Wildside Wrap

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Whilst organising my blog yesterday I tagged all my Wildside 2012 entries (there weren't many but you can see them via the new menu tag on the left if you are interested). Anyway I came across a post about what we would do differently next time - let's see how well we learned from our experiences in 2012 - my original post is in black, my new comments are in green:

  • Despite the expense and the hassle of moving 4 times we'd still stay in Cradle Mtn, Tullah, Zeehan and Strahan (2 nights) as it made the driving so much less arduous.  It would be tempting to skip the Cradle night and stay 2 nights at Tullah but that would mean more driving to get there from Hobart in the first place, then an extra hour on the 2nd day as well so it would be too much.
  • Yep we stuck with this plan. I just loved staying in the cabin at Waldheim (particulary once I didn't have to sleep under a picnic blanket). It was a) relatively cheap, b) surrounded by wilderness and c) quaint & cosy
  • I'd probably not order the vegetarian stir fry from the Zeehan Heemskirk motel and just stay in the motel room and eat cardboard or something instead.
  • Yep - managed to avoid doing both the stir fry and the cardboard, in fact we researched somewhere better to eat on Trip Advisor - The Pit Stop Cafe - and although it wasn't exactly what we were after (it was more lunchy than dinnery), it was pretty good and the owner was really nice. The kids had the old style milkshakes where you get a full glass of milkshake, plus the metal cup filled with an equal amount of leftovers. Awesome!  On the topic of dodgy vegetarian food, I also avoided eating dinner at Tullah too as our room had a microwave so I could heat something nice instead.

  • I wouldn't take the kayak again - it made loading the car a pain (literally - my back is still sore) and the roof box would have been way more useful.  There were ample opportunities to cycle instead.
  • Yep, ditched the kayak and didn't miss it. Instead we had all four bikes on the roof which was ideal as there were no hassles loading the back of the car.
  • We wouldn't bring the hand pressure water pump thing. We'd buy one which plugs into the car instead or go without entirely as all our stops had places to wash bikes.
  • Just brought a bucket and brushes this time which was totally fine until they got stolen from us at Zeehan in some sort of pass-the-parcel-who-do-these-belong-to-oh-well-me-I-guess incident. The place at Strahan had a hose though so all was fine.
  • We'll stay somewhere else in Strahan as although the place was cosy it had signs everywhere threatening to debit our credit card the cost of for 2 extra nights accommodation if we committed any heinous crimes such as not putting the washing up away or checking out at 10:01.
  • Ok the jury is out on the success of this one. This time we stayed here: http://kittysplace.com.au.  This was in a great location right next to the beach and finish which was super convenient. But I found it a bit claustrophobic.  The living area was tiny and it was all tidy and clean but quite out-dated. It was a good thing the weather was fantastic as it would have been pretty bad huddling there for a day and a half like we did the previous year. At $200 a night it felt like it was overpriced (btw I'm not sure how it managed to cost that much given the list prices on the web). Hmmph. 
  • I would take more photos on day one - the flowers and scenery was amazing. In fact there's still heaps I want to see next time (such as Zeehan's spray tunnel and Montezuma Falls).
  • Well. Firstly on day one it was raining so the nice flowers were all closed up at the finish of day 1. And we didn't manage to see Montezuma falls (road closed) or the spray tunnel. Oh well!
  • Not a bad effort overall though I recon.  I found a good balance between getting a good parking sport at the middle and end of each stage, and not having to hang around for too long.  The weather certainly helped with this - for example we certainly didn't mind waiting around for 2-3 hours at Trial Harbour this year whereas last year we didn't even get out of the car!

    We kept track of our expenses, and including petrol, food, accommodation, entry fees, pre-race bike maintenance and everything else, it came to roughly 2500. Which is expensive. In fact my trip to Perth for the Cape to Cape in 2012 cost a bit less than that but I went for  a week! Still there's a big difference between travelling solo (for accounting purposes) and paying for a whole family.

    Jon enjoyed this year's race but at the moment he's not super keen to make arrangements for 2016 quite yet.  I'm not sure it would be all that exciting a 3rd time around either!  Also it's worth remembering that because Jon rides at the head of the field it's much easier to be support crew - we have less long to wait for him and we're finished earlier in the day. The poor people starting further back in the race have a much later start (often after doing a short cruise stage then having to wait 40-50 minutes in the heat/rain to get started for real again), and then they take longer to do the stage, so they aren't finishing until quite late. Therefore their support crew get the worst parking places (unless they arrived earlier and hung around for ages), and more importantly, they miss out on the choc chip muffins & pastries in the catering tent as by the time they arrive the rest of the field has had time to eat 2 lunches.

    At the  Cape to Cape being mid-pack didn't really matter as there was no 'free' catering or water at the finish of the stage, but you also didn't have any pre-race cruise stages when I did it, so when you went to the start line you didn't have to wait around too much.

    In fact having observed the riding, I recon I'd still to prefer to ride the Cape to Cape (again) rather than ride Wildside. The Wildside cruise stages would break my spirit, particularly in bad weather and it seems to be a lot more technical than Cape to Cape. I like technical riding (if it's not tooo crazy) but my technical ability outrates my riding-up-hills ability so I end up stuck behind all the chumps on all the fun stuff which is very frustrating.  Dr Evil suffered a fair bit of this at Wildside - I would have exactly the same problems I recon.

    Anyway - thats it. We had a great time, and it's great to get deep into the heart of the mining regions and the wild west coast.  I also got to get out for a ride or run on every day except for one which kept me happy!  It was tough on the car and I'm glad I didn't have to drive halfway back to Strahan yesterday to pick up Jon from the end of the Cradle Mt run, but of course I'm disappointed for Jon that he didn't get to do it.

    Oh - the kids? Well they had a great time. They rode their bikes, swam, watched DVDs, explored new cabins, saw lots of wildlife, walked around Dove Lake, rolled down more sand-dunes than you could count, and swam in the harbour at Strahan. They survived the long drives (Hobart-Cradle & Strahan-Hobart) fine, mostly because we had a bag stocked full of library books and had some nice stops along the way. 

Wildside Day 4 (plus 1)

Friday, 31 January 2014

A gentle cooling rain fell on the evening of the final stage which sort of  highlights the excellent sort of weather luck Wildside had this year (great weather 3 of 4 days), in contrast to the type of luck the Hellfire Cup got (fire then flood, then I'm sure there would have been a plagues of locusts had there been another day).  Anyway - in the cool clear morning I jumped on my bike and went for an early morning ride back out to Ocean Beach. 


I thought I'd ride on the beach for a while but after a few minutes I decided it wasn't that much fun so I headed out towards Macquarie Heads on the dirt roads instead before crusing through the backstreets of Strahan..


Back at the overpriced cottage everyone was still in bed but I kicked them out pretty quickly to go for a ride while I packed the car - then we headed out to Henty Dunes for some sand fun..

We did the usual sliding and long-jumping..



and we also played some other sand games like ultimate frisbee and beach sprints. I was eliminated early on in the beach sprints surprisingly - but that meant I was able to take these nice before, during and after shots..


As you can see, Jon totally mistimed his dive and landed on his arm and rolled around in agony for the next five minutes, forcing him to miss the final wherupon Zali and Jett had a dead heat. 

Eventually though we had to  shake off the sand and leave the dunes as Hobart is a long long drive from Strahan. Luckily for us it wasn't as long as for the poor people who left after the race yesterday who had to go via Cradle Mountain because the Lyell Highway was closed due to bushfires.   As we drove through the still smoking area near Lake Burbury we could see why they closed the road..



Despite the fact the kids were starving we forced them to wait until we had made it as far as Lake St Clair where we had a picnic sitting on the end of the jetty and talking about how Jon would have been finishing his Cradle Mountain run there in four days time had everything gone to plan. Unfortunately Jon's knee never recovered from the Point to Pinnacle race in November so he had to pull out in the end. Given he's planning on riding the Blue Dragon race next weekend it's probably for the best. Hopefully next year.

Time for one last photo before we crammed ourselves back into the car and drove uneventfully back to Kingston:


[the end] 

Wildside Day 4

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

I woke up at 6am this morning because of the noise of the wind outside. When I left our (overpriced & slightly claustrophobic) cottage to go for a run a little while later I was pretty surprised by the heat already in the air - it reminded me of a hot sydney morning even though the sun hadn't risen above the hills yet. Anyway - i ran along the harbour trail to Regatta Point and then back via Hogarth Falls. It was really lovely..

After a breakfast and a quick turnaround I jumped on my bike and rode back to the village area with Jon to where the riders were assembling for the final stage of Wildside 2014. Although the racing is still fierce this stage traditionally has a bit of a festive atmosphere. The race today was started by Elvis and the course marshals were all costumed up as well as a few of the riders.

65 or so minutes of hot sandy racing later and Jon crossed the line, dusty, dirty and happy to be finished. Yay! 43rd overall in the end which is a significant improvement on 2012 and more importantly he was able to be finish stronger than he started. He didn't have any mechanical trouble either which was good.

Whilst he raced we'd spent the time by the beach at the finish line, which was mostly pleasant except for the occasional cyclone strength blast of sand as the wind gusts hit the beach. In fact Zali spent half the day playing in the water - the cleanliness of which diminished as more and more cyclists arrived to cool off.


After the presentations we went out to check out Ocean Beach (Jon had ridden along it for kilometres already that day of course) and then out to Macquarie Heads to have a look at Hells Gates from the land which was pretty interesting - especially the fact that there's a whole settlement of shacks and caravans out there. I was expecting something more rugged and remote.


Back in town we visited the Hogarth Falls (which I'd run to earlier in the day) then we contributed some more to the local economy when we  had a nice dinner at the local pub place. 

One more day and we turn the poor long suffering and overloaded car homewards.. 

Wildside Day 3

Monday, 27 January 2014

Today was probably Wildside's most gruelling day for rider and support crew alike. For Jon it started with a 6 k time trial/match race against the person sitting closest to him in the classifications. Once that finished he had a 15k dusty and undulating ride out to Trial Harbour. For us we had a relatively early start and the same dusty drive out to the coast. This is what the view was for most of today:


Actually it was more like this..



Then we had a longish wait until Jon arrived (it was a reverse seeded start - so slowest first, fastest last). Luckily the weather was fantastic for us - we spent a long time on the beach enjoying the breeze and the waves and exploring the rocks and dunes. It was lovely.



Jon duly arrived and had a good long break for lunch and a cool down in the harbour.

Then we left him and headed back up that dusty dusty road and up to Granville harbour to await the finish of the next stage. For the riders it was another tough stage - hot, hilly and relatively long. Without having seen the results to confirm it, I think Jon had a really good ride and he came in not too far after the leaders (confirmed at 41st in the stage, overall GC 43rd).


Then it was back to the dusty car, parked by the side of the dusty road, to follow all the other dusty cars, bikes and riders down to Strahan where we have the next two nights. This time Jon got to ride with us though - as it was a transit stage and the first time he'd been in the car since Friday morning. The weather is still great so after rinsing the car, bike and rider, we headed to the beach for an evening swim in water which was so coloured by the tanin in the river that I was sure I'd come out with beautiful coffee coloured skin.. nup - same old white skin with patches of red where I missed with the sunscreen. bummer.


Whilst the views today were impressive, and Jon's rides were impressive, by far the most impressive thing I saw today was this. So impressive that I took out my camera and got a sneaky photo..


This is a photo of Jo Bennett. Whilst I hadn't heard of her before this event I obviously should have. She finished 23rd overall in this afternoons stage (of almost 400 riders and 20 or so places ahead of Jon) and she was just 2nd to leading female (and Tasmanian - yay!) Rowena Fry.  Anyway - what was impressive is that this is how she gets to cool down after a tough days racing.  Impressive.


Wildside Day 2

Sunday, 26 January 2014

I got up at 6.45 this morning and went out for a run along the lakeside paths.  The sky was blue, the lake was calm and it felt like it was going to be a great day..



We left Jon to start himself at Tullah so that we could visit Montezuma falls ahead of all the cyclists who would pass through there later in the day but unfortunately the road was already closed so we went straight to the finish at Roseberry to wait for Jon to arrive.  He's back in the 'B' group after a stronger race yesterday afternoon (he was 80th in the morning, 40th in the afternoon). So it wasn't much of a wait before he appeared..


Whilst Jon prepared for the afternoon stage by snoozing under a tree in the shade, the kids and I went to the pool which was conveniently placed 50metres away from the finish..


We also checked out nearby Smitt Falls which are better than they look in this photo.

Then after that there was nothing to do but relax some more and wait for the next stage to start..


Once Jon was awake and geared up for the next stage we headed off to Zeehan which is about a 30 minute drive.  We checked in at the local motel and the kids relaxed while I rode back out to meet Jon at the end of the afternoon stage. I'm guessing it was a bit muddy out there...


Then Jon and I cruised the 8k back to Zeehan together. This was lots of fun for me - particularly when we jumped onto the back of a muddy road-train..


Last Wildside (in 2012), Zeehan proved to be a bit of a turning point - and not in a good way.  As we slept in our tiny little hotel room, after a very dodgy dinner in the motel restaurant,  the rain came and didn't stop for two days. Consequently the next few stages were miserable for riders and support crew alike. Also Jon got a bit sick at this point and started his slide down the overall classifications.  

This time we're sure Zeehan is going to be different! Firstly we at ate dinner at a different place. Secondly we've got a 2 bedroom motel unit - which is much more pleasant than the box we had last year, thirdly the temperature is going to get hotter tomorrow, not colder or wetter.  yay! (in fact it might be a bit hot for the riders but good for the support crew). And I think Jon is riding better each stage - today he finished the long afternoon stage in 40th place, so he's dragged himself up to 43rd overall.  Good signs! 

Zeehan is a strange rusty old town. It's got some operational tin mines nearby but the remnants of the many silver mines it used to have are visible all over the place.   Also all the signs, roofs, fences and shop facades have all seen better days! It used to be very large and prosperous (in the early 1900s) so the buildings which have survived are all stately and in contrast to the general streetscapes..



Wildside Day 1

Saturday, 25 January 2014

I got up early (ok, not that early ..7am) and headed out for a run on the boardwalk from Ronny Creek up to Snake Hill and back.  It's so good staying right inside the park and having all the tracks at the front door. The alternative is to pay twice as much and need to drive or get the shuttle bus in if you want to do something similar - I'd certainly be coming back to these cabins if I was ever able to book early enough (not surprisingly they are pretty popular). Anyway it was really windy and cold but I was warm enough in my running jacket - the heavy grey clouds didn't bode well for the cyclists though. 

After breakfast and repacking the car the first of many times during this trip (we stay in 4 different places), we dropped Jon off at the pre-start area and drove ahead to get a good look at the cyclists as they amassed at the startline.  The contrast of the colourful cyclists in the green-grey landscape is always interesting.




Jonno rocked up to take his place in group B and got off to a clean start. Then it started to rain. In fact by the time we had driven to ten or so Ks to see the riders pop out of the forest to the finish it was really windy, cold and wet.  


Jon finished the stage slightly slower than he would have liked and then had to rug up and do what looked to me like a nightmare 'cruise stage' along the very undulating highway in the wind and rain.  As we were driving we passed soggy rider after soggy rider. ugg.  Luckily by the time we got to the lunch stop, it had actually cleared up and the sun came out affording the arriving riders a chance to dry out before the next stage. Refuelled and refreshed Jon headed off (in group 'C' - dang!) and had a much smoother race stage through to the road 15ks out of Tullah where after rugging up again the cyclists had a dry and mostly downhill cruise into town.  

So Jon is obviously disappointed with his first stage. He said he was making some chumpy technical mistakes and thus losing places to slower riders - only to overtake them and then do something equally stupid.  I think it's time to remember one of the things superstar paddler Dawid Mocke said; "it's not how you start, but how you finish that really counts".  Given that the race doesn't finish until Tuesday there's plenty of time improve before the end.


Wildside Day (minus) 1

Friday, 24 January 2014

To say we awoke feeling wrecked would be an understatement! I forgot to mention that yesterday our day started at 5.30am when I got up to go for a run and a paddle before work. Coupled with the very late night and the less than ideal sleeping conditions we woke up feeling like we'd been beaten up.  However when you are slap bang in Cradle Mountain National Park you don't let the day waste away.  

Firstly we took care of the linen situation and did the little enchanted walk near the visitor centre. After lunch back at our cabin we walked down to the shuttle bus station at Ronny Creek for the short trip to Dove Lake.  From there I ran the lap around the lake then back to the cabin via a side trip to Crater Falls while the kids just walked around the lake and took the bus back.   It was lightly drizzling for a bit but it was fine - we saw heaps of wildlife including snakes, wombats and echidnas.  I stopped for a while to video and photograph an echidna levering apart a log with it's nose and slurping up all the ants in the area. It was amazing. The echidna had obviously long since lost its fear of people - I was so close I could have shoved it in my back-pack and taken it home.






Jon is feeling relaxed and a bit rejuvinated after our easy day. Tomorrow the first 2 stages of Wildside await.. He's been placed in the 2nd start group which is a good place to begin - hopefully he can hang on in there through to the end (or go up to the first group of course). Last year he faded a bit towards the end and got booted out of group B into group C for the final stage.

Wildside Day (minus) 2

Friday, 24 January 2014

I'll pre-empt this post by saying that the person who doesn't pack the car, is in no position to criticise. It's funny how in the last five years or so, the packing for major events had almost always fallen to either Jon, OR me as one of us is often working full time, and is picked up straight from work when we depart. I remember a few crazy packing days for me when we first moved here when Zali was just a toddler really, and Jett was just a baby. It's much easier now, although the port-a-cots and prams have been replaced by bikes and bag loads of library books (some of which will no doubt never be returned..).

Anyway - the last few times it's been me who heads gaily off to work in the morning and gets picked up at the appointed time. Although yesterday it wasn't exactly the appointed time.. we'd planned to leave at 4pm on the dot, so our 4.25 hour journey would have us at Cradle Mountain before all the wildlife came out to play cricket on the roads. Unfortunately the packing task took longer than anticipated, and Jon didn't pick me up until quarter to six. After a quick riverside-of-the-road dinner picnic in Perth, we were leaving Sheffield with 70k to go in the absolute darkness. It didn't take too long to get a taste of things to come with possums seemingly dropping out of the trees onto the roads in front of our very eyes. We stopped the car completely for 4 wombats ambling across the road, and slowed for one very cute spotted quoll, bucket loads of wallabies, possums and three or four devils. It was an achievement to not have a grill full of animals by the time we rolled into Waldheim after 11pm.

Happily though, all the creatures inside and outside of the car were left unscathed - although Jon claims he will suffer prolonged post-traumatic driving stress as a result! Our relief turned to disappointment however, when we unlocked the quaint little cabin door to discover there was no linen at all provided (despite discussions to the contrary with the managers). This brings me back to the subject of packing - as we were driving up I was gently suggesting to Jon that packing 60 cans of soft drink might be have been excessive and he countered my (ok maybe not so gentle) accusations by saying that my request to pack 1 beach towel for every person seemed a bit pointless (as most of the places had supplied towels). Well let's just say it wasn't blankets of cans of kirks ginger beer that we slept under last night! I also had the picnic rug - which would have been more pleasant if it wasn't the same picnic rug that I sat in the car in the morning after a paddle when I (ironically) forgot my towel! Jon had the drop sheet he uses for bike maintenance, and the kids snuggled together in their onesies under the rug we inherited from my granny. Which was quite appropriate really as the last time I stayed in these cabins was in about 1981 with Denny and mum and granny. It's also triply appropriate as this weekend I'm missing the scattering of grandfather and granny's ashes in Devonport which I am disappointed about, but I'm sure Granny would approve of us being here instead (not sure about the 60 cans of soft drink though!).

Anyway - here we are, relatively unscathed although not altogether well slept, with one day to explore the beautiful surroundings (and sort out linen for tonight).