Saturday, April 28, 2012

TNF100 Fairmont, Golden Stairs, Narrow Neck, 6 Foot Track, Nellies Glen

I had the best time for a long time running in the mountains all by myself on Saturday. The Running Wild NSW Mt Solitary Ultra 45km was cancelled due to the deluge of rain that the Sydney area received a few days before. I’d already organised my mum to look after my kids for the weekend so nothing was going to prevent me from missing an opportunity to train in the Blue Mountains.I decided to head out and train on The North Face 100 (TNF) route the Fairmont, Leura Forest, Narrow Neck, Danphy’s Camp, 6 Foot Track, Nellie Glen route, then decide how I was going and what time it was and try and find a way back to my car at the Fairmont Resort. 
I started late at 11am because I had to take 2 “Make Up” personal training sessions on Saturday morning due to the wet conditions we have suffered in Sydney. So even before I started my run I had already spent 2 hours on my legs. It was just going to be one of those days for a fantastic day to run. The weather was just perfect, still really warm, no need for gloves or a beanie. I was just running in my Inov8 singlet, compression socks and shorts, visor running belt and as much of my mandatory gear I could find in my UltrAspire Surge back pack. Just perfect. I have put on weight since 6 Foot Track Training, I am a kilo heavier, but I am two kilos lighter than last year. I think I put on extra weight in my quads and glutes to carry the extra mandatory gear that is required to run in the event and keep all the runners safe.
I left the Fairmont Resort a few minutes after 11am, I had the pleasure of spotting the great runner Andrew Lee out training as I drove into the resort. Everyone was going to be out training this weekend, with only a month until the big TNF it is so important to get extra mountain training in.As soon as I headed up the hill, a local wanted to chat to me. I stopped my watch, stopped running and walked next to him while we chatted about the up coming events Wild Endurance and TNF. I think it is important to chat to as many people as possible when I am out training. Trail running is an emerging sport, and I am running though these locals back yard. I have to be respectful everyone I meet, maybe my good manners will pay off someday. If you know me personally I can talk your ear off for hours.
He turned right and I started to run and continued straight, then turned right onto Willoughby Rd and hit the bush track. I ran along the trail and I was soon spat out onto the streets of Leura for the next few kilometres before I was again on the trail at Abbey Rd near Gordon Falls. I check my maps, followed the signs and before long I was stopped again by some very confused European Tourists. They were lost and I was the only one in the vicinity carrying a map. I gave them some simple directions which they were not to pleased with. I told them to follow the Cliff Walk to Katoomba, or the Leura Falls route to the Federal pass. I don’t know what they wanted me to do. But they still had 5km to go until they were at Katoomba.
”These trails are like spaghetti, it is easy to get lost” I cautioned. I guess in Australia everything does seem further away than in Europe. I explained to them that they would be okay and told them that I was planning on doing about 60km so 5km was not really that much. 
“Do you have food and water?” I questioned.
“Yes plenty”.This shut the bloke up at least. “I’m a runner, I love to run,” He then added “I’m not a navigator” He admitted.
“I know, that’s why you are lost”. With that I was off and running.I ran on before I again could not help myself I had to help out another European tourist taking photos of the Leura Cascades with a 1/2 decent camera. I lined them up and took a shot for them. They were of both a large frame so I was having a few problems fitting both them and the cascades in the shot. I showed them the shot on the view finder and I asked them if it was okay. They were satisfied with my shot and with this I was off again.
I descended the stairs to the bottom of the valley passing an annoyed Aussie mother with her young kids flying through the trails chasing after them. I stepped in a puddle and splashed mud on her.
“Thank’s a lot” She said. 
“It’s just dirt it’ll wash off” I yelled behind me. I don’t know what she expected from a bush walk in the Blue Mountains after the biggest rainfall Sydney has seen for 15 years. She was going to get dirty no matter what. I really felt like saying "Toughen up princess". But I guess that would not have gone down too well. I sped on up a set of stairs and  just enjoyed the freedom of running on my own at my own pace. I love descending especially on single man tracks, so when I passed through the Leura Forrest down the endless sets of stairs and onto the technical Federal Pass I hit my rhythm and enjoyed the ride. My shoes were fantastic. The more I wear my Inov8 shoes the more I love them. I have been wearing the same pair of Inov8 Roclites since December for all my long trail runs and they have looked after me. Initially I did not like them so much.  They are different from regular shoes. I found them a bit too flexible at first. My feet did need to become stronger. I have built up my strength in my lower calves and my feet I just love the extra kick I have developed in my running action. My husband has commented that I look effortless when I am running. I make it look easy. I am faster than before and I can now run faster without so much effort.
My favourite Road shoes at the moment are the Inov8 f-lite 195. They are just pure freedom in a running shoe. Since I wear these shoes on the road then I swop to the Roclites on the trail I know my feet are stronger. This especially comes in handy when I am threading my way through the muddy, rocky , uneven single man track of the Federal pass. My agility has to be lightening fast to keep my speed through this section of the tack. The stability must all come from my feet and work it’s way up.
Soon I am stopped again my a group of three young Northern European guys. They are freaking out. One of them had a leech on him. The three of them were all huddled on a rock less than a meter squared. “Excuse me what should we do? A leech is on our friend? Is it dangerous?”.  They did not have a lighter, they did not have salt or aeroguard, so I asked them. 
“Has it attached? “. I asked as I checked my own feet and jumped up onto a rock out of the leaf litter and ferns.
“Yes” One replied.
“Just leave it on, it will drop off when it has had its fill. If you pull it off it will just bleed and you won’t be able to stop it, if you leave it on it will clot the wound when it’s finished, it won’t hurt you.” I advised. Still checking my own legs. They did not seem too pleased with this thought.
”You guys are moving too slow, run and then they won’t get on you”. With this said I was off and running. I was later than normal, starting at 11am and all the tourist were out in the tracks. I feel bad when I come running up behind them. I am a silent runner, landing on my toes, light on my feet, not making a sound. I usually scare the crap out of tourist. Sometimes I warn them calling out ahead. But I find this this can scared them just as much as just running fast up behind them. The ladies are especially frightened when I call out to warn them. I do apologise when I scoot past. I came across the Scenic Railway, and advise a pair of Chinese tourist to take the tourist broad walk, but they were determined to check the Landslide out. This impressed me. I soon came across another pair of Chinese guys who were almost at the Landslide. They asked me how far I had come and where I was going. They were really interested in what I was doing and what I was wanting to achieve, as well as what I was carrying in my back pack, and what I was wearing. I showed them the maps, and started flipping the pages, following the route I was about to do. They were pretty impressed. My goal for the day was just to complete as close to 60km as time would allow. I had already completed about 7km. I needed to be at a friends birthday party later that day too. I was on borrowed time. Everyone wanted to chat to me, and I love to talk, I love telling people about my passion and I wanted to set an example to these people of what was achievable if you trained for it. But I was losing time, I was going to be coming out of Nellies Glen in the dark if I was not careful with all my chit chat to tourist. I left the guys with this in mind and started to run again.When you are training for an event like TNF you just do the training because you have to, I just get the job done. I was on my own and this was how I liked it. I needed to sort my head out and work on my fuelling, hydration and pace. Work on my self belief. This I needed to concentrate. I started to work out which songs I would sing to myself to have the correct tempo for the flats and the climbs.
I pushed on and soon twisted my ankle whilst passing the Landslide. The trail turns from a single man track to a rocky, clay ankle killer. I tape my ankles to prevent a sprain. I am double jointed. I can click out my jaw, hip, wrist and now one ankle can click out. My knee caps use to slip around to the outside of my knee. But that had stopped the last time it popped out was after having my second child 5 years ago. I have built up a balanced muscle strength around my knees, I try not to pop my hip out , again I have built up strength in my glutes to prevent this from happening also. But my ankle is a bit of a lost cause at the moment. I did feel it pop out but it pops back in just as easily. It does hurt, but not enough to prevent me from running fast.
I carried on down the even ground. I hopped on through the landslide and soon I scared the crap out of another  pair of Northern European guys as I dodged through the heath scrub just past the Landslide. I did not have enough time to warn them before I frightened them. The look on his face was of primal fear, then relief. I again apologised and headed on. I enjoyed more rolling up hills of single man track on the Federal Pass and then I stared to worry, as I crossed over three large trees that had fallen over due to the soft ground. I petrified of the possibility of leeches attaching to me as I passed over these fallen trees. I scooted over the first tree soon to be followed by another then another, then another. The final tree was almost un-passable. But I found a hole through some branches. I barged my way through but I was caught on the vines that was tangled in the tree. I tried to make the least amount of contact with the tree thinking that the longer I stayed still the higher the chance of a leech attaching to me. I scraped my knee and elbow in the branches trying to free myself but within thirty seconds I was running again and I soon came across the Golden Stair case.
TNF100km 2011 was my first ever solo 100km. I had the pleasure of running with the world best. In 2011 I managed to hold off the World Champion Nera Martinez up until this point. I just had to pass her through the Leura Forrest but she passed me on the Golden Stair Case. I was pretty proud of myself, even just running along side these professional athletes was a privilege and I cherished every minute of it. Again those stairs stung my quads but I did my best to run when I could. I came across some “Wild Endurance” Team runners. I would like thank all the organisers of these amazing events. When I am out training for TNF, I am constantly passing “Wild Endurance” runners. They are usually running the opposite way to TNF so I pass them regularly. This makes training so much safer. Especially for someone like me who has a family and can’t just train without negotiation from my parents and husband. I usually find it hard to find runners who can train when I can. I also run differently to the other top runners. They are usually amazing climbers but I am the opposite, I relish the descents. I gain valuable time running down hills lightening fast. I usually end up “Yo Yoing” runners when I am racing them, they beat me on the ups, I pass them on the downs.
I got to the top of the stairs and it took me about 2 hours with getting a bit lost adding about 500m of walking on running in my aerobic system. I made it to the gate to Narrow Neck in 2 hours 13 minutes. I felt good. I was going light on my fuelling holding off my glucose making my aerobic system work harder. I kicked on along Narrow Neck hurting a bit from my ankle twist at the Landslide. I told my pain to “Fuck off” and I started to analyse the pain and adjusted my running action to eliminate to sharp stabbing sensation I was feeling on the medial side of my right ankle. I suffer from an ankle impingement, but I ran the GNW with it. It felt the same as it did out on Narrow Neck. So I knew eventually I would block out the pain and it would just go away. Soon my body would work out that I was not going to stop so the pain receptors will just shut off. Pain is felt in the brain not the muscle. When you realise this you will be able to work through any injury. (Apart form a broken bone or a completed muscle tear, you will know when to stop).
I ran along Narrow Neck remembering the last time I was out here. It was the day the “6 Foot Track” was cancelled. I ran with my local heroes Brendan Davis, Beth Cardelli, Alex William’s, Mick Douges and many more. Only the week before I’d run 50km in a team event Coastrek and won with a new record of 6 Hours 14 minutes in gale forced southerly winds. My allergies were preventing me from breathing properly. I was in so much distress I really did think I was asthmatic. My husband and a few of my close friends were really worried about me. I then went for an exercised induced asthma test and I was cleared of asthma. I just had really bad hay fever. I then went out again with Beth for a training run after having a flu shot and I was sick, fevered with ache and pains, sweats, the works of Flu symptoms plus allergies and I failed miserably I could only complete 36km. I did just complete a Long Course Tri of 2km swim, 120km bike and a 20km run the week before in 6 hours 50 minutes, so I was not fresh.
But today I had it all under control. I am taking antihistamines everyday as a preventive and I am finally able to breath properly through my trachea. My trachea in the past would become swollen when I exercised, meaning that I was struggling to get more oxygen into my lungs.  My nose would also become blocked and I would not be able to breath and run up a hill.
But I was in control for the first time in a long time, and I felt great. My legs felt like they were full of strength, and I was ready for all the climbs the Blue Mountains was going to put in my way. Last year I could not do any flat speed interval training, as it would flare up my stress fractured feet. I could not do any training on the road at all. This made it really hard when I live right in the middle of Sydney. There is concrete everywhere. But this year I could run anywhere without thought.
I ran along Narrow Neck, again the views were amazing along the wide fire trail. I was able to run up all the climbs and I soon came to the Pluviometer 25km. Some of the climbs do sting your quads and calves, but today I felt awesome. I came across two Aussie Chinese husband and wife hikers. They were so impressed when they saw me coming up the fire trail they stopped me and wanted to chat. I guess it is not often that you come across a young female running on her own in the mountains.“I want to get into extreme marathon running” The guy said to me. They were dressed head to tow in bone hiking chinos and shirts with hiking boots on. I mentioned that I was a personal trainer and that I love teaching people how to run. I told him I had a blog and he could read about trail running and the races I have completed. He was interested in what I was wearing, and the pack I was carrying. I excitedly told him about the up-coming runs that he should try. He'd heard of "Coolrunnings" I mentioned that my first trail run was "The Great Nosh". I could have chatted all day to this lovely couple but I had to keep moving if I was to get out of here in sunlight. I had a funny feeling I was going to come out of Nellies Glen with a head torch on. I ran on to the end of Narrow Neck and thought about taking a photo but the light was not good enough. I headed to the right down the single man track, descended the narrow ladder and I soon came across a pair of climbers assailing down Tarros Ladder. I felt really under pre-pared, they had full climbing gear on, helmets, harnesses, ropes. I was willing to trust the climbing spikes that I had descended a few times previous. I felt safe though. If I did slip and fall I had two people here to rescue me. Before long I was off and running again along the gorgeous single man track. I purposely packed the large compression bandage, knowing that I was running on my own. The chance of a snake bite through this area felt plausible. I just wanted to get through this section before it got too late. There are a few climbs through this section, but they are over soon enough. I was able to run over most of them. When I did slow to a walk on one of the rockier sections of the climb of Mount Derbert 30km, I just said to myself "Don't Give Up", and I was running again.
I hit the open fire trail at Medlow Gap and I immediately felt safer. The fire trail took the fear of a snake bite away, and I coasted down the hill to Breakfast Creek and I started the climb. The last time I was out training I had a "moment" here. And I was slowed to a walk for a few minutes. But today I was stronger and I was able to run the entire way over Sliprail Creek 35km up the two climbs to Bellbird Ridge, where I ate again, finished the last of my fluid. I had only consumed 2.6L of fluid in 37 kms, and I felt good.
I rolled down the incredibly steep rocky fire-trail and jogged into Danphy's Camp 38km. I drank some water and re-filled my UltrAspire Hydra-pack Bladder and my 600ml water bottle then headed on down to Green Gully. In TNF you continue on through to Iron Pot Ridge. But this is out of bounds for training. I hooned down Megalong Valley Rd and came to the Cottage at Green Gully. I was stopped by the owners of the property. They were curious about where I had been, where I was going and what I was training for. When people find out I am a personal trainer the questions just come flying. I felt obliged to answer them all I was running through their land but the sun was fading and I had to get going if I was ever going to make it back to Sydney in time for a party.
I ran along the fire trail and followed the road straight up a massive climb of 300m. I ate and chugged into my rhythm straight up the climb. I felt good and just concentrated on my legs and keeping them strong. This climb always hurts but it is over in 3km. I just punched through all the way to the top of Euroka Ridge. When I was at the top and waved to the farmers and some other local of the area. I then stopped and took advantage of the warm a setting sun light. I posed for a self photo and then kicked on down the descent into the Megalong Valley. Any "6 Foot Track" Runner will know this section well. I turned right onto the 6 Foot Track and followed Nellies Glen Road for 8km back towards Katoomba. The sun was setting and I was surprised when I saw  a pair of hikers heading out from Nellies Glen near one of the locked gates."How far to the Cox's River?" One asked.
"It's 15km from the start, we are about 7km in so you have 7-8km to go, do you have head torches?" I asked.
"Nahhh, we will be right we will just camp when it gets dark". He replied.
The land in between basically Nellies Glen and the Cox's River of the Megalong Valley is private land. Technically he will need permission to camp there. I was not want to be in his shoes later on that night. I pushed on myself knowing that it was soon going to be dark. I heard my phone go off. I stopped and sent a text to my friend and my husband telling them where I was and that I was about to come up Nellies Glen. I switched my head torch on and ran up the fire trail. Again this is a steep climb that hurts like hell, before it just hurts some more when the trail narrows down to single man track. I had not had the opportunity to train under ahead torch since August Oxfam. GNW I did not need one. So this was perfect training for me.
Coming up out of Nellies Glen in the dark all by yourself plays havoc with your brain. I was convinced that there was someone lurking in the bushes. A crazy hermit, living close to the fresh water source of Nellies Glen, hiding amongst the small creek caves. Adrenaline is an amazing thing, I was flying, hardly noticing the burning in my quads. Breathing heavily as I climbed up the wet narrow creek bed. I was so frightened, I kept checking behind me to see if I was being followed. Any noise I heard in the bush was being investigated. The sound of the creek washing into the vegetation freaked the pants off me before I realised it was just the sound of the water washing through leaves, not a monster about to grab me. I soon pulled my head back together. I realised that I was a sitting duck to any attacker that may be living in this gully. There was no way out if I did come across someone. But reason came back into my thoughts. If there was a crazy hermit living down here he probably did not have a job. If he did not have a job, and he did not have an address to get dole payments, then he probably could not afford batteries for in his torch, and he had run out of batteries, sohe was in the dark with no light and I would blind him with my head torch if he came to attack me. Nice thinking? Always look on the bright side....
The steps of Nellies Glen never looked so good. I was close to the top and I was going to get out. I pushed up the massive set of bush stairs, only allowing one step for every stair and I was soon out on the fire trail at the start of the "6 Foot Track". I ran out onto the Western HWY, put on my high vis vest and headed back to Katoomba. I felt great, I had a kick on in my run and I was doing really well. I followed the footpath along the road. I checked my Garmin and it said I had completed 57km. I'd already completed 7km that morning and I needed to get back to Sydney to see my friend and Husband back at a party. I was worried that I would not be able to get a taxi at Katoomba. I was worried that I was going to take too long running to get back to my car. I hooned along the path and I then spotted my way out.
I saw a young girl with "P" plates on a car start her car. I asked her. "Can I have a lift to Leura or where ever you are going so I can get back to Sydney?" I asked. I told her what I have been doing for the past 7.5 hours, 6.5 hours of running. I chatted to people through out the day for an hour.
Her dad soon got into the car and he dropped her off at her work and then he did the nicest thing, he dropped me back at my car at the Fairmont Resort. After finding my car, with it's door ajar and unlocked I must to have left it opened, I was so happy my car started first time and nothing was stolen. I then drove home back to Sydney, jumped in the shower and I was at the party my 8:30pm. I do have good luck. Or is it just good karma.


  1. I'm really happy I fell upon your blog and I'm going to be following!

  2. What a great read. Funny ending :)