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2008 6FT

6 Foot Track March 16, 2008

Six Foot of pain

Nearly a week after the event and I still haven't recovered. A 
running friend (well now presumably ex-friend!) told me I had a bad 
run at 6' because I'd gone soft. There are few things an ultra runner 
hates more than being called soft. The inexcusable macho undercurrent
that pervades our egos denies us recognition of our weaknesses. But I 
don't think it was softness. I think I just had a crap run. My 
greater concern is the implications for my long term training build- 
up for Hardrock. Am I just not as fit as I thought I was or am I 
still too early in my training to be racing. Oh, and I think the 
punishing run at Maroondah 3 weeks before took a toll.
When things go wrong, they really go wrong. I seldom fall in a race 
but the jarring impact of hitting the hard packed gravel road sent 
more than pangs of pain through my body. It signaled to me that 
things were not right. I should have cleared that creek easily so 
early in the race. Instead I hit the far bank with both feet, not as 
I should have with just one, then vaulted sideways gouging a sizable 
chunk out of my knee on the rocks as I hit the ground. After 
recovering from the shock, I looked around furtively, surprised that 
no-one was in sight, and scampered off trailing blood and spilt ego.

I had lined up behind Dog and by the time we hit the start timing mat 
I was buried in the crowd. I let gravity pull me gradually through 
the field until there was only a couple of runners in front of me. We 
hit the sharp right hand turn and I could see the stairs. I could 
easily be first onto the stairs but I didn't want the pressure of 
holding all 200 wave 2 runners up, so I slipped in behind another 
guy. We skipped our way down the stairs at break-neck speed. Flash 
from the photographer was just a blur. We caught wave 1 runners half 
way down. They moved over quickly at the sound of us charging 
through. The guy in front zigged when he should of zagged and I was 
now in front. We were passing people constantly. I heard Dog not far 
behind me. There was a clear gap when I chanced a glance back so I 
knew I wasn't holding anyone up.

I hit the rocky pools at the end of the stairs and splashed past more 
wave 1 runners picking their way through. I was moving fast but well 
within my comfort zone for downhill. Through the trees along the 
single track. Still more runners. But they let me pass easily with a 
clear signal on my approach. And then we hit the open fire-trail and 
I backed off. I caught up to another wave 2 runner. It didn't 
register until later but he couldn't have started with us or he would 
have been behind me. I'm sure I was second onto and first off the 
stairs for wave 2 yet I was catching him now? I ran with him until I 
heard Dog's characteristic heavy footfalls behind me. I lifted my 
pace to match Dog. I sat with him for a couple of hundred metres. 
"Don't start match racing me already" he said. No danger of that, he 
was flying along. I eased back to a more comfortable pace. Either he 
was going to run a blinder or blow up spectacularly. It would end up 
being the former. He deserved it. That had been my plan: go hard or 
go home. But my legs felt empty. There was nothing there. My week of 
rest to settle some glute tendinopathy hadn't freshened me up at all. 
Re-adjust the thinking; 4:30 was out of the question. Look for 4:45 
maybe but try and stay under 5hrs. If I could just hold it together.

I had a clear run to the river but still only got there about 
1:20ish. A gazillion people passed me as I was leaving the 
checkpoint. I just walked the hills. Even that was a disaster as 
walkers flew up the hill and I just plodded along. Ran with a guy 
doing the South American (?Chilli) desert run in a few weeks. He was 
spinning out some newbies so I added to the entertainment by 
mentioning Western States and HR. Spud caught me somewhere around 
here, going up Mini. I tried to hang on but my guts were playing up 
now as well. This could get really ugly.

The climb to Pluvi seemed short but I was happy with that. I had 
already started cramping lightly in the medial quads coming off Mini. 
I felt more twinges as I started running Black Range Road. The 
traditional coke at Pluvi did little to energise me. The road was 
thick with runners. I was passing some and being passed by others. I 
walked sections and my stomach churned while cramps threatened to 
steal my leg function. I would cramp in the quad and the hammy of the 
same leg at the same time. How could I stretch that out? I managed to 
hold pace with a young lady runner for some time. The light 
conversation punctuated my malaise. She fell back and I pushed on, 
trying to keep momentum. Twitey passed me about where I passed him 
last year in his post C2K delirium. He warned that C2K would trouble 
me for some time. I think it had more to do with Maroondah 3 weeks 
ago. But I wasn't giving in that easily.

The Deviation checkpoint arrived and I looked tentatively at the 
portaloo. I decided to keep going but saw the toilets in the camp 
ground and made a bee-line for them. I lost more than a few minutes 
but felt somewhat better. I climbed the gate and back on the trail I 
put my ipod on and tried to run hard, hoping my stomach would now 
settle. Cramps grabbed me periodically but with the Angels blasting 
in my ears I climbed to Caves Road and set about finishing this race. 
The undulations on the singletrack suited me fine but cramps stopped 
me from getting any rhythm going. I kept hanging on behind Moh and 
another guy who had repassed me while I was in the loo. Past the 
cabins and I looked at my watch. I was still a chance at sub 5 hours. 
But I would have to run hard. My calves were getting sore from the 
twisting on the rough descants. I knew the long, steep final descent 
was really going to hurt. I turned the music up and pushed hard. The 
track started plummeting down into the valley. I was flying over the 
loose rocks, past runners picking their path cautiously down the 
trail. My calves screamed with each wrenching twist or roll of my 
ankle on the rough terrain. Past Moh and his mate. Past a lot of 
other runners. Onto the narrow path. Someone shouted a warning to me. 
I had pulled my earphones off to hear the cheers rising up from the 
finish-line far below. There was no easing back. I hit the little 
rise just before the cobblestones. Another photographer carefully 
placed to catch my pain. A young guy I had been leapfrogging for an 
hour or more slotted in behind me. He saw me look at my watch as we 
hit the made path. "Will we make it?" he asked. "I won't die 
wondering," I replied as I grabbed the handrail to sling myself 
around the hairpin corner. Bam, bam, bam. My stiff legs jammed into 
the hard surface as fast as i could make them. Another photographer. 
I was streaming spittle and sweat as I sucked in big breathes in a 
mad pitch for the finish. I braced myself for the final turn off the 
stairs onto the road, knowing I would cramp. I did but I grimaced and 
pushed for the line. There were people cheering but the noise wasn't 
reaching my ears. My legs were screaming but the pain wasn't reaching
my brain. My world was reduced to that timing mat under the finish 
clock. I ran as hard as I could and beat 5 hours by about 40 seconds.

I had said I would leave nothing in the tank. I didn't. On a day that 
people were PB'ing all over the place I was just glad to finish. No 
PB. Just sore legs and satisfaction to have managed to salvage a sub 
5 from a very ordinary day. But 6' is about more than the race. The 
post race socialising and watching others finish makes it all worth 
the effort. That same friend (or ex-friend) gave me another little 
pearl when bagging me about my average performance. When asked about 
why he doesn't do something else instead he merely said: because I'm 
a runner. And that's what I am. And 6' is a great place to run, and 
test that theory. I guess I'll just have to "suck this one up". 4:59:19