I managed to convince a 4 of my clients to join me on one of my favourite training training runs for 6 Foot Track, 45km Trail Marathon, from Katoomba, the Explorers Tree to Jenolan Caves. I am pretty good at motivating people. I got them all up to Katoomba on a hot day to run 31km of the 6 Foot Track, which consists of some of the toughest terrain in NSW. We were going to run from the start of The 6 Foot Track down into the Megalong Valley for 15.5km to the Cox's River, then return the 15.5km back out of the valley, up hill for 15.5km back to Katoomba.
I was just getting over food poisoning. I finished my last anti-biotic tablet that morning. I knew I was not 100%, but I just had to hope that I had enough glycogen stores in my liver to get me though. I'd turned into the cookie monster, I ate almost an entire batch of home made whole meal, oat, walnut, date and chic chip cookies to give me enough energy to train.
Jeff, Kellie, Mia and Renae all met up and hit the track at about 9:15am. The Girls headed off before me and Jeff. I had to run back to grab and extra 1.2L of water, with Sustain mixed in. I ate a gel, as I ran down the roller coaster of a fire trail, and chatted with Jeff. I felt tired. It was a Tuesday, and for 5 days I have been really sick. Not just gastro sick, but full blown food poisoning sick, with injections from the doctor and maxalon tablets to stop me from vomiting. Even the imodims did not work with this. I felt like I had just enough energy in me to run the 31km. But that was it. It would not be one of my best days.
After running for only a few hundred metres I realised I had nothing, nothing extra to give. I was exhausted and we were only running down the first hill of only 400m. It was going to be a long day I thought.
We hit the gorge, and headed down the steep, uneven bush stairs. It was beautiful, we were surrounded by lush green ferns, and the trail followed the creek into Nellies Glen. I think there is over 800 to descent straight down into the Megalong Valley. Jeff and I soon caught Kellie. She was being really cautious on the stairs. I had tapped my ankles, so I felt really secure, and I was able to catch and pass her easily as I leaped down the stairs. Jeff had taped his ankles too. But as well as mine. By the time we had caught Renae and Mia, he'd already twisted his ankle. "Man I need to teach you how to tape your ankles properly". I said to Jeff.
The steps stopped and the trail became a thin and rocky single man track. Jeff then went over on both ankles another 4 or 5 times before the trail open up and became a fire trail. I checked my GPS, we had only run 3 kilometres and already I was feeling really bad. Jeff is really fast. I was doing my best to stay with him, but the minute a small climb came along he just charged up it. On that day, I did not have the energy to kick on. I decided that I needed to slow down, or else I was going to be walking out. "I feel sick, I have nothing". I said to Jeff, really struggling to keep up with him. " I can't run faster than this". I said. "I need to stay aerobic, I have no stores left."I don't know if Jeff totally understood what I had meant. I wanted to give up. "Do you want to go back ?", He asked.
"Bugger that, I just need to slow a bit". I slowed down, and let him go on a ahead of me. I did not have enough glucose floating around in my blood to go fast. I needed to try and stay aerobic.
The fire trail continued to descend down into the valley for another 5 kilometres, I could manage 4 minute 20 sec kilometres, but it was not doing me any favours. I ate a gel, and slowed. I let Jeff go on. He was really funny. He'd gain a 50m gap over me, charge to the top of the hill and then wait. I would then run past and he would start running fast again. I tried to get him to slow down and just "Knuckle" in behind me and try and find a rhythm he could keep going at forever. But he seemed to want to stretch it out when he could. So I let him I guess I just let him wear himself out.
At the 7km mark I left out a 600ml of water for my return. We passed the Megalong Valley Road at the 8km mark, and the trail widens even more, we are exposed to the full force of the summer sun. It was 32C in Sydney that day. It was hot. But the landscape was breathtaking. The trail takes you though lush green farmland, decorated with a carpet of yellow and purple wild flowers. I stopped to take a photo of Jeff. It was hot and it was humid down in the valley.
He was starting to feeling a bit green too. But he seemed determine to charge up all the hills as fast as he could and wait for me at the top, while I just tried my best to find a rhythm. I did not have a push in my legs. No glucose equals, no power.
We ran on. I started to get a bit worried about Jeff and his hill intervals that we was performing on himself. "Just run behind me. Rest behind me, don't go any faster". He sat behind me for a few kilometres, but as soon as we hit a climb and he went straight past me. I stopped had another gel. I think I was having enough problems of my own, that I was not thinking enough about Jeff, and how he was doing. "You need to leave enough in your body for the climb out". I said as I caught him again.
We past the 10km mark and I was happy to do it in about 55 minutes, well outside my best, but good enough. I left another 600ml water bottle out with Sustain in it.
Jeff and I then ran the next 5km down to the Cox's River, with Jeff always increasing the gap on me. When we got to the bottom, the 15.5km took us both 1 hour 28 minutes. "No PB's for me today" I announced. I was very slow for me. I think in a race I will do this section in 1 hour 15 minutes or less. But considering how I was feeling, this time was okay. We took off our packs and jumped into the river to cool off. It was approaching midday, and the temperature was rising. I got out of the water and noticed that my back tape had come off my back. I put Paw Paw ointment on my back and hoped it would prevent any further chaffing. I was ready to go. I knew it was only going to get hotter. I just wanted to get back to Nellies Glen before it really got hot. "Jeff, let's get going, the longer you stay in the water for the hotter is is going to get out there, we need to keep moving." I explained.
"I don't think I can run out, I'm done, you have broken me". Jeff is from Brisbane, he is not really use to running on trails in terrain as tough as this. "Too bad man, you have to run out, it's the only way out". I said feeling a bit sorry for him. "Can you get the car?". He asked hopefully. "Nah man that's 4WD.You have to run out. And I'm not picking you up from Megalong Valley Rd either. It takes 45 minutes to drive down to the track on the road."I replied. "Get out, let's get going, get out of the water, get out". I turned from being his friend back into personal trainer. I had to get him up and moving again. Now I was thinking this was funny. He really did not want to get out of the river. "Get out." I continued. Jeff eventually got out. I made him take his shirt off and I smothered his back with Paw Paw ointment. Put his pack on and we both had a gel and started to head out.
Jeff again charged straight up the hill. Man he still has not learnt his lesson. It's 15.5km straight up a hill, you can't just get it over and done with. I was still struggling, but I had switched to aerobic, and I was starting to feel a bit better. I put in an extra gel in by mistake, and it seemed to have done the trick. I finished my gel and Jeff was again gone. After about 1km, we I spotted Kellie and Renae. Kellie looked great, she looked like she was in fire. Really charging through the trail.
Renae closely followed her. She had the biggest headache. She asked me for panadol. I did not have any. I hardly ever take drugs when I am training or racing. It just plays havoc with my gut. For me the advantages just don't out weigh the disadvantages. "Sorry Renae. I can't help".
The temperature was creeping up, and I think Renae was starting to become dehydrated. I asked her if she was eating her gels, electrolytes. She replied no. "Start eating, other wise you won't get back out. Sit in the creek at the bottom for a bit to cool yourself down too."I said before running on to try at catch Jeff, who again ran off ahead.
We spotted Mia. She looked as fresh as a daisy. She was just chilling, keeping her cool and pacing herself. She had only just had 2 wisdom teeth removed a few days before. She was an absolute champion for being out there at all. She looked great. I was not worried about her.
I ran on up the climb, and eventually catching Jeff. I passed him and told him to stay behind me and not run fast. He tried is best, but I could hear his breathing, and he was in his an-aerobic system. I knew he was at his limit. The trail was a again a rocky single man track. The footing was extremely treacherous. You really had to be conscious of your footing otherwise you can break an ankle. "I'm Done." He said. I turned and looked at him. "Just take little steps." We ran on for a another twenty metres. "Nah, that's it I'm out. I can't. I have to walk." I looked at him and weighed up the dangers of leaving him alone. He had enough food and water. He is a young fit guy. He has just gone out too hard. The girls were only 2 kilometres behind, if he got worse, he could walk out with one of them. He needed to get out at his own pace, not mine.
I said good bye and I turned and started to run. I was feeling better, not my best, but I had enough to get out. I hit my climbing grove and started to run, pushing with my legs every stride. Not as much as normal, but enough. I had LFMAO, songs going though my head. They were perfect for the climb. Before I knew it I had completed 21km and I grabbed my drink. It had taken me about 2 hours. Ahhh. The extra fluids went down so well. I ran on, passing hikers along the way. I passed though the cattle gates and I was so happy that all the cows decided that it was way too hot to move around. They all stayed under the shade of the trees, far away front the track in the fields. Excellent. I have a cow phobia, long story.
I passed over the fence ladders, down into the open exposed Megalong Valley, passing another hiker who I had passed at the start of the run and headed back along the wide fire trail. I was feeling great now, and I was making fantastic time for this climb out. I passed another family of hikers. I crossed over the cattle grates and started to climb. I would now be climbing solidly for 9 kilometres. The trail narrowed again and I starred to feel my reserves of water dry up. I stopped and tried to pee. Nothing came out. Damn, I was de-hydrated. I ran on knowing I had water only 2 kilometres up the road. On this part of the climb, I could still manage a great pace and I was soon re-united with my water. Whew. I drank, and had another gel. Cool. Not long now to go.
The fire trail got steeper. I tucked in, with the silly "Party Rockers" song in my head. But it seemed to do the trick. I ran up the 5km of fire trail. The track narrowed and I welcomed the shade. I was now watching the clock. I wanted to get back to the car in less than 3 hours 45 minutes. I knew I had lost at least 15 minutes running down to the Cox's River, because I felt so lethargic. I did not think I could do a PB on the track just after food poisoning. So when the time still had a 2 in front of it I was really happy with my performance. I drank the last of my water and I entered Nellies Glen. Here I stopped and filled up my water bottles with Creek water. I drank as much as I thought my body could handle without over doing it. I filled my 2 bottles and left them out for my running buddies, who were still out on the track, fully exposed to the full heat of the 32C midday sun.
I had 2 kilometres to go, but it was a tough 2 kilometres. I had to climb straight up over 800 bush stairs. Bush stairs are almost worth at least 2 normal stairs. I hit the climb, feeling great, knowing I had achieved what I had set out to do, and with in the time goal that I had set for myself. I put my hands on my knees and pushed with all my body up the enormous stair case. There is about 3 or 4 sets in total. At the top of each one, you ware just amazed that there is another set to climb the stairs just seem to go on forever. The climb is for 800m in elevation and it uses up all your glucose reserves.
I came to the top, and I technically needed to eat. I had been running for 3 hours 30 minutes. I had run out of water, so I just had to get to my car to replenish my stores. I ran run the steep roller coaster fire trail, but I was soon slowed to a walk, as I started to suffer from cramp in the front of my shin. Who gets a cramp in the front of their shin? Bugger, I wanted to finish strong, but my shin just would not let me. The food poisoning had caught up with me, and I needed some salt and glucose in fast. I walked for a few hundred meters and the cramp went away. I started to run again. Before I knew it, I spotted the gates and I was finished. 3 hours 42 minutes. Done. It ended up being a PB by about 10-15 minutes.
I went straight to the car and got the eski out with a frozen chocolate milk, hydralytes and some ice cold water. I sat in the shade of the information hut and chatted to hikers as I waited for my running buddies to appear from the trail.
Jeff was first. He came out swearing and was desperate for some water. He had just run out. I am not sure of the time but it was about 30 minutes or so after me. I handed him dome water and a hydralytes icy pol to re-hydrate. I think he really learnt something out there and he will become stronger for it. I sent him on to find some more food so he could recover.
Just when Jeff was leaving to get home and recover whilst watching the cricket with his feet in ice and a beer in his hand, Renae appeared. She completed the 31kms about 15 minutes after Jeff. She came out swearing and shaking, she too had run out of water. Again I passed her her frozen chocolate milk , a hydralyte icy pol, and some ice cold water, and sat her down in the shade.
She was soon followed by Kellie who was carrying a set of sticks she had picked to help her with the climbs. She said use was so out of energy she crawled up out of the 800m Nellies Glen climb. She arrived about 15 minutes later, she also swore her head off at me. Which made me laugh. When I first came out of Nellies Glen, 3 years ago, I was totally demoralised, I saw so much of myself in these runners.
Mia, who had run out of water, also was in de-stress. Again I grabbed her a frozen chic milk, hydralytes and cold fresh water. She soon recovered.
They needed to run on the trail, we all live in the City of Sydney or the Inner West, and there are no climbs like the climbs in the mountains. They are 2 to 3 times bigger than anything within 10km of where we live. I can't think of another training run that toughens you up as much as that run in the heat.