Tim Turner's 2005 12foot Report
A cool clear morning saw 8 people turn out for the annual pilgrimage from Explorer's Tree to Jenolan Caves and back; commonly know as the 12 Foot Track. After a brief pose for photos at the tree and a "ready set go" from Kevin, we were off. It was easy going as we descended down Nellies Glenn stairs then along the single trail until it opened out into the fire trail at the bottom of the valley. The morning was magnificent, it was cool and the puddles were still frozen. For the moment there were 4 of us together (Kevin, Andrew, Ken & myself) running along the fire trail. We ambled on at an easy pace all excited at the day ahead and chatted about all things running. I could not drink from my Camelbak because the water had frozen in the tube, but with that said, I did not feel cold.
Soon enough we arrived at Megalong Valley Road and were greeted by our group of supporters who had lovingly driven our drop bags down there. A quick grab of a few things and then the rest was stashed in a hole in the tree for the return journey. I was already feeling warm enough to remove my top and ran pretty much the rest of the run in a Coolmax T. About 10 minutes out from Megalong Valley is the tree where an ex 6 Foot runner's ashes are. We all stood there for a moment and admired the views from this spot. I could see how a man could love this place so much that he wanted to spend an eternity there.
OK, our moment was over, we had running to do. I took off down the hill and a moment later Andrew flew past me. He was a demon on the down hill! I stuck close as we rollercoasted our way down to the Cox River. As we were nearing the Cox I was busy telling Andrew how we should be able to get across the river without getting our feet wet and in mid sentence he planted his foot into a small puddle soaking one foot. We did manage to rock hop across the river and to the other side without any further drama. As we neared the water tank we could see a coolrunning shirt. We were starting to think Kevin had found a short cut but soon realised that it was Sean about to embark on the accent to Pluvi. We filled our water bottles and had some food and were about to leave when Kevin arrived.
We walked up Mini Mini and once again I forgot how many hills there were and kept telling Andrew that this was the last one. We rock hopped a few streams and then were on the serious climb to Pluvi. Andrew and I chatted so much I was surprised at how quickly we got to the top and even more surprised when my phone started ringing. Funnily enough I was taking to Plu as I reached Pluvi.
We ran/walked to the Black Range Camping Ground where there was still some snow on the ground which just added to the experience. I think we were both running out of food and were getting hungry so we were both looking forward to some of the food in our drop bags. As we arrived we saw a plastic bag tied to a sign. It was part of Andrew's stuff but mine was no where to be seen. I did notice a crow chomping away on something and on closer study, saw it was one of my rock cakes! Well I was bloody hungry and ran after that crow, finally rescuing my rock cake from its grasp. Bit of a dust off, and it tasted fine! We did start to feel a bit worried about the rest of the gear but knew we would cross paths with Sean again when he was on the return trip and sort it all out. My tussle with the crow had Andrew chuckling for the rest of the way down to the caves. As we ran we commented on Phil's 12 Foot race report and how he had reached a "trance like zen state where he glided along", so at intermittent moments one of us would ask the other "have you reached that state yet? The reply was always "nope." In the middle of our act Phil came running by. He was way ahead of us and looking good. He told us that Sean's crew weren't at the Black Range with our drop bags because Sean had sent them on a task to pre order chips for him at Caves House. Well this amused us both and we played on this for quite a while.
We hit the final decent down to the Caves and Andrew took off. He had the pace on the downhill and he was hoping to catch Sean's crew and make sure they left the rest of his stuff back at the Range. I did not want to be too far behind so I tried my best to relax and let gravity do its thing. It is a scary hill to fly down and I prayed for smooth run since a trip would mean hospital. On the way down I saw Sean who was looking strong and determined and a moment later, Jan who said that he was battling his usual issues.
I got to the Caves at 6:05 which was pretty dam close to my plan. At Caves Andrew grabbed a coke and a sandwich and I just filled my camelback. I headed off up the climb, with Andrew to follow after he had eaten. The climb from the Caves is tough and went on forever. We crossed Caves Road and then started to become preoccupied about our drop bags and what we would find. Andrew's head torch was in the gear not to mention the fact that we definitely did not have enough food for the rest of the run. Well our prayers were answered for when we rounded the final corner to the camping ground I said to Andrew how it would be fantastic if not only our was gear was there but also a Blue Ford (meaning Tanya was there waiting). And there it was a Blue Ford with all our gear sitting on the hood. We both let out a sigh of relief.
We were both still in good spirits and chatted with my lovely partner. We ate our fill and stocked up on food for the trip to Megalong Valley. I think I got carried away and my pack felt like it weighed a hundred kilos! The Black Range was met at a steady pace with a few walks. I was surprised at how quickly the Pluvi came up and we decided that with Andrew's downhill speed we would part there. He was out of sight in a minute. I ran as hard as my legs allowed and was happy with the my speed. I could feel a small rock in my shoe but did not want to stop so simply ignored it. A moment later my shoe felt wet. I imagined the blister I had been feeling on the ball of my left foot had burst. I hoped it was a blood blister since that would look good when I showed Tanya my bloody sock later which would further reinforce her belief that I was insane.
Man it is a much nicer experience running down from Pluvi than the usual upward slog. In no time I was at the end and running along the flat between Pluvi and Mini Mini. I was hoping Andrew missed the company and was taking it slow so I kept running. I saw him again on the next up hill and he waited as I caught up. We stopped at one spot where the view of the rolling hills and valleys were lit up by the sunset reflecting off the cliffs. Scattered around were Kangaroos getting their last feed before dark. As we stood there I realised that there wasn't a sound other than the wind in the trees. If Andrew was a girl I would have held his hand at that moment but instead I just said "how cool is this". We decided it was a good time to get out our lights and off we went in the mad dash down Mini Mini.
Dark descended and soon I was engulfed in the small world contained in the beam of my spot light. Running down hill in that small beam of light took all my focus and for a moment everything else ceased to exist. Until the silence of the night was broken by a brief scream only a few minutes ahead. Then suddenly before I could work out what the scream was about I was about to run into a large cow!! I managed to avoid the collision but as I continued down the hill I could hear a sound behind me. I turned to see this big cow madly running down the hill right behind me. I shone the torch at him, yelled and he stopped. Cows freak me out man!!
The Cox had 3 people camping there and I also met up with Andrew again. We sorted our gear and food stuff and then headed out together to cross the Cox and make our way to Megalong Valley Road. As I rock hopped across the river I lost my balance. I teetered there almost about to fall in, when Andrew yelled "don't fall in!" Lucky he said that since I was thinking a nice cool drip in the river would be just what I needed to wake me up. Thankfully I remained dry. As we crossed we were talking about how one year Kevin started crossing and then got disoriented and was uncertain which way he came from. Neither of us could understand how that could happen. Well that was until we realised that at that very moment, we weren't sure where we were and became disoriented ourselves. We finally got over the river and then headed up the wrong track suddenly coming across a gate which was not there in the morning. Backtracking we soon found our error and were on our way toward Megalong Valley Road. For a while I led but I was getting lazy and started to walk even the smallest hill. Then ahead on the track I could see this dark figure coming toward us. I eventually could make out that it was a guy walking down the track without a light. As we got closer we realised it was the husband of one of the runners. He was making his way to the Cox to wait for her. The fact that he was doing it without any torch really blew our minds.
It seemed like a bit of a hike but the first gate gave us a taste of getting closer to the road and picked me up a bit. Once we hit the dirt road I knew we were nearly there and we quickly walked to the storage tree. At the tree we grabbed some more food and drink. I crouched down with my back on the tree to stretch my quads and had an euphoric moment with a couple of Anzac cookies. I could hear Andrew behind me having a similar experience with an orange. I realised at that moment 2 things, firstly I was very tired and could easily have nodded off. Second thing was I was going to make it to the finish.
With 8km to go we set off. I was surprised at how good I was feeling. The road was nice and smooth and did not need much effort to just plod along. Although in our tired state we got muddled a few times when there was more than one track. It was a case of making a simple thing difficult and we both vowed not to even look at another road and to just keep moving in a straight line. This worked well and we happily ran along, walking all hills. After a while Andrew decided to challenge our agreement of simply running in a straight line and started saying we had been going too long and must of missed the track somewhere. I started to believe him and visualise being miles off track and having to backtrack. Then I snapped out of it and told Andrew that he was being silly, this was the only bloody track!
Eventually the track narrowed and we were moving toward the infamous stairs. As we reached the bottom of the first step I grabbed a banana for energy and we headed up. I was not fit for these stairs and they were really tough. I would walk about 5 and then double over and try to catch my breath and then I would repeat. Andrew had no problems and I was divided between hating him for doing it so easily and appreciating the fact that he was waiting for me and offering encouragement. Then I heard Andrew utter the words I had been wishing for "Last stair!". We hit the road and ran the final distance to the end. Where we were greeted by Andrew's wife Wendy waiting in the car.
For me it was not just a long run but also a wonderful adventure and one I will be back for next year. I can only hope for such good company next time.