Hiking the Katbula Trail

I have just emerged from a walk in the Katherine region of the Northern Territory and I am amazed how the experience has been so relaxing, particularly while I still remain convinced carrying a backpack for 12 or so kilometers every Imageday really sucks.


The falls cascaded through several pools.

However the experience was both impressive and humbling but the nuts and bolts first ….


I left two things behind which had repercussions: one, my sleeping bag; two, my hat.

I borrowed a pack and sleeping mat and for some reason believed that a sleeping bag was in the pack also (yes I should have checked). The consequence was on the first two nights I was limited to a cotton sleeping sheet, a themal t-shirt, a merino t-shirt, a merino long sleeved shirt and a rain jacket with the hood up to keep me warm. Why I brought a rain jacket in the middle of the Dry is a mystery, but it sure was useful. The nights were spent in a fetal position waking from the cold to change sides and fitfully nap again.  Fortunately the last three nights were extremely mild requiring one layer only.


Packs on and away we went.

The lack of a hat, left forlornly on my couch at home, resulted in a a heat related, triple-Decker headache on the third day.

Three pieces of equipment my companions had, and which I now covet, are a trangia, a kerosene fueled compact stove system, a dehydrator for pre-prepared meals, and a thera-rest seat which uses your sleeping mat to be reconfigured into a chair with a backrest. Pure gold in the bush setting.


Making rotis was fun and went beautifully with the re hydrated dahl

Daily routine

Get up at light, or just before on longer walks; breakfast; walk until lunch time or thereabouts by which time the next camp is reached (anywhere from 8 to 18 kilometres); have lunch; explore the waterfall cascades, swim, rock climb; meditate; wonder at the geological cataclysms that have created this country of rock and water; enjoy wine time (one glass per day); dinner; chat; bed. Bliss.


I was fortunate to walk with a colleague from school, her partner and Tasmanian friend. All were veteran bush walkers and ensured a pleasant time. Also on the track were Sarah an A&E doctor, Michael and his son (10 yrs) and nephew (8 yrs) who amazed with their continued energy and resilience, and Strat and Lindel, expert users of the recorder and mandolin who entertained us daily with their beautiful music.

The experience was impressive because it was the complete DE-stresser; and it was humbling because of the magnificence and beauty of the country through which we traveled over the six days.


Indigenous rock art

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The Jatbula Trail

The Jatbula Trail

Rock and water

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#juneathon lucky Day 13? Ride it, Run it!

I am in the third, and last, week of a break from swim coaching. This has meant free Thursday afternoons and “good” ideas. Last week I came up the two hour challenge. I have still to do the two hour run and the two hour swim .. but I will. This week I looked up different trail maps around Darwin. There are three areas I can explore. My plan is to pick a trail area; explore it by mountain bike then back up with a run in the area. I began with the Lee Point area which I am reasonably familiar with.

The ride was pleasant, and the run began that way also.

Afternoon views: Lee Point and Buffalo Creek

Afternoon views: Lee Point and Buffalo Creek

However the date should have warned me (if I was of superstitious bent). I stumbled late in the run, just as the light was fading and just near this abandoned defence installation – an omen?

Abandoned defence installation: Lee Point

Abandoned defence installation: Lee Point

As a result of the fall I lost my glasses which I discovered 200m or so on in the trail. I went back to find them but the fading light defeated me. This lead me to finishing my run in the dark. I made my way cautiously in poor light to the spot I locked up my bike, BUT there the true challenge began for the older would be athlete; without glasses I could not see the numbers on my combination lock to unlock it. Several minutes of fumbling with my phone and fiddling with the lock proved futile so I put away my embarrassment and walked over to a family bbq-ing in the adjacent nature park and asked for a torch … and a pair of eyes.  Both were provided with a smile and I rode home to plan out another day.

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The tyranny of the plan

I am currently raging at myself because I failed to do a key workout today even though I know it was the right thing to do to take time to recover from previous work done. This is what I see as the tyranny of the plan yet how often does anyone stick to the plan by the letter – well maybe most do? Which is why I am beating myself up for not fitting in this afternoon’s session.

However that seems to be the way. When I compare what I planned last week with what I actually did there were several major changes where I went with the flow and either did more than planned or did a different type of activity. I guess I have to decide what is more important – strict adherence to getting certain time goals or experimenting and wringing as much enjoyment as I can from the journey even if it means this pointless argument with myself. After all it’s not about sheep stations!


“Scrambled Legs” virtual 5km. A fun event from a fun site. Friend them on Facebook.

I had a great long weekend. On the public holiday, our Queen’s Birthday, I went for a long ride with a friend in the morning, deciding where would go once we met up and finishing the ride with a pleasant conversation over a cup of coffee (hot chocolate) at a local cafe. Then in the afternoon I met up with another friend to do a virtual 5k run by “Scrambled Legs”. Helen is a terrific athlete who has found a passion in paddle boarding. Injury has kept her from running for some time but she has painstakingly gone through a run/walk program and has built up to 4-5km. I love her patience and persistence. And that too was celebrated with a cup of coffee, this time on the foreshore.

Now what is the plan for tomorrow?

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#juneathon day 8 – Enjoying the run

#juneathon day 8 - Enjoying the run

It was a good morning. I began slowly and was able to finish strongly over the last few kilometers on the return run.

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Distance vs Time

Yesterday I decided to go for a low pressure cycle as my ankle has a niggle I can’t quite identify. My main purpose was to get a workout at the same time as having a pleasant afternoon. And it was pleasant, sunny without being unbearable, a light breeze, and no deadlines to meet. At times I could have been in another country.


A distant Buddha seen from the bike path


My intention was also to cover about 50k. When I was training for the North Face 50k run I often used distance as a goal as 50k was a new horizon for me and I wanted to be sure I was putting in sufficient volume, but today the requirement felt oppressive and took the fun out of the activity. Then I had a brainwave – I would cycle for two hours and see how far I had gone then just gently make my way home. As a result I felt reinvigorated by the challenge and completed just over 46k. With just another 2 and a bit ks to get home I was not that far off the 50 but the 2hr challenge put the joy back into the activity.

It would be interesting to find out who works by time and who by distance and why?

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The opening of new vistas

Last month I had the good fortune to experience the Blue Mountains of New South Wales in all its autumn glory.Image

I was there to run the North Face 50k. The idea had been planted by a friend and before I knew it I was hooked on the challenge and keen to take up the training demands. The absolute bonus is that my daughter agreed to take on the challenge as well.

Preparation led me to undertaking runs I would never have envisaged before. I got up at 3am to do a 30k several times; I did the local club run at tempo then ran home; I research nutrition and took on trails. It also led to the excitement of getting new kit. The 50k involves 24k without aid or water stops; it also has the threat of being lost and injured in an isolated and difficult to access spot. Therefore there is a mandatory equipment list from safety vests, survival blankets, whistle and compass, to additional clothing as well as food and water.

To summarise my race report, the run was brutal. The first stage of approximately 11k introduced the steps designed to wear all but the toughest down by the end of the race. They were hard but doable, however the early aid station was a welcome sight. The next stage involved descent into a deep valley and ascent back to the summit on a dirt road. The downhills created black toenails, the uphills were walked (as was expected). I was tired, very tired, as I came into the aid station at 35k but it did not help for a spectator to say to her companion “she looks as if she is struggling”. I made a joke of it at the time but the comment was a blow to my morale. However a coffee and noodle soup perked up my spirits and I set off for the final 15k.  That was when it really became brutal. Early in the stage I slipped crossing a creek and was unable to spring up to make way for others behind me as my calf chose to cramp up and incapacitate me as I lay helpless in the mud. Soon after the evening set in and the steps began. In the dark I was either running down or stepping up series of steps after series of steps. Those that had a railing were prayed for so I could haul myself up rather than crawl up feeling like Sisyphus condemned to be lost in the dark on an endless path ImageEventually I reached the road leading back to the finish and met up with a fellow curser of the course and completed the run with her. The run WAS brutal. It took me just under eleven hours (my daughter did it in just under seven and a half), yet the seed had taken root. Since the run I have read three books on ultra running and signed up for the Tarawera Ultra Marathon in NZ in March next year. I can’t wait.


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#Janathon Grinding towards diamonds


Annual “ute” run -Australia Day, Darwin, Northern Territory.

Today is Australia Day and in the Northern Territory a major event features the cultural icon of the “ute” through the annual ute run. I can’t help but think the pink wheel hubs clash with the red a bit. While seeming “bogan” ( accompanied by a compulsive need by many to attach flags on the family car for weeks on end more than a little over the top), the positive side is that the event raises funds for disadvantaged children.

However I began the day with the Australia Day Fun Run which is family oriented, and foremost a participation event.  It really is fun and a good opportunity to get the nationalistic fervor out of the way early. The Australian flag on hats, shorts, t-shirts temporary tatoos and even full body suits in evidence as is green and gold face paint. Dad, Mums and kids run or walk together and everyone seems to have a good time.


Good humour is a feature of the run


The Australian flag in its many forms















I had a good run over the 4.5k course and this ended a week which reminded me how tough it can be to stick to your training schedule. When you have a goal and a deadline it is difficult to weasel out of a training session. I think we all know every excuse there is and many of us have used most of them at one time or another. However now I am mindful that a very imperfect preparation will make the experience of my goal race so much more painful and definitely less pleasant than it could be. Therefore this week was a week of grinding out the ks towards a possible diamond run come May.

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