The current time is 8:50AM on Monday May 27th 2013. Fiona and I just got back from playing Big Buck Hunter at the Marla rest stop south of the border between the Northern Territory and South Australia (she beat me). We left Port August 10 hours ago aboard this Greyhound bus and have 5 ½ hours to go along this 1,225km or 760 mile ride that will conclude this epic road trip with us riding our bikes home from the bust stop to my house in Alice Srpings.
Back in February I was looking at my race calendar and was looking forward to run a marathon again. This is because the last three marathons I raced were part of ironman competitions including : Cairns, Australia, Mont-Tremblant Canada, and Wanaka New Zealand. 2013 was already to include Ironman Western Australia in December and the 60KM Alice Springs Ultra in August so finding the Great Ocean Road Marathon from Lorne, to Apollo Bay in Victoria, Australia on May 19th seemed to fit.
So in March after having dated Fiona for less than three weeks, I asked her if she was interested in running the marathon with me and doing a road trip. She said yes and signed up for the half. With Fi already signed up for three half Ironman’s and Ironman Western Australia, this half marathon fit with her training as well. Coincidentally, in December 2012 when nine Alice Springs triathletes from a town of 27,000 people and located in the heart of the Australian Outback (which is 1,500km away from the nearest Ocean) all signed up for IM’WA, I was one of several that helped in getting accommodation squared away. Little di I know then, that a fellow Ironman, Fiona Collier who would be sharing a 2 single bed loft in a house with four others and who I had only spoken to once before, would become so important to me.
If you haven’t yet noticed this is not one of my typical race recaps. It’s a story of adventure, excitement, anger, and passion and love that concluded one phase and established the next.
To understand where you’re going you have to know where you’ve been. Well, for you to understand our story, you have to know what we’ve done.
To quickly summarize, Fiona and I started dating March 1, 2013. We had already been inseparable since she kindly picked me up from the airport when I returned from the USA. That night, I made her salmon to say thanks and the next day failed miserably on a ten mile run with her. (Four weeks of little exercise and gaining 12 pounds will do that!) We went to a poker event that night and I took 4th winning $100. I told Fi that I would take her to Haunuman’s, the nicest restaurant in town the next Friday, March 1st.
In March and April, I got fit again losing the 12 pounds I had put on. Fiona and I trained together extensively including 5 camping/training camps. We shared the crown of the 29th annual Alice Springs Triathlon and the Tavis Johannsen Ultra Triathlon as well. We also travelled to Darwin for an Olympic Triathlon in which we both set personal records. Darwin was Part 1 of our May trip that brought us to the World Heritage listed National Reserve, kakadu. While there, we flew over the landscapes including a 600’ waterfall and saw jumping crocodiles at arms length away. With one day between Part 1 and Part 2, we began the journey on Wednesday May 15th.
6AM we left Alice Springs full on Monster energy drinks and McDonalds hot cakes. We hit the South Australia border 4 ½ hours later. The landscape became removed from the McDonnell ranges to a flatter than flat vista. We arrived in the Opal mining capital of the world Coober Pedy, and to our underground camping accomdation at Reba’s. We visited the Old Timers Mine that was originally dug in 1914 and learned more about Opals with a free tour at our campground. The next day we left at 6AM and travelled 730 miles over 16 hours. We saw wild emu’s which are dumber than rocks and half the size of ostriches. We also learned what a rainbow looks like in fog. We learned that the town of Glendambo has a population of 30 humans and 2,000,000 flies. We went wine tasting at 4 wineries in the Clare Valley, famouns for their Rieslings, and camped at a park with loads of kangaroos.
The next day we headed to Lorne. We passed by a 30’ Lobster and went wine tasting in Coonawarra, which is famous for Cabernet Sauvignon. We ate at Cheese World and then saw the majestic coast of the Great Ocean road that has been formed over 200 million years. Fiona made the steaks we brought from Alice that night at the 5 star resort we stayed at. Our balcony faced the beach and the apartment was massive.
The next day we headed to Geelong to see a sports physio. My foot originally started bothering me after the ultra in April but became excrutiating in the last km of the Olympic in Darwin. I was still unable to run on it and it hurt daily. The man taped my foot but I knew I wouldn’t be running my 18th marathon the next day. This was only the 2nd event I pulled out of, ever. Fortunately, I was able to defer my entry till 2014. Regardless, I won a $70 sports watch, and $150 Mizuno shoes as one of the 5,000 entrants (2 separate contests) so my $110 entry was essentially covered! An MRI in Adelaide, the next week and a foot doctor confirmed plantar fasciitis but no stress fracture; I need to stretch more.
After Geelong we checked out the Surf Museum and then the fmaouns Bells Beach in Torquay. This is the center of surfing in Australi and the name of the beach in the last scene from the movie Point break. We headed back to Lorne passing a koala viewing spot and saw 4 in their natural habitat. The past dinner was good. We met and saw some Olympic and world record athletes including Australia’s greatest distance runner Steve Moneghetti. 5:30am up the next morning and Fi was ready for the half marathon.
I rode my bike out to the 16KM and supported her for the last 7K. Among her 2,000 competitors she broke 1:40 for the half and struggled with her ITB but still did great. She wants to do the full next year. I am sure we’ll make it. The course is unbelievable and talent includes Kenyan’s that make it look just too easy.
In route to Fiona’s parents house in Stalwell, we went to another Koala spot. It was absolutely amazing and a highlight of the trip. For 5KM t here were literally a hundred koalas in the Eucalyptus trees sleeping and eating. We took loads of photos and were mesmerized by them. Then we went to Sovereighn hill. It keeps the feel of the 1860’s and 18070’s gold rush of this town very close to where Fi grew up. We saw a musket gun fired, panned for gold that Fi Found, and saw $160,000 worth of gold get poured. We went to the site of the 1956 Olympic Rowing race course as well.
The next day we rode our bikes past hundreds, if not thousands of kangaroos in Victoria. Fi showed me the gold mine she used to work at and her father, Niel, showed me gold he has found. Fiona surprised me with a flight over the Grampians that her mom came on as well. After the second plane!, we saw great views and farmlands from the four passenger Cesna. We also saw the central park where the Stalwell Gift which is held very Easter and is the longest running foot race in Australia and has seen many of the greatest athletes of our time. More wine tasting in the Great Western wine region where Fiona set us up with a private hour long tutorial and underground cellar tour.
We stayed at a YHA youth hostel that night and Fiona surprised me again the next day with an ATV quad riding experience in the Grampians. I hit 77KM/hr on the grass airplane runway, we went through water, over logs, and past roo’s eagles, and sheep. We went on short hikes through the Grampians and took in great forest views from hanging rock cliff faces. On our bike ride, we came across more wildlife including emu’s roo’s, and a herd of deer, one with giant antlers.
The next morning we woke up at 5:30AM for a sunrise hike. The sun never rose because the crappy Victoria weather but we still enjoyed breakfast at the top. The rock formations were really amazing though. We climbed through canyon’s and witnessed millions of years of erosion.
On to Adelaide we headed back to Coonawarra for some more Cabernet Sauvignon and reached the 5 Star Rendevous Hotel some 4 hours later. We went to Gauchos, and Argentinian steakhouse and yes my $49 steak was damn good.
The next day we went wine tasting at Penfolds in the Adeliade Hills, chocolate tasting at Haighs and melbas, and ate bratwurst in the German town of Handorf. We headed back to Glen Elg on the coast, an area of Adelaide for the next thing that Fiona bought for me… wait for it… a ride… in a … Lamborghini Gallardo. We got a 50% savings on adrenaline.com and I then went on a 60 minute ride in this $800,000 AUD supercar. The sound, acceleration, and body were unbelievable. It was a huge thrill and left me wanting to go so much faster.
The next day, you guess it; more wine tasting. This time at the national wine center of Australia. We learned more about wine and saw the largest open wine cellar in South Australia capable of holding 38,000 bottles of wine. We headed onto the 5 start resort in Barossa valley and went wine tasting there as well. We played life size chess and headed for Woomera. As a town of 6,000 and closed to the public in the 1960’s, this missle testing ground was manned by Australians and britts. Now it was Saturday we had travelled close to 5,000KM or 3,000 miles. It was dark and we were heading to a road stop to camp for the night. That’s when it happened; we hit a kangaroo. The front headlight was smashed in, the hood bent up, and unknown other damage. I drove back to Pimba only 10 miles behind us. The car still ran and did not overheat. No one could help there. I popped the hood and saw the engine cooland and radiator reservoir were busted. Fi called AAMI for roadside assistance. The tow truck came the 2 hours from Port August and drove us back. While we were sleeping a bump bump in the night were 2 more roo’s. But the bull-bar protected the truck. Fi was quite emotional but I was calmn and helped plan what we would do. We ate dinner while waiting, booked accomodatin, and a way to get back to Alice. Planes don’t fly Port August to Alice, Rental Car’s incurred a $1,000 return fee (yes that is real), and the train wasn’t available for another week. This emant the bus set for 10:50pm the next day.
We were dropped off at the Pastoral hotel/motel, played pokies, and a needed beer, and hit the sack later that night. W woke up the next morning and rode our bikes to the car. We got he things we needed and could carry. We made the best of the situation and explored the city (town). We rode to the botanical gardens to see the Flinders Ranges. Then we rented kayaks and paddled towards the gulf. We saw many different birds and then off in the distance I saw a dorsal fin. I knew from the arch it was a dolphin. I pointed to Fi and then there was another and another. Before we knew it we were surrounded by dolphins. At one point there were four all lined up next to each other, less than a meter from me underneath the kayak. It was incredible.
Shortly after this, we sat there in the sun. I thought of what I wanted to say and how to say it. I told Fiona that I wanted her to be my wife; that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I told her how much I was in-love with her and that I wanted to be able to plan a wedding, a celebration, and another amazing trip together. Although we are not officially engaged, we are planning or wedding. TI’s hard enough to plan a wedding but when you’re living 12,000 miles away from you’re family, it’s that much harder. This is why I have promised myself to Fiona; so I can give her everything she deserves and celebrate with family and friends.
After we headed to the salvation army to buy dry clothes because they were covered in salt water. We were given a sandwich. (From 5 star luxury to the Salvation army, we had it all this trip). Climbed a water tower with views of the town, saw the movie the Hangover III, went for some of the best Indian food I’ve had, and then jumped from bar to bar until the bus came on Sunday night.
It’s now 2 ½ hours later and we’re in the Northern Territory. Fiona is making us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Today begins the Preparation phase for Ironman Western Australia. This is the beginning. The next intermediate phase of our lives. We’re not yet home, the trip is not yet over. We still need to get bubbles (the car) back to Alice. But, we are deeply in love and thankful to the Lord for brining us together. I have travelled all over the world and have done so many amazing things because I value my life. I have been given the opportunity to lead an amazing life. It is what I have done and with my future life partner in Fiona, will continue to do. God Bless.