Babi Szolosi

Picked up Otto at the airport on Friday afternoon and we headed straight to the Alpine World. I drove to Glenrowan while he had a little nap (he was sleeping like a kid), then we swapped. He didn’t say much and I saw this look on his face. Asked him what whas wrong and he said he was worried… then came the “what ifs?!” Told him nothing will go wrong. I will be okay and back before dark. Me?! I was excited, couldn’t wait for my 60 km adventure next day.

We passed Bogong Village, noticing the Running Wild flag, then we stopped at Howman’s Gap for registration and gear check. Said hello to Paul and met Matthew (from Howman’s Gap YMCA). The air was electric in the room. I walked by Gabor Jakus, he said hello, I said hello back, but didn’t recognise him (again!!!). Picked up my registration pack, jacket and PLB, then kneeled down in front of a man who introduced himself as Neil Kinder. Then dead seriously asked me for nail polish. When he saw my confused face, went on to ask for hand cream (he must have really enjoyed this) and finally for lipstick! I’ve spread out all the gear in front of him, while he ticked off the boxes, then shoved everything back into a MM bag while thinking “How on earth am I going to stuff all this in my pack?!”.

We drove off and finally got to Silverski in Falls Creek. The township wad DEAD! We got into our room, lugging up all the un/necessary stuff we brought. That itself was a workout - 13 m elevation difference between the car and the room (this is what a smart watch is great for!). We unpacked, had some pasta with moroccan salmon and took off to Howman’s Gap for the briefing. The lounge was full, we stopped close to the entrance and stood all along with many others who came after. Paul welcomed the troops then played Jacqui’s video from the previous year to give those who haven’t been there (or haven’t seen the video) before a taste of what is out there, then got into the presentation/briefing. I was glad to hear that the iffy parts of the course were marked (thank you Paul for this) - first time I haven’t checked out a course before the event.

What I took away from this briefing (apart from the stuff I’ve already read on the website) was:

  1. Think of the distance ahead as etapes (e.g.: 5 km to Cope Hut) not as a whole
  2. When the sun starts to go down and there is a cool breeze put on something warm, because it gets cold very quickly
  3. If you (think) you got lost and need help sms your bib number, name and location to Duncan (number provided on the spot)—this surely won’t happen to me
  4. If you stop to take photos, make sure you look around and take notice which way you need to go

We rocked up to Jack’s Tavern at the bottom of Bogong Village (Otto kept calling it Bologna) the next morning, checked in, put on the pack, chatted with the fellow runners, a few pictures, bit hug from Otto (thanks Paul for the pic) and then countdown and go! It was a beautiful, sunny morning, there was nothing to not like about it. I was running with Coral for a few kms, chatting away. Few runners went ahead, we overtook others. At the Rocky Valley Creek crossing Coral and David stopped to take off their shoes, I kept on going knowing, they will catch up with me very soon on the climb. I just waded through the creek, the Salomons drain well and I knew I’ve got the other pair at Langfords Gap.

The air was fresh, I was loving it. Then came the fallen trees, and all the obstacles…and of course Spion Kopje with the climb. As I predicted, Coral and David caught up with me, than overtook me. Haven’t seen a soul for a little while, then I passed Allan Parish (I kept calling him Adam - sorry) and Nathan, who were taking off their warm stuff. The hike got steeper, Nathan overtook me and Allan tried to keep up with me from a distance. I stopped to take a few pictures, then kept on going.

I ran and chatted with Keith for a little while, then he took off. It was getting hot when I finally reached Warby Corner, 3:09 hrs into my run. Otto was already waiting for me. I saw the ASAR guy (sorry can’t remember his name, he had a beard) to tick off my name. The volunteers told me I was doing great, asked me if I wanted anything (I didn’t, because I was carrying everything) and we took off. We jogged a little, then walked; took pictures, chatted, saw some hikers, jogged, walked until we reached Bogong High Plains Rd where Otto left the car. He drove and I ran/walked to Langfords Gap, where I got the loveliest cheers from a little boy with a cattle bell and his parents. Quickly changed my socks and shoes, Otto filled the bladder with water, gave me a hug and I took off towards Cope Hut.

Otto SMSed me that he’s at Cope Hut, he’ll come and meet me around there. Mick overtook me and we exchanged a few words (he’s very nice). Seeing him running gave me a bit of boost, so I tried run for a pole then walk for the next. I did this for a little while, but I’ve noticed that it makes me more fatigued, so I thought I’d just stick to power walking. Saw the crystal clear water flowing in the aqueduct, it was so inviting!! I took a few pictures, too. The pack seemed so heavy!! I lifted it sometimes to breathe easier.

Got to Cope Hut at around 1:30, I was so happy to see Otto running towards me! We ran/walked and talked a little then I took off to Pole 333. We agreed to keep in touch and meet somewhere around Bogong Jack’s Saddle. It was really hot, I felt my neck, shoulders, chest, forehead burning (now that’s one thing I didn’t put into action - Paul did say be careful with the sun, the breeze is decieving). As I was shuffling/walking I’ve been calculating: if I keep a sub 10 min/km pace, I can average 10 hours. I was also banking on the descent at the end, thinking I can pick up the pace even further… There were other runners overtaking me (most of them from the 100 km), they all had something nice to say. One of the runners was Nathan O’Malley (called him Keith - sorry). I watched as he was getting further and further, then I saw the red roofed SEC Hut (even took a picture of it) and thought not so long to go to the turn off to Pole 333.

As I was approaching the turning point, saw Nathan running ahead on the aqueduct track. I have no idea why, but I kept going, too even though I KNEW I should’ve turned and gone up that pole line. I pulled out the maps, looked around, but couldn’t see a sign that said Tawonga Huts or Pole 333 (I have missed the pink/green ribbon on one of the poles). Anyway, I’ve been looking at my watch and thinking the turnoff should be then just around the corner… Got to a dam kind of thing, saw Nathan going up the opposite hill and thinking this is not right. Pulled out the map again and by now it was crystal clear, we were in the wrong place. He disappeared, couldn’t even see him, so I turned around and started walking back, thinking how I blew my chances to make it back in time and what’s the next step. By the way, that point is marked as “Magnetic anomaly occurs here” —Bermuda crossed my mind.

I had to let someone know that I am off the course, so I SMSed Duncan with my details and the pole number I was standing by. He was very nice, called me back straight away and after we clarified where I was, I told him I’ll keep walking back and joining the course at the SEC Hut intersection. While this was happening, I saw runners going up the hill on my left so I was 100% it was the right thing to do. I could’ve just hit my head into the wall, I was so angry with myself; I am good with maps, I only get lost when I don’t have a map. Why?! Why now?! Then I quickly pieced myself together and recalculated my time and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

At the SEC Hut (at about 4:10, 7:39 into my run at 44 km) I saw Jen and another lady. They were sitting on the grass and maybe changing socks, I didn’t pay attention. We exchanged a few words, double(!!) checked the track I was supposed to turn onto and kept on going, On this section I was taken over by many 100 km runners. SMSed with Otto regarding my whereabouts and in approximately what time I could get to Bogong Jack’s Saddle. He already knew about my detour, heard it on the radio. Got to Pole 333, checked in, told the person (sorry can’t remember their name I was quite messed up) what happened and I kept going. By this time I must have walked like a drunk. My attempts to jog ended up in tripping on stones, so I thought I should not risk a fall. Zak took me over.

When I finally got to the Tawonga Huts check point, I already had more than 50 km on my watch. I told the ASAR guy what happened. I saw Zak sitting down on a camping chair here and thought “Gee, that’s a bad idea! You won’t be able to stand up” but I didn’t say anything like this. Whished him well and kept on going. He caught up with me very soon, and so did another lady from the 100 kayers (I really admired her being able to run at this point). At the camp site all three of us stopped to fill up our water bottles/bladders. I’ve slipped into the mud letting off a “sh*t!” and then walked through the water to get onto the path.

From here the Fainters Track was a mix of wet grass, mud and holes with a beautiful view. I was really struggling to walk straight. My brand new Fenix 3 has told me it had enough and ran out of battery. I was sad, because I couldn’t even measure how I was going from here. Nauseaous (my stomach was asking for food but I could hardly swallow a piece of sandwich with some water), delirious but kept putting one foot in front of the other. Then there were those slight ascents… Jacqui Hansen was approaching, I stood aside so she can pass. She asked me how I was going. Told her I am buggered, did a 10 km detour and now I am paying for it. She wished me all the best, then turned around and asked me if I was okay for water and food. Told her I am good and then said something very nice again and took off. I have such an admiration for her!!

The sun started to set, painting the horizon in all shades of purple and orange (at least this is how I saw it), beautiful view!! I took some pictures, then realised it’s getting cold. I remembered Paul’s warning, so I stopped and pulled out my jacket. As I was putting it on, fiddling with the zip, Toby came and said that this is a good idea, he’s going to do it, too. We exchanged a few words, I asked him how far we have to go - he said about 13 km, then he took off. I asked him to tell my hubby (his name is Otto) that I am right behind him (behind Toby). Saw him getting further and further, then just before disappearing behind the mountain, he looked back (probably to check how far I was). In the mean time Zak and I have overtook each other a few times. We were both struggling.

A few hundred meters before Bogong Jack’s Saddle I saw Otto, he was running towards me and so happy to have finally found me! This was totally mutual! We started running/walking and then stopped to eat/drink from the stash he brought (I felt bad about him having to carry it all back). I was peeling an orange when Zak caught up with us. We asked him whether he’d like something to eat or drink. He said anything but gel, so we shared the orange and then kept going.

Otto’s presence has given me some energy, so we jogged downhill until it started to get dark and I slipped on the dust and landed on my bum. Scratched my left thumb a bit (it was bleeding), but nothing serious. The rocks were very dangerous. We overtook Zak again, who was taking out his head torch. I thought I can still see, so we kept moving. We had to stop and do the same before Spring Saddle as it was getting really dark. Saw a few other runners on the way down; a lady was walking with the poles, she said she was OK when we asked. Then Otto said, that he doesn’t understand the partners of these ladies, how could they just let them come down this steep track in the dark?! I said to him, not everyone is like him. We saw the sweeper going the opposite direction. Otto asked him if he was OK.

Otto really made everything to keep my spirits up, kept saying what’s coming (another turn), how many kms left and asking if I was OK. We couldn’t wait for that “2 km to go” marker! When we got there, he said he has to take a picture for me.

As we were getting closer to Bogong Village, we saw more and more lamps, the Asian ladies were going to meet their runner, we saw another couple going up, then at the end of the track there were these lovely people cheering and clapping as we ran past. Otto told me, only another 20 meters to go, so I stepped on it and ran through the shute at 17:20 (we started four hours later than the 100s). Checked in with Pat, had a piece of orange, some water, said hello to Paul, Otto took a few pictures, and I thanked Duncan for his help. In the mean time another lady and then Zak came in—we had the chance to clap and cheer for him. Then we drove back to Silverski in Falls Creek.

What I’ve learned on this adventure:

  • Go with my gutt feeling—don’t follow others
  • Vary the food
  • No need to carry that much water—there is plenty in the creeks
  • Don't muck around too much with taking pictures
  • Take some sunscreen or cover up