#22 Kokoda challenge

Due to a weird fit of madness I decided that I would agree to participate in the Kokoda Brisbane 30km Challenge this year…

I reckon I agreed because back in December it seemed so very very very far far away!

But oh no, it came round extremely quickly and on May 31st I found myself trekking through the d’Aguilar range.

The Kokoda Challenge is run by the Kokoda foundation and raises money for youth programs.

There’s a real great video here that explains the work of the foundation, which I recommend you check out.

OUR TEAM

I entered the challenge as part of a team of 3 the “GeoGals”, with my colleagues Ester and Silvia.

Together we did various amount of training… although I definitely didn’t do enough.

Silvia is a natural born mountain goat though!

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TRAINING

To get hill-ready I did a mixture of 10km to 18km walks around the Brisbane area.

We started off gently with a nice morning 10km around Mount Cootha, finishing with ice creams at the café at the end (how every hike should finish).

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Esther and I had a lovely walk around Brighton where we can across an awesome Mid-Century furniture warehouse, which rather slowed out pace down!

We also had a fun trip out in the sunnie coast hinterland; although we were so hungry by the end of it we might have ended up in KFC in Caboolture!

I blame that on it being a public holiday and there not being any other options open… We did look for a café… really we did I promise!

The last group training walk we did was around the Lamington National Park and was guided by Silvia’s friend Rodney, who is actually a former park ranger.

It was such an interesting hike, as he talked about all the plants and trees and knew a few bushwhacking “short-cuts”.

One side jolly took us off to a perfect picnic spot on the edge of an 80m cliff overlooking the rest of the range. You could see out across the valley all the way to the coast.

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I also tried to get to the gym and out running too, but unfortunately work has rather taken over recently and I didn’t get out half as often as I should.

THE ROUTE

The Kokoda challenge is the shorter version of the replication of the Kokoda track, which people complete both in the original location in PNG and also in the Gold Coast Hinterland.

For those who aren’t familiar with the back story, Aussie Diggers had to cross 96km of PNG bush tracks in the Owen Stanley Ranges in a period of 36 hours and then go to battle. Amazing.

The setting within the d’Aguilar range is reckoned to be fairly similar terrain to PNG, albeit less tropical.

The walk starts at Brookfield showground and winds up to McAfee’s Lookout and back.

The course is hilly. Really rather hilly. Understatement – it is ONLY hills! In fact one section is actually referred to as the “hell hole”…

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MONIES

The challenge is run to raise money for the Kokoda Foundation and we had a minimum fundraising requirement, which we smashed.

I believe that the fundraising page is actually still open and that you can still donate to sponsor our great effort here!

My contribution to fundraising was largely raised from bake sales…

Overall we raised about $500!

THE BIG DAY

The walk started as the sun was coming up, with all 1000 participants setting off under a large banner. The runner disappeared fairly quickly, but most of the walking group stayed fairly close together almost until the first check point.

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I wasn’t feeling all that good on the morning of the walk unfortunately. I was struggling with pretty bad nausea for most of the morning, which didn’t help climbing hills.

I had lots of great snacks to keep me going though, so I kept on.

I also struggled with the hills a bit more than the others.

It turned out to be one of the hottest days in a long time – 29 degrees, which for autumn is not cool man!

Combined with the 100% humidity I was pretty much (or rather not pretty at all) a human puddle all day.

Once we reached the first check point I think we all relaxed a bit. There was a really great vibe with all the people around and it was pretty fun.

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The second leg had quite a lot of uphill sections and the mid-point break was much appreciated. I think my quads might have spasmed off my legs otherwise…

After fuelling up on jam sandwiches, dried apricots and a good drink of water we were off again.

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The third section was the most testing I reckon. The groups had seriously thinned out by then and there were some seriously steep sections.

This included the “hell hole” which was really very steep – although Silvia almost bounded up it!

Between the 15-20km mark we were walking at a similar pace to one of the Kokoda foundation youth groups, who do the 30km walk, the Gold Coast 96km walk and then the PNG walk too!

We were all so impressed with how motivated, polite and generally great all the kids were. It was very impressive.

In fact there were a lot of extremely impressive groups of kids participating that day that completely put us to shame.

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It felt like the final check point was going to be around every corner.

By this point the endless feeling of walking uphill was starting to grind us all down a little bit.  It felt like the last few kilometres in this section took a lifetime and I think we might have gone a bit mad in the last 50m when we spotted it!

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Reaching the road and knowing we were walking the last 2-3km at the end really helped to motivate us through the pain towards the end.

It was really great to cross the finish line all together.

I think we made a great effort and I’m super proud of us all.

That night I sat in the bath for over an hour and was fast asleep by 7pm!

The next day was walking a bit like a granny, but I surprised myself and recovered pretty quickly.

I did make myself go walking, do yoga and bodypump to get rid of all the lactic acid build up though, which I reckon definitely helped.

I’m really proud to have ticked this one-off, but am glad to say it’s done and that I won’t be doing this again.

That being said I just paid my entry fee to the Bridge to Brisbane run in August…

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STATS

So the fastest team completed the challenge in 3 hours and 28 minutes… crazy people – but what an amazing achievement!

We finished in the respectable time of 8 hours and 31 minutes.

The slowest team took 9 hours and 22 minutes, which was technically after the cut-off time.

200 teams finished, 50 dropped out.

Over 1000 people participated in all categories.

Team GeoGals came in 87-89th out of the 3 person category.

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