Valley - One of Australias Best Marathons!
The idea of running a marathon through
the stunning autumn vines of The Barossa Valley was too good to refuse for Team
Odyssey on May 27th. With 11 marathoners including 4 rookies, 1 half
marathoner, 3 x 10km fun runners and one coach pushing his little 4yr old
daughter in a baby jogger the scene was set for another memorable running
Arguably Australia's best wine region,
The Barossa turned out a perfect event (almost - more later). The course was
beautiful and varied as we ran through the quaint township of Tanunda and the
surrounding iconic wineries including Penfolds, Richmond Grove, Peter Lehman,
Turkey Flats, Langmeil and Jacobs Creek. The terrain was mostly flat with a
couple of early little hills and a couple 1-2km stretches of very easy incline.
The layout was great with a winery loop followed by 2 x 7-8km out and back
sections along all paved roads and bike paths meaning you didnt feel isolated
ever and the route joined the half marathoners and 10km crowd in last 10km to
give you a boost as you ran amonst more runners. And what about the weather...
it was perfect! About 9-15 degrees, cloud cover for the most part and very
little breeze until last few km. It was PB course and weather and didnt team
Odyssey take advantage with 9 of 11 marathoners recording new PB's including
the rookies who finished in fine form!
Personally it was a memorable day for
this coach. Not only was it my 41st birthday on the day but I pushed my amazing
little 4yr old girl Coby in a baby jogger (only one pee stop but many chocolate
freddo frogs bribes) and got to support my wife in her first ever marathon. So
it was a Team Crowe first marathon! You can't buy memories like those. Better
still my wife Jaimie ran super strong to record a sub 4hr first marathon of
3.57 and we all crossed the line togther! Though Coby was heard to utter late
in race "Dad, next time I'll just watch and clap ok"!
Also in our 4hr pace group was Nic in
her maiden marathon who discovered the dreaded '32km wall' but fought back to
finish just outside in 4.03! She is a natural who I expect big things from in
future. Pete, the unofficial ambassador of team Odyssey was looking so strong
right up to the end but just faded with cramp (no powerade) to record 4.02.
Unfortunately the only downside to the race organisation might have cost Pete a
sub 4hr! You see 100m from the alluring finish shoot the race organisers
decided to throw in a 200m out and back extension! So just when you thought you
could dig deep and sprint home you had this 'cruel joke' of 400m extra thrown
at you. It was very tough at the end of a marathon when mind and body is on the
limit and a mistake I am sure organisers regret! Now as for Guy, he was so
close to braking 4hr after several attempts but finished in 4.04. Whilst still
a near 20min PB he learnt the harsh lesson of "you cant bank time".
He went out way too fast against everything we had agreed and paid the price. A
great run but - what could have been? Maybe next time?
At the fast end of the team Brendan had
a great run to record a 3.19 time shattering his PB and beating a certain
Irishmen's PB with whom he has great rivalry by a mere 3 seconds! Great job
that. Our most dedicated and 'manic' runner Bern also had a great run to record
a 3.40 PB. Whilst she worries a lot about her performances at the end of the
day she has a great engine and big heart that shows what is possible if you are
willing to dig deep enough! Geoff came in with aspirations of cracking 3.30 for
the first time but a little too few km in the legs took their toll late yet he
still managed a 3.41 PB. Maybe he can go sub 3.30 for the marathon in the
upcoming Ironman - Good luck with that! Our fastest rookie was Steve who with
bad hamstring and all suffered for 42km to run 3.53. A great testiment to his
courage and commitment to just grit the teeth and get it done. Fully fit he
will go much faster! Now Ruth was an inspirational rookie with that type of
running style that may not be text book but looks like it could go forever. She
ran a beautiful 4.23 for which she should be immensely proud. She came from an
average 10km runner to a marathoner in 12 weeks and has so much more
improvement ahead of her. And then there was Monique - after missing the last 5
weeks of training due to work relocation she still fronted up on the line and
got it done. In her inimitable style she crossed the line in a smiling 5.08 to
rack up another marathon on her belt! Her effort epitmizes the marathon spirit
in that "history does not record the time but merely whether you finished"
because once you cross that finish line you ARE a Marathoner!
Feel good Barossa Marathoners. Once again you have made a coach proud!
The after party was once again a grand
occassion with many great Barossa wines accompanying great food and a team of
champions! Next task - Budapest and Berlin!
Coach Survives The Worlds Highest Marathon
After 11 days of trekking and acclimatising to make our way to Mt Everest Base Camp at 5364m it is finally race day. We awake at 5am to a light covering of snow over our desolate rocky moon scape camp at the foot of the Khumbo Icefall - gateway to Everest! The camp is a hive of activity with porters and guide preparing breakfast for 120 runners about to take on the highest mountain marathon on earth. At -5 degrees it is chilly but luckily the forecast -30 wind-chill has not come with it so temperature is just fresh! With tights, gloves, thermals and beanie on, gels in pockets and water bottle stuffed in pants I make my way to race start on the icy glacier.
I wish all my fellow trekkers good luck and 7am we are off. The Nepalese shoot off at a frantic pace over the snow, ice and piles of rocks that is base camp. It is a full on sprint start for these nimble physiologically adapted super athletes (research has shown that there blood and oxygen usage is genuinely adapted similar to the Himalayan Yaks i.e. they run like they are at sea level) and within a couple of minutes they are disappearing into the incredibly hilly rock covered moraine. I am amongst the first of the foreigners to forge my way off the glacier with a cautious but solid start. Breathing feels great and probably best of all trip.
Unfortunately the weather is poor with fog and cloud obscuring any views of the mountains and light snow falling. It stays this way for the entire first half of the race, not that it matters because you cannot look up at all because the entire first 12km is a twisting turning rising and falling rock minefield. The first 1km is a controlled scramble but I soon have open space as the Nepalese are gone over the horizon and the rest of the foreigners are well behind. I am basically the only runner in the middle of a 200m gap after only 1km! We walk up the very steep path (by path I mean the yak shit covered route over the pile of rocks) leading to a ridge of rocks and dirt that provides some ability to run sections with some degree of continuity for the next 4 km down to Gorek Shep. I mean there are constant stretches of boulder piles to negotiate, uphill sections that no man could run (especially at 5000m) and down hills so steep that you can hardly brake yourself but on the whole you can negotiate your way through. After about 2km there is an Aussie-Pommy guy called Kevin in front of me and closing fast behind is an older English guy called Chris. Both had come to the mountains a few weeks earlier to run and get acclimatised to the thin air and trails so it is no surprise to see these guys well positioned. Chris goes by me before Gorek Shep on steep downhill and I assume I won’t be seeing him again. There is no water station (as indicated on race map) at Gorek Shep 5km mark which I reach in 45minutes so lucky I made last minute decision to bring water bottle. The trail to Loboche is 4km of constant downhill in what can only be explained as a river bed of rocks. Imagine a mountain stream without water and that is the track. The Nepalese I have seen run only on the rocks and not on the sparse dirt between that we are all attempting to negotiate. About 7km mark there is a treacherously steep 500m downhill section. As I am slowly picking my way down a little Sherpa guy bounds down past me like he was on an open grassy hill. He is at bottom when I am but half way down and I started first! The 2 English guys obviously like the hills also as I can only just make them out at bottom of v alley over 1km ahead.
On my last run the day before I left I twisted my knee on a rock and strained/tore my medial ligament a little. Heading down this big hill it bites with vengeance and I fear that I might be reduced to a walking marathon (more then I already am). Though quickly I work out that whilst it is painful when it has to stabilize, control downward action or any sideways movement (about every 3rd step) it doesn’t really affect function. In other words it hurts but doesn’t really slow me down much.
I reach Loboche at 9km in 1hr20min (again no water!) and from here it is a winding hillside run for 1km past the memorials for climbers who have lost their lives on the mountains before the path plunges down a severe 2km rock infested abyss to Thugla. This is a very rough track and probably the most dangerous section of the whole race. After having yet another Nepalese guy run down past me like I was standing still I reach 12km mark of Thugla marking the end of the rocky river of stones. I get there in 1.55 and I can see English guys across river 3 min ahead. After quick water stop I set off after them. I catch up with two Nepalese guys who past me on downhills. On this part of the trail the rocks give way to a rough but open hill side. Able to run more truly now (I forget about knee) I pull away from Nepalese guys and start to catch 2 ahead. Just then I catch my foot and take a Hollywood style tumble where I do a full commando roll onto my neck and back and roll right back to my feet. No damage done but made Nepalese guy behind laugh.
By 18km mark I am feeling good and catch Kevin at top of hill near Dingboche. Chris is still about 3 min ahead. From Dingboche it is a tough 3 km run up the valley through streams, yak fields and stones. Leaving Kevin far behind I hit 21km turnaround in 2.55 so pretty happy with that even after walking at least 1.5km of this last 3 km. At this 4500m altitude it just too tough and draining to try running even the slightest uphill section. From turnaround it is a good relatively fast downhill along same 3 km, through Dingboche and onto Pangboche. I settle into good stride running about 10-11 km hr on flats, 12-13 downhill and walking every uphill which are frequent. The trail hugs the cliff face for about 5km, it is no more then 2-4 ft wide and in many parts it clean 70 m drop to river if you fall off track. There are still rocks all over track, there are still frequent uphill parts but it is primarily downhill. This section is definitely the most runnable so far. I keep Chris in view because you can see the track weave along the hillside for kilometres. He is now about 5 min ahead. Every now and then I have to pass large trains of yaks. I throw a little caution to the wind at times running along the downhill side of them and giving them a little tap to move over. Luckily they do usually move the right way and not simply turn and whack me with those fearsome horns sending me hurtling into the valley below.
I run through Pangboche at almost the 30 km mark in right on 4 hours. I am feeling good, knee is hardly hurting and I am starting to think that the Australian record of 6.07 is a very good chance. I am also told that I am in 4th place foreigner but I doubt I can catch Chris to get on the podium. Suddenly I round a turn and there he is only a 100m ahead. I am not sure what happened but I know I am feeling good. Quickly I catch and pass him to be in 3rd place. I know the hard section is coming but 12 km to go and 2 hrs to break 6hr finish, surely I will smash that no matter how hard this thing gets. How wrong could I be!
I hit the first big 1.2km stair section through the rhododendron forest up to Tangboche monastery and the hammer hits. It is reasonably steep but not ridiculous but suddenly I can't keep any pace, even walking and my legs just won't carry me. I grab a couple of sticks to help me and walk and pull myself up the hill leaning over so much my back is nearly parallel to ground. I am working at absolute limit and the path just seems to go forever. As I get to top I see Chris has started to come back and is now right behind me. As I pull myself to the top at monastery we are together again. 11km to go!
Now the part we have all been dreading. The path drops down over 2km along a very steep and winding dusty, rock covered stairway/ path all the way to the river. It is a killer on the quads because you must constantly break yourself or else go hurtling off path. Chris starts taking Sherpa shortcuts which are twice as steep. I follow for a while but with my knee still sore and vulnerable and quads screaming I abandon this idea quickly. Soon he is out of sight. The paths just goes down and down at a relentless decline and it honestly feels like over 5km. I remember it being a long uphill on walk up but surely I have missed a turn? I try not to think about what is coming. Finally I hit the bottom, cross the suspension bridge and start preparing myself for the 1km stair climb out of the valley. I can see for about 250m and Chris is nowhere in sight. I abandon any hope of catch him for 3rd now. Time to concentrate on Aussie record. I start the stairs. 9km to go and clock reads 4.30, I have got to break 6hrs from here surely. Then I hit the stairs! Oh my god I am dead. I have nothing, absolutely nothing. I am a little tired but I cannot simply get going up the stairs at all. It is as if my legs just won't respond. Like a battery operated toy that is almost completely out of power my legs are moving in stagnated slow jerking movements. Just 1km, stay focused and take it one step at a time. I try to find some sticks but none around. I try to break a small tree but the effort nearly kills me. Ok one-two one- two just keep going. Soon I almost want to rest after every step. I sit and with head between my legs at times, I crawl up the stairs on hands and knees, I am absolutely spent. I can never remember being so tired. I just want to curl up on the stairs and call in an air lift. At times I get so dizzy I stumble sideways across each step. And it just keeps going! After what seems like an eternity I get to the top. YES……. oh no that can't be!!! I look up and see the village that marks the 6km to go mark. That village is meant to be below me now. How the hell can it be up there? At least another 200m of vertical climb. I am demoralized. I now have one hour to run 8 km and it seems to be all uphill. I was sure we walked up to this point on the way here, how can it be uphill again!!! I set off and it is worse than I thought. I feel like I want to run even though that stair climb nearly killed me – really, but nothing responds. My legs are back but it 90% uphill so I have to walk. I stagger into the 7 km village. God I am f&@&/?ed! I push on one foot at a time, just keep moving. It is slow, oh so horribly slow. This hill just keeps going. Then I remember my coke I left at the store at the 6km mark. Maybe that will be my saviour. Finally at 5hr30 mark I reach Sonar the 6 km to go village. I find the store where I left my flat coke and it is bloody closed. Door shut and nobody in sight – he promised he would be open! Great I just walked through the last water stop because I knew my coke was waiting. Now I have 6 km and less then 300ml of water. No more water stops!
About now I realize it just took me 90min to go 6km. The Aussie record is gone, 3rd place is gone ( I can't see Chris for miles) and I am in a world of hurt! Surely now it is downhill. Wrong again. The next 4k are good running dirt track and stairs mostly but somehow it is still 80% up hill. It is just so hard to muster the faintest of jogs unless it is downhill. Then it gets worse. I look over my shoulder and there is Kevin. He is back and pushing hard. Actually I am surprised everyone hasn’t caught me the pace I have been going last 6 km. How could everyone be so far back? Come to think of it I haven’t seen anyone else for more than an hour, I am on the right path aren’t i? Kevin reaches me, I go with him, I have nothing, I last 5 strides, he runs away from me -5th now. I reach the stuca marking the 2km to go mark. Now I can run. My legs are back. It is mostly downhill and I can run, and I can run fast! I let fly, I go past a couple of Nepalese young runners, round a bend and there it is , Namchee Bazaar. It is a glorious sight and all downhill! I hit the pace with 1km to go and must be doing 4min km as I pass another Nepalese. I race into the village, down a side street, down some stairs and there it is - the finish line. I throw my arms up, cross the line and thank god it is over. 6hr31 min. That was the hardest thing I have ever done. So so tough that last 12 km. It took me 2 and a half ours. But it is done, an epic amazing race!
I get my medal, my scarf, my certificate and my tracksuit.
I am first person in of our trek group of 36 people (Kevin and Chris joined our camp at Base Camp), 5th foreigner overall behind a polish girl, another guy, Kevin and Chris, and bloody happy it is over! I sit around and watch our crew come in. It is a great atmosphere and just so cool to welcome everyone over the line.
Just an epic event to think we trekked for nearly 2 weeks to get to base camp at 5364m and then raced down most of the way back in 6-10 hrs.
The after party - I got a few of the A crew together and went out to cafe daphe for what was going to be a quiet night. First a round of beers, then I hit them straight up with tequila and the rest is history. It went off. I made it compulsory mystery drinks and it got very rowdy and funny very quickly. Dan and I got up on the table to do the chicken dance. Then we had our shirts off doing chicken dance and then we got the whole bar up on tables and dancing. Very funny night. Amelia Hillary who I met after race and chatted to for 30min came down and partied with us. It was just a great funny night. Home at 3am!