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1999 Mt Wilson to Bilpin
by Sean GreenhillAugust 1999
Steve Montgomery and I arrived at Mt Wilson, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, at about 8.30. We'd driven to Bilpin (in Monty's car) then caught the bus. Silvana Plana Reserve, where we started, was a wide flat expanse of grass swept by a breeze that made a chilly morning even worse. All the usual crowd were there- the Tillers, Darryl Chrisp, Monty and Crofty from work, and plenty of other familiar faces.
I didn't know anything about the course, though it had been called a "sister race" of Six Foot Track. There was a pretty nasty escarpment descent and climb like the other race, but they weren't separated by 20K of valley floor here. I just wanted a long hitout to test how the ITB was coming along.
At 9.15 200 runners took off across the Reserve, and onto a road for a few minutes. I jogged along next to Charles King, whose 200cm frame makes me, at 190cm, feel inferior. Then we turned left off the road into the bush. From there, the next 10K was quite a mix. There were at least three ascents that forced me to a walk, just as many steep descents, we passed through open fields, along fence lines, and at one point on a steeply descending trail of bulldozed mud. Further along, we ran around the edge of an escarpment and on the left hand side we had a spectacular view from horizon to horizon of bush, ridgelines, fields and waterways, all of which we seemed to be incredibly high above. I redid my act from the Shoalhaven run, running along with my arms extended aeroplane fashion in joy at the sight.
The weather was just as changeable as the scenery, chilly with a breeze at the start, then the sun emerged and I was wondering if wearing a t shirt was a smart idea. Then it went over cold again, the reason being a storm cloud was blocking the sun. I thought we'd be in for rain but it never happened, then in the last 5K of the run the sun came out again and started to cook those of us still running on open trail. There was no shortage of aid stations however.
Just after the 15K aid station I found myself running sideways across a steep embankment which was covered in deadfall and damp leaves. There was no discernible trail here, I had to run from marker ribbon to marker ribbon, while twice my left foot shot out sideways and almost brought me down. Eventually I hurdled a creekbed and went up a quad busting climb which wound round along the top of a ridegeline. After that, there was a steep drop, another hard climb and another steep drop. I felt my ITB start to tighten up and started walking the descents.
We crossed a paddock of dead grass, and I was following two women in front of me. At the far side we ran between some farm buildings, and they turned around, figuring this was not the correct route. A few minutes retracing our route proved them right- we were meant to turn right halfway across the field. We ran through the bush, emerged on another fenceline behind some properties, and the view both sides was great. On the left ridges rose above eyeline, on the right I could see rolling hills and a dam, all enveloped in blue haze. "Wouldn't be dead for quids," I muttered. The course turned onto another road for a few klicks of bitumen running, where I met up with a Western Districts Joggers and Harriers member named Col, who I ran the rest of the race with.The setting was different again- houses on both sides with pleasant English style gardens. Then we were back on the dirt.
The race hadn't really started. The trail switchbacked across the escarpment, twisting back and forth to get down to Bowens Creek.The ominous footsteps of Kevin O'Kane came up behind us, then he took off down the trail. Looking across the waterway, we could see runners ascending the switchbacks on the other side. I thought we'd only be a few minutes behind them, but it was quite a wait before we reached the bottom of the river valley. A bridge crosses Bowens Creek and the trail starts winding back up. It's a long climb, but not as long or relentless as Pluviometer at Six Foot Track (which almost every climb in Australian trail runs seems to be compared to). The sun was beating down but there were two aid stations just on this climb, and three more in the 4K or so to the finish Reaching the top of the climb, we walk- jogged for a few minutes and reached an aid station 2.75K from the finish. We were twelve minutes off breaking four hours, but Col and I, after a half hearted attempt, agreed we were not going to run that distance in that time. We swung onto the road for the run to the finish, and Col looked behind him and exclaimed "shit, Mountain Man's right behind us!" I glanced back and there, unmistakeable with his Mexican bandit's moustache, was Grahame "Mountain Man" Kerruish.
Time to run.
About a mile later, Col and I crossed the line in 4.11 after a semi comic mad scramble to beat Mountain Man. Darryl, Monty and the Tillers were there, and, as I said to them, "I got some pride out of the race- I beat Mountain Man!" After the awards ceremony, Darryl gave me a lift home- thanks Darryl!
This race has its own character, and is very different to Six Foot Track, Shoalhaven or any other run. The changes in conditions are striking. The elevation changes a lot and frequently too, and the setting can be farmland, ridgeline, bitumen road or genuine bush bashing. I suspect it was the constant elevation change that made my ITB tighten up (especially all the long downhills), but I'll do the ice/ stretching thing some more and jog through next week's Cities Marathon. I need another long run, and Cities is it. Hopefully by then the sore muscles in my arse (overworked climbing out of Bowens Creek) will have recovered....
Sean has also written the following articles that are published on CoolRunning Australia :
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