First things first. Even though I have tagged this as a race, its not a race. Instead it is a bit of an unofficial training run informally known as a Fatass. It is traditionally held on the first Sunday in February and runs the main climbs of the 6ft Track marathon course which is about 6 weeks later.
For me it was a great chance to familiarise myself with part of the course and importantly test myself on some solid climbs. I haven’t done any major climbs since the Kedumba Half and with 6ft Track Marathon, Buffalo Sky Marathon and TNF100 looming I desperately needed some more time climbing.
The run itself starts at Megalong in the Blue Mountains, where the 6ft track crosses Megalong Rd. It then follows the 6ft track down and across the Cox’s river before the singletrack changes to firetrail and 2 significant climbs topping out at the Pluviometer. At this point one turns around and heads back to the start. 35+km and about 1700m of climbing all up. A great hitout.
I left Sydney at about 4:30am and after a bit of messing around trying to figure out directions at Blackheath (literally 100m before the sign telling me where to go!) I arrived just after 6:30am and got ready for a 7am start.
There were heaps of people there (at least 45 people on Strava logged the Megalong Rd to Mini Mini segment on the day and Im sure plenty don’t use Strava). Somewhat surprising since based on the Coolrunning forum it sounded like there would only be a handful. Apparently a few groups had also left at 6am and 6:30am.
I kind of wondered what the protocol was and contemplated just running but figured I would wait around so I at least had someone to follow. At bang on 7am someone said… right lets go and off everyone headed.
I settled in a few runners back from the leader and the trail quickly turned into singletrack. I was quite happy being near the front and the pace was pretty conservative. Runners further back described it as a bit of a conga line and I get that. Eventually a few runners back started overtaking and I decided to push forward myself reaching the river about 4 or 5 runners back. I leapt into the river up to about my waist and promptly filled my shoes with tiny stones. After wading across and trouble finding the trail again… its a bit confusing which way is the trail and which is to the campsite. I continued on for a while until the rocks in my shoes were clearly going to annoy me and stopped to clean them out. From the Coxs river the climbing starts. The course climbs over 500m in about 4.5km before descending to the aptly named Little River. After crossing the river 3 times the climb is back on ascending another 400m in about 3.5km. I reached the top of the Pluviometer climb in 2hrs 2mins including the conga line at the start and my stop to empty my shoes. At the top there were quite a few runners from the earlier groups however most of the 7am group seemed to be turning and heading straight back down. I decided to have a bit of a drink and get out my phone so I could take pics on the way back. Before long I was descending the trail I had just run up.
One thing thats easy to forget is that once you head for home there are still plenty of climbs. The climb back to the finish from Cox’s River is especially challenging after all the fast descending. I once again stopped after the river crossing to clean out my shoes and felt I could still push through under 4hrs. Then I remembered this was a training run and I wanted to take some pics so I decided to take it easy heading back up and enjoy the scenery. The Megalong Valley is spectacular.
My overall time was 4hrs 13mins and Strava tells me my moving time was 4hrs 2mins which I am pretty happy about.
I ran with my UD AK pack and had smaller bottles in front and a bladder in the back. I also carried a rain jacket, bandage, some blister patches etc. These were probably unnecessary but I need more k’s with weight on my back. I was really happy with this arrangement compared to the distraction from 2 large bottles up front. Everything felt balanced and comfortable with minimal bouncing. Hopefully I am onto a winner now.
I also ran using my Salomon S-Lab XT5 shoes. This was the longest run I had done with them as I usually favour my Sense Ultra SG shoes. The XT5’s proved to be very comfortable if a little tight in the toes when descending. I don’t know what all this means in the long term but I figured I would write it down and think about it for a while!