And after all, I can tell it like it is. I finished last so clearly I had a crap day out there. And likely won’t bother coming back anyway, so why not talk it up, even just a little.
The Cradle Mtn Run is after all, one of the longest running trail ultras in Australia. Maybe the oldest? But who cares? Surely it doesn’t resemble anything near what it used to be like. What’s with all those duckboards, it is like a walk in the local park. Well, maybe not quite. Okay, so there was some mud. And it did get a bit rooty and rocky in a few places. In fact it was hard to tell what was trail in some places. And there was plenty of perfect ankle twisting terrain on offer. In fact, if you have any tendency to roll your ankles, don’t try this one. In fact, even if you have good ankles, don’t try this one.
And did I mention the mud? OMG the mud was so deep in a few places I almost lost my runners. Really. In fact, I reckon a couple of times it was only my gaiters that kept my shoes on when the mud tried to suck them off.
Navigation? There is no course marking. So if you can’t navigate stay home. Just forget it. But what’s with the signage. Not the race signage, as I said, there’s none of that - so if you think you will be following ribbons on a marked course, stay on the mainland. I’m talking about the Parks’ signs. Most of them are so old and weathered they looked like they were remnants from the last ice age that carved out those big rock formations. While they blended in nicely with the natural environment, they were a bugger to read on the run.
Scenic? Well yes, it can be but don’t count on seeing anything. Even the classic landmarks like those big rock formations, e.g. Cradle Mountain. Most times like this year, they are covered in cloud. Those spectacular craggy peaks like Mt Ossa and Barn Bluff aren’t so spectacular when they are draped in misty cloud and you can’t see them. Better to just buy a postcard at the local tourist shop in Launceston. And head back to the mainland. Of course if and when the sun does break through the clouds, you get totally fried because you are so high up on the plateau and they have a big hole in the ozone layer down there. Really, what was I thinking heading down there?
At least there was plenty of water around this year. Just be aware that all the huts have signs saying boil the water before drinking. So if you haven’t got time to boil your water before filling your bladder, again, you might as well stay at home. In fact this year there was so much water around that even the usually dry stretches were bogs. My feet were wet from start to finish. And my shoes, socks and gaiters were trashed.
It’s not all bad, though. There is a great camaraderie amongst runners and organisers from meeting in the leafy park in Launceston, the bus trip to Cradle, briefing, breakfast presentation and bus trip back to Lonnie. There’s just the little issue of an 80km slog in the middle of all that. Maybe try a parkrun instead.
This was my 5th run over the course (plus once hiking it). I DNF’d at Narcissus in 2014, blamed that on a foot injury but really I couldn’t cope with the terrain. I nearly DNF’d again this year. Blamed that on a dodgy back injury. I was the last through Narcissus with 4 minutes to spare. The president of the race committee who was there asked if I was going on or getting the boat ride out. Really, you need to ask? But a lot of better runners have come unstuck and caught the ferry out from Narcissus. So what keeps bringing me back? For me it is the challenge, and the spectacular course, and the community vibe of the regulars and organisers. But I guess if people keep talking it up on facebook then my chances of getting in again will go out the window. So heed my warnings and try something a little less onerous. I might still try anyhow but don’t take that as any endorsement.
Altra Olympus 2.0. Loved them, handled the rugged terrain and provided grip in the slop when there was any chance of gripping. The chunky vibram outsole held on over endless roots and rocks.
Grivel 12l pack. First real run with this nuggety little gem. Loved it. Sits high and holds 2 bottles firmly on the chest with holders that are designed for hard bottles (my preference).
Car windscreen sun visor: perfect lightweight foldable mat to release my back spasms on the side of the track.