Thredbo Fun and Fitness Week Part 2

This is the second part of my review of Thredbo Fun and Fitness Week (TFFW) – for part 1, see here.

Tuesday started with a group of us doing the now traditional early morning Crackenback climb – we would normally leave at 7:30 to allow a generous 1 hour to complete the ascent and time it with the first chairlift down. From there we went back to the lodge to grab a quick bite to eat before heading down to the village for the start of the Alpine Adventure. This is a fun, all inclusive, family-friendly and über competitive team activity which involves collecting points by finding clues around the village. Most of the people from our lodge were taking part and as one of the last to sign up, I was paired with Jeff, who told me that no-one had ever agreed to team up with him a second time! Despite this I found it really fun, especially knowing we had NO chance of winning. He is also a veteran of many TFFWs so had the advantage of knowing his way around the village. I think we managed to accumulate 180 points in our allocated 40 minutes, slightly behind the winners who were well over 400! Oh and there may or may not have been some ‘cooperation’ with other teams including John (aka ‘Speedo Man’ due to his unusual, very distinctive attire during every event in TFFW!) and his wife Jackie. The Armstrong family put on a fantastic event, very well organised and prizes for everyone in the barrel draw despite a huge crowd of over 100 teams!

Given the pretty good weather, a few of us decided to head up to Mt Kosciuszko, the highest mountain in Australia. It is actually a pretty easy climb, considering that the elevation is only about 300m above the top of the chairlift. Certainly a MUCH easier climb than Crackenback!

As we walked across the metal walkway with which we would become VERY familiar by the end of the week, we noticed that there seemed to be a lot of snow up on the higher mountains. Last year I’d seen one small patch of snow but this time there was a lot more than that!

And sure enough, when we got closer, we realised that there was a large patch of snow just next to the walking track! And of course we couldn’t resist playing in it!

This can’t be real, can it? Snow in summer?
Wheeeeeeeee!
Just a bunch of kids from a city that never gets snow!

It was pretty windy and misty on the walk up, and when we reached the summit we couldn’t see a thing, but unlike last year I did manage to stand up on the highest point in Australia!

On top of the world! (Well, Australia at least!)

We made it back to town in time to watch the Mile handicap and participate in the ‘Mile’ (actually 1km) fun run. The handicap race was good to watch, there were 16 runners who did 3 laps around the Village Green with the last one setting off a full lap after the first, and finishing 5th overall – I reckon if there had been another half a lap he would have crossed the line first!
The fun run was literally just a bit of fun but the main reason I got involved was for the barrel draw that follows every event in TFFW – and this one had some pretty great prizes including a lot of running gear and the prized TFFW mugs! Unfortunately I didn’t win anything this time but I’ll have to encourage more people from our lodge to enter next time!

On Wednesday I left at 7:30 to climb Crackenback. There wasn’t anyone with me, although I saw a figure in the distance that I assumed was Mandy, who has a tradition of doing it every morning. As it was the first time I’d done it on my own, I didn’t have anyone to follow and consequently took a rather ‘scenic’ route!

I don’t know exactly where I am at this point!

After a coffee I headed to the Village Green for the women’s Yacht handicap. The distance was 3.8km and I had estimated about 20 minutes, however when I saw Fiona, Christine and Sue all going off at 24 minutes, I decided it would be more fun to run with other people and take it a bit easier. Also I’m hopeless at judging time/pace without a watch! It was a lovely course, and I was tempted to take my phone out and take some photos, but I thought people might think I was cheating so I resisted the temptation! I did get somewhat distracted near the end and tripped on a tree root and fell over, thankfully in relatively soft dirt. In the end Fiona finished just in front of me, just 1 sec behind our estimated time (the winner guessed her time to the second) and jokingly said that if she hadn’t turned around to check I was OK after I fell, she would have won! 
The damage wasn’t too bad – a grazed knee with a fair bit of blood that I cleaned up back at the lodge, and a grazed elbow.

The SA ladies after the women’s run
Surveying the damage (and trying to protect my almost new calf sleeve from further bloodstains!)

A little later a group of us set out to run the Thredbo Valley Track to Lake Crackenback Resort, approximately 20km. Jeff was going to pick us up from the other end so thankfully we didn’t have to run back! The track is popular with walkers, runners and mountain bikes – we didn’t see many other runners but there were a lot of bikes – they were supposed to be giving way to foot traffic but I don’t think many of them got the memo!

The highlight for me was seeing my first echidna! A year to the day after seeing my first snake! Needless to say the look on my face (and the words that came out of my mouth) were somewhat different on this occasion!

Soooo excited!

I ran with David and Geoff for most of the run but after the second campsite I decided to take off and just run! It was exhilarating, it is mostly downhill and running down the mountain bike switchbacks was so fun! There were a few points where I had trouble seeing which way to go and I had to ask for directions a few times but I made it to Lake Crackenback! I would have given the $20 I had on me for a cold Coke but the first place I found was closed – eventually I found the place and David arrived not long after me, followed by the rest of the group. I ended up having 2 Cokes because the first one didn’t even touch the sides! Then Karen, Geoff and I dipped our feet in the lake to cool off before heading back to Thredbo.

Serenity…

Later that afternoon I noticed my right ankle was a bit swollen, and locally quite tender, so I assumed I must have sprained it when I fell during the morning run. I had noticed it tended to roll outwards  (not inwards like most people tend to roll their ankles) during the river run. While most of the people from our lodge went to the official TFFW dinner, a few of us had opted not to go, which gave me the opportunity to ice it and put it up to try to get rid of the swelling. And it appeared to work because by the morning it was fine.

Which was fortunate, because Thursday was the day we’d organised to do the Big Walk, approximately 30k from the top of the chairlift, along the metal walkway to Rawson’s Pass, and then in a big loop along the Main Range Track before going back along the metal walkway. Last year we had split into 2 groups and my group went anticlockwise. This time we decided to stay together and all went clockwise, although it wasn’t long before we split into 2 groups anyway, the front group walking way faster than we were interested in walking! We had allowed ample time (starting at 8:45 after catching the first chairlift, and needing to be back only for the last chair at 5) and so we had no interest in going fast. I was with Sue, who had done it many times before, and Christine and Fiona, both TFFW ‘virgins’.

But first – more snow play!
Karen attempting a snow angel. No idea what I’m doing!
Morning tea stop!
Crossing the river to our lunch spot.
Snowy River – also the start of Saturday’s Kosciuszko Classic – filling up with fresh water!

The weather was perfect. Sunny, not a cloud in the sky, and very little wind. We could only hope it would be like this for the Classic on Saturday!

It was also ideal weather for 2 of our less favourite creatures. The march flies were relentless, and appeared to scoff at even the most hardcore insect repellent. And of course it was also perfect snake weather. We saw one, just after morning tea, I got a good look at it as it slithered off into the bushes. It was black, similar to the one we’d seen last year but nowhere near as big. I actually was not expecting to see any snakes up there – thinking that as they don’t have legs they wouldn’t be able to get up that high! I mean, they’re not exactly riding the chairlift are they? At least I hope they’re not! That’s a comforting thought!

The most noteworthy part of the walk was seeing 3 kids, all in electric wheelchairs, trying to go down a steep and not particularly smooth path, with 2 adults that turned out to be their parents. We chatted to them for a while, they had come from the Central West, where it was very hot, to be somewhere a bit cooler. They all seemed to be enjoying it, but decided that going down the path was probably not a good idea as it would require quite a lot of manual assistance to get back up! It put things into perspective for me, whenever I think something is too hard I can think of that family and realise that it’s actually not hard at all!

Friday morning started with my stubbing my toe quite hard on the tiles at the bathroom door – ouch! Then it was time for the final Crackenback climb and was particularly memorable for being Daryl’s first – after watching us all head out day after day, he had finally been convinced by Karen to give it a go. Along with Geoff they got to the top in around an hour to rousing applause from Fiona, Marg and me at the top!

You can do iiiiit!!!

After a well earned coffee we headed back to the lodge to get ready for Eric’s run. This is a ‘veterans’ run (women over 35 and men over 40) which is always put on by the SA contingent. It was formerly run by Eric and May Fazackerley, and Eric, who I’d met last year, had been unable to make the journey to Thredbo this year but was definitely there in spirit and never far from anyone’s mind! I had offered to marshal but they had plenty of marshals so I ended up running. The marshals always dress up and this year it was a ‘Great Gatsby’ theme – they looked great!

The run itself is described as a ‘fun run, NOT a race’, with many hazards along the 3ish kilometre course including a nice new wombat hole! I ran with Fiona and Christine and there was actually a lot of walking too, especially up the stairs! It is a surprisingly tough course! As soon as I finished I put my hand up to marshal next year when we will lose one of our regular marshals – Ryan, who is TFFW royalty, not a South Australian but always marshals at our event, will be eligible to run it next year! So let me put it out there right now that I’m willing to take his spot!

Eric’s run.


Eric’s run.

The barrel draw was epic too – people were called back 3 times before all the prizes were gone! For once, the wine wasn’t the most popular prize – the distinctive purple SARRC Barossa Marathon tops that we had been wearing at the events all week, proved particularly popular!
We then went down to Eric and May’s bench by the river and a number of us got our shoes off and put our feet in (OMG! SO cold!) while we enjoyed sparkling wine (we polished off quite a few bottles!) and some nibbles. I really like this tradition! And even though Eric couldn’t be there in person, Dave, who organises our group every year, had arranged to call him from the river so we could all say hi.

Celebrating in style at the river!

That night we had our traditional party night at the lodge – we had invited a number of people but the torrential rain (which had very kindly held off during the day’s festivities) would have put a lot of people off venturing out. Still, we had a great time, with Fiona and me (also coincidentally the youngest 2 in the lodge) being the last left standing at midnight when the last guests Ryan and Lyn left. I’m not sure I would have danced anywhere near as much as I did, if I’d had to wear shoes!

Awake much earlier than I’d hoped, I watched Saturday dawn from my window and it looked like it was going to be beautiful – but looks can be deceiving, things can change very quickly, and the conditions in the village can be VERY different from those up the mountain.

Last year’s Kosciuszko Classic had been blessed with perfect weather. I think from memory there were 40-something entrants. Could we be so lucky again? Probably not. The Bureau was forecasting strong winds, but thankfully no rain.

First, we had to walk that metal walkway yet again. It was cold and windy – it was hard to even have a conversation with Fiona who was walking right next to me! We had some experienced TFFW’ers with us, who had advised us to take our time on the walk, firstly to conserve energy for the actual race, and secondly so we didn’t get to the start too early and have to stand for longer in the cold.

The long, cold, windy walk to Rawson’s!

We timed it perfectly. The official start was at 11am but there was an earlier option for people who were planning to walk/run. The walk/runners had just enough time for a toilet stop and to change into their race clothes, before they made the 3k trek down to the start at the Snowy River. I’d gone with my pink SARRC top, arm warmers, gloves, Skins shorts, green skirt purchased from an op shop on the drive up from Adelaide, and pink calf sleeves. I’d also worn my new pink hat and had a buff over the top of it to keep it blowing off!

A lot of people were wearing long sleeves and tights but I didn’t feel underdressed when I saw that John (Speedo Man) was wearing shoes, socks, gloves and Speedos. And that’s all! (Last year he also wore a T-shirt, and it was a lot warmer that day!)

There were just 12 people setting off at 11am and 6 of those were from SA – Geoff, David and me from our lodge, and 3 generations of the Sandery family – patriarch and SA running royalty Peter, son Rhys and Rhys’ son Fin. Peter was doing his 30th Classic and Fin his first – they also became the first family to have 3 generations running the Classic together! They were all running in their distinctive red and white Adelaide Harriers tops which looked great but not quite as great as my pink SARRC one!

Next came the easy 3k trot down to the start. (Remember how I stubbed my toe? Well it turns out that made running downhill kind of difficult. Fortunately it had no such effect on my ability to run UPHILL.) We jogged down to the river, where almost all the runners then made a pitstop in the bushes. I wished I could have been bothered getting my phone out to take a photo – it would have been quite comical! I jokingly said to Phoebe, the only other girl in the group, “Do you feel left out?” I decided to start a new pre-race tradition – walking down to the edge of the river to splash some cold river water on my face. Mostly to wake myself up!

I had my light spray jacket on me, at Rhys’ suggestion, to keep the wind out. By the time we got to the start the conditions were actually quite pleasant so I tied it round my waist.

The 11am start group at the Snowy River – photo courtesy of Justin Lalor.

At 11am on the dot we set off for the approximately 4.8km run up to the summit. I knew all the other women in the race were walk/running (they were all from our lodge – I think there were only 24 entrants in total) so I pretty much knew if I could run most of the way I could be guaranteed a placing. And Phoebe looked like a proper runner and set off well ahead of me so I was happy to settle for 2nd place!

After about 1km or so I was warm enough that I didn’t need the gloves anymore, so I took them off in preparation for throwing them at the pile of bags we’d left at Rawson’s. I was tempted to ditch my spray jacket too but I knew that would probably blow away!

I ran most of the way just behind Phoebe and with Speedo Man and another guy Trevor who had finished just ahead of me last year. At times we were running straight into the wind and seemingly going backwards. It didn’t ever really seem to offer any assistance!

There was a moment when I thought I could get in front of Phoebe (well, I definitely could have, but whether or not I could have stayed there was a different question) but I decided to just keep her in sight. Eventually both Trevor and John went past me but they were never far in front. I had expected to pass some of the earlier starters but never did – in fact most of them were already on their way back down while I was still running up! It wasn’t the kind of day to be hanging around at the top of the mountain – you would get very cold very quickly!

I was tempted to walk at one point but I knew I was so close and plus I didn’t want our team photographers Harry and John to catch me walking!

I could see Phoebe tantalisingly close but didn’t really have a sprint finish in me. Plus, if she’d heard me coming at her I’m sure she would have found an extra gear! In the end I finished 10 seconds behind her, 4 minutes slower than last year and I was satisfied with that.

The Strava elevation profile for the race.
With TFFW (and therefore also Kosciuszko Classic) virgins Christine and Fiona at the summit!

I waited at the top for the rest of the SA runners, Geoff, the 3 Sanderys and David, before a casual walk back down (and one last play in the snow!), layering up at Rawson’s and a nice cruisy walk back to Eagle’s Nest where most of the rest of the SARRC group were having lunch. There wasn’t time for me to get lunch though as the presentation was back in the village at 2pm. I got my first podium finish for an event at TFFW (2nd) – the trophy being one of the coveted TFFW mugs! That’s going straight to the pool room! Fiona ended up finishing 3rd and I won yet another bottle of wine in the barrel draw so it was a good day for our team all round! (And a good day for the stalwarts at Friday’s party with Ryan getting 3rd place for the men, just behind brother Chad!)

After that I decided it was time to take it up a notch. As part of our lift ticket we were entitled to 16 rides on the bobsled. I’d had a couple of rides and this was my last chance so I rode 3 times in a row, on the last one had a nice clear track in front of me so I decided to record it on my Garmin and see just how fast I could go! I did the 600m in 1:30 and got up to a top speed of just under 40km/hour!

So.

Much.

Fun.

I feel the need… the need for SPEED!

And that basically sums up the whole week. Just a brilliant time, in a beautiful setting, with awesome people.

See you again next year!

Thredbo Fun and Fitness Week Part 1

Toasting absent friends at Black Sallees

This is my second year coming to Thredbo Fun and Fitness Week (TFFW). Last year was my first and I wrote quite a detailed blog about it and if you’re keen you can read all about it here.

As per last year, Karen, Daryl, Geoff and I travelled together in Karen and Daryl’s car, with Daryl driving. We drove from Adelaide to Albury on Friday on quite a hot day, but it was marginally cooler by the time we got to Albury. (I even managed to do a bit of shopping on the way – a $5 adidas skirt from the op shop in Ouyen!)

Most of the other Adelaide people heading to TFFW were staying at the same motel. The four of us were the only ones who opted to do parkrun on Saturday morning before making the journey to Thredbo.

Representing Adelaide at Albury Wodonga parkrun

Albury Wodonga parkrun is a must-do if you’re in the area, as it is the only parkrun in Australia which features a border crossing! We had done it last year but it was a bit warmer this year. There was a huge turnout – maybe a lot of new year’s resolutions – exactly 300 people! The start was comical with people running through the neighbouring farmers’ market and even jumping fences to get around people! Once the chaos of the start was over it was a lovely, scenic, friendly run. Despite pushing fairly hard I was a minute slower than last year!

After the run, coffee and one final shop before we hit Thredbo (Thredbo has only a small supermarket) we made the journey up into the mountains.

We arrived at the lodge in time to unload the car and get changed (although I didn’t, I just changed from my road shoes to my trail shoes) before going to register for TFFW and participate in the first event – the Crackenback Challenge. (I think there MUST be a chiropractor in town who could sponsor this event – how appropriate would that be?)

I don’t think anything can prepare you for this race. 4 hours in a car is certainly not ideal preparation! It is about 1.8km with 600m elevation. Interestingly there is a chairlift that follows almost the exact same route that we ‘run’ but still people seem to want to take the foot-powered option!

There was a tiny bit of running, a LOT of swearing, and a grand total of 2 flies consumed. It was a few minutes slower than last year but still enough to get me 4th female overall.

Practically horizontal, near the top of Crackenback
Worth it for that view though!

The random prize draw (where I won a bottle of wine to add to the lodge’s collection) and happy hour at the pub was followed by a nice meal in town anf then more wine and a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity back at the lodge.

Sunday started with a Merritts Nature Trail walk (in which we inadvertently cut out a large section of the trail and instead walked on steep gravel road) and a coffee at Eagles Nest before heading back down for the Fun Run in the village.

The obligatory selfie at the picnic table!

The Fun Run was a 6km, 2 lap course. Again, I was a bit slower than last year and finished 8th, which was not too bad considering I think a lot of the front runners are legitimate athletes rather than just ‘fun runners’ like me!

That was hard work!

Then it was back up Merritts AGAIN – this time to start a new tradition – toasting absent friends! We went to a place called ‘Black Sallee’s’ which is not open in the summer. We took bubbly, chips, cheese, chocolate etc and sat on the deck toasting our 2 friends called Sally who could not be here, plus all the others who weren’t able to come. It was really lovely  (albeit windy) and I hope it becomes a regular occurrence!

Very civilised!

Then we took the chairlift down and headed back to the lodge to make dinner and then a few of us went out to the quiz night which was a bit of fun – tables were randomly allocated and Fiona’s team won and mine came second (2 more bottles of wine!)

Monday morning I went out with Karen, Daryl, David and Geoff to do the approximately 20km out and back Cascades Trail run. It was a lovely scenic course, Geoff and I saw a baby snake (just the one thankfully) and Geoff and Karen both saw brumbies (something I haven’t yet seen!) There were some steep uphill climbs and some lovely undulating section that were SO fun to run!

Geoff and David leading the way
How’s that for a view?
The Cascade Hut – the turnaround point – a refuge for hikers!
The end of the run!

I’ll leave it there for now – stay tuned for Part 2!

Thredbo Fun and Fitness Week – Part 2

image

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!