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Hut 2 Hut: 100km Trek/Run Challenge

Posted by Nicole O'Gready 01st May 2019

In February 2019, Paul, one of the Directors at Peninsula Homes, took on the mammoth task that is Oscars100 Hut 2 Hut, a grueling 100 km run/trek through the Victorian Alpine region. In fact, so tough is this event, that ultra168.com (Ultra Running Community Website) rates Hut 2 Hut as the fifth toughest trail in Australia!

For those who love running and those who do not, here is a little comparison so you can see the enormity of this event:

  • The City to Surf is 14km long and has 190m of elevation; known for having a lot of hills (think Heartbreak Hill and you know what I mean)
  • Paul ran the Grand Canyon in 2016; a 30km round trip from the top of the south rim to the Colorado River below; 1500m in depth
  • The Hut 2 Hut is more than 3 times the Grand Canyon run in length and in height (5500m in vertical ascent over the run)!!!

Importantly, Hut 2 Hut raises money for Oscars100, an organisation committed to improving the lives of children living with Autism. Early Intervention programs have been recognised to dramatically improve the performance of children with Autism, preparing them for mainstream education and even eventual independence. In fact Paul was the highest individual fundraiser for this event, raising nearly $4,500. The support, encouragement and donations received from clients, family, friends and our trades was unimaginable and very touching.

“This course is designed so tough that each person will at some point feel the overwhelming fear, doubt and anxiety that a child living with autism feels on a daily basis. Our aim is to bring an understanding of autism through this experience” Andy, Race Director Hut 2 Hut

So, how does one prepare for such an event when day-to-day life is so full? The small five-month window of training did not allow him to follow a conventional training method. So, in true spirit and grit, he just gave it everything he had.

Mindset undoubtedly plays an enormous role in events such as this. Paul’s was simple: to keep moving until somebody told him to stop. This would either be at a finish line or at a cut-off point, but stopping for any other reason was not an option.

Donning a headlamp on a dark and rather chilly Victorian summers morning, they set off. Trails with such complexity and difficulty that a split second lapse in concentration would certainly result in a fall. The careful balancing act of keeping your body fueled throughout the run also came into play. How can one possibly keep an eye on the watch to see when they should eat, keep your eye on the track so you don’t fall and tackle 1300m of vertical descent in the first 2 hours?

Vertical ascents and descents of epic proportions, sheer cliff faces, unmarked and undefinable tracks have an impact, on Paul, at the 45km mark (9 hours into the race) with nausea kicking in and the midday sun starting to bite. Mental energy to calm his thoughts became crucial; “don’t let the doubt win” became his mantra.

Entering the Viking Wilderness area at the far reaches of the course brings a fleeting moment where mobile coverage is present. Paul’s phone chimes with messages from family and friends. But it was a FaceTime call with his two daughters that brought overwhelming joy and love “Dad, just keep running”. Perhaps just the medicine one needs.

Half way through the course, the sheer cliff face drops are dizzying. Almost too hard to take in the beauty, it is head down and focus. The cool of the afternoon helps to raise spirits but doesn’t dull the enormity of a mountain ahead that eventually leads to Mt. Speculation. Helicopters hovering to rescue injured runners serve as a stark reminder to the remoteness of the region.

There’s a saying that goes “we don’t always get what we want but sometimes we get what we need”. With Paul needing to make a 9pm cut-off at King Valley to enable him to continue running through the night, he set off the 12km fire trail making good time, knowing he will be cutting it fine. An arduous 3.5km down hill run consumes an hour. A head torch down to it’s emergency beam meant that he had to walk, not run, the last kilometre into King Valley Hut. Running in the dark of night and under these conditions would not have been wise. He missed the cut-off by 15 minutes. Disappointed, yes. Beaten, no. A voice from the dark calls his name. “Is that you, Paul?”. Instant screams of joy emerge from the darkness. It’s Marg. Both her and Steve (Paul’s business partner) had driven to Victoria to support him. The emotion of this moment is moving. Being supported by Steve and Marg, who are like family, was more than uplifting. A warm shower in their caravan and a camp dinner was a pure gift.

Missing the cut-off on Friday night meant valued time with Steve and Marg, and a 5 hour sleep to recharge after the gruelling 16 hours running the day before! Setting off in the early morning dark, there was no rush today but an opportunity to take in the incredible scenery. Still, a gruelling 28kms was needed to be covered to finish this adventure; a further 7 hours of arduous but beautiful terrain lay before him.

Reaching the finish line in Buller, Paul was greeted not only by the race organisers, Andy and Chris, but Steve and Marg as well. The enormity of what he completed can probably never be truly comprehended from a sideline. The behind the scenes preparation, getting fit, studying of maps & understanding the terrain, battling the nerves, believing you can cover a distance that you have never covered before…the list goes on. But to set your mind to something and complete it, all the while battling with the reasons why you shouldn’t do it, is a true testament to the spirit Paul has.

The Peninsula Homes team are extremely proud of these super-human efforts and thank everyone involved in the flood of support received.

And…..he has entered again next year to ensure he does what he went there to do; complete the run inside the cut-off!

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