Phil Murphy's 2006 12foot Report
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In the days leading up to this years race I debated whether to run hard with the Glasshouse 100 miler just 3 weeks later. I decided to stick to my original plan of going hard, after I weighed up both races. 12FT is a very special run to me and I figured I would be in with a fair chance of beating last years time of 11.26. When your fitness is good, why not give it a bash I figured.
Saturday morning was beautiful, what we've kind of come to expect at the start. It was crystal clear and cold but not as cold as last year. Ross and Jill were there preparing their annual brekkie for us, which is always very welcome. It was good to see Blue Dog and Horrie take up the challenge this year too, along with 12FT legend Kieron Thompson making an appearance. And so with only 9 starters for the full trip and three others taking up shorter versions, it's amazing we struggle to get much more than about a dozen runners each year?
We enjoyed some banter along with our hot coffee and jam crumpets and after a delayed start waiting for Sean and Mel to turn up we made our way to the Explorers Tree for the customary start photo. I looked at the tree and imagined how I'd feel arriving back there later in the day.
Start to Cox River
We were off at 7.20am making our way to Nellies Glen. Tim, Andrew and myself lead the pack out, gingerly trotting down the steps. When we arrived at the bottom I looked behind to see Blue Dog had joined us leaving the others in his wake.
As we strode through Megalong valley, I couldn't help but feel a sense of relief we were finally on our way. I started to enjoy the morning air and shared a laugh with my fellow team Mellum. We arrived at Megalong Rd bang on 45mins (same split as last year) and quickly grabbed our camelbaks and drop bags from Sarge's car (thanks mate) We bid Ross and Jill farewell and then stuffed our drops in the tree hollow for later. As we made our way to Pinnacle Hill there was a light covering of frost on the ground, very nice. I started to pull away from the others here as we climbed the hill. I was hoping for a similar split to the Cox as last year, around 1.28. I felt great as you do early on and was setting a good pace along the singletrack that skirts the river. I crossed a low flowing river in 1.25, a bit faster than I wanted.
Cox River to Pluviometer
Ran straight to the tank and filled my pack, and made my way to the Mini Mini climb while munching on vegemite saladas. The climb went well, I felt strong. I passed Ken Smith who had left earlier and was walking strongly. I gathered a bit more pace on the descent to Alum Creek and on to Little River, one of my favourite parts of the course where I managed to stay dry at the crossings. Climbing Pluvi I recalled how I always find this climb easier than the Mini Mini climb, probably because your well and truly warmed up for it. Chonky appeared coming down Pluvi on his bike a short while later, it was 2.30 into the run.
A group of bikers came flying up the hill churning up a monstrous cloud of dust, I wasn't very happy sucking that in, which seems to be part and parcel of 12FT now I guess.
The trail started to break up and was very dry as I approached the top and I was glad I had decided to wear my Trabucos with their more assured footing an grip. 2.57 at Pluvi, no mountain bikers here this year, they were well and truly on their way to Caves after leaving a good 10 minutes before us. So I was now 3 minutes up on last years split and still feeling ok but what lies ahead is the dreaded Black Range.
Pluviometer to Jenolan Caves House
I ran some and I walked some. I went through a big low about half way to Deviation where I was feeling the early pace. I knew Mel would be at Deviation in another 3-4 km and this buoyed my spirits somewhat. I had a can of creamed rice and some powerade waiting for me. I eventually arrived there in 3.56, (same as last year) so I had lost 3 minutes along the Black Range. Mel helped fill my pack as I downed the rice and powerade. I had no idea how far behind the others were and decided to get moving as soon as I could. Mel mentioned to me as I left, that if I was quick enough she might still be there on my way back. I thought she was joking.
Feeling somewhat recovered from the Black Range blues I made good time to the climb before Caves Rd. No snow this year but still quite cool. I had been playing with my thermal long sleeve top all day, considered taking it off on the warm climbs only to feel a chill again on the flats. I decided it was working well just adjusting the ventilation on my CR top, with its near full length zip.
I crossed Caves Rd in 4.24 still two minutes behinds last years split. Such a difference running 12FT to the official 6FT race in March, where this crossing is full of supporters cheering the runners on. There were a few bikers there who gave me a strange look.
I quite like the run along Caves Rd with its gentle undulations and was looking forward to the Mt George firetrail (sick I know) which signalled the descent to the Caves House. I backed off a little on the run down, as I did last year attempting to save some energy for the return trip. I hit the bitumen in 5.06, exactly one minute behind last years split.
I made for the restaurant and luckily there was only one other person getting served at the hot food bar. I had enough water in the camelback to get me back to Deviation so just bought a can of coke to go with the hot spuds for the climb back out. 4 mins later I was out of there happily munching away. One couple asked me where I had run from. When I told them Katoomba and that I was heading back there they shook their heads in disbelief (as I too have done in the past, mind you).
Jenolan Caves House to Deviation
A short time later I saw Tim hurtling down to the caves. He was looking strong and determined. I mentioned to him that the chips were good. He was about 10 minutes behind me I figured. I thought I better get a wriggle on. Trouble was there is no "wriggling on" on that bloody climb. It's head down and slog away. I came across Andrew shortly thereafter and he mentioned that Tim was hot on my trail and determined to catch me. I was so proud of my fellow "mellumites" in the top three and running very well. I found the climb to be less arduous this year however and did make good progress to the top. Blue Dog came blazing down the fire trail next and we exchanged high fives as we passed. I was expecting Horrie next and was surprised instead to see Lawrence. I broke into a run again once at the top and then passed Horrie who looked very focussed. Ken and Jan then Louis passed by in succession all looking determined. I knew that was the last of the runners in that direction and thought it would be a lonely trip to the finish.
My split last year back to Caves Rd was 6.19, so when I arrived there in 6.14 I was delighted. I knew the biggest climb for a while was now behind me and I could concentrate on cruising to Deviation. On one of the downhills I landed full foot in a hole up to my ankle in wet mud. I misjudged my line whilst passing alongside a puddle and sunk, all good fun I smiled to myself. I walked the next incline and then got back into a trot back the way to Deviation arriving in 6.37, five minutes up on last year. Mel was indeed still there along with Sean (who pulled up with some cramp issues), Chonky and Tanya. I retrieved my drop bag along with headlamp from Tanya's boot and stashed a bottle of coke in the back pocket of my CR top. I devoured another can of creamed rice and quickly grabbed some more S&V chips while Mel refilled my pack. These guys make a hell of a difference to your finish time, having support at Deviation is a big advantage on this course. I spoke briefly with Sean and the others before bidding them farewell and continuing.
Deviation to Cox River
I was now feeling very good, confident I could maintain this pace and give my time from last year a good nudge. I love the run back along the Black Range, with the inevitable plunge down Pluvi where there is a lot gravity fed downhill running to be had. If your legs are still up to it at this stage and the quads aren't completely smashed you can make good time along here. This is what I fully intended on doing. I figured if I was going to win today I would need to run hard here and on to the river. I did run hard but still had to walk a little to the top of Pluvi disturbing a few roos along the way and splitting there in 7.35.
The first section down Pluvi as I mentioned before is quite rocky and broken up, so I was carefully picking my line going down. Once past the crappiness I opened up and ran as hard as I could to Little River and on to Alum Creek. The crossing was fine again except for some stingers in the bush cutting my legs up as I tried to take a short cut across the first crossing. The water felt good here and I was tempted to stop for a while and just sit there. The flat section along the creek is great underfoot, soft and moist, a nice relief for aching muscles after running fast down a dry, hard packed fire trail. Once at Alum Creek I prepared myself for the climb. I ate a muesli bar and downed a gu in readiness. There is a great opportunity to assess where you are here, in terms of position.
Looking back from the top of the climb you can see trail going off in the distance back a long way. I couldn't see anyone and figured I was still moving along fairly quickly. There were no cows on the trail at Alum Creek this year so no bovine adventures to speak of.
Climbing back up Mini was tough as I was trying to keep a fast walk happening as I even jogged some of the gentler inclines. I passed the winding section around the cattle yards and recalled how a runner in the 6FT had taken the "short cut" on his way down the hill in March. The body was holding up well with no pronounced aches or pains just a general all over fatigue. I guess the one thing I could say was hurting more than anything else was my gut muscle from bashing it downhill.
Reaching the top of Mini is a nice feeling; it's downhill now to the river. The trail is deeply rutted in places and you must choose your path very carefully if you're going full pelt. I flew down to the river; the views back to the Katoomba and Kedumba Wall escarpments again truly wonderful at this time of the day. Once at the river I made for the tank and refilled my pack quickly, stepped across the river via the rocks quite easily and started the climb out. My split was 8.40, which put me back at 5 minutes ahead of last years split. Great, now just maintain some running to Megalong and beyond.
Cox River to Explorers Tree
I found the climb up along the river a lot easier this year and ran heaps more of it than last. I munched away on a muesli bar as I did the maths on where I might be able to get to before dark. My goal was to see if I could reach Nellies Glen before dark, this would require getting to Megalong Rd in 9.50 or so. I passed through the few locked gates along the singletrack and headed for Pinnacle Hill enjoying the late afternoon. There were some horses along trail a short while later happily munching away on some grass. I trotted past unnoticed.
I was now looking forward to the coke I had stashed earlier in the day in the tree hollow at Megalong Rd and couldn't wait to get it into me. One last incline, a gentle down and Megalong Rd appeared, I could see the tree in the distance. Split was 9.51, perfect. The coke went down well, albeit I burped my way for the next few kms, at least my stomach was still working. So now it was just a matter of head down and keep running to see how far I could get without the assistance of a headlamp.
I must admit to going places (mentally) I have never been before along this section. I was tired, my legs were now screaming for me to ease up, but I decided to push the envelope and see what would happen. At worst I would slow to a walk and then just have the climb up Nellies. I was thrilled to run all the way to the foot of the climb before turning my light on and had made good time on last year through his section.
Nellies climb was woeful; I was on hands and knees begging for it to end. I turned off my lamp and looked around at one stage to see if I could pick up any of the guys' headlights in the distance. Nothing, but pitch black, I could barely see 3 feet in front of me. The steps were wet and endless. I looked up after every 4 or 5 praying for the end, such time suckers those steps. I finally saw the fence at the top and felt relieved. Now only the short run to the finish. I switched my headlamp to full bore as I neared the bitumen of Nellies Rd. Another hundred metres or so and then I hear a clap and cheer. Tanya and Marie were there waiting for Tim to come in. It was a nice touch as it's normally the loneliest place in the world at that time. I ran past them and headed for the Explorers Tree and the official finish line. Hit the stopwatch with 11.12, grabbed the railing, touched the tree and took a moment to reflect.
I had done it, beaten last year's time by 14 minutes with a very encouraging run, especially the back half. Splits both ways were 5.06 and 6.06.
I caught up with Tanya and Marie before changing into some warm clothes and heading off home. Later I reflected on what I could do to improve this time. It will be damn hard as I don't see where I can make 12 more minutes up in order to go sub 11. This made me think about the only two 12FT legends that have managed to do just that, Jonathon Worswick and Kieron Thompson, total respect guys. Hmmmâ€¦. to join that club would be very nice indeed, 12 FT in daylight does sound appealing.
Some very fine runs and some very gutsy runs were had on the day and I was pleased to see all those who intended on doing the full distance had finished. Thanks again to those who came out to lend a hand on the day, truly appreciated guys.