Monday, 28 January 2013

The Jilliby Run

The jingoistic circus that is Australia Day has come and gone, and we managed to escape most of the silliness (apart from several obligatory car-loads of abusive bogans) by doing a long one in the heat, perhaps to compensate for missing out on rubbing shoulders with celebrities in the TdU part of the country.  The last time i did the "Jilliby Run" was about a decade ago, where Ham and I rode from Sydney up to Ham's parents place on the central coast (near Wyong), then returned the following day over the feared Bumble Hill (our version of Willunga, i imagine), with backpacks, to prepare for the rigours of euro village hopping.

This time we lacked the backpacks, or the day up our sleeves given the cyclonic forecast (the rest of the long weekend being a torrential washout), so the 170 km was to be knocked off in a day, just as Ham had done only weeks before with Andy K.  Speaking of whom, Andy was again out in the near vicinity, clocking 180 by spinning loops on the Peats Ridge - Mooney Mooney circuit.  Respect!

Kev did the lions share of the work, and Anita did an admirable job of hanging tough on the wagging tail.  Subsequently, and in her first dalliance with Strava, she became queen of Strava for the inbound Yarramalong valley sector.  Might be a monster in the making here!

After a great spread of sandwiches and cordial hosted by Mrs P, we got back to the business of dealing with the nasty side of Bumble Hill, which was just as tough as i'd remembered, with its three uncompromising ramps and dead as a door-nail surface, made worse by the oven-like heat reflecting off the surface.  But at least we had a taily for the remainder of the journey back to the cars at Berowra (heralding the storm system approaching from the north).  170 for the day (3:04 out, 3:30 back), and 3000m of up, and another step towards 3peaks in March.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Brown vs Inland Thornbill?

A long shot, but wondering if anyone out there in search-engine-enabled cyber-twitch-space can help.  On a recent trip to Kosciouzko, at the edge of the tree line, saw heaps of what we assumed were brown thornbills.  They didn't quite sound like their Sydney cousins (unsurprisingly), and this one had a very prominent tail which it paraded cocked, inland-style.  Colour was perhaps not grey/dusty enough for inland? (sorry for the lousy pics).  And possibly out of range.  National Parks gave me a blank look.  Any takers?

 Mystery thornbill doing its best Woodstock impersonation.

Snowies xtra

The fine line between nailing it (above), and being nailed (below)

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Holiday mode, Snowies style

2013 kicked off with a trip from Jindabyne to the south coast, Tathra to be exact, where we caught up with some of Anita's friends, caught some waves, and dabbled in some of the excellent local single track.  Well I managed to at least.  Anita was still nursing sore ribs from 2012 so was restricted to culinary pursuits - cheeses, crackers, oysters etc.  She was anxious to get back on the 2-wheeled horse, so we headed back to Jindy for some 3peaks preparation.

Jan 3rd we drove up to Thredbo and had a good 20 km plus walk from the village up Crackenback, then on to the summit of Kosciuszko and back, with an excellent weissbier at the eagles nest priming the legs for the descent.   Half way up/down also provides a good spot to marvel at the gravity hounds taking air on the downhill track.  Not sure I'll ever graduate to this body-armour format of 2 wheels.  Man's gotta know his limitations.

Jan 4th we awoke early and shortly after 7 am were trundling out of Jindy (alt 920m) direction Charlotte's Pass and beyond (2100 m).  Good thing we left early as the heat was forecast to be in the high 30s.  The 15 km from the Thredbo river to past Sawpit creek were particularly tough and unrelenting.  Although mtbs are not as speedy as roadies, they do allow one to kick on from Charlotte's Pass (1850m) along the gravel road to Rawson's Pass, just shy of the final spiral kilometre to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko.  I don't know how long NPWS have permitted bikes to ride this 10 km sector, but anyone who has spent 2 hrs walking each way will likely agree it is a particularly dreary trudge.  Well worth using the fat wheeled option if possible.  The return trip was mostly downhill, although there are at least three sizable uphill grinds to be negotiated.  For the record it took us 5 hrs 50 min to cover the 97 km return trip.  Cold milk never tasted so good.  After raiding the bakery at Jindy we threw the bikes on the roof and aimed for the Thredbo river where we spent a few hours in a cycle of swimming, reading and relaxing in the precious shade, followed by another Jindabyne meal that couldn't-be-beat, and another early night.  In this respect Jindabyne really is the bees.  Excellent choice of restaurants and a leafy atmosphere and now a far cry from the bleak windswept paddock of my childhood memories. 

We were not alone in the alpine cycle caper.  Hundreds of others, although on road bikes, were up to similar activities (not to mention an equal number of gravity hounds). Quite a few Randi-Bots, and the more conspicuous BRATS and Eastern Suburbs mob were present (with Fr-aaank calling the show).  Most perplexing were the mobs of riders out in the heat of the day, or running in the mid afternoon.   Madness.  One rider I chatted with had just come up from Bright (VIC alps), where the cycling craze appears to be on another level altogether, with literally thousands swarming the Victorian high country.

Jan 5th followed a similar pattern.  Rolling at 7 in the hope of stealing a start on an even hotter day.  This time destination Thredbo (1430 m) return.  It was a tough grind of 2 hr 10 min one way, in part due to the heat, and in equal part due to the block headwind which established its intentions early.  Tough 35 km!  An uncomfortable saddle prompted Anita to hoist the flag, so after a quick refreshment i headed back down to Jindabyne alone to recover the car.  One hour 6 min later i rolled into the nuggets complex and was soon sucking down another milk and pie at the bakery.  Top speed was 83 km/hr, a record for me on the mtb, albeit wind assisted.  Once again the hottest part of the day (40 degrees in nearby Cooma) was spent bathing by the Thredbo river, trying to avoid both heat and sunburn, whilst adding to the trip birdlist (another  century logged), and significantly aiding my quest to re-read the hobbit. In the afternoon we caught up with my family who had just arrived for a stint at perisher, where another day of bike-free R and R would be spent before heading back to the big smoke where the true grind of 2013 would commence.

Bird of the trip was black-chinned honeyeater, which Anita spied at the excellent Brungle bridge crossing of the Tumut river just east of Gundagai on the road home, a bona-fide new tick for both of us.

Wicked Wombat 2012

As Xmas and the end of year beckoned, the Wicked Wombat, an 8 hr mtb enduro run on New Year's Eve caught my eye.  Good chance to finish off the year doing something a little different, escape Sydney, and use it as a stepping stone to do some stuff on the south coast and in the Snowies over the dead-time awaiting the year proper to get under way.  Given the name, how could i refuse? Anita seemed not to be opposed to the idea so it was go. 

Getting a little ahead if myself though.  The four days preceding Xmas were spent up in the Sunshine Coast attending a wedding and catching up with Anita's folks.  Mercifully the weather wasn't too hot.  Got over 100 species of birds in the bag too (always easier to get big numbers in the tropics), and some soothing dips in the ocean.  After the formalities of Xmas back in Sydney with family, and catching up with various peoples (thanks Kev/Dee, Ham/Lisa, Ben/Cheryl, Iain/Kate), the Mudge and I drove down to Jindabyne and "Bungarra", just south of the lake and town.

The Bungarra property contains over 20 km of really nice flowy trails, and for the second year was hosting the Wombat on NYE.  Come race morning it was clear that a scorcher was on the cards.  And in more ways than one - extra burny at 1000 meters.  Although the course was only a 10  km loop, with almost no place to feed, that first bottle went down fast, and set the tone for the race - more or less a bottle a lap would be consumed.  Although I've never done an 8 hr before I guessed that staving off dehydration would be key.  Although my early laps were roughly 35 minute splits, these would blow out to 40 minutes for the remainder.

The course wasn't overly technical by any measure, but this didn't prevent the rider in front of me (ironically a fit dude on a 29er) from collecting a rock and going A over T midway through the first lap.  This immediately made me worry about Anita, who had talked herself into racing, although I got the distinct impression just before the start that she really didn't really want to partake.  Add the fact that the sections of track we had nervously ridden together prior to the start were comparatively easy compared with some of what was on offer.  When I rolled into transition after my second lap there was no sign of her, nor an alteration to items on my pit table.  Starting to fear the worst!  However, come my third visit to the pits a new bottle was waiting on my table, a sign that all was OK.  When we next caught up she seemed to even be enjoying it.

And so the race progressed.  Each lap I would enter the pit, dump a bottle, pick up a new one and a gel/banana/whatever.  At almost exactly the four hour mark I rolled into the pits having completed my 7th lap, meaning that if I dropped one during the remaining 4 hours a tally on 13 was going to be the likely result - incidentally the same number tallied by the solo winner the previous year on a  similar coarse.  Dropping a lap was inevitable as i was starting to fatigue and my guts were starting to complain a little (too many grapes consumed in transition).   Anita's news was less rosy.  On the way to completing her 5th lap she was undone in a rock garden and cracked at least one rib (the clicking was clearly audible when she inhaled/exhaled).   We discussed a trip to the local hospital, but she was adamant there wasn't much to be done in any case.  Whilst the thought of abandoning was tempting, given that i seemed to be running 4th in the solo category Anita reckoned I should soldier on. 

So after my only lengthy pit of the race (15-20 min, which I was quite thankful of) I got back on course for the second half.  For the last three hours cramp was always just below the surface.  With 2 hours to go I got the news that I had slipped to 6th.  I tried to upp the pace for the remainder but didn't realize any improvement in splits.  In the wash up 6th is where I stayed, and the time I had off the bike would not have made much difference.  The competition was simply too classy, with another rider finishing ahead of me with 13 laps, three on 14, and the winner on 15 laps (Mr McDonald, and the one most consider likely to knock Mr English off his 24hr perch).  Unwittingly Anita had entered a category that many fear to tread (solo female), and as such her 4 completed laps were good enough for third in category and a trip to the podium, cracked ribs and all.  Not bad for your first ever mtb race! (and as some have suggested, maybe an opportune time to quit while you're ahead as podiums are increasingly more difficult to come by as numbers at such events swell every year as word gets out).

Anita and I were a sorry pair that eve.  Anita with her ribs and me cramping at almost every available opportunity.  Hence a fitful sleep was entered by both come around 10 pm, and yet again we managed to round out a NYE without fanfare, maddening crowds or a hangover.  It was now time for both  holiday mode and 2013 to kick in.