Red Dog Relay 2016

The Red Dog Relay is an outdoor, multi-sport adventure, which is fast becoming known as one of the Pilbara’s most iconic annual events and is held on the WA Day Long Weekend each year.  Why Red Dog?

“Red Dog was a friendly kelpie cross who lived his life hitching rides and travelling throughout WA’s north before he died in November 1979.  Tally Ho was his first name, given to him by his first owner and the one who brought him to Dampier.  The nickname “Red Dog” has been attributed to the red dirt of the Pilbara Region.  A second owner, was a bus driver whose work allowed Red Dog to travel via bus around Dampier, Karratha and surrounding districts, thus the dog became very well known by the locals.  After his second owner died, Red Dog spent a lot of time travelling on his own and was taken in by many members of the community, some who took him on trips as far afield as Perth, Broome, Roebourne, Point Samson & Port Hedland.”

I had only just moved to the Pilbara a couple of months before this event last year but had tagged it for one of my future hitlists.  Lucky for me, a Panna team was being formed this year and they weren’t too picky!  I didn’t put in a lot of effort towards training for this event, although I had done some mountain biking and running several weeks out, time just got away from me to be able to put a dedicated effort in.  While this event is a competition, it has a very friendly and relaxed vibe and I wasn’t stressing too much about completing the distances as each leg is completed as part of a team effort.  There were some 25 teams entered this year, with over 300 competitors and support crew making the most of the Pilbara region with an 18km run, 4km paddle, 48km mountain bike, 180km 4WD, 9km walk, 1km swim and 123km road bike leg through some of the most picturesque and diverse landscapes the Pilbara has to offer.

The Pannawonica Team, Panna Pikey’s (team name care of the Irish contingent), consisted of six members with three females and three males.  As we were very well prepared…ahem….we decided to hold our first meeting two days out from the event to make sure we had a support crew, all the right equipment/food/accommodation etc, and to decide who would be doing what leg of the relay.  I could be wrong, but I think our process for deciding who got to do what, was based purely on who sucked the least on each leg.  Obviously, we were a highly competitive team…watch out for Panna Pikey’s!

LEG 1: 18km RUN (Three members of the team to complete either 8km, 5km, or 5km)

The race kicked off from Dampier with the run leg first up, early on a wet and miserable Saturday morning.  Apparently the Red Dog Relay is getting a bit of a reputation for being a dirty, wet weekend, all part of the fun I was told.

LEG 2: 4km PADDLE (Four members to participate, 2 x 2km in a double kayak)

There was a little controversy amongst the team over certain positions in the tandem kayaks.    Now I am certain that there are no tall people in Pannawonica….ok, there might be a couple…..but I generally find that I am the tallest person around, especially out of the girls, and I am probably what you would politely call solid.  The night before the race, the team was sitting around having a quiet drink and talking strategy when the paddle leg came up and the topic of kayak position was open for discussion.  Obviously in the tandem kayak, balance is key and you will generally have your heaviest person in the back of the kayak.  My paddling partner, who is tall and lanky (and Irish, just saying), without hesitation declared that ‘Beth is DEFINITELY in the back’.  Really?  Sheesh, maybe I have been hitting the chocolates a little hard but couldn’t he have hesitated a little, or pretended to at least consider that I wasn’t the heaviest?  Lucky I grew up with a father who affectionately called me Big Bertha, so meh…water off a ducks back.

After our runners did a fabulous job, we were up first for our team in the paddle.  After all the ribbing he received after his comment the night before, my paddling partner sheepishly told me to take the front position.  Despite some doubt, we nailed it….yep, chunky but funky!!

LEG 3: 180km FOUR WHEEL DRIVE (4 Drivers, 4 Quizzes)

This section covered many miles of red dog country from Dampier to Karratha, Cossack, Roebourne, and finishing up in Millstream National Park.  It was divided into four sections with a questionnaire to be answered before the next transition point and driver change over.  As the organisers didn’t want to encourage speeding this leg was an untimed leg.  Hmmm, we read this as stop and get a coffee at Macca’s, as you do during an adventure race.

It was a fun leg and you really got to see a lot of the diverse Pilbara countryside as well as learning lots from the quizzes you had to complete.  Only two of the four sections were actual four wheel driving but not very difficult.  It was a long leg, over four hours of driving, and I have to say it is sucky being a girl on these adventure races, there are no toilets anywhere out on the road.

LEG 4:  48km MOUNTAIN BIKE RIDE (3 team members – 12km, 22km, 14km)

After four hours in the car, I was more than ready to get on with the mountain bike leg.  Our first rider had driven ahead and was ready and waiting.  It had been fine for all of our 4WD leg but of course it decided to rain just as we came in to tag into the mountain biking.  This part of the course had actually copped a lot of rain, it was muddy and washed out in some places.  First riders made it through, but as second rider I was stopped just before 10km as some of the track was a little unpredictable for flash flooding.  To be honest, I was completely bummed.  I had just started settling into my ride and felt a little ripped off.  Not to worry, I decided to join my team member for the last section of the mountain bike leg.  I am so glad I did, this section was a beautiful ride.

And that was the end of Day 1.  My wonderful husband and kids, and the rest of our fantastic support crew families, had driven ahead and set up camp at Millstream Homestead campground (at least those that didn’t blow a fuse in their car did). It was a fantastic location and camping with the team and support crew was a great way to end the day.  After a wet night, a bacon and egg breakfast was provided the next morning to fuel us up ready for the second day of competition.

LEG 5:  9km CROSS COUNTRY HIKE (2 team members to complete together)

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Our trail walkers off to an early start.

LEG 6: 1km SWIM (2 members, 2 x 500m)

All the teams came in pretty close together on the hiking leg, tagging the first of the swimmers for their teams.  The Panna Pikey’s were sitting at about middle of the pack, so several swimmers had headed off in front of our first swimmer.  As you already know, our team is very supportive and would never dream of having a bit of a laugh or paying out anyone on the team.  So I won’t mention how our first swimmer dove in and headed in the opposite direction because that would be a little embarrassing.  I imagine it would have been hard to know which direction to go when only 10 or so other teams had gone before you right?  Lucky the support kayak managed to cut him off and point him in the right direction.  No, that definitely wasn’t the rest of the team rolling on the ground with laughter.

Even without training at all for the swim, good old muscle memory kicked in, and I managed to pull back a couple of places in the swim.  It was a beautiful morning and I loved the swim at Deep Reach Pool.

Red Dog12

LEG 7: 123km ROAD BIKE (4 team members – 31km, 20km, 36km, 14km)

The final leg of the race started about 20km drive from Deep Reach Pool.  The distances for each ride leg were a bit confusing and weren’t the same distances as detailed in our handbooks.  Our game plan was a little back the front as our riders with actual road bikes ended up doing the shorter sections while the two of us with only mountain bikes clunked along for the longer rides.  The first section wound through the stunning Chichester Ranges and was a tough but scenic ride.  Our second rider whizzed through the next session and I was barely ahead of her in the car to be dropped off at the checkpoint.  Initially, we thought the two middle legs were about 27km which I was fine with.  I was feeling a little weary after yesterdays activities and an interrupted nights sleep, so was happy thinking that I might have a shorter than expected section too.  Why I thought my section would be shorter as well didn’t really make sense when you do the maths, and I was about 10km in when I realised this.  My support crew stayed a cautious distance away when they told me this section would be about 36km, approximately 10km more than I had psyched up for.  They threw some lollies out the window at me and then dropped back to trail a safe distance behind.  I admit my head was not in the game for this ride.  It was a long flat ride with the occasional slow climbs thrown in and I was my own worst enemy.  The middle 10km dragged on in the worst way until I spied another competitor in the distance.  Yay, someone to try and catch and enough incentive to get my focus back.


It really was a fantastic weekend and I would encourage absolutely everyone to give this event a go if you are in the Pilbara for the WA Day Long Weekend.  Go Team!!



Tour de Panna

It has been a while since I have done a longer bike ride and I have never actually done a road ride.  So when the Tour de Panna rolled around of course I had to sign up and give it a go.  This race is an annual event in Pannawonica and is a chance to see the spectacular scenery in all its glory.  It is a very laid back event, everyone meets at 5am in the morning to load the bikes before a bus drops all the riders at the intersection of the Pannawonica turnoff and the North West Coastal highway.  It is 46km from town and it feels like you have been dropped out in the middle of nowhere.  With very little pomp and ceremony we were underway, here are some pictures to tell the story.

And that’s it all done.  Up at 4.30am, just over 2hrs to complete the ride and back home relaxing by 9am.  Not a bad way to start a Sunday morning!

Journey to Adventurethon – Update 7

With under two weeks to go until I give my first Enduro Adventurethon a crack, I am wondering and hoping that I have done enough.  The body is starting to spring a few leaks, the back and hamstrings are a little touchy and this time around it is a little bit of calf pain on my right leg that is side lining my running for the past few days.  I am hopeful that it is just muscle fatigue as it started during my 2km run after a particularly gruelling crossfit session.  I tried running again two days later and the calf was starting to pull, cramp, and complain again so I stopped and walked instead.  I am a little nervous about this new strain as I need to keep up the running!!  I have decided to drop the crossfit for the next two weeks so that my body doesn’t have to deal with that added stress and concentrate on some longer endurance sessions followed by a lighter week leading into Albany.

In this last stretch I am really starting to think about the details.  Do I wear my shoes in the kayak or put them in a backpack?  Or just try and go barefoot on the beach run?  Water bottle only for kayak, banana during the run, kayak back.  May need second bottle with energy drink?  Camelpak waiting with bike, ice in camelpak?  Homemade energy bar/balls for ride?  Ordered little bag for the frame of the bike but may also need a waterbottle holder and bottle for the bike as well.  Will need a second smaller camelpak for the run.  Wondering where I leave shoes and socks?  Do I need a watch to make sure I am keeping fluid and energy intake up as I tend to forget and then really hit the wall.  Have done that a few times with some of my longer sessions.  I like the idea of frozen hydrolyte iceblocks in water bottles and down the top to keep me a little cooler during the run but wondering how to keep them frozen or stop them defrosting too quickly at least….so many questions.  Anything else I need to think about?  Any answers or tips let me know!


Monday – My cousin offered to take me out kayaking on his kayak again.  While I did slightly better, managed to stay in for a decent stretch, and only tipped out three times, I did come to the realisation that I would need a different kayak that I felt more comfortable in.  Definitely toying with the idea of swapping to the duathlon.  Lucky the hubby is home this week which opens up my training options a little.  5km run in the afternoon, dragged my eldest boy on his bike to keep me company.

Tuesday – Crossfit followed by a 2km run.  I even had one of crossfit girls ask to keep me company and joined me for the run.  Emailed a few of the paddle clubs in the area explaining my situation and asking about lessons and advice on beginner kayaks.  Trawling through Gumtree to find a secondhand kayak that would be suitable.  Now the Canning River Canoe Club was one of the clubs that I emailed.  David Brown was the contact I emailed and not only did he call me that very afternoon to try and help me out, he went out of his way to fit me in that very same night.  He told me later that he was a little nervous about this mother of four who had never really paddled before and wanted to make 8km in four weeks…and didn’t even have a boat.  Never the less, he was still willing to do what he could to help me reach my goal.  We tried out the Endorfinn kayak, I didn’t even fall out, and we knocked out about 3km that night.  At the end of the session, David just gave me a pat on the back and said that he thought I would be fine.  I just have to say, that David was exactly who I needed to restore my broken confidence.  The practical tips and the guidance on technique, just in that little first session was fantastic.  I was able to tee up 2 more sessions with David and again I am grateful that he was able to make this happen for me.

Image Credit  –  Canning River Park, nice place for a paddle, or run, or play with the kids.

Wednesday – Rest Day but I picked up a second hand kayak.  I have a boat.

Thursday – 90mins Exercise Bike and 50km in the morning.  5.5km run in the afternoon.

Friday – 2km row then Crossfit session with my youngest in tow.

Saturday – 2hr paddle session with David from the Canoe Club.

Sunday –  Hilly road ride on MTB, 1hr 45mins and 30km


Monday – Paddle 4km followed by a 5.5km run

Tuesday – Rest Day

Wednesday – Crossfit followed by 2km run.  Calf muscle was pulling/cramping towards the end of the run but finished off the run.  Not happy with the calf but hope it was just a cramp.

Thursday – 90mins exercise bike.  52km.

Friday – Paddle 4km.  Strawberry picking and lunch out.  Crossfit in the afternoon.

Saturday – At David’s suggestion we paddled at Point Walter Reserve which had a little more chop to the water which would be more like the conditions I would be paddling in come race day.  Point Walter Reserve was another beautiful spot to have a paddle.

Image Credit – Point Walter Reserve

Attempted to run after the 2 hour paddle only to pull up short with the calf muscle problem.  Grrrrr, so annoyed right now.

Sunday – 28km road ride on the MTB, followed by a 4km walk (grabbed one of my children to keep me company).  Walking doesn’t seem to worry the calf.

So the plan of attack is to stay away from running til after rest day on Tuesday and then give it another go.  I have been religiously rolling, stretching, and using the anti-inflammatory cream.  I did investigate the compression socks but am unsure that they will be worth the cost?  Anyone used them?  This week I really want to work on going full distance blocks of training ie 8.9km paddle followed by 22km bike  or 22km bike followed by a longer run.  I also want to try a mini adventurethon on the weekend.  Hell week has begun.  Then I want to drop back distances in final week but keep the intensity up.  Tick, tick, tick goes the countdown clock……c’mon body hold in there.

My First Bike Set Up – Take home tips.

Usually between my husband, who is good on the tools and technical side of things, and me, who knows a little about what position I need to be in to reduce the risk of injury and to be comfortable on the bike, can stumble our way through to an adequate bike set up.  However now that hubby is only home on weekends we have better things to do with our time, and modifying a bike can often lead to some…ahem…disagreements.  I am also feeling nervous about this adventurethon and being able to get my body through it injury free, so I am doing everything I can to minimise my risk factors and control the things that I can.  On the ride from Perth to Fremantle I noticed that my bike set up was not quite right with my back and neck feeling a little strained.  I’ve never had a bike set up for this bike and haven’t been quite comfortable which is why this had to go on the hitlist so that it gets done!

I like to go local where possible so I dropped in at the local bike shop to have a chat about what’s involved, whether they have staff trained to complete one, and when I could organise a time.  Kalamunda Cycles were really friendly and were happy to book me in.  Physio’s and Podiatrists often offer specialised bike set up sessions as well.  If you experience any of the following you should really review your bike set up and if necessary book in for a review.

  • Hip, back, or knee pain
  • Sore/stiff neck
  • Numbness
  • Lack of power/explosiveness

When you go for a bike set up you will be expected to bring in your bike and riding gear including your helmet, camelpak, and cleats if you wear them.


Usually you would have the bike set up on an indoor trainer but my wheels didn’t clip on the trainer available so for what I needed we just balanced against the door frame….took me a little bit to get my balance, little gumby like that! lol

Managed to get on and stay balanced....Yay!

Managed to get on and stay balanced….Yay!

Pretending to know what he is doing....adjusting shock pressure or something like that.

I’m pretending to know what he is doing….adjusting shock pressure or something like that.

Amazing what a few adjustments can do...feeling better on a lap around the parking lot!

Amazing what a few adjustments can do…feeling better on a lap around the parking lot!

My bike set up ended up being quite straightforward and only took 30 minutes however it can take anywhere up to an hour if you have specific concerns.  Tim at Kalamunda Cycles ended up charging me less and was happy for me to drop back in if I had any further tweaks after a few rides.  I definitely think it is worth your time and money if you are doing a lot of riding, but in the meantime here are my top take home tips.

  1. Wrist position – Check that your brakes and gear levers aren’t rolled too far forward (shoulders will start hitching up), or too far back.  There is a lot of repetitive loading going through the arms and wrists so don’t forget to have a look at your wrist position next time you ride.
  2. Handlebars –  Make sure they are not too low, this can cause the back to start rounding (hello back pain) and increase the  load going through your arms.
  3. Saddle position – Check height of saddle, distance between saddle and handlebars, and whether saddle is level….saddle position is crucial to avoid pain and injury in back, knee, and hips.

Here are some websites that have some great information on setting up your bike.

Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre – Cycling Set Up

PhysioBench – 5 Tips to set up your bike to avoid injury

Bicycle Transport Alliance WA – A Basic Guide to bike set up

Sometimes it is nothing that can’t be fixed by getting some bike fitness back.  Sore bum anyone?? Get out there and enjoy the ride!!


Riding from Perth to Fremantle….the scenic tour.

When I was planning this hitlist task, in my mind I was thinking that it was only 20km there, fairly flat, shouldn’t be too difficult.  I obtained the map for this ride from The Department of Transport website.  It looked easy to negotiate and recommended timeframes were anywhere between 40 minutes and two hours depending on your fitness level.  On my trusty exercise bike I was knocking over 20km in 40 minutes, no problems.  As we all know an exercise bike is nothing like riding outside, so I thought I would allow an hour there, leisurely lunch…latte….then an hour home.  Even if I left at 10am I would still be home comfortably around 1pm, plenty of time to pick the kids up from school.  What could possibly go wrong with this plan??

I had decided that I would park in South Perth at the Coode St jetty, as it was an easy drive from the Perth Hills and I love that stretch along the Swan River, so pretty.  I thought it would be a fairly simple matter to hook up with the riding path from this point.  Initially I had convinced a local to come with me but things came up and it didn’t happen so I roped my cousin in at the last minute (he had just driven over 5000km from North Queensland to move to Perth a couple of days beforehand, so a local he was not!)

Now the day didn’t start as planned as the day was grey, drizzly, and overcast when the day before had been spectacular.  I dropped the kids off at school and my cousin and I ummed and ahhhed about whether to go but we sucked it up and went anyway, a little rain never hurt anyone!  We had a quick look at the map again, figured we would be able to work it out, packed our camelpak’s, loaded the bikes and off we went.  I will let the pictures tell the story!

Getting ready to ride....quietly confident.

Getting ready to ride….quietly confident.

Too cool for school, haha.

Too cool for school, haha.

First pit stop to pump up a tyre...random windmill.

First pit stop to pump up a tyre…random windmill.

Remember how I mentioned we took a quick look and figured we would be right??  Well we weren't, got lost in the big city, we looked really cool riding our MTB's and helmets in the city.  We did get a map and found the bike path we needed!  40minutes down and haven't even left the city.

Remember how I mentioned we took a quick look at the map and figured we would be right?? Well we weren’t.  We got lost in the big city and looked really cool riding our MTB’s through the streets. We did get a map and found the bike path we needed! 45minutes down and haven’t even left the city.

If you happen to try this ride and you see have gone to far and you will only get to the end of the docks riding against ridiculous headwind where if you stop pedalling you will literally stop dead.  Then you get to turn around and ride back...and you will be starving after riding for hours!!

If you happen to try this ride and you see these…STOP….you have gone too far and you will only get to the end of the docks riding against ridiculous headwind where if you stop pedalling you will literally stop dead. Then you get to turn around and ride back…and you will be starving after riding for hours!!

It was a lovely ride, just give yourself plenty of time.  We ended up coming back through Kings Park which I recommend.

It was a lovely ride, just give yourself plenty of time. It took us over two hours with plenty of wrong turns on the way there and only took us just over an hour on the way home.   We ended up coming back through Kings Park which I recommend.  And yes, I made it back in time to pick the kids up…just.

Selfie to prove I actually did ride...and I had to laugh at my cousin in the background...I think I broke him.

Selfie to prove I actually did ride…and I had to laugh at my cousin in the background…I think I broke him.