not feel confident and was more than just a bit nervous. This trail was much more technical than most of the ones I had ridden on and I decided to get off the bike and walk a few spots because it was too rocky and I did not want to break any body parts.

 

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I felt really slow and lethargic. I was being overcautious and it meant that I spent a lot of time riding by myself. My competitive spirit wanted to kick in and go barrelling down some of the trail but after spending 18 months recovering from my past injury I really didn’t want to push my luck.

There was a lovely man giving some directions near the last part of the loop and he was very supportive. He sent me down the easier section and eventually I got into my own rhythm and finished the first lap without too much difficulty.

I scoffed down some GU Stroopwafels and water and strecthed my back out some more because it was stiffening up again, this seemed to help and I hoped it wouldn’t get any worse during the next and final loop.

The next photo was taken on my second lap when I was just not feeling it. My back pain had gotten worse and after about 3km into the trail I almost turned around to go back and not finish the race. But I’m stubborn. So I kept pushing myself and I tried to smile for the camera (see below) but I couldn’t even fake that.

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I stopped about 100 times to stretch and give my back a break but thids wasted so much time and I just wanted to be finished. Why wasn’t I enjoying this? I love trails and being out on the bike exploring new places. Maybe it was the cold and wet conditions. Maybe I just needed to toughen up and stop being a pansy.

I thought about my young cousin Dylan who had just lost his battle with cancer about a month ago. I thought about what he had gone through and about how we should never give up. I put aside my negative thoughts and focused on the endless positives I have in my life, I really had nothing to be down about.

My smile returned and I gained some courage to go a little bit faster in the second half of the final loop. I could hear my coach Dave’s words in my head as I went over some large rocky sections, his technical expertise had helped me improve so much over the past few weeks and I really was lucky to have the HORCC crew.

Rocky Trail Entertainment's AMB100, Mount Stromlo, 2018

Rocky Trail Entertainment’s AMB100, Mount Stromlo, 2018

Finally I rounded the last bend where Roger was perched to get a happy snap of me speeding past towards the finish (below).

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I crossed the line and thanked myself for not quitting, for getting it done.

Celia (below) met me at the fnish line and she had come 3rd in her division, how awesome. She even got some beer with her name on it, even though she doesn’t drink. I did offer to drink it for her but she was going to give it to her son I think.

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We saw Millie (below) again too and she had won the Elite category, what a champion!!

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I had a quick chat with my friend Brett at the finish line and he had done well finishing quite a distance ahead of me. By this time it was really starting to get cold so we didn’t hang around too much, just long enough to scoff a burrito and a coffee to warm me up.

This was a tough course and the cold, wet conditions made it a little more challenging too. I’m going to put this one down as ‘character-building’ as I really felt like crap for most of the ride, but I think that’s my own fault for being a little under-trained. I’ll make sure in future that I’m better prepared both physcially and mentally.

Bring on Port to Port in just over a month, read more about my upcoming race and how you can support my charity here.

Hails x

Jetblack 24hr with HORCC

A few weeks ago I drove to Rydal (near Lithgow) to race in the Jetblack 24hr mountain bike event. I was competing as part of the ‘Burgherlicious’ team for Helensburgh Off Road Cycle Club (HORCC). To say I was nervous would be a complete understatement.

Originally I was to be part of the 6+6hr team which involved taking turns to ride laps from 12pm-6pm on Saturday, and again between 6am-12pm on Sunday. I was assured the course was suitable for beginners with an ‘A’ and ‘B’ line and felt the 9km course would be do-able, especially with an overnight sleep to recover. However after some last minute rider cancellations I was upgraded to the 24hr team with 5 other riders, and my nerves grew to slight panic as I realised what I had just agreed to.

Why not?!

So I arrived at Rydal and was greeted by the speedy Millie who showed me where to park and gave me the rundown on the course and race rules etc. This helped to settle my nerves a little, okay, not really. I wished I had been able to arrive earlier so I could have had a practise lap but with work commitments that wasn’t to be and I arrived after the race had already started.

I got my bike, gear and food supplies out of the car so I would be ready when they needed me for my first lap. We had 6 people in the team and I had been put as the last rider because they knew I was arriving after the starting gun. I had packed food supplies similar to that of my endurance running events and this proved to be adequate. I had several variations of heads lamps, gloves and clothing as there was a chance of rain and I was unsure what the weather would be like, or even what it would be like riding during the night on the trail. God I was nervous about that, riding on a trail at night – eeekkk!!

I met the rest of my team and other team riders from HORCC who were all very positive and helped to comfort my nerves. I wanted to make sure my team knew I was a total beginner who had only been riding a mountain bike for 7 weeks, that way there expectations were low. I secretly hoped that I wasn’t the slowest in our team but I knew I probably would be.

We picked up race bib and attached it to my bike. I had a little bit of time to get some food down before my first lap, so I got comfortable in one of the team camping chairs. They had a great setup with tables and gear, plus a big whiteboard so we could record all of the lap times and makes time estimates for the incoming riders. I was in good hands.

Finally the time came for me to ride my first lap and the nerves were in their highest gear. I started pedalling with a little apprehension and almost missed the first left turn as I made a rookie error and didn’t look far enough ahead along the trail. My heart rate soared and I reminded myself to take it easy and not brake any bones. The mantra of ‘Stay Upright’ would be repeated many times throughout the next 24 hours.

It was dusty and there were so many bends! Left, then right, then left, then right again, then down with a bend, then up with a bend, and many of the trees sat snugly next to the trail daring you to weave through them. The trees were so close on some of the corners that you could not lean into the corner at all or you would wipe yourself out. I found it difficult to get around those bends at any speed and often realised I was in the gear when it was way too late. There were also several speedy riders who came up behind me quickly on the first lap and I stopped to let them go past each time. Wow, they made me look like I was standing still. I hoped my team weren’t too sad that I was taking so long.

Thankfully the ‘B’ lines were clearly marked and I avoided having to do any jumps or tricks. There was a section with a few big tree roots but they ere easy to get over and I enjoyed them. There was a sign for ‘Hazard Gully’ in the second half of the course and it made me laugh, there were definitely some hazards out there. I had to put my foot down a few times from over steering, or sliding on the loose sandy course, but I managed to stay upright the whole way. I wasted so much energy on that first lap, but I loved it and tried to memorise as much of it as I could while I was out there.

38 minutes. That’s how long my first lap took. The fastest rider in our group had done it in 27 minutes, so I had a long way to go. I sat down to have a snack and I chatted to the team about my first lap. They were so supportive and a really fun bunch to hang with.

My second lap came around pretty quickly and I managed to knock off about 1 minute from my original lap time. I was happy with that and hoped that the minutes would keep knocking off each lap as I got more confidence, but I was sure the night laps would probably be slower, especially as I had never ridden on a trail before at night. Shit.

Its was at this point I thought I should probably inform my team that I had never ridden on the trails at night before. They took it well and Phil helped me to setup a light on top of my helmet so I would be able to see more than just the view from the light attached to my handlebars. Our team had decided to undertake double laps during the night so that we could all try to get a few hours sleep. I had some pizza and decided to setup my tent while there was still some sunlight.

My double lap started at abut 10pm and I set off feeling very hesitant. My hart rate soared again as I nervously took the twists and bends with apprehension. I felt slow but I was too scared to go any faster and I reminded myself to stay calm and ride smart. I began to relax a little and enjoy the course more as I went along. It was nice having less riders on the course now as I didn’t have to slow down all the time to let them past. The 6+6hr riders had long finished and were probably tucked up in their beds asleep.

About halfway through the first lap I noticed that my lower back was starting to hurt and the muscles were feeling very tight. I stood up on my pedals a bit more and this seemed to relieve some of the pain. By the end of the first lap my back was much worse and I contemplated stopping, but I really didn’t want to let the team down and I knew there would not be anyone else ready to ride yet because it was too early. I decided to suck it up and keep going. It was only pain. I just hoped it wasn’t anything too serious. I’d hurt my back once when I was wake boarding about 10+ years ago and that pain was very intense. I hoped it wasn’t the same.

I went past the tent and managed to say “Hey champions” to let them know I had survived the first lap. 43 minutes. Slower.

Before I had left for the first night lap we were talking about songs that get stuck in your head and I’d decided I would think of a good song during the lap so I could sing it to them when I went past, but I was concentrating so hard on the trail that I had forgotten to come up with a song.

I took some big breaths and tried to ignore the pain in my back again. I focused on the trail and felt much more confident the second time around. I used my body to lean a little more and hug the course a little better, and I stood a lot more because it eased the pain in my back. I kept telling myself to focus on something else besides the pain, but at one point I got pins and needles down my right leg and I was really worried I wasn’t going to make the lap. I was tougher than this. Come on Hailey!

I finished the second lap and felt very stiff when I got off the bike. I immediately took some Nurofen, had a shower, ate and then lay down in the tent to try and get some sleep. Sleep was not going to happen. There was a lot of noise and people walking around, and music. I think I nodded off for maybe half an hour, but I woke feeling refreshed and better than I had expected.

I chatted to the team and was told we were currently in 1st place in the mixed category. Apparently we had been leap frogging with the Newcastle Team and after my lap we had been second, then the rest of my team would do so well that we would go back into 1st place. Our young rider Jarrod had the fastest lap at 27 minutes, and speedster Mille had also done a 28 minute lap. The rest of my team were also around the 28 minute mark, so I was definitely the weakest link. Damn.

I was grateful when they said we were going back to 1 lap each and I actually offered to miss my lap and used the excuse of my back. I didn’t want to be the reason we lost our 1st place position but the team insisted I go out and have another lap and that they would just have to work harder to make up the gap. If they had not insisted I honestly would not have minded missing the lap, but in the end I’m glad I got to do another lap in the daylight.

At about 8am I sent off for my 6th and final lap. It was a new day and the second round of Nurofen had kicked in so my back was feeling a little better. I tried to savour every twist and turn, every uphill and downhill. I was starting to remember more and more of the course and I felt a little more at ease than on my previous laps. The riders coming past me where so positive and friendly, I tried to stick with a few and even managed to overtake three people (probably 24hr solo riders, they are incredible). When I got to the last section with the big berms I could see someone closing in slowly behind me. I thought I should try to ward him off and dug a little deeper to keep a bit of distance between us. My heart rate start6ed to soar again and I wished I’d worn my HR strap to record the workouts but thought it might have chaffed and gotten in the way. The last uphill pinch came and I gave it my all. Over the rocky section towards the barn and then over the thing mats towards the final bend.

I tagged Alex and he was off on his speedy lap. We were still in 1st place. Yes!!

Our team ended up winning the mixed category and came 2nd overall, what a great achievement for my first team event. Very exciting.

Massive thanks for. the Helensburgh Off Road Cycle Club (HORCC) for looking after me and making me feel so welcome, you guys have taught me a lot and I know we will have some great races together in future.

I’m currently training to take part in the 200km Port to Port race in May, my first ever 4 day MTB stage race and I”m raising funds for the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse who helped care for my young cousin who died recently from cancer. He was only 22 years of age. You can donate to this wonderful charity on my fundraising page here.

Happy riding!

Scaredy cat

Yesterday I rode my bike to work for the first time, ever. In the past I had always been too scared of inconsiderate drivers, but I had a plan.

I’ve been reading a book about a lady who loves bike riding and has completed some epic international races including a race across Alaska, that’s right Alaska! Her training included riding to work through snow and ice each day in freezing temperatures, and it got me thinking maybe I could ride to work too.

Being unable to run last year got me into cross trining, and for Christmas I managed to score the best present ever, my own mountain bike. I had not ridden for years and it brought back happy memories of when I was a kid and my brother and I would ride around the streets together. My father used to take us out on longer bike rides too and I remember enjoying that time together as my father was a pretty quiet man (aside from the Dad jokes).

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve become more confident again on the bike abut I’ve only take it on wide fire trails, nothing too narrow or technical. I struggled to keep up with why friends lightweight Cyclocross bike but I was determined to not let that stop me.

I sat ands thought about the best route to take for my journey to work and mapped it out in my head, I guessed it would be a little more than 10km. Sydney drivers are not very ‘cycle-friendly’ so I was feeling a bit nervous and scared. I decided to ride on the footpath as much as possible but there was one section on the Highway where I could not avoid the road, so my plan was to wear a hi-vis vest to make ensure I could be seen at all times.

Thursday morning came around and I got up, had my usual smoothie breakfast and headed out the door. All I could think about where the horrible bike crashes that I’d seen on the news and heard about through friends. I kept telling myself to “Stay positive” and be on the look out for car in driveways and turning cars, so my pace was constant but cautious. After the first 2km I relaxed a little and started to feel really good, my legs felt strong and the weather was still cool. I even managed to overtake a tractor as it slowly rolled along President Avenue.

I got to work in just over 35 minutes for 13km. I thought that was pretty good. When I looked at my Strava information for the ride I realised that most of the journey had been downhill, no wonder it felt easy!! That also meant my ride home would be mostly uphill and not so easy….

After work I donned the helmet, gloves, backpack and vest then headed out into the heat. The sun was blazing down on my face and arms and I wished I had packed some sunscreen. The first section was pretty flat and then it was not. On the hills I alternated between low gears with a high leg turnover, to low gears and standing up to pedal and keep my momentum going. The weight of the bike would stop me in my tracks as soon as it sensed a hill was close-by and the worst of the hills was yet to come.

I made it home in just over 55 minutes. I was sweating like a pig but I felt great. I had survived and had a deep feeling of accomplishment for getting myself to and from work under my own steam. This was definitely going to become a regular habit. Maybe I should sign up for a bike race…..

Happy riding 🙂

 

BOOK MENTIONED: Becoming Frozen – Jill Homer