Oxfam Trail Walker 2012 No Roads Expeditions Paul Robertson & Andrew Lee at Bobbin Head

Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 Berowra to St Ives

by Shona Stephenson on August 30, 2012

We ran into the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 Berowra Community Center 28.5km at 10:14am after 3 hours and 14 minutes of running and quickly checked in and out out the check point. We all turned around and found our support crew Garry and Beth Cardelli waiting for us. Beth was awesome, she had all my gear ready and waiting. I quickly had some more serotide hoping that the long lasting ventolin would help with my asthma. I was having to use my ventolin almost every 2 hours with not much relief. I would just have to see if the serotide would make a difference or otherwise at the end of this event I will collapse like at Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon and probably end up on oxygen.

I swopped over my Hammer Gels and my Hammer Fizz Hydration mix. I was carrying 500ml of fluid the front of my UltrAspire Spry pack and 500ml in the back. With my supplies replenished I was ready to go. I worked out the splits for the team for 12 hours. From this I calculated the amount of hydration fluid and Hammer Gels that I would need between each check point. I put them all into little plastic zip lock bags with the check point name, distance between the next check point, the amount of fluid and the amount of gels I would need written on each bag so my support crew knew what I was going to require at each manned check point.

I grabbed my supplies from my awesome support crew member Beth and I was ready to go. I spotted the Gu Nathan Team run in behind us. They looked so strong. Our guys were still trying to sort out their gear with Garry and Beth. I decided the best way to hurry them on was to start walking back up the stairs and continue on with the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012. “Too many cooks spoil the broth”, and I am not know for my calmness at a check point. It was best for the team that I stayed out of their space and just got on with the job at hand. Paul soon followed and about 30 seconds later Andy and Jono joined us. We spotted the Orange Whips entering Check Point 2 and we were happy with the lead we were holding.

We crossed the road as a team and we chatted about how we were all feeling. I expressed that I usually hate the 30km to 50km so this section was going to hurt. I can almost pin point it to the 34km mark is when I start to feel an injury if it is going to pop up. I was hoping that my brand new inov8 x-Talons 190 would help with my injury. Jono expressed that he will warm up after 50kms also. Andy’s knee was giving him some grief even though he was not going to admit it. Paul was still feeling good but he too was starting to feel his ankle. We chatted about the next section and I before long I had to fly ahead down the road taking a few turns and rolling onto the fire trail. I marveled at how well we were going compared to my two previous years. The two year previous I was in an all female team Wild Women On Top and I finished the event in 2010 with two broken feet in 17 hours 09 minutes. In 2011 I completed the course in 17 hours 21 minutes in a team of my personal training clients in the Great Outdoor Runners team. It was so nice to be able to run this event with people at my own speed, they let me run ahead and work to my strength and I was loving it.

The boys soon caught up with me and we chatted.I warned them that the next section of the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 was technical and a climb is the biggest climb of the day which goes on for 6kms. We scooted down onto the single man track and headed towards Crosslands. I love this part of the track. The trail is divine, steep ruggered and covered in ferns. At the turn off to Crosslands we turned left and ran along the marshland floor, sticking to the left to avoid the bog that had shrunk considerably in size since my last training session through this track where I almost lost my shoe in the mud. I ran across a foot bridge and entered what I call the Savannah. This is a beautiful place, the scenery is so unique. I’ve never seen a place just like it. I called out to the boys, they fallen behind me. I made sure they were okay. The biggest climb of the day was coming and I did not want to drop behind the strong climber’s of Andrew Lee, Jonathan Worswick and Paul Robertson, so when I made eye contact with them I scooted off ahead along the Lyrebird Gully.

Oxfam Trailwalker 2012 No Roads Expeditions Paul Robertson

I have fond memories through here, I usually spot a Lyrebird or two. It is a protected gully, and I was happy to be making great time through this cool part of Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012. We had run for about 34 kms and I could just start to feel my ankle tendonitis start to play up. It was just letting my know it was there.

The track of Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 became technical with numerous creek crossings as we slowly climbed up out of the gorge towards Mt Kuringai. There was a horrendous storm the night before Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 and countless trees had fallen cross the track obstructing our path. I was lucky that I was small enough to crawl through, under and around tiny gaps the the branches. I really felt sorry for the walkers who were coming behind us. I also thought that the harder the track became the better it was for me. It would increase our lead on whoever was chasing us only a few minutes behind.

At the start of the climb we re-group and checked on each other. I was starting to get hungry. I’d been consuming Hammer Tropical Gels every 30 minutes. I decided that I needed to put something more solid in. Jono handed me a small amount Hammer Perpetuem Caffe Latte in a fuel belt flask and I drank it up. I waited for about 15 minutes to check the effect and I decided to have some more, it went down like a dream.

Jono explained that we wanted to walk up this next climb and conserve his energy. When the fire trail turned from clay and gravel to a sealed road we all walked up and out of the gorge backwards to stretch out our legs. We checked for any teams following us but we could not see the Gu Nathan Team or the Orange Whips. Jono dropped behind slightly. Andy needed to re-fill his water bottle. At the top Paul and Andy found a tap in someones front yard and restore Andy’s supplies.

I kept the pace going. I cross the footbridge across the pacific highway and soon Jono had caught up to me and Paul and Andy were following only about 10 meters behind. Again I looked back to see if another team was following but I could not see anyone. Good we have a gap.

We ran across the foot bridge, over the F3 Freeway, turned left ran along a pathway until we were popped out onto Harwood St. Again I rolled down the hill trying to gain some time on the boys before they caught me on the climb at the entrance at the Kuringai Chase National Park.

We re-grouped and again Jono checked up on how we were all going. “If this pace is too fast for anyone just call out and we will just slow down”. He offered.

I can never talk on climbs, so I said nothing in reply. My nose was still blocked from allergies but my asthma was calming down with the air temperature climbing. When the track started to descend I said. “This bit is easy. It’s all down hill with only one small climb to get to the next check point at the 44km Mark at Bobbin Head.” I assured the boys. Andy and Jono were now flying along the track with Paul and myself behind them. We came to a set of stairs and I jumped a head of Andy who’s ITB band was killing him on the technical descents. I ran along side Jono and chatted for a while. It was so funny, we were racing in the same team but have never chatted about what we do, who we are, kids etc.

“I only started running regularly 5 years. I pushed my second child in a stroller for my first City2Surf. Breastfeed her on the side of the road twice. But that was my first race. The only reason why I’m such a good runner is that I’m really good at running down hills”. I said to Jono as we speed along this run-able single man track.

“I think it is a bit more than that Shona.” He replied.

“I’m a personal trainer, so I get to spend heaps of time on my legs. I started personal training 3 years ago. I use to be a fashion designer. I swopped after having my kids”. I said and I was off and flying down the track, turned the corner and came to a grinding halt.

There was a massive tree lying across the track. The track was only 50cm wide with a cliff on one side and a ledge on the other. If you missed your step you could fall 10m onto the rocky terrain below. I picked my way through the fallen tree, climbing over and under the branches. I then ran on and then stopped to checked on the guys and they were having a few problems with navigating their way through the débris.

They cleared the tree and we kicked it on. I love this place. Apple Tree Bay and Cowan Creek is just so special to me. I enjoyed taking my boat out here. Sadly we sold it only the Wednesday before. Ah, well…..I’ll just have to run through this track more regularly.

We re-grouped and hooned along the single man track and we popped out onto the Boat Ramp at Apple Tree Bay. Andy re-filled his water with Paul and Jono and I continued on up the final climb over Bobbin Head. We rounded each other up on the climb. Jono seemed to have warmed up and he was feeling good knowing that the hardest climbs and terrain were behind us. Paul and Andy still looked strong, although Andy was clearly injured. We descended the single man track and ran out into the Picnic Ground at Bobbin Head at 12:08. 44km covered in 5 hours 8 minutes.

Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 Bobbin Head CP

My husband Mikey, Mum and my two daughters were waiting for me at the check point.

“Mum have you won, have you finished?” Milla my youngest asked.

“No Milla we are not even half way”. I replied and ran towards Garry and Beth who were waiting for our team.

Garry started to gee me up by saying “How are you feeling, are you feeling strong, are you strong?”

“Yeah, I feel strong I feel great. I’m having a ball and loving it”. I excitedly replied.

I was so happy that the tough section was over and ready to get through the next 57.5km. Beth came to my aid and I notices that she looked a bit up-set. It must have hurt her watching us run into Bobbin Head Check Point and be in such good shape. I so wanted her to do it with me. We trained hard together. She deserved to be on this team, I really felt for her. I was so upset when she said she had to pull out. She’s my running mate.

We quickly swopped my Hammer Gel Flasks and Hydration Fluid over. I gave my rubbish to Mikey and I was ready to go. I started to walk out of the check point area towards the new addition to Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 the Gibberagong Track. By the time we hit the broad-walk over the mangroves the boys had caught up to me.

“Beth looked pretty upset guys. We have to make sure we win this for her. She looks guttered”. I said.

I had written on my hand “For Beth”. I had her in my mind with every climb. I wanted to make her proud of me. I had not heard great things about this Gibberagong track. It is tough, technical and ruggered. Beth said that I would probably really like it.

I let Paul lead for a while and we worked together along the winding track until we realized that we had lost Jono and Andy off the back. Andy was having major problems with his knee. He would not say he was hurting but it was bloody obvious that he was. We slowed down a bit and let him catch up. The technical tracks killed his knee. We pressed on as a group and I darted ahead so I could discretely pee behind a boulder, then jumped out from behind the rock and re-joined the team.

“You don’t have to do that”, Jono remarked. “In Rogaine’s Julie Quinn just goes on the side of the track”.

I think I am a bit modest around the guys. I was a private catholic school girl. Besides I have visions of me trying to get my white arse back into my skin compressions shorts tripping over because I’d be rushing and then I’d give the boys a site that would be burnt on their minds for the rest of the 100kms. I decided at my discrete pees will have to do.

We ran along again and I lost the boys knowing that a climb was coming. When I came to the ridge I let out a “Fu3k”.

Almost the entire ridge was covered with fallen trees. There was no way you could follow the track. I waited for the guys to catch up and then started to pick my way through and around the trees to rejoin the track 50m up the climb. At the top of the climb we regrouped again and Jono let me know that Andy was hurting. We chatted about how I was feeling.

“I usually hate 30-50kms but I still feel good.” I assured Jono.

“Yeah you don’t look like you are working too hard on the climbs, we are almost at 50kms and we are through the tough section, your doing well”. He complemented.

The climb continued on a smallish fire trail and Paul and Jono moved to the front. We walked and ran our way to the top and I noticed that Andy was walking.

“Only 1.2 km until we’ve run 50km” I called out.

With this news Andy was up and running. I spotted my hubby Mikey at the gate to the road with my Mum and kids. Mikey was taking photos of us up the climb. I waved and smiled. I still felt good. I did not go through my usual 30-50km low that I have in most races. I was feeling confident that I was going to be able to hold this pace until the end of the race. Maybe switching to the Hammer Products and using a bit of Perpeteum helped me?

We entered the back streets of North Turramurra and Andy took off like a rocket. His knee did not trouble him of the flats. I had to run fast to stay with him. We had an escort from the National Parks and Wildlife Service along the road to keep us safe. We followed their directions and we then crossed the Bobbin Head Road and re-entered the Kuringai Chase National Park and rolled down the hill into the Sphinx Memorial. We filled up with water at the tap and after a few stretches I started to walk on.

The boys soon followed and we were descending the stairs towards St Ives Showground along the Sphinx walking track. Jono then let it be known that he wanted to improve his record of wins in Oxfam Trailwalkers. He had completed 9 Oxfam Trailwalkers and won 7 of them. If he was to win this Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 it would make it 8 wins from 10 races. That is an awesome effort. How on earth did we end up with this amazing team player in our team? I have such good luck. We all have good luck. Man I was smart to not get antsy at Mt Solitary when he was trying to take the piss with the mandatory gear. It always pays to be professional.

I bounded down the stairs stretching my legs and enjoying running with this team. They let me run ahead and I was feeling good because of it. The track narrowed again and it became really technical. Andy and the boys fell behind. I crossed the creek and waited for them and directed them back onto the path as they’d taken the wrong trail.

When they caught me back up they informed me that they’d heard voices and that Jono spotted someone from the Gu Nathan Team behind us. Sh1t. With this knowledge it was like I had a rocket up my butt with an adrenalin rush and I was off and running.

We came to the “Goat Track”. Paul hit the lead and we pushed up the climb. My quad and calves were killing me.

“Almost at the Top, just 10 more meters” I assured Paul.

We made it to the top and we chatted about the Gu Nathan team being behind us.

“They would have been able to see us”. Jono said.

Man I was off and power walking up the climb. I then started to run 20 steps and walk 20 steps until we made it to the top. I was slowing falling off the back of the boys. Paul kept checking behind to see if they were following, but I could tell by the look on his face that he could not see them.

Andy and Jono were at the front keeping a consistent pace and I was just begging for a descent so I could roll onto the back of them without using any energy. We finally made it to the top of the climb and ran onto the road. We followed the signs and turned left and I rolled down the hill back into the Kuringai Chase National Park.

Jono soon ran up next to me and said, “You just need to run, you don’t need to run fast”.

“ I know” I replied and the descent got steeper and then I ran faster. I could not help it. My legs felt great and I did not want to put the breaks on. I knew there was a big climb coming up ahead and the boys were going to catch me so I let my body go and enjoyed the ride.

On the climb the guys caught up with me again.

“We just need to make it to the top first. This climb hurts but it will be over soon. We will then be able to see all the other teams coming up this climb and they will be hurting and we will look fresh because we would have had a break and running back down the descent”. I urged the boys.

We walked and ran our way to the top and I was soon relieved to see the Wild Flower Cycleway meaning that we were almost at the 4th Check Point at the St Ives Showground. We turned back and noticed that we could not see the Gu Nathan Team on the long fire trail behind us. Excellent. The hard work was paying off.

We ran through the gates at the top of the ridge and entered the grounds of the St Ives Showground where the check point 4 was located. 60.5km in 7 hours and 9 minutes 2:09pm.