That was how I found myself, looking at Mt Bogong, Victoria's highest peak, located near Mt Beauty. Pretty, huh? Pretty damn big! All 1986m of her.
Conquestathon is run by the Mt Beauty Lions Club, and is held on the Labour Day long weekend in Victoria. It is a really well run event with checkpoints to go through. If you miss a checkpoint, they go looking for you!
We stayed in the Mt Beauty caravan park, ( great swimming hole in the river) along with crazed cyclists who were taking part in the tri peaks bike race. I tell you, it was ALL ON in Mt Beauty this weekend.
I rose at 5 on Sunday morning, packed my backpack with change of weather clothes, 2L of water and snacks to keep me going, chowed down on my banana bread breakfast and a quick cuppa then we were off to the starting point. It was still dark when I took my place in the first wave at 6.30am. It was at this point I suddenly realised, I am about to run UP A MOUNTAIN. Not only that but I HAD NO IDEA WHERE TO GO. Well up obviously, but I was unfamiliar with the tracks. So strategy one was put into place....let someone else lead.
I was in 4th place at this point behind one other girl and 2 blokes. The first bit was easy peasy, along a gravel track with bridges over creek crossings, handy when running in the pre dawn gloom. Then the climb started.
It was not a gradual climb but a straight up climb with steps cut into the track. It was a rough track but easy to follow and it became slow going.
I was passed by quite a few people by that stage, including the man with the race record of 1 hr 57 minutes. ( Did he just fling himself off the peak to get down or what??) I noticed the ones making fast headway had ski pole like walking sticks, something to investigate for next time I think.
By the time I reached the first checkpoint at 8 am at bivouac hut, an hour and a half after the start, my legs were jelly and my arse like concrete. A few words of encouragement set me off again and I devoured my first mars bar. The path flattened a little here, lulling me into a false sense of relief as I ran along it......
.... only to be slapped in the face by another steep and rocky climb. But the view that opened up about 2/3 of the way up was gorgeous.
Soon after this pic, the track became a goat track winding it's way along the contours of the mountain...nice and easy, and nice and SNAKY. Nothing like nearly running on top of a copperhead snake to give you a jolt of adrenaline!!
Again, thinking I was near the peak I was lulled into a false sense of relief and again, was slapped in the face by the final ascent....those poles you can see faintly? They mark a nearly vertical climb and were approx 8 ft tall.
Amazing how many sticks look like snakes after you see one real one......I think I raced to the top based on adrenaline alone, leaping over venomous bits of wood. It worked though, at 9.15 am I had reached the summit.
You know what? What goes up must come down....so down I set off at a run. My calves and quads were grateful but my knees...oh my knees do NOT like downhill running. I had to stop and walk several long sections because of the steep and rocky track, after I fell twice of course!
Passing up an offer of a massage from a cheeky gent at the last checkpoint I stumbled on. By this time I had no water left, had eaten 2 mars bars and more banana bread, bypassed a GINORMOUS black snake with the help of another kind racer, I came to the bottom of the mountain....now just for the final 6 ish K run along a 4 wheel drive track to the end. And I ran....in a hopping hitching, swearing frequently type of run but ran nevertheless. To my surprise I began passing those who had overtaken me earlier, after running most of the 22 k by myself. It was nearing 5 hours since I had started and EVERYTHING hurt. Splashing through icy cold creeks brought some relief to my sore feet and seeing the sign to the finish line (about 1 k from the end) boosted my spirits. I was determined to cross that line running, I was filthy, hot, wet, stinky but I was nearly there. I got my second wind.
I joke you not, I SPRINTED the last 100 m to come in ( unofficially so by my count of the people I passed) 4th woman in my wave...and am now the proud bearer of a medal.
The race for me ended 5 hours 22 minutes after I started, to be met by my husband and two children, a banana and an icy cold bottle of water. So gooooooood.......
and I felt.....