Thursday, 22 August 2013

2013 Sydney Oxfam Trailwalker

Being fresh off the boat in the land down under I was keen to make a good impression at work therefore agreed to help out a guy in my new office when he asked “I’ve seen you running in occasionally do you fancy joining my team (someone pulled out injured) for the Oxfam TrailWalker?”. Having no idea what this was I said yes. That was 6 weeks prior to the event. So what is the Oxfam Trailwalker? What had I let myself in for?
The Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2013 is effectively a multi stage trek (held on the weekend of 23-25 August) in which 550 teams walk 100km within 48 hours from the Hawkesbury River to the Harbour (Georges Heights Oval in Mosman). I have joined Terry's team called 'AboutLife 300' with two others Lynsey and Kevin and we were aiming / planning to undertake this in under 20 hrs. With a start at 7am Friday we are hoping to be at the finish somewhere between 2-3am on the Saturday.

The route map is below and the trail description is under the attached link
Route from North to South.
Part of the attraction of the event was the finish location which is only a few km's from Em's parents place (where we are staying).

Pre-event training
Having not done much more than 7km runs to work I needed to step up the running. This was an excellent move as I threw in a few 2hr runs to work taking in all the headlands round Mosman & Cremorne - Spit, Middle Head, Bradleys Head, Taronga Zoo, Cremorne Point. The morning sunrises were spectacular. It also allowed me to get a better feel for the area. I had a few goes at the coarse. Ran from check-point 6 to the end and then home as well as two night walks from CP5-7 with Terry et al. These were good fun and something I had not done before. I also got to see a possum and a bandicoot (which reminded me of an old playstation game back in the day). 
Davidson Park (CP6)
Sunrise over the north head 
The sun's rays on the city from Cremorne Point
I also ran the C2S in a PB of 56mins22secs and threw in some barefoot running at Macmasters and the Mosman 5 hills (as Em and I have named a route) as well. These last two caused some problems with my right food which meant for the last few weeks running was off the cards (did fit a rugby game in though) and the bike came out. Again I rode around Mosman and then wondered what the hell I had been doing not getting out on the road before (PS. I love Strava - after this event there are times to be beat!)

Final buildup
In the final week I tweaked my foot again so was walking around in my suit and a pair of red nike running shoes. The number of times I had to explain myself. Writing this the night before my bags are packed and all the food is either in my bag or with Terry and the support crew. Now all there is to try to get a good nights sleep and then see if the foot lasts the distance. Oh and by the sounds of the amount of food we have survive the indigestion I will get as I treat the day like a 100km buffet and gorge myself all day and night.....excellent!

The event
The cab arrived early in the morning using one of the company cars on PA. I got to the train at central and waited for Terry and Lynsey. We all got the train up to the Hawkesbury and joined the throngs of excited and nervous teams, grabbing coffee and feeds and queuing for the toilets.

The gun went off at the we set off round a corner and a bang up a really steep hill. That was a bit of an eye opener and signs of what was to come. Once at the top we began trotting along, Kevin walking alongside. He was right he could walk as fast as most people jog.

Before the first check point i thought disaster had struck and my foot flared up. I was gutted, i thought for a second that it was going to end now. No way it would hold up for another 90-95km. But you need to go on, and on I went. Apparently you all need to get to the first checkpoint for the team to count. So i was going to get there regardless. but as i went on, it quietened down and the limp disappeared and on i went.

Quite early on a pecking order was established. Kevin was adamant that he had to go at his fast walking pace and he could cover rough ground very well indeed. Lynsey was quick over good ground but lost ground on Kevin over the rougher stuff and there was plenty of that. So with the team splitting Terry stuck with Kevin and I trotted around with Kevin keeping him company and occasionally making comments such as "who would have thought it would take so much effort to run down an old man" - he loved the back handed compliment.

We all had to check in and out at the checkpoints together. So it ended up with Kevin and I arriving first and Terry and Lynsey arriving later. First few check points the time difference wasn't very much.

As the day progressed we were making good time and on track for the 20 hour mark. There were various friends of Terry at the checkpoints bringing our food and supplies. As well as Kevin's wife.

The scenery was pretty special in parts although there was a lot, and I mean A LOT of running along trails in the middle of the bush with very limited visibility or views.
The paths were quite demanding in parts and I really liked skipping along and down the steeper sections. Like being a kid again and running around in the Dales.

Its too long ago to do full details but here are a few of the main things I remember:
- coming into the bottom of bobbin head - which is now somewhere I cycle through on a regular occasion and i love it;
- eating Kevin's Mrs' lasagne at the dinner stop (St Ives I think) and then regretting it. Lovely though it was it wasn't what my stomach wanted. Especially as I had already had my planned dinner. It sat very heavily until the next stop at the bottom of Roseville bridge. I felt sick alot of the way as my stomach was struggling to digest the amount of food i had shoved into it.
- vegemite bagels = yummo
- crossing the train line near the first checkpoint
- the Lynx statue at _________
- Kevin's ridiculously strong chest lamps. It was like walking in daylight
- general banter with the groups around us
- the slowing at the km's progressed and the delays/waits getting longer and longer;
- the c90mins at Roseville bridge and getting very very cold;
- being able to wait inside up on wakehurst parkway
- waiting on the stairs at the top of balmoral beach so we could all finish together
- not going for a swim on balmoral like I said I might, nor having a beer at the 3/4 am that Em picked me up from Georges Heights 
- going along the wakehurst parkway - another place I have now cycled along quite a bit.
- changing into my road trainers after the stop at Ararat reserve.
- chatting to Terry's friend at McFarlane reserve
- chasing down an old guy and the running through the boardwalk that ran through a marsh
- ringing em at one point to say hello as I was chasing down Kevin on one of the early stages and telling her that i was just going along solo at that time.

The longer ago it was the better the event / challenge gets and the more i consider doing it again, but i have to think back and remember. And if i don't Em reminds me of my mood in the days after the event. And i'm not talking about being barely able to walk the next day or being dog tired and struggling to stand up in the Mosman Hotel at Em's evolution party on the Saturday night. When it came down to it I was disappointed by the event in two ways:

1) the views and scenery was underwhelming, very underwhelming. OK so you don't get the views that you did get like that just outside of London. But if I was going to do 100km walk it would be somewhere with stuff to see - The Dales, Peak district, North wales, Lake District, Scotland, The Alps etc etc etc. Even the trailwalker that id done down the thames, at least you would have something to look at and changing scenery as opposed to bush, bush and more bush. The positive is that I feel I have done bush walking now and don't need to do it again.

2) it was the team camaraderie filled event that I was hoping for. Due to the differences in pacing I spent the 21hrs basically with a random old guy. Nice as he was, I barely spent any time with Terry the guy from the office who I got on well with and barely spoke to Lynsey. Being new to the country I suppose I was hoping it would be a way of meeting people, but it wasn't to be. 

Still i liked the challenge and the constant pushing, doing something new and the experiences that go with that. As well as the training it forced me to do and the new areas I discovered round Mosman etc on my runs.

Will i do it again, we will see, but only if the team is a strong one and we are going to go out and try and smash it. More likely to try a 100km on my own like the North Face100. But as I have said its a long way to go to find out it was the 100km i didn't like rather than the team based nature of the oxfam.


No comments:

Post a Comment