Six Foot Track
Six Foot Track is one of my must do races of the year, the race itself has been running since 1984 and my history with it started in the early 90’s when we’d make the yearly trek to Jenolan Caves for dad to run Six Foot Track while we spent the day exploring caves.
The race itself is 45kms from The Explorers Tree at Katoomba following the Six Foot Track all the way to Caves House. As you’d imagine being the Blue Mountains the race is a study in hills, with 1600m elevation gain along the length of the course. The course starts out with a steep downhill as you race down the stairs to Nellie’s Gully, then it levels out through Megalong Valley with a constant downhill technical single trail that’s not too steep to Cox’s River. If you’re hiking the course then you get to use the suspension bridge, but there’s too many runners for that, so instead we get to run past the bridge and ford the river further down. From there the climbing starts up to the Pluviometer where it somewhat levels out, or at least the hills become more runnable as the race to Deviation begins. Once past Deviation it’s an undulating few kilometres and then it’s across the road and mostly downhill for the next 4kms before a crazy steep final 3km descent to Caves House.
My Six Foot Track race started with a stressful bus ride from Caves House at 5:15am which didn’t get me to the start line until 15 minutes before my wave started. With long toilet queues I had Katy come to my rescue and ask the very nice runners in front if they wouldn’t mind if a wave 1 runner jumped in. Fortunately they were cool and with only a couple of minutes to spare I lined up at the start line and sized up my female competition. To be honest I can’t tell if they’re good or not, everyone looks different and you just can’t pick it, but I at least wanted to “try” and get a sense of who I was up against. Then we were off, for the first section down the stairs I put all my stair training to good use and I felt much more comfortable this year then last year, flopping, jumping and side stepping my way to the bottom. I’d managed to position myself in about 10th or 11th place female by that stage so I was feeling good.
I stepped up the pace on the dirt track as it was a mix of flat and slightly downhill. Running down a couple more women while I was going. Then I met up with the Prawn guy, I don’t know his name, but he was from Newcastle and had a prawn on the back of his shirt and I saw a lot of the back of his shirt for the next 20kms. Passing through the paddocks we started on the technical, fast single trail down to the river. I ended up in the middle of the fastest conga line ever! There were two women in front of me, and I was happy to just sit back and follow them (plus everyone else) down, they were moving fast enough and there’s no need to go crazy at this point. But try telling that to some of the Wave 2 guys as they came charging down the trail, desperate to get in front of everyone and smash out the race before the river. I had one guy almost take my head off as I followed the track around a boulder while he came leaping over the top of it.
About 20 of us all hit the river at once and the conga line turned into a splashing, thrashing mess of bodies as we made our way across the waist deep water and the real race now began. The first climb up from Cox’s is long and constantly steep. Previous years I’ve run the entire thing, but this year I wanted more in my legs once I reached Pluvi, so I ran and walked overtaking the two women who I’d followed on the way to the river. There was some downhill then the final push to Pluvi, which is kilometres of steep climbing and not particularly runnable. I’d overtaken the last of the crazed Wave 2 guys not long after the start of the Pluvi climb and they were not looking anywhere near as good as they had been. Prawn guy meanwhile was still going well and I didn’t get past him until just before Pluvi, prior to that I was using him a bit for pacing, he had a good climbing pace and he was easy to spot in front of me.
With the top of Pluvi reached I started to step it out and It didn’t take long to shake the steep climb out of my legs as I picked up my pace and continued on the fairly constant, but not so steep uphill course. I spotted one more women up ahead and it took about a kilometre as I slowly but surely narrowed the distance between us and then I was past her. Unfortunately this was also the last women that I saw on the course for the rest of the day. I kept my pace constant, overtaking some runners, leap frogging with others or just pacing myself with some of them. My legs were still feeling good and I was taking a bit more salt to hopefully offset any cramping, the cramping is one of the things this race is famous for and I learnt all about it last year.
I made it across the range fine and got to Deviation in a decent condition, then it was the last steep hills to the road that broke me last year, but this year I was prepared and I powered up them across the road and kept up the pace until I was past the last checkpoint and headed downhill. My legs were on the verge of cramping, one wrong step and they were gone so that final 3km decent was painful. I’m not the best downhill runner anyway, so throw in some sore tired and almost cramping legs and I become a terrible downhill runner. Past the loose rolling stones and onto the final tourist paths I could hear the cow bells at Caves House as I ran the switchbacks down to the memorable finish line on the main road at Jenolan Caves and into 6th place female in a time of 4:19:54 a 7 minute PB and with enough time to have a shower and get changed before watching Thomas come in. Of course I'll be back next year, Guaranteed Entry Yeew!