Ann brought this race to my attention just after UTA in May and after initially deciding not to do it as I thought it would be too soon after GNW 100miler for me to be recovered enough to run it. We had another chat after GNW and I went home and looked into it again. Ann wanted to do this race as a redemption run after DNF’ing at UTA. After a bit of research about the race I decided to ask Ann if she wanted company, she said yes, yay.
From the very start this was Ann’s race, she was going down to Tumbarumba with her friend Elissa, who was doing the 22k and volunteering as a doctor afterwards. We were taking it as an adventure with the only goal being to finish. So the logistics planning started. It involved a 5 and half hour drive to the start which meant leaving Sydney at 3 on Friday afternoon and getting there about 9.30pm (after stopping for a food break at Goulburn). Elissa ended up getting delayed and decided to drive the rest of the way the next morning cause her race didn’t start until later in the morning. Luckily Joe Hedges had given us a pop up tent which was super easy to put up in the dark, he’d also given us a blow up mattress which was not so super easy cause the adaptor I’d brought for the electric blower-upper didn’t work so we had to use the foot-pump which squeaked every time we pressed down on it… I bet the neighbours loved us! Anyway after sorting that out and getting ourselves set up it was 10.30 & time to sleep.
About the race:
The race takes place along the historic walking track taken by explorers, Hume & Hovell on their 1824 expedition to Port Philip Bay. It starts at Henry Angel Campground, there is an out and back to Mannus Lake (20k) before returning to Henry Angel Campground. From here you make your way to The Pines (~69k) via the Junction (44k) & Coffee Pot (59.2k) before turning around and making your way back to the finish at Henry Angel Campground.
Both of us barely slept, maybe because of the cold, maybe cause of the frogs croaking/cows mooing, who knows. We woke up at 4.45am and put our clothes into our sleeping bags to warm them up before putting them on. We ate brekkie in the car – the dashboard told us it was 3 degrees!. It was pretty cool to be right at the start line with no need to travel anywhere. We had to do our gear check so we got our stuff together and brought it over to get it checked, we got that done & sorted our drop bags. I went over to the tent to drop off my hoodie and Ann went to the loo, I had my head in the tent when all of a sudden I heard “6…5…4…” oops, I ran over to the start line and caught up to Ann, we had a giggle at how we’d f*cked that up! Anyway we were off, the adventure had begun.
Start (Henry Angel) to CP1 (Mannus Lake) – Leg Distance 20k – Leg Time 2:57
It had just got bright so we didn’t need torches. We tucked in behind a small group and ran at their pace, Ann told me she didn’t want to pass anyone before CP1, all good with me. We chatted to a few runners along the way, the course was lovely and we were moving well and not much further along we ended up passing a few people. The km’s were ticking away nicely and we were loving the trails (so pretty!). We could hear a weird noise and we couldn’t figure out what it was.. all was revealed as we made our way to the top of a small climb and we came to an awesome “Man from Snowy River” themed waterstop and there was a lady there blowing a horn & cheering very loudly, we were not expecting that at all in the middle of nowhere and it lifted us massively. We took a ‘small detour’ at the end of a long downhill but quickly found our way back to the path (this is no reflection on the course markings which were great), not long after this we came to the fence line that led to the road, this was very sludgy with a mix of muck & cow poo (nice!), we were tiptoe-ing around when a couple of runners that were on their way back from CP1 told us that there loads more of this to come and there was no avoiding it, so we plodded through the poo! Not exactly what you want so early in the race. We hit the road along the lakes, the road was ok and we were setting a consistent pace, we ran past the CP and continued on until the turnaround point (this was just a volunteer standing beside a cone), I did a few turns around the cone, for the craic, and we were on the way back to the CP at 20k. At the CP we refilled our water, nutrition & I had some yummy fruit cake, the volunteers were very helpful and before long we were heading off.
CP1 (Mannus Lake) to CP2 (Henry Angel) – Leg Distance 17.5k (Total 37.5k) – Leg Time 2:31mins (Total 5:28)
Ann called Chris for a chat and I took a few pictures.
I said to Ann that we could possibly come first ladies, she was not impressed with having this sort of expectation and put me back in my place and reminded me that her only motivation was to finish, message received loud and clear! We knew we had to go back through the sludgy poo so we moaned the whole way through that 🙂 There is a good climb after this and we commented that we didn’t remember it being so downhill on the way out. I took lots of pictures to show how beautiful it was along here.
After stopping at “Man from Snowy River” themed waterstop for a picture we continued on.
We chatted to another runner for a while along here and this made the time go by nice & quickly. We got to a bridge where we seen the 50k leaders coming across the bridge. Along the river we met lots of the 50k runners and we cheered and they cheered at us, such a great vibe.
We were back at Henry Angel before we knew it. We took a while here, more fruit cake for me. I could feel a slight irritation on the bottom of my foot so asked for a plaster, they didn’t know what I was talking about (should have said band-aid)! Luckily one of the other runners knew what I was talking about and gave me a couple I packed them away for if I needed them later. I said hello to Stephen Bowers who’s name I’ve seen on lots of result sheets, always good to put a face to a name. Another runner told us we’d saved his race cause he was going the wrong way and seen us just in time to realise that he was going in the wrong direction. We got our photos taken for the local paper and headed off.
CP2 (Henry Angel) to CP3 (Coffee Pot) – Leg Distance 21.5k (Total 59k) – Leg Time 3:39 (Total 9:07)
There are lots of stiles to cross after this CP but some flat running, the course follows the river for about 6.5k. We could see another runner just behind us and he eventually caught us after we took a slight detour into someone’s yard (again this was our fault not the course markings). John Winterburn became number 3 on the team for a long portion of this section. He was doing the 100mile and I think he was glad of the company too. Ann was hitting a bit of a rough patch so said she was happy to just sit behind us and listen to us chat away. We were were all chatting away going up a hill and taking a walking break when Ann asked if we’d seen a course marker, we all agreed we hadn’t seen one in a while, we were near the top of the trail so said we’d continue to the top, there were no markers when we got there so we had to go back down the hill. I ran ahead to see if I could find the course markings, once I found them it was a big d’oh moment, the orange tape was everywhere and we’d missed it! Not long after this John nearly threw himself into the river after tripping over a stump in the middle of the trail. We were relatively happy getting into the Junction campground where we were met by a lovely volunteer, she said that if she was asleep as we came passed on the way back to give her a shake :-). We didn’t fill up our water here (we should have!). After the Junction the course starts to climb and we knew this was going to be a long climb but I don’t think we expected it to be technical, which it was in parts, we were expecting fire trail I think. We carried on regardless and tried to keep progressing forward up the climb. It was getting warm now so as we climbed I poured water on my head to cool me down, I did the same to Ann, it was soooooo good (this is something I’ve learned in recent races, sometimes you’re not actually thirsty but just overheated and pouring water on your head really helps to cool you down. It works even better if you have a visor that keeps it from running down your face). We lost John on the climb but he caught back up to us after a while. We really took advantage of every little stream/waterfall we seen and dipped our visors and feet in the water, bliss! Once we got to the top of the climb it was actually pretty runnable so we ran as much as we could.
I was getting quite concerned that I was getting short on water and I thought that the Coffee Pot was just a number check and there would be no water there and that I’d have to run in the heat without water until the Pines. Ann said she was feeling a bit nauseous too and that her back was hurting a bit. We met the 100k leader coming in the other direction and he told us the Coffee Pot wasn’t far, that was a relief. We were well impressed that he’d been to the Pines and back already! When we got to the Coffee Pot we were so delighted to see water and electrolytes there and we drank our fill before filling up our bottles.
CP3 (Coffee Pot) to CP4 (The Pines) – Leg Distance 10k (Total 69k) – Leg Time 1:45 (Total 10:52)
I asked the guy at the CP how far it was to the Pines and when he said it was only 10k we were elated (dunno why we thought it was further). Ann needed a loo stop so I took the opportunity to have a sit down, my legs were starting to hurt. I went to sit on a fallen down tree when a rabbit jumped out from under it giving me the fright of my life, after I calmed the heart rate down I relaxed and took in the beautiful surroundings.
I seen John come along the trail and gave him a big yell. Ann told him it was only 10k to the Pines – not sure he was celebrating as much as us about this given that he had to continue on past the Pines!
The three of us continued on but we lost John again after a while. At Paddy’s River Dam Ann & I took another detour, another stupid mistake, and by the time we got back on course we met John again. Once we hit the fire trail Ann & I made a bit of a gap but it really seemed like we were wishing the CP on for a LONG time. A while back Ann had asked how far we had to go to the CP (I was wearing the watch and Ann hadn’t her’s turned on at this point) and I’d said 2k, it now seemed like WAY over 2k and we still weren’t there. Ann’s breathing was quite heavy and I was a bit worried about it but she was chugging away and didn’t complain that we weren’t there yet. It was such a relief when we seen some pine trees and knew we must be close, seeing the CP was like an oasis in the desert (funny how 10k hadn’t seemed like much back at the coffee pot and now 2k was like an eternity).
We’d agreed to take a good break at this CP so we secured some seats and the volunteers made me some soup and some noodles for Ann. I took off my shoes and took off the taping that was covered in cow poo & replaced it with the tape they had at the CP, I also changed my socks. Ann changed into a clean long sleeve top. We relaxed for a while and made sure we had everything we needed. Before we took off we gave John a big hug as he headed off on the out and back of the 100mile course.
CP4 (The Pines) to CP5 (Coffee Pot) – Leg Distance 10k (Total 79k) – Leg Time 1:55 (Total 12:47)
Very shortly after we left the CP I knew that putting on the thermal top was a mistake so we stopped and I took it off, Ann took some painkillers cause she had a bit of a headache but apart from that we were like two different people from the two that had gone into the CP. We were focused, happy and on our way to the finish. My feet felt so much better and Ann was feeling better with the change of top. As we ran down the fire trail we met a few runners coming the other way and there was lots of encouragement both ways. We ran as much of this section as we could and were happy when we got back to the Coffee Pot.
CP5 (Coffee Pot) to Finish (Henry Angel) – Leg Distance 21.9k (Total 100.9k) – Leg Time 3:24 (Total 16:12)
We’d heard early in the race that there was a chance that we would see a Brumby, especially near the Pines CP but we still hadn’t seen one (confession – I had to ask what a Brumby was – it’s a wild horse). Then out of nowhere we seen one come out onto the trail, I fumbled to get my phone out to take a photo but then realised I was scared that it would charge at us… it didn’t and I got a photo.
I promise that’s a brumby in the distance! We were fairly happy that we had gotten so far in daylight and we were well on our way down the steep technical descent by the time we had to put our head torches on. (Ann was hating this bit cause there was lots of bark on the ground due to recent storms and you constantly had to watch your step for fear of tripping over. Mike McGrath assures me that it’s not always like this and that this was just because of the storms). My Garmin was about to die so Ann turned her’s on, this is a massive departure for me not to have a watch to look at during a run and it made me mildly uncomfortable not to have anything to refer to for pace/distance. We met Mike along the trail and stopped for a chat, he was talking about asking if he could switch to the 100k instead of the 100mile once he got to the Pines. We were sad to see that the sweepers were just behind Mike on their mountain bikes. The return to the Junction campground was nothing like the run earlier on in the day and it could have been a different trail altogether. The course markings were much easier to see at night so there were less ‘detours’ on the way back. Ann was getting a bit overwhelmed so we took a break, turned off our lights and had a look at the stars for a minute. We set off again and heard a very very weird noise, we’d been warned that a brumby’s neigh was strange but to hear it in the middle of the night when it was just the two of us in the middle of nowhere was chilling (it sounded like a scream). When we got into the Junction campground we were greeted by two lovely volunteers (the lady hadn’t fallen asleep, he he), who couldn’t do enough for us. They were so pleasant that we sat down and had a quick chat with them. I nearly drowned Ann with electrolyte after the nozzle of the container malfunctioned and poured in her direction, this gave us a good laugh for the next few km’s. We reluctantly left the lovely volunteers and headed out on the final 6.5k through the farmland along the river. We seen two wombats, they are huge and make a lot of noise as they run very fast despite their size! Ann was starting to slow a little bit but was still moving, I asked if she cared what time we finished cause if we pushed we might make it in under 16hrs, she wasn’t fussed so we continued at the same pace. Seeing the lights of the finish line in the distance was SO good, I told Ann but she didn’t want to look up until she knew we were really close to the finish. The stiles were definitely harder on the way back and we were glad to cross the last one. We heard the cheers and ran toward the finish line with our hands together and in the air. We did it…..
After finishing we met with Elissa & took at seat at the fire pit to warm up. We wanted to get our cold/wet clothes off so we headed off to have a shower. I was going to omit the following detail from my race report but to be honest it was part of the experience and if I’m gonna tell you to do this race then I think I better divulge. We thought there was going to be a portable shower at the end but there wasn’t, instead someone had brought a shower hose and it was attached to the sink in the toilet block. We left our dignity at the door and we were pretty much showered by the volunteer nurse, with Elissa assisting with holding up a space blanket in lieu of a shower curtain! The water was hot though and I can tell you it was still amazing! After getting dressed and picking our dignity back up on the way out we returned to the fire, eat our fill of food and chatted to the volunteers before heading off to bed about an hour later.
This race is awesome, the things I loved about it:
The course is beautiful & well marked
The volunteers are awesome (you can really feel the community spirit)
The mandatory gear requirements are reasonable (we didn’t have to carry our hi-viz, thermal pants, head torch, backup torch until 40k)
The fruit cake (my new favourite race food!)
Being able to camp at the Start/Finish
Everyone got a bottle of wine & a certificate with their split times
The free bacon & egg sandwich the next morning
I think you’ll agree that at $140 this is great value for money so get your butt down there next year 🙂