Salomon Series Run – Olinda, Dandenongs

It was a cold foggy morning at Olinda in the Dandenongs last Sunday for the third race in the Salomon Trail Running Series.

Foggy winter morning in the Dandenongs

Foggy winter morning in the Dandenongs

I was doing the long course, 21km, and we were the first wave of runners to go.

The run was due to start at 8.30am and everyone waiting for the start was rugged up in their pants and puffer jackets until the very last moment.

Thankfully it didn’t take long to warm up when we were finally waved away.

It was a pretty tough course.

There was a lot of steep descent at the start and in the early kilometres. The course seemed to just keep going down and down. I kept thinking “what goes down must come up” so I didn’t go too hard, thinking I’d try and keep something in reserve for the climb back to the finish.

The trails were pretty good – a mixture of wide dirt track, fire trail and single track. They meandered through tall trees, ferny gullies and past gentle streams. I had to keep reminding myself to look around and take in the scenery every now and then instead of watching the ground all the time or heals of the person in front of me.

I was able to run at my own leisurely pace for much of the run. But when the climbing started, it certainly slowed everyone down. Long queues of runners (well, walkers actually) formed on the single track sections with few chances to overtake.

It was a little frustrating at first as I’m pretty good at hills but then I thought there was no point stressing about it. It was a nice day to be out and about and used the opportunity to get my breath back.

As much as I enjoyed the run, I was glad to get to the finish when I did. The juice was running low. But I was happy with my time – 2 hours 16 minutes – and I’m looking forward to the fourth and final race of the series at Anglesea in a few weeks.

The end!

The end!

A walk in the Bunyip State Park

I’ve been looking for new places to walk around Melbourne and while scrolling around Google maps came across a big patch of green called Bunyip State Park.

A quick Google and I found the Parks Victoria notes for the park and it looked like a place worth checking out.

For those unfamiliar with what a bunyip is, a mythical Aboriginal creature, here’s what the Parks Victoria notes say:

The legend of the bunyip

Beware of the Bunyip, a dark furry animal with a round face, small ears and fiery eyes that glow in the dark!

 According to the Aboriginal people, the Bunyip or “Buneep” (as spelt on early maps which show the river, first cattle run and township) is a spirit that punishes bad people.

Local Aboriginal people believed the Bunyip lived in the swamps of the Bunyip River, and therefore avoided the area. Many early settlers, believing this story, never pitched their tents near a ‘Bunyip hole’. People were also careful not to make ripples when collecting water. This upset the Bunyip.

The park is about 65km out of Melbourne and about an hour drive from the city through outer suburbs, small towns, farmland and then forested bush.

We didn’t pick the best day for a walk unfortunately. It was cold, drizzly and the sky just low grey cloud. But it was possibly for the best as the track notes said the area is used by trail bike riders and as we didn’t see or hear any, maybe the weather had kept them away.

It looks like one of the main features of the park is a collection of large, smooth rocks called the Four Brothers Rocks. Apparently there’s a nice view from them but when we got there the cloud was still low and thick and we saw nothing but grey.

It would have been a nice spot for lunch but it was cold and the ground and rocks were wet and it was drizzling so we decided to carry on walking.

Anyway, we had a nice day wandering along foot tracks and dirt roads and I’m keen to go back and explore more. Plus the many tea houses with coffee and cake in the Dandenongs on the way home are another attraction and temptation.

 

A cyclist’s lament – Drivers failing to indicate

Why is it so hard for some car drivers to use their indicators?

It’s that big handle thing sticking out from either the left or right of the steering wheel. And to pass your driving test, I’m pretty sure you have to use it when turning at corners and intersections and when changing lanes.

So why do some drivers seem to forget those are the rules? Do think everyone should just give way to them and that the road rules don’t apply to them?

It’s infuriating. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve nearly been cleaned up by a car changing lanes without looking and without using their indicator.

I’m a cautious rider and keep a very wary eye on cars around me. I pretty much assume every driver could do something stupid – like turn without using their blinker – and adjust my riding to suit. I ride slowly, keep my hands on the brakes ready to jam them on, and try and leave space between me and any cars ahead of me. I’ve been lucky so far and managed to get through unscathed the close calls I’ve had.

But really, when drivers whinge and moan about cyclists who don’t obey road rules, how about they look around them and their fellow motorists.

When they whinge about riders not getting fined for riding on footpaths or whatever, how about drivers who don’t indicate.

If police and the government really want to revenue raise, start pinging people for failing to use their blinkers. In Victoria, it’s a $148 fine.

Oh and by the way, yes, as a cyclist, I always indicate my turning intentions when I’m riding, even when there’s no traffic around out of habit.

 

Castlemaine Gold Diggings ride

Riding around the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park, it’s hard to imagine the industry that went on here in the 1850s.

According to Victoria Parks’ notes on the park, a newcomer to the area during the rush described the countryside as looking like “a great cemetery in which all the graves had been opened and emptied of their contents”.

There’s still plenty of evidence of the gold rush that lured tens of thousands of migrants to seek their fortunes – mine shafts, water races, stamp battery ruins and huge piles mullock (waste rock).

But the bush has come back and the park is a very pleasant place to spend a few hours pedalling about and discovering its history.

And there may yet still be gold out there. At one point I rode over a bridge over a creek and down in the water were a couple of guys panning for gold.

I started the ride from Castlemaine, about a two-hour drive north from Melbourne and a great base for the ride.

This was the first trip out for my new GoPro too, after the disaster with my old one while kayaking at Pittwater.

The vision looks good on my computer but doesn’t appear to have uploaded well to YouTube. If anyone’s got any tips for improving the appearance of video, I’d welcome it.

I did a dumb thing

Here’s a tip for new GoPro users: try and remember when you’ve changed the rear door on the waterproof case from the solid version to the one with vents.

That was my dumb thing. An expensive dumb thing.

I was out kayaking at Pittwater, north of Sydney, and decided have a go at doing an underwater video. It was the first time I’d taken the GoPro onto and into the water. Salt water at that.

I put it in the water, hoping to capture pictures of some fish swimming around the kayak when I noticed bubbles coming up from the case.

I remember thinking “that’s not right” for an instant before quickly pulling it out from underwater, realising what was happening and what I’d done.

A little while ago I’d changed the rear door from the solid one which makes the case waterproof, for the vented one because I’d wanted to try capturing more sound on my mountain bike rides.

But my memory lapse meant sea water got into the case and into the camera.

I took the camera out of the case, took the battery out and did my best to get as much of the water out of the camera as I could before paddling back to the house to put it in the sun hoping to dry it out.

Back at the house I started Googling how to save a GoPro after it’s gotten wet.

Some forums said there was nothing that could be done while others offered tips on what to do.

Some said douse it in vinegar to get rid of corrosion on the battery terminals, others said douse it in fresh water to rinse out the salt water, and others said just leave it to dry out or bury it in rice for a few days to draw the moisture out.

I tried leaving it in the sun and the rice trick but unfortunately they didn’t work. It’s dead. It won’t turn on anymore. Some forums said if it was on when it got submerged in sea water the electronics would be fried. And I think that’s what may have happened.

So, I’ve learnt a lesson. I’ve bought a new GoPro and I don’t think I’ll be changing the rear door of the case again.

 

 

Giant Odyssey Mountain Bike Marathon

Last weekend was my big adventure event for the year – the 100km Giant Odyssey mountain bike marathon. It used to be called the Otway Odyssey, given it’s in Victoria’s Otway ranges. No idea why they dropped Otway from the name. Anyway … whatever.

It was my third year doing the race and at about the 70km-80km mark I thought it would be my last. But a week on and I’ve almost forgotten what I was complaining about while grinding up those last few long hills. I may just have a few more Odysseys left in me.

It was a great day for the race. The morning was pretty crisp and the temperature stayed cool for the rest of the day. But the sun was out and over seven hours of pedalling kept me pretty warm.

Coming into the transition area after the first loop

Coming into the transition area after the first loop

Rain in the region a couple of days before the race meant sections of the route were pretty muddy and sloppy. I’m a cautious rider and so I was pretty heavy on the brakes on some downhill sections that were slippery. I’d loved to have gone faster but I don’t like the idea of coming off the bike and crashing and hurting myself. I’ve done enough of that in the past and I don’t think my 40-plus year old bones would appreciate it. So I played it safe.

The race is centred at the football ground at Forrest, a small town in the Otway ranges. Forrest is surrounded by, well, forest, and has become a centre for mountain biking with trails twisting and winding through the trees for many kilometres.

The race is made up of three loops and riders go through a transition area twice before finishing.

I was feeling good after the first loop and didn’t stop for a break the first time I went through the transition. The second time was around lunch time and I stopped for about five minutes to rest and eat half a smoked salmon roll I had in my bag. I’d been eating gels and energy bars throughout the race but they didn’t prepare me for the last long hill climb to start the third and final loop. Almost at the top I had to stop and give myself a five minute break. It was about here that I was wondering whether I could do this again next year. I never thought I wouldn’t finish the race, but knew I wasn’t going to beat last year’s time.

About to cross the finish line

About to cross the finish line

This year was the first time my wife came along to be my support crew. It was great to have her there and someone to share the end-of-race high with. And she looked after me (Coke and ice-cream – bliss) at the end of the race as I sat on the ground resting after finally getting out of the saddle.

My time was seven hours, 16 minutes, 11 minutes more than last year. Ah well. Maybe next year. I came 295th, out of 403 finishers, and 110th in my category out of 154 finishers. Chris Jongewaard, an Australian champion rider, was the overall winner, finishing in four hours, 27 minutes. Hmm, something to aspire to!

A beech walk in the hills

It wasn’t a sandy beach walk for us when we went up to explore some trails around Marysville, a country town around two hours drive east of Melbourne.

Instead, it was a beech walk of the tree variety that drew us out into the crisp, clean mountain air.

The Beeches is a nice, easy rainforest circuit walk that takes you along the swiftly flowing Taggerty River and its roaring waterfalls and cascades.

Cascades on the Taggerty River

Cascades on the Taggerty River

It was a sunny day the day we went but we still ended up getting pretty damp as overgrown sections of the track were still wet from rain the day before.

It’s amazing how quickly your pants become soaked when pushing through high grass that looks as if it’s got just a few droplets of water on it. All those droplets add up.

Overgrown section of the trail

Overgrown section of the trail

Ah well, first world problems.

Bushfires went through the area five years ago and the bush is still regrowing. Dead tree trunks loom over the regrowth, a sad reminder of what was once there.

Thankfully the rainforest around the river was obviously too damp for the fires to take hold there and the trees and ferns around it were spared.

The town of Marysville was almost wiped out by the fires but the community is steadily rebuilding.

The bakery is a reliable place for lunch and there are cafes in town too.