Mt Solitary Blue Mountains

Mt Solitary Walking Route Blue Mountains Shona Stephenson

Monday June Public Holiday was the perfect time to hit the tracks on my own. My achilles tendon was still a bit iffy after I tore it the day before The North Face 100km. I wanted to run on my own so I did not feel any pressure to keep up with a training partner. I also wanted to use the opportunity to build my own mental strength, gain some confidence in my body again and try a few new things.
It was only 3 weeks after tearing it and one week after a 20km Saturday, 20km Sunday Glow Worm Tunnel Ultra Training Australia Camp weekend. It was my last chance I could put in some big kilometers before I headed over to Europe to Race the Skyrunning Mt Blanc Marathon and the Ice Trail 65km in Val d’Isere.
I headed out late at 6:30am to start running by 8:30am. It was cold, crap, miserable winter weather. Thick fog covered the highway. When I hit Glenbrook I wanted to turn back and go home to the warmth of my family. I do really miss them when I spend time away in the mountains. The only way I can cope is my not thinking about the time I spend away from them. If I think about the time that I spend away from my family it makes me upset and I lose motivation to train. I had committed myself to Team inov8. I had a job to do. I was here. I had to train.
I arrived at the Gates at Kedumba Fire Trail. I set no firm goals for myself. I just wanted to get through the day without damaging my achilles, put 40 big kilometers into my legs with an elevation of 2500M. If I felt like my achilles was going to give me grief I would turn back or take a short cut back to the car. No training session is worth injuring yourself. (I have learnt that I have to trick myself sometimes into thinking that it will just be an easy run).
I took precautions. I had seen my massage therapist and my physio in the lead up to this run. My ankles were taped as usual with some extra strapping on my right heal to take the pressure off my achilles, I was wearing my trusty Zenzah Compression Socks, I was also in the inov8 Trailroc 255 (2 arrows on the heal to give some extra support to my achilles) I also was wearing a foam insert in my right shoe to take the stress of my achilles. With all this set and done I was ready to run. My bloody achilles should be okay.
I headed out to Mt Solitary slowly from the car with for the first time EVER on the trails an earphone in my ear with Calvin Harris Playing from my iPhone. I took it easy for the first 10min allowing my legs to warm up and before long I was rolling down Kedumba. I turned right at the junction and a few hundred meters stopped at the Mt Solitary Sign and dropped a 500ml Water bottle with Perpetuem in it for my return. I then followed the narrow track to Mt Solitary. I cruised along and before long I was in tears. I don’t know why, but I have had a few crap weeks and I was crying. I guess it was really a good idea that I headed out on my own. Running can be an emotional healer. Mt Solitary can be a bit un-nerving too. If heard a few stories about crazy men living on the Mt Solitary. I always feel so lonely when I run there. The fog was thick, the grey cloud was so depressing. I guess that’s why I was prompted to let the tears flow for the next few kilometers.
I started to listen to the music and cheer up. I hit the now dry creek which myself and my mate Mia nick named “Dead Wombat Creek”, and headed up the climb to the east Summit of Mt Solitary. I was feeling really good now. I had been working hard in the gym on the bike and with kettle bells to improve my climbing technique and power and after passing a few hikers who I stopped and chatted to for a few minutes each time and said that I will probably see them later in the loop.

Mt Solitary- Shona Stephenson - Swine-Gate-
I was up and out of the Blue Mountains depressing heavy fog and on my way to a completing a Personal Best for a training run to the east Summit of Mt Sol. For me, reaching the Summit of Mt Sol from the Gate in under an hour is a PB. I think I did it in 58 minutes.
I sat down and took a few picks and tried to Facebook my location so Mikey knew where I was. I then pushed on westward to the real Summit of Mt Solitary for a 3km climb. I past a group of Ukrainian Hikers who said that they reconsider me in my wrag that I was wearing to protect my airways. After helping them out with directions I again said that I will see them on the other side of the loop. I kicked it on feeling really strong. I was able to run where in the past I could only walk. Sure I had been injured, and I’d been sick with asthma and a chest infection but these set backs were not slowing me down. I hate that I have asthma, but it just makes me more determined to figure out ways that I can improve my breathing. My new dairy free, gluten free diet was starting to pay off and I was able to breathe much better. After an hour and 47 minutes of cruising I made it to the West Side of Mt Solitary. Excellent! A 13 minute Personal Best. Wicked. This is going to be a great day after all.
I hit the descent and use my hands, shoulders to vault down the west side of Mt Solitary. I love this section of the training run.I have a ball flying down this ruggered gradient rocky outcrop of Mt Solitary. You must wear gloves though. The Zenzah Thermal Gloves are great for this with their rubberized palms for grip. A year ago I lost a glove on Mt Solitary, one hand ended up badly grated by the sharp rocks.
I was soon passing hikers on their ascent and I did my best to ease out of their way. I rolled along the trail and decided that I was making great time so I headed up to the Ruin Castle. I ran and walked my way to the top, and then climbed and squeezed through the rocks to pop out on the Summit to meet 2 Talk Dark and Handsome Italian Day Trippers. I took their photos for them and warned them to head back as there was a storm closing in.
“Don’t worry we have wet weather gear”, One of the guys said pointing into his bag at a large garbage bag.
“Dude that won’t last 2 seconds. And your wearing cotton too.” I cautioned whilst eating my spuds “Come on head back. Even I’m leaving now and I have the correct wet weather gear”.
With that I was off and running and hoping that the guys turned back and did not attempt getting to the Summit of Mt Solitary. I the beautiful rolling dirt track and thought that it would going to be a nice idea to bring the girls, Keisha and Milla up for a day hike next week.
It hit the Golden Stairs and checked my watch and decided I had enough time to reach the top. I ran and power walked to the top of the stairs and posted my location on Facebook again for safety. I checked my watch 2.5 hours. Cool. Your on track for a personal best for the circuit. I hooned down the stairs and to my relief I ran into the Italian Hotties making their way back out. I pushed on and then Climbed the Furber Stairs and I was really pleased at my progress. I was able to run to the top.
At the top of the climb I took the Prince Henry Cliff Walk to Echo Point and was please with my time of 3 hours 45 minutes. You have 2 hours to get out of here and back to your car now. I rolled down the hill to the Giant Stairs, eased my way down the steep descent calling out to tourist in my path. I hit Dardanelles Pass and I was just feeling great all round. I turned right at Leura Forrest, then Right Again at the bottom of the Leura Stair case and headed out towards Sublime Ridge. Here on the grassy flat I was blessed with beautiful sun shine. The fog had lifted and the sun was streaming in. I cruised up Sublime Ridge bopping away to “Swedish House Mafia”.
For once I did not need to walk at all. My body was conditioned to these climbs now. Before long I ran into the beautiful Greta Fortman. We stopped and chatted for some time together. Greta is wise beyond her years and is always has amazing positive energy. We both got a bit cold and decided to kick it on in our separate directions.
I cruised down to Jaimerson Creek and bopped my way up the climb towards the Mt Solitary turn off. Here I spotted the Ukrainians and other hikers who I’d spotted on top of Mt Solitary. The Ukrainians asked if I was in the military.
After some chit chatting I was moving onwards and upwards and out of the valley and onto the imposing Kedumba. Again I was able to run the entire distance for the first time after running the Mt Solitary Circuit. I loved running with music in one ear. It took my mind off my asthma and seemed to calm my breathing down.
I made it back to the car with a massive 40 minute personal best of 5 hours 54 minutes. My confidence was restored and I was ready to race the Mt Blanc Marathon in 3 weeks time.

Mt Solitary – Blue Mountains -Shona Stephenson

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