Pre race reflections

So… tomorrow I’m signed up for the 43km Lairig Ghru race through the Cairngorms. I got my entry after arriving in Europe. For the record, this is probably not a good idea! I’m pretty certain I’ve had too much fun the last few weeks and the legs are over cooked for racing…. Hmmm.

Let’s see how I go, and how I pull up! The hard part will be making the one and only cut-off: 14km in 1.5hrs and not all road.

My motivation? I read the book Cairngorm John, which inspired me to sign up to the race. I’m interested to see how I find it – there’ll be only 250 participants and I’m used to over a thousand. It’s BYO map! Last year’s “winner” ended up coming 2nd because they took the long route through the final town!

Had an easy jog today along Nairn beach to get the legs race ready :P

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An Teallach

We’d been invited for a day out in the Highlands with some of B’s really, really fast O friends. The original plan proposed seemed long, and with a 43km race planned for this Sunday, we asked for something shorter. An Teallach was proposed and these were the notes I was given: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/how-to-scramble-an-teallach. A Grade 3 scramble! It sounded like I could bypass most of the tricky stuff, so should be alright. But my main concern was the pace – these O friends win mountain races and set records!

We were picked up the night before from Garve train station and found a flat-ish piece of ground not far from the road with good views to some Munros. I love the freedom camping in Scotland. And just in case I thought it was too early in the season for them, the midges came to say hello. I’ve not missed them!

Next day we packed up and traveled further up the road. It turns out I looked like one of *those participants* that one should worry about. I guess it’s fair given I was wearing un-grippy shoes with a huge hole cut out the back of the right shoe for my lump and had trekking poles. T was very concerned about going up into the mountains with me! Even B had to reassure her I’d be fine.

I set off early to start the ascent and it didn’t take long for the others to catch me up.

Up and up we climbed. The forecast suggested the day would clear up, but we entered the mist and it didn’t lift for us.

The other’s had to do a fair amount of waiting for me, but eventually I made it to the first top (~900vm climb).

Thankfully we could actually walk around all the hairy scrambles. We bagged two Munros and started the descent. It was pretty chilly up the top!

So a nice short easy day before Sunday’s race…. 15km and 1300vm ?!?! Today was strugglefest for me – time to start resting!

Lake district fastpack – Day 3

Thankfully it was dry this morning and remained so the whole day. We headed from Borrowdale to Grasmere via Eagle, Sergeant’s, Calf and Helm crags. They were lovely and the first couple were void of people completely.

And then we we’re “back in town”, in Grasmere. It was And our tastebuds were watering. Got a delicious chili jam sausage roll and croissant from the local bakery (delicious).

Lake district fastpack – Day 2

Lots of rain and windgusts overnight that stopped before we woke up. It was still drizzling a little so I went back to sleep for an extra hour. What a luxury!

Finally away after drying the tent it was straight up to Helvellyn via a fun scramble along Stridng Edge ridge.

The top was pretty darn windy but the views were amazing!

Thankfully there was a cross shaped dry stane dyke to shelter in and enjoy some “lunch” (read trail mix, soren bar (a local malt bar) and some lollies).

We battled the winds along the tops before descending down a nice gully with a creek in it.

Sadly I rolled my ankle on the descent. We still had about 12km and a 500m climb up and over into the next valley. So I caught the bus around while B continued on foot. Who will make it to the scone shop first?!

I did. Even though I missed my bus connection, hitched most of the way to the rendezvous point and ran the final 2.2 miles. Turns out the route over the top was quite boggy.

It started raining as we approached our campsite. We had a hot shower while it teamed down and hid out at the pub (sensational food) until the weather cleared to pitch the tent.

Lake district fastpack – Day 1

We arrived in Windermere at 11pm last night due to late trains and missed connections. A quick stop at the supermarket for milk and I realised this trip needed a bit more planning on my front… I only had two muesli bars packed as I thought we were going through towns for both lunch and dinner, but in fact it would be only dinner. B had lots of food packed for himself. LOL oops. With lots of exciting treats in the shopping basket we got to bed and left final packing for the morning. (We’d packed our bags in Prague and taken them as our carry on luggage, with everything else checked in).

Windermere was buzzing this morning with people perusing the little shops and lined up for cruises. The weather was beaut!

We caught the bus to Troutbeck and then the ascent started. No warm up, just straight up! (At the early hour of past midday – the bus only runs 2 hourly).

Today was gorgeous and stunning. Turns out it’s also 3 years to the day since we met. (I hadn’t realised…)

I enjoyed B’s company as we chatted away on the ascents and ran the descents together. So good to be up in the hills. (And so good that my foot is behaving today.)

We’re now camped on a farm in Pattersdale. We had a refreshing (and pretty chilly!) swim in the lake with another lady who coaxed us all in! And were rewarded with a hot (!!!) shower afterwards. A hearty meal at the local pub and now we’re ready for bed even though the sun hasn’t set yet. What a magical day :)

Adventures in Czech – Bohemian Paradise, Moravian Karst and Driving

We picked up a hire car for eight days with the plan to camp and make it up as we went along. First stop was a campground near Jicin to see some fancy rocks. The week was just what was needed. Lots of sleeping and pretty chilled days. Every couple of days we cooked at the campground to inject some vegetables into the diet.

Here is a summary of our stops:

Trosky Castle

Instead of parking in the tourist carpark and taking the short route up, we found a spot downhill and then B straightlined us there through the woods (of course he did!)

Hruba Skala Rock Town

We started on the tourist path but it didn’t last long. There’s a lookout up there he says, and so we went off track. This was pretty fun and the final part had me laughing as I needed to squeeze through a rather thin gap. B had made it through but I struggled! In the end I had to lay down and slide through the dirt. Shortly after we popped out on the tourist track once more and enjoyed the lookout. What fun!

Prachovske Rocks

This was just behind our campground but we’d been too tired on the other days to head up there. Today had to be the day – I thought it would be 500m there and 500m back. But of course we made it a more interesting adventure. Running through the forest before popping out at various rock clusters. The photos don’t do it justice – this area is amazing.

Kost Castle and orienteering funsies

B had come here last week with the groom, who’d organised an orienteering course for some running mates. He thought it was so good that he took me there too. And it was a fun outing with a ruined castle to finish off the session.

Templice Rocks

The forecast was for rain today so we thought seeing more rocks would be a better option than the high mountains. We went for the Templice Rocks over the more popular Arch Rocks to avoid the crowds, and we were not disappointed. There were a number of signs pointing out formations in the rocks. E.g. polar bear, elephant, King Louis IV, etc. Some we got and others involved our imagination!

Snezka

Tallest mountain in Czech and on the Czech-Polish border…. how could we resist? A 15+km adventure running along the border. I’m in Poland. I’m in Czech. I’m in Poland. I’m in …. :D we made sure to have lunch on the Polish side since I’ve never been to Poland before.

Punkva Caves, Moravian Karst area

A fun tour through the caves. Lots of good formations and half the tour was on a boat through the cave. Very fun ducking as we wove through. An added novelty was our English translation on an A4 sheet that we tried to read in the dim cave lights.

CAMPGROUNDS

Autocamp Jinolice – this was a strange bare dirt campground by a lake with lots and lots of pubs/drinking holes. The camp kitchen had almost nothing and there was one picnic table for all campers. We were planning to stay for three nights but left after two.

Camping Dolce – lovely, “proper” campground by a lake. Good shade, large covered outdoor area. We stayed 3 nights.

Camping Olšovec – an alright campsite with everything bolted down. You even had to pay for electricity to boil water.

DRIVING IN CZECH

Let me just say that I was baffled by the speed limits the whole week. Czech drivers are pretty darn impatient, don’t drive to the speed limit (which is not helpful for foreigners to decipher their signs) and I couldn’t find an English website to explain more than the basics to me. I’m pretty certain I got a speeding ticket in one town because I didn’t realise I’d crossed a 50km/hr zone. If I did it would be my first :(

I even stopped by a police station in a “larger” town to ask about some of it but they didn’t speak English.

We had dinner on our last night with the newly weds in Prague. Finally I had someone to translate the speed limits signs for me. They only hold until the next intersection! How was I supposed to know that?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Adventures in Czechia – the wedding

Sitting in London for my connecting flight to Prague was the first time I thought about the logistics of getting to O&Bs wedding the next day. Only 8kms away from our accommodation? Hell let’s run there. And we did. The map showed a swimming hole on the property where the wedding would be held and we knew there’d be showers since there was camping and cabins that some guests had booked. We packed our wedding clothes, shoes and a towel in our packs and headed off.

Tabor is a lovely town with cobblestone streets and lots of alleys. Then we ran along the river where there was an air show on – the moves, including 360s and nose-dives were impressive! The final section was along the road following the pink wedding directions for cars. All up a casual 9.5kms taking the scenic route. The legs and foot played along nicely. Phew!

So… now to have a dip in the swimming hole that would be discreetly at the back of the property, right? It turned out to be where the couple planned to exchange their vows! Hmmm. We jumped in anyway but first scouted a spot to exit at the far end so there wouldn’t be wet footprints in the wedding photos :p The water was lovely.

Reports got back to the bride that some people had run there and were swimming by the “alter” :O She laughed, and said it must be the Australians. Hahaha. Correct.

The venue was fantastic – set on a property with great covered and uncovered outdoor spaces. Plus a washing line for our kit to dry on :p There were lots of photos strung up of O&B from various points in their lives and that lovely happy vibe flowing among guests (along with the first round of alcohol…).

Unfortunately the grandmother collapsed 20 mins before the ceremony started, CPR was commenced and an ambulance called. The paramedics couldn’t revive her :( I can’t imagine what it must have felt like for the bride, groom and their families. As a non-family guest it was very surreal to watch someone die right as you were expecting your friends to exchange their vows. We must treasure the people we have in our lives while we have them! It was clear there was nothing we could do to help, so a bunch of us went and entertained the kids well away from the ambulances.

The start of the ceremony, a few hours later than planned, was a bit sombre but how could they not carry on and get married? Thankfully the vibe returned but I don’t think the grandmother was ever far from anyone’s thoughts.

O&B had planned a magnificent day. There were games and pre-translated speaches, a cheese cake (that was a tier of wheels of very yummy cheeses!), delicious lunch buffet, a spit piggy, toast your own kransky, a photobooth, a saxophone player, a choreographed first dance, trivia, a dancefloor, etc. Even though I was very tired I made it to 1am.

Congratulations and all the best O&B!

Bon Voyage

My students have yet to sit their final exam but I’ve skipped Australia for a few months. Here’s the vague plan – let’s see how it actually pans out!

Czech wedding in Tabor.

Adventures in Czech – not sure where yet. Will hire a car and have packed camping gear. 

Fast-pack in the Lake District.

Scottish un-wedding in Fife.

Spending time with B’s family. 

Perhaps an ultra marathon in the Cairngorms.

German wedding in the Black Forest.

A day in Basel.

Spending time in Bern and heading up Alpine peaks.

Heading over to the French Pyrenees to watch some TdF.

24hr rogaine in the Spanish Pyrenees.

Heading back to the UK via France and Belgium.

Adventures in the UK. Hopefully some of the Cape Wrath trail.

Highland games.

Bothy fastpack.

Back to the Alps for a mountain marathon.

Then hopefully some hut-to-hut running in Austria.

Heading back to the UK via ???

Skyline race in Scotland.

Orienteering in Scotland.

Finding somewhere interesting to celebrate my birthday.

More orienteering in Scotland.

Fastpacking to a Scottsih wedding in Fife.

More time with B’s family.

Catching up with people in London.

Back to Oz.

What’s actually booked? Almost nothing. A handful of flights, two races and hopefully our rail passes get booked pretty soon! Here we go!

Backyard discoveries

I stayed at a mate’s place in the Lower Blue Mountains on Friday night. Unsure what to do to entertain ourselves in the morning we set out from her backyard, which opens directly into the bush. Our goal was to see if we could make it down the creek (2.5km?) to an intersecting fire trail that would allow us to circle back to the house. My friend had already made a few attempts without success.

It started well – fairly open bush and no spiky stuff. I was enjoying myself. About 30 (?) mins in I commented on just how nice the bush was. My friend raised her eyebrows at me and said I was only saying that because I was in the bush so often. She was right of course – not many people would have called this “nice bush” when we were parting small trees and plants to walk through it. A very short distance later we hit the vines. I should have kept my mouth shut!

We’d hit the creek confluence, which marked approximately the 1/3 mark. We ummed and ahhed how to approach the next bit. In the end we stayed near the creek with ferns often as tall as we were, and little opportunity to see our foot placement.

Why don’t we get in the creek, she says. So I follow and soon we are skating on mud and stopped by a swamp.

Back into the ferns we went. And went. And went. Thankfully there weren’t too many vines, but enough to cut my legs open in many places. At least the views above the ferns were nice.

At some point we were laughing at the ridiculousness and wondering if the vegetation would ever change. I pointed at the tree about 10m away and confidently declared that we would have open pastures as soon as we got there. We hacked half the distance. Which tree exactly, she asks. That one, I say once more, laughing at my “confidence”. We hacked to the tree and were delighted to see a clearing for us to walk along!!!!!!!!!!!

It lasted a good ways before disappearing, but the rest of it was much easier walking – though sometimes involved some gymnastics to not end up in more swamps.

We popped out onto the fire trail and marked our point of exit for future reference.

My friend has a very cool backyard. I’m jealous.

Kangaroo Island “Wilderness” Trail

This trip was a last minute decision. Was I running away from Sydney for a bit? Yes!

The forecast for my first day was 42 deg and a total fire ban. Yikes! I removed a dinner from my stash (I wouldn’t be able to use my stove during a TFB) and would instead buy a sandwich from the Visitor’s Centre.

The driver for my transfer wasn’t the most positive – he seemed alarmed by the (small) size of my bag, tried to discourage me from a side trip I was planning to do, showed disdain when I put on my running shoes (are you really going to wear those the whole way?) and made me sort out my bags in the carpark on a searing hot day while he sat up the front with the air conditioning blasting. (I wanted to do everything inside but he wanted to get going). Bleh.

I hung out at the visitors centre in the air conditioning for a few hours. The ladies at the desk were super lovely and helped me whittle away the hours. They too were surprised by the size of my pack and were keen to hear my secrets.

It was still over 40 degrees when I started at 16:30, and it certainly felt like it. I enjoyed reading the various info boards, containing so many facts I didn’t know. I didn’t see any platypus at the water holes, but I wasn’t surprised by that. I saw two feral pigs at reflection pool though.

From 6pm was a good time to be out as a lot of wildlife were around (roos, wallabies, goannas, many birds). It was also a little cooler and lovely trails so I started running.

I made it to camp before sunset, and it was pretty darn gour-met. Filtered water, evening lighting (even of the toilet cubicles), lounging/viewing seats, etc. Plus the cooking/dining area is well away from the sleeping area, which would minimise disturbances for anyone wanting to head to bed early. Not that I had that problem with 24 tent platforms for one tiny tent! (No other starters today – so I was going to have camp to myself every night). I was very relieved when a cool change came through at 9pm. Another one would have been good ;) I was too hot in the tent, but there were too many sandflies to sleep outside the tent.

Day 2 started abruptly with the ranger pulling up to clean the camp kitchen and toilets at the ungodly hour of 08:30 ;) So I got up and went for a lovely 9km run out to Sandy Creek and back. Good dunes and saw some of the rare “Hoodies”.

Back at camp I packed up and got going just after midday. Next stop was Snake Lagoon and the Rocky River mouth. Thankfully I didn’t see any snakes, but I did enjoy the creek and beach.

The rest of the day was really nice coastal walking and the water was a lovely teal colour. I saw a lot more hooded plovers, but no dolphins or seals, and good beach caves with muddy stalactites.

No bugs at camp made for an enjoyable lounge around in my underwear 🤣 Managed to extract myself from camp and watch a lovely sunset back at the cliffs too.

Day 3: No early morning visitors – or so I thought. Ran the trails around to Weirs Cove & Admiral’s Arch. Just stunning!

Many seal colonies at the Arch – including many New Zealand fur seal pups. Spent ages watching a juvenile seal play in a rock pool below and managed to leave just before a tour bus pulled up.

Back at camp I saw that someone had been in and left a protesting note for National Parks (against development/lodges). As I was packing up camp an older man popped by and wanted to have a chat (was glad when he left – he was acting very weird).

Back on the trails I popped out at Remarkable Rocks. Pretty cool and rather like the Devil’s Marbles/rocks around Uluru. A swarm of tourists though so I was happy to get back on the trails.

A ways on a barking noise caught my attention so I made my way to the edge to be rewarded with a view down onto yet more seal colonies. Like maybe 50 seals? These ones were way more active. Lots swimming, fighting, feeding, sleeping. A treasure to watch.

I stopped at Sanderson’s Beach on the way to camp but it looked pretty rough so a dip would have to wait another day. At camp I noticed the extra details – each campsite has it’s own plant symbol engraved in many things (seats, posts, doors). This campsite included a deck for star gazing. With bonus bees hanging around inside the taps, giving me a fright most times I used the water!

A toilet stop during the night (too much bedtime tea) was rewarded with great star gazing despite it being overcast when I went to bed.

Day 4 had good coastal adventuring around to Cape Younghusband and yet more seals far below.

Then had some nice inland trails to run, but no real views as it was private property for a fancy Lodge that diverted us well inland for a few kms. When I got to the coast I cut back east by the cliffs for some sterling views and rock formations. Came across the lodge – I understand the protesting notes from yesterday more now. That coastline and those beaches should be for everyone :(

Lovely swim (finally) at Hanson Bay in beautiful clear, teal water. Then up the river, with black swans on it, to my final campsite – themed tea tree.

I’m pretty certain that I witnessed an ant training camp on this final night – they were broken up into little groups and fighting one another (no ant was noticeably injured). I wandered up to Edward’s Hut for a look but it wasn’t very interesting.

Up early for the final day I ran the 7.5km to Kelly’s Cave arriving well in time for a cave tour (included in the trail permit) before my pick up at 11am.

The tour was excellent. I’ve been in a number of caves but I still learnt some new info.

Great, organised walk. Wouldn’t really call it wilderness but it was fantastic. I def appreciated having guaranteed water at camp each night – the shelter, level tent platforms, toilets, etc were all a great bonus.

In reflection, if I had my time again is do this walk in winter – when the whales are traveling past and you can have a fire (they provide the wood).

And here a picture of what was in my pack on the final morning (i.e. minus food and my shoes that ended up in the pic)