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Training Log: blairtrewin

In the last 7 days:

activity # timemileskm+m
  Run5 3:52:00 23.3 37.5
  Pool running1 45:00 0.43(1:43:27) 0.7(1:04:17)
  Total6 4:37:00 23.74 38.2

Friday Jun 9 #

8 AM

Run 43:00 [3] 7.3 km (5:53 / km)

Morning circuit of Coober Pedy, a little later in the morning than some of my recent runs (a) because today on the road was going to be shorter than some and (b) because I'm now far enough south for heat avoidance not to be an issue (it would have been more of an issue had I been up north this week than it was last week). Quite a nice run, mostly around the east side of the town and streets like Jewellers Shop Street (which won't appear in my list because Coober Pedy appears to be the first place I've been to which is too remote to be indexed), with a couple of stops to take in bits of local history - like that the excavations for the building of the Italian Club in the late 1960s unearthed $57,000 worth of opals, which from my understanding of late 1960s building costs probably would have just about paid for the building (our first family home in Canberra, around the same time, cost $17,000, and some of that would have been land).

When I came here in 2013 I had the sense of a place a couple of decades past its best, but it seems to have stabilised since then.

It turned out to be a day of minor annoyances, some of them to do with the road (probably at least 50km of roadwork zones, only one of which had any actual works being carried out), and some of them to do with the vehicle being driven on it - after functioning without a hitch all trip there was a slight hitch today. It just needed some oil which was topped up soon enough, but it takes a couple of hours for the sensors to stabilise once that's done and while that's the case cruise control doesn't work - don't ask me why. (Bruce may remember this problem from the 2019 Cowra NOL trip, although that time I didn't know what was going on or that it was easily fixed). Still, made it to Port Augusta before darkness (just), and got a good look at Lake Hart with water in it, which by all accounts is not a common experience.

Thursday Jun 8 #

8 AM

Run 1:02:00 [3] 10.3 km (6:01 / km)

Out to the Telegraph Station along the river path, then came back to town on a wider route using some of the walking/MTB trails on the eastern side (a bit rougher than most things I've done of late). A bit of meandering at the end to get the distance/time up where I wanted, in the process getting some words of encouragement from the staff/supporters of the local MP (CLP, Alice is a conservative town) who'd set up a stall alongside the main road in from the east side - retail politics counts for a lot in the NT given how tiny the seats are (only a few thousand voters). Hard going at the start, then settled down with some good patches and some not-so-good patches, but decent at the end. Coolest running conditions for a while.

The rest of the day was on the road, mostly straight down the highway with one short side trip to the Henbury meteorite craters (the road to these was surprisingly wet; maybe they were under a heavy shower yesterday?). Not as barren as I'd remembered it, at least until about 80km north of my final destination for the day, Coober Pedy. Also added another to the list of interesting-looking areas I've seen which will never be mapped, some granite hills on the west side of the road just north of the border. There was a lot of traffic heading north (presumably much of it associated with this weekend's Finke Desert Race), which is a bit of a culture shock after spending quite a bit of time in places lately where the definition of heavy traffic is seeing two vehicles in the same hour.

Ate lots of fruit today; my parents forgot to take their supplies with them when I dropped them off last night, and I knew I couldn't take it into South Australia (or to be pedantic, past Marla). I managed to get through a fair proportion of it and gave the rest away at the border to someone heading north.

Wednesday Jun 7 #

8 AM

Run intervals 12:00 [4]

Interval session on the Todd riverside path south of town. Felt pretty reasonable for the most part and picked up a bit in pace later on. Not a straight route which for some reason always feels a bit easier mentally.

Have started to develop a bit of accelerator ankle over the last couple of days, but it hasn't bothered me while running (and with two days mostly on cruise control ahead it should get plenty of time to settle down).

Run warm up/down 23:00 [3] 4.0 km (5:45 / km)

Warm-up and down, via slightly different routes. This added four new streets to my list, although it looks like one of them might be getting a new name soon (not without good reason). Passed a statue of Stuart which is also somewhat contentious, although it seems more because it's a relatively modern statue organised by the Freemasons rather than that Stuart himself was a particularly contentious historical figure (at least by the standards of 19th century Europeans in outback Australia), and also went past an establishment which I'm guessing will be high on Anna Campbell's list if she ever makes it to Alice Springs.

Headed to the East Macdonnells today, with my parents - they're on a trip based around the Ghan and our paths crossed here (we planned our trips independently and then realised they would intersect in Alice Springs). The range is smaller than the West Macdonnells but there are still some impressive spots, notably Trephina Gorge. There were a few spots of rain coming back, the first time I've been rained on since coming out of Miles.

Tuesday Jun 6 #

9 AM

Pool running 45:00 [3] 0.7 km (1:04:17 / km)

A somewhat more relaxed day, using a full day for things I'd expected to have only half a day for. Started with a session at the Alice Springs pool (reshuffling things a bit because nowhere I go after here has a pool which is open at this time of year) - it's a nice backdrop looking out to the Macdonnell Ranges, and for the first time since Gunnedah there was actually someone else in the water at the same time as I was. Session felt OK.

The main destination in the middle of the day was Standley Chasm (which we'd skipped on the way through in 2019). The idea is to be here at midday when the sun penetrates into the chasm, although I suspect it doesn't work quite so well at this time of year, and as it turned out today was partly cloudly anyway - still nice to look at, just not as photogenic. The best views of the day were actually climbing up to a lookout above the kiosk. I also discovered that Simpsons Gap is a spectacular wind tunnel on a day with a northerly.

Monday Jun 5 #

8 AM

Run 31:00 [3] 5.3 km (5:51 / km)

I'd originally thought about running from my overnight stop, particularly if I needed to give my tent time to dry out from dew (not needed because there wasn't any), but the place didn't fill me with a desire to spend any longer there than necessary (and it didn't feel like a place I wanted to leave a car unattended either), so I switched to plan B and got out pretty much as soon as it took me to have breakfast and pack up after it got light.

One of the purposes of coming this way was a site visit to Rabbit Flat. This is 2km off the main road (and 45km down the road from where I camped), so I thought it seemed a good option for a run - close to the length I was looking for, plus I wasn't sure how driveable the track in would be, and the timing meant I'd be off the road during the awkward period about an hour after sunrise/before sunset, where there are alternating long shadows and bright areas making it very hard to 'read' the road surface. (I was right to be concerned about the track - parts of it have become quite overgrown, probably because no-one much other than Bureau techs have driven in there in recent years, and I certainly didn't want my car to catch fire).

It's an odd and slightly eerie place - it operated as a roadhouse for 40 years before the owners retired at the end of 2010. They lived there for a few more years before moving closer to civilisation (they'd be well into their 80s by now). No obvious signs of vandalism, it just looks very abandoned. I do wonder if it will get revived at some point if plans for the road (of which more later) come to fruition as it's a strategic location. (One interesting bit which I found when reading the site history files is that, as the only children known to have been born in the area, the owners' (white) sons are recognised under local Aboriginal custom as the traditional owners).

The run was quite reasonable for a Monday after a decent Sunday session. Did a bit on the main road at the end to make up the distance.

Then onwards and southeastwards. The road was probably more corrugated on the whole than yesterday, but still made consistent progress. Something I knew about before I arrived was that there are increasingly firm plans to seal the whole road by 2030 - it's been an idea for a while but the last couple of summers have been a bit of a wake-up call for governments about the resilience (or lack thereof) of supply lines in outback Australia and the need for some alternate options. I didn't realise that there had been so much progress already, with about 35km already done at the Yuendumu end and another 50km well under way (with a newly built sidetrack which was slow going at times but had almost no corrugations, and in the slow bits there were some nice granite hills to look at after 600km of nothing much). The abiding impression of the route is its emptiness - even Aboriginal communities are pretty much non-existent over a large area on the NT side (not sure why but I'm guessing the flatness means water sources were very limited). A couple of mines were the most noteworthy features.

The only real disappointment of the day is that my strike rate on noteworthy remote community art centres on the trip is now 0 from 3 - having already missed Warmun and Balgo because of the (extended) WA weekend, Yuendumu's was closed for no immediately obvious reason (though I saw a funeral notice on the noticeboard of the store so I'll guess it was sorry business). This, along with the early start and the better than expected road, meant I was somewhat ahead of my expected schedule so I decided to press on to Alice rather than stop at the Tilmouth Well roadhouse as I'd planned to, getting a good late-day view of the north side of the West Macdonnells (not as rocky as the south side - most of the ridges out here are steeper on their south side - but still impressively large).

Sunday Jun 4 #

7 AM

Run 1:01:00 [3] 10.6 km (5:45 / km)

Having ascertained that my car and its contents were still intact, I headed out before 7am (not that a Kimberley 7am is really like a 7am in other places) ahead of a planned long day on the road. Included in my online searches on Halls Creek generally was a hit on an entry by someone who'd posted a lap of the airport as a run route, so I thought that sounded like a good idea (in a place where I didn't really want to be running through residential areas because of the likely large number of dogs); once that was done the rest was essentially an out and back on the Duncan Road (one of the roads out of town). Felt a bit flat but a day when you get more than an hour on the board's a good day, isn't it?

The other place to stay in Halls Creek has put itself behind an electric fence but where I was hasn't, and they said they generally don't have trouble - as they put it "we respect the locals and they respect us". Probably didn't hurt that there was a police car prominently parked outside the first row of rooms - I'm guessing that extra police were sent to the town after it hit the news a few weeks back and they were staying where I was.

From there it was the first half of the Tanami Road trip, with a side trip to the Wolfe Creek crater (about 25km off the main road, the last few of which were severely corrugated). For the most part road conditions weren't too bad, a few sections which were rocky or corrugated but also plenty where I could comfortably drive at 80 (particularly the stretch either side of the border, which is the part which I expect gets the least traffic). My set-up for carrying extra fuel on the roof also worked fine, and didn't affect the aerodynamics/fuel consumption as much as I thought it might (the distance between fuel stops is 580km; as it turned out I could have got away without it, but that's not something you want to put to the test out here, and it would have been a different story if there had been a significant headwind, or significant stretches where I was going 40 or slower, which really blows your fuel consumption out).

Distances feel different out here too. At one point I saw a shining object on the horizon which I thought was something to do with the border, then about 10km away. It turned out to be the sun reflecting off yet another redundant Covid sign, an NT one this time.

I got to the overnight spot I was aiming for, a rest area (of sorts) at the junction of the Lajamanu road. This proved to be considerably more appealing on the map than it was in reality, although as I realised during the evening, the reason why there was so much rubbish on the ground and not in the bin had at least as much to do with wildlife extracting it from the bin as it did with humans not putting it in the bin in the first place. At least it had a table to use for cooking dinner (I do have a portable one I can set up if I need to, but would rather not), and an occasional mobile phone signal from a nearby mine (which one lot of passing travellers stopped to take advantage of), and either the howling dingoes moved elsewhere after 9pm or I managed to sleep through them (the latter seems unlikely).

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