OXFAM 100km Trailwalker - Part 1

In 2011 I was surfing around of Facebook and noticed some pictures coming through from the OXFAM 100km Trailwalker event. I saw one of my buddies with his feet taped up, laying on his back with his feet rested against the side of a car. I was immediately intrigued. I clicked through some of the pictures and was excited to see that they were still in the middle of the event and that photos were coming in as they got to the checkpoints. I was amazed. 100 kilometres is something that I had never fathomed possible. First of all I have a love hate relationship with walking. In the city, it's probably one of my least favourite things to do. After experiencing the speed and fun of skateboarding, inline skating and cycling, walking is… slow… and boring. However up north, walking is sometimes a means to get somewhere that is not accessible by car. Walking usually means adventure, not something routine like going to the store to grab groceries. Also, walking in Toronto never really required me to go further than 2-3 kilometres at a time. So seeing pictures of my friend embarking on a 100km challenge was mind boggling. The furthest I had ever gone unassisted by a motor was about 65km on my bicycle when I rode to Canada's Wonderland and back. Being the sucker for punishment that I am, and after being glued to my computer so I could see all the updates from my buddy's walk, I knew I had to try this.


December rolled around and talks of the 2012 event began with some of my buddies. I knew I wanted to do it, but I also worried that I wouldn't be able to complete the walk. However before I knew it, I had thrown my name into the hat, and I had committed myself to walking 100km and raising $625. The only comparison I can make to this decision was that of overwhelming buyer's remorse. It was like I had just purchased something awesome like an Arc'teryx Bora pack and Alpha jacket without any way of paying off my credit card. I had never fundraised over $150 before, and the idea of walking that distance within 48 hours was making me very anxious, but at the same time very excited to hit the trails and start training.

High Park - Good mix of trails and roads
As you can see, it takes a bit of effort to make 20km interesting.
I think we started hiking in High Park around December or January. We would try and find the longest route to walk and then take a break after each circuit. We kept the walks short at first. Maybe 8-10km per day. My daily bicycle commute was just shy of 30km round trip, so my cardio was decent. The thing I learned very quickly was that even though I was only walking at around 5kph, I was overheating like crazy. The only options I had was my level 6 hardshell, or my snowboarding jacket. Neither were very good solutions. With my hardshell, I had to layer up with a fleece. But because of the nature of a hardshell, it acted like a vapour barrier and got very muggy on the inside. My snowboarding jacket which has served me well in -30°C weather was far too extreme a choice for the balmy -5°C weather. I would have melted. Luckily we weren't really pushing it too hard, and walks usually ended up being about two hours in duration so I was never uncomfortable for long.

Later in the winter my Beyond Tactical level 5 softshell came in the mail and it made a huge difference. Sweat wicking level 1 base layer, level 3 fleece when it was really cold, and the level 5 soft shell allowed me to stay warm, while at the same time permitted moisture to move away from my body and through the layers. After a month or so of walking I noticed that I was not as tired during or after our training days, but blisters started to become an issue. I went to MEC and tried out some sock liner and hiking sock combinations. For me, they were comfortable for the first few kilometres, but after a while they would start to bother me. A teammate introduced me to moleskin tape which was a huge revelation. I could cut pieces to the size that I needed and then apply them on top of hot spots or blisters and it would prevent the blister from getting worse. As well it would prevent my socks from rubbing against the tender areas. It was an easy decision to add a pair of scissors and some moleskin to my kit.
Rattlesnake Point - Poison Ivy... EVERYWHERE! 
Massive hill? Well since we were there to train, we might as well run up it.
The winter was beyond mild, in fact it seemed like winter never arrived. Snow in the city only lasted for a few days before it melted or got rained away. Training continued and when spring rolled around we started exploring different hiking trails such as the Rouge Valley and Rattlesnake Point. I learned how to eat whilst on the trail and got used to carrying a heavy pack and enough water to sustain me for the journey. I enjoyed hanging out with my buddies and considering we started pushing out to distances of 15-20km, it gave us lots of time to talk and joke around. Fundraising was slow however. I don't like to bother people and ask for money in person, so I resorted to emails at first. I offered sushi lessons to anyone that sponsored me, and immediately my cousins poured money into the pot. Win win for me really. It got me closer to my goal, and it meant I got to hang out with my cousins and eat sushi!

Shopping at MEC became embarrassing. Pouring an obscene amount of Boom power gels and Cliff bars onto the counter always seemed to get a chuckle out of the cashiers. It was at this point that I invested in a pair of new Nike Pegasus trainers from The Running Room. It was a bittersweet purchase, and my review can be found here. It had been a few months since I had gotten any sponsors, and I had less than half of my fundraising goal. I decided to bring my GoPro along with me for my next training day at High Park, and then made a quick edit in iMovie. Once I posted it to my Facebook feed, it felt like I was thrown into the spotlight. I was getting a lot of questions about the event, and I think I received about $250 in donations within the next 48 hours.

At some point in the spring I found out that the GoRuck Challenge was going to happen in Toronto. I REALLY wanted to do the GoRuck Challenge but realized that the potential for injury during the event posed a real threat to my physical readiness for OXFAM. I talked it over with my teammates and they said that it was up to me, just as long as I could ensure I'd be good to go for Trailwalker. I mulled it over for a while, I convinced myself I could get strong enough to make sure I'd be good to go. I grabbed a few bricks and wrapped them up. I tossed them in my Camelbak HAWG and trained with them for a few weeks. I was feeling great! The extra weight didn't bother me and I was getting stronger. The problem was, I knew with my bad shoulders, anything could happen, so I dropped the idea of GoRuck and hoped that they'd put on a Toronto event in 2013.

Rouge Valley - Along the way I spotted lots of cool places that might make for some short snowboarding runs this winter.
One part of the trail required a river crossing. Sealskinz came in handy. 
Taking a breather
Never a dull moment!
Three weeks before the event I decided to take a long walk by myself. I planned on starting at Kipling subway station, walking to the beaches, and then walking to Eglinton West station. The route that google maps plotted for me showed a total distance of over 30km. I decided last minute that moleskin would be a good idea and grabbed some from shoppers before I left. My first trail took me down the Humber River, a trail I had taken a few times on my bike. What really stood out for me was how long it took to go anywhere. I don't ride quickly, but I usually average about 25kph. It seemed like walking to Lake Ontario took forever, where as in reality, it took me about an hour and a half. I didn't have a bag with me, instead I just shoved a water bottle in my back pocket. It was a little cloudy that day and there were a few patches of rain, but nothing consistent enough to get me wet. I was about half way to the CN Tower when I realized this trek was the furthest I had ever walked alone. I had downloaded Service: A Navy SEAL at War by Marcus Luttrell on iTunes which was enough to keep my mind occupied with no one to talk to.

I walked about 16km before I took my first break. I walked into a Shoppers and got some juice and a Snickers bar. After reading Without Remorse (which you should all read by the way) I've had a soft spot for Snickers. I was lucky that I had already purchased some moleskin because these guys were fresh out, and I was developing hot spots. The rest lasted 10 minutes and I was back onto the road. It was getting dark and I decided instead of going through the beaches, I'd walk up the DVP. By the time I got onto the recreation trail it was pitch black. Unfortunately for me, I'm no John Clark and I recognized that walking alone on that path was probably not the smartest idea and headed towards Cabbagetown. My friends and I realized not too long ago that whenever we go out to do something in Toronto, 99% of the time we are on the west side of Yonge Street. I've lived in the city for over 30 years and walking through Cabbagetown and Rosedale was like walking through a different city. It's probably understandable why we never hung out on this side of Yonge. There aren't really any restaurants or bars north of the downtown area. The other reason is because the houses are massive. No, I take that back, they're ENORMOUS! I was blown away by the size of these houses. I imagined that only billionaires could own property like this. The lamp posts on Chestnut Park Road were shorter with orb lighting rather than the generic street lamp like you'd see on the main streets, and the sidewalks were constructed with bricks. Pretty classy stuff. It was a Monday night and the girls I saw were in cocktail dresses and all the guys were in polo shirts. All of them were heading to house parties. I must have really stuck out with my sweat wicking shirt, shorts and beat up running shoes.

Using my Garmin Forerunner 405 and Garmin Connect made tracking my routes pretty fun.
I headed back to the real world and found myself back on Yonge Street. Rosedale was like a maze. I began to realize that it was the first time in a long time I had just walked through a part of the city where I only had a vague idea of my bearings. I walked to Summerhill station and called my wife from a pay phone. I told her I was feeling good and that my only complaint was that my feet were getting a bit sore from walking the entire way on concrete rather than dirt. It was a nice break, and it was also encouraging to know that I had walked about 25km or so and I was still good to go. She told me I was crazy. I walked up to The Belt Line, and followed it until Eglinton and followed it until I got to Eglinton West Station.

Donations were still coming in even after I had met my fundraising goal. I was feeling great, and I felt as ready as I would ever be. I was nervous, but excited at the same time to get it all over with. I knew in my mind that I was going to give this 100%. I knew was not going to give up, and I was going to continue with my team until my body wouldn't let me go any further. It was go time. One sleep, then it was to hit the trails.

Part 2 coming soon!
All packed and ready to go!

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