Friday, November 9, 2012

Sleep’s 2012 Review

As my 2012 running season drew to a close after Sunday’s BMJs 10k handicap race, I thought a few 2012 running reflections were in order.

Depending how you look at it, 2012 could be defined as either a year of cancelled events, missed opportunities, reoccurring niggles, general apathy towards running, or more positively defined statistically as my most outstanding year yet!
The year started with a 33k run in the extreme January heat. Lugging close to 80ks up Bees Nest Hill almost brought me to tears before hobbling home and wishing I owned an intravenous drip.
Soon after I got serious-ish.
Routine and discipline returned like an old lost friend. Discipline that paid immediate dividends with the first win of an amazing 2012 winning streak!
Yes I’m talking about race 2 of the Mountain Sports Dirty Tri event at Lawson swimming pool. I had my old nemesis ‘The Animal’ hot on my heels all day after his famous annihilation of the local record for the Hawaii Ironman bike leg a few months earlier.
After such a big win it’s sometimes hard to refocus on other goals. What could I aspire to after a Dirty Tri win at Lawson? After some lengthy consideration and strategising, I refocussed and set my battle sights on the classic Running Wild Narrow Neck (the Nek) Night Run in mid January.
After an eerily misty 7:30pm race start I was locked in a head-to-head along the Nek with another local nemesis of mine, Brenden Woodford Davies. His constant surges along the dead flat and straight bits of the Nek was a tactic, I must admit I had never seen before in trail racing.
After smelling weakness in BwD, I pounced. Snap (in my left hamstring to be precise), and I was now clear of BwD. After running in the dark for the majority of the return trip I turned on the head torch, lowering it to mid-thigh so I could actually see the ground thru now very think mountain mist.
Enter 2012 victory # 2.
Usually by Australia Day I am fit enough to do a 6 foot track course Recce where I usually sustain a femoral stress fracture. By late January I am also usually talking up the chances of running a sub 2hr 10min marathon or a sub 1m 40sec 800m. However this sense of over confidence didn’t re-arrive until late February this year.
But to be honest the race along the Neck was the longest run (except for the one noted above) I had run in the previous 12 months.
So this year’s Australia Day was marked by my first 2012 run over the ‘6 Foot Simulator’ training course – my favourite ‘Glenbrook -Woodford –Springwood, 36ker’
February 2012 was spent preparing for 6 foot track – you know the usual drill. Wake up tired; go to bed tired, efforts in the NP, pool recovery session, etc etc.
After a near perfect smoke screen regarding my fitness I was very disappointed when 6 foot track was cancelled just 24 hrs prior.
The only slip up in my brilliant fitness subterfuge was being caught by Scam’s wife while on my 3rd or 4th set of race pace efforts in Sun Valley one Sunday prior to the race.
When this piece of Intel reached Scam he promptly pieced together, with other pieces of scant info what I was up to - with this Intel ending up on a few public forums.
The substitute run on the day of 6 Ft was an attempt to break my PB from the Grose River up to the FT on Grose Rd. The toughest set of stairs in the BMs. I missed it by 1 second, running 16mins 48secs.
So, the following week I went on a camping trip (see last blog entry).
After the camping trip, and not wanting to waste February’s training, I entered TNF 100.
However after a 50k LSD on 1st April my right inner calf blew up. This run was on the Simulator extended to Warrimoo. That was it, I needed rest. My usual 12 week per annum limit of training had been reached. TNF 100 was to be as a spectator for the 5th year in a row.
But that’s not the end of the winning streak.....
Fast forward to September and enter the classic BM’s Joggers 10k handicap race series. This series is now 40 years old – and is possibly the longest running running series in the world. What, you haven’t heard of it? Well, you’re about to.
Running approximately two or three 10k runs per week I was happy with a 36m 20sec run. I was also happy to beat the other 5 starters, including 3 of the fairer gender, Rob spilling on his one good knee and some bloke pushing a pram. Hey, it was a win in a very lean year so I am counting it in my streak.
Again on the first Sunday morning in October, a few more BMMC joined for the monthly 10k handicap. With all the new comers (a BMMC quorum was attained) I was in charge of carrying Evie’s mandarin to mark the turnaround point. Has anybody else been to a race briefing where they say “run to you see the mandarin on the ground after the 2nd empty puddle, then come back here”.
Time for 10k of Septembers time + 12 seconds and win # 4
I am also claiming the win for the orienteering race in the Rutkowski’s back yard at the annual JPR (Jimmy Perrett Racing) team meeting in October. Taking down Orienteering masters of Ed, Earl and Jimmy O’Brien, on a highly technical course and well planned course was still a win. #5.
And where this very self serving post all started - with the November BMJ’s 10k win in October’s time + another 15 seconds slower. Win #6
What a great year of running...... I guess.
2012 at a Glance
  •  Dirt Tri – 1st
  • RW narrow neck – 1st
  • 6 foot – cancelled due to Noah 
  • Mt Solitary – cancelled 
  • TNF 100 - DNS 
  • Kokoda challenge - DNS (i stopped entering races about here)
  • Sept BMJ – 1st 
  • October BMJ – 1st 
  • RW Narrow Neck race (DNS or even enter) 
  • RW Mt Portal race (DNS, on spectator duties) 
  • JPR orienteering race – 1st  
  • November BMJs -1st

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Latest camping trip in the Wollemi

There are endless ridges in the Wollemi with no names or that draw any particular attention on a map. There are infinite twisted canyons, crevasses, scrub, bassalt capped mountains, sandstone gorges, rocks, cliffs and caves that cover areas the size of a Northern Territory cattle station. Groups of otherwise unremarkable red contour lines that twist and bend around occasionally named blue lines that denote the creeks and rivers, providing just enough tangible information to navigate the Wollemi on foot if you choose.

Within this seemingly invisible and unknown land are small traces of an extremely long history of human occupation. This history is of a continuous and unbroken connection to the Wollemi that was first brought to worldwide attention less than 10 years ago with spectacular and amazing discoveries of some of the world’s oldest recorded art and cultural histories in the form of ancient Rock Art. To think, as Europeans we believed up until these discoveries that the Wollemi was too rough to traverse or live in – shows just what little understanding we have of such places and their role in Australia’s very long past.

The trip started with the routine drive up Putty Rd to the beginning of the designated Fire Trail that I would use to move west towards the Colo River. After caching the car near Putty Road and then the mountain bike at the end of the FT, I put on the gators, gloves, rolled down the sleeves and reacquainted myself with the prickly scrub. After a few years of good rain, and no major bush fires in the Wollemi for a decade the bush was thick and brutal, or as some claim “impenetrable”. The first 4 kilometers (or grid squares) took 2 hours to bash down to the first creek where I would get water.

I soon found Clews Cave (see Topo) and then proceeded to climb half way up The Island with spot height of 545m before climbing down a narrow pass to the Colo river. This pass drops 280m in just over 300m – close to a 45 degree slope.

The Island as seen from above Clews Cave

I then progressed downstream to the junction of the Colo and Wollangambe rivers to find a place to camp. The river was high (not that I have a comparison) but looked like a flooded river by its brown disturbed colour. I wrapped the pack up in the hutchie cover and swam across; only to see the best beach in the Wollemi was back on the side of the river I had just come from and 100m downstream. So I swam back across after filling up the water bottles from the fresh looking rapids charging into the Colo from the Wollangambe.

Pic 1. View of flooded Colo at Wollangambe R
Pic 2. Camp Site (left beach)

Pic 3. Some bloke from 1943

What a night. No rain, but I could hear the long distance rumblings of storms further up stream. In the morning the river level was lapping up towards my sleeping area, and the stick I had put in the sand to mark the river level was missing, presumed to be down at the Windsor Bridge.

Day 2 started with another crossing of the Colo, then up the Wollangambe for 300m before turning right up a large unnamed creek. After several hundred metres I attempted to venture parallel to the Creek on higher ground to avoid the vines and boulders that made the creek slow and tricky work. I eventually decided to ditch the creek and try my chances climbing up onto Clews Ridge. Bugger me, the scrub had started out nearly impassable and only got worse. Undergrowth usually gets thinner as you rise from a creek, but today it only got thicker. At some stages I could only throw myself into the scrub and then cut myself free of vines that entangled me.

I eventually reached Clews Ridge and then made my way East to the highest easterly spot height on Clews. From here I could see Main Creek to the North and the high point of Clews ridge to the West. View of Main Creek from Clews Ridge east

After a bit of sun baking, lunch and a search for sign of human occupation I headed west along Clews. The only sign of human contact was an old head torch laying on a cliff top that I carried out. By now it was 1pm and getting pretty hot. Thoughts of sitting and waiting it out occurred, but I had plenty of water (5 litres) and agreed (with myself) to go slowly to preserve water loss. By 3:30pm I had found a 25m long cave off one of the intermittent tributaries of Main Creek. The cave had 40 hand stencils (including a childs), one stone axe stencil, possibly two boomerang stencils and what looked like some smudged out anthropomorphic figures. The cave also had various stone arrangements that looked like they’d been put there yesterday along with a lump of dirt where you would naturally put the fire. It was obvious the last fire in the cave had been buried by the most recent inhabitants who occupied the cave, possibly as recent as 130 – 200 years ago?

The cave was perfectly located 20 metre in front of two small active waterfalls with fresh water, plus a small wading pool for learn to swim lessons.

After a few photos and a search for more sites I went and found a camp site for my night ahead. Then that night the rain started, first lightly, then more heavily. By dawn the rain had been joined by thick fog. It was a night spent thinking about ‘what would it be like living out here’.

Day 3 started retracing my steps east along Clews Ridge through unrecognizable bush. Its amazing how less than 24 hrs ago I walked this ridge in the opposite direction, now could recognized none of it, partially due to the fog and rain I was now in.

The gamble.
Instead of taking the 4 hours to retrace the route I had taken to get up onto Clews ridge the previous day, I planned to attempt a rapid descent down a steep reentrant that would take me directly down to the Colo –and save hours of walking.

The risk was, I had 10m of rope, that when folded in half = 5m. Therefore, after any ledge greater than 5m that I roped down meant I was committed to the descent. If I then found a ledge greater than 5m that I couldn’t get down, and I was also unable to climb back up previous ledges I would be trapped between ledges and I would need to trigger the epirb (very embarassing). The map indicated just enough space between the red contours line, but it was still a gamble. The Google Earth image I had, had a big shadow over the re entrant - so it gave no additional information . After 3 ledges (of less than 5 metres) the final ledge was about 10 metres – however I was saved by the fact that a tree of 40 metres had grown beside the last ledge and I could shimmy down it to get down to the Colo. Phew – a small amount of relief.

After another crossing of the Colo I soon headed up The Island and retraced the almost 45 degree climb. Imagine a set of stairs 300m high and that is also a waterfall, that’s what it was like. A great climb. By about mid afternoon I reached Clews Cave and set up camp. Another raining night with cover in a cave, this time in a bigger cave including a small feast of finishing off the last of my food, including half a kilo of Deb mashed potato and a tin of Spam.

Day 4 started with an early rise and bush bash back to the MTB and a 90 ride to the car on Putty Rd. Back in the car, the first thing to do was coffee at Windsor……and to work out what day of the week it was?

A good start for my TNF 100 training for May.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Gee running is great!

The Blog is back.

Ahh I forgot how bloody hard distance running was.

Went for my first 3hr run in 10.5 months last Sunday.
See link to my Garmin data.

After almost a year of inactivity due to serious injury and being more busy at home than usual (new twin boys), it’s time to kick on the shoes and try a few LSDs to see if I can finish 6ft track in 9 weeks time with a bit of respectability.

Sundays run was one of the top 10 hardest runs I’ve ever done. By the time I got from home to the bottom on Bees Nest Hill I was thinking about pulling out as I believed I couldn’t go any further. Just then I remembered a quote I heard once, “when you think your body has gone as far as it can, you are usually at about 40% of what it can do” Here i was, not even half way thru the run, thinking of stopping and that quote, of all quotes, pops into my head.

I started at 3pm (a new family friendly start time) and it was 30+ degrees. Funny how you forget that the heat may impede your ability to do your first 3hr run back. I ended up drinking almost 3ltrs of water, one Gatorade and a gel. Needles to say when I finished I had to lie down and have cups of water and food brought to my bedside as I tried to recover....