Six Foot Track - Race Report

by Russell Hammond (2001)

Dear Fellow Six Foot Track Runners,

Here I am the morning after the day before with legs that feel like cement and are about as pliable. I think a week off running will be about the minimum time I’ll give myself before my shoes go back on but I seriously think Christmas might be the right time! Well, that’s how I feel now.

The race this year was a beauty wasn’t it! The organisation is top class and the bushfire brigade where at their brilliant best. While you and I might complain about sports related fatigue and injuries, the volunteers have to preserver with seeing runner after runner for hours on end. If there was one small feature which grated most runners I talked to after the race was the 9 kilometre sign at the turn off on the Black Range Road. Who measured it? These were definitely longer kilometres than most Australians are used to!!

OK, the question you want answered is - what was it like? The day dawned cool and humid (due to rain the night before) which was a blessing from the temperatures in Sydney in the week leading up to the race and www.bom.gov.au (Department of Meteorology) was one of the most visited Web sites so I could get a potential forecast for the race.

The race got off close enough to 8:00 AM for those in the first wave and it started with the mad rush to Nellies Glen which is really funny because everybody has to hang around for a few minutes before they can even start to walk to the valley floor. The stairs were made even more difficult with being very wet and muddy the whole way down. Once at the bottom is was ‘business as usual’ for first wave stragglers like myself. After 25 minutes the first runners of the second waves came screaming past - truly great sight seeing what are obviously fine runners in their glory.

Not much to report until the twisty section leading to the Coxs River as I was caught with first and second wave runners in a long snake at a pace I wasn’t expecting to go. I must say that at this stage I thinking that the Sydney Striders runners are a human sub-species born with their racing singlets on and are very prolific breeder as they seem to be everywhere. No matter, they provide plenty of humour and banter to keep non Striders amused.

Want a swim? That’s Coxs River for you! It was amusing to see everyone take it easy not to get their shoes wet at the first section of the crossing only to climb a small bank and see about 30 metres of waist deep water to cross. The dip in the water was refreshing but only for a short while until a quick drink and then the reality of this race takes over for the haul to Mni-Mni Saddle. The clouds hung around which meant there was one less irritation to worry about. I just slogged it up the hills (there’s a small reprieve about half way up) and thought of cruel things to do the race organiser until I got the Saddle and could run again. The section between climbs was better than I remembered last year and I started out at a great pace.

After what seemed like the forth shoe wash crossing the race has really just started with the indescribable section to the Pluviometer. I was down to an extremely slow crawl about half way up and the contents of my stomach wasn’t liking it’s current address. I kept everything down and together until the Pluviometer and a four minute break to recover, soak my head, think about a banana (which I left alone) and started on the Black Range section. After a 20 minute walk I found my legs again and shuffled off. I was well under the cut off time but I realised that I wanted to beat a self imposed deadline and I had to draw on all my ever dwindling reserves to do it. This section was cool but the recent rains had left the track wet and, by the time yours truly was trudging along, it was beginning to cut up in places. In this section I saw a Fire Brigade Nissan Patrol, taking runners in a worse condition than myself to the finish, stop and a fellow runner hobbled out of the back door only to throw up behind a tree - I know how you feel mate!!

I managed to keep running up to the controversial part of the this years race - the Caves Road By-Pass. I’d ran last years race and did welcome the change of running surface but since I wanted to get my medallion at the end I complied with the course marshals and turned left with everyone else. The first section of the by-pass is great running. The weather was still cool and the track was no worse than what I’d ran on previously with plenty of down hill sections to get some speed up. The down sections were there to trick you into a false sense of security until you reached two hills prior to crossing Caves Road. My thoughts at this stage were you don’t get something for nothing. Across the Road and back onto more trails. There was one small hill but the revised section to the cabins is OK by me. Again, Striders appeared out of nowhere to add some levity and raise peoples hopes. Overall I think the new section should have been in the race all along as it as it is in keeping with the intent of the race to totally breakdown the human spirit. At least there is more overhead cover than running on the side of the road which is a positive!

Back onto past memories and the run along the spur after the cabins. The weather had dropped a few degrees by this time and I was feeling a little bit cold. The rolling nature of this section makes for a run, crawl, run, crawl, run pattern to emerge but the infectious nature of the Green and White Army (Striders) helped with the pain.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse there is the last two kilomotres to tackle. When your hamstrings are tight enough to bust and your calves are solid blocks of muscles the last section comes along to turn your quads to mush. I had to hold back a bit on this section but managed to pass a few people who were in worse pain than myself. This section of track was better than last year as it seems the recent rains caused the rocks to hold in the ground more than last year and actually made it safer (apart from the agony in my legs).

The finish is always welcomed with complete strangers calling out encouragement and clapping. Around 6 and half hours isn’t a world record but it’s at least 25 minutes better than last year with now my second medallion safely locked away. I must admit to a wave of emotion as I crossed the line but I’m sure I can put that down to fatigue, low blood sugar, height headedness, relief or just knowing it was all over - you pick?

Writing this the next day I can safely say the race organiser will live another day and I’m glad I’ve completed another one. Thanks to my long distance running partner Steve who ran the race and let me use the facilities in his room and to the group of runners (who were all first timers) I rejoined at the end to swap Six Foot Track horror stories.

Congratulations to all finishers and those who started their collection of buckles and are going on for the full wardrobe with the belts, etc - you are all heroes.

As my shoes are soaking in the ever lost cause of cleaning them and I wonder if there will be another day like 3/3/01 to run an event like this again. The mind is willing and right now the body is weak.

Russell Hammond
Rhammond@westpac.com.au