Kevin Cassidy's 2004 Mt Buller Report
Back to Mansfield to Mt Buller
After the cancellation of this event last year due to bushfires that ravaged country Victoria, this year's event almost followed suit. Just two weeks before our scheduled date, we were made aware that the course was being taken over by a three day car racing festival. The only solution was to postpone things for a week. Obviously this was not suitable for all and was clearly the reason why the field was a little smaller than usual.
As happens every year, a large crew of helpers gather at the home of Wayne and Marilyn Armistead on race eve. I made the startling observation that there was probably more ultra running experience amongst the crew than the runners. Although, the crew are all a pack of broken down "Has Beens" these days.
With a perfect day looming ahead, 15 runners set off for the Mount Buller summit. In reality, there were only 14 runners facing the starter's gun, with Julia Thorn a notable absentee. As the field disappeared into the distance, a familiar figure approached from the opposite direction. Yes, it was Julia resplendently decked out with a backpack that would not have been out of place on the back of a peace keeping soldier in Baghdad. Julia had been waiting patiently on the Highett Street corner three blocks away while the rest of the field assembled at Highton Lane!!….Highton, Highett..OK, they sound the same, so you are forgiven just this once, Julia. I have a very strong suspicion that Julia may be emerging as a female equivalent of Kelvin Marshall. I bumped into her a couple of weeks earlier at a swimming event in Echuca where she was bubbling with the excitement of having done a morning fun run followed by the swimming event in the afternoon and eagerly looking forward to the next day's triathlon. "Next week will be just as good" she enthused, "I'm heading to the peninsula on the long weekend for The Quinn Swim, The Dromana Swim and the Australia Day Fun Run"!!…not to mention several upcoming ultras in the next two months.
It didn't take long for the runners to stretch out with a quality field including Mike "King Willy" Wheatley and the legend himself, Yiannis Kouros, who was being looked after by George Christodoulou. George had Greek music blaring out of the stereo as he zig zagged his car up the mountain. Brian Gawne was back again to maintain his perfect finishing record with Kelvin Marshall hot on his heels having only missed the first race back in 1991. "That's one you can never get back, Kelvin", I quipped. The unmistakable bright orange hat that lives on Bruce Salisbury's head was also present and running well. I'm sure that Bruce was under there somewhere. Special mention of the day surely goes to Lyn Gawne. Lyn had the task of looking after four Shepparton runners. With two of them filling first and last place, poor Lyn was racing back and forth in a manner that would probably have gained her victory in the previous weeks car race.
With runners stretching out along the highway and our swag of mobile drink station operators in full swing, the road sure was a hectic part of the world. It was about this time that Race Director, Dot Browne, decided on a quick call of nature and dashed into the bushes only to squat down on a black snake who was most unimpressed about having his Sunday morning nap interrupted. Testament to the previous weeks car race, was the large "GO BROCKY" sign that had been sprayed graffiti like onto the bitumen, such is the questionable status of mental acuity amongst motor racing fans.
For reasons that escape me, I always seem to get lumbered with the mind numbing task of sitting at the summit to record times prior to the runners tackling the final two kilometres back down to the finish. As per usual, a string of day trippers kept asking me the same questions. "Is this a race or something?"…"Gee, I don't even drive my car that far". I must have heard the same lines at least 50 times and I answered them all with commendable frankness. Eventually, two men dressed in flannelette shirts wandered over and despite their teeth being in various states of disrepair, took a genuine interest in things. Looking at my list of runners, one quipped "Gee, Yiannis Kouros..is he the guy who used to run from Sydney to Melbourne with Cliffy Young?". Both my visitors stayed for a while and gave plenty of encouragement to the passing runners.
With everyone finishing under six hours, it was not overly late when we all retired to the Alberg Lodge for eats, drinks and presentations. I promptly positioned myself in the queue at the hot food bar and waited a tortured eternity while each and every order ahead of me was hand written on a large docket. The guy behind the counter even wrote the time and date on each order which had me wondering if we were required to take out a loan contract to make a purchase. My bowl of hot chips ultimately arrived at the table while I was making a complete hash of trying to photograph the trophy presentation [one day, I will master my new camera!]. By the time I had got the misbehaving camera back into it's bag, my chips had all vanished at the hands of a hungry group of thieves by the names of Davies, Hook and Shilston.
Another Mansfield to Buller had been run and won. I hadn't run a step all day but was tired none the less. The drive back to Melbourne had only one interruption when I called into a supermarket for a few urgent supplies. My mood was less than convivial when I lined up at the check out behind three women who all did the same mystifying thing: they acted surprised when it came time to pay. I must admit that this has had me puzzled for a long while now. Women stand there watching their shopping being tallied up, and then when the check out girl says, "That will be $45" or whatever, they suddenly look as if they have never done this before. They go "OH!" and start rummaging through their hand bags in a flustered fashion, as if no one had told them that this is what happens.
Men, for all their shortcomings, will spend their time in the queue doing their mental arithmetic. When the bill is announced, they IMMEDIATELY hand over a close approximate of cash, keeping their hand extended for the change, and then -note this -pocket the change AS THEY WALK AWAY instead of thinking it to be an opportune time to sort out six months of receipts and fumble for the car keys.
Pardon my sexist interlude, but it was at the end of a tiring day.