Where the bloody hell was I?
This was my third 'race' of the 45km Six Foot Track. There was also the non-race 'Slow Version' last November. On Saturday morning I was feeling quite excited about the coming day. Breakfast at the Youth Hostel with the rest of Gramp's Army was a great beginning although my two muffins and honey seemed woefully inadequate after seeing race-winner Emma Murray tucking into a big bowl of muesli and bananas.
I think my day was locked into a slow spiral of death with a snap decision. This was very strange as snap decisions are not my forte. I lined up in the middle of the third wave of runners with Elizabeth and Chris. We made quite a bit of forward progress before the steps and only had to queue up for about 15 seconds before commencing the descent of Nellies Glen.
I started to get excited when we reached the fire trail in 20:19 (about 10 minutes quicker than my two previous runs). Elizabeth and Chris were running at a good pace and I made my snap decision to stay with them. It was three hours later when I realised my folly. Our sub-5 minute km pace had us passing many runners including a chap from the 'B' wave which had started 15 minutes earlier!
Our focus was such that we pursued a large group of runners 'up the garden path' into a property rather than turning right and following the 6 foot track signs. A couple of runners up ahead stopped and surveyed the scene explorer-style, both with one had pointed and the other scratching their heads. Soon, they jumped the fence and bolted across the paddock. I followed as did the rest of the sheep and soon we were back on the right track after a 300 metre detour. This got the adrenaline going and I raced the single-track down to the Cox's River with some purpose.
After wading through the cool water I very soon made a second snap decision... I'd walk the uphills. I mean, most people were using this technique. Notable exceptions were Elizabeth, and later on the Pluviometer, Mike W. My split at the river had been 1:40:42. As this was 30 minutes faster than last year I was confident about finishing in under 6 hours. My PB was (and still is) 6:18:10.
The 4km ascent of the Mini Mini hill went well at about 11 minute kilometre pace. I ran down to Alum Creek still with quite a crowd of runners in view ahead and behind. I splashed through the small creeks and began the next 4km climb to the Pluviometer. This was getting difficult! Near the top, Mike W joined me for a while before running on ahead. I crossed the Pluvi timing mats in 3:35:28, still 29 minutes quicker than last year. I still thought sub-6 was possible. That thought was soon shaken out of my blood-starved brain on the stony trail of the Black Range.
I walked much more of the Black Range than last year and soon realised even a PB was out of the question. When James M caught me at the Deviation I was calculating whether I could make it to the Jenolan Caves as an official (sub-7 hour) finisher. At this stage it was all I could do to keep walking. The few times I tried jogging were a bit wobbly so I put that thought aside. I didn't want to fall over!
I lost count of the number of runners who went past after Caves Road. One of these was Chris who was ridiculously cheerful. At long last, the trail tilted down for the final time. I managed a slow run for the last few hundred metres. It was great when the announcer, Belinda, called my name plus I heard a few other yells of "Go Ewen", "Go Wombat" and "Where the bloody hell were you?" from the crowd. My finishing time was 6hrs 56:09. I placed 675th. There were 696 sub-7 hour finishers and 718 from 757 starters who made it to From Katoomba to Jenolan Caves.