6FT is a bucket list race. I signed up on a whim thanks to Charlie D. Looking back at my extensive lead-up trail / hill training … 5km jog around the dirt track in Centennial Park in January. That’s it.
Nailing a 10k road race PB just 7 days before at the Striders North Head? A false confidence boost.
So there I was toeing the line (Wave 1) in the cold … to my left, a few friendly Striders/HurTS trail junkies including Tony Fattorini (Fats), Andrew Tuckey (Tucks) and Quentin. Fats gifts some pre-gun advice – ‘easy on the down, pick people off after the crossing‘. Sounded simple enough.
This course is a nasty one to crack the first time (speaking in hindsight). A quad-breaking 15km descent, lung-busting 10km climb then 20km grinding out rolling trails. Very unforgiving.
The start is a frantic plummet down Nellies Glen for 2km. I was scared. Very scared. Even now I have NO idea how to descend … leaning into the slope jackhammers the quads/calves. Leaning back to softly ‘flop‘ the foot fatigues the quads. Lose lose.
|Chased by unknown individuals along Megalong|
Scenery changes at the Megalong fields (8km). Quads screaming but delighted to be alive. The relief was short-lived. I decided to compromise my left knee by wedging my leg inside a cattle grid. What a ludicrous way to DNF. Lucky the throbbing sensation turned into a dull ache. Hence I kicked on.
It’s technical as you descend to the 15km river crossing. Like clockwork with 2 others, I’d lose on a technical section, then fight hard to win on sharp climbs. Shown below is my delight when there’s a hill!
|Winning on the climb, losing on the descent|
The Cox’s River crossing had me slowly wading waist deep, accumulating sand in shoe. Momentary relief and oblivious to the crippling climb ahead.
|Cox’s River Crossing at 15.5km|
Split (15.5km) – 71 min in 34th place at 4:37 min/km
Then starts the 5km grind up Mini Mini hills – relentless the whole way. Biggest win was not walking, but then my hips really started to tighten. I counted 6 scalps on this section… when you know others are hurting more, the prospect of another climb is perversely welcoming. Elevation grade peaks at 29 degrees!
|Six Foot Track elevation profile.|
Relief getting to the saddle. Again short-lived, with a 3km descent and the feeling of two more stakes through the quads. Embarrassingly short respite to my lungs.
It’s not long before the ground kicks up again towards Pluvi. The shuffle started again and this time I caught a fatigued-looking Quentin. Tried to rally him with limited success and moved on.
Pluvi peak arrived at 26km. My breathing was quite ragged, quads and hips finished. Sadly I couldn’t remember the remaining course profile … more hills???
2nd split (10.5km) – 63min in 22nd place at 6:01 min/km. Respectable but not too flash.
Last 19km – the task of dragging a 60kg corpse across beautiful fire trails. The loneliness of the section allowed me to mostly run my own pace.
7km to go, a familiar bald head and Striders singlet starts coming back to me. Is that Fats? I checked the watch (read 3:15) and thought he should be sipping a beer at the finish by now. Turns out his hammy’s had other ideas.
|Tony Fattorini (Fats) in close pursuit at 35km|
Desperate for human company, I latched on to the eventual 19th and 20th for the final 5km. At 5 min/km, leg fatigue stabilised and breathing remained controlled. Felt tired but great.
Then comes a diabolic 2km descent into the pits of Jenolan caves to finish. Like a basketball in the face, the nose bleed is how broken quads respond to one final pounding. With such little interest in doing a face-slide, I resorted to a ‘safe‘ pace. Yes it cost me a top 20, but at least I kept my face.
Hitting the final bend with the loud cheers was magic. Minus the broken quads, I was feeling fresh and energetic. I crossed the chute with a retarded jump for joy below.
Time – 3:51. Place – 21st.
|Crossing the line with a jump|
Last split (19km) in 96 min at 5:05 min/km.
Stoked to come inside 4 hours, and ecstatic to be uninjured. Doubt I could have gone faster given the lack of training and 5 day taper.
I soaked in the atmosphere, fed Lorie a sausage sizzle (reward) then slept like a baby on the way home. Nutrition was spot on – a single pre-race banana and one gel at 35km. Zero stomach issues and felt the gel was not needed at all.
|Finish chute a few minutes after|
I have LOTS of work to do on downhills. Incredible how this makes or breaks the race. For now though, it’s on to road races for the rest of 2015.
Run of the day goes to Tucks. How do you run 3:25 and only come 6th? Fats (3:55) and Quentin (touch over 4) did well on slightly off days. Charlie D gets play of the day … recorded a tidy sub-4 hour PB despite being spotted frolicking in the Manly surf the same morning. Amazing. Several other brave efforts and PBs further back. Easy to see why people return year after year…
|Waiting for the bus with Lorie|