I did something crazy. A couple of months ago, I signed up for one of the most epic ultra-distance team challenges in the world; Oxfam Trailwalker. In just under 3 weeks, together with three other lunatics from the We Are Explorers community, I’ll be taking on a challenge through 100km of Sydney’s bush trails within 48 hours.
If you’re like me, by this point a mild case of panic has started to set in. But don’t worry, I’ve put together a final checklist of considerations in the lead up to the event, as well as during.
# 1 Know the Route. Know your gear.
Getting out on the trail before the event is a bonus, but it isn’t compulsory.
Check out Oxfam’s Event Map Book and trail notes, where you’ll get a great indication of the kinds of terrain you’ll be up against. Knowing the difficulties of sections and when epic climbs are afoot will help you prepare and succeed mentally.
You still have time to visit the We Are Explorers Microadventure Map to find a track near you with similar terrain (if possible) where you’ll be able to pick from 300+ tracks all over Australia and New Zealand.
Bitumen Basher Vs. Trail Thrasher
Mimic the conditions of the course as much as possible. If training in the mountains is not an option or there is no access to trails, stick to the grass alongside the pavement rather bashing the bitumen. The repetitive identical foot stride of running on bitumen can be relentless and painful, whilst thrashing the mixed terrain of off-road trails will have less stress on your body and different muscle groups working together.
Plenty of Dress Rehearsals
In these last few weeks leading up to the event, train as if it is the event at least once (not in the last week). Wear a full backpack with the foods you’ll eat during the event, take rest breaks and find out what clothing options work best. Dress rehearsals will be your saving grace on the day. There would be nothing worse than being 40K in and realising that you would have been better off with your pack that has the stomach AND chest straps.
Shoes, shoes, shoes!
The Success or Failure of Any Hike is Footwear. Do not unbox your shoes the day before the event and hope that everything will be fine. Make sure that your shoes are well worn in. Even if that means wearing them to work and to bed. Also, definitely make sure to trial different socks and foot taping techniques. A little blister can become a huge problem very quickly.
# 2 Look After Your Body (Before, During and After the event)
Stretch, Stretch, Stretch
Let’s be honest, stretching can seem like a waste of time for a busy and active person. But rest assured, a 10 – 15-minute stretching routine each day if possible (and definitely after every training session) needs to swiftly become a habit.
If you can, try to attend some yoga classes in the lead up to the event. It’ll help with injury prevention during the challenge and lend more power to your stride. Regular stretching during the event will be vital as well- your hip flexors can thank me later!
Fuel Your Body
Nutrition is and always will play crucial part in completing this event. Start experimenting with what carbohydrates, fats and proteins fuel your body best so that you can succeed on the trail. Feeling bloated is never fun.
During the event, keeping hydrated will be a no brainer, but make sure you’re also clued up on hyponatremia and come stocked with plenty of electrolyte drinks or energy gels. As with food, make sure you’ve tried these supplements prior to the event.
Head to Oxfam’s Start Kit for their Training Guide with everything from what to eat before and during the race, as well as important info on hydration and recovery post-event.
Some tips for next year…
Yes, it’s too late to embark upon a #beastmode training regime, but here are some tips for next time.
# 3 Train hard or go home
Training for an ultra-distance event is more about time on your feet and building aerobic stamina rather than speed. Hence the stamina sandwich: back-to-back long days on the trails at a slow to moderate pace. The second long day is getting out there on sore, fatigued legs and continuing to fuel yourself as well as practice a mental strategy.
Erry Day’s Leg Day
Bulging biceps are not going to get you up that mountain. Any leg-based exercises will be beneficial in not only preventing injury but strengthening the backside, quads and calves as well as the supportive muscles around your knees and ankles.
“Oxfam Trailwalker was an incredible experience and we were determined to complete it together. The feeling as we all came down the hill to the Finish was quite overwhelming, and the support and information we received from the volunteers was fantastic.” — Alex Gifford, Team Miele One
The Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 100K is going to be tough. But you know what’s harder? Struggling to put food on the table for your family, or not being able to send your children to school with the necessary learning materials.
Our team here at We Are Explorers is completing this challenge to raise vital funds to support the work of Oxfam in their global battle against poverty and injustice (and maybe we’ll get a bonus six pack and bulging quads in the process). If you’d like to donate to Oxfam on the We Are Explorers fundraising page, we’d be extremely grateful.
Scout Hinchliffe is a machine. Check out some of her microadventures…