Monday, March 26, 2012

Oxfam TW Sydney Team Work Tips

Oxfam Tw Sydney is tough. The first 60km are murder there are over 12 major climbs on mostly on single man track climbing bush stairs. The start is just cruel, climbing straight up to elveation of 200m in the first 10km. But with the correct training, preparation, nutrition and hydration you will be able to finish this rewarding event.

Team Event
Oxfam TW is a team event. If you do not finish as a team your time does not count. You need to work together as a team to have the best experience over the 100km. Delegate jobs to all team members. Navigation, Hydration, Fuelling and Timekeeping tasks are to be divided up between the team.

Map reading, and GPS positioning are a skill that is needed in your team. Assign this task to the best person for the job. The person should always run with a map in my had. Constantly cross referencing their position to land marks on the trail. Look for creek, street, and track crossings. Also gauge position from power lines that are over head. Wear a Garmin GPS watch or any GPS watch to tell the team how many kilometres you have covered or watch also gives me pace /kilometre too. The Navigator will be constantly communicating with the Timekeeper and their other team mates.

Oxfam TW Sydney is in the last week of August. The temperature usually reached about 24 degrees. 
This sounds like perfect exercise weather. However, you and your team are emerging from training in winter. So this sudden increase in temperature can play havoc with either you or a team mate.
Drink fluids every 15 minutes. This is done by having small sips out of a hydration pack. Drinking too much water without enough salt in it is dangerous too, and will only make you feel sick. 
It is encouraged to drink every 15 minutes, and have hydralyte tables on hand to have every 30-60 minutes or Salt tablets can be taken every hour. This keeps your electrolytes at a nice level allowing your muscles to function, preventing cramping and helping for your body to sweat properly.
1L of water should be drunk for every Hour of exercise that has taken place.
Hydralyte Icy Pols are fantastic to have at the check points. 
They cool your core temperature down and hydrate you at the same time.
Carry 2L of water on you.

The first 60km of Oxfam TW are brutal. 60km of climbing in and out of gorges works your anaerobic system to the maximum. You are burning so many calories, and most of them from glucose. Your legs are burning and it just hurts.
If you fuel your body correctly you will be able to continue on for the next 40km. 
I encourage my clients to eat every 30-40minutes. My experience has shown me that any less eating than this only leads to your body running out of glycogen in your muscles and you "Hit the Wall".
The fuel needs to be easily absorbed. I recommend energy gels. They take a while to get use to, but it is too hard to do it any other way and this is what works for me.
After 3 hours of exercise pushing your body to its limits, your digestive system starts to shut down because your blood is delegated out to your legs. So your body will not be able to break down any solid food. If you try and eat a cookie or a chocolate bar you may end up feeling sick. 
Eat a gel every 30-40 minutes.
If you and your team mates have enough glucose to run and for your brain to function properly it will be a much nicer and safer experience for all. You will have less falls, and you will have less personality clashes between team mates. Running low on glucose will mean that team mates will get grumpy. So avoid unnecessary lows, and look after your body by keeping your glucose stores high.
Caffeine should be limited to 30-35mg per gel. Any more than this I have found makes some people aggressive.
Caffeine is great as it increases your muscular endurance by up to 28%. But have small doses regularly.
Eat well and you will preform better, safer and you will have more fun over the 100km.

Time Keeping or Goal Setting
Time Keeping or goal setting should be put under the same heading. Set small achievable goals for the team to work towards. Remind them of the team goal, and keep everyones mind focused on the what team goal is.
Goals can range from pace per kilometre goal, 5km, 10km , or check point goals, then the ultimate 100km goal.
For the race, I set the 100km at the pace of the hardest section of the track that is complied twice. For example if we train from Mt Kuringai to Brooklyn Return. What ever the pace per kilometre that the team achieved for that section of training I take the pace and extent it to the 100km.
The time keeper then will work out the pace for every kilometre and times it out over all the sections of the course.
The Timekeeper will keep the team focused on the goals of the team and will make sure the team makes it to the check points in the time frame set.

Mental Challenge.
Oxfam TW is 50% physical and 50% mental. Self belief is the most important aspect of completing the 100km course. You can always run or walk twice as far as you think you can. I usually only train up to around the 60km mark before a 100km event I'd rather avoid injury and be fresher for the event. 
The training your body for an event like Oxfam TW is as much physical as it is mental training. Understanding what your body is going through and knowing that you were able to work through many problems that were faced in the training means that the event will run more smoothly and you are stronger for all your training. Believe in your training and know that the training is enough.
It is a mental challenge for the team as a whole too. You have to look after your team mates. Care for the person struggling the most. You can only go as fast as your slowest team mate. So if you look after each other you will go faster. You may know you can make it to the end, but not believe that your team mate can get to the end too, so you have to work together as a team, communicate regally and believe in each other and know that your entire team will do it for the each other no matter what. That is how you will make it to the end as a strong team of four.

Team Rotation.
There are natural leaders, followers and team players. There will be a difference in fitness levels in the group also. However it is so important to rotate the team formation on the track to keep everyone's brains a break, or to look after a team mate who keeps falling behind.
The hardest position is actually at the back. So put the strongest person at the back. They will be feeling great and constantly chatting and communicating to their team mates.
Put the slowest person at the front, they will push harder knowing that their team mates are just behind them , supporting them and encouraging them up every climb. 
Then rotate the team between every check point or climb, to swop positions around. Everyone will be feeling strong at some point and weak at another point. Switching positions in the group will also help with team bonding. Allowing everyone to really get to know each other.
Switching team positions and staying together as a group also means that everyone can check on their team mates, making sure they are eating, drinking and are safe on the track. The teams that look out for each other will finish together as a team.


  1. Brilliant article Shona! Team events are a different beast altogether and you've summarized it beautifully

  2. Thanks Brendan, let me know when I am needed....I don't have an Oxfam team as of yet.........

  3. Yes, awesome Shona!! Definitely could be on! No Roads are going to put in quite a few entries into lottery. If we jag an entry we will be putting in a team, perhaps even two.