Posts Tagged ‘foot’


Athlete: Chris Kowalski

6Foot Track Marathon Banner

The Six Foot Track Marathon follows the exact same path as the walking track from The Explorer’s Tree, Katoomba to Jenolan Caves. It is 45.0km. This is basically the same route as been followed since the days of the first European explorers to the area.

The course varies from narrow, rocky track near the start in Nellies Glen, to meadows, sandy gravel track, and dirt fire-trail road – of course with a number of hills (big and small) and rivers (big and small). The course climbs a total of 1,528m and drops a total 1,788m giving a net drop of 260m.

What a fantastic race to do and enjoyed by all of us (after we had finished) I now know why Jane Elton, Kate Summerfield & John Collins decided to go back this year and do the race again.

Alli, Phil Selfe, Kevin Johnson & I had decided to do the 6 ft Track Race after hearing to the stories about the 7hr time limit & the sweepers who are the official runners that are running at the 7 hr cut off time, if they catch you that is it you are out of the race ( to stop people being out there all day). Also we had all done the Comrades race and I think we had that desire to do something a bit different again. Race entries didn’t open until the 1st December 2009 at midnight Sydney time and were capped at 850 runners. Phil, Kevin & I managed to get in but Alli missed out due to waiting until the next morning to do her entry and being surprised that the race had filled in 10 hrs, last year it took a month to fill. Alli was put on the wait list at position 64 so she thought she had no chance of getting in the race. Phil & I were confident that Alli would get in only because last year they accepted up to 70 plus runners from the wait list.

Training started on the 28 November with a 20km run at Darlington and we all wondered how we were ever going to be able to do a Hilly 45km run in March 2010. We trained mostly with the WAMC Saturday morning group which meets at Darlington in the foothills east of Perth mainly to get used to running hills and also to try and find out as much about the race. We also did extra hills on a Tuesday night at interval & then did the group runs and other training runs with our NSRG running mates.3 months later we were ready. Alli & Phil were carrying knee injuries but managed to get through the training..

Alli had managed to get into the race mainly through people withdrawing or those unable to qualify in time. I remember the day that Alli had got the email to say she had got into the race she was so surprised we were all so happy that she was able to join us and her training wasn’t wasted.

Tory and I left Perth on the Thursday before the race and spent a day in Richmond west of Sydney.We used to live there 32 years earlier when I was in the Air force and our eldest daughter Belinda was born in nearby Windsor, it was nice catching up with the places we used to live & did a lot of reminiscing. On Friday we drove to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains and spent some time sight seeing at the 3 sisters lookout whick overlooks the run we would be doing.and catching up with the other runners from Perth and eventually drove to Jenolan caves which is where we were staying and where the race finished.

6Foot Track View6Foot Track Athletes

Race day was Saturday the 13/3/2010 so Friday night was the pasta loading party and we were all trying to eat as much as we could but only managed a plate and a half before I was done. We were all tempted by the great desserts and Simon & Tory had a good taste and Phil also had a huge plate. Because we were staying at the finish point of the race we had to be up early next morning to catch the bus to the start line so we all agreed to meet out the front of our accommodation at 5am.

After a very restless night thinking about the race and not failing to finish etc the alarm went off at 4.15 am and I was dressed and had some food and out the front Alli was standing there ready to go I think this was the first time ever she had been ready first. The bus rides was to take an hour and a quarter so we had lots of time to think and talk & get a bit more nervous. The bus had to make a unscheduled stop due to a toilet break for one runners, he got a clap when he got back on the bus. We finally arrived at the start point and the morning was very cool and misty, we headed for the toilet and a cup of tea and damper as we still had over an hour before our wave of runners started.

They have 4 waves of runners because the track is so narrow and after about 400 mtrs you go down 800 steps to the valley floor. After seeing a couple of waves start and giving them a big cheer it was our turn to line up and wish each other luck & then the gun fired and we were off. The first thing you notice is how rough the track is and once you go across the timing mat you are onto the sandy rocky track. Phil & I were together and we came to the steps and it was walking pace down

6Foot Track Walking Down6Foot Track Walking Down

and being very careful not to slip and the steps were wet and muddy we heard and saw a few people slip and fall but luckily not hurt.

Finally at the valley floor we could finally start to stretch the legs out but had to look down the whole time as to not trip. We were checking our pace on our garmin watches and we were running at 5 min / km pace we both said too fast but do you think we would slow down. The terrain was starting to open up and finally we came to our first style over a fence and through a paddock. We knew the first major hurdle would be the river crossing at 15kms so I was not sure how deep the water was going to be but the rumour was that it would be up to our chest at the deepest point. As we were getting closer to the river we could hear the water and the trail got really narrow and technical and very much like the Eagle view trail that some of you have done. I really enjoyed that part and was loving the run. People were coming up behind but couldn’t pass because it was so narrow and rocky.

Finally we came to the Cox river crossing you were able to hold onto the rope across the river and the marshal said its deep in the middle so I took my carry belt off and I had my camera in my hand and then no spare hand to hang onto the rope luckily the current wasn’t too strong and kept the camera dry and only put my Garmin in the water once but it kept working I even managed to take a photo of Phil in front of me. Out of the water and there was the official photographer taking shots of us looking like a drowned rat.

6Foot Track Going Through River

Phil started to get away from me here and that was the last I was to see of him until the finish. I remember looking at the course profile during our training that the hills would start now but I wasn’t really ready for the constant climbing that was going to happen for the next 11 kms to the top of the Pluviometer hill at a height of 990m. During our training we were told not to smash your legs by trying to run the hills and save them for later. I thought in was a reasonable walker but I was being found out and lots were going past me and I thought what a long day this will be. I was starting to get a bit stressed about taking so long and at the halfway point it had taken me about 3hrs .15 mins

6Foot Track

The next section to the caves road at 37 kms included more hills and longer sections of almost flattish sections with shorter hills included. I continued to walk run and tried to maintain some sort of reasonable pace but as soon as I came to a hill I was back walking. Being ever alert and not being able to take in the ever changing scenery because of the roughness of the track and soon saw a female runner in front of me stumble and fall heavily to the ground I thought she had broken her leg as it was tucked up under her but she said she was ok and we were told to keep going.

6Foot Track

17 Drink station were located at strategic places on the course and manned by the volunteer fire brigade,each station had a mix of drinks available, water, coke, energy drinks and food, mainly fruit & sweets which was great. First aide was also on hand if required. They were also taking note of your race number and if someone was lost they would know that you had made it to the previous station but not the next so could cut down the search area if required. I remember one drink station was manned by people in fancy dress and a witch tried to give me poison.

I finally reached the caves road crossing at the highest point of the course 1215m. It had taken me 5hrs to this point and I knew I would be able to finish within the 7hr cutoff and possibly within the 6 hrs that I had hoped for . Only 7kms to go and the last 3 kms was down hill. I was so looking forward to not to be running up hills. Chatting to runners as I do they were warning me of the last 3kms and the steep decent & the slippery loose rock track and the pounding the quads would take. Just to add to the fun there was a big drop off at the edge of the track if you went over the edge you would end up wrapped around a tree. I really didn’t want anything bad to happen now to have done so much and not be able to finish. I made sure I kept my feet and kicked a few rocks and managed to keep upright. I continued to run and was passing lots who had reduced their run to a walk. I thought come on now is the time to keep running but carefully. All of a sudden I heard a runner coming up quickly behind me and he was trying to stop but the momentum was just pushing him on and I thought this is going to end up very ugly, somehow he managed to get under control and didn’t fall.

6Foot Track

I could see the top of the caves House accommodation and was able to hear the PA address. Looking at my watch I saw that I still had 10 minutes to get under 6 hrs. The last section to the finish line is a zig zag path. Turning the last corner to the finish line I heard my name called out and saw Phil, John, & Kevin didn’t see Alli or Jane or Kate. I gave then all a hand slap and went through the finish line in 5hrs.54m.

6Foot Track House

Job done, what a hard long day, but worth it. I finally found Tory and gave her a kiss and then, It suddenly hit me what a tough day it really had been and how great it was too have finished such a tough race and then the happy tears started to flow.

6Foot Track Finish - Chris

We waited to see Alli & Jane come through the finish. not too long after me. Alli had a great big smile on her face and had done really well with her knee injury.Jane ran very strong and is in training for another Comrades run in May. Unlucky for Kate she didn’t make it to the end because of a fall early in the race but persisted until being caught by the sweepers at the Pulvometer hill. That’s 2 years in a row that Kate hasn’t finished, she is going back next year and will succeed I am sure.

6Foot Track Finish - Alli

Phil had a fantastic race and shows even a worn out knee could not stop him doing what he loves. John and Kevin had good runs also they seemed a little disappointed but that will be only temporary.

We all met up at the pub after refreshing and had a well deserved drink and talked about the run. We said it was like an off road version of the Comrades marathon only half the distance but made harder by the severity and length of the hills. Some said they would do it again. I definitely would. It was such an awesome race to do with everything I enjoy about running. Overall we had a fantastic trip away with great people and Caves House was a great place to stay and visit.

6Foot Track Caves House