Scott’s Latest Blog for The Kokoda Challenge

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So you and 3 friends have committed to one of the most gruelling events in Australia, The Kokoda Challenge, and wondering how to approach this year’s event or better your best. Over the past 7 years, I have been approached by numerous teams with unfinished business due to an agonising 30 plus hr finish, or a team member pull out! They all have that look of “What happened” and a desire for knowledge, they desperately want answers on how to do the Kokoda Challenge successfully and improve on last year’s event. In the next few months I will endeavour to answer some hard hitting questions, dispel some myths and give your team the road map to a successful Kokoda campaign. One of the teams I looked after last year went from a solid 27hr finish in the event to placing top 6 and finishing the Kokoda Challenge in under 18hrs, not only did they smash their estimated time, they walked away in allot better shape as well. In this issue, I will start with some basics and then throughout the following issues, I will look at strategies to get your team into top gear. Here is my hit list of tips to make your team become faster and stronger including:

  • Setting your team goal
  • Training for the event
  • Injury prevention
  • Injury management
  • Nutrition for the team
  • Different types of apparel and gear
  • Techniques for the mountains
  • Team psychology
  • How to listen to your body
  • When to push and when to cruse.

Training for the event:

Well as far as I am concerned, now is the time to start training and in a nutshell there is no magic bullet with specific sessions or how you hit the hills, you just have to get out there and start. The idea is to start by building your base, I mean start increasing you walks or runs approx 10% each week, I am into my 4th week and it looks something like this:

  • Mon: day off
  • Tue: easy 60 min,
  • Wed: long run/walk of approx 90min
  • Thurs: rest day
  • Fri: easy 45 min
  • Sat: short impact session- Park run is great for a benchmark
  • Sun: Long day 2 hrs.

If your team is starting from scratch, 3 sessions a week is fine for now with Tue, Thurs and Sun all approx 30-60 min easy. You need to condition your knees, feet and body to turn them into injury proof guns! Listen to your body as well, don’t overdo it now as it can come back to bite you, if you are sore, have a day off, better now than get injured and have 2 month of no conditioning or training!

Its important to get yourself into the right gear as well, no need to go out and spend thousands of dollars, in fact running and walking is actually really cheap in comparison to most other sports, shoes, socks and some comfortable active wear to start is fine (see Wild Earth’s recommendations on gear here). Now you are ready for some easy sessions, I would not suggest hitting the big hills yet either, not at least for 4 weeks, this gives your body time to adjust to the increase of miles and sessions. Make sure you are hydrated throughout the day from here as well, drinking approx 1-2ltr of water a day and checking your urine is pale or clear is a good indication on hydration.

Setting your Team Goals:

Nothing is more upsetting to me than when I hear teams arguing at the half way point of the Kokoda Challenge about their goals or miss-communication with time frames, expectations or leaving someone behind. It could have all been put to bed ages ago! Now is the time to put 3 goals in play and discuss them with your team.

NUMBER 1: Finish as a team of 4!!!!! I stress this one because this is the challenge- you know mateship, sacrifice, courage and endurance, never leave a mate behind. I admire teams more if they come in at 35hrs in a team of 4 rather than a 20 hr team of 3. Every year, I go out into Nerang state forest and cheer on the 30 plus hr crew, it gives me goosies just thinking about what they have gone through to get this far in such a time! They are unstoppable and the team bond is visible.

Number 2: plan your estimated fast time– given that the average time for the challenge is about 27 hrs, there is no reason you can’t have a crack at close to or even sub 20 hrs, just takes some training and planning.

Number 3- have fun and enjoy the journey. Remember this is a great event and for a fantastic cause, think of the diggers, your friends and bragging rights upon a finish of the event. Your team will go through tough times and good times, there will be Jokes only your team will share and you can’t repeat to anyone else. Be light hearted and laugh along the way, your experience will be better for it! Well I hope this gets you motor running, and enough to get you started, I look forward to seeing you out on the tracks and hearing how you went in these early stages. Next issue I will look at more specific goal setting, nutrition and injury management for your team Happy training.

– Scotty Whimpey