Wednesday 13 January
This morning we had the Women from Snowy River and the Men from Snowy River fun runs. It was an interesting concept, segregating the genders, but I can see why they do it – it allows everyone to participate, so the men can marshal the women’s event and vice versa. The women went first so we were all there for a 9am start. It was a 3.8km run, the directions given by the MC at the start were all Greek to me, so I would have to rely on the marshals’ directions and/or following the person in front. It was what is known as a yacht handicap, where the winner is the person who finishes closest to their estimated finish time. The slower walkers started first at 9am, with the fastest runners starting last. The idea was that the slowest walkers would take around 40 minutes, and the timekeeper would count down from 40 minutes, and when he called out the time you thought you would run, you would start. I went for 19 minutes – I was toying with 19.5 minutes but when the MC said “Remember – you always run faster than you think you will”, I stuck with the original plan.
Of course, we all had to run sans watches – that made it really tricky!
The person who started immediately before me started on the 19.5 minute mark, so 30 seconds ahead of me. My first mission, when I started on my own, was to keep her in sight and eventually catch her, which I did. The course was undulating and on variable surfaces which made it especially challenging – the Pipeline track was particularly congested!
I’m not sure exactly what time I did but I estimate I was around 18 minutes, so 1 minute too fast. The winner finished SPOT ON her predicted time! I was a winner though because I brought home another bottle of wine for the lodge from the barrel draw, this time a lovely McLaren Vale GSM.
After the run we watched the start of the men’s race before heading back to the lodge. After lunch a group of us decided to head up Mt Kosciuszko. The final event of Thredbo Fun and Fitness Week (TFFW) would be the Kosciuszko Classic but that can potentially be cancelled if the weather is bad, so we decided to take advantage of the excellent weather and head up there in case this was our last chance. David, Karen, Daryl, Geoff and I headed up in the chairlift and started the approximately 13km hike to the summit and back. On the way up we saw the other 2 Davids from the lodge who had been to the summit already and were on their return journey.
The first part of the hike was a bit boring, on metal grid, until we reached Rawson’s Pass. This was exactly the same path we had hiked the previous day, and was hard going. From Rawson’s it was a not-too-bad trek up to the summit. It was sunny, a bit windy at times but never cold. I walked with David as the other 3 had raced ahead.
At the summit we patiently waited for our turns to sit on top of the marker that indicates the highest point in Australia. Then Karen and I decided to try doing a jumping photo – after about 10 minutes of attempts we got a few decent shots but decided our jumping game could use a little work. It was super windy up there!
On the way back down we saw Lorraine (who had done the summit the previous day with Sally) and Shelley, on their way up. We made it back to the chairlift in plenty of time (the last ride is at 5pm) and waited in a queue to get back down to Thredbo.
Wednesday night was the official dinner of the TFFW which most of us from the lodge were going to (after I had been assured of a vegan meal) so I showered and made myself presentable before heading down to the lounge where a few people were standing on the balcony talking to someone on the phone. Turned out Lorraine had dropped her phone off the chairlift and was out looking for it, and Mandy had gone up to help her look. To further complicate matters, it had started raining quite heavily. Eventually they realised that they weren’t going to find it in those conditions, and came back down to get ready for dinner. Lorraine was quite optimistic that it had survived the fall intact. Karen and I had already planned to give Crackenback another crack (pun intended) in the morning so offered to have a look for it while we were up there.
The dinner was fantastic – 2 lovely courses of vegan deliciousness and to top it off they had vegan wine on the menu! All in all a fabulous day – topped off by the Adelaide Strikers’ thrilling win later that night (without a TV in the lodge we had to resort to following the game via phone app, but it was exciting nonetheless!)
Thursday 14 January
We started the day with a repeat of the first day’s Crackenback climb. It was a bit more leisurely given that we spent a fair while looking for Lorraine’s phone, and miraculously Karen spotted it – no visible damage AND still with plenty of juice! Not bad after a fall from a chairlift and a night in the cold and rain! Good advert for the iPhone 6S!
We made it to the chairlift just in time, as the rain started to fall.
After a coffee, Karen and I showered and changed and headed to the ‘big smoke’ – Jindabyne – with Dave and Peter. We had a bit of a wander around the shops and stocked up on food at Woolies, and stopped off at the Wild Brumby distillery where I bought a bottle of freshly bottled gin.
The afternoon event was meant to be an aquathlon which David, Karen and I had both planned on entering (Karen and I had already wussed out due to the weather – persistent rain) but it was postponed until Friday. So we just hung out at the lodge for the rest of the day, drinking wine, doing jigsaws and cranking out some tunes.
Friday 15 January
Friday was a big day for our lodge. It was the ‘veterans’ fun run, originated by Eric and sponsored by our running club, SARRC. (I say ‘veterans’ because this means women 35 and over and men 40 and over, so I qualify, but I don’t see myself as a veteran!) Our lodge provided most of the marshals and a few of us ran too.
But before that it was the ‘final assault’ on Crackenback. Six of us, Karen, Geoff, David, Sally, Mandy and me, set out in possibly minus temperatures (it was supposedly -5 at the top station) to climb that hill one last time for the trip. This time, fortunately, we were able to push straight through without needing to stop until we reached the top. Others said they thought it was getting easier but I actually found the first climb (the race on the first day) the easiest!
After a quick photo-op at the top we piled into the chairlift for the extremely chilly ride back down to the bottom.
We then got ready for Eric’s run. It was still very cold, so we were all rugged up – the marshals with layer upon layer upon layer, and the runners with running gear underneath all of the layers! The marshals all looked very fetching in their grass skirts and leis – we runners all also ‘got lei’d’.
At the very last possible minute the runners stripped off their warm clothing and assembled at the start line.
It was around 3km we were told (actually 3.4) and the first half or so was TOUGH. Much of it was uphill (good practice for the following day’s Kosciuszko Classic) but the bit that really got me was the stairs – who puts stairs in a fun run?
(It seems that in Thredbo you can’t go anywhere without encountering stairs – not even the lodge! There was one particular set of stairs, which we used several times every day, on the walk from the chairlift back up to the lodge, which I dubbed the ‘Stairway to Hell’. No matter how tough a walk we had done, that particular staircase was always the hardest part of the walk!)
One girl passed me easily on the stairs and after that I walked most of the uphills – my legs were like jelly! However, we soon came to trail and downhills, and I was back in my comfort zone. I ran as fast as possible on the narrow trails because they looked quite ‘snakey’ even though realistically it was too cold for snakes. Towards the end I saw the girl who had passed me earlier and managed to pass her with a few hundred metres to go. I never knew a 3.4km run could be so hard! I don’t think Crackenback earlier in the morning had helped!
After the barrel draw we went down to the river, to Eric’s bench (dedicated with a plaque from SARRC, to Eric and his late wife May) for the traditional bubbles and nibbles. Everyone had a glass – even teetotaller Karen got into the ‘spirit’ with the smallest of servings. Mandy and I took our shoes off and stood in the river and WOW was it cold! That made my decision to skip the aquathlon VERY easy, even though Ryan, who had helped us out with the marshalling, tried to convince us that the water in the lake would be warm!
The ladies and Eric then went up to Eagles’ Nest for a light lunch. At one stage I had planned to do either a downhill Dead Horse Gap hike with Karen or and uphill Merritt’s hike with Mandy, but after the run and lunch I decided a nap was a better idea.
Given that we only had a few nights left, and wouldn’t be able to take our fresh fruit and veg back across the border into SA, it was time to get creative and try to use as much fresh produce as possible. I decided to make a big pot of soup – all the vegies and some curry paste were donated by Karen and Elizabeth, and I just had to buy coconut milk and stock. After a failed attempt to use the ancient Magimix to blend it (I later found out that Sally had had a stick blender with her) I tried to find a potato masher as my Plan B but eventually gave up and served it ‘as is’. And it was tasty – and it just so happened to be perfect soup weather too!
Saturday 16 January
The last day of TFFW – the big one. The Kosciuszko Classic. Approximately 20km all up but the race itself was around 5km. First we had to go up to the top of the chairlift – as it was a chilly morning again, a lot of us had extra layers on. Then we walked to Rawson’s where we utilised the facilities and peeled off our extra layers. Sunscreen was even needed – by that stage it had warmed up a bit and the sun was well and truly out. It was a perfect day for the Classic!
Some runners opted to start early – as it turned out, most of the runners from our lodge. From Rawson’s, it was an easy 3km downhill to the Snowy River – I jogged that part with Travis, a previous winner (and as it turned out, this year’s winner as well!)
At 11:00 on the dot we set out, back uphill to the highest point in Australia. It was ALL uphill. No nice little flat bits to break it up! 2 girls flew past me in the first few hundred metres (one girl was already ahead) and knowing that uphill is NOT my strength, a podium finish was out of the question. So I just kept running. Travis had warned me that the first km was the hardest so I had gone conservative, or so I thought – as it turned out that was my fastest km!
I followed Speedo Man much of the way. Speedo Man is well known at Thredbo for wearing Speedos in every event. Just Speedos. Usually with shoes although sometimes he goes barefoot. At Eric’s run he wore a T-shirt but still just Speedos on the bottom half. At Kosci he was down to just the Speedos and shoes. After about 4km I got sick of looking at that arse, and he was slowing down anyway (or I was speeding up – I suspect the former) so I passed him and then went back and forth with another guy with a ponytail on the final ascent up the mountain.
I ran the whole way, except a short part near the end where there was a metal grid. I walked carefully on this bit as the metal grate can do some serious damage if you fall on it. You know that ad on TV for the Nicer Dicer Plus? Well that was what I was thinking of and I didn’t really fancy diced knees and hands. The guy with the ponytail later said he thought I lost momentum when I walked that bit, which surprised me because I didn’t think I had any momentum! He eventually passed me and finished just ahead – Speedo Man just behind. My time was 30.06 so I will definitely be aiming to break 30 minutes next year!
After some celebrations at the top of Australia we made the long walk back to the chairlift via Rawson’s where we had left our gear. We had a quick coffee stop and then went to the presentation. We learned that for the first time ever, there were more female finishers than male! Out of 32 finishers, 11 were from our lodge and 8 of those were female!
After that it was back to the lodge for a cold beverage – if running 5km up a mountain isn’t a hard-earned thirst, I don’t know what is!
The rest of the day was pretty chilled – time to reflect on the week and start packing. Most of us were leaving early on Sunday except a few who were staying on for the Blues festival. The Blues festival always overlaps TFFW by a few days, and it’s pretty easy to tell the Blues people from the runners and the mountain bikers!
Thredbo – you have been WONDERFUL. Such a great week in an amazing place with some fabulous friends, old and new. I can see this becoming a regular event on my calendar!
I’m writing this on the long drive home and I’m keen to see how a week at altitude affects my running back at sea level!