Thursday, January 29, 2009

Not willing to give up

I was daydreaming at the end of a long run today, as I often do, and came across something that stood out to me.

A tree.

It had been cut down, obviously it got in the way, or was not the 'right' type of tree for that area, or any other number of reasons.

But despite this, and despite the horribly dry and dusty surrounds, it has sprouted.

Not just a couple of little green leaves, but whole branches, growing strong out of a cut off trunk.

I love seeing examples of never giving up. It reminds me to keep running.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Huons Hill Wodonga

I don't know who Huon was, but they named a big hill after him/her in Wodonga. I look at it every time I step out my front door, and I've been wanting to run up it since we moved here.

I mentioned this yesterday and Alana (my 12 year old) suggested we 'go tomorrow'. Ok, so now I couldn't back out.

'It does look quite a long way Alana, are you sure you want to go?' (Mum wants to sleep in)

'It will probably be very hot, you'd have to carry a camelbak' (Mum is worried she'll show her up)

'There might be snakes' (Mum is genuinely worried about snakes)

So when I woke her at 5.30, she jumped up and got ready.

We parked on the dirt road, not really knowing exactly how far it would be, and ran 3k before hitting the hill. Not realising there was a TRAIL up the hill, we went on the road. This was another 4k to the top and it was rather steep.

A quick rest and a couple of photos at the top, when Alana spotted a gate in the fenceline. Investigation showed it was a trail, so we decided to follow it wherever it went. Turns out it was to the same place we started up hill... only 2k shorter and much more interesting to run on.

We also found this same trail went down to the river we had been swimming at... we'll follow that another day. Continued on our way back to the car, but by this stage it was really hot, so we took it easy.

Very proud of my girl, who did 12k all up today, and never once complained about it being too far, or too hot, or too steep. She is great company on a run :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Top of the World (Almost)

In the past I've stated that 'this run' or 'that run' is the hardest I've ever encountered. I have a new contender....

Bogong to Hotham.

For me it wasn't even all the way to Hotham, I only made it to 35k, finishing at Langsfords Gap. The full distance is 64k. My hat is off the guys and girls who finished the whole thing.

This race is in my back yard (at least this year's back yard) so I sent off an entry, thinking I'd probably not even be accepted to enter.

I found out a week before the race that I had indeed scored a spot, thankfully my brother had me out running trails every other day over December.

I drove down the evening before to register and attend the briefing.

"Look out for snakes, fill up with water at this stream, if you get lost, this is the number to call..." Freaking out mildly by this stage.

I caught up with some friends from Sydney, who all further helped to fuel my fears by telling me just how hard this run really is. Thanks guys xx

After everyone had gone to their respective motels/tents, I sat on the balcony of the pub, under the shadow of the second highest peak in Australia, contemplating what the hell I was doing here. It got me thinking.
I wondered if I came to these races simply as a social outlet. But I arrive at the last minute, am on my own within 200m of the race starting, am usually alone for the full distance, finish when most others have long since been and gone, and then drive home almost immediately after. No, I really love running trails.

I may not be very good at it, certainly I'm the slowest out there, but I revel in the challenge. It's so far removed from my everyday life of kids and housework. To be alone in the Australian wilderness, map in hand, winding my way through trails.... seeing the wildlife, chatting to other bushwalkers as we pass, there is nothing better.

Even the hard times, when it all seems folly. When I know I won't make a cut, when I feel like a fraud for even turning up, knowing the winner has finished and I'm only half way there. These times are still memorable. It's a cliche, but the hard times make you stronger.

Back to the race. I picked Tim up at 4.30 on the way to the start line and I think I babbled incessantly for the 10min drive, I was so nervous. Rain, damn rain... it's going to be cold. Or steamy when the sun rises... who can tell?

We lined up in the dark, on a stretch of dirt trail, waiting the starters order to 'go'. A few commented on my choice of footwear, questioning my sanity and sense. It's not my feet I'm worried about frankly!

The runners take off and I quickly fall into last place. I have never seen the course, so pick my way along in the dark, making sure I don't take a wrong turn. By the time I start up Staircase Spur, the light is filtering through the trees. I have never seen the elevation profile for this run, so have no idea what is ahead. In hindsite this is a good thing.

I know now. 1400m of constant climbing up the side of a mountain. Everyone who started at either 5.30 or 6.15am passed me somewhere on the climb to the top. It rained all the way and the top of the mountain was clouded in. It was cold, very cold, and I was tired already. Only 9km in and I'm ready to quit. I seriously considered turning around at this point, my thinking being that I didn't want people waiting for ages for me to finish. What do I do? Push on and possibly make a long day even longer for those assisting, or turn around and head back, to face the realisation that I didn't give it a good shot.

The decision was to go to Cleve Cole Hut, not far way and reassess. By the time I reached here I was in good spirits and back to jogging again. A quick chat about my 'feet' with the checkpoint folk, some bikkies and off down the path.

I loved the downhill section to Big River. The tough trail, bush and overgrown areas all bring back childhood memories. Reaching the river, I walked through, my feet glad of the cold water.

It had become apparent by this stage that my KSO's (Keep Stuff Out) had become LSI's (Let Stuff In). The stitching was undone and rocks were lodging themselves in the cracks. No matter, it takes my mind off the pain in my quads.
At the river I looked up, dismayed at the seemingly endless mountain rising up before me. All my new found bravado was gone. Back to trudging. Even slower than the first climb, as the heat of the sun was now burning my back. I made deals with myself here... just to the next bit of shade, then I can wait for the sweepers.

The sweepers never came, and I made it to the top and Ropers Hut site. I had some food and fluid here (coconut water... the best drink on earth) and immediately picked up. I resumed a slow jog as the course meandered across the plains, ski pole after ski pole passing by me.

I came across a group of walkers who formed a guard of honour for me, a nice bit of light relief after a long day. I chatted briefly with them before heading off toward the aquaduct.

I often become emotional near the end of a long run, relieved that I have made it and thankful that I have been given the opportunity to participate. Today was no exception.

There was a small handful of people who stood to give me a cheer and applause as I crossed the 'line'. While their thoughtfulness meant the world to me, I would have done it if there was no one there to see me. This truly is spectacular country, and we are blessed to be able to share it.

My goal for the day was to stay in front of the sweepers for as long as possible. They finished 15 minutes behind me :) Next year I'd like to get closer to the cut off. I don't think I could finish the full distance, but you never know.



With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired

And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells

And run my stick along the public railings

And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain

And pick the flowers in other people's gardens

And learn to spit

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat

And eat three pounds of sausages at a go

Or only bread and pickle for a week

And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry

And pay our rent and not swear in the street

And set a good example for the children.

We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised

When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Taken from the book

When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple

Edited by Sandra Martz

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Fats Festive Fat Ass 08

There is nothing quite like the enthusiasm of a new runner.

I told Scott that there was Fat Ass run on while I was in Brisbane. 58k up and down Mt Nebo. He was keen. I told him perhaps we should not do QUITE the full 58k, since I'm about as fit as wounded asthmatic hippo.

We settled on doing 21k, much further than I thought sensible, given his first time at either this distance or this type of terrain.

The day before, I introduced Scott to the joy of buying gear as we hunted down a camelback. It should be explained that Scott doesn't wear shoes to run, either on road or trails. So he zip tied his shoes to back of the camelback, 'just in case'.

I imagine we looked the most riduculous pair at the start. Me in Five Fingers and Scott barefoot. I caught up with some wonderful friends at the start, including Lorna, who was up from Sydney.

We started off slowly, knowing that the first half would be basically a climb, and the return trip mostly downhill. The weather was cool and drizzly and the scenery gorgeous. We chatted as we ran, counting off the km until we reached 11k, Scotts longest run thus far.

I had forgotten how exciting it is to reach new territory in a run. Each km after that he got more excited, realising by the time we returned he would have finished a half marathon distance.

It took us slightly over 3 hours to get back to car, Scott took off for a sprint for the last 500m.

Boundless optimism and new found wonder rubs off. I'm ready for 2009 and some new goals.

Thanks mate :)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Running with Scott

Back in May this year, I did TNF 100k. My brother and his wife came to look after my kids while I ran. Scott (my brother) wanted to know everything about the race. I left him a map, which he followed every step of my run, texting me encouragement and jokes along the way.

He was so excited by the whole thing, that he started running. Just a couple of km every other day, telling me he'd not do more than 4k/day at most, ever.

I recall a phone call from him recently, telling me he'd finished a 10k run, he was so excited!! Hooked, and loving it :) He asked whether he could pace/crew me at a race someday. I suggested Glasshouse in September 09.

Arrviving in Brisbane on 19 December for a holiday with my family, I was greeted by Scott with the question "When are we going running?"

So the next day we set out early (4am) to run up on Tamborine Mountain, the oldest national park in Queensland. It was spectacular. Old rainforest, waterfalls, bush turkeys, wallabies, wombats, and more than a few leeches! Scott was amazed to hear that this was the type of running some prefer. He decided right then trail running was what he'd been looking for.

We covered about 6k that morning, but it wasn't enough. Scott found another trail and we did another 3k before heading home. We went on to explore other parts of Brisbane... Mt Cootha, Mt Cotton, Daisy Hill Forest, Mt Nebo and more sections of Tamborine.

By the end of my trip, Scott had decided he would like to do the GlassHouse 50k in May and is now training his butt off. He shares my passion for barefoot running, and we spent some quality time comparing feet!!

Can't wait to do a 100k run with him soon......