Monday, 3 July 2006

Fun in the Blue Mountains 1 July 2006

OK OK OK I know I haven't finished my MdS report yet. I will do it I promise. Meanwhile here is a little story about an adventure I was on a couple of days ago..

Wasn’t sure if I wanted to put up a race report for this one but the quad aches have subsided a bit so here goes.

Arrived at Mr G and Skizzik’s on Friday night and tucked into some Chinese take away. After lots of discussion about ultimate challenges I crashed.

I wasn’t too nervous about the run because I’ve been training well, lost a couple of kilos and I knew that I’d be ok so long as I stayed with either Hermannator, Sleepy or Mr G as they all had local knowledge or excellent map reading skills.

Awoke early and had my porridge then Skizzik took us to the start at the Wentworth Falls hospital. After a bit of standing around comparing Hydration packs, gloves and beanies in the freezing cold we decided to set off at 07:30.

I was probably a bit overweight by carrying a 2L (North Face dogfish) hydration pack a largish bumbag stuffed with special K muffin bars and a hand bottle with powdered poweraid. After checking out the others gear I realized that I was actually carrying the least.

The first 30km section was bloody hilly but the pace was manageable, there was lots of sensible walking going up the steeper hills. I remember the GPS wavering from 114m to 850m above sea level. We filled our bottles in a stream and kept up a respectable 5:20 marathon pace. Coming up to Narrowneck (past Taro’s plaque) was very beautiful the views were as good as I can remember in any run I’ve done. Climbing on sheer rock up pegs stuck into the wall really stuffed up our average pace but was loads of fun all the same.

Once we topped narrowneck we gradually climbed to over 1000m elevation for the first time that day. Six mountain bike riders flew by and one dropped a “golden breed” fleece beanie, which I quickly turned into a souvenir.

I lost Mr G and Sleepy and felt weak and couldn’t keep up but trudged along for the next 6km or so, had a panadol but generally felt like shit. We got our first aid at around the marathon mark where Jan retired due to knee pain and so it was down to three of us. As usual aid station supremo, Skizzik, put on a fantastic array of hot and cold offerings, she really knows how to spoil an ultrarunner. After stuffing my face with fried rice, Pringles, Jolt cola and hot coffee we set off again. Mr G noted that “it’s a healthy sport”.

I decided to drop the pack and continue with a hand bottle and a few nutri grain chock malt bars. Travelling through the streets of Medlow Bath (?) or was it Katoomba was hilly but comforting because we were close to help if needed. Ended up on a railway track which was a bit too beaten for my liking but undulating enough to allow some decent aerobic exercise.

I was cursing my shoes (Montrail Leona Divide) because they have lost most of their cushion after 1200km of running and racing. It was these shoes that I used in Morocco earlier this year and running w/ a pack has taken most of the spring out of them, I think I compared them to running on clay pavers without the weight.

We ended up getting to the Katoomba airstrip later that afternoon and needed to wait for a while. I was starting to come good and was getting impatient and saying things like “hey ho lets go!”. I sponged some support off Sleepy’s better half and was getting ready to go when Skizzik turned up with a huge serving of hot chips.

Stuffed my face again and got going. The drop down into Grand Canyon was steep and 50/50 technical but I was starting to feel good and raced off then took a wrong turn and rejoined the others again before deciding to push hard on the climb up to Evans lookout. For those of you that have never been down to the bottom of that climb that goes up to Evans Lookout it is definitely worth putting on the list. Very rain foresty and damp and mossy, bit like the cradle mountain area in Tassie.

Arrived at Evans lookout at about 5pm where Mr G stopped due to a deteriorating Achilles tendon. More food, don lights and off again. Odometer reading roughly 70km.

The run down to Pulpit Rock was fun in the dusk, quite fast with Sleepy setting a pace that we were both comfortable with. Arrived at Pulpit Rock at around 8pm (?), both still feeling quite good, the wind now up and the temp dropping quickly.

We descended down a very technical section to Blue Gum where we were suspending ourselves with arms over drops and doing lots of sitting then lowering down steep drops. Running through Blue Gum Forest I realized I was out of food and only had a bit of powdered poweraid left. No matter, I was ok and I’d had a decent whack of calories so far anyways.

Almost forgot. Mr G and Skizzik called me and advised that they had two large pizzas but we’d been decending for 30min and to turn around and go back would have added another 1:30 onto the trip so we declined, dumb move because I was hungry.

The next section traced a river around to Burra Corain Flat. It was here that I sent an sms to Mr G saying.. “4.5km away, thinking of pizza”.

Soon after this we were off the track and in a state of navigational confusion. We followed the path but seemed to keep losing it. My heart said keep going, we seemed to be going deeper and deeper into scrub and heading into wilderness, no where near a road nor any marked track on the map that we were using. If the track existed at all, back burning and landslides had covered it up.

It was now getting very late and we were sure that people were starting to get concerned. We were ok, I had a polypro top and a beanie and Sleepy was well dressed too. We had maps and good lights and it wasn’t as cold in the valley as on the peaks, so we knew we'd be safe.

After lots of tracking then back tracking and stopping and looking at maps, at 1:30am, we were resigned to the fact that we’d probably need to spend the night out. One small problem was that I needed to keep moving because when I stopped I’d get cold. Sleepy was carrying a small niggle in his knee but was still moving at the same speed as before.

By this stage I was very hungry and sleepy offered me his Picnic bar, which I considered eating despite my peanut allergy. Luckily he did have a backup candy bar (a Boost?) which we shared. So with half a boost under the belt I knew that we’d need to capitalize on the calories. We did find a path, which wasn’t on the topo maps and decided to follow it with a fast walk/trot type, we knew that if it was a proper path (unlike the shit paths that we found previously, all overgrown and not used in years), then it would lead somewhere eventually and that we were probably still traveling at least twice as fast as any (most) bushwalker/s would.

My cdma phone was out of range but at 2am I did get Mr G’s message sent at 11:30pm asking “are you guys ok?”.

It was good how neither of us doubted for one second that we wouldn’t be ok (after all, Jan and Lawrence survived much tougher conditions at Bogong a couple of months back). This confidence certainly helped us make decisions. As a team we decided to back track and if needed go all the way back to pulpit rock, even though we knew that it would be extremely tough going up that bloody hill. There was no way we wanted to be rescued, no need..

We got to the end of the unknown track; we were at a river with a fork. There was nowhere to go. It’s now 3am and we’ve been going since 7:30am and while tired we’re still travelling at a good speed. After about 30min of searching for a trailhead by rock hopping to various parts of the riverbank we found some chalk marks on some rocks.

Eventually we found a trailhead, which we were later told is “invisible in the day, so I don’t know how you found it at night”

We came a cross a sign that pointed to Victoria Falls (1hr 50min). We got to Vic falls at around 3:45am after gunning it up a very long steep hill. We were very relieved to get to the falls and walked the last section eventually emerging from our little adventure at 4:15am (I think).

Mr G and Skizzik were in the Vic Falls carpark asleep in the car. I must say that was the best cold pizza I have tasted in a while.

Shook hands with Sleepy and our little adventure was over.

Who needs the Gold Coast Marathon when we can rub our chins and imagine what lies beyond those hills.

I’d call it a great hitout! Bring on the Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge in two weeks.


At 4 July 2006 at 12:43 pm, Blogger 2P said...

Mate I read this on CR, fantastic report and certainly a great fatass - I gotta get fit so i can start to play on these thing - the Grand Canyon loop is one of my favourite short 6' training runs - I just love that place.

Nice follow up to PMC - good stuff.


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