Ken Smith's 2006 12foot Report
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Many thanks to all those who make this into such a memorable day each year.
Another year, another attempt, another finish, again a PB. But still a long way from my expectations. Each year I have expected between 15 and 16 hours; but my times have been 19:20 (sleepiness), 19:00 (severe dehydration) and now 17:43 (digestive shutdown and thus moderate dehydration). Each year I have had no trouble arriving at the Caves spot on my schedule; this year I expected about 7, did 6:59 comfortably and turned wondering what the evening would bring.
As I had started early at 6:30am the leaders of the field had overtaken me on my way to the Caves and I had dropped down the last hill with Glenn and Lawrence. They soon drew away from me as we walked back up the hill. Back on the Mt George fire trail Jan and Louis passed on their way down.
Arriving at the Black Range Camping Area alone as always, I took my longest and last intended break of the day. Filled my hydration pack for the last time, put on track pants and another top layer. I well remembered how cold it got after dark last year, but as it turned out this year it was much more mild. My aim in starting earlier this year was to leave the Pluvio before dark, did that and enjoyed the downhill jog to Little River. It was as I started the climb out from Alum Creek that I got out my light. (Spud had said about the PT Apex - "simply awesome" - I bought one and I agree).
By the time I got close to the Cox it was obvious I was a few minutes behind what I had hoped for but only a few minutes and they were only hopes; expectations were still well in hand. It is my extensive experience that those who move in the bush as pedestrians are no threat to me. But the Cox R camping area is accessible to vehicles and I prefer to pass through unobtrusively. This year however I was challenged - "Who's there?", "Who are you?". What interest did they have in impeding my progress? Who were they? Their lights started coming towards me then I heard the stampede of feet as they ran towards me. "Is it Ken?" What, somoone knows my name! It was Glenn! But he'd drawn away from me minutes from the Caves! He explained he'd done a KT and hadn't found his way across the Cox. Poor Glenn, but at least he had known others were behind him! No worries now. I'd got across OK the last two years each time in a poor state so now should be a piece of cake.
We started the climb away from the Cox with me in front; I knew the track well and I had the stongest light. Approaching Pinnacle Hill I began to feel a little queasy, warned Glenn and about ten minutes later brought up most of the liquid I'd consumed for an hour or two. Goodbye expectations, hello this year's problem. Digestive overload, no liquid uptake leading to dehydration. So we'd lost a few more minutes by the time we reached Megalong Rd. Walking along the road towards Nellies I had intense feelings of sleepiness. Had I not had company I would have sat down and slept; eventually I told Glenn to go on by himself, that he only had one track to follow.
I sat down for about ten minutes but didn't really sleep, stood up and plodded forward, deciding to get to the single track leading to the stairs before my next stop. Got there and slept for about 20 minutes. A few minutes after I'd started walking again I heard shouts from above. It couldn't be anyone else, it had to be us. I continued walking forward and upward and observed a light coming down and towards me. It was Glenn, not as I had assumed concerned about my state, but reporting he'd come to a dead end on the track. Yes, there were a couple of places where the track was less than clear but with my stonger light and experience we slowly found our way to the top of the stairs. It was up the stairs that I struggled, my moderate dehydration becoming apparent. When I felt the need I would stop to regain my breath, Glenn would stop with me then urge me on, and we would move up to my next stop. Eventually we got to the railing, I slumped over it and Glenn continued confident he knew the way from there.
I moved about thirty metres up from the railing and sat down. I needed a long break to really regain my breath. Glenn had urged me up the stairs faster than I could cope in my state. After about fifteen minutes I was comfortable and was ready to move when I heard the magic sound of footsteps coming up the last of the stairs closing on the finish of their long day. I turned on my light and the luminous outline of someone appeared around the corner from the stairs and said "Friend or foe?". It was Jan. He hauled me to my feet and we walked up to the Tree. A PW for him, a PB for me.