What is it like doing an Oxfam Trailwalker?
For this weeks edition of #whatiswednesday James is going to do more of a reflective piece to discuss all the trials and tribulations associated with the completion of the Oxfam train walker 100km event. And also to give him a soapbox to stand on to thank all of those that have supported team PhysioLife both on the day, in the lead up and via very generous donations which are still coming in as we speak! -also we can’t forget the ongoing continual support we receive as we recover.
The day started with a 4.30am alarm while not required due to the excitement and anxiety surrounding what to come, is more on an indication to get out of bed and get kitted up ready to go for what is set to be a day we will never forget. The car ride to Lysterfield Lake was in unusually good spirits considering the wee hour of the morning. Chat was around how we are going to attack the early stages of the course and that a top 20 finish will be nothing more than a formality. Hah! Yeh nah not quite that easy…
The start line was buzzing in the dark. People waving traffic control batons, participants frantically looking for toilets in the dark. Nervous teams quietly waiting for final registrations and hand out of raceday numbers. Then there is the Oxfam volunteer tasked with tracking down the ‘Legends’ screaming at the top of her lungs in celebration of anyone who has completed 5 or more of these.
Aaaand, we’re off! It all starts with a commotion not dissimilar to the Myer Boxing Day sales with each team jostling for front position so as not to be help up in traffic. Not really considering the enormity of the next 100km to come.
The first stage stretches the field out as many teams elect to run and attack the early parts- as we did. Good thing? Bad thing? Well, we still aren’t sure. We reach the fabled 1000 steps at check point 1. All still buzzing and feeling remarkably fresh. Quick stop to refill water bladders take on a banana and an energy gel and straight onto the very hilly second stage that would have us into Olinda at the very peak of this years event.
During this second stage we hit our first real hurdle as a team. This hurdle was my nose bleeding like a tap for 15-20 minutes. We showed at this very point that we were an effective team unit. Ben took my back pack off me, Tyson found some tissues to try and stem the flow and Kallan shouted supportive things. All while fellow teams passed making jokes about how the others had gotten sick of me already and elected that a bop on the nose was better than my voice. Hilarious! Given the sheer volume of blood loss at this point there was concern about my ability to continue, alas, I pushed on and ensured that my hydration levels stayed high. As we hit the major climb to Olinda, we realised exactly why we still do not believe Kallan is human. He powered on passed the other two teams we were walking with as if the steps climb was a walk in the park. “If you look sideways all hills seem flat” he says while breathing normally, heart rate probably still lower than my own resting.
Olinda reserve comes as a much needed pitstop and refuel before heading onto Mt Evelyn. Spirits are still high at this point as the hard stuff is surely behind us. Large volumes of running has started taking its toll on a few of us with quads cramping starting to niggle away. Thank goodness for Crampfix. The decision to load this in the packs will remain one of the most important things that kept us going all the way to the finish line.
The next few stages were fairly flat and monotonous. The major challenges being leg tightness and the gradual loss of the ability to roll the legs over into a jog. Ben suffered some serious calf pain requiring some attention at the Croydon check point- Lucky at least one of team PhysioLife is a Physio! We all started suffering various bodily concerns except for Kal. He is in fact a machine.
Upon reaching Donvale at Mullum Mullum reserve, I personally had hit the wall. With blisters covering the majority of the sole of my foot and knee pain that made depending any incline incredibly difficult, I hit the aid tent. I was lucky enough that the ladies in there could smell my despair as three of them worked furiously to prevent me from pulling the pin at the 70km mark. A podiatrist at each foot and a fantastic massage therapist doing everything she could to stop my legs from giving up. We are lucky I was in a world of hurt and spent more time in that tent than anyone should because it kept us dry as the hail storm rolled through. A quick radar check by Guy Balasso assuring us that it has passed and we were off again.
Without going into too much detail the next 30km was utter agony. Except for Kal who probably wanted to run it and stop for burpees along the way. We all had meltdowns, hit walls we didn’t know existed and we had never pushed our bodies to these limits before. The thing that got us through was team work. Not just from the other three guys in our team, but our amazing support crew who at every checkpoint had a cheer, a chair, a cheeky massage and good spirits to give us to spur us on further. Without these guys who selflessly took days off work to support us, we simply wouldn’t have made it even half way. On behalf of the team we cannot thank you guys enough for all of your hard work and making it possible for us to finish.
Our plan all along was to sit down at Fairfield boat house and have a few celebratory ales and talk about the funny stories along the journey. Not even this went to plan. It was more like “It’s 4am. I’m going to bed. I can’t walk can someone carry me”
The days following the walk were equally hard with all members suffering from joint aches, muscular failure, blisters, swelling, bruising and brain fog. While walking is now possible again, it will take many more days to fully recover from the event.
I personally can’t thank those around me enough for putting up with me in the days since providing food, transport and massages all to try and get me back to being a functioning member of society again.
My top tips for recovery if anyone is considering doing the Trailwalker next year.
-Have massages booked or family who can help you for the next 2-3 days.
-Eat! Get as many of your calories back in as soon as you can.
-Hydrate. This includes replacing electrolytes.
-See your podiatrist. Get all of the blisters sorted as soon as possible to ensure they do not get infected or cause issues longer than they need to.
-Get moving! This can be getting on the spin bike, having a stretch, foam roll or if the mental pain of walking has subsided, go for a light walk.
My personal list of thank you notes is endless. However I will make further note of our entire support crew on the day and all of our generous sponsors which I will list below.
-CGR Sportswear (event kits!)
-David North, Kerryn Balasso, Nathan Chan, Matthew Cybalak, Louise Chard, Terry Stavridis, Lauren Kelly, Nick Musso, Andrew Kelly, Brenton Hall, Adam Sevemli, Kiri Balasso, Jim Wintour, Zoe Johnson, Adrian Doria, Tyson Balasso, Luke Johnson, Kirsten & Leonie Forgione, Rebecca Aplin, John Cawley x 2!, Ross Taylor, Sally Tsalikidis, Elvia Russo, Sue O’Sullivan, Arabella Shedden, Ryan Hartnett, Shirley Lam, Sandra Vander Pal, Pretty Sushil, Elizabeth Baglin, Peter Johnson, Matt Ho, James Paparousis, Chris McFarlane, Kate Piriani, Wendy Johnson, Nic Redden, Belinda Rutledge, Eliza Goulding, Peter Richards Surverying, Rachel Crosbee, John Goulding, Cassandra Hooke.
This extensive list of financial supporters just shows that we weren’t just walking for Oxfam, we were walking for everyone who put skin in the game for us! We just hope we did everyone proud and again, we could not have done it without everyone’s generous support. One thing I can tell you is that I will never forget the feeling of finishing with three of my best mates all as one. It is something I couldn’t have done without having them there along the way.
For all those playing at home. We completed in a very respectable 21hrs 1 minute. Many lessons learnt that will invaluable should we be coaxed into repeating this feat in 12 months time.