Oxfam Trailwalker – 100km in 36 hours

What a tough weekend this was! Even reflecting on it a week and a half later it still doesn’t seem any less daunting. I’ve come to the conclusion there’s no easy way to walk 100km, regardless of how much training you put in you still have to grind out the distance and it’s inevitably going to take 24 hours or more (for a normal person!).

I’m making my first post in a long long time and it comes about for two reasons. 1. I’ve already penned the words which I posted to Facebook which makes it easier and 2. It was the hardest challenge I’ve ever attempted so it simply had to make a blog appearance.

It’s also my first post since I moved to New Zealand on 10th April, 2017 which obviously marks a pretty major milestone in my life.

So this whole 100km journey started back in September 2017 when I put my hand up at work to get involved with Oxfam Trailwalker. Gratefully my work supported Oxfam and got on board with my wacky proposal. Three of my fellow young colleagues (Bridget, Liam and Nathaniel) also (strangely?) thought it to be a great idea so we decided to give it a crack. The challenge was two-fold. Walk 100km as a team of 4 and raise a minimum of $2500 for Oxfam New Zealand.

The seemingly large fundraising target was a bit scary to begin with but as the months went by and we slowly ticked away the dollars, mostly through sausage sizzles and bake sales, we quickly found out the real challenge was going to be the walk.

So how did we prepare for such a challenge? By walking as much as we could but to be honest, I don’t think any of us did the ‘recommended’ level of training. It just takes up so much time! We did about five group training walks varying in duration from 5 – 11 hours with the longest being 50km. Most of them were only 15 – 30km so you can imagine how ominous 100km looms when you’re not even doing a third of it and it takes you a full day’s walk.

Rather than reword the Facebook post to fit my ‘intro’ (consider yourselves lucky to get an intro! ;), I’ve copied it verbatim below:

Posted 12 March 2018

“100km done in 32.5 hours for the Oxfam Trailwalker! A big thankyou to everyone who supported the “Water we doing here?” Beca team and especially to our four tremendous ‘on the day’ supporters for tending to our every need and getting us back on the trail when it was the last thing we wanted to do. We definitely couldn’t have done it without you.

Walking 100km was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. A big call but true. No intense pain, just an endless grind. It didn’t help that our team of four barely got any sleep the night before due to the impending early start and excitement (maybe 2 hours for me). 6am Saturday we got going, the slow, seemingly painless exercise of walking was so easy. What could possibly be hard about this?

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7km – Overlooking picturesque Whakatane Heads

Check point 1 @ 16km was a welcome refuelling stop but we were all feeling good at this stage (you’d hope so only 4 hours into it!). From here it was 19km along the beautiful Ohope Beach to CP2, the hardest part being the sense that you weren’t making progress as the horizon didn’t look any different km to km. We were ‘boosting it’ though thanks to the firm, concrete like sand and arrived at our supporters tent in the early afternoon. 35km in, feet sore but mostly all good. Although I do remembering hearing comments of “I just can’t be bothered hey, how good would it be to just stop now” and “as soon as I sit down it feels like all my problems are gone” (may have come out of my mouth…)

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22km – Still going strong along Ohope Beach
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65km – Struggling big time at Check point 4

We had further breaks at 50, 65, 74, 85 and 92km. My lowest point personally was at 65km (CP4). It was 1am and we’d been going for 19 hours. I walked straight past the chairs and dumped myself into the car to get some shut eye. Apparently I ‘slept’ for 30 min but it felt like 10 min if that. I forced down half a burger, it was all I could manage, and trucked on through the cold night air.

One of our supporters was allowed to walk one leg of the event with us and Jakub was superb for us in this regard and kept us plodding along through the night from 65 to 85km. For me, the tiredness, the pressure on my feet from walking for so long, and lower back stiffness were the worst of it, so you could say I got the good end of the stick. My fellow team mates experienced bad chaffing (walking like a penguin for 35k didn’t look fun) and blisters that nearly forced our team down to three members.

A couple of times we implemented the power nap strategy where you’d find the most comfortable looking patch of real estate, laid down and got 5 min in (the gravel was super comfortable). I feel like it actually worked really well and apparently the marines use the technique so it must be ok.

At the 85km checkpoint I can remember one comment that summed up our mindset pretty darn accurately. Liam asked, “where’s my other shoe?” To his surprise, he found it right where he’d left it – on his other foot!

The last 5km were a real struggle for us, all hobbling along at our maximum pace of 4km/h. We’d all lost the ability to run and felt like we were as old as the km we’d walked. Crossing the finish line brought a mixture of feelings – relief, joy and disbelief. Disbelief that we’d actually finished and didn’t have to take any more steps.

I’m really proud that we were able finish this thing together and I’m proud of our support crew for being there through it all. We don’t often push ourselves to our limits and leap over such high hurdles. Thanks everyone! Cheers”

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100km – Ruined but very proud of ourselves for making it. Back row (from left): Renee, Nathaniel, my girlfriend Ashleigh, me. Front row: Bridget, Jakub, Liam, Michelle.
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