Saturday, March 21, 2009

It must be the Bellbirds

Saturday, 2:20 pm. At this time a week ago I was commencing the final two kilometre treacherous descent to the most welcoming finish line of any race in Australia. Well, the word race is a misnomer, as Six Foot is an event with no peer. It's an event where a sold-out field of 849 runners tested their endurance against 45 kilometres of the toughest terrain in the Blue Mountains.

Last year I finished with an unexpected PB. This year my 'Plan-A' was to run a similar sort of race, while 'Plan-B' was to make it safely to Caves House inside the 7-hour time limit, thus securing the mysterious and coveted belt buckle for six finishes. I was eight minutes behind PB schedule at the Pluviometer — 26 kilometres down and all the big climbs were over. Just 19 kilometres remained. Once the track along the Black Range became runable I broke into a Cliffy shuffle but as soon as I hit the next small rise I reverted to walking. I was gone. Time for 'Plan-B'. Lots of walking, slow running on the downhills and an eternity of time for thinking...

I wondered about what it is that draws me back to this event. It can't be the satisfaction of putting in a maximal all-the-way effort, for I don't have the endurance and hill running ability to do that. Maybe it's both the familiar and the different things you notice each year — like the soothing cool waters of the three streams after the Alum Creek aid station. Or the distant view of a line of people walking up to Pinnacle Hill. Or chatting to fellow runners before the start and on the dark, cool, damp steps of Nellie's Glen. This year there was enthusiastic ear-piercing screaming from a small cheer-squad on the Deviation which lifted me into a run until I was safely out of sight.

I just love the first 16 kilometres of Six Foot. It has such a variety of running and I like it all. It's an adventure! My favourite part is the final five kilometres down to the Cox's River — a narrow single-track of twists, turns, steps and rocks — running in a line of people all enjoying the same thing. There are many reasons why I keep coming back, but if pushed for a single one I'll just say "It must be the Bellbirds". For they have a song which is surely made in heaven — tinkling and shrill. I hear it from what must be hundreds of birds and I look high into the tree-tops for the source of such delightful sound. No wonder they inspired Henry Kendall to write his most loved poem.

Splits 2009: Nellie's (1.7k) 21:45, Megalong Valley Rd (8.1k) 53:36, Pinnacle Hill (10k) 1:04:37, Cox's River (15.5k) 1:42:22, Mini-Mini summit (20k) 2:30:33, Pluviometer (26k) 3:30:50, Caves Rd (37.9k) 5:18:20, Finish (45k) 6:23:23.

Splits 2008: Nellie's (1.7k) 19:25, Megalong Valley Rd (8.1k) 52:14, Pinnacle Hill (10k) 1:03:07, Cox's River (15.5k) 1:39:40, Mini-Mini summit (20k) 2:25:24, Pluviometer (26k) 3:22:28, Caves Rd (37.9k) 4:49:42, Finish (45k) 5:41:07.

Smiling after Six FootIt's not easy to walk, but easy to smile on the day after Six Foot

The hard earned buckleIt took six years and 270 kilometres for the buckle


Blogger Bruce said...

Congrats on finishing and earning that buckle. I think that buckle may have played a part in getting you back each year too.

8:59 pm  
Blogger strewth said...

Now that report was worth waiting for - thank you for sharing.Great photo - everybody is smiling. Well done on really earning that buckle - now go for the belt!

9:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A great performance and a great report

10:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your 'surprise PB' on the 6 foot track in 2008 was a 'surprise' because you had not done any runs longer than 20K since the Melbourne HM in 2007. However you had done a very successful period of Hadd training in the spring and ealry summer of 2007 and then some fairly intense interval work in January 2008. That adds up to something resembling Lydiard periodization. I wonder whether building a sound aerobic base and adding a little bit of anaerobic developemnt provides a better preparation for a marathon than focussing on long slow runs.

10:47 pm  
Blogger Love2Run said...

The bird songs are beautiful. What a great race and nice report with a well deserved buckle. Slow and steady wins the race!

10:58 pm  
Anonymous Julie said...

What a great event. It looks lovely and grueling at the same time. I love the "start" photo on the event's site too -- it looks like those people are going out at a 5:00 mile.

Congratulations on earning some heavy metal.

11:54 pm  
Blogger TokyoRacer said...

Congratulations, Ewen. Doing it once is impressive, doing it six times is sheer wait, I mean it's six times as impressive!!
Great job - you earned your tough guy buckle, wear it with pride.

1:19 am  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

Congratulations! pretty legendary buckle that one! Three Perth people I have run long runs with also took it on this year, John C did an impressive 5.11, Jane dipped under 6.40, and the third didnt make it all the way, I still hope to come share the incredible experience of 6 foot some day, and hear the bellbirds, see some incredible sights and sounds...Thanks for the race you were withing range of the PB for the first 15k for sure, only really from about 26-37k onward that the splits fall away...great photo too. Well done!!!

2:27 am  
Blogger Mike said...

Congrats on the buckle!! I agree w/ Bruce - I'm sure earning the buckle after 6 finishes added quite a bit to your motivation.

4:22 am  
Blogger Thomas said...

I've heard of this race, but didn't know you have been doing it so many times. Congratulations on that buckle, mate, there can't be that many people who have got one.

7:47 am  
Blogger Grellan said...

Sounds like a great "must do" race Ewen. Congrats on getting the buckle - make sure you wear it. The fade over the final 20k compared to last year certainly shows the considerable amount of endurance you hadd in your legs in 08. With your 09 training concentrating on your 3k target it's a great achievement to complete six foot within the time limit.

9:08 am  
Blogger wildthing said...

I am going to steal a quoteby John Bingham off someone else's blog:

"We need to spend less time worrying about doing things well and more time rejoicing that we are doing them at all."

I still talk about the time we did 6 foot track - the slow version with LL. Now there was some rejoicing!

Congrats on your 6th.


5:49 pm  
Blogger Tesso said...

Nice work. I expect to see that buckle still all nice and shiney on Canb Mara weekend.

6:35 pm  
Blogger TA and the Gnome said...

When I was a kid and the family would drive through the mountains, we'd wind the windows down and Dad would slow down just so we could hear the Bell Birds. They (and Currawongs) are still my favourite bird song. Having said that, I can't say that I heard any during the race - I was probably breathing too loud! :-)

Congrats on your buckle. Us mere mortals can only dream. Here's to the belt to go with it.


9:02 pm  
Blogger Superflake said...

Congratulations on getting the Six Foot Buckle Ewen. Get that PB next year.

10:07 pm  
Anonymous Louise said...

Congrats from me too. Well done.

10:37 pm  
Blogger Rob said...

I an glad that you didn't buckle and got the Buckle. Congratulations!

10:40 pm  
Blogger Jason said...

Well done.

You didn't include all those training kilometres. It took more than just 270km to earn the buckle.

7:29 am  
Blogger Eagle said...

Congratulations on another finish and the buckle. It is one of those events where you candoa lot of thinking and looking.

12:05 pm  
Blogger Luckylegs said...

Once upon a time, I did that course! Wildthing remembers it well, as I supose you do too! Don't suppose my huge breakfast was still lingering anywhere?

Agree about the Bellbirds...I still recall being stopped in my tracks by the sound of their song.

I like the buckle too!

1:14 pm  
Blogger Lulu said...

Congratulations on achieving another finish and in gaining the buckle. Are the bellbirds enough to get you to go back enough times for a belt?

9:27 pm  
Blogger bill carter said...

HI Ewen

I think it is the sense of adventure that leads us to do certain races. It sounds like this is a truly wild race through some absolutely beautiful places and that can be enough to keep us coming back. On the other hand, we are creatures of habit and some things just feel right after you've done them a few times.

Great race and great pictures!

11:32 pm  
Blogger rinus said...

Congrats and running like this is verry good.
You run more than a marathon, wow!!!.
You go good.

12:01 am  
Blogger Chad in the AZ Desert said...

That IS an adventure. Congratulations! Even with the slower time, it sounds like you had a great time - and that's what it's all about.

3:37 am  
Blogger Ali said...

Congrats and well done ... I don't know how, but you made 45k sound actually kinda enjoyable.

6:56 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wanabelimerickwriter said

Each year he does the 6 foot track
And vows that he will not come back
They give him a buckle
And we quietly chuckle
For we know he will say "One more crack"

4:52 pm  
Blogger iliketoast said...

Not the bellbirds, it's the buckle!

8:31 pm  
Blogger jen said...

Congratulations Ewen on the amazing race. It sounds beautiful and challenging, you described it well. I think that is a very impressive finish time and the belt buckle proves it! Well done out there and great race report. :)

4:37 am  
Blogger IHateToast said...

nice buckle. now when can we be spectin you to wear it with a pair of levis and a flannel shirt at you mosey up to the bar and order yerseff some wild turkey and talk about the whipper snappers who're messin bout with your herd? and maybe there's a sweet young filly out there lookin for a hoss with a boss buckle. maybe her middle name is belle. or lou or lee.

congratulations, ewen. you're the track rustler.

9:44 am  
Blogger martine said...

that sounds like a race that i will love :-)
Cool buckle!
congrats on a great race.
Been a few times to ausieland and one of the first thing i heard was the bellbirds. Funny birds.

9:50 pm  
Blogger Runner Susan said...

Ewen? How is it that you manage to sneak in these fabulous posts when I'm not looking? You kind of make me want to train for a marathon again with this report and I haven't even done any short races yet. Unfair!

Congrats on the belt buckle, Ewen. Get yourself a ten-gallon hat and you can wrangle up some long horns in these here Texas parts. Although, their sound is not quite as lovely as the Bellbird.

6:39 am  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

That is really something to be proud of 6 of these races.

You look like the cat that ate the canary/bellbird in that photo.

Well done old son.

10:40 pm  

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