Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Autumn Highlights

The last month has been busy. I have been adhering to a strict routine of pack-living: Organising my 75L trusted hiking pack for 2 weeks of work in Tasmania, flying/commuting, guiding, having a day off, churning through an endless mound of dirty laundry, desperately trying to dry out my boots, recharging and catching up on week-old emails and then guiding again. In between I am devouring anything fresh, green and crunchy to make up for a weeks worth of eating a carbohydrate-only diet on the trails (not so good for the immune system).

From Tasmania I flew to Melbourne and headed to the Victorian high country for a few days of running around Falls Creek. Although still living out of a pack, life slowed down, I was able to enjoy some beautiful running terrain around the Bogong High Plains, and to eat nutritious meal after meal (mostly hearty bean stews with quinoa or soba noodles). The area around Falls Creek is incredible training ground - great trails at higher elevation, mountain conditions and a good mix of both steep and flatter terrain. 

 Spion Kpoje Loop (35ish km)
This was a beautiful loop I started from the Rocky Valley Storage Dam. The trail was nice and clear, took in some beautiful alpine vegetation, had a gradual climb up onto the Spion ridge from where lovely undulating trail took me down almost all the way to Bogong village, where I took the Bogong Valley High Plains road back to Falls Creek resort. The weather was wild. Ferocious winds whipped at my clothing, mist narrowed the views right down to spooky gum skeletons and the trail in front of me. 
Recommended: at least 2L of water, all-weather gear (I had an awesome lightweight Salomon jacket), map or good sense of direction, and food. 

The storage dam at Falls Creek, the bank covered in skeleton trees:

Map of trails in the area:

Bogong High Plains:

Fighting the wind and mist:


River crossing before hitting the Bogong Valley High Plains road:

Blue Mountains Training weekend
The following weekend I was fortunate enough to join an amazing group of friends for a solid session of running. The weekend was organised by Rob Costello, a speedy Irish fellow with a great repertoire of crazy insights that he brings out on the trails. We took over the Fairmont resort at Leura (the race HQ for the North Face 100km), bringing new meaning to the phrase "lycra in the lobby." It was amazing to be sleeping in a real bed, no sleeping bag, tent or back of a car in sight! The first run on Saturday took in 60km of the race course. We had a crew out to support us, meeting us with water, icy cokes and food at the half way point (So incredible to have this kind of encouragement on a training run). It was great to run with different people with different strengths, and to figure out what still needs fine-tuning before race day. Like anything in life, training is so essential to build confidence, to try new strategies, to make mistakes, and to evaluate strengths and weaknesses. After the run we had an awesome soak in the icy outdoor pool and the hot tub.
Day 2 we woke up early at 4am and went for run on the last 10km of the course. It always blows me away to be awake at this time, to run in the dark in a landscape shaped by shadows, and to watch the day emerging. I always have the thought: How many people are lucky enough to experience this time of the day, and through the powerful force of running. After our run we had a huge buffet breakfast, a little bit of downtime, and then back out on the course to run another 21km through the Jameison Valley and Kedumba Pass. I was loving the long, slow grind back up from the valley to the plateau above. 

Fairmont Resort:

Mist in the valley:

The crew:

Narrowneck Road:

Day 2 - Jameison Valley (jumping for joy):

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