Day 4 - Penguin Cradle Trail
Raining again. I was starting to notice a theme here. Gerard started the day with me and we ran the first 4km together as he told me all about Penguin`s history. I then ran up to the start of the Penguin Cradle Trail ( PCT ) R met me at the start and we loaded up my pack with all the mandatory stuff – EPIRB, Sat Phone, Space blanket etc. It was finally time to hit the trails, and leave civilisation for a few days.
I headed into the trail full of beans. Woo Hoo finally a trail. The first few kilometres were great. Fresh rock had been put down and the trail was easy to stay on. It then wound its way through a maze of hills and forest. It was raining consistently now and every time you went through a tree fern it would splash all the water from its fronds onto your face.
The trail then made its way down to the Leven River. It was great it followed the rivers edged and for a while was a nice trail. A well-worn trail even. Hmmmm what is this itchy thing on my legs???? Oh right LEECHES!! Up until this point I had not had to worry about them. Well now I had found them in their droves.
I would run for a few km`s then pull them off, run a few more and repeat. This went on for a while until I couldn’t be bothered so I just left them. I was excited to be on trail. It was ducking and weaving its way along the river. Up, down, around over hills, down steep embankments all the fun stuff plenty of technical roots and mud.
I knew I would not see R for around 20km so I had everything I needed in my pack and just had to concentrate on not getting lost. After around 9km of good track it quickly went to shit.
All of a sudden it was bush bashing over my head through tree ferns and bracken, looking for the path of least resistance, guessing that I was on some form of track. I continued on for km after km bashing away getting the water spray in my face every 2 seconds, climbing on, under and over all the obstacles as I went. Every now and then I would see a trail marker to my surprise. Thankfully this meant I was somehow on the trail.
In my mind I was wondering how they call this a trail??? There were barely any markings, no real track and the scrub was over my head….. So I pushed on getting excited and relieved every time I spotted a marker.
After a number of hours I came to a spot halfway along the track and it had been logged. I knew I was getting closer to R as my watch told me. I was about 1km from R when I came to a very steep hill that had been cleared and was just clay. As I descended this muddy slippery section I slipped and hyper-extended my left knee/ adductor.
Oh shit .. That hurt. My knee almost immediately blew up, there was a bruise and I couldn’t bend it. Uh Oh only 200km in to my run and I had injured myself. Oh man was I pissed off. I hobbled along the next km where I met R, immediately she could tell something was up.
I stopped at the car with the boot up out of the rain for the first time all day. I picked off the leeches where I found 2 in places you would hope to never see leeches and explained what I had done to my knee. There was no point in stopping to assess it as it was not stopping me from running it just hurt a lot to bend.
Checkout Shane's interview from on the trail:
The next stretch was around 7km of road running. I jogged on wondering how much damage I had done. At around 2km before I was due to turn back into the trail R rode her bike out to meet me. It was great to talk to her and have a little company for this bit as it was pretty boring road running.
We got to the junction where the trail disappeared for the next 17km and I had a sit down. My knee was killing me and it was huge, I had no knee cap it had swollen up that much. I was a bit down on the day & concerned about my knee. It had been non-stop raining since I started and I still had 17km to go.
So I put some music on ate some food, some sugar & reset my mind. Telling myself it was only 17km. I can do this it’s easy. I do 17km without even thinking about it. So I took off feeling great ready to tackle this 17 then I will think about my knee..
I took off feeling good; I could see the trail again. Right no problem I can do it. This is where the trail absolutely fell apart. There was NO trail, it was up down through roots over roots down to the river along an almost cliff edge. This part is called the Leven Canyon and is known as an extremely challenging piece of the Penguin Cradle Trail and I was doing it with a bad leg.
I ran and fast pace walked for the first 2 hours. Pushing hard staying positive doing what I could to stay on target. I lost the trail a number of times but quickly realised, backtracked and got back on what was the right direction. I use the word “trail” very loosely here. It was more a matter of staying in the same direction as the river.
I still had my music on & was starting to tire. It had taken me almost 3 hours to cover 10kms now that’s not good. I had dropped right down to the river again & was struggling to find the trail. It was starting to get a little dark in the canyon & I really did not want to be in there in the dark. I spotted a marker and remember being told that I have to follow the water’s edge.
I was concentrating on where I was going & just like that I slipped in… Arrrrrrghhhhhhh the river was flowing fast & I had fallen in up to my chest, I quickly got up and out of the water very angry with myself for letting this happen. Oh man I’m wet my pack was wet everything in it was wet… It was getting dark how could I let this happen.. I was so angry with myself.
Right keep going, keep pushing you have to get out of here before it gets dark & cold. I turned off my music & pushed on. The next thing there is a 400mtr climb straight up urgh my knee was stuffed, I was tired & now I have a bloody big hill climb. I was just wishing this would be over.
I was in a really bad place mentally & not much better physically. I just wanted to sit down & be done with it, but you can`t do that you have 6km to go. Right let’s move, forget the knee, forget being wet, forget the countless leeches just move as fast as you can. I ran, walked & near crawled at a few points but I did not stop. Finally I came to a sign post which only means 1 thing…. You are very close to civilisation.
I hoped & prayed that it would end but it dragged on another 2km. Finally I could see a paddock. Yes it`s over finally but then I lost the trail in some very thick blackberry. Oh man 500mtr to go & I hit blackberry arghhhhhhhh. I got through that & hit the road woooo hooooo but where is Richelle?????
So I got out the map & the sat phone. Turned on the phone & studied the map. Tough to tell which bridge R was going to be at or what bridge I was actually at. After 15 min standing there with the phone & getting no signal I decided there was only 1 way I would find her so I started walking. I walked 1 way for around 700mtr studied the map some more. It looked like I should be going the other way so I turned & went back. I walked around the corner I was at before & there she was… Man I almost cried it was 7pm & I had been going for 11 hours. Check out the video of me finally finding Richelle...such a relief!
This day was by far the toughest day I had ever had. I wanted to quit so many times I was done. The leeches the nonstop rain the knee the lack of trail. It all amounted to a tough day out. Thankfully R had found us a B&B just down the road so I could shower & ice my knee. Such a relief as the original plan had been to bush camp that night.
I showered whilst R got my recovery ready. I then sat on the bed with a non-existent knee & pondered whilst repeatedly telling R how bad the day was & how glad I was to see her. Right video blog done food done ice done now time for sleep.
All I could think was “how will I do tomorrow?? “
Check out Shane's video blog (including his knee!) from the end of Day 4.
I got up in the morning after a very uncomfortable sleep & immediately checked out my range of movement in my knee. Yep can`t bend it. All I said to R was I can`t do another day like yesterday but I can at least start & see how we go. It was great I hopped down the stairs & my cousin Dan was there. They had flown across from Melbourne to run with me for the next 2 days.
They looked at my knee & wondered how I was going to run but I told them as long as it doesn’t fall off I should be ok. We drove back to where I had finished the previous night & I hobbled into a slow trot. It was great to have Dan with me someone to talk to someone to help navigate the next section of the the PCT.
We met the girls 3km down the road where the trail headed off into the mountains packed our day packs took all the mandatory gear had 1 last good look at my knee & we were off. We ran the first 3km before hitting the start of a big climb up Black Bluff. It was a 6km 1000mtr climb. Right today is a short day 40 odd km time to get into it.
We fast paced walked up the mountain stopping a few times to take in the view. We had risen above the low lying clouds & it was a glorious morning. After the nonstop rain the day before it was blue skies & sunshine. Perfect. We summited &the track pops you out onto Paddy`s lake. It looked beautiful such an amazing morning. There was no wind & it was the perfect temperature.
We got to the high plains & there was a little cloud around but nothing too bad. I had been worried about getting up here and having a white out. As the trail was very difficult to find a white out would make it impossible & we would probably have to retreat back down the mountain. Dan & I trotted along for a while & enjoyed the amazing vistas with the occasional mud patch. We spotted old marker pegs in the ground & thought it was great.
We then discovered Scoparia. -Richea scoparia (Scoparia) is a widespread and abundant shrub in almost all alpine areas. Its very hard, sharp leaves and inclination to form dense thickets give it a bleak reputation among bush walkers.
Bleak is one word for it. This stuff was horrendous. Wow it tore strips off you. I was so relieved to be wearing my Moxie gaiters, they were amazing for protection, but with no restriction in my movements. We also came across patches that lasted for 200mtr & you would just have to suck it up and power through. Poor Dan on the other hand had none.
We got about 18km in and spotted Cradle mountain. Wow I finally felt like I was getting somewhere. Poor Dan had started to suffer a little as he had not run this far in a long time let alone with 1300mtr ascent. We spotted a white lipped snake sunning itself & shortly after that we had to step over one because it was too busy sunning & would not move.
I spotted a group of people in the distance & new it was R & co. I sped up & left poor Dan behind over the next km. I was excited. I ran up & there to my surprise was my dad, sister, step mum & future brother in-law as well as our good friend Roz & Vaughan who had flown across to ride his bike with me for a couple of days where he could.
Dan came jogging in totally spent. It was great to share the trails with him. I somehow convinced Roz that she should join me over the next 20km J I said a quick hello to everyone re packed my pack & we were off again. This time I had Roz to keep me company which was awesome. Roz is great company & loves to be out on the trails.
We bashed our way through the Scoparia that was sometimes over my head. Roz had also forgotten her gators so she was suffering a little more. We quickly knocked over the first 10km & came to a river. We had a quick look at the map & the diagram showed the trail going across the river. We crossed the river and bashed our way through some really thick Scoparia but could not find any sign of the trail.
We scouted around for 5 min before getting the guide book out & actually reading the description. Ha funny that it said go down river 200mtr before crossing on a steel bridge. This gave us a good chuckle. So we crossed back & sure enough 200mtr down there was a bridge. We crossed the lovely steel bridge even stopped to pick of the HUGE leeches that had been hanging on for a while.
We ran along now ducking into some beautiful beech forest. Beech forest is great it`s like going into prehistoric time. The moss & different colours of the trees is beautiful. Although sometimes it is hard to find the track as it all looks the same. We were jogging along chatting away when all of a sudden we rounded a corner & there was Nicole from Smithton.
Nicole had decided to come up to Cradle & see if she could find me. This was great more company. We came out of the forest & onto the high button grass plain. Making our way hopping from one grass lump to the next. I had started to slow by this point. I had done around 30km & my knee was really starting to hurt. We were within 2km of the road woo running along nicely hitting the mud patches here & there, then BANG…. I stepped in a mud hole almost waist deep, it stopped me dead in my tracks ouch. I dragged myself out whilst the girls were laughing, it was pretty funny. A quick check of the body everything seemed fine so off we went.
We hit the boardwalk & there was R. Yaaaaay my day was almost done. We got to the waiting car around the corner I sat down & had some food. I had done 36km so far with around 1600mtr ascent. I wanted to finish my run at the start of the Overland track so that the next day would be 80km not 86.
I gave my pack to R & Roz, Nicole & I set off for the last 6km of road. Nicole ran about 1.5km then dropped off & went to her accom. Roz & I continued running & walking the last 5km to the start. We got to the start & I was just short of a marathon so we ran the start of the boardwalk so I could finish on a marathon.
Today was longer than I had hoped it had taken me 8hr 45min to run the 42.2km. Roz & I went to the river & washed off all the blood (from the leeches and the scoporia) & mud. The swelling of my knee had started to come down… Perhaps it was the mud bath it had ???
We drove back to the accom & I had a shower changed & started the usual recovery whilst chatting to Vaughan about how the events of run had been going so far.
I packed my 35ltr bag ready with sleeping bag & mat ready for the Overland track 80km the following day & went to bed. As soon as I laid down I could tell something was not right, my legs felt like they were on fire & I felt terrible. I started to sweat horribly. R put a towel on the bed & when that was soaked through she put another on top....uh oh, this was not looking good for my next day's attempt to cross the Overland Track in 1 day......
Check out Shane's video blog from Day 5.
By Shane Hutton - March 2014
Where do I start?? This was by far the biggest idea I have ever had. It also proved to be the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. It went above and beyond my expectations in all aspects. So I guess I start from the start. On Wednesday March 26th I had decided to run from the northern most tip of Tasmania to the southernmost tip somewhere between 600 and 700km. A combination of a personal challenge, and an aim of raising funds and awareness to find a cure for Parkinson's disease by supporting the Shake It Up Foundation, after a close friend of mine Vaughan was diagnosed with this terrible disease at age 32.
The plan was to utilise as many of the Tassie walking trails as possible, including the following:
- Penguin to Cradle trail
- The Overland Track
- The Adamsfield and Sawback Tracks
- Port Davey Track
- South Coast Track
Then to link them all together I used a spiderweb of linking forestry trails, backwater tracks, private land (with permission!) and some bush bashing!
It was to take around 2 weeks, with the end to co-incide with World Parkinsons Day in Hobart.
It was to be fully supported by car with my partner Richelle (R) when the trails were accessible, but where they weren't I was going to be on my own, with my trusty tent, and sleeping gear on my back. R also got to fly into Melaleuca with supplies for me just before I started the South Coast Track.
After months of planning, it was time to start my adventure!
We drove from our accommodation in Smithton. A cute B & B called Ye Olde Post Office that had kindly been donated to us, up to Woolnorth the starting point.
It was a beautiful morning when we set off, amazing sunrise. I got the first 2km under the belt and all of a sudden there was a Tasmanian devil running toward me. Holy crap, what do I do... We both stopped dead it was looking at me and I was looking at it. I was unsure what to do except stop and stare... How cool I had just started and there was a devil. Then it turned and ran back into the bush. Soo cool I was so lucky I never thought I would get to see one.
I ran along the private road for the first 5km to the end of the last Van Diemans land. I signed the book on the way out and just like that it was time to hit the road... I ran along the gravel road for a while then bitumen. This was it, time to relax and just cruise along.
I ran 30km before we met up with the Mercury newspaper, based out of Burnie. We stopped and did some photos and a short story about what we were doing and off again. I was running along the road to a small town call Smithton. You can read the Mercury article here.
I hit the 40km mark and my legs had started to get very sore and I was having some walk breaks. I had been lucky the weather was amazing sun shining I was very pleased to be on the road but starting to wonder if I could keep this up as my legs were already tired.
All the thoughts start coming into my mind: Can I do this?? Why are my legs tired already?? Did I do enough training??? I figured that the first 3 days would be tough, trying to adjust to the load and just running back to back to back.
I sat down at 45km and had some lunch with Richelle. Walked and ran to 50km. Richelle rode her bike to meet me then we finished the last 2km together. Richelle ran me a bath and I ate a lot of food hahaha. I had a long soak in the bath & put my feet up. Did some stretching ate more food & went to bed around 9.30. Great the first day was done.
Check out my video blog for Day 1.
I woke up nice and early to the sound of rain on the second day. No surprises there we are in Tasmania. I got dressed had my breakfast put on my rain jacket and off I went. Next stop Boat Harbour.
I ran the first couple of km`s feeling really good. What a surprise my legs had recovered from day 1 nicely. I was running past the local hospital and there was a person waving to me. It was Nicole from twitter :) Nicole had seen what we were doing on twitter and had got in touch. Nicole is a local Doctor in Smithton and an ultra-athlete. With a quick chat and picture done it was time to keep going.
The rain was pouring but I didn`t care this is why I was here. After 20km along the Bass highway and a radio interview I had hit the old railway track. There is an old track that runs from Smithton to Burnie. How nice, I was finally off the road.
The track was good a little difficult at times and a lot of fences to climb over as it runs through farm paddocks, but way better than being on the road. It also had the advantage of taking the flatter way of things :) I ran along for different lengths and met Richelle wherever she could get in to give me food and hydration.
Again after around 43km the legs decided they had had enough. So it was back to walk and run. It had not stopped raining all day and I had been running for 7.5 hours. We realised I was not going to make Boat Harbour so I stopped after 8.5 hours on the trail.
We had decided early on that if it was possible and I had not made my destination I would try not to run for over 8 hours a day. This would allow me enough time to recover properly for the next day.
I jumped in the car dried off and warmed up. I was a bit disappointed I had not made my destination. It was also a risk stopping after 52km not knowing exactly how far it was until Penguin the next day.
We drove into Boat Harbour where we had kindly been donated accom by Gerd at Azzure Beach Houses. Wow what a place. Beautiful beach & the accom was amazing big windows looking out to the water. Perfect place for recovery. I ate all my food and had all my recovery fuel. Then before we knew it, it was time for bed.
Check out my video blog for day 2
Look at that the sun was shining again and my legs felt good. Weird. I was getting a little confident with how my recovery was going. We jumped in the car and drove back to where I had finished the day before.
I was really starting to enjoy this train line. It was peaceful and away from traffic. The sunrise was another postcard moment from Tassie. I ran the first 20km in 2hours 20 and was feeling good. I spoke to R and was told the beach was only 5km away then we would have some lunch. I had been hungry for a while but I thought this was a good idea.
Then BANG a hugeeeee wall. My first really big wall. I had not been expecting it as I was cruising along nicely up until this point. Well apart from my shoulder - my shoulder had begun to hurt halfway through the first day and by this point it was killing me. I could not lift my arm or anything I even resorted to a couple of pain killers….a random injury that came from nowhere, and continued to plague my first few days.
I ended up walking and jogging the next 5km. Brutal. All the usual questions were being asked. I finally got to R at the 25km mark. Thank god she had the chair out and was in a picturesque spot. The beach was amazing and it had warmed up to around 21 degrees. I sat ate some food had some painkillers and was off again. This time the train line wound it`s way along the coast running along the water side of the highway.
The water was so inviting. This was what I needed something else to think about. I ran out of train line when I got to Burnie. I ran through Burnie and was met on the other side of town by a couple of people. 1 was Vlastik Skvairl. He is a 74year old amazing ultra runner. He has run for 56hours straight, he has run from Cockle Creek to Cape town and a huge number of other awesome things. He joined me for the next 3km as he was on his way to Hobart to run back to Burnie in a kangaroo suit! Google him, he is amazing!
I ran and talked to him for the next 20 min before he turned around. He is a legend and all round nice guy. The next person to join me was Gerard. Gerard was providing us with accom at his amazing B&B, in Penguin our next stop. He joined me for the last 9km of the day. It was fantastic to have some company along this last stretch of road.
It had been a bit of a suffer fest early on in the day. The sun had been out all day and I felt cooked. Finally we hit Penguin. A 58km day J It was great to finish by the water. I had a little soak in the ocean before we headed to our accom.
Another amazing place supplied to us called High on Penguin. It was high on the hill and had amazing views of the whole Township and ocean. R cooked us dinner, salmon stirfry, yum, whilst I stretched and did my usual recovery stuff.
After dinner we met with a couple of Gerards running friends that were keen to hear all about the traverse and the trails I had in mind. After a lengthy discussion it was time for bed.
Check out my video blog for Day 3.
Shane is an adventure ultra runner. Hes running from the northernmost tip of Tassie to the southernmost tip...over 600km of epic trails. All to raise money and awareness for Shake It Up, to find a cure for Parkinsons.