Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Mansfield to Mount Buller report

Mansfield to Mount Buller Summit 50km Road Race

North East Victoria. Sunday 22nd January 2006


1.Tim COCHRANE 4.27.04
2.Drew ARTHURSON 4.47.35
=3.Michael NORDEN 4.51.39
=3.Brent DOWER 4.51.39
5.Stephen CALLAHAN 4.57.57
6.Chris MURPHY 5.12.00
7.Gerry SURRIDGE 5.13.03
8.Kelvin MARSHALL 5.18.14
9.Paul ROBINSON 5.19.45
10.Brian GAWNE 5.29.54
11.Susan OLLEY ( F) 5.43.56
12.Adrian PANOZZO 5.51.29
13.Neil RAMPLING 5.55.26
14.Brian HARRISON 6.12.13
15.Garry WISE 6.21.44
16.Rudi KINSHOFER 6.33.06
=17.Danny COLE 6.45.45
=17.Paul BAN 6.45.45
=17.Robert BOYCE 6.45.45
20.Brian O'FARRELL 7.00.00
21.Richard McCORMICK 7.16.42

Deanne NOBBS [F]
Martin HUNT

Report by Kevin Cassidy

“Cult Status” is an apt description of this event. Back in the 80’s, on numerous visits to his brother’s Mansfield home, Peter Armistead trained regularly on the Mount Buller road. “It would make a great race along here” he once observed in his direct and laconic fashion, and so it came to be in 1991. 32 kilometres of undulations leading to the brutal 16 kilometre ascent to the summit of one of Victoria’s highest peaks with the final two kilometres taking in the descent from the summit to the front door of the Arlberg Ski Lodge.

“You only go up there to mix with your old cronies and relive past glories” was the sarcasm laden parting line as I left Melbourne on the Saturday afternoon. Of course, I had to smile at what was actually a very profound comment. This event is the one time each year when the old guard of ultrarunners from the 80’s and 90’s gather together in our roles as race organisers and officials. Believe me, the tall stories grow taller every year. Give us another year or two and I’m sure someone will come up with a sub two hour marathon from 25 years ago!

Under normal circumstances, mention of weather conditions is often a boring waste of time and ink. 2006, however, provided unprecedented circumstances. With bushfires raging across the state and the mercury climbing to the dizzying height of 39 degrees on the Saturday, things looked nightmarish to say the least. With an amended race day forecast of 43 degrees, runners looked to have a task more ominous than attempting to photograph Mark Latham without physical harm, or worse still, sitting through a dinner date with Amanda Vanstone.

The consumption of dinner on the Saturday night was at the Mansfield Pub, a delightful establishment that could be further enhanced by the installation of a functional air conditioning system.

Little sleep had occurred during the hot sweaty night as 25 brave [or extremely demented!] competitors stood apprehensively on the Highton Road corner. With the first 30 kilometres being run on a shadeless road amongst parched sunburnt paddocks, Tim Cochrane bolted away at four minute kilometre pace and the field soon strung out. Former Australian Football League umpire, Adrian Panozzo, was attempting his first ultra alongside numerous regulars. Susan Olley, Brian O’Farrell, Rudi Kinshofer [all the way from Adelaide], Kelvin Marshall and Steve Trevaskis front up again and again. Brian Gawne tops them all, never having missed a year since the races inception. The unassuming Garry Wise and cricket loving Robert Boyce, two reasonably new ultra gurus, have caught the bug in a substantial way and can be observed at ultras all over the country. Danny Cole was returning from injury and freely admitted to being severely undertrained but having a crack regardless. The surprise appearance came from Gerry Surridge, a classy athlete from the 70’s now residing in Ballarat. Gerry was to prove that age is no barrier.

As always, the collection of broken down ex runners [yes, that includes me] embarked on the job of kangaroo hopping along the road in the definitive role of mobile aid stations. At 20 kilometres, I was dripping with sweat and almost dying of heat stroke. All I was doing was handing out drinks! I could only imagine how the runners felt, running under the blazing furnace like sunshine! My sympathy and respect for them was to rise several notches as the day progressed.

Aid station operations aren’t without there moments. Long periods of waiting are common place. At one point, I decided that a spot of dial twirling on the radio would pass some time. I managed to pick up some country hick station that featured a severely deranged individual known as the “Yodelling Cowboy” who proceeded to infest the airwaves by yodelling furiously. If you have ever wondered what goes on in the mind of a blowfly as it buzzes mindlessly across the inside of a window, then five minutes listening to the Yodelling Cowboy would give you a reasonably accurate idea.

Further up the road, the incomparable Dot Browne had dutifully set up an assortment of drinks, fruit and jelly beans before sneaking behind a tree for a brief call of nature….brief, the call may have been, but still of sufficient length to allow an opportunistic flock of crows to wipe the table clean in the most efficient but selfish of manners. Not a single jelly bean remained!

The undulations prior to the climb to the summit produced four retirements. To all of you, your guts, determination and intelligence in your decisions won my admiration many times over.

I eventually resettled my aid station half way up the mountain at 41 kilometres. The runners coming past bore no resemblance to those at the start. “Punch Drunk” is the only term I could use as tired, exhausted bodies dragged themselves ever upward. Garry Wise surprised me by arriving in a cheerful and lucid state and happy to exchange pleasantries. With the final runner passing through, I took off for the summit forgetting the newspaper that was sitting in the back of my ute. In no time at all, pages were decorating the landscape in all directions creating a dastardly mess that consumed much of my time in the clean up.

While Ross Shilston recorded times at the summit and complained loudly about being attacked by a savage swarm of march flies, runners were arriving at the finish. Tim Cochrane stormed home with several new faces in hot pursuit. Drew Arthurson, Michael Norden, Brent Dower and Stephen Callahan all performed admirably in their first attempts over this rugged course.

Clearly suffering from injury, Kelvin Marshall slugged it out, as did Rudi Kinshofer who was not having the best of days. Brian Gawne maintained his perfect finishing record while the ever reliable Susan Olley added another female title to her belt. Danny Cole, Robert Boyce and Paul Ban joined forces to support each other through the later stages, finishing together in a trio of commendable efforts.

Richard McCormick provided an incisive quote at the summit. “Another Mountain Conquered” he gasped succinctly as he gulped down a large cup of water. “Oooohhh, That Was Solid” was Adrian Panozzo’s statement of the obvious as he crossed the finish line.

Presentations took place amongst the inviting surrounds of the Arlberg Lodge’s bar and lounge where the drinks were icy cold and food exceedingly scrumptious, providing a most convivial ending to one hellish day.

Driving home in air conditioned comfort, I made a brief toilet stop in the town of Yea where a tiny little car bearing a “Holden Barina” badge pulled up beside me. In the drivers seat was a giant of man, but it was the huge woman beside him that really attracted my eye, she would not have looked out of place on the front cover of a sumo wrestling magazine and had clearly won championships for doughnut eating. With no fewer than six children crammed into the back seat, the comical sardine can appearance left me bemused beyond description.

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