Nothing, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for this day! It was without any doubt at all, the most demanding, most difficult and at the same time, most beautiful & rewarding run I've experienced in 25 years of running. I have no words to describe adequately my emotions & feelings about it, so most of it will remain locked away somewhere , whevever great memories & emotions of special days & very special people lie hidden, waiting to be recalled, looked at & thought about for years to come. I am in total awe of those who can actually race this course & I aim to see it happen in March 2006, as a spectator!
I must say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to Wildthing & husband Mr WT, without whom none of us would have made it to the finish : their support with food, water especially, which we'd run out of (bad!), tins of creamed rice (very good!), Smith's Chips (very, very good : stuffing them into my mouth; salt saving my life!), encouragement at each meeting place, hours of waiting by Mr WT for us to finish, the long drive getting us all back to our Katoomba motel & for them, home to Sydney; for making my dream of running 6ft track come true : Wombatface, FlashDuck, Peter; and for joining us for part of the way : Horrie, Belinda & Chonky. I'm sure their blogs will give all the tehnical details far better than I, so I won't try here!
I'll never know why, but I started the day with a huge English style breakfast : sausage, bacon, omlette, grilled tomato & mushrooms, french toast; everything I could load onto the plate , everything I had never eaten before & this for someone who usually doesn't eat anything before a long run & who knows never, ever to try anything new on 'the day'!
Special moments, sights & sounds I recall & mention briefly here : a wet, misty, slippery, but beautiful start down the hundreds of steps through the rainforest to Nellies Glen; down (everything's 'down' at this stage!) the track to Megalong Valley; listening to the exquisite sound of bell birds singing all round us as the track opened out; the rain stopping & the sun shining through for our long run through open grassland where a herd of about 20 cows with a couple of calves stopped chewing & just stood watching in dumb amazement as we ran past! Much later in the day, the startling blue colour of the aptly named Blue Mountains; the sound of thunder & the lightning that lit up the dark evening sky as another storm approached. No words are fit to describe the beauty of the country we ran through..... the streams, waterfalls, towering cliffs & bottomless valleys, forests filled with birdsong and, the best of all possible things in the best of all possible countries ....stillness & silence!
While Ewen, Peter & Belinda detoured to experience walking across & back on the terrifying Suspension Bridge, Horrie ran ahead with FD & I continued on down to Cox's River, which struck me as being an impassable, raging torrent! FD had already got across & after a futile attempt clambering onto some boulders, Horrie & I said : to hell with this & just stepped into the fast moving, nearly waist high water & walked across! Little did I know that there would be 3 more creeks where we would all do exactly the same thing & enjoy the wondrous feeling of cold water on hot tired feet; I would have given anything each time, to have sat down in it & stayed there! And so said all of us!
I think from here on my memory has deliberately decided to be vague! I thought I knew what hills were; I thought I ran them just about every day; I thought the steepest hill I would ever run was the one coming up Range Road from Glenquarry; I thought, that even if I was incorrect about all of these things, that hills did eventually come to an end; wrong, wrong, wrong & wrong again! They were brutal, almost vertical, rock-strewn, wet, slippery clay & with long sections of single file goat track up & down, on & on, & where one false step could send a person over the edge. It was like this all the way to Mini Mini & the Pluviometer & thence onwards to the Deviation!! I recall a long distance where Ewen had hold of my hand the whole time & at another time was even pushing me onwards & upwards! FD carrying my now empty Fuel Belt to lighten my load! ......(even though we'd filled our water bottles at the tank at Cox's River, we'd just about used it all up & were 'hanging out' to get to Mr WT's Pajero!); I remember seeing 2 red-belly black snakes slithering silently out of our way off the track; & somewhere along this section I can most definitely recall having a very bad patch & having to sit down under a tree & shedding a few tears of exhaustion &........ the first thoughts creeping in of DNF!
There was more to come! Struggling with this freakish uphill terrain I started to feel stomach cramps (big Enlish breaky on the way up!)....sick! sick! sick! until finally, with FD beside me, I sat down & said: "I'm finished! I can't go any further" & I knew for the very first time what it's like to have to think seriously about the probability of pulling out; it was like some terrible shock : "I'm not going to make the finish! After all this waiting & preparation & so many people giving up their weekend to be with me." I couldn't believe it might happen & never felt so certain that it would.
I even began to anticipate & relish the thought of someone coming by, picking me up, driving me back & putting me down on a lovely soft cool bed & leaving me to die peacefully in my sleep! Instead of this romantic idea happening, I came up with another idea : a most thunderous & glorious vomit of every morsel of my hearty English breakfast!! Poor FD......she was sympathetic but speechless! Understandable! But for me, after 3 mighty heaves, it felt like a bright new day was dawning!
Happily ever after, I came good & was ready on my feet, walking, again uphill until the WTs (alerted by Ewen & Peter, I think) drove the Pajero up the worst & narrowest section of the Pluvio track/large rocks, brought water (I'll never know what stopped me from crawling into the Pajero & saying good-bye to everyone, but I didn't!), turned the car round (how did he do that without going off the edge?) & waited for us to arrive at the designated lunch area. Here, whilst the others ate, I stretched out on the back seat of the car, had my pulse taken by papamedic WT (God bless her forever!); I expected the pulse rate to show I was clearly about to die; instead it showed that I was in perfect health! So no excuse for stopping! WT saw that I drank small amounts of water regularly, ate some vanilla flavoured creamed rice ( good stuff after you've just thrown up everything else) & then up & start to walk/jog again! From there, I felt a whole lot healthier, being minus the breakfast I shouldn't have had when I'm not having a breakfast! With WT running with us now, we waved another of many good-byes to the Pajero & Mr WT who would drive off & wait further ahead to give WT a drink (saving her carrying anything), fill our bottles if we needed it & hand out packets of salted crisps - manna from heaven!
From the Deviation right to the finish I jogged/walked, jogged more than I thought I'd be capable off, felt excited most of the time, tired some of the time & sometimes terrified of the descent - I love this section though, just as I did from the start to Nellies Glen - even though again it was extremely tricky & narrow : slippery, so easy to fall & end up at the bottom of the valley, seemingly endless rock strewn path along single file sections; but I was safe with Ewen in front & Peter at the back of me!! And I knew the finish was coming closer; it would happen after all! I could 'smell' the finish line & nothing would stop me now as I ran the final steps down to Jenolan Caves House. I had had only one small slip & slide in the mud & one other 'gentle genuflection' earlier in the day, but nothing more than that the entire distance.
To have finished 6ft Track at all, and in a running/lots of walking time of 8 hours 13 minutes, I still can't believe! The fact that I can barely walk today, such is the soreness of my quads & glutes especially, doesn't matter at all!
Because....... there we were, standing together on the last step into Jenolan Caves while Mr WT took a photo & then........ we just quietly walked to the finish together : Ewen, FlashDuck, Peter, Wildthing & Chickybabe who, because of the selflessness & generosity of just a few Cool Runners, reached for the stars & was able to touch one.