Thursday, April 26, 2012

What We Learnt From Completing Oxfam Trailwalker

Three Black Inc. staff members (and one non-Black completed the Oxfam Trailwalker as a team last weekend. Oxfam Trailwalker is an endurance challenge – teams of 4 attempt to walk or run 100km in under 48 hours, raising money for charity in the process. The 100km bushland trail has checkpoints along the way where you can rest and your support crew can bring you food, warm clothing and supplies.

We walked the 100km track in 35 hours, with no sleep. None of us had done the event before and we made a lot of rookie mistakes. If you are considering doing the event in the future (and you should – it’s a great way to raise money for Oxfam and really challenge yourself) here are our tips:

DO’S and DON’TS 

DO try and get a few hours sleep at a checkpoint along the way. Or, if you aren’t going to sleep, push through the walk as fast as possible and don’t waste a lot of time. 35 hours of exercise without sleep is not fun – you get really, really tired, slow and increasingly bitter at anyone who seems even slightly more rested than you. ("Look at them! They look full of energy. I bet they've had two hours sleep.")

DO know it gets better when the sun comes up. No matter how grim, awful and cold you are feeling during the night, remember – everything feels better when the sun rises and you might end up a bit embarrassed about that moment of laying down on the track in the dark, welcoming death.

DO remember to really thank your support crew after the event is over. Because you are going to be awful to be around when they see you at checkpoints during the event – demanding (“I’m not walking another step!”), fussy (“I do not want those flavours in my Mee Goreng noodles!”), irrational (“Stop smiling and being so nice!”) and generally unappreciative (“Yes, we changed our estimated arrival time about fifteen times and it’s taken you over an hour to get here, but you’re five minutes late!”).

DO embrace delirium. Laughing hysterically is an energy boost. Seeing strange things is perfectly normal. (“Is that a drunk man wearing a top hat and holding a cane in front of us? That’s awesome.” “No, it’s just another trail walker with a walking pole and headlamp, weaving from exhaustion.” “Oh yes, I see that now.”… “Is that a small child ahead of us? I thought children weren’t allowed to do the event? Quick, take a photo.” “It’s not a child. It’s a jacket tied around a man’s waist.” “Oh yes, I see that now.”)

DON’T be afraid to complain. Loudly and often. Swearing is encouraged. It’s cathartic. And your teammates never, ever tire of hearing how sore your feet are.

DON’T over load the backpack you are carrying with you on the trail. You really don’t need those ten in-case-of-emergency Snickers bars on you at all times. Let your support crew carry the extras.

DON’T save up your best conversations for the hardest part of the track. You might be really looking forward to discussing a trashy TV show (*cough* Vampire Diaries *cough*) and save up the conversation as a treat for when your spirits are very low – at 5am, in the dark, when you are exhausted and despondent. Too exhausted and despondent, it turns out, to actually have the conversation. You’ll just end up grunting character names at each other until you slowly run out of the will to live and you don’t even remember why you liked the damn show in the first place.

DON’T argue with the marshals, even when they tell you there’s 9km to go to the next checkpoint and you are 100%, absolutely, positively sure it’s only 3km. It’s rude.

DON’T get overexcited early on in the walk, when you are ahead of schedule, and call the support crew that is due to meet you in twelve hours and tell them to come earlier. You’ll invariably fall behind schedule and have to keep calling them and changing the time again and again, until they begin to lose their trust in your ability to tell the time at all.

DON’T enthusiastically announce you are doing it again next year when you’re only 45km in. You’ll take that statement back at 70km, when you’re limping in agony and hating life, and your teammates will keep cheerfully throwing it back in your face.

We raised over $5000 for Oxfam, and we had a lot of fun doing it (don’t worry, there are highs that go with all the lows! Sore feet and exhaustion only make up about 95% of the event.). Thanks so much to everyone that supported us and good luck to all the teams out there that attempt the event in the future.

It really is a worthwhile experience for a good cause and nothing rivals the sense of accomplishment you feel after crossing the finish line. Plus you get to laze in bed guilt-free for days afterwards, demanding things be brought to you!

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