Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge 2012

Ouch or Eina! Depending on your country of origin. I’d done this event in the previous two years with the first year being a 29 hour effort and only 3 of the 4 team members making it (a fail in other words and the t-shirt is for gardening only) and then last year being a 23 hour effort but with all 4 team members crossing the line. Super feeling. This year I had decided that it was unfair to commit to a team as a result of the uncertainty of life after the Comrades as I would have liked to have bettered the 23 hour and probably aimed for under 20 hours.

Anyway, long story short, I received a call from a friend whose team had been decimated by injuries and illnesses. Not a bad team too. A team of 4 girls who took out the honours as the first ladies team in the Oxfam 100 in 2011 in around 16 hours. Anyways, the team had been hit by stress fractures and viruses and they were down to one original team member, Kara. 6 Weeks out one of the girls got her husband (Don) to stand in for one of the broken girls. He has completed an IM before as well as having participated in the Coast to Coast in NZ so he understands effort and pain. Thursday, 12 July, one of the other girls enrolled the services of her husband (Tom) in place of one of the virus girls.

He’d just come off his first marathon in Paris in April (approx. 4 hours), Oxfam 100 in June (approx. 20 hours) and then Gold Cost marathon (approx. 3:38 attempting 3:30). In other words a veteran and also well rested. Bonus! Friday, 13 July, midday I got my call. Should have looked at the date more closely. 6 Weeks after Comrades. That was interesting preparing for that event in the space of the next 18 hours (including sleep time) considering that I was geared up to run a nice and easy 20km or so with my SPS club mates.

There we were at the start line on Saturday morning (somehow we got there and met up) with only one of the original girls in the team but still with the original team target of sub 17 hours! How did that happen. Maybe I should have checked what the target was before saying yes? Anyway we were’nt going to be left wondering. It was Kara’s team and she had the whip. Off we went and I can tell you for sure there is no ‘I’ in team and you seriously need to suck it up or take the appropriate stick for not doing so.

It had rained a fair bit in the weeks leading up to the event and we knew it would be wet but the course was a mud bath. Almost like a political party being one step forward and two steps back in places. The hills are bad enough without having to contend with not landing on your face or backside with the ever-present fear of injury as well. There were enough creek crossings to write home about and some were well up to knee height. Dry shoes? Yeah right! Tom had the first challenge getting through an approximate 30km stretch with regular severe cramping in his legs. He pulled through that and was an absolute machine in the last 50km of the course. I still cannot believe that turnaround. He did so well. Don just carried on as if he was on a Sunday afternoon outing. Man that’s irritating! Especially when you’re questioning the meaning of life! Well at least you know you’re alive when you’re hurting like that, hey Mary?

Anyways, such is life and we screamed through checkpoints (in our terms anyway but really at snail pace). The real fun started when we headed towards supporter checkpoint 3. Yup, you guessed it! At the top of the biggest hill! Why? What a climb. Not particularly steep but just a single track constant up for who knows how long. Great view from the top and a particularly good fish eye view through drops of sweat/tears/blood. Not sure which yet. It was nearing dusk. We’d been on the trail for about 9 hours and reached approximately the 65/70 or so km mark. Good refill and gee up from our support crew. Yup, the virus and stress fracture girls who should have been doing this thing were our support crew. Off we went into the sunset with headlights beaming into the dark yonder looking for inspiration or the finish, whichever came first.

Straight down only to come straight up again to a similar altitude but in a different spot. Great, last of the nasty hills done and about 20 odd kms to go. There we were. At the finish at 12:42am. We missed ‘our’ target by 42 minutes but it was the most torturous event out of the 3 I’ve now done. The trail was simply a mud bath in places. We were well placed coming in around 13th overall, 8th out of complete 4 person teams, 4 mixed team, etc and this out of an approximate start field of 300 teams I think so there were’nt many teams ripping up the trail in front of us.

It must have been so much worse further back. It’s amazing but I’m sure we exceeded 20 creek crossings throughout the day and night. Tom and Don were so strong throughout the event and it still amazed me how Tom dug himself out of the hole he was in when he was cramping. Kara was a star. She loves these events and kept us guys in line. She’s such a tough competitor and a great person. I think her hubby came in 32 position at this years North Face 100 in around 13 or so hours. Both nutters! Poor kids. Don’t stand a chance. Not that the other couples in the team are much better in that regard. The winning team were the same as last year but 1.5 hours slower than last year. The topic of childbirth came up in the last 5kms. Don made the comment that this is his ‘childbirth’ in terms of pain and effort to Kara commented that this was way worse that childbirth. She then added that she’s had 3 ‘C’ sections for her 3 kids. Fizzer!

My body was slightly hammered after that but I think I recovered fairly ok. It was really weird but I when I tried to eat a burger at the finish I found that my throat was so sore that I could not swallow it. I would have liquidised the burger and eaten it if I could have I wanted it so bad but I had to give it to Tom and he finished his second burger without it touching sides. Not happy! Anyway, turns out I picked up a throat infection somewhere along the line from which I’m still recovering a week later with no exercise at all and at least one day of complete bed rest in there as well as antibiotics. Yeah, I know. I can hear the violin as well….

Great event this. Just ask Mary and Karen. Not sure who else has done this. I’d say give it a go but realise that it’s a team thing. We stuck together to thick and thin (or mud and water) but not all teams do and some spread out over a fair distance. I don’t think this helps the team moral but each to his own. The aim is to get 4 people across the line within 39 hours across the 96km course in honour of our Kokoda vets and raising funds for young kids in our areas who require some sort of assistance/intervention. The work done with the kids is fantastic and spans something like 2 years in total or just short. One of our team from last year is a team lead for those very same kids this year. Give it a go or go to sleep wondering. So often it’s the journey to these events that I remember but this was missing this time. No journey. Just wham bam.

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