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For some reason I’d had barely any contact with other human beings in the week leading up to Six Foot Track- I work from home and things seemed to conspire to keep me inside. Except for Monday, when I walked to school with my son and a neighbours kid who complained about being sick. So of course by Thursday I had a scratchy throat that was turning ugly. I had a bit of a panic when I realised I could be contagious- I was only mildly sick so still racing but I was sharing a room with Gavin Pilz and didn’t want to infect anyone unnecessarily. Gavin was a terrific room mate and took the top bunk, even though it was ‘his’ room.
I think the qualifying standard definitely went up due to natural progression and last years cancellation. In 2012 I used a 3:39 Coastal Classic and scraped into Wave 3. This year I used a slightly better 3:34 in the same race and was dumped in Wave 4. Another runner with a very similar (~5 minutes difference) North Face 100 time used that as her qualifier and got Wave 3 and a race number 250 places lower than me (I was number 777). What does this all mean? Choose your qualifier carefully! I was pretty happy to be in Wave 4, because I felt that it would help me to not blow up in the race to the river.
Up at 5am and thanking Thor that Randy had brought his coffee machine. I’d made last minute changes to my gear list, deciding to wear the Speedcross shoes, and to take a hat. The Speedcross have massive lugs on them, including one on the front of the shoe which does nothing but catch on rocks and roots, plunging you into the scenery. So I got out my utility knife and cut those off, but also took my gloves in case of a spill.
Hanging around at the start line was great, I felt absolutely no stress because I had cancelled any thoughts about running fast. My man flu had not become worse overnight, so I figured I’d just cruise and see what happened. I usually try to pick a few people who are better runners than me to try to keep up with, but Steve Bruggeman was in another wave, Adam Darwin was running with a brace on his foot, and Chris Dawe had come good in the last few weeks- he’d improved so much it was scary.
Off we go in the Wave 4 start and I settled in behind Chris Dawe for the trip down Nellie’s Glen. And yes I do mean trip. Despite the very manly spikes on the bottom of my shoes, I slipped and got whacked in my bum with a piece of railway sleeper at a full 75kg of force. I didn’t lose any places however I can still feel it 3 days later. I was far from the only one- Blathnaid lost some bark, and Damian managed to roll down 4 stairs in spectacular fashion. I’m sure there were more. On to the single track and Chris was having a great time demolishing the distance, until he stepped awkwardly and busted an ankle. He went very quiet after that, but he was probably wondering if he could get away with murdering me when I said ‘I’ve got really strong ankles, that would never happen to me’. As soon as the single track widened to fire trail we could see Robyn Bruin’s yellow shirt shoot off into the distance, I figured anyone who tried to stay with her would be broken pretty quickly. Keeping to my non competitive strategy I let Chris go and concentrated on running within my limits and having fun. Just before Megalong Valley rd, I spotted Adam Darwin and had a brief chat. he’d started in Wave 3, so I was surprised to catch up so quickly, but as you’ll see he’s not one to give in easily. A couple of spectators shouted ‘come on Adam’ as we crossed the road, and he corrected them ‘don’t you mean ‘Adam’s?’
Down to the river was fairly uneventful, and true to predictions, the river was quite high. Very happy with the performance of my gaiters, they kept the rocks out so I had a snack, drink and kept on. I spent a bit of time eating my Growling Dog bar, and headed up the hill to Mini Mini Saddle. I lost a lot of places here (and expected to) as I’m still trying to figure out what makes me so slow up hills. Probably the same thing that stopped me breaking my pelvis on Nellie’s (my fat arse) but anyhow……
The caffeine started to kick in, and a few people around me were looknig a bit second hand, so I started giving unsolicited advice down to Allum Creek ‘it’s halfway!’ (no it’s not, but it is close), ‘there might be a small hill’ (no, there isn’t), ‘hide the drugs!’ when a car with flashing lights came towards us so it’s little wonder I was running by myself until we hit the Pluviometer. Kathy Madden overtook me here leading a bunch of very determined looking people- they disappeared up the hill in a flash leaving me to ponder why I was doing this. At the top of Pluvi I was pleasantly surprised to find that my legs felt fine. We’d done most of the climbing and because of my extremely conservative approach, I felt like we’d done about 15km. Time to put the hammer down. Or at least wheeze, cough, and carry on.
Black Range road is the trickiest part of the course, your race can be won or lost here. It’s so easy to let your mind allow you to slow down. It’s not flat. It does rise, but most of the ‘hills’ are runnable. If you keep up the pressure you’ll be rewarded with a much better time. Here I caught up with Jaci Richards (who I mentioned above in the discussion about qualifiers). Did I also mention that her 16:30 TNF100 time was a 9 HOUR pb from the year before? She’s an amazing and inspiring athlete. After setting off again (I was starting to come good, I knew I would make the finish) I came across Leah Evans who trained with us last year for TNF100. Leah grumbled that she was having a hard time, so in my extremely sympathetic mood I yelled out ‘harden up, Princess!’ and she glared at me and reminded me that she had started in the wave behind me, and thus was currently beating me. Bugger, that took the wind out of my sails- just for that you will be Princess Leah forever more…….. yes I totally deserved it.
At least my offensiveness made her run again, and we diced for a few km. Unless I was hallucinating, there was a big fat man in a Wonder Woman costume in this section. If I hadn’t stopped to tell him the fashion police were on their way to arrest him I may have seem Adam Darwin at the end. Oh well. At some point there was another bunch of spectators with an NRG sign at the TOP of a hill. All my tiny mind could think was ‘not going to get any good action shot of me walking’. Soon after we got to Caves Rd and another bunch of spectators where Adam Darwin’s wife Nicola yelled ‘my husband is in front of you!’ Don’t worry Nic- I expected him to beat me, but I wasn’t going to make it easy for ol’ gimpy leg. I didn’t want to have to tell people I was beaten by a man with a broken leg. Or sprained ankle, whatever. I didn’t have the energy to yell back ‘he needs to beat me by more than 10 minutes to get a better time than me’
I was just about spent by Binda Cabins, but of course just after that we dive off into the bush again for some glorious downhill, and my shoes just munched up the terrain. I picked up a few places but by the time we hit the steep single track around the edge of the valley the 2 people in front wouldn’t let me get past. Through the finish chute in race time of 6:06:57, my start time was 25 minutes earlier so 5:41:57 and for some reason the timing mats at the start weren’t at the start line leading to a net time of 5:41:46. Am I happy? Hell yes. In 2011 I gave it everything I had and got 6:15, Saturday was about 80% effort which was all I had on the day.
Steve Bruggeman who has had a very difficult time in training but pulled out a 5:24 for his 17th (you read that right!) Six Foot. You’re not that old Steve!
Chris Dawe who finished despite being in incredible pain. The look on his face at the end tells the story.
Adam Darwin with his ‘elephant man’ ankle. I would have bet money he wasn’t going to race only 2 weeks ago. What an amazing performance.
Paul Blamire who must have been in the toilet when the gun went off as it took him 34 seconds to cross the start line, and a unusual 1:47 down to Cox’s. But then he strapped on the turbo and managed a sub 5:30 time. Impressive.
Leigh Reynolds, winner of the ‘golden ticket’ race entry. Leigh has made so much progress in recent months it’s like he’s decided to chase down Sam. That sort of improvement does not come without pain, you masochist. Classy guy, classy result.
Simon Rogers, our fearless leader, who overcame worse man flu than me to complete the race. You earned those beers!
But Rosie Mills takes the prize for running the last 30km with a suspected broken neck, after falling over the feet of an overtaking runner. I think that even beats this story here. Oh, and in other news Sam Walker picked up a flying second place behind Tony Fattorini, Michelle McAdam a blinding 3rd female, and our first 6 ladies picked up the team award. Wow! I’ve spent a fair bit of time trying to keep up with these women, and that award couldn’t go to a nicer bunch.
Thank you to the spectators, lovely to see some of our broken comrades and even some who never intended to race. A very sophisticated looking Tanya Baluk would have taken the fashion prize (I swear I did once wear a collared shirt, BR, Before Running). Lovely sunny conditions at Caves House made us all relax, until they ran out of beer. Then in the bus on the way home the driver made us stew in our own filth for a while before turning on the aircon. Perhaps he likes ‘eau de trailrunner’.
Dinner afterwards is always a highlight. At one stage I was forced to stand at the bar and have vodka shots to adjust my outlook, but unsurprisingly it became easier to ignore the pain after that. I find it hard to believe that a venue can’t produce the right amount of dinners when they’ve had numbers and orders for a MONTH. That ‘oops’ is kind of hard to explain. Randy put a huge amount of effort in organising it all, how could they stuff it up so badly? Enough said about that.
What went right
Making that blog post about the gear I was taking turned out to be a great idea. I almost didn’t submit it because it started out as just a list of things for me to remember. However just about everybody I met on the whole weekend had read it. I was stopped in the street to discuss, people thanked me for reminding them to bring chips, others cursed me for reminding them how much they’d forgotten!
My shoes were great, they have a relatively small toe box which means my little toes get bashed around, but not so much during the race. Win.
Wearing gaiters- this meant I could cross the rivers and creeks without little rocks in my shoes. Big win.
What went wrong
To the guy who read my previous post and knew I would be carrying extra salt tablets- I’m really happy that I was able to give some out during the race, but you have to stick them in your mouth before they will work!
Nutrition- I probably did half the race on snakes and sports drink. If I wanted a more competitive time, I probably should have gone more towards gels etc.
Racing- it’s probably better that I did not know that Adam Darwin was 30 seconds in front, or Chris Dawe 1 min 20s, or others about 3 minutes in front. Let’s have a proper race next year when we’re all of the injured list!
I was carrying two flasks of home made gel. The second one was in a zip lock bag and thus waterproof. I should have kept the first one out of the Cox’s River, because well, for the next few days I had to stay close to a toilet.
If you want to see how the winners race went, have a look at Tony Fattorini’s blog here
Joe Hedges ‘that was f@cking ridiculous’
Sam Walker ‘my legs have never been that sore’*
*stolen from a FaceBook post, so may not be actually true. I also considered writing that in New Zealand dialect, but I’m fairly sure that he can run faster than me.
Tony Sharpe ‘Give it to me. Harder. Oh yeah’ (to massage therapist)#
#yes, I totally made that up. But it COULD have happened
Age Class Results
If you’d like a good laugh, consider this- If I was 25 year younger my 5:41 time would have won the under 20 age class (vs 6:12). However if I was 25 years OLDER, a 5:41 would have been second in class. You read that right, winning time in the 70-79 age class was 5:06. I mean WTF?