By Blake Hose, Ultra-Runner
When I first met Shane and Richelle a little under 12 months ago, I was blissfully unaware of the amazing experiences that their creative, adventure-addicted minds would have me endure. With open arms they have welcomed me into their world, a world full of enthusiasm, generosity, big dreams and on Shane’s side of things, a touch of masochism. For those that don’t know this wonderful couple, they together engineered the beautiful, selfless creation that is “The Ultra Life”. In leading what they believe is an Ultra Life themselves, this personal project set up by Richelle & Shane enables them to share their love of the outdoors & take people off the beaten track. It`s also a vehicle for sharing their fundraising exploits for The Shake It Up Foundation. Their most notable fundraising effort to date is Shane’s epic 230km non-stop run around the bay. A gruelling task which required him to hobble for the final 70km with a torn soleus, doing what he does best and suffering miserably for the things in life he believes in most. In this case, his suffering lead to him raising an astounding $10,000 for Shake It Up.
The ventures of this project though aren’t all just pain and suffering on Shane’s behalf. Coupling Richelle’s impeccable logistical organizational prowess with Shane’s mighty big hunger for adventure can only result in one thing- mind blowing experiences that are perfectly organized and run like a well-oiled machine. I was recently lucky enough to be a beneficiary of the culmination of these great minds in what was the inaugural Ultra Life Running adventure in New Zealand.
My eyes lit up like a Christmas tree when Shane put the idea of this trip forth. I couldn’t help but feel the question of whether I would like to go had a somewhat rhetorical nature… New Zealand? Volcanoes? Running? The Hillary Trail? I was practically on the plane before he had finished the sentence. In the blink of an eye the 3 month wait until our departure date had passed and I was on my way to the airport.
I was truly buzzing with excitement knowing what awaited me just over the ditch in the land of the Kiwi. Soon I would be setting foot in some of the most beautiful wilderness that the oceanic region has to offer us deadset trail fiends. After all, knowing Shane, when he describes something to you as ‘epic’ and ‘ridiculous’ there’s no shade of doubt that it’s going to be exactly that. Plus a little, or a lot more. Upon touching down in Auckland, Richelle’s ridiculously good life skills went to work in getting us on the road, we’d boarded the hire car and we all anxiously awaited our arrival at the pristine (and rather large) Lake Taupo. This would be our base for the first 3 nights of the trip. We stayed in a beautiful little establishment labelled ‘La Vista’, it is a neat and very well fitted out rental home pretty much on the lake itself! The view from the kitchen window was a bit of a tease though, as it allowed us to gaze out at our 2 intended major peaks for the trip. Standing at 2291m was Mt Ngauruhoe and nestled behind is the bigger brother, Mt Ruapehu- possessing a tantalizing peak of 2797m. Much higher than anything we have at our disposal here in Australia, this only further amplified our excitement for what lay ahead.
Friday morning rolled around and with a rather mighty spring in our step and smile on our faces, we boarded Terry (this is what we named our hire car) and set off to the Tongariro Alpine crossing. The main trail of around 19.5km is quite heavily trafficked and actually holds the title of the most popular in New Zealand. This was no deterrent for our Aussie contingent though and the masses of smiling faces around us only added to the jaw dropping atmosphere. The Grand plan for the day was to run from the trail head at Mangatepopo valley, take a detour up Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro then cap it off with the quad busting descent past the breathtaking hot pools to the finish at the Ketetahi car park. With packs clipped in and shoes tied tight, we set off with enthusiasm pouring from every pore of our bodies. We were soon surrounded by vast faces of rugged volcanic rock and scree, like nothing I’d ever witnessed before. It was as though we’d stepped into an entirely different world, a world which I instantly knew I was going to have a serious love affair with!
The trail snaked its way up a short but solid climb past the Soda Springs towards the South Crater that sits at the base of Ngauruhoe. Although very well maintained and easily navigated, the trail held no lack of excitement as it still possessed every aspect that us as trail runners love. We were surrounded by awe inspiring peaks and untamed wilderness, the rock underfoot and zigzagging trail always keeping us alert and guessing what could be next. Funnily enough, the number of people only added to the fun as we got to bounce around like gazelles from side to side, up, down and across as we continued to buzz by the more slowly moving hikers.
Having reached the Southern Crater in a state that could be likened to 4 young children on Christmas eve, a sharp right hand turn off the main trail took us directly towards our first summit bid. It just so happened on this day that the summit was heavily draped in some very ominous looking clouds, allowing us no visibility nor giving us anything to aim for. So we just went upwards! Battling through the deep scree and loose rock underfoot, the terrain wasn’t runnable but it sure as hell was a lot of fun. With our hands on our quads and mouths gasping for air our hiking legs had to come to the fore. The pain was dulled somewhat though by the enthusiasm we were able to share in what we were doing, trudging up what seemed like a vertical wall we were as happy as could be. Exchanging smart-arse remarks and endless comments regarding the sheer beauty of where we were really made the 30mins it took us to do 1km fly by! Yep, there were no speed records being set but maybe a few for crap talked in 1.5hrs….
Nearing closer to the top it became no easier. Each peaking at our watches periodically checking our altitude, the elevation was quickly rising as the temperature was quickly dropping. The dense cloud allowed no warmth of the sun to shine through on the summit, coupling this with strong winds up high, it was how a local may have described as “a but chully”. Reaching the top was like landing on the moon a welcomed sight yet so entirely different to anything we’d all experienced. Validating exactly why we do what we do! With no more than 15m visibility we stood right at the edge of the crater, all keen to catch a glimpse of what our hard work had earned us. Greeted with deep red rock covered in Ice, with cloud howling through- it was nothing short of magical. Our inability to see out across the landscape was irrelevant and the harshness of the conditions only added more enjoyment to the experience. It felt pure and refreshing to see it like this, to have the world feel like it had disappeared from around us was truly unique and enchanting. Something that I hope I get to experience again. Sooner rather than later.
After an abundance of happy snaps, it was much too cold to hang around and so the decent began. What started out slowly, as we cautiously navigated the rocks cloaked in ice, it quickly became an absolutely scintillating express train of trailites bombing downwards on the scree covered slopes. Many odd looks came our way as we trundled downwards making noises reminiscent of a group of overly excited school girls. We were having too much fun to care though. All feeling like little kids again it was full gas to the bottom, shoes and socks heaped with crushed rock, the altitude that had taken so long to gain had vanished in an instant. The fun however, was only just beginning!
From there we ventured to the summit of Mt Tongariro, again we were nothing short of astounded with the incredible views and a much simpler more runnable trail was a welcomed sight. Casting our eyes back to where we’d come from (and with great pride), the summit of Ngauruhoe had completely cleared and was in full sunshine. You know what though, I wasn’t disappointed. Not even in the slightest. The cards we had been dealt on the summit only made it that much more special for us and now we could just enjoy the sunshine on our long, astonishingly beautiful downhill run to the finish!
Focussing intently on the amazing hot springs and breathtaking views across the flatlands, for a few minutes we stumbled rather than gracefully descended, until we again remembered we should focus on the trail underfoot… The last 10km was a long, flowing and smooth descent to the Ketetahi Carpark. I was pleased with the ease of running to finish things off for the day as it really allowed one to just smile and be content with the trail we’d travelled and the many more on our radar…
Ruapehu – the word that had flooded into everybody’s minds by night’s end. Blissfully ignorant of how to actually pronounce it, the one thing we did know is that we wanted to scale this monster and explore every square micro-millimetre that we deemed safe to do so.
The Shane and Terry (van) partnership came to fruition once again, this time taking us a little further than the previous day’s escapade. In contrast to Ngauruhoe - sunshine and clear skies greeted us, filling our spirits with vitality and happiness for the trip to the base of our playground for the day. Planning was done with utter ease, I think Shane’s words were something along the lines of “Let’s just go up… as high as we possibly can”. As expected, this plan prompted no rejections.
Newbies as we were, the decision was made that we’d adopt self- navigation in aiding us to the summit. Something about scrambling through head-high boulders and clambering upward on icey slopes gives us adventure clad folk some seriously sky-high levels of excitement laced with passionate enthusiasm. A start point with an altitude equivalency of the Mt Buffalo Chalet was already stupidly cool – however in fulfilling our desired vertical ascendancy to the summit, we’d be required to double this….. plus a little more.
Metres ticked way as we built tight-knit bonds with our barometers. For they showed us the prizes of our labour in every +M we gained. Feeding our souls increasingly in every step, with the vertical ascent came breath-taking (literally) sights, ear pricking sounds and smells of freshness unparalleled by anything my body had ever been fortunate enough to be a recipient of.
The boulders quickly dissipated into scree as we joyfully traversed higher and higher into the sky. Ice was more prominent at the higher altitude and according to locals is a year-round resident on Ruapehu’s slopes. It was a very distinguishing factor having masses of ice to play on in the peak of summer – just another reason I’d discovered to return in future and indulge once again. 1hr 45mins saw us to the craters edge – standing tall above the clouds it was personally one of the most purely euphoric moments I’ve ever had as a person. It’s tough to put into words, in fact I’d say nearly impossible – to describe how reaching a new summit feels. Exhausting, yes – however rapidly overcoming this is the elation of a new peak, a new achievement, a lasting experience that you can hold onto dearly and carry with you in future explorations. It’s a completely new strength that will carry you to an even higher peak in the future.
The enormity of the summit crater was unable to be truly captured by any pictures we took whilst there, it’s something that has to be seen in person to be able to gain a true respect for its gargantuan proportions. A little summit fever as they call it, had spread through our quartet like wildfire - around us stood peaks on the craters edge higher than those where we were currently situated, this only meant one thing, more exploring needed to be done! Making the most of the glorious views and uninterrupted sunshine – we scurried across the massive bowl of ice below us, from ridge to ridge, we went in search of the highest point accessible in the minimal gear we were utilizing. Hours ticked by as our energy for adventure only grew – time was of absolutely no relevance at times like those and our day would only come to a close when our appetite for epic-ness (particularly Shane’s) had been satiated.
Countless awe-inspiring views greeted us atop numerous rocky, volcanic plateaus. 360 degree views all so impressive it was as though each vast expanse of postcard-worthy eye candy was trying to out-do the next – it was completely endless landscape induced salivation. After navigating a dark, soot coloured slope leading our noses for adventure skyward – our salvation was found in the highest possible altitude that could be attained on the day. Standing 2735m above sea level – a brief silence ensued, not due to lack of breath but due to moments like those epitomising why we do what we do. It’s the essence of our being as trail running adventurers - true happiness is found in these moments.
What goes up, must come down. Sadly this is true for us alpine addicted, vertical loving, lactic accumulating folk, too. One of the many things that had been learnt on the previous days volcanic indulgence though, was that descending Volcanoes is an extraordinary, adrenaline pumping high paced rush of quad battering bliss. Again our route was decided not by the trail but by our own creativity – so naturally we gravitated towards the monstrous scree slope only a stones throw away. Picture a 30-40% negative gradient – perfectly smooth and draped in an idealic depth of loose but utterly runnable scree heaven, ahead of you also a panoramic masterpiece that is the alpine region of the Tongariro national park.
Frolicking downward in leaps and bounds at a rate unconceivable on any different terrain – re-appearing was the bunch of school girls from the day before… I suppose they love the scree, too. Like one of those crazy-good dreams you don’t want to wake up from we’d soon have to break the lustful relationship that had been formed in the 5hrs we’d played on the mountain. It was a harsh departure, though somewhat softened by a big bowl of chips and some sugary beverages at the picturesque little café where the adventure had begun – and would finish for this particular day.
After much reminiscing, food and wonderful company – the day was closed out with a cosy little adventure film session back at ‘La Vista’, it was glaringly obvious the sheer joy that we all now possessed after an astonishing 2 days of adventure. With enthusiasm amplified ten-fold, keenness for it to continue was heightened, so even on our third day of the trip which was our so-called ‘rest day’, 13km was put on the clock around the pristine shores of Lake Taupo. We took in the eye-widening views across the lake from the W2K trail, which in its entirety snakes its way a hefty 45km around the lake. Cruisy gradients coupled with a conversational pace was a very welcome change to our tired legs and gave us all a great chance to reflect on days past and plan for the day ahead…. The Hillary Trail.
The Hillary Trail
Re-fuelled, relaxed and raring to go – the Hillary Trail was at out fingertips (or more-so toes). Nestled away on the rugged coastline only a miniscule drive from Auckland, just 3yrs on since its inception this trail has built itself an incredibly noteworthy reputation. With the likes of Malcom Law vouching it for it as one of the best trails he has ever set foot on – it has quickly become a star attraction of the NZ trail scene. Needless to say, this is a day I’d looked forward to since the trip had come to fruition! The head of this whirlwind adventure trail begins at the Arataki Visitor’s Centre – remarkably close to Auckland itself, access and transport to this beautiful specimen is blissfully simple and an utter no brainer.
Setting off into the wilderness of the Waitakere Ranges along the wild coastline – it was a stark contrast to the desolate volcanic playgrounds to which we’d become accustomed. An absolute plethora of dense forestry teaming with life, countless shades of green glistening as the sun tried to penetrate through the thick canopy around us – it was made obvious instantaneously that on this day we were all going to experience something spectacular. Weaving through the brush with finesse and fluidity – the Hillary was quite tame in the beginning which gave numerous opportunities to gaze around and soak in the atmosphere without having to worry too much about landing on your face due to a protruding tree root or rock. This was a pleasant introduction and allowed us all to get the blood pumping and warmed up for what was to come…
Opening up onto a brief beach section we were blessed with a tide low enough to enable us a scenic little stint of mellow sand running on a typical magnificent New Zealand coastline. To the right lied an abrupt incline leading to untamed peaks that dotted the coast. It felt like an instinctual urge, drawing us towards the unknown trails we knew sat in wait for us to utilize in feeding our addiction.
No longer was it an easily trodden jungle highway of sorts – large, moss draped, roots peered up to us from every direction and lack of sunlight on the forest floor meant that precipitation was going nowhere fast once it had hit home on the trail. It was the stuff of a trail runners dreams – new sights, sounds and technical trail dictated by mother nature, it could only be described as absolute trail purity in its finest form.
The fun was enhanced over and over again as the conditions underfoot toughened –Shane’s recent wish of “We better be going up that!” came true – at an alarming rate. We were most certainly “going up that” as the next 1km would have us gain 300m in elevation – for those of you who know a little about distance:vertical ratios – this one was epic. A far cry from the flat beach we’d traversed earlier - the trail continued to wind along a pronounced ridge containing endless entertainment as we bounced over roots, scaled short steep rock faces and let go and fly down winding leaf littered descents.
The next destination on our Radar was the 21km point where we’d meet Richelle and Cate – this would also be the finish line for Shane’s apprentice Landscaper, Andrew Penaluna, or ‘Penascapes’ as we like to call him. Andrew had proven in our time on the mountains that he was a seriously tough fella – coming from a more inactive background it was Shane’s influence that sparked the fire within him to get out on the trails. It’d be fair to say that it’s one more victim to the addiction of the trail running drug. I’m sure that as his explorations expand he will certainly make quite a swift trailite – an ability to suffer coupled with sheer enthusiasm and an easy going sense of adventure – he’ll be surprising himself and others in no time.
Approaching our “checkpoint” – the spectacularly mind-blowing nature of the trail only amplified with the overhead canopy clearing into a lower coastal shrubbery perching us on a cliff top reminiscent of those you see in only the most breathtaking movies. It was a very surreal moment and strongly represents the essence of what trail ‘running’ really is – it’s an adventure within ourselves, searching for new places to see, hills to climb and to find the incredible beauty that lies all around the world in places only accessible by using our own human power. I felt utter fulfilment as we stood together staring out with wind blowing in our faces and rich blue waters reflecting the purity of the blue sky above.
The following 11km of trail from …. To Karekare almost felt like home in some ways – the trail characteristics bared a remarkable resemblance to that of Victoria’s Great Ocean Walk – a trail here in Australia which too, is completely breathtaking and a must-do!
Having been outrageously spoilt in our time on this trail – we’d most definitely captured the sense of adventure Edmund Hillary represented. In no way were there any shortcomings to our expectations – it had more so glaringly exceeded them on every level of our imaginations. Sad to see the day end, though pretty darn knackered and full of contentment - a smashing 1800m of vertical, 1000’s of tree roots, countless magnificent views, flowing descents and leg battering ascents were all behind us having reached our exit at 34km in Karekare.
How to conclude the adventure that had just been endured? It’s much too difficult to paint a picture vivid enough to compare with what I’d experienced. Physically being there and doing what we had done is the only way you can grasp the sheer beauty of New Zealand’s majestic wilderness. From a runners perspective I think part of what makes the experience of running in a place like this so much more appealing, is that It really takes away the whole ‘running’ aspect, truly allowing you to immerse yourself in a mindset of adventure rather than training. Seeking out new sights, sounds, smells, completely revitalising all your bodies senses. As much as I love to run, to train hard and be competitive, I think that times like these are invaluable as an athlete. Disregarding how long it would take, or how far we were going to go, I was able to let go of anything telling me to ‘push’ or to continue running rather than stopping to take pictures and just enjoy the moment. In being able to do this, it gives a whole new perspective on learning to just ‘be’ in the mountains and on the trail, rather than only ever using them as a training platform…..
So thank you once again Shane and Richelle, for it’s the buzzing hives of adventure activity that is their brains which allowed this rad running adventure. I can’t recommend this trip highly enough!
Something to conclude with-
I think part of what makes the experience of running in a place like this so much more appealing, is that It really takes away the whole ‘running’ aspect, truly allowing you to immerse yourself in a mindset of adventure rather than training. Seeking out new sights, sounds, smells, completely revitalising all your bodies senses. As much as I love to run, to train hard and be competitive, I think that times like these are invaluable as an athlete. Disregarding how long it would take, or how far we were going to go, I was able to let go of anything telling me to ‘push’ or to continue running rather than stopping to take pictures and just enjoy the moment. In being able to do this, it gives a whole new perspective on learning to just ‘be’ in the mountains and on the trail, rather than only ever using them as a training platform. I definitely feel that in having learnt this, it has greatly improved my mindset going forward with my ‘training’ in the mountains.
by Shane Hutton June 2013
Well I have now sat inside on my couch for 2.5 weeks. It has been an eye opening experience for me I don`t think I have ever sat still for so long. It started off with me thinking I had man flu, a common problem for males all over the country at this time of year, but I quickly realized it was something a little worse.
After having fever & sweating for far too many hours to count & a few kilo`s dropped it was time to see the Dr. He was quick to diagnose the problem...Pneumonia, gave me an injection in the bum and sent me on my way with the promise of injections to follow every day for 3 days yayyyyyyy....
I had x-rays to confirm the problem & was told to rest. I was also told I would not be running for 6 weeks. Now there`s a problem as most people know I am doing a charity run around Port Phillip Bay 240km ish in 6 weeks. :(
So the time has come for me to make the call. I am going to delay the start of the run to either the middle of August or the end it will depend on how quick I can get back to it. I am very disappointed but whilst I am feeling a lot better I am assured that this illness will have lasting effects on my fitness. I do not want to rush back & start my run only to be forced out & possibly hospitalised by a dodgy lung or 2.
It has been a tough decision but I feel it is the right one. so now I will look for positives in this scenario. One positive is it gives me a few extra weeks to raise money :) Also whilst sitting on the couch I have put together our first Ultra Life overseas trip. New Zealand mountain biking for 3.5 solid days. Hit me up for more details we are looking for 1-2 more people to fill spots.
Well I went back to the Dr today & I have the all clear to go back to work tomorrow woooo. He has also told me to resume training just on a reduced level. There are still signs of the Pneumonia & it will take time to be 100%. I am very excited to be back at work tomorrow & training again :)
As the old saying goes you don`t know what you got till it`s gone :) This minor set back just helps to re affirm the things I want to get done in my lifetime & has also given me a chance to do research on a few very long multi day adventures :)
Train smart Shane
By Shane Hutton
It has been a week since the longest training run of my running career to date. 190km of The Goldfields track. This was supposed to be all 210km of the trail but due to some self preservation & crawling along at 4km hour for some period the decision was made to finish the run in Ballarat a mere 20km short of the summit of Mount Buninyong. Here is my recount on a multi day unsupported adventure.
I packed my Salomon Slab12 to the brim on Fri even managed to get a 3ltr bladder squeezed in there. I packed it on the chair and made sure ( well I hoped) I had enough food within easy access. Once it was full I picked it up for the first time HOLY CRAP this thing is heavy. I put it on the scales & it tipped a lazy 6.2kg wow how am I going to run 210km with this????
I put on my thermal long johns a long sleeve top and my Montane Minimus jacket & strolled down to my train station wearing my pack. So in 500mtr I realized 6.2kg is a lot hahahaha I am glad I was wearing all these clothes to the train as there was no more room in the pack. I jumped on the train receiving a lot of strange looks & met my partner in crime Michael Collins at Southern Cross station. After laughing at each other looking stupid at the station for a few minutes we boarded our Vline train headed to Bendigo.
We arrived in Bendigo walked out of the station & were greeted by the marking the start to The Goldfields Track hmmmmm well that was easy. Thought it would take a bit more searching than that.. We found our Motel checked in laughed some more about what the hell we were about to undertake oh & the fact we had to go to the pub for dinner in all our running gear.
Amazingly enough there was a convenience shop just down the road that was open 24 hours a day.. Woooo we ordered a bacon & egg roll for 4.30am Sat Now that was a stroke of luck. We went back had a parma for dinner & were tucked up in bed ready for our 4 am alarm and around 3 degrees brrrr chilly.
Picking up my backpack was a shock although It felt comfy on my back & shoulders. We started our watches & GPS spot tracker this is it we are off. We quickly made our way out of Bendigo & to the first official part of track our first yellow post marked Goldfields Track :) Now this is exciting. I was running at a fairly relaxed pace just trying to soak it all in.
It was hard for us to talk to each other with the 3ltr bladder in the pack it made a lot of sloshing noises so quite quickly we were running in silence sometimes in single file sometimes side by side. We made it out of town quickly and into the single tracks of the forest. It was fantastic I was struggling with the weight of my pack but was also constantly reminding myself to just take it all in.
As much as I hate the cliché this run was about the journey not the destination. It was about seeing if we could run back to back long days and be self sufficient. we had a goal of making it to Daylesford 120km on the first day & Mt Buninyong on the second 90km. After 2 hours of running the sun slowly peaked over the horizon It was great to see and an absolutely spectacular sunrise as you would expect out in the country. We had been running along following the aqueduct for a while by this point. The aqueduct leads you almost all the way into Castlemaine which would be our first break hopefully for lunch.
As we ran along I noticed MC getting faster & faster and looking at his watch continually. He was in a hurry. The only other person to have run the GDT unsupported had done this first section in 6 hours, MC wanted to do it in 5. I ran along for a while still struggling with the weight of my pack trying to keep up with MC before I decided to address the situation.
Today was the same day The North Face 100km race was on and we have a lot of friends doing it. This race attracts 1000 competitors & I have run in it once. It has this wonderful set-up where if you are not a lead runner you get stuck in a bottle neck 5km in and are reduced to a staggered run / walk, this part of the race sucks. I decided that in order for my point to be effective I would use The North Face as my reference point.
I got up to MC & told him if I wanted a race I would of gone to TNF. Lets slow it down a bit, we are here to enjoy the scenery & test ourselves over the next 2 days. Who cares if we make it to Castlemaine in 5 hours or 10 as long as we can back up tomorrow & get some running in. We laughed about how everyone would be enjoying the bottle neck at TNF and here we were just the 2 of us and 120km of trail :)
We had perfect weather it was mild a bit overcast but no rain in sight perfect. We ran along & were surprised with the amount of elevation we seemed to be getting. We climbed to the summit of Mt Alexandra I stopped countless times on the run just to enjoy the silence & the fact we were really doing this. Very strange this project had been in mind for around 12 months now and here we were finally doing it..
I reigned MC back a few more times before I think he got my point :) The countryside was so diverse one minute you were in granite boulder fields then you were in pine plantations then it was tea tree and soft beach sand. Fantastic We made it into Castlemaine in 7hrs 30 odd minutes & decided a pie and coke was in order.
We got the most expensive pie of our lives $8 bloody hell if we could be bothered we would go somewhere else but we have just run 59km hahaha. We ate the pie drank our coke and went next door to the supermarket filled up our 3 litre bladders and walked our way out of town. Again following an old Aqueduct.
Now I am not sure if it was the coke or the $8 pie but I was off. Finally I had found my running legs wooohoooo MC & I had traded places he was having a few difficulties & I felt great. We followed the old Aqueduct trail along for quite some time it was great fairly flat and twisting & turning all over the place. Some of the best single trail we had come across yet. Fantastic Probably would enjoy it more if we didn`t have 60+ km in the legs but oh well.
We climbed and descended our way along until it started to get dark then we stopped for another short break to get our lights on our heads and some warm clothes on. Again the scenery just continually changing from forest to shale and granite boulders. At around the 90km mark for some reason we started to talk about whether we thought we could push on & go straight through......
We had a bit of a time constraint regarding pick ups or possible train timetables from Ballarat. It`s funny because for around 5km we discussed the pro`s & con`s of going all night. Could we do it ?? Would we slow down too much & be reduced to crawling?? If we stop & rest as planned we could seize up & not be able to move in the morning???
This was great we had gone from doing 210km with a stop to now thinking we were a possibility of going straight through. Then BANG we hit the 100km WALL hahahaha. It`s interesting what happens when you have only run 3x 100km races and 1 x 100 miler You hit 100km & your body says no more I am done. hahahaha We quickly changed our tune & decided a rest would be the best option & whatever happens on day 2 happens.
It didn`t help that the final 20km into Daylesford was some of the best technical single trail we had seen since we started. There was some steep rocky stuff. You run along the edge of what seems like a huge cliff. Probably because we had headlamps on at this point & you couldn`t see the bottom you run along this for around 10km then hit the sign to the Lake wooooohoooo a couple more k`s and we were there
When we got within 45min of Daylesford I gave my mate a call to order us pizzas & a coke. He then met us at the boat house at the lake and we jumped in his car to his place. Thankfully it was not far from the lake. It was around 10.30pm when we got there. We sat down ate pizza, talked had showers & hit the sack around 12.30.
It was a very restless sleep I even jumped out of bed at 1.45 thinking I had slept in & started to get ready to run until I worked out the real time hahahahahaha. I was wide awake by 3.30am & it turns out MC was as well. We should of just got up & started running then. We got up at 4.15 did some stretches packed our bags, rugged up & for some reason felt totally ready for the second day.
We left my mates place & jogged the short distance ( 2km) back to where we were picked up from re set our watches & started a slow jog out of there. I was feeling great could not believe it I guess the slow pace on the sat had done the trick. The quads were feeling a little worse for wear as we had a total of 3000mtr elevation on sat. But all in all feeling good.
Again counting down the time for the sunrise. This is something I always look forward to catching the first glimpse as it peaks over the horizon just gives that special feeling. We ran on feeling good & enjoying the ever changing scenery Quietly confident that we had done the hard part, getting started on the second day :)
The sun came up & again a beautiful sunrise as we were in the Wombat state forest. We had one moment when we felt we had gone wrong so got out the etrex gps and yep sure enough we missed a turn. It`s what happens when you get a little complacent or over confident hehehe We walked back up the hill lucky for us only around 500mtr found the right turn & went that way.
We ran along some of the best single track so far it was windy & just small ups & downs perfect great terrain. Unfortunately this is where it popped out onto a road. Arghhhh a road?? What is this strange thing & much to our delight it was an 8km stretch of STRAIGHT road. So boring It lead us all the way to Dean. Once we got off this part it returned to some sweet trails.
It was about this time that we had been trying to figure out what time we would be arriving in Ballarat knowing we had to go 20km out to Mt Buninyong & potentially back to catch the train. Once again we were back to racing the clock, something I had really wanted to avoid. Back to the ol North face comment :)
Mc put an idea to me that if we missed going into Creswick for lunch we could save 30min or more getting us to Ballarat quicker. Now there is one thing I am not a big fan of... Missing out on my FOOD especially since around 20km in I was thinking about lunch & a coke hmmmmmmmmmmmmm I was not happy with this suggestion at all.
After cruising along for another 5 or so k`s I told MC that if we were going to miss lunch I was sitting down to eat some rice I had left and take a load off for 5min. I was pretty disappointed to think I was going to miss lunch. So we stopped sat down ate some rice took a load off & then got going again.
We ran on for sometime before we saw the turnoff to Creswick. It seemed to take a lot longer than it was supposed to. We got I reckon within 800mtr of the town turned our backs on it & headed off toward Ballarat. That was a tough call but once the decision was made it was made.
The sun was shinning and it was starting to get a little warm. It must of hit about 12 degrees hahaha. By this point we were continually commenting on how amazing the trail was so well marked and easy to follow it was great. I think we got the handheld GPS out only a couple of times. We had expected the trail to be roughly marked & be struggling along but it was quite the opposite.
And then it happened just like that...... Around 15-20km from Ballarat MC`s ankle decided it had had enough. It swelled up and he could hardly lift it or put weight on it. We limped along for a while doing a fair bit of walking. We sat down a few times in the hope that the short break would fix it but it wasn`t to be.
We came across some prospectors who were very keen to show us there gold & find out where we had come from. The looks on their faces when we said Bendigo hahaha priceless. They started to tell us that prospecting was a lot of work for little reward Then we told them we were running for 2 days with no reward hehehe except the pain we were feeling in our bodies. :)
I was super excited we have gone from Bendigo to Ballarat 190km this was crazy. We limped along at approx 4km an hr very slow going. Whilst Mc struggled with his ankle I struggled with the decision to go on alone to Mt Buninyong??? It was only 20km past Ballarat.... A big part of me thought we started as a team & I would like to finish as a team. There was also the thought of damaging my knee more ( I have had a niggle for the last few weeks ) After all this was just a training run.
MC battled on & even contemplated walking to Mt Buninyong hehehe at 4km an hour. He is a stubborn bloke. At around 4km out of Ballarat we both decided that the train station would literally be the end of the line for us. I also had to think about The Around The bay charity run I am doing, this is far more important to me than the GDT. After what seemed like an eternity we finally got there 36hours & 9min after we left Bendigo we had made 190km
I was thrilled it did not matter that we did not get to Buninyong we had a huge back to back run & smashed ourselves in the process. What a weekend. We went to the nearest pub & ordered 2 big steaks with chips to eat whilst we waited for the 7pm train home.
In summary The Goldfields Track was amazing. So well marked and easy to follow. My only concern would be water. There was no water to speak of on the trail. You have to make it last until the towns. Having the train at either end is the best thing ever you don`t need a car shuffle or a lift makes it easy.
Yes I will be back to complete this run. I may do it supported, unsupported, with a group or solo. That is yet to be determined. As for now this run has taught me many valuable lessons Most of all it`s about the JOURNEY :) We can do anything we put our minds to!
Shane's an ultra runner and La Sportiva Ambassador, with a taste for adventure, always up for a new and different challenge.