Tuesday, 9 October 2018
The final day of the Carnival was held at Keynes Gap, an area 40 minutes from where I was staying and the usual 90+ minutes from where all the schools teams were staying. The area was generally open farmland but with linear sections of rocks and boulders all over it. It was great fun to orienteer there - there were people and controls everywhere!
I had a pretty clean run and finally managed to win an event - yay! I was a mere 5 seconds ahead of 2nd place, and it was just a further 7 seconds back to third. From examining the splits I can see that it was a tight tussle between the three of us the whole way, and at the 4th last control I was 3rd, but then the two people ahead of me made small mistakes at the 3rd last, while I found it pretty cleanly and then managed to hold them off until the finish!
Zali bookended her carnival week with another strong run - finishing not just as the first Z in her class (an achievement as there are 2 Zali's, 2 Zoe's and 2 Zara's) but also as 1st Australian and 4th overall (pesky NZ runners dominated many of the junior classes all week).
Jett had another good mid pack run - he's going to do really well next year when he is in his 2nd year in the class and the older kids move up to the next age group.
Jon had a nice time watching everyone clamber over the rocks from the assembly area (that's him in the hat behind Zali and Jett..)
So all up it was a great week. Jon and the kids had a great (although exhausting) time as part of the schools team, and while it was a bit odd for to me to be all on my own, I wasn't really on my own as I was hanging with friends so that was cool too.
Jon had bravely entered the M21 Elite course for the Australian Long Distance Championships, but unfortunately he stepped in a hole at absolute furthest point of his course and immediately tore his calf muscle. With no way of walking anywhere he started crawling towards the nearest track. After 30 metres he realised it wasn't going to work so he searched for a suitable crutch. Luckily there was a suitable gnarly gandalf stick nearby, so he hauled himself upright and limped pathetically (I'm guessing), up to the track. Along the way he met another competitor and asked them to pass on a message to the organisers when they reached the spectator control. In the meantime he continued his hobbling towards a small cleared area that was marked on the map. Once he got there he still had a long wait before being picked up but he has since admitted that it was pretty much the first time he'd had to himself all week so he quite enjoyed it. Eventually an organiser and first aid person came out in a car and picked him up. I'm sure Jon pleaded for them to take him to the nearest airport for some more peace and quiet but they returned him to the event arena and gave him some good first aid treatment and sympathy before releasing him back into the custody of the Schools Team.
The rest of us had respectable runs. Zali was 7th, Jett was halfway down his field in 12th, and I was 2nd by a few minutes. I would certainly have been 3rd to Clare if she hadn't had a bit of a blowout on the 4th control, losing 20 minutes and then sight in her left eye when she scratched it on a branch. She also topped off her bad run by falling into a prickle bush and getting a butt full of splinters.
The area was quite steep with some delightful little patches of native forest and runnable pine forest, but with an awful lot of horrible cleared forest and young pine plantations in between, which necessitated a lot of fire trail running which many people found a bit tedious.
The other eventful thing which happened (aside from Jon's calf and Clare's prickle butt) was the wedding. When the organisers were setting up the arena the previous day they encountered a wedding party making final plans for the next day's ceremony. Apparently it took a while to convince the wedding people that it wasn't a joke and that there were really going to be 1000 extra guests (not one of which would be wearing appropriate attire) at their wedding ceremony. Luckily it took place after most of the orienteers had been to the control which was just 10 metres from the ceremony site, so I don't think their day was totally ruined. I snuck a picture from a distance..that's the bride on the far right.
So all up it was an eventful day!
Friday, 5 October 2018
After 6 straight days of running we all finally got a rest day. Phew!
We're staying in Lyndoch in the Barossa Valley surrounded by hectares and hectares of vineyards, so the obvious thing to do on a rest day was to go cellar door visiting. However for two reasons I decided to drive to one of the last remaining areas of native forest in this region instead.
The first was because I'd generally rather watch paint dry than visit wineries. The second reason was because I wanted to revisit the area of my first ever major orienteering competition at Kaiserstuhl conservation park.
I'd forgotten what the terrain was like and it was actually really nice - particularly on the nice sunny day we had today. I did a long-ish but easy hike to a lookout and back.
There were lots of delicate spring flowers out, and quite few heavily laden mother kangraoos who looked like they were housing reluctant teenage kangaroos well past their move-out-of-home date! I also bumped into some germans who claimed they still hadn't seen any living kangaroos on their entire journey from the Gold Coast. I think they just didn't know where to look.
I don't remember too much about the event in 1986 although I've just looked up the results and I was 7th, behind Clare Hawthorne (5th) but ahead of Nic's sister Sue. The whole experience must have been a good one as by 1990 I'd been back to the mainland to orienteer quite a few times and I was heading off to JWOC with the Australian Team (which included Clare Hawthorne and Jonathan McComb). The results show that Jon was also at that event, but he didn't do so well, taking 106 minutes on a course won by Blair Trewin in 46 minutes.
Today was the final and all important relay day for the schools teams - so all the kids were fully decorated in team colours by the time Nic and I got out to the event.
Zali was second leg runner and unfortunately didn't have a great run, but her team mates both did pretty well, especially the third leg runner so they ended up in a respectable 7th place.
Jett was running 3rd leg on the unofficial Tasmanian Junior Boys team, he had another consistent run and his team was 8th, just 1 place behind the official Tasmanian team.
The rest of us had a mass start after the relays had finished and I found out first hand how easy it was to lose time in the dense pine forest. After losing the gang of people I'd been running with, then spending 5 minutes wandering around the forest looking for a tree stump, followed by another 5 minutes at the very next control I decided to skip the last few controls and come in early!
In the afternoon I drove back down to West Beach (which took nearly 2 hours due to traffic) to watch the official team presentation stuff, then Nic and I went on to a vietnamese restaurant on the north of the city to have dinner with Clare and her crew. It was a nice night.
Thursday, 4 October 2018
Today was the official start of the Schools Championships, so after some house table tennis Nicola and I headed out to the event to watch the runners come in.
The owners of this place we are staying at seem to have two big interests, quaint car memorabilia, and parisian themed nick-nacks - both of which are spread liberally throughout the house. Whilst it's not exactly to our taste, it's a big and comfortable and pretty close to the rest of the events so it's great.
Anyway - out at the orienteering I saw Zali run in with a pretty good time (although she lost 4 minutes on one control early on). Her time was good enough for 7th overall, just missing out on being in the top 3 Australians - so she was happy with that.
A little while later Jett came in with a decent time in the the junior boys competition (once again ahead of some of the official team members which shows how much he has improved since the selection trials). Nic's daughter Ivy is a reserve on the ACT team just like Jett - so they both get to run the same course as the other kids but their results don't count towards the teams results - so they get the same experiences as the team members, but without of the pressure!
Ivy also did pretty well in what was a longer course than she had ever run at 6.1 km (and I know exactly how long it felt as I ran her course later on as part of the public race series).
By the time I had run my race we'd spent nearly the entire day out at the event (and after being 28 degrees on the previous day, it was puffa jacket weather today). I'm looking forward to the rest day on Friday that's for sure!
Tuesday, 2 October 2018
Once again I have few photographs of any action today (shame on me), but i"m happy to report that Zali was 9th today in the Schools Sprint Champs which is impressive as she's competing in a combined age group for this event - including girls up to 3 years older than her.
Jett had a good run except he mispunched at one control which was a shame. Luckily he's only a reserve in the team so ultimately his results don't matter - it's just great experience.
Jon didn't get to run today as he was too busy being a coach, but I did a chance to run in the public event. The map was a very complex school campus (my favourite type of event). Right before the start I challenged Andy to a splits-cash competition, thinking that I might get a few dollars out of him on a few splits over the 29 controls. As it was I managed to beat him in 13 splits but also overall - it must be due to my practice at the Melbourne Sprint Events - as the intense course felt very similar to those ones.
After the event we drove to our new base in Lyndoch in the Barossa Valley. The house we are staying in is huge and it's nice to have a full kitchen (rather than a hotel room bar fridge!). To celebrate I made Nigella Lawson's sweet potato macaroni cheese for everyone tonight and it was delicios.
On Monday the action moved from the red dirt of the Murray's edge to the soft grass of the Renmark schools campus for the Australian Sprint Distance Champs.
I don't have many photos from the day, except this:
Which is Jon receiving a 2nd place award in his age group - technically he was the first Australian as the winner was a former world elite champion from Denmark who is now a NZ resident.
I was also 2nd - not surprisingly to Clare. I didn't have a clean run but even if I had she would still have beaten me by a good minute or so! Zali was 7th and Jett was 11th - both respectable results in large fields.
It was a lot hotter than on previous days so before heading back to Adelaide Nicola (my new travelling companion) and I stopped at Andy's family's houseboat for a swim.
Once we were refreshed and clean(er) we hit the road, only stopping for some takeaway thai on the way back to Hilary's place. We ate our thai under some streetlights overlooking a softball match which was quite entertaining.
Sunday, 30 September 2018
Today was the Australian Relay Champs - held on a map similar to the previous day's but with a few more hills and heaps more deep erosion gullies. In fact by the time I finished my first leg I was covered in dirt and exhausted from scrambling up and down out all of them. I had a pretty good first half but lost a bit of time on the 2nd half and finished 2nd overall, 2 minutes behind the leader. Luckily I had two other excellent team mates - Sue and Clare, so ultimately we romped it in, winning by almost 40 minutes as the other teams didn't have quite the depth we did.
Jett had an outstanding 2nd leg run, and brought his team up from 6th place to just 7 seconds behind 1st place. Unfortunately they faded a bit on the 3rd leg and finished 4th, but it was a good confidence builder for Jett which was great.
Zali had the rare experience of being a 3rd leg runner who finished ahead of their own 2nd leg runner. This is because she ended up in the mass start (which is where the organisers send off all the lingering last leg runners at the same time so they don't have to wait endlessly for their missing team mates). She had a solid run and came in about 20 minutes before her 2nd leg runner finally did (it turned out she had been lost for over an hour so she certainly demonstrated some impressive grit and determination to keep going!).
Jon had a good run as a last leg runner and brought his team up to 2nd spot.
After a hot day out in the dust and heat it was great to head back to Renmark, buy an icecream, then turn the brown waters of the Murray even browner with the dust from our bodies..
Passably clean, we went to watch some of the opening ceremonies of the Schools Championships. Tasmania looked very smart in their new tracksuits..
Back in Berri we had a BBQ on the waterfront which was lovely. Tomorrow is the Australian Sprint Distance Championship around a school campus in Renmark - I'm looking forward to it being nice and flat!
Saturday, 29 September 2018
I've learnt two things already about the Riverland area of S.A. Firstly, there are a lot of fruit trees. Secondly, the Murray River is everywhere - it seems to pop into view when you least expect it. Especially as it seems to be so dry everywhere - it's hard to imagine such a big river anywhere nearby, but then you round a corner and there it is. Today we were orienteering on a map just back from the rivers edge which was really fun.
Today was the Australian Middle Distance Championships. I had a messy run but the map offered plenty of opportunity to make mistakes, so my run was good enough for third place just behind Clare who was 2nd. Looking at the split times afterwards I could see that I led very briefly on the course - from just after Clare made a mistake, to 1 control later when I made a mistake!
Zali went very well and was 2nd in a big field. Jett also did really well and was around 8th, and Jon didn't disgrace himself in the elite competition. All in all a good day.
Quite a few of the orienteers have rented houseboats, including Andy, so I took at look at his after the event today. It' was like a floating caravan.
Jon and the kids are staying with the other Schools Teams in Renmark, while I am staying in Berri with a few others in the Berri Hotel. It's a pretty location:
Tomorrow is the relay championships in a similar area.
Monday, 27 August 2018
I invented "splits cash" about 18 months ago. It's the system where I pay $1 to the kids for each faster leg split they do when we run the same orienteering course. For the first 6 months I just needed to NOT make a mistake and I'd be ok as the kids were still stopping at each control and generally dithering around.
Yesterday at Knocklofty I had a pretty good run with just a few dumb moments and Jett beat me overall by 20 seconds as well as on 12 of 16 controls. Zali (who was pretty tired from a stack of otehr activities) even managed to get a few dollers off me. Hmmph. I think that the system will soon needs to reverse such that they'll be paying me if I manage to squeak a win.
A few months ago I bought myself a felt signboard from K-mart as I had been coveting Clare's for some weeks.
Unfortunately before I could even get it out of the box (ok I did leave the box lying around for a day or two) , it went missing..
Then I found it in Zali's room.. hmmph.
I reclaimed it and put it to use..note - I advertised the cat at $8, but Zali thought she was undervalued and added some more numbers.
Either way there have been no customers. Perhaps they realise the 'goodish mouser' description is a lie, as she's actually never caught a mouse.
On our last day in Alice Springs we got up earlyish and went for a final run at Telegraph Station. Despite the last few days of exercise I certainly felt better on this last run than I did on our very first run when I must have been coming down with my cold..
Back at our nice little studio apartment (which strangely featured a table that could seat 10, but a couch (see below) that only could fit two, fairly un-comfortably)
we ate most of our remaining food. Then we packed up and did our only cultural activity for the holiday - visiting the local art gallery which was really fantastic.
Then it was out to the airport, where we enjoyed what must be one of the few departure lounges in Australia that allow you to sit out on the grass under the trees.
Our trip home was uneventful, the highlight being a lift from the airport from Granny (who had also done most of the child care in our absence) . Arriving home after 10pm we found the kids had put themselves to bed but left us a nice welcome sign..
We weren't sure how we were going to go with the 9am checkout time though!
Tuesday, 21 August 2018
We had different plans for today, but I was feeling decidedly average in the morning so we abandoned our plan to do a 20k steep and rugged jog-hike and figured we'd just head out to see the sights and see what happened.
First we drove the 30kms out to Standley Chasm. Amazingly we had it pretty much to ourselves while we were there. It was the only attraction we've had to pay for as it is privately owned.
After walking through the Chasm, we hiked straight up to a lookout to see it from above.
Then we drove 10kms down the road to Simpson's Gap - it was also spectacular, and also quiet:
After a quick lunch, we decided to head off on the Woodland Walk. It is an 18km loop walk from Simpson's Gap that I wasn't sure I'd feel up to doing all of, so Jon's plan was to walk for a while with me, then run ahead and follow the Larapinta Trail all the way back to Telegraph Station just outside of Alice Springs where I'd pick him up. I was either going to do the full loop, including 7.5kms on the Larapinta Trail, or simply turn around and head back the way I came.
The trail was really nice and quite flat and not very taxing. After 5kms of walking I still felt pretty good so I decided to complete the whole thing. I let Jon go ahead (as he had a long way to go), and then I jog-hiked the rest of it. It was great!
I arrived back at the car pretty happy about my Larapinta experience today!
While I ran, then drove back to Alice Springs, then showered, then made some phone calls, then visited the botanical gardens, then drove out to Telegraph Station, Jon ran. He ran and ran and ran and after 44km he turned up in the park where I waited, looking decidedly tired! He didn't have many words to spare (beyond 'do you have water'), but I've got a few pictures from his phone..
He is now having a well deserved pre-dinner nap. If he was able to respond I'm sure he'd say he'd had a good day out on the Larapinta Trail today too.
Monday, 20 August 2018
Today we really needed the 4wd..
Not because we got lost but because we had a clever plan. More on that later..
Because I still have a cold, and because we were both tired from yesterday, we slept in and took it pretty easy today (well, relatively speaking - Jon still managed to run for 90 minutes and I hiked a good 7.5km). We decided to stray from the Larapinta area in the West MacDonnell Ranges and go out the other side of town to the East Larapinta Ranges. They were just as spectacular.
We started with visits to a couple of gorges in Yeperenya Nature Reserve. These were very short walks but there was some cool rock art (that we weren't allowed to take photos of), and both the gorges were beautiful. Often there is water in the waterholes but today there wasn't.
Then we drove onwards to Trephine Gorge Nature Park - about 80ks east of Alice Springs. At one end of the park we did the Panorama walk, then we did the Gorge Walk. Both were lovely.
Then I said goodbye to Jon and he set off on the one-way 9km Ridge Top Trail..
..while I drove down to the other end of the park which is where the 4wd was required for the last 4kms. It was a public road, just a very very hairy one! I've never had to negotiate lumps and bumps and ditches and rocks like that before - but the Ford Trailblazer did just fine. The most nerve wracking part was what to do if I encountered another car but luckily I didn't, even though there were plenty of people in the car park when I finally arrived!
While Jon ran, I walked the Chain of Ponds walk, which again was absolutely lovely (but hard to capture with the deep shadows and for some reason I didn't think to pack a proper camera!).
While I was doing that, Jon was doing this..
It looks like that ridge top track went up very high indeed!
With some amazing timing I reached the trail junction just as Jon arrived..
Then I let Jon experience the fun of driving the car back out again..
Once on our way home we made a final stop at Corroboree Rock to finish our lunch that we had started about 3 hours earlier!
It was a great day and once again the scenery was amazing. It's going to get down to 0 tonight so it will be a cold start for us tomorrow. We're planning to head to Standley Chasm for another stretch of the Larapinta Trail.
Sunday, 19 August 2018
Today was a big day and I'm writing this from bed with the electric blanket on in lieu of a bath as the place we are staying only has a shower.
We left home at 8am and drove the 150km out to the furtherest point of the Larapinta Trail. The standard Larapinta hike goes for 12 days if you do it all and on the last day the hikers do the 15.8km out and back climb of the highest point of the West MacDonnell ranges - Mt Sonder, which allows them to look back over where they have walked. Today we climbed it and looked back over where we hadn't walked.
But first I want to talk about that road that we 'definitely' needed a full size 4wd for. This is it:
OMG. So. Treacherous.
With the worlds most graded gravel track behind us we set off from the carpark at about 10am. I took it pretty slow on the way up as I woke up with a cold, so Jon ran ahead of me on the uphills then looped back about 50 zillion times.
It wasn't that hot today - when we left the carpark it was 18 degrees, and when we got back it was about 22. Very pleasant for hiking/jogging.
The route featured a few downs as well as a lot of up. That's the peak in the distance ahead of Jon in the photo on the left.
The views from the top were spectacular - The photos don't do it justice. I never realised how mountainous it was all around this area.
We made it back to the car just after 1pm, but there was no time to dilly-dally as we had another adventure planned for the afternoon. Just 30k down the road was Ormiston Gorge, another must-see destination according to those in the know. Although the 9k circuit hike was going to be a bit arduous after the 15k morning jog-hike, we didn't want to have to drive all the way back out another day, so it was now or never.
And it was a great hike. The trail wound its way over some low hills then down into an open pound area with escarpents all around. Then it hit the river and followed the gorge ending up at the swimming hole just a few minutes walk from the car park.
We actually ran into a few stragglers from the race at Ormiston Gorge, as their 22k run finished there today. A very close encounter with the race!
The colours of the rocks in the gorge were amazing. Really red in some parts, purple and pink in others
It gets so cold at night that our swim was pretty brief! I reckon the water was easily as cold as some of the rivers on the Overland Track!
It felt good to get wet though.
Despite it being almost dusk the long drive back to Alice Springs was uneventful. In fact it is noticeable how little wildlife we see out here. I think we saw about 10 birds today and that was it! No kangaroos (dead or alive), or anything else. I guess we aren't looking in the right places.
We're not sure what we will do tomorrow but whatever it is I suspect it won't be quite as arduous!