The Price of being Unprepared!

Did I ever tell you about that time when I ran 100km?! Ok, maybe I jogged it as opposed to running…alright, alright I practically dragged my butt round the course for a never- ending 23hours! Lets just say it wasn’t my finest athletic endeavour!

It all started when a good friend Perry asked if I would be interested in being the fourth member of his team for an upcoming event. “Yeah sure” I said, thinking I’d just signed up for a standard 10k charity run. The only issue was that it wasn’t 10k, but rather a 96km track through the Australian wilderness. Underestimating the consequences, I casually agreed and didn’t think much more of it for the next month or so.

I carried on training the way I normally do – mixing up high intensity training with my love for Olympic weightlifting on a daily basis, never running more than 5-6km in one session.

One month out, I thought it was about time I started doing some research into the event – The Kokoda Challenge. The charity event raising money for the Kokoda Youth Foundation, replicates the 96km track in Papua New Guinea – the location of the 1942 World War II battle between the Japanese and allied forces (primary Australian). The 100km (typically – my year a little longer!) would take us through the Gold Coast hinterland cut-off time of 39 hours (in honour of the 39th Militia, who were the first Australian response unit at Kokoda).

We called a meeting later that week to discuss things and soon realised it was going to take a fair bit of planning with regards to clothing, nutrition, support team and the general lack of run condition that we were all in. Anyway it was happening and we had to do the best we could before the race.

Come race day, I think I had managed to squeeze in a maximum of six or seven runs, with maybe two of these being a little over two hours. I knew that this wasn’t going to be easy, but I kept reminding myself that the reason I agreed to this was for the challenge and the curiosity of where my head would take me during those dark hours of night running.
Race morning came and off we went – Perry, Jurone, Adam and myself jogging along nicely, chatting and looking forward to knocking down a few decent kilometres. Within 15 minutes of the run, we were scaling pretty significant climbs on the track, but not worrying too much – we cantered up them. We were going well, and we hit the first checkpoint at 10km, with the news that we were in eighth place – this immediately worried us, as we knew straightaway that we were going too fast, but male pride overrode any thoughts of caution!

From here I can safely say things only got worse, at around 30km we hit a three-kilometre climb, which never let up. When I finally reached the summit, I cramped up like never before – it was horrific, like every single muscle in my body simultaneously cramped! I was paralysed in a standing position and all I could do was stand there and hurt. I told the team to keep moving and I would catch up as I moved under a tree for shade. After a while it let up and I got moving again, but my body was exhausted from it’s our natural protective response.

Throughout the next 18-20 hours I experienced some of the lowest emotions I have ever had, bar losing someone near to me. I hurt everywhere, and it seemed that every injury that I’d ever had was re-surfacing – shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. As we watched team after team overtake us, it wasn’t the first moment that I realised I was completely unprepared for this event. Nevertheless, after 23 hours and 35 long minutes we crossed the finish line as a team, having certainly learnt a few things about ourselves! A special shout out has to go out Jurone, who was literally being sick from around 10 hours in but refused to quit!

Polly (my wife) told me that literally within a minute of getting in the car I passed out and didn’t move for the whole way home. Lets just say the next few days were tragic in terms of my recovery, the one-foot step outside our house was faced with serious protest by both my hip flexors!

So what is the point in my story other that a big load of self-pity? It all stems from the fact that it is now quite common to hear of people just jumping into these long distance events unprepared, whether it’s an iron distance race or a marathon, too often people are “running before they can even walk” and as a result are pulling up with huge issues all because they have failed to prepare.

What we have to realise and keep reminding ourselves is that we cannot just expect our bodies to adapt immediately to a new stimulus. Yes we may be able to drag ourselves through these sessions or competitions, but at what cost?

There is nothing wrong with taking up an “impossible” challenge however the next step must be to assess what is required of us during this challenge and do you have enough ‘strengths’ to get through it – if not then that has to be a focus in the build up. I cant tell you how many separate case studies I have come across who have completed multiple iron-distance races over the past few years, yet lack the strength and mobility to perform a basic body weight squat, and yet they are surprised when their bodies ‘blow up’ on them!

Kriss Hendy