Back in 2011, I attempted The Oxfam TrailWalker.
I didn’t finish the full 100km - due to injuries I had to stop at about 60km, but it was quite an experience none the less.
Recently a friend asked me what I did to prepare for TrailWalker, so here is a quick post to explain some key points that helped me.
1. Do as much training as possible!
Expect to spend many months of weekends leading up to the event for training.
Start small (short, flat walks. Yarra trail, etc.) and work your way up to the harder ones (hill climbs, longer distances, etc.)
Try to go every weekend, the more you do, the more your body will become conditioned for hiking.
Go rain, hail, shine, day, night, etc. It’ll help you realize what you need (food, water-proof shoes/pants, stronger torch, etc.).
Try to fit in at least one night hike and one long hike well before the event to see how you cope.
You could pick a different segment of the actual track every weekend so you get an idea of what the event will be like.
2. Find your weak points
My first training hike, I got blisters.
For me, I had to use better socks (didn’t think it would actually help, but it made a huge difference!).
I also spoke to professionals and learned how to strap my feet properly and ensured my laces were done up tight enough.
All this with shoes that actually fit my feet properly meant I never got blisters again.
I’m glad too, in the medical tents, there were people with epic blisters! …Scary stuff!
It’s worth reading up on how to hydrate properly. My memory is a little
sketchy, but you have to pace yourself with water.
Too much and you flush your body of minerals, feel bloated, etc.
Not enough and you are more likely to suffer from exhaustion.
Sip instead of gulp.
You may want to supplement with electrolytes. This is also available in a powder that you can mix into your water.
Something worth reading up on too.
I found having frequent small meals with a mix of high-GI and low-GI ingredients worked the best.
For example, a single snack would be a slice of multi-grain bread (low-GI) with jam (high-GI), folded in half and individually wrapped.
This made it easy to pull one out of a bad on the go. Sugary muesli bars also work pretty well.
Make sure you drink water whenever you eat too, it’ll help with digestion and keep you from feeling too hungry.
Like I said earlier, get shoes that fit your feet properly - Movement and
rubbing will get pretty bad as you work towards 100km!
Don’t buy new shoes just before they event, they need time to be broken in. If you want to buy new shoes, allow at least 3 or 4 training hikes in them first (preferably the smaller training hikes).
We decided against sleeping, we thought it would be harder to get going again
In hindsight I think a couple of powernaps would have helped a fair bit.
If you do decide to sleep, I would probably recommend getting your support crew to bring blankets and also wake you up before you sleep for too long.
7. Team dynamics
Teams can get on each others nerves after spending so long with each other,
especially when your extremely exhausted.
Patience is key, but also sticking together is very important.
Sometimes, some team members will want to go faster than others, this can cause issues and may result in the team splitting up during the event - this is not ideal and should be avoided.
Make sure your team has the same goal for the event (i.e. “just finishing” or “getting a good time”).
One strategy is to let the slowest in the team lead the way.
TrailWalker was a great experience (other than the injuries I incurred).
You have to work quite hard (especially if you’ve never done hiking before, like myself) but it all adds to a fantastic sense of accomplishment at the end - even if you don’t finish.
I learned a lot by doing this and even though training every weekend was tiring, it was actually a lot of fun.
It was definitely a step out of my comfort zone, but I would recommend others to give it a go - and it’s for a great cause!