People run for all different reasons, and as a result, there a many different types of running.
For me, the overwhelming reason for running is the sense of freedom; the fact that I can leave the comforts of my home and go explore a totally foreign world. A world that get more interesting the further you explore into it, more rewarding as you push physically and mentally to find that next view or section that blows your mind, thats why I run.
There is a specific feeling I get no other time than when I am sitting in my car driving west to the mountains from my home on the beaches. It is a feeling of excitement and of slight nerves, excited to go get lost in the bush, to see things I have never seen before, and nervous of how my legs will perform. When in the mountains, your legs are your motors, if your motor isn’t working, you not going to get very far.
There is a road that heads due West from Sydney called the M4 motorway, it leads straight to Katoomba, the center of the Blue Mountains region. Early Sunday morning, before sunrise, this road is full of young guys and girls with take-away coffee in hand, sitting 5km above the speed limit, eager to reach the trails before the sun pokes it head over the horizon, signalling the start of a new day full of adventure, muscle burn and seeing views that few will reach.
Stopping at one of the many charming little bakeries that sit along the the road as I head up the side of the mountain range I grab a few bit and pieces both for now and for later. Never run without food in your stomach. Bad things happen!
There is already a dozen car parked along side each other at the top of the Furber stairs, people a busily russeling around the boots of their cars for the correct combination of gear for the route they have chosen for the day or what the weather has decided to do. Today the clouds don’t look as though they will be burning off. Its going to be a wet one. I too sit perched on the lip of my open boot munching on a couple of croissants thinking on the day ahead.
After doing last checks on my gear and putting a couple of bars into my pack and making sure I have my water bottles are full while making sure I have enough room in my Ultimate Direction race pack to shove my long layers in when the sun heats the day up a little. After letting my Suunto Ambit 2 find the satellite……..
I set off down the 900 odd stairs to the valley floor, turn right and head south towards the infamous Mt. Solitary. The one summit in the region that has pushed me harder than any other. Sitting in the middle a Jamison valley it is a table top mountains, with one side being nicknamed “The Knife Edge” for its fall away nature on each side of the trail, The Mt solitary loop is regarded by most to be one the most challenging 60km in the region.
The first 90 minutes is along a great little single track called Casades, with a couple more technique sections that take a little more care to navigate. With the clouds looking threatening I decide to stop and put another layer on before it is too late, its decisions like these that can really save your ass in the mountains. If I had have waited to long and allowed myself to get wet before putting a water proof layer on, you can run into serious trouble later in the day.
After passing the familiar Casades section and then navigating my way through Landslides I start on the rocky assent to the flat top of Mt solitary. This is where the legs start to burn and the lungs start to demand more oxygen. With a combination or scrambling and some rock climbing sections, this is my type running and makes the early morning departure from Sydney well worth it. A wise man once told me “there is no substitute for training in the mountains”. I agreed with this comment completely, getting in both vertical gain and hours in the mountains is always beneficial to your ability to race in them .
The climb from the creek at the bottom of Mt Solitary is a rather steep one, and with the wet conditions under foot, I spend the majority of my time with my hand on the ground scrambling to get betting traction under foot. The climb takes about 35 mins and leading me up about 1400m of vertical gain. My legs are burning, But over the year I have learnt to embrace the burn. I now seek out that feeling when the fibres in your legs feel like they are on fire and your lungs feel like they need to explode out of your chest. For me, that is when I know I am in the thick of it.
Once I have reached the top and signed the visitors book it is time to put the foot down and try to reach the other side of the table top mountain, I do so with ease, my lactic acid build up dissipates quickly after the climb and my legs feel free. Dodging and leaving along the trail as it snakes its way across the top of the mountain.
The descent involves a lot of rock climb, I spend a lot of time on my butt, using it as a achor pint as I make my way down the dark side of the mountain. Once at the bottom, I complete the loop back to Furber stairs and hen push up the 900 stairs I descended down 2 and a half hours early and reach my car at the top with heavy breathing and a sweaty top.