Saturday, 26 May 2012

Day 60 - 63......... A beautiful blur

Why is it when I’m out running in wilderness I’m often looking for a sealed road and when I’m on a sealed road I’m looking at getting off it as soon as possible and getting back in to wilderness. My BNT days seem to involve this sealed road theory each day.

When leaving the comfort of the Maui Mothership each day, I look forward to the adventures of the day out in the wilderness. Though the whole time I’m out there the gaol is to get to the sealed road where Vickie will be to meet me, the focus is getting to the road, it has safety and my ticket out of there.

The other side to this is leaving the Maui Mothership not looking forward to the day ahead as its going to be on sealed roads where there’s really no adventure. And look forward to better days where I’m out looking for what I want to get off.

Confused? Because I am. But, what it really means is that I’m a trail runner , period. I wish I could use the term born and bred, but like most I started my running days pushing myself on the pavement with the adventure being dodging cars and out running the neighbour’s dog.

But, I am a breed, a trail breed and one thing the BNT has done to me is bring out the true trail runner that I am, with just thinking of tarmac I get sick.

The last couple of days have been a little depressing due to the National Trail taking in some quit country sealed roads. It should be a time of relief whereby I can open up my stride, not think and cover some ground. However, it’s been a time where it’s felt like paint drying, just counting each kilometre wanting the day to hurry up and finish even though it’s just begun. From the first step I feel every strike and the ground force shoot up through my foot, rattle my body just in time for the other foot landing to repeat the process all over again.

Have I become weak? Are road runners hardened to the pavement? Used to the repetitiveness of the same old?

Trail running is harder I believe, but, with the terrain giving a little underfoot, every foot strike being different and your mind being constantly challenged by what’s coming up next, there leaves little room for not being hard or getting used to any same old.

Luckily for me I’m on the BNT and for the best part I can over indulge in all the great things that trail running has to offer nearly every single day, so really what’s a bit of road running? Just a mental game I have to play with myself that really is harder than any type of running.

 It’s all about hardening ones self-that’s why I am 1500km in on this 5330km journey, a journey about one’s self. That sums’ running up doesn’t it?

So the last few days have looked something like this;

Day 60 – Phipps Cutting – Sandy Hollow: Seal Roads
I followed the road past some of Australia’s best wineries, shame I had no time for a tipple, would have helped with the roads repetitiveness. The first 1km was a little bit of a bush bash as the trail followed the old cutting where no one had been for a while.

Day 61 – Sandy Hollow – Ridgelands: Sealed Roads
The best bit about Sandy Hollow was our visit to the school first thing in the morning this was also timed with some showers that I was happy to miss the time I went out running late that morning. This section of the BNT follows what used to be a quit country road, but since the mine opened up, this has become a highway for trucks.

Day 62 – Ridgelands – Aberdeen: Happy Half trails and Half Sealed Roads
Started out wet, but headed out across cattle fields and over a bush covered saddle. Then it was some road, then back over some rolling hills by which time the sun had come out and finished once again on road.

Day 63 – Aberdeen – Rouchel North: Sealed Roads
This brought me to my sealed road post, But looks like I’m follow a dirt road through the mountains tomorrow, well at least for the first 15km anyway.

We're camped in a deserted Showgrounds.......Vickie's cooking the 6kg pumpkin we were given, looks like soup, grilled, steamed and some chopped up and stored in the fridge. The little perks are plenty.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Day 57....................Busy Getting Back into It!

It’s been a few days since I last posted. It’s been busy with school talks, radio interviews and of course running. Since having to take that few days out it also buggered up the routine that me and Vickie had down pat, so we have been trying to get back to how it was, which was running, eating and sleeping for me, and everything else Vickie! ;)

So, here is just a brief of what the last few days have been like.

Wolgan Valley – State Forest.

What a climb out of the Wolgan valley and so worth it to the view as always on the BNT where out of this world. The next 25km form here would be a little touch and go as this part of the trail was very remote any returning injury here would be tragic.

The start of the day down at the Nile ruins was a little confusing. Vickie decided that she would run the first few K’s out with me, but we spent half our time figuring out where the actual trail went. I finally found where I would be heading up and out of the valley and Vickie turned back.
As I mentioned the view were fantastic at the top and there was a new BNT camp shelter set up, I signed the book as always and made my way over the top of the sand stone spur.

After about 10km the trail took a steep decent along the side of the natural sandstone wall. It was amazing this wave like wall on my left and a fern filled gorge on my right, I was in trail heaven as I took off at pace.

The trail then left the Wollemi National Park and headed in to Coricudgy State Forest where I met Vickie parked at the lock gate the far side. It’s funny I often wonder if she will be there. I know she will do everything in her power to be there, but with the roads sometimes not being there and all the lock gates that we encounter, I never know if the end will be the end or if I will have to trudge another 30 odd kilometres to get out!

State Forest – Widden Valley

I thought the Wolgan Valley was beautiful and then came Widden. To get there was a little less fantastic, but once at the gateway which was Keith’s lookout the drop down into it was a trail runners delight.
The day started at Dunns Swamp and headed out in to the forest for the first 12km. That 12km became 22 and I wasn’t even lost. It seems either the guide book was wrong of the trail had be re-routed as I followed the BNT markers all the way. It made for a longer day than planned, but being back in action I was up for the challenge of now getting to the pickup point before sunset.

After the 10k detour the trail was in more open land and the trail reasonably flat, this was good as I could keep a steady pace up and catch up on the lost time.
The trail was then going to head back into the Wollemi National Park, but before that I had to tackle a 9ft locked gate. Easy for the runner, but, not so easy for the normal way of traveling the BNT, which is by horse back. After squeezing through the gap in the fence, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps someone was trying to keep me out, or worst keep something in!

It wasn’t long before I came across the Livery Stables, funny it’s called that as it’s a cave with aboriginal art. I was looking forward to seeing it all day, but apart from the cave being pretty cool, there wasn’t much to see. I signed the book and moved on to the next highlight of the day, Sandy Hut.

I find Mountain Huts a little scary at the best of times. I always approach them with caution, thinking that some weirdo might be living in it and when opening the door have my guard up ready to punch whomever that may be. Stupid I know, there is never anybody around just me….now who’s the weirdo? Again I sign the book and move on into what was a perfect afternoon in the sunshine.

Saving the best till last, I came across Keith’s lookout and the gateway to the Widden Valley! There was 10km of downhill gorge running through waterfalls, ferns, streams and amazing rock formations, before hitting the bottom of the valley floor, with 360 degree views…….Simple amazing!

I ran through the valley for a further 10km to meet the Maui Mothership, how Vickie had got into this private property was a different story, but it was an amazing place to camp then night, and I look forward to the mornings run out!

Widden Valley – Phipps Cutting
The 25km run through Widden was simply breathtaking, the weather helped as it was blue skies and sunshine once again. The terrain was super flat and it gave me time to open up the stride a little and crank out some mileage.

A simple day with great views for the runs entirety.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Day 55……………………Almost Perfection!

What a day in the valley, absolute beauty, stunning for every step I took out there today. So, why almost perfect I here you ask? My niggle, plain and simple. I ran today, in fact I ran for nearly all of the 35km I had to run, but, just had a that funny dull pain that just stops you from being totally comfortable, had me on a knife edge all day wondering if anything might just put me back where I was last week.

Enough of the niggle thing it seems to be all I can think about at the moment and I’m sick of hearing about it in my head, so you most certainly must be? So let me start again.
The Crown Station was the start of what was a perfect day in the Wolgan Valley, which I learnt today is the second largest valley in the world by acreage, coming in behind, of course the Grand Canyon.
If you have never been to this part of the world I suggest you do, if it’s not to run then just take in the pure beauty.

The day was flat, very flat. This was due to me being in the heart of the valley and had views all day of the cliffs and mountains either side that make up the valley walls. It was Australian farmland at its best; I got to see every farm animal imaginable roaming around the pastures, including a turkey the size of a Siamese wombat! Eagles soared above casting shadows over me as they flew overhead.

Vickie caught up to me as I ran down the dirt road; she would be helping me out today as she had access. This was good for me as I didn’t have to carry my pack which at times can be heavy. I didn’t realize how heavy until I had my talk at the ANT Gym in Portland and the owner tried it on and reckoned it was around 10kg. Was I really carrying that much around with me? 4Ltrs of water makes up about 4kg which I suspect is the bulk of it, but with a first aid, safety equipment, GPS devices, and spare cloths and of cause food, I suppose things add up.

The weather was amazing, blue skies and a sun with some heat in it, I decided to go shirtless and feel free, I get perhaps why Anton Krupicka runs almost always with his top off. I have the beard now and a hairy chest to back the Anton thing up!

I met with some interesting people along the dirt road today, funny, as I was passed by about five cars and spoke with about three of them. They were all locals, friendly and supportive of my attempt and the BNT on the whole. Interesting lives people lead around these parts. Some are 4th generation still doing what there folks did before them and loving it.

The BNT passes through the town of Glen Alice, How it becomes one of those I do not know?, one house, a church and a telephone box makes up this town. The most interesting thing is that it has a phone box, for its population of….well I’m guessing, but let’s say four, and perhaps another 10 when it’s a week day, because it also has a school?
It’s the only place on today’s route and we drove back to stay there the night. Vickie decided to do some training herself and took off down the track I had run for 10km. Meanwhile I got some wood together and got a fire going. First time we have done this strangely, we always want to be often time escapes us.
We did it properly with potatoes wrapped in foil and charred some pork chops that Vickie got from some friendly pig farmers. And with the back drop of the valley I sit here typing this up hoping that I can post both todays and yesterday blogs tomorrow.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Day 54.............. Best Day to Date!

Day 54.............. Best Day to Date!

After running over 1300km the title is a huge call. I haven’t figured out if it was a great day due to the amazing weather and the spectacular scenery, or the fact that I actual ran today!
It must be the latter, because there hasn’t been a time throughout this run when the scenery has really let me down, or as freak as the weather can be, with its cold days and snow storms, it all seems to build my character and adds to the adventure of it all.

Today however, I had to pinch myself, were the dramatic cliffs before me just simply amazing? Or was it that I was approaching them on the run, a run that I haven’t done for just over a week? The answer, both of course. But, there is something about running, and running long distances in particular that just makes everything better.

I couldn’t get the smile off my face as I ran through a gorge lined with ferns, sun shining through the cracks in its rocky walls, and that fresh smell of bush air. It felt good to be on the move again, really on the move, and I giggled to myself as I almost skipped my way through.

The start of todays run was in the car park of the Colonial Coal Company. A bit of s sight in this beautiful area and the trucks going in and out of its entrance wrecked the peaceful silence and clogged up the air with their fumes.

I went through my strength and stretching routine in the sunshine, both nervous and excited to see how the day was going to shape up with my niggling glute.

The first 3km were on the road, so Vickie made me a cup of tea which I took with me as I would be walking this first bit before leaving Vickie and the road and heading into Wollemi National Park.

It started with a climb, just short and sharp to get me up on the top of the Wolgan Valley, apparently the longest valley in the world. Longest or not it was spectacular none the less and I got intermittent views through the tree line as I crossed the top of its western side.

I hobbled a fair bit, this glute problem is getting better, but it was still there. It wasn’t until I reached the far side of the BNT trail that crossed over the top that there was a shift, I had to jog a little as the decent was so steep that I was unable not to. This is where I found I had no problems as such, so as I reached the bottom I just kept on going. Then feeling was amazing, I had missed it so much. It was then that I came across the gorge and the day just got better.

The trail ended up in the valley floor, winding its way through the trees following the creek. I had that feeling that no one had been through here for a while, at least not on foot anyway. It’s a great feeling that, and I imagined what it must have been like when the first western man ventured through the land.

My day dreaming came to a halt when I startled a herd of wild goats; well they startled me more like it. I just seem to be coming across everything wild while in the wild…..funny that!

I left the tree coverage and was now into pastures, still in the valley, and now the land was free from obstructions I could see the dramatic cliffs that make this place so special.

With 1km left to go I came across Crown Station. I approached with caution, like I always do, your never quite sure what sort of response you are going to get if there is anyone around, or if there’s a farmers dog or dogs.

I saw the farmer and yelled “G’day” with a “G’day” back I felt safe that his two dogs would be kept under control.

He was an Italian goat farmer not sure if he liked me being there or not, but whatever he was talking about, the pitch sounded friendly and I made my way to the finish for the day.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Day 51...................Not Down and Not Out.

It seems like forever since I was running on the trail, but the reality is that’s it’s only been a week and even that was broken up with an attempted run.
It’s hard for me to believe that a whole week has past, and I’m now behind 250km or thereabouts, which in the big scheme of things isn’t that much, based on the mileage I had been doing, just adding a few more K’s here and there will have me back where I should be in no time.

It seems like the race is on with the weather. It was the coldest start of the run to date, with the Maui Mothership, looking more like an igloo this morning than a campervan! I left Victoria in March for a reason, that being to get through the high country of Victoria and New South Wales before the snow came, and luckily for me I was only caught out that once in a snow storm coming over Mount Hope, Vic. It seems the cold has been chasing me ever since, and If I wasn’t slowed down with injury, I would be a lot further north by now and heading to a warmer climate.
So, the injury, a massive frustration.

When dreaming of running the length of Australia, never do you add to that dream the possibility or more the big possibility of having an injury.
Dream + Injury =Nightmare.

Of course injury is part and parcel of any runners program it’s in the nature of the sport and even more so to the ultra-runner. I always thought of the mental challenge; being getting out each and every day on the trail, If I felt like it or not and no matter what the weather was doing, no excuses.
So, with my no excuses attitude, I’m ready to get out and run my marathon plus a day EVERY DAY.

Not once did I think about the complete opposite, the head wanting to get out there and tear the trail up and simply the body not allowing it! That has been the mental challenge for me over this past week, and one I have had to talk through with Vickie many a night. It’s all very well me banging on about a healthy body and healthy mind, but what I have learnt here is that the complete opposite can happen. Not so much for the everyday exerciser, so no excuses there. But for people like myself that take the exercise thing to a whole new level, I think if you add ultra to anything then it cannot be that healthy for you, at least when things go wrong anyway.
So being ultra-minded, I should just go out there and run, no matter what the consequence, and normally I would. The difference here is that I still have to cover another 4000km. if Cooktown was 400km away, I would likely just finish the thing off no matter what the outcome.

So it seems I have been doing a new type of sport “ultra-stretching” Which I should have been doing pre injury instead of the half assed one I had been. When ultra-running everything else becomes ultra, mean that what the average runner does pre post and during activity the ultra-athlete quadruples! That’s fine when it comes to eating, but not so great when you have to visit the physio multiple times.
We have been in and out of physios the last week, and you all know what my feelings are towards those, except Kate at PURE Physio Melbourne, the rare few that not only figure out the problems but fix them. Without even being here she found the source of the problem and Vickie has had Physio 101 training over the phone, so we have finally got somewhere and I was back at it. The idea was floated that if things didn’t  get better or god forbid wost, I would fly back to Melbourne for her expert hands, let’s hope that doesn’t happen; it’s all about forward momentum for me and continuing north.

Massage, stretching, physio, pool, heat pack….repeat! Sounds familiar to my run, eat, sleep, run schedule!
The great thing about sharing you adventure with the rest of the world is the great support you get when things go pear shaped, words of encouragement and a positive vibe from a support base giving you the sense that everything going to be alright.

I thank everyone for their kindness and its one of the things that keeps me going when out here in the middle of nowhere.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Day 43...........Long Time No Run
Apologies for the slackness with the Blog, lots has happened since I posted last, but for me it’s been a frustrating and embarrassing time.

As you all know I had a quad problem, which was a minor setback and was knocked on the head pretty quickly. But again, I was put out of action once again by my right glute, and this is where the problem’s been for the last few days, I just cannot seem to release my tightness and give my sciatic nerve a break!

After the last post and having that limp where I got picked up by a couple passing by, I went off to the school the following morning to talk with the 11th graders about the project so far. The idea was that I would spend the morning there giving my glute time to settle down and be back on the trail for a short run picking up where I left off in the previous afternoon.

Me with the best XC boys at the school
It wasn’t the array of cakes and biscuits that kept me that little bit longer at the school…promise! Every Friday the staff has cake and coffee at recess, good timing with the presentation finished I was quick to be stuffing my face with carrot cake and lamingtons washed down with a cup of tea.

I still didn’t feel right, I was ready to be running, the weather was fantastic, cold, but blues skies and a sun that warmed you, and with the sugar overload I had going on I wanted to hit that trail hard.

The fact was, I still wasn’t right. As we drove out of the school I made the call to rest, as running wasn’t really an option. I stretched all afternoon with little or no relief. Kate from PURE Physio was called and advice given over the phone. The great thing about having a fantastic team based back in Melbourne is that signal permitting I can call anyone of them anytime of the day and get the best advice for what I’m going through.
It goes to show that I have the best in physios, Kate had Vickie working on all manner of muscles I didn’t know I had and things got a little better. Kate also said that the next stage would be to see someone who would have a professional approach; it’s hard for her to get right to the point over the phone. The problem was its hard to find a professional in that department around these parts.

The following morning we took the drive to Lithgow for a physio appointment as there was no one in Oberon, not even local masseuses. It took about an hour to get there and I had a sad look on my face as I stared out of the window at the amazing countryside with blues skies, the place where I should have been running.

I was sceptical on my arrival, I always am with physios, I think it’s because I have seen so many in my time as a runner with the vast majority being bad. I don’t need them telling me that I need to see them for three appointments, like they always seem to do, or the stop running for a week trick. I’m an ultra-runner, that’s what I do and If I’m not doing it than there is real problems.

There have only been a couple that have been on the same lines as me. Meaning that they have never stopped me from running and have actually cured the problem. That’s the underlying thing with most physios; actually fixing the problem, of course rest will make it go away…..”and in the meantime here are three exercises you should do”!

Kate is of course right on the same lines, she would have to be, I wanted to run a marathon a day for 5 plus months!
I was met by a Korean lady who took me through some tests…yes, that’s hurts, no, and that doesn’t, that type of thing.

Just like Kate had guessed from so far away, it was where she thought. Needles in the front half and elbows in the back, left me feeling better and relieve from some nerve pain for a while.

Of course an exercise was given, and I did it all afternoon along with stretching, anything that would have me back on the trail, which I was really starting to miss.
The next morning I was still not right, tight sore and in no condition to run. We rang to book another appointment; everywhere was busy, except this sports massage therapist in Bathurst, yet another hour drive away.

This guy had some strong hands and worked through my muscles over my whole body, it needed it, 1200km in just short of six weeks does that to the body.
After feeling better again we thought it would be good to go to the local pool, warming the muscles in the spa, would surely do me the world of good.

We drove back to Oberon and I felt great looking forward to being out on the trail again.
When planning this run I thought of all the things that could happen to me and how I could overcome them. The big thing was going to be the mental challenge, getting myself out every single day, no matter how I felt or what the weather was doing.

What I didn’t think of, was the mental challenge of wanting to go running but unable to.
Back at the place I was picked up those few days before I hobbled off down the trail Vickie alongside. She was going to run the first 4km of this section with me, and if needed would run back with me too. The advice was to stop is it got worse, if not carry on and see if things would loosen off.

The good thing about the first part of this section was that I could meet the Muai Mothership at 10km. It didn’t get worst, but it didn’t get better, not even a little.
I got on the spiky ball and stretched for an hour and a half, just trying to release the grabbing of my nerve, and then all of a sudden I’d done it and ran around the Mothership, showing Vickie how easily I was moving. Right, now was the time to get the other 20km knock off and finally be back where I wanted to be.

7km in and it flared up again, this time I had packed the spiky ball. It just wasn’t giving in, so I hopped the last 13km which took me over 2hrs!
Back at square one, did I rush back into it?

I spent the night on the spiky ball again, until I saw a cricket ball under the sink at the campsite we were staying at. A sign perhaps, something with no give? It hurt, but anything was better than having to sit around thinking about the BNT I am supposed to be running!
I had a bad night’s sleep, I tossed and turned and just couldn’t get comfortable with the nerve throbbing all night.

Drastic measures had to be taken, we took the 2 hour drive to Penrith in search of a sports physio, someone that could comprehend what I was doing, someone who was used to dealing with sports people, this person just happened to be part of a clinic that worked with the Penrith Panthers and had done since the 80’s, let’s hope this person could sort me out.

Kate was right on the money again, all the things she said would be wrong were. Good news is that the physio was fantastic and there is nothing seriously wrong with me, it just might take a little time to settle since it’s been abused both running and releasing!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Day 39.......................Why?

After a two day break from the trail, I missed it. I understand that I needed to rest as my body was telling me so. But, it is so hard to sit around town when you are used to putting one foot in front of the other for hours at a time, lost in your own thoughts with only a video camera to speak too!
Today I awoke early and did the morning rituals for a change rather than Vickie, I had the kettle boiling and the cereal ready in no time and was ready to get out on the trail, back to the office that  many of you wouldn’t miss, but when your office is the Australian bush, working is great and hard work better.

Andy my mate and project mentor called to see how I was getting on as Vickie drove me to the trail head. It was great to talk, get confirmed what I already knew, from someone who is away from the front line and has a wealth of experience in running long. It’s like you know you’re on the right path, but need that bit of reassurance.

We arrived at the trail head and Vickie was going to run out the first 5km with me, one for her training and two…and this is my thoughts,  to make sure I took it easy being my first day back!
It was a cold but beautiful morning. Blue skies and fresh air what more could you want. The terrain around these parts is relatively flat though still up at around the 1200mts in altitude mark.

I felt great just taking it nice and easy with Vickie by my side, no pain in the quad , just me and my girl breathing in the clean mountain air, enjoying the sunshine together on the BNT.
Vickie turned back and I had to cover another 32km to get to where she would be a couple of hours later. It was the type of land that you could run fast and light and knock off the distance in a short while, but with the weather being so glorious, Vickie not going to be at the finishing point until a little later and of course the big question mark over my left quad, I was going to take it easy all the way and just enjoying being back on the trail.

However, this is the BNT and as my now 1200km experience had shown me. Nothing is quit that simple.
Another 8km in and my right glute was now the problem. It something I have had for ever and I can normal rectify it with a simple stretch and the exercises my physio, Kate from PURE Physio had given me before I left. This time was different, so I had to improvise!

It when downhill from here on in. I had to limp from the glute pain which made my quad work harder on the left, not a good thing as it was only coming back from its own problems a couple of days ago. I kept on with a stretch now and again, but it wasn’t responding. I decide it was time to just hike it again, and just like last time, it was 20km again!

10km out and a four wheel drive came in the opposite direction, stopped and the lovely couple in it ask if I was OK as I had this limp going on. I told them my story and they kindly took me the 10km to Vickie.........relief.
Back to square one. I have stretched all afternoon, Vickie has massaged me, I have been on to my physio Kate again and I have booked a appointment with a physio tomorrow in Lithgow. What more can I do?

It’s nothing serious I know it. Just a minor setback, building more to my character. I’ll be busy on my day off, starting with an talk at the local high school.
Wish me luck!