I’ve sometimes wondered what it’d be like to write an autobiography. But then I get slightly embarrassed for even thinking about it. My life is nothing like what you see on bookshelves. So why choose the above title? Shouldn’t I be scurrying along with my average anonymous little life?
It was June the 10th, 2011. I was trying to be better than others, as usual. One day, I won’t be, and I’ll be ok with not being. This hasn’t happened in the past 29 years though. Anyway back to my autobiography. We were walking. It was a long walk, but we’ll get to those boring details later. The walk was 100km long, the Oxfam Trail walker Brisbane, to be completed in less than 48hrs. There were 300 plus teams of 4, and about 600 pairs of bespoke carbon fibre walking poles carried by people who wanted to show that they were really prepared.
Actually those can be quite useful, 4-legged animals are faster.
Anyway, on with my autobiography. So I’m in this walk because other people were, and it was 6pm. We’d seen a guy collapsed on the nasty hill up to checkpoint 2, another nearby throwing up. We’d crossed creeks and taken The Team Photo By The Significant Location Along The Way. I’d even proven my superiority already in finding that my work colleagues in another team were hours behind.
Then I discovered that I hadn’t followed the instructions about socks. Actually I knew the instructions, and ignored them like the advice to bring a thermal blanket. You see, I realised this could be the crazy tough wolf hunting/killing/running with wolves initiation-type-survival-experience-that-our-pathetic-weak-modern-man-children-don’t-get-in-this-day-and-age. And I made it like that by not bringing a thermal blanket and not wearing the correct socks. Because that’s what it was like for those young vulnerable Spartan boys fending off wolves for a month during their initiation back Before Christ. They didn’t have the right socks either.
We were at checkpoint 5 or so. It was dinnertime. I had blisters. I wasn’t crazy with pain, just aware of the start of something. Got taped up and on we went.
We were going up a hill. It was dark, maybe 11.30pm. The wind suddenly picked up and blew the trees like they were grass. It whistled up the valley, pushing like a wave. We were there, in the dark, walking as a team. Silent, together. The walk had begun.
We reached Checkpoint 6, at the top of the hill. This was in the middle of the bush, there was a hut. I had a cup of soup in my hands, legs clamped together, knees tucked up, arms tucked in. Keeping warm, feeling ok, smile on my face.
Up. Down. Put my Skins on finally to keep warm. More up, down. Other teams streaming around us, we sometimes passed other teams. All walking quietly, talking was about necessities, it was getting late. There’s something about being out in the bush, walking at 1am, head torches burning through the black, listening to your breath, adjusting your beanie so it keeps you warm down the slopes but doesn’t make you too hot on the way up the next.
It was around about 3am on the way to Checkpoint 7. My feet. It’s something you won’t experience without walking non-stop for 18 hours. I found myself searching for the flattest sections of the track. I found myself noticing rocks. I had to avoid them. I walked in a zigzag pattern across the track, even fine gravel began to cause pain. Then after a while it just felt like my feet were cheese and the ground was a cheese grater. If I walked on the smooth, tyre width rut in the fire trail it was fine. If I so much as stood on a twig my foot caught fire. Every step. So it was late, I was by this time actually getting tired, there were other aches and pains, it was dark. And because of an item of clothing that weighs about 100 grams, my feet felt raw.
It’s easy when you go into one of those cool outdoor camping stores to get all excited about the shoes. There are Goretex lined ones, air soles, wicking fibre, leather, synthetic, Vibram soles, lacing systems, suspension systems. Oh My God. It’s amazing. But they never tell you about the socks. I just wore nylon ones. And my shoes weren’t very wicked either, just Asics cross trainers. So my plan for a proper initiation/life threatening adventure was going well.
It got so bad that I started moaning. It wasn’t too over the top, thankfully, but I caught myself definitely moaning with pain. I didn’t really care though, when you’re at that stage of such a walk, there is no expectation of real decorum or politeness. Another example of this is that everyone was pissing. Everywhere. On the side of the track – so there was some decorum… but it was so frequent. I think I probably drank a little too much water, but I didn’t want to stop either because dehydrating is worse than having to take a piss every 5-10 minutes. It was quite funny really. By this time it was about 3:30am and we were with quite a bunch of walkers from other teams and everyone was going off the side of the track all the time just to relieve themselves.
It’s this sort of thing they don’t talk about in the briefing session or the brochures or the testimonials from the previous event. But for me if I knew that I’d be only more keen to do it. That’s why I’m letting you know about it. Your feet will feel on fire and you’ll be pissing every 5 minutes, basically in public, as everyone else streams past you not caring because they’re in the same state.
Socks, they’re the difference between feeling like every step is ripping skin off and going for a nice stroll. By the 80km mark, mind you.
So that is my microautobiography.