Things I am learning when training for Six Inch.

We are training for Six Inch, and have run the course two of the past three weekends. The first weekend the wind around Dwellingup was gusting to 75km/h when I put the kibosh on driving down and running there, so we ran 22km in the rain along the Canning River instead.

1) Hydration Packs

A hydration pack designed for running is so much better than just a standard Camelbak. Accessible pockets are lovely, and there is a lot less bounce and therefore no chafing because of all the extra tie down straps.

2) Food

Lollies are good food for running, but sometimes your body wants real food like a Vegemite sandwich or some crackers like Savoury Shapes. There are moments when it doesn’t matter how much fluid or lollies you take in, there is an ache in your stomach that will not disappear. I had an energy bar from Ben’s stash, and it helped a lot, but I think I was too far gone when I had it. I noticed the ache in my stomach earlier, and just tried to take in more fluid and lollies but that hollow would not go away. I felt far more trashed at the end of this run than I did at the end of last week’s run.

3) Wet Weather, 1

Showers forecast in Dwellingup can be torrential rain or actual showers. Pack a complete fresh set of clothes for afterwards – top and bottom. The week you don’t will be the week that it is torrential, and you will have to wrap a towel around your bottom half to sit in the Blue Wren Cafe and eat the best pie in the world.

4) Wet Weather, 2

Pack a towel. A really big one.

5) Wet Weather, 3

If there is even the hint of rain, tuck a rain coat in your hydration pack. Most are light and can provide a bit of protection when it rains or at the end of the run you can put it on to keep some bodyheat in. Last week post run was the only time I used it, but it was very welcome. I know that the protective qualities were completely overwhelmed today, but it did give some assistance and I was glad of it at the end of the run.

6) Recovery

Covering over 20km three weeks running means that a lackadaisical attitude to massage and foam rolling will probably bite you on the bum or another body part at some point.

7) Group Running Technique

Running Collie Style does not involve heading into the bush and drinking a lot of beer whilst getting very cold, but rather refers to the collie dog and its tendency to run off up ahead, then loop back and ’round up’ the slower people. Although in a way, today did involve heading into the bush and getting cold. There was just no getting drunk.

8) Recognise your limits. 

We were intending to run from the finish line at Dwellingup to Aid Station 2, going up the completely ridiculous hill, turning around at the Aid Station point and going back to the finish. We had discussed perhaps turning back early, but at 8km in we came up to the junction to the Aid Station. We decided to aim towards the aid station, and it began to gently rain. As we went up the hill the rain was pretty light but steady. We got to the downhill before the completely ridiculous hill and it was raining a bit harder, and tiny streams started developing in the ruts on the downhill.

The faster three had fired off up ahead, so we took it gently up the completely ridiculous hill, and as we did the four of us separated into Caroline and I and Jeremy and Crystal. Jeremy and Crystal were more surefooted than Caroline and I and moved up the hill further. The surface of this section was less gravel and more thick mud. Caroline and I both managed to not fall over when navigating the streams in the ruts on the hill, but suddenly the streams widened and flowed a lot faster. I yelled up the hill to Jeremy and Crystal that I was turning back and Caroline followed me. Jeremy and Crystal turned around as well, and I heard shouts as Ben, Hamish and Scott appeared at the top of the hill.

We all flew down the completely ridiculous hill, leapt the wider water crossing at the bottom of the hill and made our slower progress to higher, firmer ground, all while the rain pelted down around us. In December there won’t be thick mud, it will be dry, hard and probably very smooth dust. Today did make me think that on race day I can honestly say that I’ve seen completely ridiculous hill in worse conditions. We are planning on running the stretch from Aid Station 1 to Aid Station 2 so it’s quite likely that I’ll be able to complete the climb, but I am perfectly happy with what I managed today.

9) Puddles, Princess Mode and Very High Knees

When your shoes and socks are dry, embrace Princess Mode, where you take dainty steps around the edge of puddles and miniature lakes along the trail. At some point you could lose your footing and slide into the puddle, but what is more likely in this weather is that it will suddenly turn and drop a Olympic swimming pool of rain on you in 4.5 seconds, soaking your shoes and rendering all attempts at Princess Mode pointless. That is when running socks and proper running shoes come into their own. They combined to wick a lot of the water out of my shoes and despite plunging ankle deep in puddles on the way back with wild abandon, my feet remained warm. A tip learnt from Ben was when plunging straight through the middle of puddles with wild abandon, it is worth using a stride that wouldn’t go astray at a dressage competition, and pick up your knees quite high. If anything in the water is a trip hazard, it decreases the chance that your feet will catch it.

10) Sometimes reconnaissance will not help

There is a stretch of the course where you come across massive electricity pylons – they probably connect Collie with Kwinana. The bush underneath the powerlines is cleared and the area is very exposed, and at this point Jeremy recounted last year’s Six Inch. It would have been about 42.C at this point, Vince was dealing with massive dehydration and was suffering constant nausea. Jeremy surreptitiously pulled his mobile phone out of his pocket ready to call me to collect them – Jeremy had had enough, Vince was struggling and Jeremy didn’t know whether they would make it. But Jeremy’s phone had overheated and shutdown. The stretch of powerlines continues off into the distance and you can see the track below. Jeremy wanted to cry and couldn’t remember how far under the powerlines they had to travel. They kept going, turned a corner and found an impromptu Aid Station that had been set up where they were able to try and cool down a bit to make the last 5km into the finish. Both Jeremy and Vince finished, but having run the course before hadn’t helped at the 40km point on a 42.C day.

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