Despite having completed the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 100km walk two times previously, once in a time of 30 hours and once in 27 hours, on my recent third attempt I did not complete the course. And what they say about proper planning was certainly true of me in this case: Proper planning and preparation prevent piss poor performance! My performance was certainly sub-par, but let my story be a lesson to guys everywhere…
What is the Oxfam Trailwalker, you might be wondering? This event is quite a challenge, inviting teams of four walkers to tackle 100km of Australian bush within 48 hours. The event raises funds to help overcome poverty and injustice around the world through the work of Oxfam. I completed the course for my second time in 2012, but injury and inconsistent training due to kid’s sporting commitments on Saturdays led to my not being considered to represent the Western Districts Joggers & Harriers until this year.
I was invited to join the 2015 Westies contingent 4 weeks out from the event. I gleefully accepted and was put on a team with Ben, Dan and Brett —all champions in their own right. My aim since 2011 was to beat my best of 27 hours by completing the course in 24 hours. Ben’s plan was to finish in 21 hours. An ambitious goal but, hey, I’m nothing if not stupid, so I accepted the challenge.
Four weeks out did not leave a lot of time for appropriate training. My running goals before accepting the appointment were to race in the club’s upcoming “Best of the Best” 3.5km and to complete my second City2Surf 14km fun run in under 70mins. For the past two years, I had not run more than a 10km, and was now training for medium distance speed. I was not really prepping for a major endurance event.
After “The Best of the Best” and the City2Surf runs, I managed to fit in a 25km walk on a flat course, making this my only training for the Trailwalker. “Of course I’m ready!” I kept muttering to myself.
The day of the walk arrived. My team, Team Westies C, was equipped and excited —24 hours would be good but finishing in 21 hours would be better. Our plan was to jog on the downhills and flats as much as possible. The trail sets off from Parsley Bay in Brooklyn, NSW, on the banks of the Hawkesbury River. The gun went off and we hit the course running … to be stopped dead in our tracks within 400m by, easily, the steepest ascent of the whole course: 900m up a concreted fire trail.
The first leg of the course to Muogamarra Rural Fire Station lasts 15.4km. We completed this leg in 2hrs 27mins. We were feeling good and pumped.
The second leg is considered the toughest section of the trail, with a number of steep descents and climbs before you reach Berowra Community Centre. We completed this 11.7km in 2hrs 47mins, ahead of schedule. Along the way, one of our team —I won’t mention names because what happens on the trail stays on the trail— started to experience leg cramps while walking but he bravely pressed on with encouragement (read: “threats”). Meeting up with our support crew at the 2nd checkpoint, I too was experiencing leg cramps as I tried to bandage up my feet to protect against the hot-spots that would soon become blisters. The next checkpoint was only 15km away. “Onward and upward”, as they say, and downward and upward again and…
We had started out too fast and too hard, with a notional goal that did not take into account my training or lack thereof.
I ‘hit the wall’ along the 3rd leg. This section to Bobbin Head should have been the easiest thus far, but I was just completely exhausted. Facing another steep fire trail, I had to stop 4 times as I made my way up. Not a good sign as there were more steep hills to come on the way to Sydney. Another teammate began experiencing pains and bruising behind one knee, which later turned out to be a muscle tear.
The fact is I did not train properly for this third attempt at the Oxfam Trailwalker and therefore did not finish. I took my prior experience for granted, but had to pull out at the end of the third section. I only walked for 42km. I cannot change that fact nor can I explain it away. But I will return next year with a vengeance! (especially since the after-walk drinks are sooo enjoyable!)
Whatever goal you set for yourself, face the fact that you will not achieve anything unless you plan and prepare properly! It doesn’t matter how good you are, how well you’ve done in the past, or whatever connections and resources you think you have, unless you are prepared you will fail.
A Goal Worth Pursuing
Another goal I have is to follow the wisdom and example of Jesus in my lifestyle. Interestingly, he once shared a parable that highlights that even being his disciple requires proper planning and preparation:
Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
Any goal worth pursuing is going to require much and result in a heavy cost. Jesus encourages us all to count the cost before beginning, this is as natural for a builder or a king as it is for an Everyman. Required for any goal from building a house to carrying out a war, from running a race to running the race of life.
You might think you’re too busy to plan or too excited to prepare, but consider what it really costs to wait a minute. If you’re making $5,000 a year, every minute you have to wait costs nearly 5 cents; at $10,000 a year this figure doubles to nearly 10 cents a minute. And, if you should reach the $100,000-a-year category, your minute will be worth $1. Surely you can spare at least $1 and 1 minute to plan the preparation required for accomplishing your goal? What have you really got to lose except not completing your goal at all?!
Without even trying, I have posted a series of articles that all complement each other. Let me wrap up this unofficial series then with the following points:
- If you have a dream, you owe it to yourself to do whatever you can towards realising that dream (see “How to Become More Than Just a Dreamer”)
- We will face experiences in life that will severely challenge us and ‘push us to the brink’. Practising perseverance will prepare you for those challenges that will come (see “When Facing the Challenges of Life, Practise Perseverance”)
- When they say, “proper planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance”, they’re not kidding.
When have you not prepared for something and missed the mark you were aiming for?
When has your preparation made all the difference toward accomplishing your goal?