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Wellington Marathon

Wellington Marathon

Late in 2018 knowing that we had entries in the Boston Marathon for April 2019 our attention turned to the final Abbott World Marathon Major I needed to run – New York. We thought it could be nice for our children to come to New York to be there for the finale of the challenge – this was offered to them with the provision that they trained for and also ran the marathon! Alexander and Emily had other plans, but Verity, then aged 15 years jumped at the chance. She had never really embraced running and had been on a mission for around four years to finish a parkrun in under 30 minutes which was always going to be difficult when she only ran about twice a year. Flights to New York via San Francisco became available in early January 2019 and we booked for three – New York here we come!

Verity started running in December 2018, working her way from 3km to 5km over around six weeks. She was very anxious about running, but also very determined, with her eye firmly on the prize.

I had a sudden thought just after we grabbed the flights (and just after Verity ran 8km without stopping while we were on holiday in Port Macquarie – she was so pleased with herself that day) – were there age restrictions on New York? I checked – runners had to be 18 years old! Disaster.

So pleased in Port Macquarie

I started looking for another marathon that allowed adolescents. There aren’t many. After a bit of searching I came upon the Wellington Marathon, held in late June. I’d done the 10km there in 2018 in howling winds and rain – I hadn’t expected to ever go back, but there were no age restrictions and it was at the very beginning of Verity’s school holidays meaning we could have a week in New Zealand afterward. The marathon was also 18 weeks from the date I found it which was the length of the beginner training program.

We purchased a Garmin watch, lights, shoes, spi belt, socks, crop tops, running tops and tights, calf sleeves, sun glasses, a visor, and initially a little hand held water bottle – she needed all of this gear as she had never really run before. As the weather became colder we purchased long tights, long sleeved tops and a running vest, with ear warmers and gloves.

Verity applied herself marvellously to the program. The program entailed running four times each week, while she continued rowing three times each week. Midweek she and I would run from our home towards the rowing club, with Craig picking us up en route, or we would drive into rowing and while I rowed, Craig and Verity would run. Long runs were generally weekends with Craig meeting us for breakfast afterward. While we were in Boston for the marathon Verity did her long run with Emily on her bicycle for company; and both Alexander and Emily went running with Verity some mornings and afternoons to keep her company.

We entered three races to get some racing experience. These were BBBRun (10km), Newcastle Running Festival (10km) and Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon. The medal collection was underway! Excitingly too she came first in her age at the Newcastle event and received a second medal.

BBBRUn – a great little 10km in Wentworthville
Newcastle 10km – 1st in age!

Around week 12 we ran from home to Warners Bay via Glendale – 24km. She complained of a sore foot and unfortunately this pain worsened in the weeks to follow, meaning Verity ran very little for a number of weeks although she still managed 25.5km and the SMH half.

SMH half – hard core with tendonitis

Around week 16 she had some Physio treatment and the pain resolved but she was very underdone in terms of time on her legs and any experience above 24km. I started suggesting that perhaps the marathon could be a little too much and that as she had done the training, she could still come to New York without doing Wellington. We ran the last long run of 13km one week prior to Wellington and when we asked her at breakfast following the run what she was thinking, Verity said “of course I’m doing the marathon – I always was”. We were GO for the marathon!

We flew with Craig to New Zealand on the Friday night. Thursday night Verity said she had a sore throat and by Friday her nose was stuffy. Saturday in Wellington she was quite unwell with a head cold. We went to bib collection and did a little shopping, and she slept for the afternoon. That night at dinner there was further deliberation about the wisdom of running. The cold was only in her head – the rule of thumb is if it’s below the neck, don’t run. We knew there was no cut-off time for the marathon – the organisers would wait at the finish until the last person arrived, no matter the time – last year someone took over seven hours. So we decided we were still GO!

Sunday morning her nose was still stuffy but she was feeling positive. Verity and I caught a cab to the start, leaving Craig at the hotel. He was running the half marathon, starting at 8:45am. We had elected to start with the marathon walkers at 7am with the rest of the field starting at 7:30am. I had deliberated for ages about what gear we would need, thinking we could be on the course for over seven hours ourselves. The day prior had been very cold and very windy, and I had my Saloman trail vest packed with food, tape, bandaids, sunscreen, sunglasses, visors etc. In the end I ditched it as the forecast was for a sunny, mild day. We wore throw away K-Mart tops over our running tops and running vests. I chose to pack some of the supplies into the multiple pockets in my vest.

In New Zealand in winter the sun doesn’t come up until 8:15am. As such 7am was very dark! There was a race briefing and then the field of around 30 people headed off into the dark. Street lights lit the area but it was still quite difficult to see at times as we ran along the road near Westpac Stadium. We had only gone around 2km when Verity said she wanted to use a bathroom – lucky there was a McDonalds right there! We got underway again and ran steadily to around 10km when the first runners of the marathon field caught us.

Just prior to this we had overtaken a marathon walker. This fellow was clad in what I would call scungies (the pants girls wear under netball skirts). They were rainbow in colour and fortunately I only saw them from behind. He was wearing an old hydration pack with sheepskin covers over the straps. I said a nice Hello to him as we passed and as it turns out he was up for quite a long chat! Eventually we wished him well and moved ahead, seeing him again later when he overtook us. We spied him again at the finish, this time clad in rainbow long pants and a similar cardigan. He said he was going to the medal presentation and then off to dancing! What a character.

The course at Wellington is interesting in that it goes out to 16km, then you run back to around 22km, then back out to the 16km again which by then is 28km, and then all the way back to the stadium to the finish. There were wrist bands to collect at the three turning points.

The entire course is on the waterfront, around three bays. Beautiful. Flat. Honestly, there was a slight rise somewhere but nothing else except for a 200 metre on-ramp up into the stadium at the finish. The weather was perfect with 14 Celsius temperatures and no wind. There were drink stations every 3-5km stocked with water and electrolyte drinks. Runners were also able to have their own drinks taken out to those stations.

The race organisers and volunteers were all awesome. So many people were on the course volunteering – someone on every street corner and witches hats everywhere. Sections of the course began to re-open as we progressed through the 15km section back to the finish but there were wide footpaths on which to run if needed. Once back to the wharf area there were heaps of people out enjoying the winter sunshine but again there were volunteers everywhere ensuring our path was clear.

Verity had planned to run to the first turn around. I’d told her we could get the marathon done in under six hours if she ran 15km and we walked the rest. This was fair enough except she was running really well. We were sticking to about 6:30 min per kilometre which is what she had trained at and I thought she had it in her to go a little further. We struck a deal to walk one kilometre and run the next and so on. The walking was quite brisk at around 9 min per kilometre. This plan worked really well and we kept it up until around 28km.

After the second turn around while running I spied a garbage bin on the lake foreshore. We were running on the right side of the road and the bin was way over off to the left. I zoomed across the road and ran to the bin. There was one female runner around 150 metres away, coming toward us, with no-one else around. She started shrieking at me “Keep to the left (of her). Keep to the left”. This did not cease even when I held up the rubbish in my hand and said I was going to the bin. Today was not the day to take me on. I firmly suggested to her that she had the whole road to run on and that she should do just that rather than focus on me. She didn’t seem to have an answer for that.

By 28km at the final turn the lack of training and the head cold started to take a toll. Verity said her lungs were hurting when she took any breath under force (when running). We ditched the K-Mart tops we had tied around our waists earlier, knowing from this point the day was only going to get warmer. We walked 2km and ran another, and I could see she was done with running. We then walked briskly, continuing to average low 9 minute kilometres, and I was really pleased with how we were going. Craig phoned us about then, having finished the half marathon which was great considering he hadn’t been running for some weeks either.

Around 34 kilometres things started to fall apart from a physical perspective. She was not used to walking that far or for so long, and started to get panicky.

We used Facebook Messenger to contact Emily for a pep talk, and for the next 4km Emily played music that Verity loves over Messenger! We sang and there was some dancing; the dog and the cat at home featured in the conversation and singing; and there was generally a musical love-fest for getting this marathon done for Verity.

Conrad Sewell – “Healing Hands”- a song for stressful occasions, featured quite loudly

We hung up from Emily with about 4km to go but I kept playing music on my phone on Spotify. Ordinarily I’d never play music out loud while other people were walking past but I was up for anything to get us over the line. Telstra loved me that day. Craig phoned again with more supportive words and to say he was about to get in a cab for the airport as his flight home was not long after. We were all sorry not to see one another again that day.

We knew we were going to make the finish but it was hard. Verity had worked out a while back in the race that she could finish in under six hours if we could keep pushing.

With 1.5km to go she wavered and we phoned Emily again who kept up the pep talk for 500 metres when Verity pulled it together, and with the sniff of the finish in her grasp, fluffed up and ran the last 200 metres to the finish, overtaking another competitor!

Our time – 5 hours 56 minutes.

At the end there was fruit, water and electrolyte drink. Showers were available, and there was a coffee van. I bought Verity an event technical shirt to mark the occasion. We sat for a while with hot chocolates and then got an Uber back to the hotel. What an achievement! Our family is so proud of her and she has stunned herself with what she can manage to do. In true form the “Never again” at the finish was replaced within a few hours by “If I ever run another marathon….”.

Wellington Marathon was #27.

A second epic crewing adventure – Roxby Downs

A second epic crewing adventure – Roxby Downs

A second epic crewing adventure – Roxby Downs

My husband Craig had been planning a long distance dirt road adventure for ages. His plan was to ride 1600km in less than 24 hours, all on dirt. In the weird world of this type of motorcycling the ride is known as a “Dusty Butt”. It’s never been done in Australia and Craig wanted to be the first. Lots of planning had gone into identifying stretches of dirt road that would allow him to complete the ride in as safe and supported manner as possible.

Craig left on Friday for a gathering of enthusiasts in Renmark, South Australia. He set out with his friends Bill and Peter, saying goodbye some hours later when he diverted to meet another friend, Rob. Craig and Rob rode to Renmark on a dirt stretch with the plan to reunite with Bill and Peter on arrival.

Craig’s plan was to then spend the day in Renmark on Saturday, and ride to Coober Pedy to start his dirt adventure. Bill was the support crew and would leave Renmark for Coober Pedy for the start and then to Roxby Downs on the bitumen, a point in the ride Craig would visit on one lap, and ultimately end there. Sadly Bill never made it to Renmark. There was a collision with a kangaroo near Dubbo in which Bill came off second best. His motorcycle came off even worse.

Craig called late Friday night relaying this news and indicating his own ride would most likely not proceed because it was likely foolhardy to undertake it without support. I had offered several times in the lead up to the ride to come and crew, but Bill’s planned presence in Renmark had rendered him the more obvious choice. Craig sounded fairly despondent on the phone and I made the offer again thinking he may change his mind overnight.

Thus Saturday morning dawned and with it came an invigorated call from Craig. “Do you really mean it?” he said. I knew the game was on.

It took several hours to coordinate my trip. I booked flights Newcastle – Melbourne – Adelaide, and return. I’d researched Alliance Airlines that fly Adelaide – Olympic Dam and knew that was doable but when I came to book that flight I was horrified to realise that particular Sunday was almost the only day of the year they do not fly! I booked the return flight for the Tuesday morning and then looked at hire cars. Six hours Adelaide to Roxby Downs! One way in a hire car was almost triple the price of returning the vehicle but that wasn’t an option as my return flight from Adelaide was booked to get me home early evening. I’d already rung Qantas to bring my incoming flight forward to an earlier time to give me more time to drive to Roxby Downs. Anyway I debated the Nissan Micra and the Toyota Corolla options, settling on the latter but knowing it wasn’t really suitable for dirt if that was required.

Saturday morning our daughter Emily spent her time working on my diary, contacting clients to say I’d be Skypeing them rather than seeing them in person. All good there so the plan was to work while in Roxby Downs, all the while tracking Craig on the spot link.

Sunday morning Emily drove me to Newcastle Airport very early. School holidays! Packed full of people heading to Brisbane and Melbourne. I was lucky and was offered an exit row seat so had heaps of space on that flight. We arrived in Melbourne to stormy, wet weather. There had been talk in the news of disrupted flights so I was a little anxious this would affect my plans, but thankfully all was good.

Stormy Melbourne

The next flight to Adelaide I’d been able to choose an exit row seat so once again the flight was pleasant.

Arriving in Adelaide I was stunned by the cold and windy conditions. I’d only thrown in a jacket at the last minute! I found Hertz who offered me an upgrade to a Kia Sportage for an additional $15 which I grabbed. The excess though was $4000!

My plan was to get out of the city and onto the road to Port Augusta as quickly as possible. I was lost on the airport roads for a time and then took a couple of wrong turns even with a gps, but eventually I was in the clear. I stopped at Port Wakefield for lunch and to properly sync my phone with the vehicle. I was all set now I had music.

I phoned Craig around this time. I’d thought he’d be at Port Augusta and he was – 1.5 hours ahead of me. I dropped the news I was driving and said I’d see him in a few hours.

I churned through the kilometres, stopping again with 80km to go at Spud’s Roadhouse, Pimba. Finally I arrived in Roxby Downs and met Craig at our accommodation. It had been an epic effort to get there, but I’d made it.

We drove around the town, out to the start of the Borefield Track at Olympic Dam. The ride route was Olympic Dam to William Creek (via the Borefield Track and then Oodnadatta Track) to Coober Pedy, and back again for one lap; and then repeat.

The sign itself was intimidating.

We went to Woolworths for some frozen meals and dessert, and went to bed early.

Towel art!

Overnight I’d been thinking about the ride. Craig was starting from the nab teller in the town and riding to the track. I knew proper support crews go to the start and take photos, so sprang out of bed at 3:20am to go do my duty and support. I took copious photos of him as we left and at the start of the Borefield track at Olympic Dam.

In Roxby Downs

By this time I’d developed the view that I could potentially drive my trusty Kia out on the track and see Craig both leave and return for a few kilometres. The mobile reception lasted for 5km and I dared not go (much) further in case something happened and I couldn’t call for help. Similarly Craig’s spot would work without phone reception to alert me to call help for him, but if I was out there I couldn’t.

At the start

We drove onto the track. It was awful. Dusty, sandy, ridges of hard packed dirt.

Starting lap one!

The Kia didn’t feel the love and I couldn’t waste time seeing if there was a setting for AWD. I knew Craig was hoping to average 70km/hr on the ride and in those first 5km in the dark the speed was no faster. Eventually Craig held up his hand and told me to return, so I waved goodbye and turned around.

Goodbye – lap one!

I stopped the car and turned off the lights to take some photos.

Looking back from the 5km mark

I went back to Roxby Downs and had some cereal, coffee and a shower, as I was cold. Dressing in my running clothes I headed out the door about 6:45am for a 10km run. I followed paths around the town, looking at stuff, and taking photos. I was lost a lot of the time but had my phone and in the end resorted to Maps telling me how to get back to Discovery Park – 11km in all!

Somewhere to the east of Roxby Downs………

That day my primary mission was to listen for texts from the spot to see Craig was OK; monitor the spot in case he wasn’t OK and couldn’t press the emergency button; and meet him at the end of lap one and then lap two. In between this I had Craig’s washing to do; and food to arrange for him. My secondary mission, but of significant importance, was to Skype six of my clients at set appointment times throughout the day. It was very strange sitting in a cabin in a caravan park in remote SA, speaking to my clients about matters for which the setting was very different, including my clothing, hair and makeup!

Craig had been vague about nutritional requirements. I’d already noted he’d left his camelbak behind and I knew this was an error. I researched travel by bitumen to William Creek and to Coober Pedy in an effort to get to him, but the former route did not exist and the latter was over four hours. My phone had synced with the Kia but there was a glitch with hands free calls otherwise I may have attempted the Coober Pedy drive and multi tasked by phoning clients on the way. I researched William Creek and saw it had fuel so I figured they would have water, as would Coober Pedy so I suspected he’d be OK to get water and pick up the camelbak at the end of lap one.

I’m almost a pro

Back to nutrition. He’d said something from the service station would do. I thought not. There was a Subway in Roxby Downs so I bought a ham salad roll. In Woolworths I bought two different flavours of Poweraid knowing the blue was a favourite but wanting a choice. I thought a banana was always a good option and Craig had left some dried fruit, muesli bars and cake for me to take as well. Armed with all of this, plus Panadol and ibuprofen, and chain oil, I watched the spot and calculated the time to arrive at the corner of the Borefield Track and Olympic Way. I’d no sooner arrived than the motorcycle crested the little rise in front and there he was! It was about 1:30pm, nine hours after he left that morning.

We drove the 800 metres or so to the Mobil service station, Olympic Dam, where Craig refuelled and got a docket. He sat in the back of the Kia in the shade and ate.

Luncheon

The break was short and he was keen to get back to Coober Pedy by dusk. I was going to follow him back out but he was much faster on the dirt than the Kia, disappearing from sight within moments.

Lap two – goodbye!

I elected to drive further to test the mobile reception in conjunction with being able to see the landscape. It was even more scary by day in the Kia on that road than had been by night!

Same scene as the photo above with the moon

I was interested in seeing the Olympic Dam mine and turned right at the end of Borefield Rd to drive closer. I had only traversed about 200 metres when a sign on the road made it clear I wasn’t going any further. Bummer.

Do not approach the uranium mine!

I conducted a u-turn and drove back toward the Mobil where I turned at the sign to the airport, just to check out where I’d need to be on Tuesday. On the way down that road I passed the temporary village constructed by BHP Billiton for single workers. I’m sure the name was tongue in cheek.

Back to Woolworths I purchased Craig some chocolate milk and a frozen meal as options post ride, as well as his favourite cherry ripe. Finishing my last clients for the day I had a bit of quiet time with a book and the spot link. Craig phoned from Coober Pedy around 6:30pm to say all was well, and I decided to go and find myself done dinner.

I drove around first, trying to get a photo of a ute with an orange flag on the front. They had been everywhere during the day and I’d been thinking I wanted one for the front of my Kia and perhaps even my Mercedes at home! As I stopped for dinner I realised I’d driven for about 10 minutes with no lights turned on. Honestly!

The elusive nocturnal ute

Still in pursuit

I’d read reviews of a couple of restaurants and had seen the Chinese near Woolworths earlier that day. It was a classic small town Chinese, complete with prawn crackers.

The fellow who greeted me was wearing shorts, Nike tshirt and thongs! I asked for a soft drink and he brought me the bottle complete with lid. The menu was also classic but I wonder whether my choice of the Chinese greens was less classic, as when it appeared, borne forth by a man dressed as a Rastafarian, it was just a plate of bok choy – or one may think, quite a few bok choy! The sauce was lovely but the greens were super chewy so in the end I ate the rice and sauce. It filled the time though and I went back to the accommodation ready for the last few hours of crewing.

I thought it was vegetables, not vegetable!

I debated my options. I’m not good at night, often falling asleep by 8:30pm. I knew I was tired and decided to risk a short sleep, with fingers crossed that Craig would fire off an emergency signal if something went wrong. It was a risk I know but another ugly case would have been falling asleep in front of the iPad and missing the end of the ride. I set the alarm for 11pm and woke myself at 10:45pm, having slept for 90 minutes. Checking the spot I could see he was about an hour away.

I sat on the bed for a while calculating what I needed to do. I’d left the supplies, car charging cord and iPhone with the keys and my jacket and water, ready to go. I kept refreshing the screen and the spot stayed the same for about 20 minutes. I was feeling a little uneasy but knew this occurred at times. Finally it refreshed and when I opened the link it showed he was only 30 minutes away. I squeaked and sprang up and out the door.

Out on the road of course it was pitch dark. I drove the 10km as fast as I dared but I was really worried about hitting a kangaroo and defaulting the $4000 excess! Driving straight down the middle of the road I recalled Bill saying on the way to Darwin “don’t swerve or you’ll roll the ute. Just hit the kangaroo”. I just wasn’t sure the Kia was made of the same stuff! I elected to travel more slowly and brake safely if required. I made it to the track and turned onto it, refreshing the spot again. 10 minutes was all that remained!

I drove out on the track, travelling no more than 40km/hr, believing a kangaroo was about to bounce at me at any time. Instead it was a rabbit but it was well clear. Finally in the distance I saw lights! I swung the Kia around and waited. Along came Craig! “Go to the BP” he said, knowing that as it was only 11:35pm the servo would still be open. He took off, leaving the Kia in a dust cloud. I didn’t really dare go much faster as I retraced the route, saying to myself “don’t crash the car; watch out for kangaroos”.

At the BP Craig was finishing refuelling and going inside for a docket. I refuelled the Kia and followed him in before taking the photos!

Champion!!

We moseyed back to the accommodation where Craig refuelled himself on chocolate milk, spoke by phone to Rob, and collapsed into bed!

My flight out of Olympic Dam was 8:30am Tuesday. Craig awoke sore and sorry but still thrilled. He said he wasn’t keen to get back on his motorcycle and I suggested he take another day to rest but he had already decided to ride back to Broken Hill.

I arrived at the airport, returning the hire car and finally getting a photo of the squadron of utes with orange flags.

The Kia at the end of the epic ride

There’s just something about an orange flag that exudes power!

The air in the departure lounge was rank with the odour of 40 men freshly off work and catching my plane back to Adelaide. I thought that was foul enough but had nothing on the ripeness of the smell on the Fokker itself. Omg, most bodily odours premiered and featured on that flight. It was gross but still probably better than the six hour drive back to Adelaide. I had three clients and a case conference to attend to via Skype from the Qantas lounge in Melbourne and then the hop to Newcastle.

The queue of odorous men

Roxby Downs is an interesting place and something of an oasis in the remote area though “oasis” is a stretch. Purpose built by BHP Billiton and the SA government, it has great infrastructure with excellent community facilities. I’d read that the mine had reduced staffing by 350 in recent years and the property market including rental accommodation had fallen over. There were huge numbers of empty homes, and homes for sale. Rents have dropped from $900 per week to $100 per week.

$100000 could buy you this gem

Nothing much grows there and more upmarket dwellings had synthetic lawns. I saw two brick homes in all, although they may have been faux brick.

Trying to keep the kids clean

I didn’t go to the tavern but reviews suggest it can become quite rowdy. I suspect there’s not really much to do out there. From my end, I’ve seen it now and I don’t expect I’ll go back!

So another crewing adventure. I enjoyed the semi-solitude despite constantly watching over Craig and talking to my clients; my staff about a Telstra crisis at the office; and messages from Emily, my friend Hayley and the girls with whom I work. It was something of an adventure for me despite the occasion being very much about Craig and this latest amazing achievement. I’m glad I got to share this one – it was well worth the effort!

 

 

 

 

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!

Caboolture Dusk to Dawn Marathon

Caboolture Dusk to Dawn Marathon

I was excited to organise my year of running 13 marathons in 13 different states and/or countries, and in choosing the Queensland marathon had elected Caboolture to avoid the large scale Gold Coast Airport Marathon. The risk was it was on only two weeks after the big week in Antarctica and Punta Arenas, but I was confident I could do it. I booked flights to Queensland for me and for my two daughters and we flew into Brisbane the day of the event. As the name suggests, the marathon starts on dusk and runs on through the night.

I was attracted to the fact it was run through an historic village and was in laps – lots of them. In fact the laps were 400 metres. Every hour the running direction altered. There were multiple events ranging from a half marathon through to as many laps as one could do by dawn. The marathon was just one event.

The week before the marathon, not long after arriving home from Chile, I developed a nasty upper respiratory tract infection. This had already done the rounds of the tents in Antarctica and I had hoped to escape it. I’d been quite unwell for a few days, even having to take some time off work for the first time in many years. Once again, everything for Caboolture was booked so I decided to have a crack at it and hope for the best.

We found some noodles and muesli bars at the local supermarket and I ate those around 4:30pm. It was tricky thinking what would be best for nutrition with a 6pm start time. We then made our way to the historic town. It was a quaint little set-up with a ring road between the buildings. It was on this ring road the race was run.

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I’m not in this photo – advertising promo.

The temperature was around 30 degrees Celsius when we set off. The first few laps were quite fun – my girls were sitting in one spot and I waved each time I passed. There were heaps of other runners who all knew one another and were calling out and chatting as they ran, both to one another and to spectators.

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I’m not in this photo – it’s of part of the course.

It all started to go bad from about 5km. I wasn’t feeling well and running became a struggle. The sun started to set and while there were flood lights in places, there were some really dark patches where I couldn’t see the ground. We changed direction and with that my pace slowed even more. The girls took it in turns running or walking sections with me. I just wasn’t feeling it and thought it was unfair for the girls to be sitting by the side of the road for hours while I walked around and around. I decided to quit – a DNF two weeks after the highs of South America. Awful. But I knew it was for the best – I wasn’t well and probably shouldn’t have started in the first place.

What was good about this event? Well if you belonged to the running club I think it would have been fun. There was a lovely atmosphere and the write-ups in Cool Running were all very positive. It is a weird little event and attractive for that reason. If I ever went back (which I won’t) I’d be better prepared with an esky of food and drinks, and some more comfortable chairs for the spectators!

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More of the course. I’m not in the photo!