Sydney Trailwalker 1999
by Robin SakerMay 1999
Some photos from this team here.
We started a few months ago training with 30k walk / runs along the track and by the day we had covered pretty much all the track (some bits a few times). It is basically a bush track through beautiful, but rugged countryside and has some extremely steep climbs and descents .. oh yes and watch out for the ankle breaking rocks !!
The training was hard but fun and some hilarious stories, such as the time Simon fell over a log and ended up face down in the dirt ... and somehow managed to avoid getting his sandwich (which he was eating while running) in the dirt !! There was of course the time Kim unknowingly carried a large rock in her backpack for 15k's (a very good practical joke !!! heh heh).
We originally had 2 Fresh & Fruity teams (1 walking and 1 running) and ended up with the final running team of: Robin Saker, Simon Birch, Kim Bonner and Greg Davis. With a support crew of six (Nat, Leon, Jane, Bob, Jodie and Kerry).
Weds (26th may) night we went shopping for food for our adventure and managed an impressive pile of fruitcakes, energy drinks, glucose tablets, sweets and snacks and bananas.
Thursday was frantic, collecting and organising food for all the competitors and VIP breakfast and finally ended with me dropping the last supplies at the start ready for the next day.
(Start: Friday 28th May 1999 10am - 48 hours to finish).
Friday (the BIG day - at last !!). Up at 6:30am to pick Kim and Greg (my fellow team mates) and meeting at Simons house at 7:30am.
Made it to Weil park, Woolwich at 8am and transferred all our gear to our support teams car. Then a few warming up runs and we were off to the park where there were about 90 teams (of 4 people) with various media and a Ghurka team flown in specially.
Milled around and got ready which included spraying our hair green (our gimmick). Then we were spotted by a TV crew who interviewed us (apparently it made channel 7). We were called to the start with about 15 minutes to go, started feeling a bit nervous. Wearing running gear, Franklins T-shirts and a water bottle holder with mild solution of gatorade in it, 2 pairs of socks and newish Asics running shoes.
Bryce Courtenay appeared and told a joke and gave a short bit of info, really good atmosphere in the crowd and we were right up the front for the start. Did a countdown .. 10..9..8..7 etc and then we were off and running !!
Surprised at how many people are running at the start (still our strategy called for us to make a quick start through the first few checkpoints). We were up the front of the pack (just behind the Ghurka's) and yes we had our moment of glory ... by overtaking the Ghurka's !! Running behind police cars for the road section and then it was bush track for 13 and a half k's to the first checkpoint (in 1hr 15). Arrive to welcome shouts from our support crew had a quick blister mend and a change from running tights to shorts in front of about 20 VERY surprised people (nowhere to change).
Crowd thinned out a lot us (Fresh & Fruity team) and the ghurka's and the Berowra bush runners. Greg and I had a slight diversion up a hill, the other half of our team going around the bottom. We arrive 5 minutes after they do and joke about how we'll have covered 101 k's.Reached the second checkpoint in third place, and soon catch the Berowra lot who were refreshing. We had passed black vested team, they had not brought any water with them, at one point getting water off Berowra runners ... the last we see of them (I hear later they dropped out at the third checkpoint). We have lost our friends Mara Clarson and her team (who trained with us), although we could hear them in the forest behind us shouting "Fresh and Fruity" with a slight echo.
Third checkpoint, still running, 32 k's so far, feeling tired, slugged a can of coke and a bottle of energy drink. All I've eaten so far is bananas and drunk gatorade and water, think I should have eaten more. Goodbye cherrybrook to the cheers of our support crew .. you're coming second they shouted !! Even the army guys along the way wish us luck and tell us we are only 20 minutes behind the Ghurka's which is very encouraging. I worry that Kim is trying to push us too fast as we still have 70k or so to go.
40 kilometres and at Rosemead, my right knee is starting to give me grief. We arrive to cheers from our support crew and as usual race in and out of the checkpoint in less than 2 minutes, eating as we run off. The longest leg has just begun (15and a half k's) still we are well ahead of schedule. Start running again, slight downhill, tripped and ended up running about 15ft with my nose 2 inches off the ground in a desperate attempt NOT to do a nose dive .. it worked .. to cheers from Greg ! Track is very rough, single file, lots of short hills, turns and crossings over the river, then around the bay .. when will this ever end ... Started off with a dose of 3 nurofen (painkillers) to dull the sharp pain from my right knee. Starting to get dark, have we really been going this long ? Switch on torches for the first time.
Arrive at Crosslands .. tired and hurting .. wait for Simon to get back from changing his shoes, so we can sign in and out .. go see doctor about my knees which are both hurting (and slowing me down). St Johns ambo applies some gel ... I need surgery !!!!!!! not bloomin gel .. stagger off half drink cup of soup, some pasta and then it's off into the night again clutching a handful of biscuits.
Checkpoint 6 Mt Kuringai, a brief 6 and a half k's from Crosslands and a welcome sight. Still running third, although Kim's right knee is hurting too and Greg is very quiet. Simon is still bouncing !! Tried eating a banana on the run, tripped and punched the remains of the fruit into the ground to stop my fall .. clever eh ? Hope no pursuing team slipped on the skin !!
Checkpoint 7 Berowra guide hall looms at the end of the road, a most welcome sight in the dark as my torch batteries are dead and I've been walking (in pain) in the dark for a few km's with Greg. Simon and Kim gone ahead ! We all arrive together for hot soup, sign in and out Kim starts to panic about the time although we are 25mins ahead of our nearest rivals and similar behind the bush runners (still running third), I forget about changing insoles and getting batteries for my torch or extra clothes and we all race out the door. Simon bringing a large stack of pizza slices with him. We race down the road following the occasional sign or bit of hanging reflective tape. All is well until the first downhill where I begin to understand what arthritis must be like as I gingerly step down. As we near Berowra waters our pace has slowed to a crawl, Simon and Kim are ahead.
We race along the water (I think hobble is more accurate in my case with a bit of a grimace) knowing we are near Checkpoint 8 and friendly faces, it's nearly 2am and we have been going for 16 hours (the Ghurka's finished over an hour ago!). I have to sit down to get down the next steps as I cannot bend my legs anymore to walk down and decide to stop at the next checkpoint. Checkpoint 8 appears, manage a sort of rushed walk, the painkillers are having no effect. Pull up to cheers and welcome claps from our magnificent support crew (who have been up all night in the cold - it almost makes me believe I can carry on, but I don't want to risk stopping the rest of the team if I don't make it up the next hill).
Checkpoint 8 - 79 kms I pull out (very disappointed, but relieved as I know I probably wouldn't have made the next leg as it is the steepest and toughest on the course). Sign the form I'm out .. and the team is on its way to the final checkpoint. Sit in Leon's car and have to lift my legs in with my hands, glad to be warm and seated, take more painkillers. Disappointed to find the team that was 30 mins behind us is now 30 mins in front ! They must have had an incredibly fast leg.
Checkpoint 9 - our team has made good progress and made up 30 mins on the team in front with its limping people. I have seen the ambulance people, not much they could do except more painkillers and a slice of cold pizza. Watch as the army guys bed down .. tell them they should be sleeping on cactuses or something ? They laugh. Our guys are in and out fast and disappear into the night. Very cold !!
Finish - freezing, have 3 t-shirts, coat and waterproof on. Drink soup / coffee to keep awake. Clamber into Leon's car to keep warm, short nap. Creak out to finish line to see Berowra bush runners come in second, congratulations, they still look good. Another hour or so, team 3 comes in, congratulations! Took them over 3 hours, limping and they look about finished !! Finally everyone is out of their cars .. 5:45am .. cold Natalie runs off to look for the team .. 2 minutes pass, a shout of here they come and Simon appears with a quick jog asking for ambo on standby "Kim might have hypothermia .." A few minutes later all three appear and I join them for the stagger across the line to cheers. Short presentation and people getting wrapped up and warm drinks and then it's into the cars.
Quick diversion home via McDonalds, had to help me up the step into the shop to amused glances .. too much beer ?? I think NOT, anyway the maccas hardly touched the sides. Then Leon drove us back to my car at the start at Weil park and off home. Took me 20 minutes to get up the steps and to the front door.
Will I do it again ???
YOU BET !