Friday, December 30, 2011

Wrapping up 2011: the trail that made me what am today



On the final day of 2011, predictably, I went running on Mount Cootha.

As a salute to the motherland and an appropriate way of putting an end to a year that could only be described as ridiculous, this morning I ran on the trail that I've covered hundreds of times over the past twelve months.

And the logical cliche' which followed was a reminiscence on the other memorable times that I've run the said trail this year:
- During the floods, looking over my shoulder to see Brisbane submerged, shedding a tear;
- During June, deep into an epic training block when I was nearly thwarted in reaching the lookout due to devastating calf cramps;
- During August, on (what I thought was) my last day in Chapel Hill.

When I feel anything; upbeat, depressed, ecstatic, enraged, serene; I run on that trail. Bar the three months I spent living in the land of barefeet, yuppies and ironic beards (West End), I've always been able to put foot to dirt on that rarely-used mountain bike track to clear my head. And for that I am grateful.

Now, continuing with the cliche' theme, here's a list of the 11 most memorable experiences/periods/events of 2011, or better, the happenings which generated the most brain chemicals (positive,negative or both) this year:

11. The night before, and the post-grog-cycle - the worst I've ever felt while doing excercise

10. Winning a race - the circumstances were nonsensical, providing me with a great story to tell

9. the C2K roadtrip and experience - Good friends, music and conversation, helping someone to achieve a monumental goal, missing out on a fantasy

8. the 167km, 29.5hr week - Waking up exhausted; running, cycling, gymming, climbing; going to bed exhausted

7. 100% for two essays - Approaching the subject matter with conscience and passion, slaving over the details

6. Lost overnight on Mount Barney - High risk of injury/death, the loss of hope, coming out alive

5. DNFing Glasshouse 100 - Not accomplishing a goal, but running fearlessly despite poor physical form

4. Brisbane Floods - Destruction and chaos, the genesis of compassion and unity across the city

3. Flinders' Tour and the adventures leading up to it - The single most enjoyable day of my life, and the most action-packed five weeks of training

2. Expanding social life - Because it was well overdue

1. the West End triangle - loving with intensity and without compromise, allowing myself to decay in the vain hope that there would be a happy ending.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mt Warning double/triple

Every time that I've tried to put finger to keyboard to describe our adventure a few Sundays ago, I've thought "I have nothing left to write" and "I'm out of creative energy", among other whiney excuses.
Today it dawned on me...Perhaps my mind has confused running with blogging, and that when I think of that morning on Warning, certain feelings are called to mind; having nothing left in my legs, or being out of energy for running, and that this becomes confused with my feelings towards blogging.
So here it goes...

Night came. Seated upon my throne over the Tweed Valley, I fell into a deep reverie, my gaze fixated on the Pacific. Ever watching, ever waiting for the first warm rays of sunlight to tickle my crown.
As the curtain began to rise, the mist to clear, I was given a start by many tiny pairs of lights snaking through the lowlands and coming to rest upon my foot.
And tiny figures exiting metallic shells, laughing, talking, urinating.
"Double", I hear. "Triple". Whispers and excited energy; some faces familiar, others previously unknown.
They begin to run upwards.
I am startled, offended even, but soon realise that these mostly unkempt vagabonds mean well. They have come here to pay tribute, to express their respect and admiration, to worship.
One, bald and slim, pulls ahead of the others, while the rest spread out.
An idiot in ripped shorts is some distance behind, leading a closely knit trio including two baby-faced backpack-wearers.
Then comes an Ashgrove ranger, a smiling man in boardshorts and two pretty women.
After forty minutes of watching their snailish upward progression with a bewildered amusement, I think to myself, "Let's have some fun".
I flick my craggy finger outwards, missing ripped shorts, my intended target, and striking the one they call Caine in the shin. He stops, starts, looks down at the puncture, deep and oozing, and stops for good.
How odd that the others wait and help him; I hardly remember friendship, I hardly remember the last time that another mountain visited me on my solemn throne.
Again, I am pulled out of my ponderance by the soft tickles of skinnyman's feet atop my crown. I have let my guard down and allowed this human to climb me in 1:03, two minutes off the endurance wizard's best time.
Speak of the devil, here he comes, floating up my tarmacked shins.
Confusion reigns among the group, some continue up and stroke my head, others turn around as their comrades are descending. Caine limps downwards, and I feel a pang of guilt.
They reach their cars, and to my astonishment, turn around! How can it be? No human should dare to cross me twice! Two slim speedmen have joined the endurance wizard, ripped-shorts and the non-injured pack-wearer, and they ascend side by side.
And again they spread and spread.
And again, some ascend above my proud brow, while others turn around early.
On their way down, the young pack-wearer and the endurance wizard lead, while the rest reform into a jovial group. Many seem to be having a blast, they leap over my hairs and stoney pimples with apparent ease and joy.
The first two reach my toes. They have a quick and serious discussion, and pick up some food. The wizard returns to his car, surely young packman will do the same.
But he turns around and runs upwards. Ever upwards.
My feelings of anger and annoyance have turned to astonishment and love. A human who wishes to spend over six hours on me, to run my length three times. I have made a new friend. Go Pacman, go.
He makes a generous offer to ripped shorts as he passes, who snaps back ungratefully, the tool.
The rest reach the bottom and bathe in the cool water at my feet, while pacman receives praise and encouragement from the walking humans on my chest.
Go pacman, go.
He reaches the top, turns around, and begins to cruise the descent, while the other runners amble around my stomach. Ripped shorts and boardshorts leave the path to scramble my unkempt boulders.
In little time, they return to my feet in their metal shells, to wait for the youngest of the group to return.
I look on in sadness as pacman takes his final few downward steps.
Goodbye new friend.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nic Moloney's C2K: Some thoughts

I think I only have a few bullet points of interest on this one. After all, it's Nic's story.

1. Crewing is alot of fun. Driving for two minutes, waiting (eating, listening to music, kicking the footy) for 20-40, then handling drinks/food and copping abuse for one is alot more fun than it sounds.

2. The main man had some great spells, and some really horrible patches. He battled a bung knee for 90 kilometres. I do hesitate when writing that he "battled" this injury; there was no war between keep going and pull out, rather an unwavering undercurrent of "I can", or rather, "I will".

3. During the race, I discovered that determined women can pee standing up.

4. Following on from 2., the equation for Nic's successful C2K was as follows:
"I will" + 240km of road = He did.

pictures:



















Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mount Tickhell, group run, and the missing blog posts


Firstly, apologies to the SEQ trail geeks for the non-forth-coming report on the Mount Warning double/triple. I've lost my blogging mojo, but will be writing something up soon. Another thing on the to-do list is a crew report from C2K...

But on to more recent adventures. Yesterday, Vett and I headed to the Main Range for the first time, to climb Mount Mitchell. My predictions about the climb were wild misjugdments; the sketchy rock scrambling that I had expected to find was replaced by smooth single-track at a consistent 5% gradient.
Beginning in lush jungle, it continuously alternated between dry grassy bushland and thick rainforest as we climbed higher and higher. In little time, expansive views West towards Brisbane, and South towards Mount Barney were granted to us:


Other highlights were:

some really oddly shaped grasstrees;


The razorback ridge just behind the summit;


a tame lizard;


and some downhill running through a flourescent green rainforest;


The only lowlights were the noise of the Cunningham Highway and the ridiculous number of ticks which we had to flick off of ourselves/eachother. It would have amounted to 40 in total!

Follow that up this morning with a 2hr group run on Cootha with Ben, James, Matt, Dan and Johnathan, and you have one great outdoor weekend.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

#4: Kondalilla

I decided to skip #3 for now, as it deserves more time and thought.

The Saturday before last Eleanor, Megan and I headed North for a casual hike.

The highlights were:
a massive hollowed out strangler fig, inside which we could climb a fair height;




a massive waterfall, up which we could scramble a fair distance;


a massive rock pool, into which we could jump a fair depth;
.

Followed by lunch in Maleny, a barbecue at Mount Cootha with many others and the long drive to Tweed Heads with Ben and Dan; it doesn't get much better than this.

#2: Mapleton Falls



The Monday before last, I headed up to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland with Vetti for a casual hike. I say casual, as the day before (blog to come) was a bit too much fun for the body to handle.
Setting myself in motion again was somewhat difficult, and Vetti kept runing ahead and taunting me, while I sat back and whined/bitched/moaned.
After a few hours though, it was all worth it:



at the turnaround, everything felt much better. I was enjoying myself enough not to notice this big fellow, but neither of us were very concerned by eachother's presence.

Carpet pythons are so placid and gentle; they have alot to teach Taipans, Tigers and Browns.

The day finished with a long stretch in the rain and an even longer car/train ride home. I'm loving the holidays.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Retroblog #1: On the Road

Since the last update, alot has been done. Enough for about four entries in fact. Because I'm a massive hipster, I thought it would be a good idea to buck the trend and post in reverse chronological order.

So we begin with the mostly pictorial tale of an epic two-day road-trip to Eden (oh the beautiful, melodic irony). Interspersed between the photos are quotes from Kerouac's classic stream-of-consciousness novel mentioned in the title and some songs that we heard:




We were all delighted, we all realized we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one noble function of the time, move





Somewhere along the line I knew there'd be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me








The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn...






The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream





The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death







...Much like the bible suggests, Eden is pretty great; a warm, sleepy beach town with a fish and chips shop on the corner and endless rocky headlands for exploring. Nic, Mallani, Kate and I have settled comfortably into the unit...
But alas, at 0530 tomorrow we will be trading it in for another 36ish hours on the road to the roof of Australia.
For some odd reason, Nic wants to cover the distance on his feet.
The rest of us will be doing whatever we can to help.

This morning, 10k along the coast took me a good 90 minutes and required a swim as well as some very sketchy scrambling up and down cliffs. Another new experience: climbing up a face so craggy it bleeds your hands, with the roaring waves beating the rocks below. Look up and look down, sweat and stomach butterflies.

Finally, here's a bonus image which didn't quite make the clean road-trip-narrative cut. This is what happens when a bookworm student attempts to fill up a car (look at the shorts):

Friday, December 2, 2011

Beyond my means

Thursday: 2:00 on Cootha - both achilles & right quad feeling the mileage.
Friday: 1:15 on Cootha - Feet are smashed.

That brings us to 11 hours in the last six days, a very healthy total for me. I started to feel that familiar uphill comfort today, which was very encouraging ahead of Sunday. However, the achilles, feet and quad will need to be babied a bit over the next 36 hours.

To money matters, I've $51.20 to last until Tuesday...It doesn't seem like that much of an ask, but when you consider fuel monies for hiking tomorrow morning, fuel monies for the warning trip, food for a barbecue, and a date on Monday, it seems like a bit of a stretch. Will have to batten down the hatches and live on oats, salt, and leftover energy gels until then.
I don't know why I decided to write about that in a blog mainly concerned with running, I guess it's just on my mind and I have little understanding of social boundaries.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Triple: Warning Sign



My initial feelings towards Caine and Dave's planned triple ascent/descent of Mount Warning were apprehension and a belief in my inability to complete such a run.

Entering TNF100 and chatting to the boys about it has completely changed that.

Now I can't wait - what better way to celebrate your 20th birthday than by spending a long morning in the mountains with friends.

Will there be some jostling for position? Undoubtedly. The wise ones will stay out of it, but the young guns of the group are sure to get involved. I don't want to. But I always say that.

Ben Duffus' illustrious mountain running credentials (U20 Australian team) will cause him to rabbit ahead on the first road ascent.
Caine will greyhound him, and by the time we hit the stairs, he'll be nipping at the heels.
I'll bust my gut to stay on Caine's tail, but being the doberman that I am, will have some trouble keeping up. Jimmy B, Dave C and Dan N will lock in beside, and we'll have a great time together, rollicking boisterously uphill.

Jordan will be walking, with Delina and Tymeka ahead, trying to get him to run.

Unfortunately, Ben will get bitten by a brown snake on the scramble to the top, with Caine overtaking him due to his impressive lead-climbing skills. Being the trooper that he is, Duffus will complete the run, but fade through the pack considerably.

Not much will have changed to the start of the third climb, with Ben joining the 4-pack, and us gaining some time on Caine. Webster has gotten in on the fun, but must be disqualified due to his late start. By this time, Jordan is 74 minutes down on the leader and is suffering of heat/uphill exhaustion.

I glance across at Dave and suddenly his glorious beard is glowing. Is that a hiking pole in his hand?...Or is it a staff? The endurance wizard has shown his true colours and floats ahead effortlessly. So THAT's how he ran 161 in 16:45!

Dave gets to the top well ahead of the rest, and with the coast clear, cruises the descent at an easy pace. Just as the car park is coming into view, he catches a glimpse of a pair of boardshorts and a bandana rushing past. Was it the wind?

The answer is no. Jordan had been saving his fabled downhilling ability for the final descent. He pounds gloriously to the ford, turns around, and smiles at his friend some 400 metres behind.

I'm pretty sure it's just going to be a casual training run, but it's always fun to speculate.

In the Sun



1:45 on Cootha this morning, absolutely no idea where that came from after yesterday's trauma.

Some advice concerning skin cancer from a nice girl made me don a shirt while running for the first time in ages.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dehydration



8am yesterday: 1hr up ad down Cootha. Felt like death.
PM: Massage at the somewhat seedy parlour in Toowong.
4:50am this morning: 2:40 on Cootha with Tymeka. Felt good to begin with so eschewed the water fountain at the lookout after a mere 25 minutes of running. Bad idea. Got to another bubbler after 2:00 and was completely tanked. Tymeka fared much the same.
Walked down to the shops and polished off 500ml of juice, 1l of milk and a bread stick in about ten minutes.

Either the reality that I'm no longer in West End hasn't yet sunk in, or I've just gotten over it pretty much immediately. However, my tendency to listen to sentimental music over the past two days suggests the former:





In other news, Warren sent me this image from the 10k at Rainbow Beach:



Well no wonder that felt like crap, my form was pretty poor - mainly the bent back and bum sticking out.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Move



After a tumultuous (exciting, depressing, amazing, stressing) four months, it's back to Chapel Hill Road with Jed and the rest.

I'm sure I'll reflect on this more over the coming days but right now, two major differences between West End and Chapel Hill are hitting home.

In West End, I was constantly fluctuating between feeling 0% and feeling 100%; mentally, physically and emotionally. In Chapel Hill, I was consistently baselining somewhere between 40% and 60%.
While the former was exciting, it's not sustainable long-term.

The second difference is best described graphically:

West end;

Chapel Hill;

Unfortunately, this is all just rationalisation. Knowing it's for the best, I'm still pretty damned sad to be leaving.

In running news, I went for 2:15 on Cootha with James B this afternoon, and got completely railed up the Jacksonia climb. The fitness feels like it's there, I'm just so damn tired!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ship's Stern

Spent my last full day in West End in Lamington National Park; headed up there pretty late with Vett to hike the Ship's Stern track.

All said and done, it was a very casual 20km with many fantastic views and even more leeches.





Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Redefining Mount Barney

I've always thought of Barney as one for the hikers, climbers and mountaineers; Definitely not a runner's mountain. It's just too steep, too technical, too big, and involves too much scrambling.

Without any intention of changing this perception, Ben and I set off jogging from Yellowpinch reserve at 3:45am. Soon enough, we turned right, on to the South-East ridge. Ben was keen to continue running while we could, but I knew what lay ahead. Better to leave it in reserve! He pulled away a few times, and I got a little frustrated; the conscious reason being that he could quite easily pick the wrong route, the subconscious being ego.

"OK, I admit that this is biomechanically unrunnable"; he let me take the lead and find the way. Before we knew it, we were high up on the exposed ridge, with the sun poking its soft rays through the clouds behind us.

Every so often, we just had to stop to take it in:

The ridge narrowed and widened and steepened and flattened, rolling along with an endless series of variations. The clouds were moving in and the rock ahead was wet. For now, it was calm and quiet.

Pretty soon we'd reached fun city; 300m drop on the right-hand-side obscured by a thin row of montane heath, sketchy looking slabs directly above. Up.

"Ah yes, this must be the really exposed bit"
"Oh no, wait, THIS is the exposed bit"
"Hang on, this is definitely it"

Out of nowhere, the wind picked up to a violent gale and with it came a surge of droplets. The vapour rushed before our eyes. Clearly, we'd reached the hallowed ground of the East Peak summit cone.

The ridge flattened. We passed the weather-beaten campground, and a crop of rocks lay ahead. I went in for the customary ground-kiss and pressed the split button on the Timex.

1:45:07.

I really didn't think that it was possible for us to climb Barney that quickly, especially considering that we were hindered by various factors; the weather and my lack of fitness/residual fatigue. Sub-1:30 is the new goal.

After a quick peanut butter sandwich, we resumed. The route down to the saddle was what it always is; steep slab-hopping, sketchy trail-following, and the customary off-route bush-bashing. This was where I hit my stride, brushing past and through spikey plants as if they weren't there. The tables had turned, and I was glancing over my shoulder, ensuring that Ben was close enough to follow.

We came out just North of the world's greatest picnic spot, and reached the Rum Jungle after about 45 minutes from the peak...about 20 minute per k pace.

Now, on to Peasant's Ridge, curious to see how much we could run. Again, my experience on this type of terrain gave me a large advantage; I slip-scrambled quickly down the rocks, pausing every hundred metres to ensure that Ben didn't get lost. Down the chimney, and Peasant's portal.

Before I knew it, were were back on entirely runnable terrain. Weaving through the dense forest, cautious foot placement gave way to reckless abandon. We were going to go under four hours; but the question was, by how much?

We crossed mystery creek and the landslide. The jungle thinned, the eucalypts reappeared. single track became fire trail, and Ben flew past. It was a joy to watch this master of the dirt road open his stride, and I was enticed to follow. I ran as hard as I could to keep close, but with only a few kilometres to go, I knew I was at my limit. I let Ben go ahead, and slowed to a jog.

Across the Logan River, over the cattle gate. As I entered the paddock, the entirety of the mountain presented itself on the left. Its peak was obscured by clouds, but its majesty was still undoubtable.

I passed some hikers, grunting hello above my laboured breath. The final uphill was ahead, and then the final downhill. I took it pretty gingerly; the quads were veritably pulverised.

The car park now lay directly in front, with Ben perched atop a rock.
Touch the gate.

3:26



Another great experience in a very special place.

On the drive back, Ben and I discussed what sort of time was possible. Although we were going at a fair clip in places, much time could be shaved.
Carrying a backpack instead of a handheld: ~10 minutes.
My lack of fitness on the uphill: ~15 minutes.
Ben's lack of confidence through the thick bush/down the rocks: ~15 minutes.
Getting off-route down from the peak: ~10 minutes.

So, with a bit of a taper, a little more experience and less gear, something around 2:30 seems feasible.

As it turns out, Barney might just be a runner's mountain.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Cootha Massif

/Hill.

As viewed from the trail up Camp Mountain, on a leisurely hike there this morning with Vett.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mount Barney #5

"I just realized that I forgot my compass. Did you bring yours?"
"Nope"

"Do you have a topo map for the area"
"Yeah, but I didn't have time to get it"

"Ah, just realised I forgot tweezers for ticks"

"I should have brought salt"

We had almost decided to attempt Savages Ridge (the name is self-explanatory, but it's grade 5-6), but thought the better of it considering our wild underpreparedness. It was time to face the South-East ridge again, which had defeated me many moons ago

A restless sleep was had the night before, due to a combination of excitement and Tymeka's snoring - audible from a separate tent four metres away!
Morning couldn't come quick enough, and I was immediately glad not to have put the tent-cover on:



We set off at a casual jog, and found the turnoff much before I had expected it. Slowing to a walk, the steep uphill began. In the clear weather, this previously disasterous/shitmyselftastic ridge was actually pretty manageable. There were only two or three harder scrambling sections and small amount of exposure.



At a leisurely pace, it took us 2:45 to get from Yellowpinch to the East Peak; a massive PB that I'm now very keen to break with Duffus come Wednesday morning.



...And that wasn't even from the top!

From there, we hopped down to the beginning of Rocky Creek and engaged in some intense route-finding to get up to the North peak. Some sketchy scrambling and very thick bushbashing was required, and at some point a large stone got the better of Tymeka's head.



We then headed West to a rocky bluff, and climbed down a steep ravine. When it became apparent that it's exit would be a bit ugly, we headed back towards the east, through some more thick bush and into the creek that divides the East and North Peaks. False floors were the biggest hazard here, both of us experiencing a couple of awkward fall-throughs.

After reaching the creek, the source of danger switched to the mats of pine-needles that adorned the maze of boulders, which would slip away without warning.




After what felt like too long (it always does) we made it into Barney Gorge, and headed Southwards, to the saddle. I saw a small black snake, which spooked Tymeka, which in turn spooked me, so we took this section pretty slowly and carefully.

There was plenty of idyllic moss:


Past the world's best picnic spot, up to the saddle, and I'd drained the last of my two litres of water (imbecile).
No worries, just a quick jaunt down Peasant's ridge from there.

Or so I thought. By the time the rocks and dirt-slopes gave way to real, runnable trail, I was parched, bonking, and couldn't fathom the idea of running. I hadn't had enough food while I'd had the water to process it. Although there was still half a loaf of bread in my backpack, I couldn't process it without the water. Lucky for me, Tymeka's head was giving her hell, so running the final, flat 4km was not an option. We had some lengthy discussions about drinks and water; it's funny how the mind reacts to such conditions.

500m from Yellowpinch, portrait of a man dehydrated:


about 20km, almost exactly 8 hours on the feet, and 1,750m gain.

But, there would be another twist to this story! After filling up on the apparently undrinkable water at the bathroom tap and eating a bit, we felt much better, so drove around to the other side of the mountain for a quick dip at the Lower Portals.

We started jogging on the 4km trail over to the massive rockpool and I immediately felt fantastic, so just opened it up. halfway through, that changed and it was back to the customary 7-minute uphill kms. The swim was exactly what I needed, but poor Tymeka hadn't brought a change of clothes so could only soak her legs!
After chatting to the masses (comparative to the usual solitude encountered at Barney) at the pool, we set off jogging on the way back. Once again, I left Tymeka behind as I felt better on the ups.
On a technical downhill, I started to feel queasy, light-headed and weak. Slower and slower, then stopping to retie my shoelace. I tried to start running again, but the mind wasn't having any of it. I'd fallen into the deepest bonk experienced in a long time, if ever. Dawdling back, I expected Tymeka to catch up, but still arrived at the car park a couple of minutes before her. Atleast she was running when she came in!

"Let's get to the nearest petrol station as soon as possible!"

1.85 litres of lemonade, 500ml of milk, 600ml of water, a small slushie, and a tin of beans later, we were rattling along the highway back towards Brisbane.

Mount Barney never ceases to surprise me. I expected that we'd get lost because of our lack of navigational equipment, but it turns out that we were pretty much always aware of our location. I did not expect to enter the moistureless hurt-locker of hypoglycemia.

Win some, lose some.