Walking 100km is something many of us would never contemplate doing, but for local woman Lizzy Rich, it was a challenge she was prepared to take on.
Lizzy recently completed the 100km Wild Endurance Trek in the Blue Mountains with a group of ladies who teamed up to become the Sandpaper Thighs. However even with months of training for the expedition, little did she realise what lay ahead.
The following is her story …
When I saw the Wild Endurance challenge, I thought to myself 100kms isn’t really all that far. If I get in my car I can easily drive 100kms in under an hour. Surely walking 100kms can’t be that hard.
So I formed a team of warriors - we came from all across the place - Emily and Mel were from Brisbane, Bianca was from the Central Coast and Lani was from Adelaide.
We had never met, but we shared a vision - to train hard and complete this trek. Along the way we were also fortunate enough to gain plenty of support and raise more than $5500 for the Wilderness Society.
After months of preparation and training, the big day finally arrived and on May 5 our team of viking warriors started our adventure with a feeling of excitement and a “nothing will stop us” attitude.
The first leg was 26km and it was here that we realised we had taken on more than a simple walk. This leg saw us slowly climbing steep slopes until we came upon a goat’s track to a peak where two ladders got us part of the way over a giant cliff face. I am terrified of heights, so this was my first big challenge for me.
Once past the ladders there were still more rocks to climb. This stage also had lots of ducking, weaving, climbing, descending - but just when we thought we were almost there, we reached Furber Stairs.
A volunteer told us that the checkpoint was just at the top of these stairs - so I bolted up them thinking she meant it wasn’t far. One kilometre of stair climbing saw us reach CP1 - seven hours and nine minutes after starting.
Short but steep was the description we were given for leg two, but since when did 22kms equal short? And steep was an understatement! The Hills of Hell as they soon became known seemed to stretch on for an eternity.
The leg started at the top of Furber Stairs (yes we got the privilege of going up and down these stairs) and the pace going down was pretty quick.
At the bottom we headed off on a mossy, tree root covered, rocky windy decline and started the shuffle to keep momentum, however it was here that Emily sprained her ankle and had to pull out of the trek.
One down, the four of us continued, turning our head lamps on at 5pm when it started to get dark and finally, after what felt like an eternity, (in reality five hours and 40 mins) we were at checkpoint two eating the best mashed potato and smoked salmon you could imagine.
Leg three was meant to be the “easiest” of the trek - but for us it was a shocker! It was relentless and in the dark (yes we walked throughout the night) our moods dropped.
Mel’s knee was giving her big time grief, but she persisted and walked 75kms before she had to tap out.
We waited for Mel to be collected and then trudged on. However, five kilometres down the road it was apparent that Lani wasn’t her usual self - pain from blisters on her feet had become intense, however she stuck with it.
We wandered on for what felt like forever until we reached the token five kilometre until the next checkpoint sign.
This was initially an exciting boost - until we learned that it usually equated to the worst five kilometres of the leg - and this was certainly true in this case.
We got to a point where there were more stairs which resulted in me turning back to the girls and yelling some choice profanities before scurrying up them, only to be greeted with the four kilometre to go sign.
These next four kilometres were sheer hell for me. We were walking along a cliff edge where there were no rails or safety nets.
I panicked and took off, leaving the girls behind. I had a massive meltdown and pushed through as fast as I safely could thinking the girls were just behind me and it was fine. My phone rang in my pack, but I couldn’t answer it and I just kept going.
I walked through a gate warning that they were doing track work. We were told at the start that we had permission to still use the track. It felt so unsafe. I eventually came to a section of track that wasn’t on the cliff edge and realised that my team was nowhere to be seen.
I checked my phone and sure enough, the calls were from them. I phoned them back. No answer. I sent a text. No answer. I figured I had two options - go back and see that they were okay (which involved revisiting those cliffs) or continue on as fast as I could and get help.
So I ran the remaining two kilometres and upon seeing our support crew I burst into tears saying “I’ve lost my team!”
I went to the desk for help and they said if they were in trouble they would ring HQ who would send help - it was then I realised I was the one with the map and emergency info which only made me more upset.
Thankfully the girls emerged, they had taken a wrong turn and ended up two kilometres in the wrong direction. It was a disaster - but we were all together. 11 hours and 44 minutes after starting leg three we had made it.
We now had just 17km left to go and spent time refuelling, strapping and making sure we were mentally as well as physically fit to take on our last hurdle. We knew this last leg wasn’t going to be easy. However, it was at this checkpoint that it was decided Lani, with her blistered feet, was unable to continue.
That left just myself and Be. We were ready to go on and finish the last leg, not just for ourselves, but for our team members.
To continue we needed to be paired up with another team. The “Flying Possums” were just about to leave and were happy to let us tag along.
We soon realised that we were two very different paced teams and with their blessing took off. We ran for the most part - but once again this was a difficult leg. We ran upstairs, downstairs, up more stairs and then down more stairs - we were hating the stairs and our legs were hating on us. But we kept going.
The average time for this leg was four hours and 17 minutes and we were determined to beat that time. We were also determined to try to catch a team. We caught and overtook three teams and powered through to the finish line in three hours and 36 minutes - the fastest all-female team time for this leg of the trek.
We were buzzing and it was such a rush to cross the line. Later we found out our official results - Sandpaper Thighs finished the trek in 31 hours and 39 minutes. We were the seventh all-female team to cross the finish line and the 56th team overall, not bad considering 144 teams registered for the trek.
Honestly, I would have to say the trek was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Physically, mentally, emotionally - I was tested, and I am ecstatic that I was able to compete.
A huge amount of thanks had to go out to my team-mates. Without them there was no way I would have got through this, they truly were inspirational.
I would also have not gotten through it without my support crew, my dad Chris and brother Skeet. If they weren’t there, cooking, driving, packing, chatting and generally just boosting our spirits, I would never have finished. I love them both dearly and appreciate their efforts more than anything.
After doing this trek, I now feel as though I am prepared to take on anything … who knows what that may bring.