Oxfam Trailwalker Report – Christian Ellis

Oxfam Trailwalker – Sydney 2012 – is an event that I have heard a lot about over the years, and always wanted to give it a go. Presented with an opportunity to join a team looking to ‘run’ the 100km event, I jumped at it. Starting from Parsley Bay near Brooklyn, and traversing the bushland through the Northern parts of Sydney and finishing in Mosman, the team consists of 4 people, and is in aid of the organisation Oxfam Australia.
Our team was Andrew, Gavin, Noel and myself. We arrived at the start area nice and early to the usual commotion that accompanies these events. People and animals were all over the place. A goat was standing in what would have been a really good parking space. Instead we had to park another 200m up the hill.
Before we knew it we were off with the other 550 teams. Through the opening sections I was finding that the other guys were getting away from me on the tricky technical sections, and I was catching back up on the single track and fire trail. Andrew and Gavin got away from Noel and myself towards the end of stage 1, and us two behind were caught waiting about 5 minutes to cross the train line at Cowan with a freight train passing. At checkpoint 1 we found that we were the 4th team.
The first 45km went quite well. We were well on track for our goal time of under 13hrs. For myself, I seem to hit a sweet spot on the approach into Bobin Head. I had equalled my longest training run, and still feeling good. I was running well, enjoying the scenery and the sunshine, and knew then that I was going to make it to the finish. Here we found out that one of the other teams ahead had a team member withdraw, which put them out of contention.
Gavin and Noel were not fairing as well however. Gavin was having trouble with his ITB, and Noel was not feeling well, but couldn’t put his finger on it. We slowed heading into checkpoint 4 at St Ives showground, with much of this section spent walking. We passed the first team, No Roads, on the out and back section, and not long after the next 2 teams.
We spent longer at checkpoint 4 than our planned 2-3 minutes. Noel took some anti-inflamatories for his ITB that seemed to be playing up now, and needed to have a tick removed. The St Johns ambulance fellow walked over with a clipboard and a form to fill out before he had done anything, and Noel’s expression was priceless. We just wanted to get going.
Once going again, we were travelling really well over the section from St Ives to Davidson. We arrived at McFarlane reserve to find one of the teams still there. Thanks to our support crew, we were back on the trail again in only a few minutes. This put us into second place, and gave us all a boost.
This section to Davidson Park under the Roseville Bridge is the one that I was itching to put the foot down. If we could get to the next checkpoint before it got dark we could save a lot of time. The section is flattish and not too technical. My legs were still feeling relatively good considering the 70km already behind us. Gavin was not feeling well at this point unfortunately, so we walked most of this section.
The next section was very technical, and now it was after 6pm, so completely dark. This is where I had a lot of trouble. I could only see 2 feet in front of me, and I was tripping over tree roots and rocks with my big flippers. Note to self to get a better headlamp next time.
The last section goes from Ararat Reserve to Mosman via the Spit Bridge and Balmoral Beach. This is where I struggled a bit. The other guys were all moving well now with the finish line in sight, but I was getting tired, hungry, thirsty and fed up with the dark. My quads were complaining and there was a lot of stairs. The other guys got ahead of me as I stumbled through the last single track and then again through the gardens at Chinamans Beach. I did get a big cheer from one of the tables dining at Balmoral Bathers Pavilion which gave me a lift. Caught the other guys at the other end of Balmoral and we stayed together to the finish.
We crossed the finish line as a team of 4 in 14hrs and 27minutes. Officially 2nd with funds raised for Oxfam $4,310.
This is my personal account of the day, and I hope this report doesn’t detract at all from the efforts of the other guys. Andrew was our rock, staying strong, positive and encouraging us all day. Noel and Gavin put in outstanding efforts. Faced with the same issues I don’t think I would have finished.
And full credit to the team of Jonathan Worswick, Andrew Lee, Shona Stephenson and Paul Robertson who finished in a time of 12hr18mins. A very impressive time over this course for anyone, but to have all 4 team members cross together was an outstanding result.
Having had some time now to reflect on the event, I am very pleased with the result. For anyone thinking about doing it, training on course helps on the day immeasurably, under train rather than over train as being injury free is essential, and don’t underestimate the value of team work for this one.

http://trailwalker.oxfam.org.au/sydney/teams/team/?team_id=12745


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