Australian Alpine Ascent
I write this knowing that that I am an idiot. A sucker for pain. Not right in the head.
I’m not an elite athlete! I’m not a long time long distance athlete, at school I raced over 200! I don’t enjoy cycling (I am heavy, 96kg is a lot of weight to drag up hills!). I don’t like pain. However, somehow, I seem to constantly get myself into events that require me to push myself to the point of breaking. The Australian Alpine Ascent was, to date, both the hardest and most stunning event I have ever done!
The event is described as the worlds’ toughest daylight triathlon. The word Daylight is key because this contrasts it with events that can last longer than 12 hours. The race starts with a 3 Km swim in the beautiful Lake Jindabyne. Then you hop onto the bike for a casual 123 Km cycle around the stunning, and harsh, snowy mountains. Then to finish off you saunter on a 30 Km run up Mt Kosciuszko.
On the Day
SWIM. The day starts at a sociable 7am (for anyone who does these events regularly, 7am is a dream start) down at Lake Jindabyne. The weather was perfect and the lake was steaming in the cold morning air. It’s a freshwater swim so wetsuits are encouraged (Although today not really needed). The water is still, the atmosphere is calm (only 50 competitors take part), the setting is magnificent.
(I’m the nervous looking chap on the far right)
The swim course is 2 ‘quick laps’ then out and onto the bike. The sun is rising as you swim and at times this makes it hard to see where you are going. However, every now and again you experience a moment of awe as you take a breath and catch sight of the light rising over the mountains.
The key to surviving the course is to take your time on the transitions. Eat, drink, stretch, change fully and get ready to settle into the next stage.
BIKE. By this time, it’s about 8am. The sun is fully up but the air is still cold on your skin as the lake water evaporates. It doesn’t take long before you find the first, of many, hills and all chills vanish!
The bike ride is out and back from Jindabyne to Dead-Horse-Gap at Thredbo, about 75K. The ride out is mostly uphill which makes the ride back an actual joy. You find yourself smiling at the view as you speed down the hills at 75 Kmph. The scenery is simply some of the most stunning I have ever seen. This beauty lulls you into a false sense of enjoyment though because the next section of the ride is hell on earth.
(I was still smiling here. No idea about future pain)
The final 50K of the ride from Jindabyne up to Charlotte Pass at Perisher is probably the hardest ride that I have ever done in my life. I cried. Twice. The hill is relentless. The slight descents are short and sharp giving no rest. To make matters worse (as if they needed to be) it is now about mid-day and although the air temp drops as you climb, its still about 28’. Taking on enough water is almost impossible.
Im not sure when I completely lost my sense of humour. However, when the third or fourth stick thin cyclist breezed past me up the hill I would have thrown my water bottle at them. The only things stopping me were the fact that I needed the water, and I couldn’t catch them.
RUN. Getting off the bike at Perisher Ski Tube was the happiest moment of my life. Realising that I now needed to run up to the top of Mt Kosciuszko was one of the saddest. The only bright light was the fact that I might not make the cut off time at Charlotte Pass (9Kms away). If I didn’t get there before 4pm then I wouldn’t be allowed into the national park.
Sadly, something stupid inside me refused to give up and I made the cut off time. This was despite the fact that I had my first ever full body cramp about 5Kms in.
The run was actually the best part of the day. You have to have a handler with you which is an incredible thing. The encouragement and support by that person is invaluable. Looking at the views from the highest point in Australia, knowing that the race is literally all downhill from there, is priceless.
(Top of Kozi! All downhill from here)
I would highly recommend this race. It hurts. It challenges. It’s simply breathtaking.
Discovering how much you can push yourself. The team surrounding you. 100% worth the pain.