Six Foot Track
I was very nervous preparing to run Six Foot Track it was the longest race I’d ever run at 45kms and by far the toughest, it was also my first trail marathon. I’d qualified for it with a Marathon the previous year and judging from the times I’d placed myself in Wave 4, expecting to finish in around 6 hours… or at least under 7 hours, which is the cutoff time.
Mum dropped Thomas and I off at The Explorers Tree at Katoomba and he went off to join Wave 2, while I waited around in the cold for my wave to start about 20 minutes later. We were soon off and running, a gentle jog to the top of the stairs where we all came to a halt as the runners were reduced to walking pace while we made our way down the wet and slippery stairs, the slow pace however did allow me a lot of time to look around and admire the waterfalls and cliffs as we walked the first kilometre and a bit. Then onto a fire trail where some of the runners took off, I’d been given instructions to take it very easy until I cross Cox’s river and hit the hills, then to walk/run the steep hills, before reaching the top and as soon as I get to the road I was to take off. Following those instructions I settled into a very gentle jog, running with different people at different times, some wanted to talk and some were just happy to run along.
We soon reached the Megalong valley with it’s pastures and cows, this made a change from the bush running, and the trails got narrower and the country more undulating, plus the cows. The Rural Fire Service had great little drink stops setup along the way to keep us all going. The country changed again as we got closer to Cox’s River and we also ran into our first lot of hikers. I felt very sorry for them, they were hiking up from the river and had to keep stopping to let all the runners get past. The narrows trails wound down following the river until we reached the part to ford it. The RFS had placed a rope across, and the first part was only waist deep, the next part, the main part of the river, was a lot deeper and flowing very fast. I made my way across in a group of runners and soon found myself up to me neck and holding onto the rope as I lost my footing, it was all very exciting, and I would totally class it as an obstacle racing obstacle. I made it safely to the other side and stopped for a couple of pieces of watermelon at the drink stop before hitting the hills. I ran the first hill all the way to the next drink stop which was up in a paddock.
I met a couple of Trotters ladies at the drink stop while we were all putting on sunscreen, as it was starting to get hot, from there and the next 16 or so km’s it was all uphill. I ran the smaller inclines and switched to full bushwalking mode for the steeper slopes, going so far as picking up a walking stick and using it to keep pace as I marched up the hills. Overtaking a lot of people. Then some more running, then some hiking. The drink stops started to get even better and also creepier as we hit one stop where all the blokes were dressed up as superheroes. However seeing a fat batman with belly hanging out and a superman in a belly showing top and skin tight shorts was quite disturbing, as the guy running next to me at the time put it “Have I been taking acid? I think this is just making me want to run faster”. However they were offering drinks (including coke), and energy bars, it was time for me to start drinking coke and getting the sugar and caffeine hit.
From there the countryside had the continuing brilliant views and more undulating hills, and I was feeling great, I had heaps of energy left and was just waiting to hit the road, I started to pick up the pace a little knowing that I had plenty left and was about 15km’s out.
We hit the pine forests next, but I didn’t like them as much as the natural bush. Still it was wall part of the scenery. I hit a drink stop about 10km’s out and stopped for a minute to have a good drink of water and some more coke, I’d realised that if I pushed it I could possibly do the race in under 5½ hours which would be well under what I’d estimated. So refreshed I took off, I increased my pace to as fast a race pace as I figured I could maintain at that stage which was around 5min/k's, I was flying, I crossed the road after a couple of k’s and was overtaking a lot of Wave 3 runners, so I knew I was doing alright. There were a few steep hills that reduced me to a walk to get up them, but I made up for it on the downhills, we reached the final drink stop and I ran straight through and hit the very steep downhill into Jenolan Caves, It was going to be very close, the track got even steeper and I had to reduce my pace as I was worried about falling or touching stinging nettle. I hit the steps and path down to the caves and was flying, I only had a few minutes to hit the line, so I pushed it, just hoping I didn’t lose my footing, I called out to the tourists who were using the track to get to the caves “Excuse Me” and they fortunately stepped out of the way, I don’t think I would have been able to stop if they didn’t. I had less then a minute as I hit the final zig zag path and quickly ran down the last lot of steps sprinting for the finish line and making it with less then 30 seconds to spare. I was totally stoked. Mum on the other hand missed my finish not expecting me to come in for another half hour.