Sunday, 20 March 2011
Six Foot is such a great running event. It’s in the Blue Mountains. It’s on trail. It was my first trail event, having qualified at Beyond the Black Stump and my longest race, having stepped up from a one off road half marathon. From my first finish time in ‘08 of 5:08:10, it’s also an event that inspires me to train harder to improve on the previous year’s effort.
Each year after finishing Six Foot I am left feeling as though I had given it my all, however as my body recovers I start to think that perhaps I could dig deeper and go faster again. As this year’s event approached the feeling that perhaps I didn’t give it my best last year started to envelop me. I’m lucky as I am surrounded by a lot of passionate trail runners in my boutique running club, Berowra Bush Runners. We share a healthy rivalry and respect for each other. For me, training for Six Foot this year tended to merge into training for a few other trail running events (Bogong to Hotham and Cradle Mtn). The other trail races were both very technical races whereas Six Foot is mostly on fire trails. To train for Six Foot I relied on repetitive laps of Quarry Rd fire trail. Every Saturday, and occasional any other day of the week, I along with other Bush Runners would start at the Hornsby end at first light and run until there would be no one else to run with. Chatting with friends and talking about race tactics and results is a good way to pass km’s while training and a lot of people seemed to pigeon hole me into the plausible Six Foot finish time of 4:10. In face so may people started to tell me the same time that I really started to believe it myself. It would be a big jump from the previous year’s PB of 4:23:30.
Lining up for the start this year was no different to previous years. I stood with the other Berowra Bush Runners (Chris, Noel, Pete T and Dave G) in the hope that they would provide me with some protection in the stampede that follows the starter’s gun. As the gun sounded and Wave 1 surged forward I slotted in nicely behind some other polite runner and cruised down to the top of Nellies Glen without incident. The rain from the following night had caused the stairs to become muddy and slippery. These are the kind of conditions I love but they have the potential to catch you out and ruin your day.
I took my time over the first quarter of the race. I have done Six Foot enough times to realise that it truly starts after Pluvi. Crossing Megalong Road is always a nice distraction. There is always a small crowd that gathers to cheer runners along. I take the time to look around for friendly faces I recognise and their presence and support is greatly appreciated. At the crossing I was informed I was about 6th Female and not too far behind the leaders.
The run down to Cox’s gives me the impression of being on a roller coaster. The trail is free flowing and there are banked corners that you can run around and lean right over while keeping the same speed. On the decent fellow Bush Runners Chris G, Dave G, Noel were nowhere to be seen and I wasn’t sure how far in front they were or if I would even see them again before the finish. I know that all three of them would be going hard, even if it was just to stay in front of me. Our Six foot times are all fairly close and we all have an equal chance of beating each other along with all important bragging rights. Neither of us were going to let the others get a lead that we wouldn’t try to close before the finish. Being a girl it is quite acceptable to finish behind a bloke, but it always seems to be more important for a bloke to push himself and finish in front of a girl.
At the bottom of the single trail I was faced with the Coxs River crossing, something I dread every year. Just like my dog, we both hate getting our feet wet. At least the river was down this year and I didn’t have to embarrass myself by swimming. When I clambered out the other side I found it so hard to get going again with the added weight of the water and sand in my shoes. It was as though the ground was covered in chewing gum. After the first km of climbing I dried off enough to start striding out a bit and I started to mix my walking with a bit of running. This second quarter of Six Foot has me perplexed. I am not sure how to tackle the climbs that follow the river crossing. I tend to judge my approach on how I feel, not how quickly I can get to the top and then the finish line. In some places I jog and overtake walkers. In other spots I walk and overtake joggers.
When I finally reached Pluvi I wiped from my mind the first half of the race and instead focused on the third quarter, Black Range. By this time I had worked my way up to 4th Female and I could see 3rd just a hundred or so metres ahead. I got a good look at her as she passed me going up pluvi. I must have done alright on the climbs as I had caught up with Noel and Dave G not far after reaching Pluvi. Neither of us were going to show any sign of weakness, although we were all probably equally feeling it. Especially Noel who had completed the Centenial Park 100km 2 weeks earlier. Black Range is essentially considered the flat part of Six Foot, however it is anything but flat.
As I descended down to the Deviation CP I saw Brian (my husband) and Ted (mentor) waiting for my arrival. They let me know how I was going and gave words of encouragement. I had no idea of my ETA but judging from Brian’s comments I was on target for a good PB. I was still only about 100m behind the 3rd placed female. This was going to be an all or nothing final quarter.
I went through the dips that follow the Deviation CP and arrived at Jenolan Caves Rd Crossing CP to the cheers and support of Brian and Ted who had cycled around from the previous CP. Again they reminded me that I was still only about 100m behind 3rd. ‘I know’ was my reply as I passed them.
Further along at the Fire Brigade/Cabin CP Brian and Ted were again there to remind me that I was still only about 100m behind 3rd. ‘I know’ was the reply from the other runners who had been with me at the previous CP and had heard my earlier reply. I had been running pretty hard to keep within reach of 3rd and knowing the course well I thought the steep down hill just near the end would be the prefect spot to close the gap.
On the decent down to the Upper Carpark track I opened up and gave it everything I had. In hind sight I was probably a little reckless, but the risk I took paid off and I had closed the gap and was looking for a spot to make my move. I waited until the track widened at the point where the Upper Carpark track meets the Six Foot track meets the Grand Arch track to slip around 3rd place then I ran like the wind down towards the finish line. I put everything into closing the gap, then that overtaking move, but once I got what I was after I just found that little bit extra to bring it home.
I was pretty happy with my finishing time of 4:10:06. I pushed myself pretty hard and am glad to be rewarded with a podium and some 6ft dinner ware.
After getting my breath back I got cleaned up with a nice hot shower then joined the other Bush Runners and our band of supporters and watched the procession of runners enjoy their moment of glory as they crossed the finish line.
P.S. Thanks EnduroExplorer for the photos.