Kevin Tiller's 2005 12foot Report
I love the 12 Foot Track event for a few reasons, clearly one of which is that I can't run the Six Foot event anymore (I help out on the day) and so its my one day out on the course for the year, but also because its just a great way to get out in some fresh air and run a beautiful course. I think Whippet Man said "There is a good mixture of hard hills, technical trail, wide open fire trail, single track, river crossings, wildlife, views, water points, toilet stops, shops at the half way and long enough to require some night running. It was tough, not bludgeoning tough, but tough enough that you have a significant sense of achievement on completion. And the snow. How magic was that?" (I couldn't say it better so I just copied it). Many people have run the Six Foot Track Marathon, but missed seeing the water tank at Cox's River and at Black Range Campgrounds. I suspect those speedsters miss out on a lot of the beauty.
The other reason I love the event is that for me its a big challenge - generally I am an office-bound, computer-bound, train-bound, stressed out dad-of-3 who does too little training, and is getting scarily close to the dark side of 40 yrs old. Out of 3 previous starts, in order, I have dropped at 82km, made the full 90 and dropped at 55km. On average I fail (actually I don't have the slowest finishing time but its not far off). You could say that 12 foot is my annual Feeding the Rat.
but every year you need to flush out your system and do a bit of suffering. it does you a power of good. i think it's because there is always a question mark about how you would perform. you have an idea of yourself and it can be quite a shock when you don't come up to your own expectations. if you just tootle along you can think you're a pretty slick bloke until things go wrong and you find you're nothing like what you imagined yourself to be. but if you deliberately put yourself in difficult situations, then you get a pretty good idea of how you are going. that's why i like feeding the rat. it's a sort of annual check-up on myself. the rat is you, really. it's the other you, and it's being fed by the you think you are. and they are often very different people. but when they come close to each other, that's smashing, that is. then the rat's had a good meal and you come away feeling terrific. it's a fairly rare thing, but you have to keep feeding the brute for your own peace of mind. and even if you did blow it, at least there wouldn't be that great unknown. but to snuff it without knowing who you are and what you are capable of, i can't think of anything sadder than that. More here
Anyway, this year was par for the course ie perfect. About 5 people said they'd turn up, and 8 runners showed. 4 MTBers said they'd go and 8, 9 or 10 showed (we tend to stay separate). I gave Ken Smith a lift up from Ryde - he is as old as the hills, very knowledgeable and able bush walker. Planning on camping at the finish and going bush walking on Sunday as per last time! I arrived to find Ross and Jill serving breakfast. How often can you turn up to a free run and get a free breakfast ! awesome ! Lucky we got there early (6:35am) as we then started talking to Tim, Whippet Man, Jan, Spud etc as they arrived. Twopennys was passing through and stopped. Mister G sent a txt to say he was running late. Typical that the closest person is the last one! Never mind we never start on time anyway.
Anyway close to 7am, a girl asked if we were going to start on time and I said no (and mentioned Mister G's txt). She asked if she could start at 7am as doesn't like running in the dark. I told her that was fine, but unless she was going to run a course record she'd still finish in the dark. She knew that but wanted to minimise the dark time. She asked if Paul was starting "Paul Every ?" "yes" "no not today". My concern went down - if she Paul then she's be fine. "Is Sean running ?" "yes he'll be here soon" ??????? Maybe she reads CoolRunning. She was dressed in thermals so that looked ok. He coach/crew/partner/whatever filled in some details - she has run 100 miles in 24hrs and has recently done some 80-90km runs. It was looking better.
Mr G arrived and we spent some time taking photos by the Explorers Tree - that's become part of the fat ass tradition - photos at the start and along the course. I just took a handheld at the start and would pick up my other one and bumbag at Megalong at the 8km mark.Then we were off at 7:29am. I think I ran the first 100m with Spud, Mr G and then dropped back with Ken, Whippet and Tim. I stopped for a leak and dropped right back, catching them up again on the fire trail past Nellie's Glen. We trotted along together to the Megalong crossing - seemed very quick. Towpennys said it was +2C at the start and -2C at Megalong. Although it was very icy I felt a warm exhilaration at being there and out running in the bush again (I had a serious of twisted ankles messing me around over the last few months).
I took off with Ross who was running to the river and back. Tim and Whippet were just ahead. The weather had a stunning blue Sky and was quite dry and frosty - great for running. At one point we saw some huge roos right next to the track. That was great. A bit further on, I knew Tim wanted me to show him this tree that has a plaque on commemorating an old six foot tracker who had his ashes buried there (Can't remember his name). We were just running along when I shouted out - "Hey its this tree here" and ran off track by about 10m to go behind a tree (luckily the right one). We had a moment's pause to reflect on what a great place it was, just as Ken came up (it was Ken who showed it to me and Ross last year).
We took off, Whippet and Tim ahead, and Ken behind. We moved quite quickly probably because if the cold. At the river (no idea of time - I don't wear a watch) Ross turned back. It was the lowest I have ever seen it, so quickly got across with dry feet. I saw Whippet and Tim still by the water Tank and table. I filled up the bottle and a half I'd had to here - that was good given the cold. They said Sean had just left so we must be going at an ok pace.
Ken still hadn't come in as me Tim and Whippet left together - however they quickly took off and went out of sight. I must have been making good progress as at the Cattle yards at the top where it sweeps around almost back on itself, I saw them go round no more than 50m ahead of me. I settled into a decent rhythm now and just rolled along. It was getting warmer for sure and I took my gloves off just around the corner. I went over the Alum and little rivers and started the climb up to Pluvi. I stopped close to the bottom and took my thermal top off which was complicated as it was under my CoolRunning Tri-top. It was about here than Ken caught up. I think he was definitely more pleased to see me than I him. But we took off together and it was clear he was the fitter. He walked all the way up Pluvi whilst I jogged the easy bits and walked the harder bits. "Run when you can and walk when you can't" is my motto.
At the top, I hid my headlamp by one of the signposts so that I wouldn't pike out before returning. We continued on together for a while but as we reached a couple of easier sections Ken said he'd jog and that was the last I saw of him. Bugger.
I drifted into my own little world really enjoying the day, although my pace slowed and slowed. Although I had been doing quite a bit of running, I hadn't even done many striders 30kms and my limit was about 2hrs which was well passed. In fact truth be told my pace was closer to walking. I thought it would be a very long day and probably night. So much so that I decided I would probably drop out at Black Range road. I am weird in a way - I have a growing list of DNFs - mainly because I reached the point where I wouldn't be able to run at all and was reduced to walking. Given the object is to run as fast as you can, I just don't see the pint in walking for hours and hours on end and would rather drop, get home quick and see the family.
Anyway I eventually reached Black Range deviation and there was no sign of anyone, one a bottle of water. At least it was one of the ones I put in a drop bag so I didn't feel guilty having it all. If it wasn't mine I would still have taken it all. I knew there was a water tank in the campground and could get more if I needed it, but I didn't. It was a bit of a shit I couldn't drop out, I would just have to go further. Anyway it is a bit wimpy to enter a 90km race and drop at 35km. I knew though that by the time I got to Jenolan everyone would be back at Black Range so I would have to 55km before dropping. Aww who cares. I took off.
I tootled along by myself thinking of all sorts of things. Particularly there was A LOT of snow and ice around. Then I remembered that in all my years of 12 footing, I had always crossed the road before I met the returning runners, so I kept focused until I crossed the road. Magic - you can't call me that slack although I hadn't seen Ken for a while. The Caves side of the road was easier to run on and I made good progress before seeing Spud then Sean (just a few words stopped and spoken with each) then Jan. A longer time with Jan. He said "the girl" was carrying a massive pack out but swapped for a smaller one. Then I saw Whippet and Tim coming out, they hadn't seen "the girl". Then I saw the girl (she only had a small bumbag as far as I could see - but clearly she made it to Jenolan and clearly she knew what the return would be like). Then saw Ken. Shit I was behind. I made it to Jenolan at 3pm (clock in the bar) - 7hrs 30m - pretty slow really. I had a quick can of Solo and a sandwich, loo stop, bottle fill and off in approx 10 mins.
It did feel a bit crazy leaving at gone 3pm with the sun slowly going down. Tim and Jan had both questioned me on whether I would keep going and I was ambivalent - it would depend on how I was going, although to be fair, I was likely to be going Shite-Slow and would pull out. Tim said his wife would be at Black Range and could give me a lift if Sean's mum was quick to leave.
I kept on keeping on - in my mind I was making reasonable progress but knew that I must be pretty slow. In previous runs I made Black Range clearly in the light and it got progressively darker down Black Range Rd until it was dark at Pluvi, however today, I would have to get cracking if I was going to hit the deviation in the light. I figured that the crews would definitely be there in the light but less chance as it got dark (there is a 1-2km dirt road section that most might not like in the dark). Anyway, the upshot was, I got to the deviation in fading light, no FUCKING cars anywhere and I nearly dropped to my knees and cried as there was no FUCKING aid either. The signpost by the campsite had a bag there, maybe that was the aid, so I went back and checked. Yes. As I was the last one I got dibs on everything but in reality I took my water, a swig of a coke bottle and some leftover snakes. I found a note from Tim's wife to call if I need a lift. As part of my "not running with as much crap" I left my mobile at the start, so that was no good. Man I was pissed off, although to be true, I did want an experience to push me to the edge "Feed the Rat" and all that.
Stuff it, I decided to keep going. I got 10 metres before I decided it was pretty much dark now and my torch was 10km up the fire trail so I would get changed now to minimize futzing around in the dark. I put my thermal top back on under my Trip top. Put on my buff-beanie, my gloves, my cycling arm warmers (so I now had 2 layers on my top) and my cycling leg warmers - a bit like tights. They were pulled up high so they came up under my shorts (although I found with running or walking fast they slipped back down - might not use them again).
It was pretty grim going down the black range road at night by myself without a torch. There was a half moon and lots of stars. I decided that if a car drove out I would grab a lift. Fuck I ain't to proud to care. However there was just me and an endless series of roos hopping all over.
I gradually felt myself get colder and colder by degrees the further I went. Eventually though I came close to the end. The "usual panic" - God I have gone too far and missed the sign with my torch - should I bother going back for it, or do the whole thing without my torch. Eventually I snapped out of it, I hadn't gone far enough, 100m more to go, then I found the sign AND my torch AND it work. WOW everything looks a lot better in the light.
However I was cold enough to realise that if I continued the other 26km I would be absolutely frozen by the time I finished and I was a lot slower than the only other time I finished (at around midnight). I was looking at a 3am or 4am finish here. If I fell in a river it could be worse (plenty to choose from - and things get pretty whacky late at night so its quite possible). Actually remembering my scary little episode the first time I did 12 foot when I crossed Cox's River and back and continued in the direction I came from without noticing, ANYTHING could happen!
Or, THE only other option, was to return along Black Range Rd, take the Caves Rd quick exit and hitch a lift back. That was 11 or 12km. There was no real option - it was bad enough to not make the distance (again) and double bad to go down the shitty Black Range Rd a third time today but it did guarantee, pretty much, that I would get lost of killed.
So I turned back. It was a lot quicker with a torch. But it was still very cold indeed. The amazing thing was that earlier in the day I saw precisely none of the km markers we bashed into the ground a few years ago. But on this last return leg, I saw every last one of them, slowly tick by 1km at a time 27km to 34km. I gave a mighty hurrah at the Deviation turn off and in a shirt time I was at the road. My backup plan if no cars came was to go to Hampton or at least the junction with Duck Malloi Rd (more traffic options). However after 5 mins I heard a car coming - three in fact. Despite me rolling down my tights to make it clear I was wearing shorts and frantically waving my hands and light, the wankers didn't even slow down. I decided that whatever way traffic was going I would falg it down. Maybe 20 mins later I heard another car. Luckily he stopped. He clearly though I was a complete dill but said he'd take me to Lithgow. Sounds Good. He dropped me off at the pub (clock on wall was 11:57pm) They had a huge coal fire so I had some chips and defrosted while they called a cab to take me to the start. They were playing a broadcast of the World Championships Marathon (sound on mute) but I was a bit zonked out I think to take any of it in. I guess I made the car by about 1am or so.
I drove home and arrived about 4:15am - having stopped a couple of times for a snooze - I was really stuffed and didn't regret having taken the short option at all. I'll call it 77km - 55km + 10km + 10km + 2km. Hell if that's rounding up a km then so be it.
The rat was well fed this year. I will pay attention to make sure I am fitter next year!