Friday morning started early, 4:24 am to be exact with a second alarm set for a strategic 2 mins later. I’m not usually a great morning person but I was alive with excitement. Needless to say the second alarm wasn’t required this morning.
Today was the day I was taking on 60 km of coastal trails, sand dunes and unrelenting hills. I was skipping around the house in the early hours trying not to wake my sleeping family, enthusiastic like a small child on Christmas day.
I kissed each of my kids, rolled some of my essential oils across their cheeks, bid farewell to hubby who I had woken with my horrible attempt at being quiet and drove to meet my team mates.
Arriving at Cape Schanck just before 6 am the atmosphere was electric. Hundreds of people flooded the path, head lights on, eccentric outfits of tutus and a buzz of voices. Our team had a later addition, Monique whose group had pulled out from injuries. I had to find her in this sea of people.
Moving towards the flood lights and sounds of the PA system, we found ourselves at the start line. New team mate, new bibs (captain B had neglected to pack them), another toilet trip to avoid bush wee’s first thing, and we were off!
It was 6:30 am and would be many hours before we finish.
The narrow track from Cape Schanck lighthouse to Boneo road was a jostle of people as teams tried to push their way to the front of the pack. It was a little like a stampede, afraid to stop or bend over in fear of being trampled by a pack of wild boar. Yes, even those wearing tutus were dangerously assertive of finding the front of the pack. Our team held pace, more importantly we held our composure in these tight trails.
Crossing Boneo Road the sun had risen over the rolling hills of Flinders farmland. The sleepy Kangaroo made their way to the undulating hills and shared grass pastures with the cows, which greeted them and the march of trekkers with a curious moo.
The Two Bays Trail section from Boneo road heading inland to Long point created more space with the wider paths and allowed teams to pass with little issue. Only 10 km in we were aware of team member, Amy, struggling. A suspected toe nail, dislodged in her boot, appeared to be the culprit and discussion started as to how far she would continue past the 15 km check point we were slowly making our way to.
Groups were now spread out along the trail as we crossed over Boneo Road once more and into the Fingal Beach car park area for our first stop. We arrived with Amy having decided to call her mum, not willing to continue and not wanting to slow us down.
The line for the porta loos were ridiculous so we opted for a shrubby area and proceeded with our first of many bush wee’s for the day. Chuffed with skipping the loos, which were now holding others apprehension, we grabbed a coffee bid farewell to Amy and made our way along the ti-tree lined coastal trail to Gunnamatta beach.
The next 15 km walk to Rye check point was a combination of paths. The views of Bass Strait and the sounds of powerful waves crashing beneath us, was incredibly grounding. Drinking in through all our senses, all other worries of life lifted if only for the day or the moment that we enjoyed together.
Narrow paths, twisted Ti-tree canopy and wild sea grass, all beautifully shaped by their fierce environment, met the relentless ocean waves that crashed upon the shore and chased the trekkers- running up the beach to escape their reach.
Unfortunately, Kylie couldn’t outrun the waves and found herself with a decision to walk the remaining 6 km with wet feet and risk blisters or lose the shoes.
The idea of blisters never appeals to anyone, so Kylie along with myself- for moral support, a natural barefoot gypsy lost the shoes (well, in fact we strapped them to our bags for later use) and walked the remaining few kilometers along the beach trail before heading up to walk in the dunes.
We walked 1.5 km’s along bitumen roads barefoot, anticipating the final beach walk before reaching our 30 km checkpoint. Bianca, jealous of our gypsy souls, barefoot and elated took the opportunity to remove her shoes and free the feet to a sensual experience of massage in the sand.
For those not familiar with sand walking, the muscles, tendons and fascia tissue in your feet, ankles and into you calves gets an incredible workout, promoting stability and balance though the number of receptors we have on our feet.
The sand wet from overnight showers, compacted trail from here wound through coastal vegetation, raw and exposed sea grasses and dune walking- all achievable with a little barefoot practice that starts at home.
We reached the 30 km check point, greeted by organizer’s stating that we were the first group he’d seen go barefoot. What?! Really... I need to preach more about the benefits of barefoot waking I thought as Bianca and I made our way to the coffee van. Prepped with Talc powder, microfiber towels and plethora of tapes and first aid, we tended to our feet. No blisters-check. Wash and dry feet, talc powder to remove excess sand- more so the little bits that stick to your skin.
In what seemed like 20 mins to clean my feet and re-insulate them (shoes), I dove into my chicken, brie, avo, spinach baguette with gusto, having only had a banana and some nuts for breakfast.
Walking 60 km’s in one day doesn’t come without challenges. Wet feet, weary spirit and a heartfelt desire to compete an arduous task can take its toll on self. To traverse the relentless trails in front of us means digging deep, pushing past your own self-belief and sometimes comes at a cost.
As we were looking to push into the next 30 km’s we received a message from Amy, whom we had believed pulled out at 15 km told us she was now at the 30 km checkpoint. The same point we were about to leave. Looking desperately for a pink visor she wore we spotted her and reconnected. She chose at this point to leave the trail. She has said she didn’t want to slow us down and had chosen to walk herself to this check point with promise that this time she was out.
Bianca, Kylie and I had a similar pace and Monique who had joined us only the day before sat a little behind our pace had connected with others along the way. We were mindful of this and tried in earnest to do our best to keep an eye out where and how she was tracking.
With dry feet and a full belly we proceeded along the roads through Rye before meeting the rugged coastline once more. In the 15 km’s that we faced, the trails wore on our feet, calves and determination. Undulating sand dunes and coastal shrub trails presented tripping hazards with heavy feet. The sun slowly setting in the horizon and heavy storm clouds mimicked our moods as we pushed on in determination.
Approaching check point 45 km we were told that the 1.5 km trail along from Sorrento to Portsea was impassable. Challenging the bus escape given we were refused entry to the trail and shown a video from an organizer that explained sound reasoning. Unforgiving ocean waves crashing into the rugged cliffs of the coast, daring us to be swept to sea so with cramping legs and blistered toes we rode the bus to the designated spot.
The bus ride allowed us to reflect; Kylie, Bianca and I, on our rapidly deteriorating bodies and mind and faced the decision of waiting and potentially pulling out our challenge or pushing on with the final 15 km having been separated from Monique.
The decision to push on or pull out meant that we skipped dinner too. With plenty of snacks and a good litre of water each, in hindsight it was the make or break decision.
Landing our weary legs at Porstea back beach we strapped hot spots and pushed on through cramps, blisters and tired legs through more coastal trails taking in epic views of unadulterated coastal vistas dotted with opulent homes. The sun having had provided warmth and light now quickly setting over the distant horizon, and separated from Monique, we tried to lift our mood and body temp with a quick run.
Approaching the Pt Nepean National park the signage was near nonexistent. In the dark, we approached signs twisted upside down and not knowing which way to go, we instinctively took our path through an old rifle range to the Bass Strait side of the Pt Nepean.
The path, ill lit or signed relied on us having head lights or torches to find our way. Alter off course and you risk being met with un-exploded bombs from WW2 wartime area.
The hills were hard, the Natural confectionery snakes were awesome, as was the morale we kept. Our collective mindset, stride and humor kept us alive as our sense were energized with the darkness that fell. A few sneaky bush wees kept us alive, not knowing what creature was to venture into our nature loo.
As the night sky lit up with celebration- aka lightening, we quickened our pace, and like soldiers in arms, trudged the road to Fort Nepean, the furthest most point of Mornington Peninsula. So close that you can smell the tantalizing dinner of Pt Lonsdale residents in Baillieu Street. The trail was ill lit, we relied on our head torches and pure stubbornness to see our tired, sore bodies to get us through the darkest times and the 5 km back to quarantine station where we could finally come to rest.
The waves crashed, splashing our legs as we climbed the 100 or more steps from fort Nepean to Cheviot Hill along Defence road to Coles track. The trail from here hugs Port Philip bay with a blanket of trees that make you want to curl up and sleep alongside the crashing waves and pine scent that wafts through the air pre-storm. With tired legs and exhausted morale, we push through with little pep at 4 km sign.
Knowing the area well, the minimal signage issues we had run into were mitigated, knowing we had only minimal distance to travel. No more hills, no more sand. We can do this! Our spirits lifted, our water bladders depleted, we needed to get to the finish. We had this!
Turning into the car park at the Quarantine station the skies opened, we had only a few hundred meters to go, after so many kilometers, but the rain was ruthless. Each drop of rain soaked our bags as we ran back to a cottage for cover to wrap our bags for the final push.
Torrential rain, lighting and full of adrenaline (okay maybe a few mm’s and snakes) we ran the last 200 metres to the over sized inflatable finish sign.
In what I felt should be a celebration, came to me as a relief, a respite, a stop. I could have collapsed in tears of elation, of accomplishment but too numb.
My husband and two youngest daughters were there to great us at the end. Little marathon runners, hiking children, they were excitable, filled with energy, filled with words that I couldn’t comprehend.
Reflecting on the experience, my girls – my step daughters, looking at me with such admiration touched the deepest parts of my furrowed soul. I’m a hard woman, worn by the weather of my life. I drive determined in the face of challenges, sometimes to collapse at the feet of children who can teach me so much about life. To soften the worn edges of hardship.
As humans, we often teeter away from discomfort. I say f*$k it, lean in. Lean in hard, fall. Get back up and keep walking. You got this. Who else but ourselves will push us to the point of beautifully breaking ?
Less comfort, more life!