Thredbo Fun and Fitness Week – Part 1

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This week I am in Thredbo for the Fun and Fitness Week (TFFW). It’s my first time here, and it’s such a fantastic place! Thredbo is known more as a winter ski destination but it has fantastic mountain biking and hiking/running trails which keep the people coming during the summer. It’s not a bad way to spend a week – running, hiking and various other activities by day, and drinking wine on the balcony or ‘chilling’ in the spa by night. The most difficult thing is trying to fit in all the activities and trying to choose between the different events/hikes on offer!

Saturday 9 January

Karen, Daryl, Geoff and I spent Friday night in Albury after driving all day from Adelaide. Our motel just happened to be across the road from the Albury/Wodonga parkrun – the only parkrun in Australia that crosses a state border. Of course we were going to run it!

About 300 other people had the same idea as us. The course follows the mighty Murray River, crossing the NSW/Victoria border into Wodonga and then back again. Other than a somewhat comical start, where 300 people converged from all angles just in time to run across a narrow footbridge, it was a lovely, scenic run. I’m surprised my Strava map for the first kilometre didn’t resemble an ECG readout!

Following the parkrun and a trip to the adjacent farmers market, we continued on our merry way to Thredbo. We arrived at the lodge around 1:30, giving us just enough time to unload the car, get our lift passes and make our way to the bottom of the chairlift for the Crackenback Challenge. For the uninitiated, this is a 1.8km run. Nice cruisy way to kick off the week, right? Oh, did I forget to mention the 600m elevation? And starting at 1500m altitude? The only word that could accurately describe it is BRUTAL. And there was not much running going on – well at least not by me! I followed fellow South Aussie David up the hill – I kept him in sight until almost the finish. He is like a mountain goat up hills and an absolute inspiration for someone easily old enough to be my father! At one point some smart arsed kid on the chairlift offered the guy behind me some Mountain Dew and then didn’t deliver. Now Saturday was a warm day and this guy didn’t have a drink on him, so it would have been appreciated. I turned around to him and asked him if he would like some Gatorade which he gratefully accepted. Later in the event there was a pretty high step to get up (the next day a few of us observed from the chairlift that there was a MUCH easier route, just a few metres to the side) and he was right behind me, so gave me a boost up. (I probably could have got up there on my own but at that point I wasn’t going to refuse assistance!) and when we eventually got to the ‘finish line’ he graciously let me cross first. It was a typically alpine way to start the week!

Sunday 10 January

The day started with a hike up Merritt’s Nature Track, finishing at the same place as Crackenback, but instead of 1.8km this walk was around 4km. So with the same elevation, it was a much less intense climb. It was still a challenging hike though, with so many stairs! A group of us decided to take the chairlift down, so we could get back in time for the ‘fun’ run in the village. (A few people opted to skip the run and descend via Dead Horse Gap instead.)

Thd ‘fun’ run was a 6km run consisting of 2 3km loops around the village. 6km is not a familiar distance for me, and after less than 24 hours at 1500m altitude, it was surprisingly challenging! There were a lot of young, serious looking runners wearing not very much and it was nice to be able to pass a few of them on lap 2 – I think they were shorter distance specialists but I’ll take it!

Monday 11 January

Today’s running event was the River Run – a 1 hour out-and-back fun run along a relatively new trail. It was quite a challenging course and apparently it was  carnage out there, with a number of people falling. The idea was that we turned around at 30 minutes, so everyone finished in around 1 hour. I didn’t quite make it under the hour as I found I had to walk a lot of the uphills on the way back. The suspension bridges were also interesting to run – I found that falling into step with the person in front was the best way to tackle these.

After the post-run barrel draw (a TFFW staple – today I was lucky enough to win a magnum of South Australian shiraz) we headed back to the lodge for a quick refuel before heading out for a Dead Horse Gap hike. We split into 2 groups – one hiking up and then back down via the chairlift, and the other taking the lift up and run/walking down. I opted for the former, along with Sue and Mandy. It was a challenging but stunning 10km hike – more stairs! We had a bite to eat at the Eagles Nest restaurant (highest restaurant in Australia) before making our way back to the lodge. I was ready for a nap but after a coffee I was ready to go again, and at that moment Karen announced they were going for a swim in a waterfall. I thought, “why not?” and off we went, along with Daryl, Geoff, David and Elizabeth. What was described as an easy 2km walk was more like 3, but we eventually reached the waterfall and quickly made our way down to the water’s edge. Karen suggested we leave our shoes on as it was quite rocky. That turned out to be a good suggestion as the rocks were slippery and some rather pointy. The water was cold at first but once we got in it was lovely and refreshing. The waterfall was at least as good as the spa (where we knew a number of our fellow lodge guests would have been at that moment) albeit about 30 degrees colder!

After a short dip we made our way back along the trail and that’s where the excitement happened. Walking with Karen, discussing the merits of bungee jumping, I froze. In front of us, pretty much taking up the entire width of the path, was a dirty big black snake! Expletives were uttered (my exact words were “F***, it’s a snake!”) and it didn’t seem to be bothered by that, continuing to doze obliviously! Eventually Geoff woke it up and it slithered back into the bushes, no doubt cursing us for disturbing his little siesta!

Tuesday 12 January

Given that the weather was good, and potentially looking a bit iffy later in the week, a group of us decided to do the 30km Range hike, a full day walk. We took the chairlift up together and hiked up to Rawson’s Retreat (a mostly uphill 4km or so, on steel grid and more steps!) where it was decision time. There were 2 ways we could go, the ‘traditional’ way and the reverse way. 6 of us went ‘traditional’ and the other 5, myself included, went the reverse route. I had had a chat to David the previous night (a different David – there are 3 Davids staying in the lodge) and he had suggested the reverse route would be the best way to go, so when Marg, Sally, Lorraine and Julie decided to go that way, I had no hesitation in joining them. (Plus, I hadn’t been able to keep up with the other group on the hike from the chairlift to Rawson’s, and I wanted to enjoy my walk rather than spend the whole time just trying to stay with the group.)

It was a lovely day, the scenery was just magic, the company was great and we stopped several times along the way to fuel up. We ended up taking about 6.5 hours, about 1 hour longer than the other group, which was just perfect pace for me. Sally and Lorraine ended up taking a 4km detour near the end to go to Mt Kosciuszko summit (the highest point in Australia) which looked amazing but I didn’t think I had it in me. I will get there at least once this week!

I spoke to Eric, 90-something years old, TFFW royalty, fellow South Australian and guest of our lodge, tonight after dinner. He said that when he was IN HIS 60s he completed the Range walk (at that time it was a timed event rather than just an informal hike) in 3.5 hours – amazing and inspiring, not that I have ANY desire to try to do it at that pace!

Stay tuned next week for a summary of the rest of the week!

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