Saturday Mt Wilson - Weekend Wanderings

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Mt Wilson to Bilpin

I had an excellent nights sleep, and woke well before the alarm. Checking out the window, it wasn't raining and looked like good conditions for running. I showered, had my breakfast of (apple & pear) FortiJuice, dressed and took my luggage down to the car. It was still earlier than Peter the Perfect Running Buddy [PPRB] and I had agreed to meet, but we bumped into each other and were able to leave earlier than planned. I had planned to drive between Springwood and Richmond, however PPRB pointed out a sharp curly bit on the map, and suggested we head back down to Penrith and then up to the Bells Line of Road. We had plenty of time, and as neither of us knew the area, headed south just as rain started falling.

It took a little longer than anticipated, Whereis had predicted a journey time of 54 minutes to Bilpin, which is always on the generous side. The drive up the Bell's Line gave us an indication of the beauty of the district, with stunning views of escarpments dropping into the void with a backdrop of smokey-blue mountains and rimmed by bands of orange as the sun rose. Once the fields of corn, paddocks of corpulent cows and cast orchards of apple trees covered with oceans of cloth gave way to bushland, it was thick, lush and inviting. This gave an hint of what was to come. Arriving at the Bilpin district hall, it was a flurry of activity; with a paddock full of cars, a herd of buses, and a growing throng of wide-eyed and rugged up runners milling around.

Despite the rain at Springwood, it was clear and cool at Bilpin. I settled on wearing an old (read disposable) long sleeve thermal and my lightweight cycling fleece over my running shorts and a cycling singlet. I also decided to take my Fuel Belt with a couple of bottles of very dilute FortiJuice, two gels, and a car key in the pocket. I hadn't 'raced' with a Fuel Belt before, as I find that drink stations are adequate. However, this event was an unknown quantity, and I didn't know how long I would be out there. I guessed somewhere between 31/2 and 4 hours.

I found that they were making instant coffee (yeech) behind the hall, and dashed over to get a cup before the bus left. We were on the third bus, with many Sydney Striders, Cool Runners Horrie and Belinda, and Alice and Mario from Canberra. Alice had been hoping to do the Six Foot Track and hadn't realised that finishing in under four and a half hours would qualify her for entry. This was an exciting prospect. The hubbub on the bus as it travelled up to Mt Wilson was electric. A mix of event veterans and first timers, I had never felt such excitement among a group heading to the start.

We arrived to the postcard-garden locality of Mt Wilson, nervously edging it's way towards Spring with Daffodils and Tulips straining their way through the mulch and icy ground. The chill air hit us all as we disembarked, and found ourselves in another centre of fairground-like activity. Marquees and tents gave the ground a carnival feel, and once I collected my race bib (#85), I made my way to grab another warming cup of nescafe. I didn't drink it for taste, but having a hot drink flowing through the system in the cold alpine air certainly helped. A quick photo of the Alice, Mario and Peter at the start

Caught up, albeit briefly with a few Cool Runners; the wonderful Uncle Dave, Expozay (for the third time in a few weeks), and, all too late at the Photo Call, Amjan and Queen Bee. With a few minutes shivering at the start, we were off, trotting easily across the grassy field being watched by a pair of Alpaca's, before heading up to the roadway which for a short distance led to the start of the bush trail. One of the delights of an event of this type is that people do self seed, support each other, and don't take it out too hard at the start. I hadn't put too much thought into the run ~ it was mainly a 'supported' long run three weeks before Sydney (Marathon); many others were doing it for the same reason. I knew that there was a long climb at the end for 7 kms or so, and that it was generally downhill until then. I hadn't paid enough attention to how 'generally' this meant, and was somewhat surprised by the scope of some of the short, sharp climbs early on. This was especially so at one point where wide, shallow steps gave way to the need to scramble over a rock face. My attempts to keep running, reverted to moving forward in small increments.

Despite this, within the first 5 or 6 kilometres I remarked to PPRB that if the race was to finish here, it would all be worth it. The views over the hills and valley's of the mountains, running through lush rainforest, on single track, fire trails and in stunning bush were gorgeous. I held him back quite a bit at the start, my strength on the uphill sections not matching his. However with many kilometres and hours ahead, I did not attempt to go too hard to catch up. The firies and support was magnificent, the course was very well marked, with pink ribbons along the course, and tape marking off alternate tracks where one may get lost. Drink stations were at convenient spots about every 5kms, offering both Endura Sports Drink and Water. Later stations also had a variety of cut fruit, jelly beans and snakes.

I warmed up by degrees, unzipping the fleece top to regulate the temperature up and down for the first few kms, then removing it to tie around my waist when warmer and adjusting the long sleeves of my thermal in the same manner. Eventually I had warmed up sufficiently to take this off as well, and rolled it up and tied it around my waist as well. This meant that my race number was quite obscured, and coupled with the Fuel belt meant that there was quite a bulk around my middle.

The run continued to surprise and delight; emerging on to roadway, it would then enter a private unsealed access road to homes with a large "No Through Road" sign. Along this section an idyllic graveyard was set off the side of the track in well tended lawn, with cared for polished granite and marble headstones overlooking the valley. A section of Sydney sandstone provided yet another surface and environment for running, although the wind whipping along the ridge-line forced me onto the leeward side of the track to avoid the scrubby bushes constantly blowing onto me.

At the halfway drink station, numbers were taken by more cheery volunteers, and we headed across a paddock, following the runner in front and avoiding (what seemed to this urban warrior) impossibly large cow pats. This led to rolling downhill single-track, and more dramatic bushland. While it flattened here, the PPRB seemed to tire a little, and we began to slow. He had put up with my constant spitting (post-nasal drip) and most unladylike snorting (the bushies handkerchief with a heavy cold) throughout without complaint. Running together, the time and miles had flown. As we reached the drink station at around 19km he slowed further, and with much reluctance I decided to move ahead to keep moving at a comfortable pace.

This coincided with a sharp U-Turn and the start of a heavily forested downhill section with signs indicating Mt Irvine. I love downhills! I thought that perhaps I should drink some of the weight I was carrying around my waist, although drinking whilst tripping the sand fantastic wasn't so easy. I picked up quite a few people on this section, although dropped my drink bottle when attempting to put it back. I was slightly annoyed at myself for the klutz-factor, as I had to stop, backtrack 10 metres up the hill and secure it before starting again.

With the lovely distraction of running buddy gone, I started to do mathematical modelling in my head (as you do). From the earlier uphill sections, I thought that averaging 9 minutes/kilometre would be a reasonable assumption on the last uphill section. If this was 7km (say 8) then it would take 1 hour 12 minutes. If I were to achieve my goal of 3:30, then I would need to be at the 28km mark around 2:18 or before. This was a bit difficult as 28km mightn't be marked, and I wasn't too sure at the distance. So I kept rounding and hoped to reach 25km at 2 hours. That would give my 90 minutes for the final 10km section.

I can't remember my splits, but know that my watch was set to beep every 26:30, as I had thought on Friday night that this would be a reasonable marathon pace for every 5kms. I was gradually slipping behind, but I was pretty close in the early stages of the event. I wasn't attempting to keep to this pace, just interesting to see how it was.

From a drink station before a wooden bridge the track started to climb. It wasn't until well into this that I recalled the distance marker, and thought that perhaps this was the start of the long climb to the Bilpin finish. It wasn't particularly steep, just relentless. People passed me here, but I felt comfortable and just kept churning along, my brain whizzing with numbers 'what if', and wondering if I could pull a 3:20 out of the hat.

At the last drink stop before Bell's Line of Road, I stopped and had two full glasses of water. This was perhaps a bit too much when I moved off, but was welcome nevertheless. The truck marking the top of the climb and the roadway was welcome, and I ran off looking for the Community Hall. We were to run along the verge or path adjacent to the road itself, and I took a few 'wrong turns' here. I could see two women in front of me, and picked up my pace feeling surprisingly fresh. The lead woman was strong and disappeared from view, however I could tell that I was surely reeling the other in. Now I was hoping that the finish line was farther away and the event was longer! Good thing I'm not competitive.

Crossed the line in 3 hours 15 minutes and 14 seconds, a time I would never have imagined feasible. Buoyed immeasurably, I drank a few litres of water and waited to celebrate.

7 Responses to “Saturday Mt Wilson - Weekend Wanderings”

  1. Blogger Bennyr 

    Excellent report. Excellent effort.

    Well done, Flash Duck.

  2. Blogger Jen_runs 

    A fantastic report and a fantastic run Flash! Congratulations. You are going to have a sensational run in Sydney. J

  3. Blogger Friar 

    Great report and good to see the "Before" photo.

    Was there an "After" photo??

    The following from Hardingman (22 Aug):-

    Just had a chat to Emma about her run on Sunday and the great article
    and photo in today's Canberra Times about her being Sports Star of
    the Month from the great Dr R/Dr Wombat SCT Club.
    Emma said the first half of the Willy to Billy course was well marked
    with pink tape every 10m. Then there was nothing! So she came to a
    couple of intersections and had no idea where the course went. She
    ran on ahead and no markers so doubled back until she met another
    runner who also had no idea. So she doubled back again and met up
    with a group of 4 guys who knew the way. So she lost a number of
    Good news is that she pulled up well with only some mild hamstring
    soreness from the downhill (as the course is mostly down). Just as
    well Trevor didn't run, he loves downhill, but might have gone so
    fast he would have blown his f... f.... again.
    The photo in the Canberra Times has Emma holding her massive World
    Championship trophy. Emma says it is solid stone and weighs a heap.
    She has promised to bring it to the next Mt Ainslie Run Up so we can
    get a good look at it.

    John H

  4. Blogger allrounder 

    good job flash...great report...

  5. Blogger plu 

    Great aerial shot. I am pleased the weekend went well.


  6. Blogger Horrie 

    Great run FlashDuck. Congratulations also on the 2nd place in the Hubby and Wife over 35s in the City 2 Surf.

  7. Blogger CJ 

    A fantastic write-up and you did so well. Maybe next year I might try that run!

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