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.

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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!!

 

 

She Goes Everywhere……Places You Should Visit.

Hellooooo…..anyone still out there?  While it has been some time since I have posted anything on the blog I have still been busy exploring, working, and getting involved in this little community out in the middle of the Pilbara.  I thought I would do a quick update via a picture post to catch everyone up on the highlights.  At a later date I will hopefully share a little more about my trip to the Blue Mountains earlier this year, as my family and I had some great adventures there.  I am also knee deep in my next hitlist with lots of exciting things planned for the future.  In the meantime here is a little snapshot of the places I have been exploring over the last three months and which you really should add to your travel hitlist!

Mt Nameless, Tom Price

Exmouth, Western Australia

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne.

Numbat Trail, Swan Valley and Hyde Park, Perth

Pannawonica, Western Australia

There is no place like home.  I am in full training mode again with the Red Dog Relay coming up and my next big, scary goal is a half marathon trail run in the Margaret River region.  Here are some pictures of Pannawonica while out and about.

Ok now we are all caught up!!  Have you been to any of these places?

Exploring Karijini in 50 photos or less…

If you visit Western Australia, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to visit not only because of the distances you will need to cover but also because there are so many spectacular places to see.  Karijini National Park, was right up at the top of my list of places that I wanted to visit while living in the Pilbara.  Due to my research and all the pictures I had seen of the gorges at Karijini, I had high expectations going into this trip.  I was a little nervous that the colours wouldn’t quite live up to the pictures or that the gorges wouldn’t be as great as I pictured in my mind.  We had also been told that it would be too hot camping and hiking at Karijini in October and that we needed more than a weekend, but sometimes you just have to stop waiting for everything to be perfect and just do things.  Our reasoning was that nights were still bearable for sleeping, down in the gorges would be cooler, the kids would enjoy swimming in the warmer temperatures of October rather than freeze in July, and three days was better than none.  I am so glad we just did it, it was the perfect weekend with fantastic weather.

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Room with a view – this is why camping is so great.

We used the rail access road from Pannawonica heading towards Tom Price and Karijini.  Just remember that you will need a rail access pass if going this way, carry no alcohol, and the corrugations on this section are pretty rough.  We shredded a tyre on the way home, so beware.  As we were coming from the north western side of Karijini National Park we decided to stop in at Hamersley Gorge on the way through.  This was our first stop and it didn’t disappoint.

HAMERSLEY GORGE

We spent about an hour and a half here before hitting the road again to drive a further 40 minutes to Dales Gorge Campground to set up camp for a couple of nights.  Dales Gorge Campground was a lovely place to stay and was an easy walk to beautiful swimming holes.

DALES CAMPGROUND, FORTESCUE FALLS, and FERN POOL

Our second day of exploring was jam packed as we decided to tackle Hancock Gorge.  This is the home of the very adventurous walks to Kermits Pool and to Handrail Pool.  As there has been several fatalities at Karijini National Park there is always a little debate about the safety of kids on various trails.  For us, I was confident in my kids ability to handle most trails, they have hiked many times before, have good fitness levels, and are aware of the risks surrounding them.  I am not sure on all the details surrounding the fatalities in the area but I found that the trails were well marked, and provided you follow the safety guidelines, quite safe.  As I have mentioned before, I believe that it is important for kids to take calculated risks and where better than in nature’s own wonderland.  The kids loved it.  After the hike to Kermit’s Pool we gave the kids the choice about whether we did another adventurous hike on the same day and they all screamed ‘YES’!  And no whinging all weekend….it must be fun right?

HANCOCK GORGE – KERMIT’S POOL WALK

HANCOCK GORGE – HANDRAIL POOL

After leaving the campground at about 8am, it was about 2pm by the time we finished both trails at Hancock Gorge.  We stopped in at Karijini Eco Resort and were very excited to find that they did coffee and ice creams for the kids.  If you are not quite up for camping, this is a lovely location to do a little bit of ‘glamping’ and still get to explore Karijini.

On our final day of the whirlwind tour of Karijini, we decided to squeeze in a hike to Circular Pool which is also near Dales Gorge Campground.  We wanted to let the kids have a swim before the 5 hour trip home and thought it would be a fairly easy climb similar to the trail down to Fortescue Falls just up the road….slight miscalculation.  This hike was nearly the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Everyone was tired after a busy couple of days, and of course packing up always makes for a few frayed tempers, so when this walk was a little further and steeper than anticipated we nearly lost a few converts.  In saying that, it was still a great walk and if we had more time we would have had a quieter day before tackling this trail.

DALES GORGE – CIRCULAR POOL

We did not see enough of Karijini and will have to plan another trip.  It was such a fantastic weekend away, and we returned with many tired but happy campers.  Photos and words cannot capture the beauty and majesty of Karijini National Park, it is one of those places that you simply must see for yourself.

 

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!

Running with Kids and Keeping it Real – Journey to Mothers Day Classic 4km

I haven’t really explained what on earth made me decide to train for and run in the Mothers Day Classic 4km Fun Run with four kids aged 8, 7, 7, and 5.  Initially, I guess I wanted to share the joy I get from setting a goal, working and training hard, and finally completing the task to the best of my ability.  I also wanted them to feel pride in a job well done.  Exercise is one of the best ways to make yourself proud….it lies completely in your hands.  Run a little faster or a little further, lift heavier, work harder, don’t give in, show up, all of these things build a sense of pride, resilience and self confidence.  I wanted to give this to my kids.

My vision was to train regularly as a family and hopefully complete the 4km without stopping.  Along the way I also wanted to convince the boys that they wanted to achieve this as well, not just because I wanted them to do it, but because they wanted to achieve it for themselves.  An impossible task?  Possibly, but give it a go I would.  Here’s where it gets tricky, how to convince the boys that this was not just a cruel and unusual form of torture?  From the start, I was up front with them that this wouldn’t be easy, that sometimes they wouldn’t feel like running but that we were going to commit to training at least 2x per week until the Mothers Day Classic Fun Run in about 10 weeks time.  There are very few sporting activities available in Pannawonica so I also explained that it was a good way keep fit until the football season started and I may have also reminded them of the fun I had doing the Adventurethon last year and wouldn’t they like to be part of something like that?  OK, OK, hard sell but they were quite happy to agree to the terms.

I will be honest the first few runs were far from joyful, happy family bonding times….the kids were whinging about sore legs and being short of breath before the first 100m was completed.  We set targets for where we would run to each stretch and then that was non negotiable, no stopping before we reached our target.  As you can imagine no one felt the same on any given day so negotiating our targets could be quite tricky and were a point of contention that quite often led to tears.  Mum or Dad pulled rank more often than not in the early days or we would have walked the whole distance before we could agree on where we were running to.

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This was our first run – lots of walking, tried to make it interesting by heading out around the truck and past the big drive in screen.

I find it amazing to look back and see where we started, the boys were shocked if I suggested they run more than 200m and yet most runs now are at least 2km before our first walk.  Our pace on the first run was 10.21mins/km for 2.6km whereas our last run together was 7.36mins/km for 3.4km.  It really does blow my mind, we are capable of so much more than we think we can.

There were plenty of tears along this journey but I went in with the knowledge that jogging the distances that we would be doing would not hurt the kids, that endurance would improve, and that putting down the technology and getting outside would be nothing but beneficial.  I often think that as parents, we want to make things easy for our kids and give them everything, but in doing so we are not giving them the tools to survive the curve balls that life will sometimes throw us.  So I didn’t mind them struggling a little with this as I want them to know they can tough things out and get the job done. This may sound a little harsh but it was my gut decision that they weren’t really hurting, just struggling because it was hard initially and they didn’t know how to deal with that.  Besides, I figure my kids cry when I ask them to tidy their rooms or put away the technology at times so I took it with a little grain of salt.  Looking back I would do the same all over again because they got it.  Each time they may have cried, they were able to regroup and they finished the job and were proud of themselves.  When they completed a great training run, they knew they had done something fantastic and their little faces would glow.

It wasn’t all tears, especially after the first few weeks they all quite enjoyed the routine of exercising together.  We initially split up, with Hubby taking Team Chunky Butts and I took Team Rangas, so it was a little easier to encourage and judge how far to go each time.  I loved the chats along the way, I loved when the kids would choose the targets and choose to push that little further, and I loved the end of the run debrief where they would all be trying to tell each other where they went and how far they went today.  Many great moments along the way.

All in all it has been a great experience to do as a family and come race day it really doesn’t matter what happens.

 

Riding to Pannawonica Hill

When we moved to Pannawonica, the most well known landmark that cropped up was Pannawonica Hill.  Apparently, the township’s name was actually derived from nearby Pannawonica Hill.  According to Wikipedia the hill was named by a surveyor in 1885 after the corresponding Aboriginal placename which is said to mean “the hill that came from the sea”. The traditional legend is that two local Aboriginal tribes were arguing over the ownership of the hill which was located by the sea. The sea spirit decided to resolve the dispute by moving the hill inland. As the hill was dragged over the land it left a deep indentation which became the Robe River.   With such cultural and historical relevance to the town it had to go on my Hitlist, and in the wet season it was a good place for a swim too.

Last week the family and I took the 4WD out to Panna Hill to check it out and go for a quick swim.  We had recently had a little rain so there was some nice mud puddles to drive through which kept the boys happy and the river was quite full as well so it was great for swimming.  I was happy to discover that the drive out was under 10km so this hitlist item would not be a difficult one to complete!

Due to the fact that we are in a remote location and I didn’t really want to get up close and personal with any of the local snakes while on my own, I decided that the hubby would drive the kids out for a swim and kayak while I rode out.  That way he could scare off all the snakes along the way and would be looking out for me if I had a stack or pulled up with a flat tyre.  Win, win.  While I had driven out the week before there is something different about coming across Pannawonica Hill under your own steam, it really is quite….beautiful? spiritual? Quite something that’s for sure and it was a great ride there and back.

So there you have it, mountain bike ride to Pannawonica Hill crossed of my current hitlist.  Quite an easy and scenic 15km return trip from Pannawonica.

Why not explore your own backyard in as many different ways as possible, you will experience a different perspective each and every time!