Friday, March 16, 2012

6 Foot Track 2012 Cancelled. Katoomba Aquatic Centre, Narrow Neck Circ Instead

Over 700 runners were gutted on Thursday the 8th of March. All the training and the opportunities that come from running in the world famous race, the 6 Foot Track Marathon, were washed down the Cox's River. It was the first time in the races' 24 year history that the race had to be cancelled. I really admire the race director Colin Jeftha and the Rural Fire Fighters, they put our safety first, in the end that is all that counts. 
The 6 Foot Track 45km race was cancelled but I would never miss a chance to run in the mountains. I booked it in with my family so I was going no matter what. So when the race was cancelled I started to get organised. With the help of Facebook and my many Facebook friends, a group of about 50 runners was rallied together to meet at the Katoomba Aquatic Centre . There were runners of all different abilities, from the ultra fast Brendan, Alex, Beth, Ewan, Campbell, Marc, through to the solid runners of Kevin, Naomi, Jodie and then the back of the pack for the day only, Mia and Nagire.
I grouped my girls together on Facebook informing them that I was leaving a map with Mia. Naomi, Jodie and Nagire had never been on that section of the Blue Mountains before so I knew they would be nervous. With the 6 Foot Track being cancelled I knew there would be about 300 runners roaming the mountains on the TNF 100km track getting in some early training. 
It was going to be the safest day in the history of trail running to train in the mountains that day. There were runners everywhere, all enjoying the friendly race between friends. Mia and I ran from our hotel to the Katoomba Aquatic Centre. I was on auto pilot enjoying the cool mountain temperatures of 11 degrees running to Katoomba Oval instead, but I soon realised my mistake and we headed back to the Aquatic Centre. Runners slowly started to appear, one by one we all meet up and started to chat and grouped ourselves into running ability. I introduced Mia to Naomi, Jodie and Nagire. Mia had a detailed, laminated map of the route so I knew she would be okay and would not get lost.
I meet up with Marc and he introduced me again to Beth. We chatted and knew that we would all be running together. All the big guns started to appear and the unofficial 6 Foot Track Race began. I had no idea where to go, I thought we were taking a different route but we soon were following the road out to Narrow Neck. After 10 minutes of running I had to strip down to my brand new Inov8 running Tri-Top, thanks to Barefoot Inc.  I was head to toe in Inov8, Inov8 Cap, Inov8 Bra, and Inov8 compression shorts, Inov8 Roc Lite 268 Shoes, I was supporting my brand, running for my chosen code, Inov8 and Barefoot Running Inc. I think Brendan wanted an outfit made up for him too. Brendan managed to obtain a 2012 6 Foot Running T-shirt from Colin Jeftha on his feet he wore Inov8 Talons 212. I was wearing the UltrAspire Surge pack, with 2L of water in the Hydrapack and a further 1.2L of Hydration mix in 2 plastic bottles with pop top lids.
We rolled down the hills of Narrow Neck Rd and soon hit the fire trail of Glenraphael Drive at the first CP of the TNF 100km. We hit the climbs and immediately I realised that I was carrying way more water than anyone else. I was a bit clueless on where I could re-fill so I was carrying enough water for the entire 45km loop. This did not really bother me that much. Training for TNF is tough and the mandatory gear list is insane. I will end up having to carry over 10% of my body weight in gear so carrying extra water will just help me to build the strength that will be needed to survive the race.
I have been in following Beth's form for the past few years. She always seems to fly past me whilst climbing up to the Pluviometer in the 6 Foot Track. So, if I could just climb as fast as her I may be able to get a great result in any event that I enter. It's great to have her back on the circuit as she is such a lovely person and an amazing athlete. On this training run my goal was just to try to stick with her for as long as possible. We hit the first climb and she gained 5m on me, we hit the second climb and she gained more. For the next 10km, I did my best just to keep her in sight and to try and make up ground where possible. I felt a bit silly carrying extra fluid in my pack but I knew it was going to pay off in May.
I followed her until we reached the Pluviometer at Bushwalkers Hill. She had gained about 150m on me. 
I was suddenly surprised when I came across the leading guys in the group, they had all stopped and were waiting for the guys to go to the toilet that was located there and for all of us to catch up, a few seconds later we were joined by Marc. He too was also heavy with water and suffering from asthma. We all chatted for a while and then when everyone was finished we started running again together as a group, gas bagging  and enjoying the roller coaster of descent until we reached Clear Hill. I had been fighting of hay fever for the past week. When we stopped I had a few puffs of my ventolin hoping it would improve my breathing. As group we all continued on for a few more kilometres then we stopped and took in the amazing view and just had to take a few photos. I was formally introduced to Alex. An amazing young runner also on the Inov8 team, Brendan, Alex and I then posed for a Team Inov8 Photo.
After this intermission we hit the single man track and I giggled to myself as Brendan asked me the way. I thought he'd know these mountains like the back of his hand. We ran along together having a ball, we soon caught up with the others and started our descent down Tarros Ladder. 
Last year I had to conquer these climbing spikes all on my own, freaking out, hoping that I would not slip with my maps in my mouth and my then heavy pack on my back, feeling really unstable, trusting the spikes and myself not to fail. The climbing spikes are pinned into the cliff face about one meter apart. This year I felt as safe as could be in a large group of people. I'd been down them before and I knew I'd be safe. When we all made it down the 10m of ladders, we were joined by Kevin, he took a photo from the cliff top. We waved to them standing above and then headed off not wanting to be caught by the next group. Our completive nature took over.
The shoe of the day was definitely Inov8 Talons 212. Their tread was unmistakable in the soft trails. Brendan, Alex and a few of the others had them on, and I had on the Inov8 Roc Lite 268. They are a good lite weight racing and entry level shoe to minimalist running. Inov8's are just so good over rocky uneven terrain. I could trust my Roc Lites no matter where I put my foot. They treated me well on the descents, gripped to the rocky outcrops at Mt Debert and dried quickly at all the creek crossings. They ate into the fire trails and I felt great all day in them.
After Mt Debert we again re-grouped again at Medlow Gap, we lost Marc and Alex who vanished from the trail and took time to find it again. I was not used to all the stop starting that we were doing, I usually train on my own, trying to keep the group together it was just allowing the lactic acid (Hydrogen Ions) to build in my legs. We then climbed out of the valley past Breakfast Creek, Sliprail Creek and then headed up to Lyrebird Ridge. Here I had a little moment, all the super speedy had gone on ahead and it was just Beth, Marc and Myself left. I was feeling a bit flat and I had to slow to walk for twenty steps. I rested for a bit, ate my food, made sure I was hydrated and then worked my way back into a run to catch Beth and Marc at the top of the climb. I thanked them for waiting for me but they assured me that they only stopped to eat. I was buoyed by this, thinking that I was not doing as bad as I thought.
We ran along in our group of three when we picked up another runner, Christian. He had stopped to pee and the others had run on. We picked him up and he ran with us, he was hurting but still looked okay. We hit the top of the climb and made our huge descent down to Danphy's Camp. Beth ran on and filled up with water. I had enough, for the entire 42km plus kilometres so did Marc and Christian. We soon rejoined Beth and headed down Megalong Valley Rd, past a farm. I started to freak out, there was livestock near the track. Beth said it just horses. "I am afraid of cows" I admitted.
We did spook one of the horses so we slowed to a walk so we did not upset it any further. We then hit the climb out of Green Gully up to Euroka Ridge. Again Marc and Beth gained some distance on me. I stopped and walked for twenty steps, ate some food and  re-hydrated,  then started my run up the ridge to catch them. I was feeling tired, I think the 50km Coastrek the week before was starting to catch up with me but I pushed this self doubt out of my head and did my best to catch the others. At the top I caught up with them and was ready to descend as fast as I could down to the start of the 6 Foot Track on Megalong Valley Rd. I took off and Beth followed, we had a ball chatting together about training, nutrition and running. At the bottom Beth and I had to wait a while for the boys to catch up. They were not as fast as us on the descents. 
We waved to a group of three females on the trail and wished them good luck as they ran past. When the boys caught up I handed everyone a gastrolyte. Beth, Marc and Christian all downed a fizzy tablet. We chatted about GNW100km (Great North Walk 100km) and how I was drinking three Hydralytes at every check point. Beth was concerned, "Man how many did you have?" She quizzed me. 
"I was only following the directions, it say three per half and hour". I replied." I thought that on a hot day I could down three at every check point, it added up to way less than three per thirty minutes". Too funny, I must have looked hilarious, the check points were about 30km apart and it was about 27 degrees out on the track, hydration and keeping cool was the most important factor of the GNW. You had to carry at least 3L of water, so when I came into the CP's I was needing some replenishment in the form of Hydralyte Icy pols. They were just gold.
We hit the single man track of the 6 Foot Track and again we passed more runners. It was highway of trail runners out there, people were running all over the place. We waved, cheered and well wished all the other runners. We soon caught the group of girls and spotted a few mates and headed up towards Nellies Glen. It was the first time that I did not notice the climb to Nellies Glen, the fire trail up to the base of the Glen usually always kills me but this year I did not feel it. I only started to feel the climb when the trail narrowed to a single man track. Christian ran straight past me and Beth, then Beth like the rabbit that she is hopped her way up the track and was soon out of sight. Bugger, I'd lost her. I ate again and tucked into my running walking rhythm. I soon reached the stairs and promised myself to only take one step per stair as I climbed the thousand odd stairs out of the Gully. I passed a runner two thirds of the way up. I pointed straight up, and suggested that he should just get it over and done with. 
"Training for TNF? Just go, don't stop" I encouraged. He was knackered. I soon lost him and was up on the plateau running towards the Katoomba Aquatic centre.
I did not have a map and I was left alone. I had to use my intuition and my memory of the trail from a year ago to find my way through the single man spaghetti land of tracks. I followed the trail almost tripping over, willing myself to stay focused. "Keep your eyes on the prize", words came into my head. Too funny, these word were from kids movies, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
I then ran out on to a street, turned left, and then followed a sign that said "Pedestrian Access", scooted along a wire fence and out onto a wide street. I ran to the top of the hill and I was soon amazed by the sight of Beth and Christian running out onto the road in front of me. They must have taken a wrong turn adding about 100m to their journey. I watched Beth and Christian fly down the hill and I smiled to myself, knowing that I had stayed with them and I was catching them on the final descent. They finished and turned around and spotted me immediately. When we finished I was only 5m behind. I still had more to give.
"You guys must have taken a wrong turn" I said. "Where are the others?" I asked expecting the speedy guys to be already here waiting for us.
Marc soon appeared, he was not feeling the best, his asthma was playing up, he grabbed a lift off another runner on the track at the top of Nellies Glen.
Okay, now the story of the other runners (speedy guys) is that they all got lost near Danphy's Creek and added 8km onto their run. They then calculated that if they ran to where the Megalong Valley Rd meets the 6 Foot Track then it would be about the same distance run as us. They then called for help from friends and family and they were all deeply sadden that they did not have to climb 800m of elevation out of Nellies Glen. The 42km took us 4 hours and 10 minutes. So we were happy with the pace, it was a friendly, so we all could have run faster and we had Nellie's Glen Climb at the 40km.
Naomi and Jodie managed the entire route in a solid time about 5 hours of running and Mia got her period when she was out there. I don't know how but she always manages it. And Nagire had a dangerously low iron blood count so she was a champion to even finish it. She also had a ITB injury flare up at the 40km mark. They were both looked after by the un-official 6 Foot Track sweepers. Two guys had come out on the track that day with first aid packs to sweep the track, give directions and to generally look after everyone's safety. Whoever you are, thank you for looking after my mates. I think you two are the reason why I love trail running so much. We do all look after each other out there, from sharing a gel, water, salt tablet or offering a lift to someone to get them home safely. We do genuinely care for each other.
I personally had the best day, I was able to run with all my local heroes, I just feel so humbled that I was invited to run with them.

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