OXFAM Trailwalker Sydney - Part 1

“We’re not in Kansas anymore” Team 249

Part 1

Written by Rebecca Hay

It has taken me close to weeks to have the energy to think and write about my experiences in OXFAM Trailwalker.  As our team crossed the finish line I did say that this was a one time only event for me. Never again!

It took 2-3 days after this event till I really felt like walking any further than from my bed to the bathroom, kitchen or couch. I think I have recovered pretty well – a few blisters, a couple of pretty black toe nails and knees that are still at times angry at having walked for 30 hours non stop.

This event that started on early on 19th of August for our team “We’re not in Kansas anymore”, and finished mid afternoon on the 20th – 30 hours and 37min after we started!  Our team consisted of 3 physiotherapists, Danni and Dave from the Sports Clinic at Sydney University and Shane who works with the Warratahs,  and one sports dietitian ( that’s me!).  Knowing this you would think that there would be no injuries and we would have food and nutrition spot on.  In reality this did not mean we avoided any issues but were well placed to manage them. More on that in Part 2.

Things I am most proud of are that:

·      we all finished together with smiles on our faces and that we all looked out for each other.

·      we were patient when we each one of us took our turn at hitting rock bottom.

We did a number of 10, 15, and 20km walks as a group of 3 or 4 when we could arrange our schedules on weekends.  These walks were done on sections of the trail we would be on for the OXFAM walk. I did a lot of shorter walks with my dog during the week around the streets at home. In hindsight a lot shorter and less frequent than they should have been. 

The night training walk I did with Danni was particularly challenging. We set off in pretty high spirits at 7pm all set for our 20ish km walk that was planed to take 5 - 5 1/2 hours. Things were going pretty well until about 2/3 of the way through the first of 2 sections. We got a bit lost! Well to be more accurate we knew where we were, we just could not find the trail! After much scrambling through bushes, a climb up one waterfall and down another we found our way back to the trail! We were a little crazy towards the end of this particular walk - as evidenced by our faces in the rather blurry selfie taken.  Also to be noted was the stick I had picked up to brush away spider webs as a sword Danni had picked up was Harry Potters wand!  We finished our walk just after 2am, about 2 hours over schedule. The most successful thing I tested on this walk was the Savory Bread Cakes I made as a snack – a definite for the event.

We completed our longest training walk of 50km a couple of weeks out from the actual event.  Danni was unable to join us on this one due to work commitments, so it was Dave, Shane and myself. This was an opportunity to do final tests on nutrition, hydration, clothing, walking poles, backpacks …. Everything really.  My anxiety levels after this walk were pretty high… and I was totally exhausted!

I know they boys felt the same. Shane was battling with a knee issue and Dave had the realization that he drank about half the amount I fluid I did over this walk – he did have times where he said he was light headed and feeling pretty low. Our 50km walk took just under 13hours. 

Some of the discoveries from the 50km walk were:

·      Potato crisps are a nice change to the sweet pre packaged sports foods,

·      Promite sandwiches are a great snack,

·      Coke is great when you are feeling flat,

·      2 min noodles are a great salty meal after 37km of walking,

·      We would need to tape up our feet for the actual event,

·      Knees were going hurt (for some of us more than others),

·      It is easy to not drink enough and get dehydrated,

·      Walking poles are actually pretty handy,

·      I am going to need to change my socks at each aid station,

·      We figured we would need 20-30min at each ckeckpoint to change socks, clothes, top up packs and bottles with water and eat.

·      There was a lot of chaffing in areas we hadn’t imagined!

We started a spreadsheet after this walk to list all the gear we each felt we needed along with the foods we were going to eat along the trail and at each checkpoint. This was to help our support crew with their duties at the checkpoints as well as us in our preparation in the days leading up to the event.

We ended up with 2 plastic boxes each that contained clothes, snacks and other gear we would need on the trail. So things like head lamps, spare batteries, first aid gear, hats, gloves, socks, jackets, blankets, spare shoes and more were included. Also on our list was a camp chair for each of us to use at checkpoints. Our support crew were looking after cooking equipment, water and meals. Meals on the menu were fried rice, pasta, noodles, savory bread cakes and fruit salad.

Nutrition plans were to have 30-60g carbs each hour we were walking. I initially imagined we would require less as we were walking, not riding or running and I did imagine my heart rate would be low enough that I would be utilizing more fat stores for fuel. I realized very quickly on the training walks that clambering up and down rocky hills was like doing long interval sets on my bike.  Concentrating on every single step was also mentally draining. Food is also important to keep mental alertness.  Foods we included in my box to take on each section were: Cliff bocks, Cliff bars, Promite sandwiches, potato chips, sports drink powder, electrolyte tablets and small cans of Coke.

So this was the plan!

This is Part 1 of a 2 Part blog on my experience in the 100km OXFAM Trailwalker event held in Sydney over the 19th to 21st of August 2016. We had 2 goals upon entering this event - the first was to finish in 28hours (which we later revised to 30) and the other was to raise $5000 for OXFAM. The walk starts at Brooklyn, just north of Sydney, and wiggles through the some of the most beautiful and challenging bush tracks and through some suburban streets to finish at Tania Park in Manly.  Part 1 discusses training and preparation for the event and Part 2 is about the actual event, what worked, what did not work and what we would do differently.