Saturday, 11 February 2017

Adventure 25 - The one with The Three Steps

The bottom of the Three Steps
Normally I don't take pictures of my trails because
I'm running (clearly I am not running here)
Where: Serpentine National Park
When: February 2017
My Adventure Companions: None
"What are The Three Steps like?"
I heard a snort of laughter from the passenger seat as our driver asked the inevitable question about the ‘Snakes and Ladders’ race. I’m still not sure where then number three comes from, or where the steps are but it refers to a very large, very steep hill, on which the upper half is loose, powdery dirt. It never fails to get a mention in the race briefing and only the hardiest of trail runners will actually run up it. When I did this race two years ago it was the place I came unstuck.
The start of the race was nice and cool. I stuck myself in the top third of the pack for a fast start, which then pretty much ground to a halt (or slow walk) as I gasped my way up the top of the first steep up-hill section. The field started to thin out in the woods towards the top of the first hill as the stronger runners kept on running and the slower flagged behind.  A gradually undulating, wide trail, in the shade of the trees with only the sound of my foot falls and some tweeting birds was a welcome moment of peace. It didn’t last long before I was trying not to slide all the way down a pea-gravel covered slope and then out into the open again. As I was picking my way down the hill, up came the front runner for the long course, steaming back up. It makes you marvel at what human beings are capable of.
Suddenly I was at the bottom of The Three Steps. My only goal was to make it up and back down again in one piece. Baby steps, I kept saying to myself. One foot in front/above another. Just. Keep. Going. And there I was, at the top. However, true to PTS form, the course didn’t turn around at the top, it diverted along the side of the hill for couple more minutes to an open patch where there’s a (literal) turning circle. Around the turning circle we all went and back down the treacherous, slippy-slidey dust pile. By this point I was tiring so my downhill was disappointingly slow as I just didn’t have the strength to be safe at speed. I was grateful to finish The Three Steps in one piece with only one dusty hand, which I had used to break an almost-fall.  
The remaining kilometres were a peaceful ramble along the Kitties Gorge trail (excepting the heart stopping moment when the person in front lost the trail - yes yes, I know I’m supposed to follow the blue flagging not the person in front of me). At the finish there were warm smiles, cold water melon slices and high fives. As we drove back to Perth, there was a quiet satisfaction that we had just conquered some good hills.  
Opening Hours: 08:30-5pm
Cost: $12 per car
Elevation of the Snakes and Ladders race course
Image courtesey of Perth Trail Series
(annotation by myself)

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Are we slowing down?

We’re pretty much half way through the challenge, depending on how whether you measure it but time or number of adventures logged. On the surface it may appear that our adventures are getting fewer and further between. However, outside of our documented adventures, I am glad to report that we have been living some pretty busy (and adventurous) times.
There have been a few places re-visited (which I haven’t logged as new adventures), lots of visits to new beaches and a weekend where it was too hot to do anything other than make quick forays to exercise Velcro Dog but all in all, mini-adventures have become part of our routine.
Getting out to new places and doing new things with little ones takes planning (and a little psycing up sometimes) and making the most of awake (or nap) times as well as the cooler parts of the day in summer. Mr MAP and I have slowly been cultivating a routine making our mini-adventures easier and easier. As the boys get older, it has become their norm to take long trips in the car, eat and sleep on the go and see new places. As parents, Mr MAP and I have also worked out what helps us function better in the morning (for me it’s get up earlier that the rest of the family to have a shower) or get out the door more easily (for Mr MAP that’s a threat of no pre-activity coffee from our local coffee shop). Add to that the more obvious things like such as putting snacks together and loading bags the night before and you have a well-honed routine.
The aim of this project initially was to get the MAP family out and about on a regular basis, seeing more places and doing new things and it has definitely succeeded on this front. However, I am looking forward to a little later in the year when it cools down as it will open up a whole new raft of things to do.   

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Adventure 24 - The one with a twofa

This is what about 200 runners look like at 6:30am
Where: Walyunga National Park
When: January 2017
My Adventure Companions: Mr MAP, Mini Monkey and the Giant Baby.
"Would you like to come on a hike after the race?"
I thought it would be lovely to get the rest of the MAP family involved in the post-race festivities and a hike is normally a pretty good incentive. On previous trail races I had noticed how many families were hanging around at the finish line wished the MAP family could have been there. But who wants to get up early and hang around for a couple of hours? Not my family for sure and I don’t blame them. After a few discussions on logistics, we came up with a plan: I would get a lift up with a fellow runner and the rest of the family would follow to be there around the time I finished a run. We would then do a regular Sunday morning hike including a trail nap for the Giant Baby.
The race (run by Perth Trail Series) was being held at Walyunga National Park, which I have been to several times before. It has a lovely, kiddo freindly trail along the Avon River and some interesting hills on either side of the valley. I like the way the race series runs, preparing you as you go for some of the larger hills in the later races. As this race is only the second in the series it’s still pretty gentle, even though I was left wheezing like an old steam train half way up the first hill. Why do race photographers always insist on standing up hills? I had to run all the way up that one lest I was snapped slacking!
Distance wise, the first half of the race is spent going up. What goes up must come down so the second half of the race went very quickly The trails were mostly wide (no concertina effect this time), some were a little sandy and some a little pea-gravelly but overall it was a nicely flowing course. As per usual, the people were great fun to be around, even with the Race Director making sure to give everyone who finished a big old smile and a high five.
I finished bang on time (estimated an hour, finish time 1:00:32) and the MAP family  they were able to catch me coming through the finish line. It was lovely to see the Giant Baby on Mr MAPs shoulders and get a hug from Mini Monkey.
After the new addition to our routine (a visit to the park facilities for Mini Monkey), we set off down the Heritage Trail. As I had planned our hike route based on what I remembered about the short-course from two years ago I had forgotten that the long-course runners came in from a different direction. Despite dodging a number of runners coming towards the end of their race, we still managed to reach our 'half way' point very quickly. Mini Monkey's walking has come on leaps and bounds, especially as he spends half his time running everywhere now. 
The Avon is an amazing river. During winter it flows rapidly and is a heaven sent playground for kayakers and in the summer it dries up to form sludgy ponds with cobbled crossings between. Having reached our designated half way point significantly quicker than expected, we decided to explore the other side of the river and crossed over.  
Mini Monkey ran out of steam not long after so hopped into the pack with Mr MAP and contentedly chomped on his snacks whilst the Giant Baby dozed on my back. We returned at the same crossing we had come over, pausing to look into the sludge that was the river and headed on back to the car park for a final snack before heading home. 
There was a proud moment just before we arrived back at the parking area when Mr MAP managed to convince Mini Monkey to take a largely successful bush-wee (are you begining to see a theme here for our current stage of life/development?!). 
Opening Hours: website says 8:30-4:30 weekdays only but I'm not sure about this as we've been on the weekend before.
Cost: $12 per car
Image courtesy of Perth Trail Series

Adventure 23 - The one with my first true blue beach day

Where: South Fremantle Beach
When: January 2017
My Adventure Companions: The entire MAP family and our friends.  
"Would you like to come to the beach?"
I had realised recently that when we go to the beach, we don't really do 'beach stuff' that other families do. We normally walk the length of a beach a few times, throw the ball for Velcro Dog and go home before it gets too crowded. When our friends invited us for a morning of toddler orientated fun (dads digging giant holes, dads making sandcastles, dads exploring rock walls), it sounded like a great idea. Our wonderful friends were also very amenable to changing the location slightly so that we could bring Velcro Dog to make it one big family outing. 
Whilst the Mr MAP and Mini Monkey set up camp, waiting for our friends to arrive, I took the Giant Baby for a walk down the beach with the aim of enticing a small nap out of him. I walked and walked and walked and walked. It took half an hour to put him to sleep and then another half hour or so of sleep. It was worth it, but harder work than I had anticipated. Oh, what we do for our children. 
Velcro Dog had a great time flying at top speed between myself (walking the beach) and Mr MAP (digging holes/making sand castles). For some reason, and I can not fathom why, she insists on drinking sea water. We offer her fresh water at every opportunity, which she declines, yet she continues to drink the sea water until it makes her ill. The only way to stop her is to put her back on the lead. It must be a very odd sight to see such an active dog on the lead in an off-leash area. 
After digging a massive hole (which the Giant Baby loved) Mr MAP had a proud dad moment when convinced Mini Monkey to have largely successful a sea-wee. That should make our lives easier at the beaches now! 
When the toddlers had had enough of sandcastles and giant holes, they explored the rock wall. When they had had enough of that, we went for an ice cream. 
I would say that was a good introduction on how to do beaches the Australian way. 

Opening Hours: never closed
Cost: Free