Point to Pinnacle: Mount Nelson

My training for the Point to Pinnacle has basically been non-existent for the last three weeks. I have really struggled to get out of bed in the mornings and I’ve been lucky if I’ve managed more than one walk a week.

This is Not Good when the event is on IN TWO WEEKS!

I can blame going on holidays and not being able to get back into the habit of walking, but I walked every day of the holidays. I don’t know what has caused my reluctance to walk, because I usually have no problem at all, but whatever it is, it’s my responsibility to fix it. If I don’t make it to the top of the mountain because I didn’t train enough it’s entirely my fault.

Anyway, what’s done is done and I can’t get those three weeks back, so I have to make the most of the two weeks I have left and strike a balance between getting some km in and not overdoing it so I’m not exhausted on event day.

If you’ve been following the story so far, you’ll know that I walked to the Mount Nelson Signal Station on the Truganini Track way back in August. Today I decided to go there again but this time to take the road. After all, I’ll be walking up a road in the Point to Pinnacle so it made sense to walk up a smaller mountain in similar conditions. Okay, at 352 metres, it’s nowhere near as high as the 1270 metres I’ll be walking up IN TWO WEEKS. But it’s better than no hill.

To get to Mount Nelson, you need to find Nelson Road, which turns off Sandy Bay Road and dog legs across Churchill Avenue. I decided to take it easy, so I took my camera with me and walked the scenic route along Churchill Avenue. It took me about an hour and a half, with a few photo stops, to walk the almost 8 km to the Nelson Road turn off.IMG_7801

Nelson Road is known for its bends, and I had no idea how far it was to the top or how long it would take. When you get to Bend 3, there’s access to a footpath that shortcuts up to Bend 7. While that would have been a whole lot quicker, and most likely safer too, since there was very little in the way of footpath on the road, the point was to have as long a walk as possible, so that would have been cheating, I think.IMG_7802

The road it was. It was a nice walk with lots of lovely houses to look at, though most of them were hidden behind trees. I was overtaken by a couple of cyclists also on the way up, some dog walkers on the way down and mercifully few cars. This was a lot more civilised than the 70km/h road to Fern Tree.

I wasn’t sure how many bends there were. I thought it was eight, and the distance between them seemed to increase between each bend. At Bend 7 is the Bend 7 Reservoir, which is fenced off and accessible to “Authorised personnel only”.  IMG_7805

That’s not me, so I kept going. I’m not sure if there is a Bend 8, but eventually, I made it to the top of Nelson Road, where it joins Olinda Grove. That was almost four km from the Churchill Avenue turn off and it took me a bit under 50 minutes. After that, I wasn’t sure how to get to the Signal Station. There was one sign pointing me in the direction that Nelson Road continued, so on I went.

The further I went, the more it started to feel like I was in the middle of the country. I had no idea where I was going or if I’d missed a turn to the Signal Station. I felt like I’d been walking forever. I could have checked a map but figured I wasn’t exactly going to get lost, and that the road would have to end-somewhere-eventually. And it did, a bit more than two km along the road.

It felt longer.

Total distance: 14.29km, time: two hours 47 minutes (with several pauses).IMG_7820_2According to Discover Tasmania

The signal station was built in 1811 and was the first of a chain of signal stations that once linked Hobart Town with Port Arthur. A short message from Hobart to Port Arthur and return reply could be completed in approximately fifteen minutes – under clear conditions.

The closure of the station on Mount Nelson came with the arrival of the telegraph in 1880.

There are great panoramic views of Hobart and the Derwent from here and one thing I really noticed was how much the Grand Chancellor stands out in the city. I had some fun taking photos of the Signal Station and eventually decided I could go no longer without coffee. Fortunately, there’s a coffee shop.IMG_7828_2There’s a track leading down from one of the lookout points that takes you to Sandy Bay, so I thought it would be fun to see where that went. It leads through Bicentennial Park, which is described as

A downhill walk, the first half of which is through open forest with views of the city, whilst the second half is amongst wetter forest.

From the historic Mt Nelson Signal Station the track descends gently downhill as it winds pleasantly through open forest. This section of track receives good sun making it an ideal choice for a winter walk. Dogs on lead are permitted as far as the Enterprise Road junction.

The track grade then becomes steeper and the forest increasingly shady and damp. After crossing Lambert Rivulet the creek is followed downstream to Lambert Avenue.

It was an interesting walk because, although I knew I wasn’t very far from civilisation, it felt very deserted. Especially when I got to the point where the track forked into two and the signpost had been knocked over and there was only an arrow pointing in one direction.

I could see Mt Wellington on my left and kept freaking out that I was going to be walking up there IN TWO WEEKS. Whilever the track was still formed, I felt relatively secure that I was still going the right way, even though there were times I felt like I should be dropping breadcrumbs. There were lots of stony steps but absolutely no indication of where I was. The backs of houses came into view, which left me none the wiser.IMG_4131

Eventually, I got to a sign that mentioned the contribution of Dr DJ Walters in the development of Lambert Park and, not much further on, I emerged at Churchill Avenue, just a short distance from the Nelson Road turnoff I’d taken earlier in the morning. I didn’t track that section of the walk so I have no idea how long it took or how far it was but based on the metadata on my photos, I reckon it took me about an hour.

So, that was a great Sunday morning adventure and probably the last big walk I’ll do before the Point to Pinnacle, which is IN TWO WEEKS. I know I have let myself down over the last three weeks and I’m not happy about that, but I also know I’m not going to get super-fit within the next two weeks. I’m going to stay as active as I can and give it my very best shot.

Advertisements

Point to Pinnacle: Fern Tree

Sunday 23 September (57 days to go)

Today’s plan was to walk to Fern Tree to see if I have any chance of completing the Point to Pinnacle in 57 days time . . . The official race guidelines say all competitors have to have passed the kunanyi turnoff by 9:40 am, which means you have two hours 40 minutes to get there from Wrest Point. By my calculations it’s about 10 km, which should be walkable in about two hours, leaving two hours 40 minutes to do the 11 km up the mountain.

That seems to be cutting it a bit fine, since the mountain is uphill all the way, so I think the goal to the turn off should be less than two hours to that point to give me longer to get up the mountain.

My first question before I set out was whether to take my raincoat or my camera because I couldn’t fit both in my new tiny walking backpack. The raincoat won because rain was forecast and I wasn’t going to do this walk to take photos. I can do that another day. It proved to be the right choice because it started raining not more than 20 minutes from home. Also, it’s bright red, giving me a better chance of being seen by manic car drivers along the more dodgy bits of the road.

The first stage of the walk was getting to Wrest Point, the start of the event. This is about seven km from my house and takes a bit over an hour. It’s not a challenging walk.

20180923 Wrest Point 4 edit copy

Home to Casino: 1:11:43 for 7.13 km.

That was just to get to the starting point.

Wrest Point to the Southern Outlet along Davey Street was 2.3 km and that took 23:09. That was a perfect pace, I think.

After that, the course begins to get more hilly as Davey Street becomes Huon Road. I was a bit worried about this stage because I hadn’t done much hill walking up to this point and I remember driving up it and thinking it would be hard work.

The first section was probably the hardest and I was wondering why I had signed up for this. I decided to look at the beautiful houses and make some plans to come back later and take some photos. There are some gorgeous places there that I never knew about. That made the walk slightly less painful.

After a bit of a climb, it became a lot gentler slope and easier walking. The main thing I was afraid of when I realised this wasn’t a hill that was going to kill me was the cars. You get to a point where the footpath ends and the speed limit goes up to 70km/h. I felt not the safest I’d ever felt and was glad of the red raincoat and the red backpack giving me, I hoped, a reasonable chance of being seen.

20180923 04 Wellington Park

Wellington Park

It wasn’t too bad of a walk and felt easier than some of the other hills I’ve walked. I don’t know if it was really flatter or if the bush air was making me feel more energised. There was intermittent rain and not rain, so again, grateful for the raincoat decision, but it didn’t get overly windy or cold. My feet did get wet and my new shoes are covered in mud.

Note to self: pack spare shoes, socks, a jacket, a beanie and another pair of walking pants into your gear bag for the event.

20180923 07 Fern Tree

Getting closer.

It’s not a walk I’m overly keen to repeat when the road’s open though. It’s not designed for pedestrians and there are parts where the shoulder is really narrow. A couple of times I walked on the wrong side of the road because there was hardly any gap between the road and the rockface, and my thinking was if there was a rogue car I’d have a better chance of living if I rolled down the hill on the other side than if I got crushed against the rockface. How cheerful.

Of course, that didn’t happen and I was mighty relieved to see the sign telling me the turnoff to kunanyi was only 100 metres away. Time to the turnoff: 2:51:40 from when I left home, 1:39:57 from the Casino, distance 16.71 km from home, 9.58 km from the Casino.

20180923 08 Turn off edit copy

Made it!

If I can hold that pace on event day, 1:40, that will leave me three hours to cover the 11.5 km to the top of the mountain. I’m starting to think it might be possible. When I got to the turnoff I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt like I could keep going but I had a commitment in town that involved someone coming to get me because of the woeful bus service and I wouldn’t have had enough time to walk back down again. So I walked for a few more minutes up the mountain road, dodging cars and, once it started raining, I decided I really didn’t want to be outside any more and headed for the pub with its log fire and coffee.

20180923 15 Dirty shoes copy

Poor new shoes

Total distance: 17.82km, total time 3:03:54.

Tomorrow is a rest day.

Point to Pinnacle: Truganini Track

Sunday 12 August (97 days to go)

Not far from my house is the Truganini Track, which is a 2.1 km medium grade bush walk from the Cartwright Reserve on Sandy Bay Road up to the Mt Nelson Signal Station, an elevation of 350 metres. Ever since I found out it was there, I’d wanted to walk it and I put it on my list of things I was going to do this year.

Lils Sis said she’d do it with me, so we booked in a day to do it and I was ready. Then on Thursday, she pulled out because she wasn’t feeling well. I was already committed so I decided to do it by myself. I need to get some hill walks in before the Point to Pinnacle and I thought this would be a good test of my ability.

For some reason, I’d thought it was a two-hour one-way walk so I thought I’d need a whole morning to do it and that I’d get there in time to have coffee and get Slabs to come and pick me up late morning.

I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, but as I was trying to talk myself into getting up I realised I didn’t need to leave until it was light. It would have been stupid to go on a bushwalk in the dark! So I left home at about 7.00 am. The first part of the walk was easy, along the main road to the start of the track. Then the proper walk began. 

The forest was very thick almost from the very start but the first thing I noticed was that I could hear chickens, so even though I was surrounded by forest and couldn’t see any houses, I could tell I was very close to civilisation.

According to Tastrails this is wet sclerophyll forest and this section “can often be quite muddy after wet weather”. I can confirm this is 100 per cent true. It was very muddy and slippery and I learned from experience that cutting grass is not a good thing to hold onto if you think you’re about to fall.20180812 Truganini Track 06 edit copy It occurred to me after that incident that I didn’t have a first aid kit and I had no plan for what I’d do if I actually injured myself on this track. I was fairly confident that wouldn’t happen but you hear all these stories about underprepared bushwalkers getting lost and having to have Search & Rescue come and look for them and I was doing this walk alone on a track I didn’t know and . . . Barb, the track is two kilometres. You are no more than a kilometre from a main road wherever you are. There are relatively new looking footprints on the track; people probably come through here every day. You have a phone; you aren’t in the wilderness. If anything happens someone will find you pretty quickly.20180812 Truganini Track 07 edit copyOkay, that sorted I carried on. It’s definitely not an easy climb. Apart from the slipperiness, many of the steps are big, especially for someone with short legs like me, so climbing was awkward. It was also rocky underfoot, so not the most comfortable walk.20180812 Truganini Track 10 edit copy As you continue on the walk, the forest changes to dry sclerophyll and you can start to see glimpses of the river between the trees. You can see that you’ve climbed a long way (if you weren’t already feeling it in your legs and your breath).20180812 Truganini Track 11 edit copyAs I got closer to the top, I noticed a structure and realised I was back near civilisation. I have no idea what this was, but the track started to flatten out. 20180812 Truganini Track 12 edit copyI came across the Truganini Memorial, which is dedicated to the Tasmanian Aboriginal people and their descendants. This was very simple and moving. I realised I was at the end and it had taken me less than an hour to complete the climb. It was only just 8.30 and the coffee shop wouldn’t open for another 30 minutes. There wasn’t a lot to see. The view wasn’t very clear. I took a couple of photos but they weren’t very good because the sky was misty.

I was glad to have made it to the top and ticked this trail off my list. It was a nice, challenging Sunday morning walk.

Point to Pinnacle part 3

A backlog of posts about my Point to Pinnacle experience, being a not overly fit, desk-bound, not-getting-any-younger casual walker. 

Friday 3 August (106 days to go)

I’m going to try to follow the 12-week training plan they have suggested for the event. So that means I’ll start it in the week of 27 August and I have three complete weeks to work up to the level where I can start it.

I notice that this doesn’t say all competitors need to go to their GP. It’s more gentle and suggests

If you are over 35 and haven’t been exercising for a while have a check up with your GP and let him/her know what you’re planning. You will be met with great support, however, it pays to make sure you know where your true starting point is.

Well, I’m over 35 but I walk every day, so that’s exercise, right? I think I’ll be okay. Right?

I’ve put my “half marathon” on 18 November into Runkeeper. It’s now an official goal!

I’m going to start logging my walks. For now, I will do two km every morning with an aim to do it under 20 minutes and start building up my Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday walks. I’ll also walk to the top of our street as an add-on to each two km walk to start getting some hills in.

Monday 6 August (103 days to go)

I went out at lunch time to get some new shoes. My Asics are older than I’d thought. I got them in 2014. I told the girl what I was planning and she said she was going to do it too. She said she’d moved here from Melbourne and had never heard of it before she got here, so it’s her first time as well. But she is young and looks fit! She says she’s going to attempt to run it.

I am going to attempt to not die.

After a few pairs of shoes that weren’t quite right, including some Brooks, which I really liked but were just too slippy on my feet, I settled on some adidas. She said they are super cushiony because they have this technology which means you don’t step on the same part of the cushioning two times in a row, so it makes the shoes last longer. Yay!

Tuesday 7 August (102 days to go)

20180807 Walking my runners to work edit

I walked the old shoes into work this morning to keep under my desk and inspire me to go walking at lunchtime instead of spending all my money in bookshops.

What are my chances?

Point to Pinnacle Part 2

A backlog of posts about my Point to Pinnacle experience, being a not overly fit, desk-bound, not-getting-any-younger casual walker. 

Wednesday 1 August

The Point to Pinnacle entries opened today. I thought I had set myself up a reminder at 7.00 am so I’d remember to go in and enter pretty much as soon as the website went live. Unfortunately, I hadn’t and I completely forgot about it. I’d only set it to come up in my to-do app as a task for today, so I didn’t see it until later in the evening.

I saw the reminder. “Oh shit,” I thought. It’s today.”

I went to the website and had a read through the information there. It all seemed perfectly reasonable. Nothing scary here at all . . .

The toughest half-marathon in the world

The course is 21.1km long and just over 1,270 metres in elevation

This race is physically challenging . . .

All competitors MUST BE PAST the junction of Davey Street and the Southern Outlet by 8:40 am.

All competitors MUST BE PAST the turn onto Pillinger Drive off Huon Road by 9:40 am.

All competitors must complete the course by 11.40am (Walk: 4 hours 40 minutes).

Any competitor who has not completed the course by 11.40am will be instructed by Tasmania Police to hop on the final bus as it comes down the mountain.

WARNING: We advise all competitors to contact your GP before undertaking the Point to Pinnacle.

A medical warning in bold caps. “World’s toughest half marathon”. “Physically challenging . . .”

Is this really a good idea?

It was late and I figured it could wait until tomorrow.

But I knew what would happen if I left it until tomorrow. Tomorrow would become the next day, and that would become the day after until it became the day the event sold out and I couldn’t sign up. No. If I was going to do this, I was committing right here and now. No excuses.

So, I did it, and now I have 108 days to get into shape for this.

There’s a 12-week training program they recommend. Now I have no excuse. I’ve paid my money, I’m committed. I HAVE to do it.

Point to Pinnacle part 1

A backlog of posts about my Point to Pinnacle experience, being a not overly fit, desk-bound, not-getting-any-younger casual walker. 

27 July 2018

I like to walk. I go for a 20-minute walk every morning and aim to walk at least 12,000 steps every day.

Occasionally, I sign up for organised walks like the City to Casino Fun Run (and Walk) and have participated in CARE Australia’s Walk in Her Shoes challenge, which is a walking challenge to raise funds for CARE’s work with women in developing countries.

These have all been reasonably gentle events that haven’t been overly physically challenging for me.

However, there is one event that I’ve thought about participating in for several years and never made the commitment to because it’s beyond the next level for me.

The Point to Pinnacle is described as:

the toughest half-marathon in the world, and for good reason, with just over 1270m of ascending, gradients above 10% and extreme changes in climate and weather conditions. The event is a challenge of the human spirit and allows people of all ages and abilities to be involved through our walk or run. It is now one of Tasmania’s iconic events that draws many people from interstate and internationally each year. (2018 Point to Pinnacle Event Book)

The course starts at Wrest Point Car Park and goes for 21.1 km to the pinnacle of kunanyi/Mount Wellington.

I was walking with a friend in the City to Casino earlier this year and mentioned I was considering entering this event. I said that I’d thought about it but never done it. She said something along the lines of, you don’t do it by thinking about it. She had a point, and I thought maybe this would be the year I’d do it. But I wasn’t sure.

Fast forward to today and I had to see the HR guy who had coordinated my work’s participation in the City to Casino. I had to return a shirt that my sister had refused to wear. (I don’t blame her; they were most unflattering). I handed the shirt back, he thanked me and I wondered for a brief second if I should go back to my desk or if I should say something about how much I had enjoyed participating in the race and how good it was for work to be supporting things like this.

I did neither.

“I’m going to do the Point to Pinnacle,” I blurted out.

Brain-mouth disconnect. Why would I tell anyone that?

He looked at me in what I can only describe as horror*.

“I could never do that,” he said. This from a guy who is, I imagine, because he ran the City to Casino, fairly fit.

Instant fear struck my heart. If a fit, young(er than me) guy said he wouldn’t attempt it, what in hell made me think I could do it? Up until then, I’d imagined it would be difficult (because hills) but not overly impossible for someone with my level of fitness to do. I know people who have done it and haven’t died, so I know it’s possible. I semi-regularly do 10 km walks so I know I’m not entirely unfit. However, this is double that distance and involves a mountain. It’s not exactly the same thing.

“I’m walking it,” I said.

I don’t think that needed to be said. A quick glance at my physique would tell anyone I’m not a runner, let alone a runner who runs 20 km up mountains.

“Yes,” he said.

“Well I look at it like this,” I continued because I’d got myself into this conversation and now I had to end it. “It’s in about three months, so if I sign up, I’ve committed and I have to do it so I’ll have to train for it. There won’t be any getting out of it.”

“Yeah,” he said, looking less than convinced.

I am now doubting myself bigtime. Is it going to be a hell of a lot harder than I had thought? Am I completely crazy to think I can do this?

Registrations open next week. I have set a reminder to sign up. Am I going to do this? Am I going to let someone else’s reaction stop me?

No, I am not. I’ll never know if I can do it unless I try. I have enough time to prepare. I’m committed and I’m doing it.

 

*HR guy’s reaction may be slightly overstated for dramatic effect.

Silence

Today I picked up a copy of the free magazine published by Penguin Books, underline, which had a feature on a book called Silence: In the Age of Noise by the Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge. I had never heard of Mr Kagge before today, but according to the magazine, he is the first person to walk to the South Pole alone and has also climbed Mt Everest and travelled to the North Pole.

20171126 SilenceI was most fascinated to read that he had explored the underground sewers of New York and he had walked from one end of Los Angeles to the other in four days – slowly, staying in hotels along the way – attracting the attention of the police as he went. In another article I read, he said that the police thought it was really suspicious for someone to be walking around because the only people they saw walking were “crackheads, prostitutes, and crazy people”.

That really blew me away. I cannot imagine a place where walking around was so unusual that the cops would think you were up to something. I love walking and exploring on foot. It’s what I do. It’s part of my identity. A journey like that would have been fascinating. To have taken four days to explore 35 kilometres.

The magazine had an extract from Mr Kagge’s book, which had me captivated from the first word. I need to read this book. I will be going to the bookshop on Monday to see if they have it. The whole extract spoke to me, but two passages really stood out.

“The secret to walking to the South Pole is to put one foot in front of the other, and to do this enough times. On a purely technical scale this is quite simple. Even a mouse can eat an elephant if it takes small enough bites. The challenge lies in the desire.”

As I was reading, I thought that this summed up exactly the struggle I have every day to try and ingrain the good habits I want to have in my life. Technically, it’s simple. Do the thing enough times, day after day, consistently and you build a habit that sticks. But until you’ve done it enough times to make it stick (and the 21-days theory is complete bullshit in my experience) you have to have the desire. And when the desire for another whisky outweighs the desire for a 10pm bedtime, you’re (I’m) in trouble, and the bad habit, rather than the good one, is reinforced.

“On the 27th day I wrote: ‘Antarctica is still distance and unknown for most people. As I walk along I hope it will remain so. Not because I begrudge many people experiencing it, but because Antartica has a mission as an unknown land.’ I believe that we need places that have not been fully explored and normalised. There is still a continent that is mysterious and practically untouched, ‘that can be a state within one’s fantasy’. This may be the greatest value of Antarctica for my three daughters and generations to come.”

This made me think of the desire within Tasmania to “unlock” more of this precious state to commercial ventures that would allow more people to experience our wild places but at the cost of the pristineness of those places. It’s a practical example of the observer principle. Observing something changes its nature. To open up these places to more people changes the fundamental thing that makes them worth seeing in the first place.

(You know I gave in to the desire for another whisky, right?)

I can’t wait to read the book. Silence is something that I crave, and learning to find it as Mr Kagge did “beneath the cacophony of traffic noise and thoughts, music and machinery, iPhones and snowploughs” (maybe not snowploughs) is something I would love to explore more.