Monday, March 12, 2012

When Mother Nature bowls a wrong'un

The cancellation of the 6 Foot Track Marathon was not entirely unexpected. Living up here in the mountains, I know how much rain has fallen over the last couple of months and it was a smart decision to cancel the event; thoroughly disappointing but totally understandable.

Friday night started out at the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba with the BMMC in what what termed the 6 Foot commiseration party. It was a casual collection of runners, with 6 Foot RD Colin coming in for a few stress relievers too. He showed me some photos of the river that he took on the Wednesday reccie prior to the massive dump we got that same night. It was clear no one was getting across then, let alone after another downpour. He also had a photo of the track just up from Little River, where a landslip had rendered the track unusable by vehicles. This put one of the aid stations out; also no doubt a contributing factor in making the hard, but final decision. Hats off to Colin; so much hard work and planning goes into this event. He was as upset and disappointed as anyone.

So what do 850 disappointed runners do instead. They all probably went out and ran. Well at least 40 of us did on early Saturday morning. Ewan Horsburgh and I made a plan to run the first half (most of it) of the The North Face 100 course. I put the message out on Facebook and next thing I know there is 40 of us meeting at Katoomba Aquatic Centre bright and early. There was Victorian Campbell Maffett, Shona S, Alex M, Mick Miles, Beth C and a few other people I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time. Even Mick found time out of his busy schedule autographing the latest copy of Ultramag to come join us for a bit of a trot!

The gang on Narrowneck
The core group of us soon led the way along Narrowneck and what an absolute beautiful morning it was. It was the kind of morning that you kill to run in and made me think that it's just a real blessing to have the opportunity to do this type of thing. We can all get a little too focused on racing sometimes that we can forget just how therapeutic, social and revitalising going on a run in the bush with friends can be.

Alex and Mick M set the pace nicely, with Shona and Beth settling back a bit discussing the merits of inov-8 shoes. Before we knew it, the boys came to a locked gate and realised we had missed the turnoff to Dumphy's campground some 4km back. Not seeing the girls on the way back to the turnoff, we came to the conclusion that girls make far better navigators than guys.

At Dumphy's we filled up on water, had a bit to eat and discussed the options. Alex and Campbell weren't keen to add the grind up Nellies to their distance so Alex got on the blower and sent a mayday call to his mum and dad to pick him up at the Megalong Rd/6 Foot Track intersection. With the escape plan in place, I shotgunned the last place in the car, leaving Ewan and Mick M to have Nellies all to themselves, not that either of them complained. Ewan is keen to get in as many ks before his 24h attempt at Coburg, and Mick is just a machine that takes anything he can get.

So on we pressed along Megalong Rd and Alex and Mick set a great pace on the big up from the Pony's and the long downhill towards 6 Foot Track. I sat behind them most of the way without overdoing and finished off the run in about 3:30 for a marathon distance run.

On Sunday, Ewan suggested we do the other half of the North Face course, the Federal Pass/Kedumba loop, also incorporating the first 10km or so of the North Face. We left from the Fairmont Resort and a couple of ks into the run we ran into Campbell doing a little morning wake up run. We convinced him to run with us down to Leura Forest and the Falls. After a quick photo at the Falls, Campbell continued up on the Cliff Walk while Ewan and I headed down the Federal Pass. I love this section, beautiful long descent into some of the most spectacular, but rarely seen, views. There was a hairy moment as I almost trod on a young red belly that was enjoying some sun (for a change) and probably was too high on sunlight to worry about me.

Ewan cooling off at the Falls
The climb out of the valley up Kedumba was great, I felt strong all the way and I did have a moment of 'man I wish 6 Foot wasn't cancelled'! For the last section to Conservation Hut we were joined by Mick D (or Micky Blue Eyes according to the cafe girls at Fresh) for the final slog up the stairs back to the Fairmont. All up 37ks, add that to the 42ks on the Saturday and it was one great weekend!

Lastly, I scored a cool feature on Ultra168! Thanks to Marcus and the team.