50km: Adelaide Oval to Mt Lofty summit
So I wouldn't say it was easy, but it certainly wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. I got no blisters, and only a very minor but manageable - thanks to Jenny's fantastic Black Diamond trekking pole - knee injury.
Likewise, other team members did well. One of our members deserves the 'best on ground' award for continuing on the course after throwing up bile after Morialta. Determined to finish, they kept up their fluids, and with some good rests along the way we all managed to complete the event together at Mt Lofty summit.
We met at the start point at Pinky Flat, near Adelaide Oval/Next Gen on the banks of the River Torrens. As Tim and I waited for the girls arrive, we got to see all the serious joggers psyche up for their events (There were 4 options available: 18km, 34km, 50km or 100km). Think ridiculously short shorts, and tubs of Vaseline being shamelessly applied. Not a pretty sight.
Myself, Tim, Coleen and Jenny at the start point beside the River Torrens
The first 18km to Athelstone follows Linear Park along the River Torrens to the hills. It was a 3 hour walk, following the bitumen pathways, so it can be hard on the feet, but we were 'in the zone' so it was all good. The free Red Bull, fruit and water top-up was a welcome sight at Athelstone. John, Jenny's partner, soon turned up with an esky and made us some fresh rolls - yummo.
It was about 10.45am when we left, hiking up what I consider the hardest hill on the trail. Or what I did consider the hardest, little did I know, our training preparation had led us the wrong way through Morialta, so the Trailblazer challenge still had a surprise in store for us. Regardless, this hill out from Athelstone, Ambers Gully, is steep and hot in the full sun.
By 2pm, when we reached Morialta, officially the 34km mark, it was quite hot. Ok, 33 degrees might not normally be considered hot, but it certainly makes hiking up hills in the sun a lot tougher. There's good reason why the hiking season is considered to be from April to October and not over summer. We ate some lunch in the hot shade and saw plenty of 50km participants withdrawing, the heat or the hike proving too much for them. Leaving Morialta we soon came across the little surprise that was awaiting us. An incredibly steep hill that I have little or no recollection of ever seeing before. It was also here where things took a turn for the worse for one team member.
Deciding to stick true to the course, we set up the next ridiculous hill, a recent re-route due to flood damage along the creek between the second and third falls. We saw plenty of participants head off along the closed, but considerably easier, section.
Hiking out of Morialta, we came across a ute with some eskies in the back - a support crew waiting for their team. Oh, how could they? What I would have done for a nice cold drink! Thankfully, one of them offered us some ice - they must have seen our expressions I'm sure. I'm no ice eater normally, but this was just heaven munching on ice.
Hiking through Horsnell Gully was a relief, the hot sun was now behind trees and the cool tracks and pathways were a welcome relief. The koalas were up to their normal antics, I love this place. Hiking out of Horsnell Gully, our last major hill aside from the last 650m to Mt Lofty summit, we were treated to some spectacular colours from the setting sun, the orange light lighting the pine trees in a magical way.
John was a very welcome sight at Checkpoint 3, at a radar station on a dirt road near Summertown. Tim and I got stuck into our freshly made wraps and a nice cold Pepsi Max, I'm sure I've never eaten a better wrap before. In a moment of sadism, the event organisers had chosen to place the checkpoint tent at the top of the hill where the radar tower stood, rather than down beside the roadway. We checked in and asked about medical help for our worsening bile-throwing-up member. No help or advise was available, but whilst we sat and ate we asked everyone who walked by if they were a paramedic. A seemingly random question, but the volunteers had told us a paramedic was hiking in a team of 3, apparently coming along soon. When he came, he admitted he didn't really care, he was too exhausted, but if one didn't actually feel too sick, they could continue, it was only the body saying it wasn't coping with the heat. It was only 5-7km left to the end, and it was dark now, so with no persuasion our sick member decided to continue.
Head torches on, we hiked through the cool of the forests of Cleland, along the winding fire tracks that follow the contours of the hill. Easy hiking, and with a bright moon overhead much more pleasurable with the head torch turned off.
Just after 9pm we stumbled out of the bush onto the paved area that the white obelisk and cafe sit on at the summit of Mt Lofty.