The Crazy 8: Triumph and Tears at Oxfam Trailwalker

MH3 —  July 19, 2012

Ever heard the expression “Vegas Mile”?

In simple terms, it means the distance between you and an object that appears close but is really far away. Such as a mountain. Or retirement. Or your vacation. Or losing 20 pounds.

Okay the last three were not the right examples. “Vegas Mile” does refer to the trick your mind plays on you when you eyeball a destination and think it’s much closer than it really is. Try it someday. On the Prairies. On Water. On the Vegas Strip.

I think if there was a contagious disease of having “Vegas Mile,” or “VM” for short, it certainly infected dozens of participants at the Oxfam Trailwalker event last weekend in cottage country Ontario. If you don’t know Trailwalker, it’s a 100-km hike that must be completed in 48 hours by all four members of your team.

To call it a hike is unfair. It’s like calling the Olympics a game of tag.

It’s a mental, physical, spiritual and anthropological challenge.

But on a sunny Friday morning in Springwater, Ontario (not to be confused with Bottledwater, Manitoba), you would have thought everyone came down with VM. Accompanying the sun were the sweet smells of skin protection and bug spray, peanut butter and coffee, adrenaline and enthusiasm. The pulsing sounds of a DJ and the motivational tones of the sponsors were joined by the directions of event organizers and the motivational chants of sundry teams. What sort of cheer do you really think the Thong Distance Hikers or the Christopher Walk-Ins would actually do???

iPhone cameras and GoPros alike were shuttering endlessly throughout the combatants. Calm at that moment, but how many really knew what lay ahead?

At 9:00 a.m. sharp, the horn sounded for the most twisted form of podiatry clinic marketing ever deployed. The VM was still raging at feverish levels. For now. Remarkable isn’t it? Think about it. I want you to get up from your iPad and walk 100km. Ready? Set? Hike!

What emerged over the next two days was pure savagery.
Heatstroke.
Torn nails.
Pear sized blisters.
Turned ankles.
Wrenched knees.
Twisted hips.

Soaked feet.
Heat stroke.
Bear fright.

Acute hunger.
Desert thirst.
Oceanic sweat.

But they fought through. Some for the charity and the work it does. Some for their teammates. Some for the personal challenge.

Hear their voices to understand their stories.

Eight of our staff caught VM. Call them the Crazy 8 if you want. They set out to conquer the trail. Not just any trail. The 100-km, test-your-limits Oxfam Trailwalker trail. Not sure they really knew what they got themselves into!

“When [we] got to the river at around km 78, four guys were carrying walkers across the river.  All of their wives were on a team and they had met them to carry them across the river about an hour earlier and then stayed to help other teams. Not sure if it was because of the state I was in, but probably one of the nicest things anyone has every done.”

“It was pretty funny how shocked other teams were that none of us had done ANY training.

Couple Best Things…

  • When the husbands of another team stuck behind at the river crossing and carried us over (about 80KM). They said they knew how awful it would be for their wives to cross over and get their feet soaked (since they were all taped up) and they stuck behind to help a few more teams.
  • The amazing sandwiches that A.T.’s mom made!! Probably the only real & fresh food we had – and after eating about 7 cliff bars each we all felt pretty gross. She was such a lifesaver!
  • L. ‘Coach C.’ being a dictator and forcing me to drink water and K.S. to eat bananas.”

“For me the most humbling experience was when I was feeling faint and trying to keep up with the youngsters.  I do not consider myself a weakling – especially in that kind of situation!  Low point was throwing the banana into the woods that L. was trying to make me eat and having her catch me do it!  High point was rehydrating, getting my strength back and enjoying the walk again – hitting a strong pace and not even noticing that it was 90 degrees.”

“I have been racking my brain as to what part to really highlight from this event so here are a few moments that stood out for me.

  • The pride I felt as our team was declared to be the 27th out of 85 teams during the hike from checkpoint 2 – 3
  • Talking each other through the mud bog as we had only 2 lights and we were working in pairs to get each other through in one piece… Wet of course!
  • How amazing that burger tasted at the 56-km mark – checkpoint 4
  • Getting hosed off for Poison Ivy and treated in the EMS Station while some guy puked his guts out from dehydration and heat stroke

But most importantly, talking each other through the pain and mental exhaustion as we worked tirelessly from checkpoint to checkpoint. I could not have done it without my amazing colleagues and friends by my side. The event took each and every one of us on a whirlwind of a journey. It was a team challenge, a personal struggle and in the end a fight for who could survive it to the finish line. At the end our focus was not on ourselves or our injuries and pains; it was a focus to cheer on L. and B. to the end. I could not have been prouder to be a part of TrojanOne and what we had accomplished

By far Oxfam Trailwalker is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life… We saw each other out of our darkest moments mentally and physically, and were willing to do anything to energize and give each other strength to make it through.

When L. and B. crossed that finish line, we all crossed that finish line. It wasn¹t about how far we hiked, it was about the journey we went through to get there”

 

Some “only” made it 40km – that’s a marathon FYI.

Some made it 60, 80, 85…that’s two marathons.

Some conquered it all. 100km. Call it two Vegas Miles.

5 responses to The Crazy 8: Triumph and Tears at Oxfam Trailwalker

  1. Very nice writing! Great article. You captured it perfectly (except that nobody offered to carry us across the river, and that would have been very, very nice).
    And, congratulations to all of you on your achievement.

    Rick (a fellow Trailwalker)
    Barbie and the Barbarians

    • Thanks Rick. Congrats on making it across the river!

      Was this your first Trailwalk or are the Barbarians vets?

      • Thanks. B and the Bs was comprised of 2 Trailwalker veterans who came up just short on their first attempt, and 2 Trailwalker newbies with experience in other endurance events. Turned out to be a very good mix. Most fun I’ve ever had crossing a finish line, and greatest sense of accomplishment. Maybe it’s the 36 hours of delayed gratification! Anyway, congrats again, and thanks for the article.

  2. Smells Like Team Spirit July 30, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Ahhh, the memories…
    I loved your post!!!
    We also participated in the event this year… I slipped and fell in the bog up to my neck, and was very happy when we crossed the river, as it gave me an opportunity to wash some of the stink off.
    I don’t even think the ropes were there when we crossed (as we hit the river in the dark on day 1).
    This was my third year participating in the event, and I’m already looking forward to next year.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.