Episode 12 – The Final Episode – The Event at last
As this is our very last Tales from the Trail, we would like to sincerely thank all of you who supported us throughout the whole time – from training to event. So many people donated to a cause that we felt was worthy enough to make the effort for. From Tracy’s work colleague who, along with the rest of his family, donated on behalf of his grand-daughter to honour the assistance that charity dollars had provided in keeping her alive at the Royal Children’s Hospital for 4 years until a cure could be found for her, to the members of Gwen’s weight loss club (TOWN) who were so inspired by her efforts that their continued donations spurred her on. The members of Gwen, Thelma and Maureen’s church, who decided that walking wasn’t enough and that Gwen needed to practise her public speaking to explain the cause to them as well, to our son’s primary school who conducted a gold-coin donation casual dress day. Our friends and our families who supported us so much, both with donations and with the moral support that helped us on our journey. We thank you all. Between you all, team 672 “We’re doing what?” has raised over $3,000 towards helping disadvantaged communities around the world.
Secondly, we need to thank, as we could never have done the walk without them, our support crew. Steve and Bev, Chris, Thelma and Charles, Sandi and Maureen. You guys were fantastic! You came out training with us, you were ready with yummy, warm, energy rich food at each check point, you pampered us, you filled up our water bottles, you were ready with changes of socks, bandaids and extra clothing for when we needed it, and you did it all in ½ hour blocks before getting us out of the checkpoint on schedule, packing up and moving to the next spot to do it all again. Thank you from the soles of our feet.
And the last group, but by no mean the least, our families, particularly Kira, Liam and George, who lived without us every Saturday for 4 months as we went out to train, who massaged us, who rolled their eyes at our stories, and who will now need to learn to have us around again. And to Ken, for graciously ‘sitting on babies’ every week. We really do appreciate it. Thank you to all of you for letting us have this time.
At the start of the walk, we set up a small list of phone numbers that would periodically receive texts from us, and hopefully let other family members know. The texts sent out are listed here in italics. So here is the Trailkwalk in texts.
10 am start. Goodbye support crew. See you in a few hours. It’s raining.
10:16 am “We are on our way. Rain has settled down and we only have 99 km to go”
Gwen was stunned at how different this was to a fun run. Teams were chatting and relaxing while team-mates were in the loos, stopping on the sides of the track for snack time and generally treating the activity (at this stage) as a social event. Strolling was happening.
12:33 pm “At checkpoint 1 having a cup of tea before heading of again. 12 km in and now the hills will start. Finally stopped raining. Love team 672”
Support crews couldn’t meet us here so Oxfam provided hot and cold drinks and museli bars. We were feeling good but Gwen and Frances were dreading the hill in the next section.
1:12 pm “I’m on the top of the world looking down on … walkers coming up to my right, walkers going down on my left. Gwen’s favourite hill conquered. It’s downhill to Lysterfield Lake. Love team 672”
2:40 pm Arrived at checkpoint 2. Our support crew gave us lunch, filled up water bottles and 40 minutes after arriving we were on our way again. Almost. A quick stop to modify the padding in Gwen’s shoe that we hadn’t got quite right at the checkpoint and then we were off in earnest. It’s hard to tell if it’s right until you’ve walked on it for a while.
4:53 pm “More bleedin’ stairs! Entering Belgrave via stairs …”
This section was through Belgrave and the hills started in earnest. Out came the walking poles and the determined attitudes. Here was Frances’ turn to need a quick stop. Darren had handed out the pieces of powerbar on the hill but eating and breathing on the hill could not be done at the same time. So a short break at Belgrave Station to be able to eat and ensure there was enough fuel in the body for the coming hills was in order and we then went to visit Puffing Billy. Puffing Billy appeared to be getting ready for bed so we didn’t stop for a chat but climbed the hill instead. After that was a downhill bit, I can’t remember if it had a name, but it was steep enough and muddy enough that the SES had rigged up a rope down the side of it for walkers who wanted some additional support. Darren decided to abseil down it instead (we have photographic evidence). At the bottom, at the pub, it was time for Tracy to retape a couple of her toes. Oh dear, a stop at the pub. Lots of others were doing the same thing. I don’t know if anyone went inside though.
6:00 pm “Through Belgrave, starting Hillclimb track. The name says it all. 4 km to the next checkpoint and a short break. Love team 672”
We started this track in the light, we finished it in the dark. Headtorches are wonderful things. Hillclimb Track is single file so teams ended up bunched together in a conga line for a fair distance of it.
7:05 pm Arrived at Checkpoint 3, Ferny Creek. Our support crew couldn’t park at this one so had to drive to the ‘Thousand Steps’ park and get bussed in. This was a tough one for them.
7:31 pm “Changing phone at checkpoint 3. Nearly ready to start again.”
On the steep climb of Hackett’s Rd, Darren was a smart alec and raced someone from another team up it. This guy was commenting on how slowly people were going up, Darren said it’d be quicker to run and the other guy said he would if Darren did. Hmm, of all the people he could have said that to, he had to choose one who actually would do it. So off they went. After about 50 m the other guy decided that he needed to wait for the rest of his team … He asked me afterward if Darren was insane or just nuts (Nuts with a light sprinkling of insanity should cover it).
At some point, we think it was in this section, we passed a group of kids who were set up outside their house with bits of fruit and lollies for the walkers. What a lovely thing to do.
9:53 pm “Arrived at 4th checkpoint. Only 4 hours til we get to have a sleep.”
The checkpoint at Olinda was insane. There were people EVERYWHERE. I think a lot were planning on taking a longer break here. Our crew had been given the closest available site when they arrived but it was still a hefty walk away from the actual checkpoint. We left there just after 10:30 pm, knowing that the next time we saw our crew they would be taking us off trail for a sleep. Incentive or what?
2:35 am Arrived at checkpoint 5, Mt Evelyn. Sore, tired feet ready for a sleep. Goodnight. I thought of sending out this text but didn’t think anyone would appreciate it at that hour. Ooh, a shower and a mattress. Life was wonderful for a couple of hours. Then Charles dropped us back at Mt Evelyn, and we started on our walk again.
7:21 am “After 4 ¾ hours off the trail, we’re on our way again. Love team 672”
From Mt Evelyn to Woori Yallock was on the Warburton Rail Trail. Long, flat, boring, and hard on the feet with the lack of variation in terrain. A team member from another team was obviously having a birthday as there were streamers and balloons strewn all along the trail, adding some much required interest.
By this time, and even a bit on the previous night, we were meeting up with quite a number of teams that had fragmented, one up ahead, one in the middle somewhere, two behind, all assuming that they’d meet up at the next checkpoint. None of them seemed to think there was anything wrong with this arrangement. We were less convinced. Our training had allowed us to learn to how to walk together so we could look after each other and make sure we were all going to make it. We took a leaf out of ‘The Three Musketeers’, borrowed their motto of ‘All for one and one for all’ and stuck to it.
9:35 am “We’ve walked 70 km, the sun has burnt off the fog. We’re passing teams who didn’t stop for a sleep. Love team 672”
We had wondered whether we’d done the right thing, stopping for a sleep, but after passing a couple of teams who hadn’t and seeing what condition they were in, decided that yes, we had made the right decision. We also passed at least one team who had started in the 8:30 am group. Boy did that make us feel good. Not that it was competitive in any way, and the camaraderie on the trail between teams amazed Gwen, who kept comparing it to a fun run.
9:58 am Arrived at Checkpoint 6, Woori Yallock Primary School. 2nd breakfast. Gwen and Frances have never eaten so much food in such a short time as what we have crammed into our bodies over these two days – and we’ve burnt it all off and more besides.
From Woori Yallock we continued on the Rail Trail for a further 5 km, turned off at Launching Place, and then 5 km further on, climbed onto the O’Shannassy Aqueduct. This is really pretty, although does mess with the mind as every corner looks the same and you would swear you’d been there before. The feet were becoming tired and the relentless repetitive impact was taking its toll and one of Gwen’s blisters decided that enough was enough.
12:55 pm “And what do we say to our feet? Shut up feet.”
Shut up wasn’t sufficient so a podiatry stop at the first aid tent was in order at the next stop. In order to distract ourselves until we got there, Darren became our mobile DJ and played music on his iPhone. This had the added advantage of helping us stay together as we zoned out.
2:27 pm “Just been playing in podiatry tent at checkpoint 7 (87 km). Leaving for Warburton now” Every time we check in now we are getting congratulated on the fact that we are still a complete team of four.
There was a lovely lady on the hill down into the golf club offering encouragement, small pieces of popcorn-style chicken and a seat if we wanted it. She was so nice.
And at 3:37 pm we checked into Warburton Golf Club, our last checkpoint before the finish.
4:09 pm “Just the last 7 km to go. Up and over Mt Little Joe. We’re expecting to take 3 hours. Love team 672”
4:52 pm “Just finished the first climb. 5 km to go. Love team 672”
5:16 pm “I like this … they’re counting us down. 4 km to go.”
5:33 pm “Woo hoo, 3 km to go. 1 km steep down, 1 km steep climb, 1 km down again.”
5:58 pm “And 2 km to go. We might get in earlier than 7 pm.”
6:25 pm “1 km to go. That was a long steep climb. All downhill from here.”
At this point we could see the lights of the finish and people at the finish line could see our headtorch lights snaking down the hill. Did anyone see us wave?
6:48 pm “We’re in!”
6:53 pm Official check-in time after excited hugs with family at finish line.
We had supplied our own party, with lots of family members turning up to cheer us over the finish line and congratulate us. It was such a buzz and it made us feel incredibly special. Thank you to Val and Tom, George, Jodi, Nat and the kids, Tanya, Katherine (and Kerryn who brought her), Kira and Liam, Stuart and Andrew. It was amazing that you made the effort to come out just to see us cross a line. The rest of those there celebrating with us had been with us all the way, our amazing support crew, Steve, Bev, Chris, Sandi, Thelma, Charles, Maureen, and had earned it just as much as we had.
Well that just about wraps up ‘Tales from the Trail’ as the trail has now been conquered for 2012. Thank you for coming on the journey with us and we hope you enjoyed reading our stories as much as we did in living them.
Love Tracy, Darren, Gwen and Frances
Team 672 “We’re Doing What?”
Oxfam Trailwalker Melbourne – 100 km – teams of 4 – 48 hours
To read more about my team go to Team 672 : We’re doing what?