The Glenbrook Marathon was cancelled for the 2nd time in a row. I'd eaten too many Christmas biscuits and brownies. I had arranged my kids to go to my mum's house for a sleep over, so I had to make the most of my opportunity. I had to go for a long run inn the mountains like I had originally planned. I talked one of my clients and good friend, Renae into coming with me to Leura, The Fairmont Resort to do a 39-40km Circuit on the trail of The North Face 100km (TNF100) track. Renae's goal was to complete about 30km of tough trails to get her ready for 50km Coastrek and 6 Foot Track. She too was entered in the Glenbrook 34km event. She needed it to qualify for 6 Foot Track.
Renae, often comes with me for a run. We both live in the city, only a few blocks from each other, we both have kids. Both of us really appreciate the effort we go to, to be able to hit the trails every few weeks. Renae knows that when she comes for a run with me, we are always going to have fun, and I will take her to a place she will not have ventured to on her own.
We leave the Fairmont car park at 7:15am, and follow the streets through Leura on the course of TNF. We need to stop a few times to check the maps and read the street signs to make sure we are going in the right direction. Last year when I was training for TNF, I spent most of my time lost. I was constantly cross referencing maps. Again it seemed that for the first 9km or so of our run we were doing the same. The tracks around the cliffs of the Blue Mountains are just like spaghetti. They are just so hard to follow. We made a few wrong turns in the first 8km. I really needed to use my memory and my intuition to find the correct trail to run on.
I ran slowly with Renae for the first 9km, making sure her knees were fully warmed up, until we had ran past the Leura Cascades and dropped down onto the valley floor. We passed behind the Federal Pass Sign, which Renae laughed at. For the trail is hidden, and only with local knowledge, or TNF 100km Track Notes would you ever find this track to follow. Soon trail widen and turned into a fire trail. At this point, knowing that Renae could not get lost. I left her with my only set of maps, to run at her own pace, and I started my training. Up to this point it took us about 1 hour 15 minutes to complete the first 10-11km, it was slow, but we were warming up, a bit lost and easing Renae's knee into the long day of training.
I felt great, I was able to run down Sublime Point Ridge on my toes averaging under 4min kilometres. I am really enjoying my running at the moment. I am feeling strong. I am not injured, and I think my life is just getting better with every day. With these positive thoughts, I only had to put my heals down once, to slow myself down as I hit a gravel corner. It was great to make up some time that I had lost in the earlier section of the course.
I remembered how I had felt when I ran the TNF 100 in May. I was overheating when I was running in the last 25km. I was having a really bad time. I was de-hydrated, and my fuel consumption was not that good. This time I ran though a clearing and felt the air temperature rise, and thought that maybe I was not so hot after all when I completed the race back in May, maybe in the race this section of the track was actually warmer than other sections, maybe it was my mind playing tricks with me, my lack of confidence and experience was what really slowed me down.
It was nice to go back, and re-visit some of events of the race, and put them back into perspective. I passed 3 male hikers loaded up with massive packs and thought about how I use to see the bush, I use to hike a lot when I was in my early 20's. I smiled knowing I was having way more fun than them, running down this massive roller coaster of a hill.
I hit the bottom of the valley at Leura Creek and started a short climb. I remembered this was when I lost 4th position to a lovely English girl who lived in Hong Kong. This year I will be stronger, and harder to catch. I started the climb, and my legs with all the bike training I have been doing felt like they were running up the hill with a life of their own. My husband, Mikey calls me "The Little Tank". He stresses that it was not because I am wide, but because I can go across any terrain. When I was climbing my first climb of the day, I did feel like a little german tiger tank, just moving it's way up and over the uneven fire trail.
I hit the top of the climb of Sublime Point Ridge, and I was dwarfed by the Kedumba Walls towering above, this sight is always so imposing. You know that towering 900m above you is your only exit from the valley. To get up and over it is is going to hurt. I thought about Renae, a few kilometres behind me. She refused to look at the elevation of the course. I tried to tell her there was a 9km climb, but I think she was avoiding reality, like a blind folded horse, not wanting to acknowledge what was happening. Knowing the truth would scare the hell out of her and play havoc with her anxiety.
I hit the top of Sublime Point Ridge, and started the descent down to the valley floor again. I could run on my toes the whole way, and again I could average under 4 minute kilometres with out really pushing it. I remembered my experiences from TNF, and how the other runners around me knew I was having problems, and how supportive they were being. In the race, I let them all go ahead of me at this point. Back then I wanted to be alone so I could go as slow as I needed.
I ran through Jamison Creek, loving the icy cold water, cooling my feet, reducing any swelling I might have from all the fast descent. I had been running for 2 hours and 15 minutes. I knew I had about 20km to go to my car, and I had to get out fast so I did not miss Christmas Celebrations that were scheduled at my Mum's house in the afternoon.
I started my long 9km climb back up the Kedumba Walls. I knuckled into my little german tiger tank mode and started to climb. I enjoyed it, knowing that I had not worked very hard, knowing that in the year that had past I was stronger. My legs felt more powerful, and I was finally starting to turn into a climber. In the past, I have only managed to stay close to the leaders by being quick on the descents. It has taken 3 years to become strong enough to climb.
I passed some wallabies that scared the crap out of me, my imagination turned them into wild boars. I passed the Solitary Mountain Turn off, promising myself to get out there some time soon for a 45km Training Run. I passed the swine fence, and passed under the over hanging cliff and dug into the steep gradient, and pushed harder up the climb.
I thought about running out of water at TNF 100, and asking fellow runners to spare a mouthful at this point. I was in such bad shape without water for 8km by now, in the race I was now freezing without a thermal on, it was getting dark I could barley work out how to turn on my head torch. But today I had water, and I only felt the cold draft of air coming up the southern side of the deep valley below. It was summer and still the morning. I pushed on as the terrain flattened and finally I made it to the white fence at the top. I scooted around the outside and hit the flat dirt road. It was nice to stretch my legs again, and I did my best to move them as fast as I could even though they were fatigued. I can't remember how long it took me to get to Queen Victoria Hospital, about 1 hour 10 minutes I think. I only had about an hour to complete the last 11km so I could pick Renae up and make it to Christmas Drinks in time.
I picked up the pace, and ran along the road, taking the left turn, past the Observatory, and right onto the dirt track and back into the bush. I spoke to a elderly lady, who looked amazing. She must have been in her 60's or 70's but her body looked like it was only 30, it was only her wrinkled face that gave her age away. "Which is the best way to Leura, the Fairmont Resort, it's about 8km away?". I asked her. "Follow the sign's to Conservation Hut then decide if you are going to go on the road or drop back down into the gully. Where is your map source?". I felt a bit stupid. I gave Renae my maps. I knew I was heading back into spaghetti land of tracks up ahead and it would be a miracle if I got back to the car without getting lost. "With my friend who is behind me, I'm heading back to my car." I said . "I did TNF100 last year and I have trained on this track before, so I kind of know which way to go. I just know it can be confusing."I mumbled feeling irresponsible, but trying to sound like an experienced mountain woman. I was meant to print out another set of maps, but I just did not get around to it. "Just follow the signs to Conservation Hut and you will be okay, you can then either drop down to a little bridge or follow the road it is up to you."
With is vital information I was off and running again. I followed the trail, thinking how easy it was compared to when I ran through this section of bush in TNF100 in darkness with the worst lighting I could possibly have. I remember another runner helped me out by insisting on me get out my spare head torch so I could use two torches to I improve my lighting so I could see better. My main head torch was rubbish and it has making me so slow I lost another place to a Kiwi girl around this area, and acknowledged my stupidity of not testing my gear before the race.
I followed the signs, and somehow managed to make every correct turn until I made it to Conservation Hut. I asked a local for directions. "Is Leura this was way?"I asked. She pointed into the direction I was to head. "We will never see you again", said her male English Tourist friend, implying I was heading off into the abyss. I laughed and started to run down the stairs, dropping back down into the gully. I ran over Lillian's Bridge and swore that if I had taken the wrong turn now I was going to find a tourist to drive me to my car. But I had made all the correct turns, followed all the right paths, climbed the all right sets of stairs, and I spotted the edges of the Fairmont Resort golf course.
I ran along the track listening to my phone messages going off. Renae must have made it to the Western Hwy. I ran as fast as I could to the Resort, wanting to get back to my car so I could get to Christmas Drinks. I passed through the gardens of the resort thinking I could take a short cut through their grounds back to my car. But I was forced to ask a resort guest for directions in the games room and I was advised to jump in the lift and take the elevator up to level 4. I walked through the resort lobby, feeling very out of place, covered in mud and in my full running gear, trail shoes, compression socks, compression shorts, running singlet, TNF 100 visor, and hydration vest. I smiled and waved to the staff, thinking they must get runners coming through here all the time and headed out of the foyer and back to the car. I rang Renae whilst getting into the car. She was waiting for me at the nursery on the Hwy opposite the Kings Tableland Rd.
I headed back to the Kings Tableland Rd and picked up Renae. "I'm not speaking to you!"She said as she got int the car with the biggest grin on her face. "How is you knee?" I asked. I was so worried that she injured herself whilst out on her own. "Fine, it's a a bit sore, but not bad". Cool she is no injured. I won't get in trouble from her husband. She looked as proud as can be. Excellent. She completed at least 30km of a tough part of the mountains, with the longest climb that I know of. Renae ran from the Fairmont Resort in Leura, down Leura cascades, out to Sublime Point Ridge and up Kedumba Walls and along Kings Tableland Road to the Western Hwy. "You did not tell me about the 9km of climbing". This I could only laugh at. I tried to tell her.