This is actually a close up of the bark on a tree!
Photo: Janet-Planet in the Australian Bush
This is actually a close up of the bark on a tree!
Photo: Janet-Planet in the Australian Bush
Unfortunately, a recurring injury I have suffered over the past 12 months or so has been a tight calf-muscle in my left leg. Well to be more specific, and for the medically inclined, it is the peroneus muscle group.
Over the weekend “The Kiwi” was in town so there was plenty of training on Saturday in the mountains and given the extreme heat a few beers were consumed at the day’s end!
would have been better wouldn’t have cut it…
Of course, many will know “The Kiwi” as my partner in endurance events both in Australia and his homeland of New Zealand, and he is the bloke who has dreamed up a 250-kilometre run, come walk, from Newcastle to Sydney in March next year – apparently in 60-hours!
Oddly, 250-kilometres seems to figure often in the things he dreams up, last time that number came up it was a 250-kilometre cycle, run, and kayak from the west to the east coast of New Zealand’s south island.
Yes, these plans have usually been hatched over a few beers, and you’d think I would have learnt by now that one always needs to be cautious of Kiwis’ bearing gifts of free beers…
Crikey, I wouldn’t have it any other way though!
But on beers, the pain in my left calf muscle was absent on my pack walk at silly o’clock this morning, confirming, I’m sure, that beer is full of magical medicinal properties – truly, nectar of the Gods’.
Well that is the story I’m sticking with anyway, let’s face it – when you’re on a good thing!
Yeah I know it seemed like a good idea down in the car park, hindsight is a marvellous thing…
Secondly, if you are wondering what I’m saying, I’ll give you the sanitized version – if I ever catch up to “The Kiwi” he’ll be plucked…
“The Kiwi” is my brother-in-law.
Yeah that’s right, the bloke that had me signed up for a run, cycle, and kayak, from the West Coast of New Zealand to the East Coast in less than 24 hours, a couple of years back…
Now I will admit there was beer involved in the lead-up to being “pressed ganged” by “The Kiwi” to the start line on that occasion. Come to think about it my skydiving career had its genesis in the bottom of a beer glass in the early 1980s during a session with Bluey and the boys at the Breakfast Creek hotel in Brisbane.
Yes, I heard you saying there’s a bit of a pattern developing here…
But hey, in my defence, I was young and stupid back then.
At least I can say that I have moved forward over the years, now I’m only stupid!
I didn’t know “The Kiwi” back then, he was too busy jumping off cliffs with a parachute on his back, paragliding around New Zealand’s north island.
Anyway, “The Kiwi” calls me up a little while back…
“Baz, I’m turning 50-years young on 13 September and I thought we could have a few beers”.
Now you’ve got to be very cautious of Kiwi’s offering to buy you a beer, especially if you’re an Aussie. It’s a long story, but there was an under-arm bowling incident in a cricket game way back in 1981 from which they cannot move on. So if they are being nice, there is bound to be a catch, if you’ll pardon the pun…
“What is the catch”, I asked…
“None”, he said, “but I thought we might walk to the pub”.
“That’s sounds sensible”
Alarm bells were ringing inside my head, after all this is months away, but his shout, so why not?
“Walk” I said,
“We’ll, walk and run, after all the quicker we get there the more time we get before the girls come looking for us”.
Um, that would be Leah and Janet.
Strewth, I’m thinking “The Kiwi” is actually talking sense for a change!
“Yep, sign me up” I said without further delay…
Well sign me up he did…
Today our entries for the Great North Walk 100, a 100-kilometre run through the Australian bush on September 13, up and down a mountain range that will take us around 18-20 hours to complete, was accepted.
Fortunately we are no strangers to the area and we’ll be doing a training run up Heatons Gap this weekend, the first of many…
Strewth, I’m starting to feel thirsty just thinking about it…
Wish us luck; we’ll need it that’s for sure!
Anyway, the moral of the story (if there needs to be one) is if you are going to drink beer with a Kiwi, The Kiwi, then accept all may not be what it seems – so just gulp it down and enjoy the experience!
“Kiwi” is the name given to a small flightless bird that is native to New Zealand, and New Zealander’s are usually referred to as Kiwi’s…
And where is New Zealand I hear you ask?
Well, it is not too far across “The Ditch” – The Tasman Sea; just think of it as an outpost of Sydney’s Bondi Beach! 😉
Hey, keep your fingers crossed that my Achilles tendon that I had surgically repaired earlier this year holds up!
And it seems to be as I start ramping up the cardio exercise and I must say it makes a pleasant change to the weight training.
As part of training for the mountains I am working towards a 100 kilometre-running race (I use the term running sparingly) through the mountains that I regularly hike and that takes place in September 2014.
And I’ll need every bit of that time to prepare, and the last mountain running I did was in one of the world’s toughest endurance races, the Speight’s Coast to Coast Adventure Race in New Zealand in 2012.
And yes, that Kiwi brother-in-law of mine is hot on my heels pushing me, again!
I’m also planning to cycle the iconic Birdsville Track in outback Australia in April 2014. It is roughly 500 kilometres in length and the aim is to ride as much as I can on my Canondale 29-er Mountain Bike.
Dream big I say, and of course, live to the motto that “those that don’t think it can be done shouldn’t bother the person doing it.”
Cheers, Baz – The Landy
Anyway, I’m pleased to say I’m back into full swing up in The Shed, making that 4.30am journey up the garden path, passing the dogs, MilO and Jack, who wave me through with complete indifference.
And yes, I hard you whispering, “crikey he needs it!”
I must confess to being an early morning person, I guess you’d have to be to manage a 4.30am start each day, but it does have its advantages.
In between the clanging of weight plates being moved, interval sets on the rower or spin bike, I can stand outside in the pre-dawn silence and marvel at the stars in the sky…
Our wondrous universe…
How bloody good is that, hey!
Yep, I’m a daydreamer, that’s for sure…and by the look of it, TomO has caught the day-dreaming bug!
Hey, it’s good to be back at it!
And remember, if all else fails, just remain out of control and see what develops… 😉
Geez, you never want to take mobility for granted, it’s a bugger when you lose it!
For those that are new, having a seniors moment, or maybe just missed it, I had an Achilles operation on my left foot, and a spur clearance on my right ankle about seven weeks ago…
Yes, to legs out of action at the same time, lucky for me though I had Janet and TomO taking good care of me!
After climbing in New Zealand during January it became very obvious to me that if I am to continue pursuing my dream of scaling some of the world’s highest mountains, heaven forbid, maybe even Mount Everest, than something had to be done to fix these problems that had been progressively getting worse.
The rehabilitation phase is well under way I am being extremely well cared for by my wonderful physiotherapist, Paula, from the Joint Health Clinic in downtown Sydney.
And can I just say this, crikey, how good is it to be back up in the shed.
A bit of The Angels, one of my favourite Aussie rock bands, belting out of those little Bose speakers to get me motivated, the sound of free weights moving and some time on my new spin bike.
Even the neighbours are happy to hear that music signifying that I am slowly, but surely, returning to normal. Yeah, okay, maybe they could do with a little less of The Angels.
And on climbing?
Well it is far too early to return to the mountains, in fact I wouldn’t be able to squeeze on my rock climbing shoes, that is a hard task even under normal circumstances, but the swelling would make it an impossible task presently.
And what about those big mountains?
Well, if I were to be brutally honest with myself, I would most likely come to the conclusion that my trip to Nepal this year is slowly slipping away from me. Whilst the recovery is right on track, it was always going to be a very marginal thing as to whether I recover in time or not.
But in the true style of an eternal and ever optimistic Sagittarian I’m not discounting it yet.
But here is the deal, climbing mountains isn’t a bucket list thing for me that I can just tick off, but something I want to live, enjoy, relish in, and return from. So being in peak condition is key to my safety and that of those around me.
The mountains will always be there.
But there is plenty of adventure in my sights regardless, including this year’s Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race, 111-gruelling kilometres down the Hawkesbury River, and if I don’t get to Nepal, I’m confident of lining up in next year’s Coast-to-Coast Race, a cycle, run, and kayak race that takes you 243-kilometres across New Zealand’s South Island…
Okay, he is a Kiwi so there is a certain amount of Trans-Tasman rivalry that goes on between us, unsaid of course, but it is all good, after all we egged each other on enough to line up for the 243 kilometre Speight’s Coast-to-Coast race across New Zealand 12 months ago, and the gauntlet has once again been tossed down for us to line up for the 2014 event.
As a matter of interest The Speight’s Coast to Coast now features in the “Worlds Toughest Endurance Challenges“ which has just been published by Bloomsbury Publishing.
But on this rivalry, a casual mention of seeing how far we could walk with a back pack had us traversing 240 kilometres through the Australian bush from my home in Sydney to his in Newcastle to the north, not to mention some of the other walks we have done and Tough Mudder events…
So when I heard he was making all these gains with a power-vest I did the only thing one could do. I bought my own.
Strewth, all I can say is, what was I thinking.
Twenty kilograms weighted on your body doesn’t sound like much, and after all we frequently carry that and more on our outings in the bush, but strapped to your body during an exercise session is another thing altogether.
My body is aching tonight!
That’s what you get for trying to keep up with the Tong’s, I guess.
And on the vest, I purchased one from Iron Edge, a Melbourne based company who specialise in weight and cross-fit training equipment…
If you get a chance, check out the video, it gives you some idea how the weight-vest can be used.
Well, if you want to keep up with “us boys” best you go and buy one and add it to your exercise workouts…
And hey, good luck out there!
Unfortunately, my Achilles tendon remains sore although treatment is progressing. I’m working on the basis that rest is best, but it does test the patience!
I just need to get an adventure under my belt!
This past weekend we had a visit from Janet’s sister Leah, partner, Ray and their beautiful son, Aubrey. We always look forward to the time we spend together and usually it involves signing up for an adventure or two with Ray.
And we always have a good laugh as we dream up another adventure…
But strewth, I’ve just been doing a list of the things I’ve agreed to participate in and it starts with a trip on the mountain bike this coming weekend. It will take us along a road built by convicts in the early days of European settlement in Australia.
It is quite a pretty place, but there are plenty of hills and it won’t be any walk in the park.
Although, Ray reckons he’s letting me off lightly because of my foot injury. I’ll be on the bike, he’ll be running the 50 kilometres (phew – I won’t complain too much about the Achillies any more!)
And hot on the heels of that we’ll be lining up for the next Tough Mudder Event in Sydney early April. We completed it in September last year, twenty kilometres of running, tackling obstacles, and of course tons of mud, getting zapped by electric charges, running through fire – all good fun, seemingly!
Next, while we were out paddling on the lake early on Sunday morning Ray casually mentioned that I’d better be fit for the Coast-to-Coast Adventure Race across New Zealand’s South Island as he is putting our entries in shortly.
I don’t remember signing up for it, but it looks like I’m going next February. Actually, I’m looking forward to training for it; after all I need to be super fit for the Nepal expedition in November so I say, bring it on…
I made him do a 1-kilometre sprint in his kayak after that pronouncement!
Whoops, note to self – tell the boss I need more time off! Better still, with a bit of luck he’ll read this and come and pat me on the back and say, Baz, do you want a week off in February…
But not to be outdone I raised the ante with all the finesse of a Mississippi River boat gambler and tossed in that we’ll need to do the 111-kilometre Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race in October as preparation for the Coast-to-Coast race. After all the Coast-to-Coast has a 70-kilometre paddle down the fast flowing Waimak River.
You’d think he would have folded by now, but strewth, he’s still got those cards close to his chest, so I’m wondering what is going to get thrown into the pot next…
One thing is for sure; he’ll come up with something as there is plenty of free time on that calendar still, in between rock climbing in the Blue Mountains, of course.
But hey, you’ve got to love this stuff and doing it with mates is what it is all about!
Just go easy on me Ray…!
Your teachers were incredibly perceptive when they said , very bright, but needs to pay more attention to detail…
You can bring yourself back up to speed on it here.
Anyway, where was I, yes, don’t worry, there’s no chance of it going to my head, I’m far too incredibly modest to allow anything like that to happen.
And whilst I’ve got your attention for a moment or two, you’d have to admit that I am incredibly handsome. I just thought I’d put that out there, glad I got that out in the open for you, not that I’ve ever thought that myself mind you, never, no way, well not this week at least, not until this story appeared anyway.
In fact, so incredibly handsome that I can spend at least 10 minutes in front of the mirror
admiring grooming myself each day.
Don’t just take my word for it, ask an incredibly impartial person, like Fay, my mother.
And someone did recently suggest that I looked like Harrison Ford.
True, you’re right, it was my brother-in-law mumbling something about Indiana Jones and we’re both doomed when the girls find all these empty beer bottles in the morning…
Of course, I am incredibly strong, what do you think I’m doing up in The Shed at silly o’clock each day with my cape and face mask…
Isn’t that what super-hero’s do?
And my boss, god bless his soul, did say that he’s glad I’m an incredibly talented mountaineer
he’d believe anything I told him, to which he added that it is a blessing in disguise because I’m incredibly hopeless at trading currencies, but as he still needs someone around to send for coffee each day I should consider myself incredibly lucky!
That’s what I like about him, he’s incredibly generous when it comes to accolades about me…
And while I’m mucking around with this newfound
fame word it would be entirely wrong not to mention that I have an incredible family, Janet and TomO.
Strewth, didn’t I luck out there, hey?
Yes, I heard you, incredible you said, didn’t you!
TomO, truly an incredible miracle for both of us, in fact so much so it often brings a tear to our eye…
And, let me tell you, he’s an incredible trampolinist, an urban tramp!
Oh yes, he’s an incredible son, incredibly likeable, okay, yes, he is incredibly cute and the Cheltenham girls are already checking him out on the train on the way to school each day, but who is this story about anyway…so let’s move on!
And speaking of Janet, she is incredibly beautiful with an incredible tolerance, spirit and adventurous personality.
Mind you, as I write this she has this incredible look on her face that is saying Mr Bob Parr you’re going to come to an incredible and sticky ending if you don’t take the rubbish out before the garbage man comes this week…it’s a short story, incredibly, I forgot last week.
Strewth, that’s right she’s an Incredible as well, best I don’t push my luck, so I’ll get on with that little job right now.
But let me say this, if I ever get to the top of some of those incredibly high mountains I want to climb it will be an Incredible super-human feat, well for me, in any case!
So to all, thanks for your continuing interest and ongoing support in the adventures that we get up to…and be sure to hang around for a while, I’ll be needing all the support I can muster to get me up those mountains…
Retro what, I hear you ask.
And just to be clear and to avoid any confusion, the condition and associated pain is in my heel, well below, um, my rear-end.
So what is this ailment, what causes it, and more importantly, what makes it go away?
My sports physician and I have been working on the last part of that answer for some time now. Bursitis is an inflammation of a little fluid sac found around most of the major joints in our body and it is designed to provide lubrication against friction where muscle and tendons are sliding over bones.
Retrocalcaneal bursitis is the area specifically located around the ankle and heel area of the foot.
Causes for the condition can be varied, but for the most part it is an overuse type of injury that can be induced by walking, running, jogging, and can be accentuated by walking uphill.
For me, that is a tick on all counts. Jogging, tick, running, tick…
Women People wearing high heel shoes can often suffer from the condition.
Last year when I was training for the Coast to Coast Adventure race, a race from the West to East coast of New Zealand ,the condition came and went and was usually treated with plenty of stretching and some anti-inflammatory medication. However, the condition has worsened over the past few months, corresponding to an increase in my mountaineering endeavours, which involves plenty of uphill walking on steep inclines.
A recent x-ray confirmed that a small bone spur is triggering my condition.
And now that we know precisely what we are dealing with remedial treatment has commenced. My sports physician has elected to use Platelet Rich Plasma injections, or PRP as it is referred to as. This is a relatively new technology that involves taking a sample of your own blood, in the same way you would normally do so if having a blood test, and this is placed in a centrifuge to extract the plasma which is then injected into the injured area.
The science behind the treatment is that the platelets contain growth factors which stimulate an inflammatory and healing process.
Okay, I’m sure it is far more technical than that, but crikey, the last time I played doctors and nurses it was with the Kelly girls when I was 10 years old, and it was nothing as complex as PRP treatments.
But I’m digressing…
I had one PRP treatment about two weeks ago, along with a cortisone injection and I will be having a follow up injection in a week’s time to assist the healing process.
And whilst the treatment does not correct the bone spur at this time, it will help strengthen and thicken the achillies tendon and help protect against the aggravation, well that is what we are hoping for as surgery usually takes quite some time to recover from, but may be necessary eventually.
So another couple of weeks of rest away from the normal exercise routine, but I’m chomping at the bit and need to get extremely fit for the climbing expedition to Nepal later this year.
Strewth, can’t wait for that…
My usual partner in all things adventure, brother-in-law, Ray, and I were heading to a favourite training haunt of ours, Heaton’s Gap.
Heaton’s Gap is located half way between his home in Newcastle, and the Hunter Valley wine-growing region. There is a power line track running up a rather steep hill and we regularly train up and down the hill. Sometimes we run as much as we can, and storm the rest, other times we wear heavy packs laden with a sandbag.
Usually halfway up we are cursing the hill, but when we get to the top and take in the view, the cursing stops, the heart rate slows, and we’re sure happy it is downhill on the way back.
Today, Ray’s nephew, Daniel, joined us, and along with Ray, the pair ran to the top as fast as they could go…
I elected to wear a 25-kilogram backpack, and headed off to further break-in a new pair of Alpine hiking boots, the ones I will be wearing on my ascent of Mt Aspiring in New Zealand just after Christmas.
Crikey, it was not much past 7am in the morning, but the sun already had a sting in it, and the humidity was high.
The boys were heading back down as I was approaching the steeper section of the hill, and Daniel even came back up for “seconds” after completing his first lap.
And Ray, well he was suffering from the flu like symptoms I had only a week ago, but still posted a very healthy time.
In true alpine mountaineering style I just put one foot after the other all the way up, and all the way back down, just taking in the scenery and letting the world float by…
Talk about floating by; Strewth, I was perspiring so much, I could have literally floated away!
It was a great morning, but what of the rest of the day?
…Well, that was spent lazing about with family and friends!
And remember, if all else fails, just Like The Landy on Facebook, remain out of control and see what develops…
Strewth, you’d have to be to put up with the antics of two boys in one household who spend most of their waking hours egging each on!
Anyway, she isn’t the sort of person that will race across New Zealand in some adventure race, or for that matter, done a backpack and walk some ridiculous distance in 24 hours, just because you can. But she’ll be there to support you…
But she does like the finer things in life and has a wonderful family and circle of friends that she spends time with in between looking after her boys.
And talk about looking after us, crikey, she has to be the best cook around, even Out and About in the bush.
But let me tell you, when it comes to having fun, Janet is no wall flower. I mean, she’ll have no hesitation abseiling off a skyscraper in Sydney’s Central Business District, or hopping behind the controls of an aircraft.
And speaking of aircraft, perhaps she hasn’t flown as much as myself, but strewth she’ll have no hesitation in putting on a parachute and beating you out the door of one!
Talk about if you can’t beat them, just join them, that is her mantra…
And without a doubt she is one of the most courageous people I have ever met; some of the things I do she worries about, but then she always sends me on my way with her blessing and support – that takes tremendous courage!
Okay, Ray is a Kiwi, but hey, he’s still a good mate none-the-less…
Now we’ve participated in many things together, mostly recreational, with a smattering of competitive events here and there. And yes, there is always an underlying competitive streak between us, but that’s just good old fashioned Aussie versus Kiwi rivalry…
You couldn’t expect anything less!
Anyway, we tend to spend a lot of time out in the bush, walking and trekking and many of these have taken on mammoth proportions. We’ve walked from Sydney to Newcastle together, bush-whacking it 240 kilometres through the “scrub” – mind you if you drive, it is only 140-kilometres along the freeway.
We’ve spent countless hours on the water together…
I chased him from the West Coast of New Zealand to the East Coast, a journey that saw us cycling, running, and white-water kayaking the 240 kilometres over two-days.
We’ve run rapids in our kayaks together, and even struggled through the mud in “Tough Mudder” helping each other to the finish.
We’ve pursued paragliding and skydiving…
And then there is the most dangerous of them all, the notorious Newcastle Bike Ride.
The “NBR” as it is known colloquially…
It isn’t for the faint-hearted.
This is an invitation only event open to those who can demonstrate superior time-trial qualities on a bike.
It covers a two kilometre sprint on a racing bike from Ray’s home in Newcastle to
the Albion Hotel, followed by an endurance test of being able to drink at least half-a-dozen schooners of beer with lots of bellowing laughter, the city and back home.
The ride home is always used as a warm-down and should be done at a leisurely pace, unless of course you’ve
stayed for one too many had a few flat tyres out on the road and your arrival is long overdue. In which case, the every man man for himself rule applies.
Many have tried, few ever rise to the occasion…
On the many
trips to the pub time-trials we’ve done in Newcastle we’ve had plenty of time to solve the problems of the world.
As one does!
Nothing is sacred, all topics covered.
Okay, we don’t touch Rugby ‘cause it always upsets the Kiwi’s when they lose the Bledisloe Cup, and there was one time when Ray wanted to discuss a problem he had after a “real” bike ride where we spent a long time in the saddle – haemorrhoids.
I told him I couldn’t touch that one and best to take it up with Leah, his partner, the sister of my partner, Janet.
Did I get that right?
Confused myself there for a ‘sec.
What I tried to say is we married two sisters, Leah & Janet…The “Fawthrop Girls”.
Yes, “The Fawthrop Girls”…
So anyway, perched atop
the bar-stools down at the fountain of all knowledge; The Albion Hotel, our bikes during these training sessions we’ve covered many time favoured topics.
On our last NBR
only a week ago sometime back we started comparing notes on what we share in common.
As you could imagine there was plenty of back-slapping and congratulations going on as we reviewed the impressive list, after all we were on our
3rd 6th schooner of beer each…
Strewth, we’ve been cloned, we chorused together in unison as we considered the similarities.
Kneaded expertly and pressed with a cookie cutter; a cutter passed sister-to-sister, a cutter revered like one’s very first training bra.
Okay, yes, somehow I came out the better looking of the two of us, you know, a bit like pulling freshly baked cookies out of the oven, some are perfect, others possibly a little overdone and a touch rough around the edges...
Anyway here we were, seemingly virtual twins…
To be honest, I took some comfort in this as I was a little worried that Ray might have been thinking he should have married me given we had so much in common.
I mean, he
gazed looked at me just a bit too longingly for my liking as we waited for our next beer to be poured. But I just put it down to the beer haze fogging his mind a tad…yeah, that’s what it was, a beer haze, yeah…
And as we
rode sprinted home on our bikes, the wind gusting so hard that it’d blow your dog off its chain, the most favourite Fawthrop Family saying resonated loudly…
You don’t know how lucky you are!
Yep, there is no doubting it, we are both partnered to Angels, and we’ll put that to the top of the list, for sure…
And while you’re here hang around and take a squiz at this You tube video…a little bit of that “cookie cut-out” adventure!
It is some footage of Ray flying a sky-diving canopy on the East-Coast of New Zealand in the early 1990s. It was quite out there at the time, for a Kiwi anyway!
And following is what us Aussies do, jump first, then fly…
Just pulling Ray’s leg…what they were doing was ground breaking at the time. He is wearing the white helmet!
Adventure, comes in many forms, and you’ve just gotta love it!
My usual training partner, brother-in-law Ray Tong, and I have been practicing our Eskimo roll in his kayak, the same type of boat we used in this year’s Speight’s Coast-to-Coast adventure race across New Zealand. The race involves a 67-kilometre kayak leg, and includes around 35-kilometres of white water to be negotiated.
We both had an unintentional swim in the cold Waimakariri River during the race…
And whilst we are not intending to line up for next February’s event we are keeping our options open and want to perfect our technique before heading back down the Waimak River.
Did I say perfect?
We’d settle for being able to roll up a little more consistently without half-drowning each time!
Anyway, we have been having a lot of laughs as we go about this training, and hats off to Ray, he spun the boat around so fast at one stage that he went around twice, the look on his face was priceless and the source of much laughter.
We’re almost ready to hit Penrith white-water stadium once again. This is a purpose built white-water course covering around four-hundred metres of grade three rapids. It is fair to say both Ray and I have spent plenty of time upside down through the rapids on this course…
And while we were at The Haven, TomO, my son, was expertly catching waves on his rescue paddle board, in between riding his skateboard down “The Skillion” a large grassy slope that features prominently in the local landscape. Laying down on his skateboard he rode it down the hill like a Luge.
He had the Go-Pro camera on the helmet to capture his daredevil exploits and is already working on a short video, coupled together with background music he has composed. We can’t wait to see the result as he was travelling quite fast and it looked fun!
Speaking of training, I’m back into the mountains this weekend to further my rock climbing and abseiling skills, along with general rope handling. My intention over the next few weeks is to do multi-pitch abseils off Boar’s Head in the Blue Mountains.
Boar’s Head is one of the most recognisable rock formations in the Blue Mountains, situated not too far from downtown Katoomba. It is a popular place to do multi-pitch abseils and involves around five pitches, the second and third into a large chasm, with a relatively easy rock climb back out at the end.
Janet said she is looking forward to another weekend in the mountains and as much as she loves the outdoors and seeing me advance in my training, she can’t wait to get back into the small boutiques after all it has been a couple of months.
So I look forward to updating the ongoing saga of a “Dope on a Rope” over the coming weeks!
Mind you, my sister, who turned up yesterday to look after the dogs while we are in Fiji, snapped this shot at the start line.
It kinda has that look about it that suggests I was saying what the (insert naughty words) are we doing here!
It was run just to the north of Sydney on a rural property, and crikey, I don’t know where they found all that mud, but let me tell you, there was lot’s of it over the 20 kilometre obstacle course…
Anyway, I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of the event, ’cause I’m heading for the showers, you know, to clean myself up…
P.S. Note to self, suggest to Janet that I’ve found the perfect beauty treatment that only costs about a hundred bucks. The last time I saw the bill for the day spa, and mud pack, it cost a multiple of this…
But I need to get through Tough Mudder first which is being held to the north of Sydney tomorrow…
They say running 20 kilometres, being zapped by 10,000 volts, jumping through burning hay bales, after swimming in ice cold water is fun – I’m hoping so!
Earlier this year I competed in the Speight’s Coast to Coast Adventure Race, a race that starts on the West Coast of the country at Kumara beach on the Tasman Sea, takes you over the Southern Alps, and finishes on the East Coast in Christchurch at Sumner beach on the Pacific Ocean.
It is billed as the world’s premier multi-sport event and the benchmark by which all other multi-sport events are judged, both in New Zealand and overseas.
It covers a total distance of 243 kilometres comprising 36 kilometres of running, including a 33km mountain stage that climbs almost 1,000 metres, two cycling legs totalling 125 kilometres, and a 67 kilometre kayak down the Waimakariri River, through the Grand Canyon of New Zealand, the Waimakariri Gorge.
If you’ve got a spare 5 minutes take the time to have a look at the video, it showcases the race and is very inspiring.
The winner in this year’s one day event took line honours in just over eleven hours.
The cut-off times for the one day event were too severe for me, so I competed in the two day event and Janet my partner, and Tomo, our son were my support crew. They did a great job!
The scenery is amazing, and despite being in a race I made sure I took it in, especially the views as I made my way up over Goats Pass on the 33 kilometre mountain run.
The kayak leg takes you down the fast flowing Waimakariri River, a braided river that has a 33 kilometre section of white water as it passes through a long gorge. Spectacular country, and I rolled twice in the gorge as I negotiated rapids, usually about the times I relaxed to take in the view!
But what makes this event truly great is the camaraderie of all the competitors. Whilst it is a race I found the support given and shown throughout the event is unparallel in any other event I have competed in. The sportsmanship shown was fantastic, although, being an Aussie I did get some friendly ribbing from my Tasman cousins, as you’d expect!
And how is this for inspiration, Neelusha Memona a 27 year old who lost 70 percent of her sight after a brain injury in 2000 competed and finished the two day event assisted by a support crew…
The people of Christchurch are amazing. Almost one year to the day of the start of this year’s race, its 30th running, the city was struck by a devastating earthquake that destroyed a large part of the city centre, many people died.
But as we passed through the city on our bikes, racing to the finish line, ushered through traffic lights by police as though we were royalty, the people of Christchurch lined the streets and cheered us on.
I read many stories about people competing in triathlons, running, and cycling events, even kayak races.
I say, if you love adventure, exercise, and have a panache for travel – take the time to have a look at this event, you might find yourself drawn towards it, like a magnet. And truly, you will be rewarded by a great experience in a country full of spectacular scenery and warm friendly people.
I was, and if I can convince “the boss” at work to give me more time off I might just get back for next February’s start.
There are so many wonderful stories on WordPress, many inspirational, plenty that are motivational, and of course there are those that give you a chuckle just when you need it.
It would seem unfair that anyone of these stories is singled out…
In fact, I have spent so much time reading them recently that I have a pile of books that I have put off reading, gathering dust in the study…
So to all, I simply say thank you!
In part, my blog is about my journey to climb an 8,000 mountain peak, the trials and tribulations, the warts and all account, but it is also an opportunity for me to provide a window into an average Aussie bloke’s day-to-day life.
The commas may not always be in the right place, or the grammar might be left wanting at times, but hopefully the story shines through…
I chose to share my story because the dream I have, my goal of high altitude climbing frightens me a little.
Who am I that I should dream of such an undertaking?
And there is nothing wrong with being a little bit frightened, but I am determined to give it my best shot, approaching the challenge in a logical way and seeking the assistance of those who have been there, who have the skills, to learn those skills, but above all else to have fun trying…
Since putting my story out there I have received many words of encouragement. This encouragement is the energy, the fuel that powers me on…
Many people are on a journey, pursuing their dreams and it has given me great comfort to know that others are scaling their own peaks, whatever they might be. It is the collective sharing of these stories that demonstrates loudly that ordinary people are achieving great things each and every day.
The legendary mountaineer, Walt Unsworth summed up many of us when he opined…
But there are men for whom the unattainable has a special attraction. Usually they are not experts: their ambitions and fantasies are strong enough to brush aside the doubts which more cautious men might have. Determination and faith are their strongest weapons. At best such men are regarded as eccentric; at worst, mad…”
That first kilogram of weight loss, or a new personal best in a running race, overcoming adversity, or baking the best cake you have ever made, these are the dreams of others, and they are no less or more significant than others, but the one thing these dreams have in common is they provide a starting point for us all to start our journey…
And for many of us the greatest support we receive is from our families, encouraging us to find the greatness that lies within us all.
In the words of someone who inspires me, TomO, our 12 year old son. On taking my place on the start line in the Coast-to-Coast adventure race across New Zealand earlier this year, he took my hand and simply said – Dad, just embrace it!
Ocean and surf paddling is a good way to assist in developing and advancing white water skills and is more accessible for us than white water kayaking. We have lots of beaches near-by, but very little white water other than the stadium that was used in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
And Terrigal turned it on for us today, we are only two days into spring and the weather was fantastic, if this is what we can look forward to over the next few months then we will be in seventh heaven!
I gave my other kayak, a Fenn Mako XT, a run today, its first in months as it is a very stable boat to paddle. Although it is slightly shorter than my Epic kayak, which measures in at 6.5 metres long, and 42 centimetres wide. Ray was paddling his Beachcomber Barracuda…
There wasn’t much of a swell coming through the Haven and further offshore a strong southeasterly was making conditions choppy, but we made the most of what was on offer spending about three hours on the water.
Ray was eyeing the large hill that shelters the Haven from these winds, pointing out that the stairs leading to the look-out would be good for a cardio-workout and was booking me in for next Saturday morning at 6am. I was thinking of some ‘naughty’ words to use, but simply smiled and said…bring it on!
But hey, happy to put it in the diary as it is a great spot and we can finish off the session with a paddle in the kayaks, that will give me a chance to wreak my revenge on Ray…
And seeing TomO out on the paddle board today having fun in the sun whilst Janet and I looked on was the best father’s day present a dad could wish for…!
Most days I rise at 4.30am to row on my C2 rowing machine and I do some sort of resistance exercises using either body weight, or free weights later in the day. Usually I spend around two hours a day on exercise, depending on the program for any given week.
For strength I train as a power-lifter as I believe it strengthens not only the body, but also the mind.
My personal bests are listed here, and I am lifting not too far from those levels presently.
Squat – 175 kg (385 lbs.)
Bench Press – 152.5 kg (335 lbs.)
Dead-lift – 215 kg (475 lbs.)
But I might also grab a backpack, usually weighted at around 30 kilograms and go for a 10 kilometre walk up and down the hills near where I live. I have been increasing this in recent weeks to assist in the mountain climbing I will be doing over the next few months in New Zealand and later next year in Nepal.
In recent times I have been doing 50 & 100 kilometre walks, starting in the early hours of the morning and walking until I get to the finish, taking as little rest time as I can manage. Great for the mind, body, and soul…
And on the weekend I can usually be found kayaking on Narrabeen Lake located on Sydney’s northern beaches with my family. It is a great place to paddle, and nothing beats watching the sunset over the lake after a lazy summers day on the water.
This all fits perfectly with my pursuit of long distance adventure racing, and mountaineering goals I have set myself.
Earlier this year I competed in the Coast-to-Coast race in New Zealand. A 243 kilometre traverse across New Zealand’s South Island, and Southern Alps, running, cycling, and kayaking. A tough, but rewarding race.
I think we over complicate it too much these days. For me it is meat and three vegies a couple of times a day, in addition to eggs, oats, and good quality milk. It is a simple formula really, eat more than you burn and you put weight on, eat less and it comes off…just stick to a good quality diet, it usually works well…
Well I gave away gyms many years ago, preferring to workout at home to my own music!
TomO, our 12-year-old son, popped up with a camera this morning during my session, which I did to a great Australian rock band, The Angels, and he started shooting some pictures for something to do, so here they are!
As I rolled over and flicked the alarm off this morning, I lay back in the bed, tired, feeling like I should just roll the other way and forget about the rowing session. Surely it could wait until tonight, perhaps tomorrow morning? Anytime but now…
I’m betting we’ve all been there, I visit this speed-hump at least once a week and today was that day of the week.
And as I slowly drifted back into the dream-world I thought about my goals, what I want to achieve in mountaineering, even the possibility of competing in the Speight’s Coast to Coast again this coming February, an adventure race that crosses New Zealand from west to east. It is a tough event, but I remembered how good I felt as I cycled through the city of Christchurch, the finish line almost in sight, bands playing, children clapping, men and women unknown cheering me to the finish line.
My tired legs pumped away, energised by the support, by the crowd that made me feel like a champion…
That was enough to break me free from my slumber, and I was up in the shed rowing within 15 minutes, and it was an awesome session.
Motivation, harness it however you can, reaching and achieving your goals is not an easy road, but you’re not alone…
As a kid I relished the chance of playing in the mud, waiting for the rains to come to create that oozing, chocolate slush that you could roll in, throw at your mates, and of course get a dressing down from your Mum when you got home with clothes so dirty they needed two wash’s to get clean.
Surely I wasn’t alone in this pleasant past-time? And if the rise and success of the various adventure races, the ones that invariably have numerous mud pits strategically placed around the course is any guide to go by, then clearly I wasn’t.
Recently, my 12 year old son, TomO, and I headed off to compete in a Tough Bloke Challenge which was staged just to the south of Sydney. And I do use the word compete lightly as this was intended to be a fun day out and whilst there were some serious looking competitors’ lining up at the start, for the most part everyone was similar to ourselves, eager to get down and dirty!
The first challenge was almost on the start line and required us to scale a stack of hay bales, and then on to a 3-kilometre trail run to warm us up for what lie ahead. There was mud trenches covered with barbed wire, dark concrete tunnels, monkey bars to negotiate, flying foxes to ride, and all this along a 7-kilometre course. We egged each other on, laughing our way around the course, jostling with thousands of others sloshing through the mud.
A lot of time could be spent hypothesising on what has encouraged so many weekend-warriors to line up with their mates, seemingly happy to put themselves through a gruelling work-out just to receive a medal, and a cold beer to drink a toast to crossing the finish line. But let’s face it – rolling in the mud is just great fun!
Don’t you think so?
It was going to be a dark, wet, and strenuous night, but after months of rigorous training there I was facing the starter’s gun in the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic. Twelve hours and twenty one minutes later I crossed the finish line at Brooklyn Bridge just as the first rays of light were piercing the eastern skyline.
The Hawkesbury Canoe Classic is a paddling race covering 111 kilometres of the Hawkesbury River from Windsor to Brooklyn. The race had its beginnings in 1977 when members of the New South Wales Outward Bound Ex-students Association decided to organise a canoe race along the route they had paddled during their course, raising money for medical research in the process. The first race attracted 250 paddlers and raised $8,500. Twenty seven years later the event attracts over 600 paddlers in about 400 boats and raises in excess of $1.7M for medical research. Of the original 250 paddlers, two have completed every race since then.
The race is held annually in October as close as possible to the full moon. The weather at this time is usually more stable, with lengthy daylight hours. You might be left wondering what the full moon has to do with the race. No, it isn’t some sort of pagan ritual, although being a little affected by a full moon might go some way to explaining why you would subject yourself to this type of gruelling punishment.
The race was originally run overnight to take advantage of calmer weather conditions and lighter traffic on the river. The Hawkesbury is a mecca for water-skiing enthusiasts who are more likely to be partying than skiing on a Saturday evening. It also allows the slower paddlers to make the last painful strokes in daylight.
The organisation of the event is outstanding, with hundreds of volunteers working towards one common goal—the safety of the paddlers and their support crews throughout the event. This was no mean feat, given that 600 paddlers had to be accounted for at the nineteen checkpoints throughout the evening. But it was seamless, a credit to the hard-working officials and the army of untiring volunteers.
So just how did I come to be in this event? Many years ago, more than I care to remember, I was living in Papua New Guinea where I took up paddling a surf ski. A number of my work colleagues joined me over time, and we even had our own surf club of sorts—The Loloata Surf Club, based at Loloata Island. The surf ski kept me fit and provided many enjoyable hours paddling along the Papuan coastline.
Well you know how the story goes, returning to Australia and a new job in Sydney the focus changed and the Loloata Surf Club became something to raise a toast to when the boys got together for a reunion, although the only exercise seemed to be the bending of the elbow and talk of times, enjoyable ones mind you, long past.
A couple of years ago I decided to buy myself another surf ski (they tell me my original is still going strong in Papua New Guinea). It took me another twelve months to translate that into action and at the beginning of this year I purchased a shorter version of a typical racing ski. This lasted me about two months before I outgrew it. It had whet my appetite for paddling again so I decided to buy myself something faster and commit to paddling in the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic. Christine Haywood from Pro-Kayaks, a specialist Kayak shop situated on Sydney’s Narrabeen Lake, assisted me in selecting the right craft, which for me ended up being a Fenn Mako XT.
The team at Pro-Kayaks run a training clinic each Saturday morning and on joining this group I quickly discovered the only thing I knew about paddling was that you needed a boat and a paddle. Whilst still trying to perfect that elusive technique exhibited by the champions I’ve improved immensely since my first session. In fact to the point that I’ve felt confident enough to join the Manly Warringah Kayak Club which races every Sunday on Narrabeen Lake.
But what about the race I hear you ask? In typical fashion I committed myself to the Classic without giving much thought to what an overnight paddle totalling 111 kilometres really entailed. Those who know me are probably saying, so what’s new Baz?
In the lead-up to the event there are a number of familiarisation paddles that effectively cover the whole course in sections over a number of weeks. This was really helpful for me as it took out some of the mystique of what lay ahead. In addition to many paddling sessions, some covering thirty kilometres and more, I spent a fair amount of time cross-training, doing weights, swimming and riding a bike to increase my fitness level.
Originally I entered myself in the Veterans 45—unclassified craft. This group was timed to start last at 6pm. However, on one of the familiarisation paddles someone casually remarked that the 6pm starters was the fast group comprising all the serious paddlers. Rightly or wrongly so, I had visions of myself bringing up the rearguard, paddling into a dark abyss by myself and as back-marker in the event. I quickly amended my entry to start in the Brooklyn or Bust category, a group reserved for those who aren’t out to break any records, and as it suggests, just want to make it to the finish line.
After spending the later part of the morning registering myself, having the craft checked (there was no hidden outboard) and my life vest certified, the time had come—I was in the starters hands. Too late now, the gun sounded and off we went.
We had some light showers of rain in the first 20 kilometres and darkness descended very quickly. This didn’t bother me and I settled into a routine, after all I only had to put one blade in after another and pass one check point at a time. The moon came up about midnight, although it spent a lot of time behind the cloud and didn’t provide much light at all.
I stopped at Sackville, a ferry crossing on the river, and the first major check-point in the race. My support crew was made up of Janet my wife, and a long-time friend, Bob Todd. They were a welcome sight as I pulled into refill my water supply and grab a quick bite to eat. The paddle to Wiseman’s Ferry, the event’s major checkpoint, was hard as I was now challenged by an incoming tide. I stopped at Wiseman’s much longer than I had anticipated, in fact my total stop time for the event was a lengthy ninety minutes, however I was running ahead of my planned time and my crew thought they should not push me back out onto the river until I was ready to go.
Leaving Wiseman’s behind I was quite relaxed and felt that I was actually going to finish; that was the plan from the outset mind you, but there is always a sneaking element of self-doubt. I stopped at the pit stop barbeque which was situated about twenty kilometres past Wiseman’s. It isn’t an official checkpoint, but on a bend in the river a small band of men serves you scones and jam, soup, and a hot drink. At 1.30 am in the morning and some eighty-five kilometres downstream from the start it is hard to put into words just how good those scones and jam tasted. They were so good I actually had three!
Rounding checkpoint Q and heading towards Milsons Passage I felt a renewed vigour. Perhaps it was the sense that the finish line was little more than a few kilometres away or maybe it was just a relief knowing that in a handful of minutes I would be able to get my butt out of the boat, either way the last three kilometres weren’t easy. I could see the finish line, but it just didn’t seem to get any closer. Eventually a town crier was ringing a bell and announcing my name, the crowd that had gathered was cheering and there was Janet and Bob clapping and waving frantically—I had made it!
As I stepped out of the boat I was presented with a medallion to signify just that—it wasn’t a fast time, I didn’t break any records, but none-the-less I felt like a winner.
Next year? I’ll be a starter – for sure!
The question seemed innocent enough, and I must confess to jumping to attention like a new recruit whenever I hear the call go out, and let’s face it, on a Saturday afternoon the chances are you will be escaping the lawn mowing that you’ve been promising for the last two weeks. So when brother-in-law, fellow hiking companion and adventurer, Ray Tong, sounded the bugle I was all set. And even the wry smile on his face didn’t alert me to the journey I was about to embark on so I grabbed my wallet and there I was at the back door panting like a faithful dog ready for a walk.
I assumed this was going to be our chance to discuss the possibility of participating in the London to Mongolia car rally conducted by a group calling themselves the Adventurists’ which was a hot topic for us as one of Ray’s work colleagues had just completed it and loved every moment of the journey. It sounded like our kind of adventure…and I was ready for it.
As the beer flowed there was a long and animated discussion about the merits and cost of such an undertaking, punctuated by bellowing laughter of the trouble we might find ourselves as we headed to Mongolia and by about the time the third schooner had been downed I was convinced we would be heading to London and on our way before long at all. But somehow it was all lost in the translation, the beer Ray was referring to was the one handed to you after completing the Speight’s Coast to Coast Adventure Race in New Zealand and as the liquid amber flowed the implication was lost on me!
It is worth noting that ever since we hiked from Sydney to Newcastle a couple of years ago along the Great North Walk I have been wary of the pay-back for the day I made Ray walk double the distance we had planned, oddly enough, all in the name of getting to the finish and a beer one day earlier. Mind you I figured after I had helped lay about 5,000 pavers in his driveway last year the incident had well and truly been forgotten, clearly not – but I digress…
Sunday morning and I was staring down the barrel of an entry into one of the world’s toughest multi-sport events, and not to mention the disapproving eye Janet was casting between me and the knee-high grass in the backyard. Although on the later, Ray had smoothed Janet over already by telling her I was taking the family on a New Zealand holiday in February – thanks mate!
So just what was entailed to get the beer, Ray laid the information out for all to see. And the teasing grin on Janet’s face seemed to be saying, if only you had mowed the lawn instead! I read on.
The Speight’s Coast to Coast has been billed as the world’s premier multi-sport event, and a benchmark by which all other multi-sport events are judged, in New Zealand and all around the world. The race traverses the South Island of New Zealand from Kumara Beach on the Tasman Sea to Sumner Beach on the Pacific Ocean. There are options for a one day event, or a two-day, both entailed cycling 140 kilometres in stages of 55kms, 15kms, and 70kms. Running 36 kilometres, including a 33km mountain stage that crosses New Zealand’s Southern Alps, and finally a 67 kilometre kayak down the Waimakariri River through the Grand Canyon of New Zealand, the Waimakariri Gorge.
I pleaded, even offering to mow the lawn without further haste, but the King’s Schilling had unwittingly been accepted and like an impressed man my fate already had a predetermined path over the next six months. Entries were dispatched and my acceptance letter from Robin Judkins, the man who conceived this event thirty years ago, into the individual two-day event gave some relief and signalled my surrender to the journey ahead.
I’ve never trained for a multi-sport event, wasn’t much of a runner, I had done a lot of cycling in younger days, but an enthusiastic kayaker having competed in winter marathon events and two Hawkesbury Classics, a 111 kilometre kayak race in Sydney. In more recent times I had been focussing on power-lifting along with rowing on the roster of a virtual rowing team based in America. So I had a good base level of fitness to work from.
A visit to the City Bike Depot in Sydney saw me walking out with a brand new Cannondale CAAD 10 racing bike and a wealth of knowledge imparted by Hugh Flower, a previous competitor in the Coast to Coast. In fact I had regular discussions with Hugh on the various facets of the race and he was always willing to offer soothing advice, perhaps it would have been better had he just given it to me straight! But he had me training up and down the Sphinx Track at Bobbin Head, a wonderful part of Sydney’s North Shore, along with some sound advice on cycling. Janet was even heard to quip on more than one occasion that I must be a shareholder of CBD by now after all the money I had invested there.
As time progressed I was actually looking forward to the adventure that the Coast to Coast promised and I threw myself into the training with great vigour. Christmas was always going to present a challenge in balancing training with the festive season, but Ray and I managed to transition this period with little dent to our training regimes, in fact it actually provided some good quality time to train.
By this time we had obtained our grade two kayak certificate, a prerequisite for the event, although we were yet to master rolling in the kayak, perhaps that will come in time! And that brought up the question of kayak selection for the event, would we take one, or hire one in New Zealand? As it turned out Rob Howarth, from Canoe and Kayak in Auckland, a sponsor of the event, was most helpful in this regard and we each hired a Barracuda Beachcomber kayak to use. These boats have proven to be a popular choice for the event as evidenced by the number of yellow boats on the river on race day.
The organisers suggest a familiarisation paddle and run over the mountain prior to race day, so with cheap airfares on offer I headed to Christchurch in mid-January. It is often said some things you have no control over and weather is one of them. I arrived on a Thursday evening, and seemingly my arrival marked the end of a week of fabulous weather and kayaking. Friday was raining, windy and cold and it was against this backdrop I headed off with Rob Howarth and a group of fellow competitors for an introduction to the Waimak. Rob judged that the conditions were not suitable for a kayak through the gorge as the water level had risen significantly in the past 24 hours and the wind was gusting up to 100 kph – welcome to New Zealand!
For me it was a real eye opener as we kayaked the first and last 15 kilometres of the course the race would take, and whilst we avoided the gorge it was a most enjoyable day enhanced by a visit to the Sheffield pie shop, a must do for anyone passing by that way.
The next day was scheduled as a run over the mountain, but the weather was no better and it came as no surprise that the run had been cancelled. In fact, whilst we were kayaking the previous day two groups training for the race were air-lifted off the mountain at Goat’s Pass by helicopter after being caught in the extreme conditions. So I tagged along with Rob for another paddle along the route we followed previous day. The river was completely different, the water level much higher and the flow much faster…
Unable to complete a training run over the mountain I took the opportunity to travel to the transition point at Klondyke Corner, near Arthur’s Pass, on my final day in New Zealand to get a sense of what it was like – it was snowing on the mountains, very cold, and left me pondering whether this beer was going to be worth it…
Having survived the temptations of Christmas only a couple of weeks earlier, a real test was coming up with a planned holiday at Khancoban, a small town on a lake nestled in the foothills of the Australian Alps region. With good intentions I loaded my race bike into the car to enable some cycle training, but on the morning of departure I took it out having decided that with just over two weeks before the event little would be gained from a fitness perspective and the risk of injury was at the forefront of mind. So with that mindset we headed off to Khancoban with our friends and had a great week on the lake, a couple of steaks, a good laugh, and a beer or two!
Fitness is a given for this event and the physical aspect is not to be understated, but often it is mental fortitude that will see you through to the end of a physical endeavour. I adopted this line in any case realising that my training had not been specific enough and too late to correct, so I would be drawing on that mental fortitude to get me across New Zealand’s Southern Alps.
It seemed like ions ago that my entry had been submitted but here we were seated on board an Air New Zealand flight on our way to the inevitable firing of the starter’s gun on Kumara Beach. Once again I was welcomed to the North South Holiday Park in Christchurch by wonderful hosts Julie and Steve Fraser who were pleased to see me back. The park was clearly popular with Coast to Coast competitors with a number of them staying, readily identified by bikes and kayaks atop cars.
One of my greatest fears was my race bike not turning up at the luggage carousel at Christchurch Airport, but it did and in doing so extinguishing another excuse for not being on the start line. The next morning was spent putting it back together whilst Janet headed off to pick-up the Brtiz Campervan she’d organised for our travel.
And who ever said Kiwi’s don’t have a sense of humour? When Janet returned she was in an All-Blacks Rugby Campervan, one that was used during the World Cup series and from that moment on Janet was known as Aussie All-Black, there was no missing us!
With our gear packed into the van we headed in convoy for the West Coast, Kumara racecourse to be precise where we would spend the night prior to the event, pick-up our final registration pack, race numbers, even a six-pack of Speight’s before heading off to the final briefing given by Robin Judkins and dinner at the Kumara Town Hall. And whilst the serious safety stuff was discussed at the briefing, Robin was very entertaining and humourous when recounting past race stories, some of which are now Coast to Coast folklore.
This was the business end of the trip, one last sleep, for those that could, before the silent ride and walk to the start point, Kumara Beach on the Tasman Sea. I needn’t have bothered setting the alarm for I tossed and turned most of the night, as predicted by the old-handers, and before long it was time to get ready. And with one final hug from all Ray and I were on our way, our fate well and truly sealed.
Out of the drizzle and pre-dawn light, in what seemed to be a moment suspended in time, a black helicopter emerged, swooping down onto the beach like a seagull in pursuit of a hot chip, and from it Robin Judkins emerged, megaphone and air-horn in hand. Both Ray and I had been pacing the beach, saying very little to each other, although I probably mumbled bastard toward him at some stage, with a smile of course!
I felt like I should be saying or doing something profound, after all I was about to cross the South Island of New Zealand for goodness sake but I couldn’t think of anything worthy, so I picked up a small pebble and placed it in my bike shirt intending to place it on the East Coast when I finished – I never saw the pebble again, most likely disgorged unceremoniously somewhere along the 243 kilometre route.One minute to go the big fellow bellowed, and in an instant I had an enormous surge of adrenaline through my veins which nauseated me to the point of almost throwing up, but no time for that even, the air-horn sounded and we were off. And I can remember those first few steps I took and thought perhaps this was my profound moment, but I’m not sure why!
The residents of Kumara Junction were out in force, cheery face and clapping as we made our way along the 3 kilometre run to the bike transition, but let’s face it anyone would be cheery in the knowledge you could head back to bed after waving this bunch on their way. Seemingly, in almost no time at all I was clipped into my bike peddles, Ray was tucked in behind me and we were making our way along the 55 kilometre cycle to Aichens Corner in light rain. There was a cruel twist as I cleared the bike transition, a sign that said only 240 kilometres to go!
Settling into the bike ride Ray, who hired his bike in New Zealand, was having some gear trouble and found himself going faster than he wanted to – if only I had that sort of problem I thought! The ride was pleasant and undulating with some small hill climbs. Mind you when I saw the hills the previous day on our drive to Kumara I was cursing under my breath, I thought they said it was flat, but I guess this was Kiwi Flat.
The road had been closed to vehicle traffic for the first 40 kilometres of the ride although we were warned to expect vehicles at anytime, but the last 15 kilometres would be open so the appearance of a road sign warning of oncoming traffic was welcoming as it meant only 15 kilometres to Aichen Corner and the commencement of the run.
The last 15 kilometres passed quickly and in no time I was off the bike and running towards TomO and Janet, both beaming large smiles and clearly happy to see I’d made it to the first transition. They did a superb job of getting me into my running clothes and shoes, and slipping my alpine survival pack with all my sustenance in it onto my back. But it was at this point I diverted from a well laid plan, thought out in the comfort of our living room, and discarded the idea of changing into my running shorts instead opting to leave my bike shorts on for the mountain run. Well blow me down, what a mistake that was and a week later I’m still paying for that spur of the moment decision, mind you it was because of a spur of the moment decision that I was here in any case…
When it comes to training I had done as much running on rough bush tracks as time permitted and some of these runs spanned five or more hours, but I hadn’t actually prepared myself for getting off a bike after 55 kilometres and straight into a run. And yes, it was suggested by the girls that we do this type of training but we never got around to it and here we were slogging it out and that was before we even got to the timing gate!
You wouldn’t believe there could be so many rocks in one place. The terrain had large size boulders increasing from the size of a softball to the size of a car and they had to be negotiated as you made your way up the river valley. Competitors’ in the know cross the river 10 or so times, those that aren’t probably do it twice as many times. Mind you, it was a reasonably warm day and the river crossings provided an opportunity to rehydrate and for this purpose I carried a plastic cup and simply scooped water at each crossing.
Perhaps it wasn’t the gears on the bike that was Ray’s problem as he was now stepping out in front of me, possibly spurred on by the fact that we had been passed by a couple of grand-mothers in hiking boots, bless their souls. He offered plenty of encouragement and I settled into a quick paced walk, albeit slower than his. Realistically very few could actually run the whole mountain, although the fastest time recorded this year was 2 hours 58 minutes, by Trevor Voyce, for the 33 kilometres, but I’m sure he probably spent the last three years living with a herd of mountain goats, for at times there wasn’t even a track to follow.
Eventually it was with some relief that Goat’s Pass Hut came into view framed against a spectacular blue sky. Though I’m not sure I should have felt so much relief as I was only around the half-way point and the downhill was not going to be any easier. I caught up to a young lady named Yvonne, who had twisted her ankle, but still making great progress. With true Kiwi grit she simply said I have to suck it up to which I quipped, with a chuckle, that I was trying my hardest. She had a good laugh and we were the best of mates from that time, mind you she put on a cracking pace despite her injury.
The final section of the run took us down a river gorge towards the Beeley River confluence and Yvonne suggested she had a short-cut and I recall thinking maybe Ray won’t know about it and I’ll catch up to him. I suspect everyone knew the short-cut and it was to no avail as he was at the timing gate to cheer me in from the mountain run. TomO was waiting on the river bed about 500 metres from the finish, I think Janet sent him out on a search and rescue mission as the clock was ticking away and many had finished by this time, but I got a cheer from the crowd as I made my way down the timing chute, and much to Janet’s relief I was in one piece and looking okay, relative to the undertaking of course…
I enjoyed the day immensely despite taking much longer than I anticipated, but equally I was also glad to be sitting in a chair devouring a pie from Sheffield pie shop and reflecting on the past few hours. Dieticians’ might have a differing view on recovery food but let me say for the record, that pie was bloody good!
Prior to the event I spent time researching at length my nutrition requirements and had it covered between gels, liquid nutrition and solid muesli type bars, in fact none other than Em’s Power Cookies, a New Zealand product produced by previous Coast to Coast winner Emily Miazga. But I did struggle to get the solids down on the run and without doubt I was underdone on the nutrition throughout the day – I can see that eating on the run is an art form that requires plenty of training to achieve successfully…
At the conclusion of day one, support crew Team Big Bad Baz went to great lengths to ensure I was okay, constantly checking in on me, in fact Janet is always looking after her boys something TomO and I appreciate greatly. But all I really wanted was a shower and a bit of a snooze. And it was at the point the hot water flowed I realised I had a serious chaffing problem, in fact anyone within a 500 metre radius of the All-Blacks Van would have been alerted to my problem!
I wish I could say I slept like a baby – but I didn’t, and it seemed like I had only put my head to pillow when the alarm jolted me into the start of day two of the event. A 15 kilometre cycle, 67 kilometre kayak, and a final 70 kilometre cycle into Christchurch. I don’t think Janet and TomO actually knew what 4.30am in the morning actually looked like, neither are known as early morning people but dutifully they were up and fussing over me before preparing themselves to head to the kayak transition – they needed to leave the campsite by 5am and down to the Mt White Bridge for the kayak gear scrutineering. Fortunately for me, Leah, Janet’s sister and Ray’s partner, was staying behind with their son Aubrey so I was able to stay in the relative warmth of their camper van until it was time to head over to the start line.
The morning was cold and it was with some relief that we were eventually dispatched in groups of 10 towards the Mt White Bridge on the Waimak River, climbing a couple of hills along the way. The 15 kilometre ride finishes on the highway and it was a requirement to dismount from the bikes and run approximately 800 metres down a dirt road to the kayaks and despite planning to take my kayak shoes, I didn’t and was left to run in my cycle shoes, consequently many people passed me who obviously had the sense to stick with their plans! Before long Janet and TomO were pouring me into my life vest, kayak, and with a hug sent me on my way down the river. This was to be my first encounter with the gorge, an unknown for me, which actually made it quite exciting. Ray hadn’t been on the river at all and due to our different start times he was about 15 minutes ahead. And okay, I’ll fess up that I did think to myself, with a slight snicker, if he falls out I might catch up to him, besides it would have been fun going down the river together…
The first of the braided section was fairly straight forward and the river was quite low which was good and bad. The paddle would be slower, some of the more difficult bits would be gone, but the lower river level would expose many more obstacles to be avoided! I recognised the Rock Gardens, a series of four rapids, seemingly thrown at you as a teaser for the gorge ahead. They had some kayakers in play boats at hand to rescue those who went for a swim, fortunately I negotiated this area with little trouble and was back in to the braided section ahead of the gorge in no time at all.
The gorge was spectacular and whilst this was a race I took in the view between negotiating some of the more difficult rapids, although it was whilst looking around admiring the view that I found myself upside down and swimming alongside my kayak – how’s that for karma, sorry Ray! The waters of the Waimakariri River are usually a beautiful turquoise blue and its name roughly translates to River of cold rushing water and it is fair to say it lived up to its name on both counts. After a short swim I was back in the boat only to find myself swimming about 5 minutes later, and my mind turned to thoughts of being the recipient of a trophy, an old washing machine agitator, which is given to the person who swims the most in the gorge. Fortunately this was the last time I swam, and I must say that on both occasions the river was fairly benign where I came out, the first was just after passing through a fairly large wave train, the second time I can’t even be sure, but clearly I was relaxing too much!
There were numerous jet boats and check points on the river, monitoring our progress and Woodstock was the final checkpoint prior to the kayak finish. Woodstock was about 1 hour from the finish and required you to negotiate braided sections of the river, but the river makes you work right to the end with a couple of bluffs with large pressure waves and boils to negotiate literally in sight of the finish.
I rounded the corner and up onto the beach, TomO was excitedly calling to Janet who was anxiously scanning the monitor board. It turns out that they were sending through race numbers as kayakers passed Woodstock and these were being placed on a notice board, but apparently they missed a number of us, myself included…
The transition area for the bike leg was at the top of a small rise, so after a few hours of having your legs cramped in the boat you need to make your way up the hill and onto the bike. TomO led the way and got me onto the bike and pointed me in the direction of Christchurch and the finish line at Sumner Beach. At first I was just going to head-off in my kayak shorts, but a mental whack across the back of my head saw me changing into bike shorts, as planned!
Ray and I had rationalised that once on the bike it was only 70 kilometres to the finish – yeah, right. There was nothing easy about this ride and whilst the wind was initially coming side on from the south eventually it turned easterly into a head-wind just to make it a bit harder. Fortunately I passed another competitor, Robert from the Cook Islands just after the transition and without hesitating he jumped onto my back wheel and simply said move out when you want a break and I’ll take the lead. We did 5 minutes on, 5 minutes off all the way to the finish line without speaking a word to each other – there wasn’t much to say at that stage and the job was still ahead of us, but we gave each other a congratulatory hug as we crossed the line. The value of teamwork well and truly highlighted.
The ride to Christchurch was via long flat roads and starting about 40 kilometres out there were cars parked alongside with people cheering and clapping as we passed. The crowds got bigger as we passed through the city and the police halted traffic at all intersections waving competitors nearing the end of this epic journey through like royalty, ensuring a clear, safe cycle to the finish line…
A sea breeze was blowing as I rounded the final bend, officials were ahead waving me in and at the ready to take my bike so I could make the final sprint, okay … let’s just settle on a jog, down to the finish line.
The announcer’s call went out, number 4-6-0 Barry O’Malley from Australia… Janet and TomO were there smiling ear to ear, Leah, and Deb were fussing over Ray, who glanced my way with a big smile, and the crowd cheered loudly – I felt like a champion and welled inside with pride as Robin Judkins handed me my Speight’s Beer, put his arm around me and said, good onya mate! This was a fantastic event run by an army of enthusiastic volunteers and the flamboyant Robin Judkins is to be congratulated on conceiving it 30 years ago, our friends across the Tasman welcomed us warmly wherever we went, even if they did take the puss out of us about the All-Blacks van, the camaraderie was second to none, and I enjoyed every minute of it…
And over the din of the cheering crowd I could hear a small voice in my head echoing the advice TomO had given me many months earlier… Dad, just embrace it…