Monday, April 6, 2009

Taupo Oxfam Trailwalker - Kath and the J-walkers

A few weeks ago some friends of mine from NIWA who had signed up for the Oxfam trailwalker asked me to be one of their support crew. None of them or their partners had done any long endurance event before, so they thought that I might be able to help as I have a little bit of experience - although always on the side of the participant rather than support crew.
The Oxfam Trailwalker is 100 km, which has to be completed by everyone in a 4 person team in under 36 hours. The girls had been training, but mostly short and hilly walks around Wellington. The actual course around Taupo is not too hilly and a lot flatter.

The event starts at 6am in the morning. It was very cold as we listened to the traditional Maori prayers, haka, waiata before the start. Off they set and the support crew went back to bed - well at least I did for another hour.

Jill, Jo, Kath and Jeni waiting for the 6 am start

The first check point the was a bit of a disaster. The support crew couldn't find each other and we were a long way from the check point. But by the time we got to the 2nd checkpoint we had it sorted and by the final checkpoint Gavin and John could put up the green pergola in just a couple of minutes.
Check point 2 - the support crew of John, Gavin and Glenn setting up
As it was such a nice day I decided that I couldn't let them enjoy this lovely walk on their own. So I joined them for a steady stroll on the W2K track around Lake Taupo. This is a mountain bike track and it climbs gently up to a headland before heading down into Kinloch. Although most of the track is in the bush, there are quite a few points where you get some fantastic views out across the lake.
Views of Lake Taupo from the W2K track.
Walking Leg 3 - around Lake Taupo
After walking the first few legs of the event at a speed of 4.5-5km an hour they slowed down a little after half way, 50 km, and as it got dark. The 4th leg was the longest leg and they started to show a few signs of fatigue..... They were a little worse for wear and not coping too well at the 4th checkpoint. So I decided to join them again on the 5th leg, which was a short 7km through the forest. I guess you could say I was their entertainer... I tried to keep telling random stories and jokes to keep their spirits up and stop them thinking about the blisters and pain they were all now starting to experience.
The checkpoints during the night were hard work - we had to make them eat and drink as they didn't really feel like it. It was also very cold (the support crew were wearing a lot of clothing and ice formed on the ground) and they were experiencing a few little cramp-like twinges, and quite a few blisters. At each checkpoint we were re-bandaging up the feet. I had also brought along our walking poles and they were all being used as the knees got a little sore!
But they all kept on going.... they never said they didn't want to continue.
I had a little sleep between checkpoint 5 and checkpoint 7 and then joined them once again for the last leg down to Lake Taupo and along the foreshore to the finish. The last 7 km were along the edge of the lake and seemed to take a very long time, and the km markers seemed to pass very slowly.
Finally they reached 100m to go - where Gavin was waiting with their fancy dress costumes in the back of the truck. So a quick change and they shuffled to the finish line......

Dressed in fancy dress for the last 100m - RV Tangaroa and and ARGO float
The Finish - 30 hours 45 minutes!
They had made it.....Great team effort girls! They were all very tired and emotional, but I never once heard them bitch about each other or talk about giving up. They stayed together as a team the whole way and looked out for each other.
If you want to donate to their team fundraising efforts go to -
Official statistics
The fastest 4 person team finished the 100 km in 13 hours 48 minutes - a new record!
77 of the 278 teams had one person or more drop out.

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