“We’re not in Kansas anymore” Team 249
Written by Rebecca Hay
So there we are......crossing the finish like 30hours and 37min after we started (it says 31 hours in the photo...but we were in the 2nd start wave, which was one hour after the first wave left). It was a long, long walk. As a Sports Dietitian and a veteran of many endurance events, like Ironman triathlons and 3 Peaks Cycling Challenges, I figured I had the nutrition portion pretty much under control. Well planned with amount of energy needed calculated and packed neatly into my snap lock bags for each of the 8 sections. What I was not prepared for was what my appetite would do after that 12-13hour mark, and how I would respond to being sleep deprived and just so ridiculously tired. For the first 20hours I was pretty happy with the food selection....but beyond that I was getting fussy and tired and a bit sick of everything I had laid out in front of me in by food box and in my food bags I put in my pack. There are things I would do differently with the experience gained from completing this event.
We would not have been able to do this event without help from our very generous support crews. We had help from our colleague Stuart for the first half, and my husband Steve for the second half of the walk. Along the way there were more work colleagues, friends, parents, wives and children coming along to cheer us on at aid stations. This had such a positive effect on us - it just "lightened" the whole mood.
In our training walks we tested all our equipment. This included everything from bags, shoes, poles, socks, head lamps and clothing to what pain killers and band-aids and blister blockers we were going to need. I had a test run with taping my feet to prevent blisters by a colleague who is a podiatrist (Thanks Joel Urban). I have to say the taping really saved my feet! I did end up with a few blisters on parts of my feet that were not taped. Sadly I think this may just come with being on your feet for 30+ hours.
We had pre prepared some simple meals to be consumed at each of the checkpoints that support crew were permitted. A selection of items in each bag were: crushed potato crisps, Promite sandwiches, Cliff blocks, Cliff bars and Scratch sports drink powder and SHOTZ electrolyte tablets.
Our pre prepared meals included - fried rice, a pasta with tomato based sauce with some grated cheese, and savory bread cakes (recipe from The Feed Zone Portables). We also had 2 minute noodles in our food boxes and had fresh fruit salad at the last 2 checkpoints. Emergency cans of coke were also in my food box and I carried a small can in my pack as well....because you never know when you are going to need one!
Lesson 1: Don't get dehydrated.
Know how much you should be drinking each hour while walking in a variety of temperatures. Simple way to measure this is to do some pre and post body weight measures on shorter walks. Have a variety of fluids on offer. I used sports drink and electrolyte drink and water. One of our team members became quite dehydrated by ~65-70km mark. The feelings of nausea and dizziness got the better of him at the checkpoint at Frenches Forrest and he was close to withdrawing. With a pretty impressive display of will power he worked to bring himself out of this really dark hole. Our stop at the aid station was longer than planned but I am so pleased we took the time to allow for enough fluid, salt and some energy to be consumed by our team mate to recover from this. Small sips of fluid, a little salt, and food only when the nausea had passed.
Lesson 2: Keep eating. Don't stop eating.
We all knew this. Me better than most. But there does come a point where what your body needs and what it wants are completely at odds. This hit me at around the 80km mark. I knew I was not eating enough as I had got lazy with my food - I was a bit sick of what I had on offer even though I had on hand food in a variety of flavours and forms. I was just sick of what was there. My feet were also cramping and I could feel the every growing blisters getting worse with every step on my heels and toes. This was about 24hours in. I just had to stop and sit. I could hear one of my team mates calling my name and asking if I was OK. All I could think to do was grab my "emergency coke can" and drink it. I called back to her that I was "just having a coke!". I could hear her have bit of a chuckle at this. This helped me catch up to her where I immediately dissolved into tears as I knocked my glasses off my head. Ah the joys of fatigue and a food flat!
Lesson 3: More fresh, plain food at aid stations.
I think my favorite food over the whole walk was plain brioche rolls with butter. Stu, our support crew for the first part of the walk, had bought for us at the Bobbin Head checkpoint (around 42km in). It was so nice to bite into these fresh soft rolls. They were easy to chew and just plain - just what was needed.
The savory bread cakes were also a winner at Checkpoint 6 (just over 80km in and just after my food flat). By this time my husband Steve had taken over head support crew duties. He heated a couple of bread cakes up for me on the camp stove. The fresh fruit salad that Danni's mum had prepared was also a winner at this point too. I enjoyed this at the final aid station as well - just wanted simple and refreshing food by that stage.
The pasta and rice were great at the overnight stops. The pastawas hard to heat up and avoid it becoming a sticky ball of pasta, cheese and tomato. On reflection keeping the pasta and sauce separate and mixing these just before eating would have made a more palatable and easier to eat option. The fried rice was great!
I think we all had different requirements and desires for foods at different times - which was a challenge for our support crew. There was not a lot of clear communication from us, the walkers, about what we felt like. The more fatigued we became the less decisive we were about what we felt like eating. Having a number of options available for small meals, particularly at the latter aid stations, would be a better approach. Given we were snacking along the way the volume of food consumed at the stops did not need to be large - just fresh and different to what we were carrying in our packs. And variety, and simple.
Lesson 4: Instant coffee is not as bad as I remember.
There was "real coffee" available at a number of the checkpoints. I am not sure my stomach could have coped with that much caffeine or even that much milk in one hit. A good old instant coffee with a dash of milk was just perfect at midnight! Perhaps the most important word here is INSTANT.
Lesson 5: Never Again
Well that is what I said when I crossed the finish line ..... I have softened a bit on that stance. Stay tuned for 2017.
We would also like to thank all everyone who so generously donated to our team for this event. We reached 125% of our fund raising target. Thank you!