Tuesday, 23 April 2013

100kms conquered - $6k+ raised for charity - how was it and what's next?

So we did it!!! A team of four all walked 100kms (62 miles) each, together as a team, for charity!!! Besides a couple of quick food intake breaks and one 45 minute one whilst a team member had their feet re-strapped we went straight through and accomplished the task in 25 hours and 35 minutes.

I’ve had a couple of days to reflect on the achievement and given I was so full of adrenalin on Saturday and Sunday I didn’t want to post my thoughts as they could reflect quite a bit of my delirium.

For those who aren’t familiar with Trailwalker, a team of four must start and finish together over the full 100km trail distance. Ok we averaged just under 4 kms per hour, but do not forget this was on trails, we had over 2,300 metres in elevation, at some stages the hills were astronomical (there is a section called the 1,000 steps so you get what I mean). Below is a copy of the Garmin elevation readout to give you some concept.

After going on such a massive excursion with three fellow walkers there is so much I could share with the readers here, but I don’t want to bore you, so I’ll be doing my best to keep it brief.

Although travelling 100 kms on foot is obviously a personal achievement, this was a team journey, an odyssey. Could we do it???

I learned so much about my fellow walkers (and support crew) during our 25 hour journey, and I’m not talking about now knowing their first pet’s name. I learned about their characters, their motivations, their breaking points and their commitments to a team challenge. Potentially this experience could break a range of friendships but I personally believe that with the group I was fortunate enough to walk with I now have a special bond that has only strengthened our relationships. Sounds corny doesn’t it? Let’s see if any of them talk to me over the coming months!!!!

The journey itself was tortuous, with the long Warburton Trail flat section being one of the most strenuous as it is monotonous and you’re walking it at night with only a headlamp illuminating about 10 metres ahead of you. At this stage you have been walking for about 15 hours so you are exhausted and feeling sleep deprived. This is when the cracks began to really appear – the banter was kept to a minimum and the humour was a little less appreciated than earlier in the day and even fellow trailwalkers were less willing to engage in conversation. I got through a huge section of that trail by putting on Beck’s “Guero” album via the iPod and danced, shuffled, marched along with my walking pole, getting strange looks for all around, but hey I was naturally hallucinating, why not take advantage of it???

Another highlight was the warm pumpkin and lentil soup that met us as we arrived at Graham Colling Reserve, we’d just climbed 1200 odd metres, and gone back down the mountain and the sun had set and the temperature had dropped to about 3 degrees celcius. The home made warm soup with bread was enough to refuel and hit another 16kms or so before the next scheduled refuel stop. Stops themselves not really consisting of much other than a quick banana, a couple of mouthfuls of rice or pasta, two more anti-infalm tablets, a black coffee and maybe an extra layer of clothing and off again.

The other section that was absolute pain was the last 6.7kms – this consisted of a steep climb up, another down, up again and then a massive down to the finish line. The last kilometre of this journey took our team 33 minutes to complete as one of our team member’s knees couldn’t cope with the downhill walk and he had to complete it backwards. I personally had my knee lock on me about 2 kilometres from the finish line after I’d just finished the second last climb and was waiting for one of my team mates at the top of the hill, my left leg would literally NOT bend, it took a good five minutes of leaning on team mates, attempting to stretch and bend before a click occurred and I slowly warmed up again.

All of this was being done with massive blisters, as mentioned above, one team mate had to take a 45 minute break at one of the stops to get his feet re-strapped by podiatrists. I personally self treated my blisters, which was probably not the best approach as the photo below shows.

All up a most amazing experience and one that I will never forget. The thanks go far and wide, to my fellow walkers, to our support crew, to my wife who has put up with the training and now the bandaging and bandaging of my feet, the people who donated to the charity (as at today was have raised over $6,500 and there will be more coming), the people who attended our fundraising events, those who sent us words of encouragement throughout the vent itself and I’m sure there are plenty more who I’ve missed.

All I can leave you with is……what’s the next big challenge????? I’ll need a few days to think about that (it will take me that long before I’ll be able to run again)

Thursday, 18 April 2013

One more sleep and 100km on the trails awaits

One more sleep to go. The nervous anticipation of walking 100kms without a substantial break has kicked in.

After an absolutely chaotic week at work I think I’m all organised for the big event. Toenails clipped? Check. Myotherapy and chiropractic sessions finalised? Check. Spare socks, shirts etc? Check. Shoes washed? Check (Why would I wash shoes before I walk 100kms in mud and dust? Officially losing it? Check.) Gels, carb tablets, electrolyte tablets, carb drink powder, protein powder, snakes, anti inflam tablets, normal medication tablets and bananas? Check. False ID in case I get pulled over on the way to the start and they want to know what all these powders are? I’ll risk that one. Beannie, gloves, coat other warm stuff? Check. Headphones for iPhone when I can’t stand the nattering or complaining anymore? Check. Food for dinner at 50km mark? Not yet – cooking that later. Picnic chair to collapse in at checkpoints? Check. Garmin? Check. Walking poles? Check. Change of clothes for end? Check. Vaseline (don’t ask)? Check. Bandages, bandaids, blister gels, anti inflam cream, insect repelant? Check. Headlamp and spare batteries? Check. Small power station to recharge all the technology? Check. Small trailer to carry all this stuff? Don’t own one.

Think I’m ready but sure and certain I’ll be cursing the missed …..whatever….about 5kms after the start. Lucky we have a support crew. Phone call “Help we need a corkscrew”, response “You’re kidding right?” Apparently they call it Murphy’s Law – and some nutter has written a book about that, attempting to find out who “Murphy” really was. I think that writer set out with a grand ambition but soon found out that anything that can go wrong, does go wrong. He never found out who Murphy was...gold.

Now as I have people who read this blog (or visit, glance, come here by mistake…whatever) from places all over the globe, I should really explain what the weather is predicted to be like. Less than 4 weeks ago we did a training walk, the weather was 35 degrees Celsius and dry. This weekend the prediction is for a minimum of 10 degrees and a maximum of 18 and dry…in Melbourne. Now we’re not walking Melbourne, we’re walking up and over Mount Dandenong. Today the maximum there was 8 degrees less than the city and tomorrow they are saying overnight between 3 and 8 degrees with a max between 13 and 17.  WHAT’S THIS????? Scattered snow showers for ranges above 1400 metres? Better check the Garmin read out from the training walks – elevation gain 1,099 metres, max elevation 606 metres. Thank goodness, only snowing above our heads. Jumper? Check. Thermal? Check. Thicker jacket? Check. Thick track suits pants? Check. Larger trailer? Better ring local hire company.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts this event can be completed within 48 hours, you can set up a tent, use heaps of energy, toss and turn in a freezing camp ground, pack everything up (slowly because your body has locked up) and then kid yourselves that the next half will be easier. Until you suddenly realise your body won’t move. Our team has decided to not stop and rest (apart from a couple of quick meal breaks) therefore not locking up and getting the agony over and done with quicker. Our intention is to get through this in less than 24 hours and based on our training walks this is achievable. Now I may revisit that goal 70 kms into the event when my legs no longer act from brain impulse as they’ve decided to grow a mind of their own and have gone on strike. But at this stage we want to be wolfing down hot food and (maybe) champagne at 7.30am or so on Saturday morning.

Now even though I have a severe case of trepidation I am looking forward to this event, it is a new mountain for me to climb (literally as well as figuratively) and I see the challenge, the team camaraderie, the support, the mental strength and the sheer exhilaration if and when we finish as being a great adrenaline boost. I do know a few team mates are maybe not as upbeat as myself, but maybe their feet are planted a lot more firmly on the ground and they could well have a better grip on reality than myself. Only one way for us to find out how this is going to go – get those trail shoes on and put one foot in front of the other (approx. 150,000 times each).

Finally I’ll end on an a quick thank you to our wonderful support crew who used all of their Project management skills last night, at our team dinner, or what I refer to as our "Last Supper" and made lists of who was bringing what, who will be at what stop where, a sensational spreadsheet with expected arrival times and oh so much more. These guys are the unsung heroes of this journey as it would be pretty bloody hard to undertake an adventure like this without their support, both physically and mentally. Great work support crew we owe you one (do us a favour and use a filter for Instagram if you’re going to take any shots at the finish line – we’ll look terrible).

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

100km walk looms large - how are we preparing?

It’s been two and a half weeks since I updated this blog on my progress towards the 100kms walk that takes place in 8 days time, so I suppose it’s time for an update.

Put simply a number of injuries have kicked in. First off, after our 57km walk overnight on 22 March I was sore all over for a number of days, this wasn’t getting better over time and seeing I had to be at the doctors four days later I got her to check me out. I had a virus so it wasn’t just the pain of such a long walk, I was actually crook!! I took a few days off the running and returned with a 30 min five kilometre effort at parkrun, I was very happy with that time (as it had taken me a while to get to 6 mins per km) but all afternoon was having quite strong pain in the outer left knee and lower back. A chiro visit determined my pelvis was out and I was under strict instructions not to run the Geelong Half Marathon on 7 April if I was going to be any chance of being in shape to walk 100kms on 19 April.

The knee and lower back seemed to have settled, but stupidly (always good in hindsight) I decided that a geocache trip with my 8 year old son would be a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. So instead of running a half marathon we walked about 3 or so kilometres to a local park where a cache was hidden up a tree. The booty was too high for the little one so I took it on to scale the bottom 5 or so branches. Two branches up, I slipped (should have had my grippy trail shoes on) grabbed the branch above to steady myself, fell anyways and have damaged my ribs on the left side. I can tell you coughing is not an option at present.

So I have just over a week to go until I hit the trails with three team mates and the daunting 100kms up and down mountains awaits, whilst I have a potential dodgy knee, lower back and ribs. Looks like the anti-inflams are going to take a pounding!!!!

Our team fundraising for the trailwalker event has been monumental, with our latest event being held at “Milk The Cow” in St Kilda, a wine and cheese tasting extravaganza which raised $640 for Oxfam. Our total team funds is now over $5,000 and obviously I would like to thanks all those who have donated either their cash or their time and skills in arranging, hosting, assisting with all the events and fundraising activities. There are no more specific events scheduled but the fundraising via email, selling chocolate etc. will continue.

A quiet(ish) week awaits where I’ll put in a few 5km-10km runs, maybe throw in a long walk of 15-20kms and carb up as 23 hours or so of straight walking without a break will use plenty of energy. This week’s plans will centre more around the logistics of the event, how are we going to get to the start with minimal walking, what food do we need to pack, what is in backpack what is in the support vehicle (which can only meet you every 15kms or so), how many litres of electrolyte and carb drinks do I need, what spare clothing (there will be plenty of socks I can tell you) and all that sort of stuff.  Four of us doing the same planning concurrently is going to result in an interesting outcome – I’m sure there will be lots of heated debate, and I’m hopeful we don’t all have 20 bananas each, as the weight in the backpacks would be ridiculous.

I’ll check back in with details of our final preparation, just before we head off, and will obviously report back soon after the finish to let you know how the whole team (and support crew) fared. I’m sure there will be heaps of amusing stories and (not so happy) snaps.