Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The pain and pleasure of the trails

The last 2 weeks I have been recovering from the most infuriating injury - a severe case of "gravel rash" following a lapse in concentration while out on a late afternoon run. My mind wandered, I was thinking about what to cook for dinner, and suddenly I caught my foot and tripped. My hands flew out and the next thing I knew, I had a huge hole in my palm thanks to a large piece of gravel that had embedded itself under the skin,  and 45 minutes of running to get back to my car! 

What proceeded was a night in the Emergency Department, antibiotics, a tetanus injection, severe pain as the piece of gravel was dug out, 4 days off from work, and hand therapy. I also had to explain to anyone who asked "well, I was out running..." and then listen to several jokes along the lines of "exercise can kill!"

It made me think of the "punishment" we put our bodies through by engaging in a sport that takes us off-road and onto more uncertain terrain. I often come home with scratches and cuts on my legs from running through uncleared trail, bruises from a fall, leech bites, damaged toe nails, and chafe. Nevertheless  most runners would not give up the joy of a good run out on the trails just to avoid these injuries. I wouldn't. And as I learnt in the last 2 weeks of rehab, while a hand injury may prevent you from working, it doesn't stop you from running!

X-Rays showing the piece of gravel stuck deep in my palm:


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

2013 Mt Buller Sky Run

Race morning started with the Delatite River in my ears, the sun yet to reach into the deep valley where I was camped out at the start of the race. 

After 2 days of training in the Australian Alps area, I wanted to finish with what must be one of the most scenic race courses in Australia. The La Sportiva Mt Buller Sky Run is put on by Running Wild in Victoria, and has a non-nonsense Race Director that prizes the runners' experience above all else. This makes for a fantastic day out in the mountains and on the trails.

The start was in Merrijig, at the trailhead to the Klinsporn (not King's porn) trail. The climb is immediate, but unlike some of the other trails in the area, this one is quite gentle and slowly winds it way up to the summit of Mt Buller. 

Once above the tree line the views are never ending, the landscape incredible:

No need to rush when on the summit of Mt Buller:

From the Mt Buller Summit, the trail runs through the village and onto a trail that traverses across the saddle to Mt Stirling. The trail was dusty, rocky, and quite steep in sections,  requiring good footwork and a large amount of guts and balls to let it rip downhill.

Short climb back up to Mt Stirling Summit:

Mt Stirling Summit:

Looking across to Mt Buller, the ski runs visible down its side:

Trail winding beneath skeleton gums:

For the 36km distance, the runners headed down the Big River Spur for 15km of downhill. By now I was so grateful that my legs were still working, still moving and enjoying the downhill. I was able to lengthen the stride a little and just enjoy the changing scenery brought by the drop in elevation.

The trail down crosses the Delatite River 15 times across beautiful bridges made from old trees. With the last crossing done, I arrived back at the start to a finish line complete with home made baked goodies and nutritious soup, and old and new friends to catch up with! I was pretty happy with a finish time of 4:06 and 1st female in the 36km distance. Congratulations as well to Salomon Australia teamate Mick Donges who set a new record in the 45km distance!

Thanks to Simon Ferraro for allowing me to use his pics for the blog!

In the shadows of Mt Buffalo

With February here, and only just over a month till the Alpine Challenge 100km, I am using every bit of free time to head to our Australian peaks and get as much training, playing, hiking, and exploring into my legs as possible. 

This past weekend I headed down south again on what is becoming a very familiar 700km drive from Sydney to Bright. I had 3 days off so the plan was to get in some quality hills and then race the Mt Buller Skyrun on the Sunday. 

Friday - Mt Buffalo 
The climb up to Mt Buffalo across large granite slabs, and up on the alpine plateau is fast becoming one of my favorite places to be. The colors, spectacular view points, unique vegetation, and meandering trails keep you wanting to run and explore well past sunset. Recommended is either starting at the Eurobin picnic ground and taking the Big Walk trail up to the plateau, or driving up higher to either Mackey's Lookout, or onto the plateau and accessing the trails from the Chalet carpark.  

The start of my hike, on the Big Walk Trail just beyond Mackey's Lookout:

View across the granite to the Australian Alps in the distance:

The Big Walk trail:

A lone snow gum trying to survive the harsh alpine climate:
Views towards the Australian Alps, Mt Bogong with its summit in the clouds:
View down into the valley from the Gorge

The Mt Buffalo Chalet, now closed and waiting for a new owner:

Boardwalk trail meandering through a little glen of sphagnum moss:

Lake Catani, a great place to finish a run and soak the legs and body:

On the Caldwell Galleries trail that takes you through a labyrinth of granite:

The ever changing mountain weather fast closing in, ghostly snow gum skeletons in the foreground:

The Mt Buffalo plateau:

The view of Lake Catani from The Monolith:

Saturday - Clear Spot, Bright
Saturday called for hills. Lots of them. A friend living in the beautiful little town of Bright recommended the hike up to Clear Spot (~1000m high). The trail is a fire break running straight up a ridge through commercial foresting areas. It is exposed, steep, rocky and perfect for training. Access is from Hargraves St in Bright, although there are other trails (of varying gradient) leading up to the top.

Last climb for the day done:

Nothing beats doing a little power yoga when you are at the top of the climb:

With training done, I could enjoy the blackberries on the way down:

Sunday - Mt Buller Skyrun
Read about the race here.