Back in 2014, I decided to tackle the Oxfam Trailwalker 100km Trailwalk from Mount Glorious to Mount Cootha in Brisbane, Australia. After the gruelling effort of 2014, I decided to do it again in 2015.
Sounds crazy, right? 100km? Who in their right mind would do that? Well surprisingly a lot of people do it every year, just take a peek at Oxfam Trailwalker Australia’s Instagram, my limit just happen to be two years, but then I did volunteer later on in 2016, and again earlier 2017.
So what is Oxfam Trailwalker?
Oxfam Trailwalker is one of the worlds leading team charity endurance challenge, held across Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. The event involves teams of 4 that trek a whopping 100km (or an optional 55km now) across Australian bushland from Mount Glorious to Mount Cootha within 48 hours. Although it sounds simple enough, is probably one of the most physically and mentally demanding endurance challenges you could ever encounter.
Not only is Oxfam Trailwalker an amazing endurance challenge opportunity, it also helps raise funds to support people living in poverty. Every team is required to commit to funding raising, which helps Oxfam support work around the world and change lives of people living in hardship.
A whole bunch more information can be found on the Oxfam Website, including money raised and fastest times to date.
So Why did I do it?
To be honest, I decided way before I made my 101things list, but what got me interested was my sister. What began from an idea of going out for a short trail walk turned into a stinking hot summers day 40-degree heat took a wrong turn 30km long trail walk, and from that, I got excited (somehow) which lead me to the completion of Oxfam 2014.
So why the hell did I decide to do it again in 2015?
After finishing in 2014 I decided to myself that I would never do something like that again, but come 2015 the offer was put to me to join another team and train for the 2015 event, so I did.
But it wasn’t just that, there were a few factors that had to get a big tick before I decided to jump back in.
- Will it challenge me again? Yes, it would, I don’t think it would ever not challenge me unless I became a world-class triathlete or endurance runner (unlikely).
- Do I have time to do it again? Yes, and sort of a big deciding factor, which lead me to not do it in years following.
- Did I enjoy it last time enough to do it again? From all the physical and mental struggle, funnily enough, yes, it’s an experience, especially the atmosphere that comes with it.
- Will my body hold up? Unsure, but let’s see (my knees heavily suffered this time around)
- Anything else? I bought a pizza in finishing 2014 and devoured it, I get to do this again (and I did).
So what’s involved in doing Oxfam? and what should you expect?
1. You need a team (and a support crew). The down-side is you need to find 4 people to do it with, they can drop out throughout the event, but to start you need 4, you get to pick an awesome team name though!
2014 Team name – Just walking it off.
2015 Team name – Two girls, a guy and an Irishman (from the photo above, there was literally two girls, a guy and an Irishman, awesome.)
Now a support crew isn’t required, but I recommend it. There are set checkpoints where your support crew can meet you, feed you, love you and give you warm clothing (more about this below).
2. You need to train, weekly. A lot of teams we came across both years didn’t train, and some that did train didn’t even train on the trails (this can lead to an increased risk rate of drop out). I’d recommend doing a training session weekly on the trains, perhaps on a Saturday. At a point, you will need to literally blank out your entire Saturday as you progressively ramp up training closer to the event date.
An idea of a training schedule would be:
Weeks 1-3: 5-10km.
Weeks 4-6: 10-15km.
Week 7-8: 15-20km.
Week 9: 20-30km.
Week 10: 30-40km.
Week 11-12: Resting / Taper period, this is pretty critical.
DO NOT TRAIN ALL THE WAY UP TO THE EVENT DATE, YOU WILL BURN YOURSELF OUT.
There are plenty of trails that the event uses that can be researched and located, a lot of which link up or loop, but worse case scenario you can leave a car at the end of a trail and carpool it back. Training on the trails is critical in getting familiar with the sort of walking you will be doing, which includes lots of up and downhills.
3. Prepare to be physically challenged. This is why training is important, it helps to get a feel for the environment and show you what kind of obstacles you will be facing. In some places there are some fairly steep hills, some at the start and some 80km into the event, accept that these obstacles will make an appearance and they will challenge you. It’s also best to note blisters, sore knees, legs and feet are fairly common occurrences, one of your best investments for this kind of event is good footwear.
4. Prepare to be mentally challenged. This will challenge you more than the physical challenges, your mind will be your biggest enemy in some cases. At one point you will be most likely walking through the night (unless you sleep at a checkpoint, I don’t recommend this) and you will be fatigued. My best advice for this is to keep going, motivate your team members and get them to motivate you, push through the night and at first light the sun will give you an immense burst of second-wind.
5. Prepare to be cold. As this event is held around the more colder seasons, the nights will get pretty damn cold, and you don’t really want to stop in this cold unless you want your muscles seizing up. My advice is to get your support crew to bring warmer layers for you at a major checkpoint that you anticipate to arrive at before sun-down.
6. Gear accordingly and do it right. There are a couple things that are essential in doing the event, listed in order of importance.
Good hiking shoes. Very important! Get your feet sized up, shop around, make sure they’re comfortable, and please oh please get them early, don’t break them in on event day. Poor shoe choice will lead to blisters, which is the number one cause of people not finishing Oxfam. I bought Keen Hiking Boots from Mountain Designs at a Direct Factory Outlet, significantly cheaper and are still going strong.
Good hiking socks. As important as your shoes, make sure the socks have an articulated y-heel design, arch and ankle elastic to ensure it doesn’t slip down, cushioning underfoot, a flat toe seam and fabric that keeps moisture away from your skin. Mountain Designs Socks are a good option for these too.
A good lightweight backpack. Preferably with the ability to carry water, CamelBak bladder or water bottles. I use and still use this exact backpack, worth every dollar.
Electrolyte Tablets. Oxfam used to supply this, but not anymore. I recommend taking one of these at each checkpoint to keep your electrolytes balanced. Just pounding water can lead to overhydration and cause your electrolyte levels to drop extremely low, which can be fatal in some cases. You can pick-up Electrolyte Tablets fairly cheap at your local Health Shop. Alternatively, you could add Himalayan Pink Salt to your water.
A Headlamp. For your night-time walks, again please test this and don’t expect it to work on the night during the event. bring back-up batteries too. Something like this would be suitable.
Compression Garment Clothing. Helps reduce muscle fatigue and chafing.
Sun-Protecting Essentials: Sun-screen, A hat, sunglasses, the basics here.
Warm Clothing: For night-time (and sometimes during the day if it’s cold and windy). Things can include a beanie, jacket, gloves, neck-warmer.
Further essentials that Oxfam recommends is listed here, but these are the basics that I would ensure you have.
7. Hydrate sensibly and eat. Ensure you drink water regularly, but don’t pound water. As mentioned earlier in gear, you need to get electrolytes back into your body as you’re sweating a lot of it out. My advice is at every checkpoint throw a tablet into a full 700ml water bottle, do not leave the checkpoint until that bottle is gone. You can bring snacks along the way but it’s not necessary, Oxfam supplies plenty of food at every checkpoint including bananas, sandwiches and nut-bars, make sure you eat.
8. Use your common sense. Don’t overly push yourself to get it done faster if you know you can’t, injury is a sure-fire way to not finishing.
Did anything come out of doing this event?
In fact, it did, it lead me to pursue a career in Nutritional Medicine, and in 2018 I would come to be a fully qualified Nutritionist and Natural Health Practitioner at Clarity Natural Health, in addition to my Graphic & Web Design skills. It really changed my outlook on the way I perceived health and fitness industry and motivated me to discover pathways in which I can bring better health and wellbeing to others.
If you’re looking for an event that is physically and mentally challenging, and that sort of thing excites you, I highly recommend you giving it a go. My sort of aim for this post was to give a little bit of insight for people that are interested, so I hope I achieved this.
If I have missed anything or you’d like a further explanation of my experience, feel free to get in touch and ask me anything.
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I appreciate you taking the time to have a read!