Monday 13 December 2021

The Coastal Classic

The Fates seemed to be conspiring against me in December.....initially I had planned on going down to visit my friends in Tasmania and running the Bruny Island Ultra at the same time, but when Tassie delayed their border opening, this became a bit of a non starter. 

It seemed that all was not lost, however, as I was then invited to take part in an International Invitational Race in New Delhi the same weekend. I debated this for a few days, but as they'd offered to cover my entry, my flights and my accommodation, it seemed to be too good an offer to refuse, as I've never been to India. I booked leave from work, sorted out travel to/from the airport, where I wanted to go sightseeing (Covid-allowing) but was foiled again by the Indian Embassy, who suddenly decided that they were not going to issue any visas until 2022!

I decided that someone was trying to tell me something (maybe that I should just give up running......or racing at the very least) and so I lost all motivation and mojo. My friend Katy then invited me to go down and stay with her in Bondi, and run the Coastal Classic with her and her partner the next day. I've run a bit of the route (in the Royal National Park) before but never the whole of it.....I was meant to do the race several years ago when on holiday here, but it was cancelled the night before the event due to thunderstorms (as you run a lot of it on clifftops, some of which is on metal boardwalks...which is probably not advisable with lightening around).

The Coastal Classic route

I had nothing else on, last minute entries were available and so I thought "why not?" - hence Saturday morning saw us driving down to Sutherland station and catching the train down to the start (and registration) at Otford, with Katy talking me through some "highlights" of the the steep hill off the start, and the sand at the end!!

I think they have always had a slightly "rolling start" but due to Covid there was also an option of starting at 8am if you did not want the crowded self-seeded start at 7am.....none of us were planning on being world beaters so we preferred to avoid the crowds and went for the later option (which also gave us more time to get there). There were still a fair few people on our train down to the start, but it must have been heaving earlier (and I did pity the non-runners just trying to go places)!!

As we got off the train and walked to registration we passed people "racing" the other way, who were the last few starters of the 7am lot.....but then there was a gap before our group was going to set off so we had time to register, get numbers, find toilets, hand in finish bags and generally mill around whilst trying to avoid being near to anyone else.

Runners went off 2 by 2, and so I started a few behind Katy and Bruce but passed them just before we started the proper climb up the first horrendous hill back past the station. I was glad to see that nobody at all was even attempting to run it, as walking up was hard enough. On finally reaching the top it was great to be able to get running again and start working my way round people on slightly wider portions of the track. 

Some beautiful coastal views whilst running

We had to cross one road fairly early on and some marshals helped us with traffic, but several of the guys I'd recently passed, overtook me again as they hurdled the roadside barrier with hardly a pause, whereas I stopped and heaved myself over it rather inelegantly! From there the track was a narrow steep climb (which I vaguely remembered from a walk with Anne about 18 months ago) so being in a train ensured no overexertion, but it widened again as we ran along the cliff top (not that you could see the ocean as we were in quite dense treecover).

There was a fairly steep, muddy, rooty descent down from the cliff top and the treecover made it rather dark.....which meant that all in all it was not the best time to be catching people up from the 7am start, but most of them were very kind and happily let you pass if you gave them a wee warning that you were coming.

Cliff edge sections - eek!!

Katy had talked me into the event by saying that unlike runs in the Blue Mountains, it was very runnable and there were hardly any steps.....I don't know what route she was describing, as there seemed to be endless steps to me! (I may have taken her name in vain inside my head a few times - sorry Katy!!)

Did I mention the steps?

I had a few "interesting" encounters en route, some more pleasant than others, eg a lovely lass that would fly past me on descents, yet I'd pass again on climbs, runnable flat stretches (we chopped and changed a few times so had a good chat, but she was new to distance running and so eventually dropped back which was such a shame) whereas a negative experience was a lady from the early start who was not in favour of me passing her at all....ever....

I may have mumped and moaned over a few bits of the run....I mean who puts 3K of "undulating" sand into a 30K when you've already gone 25K....and the fact that I thought I was running along the final beach to the finish only to spot that there was a path leading up off the beach and a further km or so to run up and down and round the houses to actually get there.....but all in all, it was a stunning course! 

And the sandy beaches that had to be crossed?

It had a bit of everything....some road (well, actually almost non except for at the very end!), trail, grass, rocks, roots, mud, sand, boardwalks, steps, beaches, and stunning scenery as we went through various completely different little microclimes of vegetation....I'd just suggest preparing for it slightly better, as the lack of distance trail running caught up with me in the latter stages :-)

The aid stations were great as there were more than enough of them providing drinks, fruit and lollies that you hardly needed to carry anything, but my only complaint about this, was that at the finish line, nothing was provided for the runners. You were expected to buy anything you wanted to eat or drink.....there wasn't even a water fountain!!

Happy (if thirsty and hungry) to finish :-)

Having ignored the seeded start, I had no idea how I'd done, though I did feel like I'd had to pass several hundred people en route, so it was a nice surprise to find out I'd "podiumed" in the masters results.....but what was even nicer was being able to head back from the finish down to the final beach and run back in with Katy and Bruce (earning myself a nice ice cream from Bruce at a local shop).

Katy and Bruce running on the final beach

A little snippet that added to the day was another realisation of the small world that running is - as well as catching up with some other friends at the finish (who'd started earlier and so I hadn't seen them all day), I starting chatting to an English girl who was also bemoaning the lack of fluids/food at the finish. She said that her parents were race directors in the UK and would never do that......and as I was describing the amazing spread there was at a trail race I'd done one New Year's Day, it turned out that that was one of her parents' events - wow!!

Post ice-cream and coke - happy days!!

Saturday 13 November 2021

Not the Tassie Trip 2021

Last Christmas I ran a good portion of the Three Capes Track with my friend Iestyn, and so early this year, the "girls" (my 5:20 Chicks mates) and I had planned a trip down to Tassie in November to walk the route together over three days. Unfortunately Covid put paid to that idea as the Tassie border wasn't going to open until mid-December, but Margaret came up with a great alternative route for us to walk from the Central Coast down to La Perouse (south of Sydney). An added bonus of this route being closer to home was that all of the girls could now join for at least part of it, as logistics became much easier for those that couldn't leave their families for such a long time.

Setting off bright-eyed and bushy-tailed :-)

Down the trail from Bouddi

We met bright and early, loaded our overnight bags into Greg (Margaret's husband)'s car and set off on the first leg which was to walk from Bouddi National Park down to the ferry at Ettalong. We'd timed it so that Katie could hike down the to the ferry with us and then her husband could pick her up there (after school drop off), and Anna could do school drop off and then meet us at the ferry.....with enough "crossover time" for us all to enjoy coffee and muffins as a group at the dock.

Waiting for the ferry

Our "steed"awaits :-)

Masked up on the ferry

The ferry took us from Ettalong over to Palm Beach and, instead of heading south straight away, everyone kindly agreed to take a detour north as I'd never been up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse up on the tip of the headland....and it was definitely worth it, both for the views, and to see Krystie practicing her cartwheeling along the beach at the bottom (an "in joke" as her sister has finally made it back to Australia from the UK, so she'd promised us that she'd cartwheel for joy!!).

The view from the Lighthouse

On Barrenjoey Head

Cartwheel action!

We retraced our steps off the headland and onto the path south, pausing for photos at the "Summer Bay Surf Life Saving Club"....well, 2 of us had grown up in the UK with our knowledge of Australia being based on soap operas such as "Home and Away" (and we actually almost walked across a stretch of beach right as they were filming scenes).....and then onto Avalon for our lunch stop (and postprandial ice cream). 
Spot the Brits abroad...

Avalon Beach

Here come the girls..

The afternoon walk was much shorter and so it was only midafternoon by the time we met Greg and checked into the Newport Motel. It had a pool and was just across the road from a bottleshop so we "rehydrated" whilst soaking our feet, before changing into the "matchy-matchy" tops we'd got for the Tassie Trip and heading over to eat pizza in the outdoor beer garden....surrounded by twinkling white lights and looking over the water......a magical place!

Rehydrating at the pool

Matchy-matchy outfits!

Al Fresco dining

There is no rest for the wicked so we were up bright and early, with the longsuffering (he loves us really) Greg reloading his car whilst we walked down to Mona Vale for a delicious breakfast before hitting the coastal path and heading ever southwards. 

Mona Vale brekky

On the Coastal path

Julie waving at the chopper

We walked past various golfcourses, along beachside suburbs (yes...sampling ice cream and coffee at some of them), up and down headlands (getting a wave back from a helicopter crew that buzzed us at a lookout!!) and even wading little rivulets, but eventually made it to Manly and into the the Steyne Hotel just before the heavens opened.

Wading across a rivulet..

Approaching Manly

Lunch (and drinks) suddenly became rather rushed as Margaret looked up the times of the ferries from Manly to Watson's Bay and thought we could just make one if we dashed there.....but unfortunately it didn't seem to appear.....and so we investigated further.....and they only run on weekends!!

Lunch at the Steyne Hotel

This caused a slight rethink in our plans, as everyone had been going to walk from Watson's Bay to Coogee and have dinner together, with 4 of the group then heading home to the Central Coast. As the weather wasn't good and we couldn't get the ferry directly across the harbour, we ended up getting the ferry into Circular Quay, where Greg met us so the 4 of them could get their bags and go home directly from there, whilst he drove the rest of us on.

Our trusty feet parting ways!!

Saying goodbye to half the crew :-(

The 4 of us that were left decided that we shouldn't be total wooses and so declined the offer of a lift all the way to Coogee and instead Greg dropped us at Bondi to walk the final stretch. The Bondi-Coogee stretch is usually a very popular walk (or run) but the weather meant that we had most of it to ourselves and so felt very "hardcore"....and we certainly earnt our hot baths and cold drinks that evening!!

Soggy Bondi :-(

At least we had the path to ourselves....

Greg joined us for breakfast in Coogee on the final day but then left us to it and drove round to La Perouse. This was the most fascinating part of the whole walk for me, as Coogee was the furthest south I'd ever been on that stretch of coast. The final morning was also spent mostly on trails and boardwalks (and golf courses) so it felt like we were a long way from Sydney, even though we weren't. 

Coogee brekkie....yummmm!

Another empty golf course...

The wind meant that the golf courses were deserted (except for a the odd golfer who didn't believe that we'd walked all the way from the Central Coast until we started naming golf courses we'd passed en route :-) ) and the recent rain had stirred up some of the ground so that one section of trail smelt as if a bushfire had just rushed through it, though we could see it had been some considerable time since it due to all the regeneration. 
Evidence of previous bushfires

Some of the signs warning us about snakes and deaths in the areas were a bit perturbing (though I think the deaths were actually related to people fishing off the rocks and being swept away by huge waves rather than local poisonous fauna), as was the section when we walked through a cemetary to the sound of guns firing and lots of shouting (which it turned out to be a police exercise/target practice). 

The funny signs :-)

Police target practice

All in all we were glad to make it safely to our final destination (resulting in another cartwheel from Krystie), a delicious lunch and a lift home from the lovely Greg.......a fantastic unforgettable trip.....and we all agreed that we have to make it a regular thing :-)
Another Krystie cartwheel :-)

Celebrating the end!!

Wednesday 27 October 2021

The 12 Foot Track

Having now run the 6 Foot Track, a friend had suggested trying the 12 Foot Track and I was intrigued to this "new route" that I'd not heard of before. Little did I know that it was not actually a new route, but the name for running the 6FT and then turning round at Jenolan Caves and running back to the start in Katoomba!! 

When I finished the 6FT I did say "Never Again" but the idea of the 12FT did kinda niggle away in the back of my head, and when my friend Julian and I both had a day off, we discussed a cheeky trip up to the Blue Mountains. Julian is a keen walker and had some new routes to check out (or old routes that he hadn't done for ages) and I looked at the 6FT. I didn't have the option of just running to Jenolan and getting a lift back as the final section of road to the Caves has been closed due to landslip/storm damage, so the only way in and out for me was on foot. 

The "12 Foot Track"

The weekend's weather forecast hadn't been good, but as Saturday had been nice and sunny, we decided to risk it and headed up early on Sunday morning. As a reward, we were treated to a lovely pink sunrise over the hills, which seemed to bode well for the day, and so I set off down the track expecting an enjoyable (well semi-enjoyable anyway) day out!! The first section of the run is always a rude reminder to me that I am neither a downhill nor a technical runner, as the first few kms are a constant descent.....initially down a rough forestry road, then steep uneven steps which disintegrate into little more than a stream bed, and then finally on a runnable single trip (well, runnable when you manage to get past all the slippery tree roots!). 

Amazing how fresh you can look BEFORE you run!!

Despite it being well past dawn, it was still quite dark under the thick canopy cover as I descended Nellie's Glen, but it was so much more enjoyable than the last time I was there. This time, I had the place to myself and could go as slowly as I liked, with no-one to see my flailing "girlie arms" and multiple slips and stops, whereas last time it was a "race situation" and although I'd started at the back of my starting pen, I had the constant fear of slowing down the fast starters of the next pen. 

On reaching the forestry road at the bottom of the valley, I reminded myself to look for the turnoff onto single track, as I'd missed it in the past. Despite this, I missed it yet again and so added an extra km or so of detour onto my route. My excuse is that the sign pointing towards the track is parallel to the way you are running, and so is almost impossible to spot, and I was taking notice of the depth markings warning about a ford crossing just at that precise location. Grrrrr......I could have kicked myself when I found myself having to run down and then up a steep incline just to get back to where I should have been!! 

I remembered the next section as being quite enjoyable, undulating up and down across some open countryside and then alongside the river....but unfortunately this time the weather decided to take a turn for the worse. It started spitting with rain before I'd even run 10K and so I debated turning tail and returning to Katoomba but I didn't want to interrupt Julian's walk as he was going to go to a cafe to fuel up before setting off, so I told myself to "zip up my mansuit" and get on with it. 

The mansuit zip got a bit of a workout to stay done up as thunder rolled in, and then the sky lit up with lightening on several occasions. I did feel very exposed as the only moving thing for miles around (even the wallabies that had kept me compony earlier had run away), and my biggest fear was that the lightening would strike as I climbed over one of the metal stiles......but luckily I made it out of the open and onto the riverside trail. Unfortunately the rain moved a lot quicker than I did and so I got rather wetter than I'd hoped!! 

I could hear the Coxes river alongside me and although I thought it sounded rather loud and strong, I figured that I'd just not really noticed it in the race due to the fact that I'd been in a little train of people trying to keep moving forwards whilst not being knocked over by fast guys trying to race past on the narrow trail. I passed the turning to the "alternative route" of the bridge over the river, but didn't think that a high exposed metal bridge was really what I wanted to be on during a huge storm.....and as it hadn't been raining for that long (and Saturday had been lovely and sunny) the river wouldn't be that high would it? 

The river in drier times....

I hop, skip and jumped over the first part of the river and was smugly congratulating myself on it not being that bad after all.....but soon came to regret that as I waded into the main river itself. Not only was the current rather strong but I was soon up to my neck and losing contact with the bottom. My panic swim would have shown a bit of a semicircle as I got swept slightly further downstream than expected before hitting the far side......but luckily there was no-one there to watch (I guess that would have been "unluckily" had I gotten into distress). 

The water hadn't seemed that cold and the air still seemed muggy (obviously the rain didn't bother me now as I was soaked through anyway) as I ran-walked up the first of the big inclines away from the river but at least there was no more thunder and lightening. Unsurprisingly, considering the weather, I still hadn't seen another soul but it made me feel like more of an intrepid explorer as I trudged on munching on my cereal bars, wading a few more creeks and trying to avoid slipping base over apex in muddy patches. 

Places I remembered from the race came and went, and although I was going somewhat slower than on race day, I did wonder how on earth I would make it back, when I was doubting whether I would actually even get as far as the Caves. When I reached the road crossing and saw the sign marking that the road was closed up ahead, I decided to ring Julian and see if he fancied coming and picking me up if he'd finished his walk. I figured that even if he said it would take him a while, I could probably go down to Jenolan and then back up to that point whilst he was en route. Unfortunately, my phone appeared to be slightly worse for wear after its little swim (despite being in a plastic bag) and didn't want to play ball - gah!! Never mind, there'd probably be a public phone I could use at Caves House so I continued on..... 

I guess that few people go all the way down to the caves along the track now that the road there is shut, so the final descent was very overgrown but I eventually made it.....only to realise as I ran down the last few steep zigzags, that there was no point in looking for a phone as I didn't know Julian's number without using my phone. There was nothing for it but to fill up my waterbottles from a tap with a sign that expressly told me that water should be bought at the shop and not drunk out of taps, and to return back the way I'd come!!! 
About turn (well, except I went further down to
 the toilets and a tap and back) and back again!!

The climb out of Jenolan is a killer (I don't like "running" down it, but my tired legs complained equally about trudging back up it....and even the soggy wraps (rather worse for wear for their river dunking) I ate didn't make it much better. Finally I crested the steepest bit of the climb and summoned up a run/walk back to the road crossing. From there I decided to make the best of it and run the flats and downhills and not be bothered if I had to walk the climbs. To be honest, I hadn't realised how much of the middle portion of the run had been uphill on the way out - yes the long steep climbs were unmissable, but trail I'd berated myself for run-walking along as it was "flat" now showed itself as being downhill on the return leg, so I managed to get into quite a good running rhythm for several kilometres. 
No wonder there seems to be little "flat" running!!

The big long downhills weren't the fun I'd expected them to be as it was now raining again and so they were very rough, slippery and muddy......and did seem to go on forever! A few 4WDs passed me on those climbs and descents, and I guess they wondered if I'd actually escaped from a local psych hospital (actually, if there had been one nearby I'd probably have checked myself in!!). It was a relief when it flattened out on the approach to the river again, but as the thunder and lightening was back, I decided that a swim was a lesser evil than the chance of being electrocuted if I took the alternative high bridge option. 

What made the swim back funnier (or scarier depending on how you look at it) was the fact that my right leg cramped up as soon as I hit the deep water and so I had to do a wonky one-legged swim to avoid getting taken away downstream. On climbing back up away from the river on the other side I knew I was just counting down the kms now and would surely make it. I tried to take it easy and made sure that I ate all my remaining food as I moved along the valley floor as "what goes up must come down".....or in my case, "what you have come down, you must go back up" and so I knew that the final few kms would be a killer. 

Those steps were never-ending!!

The climb back up through Nellie's Glen to the plateau didn't disappoint me in its my legs hated me but using my hands to work my quads certainly helped, as did just looking a few steps ahead of me so that I didn't get despondent about how far I still had to go. It was such a relief to get to the top of the steps, but I proved to myself how easy it is to forget that what seems a very short run down a steep forestry road, is actually a fairly long climb back out. Instead of "false summits" on a mountain, this road had "false corners" when you could almost swear that you were there. Still, the corners meant that I actually came across the final gate all of a sudden and lay down on the picnic bench at the top to gather myself. 

I'd actually made it back way quicker than Julian and I had thought so he was still in the pub down the road, but luckily my phone came back to life just enough for me to message him for a pickup and very welcome coffee and ice cream - what a day!!! I also managed to message my friend to say that I would not be doing any more crazy runs that she suggests, and she surprised me by saying that I didn't need to, as unbeknown to me, I had just set the FKT (Fastest Known Time) for that route - phew........never again!!!

Sunday 17 October 2021

Central Coast Century

My friend Monika had suggested a big run/adventure for us to do together when I was back in the land of the living, and it piqued my interest. It was a 100km loop (with over 2500m of elevation) called the Central Coast Century, starting and finishing at the SS Maitland Bell in Bouddi National Park and taking in some of the Coast's best trails through Brisbane Water National Park, Strickland State Forest, Rumbalara and Katandra Reserve and Kincumber Mountain before finishing along the Bouddi Coastal Track. 

The Central Coast Century Route

On the day that we'd originally planned to run it, the forecast was shocking with early humidity giving way to pouring rain and thunderstorms so we pushed it back to the next weekend, which meant that Mon had an extra week to recover from her September Step Challenge and I had an extra week to "get fit" after 2 weeks of just sitting on a bed in Hotel Quarantine! We'd decided to do the run "unsupported" which meant that we had to carry all our nutrition with us, and could only fill up with water at public taps/drinking fountains or in streams. 

A friend of ours had run it "unsupported" a couple of months earlier, so I presumed that her time (15hrs 12 mins) was our target, but Mon had written us a schedule which had us equalling the fastest "supported" female time (13hrs 32 mins) set a month prior to that. She'd also worked out where we would be able to resupply with water so we knew that the longest stretch between refills was about 42kms, hence we needed to carry a decent amount with us.

We knew we couldn't fit the whole run into daylight hours so decided to start at 5am which meant running in the dark when we were fresh rather than at the back end when we would be exhausted. Our first challenge was finding the SS Maitland Bell in the dark, as although we'd both been to Maitland Bay carpark on several occasions before, neither of us could remember having seen a bell, but as it turned out, it's rather obvious when you're looking for it!!

At the Bell in the early hours....

The first kilometre was along a sealed road which slopes gently downhill and Mon was so excited to be off that it was all I could do to slow her down......and I think the local wildlife had the same idea as some scary rustling in the dark bushes revealed itself as wallabies seemingly intent on taking us out as they bounded across the road in front of us. 

It was still dark as we headed onto the first trail section but luckily I knew those trails well, having lived near there for 6 months, so we didn't move as slowly as we'd feared we would......making good time on the flat and gently undulating sections, remembering it was OK to walk the uphills and taking our time on the steep descents. When we came back out onto another road section, we were glad of the early hour as it meant that there was no traffic and we could just enjoy the early morning quiet and predawn light  (though we did have a laugh about the fact we were eating marsbars and snickers and it wasn't even 6:30am!!).
What a sunrise!

A quick toilet break at Ettalong Beach and on so that we caught an amazing sunrise over the water as we headed round a rough rocky trail from Umina to Pearl Beach. Pearl Beach toilets was the last place we knew we could get "safe" water until Somersby (a mere marathon distance away!!!) so we filled up all of our bottles and flasks.

Enjoying the trail round to Pearl Beach

We headed up the firetrail and soon joined the Great North Walk route and jogged along chatting, eating and drinking nicely. We both commented on the fact that we'd opted to wear old shoes rather than risk new ones and were rather regretting it as we felt that we could feel every stone underfoot so made a pact to bins our shoes when we got home. 

Lots of open slabs of rock to run over

Some of the sections of the GNW can seem endless but the run was broken up by the fact that we met lots of runners we recognised going the other way in training for the GNW races in November so it was nice to say hello but we didn't really stop for a chat as we were on a mission (well kind of!!).

Following the trusty GNW marker posts

We ticked off the halfway mark and seemed to be constantly gaining on our schedule, but the last few kilometres to Somersby were a bit of a struggle as we ran out of water slightly too soon. I was setting the pace with Mon just following my feet, so she could switch off and just get into the rhythm, running when I ran and walking when I did, and I would keep checking to make sure the gap between us didn't get too big.
GNW signage

It was such a relief to get to Somersby (I'd commented a few kms earlier that it was a good thing we'd left our credit cards at home, or I'd have been very tempted to go to the shop there and buy ice creams as we were so hot and thirsty.....though that would have made the run "selfsupported" rather than unsupported!) and we had a break at the public toilets there for a decent feed and proper drink. We must have looked a sight to anyone driving past at that point but we didn't really care, as we took it in turns to use the tap - filling up a flask, swilling it all down, and then refilling it. The next definite water supply was another 32km away so we wanted to ensure we left fully hydrated.

On leaving Somersby we had another downhill road section, and Mon had a new lease of life so we found ourselves flying down the road at sub-5 minute kms....not bad for 57km into the adventure. We managed to steady ourselves as we still had a long way to go and were already well up on our target time, but it was nice to get back off road and head into Strickland Forest. 

In Strickland Forest

I've run there once before so knew the gravel road in and the turn off onto the beautiful cool shaded single track. It was now later in the day so people were out and about walking the trails, looking at the amazing local flora, but they all seemed very polite and let us past (or maybe we just looked like escapees from a lunatic asylum).

Mon whooping it up like a loonie!

We weren't sure of the route as we left the forest through an "eco village" (where I could easily have been distracted by a "fresh coffee" sign if only I'd had my credit card) and out through some suburbs of Gosford, but thank heavens for the gpx file on Mon's phone showing up which roads to run up!

Mon was starting to hit the wall where her stomach just didn't want any more food in it, so it was fruit pouches to the rescue and again she tucked in behind me just following my feet (next time I'm going to write motivational comments on my heels) and sticking with the pace. We climbed up away from the houses into the trees of Rumbalara and Katandra Reserve and then down some incredibly steep roads (well, they felt steep to our tired quads anyway) to the area we know best, as it is where most of our Saturday Trotters runs go.

I was really worried that I would be the dead weight when we hit Kincumber Mountain as those trails are Mon's second home and she can absolutely fly down steep rough trails, but luckily for me, she was rather feeling the 80K we'd already done, so I kept leading on onwards and closer to the finish. We had another brief stop soon after this when we got to Frost Reserve as we could fill up our flasks at the water fountain there, and also took on some caffeine and sugar (yummmm.....jelly snakes!!!).


We were now on the final countdown.....14km to go and the record was ours as long as we just kept moving....we could almost smell the finish as we counted down each kilometre. Mon does a lot of guiding along the trails in Bouddi so she could describe exactly what our last few kms were going to be like, and it really helped to know exactly what we had to do, and how far we had to go.

Trotting down to Little Beach

As we came down into Little Beach, we messaged the girls to let them know that we only had 5km left, but the walkers we chatted to really didn't believe us when we said we'd already covered 95km, as some of them didn't want to stroll far from the picnic tables!

The sting in the tail was that in order to get back to Maitland Bay carpark, we had to run along 2km of soft sandy beach (it was like a game of chicken as the sand was firmer closer to the sea, but then you had to make little sprints up the beach to avoid the waves rolling in) followed by 1km of stairs up to the carpark. I threatened a sit down protest when the girls replied to our message by saying that we were taking so long that they'd eaten the ice creams they'd brought to the finish, but we pushed on. 

Not more steps!!!!

On arriving at the top of the steps "The Bell" was to our right but Mon's watch was only showing 99.95km so we did a lap of the carpark first (the girls were screaming at us that we were going the wrong way not realising that we were just rounding it up on her watch!). It was so nice to have them all waiting for us when we eventually touched the Bell - 12hrs and 24minutes after we'd left it - with party blowers, cheers, cold cokes......and the promised ice creams!! What an amazing day out!!!

Back at the Bell with all the girls :-)