Saturday, 21 March, 2015
Today, after three months of training, I and about 300 other people completed a 56km hike as part of the inaugural Canberra 100 Challenge (CBR100). It was supposed to be 50km, but I think the organisers cocked up on the route somewhere and we all ended up doing around 56km. Mind you it could have been worse, there were a few number of runners and walkers doing a 100km route! It’s the furthest I’m ever hiked (maybe I did more back in my scouting days!), but thanks to all the training and preparation work I felt pretty strong at the end, not that I couldn’t have gone any further!
The day started at 4am when the alarm went off and I dragged my arse out of bed to start the task of preparing myself and equipment for a long day. First up to make porridge with yogurt and honey throw in for good measure, next was to tape my toes and feet up with Fixamol, this stuff is great at preventing blisters and the like. Finally, recheck the contents of my pack and throw in the flapjack pieces I had made earlier in the week (thankyou Carole for the recipe, delicious!), nuts/raisins, Christmas cake, and a couple of tubes of Gu along with two water bottles.
Parked up at the venue without any problems and after rechecking that I had everything, made my way to the start line where I saw off the first wave of participants who were taking on the 100km solo run/walk, bloody idiots. The best of them would take around 9:30 Hours to cover the distance, but most of them were looking at least 20 hours out on the course, with some of them coming in at around the 28 hour mark. Then it was our turn to be sent off and at 06:10 we were off. Of course it was still dark at this time, but the first few kms were along the lake and up ANZAC Parade, which are both well lit.
Then bam! Just behind the War Memorial we hit Mt. Ainslie, the first (and biggest) hill on the course. At the top of this there was a water station and toilet both of which I used. Walking down the other side of the mountain, we could see Mt Majura in the distance, luckily the 50km course didn’t go over the top of this hill, instead taking us around it and on a broad sweep of the northern suburbs of Canberra. In the middle of this 20km stretch was the first of the two Transition Areas we were to pass through today, here the organisers had laid on fresh fruit, hot cross buns (well it is nearly Easter!), jellied snakes as well as the usual water containers and toilets. It was here that we said goodbye the 100km people, who headed north to edge of the ACT for a jaunt around One Tree Hill and Hall.
For most of the time on this section we could see the Telstra Tower in the distance sitting on the top of Black Mountain and it was with a sense of foreboding that we approached the foot of climb after entering the nature park that it sits in. Thankfully, there was a water station located at the top of the climb and most people took the opportunity to take a break here, although mine was a bit longer than expected, as I had to wait ages to use the single porta-loo set up there (Question, why do women take so long in the toilet?). The first part of the descent was a bit tricky as the path down had been closed off for some reason and we were sent down a steep embankment which had obviously been cut up a fair bit with those walker/runners who had got there first.
The next 10km or so were spent walking through the lower slopes of Black Mountain and then onto the National Arboretum (unscheduled break for coffee and flapjacks in the café, cheeky!), before heading down to lake Burley Griffin and a walk around its western loop that I know so well from my many rides around the lake. It was at around this stage that everybody started to realise that something was wrong with the distance we were supposed to be doing, as the GPS tracker on my iPhone was telling that we had already covered 45km and knowing this area so well, I knew that there was at least another 10km to walk over Red Hill and down the other side to the lake and the finish line.
Sure enough the 50km mark was passed near the summit of Red Hill and feeling a bit aggrieved, the final 6km or so felt like a punishment more than the triumphant push for the finishing line that it should have been. To compound my misery, it was getting dark when crossing Commonwealth Bridge (although I did get a great shot of the setting sun over the National Museum of Australia) and to top it all, there was hardly anybody there to witness the crossing of the line. I got the impression that those volunteers who were manning the finishing line overnight were settling in a long haul and everything that had been setup for the majority of people who were doing the 25km course (and had long finished) had been packed away.
Ah well, time for another pee (I don’t think I’ve been to the toilet so much in my life) and a stretch before heading home and nice long shower and bed.
Saturday, 14 March, 2015
As you know by know, every year Canberra host a week long international Ballooning Festival in which balloonist from all over Australia and beyond converge on the Parliamentary Triangle and weather permitting launch their balloons into the early morning air. I say weather permitting, as yesterday I got up at 5:30am to drive down to the launch area only to be told at 6am that it was too windy to launch the balloons safely. Mind you, every cloud and all that, this meant that I was in work extra early thus enabling me to leave extra early, bonus! Especially on a Friday afternoon.
Anyway, I was up again at the same time this morning and seeing that I was in the vicinity of the briefing tent when the decision was being made I got to hear first hand that it was a go for the day’s flying. Soon afterwards the lawns around control point were alive with activity as the pilots and their helpers were busily inflating the various balloons that were laid out on the lawns. Soon, as the light began to increase, I could make out the shape of dozens of balloons and the thousands of spectators who had descended to watch them. Then at a given signal, they were off and so was I, as this time I had brought my bike along and as soon as I could tell which way they were heading in the prevailing wind, I was racing around the lake to catch them coming over my head and towards the lake where I knew I would get some great shots of some of them dipping into the water and taking off again.
As the first balloons came over the trees, I could see quite a few SUPers/Kayakers on the water waiting for them as well. The first to arrive looked like he had done this sort of thing before, as he made a perfect ‘landing’ on the water, where he was immediately surrounded by the watercraft. The next one in, the RAAF balloon wasn’t as practiced as the first and he only got to within ten foot or so of the water’s surface. Soon there were many more balloons coming in to land and at one stage it got pretty crowded. It was obvious to me at this time that there was hardly any wind at all and this was confirmed by the sight of various balloons at different levels going nowhere fast. The call must have come over the radio to land, because soon enough they all started to loose altitude looking for somewhere to land.
The spot where four or five of them decided to head for was the area surrounding the Southern Cross Yacht Club just across lake from where I was standing. So jumping on my bike again I rode around to the peninsula that the club stands on. The first balloon to land only just made it onto the peninsula, but it looked to me that he had landed in the trees. The second and third made it onto the empty car park which left one more, VH-ACU floating above the trees just beyond the club itself. By the time I got where he was, he was shouting down to a number of us to grab I line he was about to throw down and drag him over to a small clearing between the trees and the waters edge. I tell you it’s not easy towing a hot air balloon to where you want it to go, especially when the wind wants to take it somewhere else. Eventually, we managed to pull the balloon into the middle of the clearing and the pilot dropped it down. The next problem was access for the backup vehicle to get to the balloon, so he hovered there for a few minutes while his father-in-law, as it turned out, raced up and down the road looking for a way into the clearing with his 4×4 and trailer.
This was a real family affair as soon enough the pilots wife and two kids turned up along with the mother-in-law! When the balloon envelope was dropped onto the ground, we all helped to fold it up into a its bag and load it up onto the trailer. That wasn’t too hard as surprisingly the whole thing only weighted around 100kg, what was awkward was the basket that hangs below the balloon, now that was heavy, as not only is there the basket, there’s also the gas tanks which were still quite full due the shortness of the flight. When everything was sorted I had time to chat to the pilot, Bob and his wife, Belinda who it turns out had come over from Western Australia to take part in the festival in their brand new balloon which they had only just picked up from the manufacturer in Sydney.
Again, as these things take part very early in the morning, I had plenty of time to return to the car and arrange to meet James and Grianne for breakfast in Deakin.
Saturday, 07 March, 2015
This weekend I’m staying up in the winter Ski Resort of Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains. I have been invited to stay at the ski lodge of my work friend Katrina and her partner David, also with us are Katrina’s friends Bernadette and Carole and Bernadette’s partner Les. We all drove up from Canberra yesterday afternoon and spent the evening drinking champagne, red wine and beer whilst consuming large quantities of nibbles and pizzas purchased from the local pizzeria.
The main reason I’m here is to hike the anti-clockwise circuit of the Main Range trail from Charlottes Pass and this morning we all rose from bed at some ridiculous hour, had breakfast, made our lunches for the day and drove back down the valley that Thredbo is located and round into Perisher Valley where the ski resort of Perisher is located and onto the end of the road and Charlottes Pass. Those avid readers on my blog will note that I’ve already ‘done’ the Main Range trail twice before, with the first one being an absolute nightmare due to the fact that I was around 25kg heavier and was wearing brand new boots which hadn’t been broken in, thus resulting in me developing the biggest blisters ever. Today’s 22km hike is also my last long hike before I start tapering down my training for the 50km option of the Canberra 100 (CBR100) in a few weeks’ time. Carole and Bernadette are also doing the CBR100 (25km option) as a team of three with their friend Rosemary, who could Not make it this weekend.
So at around 9am, we started on our way down the steep slope that leads to the first of our two crossings of the Snowy River and the start of the nightmarish climb up to the Blue Lake and beyond that to Mt. Carruthers. At the lookout overlooking the Blue Lake, we all had a well earned rest and I took a few pictures of the others with the lake in the background. The rest of the way up to the summit of Mt. Carruthers was a breeze compared to the slog that we had just endured. Here we had another break whilst surveying the spectacular mountain ranges spread out below us. All to soon, it was time to move on and head for our planned lunch time stop on the ridge-line overlooking Lake Albina. This part of the day was pretty easy and we soon reached a great spot where we could stop, eat and enjoy the view. And how we were rewarded, with some fantastic views of the lake and the clouds rushing in over it from the valley below.
At this time, we started to notice that there were quite a lot of people coming along the track from the direction that we were heading. We were speculating that these people had taken the ‘easy’ option of taking the chair lift up from Thredbo and hiking across the moorland and this was confirmed when we reached the junction of the Main Range Track and Rawson’s Pass that leads up to the top of Mt. Kosciuszko where we saw hordes of people heading up from the chair life. This couple of Ks that leads up to the top of the mountain isn’t officially part of the Main Range Trail, but the majority of us couldn’t pass up on the chance of stand on the highest point in Australia.
After meeting up with those of us who didn’t go for the top (Bernadette and Les) at the toilet block at the head of the Summit Road, we knew that we only had a 7.2km decent down the old road past Seamans Hut and the second Snowy River crossing, this time over a bridge back to Charlottes Pass. All up we travelled 22.4km in a tad over six hours and I must say that I felt pretty good at the end, although I did fall asleep on the drive back to base.