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Month: September 2016

Melbourne to Darwin. My first crewing adventure!

Melbourne to Darwin. My first crewing adventure!

My husband Craig has followed me all around the world and suffered through two continents of marathons with me, and five continents holding my jacket. So when he asked whether I would crew for him while he rode a tiny little road bike (almost) non stop from Melbourne to Darwin there was no other response to give than Yes! And so began Anne’s epic ute odyssey.

The bike loaded onto the ute, ready to leave for Melbourne.
The bike loaded onto the ute, ready to leave for Melbourne.

The plan involved Craig’s bike getting to the start on the back of his friend Bill’s ute, and thus Craig and Bill departed early Saturday morning for Melbourne. I went out for half of a long run, breakfast with our girls, and then flew to Melbourne to meet them. Used Airbnb for the first time and found a lovely little house in St Kilda.

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St Kilda Airbnb

After a quick Thai takeaway we went to bed around 8pm with the alarm set for 11:15pm, and awoke to………rain!

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Bummer, rain!

The plan was for Bill and me to share the driving of the support vehicle, probably in four hour shifts; leaving around 12am Saturday night/Sunday morning and arriving in Darwin by 2am Monday night/Tuesday morning, with a four hour break in Erldunda, near Alice Springs. My greatest fear initially was how I would stay awake at night to drive given I am often dozing on the lounge by 7:30pm. While Bill was initially chatty I felt with horror that same jet lagged feeling you have when you’ve been up all night with a 10 day old baby, and thus I put in my earplugs and went back to sleep in the passenger seat.

Ready to roll!
Ready to roll!

I took over driving just before dawn and of course felt heaps better because my peak functioning time is from 4am. Followed Craig all across Victoria and South Australia through some lovely towns.

Craig at the point at which the ute came under my control. 6 speed manual? Who can be bothered changing gears these days??
The point at which the ute came under my control. 6 speed manual? Who can be bothered changing gears these days??
Taking photos while driving and giving Bill a heart attack!
Taking photos while driving and giving Bill a heart attack! Craig is up ahead.
Of course there was a goods train!
Of course there was a goods train!

And so the hours went by. Bill is an ABC tragic and this proved largely quite entertaining with lots of local content. Bill is also a firm proponent of audio books and passed the time with several hours of the original and iconic 1978 Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; nine hours of Harry Potter book one; and then seven episodes of the dry satirical series Rumpole of the Bailey.

Original cast Hitchhiker's!
Original cast Hitchhiker’s!

As darkness fell, we had been driving for 18 hours with six to go. I volunteered to drive for the first few hours that night in the hope I’d stay awake. Things were quite taxing as the job of the support vehicle was multifaceted – stay ahead and hit the wildlife before they hit Craig; maintain a constant speed so as not leave Craig behind; and avoid oncoming traffic. Thus much of the journey was spent flicking one’s eyes from in front of the vehicle to the rear view mirror to ensure Craig was still close by. The little bike could manage around 93km on the flat but died on hills, and the support vehicle speed had to predict and adjust accordingly.

The view for half the daylight hours of the trip!
The view for half the daylight hours of the trip!

With only a few kilometres to go on day one we stopped suddenly in the darkness. “What’s wrong?” thought I? Bill was calm. Of course! We were stopping for a photo of the journey at “2000km in less than 24 hours” as a fallback position in case the bike blew up later.

2000km
2000km

And finally to Erldunda. Quick shower and into bed. Four hour stop with three hours of sleep before bursting back out onto the highway and off again!

Off again!
Off again!

I was tremendously excited to drive past Woomera, a restricted area and place of infamy associated with nuclear testing.

Woomera
Woomera

The second day was sold to me as slightly less taxing in terms of distance and time. However the fatigue and heat of the day more than usurped the degree of difficulty for Craig, and for Bill and me. Temperatures were quickly up around 38 degrees and by midday Craig was suffering.

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Sunrise on day 2

We ploughed on, stopping briefly in different towns and truck stops. Barrow Creek was memorable for its strange inhabitants and a weird bar adorned with pictures and an unusual man mopping the floor who invited me to “come in and look around”. It wasn’t the first time on the trip I thought (sadly) of the Falconio murder.

Barrow Creek
Barrow Creek

In the meantime I was receiving little snapchats and messages from our daughter Emily, and words of encouragement from my friends. So much fun having others interested!

Craig has a thing about being stopped at roadworks while on his rides and when we came upon a stop sign I leapt from the vehicle to get a photo! I was channeling fun and humour to try to perk up Craig’s spirits that were clearly flagging in the sweltering heat. His jaw had locked sometime Sunday and his eyes were very bloodshot. Like any good crew person I had a supply of Panadol, Nurofen, and Poweraid at the ready!

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We were stopped here for ages

OMG road trains! I’d heard of them and seen photos but the horror of seeing them in the flesh was more scary than I’d imagined. This was subsequently surpassed by the horror of seeing them coming head on toward us in the dark! Madness.

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Real monster trucks!

By the time we made Katherine I think we had all had enough. Without a mechanical disaster we were going to make the time Craig was after and from there it was a matter of churning through the last 300km to Darwin. I finished my last stint of driving at Katherine and chirpily parked nose-in knowing I wouldn’t have to find reverse again!

Katherine servo
Katherine servo

The last kilometres couldn’t go fast enough! Craig had a second wind and shot past briefly with me crossing my fingers the bike would keep running and that our odyssey had not been for nought. The highway goes all the way into Darwin and we kept doggedly on until finally our destination was reached! I slid out of the ute and inside with Craig to buy his iconic end of ride purchase – the cherry ripe! I set up the camera in a private moment to take a photo of me and the trusty ute at the end of our epic journey.

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Goodbye ute!

Tired and emotional ? we travelled a couple of blocks to the Novotel and retired for the night. I slept 1:40-6:20am – a sleep-in record for this year, and went out for a short run on the foreshore in Darwin. Lovely park there commemorating the bombing of Darwin in WWII. It was already 30 degrees when I went out at 7am! Not sure I could handle living in the tropics.

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Darwin

Sat for ages over breakfast recapping highlights of the trip with Craig and Bill. Don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much at a buffet but this wasn’t really a surprise given in the 60 hours since dinner Saturday until breakfast today I’d eaten two beef salad sandwiches, a packet of chips, and drunk six cups of coffee!

After breakfast we loaded the bike back onto the ute and I kissed them all goodbye. Parenting duties see me flying business class Qantas home tonight. It’s a tough gig and I’m sure Craig and Bill feel sorry for me as they wing their way back home in the ute. Bill has the brochure listing the frequencies for every ABC station across the country and with luck there’ll be a sequel to the three hour broadcast yesterday on voluntary euthanasia. Potentially however there will be more on the diverging goals of feminists versus gender theorists.

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All done!

So what would I recommend for others undertaking the crew role? Number one – take more food. Roadhouse food is unreliable in quality and access, and in helping Craig refuel the bike and himself there was generally limited time to access decent food. Number two – make sure all the lights on your ute are working and take more! Unfortunately a relay in the ute spat the dummy on day one which left us with normal high beam – heaps for city driving but not quite so flash for the outback. Thirdly and probably most importantly, smile and wave. Nothing is more important than a smile and words of encouragement for the rider, even when the rider is a little terse and tells you twice, at either find of the trip, to clean the lens on your iPhone!

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It was an epic odyssey!
Ross Marathon, Tasmania

Ross Marathon, Tasmania

Ross was the marathon that had to be done. The other states were completed and it was a foregone conclusion that Ross had to be run or my quest was over. And thus Craig and I went to this tiny historic town in the middle of Tasmania for Fathers Day 4 Sept 2016.

I had become lax in my preparation. I checked details for the event Friday afternoon as I was packing. The website and Facebook didn’t give much detail so I went to Strava. My stomach dropped – what was this? Four laps? 5.5km out and back x 4? I messaged the organisers to confirm – yes, four laps. Remembering Punta Arenas I rethought my sinking feeling and targeted being able to see Craig each 10km.

We flew Newcastle to Melbourne; Melbourne to Launceston; and hired a car to drive to Ross. It was lovely to finally see Bass Strait from the air, and we landed in rain with a plan to drive to Cataract Gorge.

Bass Strait
Bass Strait

The gorge was a lot of fun – we rode the longest chairlift in the world and back across a bridge over the gorge before continuing the drive around Launceston and then onto Ross.

Chairlift
Chairlift
The gorge
The gorge
Launceston
Launceston

Spring had come on time and there was a multitude of lambs gambolling in the fields en route.

Twins everywhere!
Twins everywhere!

We had a short break in the little town of Campbell Town where we startled an urban wombat who scurried around the street like a well muscled dog!

Marauding wombat!
Marauding wombat!
Red Bridge 1838
Red Bridge 1838

That night we went to the pasta dinner and listened to an entertaining talk by Josh Harris, an upcoming distance runner seeking to qualify for the marathon in the 2020 Olympics.

Ross historic bridge
Ross historic bridge
War Memorial
War Memorial

Marathon day dawned with near freezing conditions. We wandered the two blocks to the start and all too soon we were off! I ran the first 7km with a lovely lady who had run quite a few marathons in the past 12 months. My friend Richard whom I’d initially met in Uluru and again in Adelaide, and who had also done Canberra, Gold Coast and Perth, was also there with his wife Rachael.

About to start
About to start

One striking feature of the event was the headwind after the turn at 5.5km. I’m not sure I’ve ever run in anything quite so strong. Punta Arenas was strong, but this was savage. Sheep were sheltering behind sheds. Trees were bent over. Supporters were in Arctic gear and by the fourth lap had abandoned their positions! My pace slowed to a walk for some of the return, and I freely admit to walking the entire return to town on the final lap!

It wasn’t my best race. The toe degloving from Uluru and again in Adelaide continued to plague me, and the alteration in gait to compensate led to issues with my knee. I couldn’t run more than a few paces without my knee giving out – something Craig later suggested could be a tendonopathy – the tendon gets over stressed or tired and stops working! Once again I was very fortunate to also have phone support from my friend Hayley, and messages from my daughters and friends. ❤

One charming feature of the event was the bell placed at the top of the only (but steep) hill on the course!

Second ring of the bell! There were still people there at that stage to take the photo!
Second ring of the bell! There were still people there at that stage to take the photo!
Lonely last turnaround
Lonely last turnaround
Only in a rural marathon!
Only in a rural marathon!

Craig was by now right into Pokemon Go and mapped out his own course incorporating the small number of Pokestops and bakeries in the township, progressing around from one to the next as the hours passed. He was thankful for his own achievements of that morning.

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Gym owner!

It was marvellous to come over the line at the finish and know I’d achieved the goal. The motel people let me shower in the caravan park amenities and we then drove back to Launceston and did the hop to Melbourne. I was anxious about the walk from T1 to T4 in Melbourne as it’s about 1km, but with a glass of champagne and some Panadol I managed!

Standing not quite straight at the finish, due to my leg issue!
Standing not quite straight at the finish, due to my leg issue!

I emailed the Marathon Maniacs people in the next days and they increased my achievement level to Ruthenium – 13 marathons in 13 different states and/or countries in 365 days! Honestly, who thinks of these things? ?

Ross Marathon was number 19.