Six Foot Track - Race Report
by Sean Greenhill (1999)
"We've come a long long way together,
But the hard times have been good"
- Fatboy Slim, "Praise You"
When I walked through the door at Emergency Services Control at 6am Saturday (the race funds and is staffed by the Blue Mountains Bushfire Brigade), a rugged firefighter was joking "when do we tell them the race is postponed?"My comment of "Thank God!" was greeted like the jovial remark it was, but a few hours later it would have been more serious.
I got a lift to the start of the Track and chatted to a few familiar faces from earlier races until 7am, when Darryl Chrisp's familiar hollow cheeked figure strode past in motorbike leathers. Yes, he'd ridden up from Sydney, but he wasn't going to run in the leathers fortunately!. We chatted away until about quarter to 8, when he called over Kevin Tiller. The two of them thought a finish of about 5.15 was reasonable and I rolled my eyes. With my injury, and general underdone state as a result, I was aiming for 6 hours.
We were off at about 8.15, going downhill for a few hundred metres before all the runners strung into single file to negotiate the stairs known as "Nellie's Glen" to the valley floor. Darryl was directly ahead of me, but slowly drew away through the descent of slippery steep stairs, watercourses, fallen trees etc. Manuvering my 14 stone bulk over this terrain was very difficult! I wasn't the tallest in the race, but close, and I was whacked in the face by several branches. A lot of people fell here, including myself.
At the bottom of the Glen is a wider dirt road, crossing through several farms, over Megalong Valley Road (where a cheering crowd greeted us), past Megalong Cemetary and through some cattle yards. This is fairly unshaded and the heat of the day first became noticeable. It was only about 5K in, but it had been an hour since the start, since the 2K of Nellie's Glen takes about 25 minutes to descend. The sun had well risen.
My knee felt fine until a klicks before the Cox's River crossing, which is 16.5K in. At this point, the path is cambered, only as wide as one of my Size 15's, and twists and turns like the plot of an Agatha Christie novel. The little descents were showing up in the knee, and I glanced at my watch. 1.45 into the race and I was in trouble, plus by this point last year I'd already made and passed the Cox's River cutoff, which must be met 2 1/4 hours after the start.
I reached the river after 2 hours, and waded through with the aid of a rope. I should have crossed over the rocks upstream or taken my shoes off, because when I emerged my shoes were full of gravel as well as soaked. I took them off twice in the next 30 metres to clean them.
After Cox's River is the first major climb to the Saddle, a 430m climb in about 3K of very open trail. I walked all of this, and the few who decided to run it quickly faded. The people around me were talking about the next cutoff already, and I started powerwalking hard. Between here and the Pluviometer cutoff 11K later, I was passed only once but overtook plenty of people, making sure to drink at least 3 cups at every station (and there are plenty). The heat was on our backs and reflecting off the light coloured trail.
At the Saddle, a winding climb in open grassland, people were dropping and sitting on the side of the track, heads down in that characteristic "I'm stuffed" pose. I passed one man with a horribly old cap and "Mountain Man- 200 Marathons" t shirt. "You'd be Grahame Kerruish?" "Yep, I'm Grahame." We chatted for a minute then I went ahead, and found Merv, the charcter I finished the Harbord Run with. We ran down the slope to Little River, where I favoured my right leg heavily until it began to ache too. We crossed the creek and went up the 6K slope to the Pluviometer, a rise of 436m. I overtook plenty more, and finally hauled myself into the cutoff with 10 minutes to spare.
The next 10K after that is along the top of Black Range, undulating through heavy foliage that slopes away on both sides. I ran the flats, powerwalked the ups and loped the descents. I was passed by a few here. Except on the downs, where my knee hurt profusely, it was just stiff most of the time, as long as I only ran for a minute or two at a spell, when sharp jolts of pain made me slow.
I made the next cutoff, where the track meets Caves Road, by 8 minutes at 1.32pm, although they were being lenient by 10 minutes due to the late start, apparently. As I ran into that cutoff station someone bellowed "come on, big fella!" which made me run enthusiastically for the next few minutes on the road, till a sharp incline, and the blisters forming on my right foot, slowed me. The next 4K are on the right lane of the road, while all traffic is on the left. I estimated a finish at 2.45pm or so, after 6 3/4 hours. I tried passing time by mentally reciting songs, but they all seemed heat related (eg Hunter's and Collectors "When The River Runs Dry" and They Might Be Giants' "Why Does The Sun Shine?"). Not good, but finally I linked up with a former engineer named Alan, and we kept each other going with talk from then on.
The final 5K are throught the bush again. Two K of trail, then 2.5K of extremely difficult, steep descent over very loose gravel. I followed in Alan's steps all the way here and I actually passed 3 people, unlike last year where I overtook no one. I glanced down and saw the Jenolan River directly on the right (after a steep slope). Then we swung onto the last 500m of paved path, and sprinted in, hands clasped in the air as we finished together in 6 hours 46 minutes.
Most of the finishers times were 30- 60 minutes behind last year, and an astounding 80 did not finish in the heat. I ran into Kevin en route to the showers, congratulated him on Dawn's victory, and he asked me how my injury fared. After my shower I watched the ceremony with Darryl, who'd finished in 5.42, then all three of us talked before Darryl left. "Another good showing for the Deads," Kevin noted with a smile, then as we went our separate ways added the universal runners refrain, "I need to train more." Who can disagree?