Alpine Getaway

When you love mountains and it’s your birthday where do you head for a 4-day long weekend? To the Victorian Alps!

On Friday 10 May I finished work early and headed home to pack and ready for our road trip south. Over the weekend away Roger wanted to hit some big mountains as good training for his Hardrock Hundred race in July, and I wanted to do some hiking and breath in the fresh country air away from the big smoke. We hit the road around midday to beat the Friday traffic and took turns driving to share the long journey (with a stop for snacks and a toilet break along the way). When we were about an hour from our Air BnB in Mt Beauty we ordered some Takeaway pizzas from a place called Stockpot. The pizzas were delicious!

On Saturday we were both up early and I drove Roger to the Campground at the start of he trail to Mt Bogong, he planned to do a few repeats while I was heading back into town for the local Parkrun. The morning sky was covered in fog and visibility was low, so low in fact that you could not see the top of Mount Bogong from afar, nor the pond that we ran around for the Parkrun course. It was a beautiful Autumn day and the colours of the leaves on the tree outside our Air BnB made for a beautiful photo.

I arrived at Mount Beauty Parkrun about 10 minutes before the start, just enough time to make a toilet stop and chat to a few of the locals before we got started. I was 24 weeks pregnant so toilet stops had become quite regular and I was unsure how much actual running I would be able to do. My plan was to start running and go until it felt uncomfortable, or until I just couldn’t run any longer.

There were 14 people at the start line and 2 of those were kids. It was a really friendly bunch, and aside from myself (from Sydney) there were just 2 other runners who weren’t local and they were from Melbourne city. We set off running when the organiser yelled “Go!” and I reminded myself not to push too hard and just try to maintain a steady pace the whole way. I overtook a mum and her child who were going a little slower than I felt I could manage, and after about a minute I sat in behind a gentleman in a yellow shirt who seemed to be going about the same pace. I felt like I was pushing myself a little but felt it was manageable.

I looked around to try and take in some of the view but there wasn’t much to see with all the fog. My legs felt really good and my bump didn’t feel uncomfortable so I kept running and stuck with the guy who was about 50m ahead of me. At the turnaround point I had closed the gap on the yellow shirt guy and he seemed to slow down a little, I used this as my opportunity to get closer to him and thought I could possibly overtake him. I passed him at about the 3.5km point and he seemed to be breathing quite heavy and starting to struggle. I tried to keep my pace consistent as I passed him and when I looked down at my watch I realised I had been sitting on 5min/km, a pace I didn’t think I’d be able to run in my condition. I felt a little out of breath but great otherwise, so I kept up the pace and kept my focus ahead towards the finish. I could hear somebody behind me starting to gain, and all of a sudden the child I had passed earlier overtook me. He was making it look easy, so I cheered him on as he kept moving way ahead of me.

Eventually I could hear the Netball players who were on the courts near the start/finish area, and in no time at all I was crossing the line to the cheers of the local volunteers and other runners who had finished ahead of me. I realised I was the first female to finish (out of 4, ha ha) and found out later I finished 7th overall. I was surprised with how well I ran but very happy. I chatted to a friendly lady from Bright and she recommended some great trails and some great local eating spots for us to try during our stay. After cheering everyone over the line and thanking the volunteers I headed home for a nice warm shower and planned to head back to the Bakery for breakfast.

After showering, breakfast and a nap, I got in the car and decided to head south towards Falls Creek. The fog had lifted and along the way I could see Mt Bogong in the distance, so as soon as the road widened and I had a chance to stop the car and park for a photo I took it.

I saw a sign for Fainter Falls and thought this might be a nice short walk, so I parked the car and headed for the trail. It was only about a 700m walk to view the falls, but it was all uphill on the way there. My legs felt good and I had decided to wear the new Hoka One One ‘Sky Kaha’ boots I’d gotten for my birthday and they were super comfortable.

After some time at the falls and a short walk back downhill I got to the car and headed back the way I came, as we had planned for me to pick up Roger from the Campground after his tough day of training. The sun was setting as I got there and he was putting on some warm layers while waiting for me. I drove back to the Air BnB and made some spaghetti for a nice warm, carb-loading dinner. Tomorrow would be a big day of hiking for both of us.

On Sunday (my birthday) we got up and prepared ourselves for a hike up Mount Bogong, Victoria’s highest peak at 1,986m above sea level. The base to summit has you climbing about 1,600m which makes it great training for Roger and hard work for both of us, but we were planning to take it easier than usual due to my bump.

We arrived at the Campground which had a few tents pitched, parked the car and put our layers on to stay warm. There was about 3km of fire trail which takes you to the start of the trail, and after some stairs it’s just a long slow climb all the way up to the peak.

I had brought my poles to help me with stability and to ease the load from my legs a little, especially now that I weighed a little more than usual and my centre of gravity had changed (both of which can make you a bit unsteady at times). I noticed I was getting out of breath more than normal but this was the new normal for me, I just kept going at a steady state as we chatted and hiked.

Eventually we got to Bivouac Hut and there was also a toilet here which I had been desperately waiting to use for most of the upward hike. So I visited the ladies and then we took rest in the hut while having some food and drink, but we didn’t stay too long as our bodies were getting cold fast. We added some thermal layers and made our way along the trail towards the peak.

The fog was really thick and you could not see the peak of Bogong until we were right up on it, it felt like we had risen above the clouds. There was nobody around for miles and as we hiked up to the top we had snowball fights and mucked around trying to keep warm. It was such a beautiful day, a birthday to remember forever.

We started to get cold and decided we should start the hike back down the mountain, so we followed the trail and headed back into the mist and clouds. My legs were feeling pretty good but I was a lot more cautious than usual because I was more afraid of falling over with precious cargo onboard. The poles helped a lot to keep me balanced and we hiked non-stop all the way to the bottom.

The mist had lifted by the time we got down to the start of the trail and I had removed a few layers as I felt much warmer too. Roger was going to head back up the mountain for another repeat which would be good training for his upcoming race (and probably a lot quicker than when I was with him, ha ha) and I headed back along the fire trail to the car. Once I was at the car I headed to our BnB to have shower and get warm, then headed back to the campground to get Roger at our agreed time. I had a nap in the car while I waited for Roger and soon enough his headlamp came bounding down the trail. What a legend, I was pooped and he had just done double!

Back at the house we got ready and headed to dinner at Roi’s in Tawonga, they do such a good feed and we always visit when we are in town. We cannot recommend them highly enough! After some huge meals and chatting with the owner we hit the road and were crashed in our bed exhausted and asleep within a few minutes.

Tired feet, quiet mind.

On Monday we got up early and I drove Roger to Porepunkah, a small suburb near Bright that has a long, rocky trail which is perfect training for Hardrock. I dropped him and his ‘stash bag’ off at Roberts Creek Road and I headed into Bright for a cooked breakfast at one of the cafes. I didn’t have a plan for the day but eventually decided to go and check out Mount Buffalo National Park that was about a 40 minute drive away.

Once I’d eaten my Smashed Avo on toast and downed a Hot Chocolate, I jumped in the car and drove to the ‘The Horn’, the highest point of Mount Buffalo (1,723m). Luckily I could drive most of the way to the top as my legs were pretty sore from the previous days hike. After about a 1km easy uphill walk I reached the end feeling like I was on top of the world.

There was a lady at the top who was busy setting up a flag/banner than she was trying to hang off the side of the railing, but it was so windy she wasn’t having much luck. She had a photographer friend who was somewhere out on the ground ready to take some photos, but her flag and the wind didn’t want to cooperate. I offered my help but she refused and said she would be fine, so I took some snaps and headed back down to the car as it was really cold and windy.

My next stop was another short walk to ‘The Horn’ via ‘The Cathedral’ which was a short drive back along the road I had been earlier. Again there were no cars or people around so I had the trail to myself. It was an all uphill hike again to the top but nothing too steep and easily manageable. The views along the way and at the top were fantastic.

My next stop was Eurobin Falls via Ladies Bath Falls, another trail I had spotted earlier in the morning and thought I’d come back to if had enough time. There were a lot of cars at the trailhead so it would be a more crowded hike than my previous hikes for the weekend, but it would be worth it. Both of the falls were magical and I spent quite a bit of time at both of them, just sitting listening to the water and the birds. I felt so relaxed.

Then it was back to the car for the short drive back to Porepunkah to collect Roger from his training day, with a quick stop at the local Woolworths to get some supplies for dinner. He was looking pretty happy to see me when he came running down the trail, and he skulled down the Ginger Beer I had brought for him as a treat. We headed back to Mount Beauty and ended up having dinner at the local pub, the only place open on a Monday night in town. The steak was really good and the service was lovely, we would definitely come back there for a feed next time.

On Tuesday we got up when our body alarms woke and slowly packed all our gear ready to head for home. We stopped at the local Bakery for some warm drinks and light snack before hitting the highway headed for home. The trip was a beautiful one with lots of winding country roads, but unfortunately our peaceful trip had a bit of a hiccup with our poor girl Kitty getting car sick. She vomited all over the back seat and I’ve never seen so much vomit come out of one dog. We stopped the car, cleaned it, gave Kitty some fresher and when she looked better we put her back in the car and hit the road again. But no more than 10 minutes down the road and she vomited again, this time not quite so much and thankfully contained so it didn’t make much mess in the car. So another stop for some cleaning, some fresh air and to give Kitty some water. After a little while she seemed eager to get back in the car so we let her, and she was totally fine after that. Kitty was fine and snored for the rest of the trip home, lucky bugger.

Finally we were home and greeted by our two other fur babies who had clearly missed us, but I’m sure had been spoilt by our house sitter (thanks Alana). It had been such a fantastic birthday weekend, probably my best one ever!

Thank you Roger, you’re the best!

Knapsack Lap Race – by Running Wild NSW

This Australia Day we headed out to the Knapsack Lap Race at in Glenbrook. The 5km course was challenging and fast, some really good little inclines to get the heart pumping but nothing too big. Roger and I were doing this as part of the mixed teams and our plan was to take turns and alternate each lap.

We caught up with our good mates Jo and Ben and headed over to the start line where I would run a lap of the oval and then onto the first loop.

I was super excited to be back out running again in the Blue Mountains and probably finished my first lap a little too fast. The trail was all single track, just the way I like it, and I managed to run 100% of most of my loops, no breaks to walk.

After each lap I would take a rest in the chair and eat about 4 x Zooper Doopers to help cool myself down and also a bit of food for energy. The temperatures were really starting to soar, over 40 degrees celsius.

Roger enjoyed his laps and we both came back sweating up a storm. It felt like 50 degrees out there!! We both kept pushing the pace, we say we’re not competitive but I think deep down we do like to test the limits.

Eventually the Running Wild team decided to cut the event short due to the heat, so instead of running for 6 hours we would now only run for 5 hours. They made this decision just as Roger had already left for his next lap.

Afterwards we caught up with Mark and Mark who I think won the mens team event, and they enjoyed a few ‘Goat’ beers to celebrate.

Despite the race being cut short and the weather I thoroughly enjoyed this event and would recommend it to anyone looking for a short, swap fast course with all runnable sections.

Happy running!

Summer Holidays

How could we say ‘no’ to a week in the Snowy Mountains during summer? The answer is that “you can’t”. And with that in mind we had early Christmas celebrations with both of our families, packed up the car, threw the mountain bikes on the roof and hit the road.

We arrived in Perisher on a Saturday late in the evening, and drove around trying to find the Cooma Ski Lodge. Google had pin pointed it’s location but we couldn’t see a building in that spot. We drove up and down the street and I happened to see a light turn on in the spot were the lodge was supposed to be, it must have been hidden from the road. We rounded the bend and drove up the driveway, there it was!

After some hugs with our friends, and a quick unpack of the car, we settled down for a quiet drop of red. Although, we were all quite tired and headed for bed pretty soon after. There would be lots of time to catch up during the week.

On Sunday when we finally dragged ourselves out of bed we headed for the shops at Jindabyne to load up on supplies for the week. And of course to grab a (real) coffee and breakfast. We eventually got back to the lodge at midday and thought it was time for lunch, of course. After lunch we checked out some local maps and decided to go for a ride towards the Snowy Hydro plant. The ride would be about 20km out and back with quite a few hills, and boy where there some hills!

On Monday we organised to meet our friends at 9 am at Thredbo so we could then join them for the final section of their ride to Lake Crackenback. We got their early and found a cafe for another (real) coffee. Our friends met us at the Cafe and we were soon on our way down the trails along the Snowy River. This ride was beautiful and not too much hard work at all, we had fun flying down the hills, round the bends and cranking those pedals up the small dirt hills. Unfortunately for Roger he broke his chain about 5km into the ride, but trusty Alina had a spare in her kit and we were soon back riding again. We had been back riding again for bout 3km when Roger got a flat tyre, not his luckiest day. But it did make for some bear hugs, huge laughs and seeing way too much of Tom’s ass (ha, ha). The scenery was beautiful and we eventually arrived at Lake Crackenback to meet the rest of the crew. We scoffed down pies and ginger beer and BobPa, our honorary chauffeur for the week (also Alina’s Dad), gave us a lift back to our car in Thredbo. Pablo also came along for the trip, as we had decided to run/walk back to Charlottes Pass, and he was going to drive our car back to the Ski Lodge for us.

After a quick change of clothing at Thredo and filling up our hydration packs with water and food, we were soon on our way up the hilly slope that is Thredbo. Pablo joined us for this first section and it was bloody hard work. Pablo made it look easy, while I trudged up at a slow, consistent pace leaning on my poles a lot. I kept stopping to look back and enjoy the view and it was such a gorgeous day. We somehow lost the trail a few times but we just kept heading towards the top and eventually used one of the MTB Trails to make our way to the main building, that way we could reconnect with the trail to Mount Kosciuszko. Pablo had already headed back down the hill to the car at this point, but we kept hiking and moving as fast as our tired legs would let us. I felt great. We passed lots of families and groups of walkers and even a few campers, an eventually we got the highest point of Australia, Mount Kosciuszko. Surprisingly there was only a family of 4 at the top, much quieter than any other time I had visited Kosci, well…. aside from with a runner at the wee hours of night/morning at the Coast2Kosci race. We got some food in, took some photos and it was really windy so we didn’t stay long. Roger and I cruised back down towards Charlotte’s Pass, passing Seaman’s Hut and down towards the Snowy River. It was mostly downhill, but we walked some and ran some, using people in front of us to catch (we’re not competitive at all). At Charlotte’s we messaged Pablo to come and pick us up but got no response, so we messaged BobPa who was more than happy to come and collect us to talked us back to the lodge. We were pooped, but slowly made our way walking back down the hill and, in what felt like no time at all, BobPa appeared and picked up our smelly, weary bodies. What a great day!

On Tuesday we had another sleep in and then decided to drive to Thredbo and hit the Dead Horse Gap Trail. This Trail starts at the top of Thredbo, runs across the mountain and then back down towards the river. At the bottom it follows the river back towards the main part of Thredbo. We did not hike up to the Thredbo today, we decided to take the Chairlift, much easier, and we also decided to stop for a quiet snack at the Eagleview Hotel to fuel for our 10km run/hike (ha, ha). We had hot chips and ginger beer, so good. Eventually we got moving and headed towards the trail, it was another beautiful day, a sky full of blue and flowers covering the sides of the trail. The views were amazing as we winded back down the mountain, passing only a few other hikers that day. Lots of dead trees, a bit of mud and quite a few rock stairs. We got the bottom easily and I could feel some rumblings in my tummy (oh, no!), but thought I’d be okay to make it the rest of the way to Thredbo. The trail was winding along beside the Snowy River at the bottom, and was absolutely beautiful. We rolled along walking and running, taking in the scenery and how lucky we were to be there. As we got closer to Thredbo my stomach churned more and more, I eventually had to leave Roger behind and make a run for the toilet in Thredbo, and I made it jut in time. To much information? ha ha

Wednesday we had organised to do a group hike with Alina, Tom, Archie (with a broken arm), and Pablo. So we set out for a 20km walk from Charlotte’s Pass past the Lakes walk, up onto Mt Kosciuszko and back down to finish at Thredbo. It was a beautiful day and I wished it could have lasted forever…. well, that is until poor Roger took a nasty stack on the metal grid pavement as we approached the top of Thredbo. An x-ray taken at the bottom of the slope (courtesy of the MTB park medical team) showed that he had broken his pinky finger, ouch!).

On Thursday we had a rest day and Roger visited the Doctor in Jindabyne to get his fingers, hands and legs checked after his big fall the day before. The doctor thought he might need surgery for his finger, but for now we just had to tape it in a splint-like form attached it to the finger next to it and rest.

Thursday night we were all chatting over dinner and we decided that a few of us would do a 50km MTB, getting up at the crack of dawn and ending up at Lake Crackenback. So we set our alarms early and headed off to bed for a good sleep.

The alarm went off early on Friday morning and I got myself ready for our day out. I kissed Roger goodbye and we headed out to greet the sunrise. It was another magical day and spent in the best of company, thanks Al.

Our last day of holidays was spent cleaning and packing up ready to go home. One by one we all headed out the door leaving the good times and great friends until our next adventure.

What a great summer!!

A long weekend in the Victorian Mountains

A couple of months ago we noticed a new race was being held in Victoria on the June long weekend and we thought this would be a great opportunity to experience some solid climbs in race conditions. So we signed up, me for the 14km (1,150m) and Roger for the 27km (2,250m).

We both managed to get Friday off work too which meant we could drive down on Thursday afternoon, and we arrived in Tawonga South (near Mount Beauty) close to midnight. Roger accidentally missed the driveway, and as we did a u-turn we were faced with a large deer that has previously camouflaged into the surrounding trees. It was beautiful.

Eventually we made it up the long, steep driveway and into our cosy, shed-looking Air BnB. It had a fireplace and plenty of room for us with all our running and hiking gear. I wondered what views it might have when we awoke the next morning…..

Friday morning was cold and I got the air conditioner firing as soon as I stumbled out of bed. I opened the curtains to a misty view of Mount Bogong and its surrounds, this was going to be a great weekend!

Today I was going to do a short hike and Roger would do a few repeats of Mount Bogong. He is in training for the 100 mile Hardrock Endurance run in the USA in July and he planned to do a lot of running with elevation over the next 3 days. We geared up and drove to the Mountain Creek Camping and Picnic Area which was about 20mins away. We parked the car and headed about 2km up the trail towards the staircase that heads to Mount Bogong.

I waved goodbye to Roger as he headed up the staircase and I kept going on the flat(ter) trail for a light hike.

Ever since being given the all clear to start training again a few months back, I have been cautiously easing back into running. I’ve also still been recovering from the flu and throat infection that saw me DNS (did not start) at the UTA22 a few weeks earlier, so I was conscious to wear a few more warm layers than usual, and I was thankful because it was foggy and cold with sprinkles of rain every now and then.

The sound of Black Cockatoos could be heard overhead so I stopped to take in their beautiful melody. I walked along a few more km’s along and came to a creek which covered the trail. If I walked through the creek it would mean getting my feet soaked, so I searched for another way to cross and found a thin log that had been put over the creek. I cautiously put one foot on the log and it wobbled under my feet, I tried to gain balance on one foot but the log was also slippery and impossible.

So I made the decision to stay warm and dry and turned around to head back down the hill to the car. There was nobody around, not one single person or car at the campground and I worried a little that Roger would be up on that mountain in the cold (snow?) by himself. What if something happened? I know he is very experienced in harsh conditions and he had packed very sensibly for the cold, but you cannot help worrying sometimes. I assured myself he would be fine and the regular text messages that he later kept sending helped to ease my nerves.

When I got back at the Air BnB I had a (long) hot shower and settled in to read my book with a cup of hot chocolate. Tough life. I picked up Roger from the campground at 6pm as planned and later headed to Flour + Water for a hard earned feast. After dinner we readied our gear for Saturday’s Wandi Cross race and got an early night. Check out the sunset below with Mount Bogong peeking through the clouds on the left.

Wandi Cross 14km – Race Report

We were up early to get organised and the drive over to Wandiligong would take at least 45 minutes unless we got stuck behind a slow truck/bus/camper on the mountain towards Bright. It was foggy and the temperature got down to about 4 degrees on the drive over. We arrived, parked and walked over to the Alpine Park to register and use the toilets. We collected our race bibs and headed back to the car to get our gear.

Unlike most of the past trail races I had done I knew nobody and that was largely due to the fact that we were in a different state. Still, it felt weird. We readied ourselves at the start line for a quick briefing and then we were off, the 14km and 27km runners all started together.

The first section of the course was along a hilly road section for about 2km before we ducked into a trail and started to climb the first hill. Most of the road section had been quite hilly but we had pushed ourselves to run it because everyone around us had been running too. I figured they were probably locals and knew the course well, turns out most of them were.

Our first climb was up Goldmine Spur and if there had not been runners ahead of me and pink tape to mark the way, then I’m pretty sure I would not have been able to make out the trail. It had clearly rained for quite a few days leading up the race and the ground was very wet and slippery underfoot, but thankfully my trusty new Speedgoats were up to the challenge.

I overtook a few people going up this mountain and got into a rhythm with my steps even though the terrain was quite steep and uneven. There was no clear trail aside from where the runners had pinned down the long grass,  and made way over the fallen branches and rocks. I think if I had been here outside of race conditions it would be easy to lose the trail.

Eventually we got to the top and I made my way downhill towards the first aid station. Here I said goodbye to Roger as the 27km course took off in a different direction, and headed down a fire trail which led to the first big descent. Talk about slippery! About 70% of this downhill section was slippery clay that meant you practically slid your way down the mountain. It was almost impossible to stay upright and I heard many streaks and groans from in front and behind me while going through that section. If you imagine the position you take while standing on a surfboard riding a wav, that was how I slid down the mountain for the best part. It’s a miracle that I didn’t land on my butt, as I noticed after the race most people came in with clay all over their legs and butt.

The course eventually looped back around towards the Alpine Park starting area where my race number was ticked off. I had carried all my own food and drink so I didn’t waste any time at the aid stations. Heading out of the park we took a right hand turn up a fire trail and then took a sharp left up into ‘The Goat’. The description on the race website said “hands in the dirt scrambling” and they were not wrong. There was actually a rope to pull yourself up the first section onto the trail because it was so steep. I had to really concentrate for this section as it was crucial to get your feet on the right surface/spot for every step up this mountain. One wrong foot and you would slide down and lose ground, banging your knees, ankles and elbows all over the place. This was really the toughest climb I have ever seen, and what made it harder was that so many other runners had come through here earlier today.

It got me thinking about the Tarawera Ultra Marathon in New Zealand that some of my friends and clients had raced in earlier this year, as they had completed 50-100 miles in conditions similar to (or worse than) this.

I passed a local going up ‘The Goat’ and he was starting to struggle big-time. We had a chat as I went past and I felt strong as I kept climbing further and further ahead. Surely it couldn’t be that much further to the top. It kept going, and going, and going. We would cross a fire trail and climb up the next section using ropes and whatever means possible. By the time I got to the top there was nobody around me, behind or in front and I kind of liked that. The view we had been promised was hidden by a curtain of mist and I could barely see 10 metres in front of me. There was a bell hanging from a tree at the top of Mystic Mountain so I gave it a ring and kept running towards the markers and the aid station. I rounded the cone, said hello to the volunteers, then smiled as I left because I knew it was all downhill from here.

This is the point where I got a bit excited and may not have been paying as much attention as I should have been. Somewhere as I pummelled down the steep first trail I missed a turn and ended up at the bottom of the mountain with not a pink trail marker to be seen. I walked back up the hill,, then down the hill, then up to another spot, then down. it was useless. I could not find a pink course marker anywhere. I was soo annoyed at myself and it upset me more than it should have. I looked at my watch and it said I had run 13.6km, my heart sank as I knew it was further than 400m to get to the finish now. I just hoped it wasn’t too much further as I had been pushing myself and wasn’t too sure how much was left in the tank.

Finally I got out my phone and worked out that the road below me should wind its way back to the Alpine Park and I hoped that it would link back up with the course. I ran along the road and thankfully it re-joined the course, however I had lost too many places to count and it made me disappointed with myself. I chatted to a guy who asked me where I had come from and I told him what had happened, I’d actually passed him going up the first hill and he had not seen me since then. There was another lady in front of me so I set my sights on trying to catch her, but it was useless as my legs didn’t have anymore speed to give. I felt like an idiot and had no-one to blame but myself for getting lost as I should have been paying more attention.

I tried to focus on the positives and snap myself out of the bad mood I’d fallen into. The trail followed the Horses Creek back which was trickling with water, a nice calming sound that helped improve my mood as it snaked its way towards Alpine Park. Once in the park we did a victory lap of the field and I crossed the finish line in 2hrs 55mins. My goal had been to finish in 2hrs 30mins, however my Garmin told me that I had run 16.5km so I’d say I would have been pretty close to that without the added kms. I’ll take it.

About 2 minutes after I crossed the finish line I saw Roger coming into the aid station at Alpine Park, great timing. He still had ‘The Goat’ to come and an another bonus trail that we did not travel on, so I wished him well and told him to be careful on the last downhill because I had missed the markers. He left in good spirits and I caught up with our good friend George Mihalakellis who had driven up from Melba to cheer us on and spend some time in the mountains. George and I then headed back to the car and off to get some brunch before heading back to wait for Roger’s race finish. Roger crossed the line in 5hrs 39minutes and we celebrated with a bacon & egg wrap and coffee.

The Wandi Cross organisers had advertised this as a ‘technology free run’ so I had decided not to take any photos while out on course, that is why I have not included any here in this blog. I did however wear my Garmin GPS watch during the run but I kept it hidden under a buff so I wouldn’t be tempted to use it, and the only time I looked at my watch was when I had gotten lost.

Once we were all back at the Air BnB showered and warm, I opened up a 13 yr old bottle of Sullivans Cove whisky that Roger had given me for my birthday. I had been saving it to celebrate my return to trail running/racing, and we even convinced George to have a glass too.

We went to Roi’s Restaurant for dinner on Saturday night and as always the food and service were top notch. We also found the Mt Beauty Taxi Service (a one man band) to be most helpful and friendly.

Sunday Hike – Mount Feathertop

On Sunday George and Roger were heading to Bogong for some more repeats and after looking up the local hiking trails I had decided to hike Bungalow Spur to Mount Feathertop. I drove about 45mins to get to the trailhead and the car told me that it was 2 degrees at the spot where I was starting my hike. I had worn a few layers of warm clothing and had some extras plus wet weather gear in my pack in case I needed it.

The first section of the trail was nice and flat and it followed along next to a small running creek, but the ‘flat’ would not last for long. The trail crossed the creek and started to wind up and up around the mountains before me. It was not too long before I had to remove my wind & water proof jacket because I was getting too hot. I stuffed the jacket into my pack and twisted my cap around so I could see the trail ahead and above me. About 2km up the trail I realised that my sunglasses had been on top of my hat and that when I had twisted the cap around I had dropped them. There was no way I was going back for them, or should I? I decided that I didn’t want to have to back-track and kept moving up the trail.

There was a large section of the trail that was overgrown with shrubs and I noticed as I pushed through them that it was soaking my clothes and making me feel a little cooler than I anticipated. I kept going and tried to steer clear of the branches but it was almost impossible. I decided I would just have to speed up and hike fast so my clothes would stay dry from the heat of my body. There was a small break in the shrubs and I stopped to look up….

It was about this point that it dawned on me I was actually hiking to the 2nd highest peak (1,899 metres) in Victoria, and that the entire trail to the summit would probably not have any flat or downhill sections. Great. My quads and calves had felt very stiff that morning when I had awoken and they were now reminding me that I probably wasn’t in as good shape as I could have been to attempt this, especially the day after my first trail race in 18 months. My coach had written ‘Easy Hike’ on my training program and I’m afraid this was nowhere close to being an easy hike. Sorry Andy!

Then I began to notice the ice had begun covering the leaves and the branches around me, and the trees were no longer green and flourishing. It was eerie and magical all at once.

The higher I got the more ice and snow I could see, and the temperature had dropped so much that I put my jacket and gloves on to keep warm.

My legs were burning by the time I reached the Federation Hut and thankfully it had only been about 8.6km to this point, not 10.5km as per the trail markers. I stopped at the Hut to chat to some campers so I could have a rest and take in the view while I also threw in some more food.

It was only about 2km from here to the summit so I put on all my warm clothes and wet weather gear and headed up the trail.

I passed a few walkers coming down the mountain and they commented on how lucky we were to be here on such a clear day. They were locals and had hiked this many times before but said this was the best weather they had ever seen. I felt lucky and sped up to reach the top.

I felt on top of the world. The couple at the top took my photo and then left me alone to enjoy the summit all by myself. It was magical. I felt like I was flying.

I must have taken a thousand photos at the top and I could have kept taking them all afternoon, but I started to get cold and knew I had already taken a lot longer than I had expected. I was not sure how long it would take me to get back down to the car so I took a final video and then made my way back down the slopes.

The trip down was painful. I felt like a robot as my quads and calves just didn’t want to budge, it was not pleasant. I tried running instead of walking and that seemed to feel better, for a little while anyway. I alternated between slow running and fast hiking back down the mountain and got back to the car about 5 hours after I had started. I was so relieved to get there.

Driving home was easy and I took in the views of the beautiful place I was in as I knew it was my last day before we headed home. I stopped halfway home to get a photo of Mt Feathertop from the road too. Today had been tough but it has been worth it. It reminded of the famous quote “The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow”.

I slumped into the door at the Air BnB and spent what felt like a lifetime under the hot stream of the shower, then spent the next few hours with my feet in the ‘Air pants’ by Air Relax Australia. They help circulation to help speed up recovery, kind of like a massage for your legs. At some point I fell asleep and I woke when the guys returned. We had dinner at Roi’s Restaurant again which was another delicious meal, and we all crashed into a slumber exhausted from the day’s work.

I felt so good to be free and alive.

On Monday morning we said our goodbyes to George and packed the car heading for home. What a top weekend in the mountains! All I could think about was the next time that I would be in mountains, and that would be in July as we were heading to Colorado, USA.

See you on the trails…

Stage 4 – Port to Port MTB

Don’t try this at home.

I had been sick in bed for over a week with cold/flu and only marginally started to feel better, so I thought I would try and tough out 45km at Stage 4 of the Port to Port MTB. I had a back up plan, Roger was going to meet me halfway so I could drop out if I felt like death. I’d already missed out on riding the 3 previous stages of the Port to Port MTB and I also missed out on running the UTA22 last weekend, so I was going a bit crazy.

In hindsight I probably should not have ridden because I feel a little worse again today, but I was feeling really grateful for the friends and family who had donated over $2,000 to the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse who looked after my beautiful young cousin who passed away from cancer earlier this year.

So there I was at the start line with Roger and a friend Roccet who I knew from Runlab in Newcastle, he was going to ride with me and he had also ridden at this event before. I warned him of my slowness and told him not to wait for me if he managed to get ahead, I promised myself I would take it super easy and just enjoy the ride as much as possible. There were self-seeded start waves and I was going to be in the last group, so we sat back and waited for the other riders to start and took in the sunshine, good weather and great atmosphere.

It was soon our turn to start the race and we rolled out through the big blow-up arch and onto a small road section. After this we motored through the beautiful Belmont Golf Course and onto some flat fire trail past the wetlands. The first 10km was very flat and we managed to get a bit of speed up and overtake a few riders. We wanted to be at the back, but not last!

We eventually hit Redhead single trails  and I lost Roccet who was riding much stronger than I was. I hoped he wouldn’t wait around for me too long as I don’t like holding people up and it’s hard to talk when riding on MTB trails anyway. This section was lots of fun and I played leap frog with a few riders while we twisted and turned through the trails. I could feel my lungs burning and I was coughing quite regularly, but I didn’t feel as bad as I had anticipated. I was surprised to see so many burnt out and rolled cars on the trails. Some of them were in quite obscure places so it was really strange, and they seemed to be everywhere.

I crossed Oakdale Road and into some more single track, you could see riders to the left and right on a few sections as we switched back and forth through the greenery. A rider came off ahead of me at one point and as she fell she twisted her ankle. I stopped to help her up and she tried to walk but sadly she was in too much pain even to stand. Eventually I rode ahead and got the medics sent back down the trail to her location, there wasn’t much else I could do to help so I carried on my way towards the half way point. I knew there was a beach section coming up too, and it was just before I would see Roger (my back up plan and exit strategy).

The trails were a hell of a lot smoother than Stromlo (thankfully) but still some technical and climby bits to get the legs and lungs pumping. I started to question whether I had the energy to keep going as my legs were feeling a bit jelly and my coughing was quite constant. I just told myself to keep moving.

Eventually I hit the sand section and the first part was quite rideable if you went down near the waves, but that didn’t last long. The sand got deep and boggy so we were all off our bikes and walking them, no pushing them through what felt like quicksand. I tried to keep my walking pace up to save time and because I was looking forward to seeing Roger, and I managed too pass about 8-10 riders.

I should mention that I had 98% decided that I was going to pull out here at Dudley Beach and get Roger to drive me to the finish line. That sand was super nasty and it left me feeling completely drained. So naturally when I saw Roger on the beach and told him how I felt, he replied with “Nah, you can do this and besides you don’t have far to go”. He checked with the course volunteers and there was only 16km to go from this point. I had made it way further than halfway and so with that I scoffed down some more Tailwind, got my bike cleaned to remove the sand from my brakes, and told Roger I’d see him at the finish.

As I was riding away there was a lovely course marshall with a big smile and a joke who sent me off with a better attitude than when I had come into the beach. Thank you whoever you were, it really helped!

This next section started with some fire trails and had some beautiful views of the ocean and the beach we had just ridden across, I mean walked across. I caught up to an older man and we chatted for a small section before I took off ahead of him to make up some time. The trail got technical again which always slows me down a bit, however I had gained a bit more confidence by now and was feeling more comfortable on the bike, so I sped up a little on sections I probably would have gone slower on in the past.

Then we hit a steep, steep climb that had loose gravel and leaves and I ended up off my bike pushing it up this climb as there’s no way I could have ridden. I caught up to a guy pushing his bike up the hill and we laughed about how the elite would have sprinted up here riding. I got to the top and a group of riders were stopped catching their breath and getting some food in, all I could manage to say in-between my panting and coughing was “Fuck that” (sorry Mum), which got high fives and a lot of laughs from the other riders.  This was Glenrock Mountain Bike Park and it really was lots of fun.

This section went very quickly and soon enough I had hit Scenic Road which was the big downhill to the finish at Dixon Park. I motored along and checked for cars behind me, then gunned it down that hill as fast as I could. Strava says my top speed was almost 50km down that hill, I don’t think I’ve ever ridden that fast before.

The final ride along the road beside the beach was great, lots of people out and about and cheering us through and finally I was riding under the big inflatable arch to get my finishers medal. I had made it, wow.

I looked around to find Roger and couldn’t see him anywhere so I grabbed my phone and gave him a call. He had gone to the spectator point that was a few kms back because he thought I would be going slower, and he said he was holding a Ginger Beer to give me to cheer me up for the final section to the finish. He was bummed that he had missed my finish but impressed that I had done the last section so quickly. He arrived shortly after to help me celebrate the finish and I scoffed down the Ginger Beer, always my favourite drink at the end of a hard ride or run, it’s the best!!

This one was for you Dylan #restinparadise

Bike: Focus, Spine
Nutrition: Tailwind
Donations: https://give.everydayhero.com/au/hailey-rides-point-to-point-mtb

AMB100 MTB Race

I probably should have done some research about this event before I signed up as I was in for a few (nasty) surprises. A few of my friends from the Helensburgh Off Road Cycle Club (HORCC) had posted about the event on facebook and I thought it would be a good training ride in preparation for the big Port to Port ride I’ll be taking on in May.

I chose the 66km (2 lap) event because my longest day at Port to Port would be 60km, however I probably should have taken into consideration that the longest mountain bike ride I have (ever) done was less than 20km. But I never do anything by halves and I couldn’t drive all the way to Canberra just to do 1 lap (30km). So….. why not.

We stayed with some good friends the night before and had fun catching up over pasta and wine (carb loading). I got to bed a little later than usual but was happy to be spending time in great company.

The alarm went off and my nerves kicked in straight away. What was I thinking?! I can’t ride 66km on hardly any training. Shit, this is going to hurt. I had only done a couple of rides over the past few weeks but not enough to have me prepared for this. Holy crap.

I had some porridge for breakfast and realised that it was very cold and wet outside. It had rained quite a lot overnight and this was a bit of a worry as stupidly I had not packed for cold and wet. Idiot. I borrowed some arm sleeves/warmers from my friend and packed a windproof jacket, it would have to do.

For my hydration and nutrition I had decided to use a Nathan Hydration vest so I could use Tailwind nutrition, mainly because I don’t like to take my hands off the handle bars and the bladder meant I could ride and take on everything needed (water, carbs, electrolytes) at the same time. I also packed some GU Stroopwafel as I’d used these for nutrition on some of my recent runs/hikes and it was really tasty. I also had some gels as backup if all else failed.

We headed outside and stored the bike on the roof rack of the car and headed off to Stromlo Forest Park. I checked in and met with Mille and Celia who were from HORCC and also doing the race. We setup an area with our extra food/gear and got ourselves ready for the start. Millie was a gun and would start up the front with the fast riders, while Celia and I both wanted to be back of the pack as we were both newbies. The race director did his briefing and then Celia, Millie and I made our way over to the start line. Millie seeded herself up the front and so she should have, she’s super speedy and had a high chance of winning. Celia and I made our way up the back and fought for the last spot with a couple of other novice riders.

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We had a few laughs with the other riders up the back as everybody wanted to be last, and eventually we were off.

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I chatted with Celia as we rode along the first section which was a dirt road that wound its way up a slight incline until we hit a single track. I realised during this first section that my friend Brett was just ahead of us and I caught up and chatted to him for a bit too. I rode behind Brett for a while and tried to keep up with him, but as soon as the trail got technical I slowed down as I wasn’t confident and really did not want to fall off my bike. Celia and I rode together for most of the first loop and this gave me someone to follow which I liked because I could follow her line and relax a little.

However I took a tumble near a rocky secton and slid a few times going up and around the steep bends, I really did not feel confident and was more than just a bit nervous. This trail was much more technical than most of the ones I had ridden on and I decided to get off the bike and walk a few spots because it was too rocky and I did not want to break any body parts.

 

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I felt really slow and lethargic. I was being overcautious and it meant that I spent a lot of time riding by myself. My competitive spirit wanted to kick in and go barrelling down some of the trail but after spending 18 months recovering from my past injury I really didn’t want to push my luck.

There was a lovely man giving some directions near the last part of the loop and he was very supportive. He sent me down the easier section and eventually I got into my own rhythm and finished the first lap without too much difficulty.

I scoffed down some GU Stroopwafels and water and strecthed my back out some more because it was stiffening up again, this seemed to help and I hoped it wouldn’t get any worse during the next and final loop.

The next photo was taken on my second lap when I was just not feeling it. My back pain had gotten worse and after about 3km into the trail I almost turned around to go back and not finish the race. But I’m stubborn. So I kept pushing myself and I tried to smile for the camera (see below) but I couldn’t even fake that.

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I stopped about 100 times to stretch and give my back a break but thids wasted so much time and I just wanted to be finished. Why wasn’t I enjoying this? I love trails and being out on the bike exploring new places. Maybe it was the cold and wet conditions. Maybe I just needed to toughen up and stop being a pansy.

I thought about my young cousin Dylan who had just lost his battle with cancer about a month ago. I thought about what he had gone through and about how we should never give up. I put aside my negative thoughts and focused on the endless positives I have in my life, I really had nothing to be down about.

My smile returned and I gained some courage to go a little bit faster in the second half of the final loop. I could hear my coach Dave’s words in my head as I went over some large rocky sections, his technical expertise had helped me improve so much over the past few weeks and I really was lucky to have the HORCC crew.

Rocky Trail Entertainment's AMB100, Mount Stromlo, 2018

Rocky Trail Entertainment’s AMB100, Mount Stromlo, 2018

Finally I rounded the last bend where Roger was perched to get a happy snap of me speeding past towards the finish (below).

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I crossed the line and thanked myself for not quitting, for getting it done.

Celia (below) met me at the fnish line and she had come 3rd in her division, how awesome. She even got some beer with her name on it, even though she doesn’t drink. I did offer to drink it for her but she was going to give it to her son I think.

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We saw Millie (below) again too and she had won the Elite category, what a champion!!

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I had a quick chat with my friend Brett at the finish line and he had done well finishing quite a distance ahead of me. By this time it was really starting to get cold so we didn’t hang around too much, just long enough to scoff a burrito and a coffee to warm me up.

This was a tough course and the cold, wet conditions made it a little more challenging too. I’m going to put this one down as ‘character-building’ as I really felt like crap for most of the ride, but I think that’s my own fault for being a little under-trained. I’ll make sure in future that I’m better prepared both physcially and mentally.

Bring on Port to Port in just over a month, read more about my upcoming race and how you can support my charity here.

Hails x

Jetblack 24hr with HORCC

A few weeks ago I drove to Rydal (near Lithgow) to race in the Jetblack 24hr mountain bike event. I was competing as part of the ‘Burgherlicious’ team for Helensburgh Off Road Cycle Club (HORCC). To say I was nervous would be a complete understatement.

Originally I was to be part of the 6+6hr team which involved taking turns to ride laps from 12pm-6pm on Saturday, and again between 6am-12pm on Sunday. I was assured the course was suitable for beginners with an ‘A’ and ‘B’ line and felt the 9km course would be do-able, especially with an overnight sleep to recover. However after some last minute rider cancellations I was upgraded to the 24hr team with 5 other riders, and my nerves grew to slight panic as I realised what I had just agreed to.

Why not?!

So I arrived at Rydal and was greeted by the speedy Millie who showed me where to park and gave me the rundown on the course and race rules etc. This helped to settle my nerves a little, okay, not really. I wished I had been able to arrive earlier so I could have had a practise lap but with work commitments that wasn’t to be and I arrived after the race had already started.

I got my bike, gear and food supplies out of the car so I would be ready when they needed me for my first lap. We had 6 people in the team and I had been put as the last rider because they knew I was arriving after the starting gun. I had packed food supplies similar to that of my endurance running events and this proved to be adequate. I had several variations of heads lamps, gloves and clothing as there was a chance of rain and I was unsure what the weather would be like, or even what it would be like riding during the night on the trail. God I was nervous about that, riding on a trail at night – eeekkk!!

I met the rest of my team and other team riders from HORCC who were all very positive and helped to comfort my nerves. I wanted to make sure my team knew I was a total beginner who had only been riding a mountain bike for 7 weeks, that way there expectations were low. I secretly hoped that I wasn’t the slowest in our team but I knew I probably would be.

We picked up race bib and attached it to my bike. I had a little bit of time to get some food down before my first lap, so I got comfortable in one of the team camping chairs. They had a great setup with tables and gear, plus a big whiteboard so we could record all of the lap times and makes time estimates for the incoming riders. I was in good hands.

Finally the time came for me to ride my first lap and the nerves were in their highest gear. I started pedalling with a little apprehension and almost missed the first left turn as I made a rookie error and didn’t look far enough ahead along the trail. My heart rate soared and I reminded myself to take it easy and not brake any bones. The mantra of ‘Stay Upright’ would be repeated many times throughout the next 24 hours.

It was dusty and there were so many bends! Left, then right, then left, then right again, then down with a bend, then up with a bend, and many of the trees sat snugly next to the trail daring you to weave through them. The trees were so close on some of the corners that you could not lean into the corner at all or you would wipe yourself out. I found it difficult to get around those bends at any speed and often realised I was in the gear when it was way too late. There were also several speedy riders who came up behind me quickly on the first lap and I stopped to let them go past each time. Wow, they made me look like I was standing still. I hoped my team weren’t too sad that I was taking so long.

Thankfully the ‘B’ lines were clearly marked and I avoided having to do any jumps or tricks. There was a section with a few big tree roots but they ere easy to get over and I enjoyed them. There was a sign for ‘Hazard Gully’ in the second half of the course and it made me laugh, there were definitely some hazards out there. I had to put my foot down a few times from over steering, or sliding on the loose sandy course, but I managed to stay upright the whole way. I wasted so much energy on that first lap, but I loved it and tried to memorise as much of it as I could while I was out there.

38 minutes. That’s how long my first lap took. The fastest rider in our group had done it in 27 minutes, so I had a long way to go. I sat down to have a snack and I chatted to the team about my first lap. They were so supportive and a really fun bunch to hang with.

My second lap came around pretty quickly and I managed to knock off about 1 minute from my original lap time. I was happy with that and hoped that the minutes would keep knocking off each lap as I got more confidence, but I was sure the night laps would probably be slower, especially as I had never ridden on a trail before at night. Shit.

Its was at this point I thought I should probably inform my team that I had never ridden on the trails at night before. They took it well and Phil helped me to setup a light on top of my helmet so I would be able to see more than just the view from the light attached to my handlebars. Our team had decided to undertake double laps during the night so that we could all try to get a few hours sleep. I had some pizza and decided to setup my tent while there was still some sunlight.

My double lap started at abut 10pm and I set off feeling very hesitant. My hart rate soared again as I nervously took the twists and bends with apprehension. I felt slow but I was too scared to go any faster and I reminded myself to stay calm and ride smart. I began to relax a little and enjoy the course more as I went along. It was nice having less riders on the course now as I didn’t have to slow down all the time to let them past. The 6+6hr riders had long finished and were probably tucked up in their beds asleep.

About halfway through the first lap I noticed that my lower back was starting to hurt and the muscles were feeling very tight. I stood up on my pedals a bit more and this seemed to relieve some of the pain. By the end of the first lap my back was much worse and I contemplated stopping, but I really didn’t want to let the team down and I knew there would not be anyone else ready to ride yet because it was too early. I decided to suck it up and keep going. It was only pain. I just hoped it wasn’t anything too serious. I’d hurt my back once when I was wake boarding about 10+ years ago and that pain was very intense. I hoped it wasn’t the same.

I went past the tent and managed to say “Hey champions” to let them know I had survived the first lap. 43 minutes. Slower.

Before I had left for the first night lap we were talking about songs that get stuck in your head and I’d decided I would think of a good song during the lap so I could sing it to them when I went past, but I was concentrating so hard on the trail that I had forgotten to come up with a song.

I took some big breaths and tried to ignore the pain in my back again. I focused on the trail and felt much more confident the second time around. I used my body to lean a little more and hug the course a little better, and I stood a lot more because it eased the pain in my back. I kept telling myself to focus on something else besides the pain, but at one point I got pins and needles down my right leg and I was really worried I wasn’t going to make the lap. I was tougher than this. Come on Hailey!

I finished the second lap and felt very stiff when I got off the bike. I immediately took some Nurofen, had a shower, ate and then lay down in the tent to try and get some sleep. Sleep was not going to happen. There was a lot of noise and people walking around, and music. I think I nodded off for maybe half an hour, but I woke feeling refreshed and better than I had expected.

I chatted to the team and was told we were currently in 1st place in the mixed category. Apparently we had been leap frogging with the Newcastle Team and after my lap we had been second, then the rest of my team would do so well that we would go back into 1st place. Our young rider Jarrod had the fastest lap at 27 minutes, and speedster Mille had also done a 28 minute lap. The rest of my team were also around the 28 minute mark, so I was definitely the weakest link. Damn.

I was grateful when they said we were going back to 1 lap each and I actually offered to miss my lap and used the excuse of my back. I didn’t want to be the reason we lost our 1st place position but the team insisted I go out and have another lap and that they would just have to work harder to make up the gap. If they had not insisted I honestly would not have minded missing the lap, but in the end I’m glad I got to do another lap in the daylight.

At about 8am I sent off for my 6th and final lap. It was a new day and the second round of Nurofen had kicked in so my back was feeling a little better. I tried to savour every twist and turn, every uphill and downhill. I was starting to remember more and more of the course and I felt a little more at ease than on my previous laps. The riders coming past me where so positive and friendly, I tried to stick with a few and even managed to overtake three people (probably 24hr solo riders, they are incredible). When I got to the last section with the big berms I could see someone closing in slowly behind me. I thought I should try to ward him off and dug a little deeper to keep a bit of distance between us. My heart rate start6ed to soar again and I wished I’d worn my HR strap to record the workouts but thought it might have chaffed and gotten in the way. The last uphill pinch came and I gave it my all. Over the rocky section towards the barn and then over the thing mats towards the final bend.

I tagged Alex and he was off on his speedy lap. We were still in 1st place. Yes!!

Our team ended up winning the mixed category and came 2nd overall, what a great achievement for my first team event. Very exciting.

Massive thanks for. the Helensburgh Off Road Cycle Club (HORCC) for looking after me and making me feel so welcome, you guys have taught me a lot and I know we will have some great races together in future.

I’m currently training to take part in the 200km Port to Port race in May, my first ever 4 day MTB stage race and I”m raising funds for the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse who helped care for my young cousin who died recently from cancer. He was only 22 years of age. You can donate to this wonderful charity on my fundraising page here.

Happy riding!