Friday, 28 March 2014



Jan 2014

Around 2012, I had become interested in actually entering a 100km event, not just reading about them endlessly.  Why ?  Short answer - Madness !!  Long answer - that would take 1,000 words.  Having decided to consider maybe possibly entering The North Face 100 km (TNF100) run (notice the tone of certainty), at some point I thought it would be a good idea to at least get some idea of what I might be in for.  Having walked flatter chunks of the course in one way or another over several years, I was still completely unfamiliar with any of the course between Katoomba (Golden Staircase down the 3 Sisters) and Wentworth Falls.  So whilst on a romantic interlude with the fair wife in January 2014, I did find time for a quick sneaky run down Leura Falls and through the Leura Forest.  Just climbing down the stairs to the forest, all I could think was "what the hell am I thinking".  I also got bit on my boy bits by a large angry insect which really didn't improve my outlook (good thing it was the last morning and the "romantic" part was over with)

The tale continues...

Feb 2014
Didn't enter TNF100.  Needed more thinking time (sounds wimpy ? you're right).  Entries filled immediately late 2013, but popped my name on a wait list mid January, figuring if I was eventually offered a spot, I would have ages to think about it - but no.  SURPRISE !!  Early Feb I got offered a place and had to leap in.  Thankfully the lovely Cait took the idea gracefully - well, as gracefully as any wife could given I was possibly about to smash myself stupid and was going to pay handsomely for the privelege.  She's the best.

An original plan to explore this section with Paul (see wet bedraggled figure below) grew slightly larger as Eric and Kirsten jumped in as well.  Of course the heavens opened on the day, adding a wonderful wet element to proceedings.  It did mean all the waterfalls were running, and the mist gave everything a fabulous eerie quality, and the whole trip was special for this.  It just made it somewhat tricky considering we were also trying to navigate unfamiliar territory with crumpled maps and directions in plastic sleeves, and this 15km stretch is just steps, stairs, climbing and constant navigating..  However, by the end I was convinced that it was the most beautiful place I had ever been.  Breathtakingly beautiful.  Just after Wentworth Falls, where we formed an enormous congo line with thousands of tourists, we reached our cars, and waved "farewell and good luck" to Eric who was continuing on in the torrential down pour.  What a hero.

For the next week I hobbled about like a cripple.  Those steps had totally smashed my calves.  Obviously I needed to get back and do it all again.  The joys of training.
our intrepid photographer Paul

the beautiful rainy day views of the Jamison Valley

water rats at Leura Cascades.  It was drier under the waterfall I think

the incredibly cool Undercliff Pass

March 2014
After a day drinking beer and wine for St Patricks Day and 5 hours sleep, of course I felt like waking at 4.30am for a 47km training run in the Blue Mountains.  What a great idea.  Especially as the run started with getting me lost in the first 200 m (a new low even for me).  Then a trek through the metre high grass of McCraes Paddock where I discovered why we need to carry bandages for snake bites. I was scared sh%&less as I tip toed along.

Thankfully the beauty of the Jamison Valley finally appeared.

Jamison Valley to Mt Solitary and Kedumba

Then it was down The Golden Staircase to Leura Forest.  A special place where it feels like a Hobbit will appear at any second.  Easy to run through as well as lovely to run through.

Unfortunately, after the lovely Leura Forest comes a long, seemingly endless, series of steps and stairs.  It is also where the track begins to wind along amazing cliff faces with views to forever.  In February the Amphitheatre was completely filled with mist and was an amazing sight.  Today was a bit clearer, and just as amazing.

The Amphitheatre

The Amphitheatre
Last time up here, I was curious to see all these mysterious places I has read about in various track notes.  High on the list was The Pool of Siloam, and it didn't disappoint.  All I could think was what it would be like to paddle around in.  I had visions of generations of kids sneaking down for summer dips.

Pool of Siloam
Lilian's Bridge is another highlight, crossing over a deep gloomy gorge.  Apparently it is used for canyoning - another reason why I'm not putting canyoning on my to-do list.  I'm sticking to easy stuff like running 100km in winter (what a weird life I lead...).
Lilian's Bridge

After Lilian's Bridge, another cliff face walk goes around to the Conservation Hut.  In Feb I was under the delusion that the Hut was a relic of times gone by - not a schmick Cafe serving hot coffee and other tasty treats.  In Feb, as the rain fell, and I stood freezing with Eric waiting for the others to complete the extra long detour they were taking, it looked a lovely place.  But not the place to stop today, and I pushed on to Wentworth Falls via the cool Undercliff Pass.  Love this bit.

Undercliff Pass

Wentworth Falls, however, brought a surprise.  Somebody had levelled the toilet block and all the taps.  A problem as I had planned to fill up bottles here and mix up some hydration drink.  Decided to keep going past the Falls, stretch my water out, and head up towards civilisation where I  scouted front yards for the dream combination of A) tap B) near front gate C) with no one (hopefully) home.  Along Hordern Road I lucked on this dream home, reducing the likelihood of being arrested for being sweaty dirty peeping tom.

A group of runners I had been playing leap frog since Katoomba passed me by as I refilled.  They were finishing at the top of Kedumba at The Queen Victoria Hospital, and had already offered me a ride earlier in the day.  I had declined the offer, but as I caught up with them, and they were piling into their cars, an enormous storm was approaching, and thunder was rumbling all around.  I rather hesitantly declined their final kind offer, and headed off down Kedumba hoping I wasn't making a huge mistake.  As it turned out, as I ran, the enormous  storm front seemed to miraculously move around me, but never above me.  I could see curtains of rain nearby, and thunder was booming, but everything  missed me.  Good thing, because I got home to discover everyone at home had been smashed by a huge storm and blackouts. Turns out that sometimes it is safer alone in the bush.

views from Kedumba Road

I have heard from many sources about how steep and leg destroying the road down Kedumba is, and it didn't disappoint.  I passed so many walkers with enormous packs staggering up the hill, and it looked like hell.  Why such big packs !!  Some were bigger than me.  As much as my legs hurt, it was nothing compared to what these guys were putting themselves through.

I had been across much of this stretch on a Mt Solitary walk years ago.  It was now much better sign posted, but someone had forgotten to make the hills smaller.  Bugger.  From this view point, you get a better idea of how big the cliffs are, and how far the ridges stretch into the valley.  I have plans to walk the Lindemann Pass along the base of the cliff line from Wentworth Falls to Leura, and it was interesting to view it all from this perspective.  It is a poorly marked track from the early 1900's, and it will make for an interesting trip one day - but not today.  

This stretch also had me reflecting a lot on why I do this.  No great answer, but a real appreciation of how great it feels to be 50, and and able to spend a day running nearly 50km around the Blue Mountains through wind and rain and sunshine.  An awesome feeling.

view of The 3 Sisters (on left) across to Wentworth Falls (at right) from the Jamison Valley.  At the base of the cliffs is the Lindeman Pass.

This stretch of trail is endless ups and downs.  Not much level along here.  The trail ends up at the site of the old sewerage works.  All that remains now is an open area with lots of half buried rubber hose that looks remarkably like a black snake when you are a bit heat muddled.  The first one certainly got me jumping when it appeared between my legs (although after 40km my "jump" was pathetic and in no way life saving if it had been a snake).  

After a snaking climb along a narrow stretch of trail, it was back onto the big pass back to Katoomba.  Along the way I encountered a bunch of walkers.  One of them wailed at me "how far to go-o-o-o ?" I asked "well, where are you going to ?".  "We don't kno - o - o w ?"  "Well then I can't really help you" was all I could answer, and left them to wander off to their likely death by exposure.

After a big climb out of the valley, it was time for a massive drink of water at Scenic World.  It had been a hot and humid 20km stretch.  I had also stashed a nice ginger beer on ice in the car, which was awesome treat.

Then it was time to battle the traffic through Woodford (one day they will finish the highway between Glenbrook and Katoomba) and not fall asleep.  The day was not over yet though.  Had to buy pies for the family at Mountain High Pies, pick up milk and other shopping, and get home to make pizzas for the family.  It was a close call between dinner being finished before I fell asleep (and a few beers weren't helping me stay awake), but in the end pizzas were served and consumed, followed immediately by me falling soundly asleep.

I love training.  Can't wait for my final 60km run in April before the countdown begins to TNF100 in May.



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