Walking and Talking

TW Coastrek logoA few months ago my lovely friend Lauren stopped me in the school playground and said she needed a fourth for Bridge and would I be interested. I readily agreed. I don’t know how to play Bridge but anything Lauren organises is sure to be fun and, at my age, with a brain slowly turning to blancmange and limbs starting to creak like unoiled gates it’s probably time I pursued a sedentary, intellectual  pastime like Bridge.

TW Opera House AerialApparently it’s not just my legs that are failing me these days but also my hearing. Lauren had said “fourth” and “bridge” but some other words in between which I had obviously chosen to filter out. What she had actually said was “We need a fourth member for our Coastrek team to walk 55km around the coastline of Sydney taking in some spectacular scenery including the Harbour Bridge.” But by the time I had processed what she had actually said it was too late; whilst I was vaguely nodding my assent Lauren, who is, as the Coastrek team would later discover to their great benefit, the absolute epitome of efficiency and organisation, had already whipped out her phone, logged onto the Coastrek website and entered my name in vacant slot number four.

She then muttered something about a 30km training walk starting at 5am the following Sunday and off she strolled leaving me vaguely perplexed in her wake – surely a 20 mile walk at dawn was slightly extreme preparation for a game of cards?

Coastrek is a 55km walk along some of the most spectacular and breath-taking of Sydney’s coastline and is a massive fundraising event for the Fred Hollow’s Foundation, an amazing organisation which helps to restore sight to people in developing countries (since 1992 his foundation has helped over a million people who would otherwise be needlessly blind). Teams of four agree to do the walk together in a spirit of camaraderie (it’s not a race, teams must start and finish together, the time taken is not important) and to raise a minimum of $2000 per team for the foundation. Initially I thought the fundraising would be the hard part, the training and the walking being the easy bit, but due to the amazing generosity of our Beauty Point school friends, raising the money was easy, raising ourselves every Sunday at 4:30am to trek miles around the coastline in preparation was a different matter.

Initially we were a hardy and enthusiastic group of nine – enough for two teams and a spare in case of emergencies. The intrepid bunch were our unparalleled captain Lauren who did the walk last year –she was the only one of us who had any clue what we were in for – and 8 other gullible souls, Sue, Vicki, Kate, Caroline, Heidi, Natalie, Tam and me. It wasn’t long into the training before we realised that getting across the finish line in time to guarantee that Vicki could make it to the airport for a 6pm flight to Japan on the day of the walk was an impossible dream – no amount of training would make us walk that fast – so Vicki had to opt out to focus on fundraising and team support on the day. So it didn’t take long for our “in case of emergency person” to have an emergency and we were down to the essential core of eight.  Several weeks into the training Sue was given the opportunity to travel to Salt Lake City to join her husband at a work conference which coincided with his fortieth birthday celebrations. It was a tough call but unsurprisingly Salt Lake beat Sydney and we were down to seven which was suddenly a bit more of a problem. The walk was a few short weeks away and we needed a team of eight to be able to complete it.

In the same way that Lauren caught me by surprise, I casually asked our amazing and extremely fit and “game for a laugh” friend Agnes if she might fancy a quick stroll by the beach with a group of friends sometime in March. I may have been a little vague on the details, taking full advantage of the fact that English is not her first language and muttering something vague about a fourth for Bridge (I had learned from the master) and her name was quickly locked into the empty 8th spot before her synapses had had time to make all the right connections. Once again we were quorate and the Talkie Walkie Cinderellas would be able to go to the ball!

From a thinking perspective the training was easy for all of us because Lauren was in charge of organisation; she suggested when we walked, where and for how long and the rest of us, happy to be led, turned up and, as our team name suggests, walked and talked. I don’t how many kms we covered during our training but it was a lot. I am sure the more technically savvy amongst us will have a record on their Fitbits of how many steps we took (my trusty old Timex has no such sophisticated functions) but if we follow the current health guidelines of 10,000 steps a day then I am confident we are good to not take another step until well into 2016! And as for how much we talked, well, all I can say is I was on the team and there are other team members who make me look positively shy and reticent so we have safely used up our word allowance well into the next millennium.  Richard once asked why so few men took part in the walk, was it supposed to be a women’s only event?  I said I didn’t think that men would be able to build up their endurance sufficiently to cope with such a strenuous event. He flexed his muscles, offered his best Charles TW Charles AtlasAtlas pose and told me I was being ridiculous until the penny finally dropped. “Ah, you’re talking about building up the stamina of their ears to cope with two women rabbiting non-stop for 18 hours? You’re right no man in his right mind would want to put himself through that kind of endurance!” I think it is safe to say that Richard would rather walk on hot coals than put himself through that kind of ordeal. I suspect other Walkie Talkie Prince Charmings might feel the same and were only too happy to look after the kids whilst we walked and talked for six hours every Sunday morning, naively believing that by the time we got back we might have run out of words. Little did they realise the six hours only served as a warm up for the rest of the day!

We started training for Coastrek about six months ago and yet were surprised when the week of the walk actually arrived. It was like all those things you plan so far in advance that at the time of planning you almost don’t believe the actual day will arrive. The race was on Friday 6th March and on Sunday 1st we had our final practise run (well walk of course) with an easy 15ks around the coastline near home.  It was amazing how easy it felt for all of us compared to our first 15k walk many months ago when some of the team had questioned whether they would actually be capable of completing 55kms in one go. The training had worked and we were as ready was we were going to be.

The event organisers recommend “tapering” and “carbo-loading” in the last few days immediately prior to the walk which I believe is techno-speak for sitting on your bum and stuffing your face and we were all keen to enjoy that final aspect of our preparation.  What could possibly go wrong now? We were at the peak of our fitness, all we had to do was set our alarms for 4am on the day of the race ready to hop into the taxi that Lauren had organised to take us to the start line in Coogee by 6am.

Then, on the Monday morning prior the race on Friday, our usual morning chaos was turned on its head by events worthy of a Morecombe and Wise Christmas Special; Katie woke up and said she didn’t feel well. I was just trying to persuade her that she was merely suffering from a mild case of Monday-itis and she’d be fine when she got to school when, to emphasise her point, she threw up all over me. I was off to get the cloth and bucket when she shouted she was going to be sick again.  I picked up speed, slipped on the kitchen floor and crashed into a chair leg, little toe first. I literally saw stars the pain was so intense. If I hadn’t broke a toe I had certainly rendered it and subsequently the whole foot completely useless.

TW Poorly girls There was no way I could walk or even drive the kids to school so I dispatched the well ones on their own, giving Ben the strictest instructions not to let Zach out of his reach for one second and hopped back to Katie with the bucket. What a sorry pair we were!

I had to call Lauren to ask her to tell Katie’s teacher that she wouldn’t be in school and to casually mention that I had probably just broken a toe and couldn’t put any weight on it but assured her I would be fine to walk 55kms in 4 days’ time. She was less than convinced but we had used up all our emergency people and anyway we had worked so hard as a team and were so nervous and excited about the event I couldn’t contemplate the prospect of not doing it.

Word spread around the school that one of their number was incapacitated and the Beauty Point Mums Army went into overdrive in their care, support and organisation. For three days I set up a central command post on the sofa, sitting with my foot elevated, injured toe swathed in a packet of frozen peas, madly texting instructions for the running of our busy household without moving an inch.  For 3 days I adopted the demeanour of some crazy military despot staging a coup in a small South American country, barking and texting orders into the phone for friends to pick up and drop off kids for school and different activities. People brought shopping, drugs, cakes and chocolate and I followed the tapering instructions perfectly, barely moving apart from to hop then eventually hobble to the loo and stuffing my face with all the delicious goodies that came my way. (Many thanks Agnes, Kate, Lauren, Annie, Jen, Simone and too many others to name).

TW lasagnaMatthew heard me describe my wonderful friends as the “Beauty Point Mums Army” and he asked where they kept their tanks and guns. He was a little perplexed by my reply; “Matthew, the Mums Army doesn’t need tanks and guns, they have weapons far more powerful and effective – they have arsenals of lasagne and banana bread, empathy and compassion.” That shut him up for a few minutes.

On the day before the race I got a message of support from my lovely friend Lisa, who advised that she had broken a toe the night before running the Paris marathon and she had still completed it. She recommended a good supply of strong drugs, lashing the injured toe to one of its more healthy neighbours, sturdy shoes and a stick to bite down on. It didn’t sound like much fun but if she could run 42kms I was pretty sure I could manage to walk at least one or two of our 55kms.

By Thursday afternoon I was able to put weight on it for the first time and wobbled to the car to drive to school. I was determined to at least start the race the following day so getting to school (in the car) was my test.  A couple of my teamies watched me take 5 minutes to walk 100m across the playground and later confessed that they thought there was no way I get more than a few hundred meters the following day.

Rich came home on Thursday evening with a veritable pharmacy of pills and strappings, including a family-sized pack of the strongest painkillers he could legally purchase. (I did wonder if legally purchased drugs would be strong enough but he drew the line at visiting pubs in Kings Cross to try and get me something stronger).

He did however, get up at 4am on the big day to fashion a splint from Elastoplast and lollipop stick and to help me down the stairs with my backpack full of pills, sunscreen, chicken sandwiches, nutbars, a dromedary bag and several litres of coconut water.  He thought I had got completely bonkers but was prepared to humour my efforts and said I could call him anytime and he would drop everything and come and rescue me. In case I forget to say this later, he is a good man and this is in spite of him eating his way through half the supplies that I had carefully laid out ready to put into my backpack for the next day, completely ignoring the beef casserole I had struggled to make for his dinner and then moaning that the nutbars were pretty revolting. “At $4.95 each they are not supposed to taste nice, they just keep you going in endurance events!” (Just to show he is in fact a man and therefore far from perfect).

At 4:55am on the day of the race I walked tentatively to the gate. Agnes was already waiting, looking far too bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for a 5am start and was wearing a rather fetching fluorescent pink jacket, a compulsory item from the Fred Hollows kit list that she had volunteered to purchase for each of us. For safety reasons the website advised that nobody could start the race in the dark without a fluoro vest on. “Have you got my vest there Agnes?” I asked just as the taxi pulled up promptly on the dot of five.

“No, I gave it to Zach on Wednesday,” she replied. As the words were floating from her lips she realised the unlikelihood of Zach remembering to give me the special garment. He is six and has no place in his brain for anything other than monsters, mischief and Minecraft.

TW About to start“Ah, that probably wasn’t a very good idea was it?” she added. We were on a tight schedule which didn’t allow any time for missing bits of essential kit so I raced back into the house, (a good test of how my foot was going to perform later in the day) and ransacked all the schoolbags to no avail. No fluoro vest to be found. I shook Zach awake and asked him where the special package that Agnes had given him was. In his barely awake state he managed to mutter that he had left it in Jennifer’s car (another gorgeous friend and foot soldier in the BPMA) and fell back into a coma-like sleep.  I value Jen’s friendship far too much to wake her at 5am and demand she searches her car for my carelessly discarded items so we agreed as a team that we would take the risk of disqualification and huddle together like a giant pink fairy cake anytime a marshal or race official came near, giving the impression that we were all suitably attired in luminescent pint until it was light enough to abandon the hi-vis gear.

We arrived at Coogee well in time to see the first wave of walkers and a few super-keen athletic types who set off at a run at 6am and we just had to hang around nervously for a further half an hour before we could start.  The atmosphere was truly amazing as 1700 walkers lined up at the start and we knew another 1350 walkers were waiting to get going from the other start point at Palm Beach.  We were nervous and excited and keen to get going, if for no other reason than to stop us all continually going to the loo.

TW Here we goFifteen minutes before the start of the event and it was time for my drug therapy to begin.  I hadn’t been able to face breakfast at 4am and didn’t think it was a good idea to pop pills on an empty stomach so at 6:15 I breakfasted on the first of many chicken salad sandwiches of doorstep like proportions, a chocolate cookie the size of my hand and downed the first lot of Ibuprofen and codeine and waited for the magical analgesia to do its stuff.

TW Ready, Steady Go!For 6 weeks prior to Coastrek a few of us had decided to give up alcohol and I had also more or less given up sugar. I’m extremely lucky that I enjoy good health and rarely have to take medication so the combined effect of the sugar and pharmaceuticals on my relatively “clean” system was quite astounding and suddenly I felt ready to run! I could barely feel any pain in my foot.  My euphoria was partly chemical and partly natural – the atmosphere that morning was quite incredible as hundreds of walkers marched across the beach and then jostled for position on the coastal path. The sunrise was spectacular, the views of the early morning coastline at Coogee quite breath-taking and the combination of happy hormones and nervous excitement coursing through all our bodies was hard to contain.  It was such a great feeling to be part of the team and to finally be undertaking the event we had trained so long and hard for.TW Beautiful Dawn 2

For the first few hours we charged around the coastline at a fair clip and our strategy was simple; take in the views, enjoy the morning sun on our faces and talk talk talk like we hadn’t seen each other for months.  With regards to pain management I was happy to heed to advice of team mate Heidi to stay ahead of the pain so I was popping more pills every two hours than Keith Richards on a Rolling Stones tour, alternating paracetamol and ibuprofen every time the alarm on my phone blessedly beeped. The regime seemed to work a treat and it was easy to see how people succumb to the happy feeling that even legal drugs can provide.

Apart from the occasional loo stop – as a group 8 women with 25 kids between walking together for many hours, toilet stops were going to be integral – we just kept walking and talking, talking and walking.

The scenery continued to be stunning so there was always lots to look at and the locals didn’t disappoint either, offering us several opportunities to view naked cavorting; the walk takes in Lady Bay Beach, a local nudist spot and we arrived just before 9am when the heat of the day was really starting to take hold and the local naturists needed to re-apply sunscreen to those spots most likely to get burned. The men, in my opinion, choosing to lather themselves with lotion with rather more flourish and enthusiasm than was strictly necessary when 2000 women, scantily clad in sweaty Lycra, marched by.  I think there is a disappointing universal truth about people who regularly get naked in public; those who should rarely do, and sadly those who definitely shouldn’t are the ones who do. If ever there was a point on the walk where we were going to put out heads down and march forward with vigour and purpose, the section passing Lady Bay at sunscreen application time was definitely it.

We passed a buck’s party on a catamaran where two naked girls were gyrating in front of a bunch of drunk and leering men and we all had a moralistic moment, hoping we were raising our own daughter’s to grow up with higher aspirations.  We saw a couple of weddings and no funeral although we did pass the rather attractive cemetery between Bronte and Clovelly.

Natalie’s husband, the lovely Carl, had kindly agreed to be our wingman. Coastrek is an endurance event and as such the organisers recommend having someone meet you at intervals around the course to top up food and water supplies. We had dropped lunch and extra fluids at Natalie’s house that morning and even though Carl was still on a flight from Hong Kong to Sydney at the 5am drop off, Natalie assured us that he would be at the designated drop zone in Rushcutters Bay, roughly the half way mark, at midday.  She assured us he wouldn’t be tempted to have a little power snooze and sleep through his duties and that our precious lunches were in very capable and reliable hands. Natalie was right to have so much faith and he exceeded our expectations in every way.

Despite his jetlag and barely having had time to get home from the airport, shower, load his car with Eskies full of our afternoon supplies and hot-foot it back over the Harbour Bridge, he made his 12noon rendez-vous with us in goodtime and had organised an outdoor table at the Rushcutter’s Bay Kiosk, positively groaning under the weight of coffees, muffins and banana bread.

My foot was really starting to throb by this point and I was wishing I had heeded Lisa’s advice and brought a stick to bite down on. I knew I had already confounded everyone’s expectations by completely almost half the course in good time and there would be no shame in me bowing out at this point and hitching a ride home with Carl. But the muffins looked good, the remaining chicken sandwiches that I had made at 4am and had been dreaming about ever since had arrived and I was only 30 minutes away from the next lot of pills so I  resolved to carry on.  I’m so glad I did, if for no other reason than to witness the bizarre behaviour of the manager of the café where Carl had bought our coffee and cakes.

When we arrived, despite it being almost lunchtime, the café wasn’t busy and Carl had secured us a large empty table on the outside edge away from the café’s few other customers.  He had generously bought coffee and pastries for each of us and, as this is a beachside café in a well-heeled part of town, at a guess he wouldn’t have had much change from $80.  We ate and drank the purchased fare ravenously and we also tucked into our homemade lunches that Carl had brought in the Eskies. A couple of teamies sat down at the table, mostly to empty the sand from their shoes and tend to their blisters, but most of us remained standing for fear if we sat we might not be able to stand up and get going again. We were clearly part of the Coastrek effort because we wore matching t-shirts all bearing our event number. We had passed several cafes en-route with signs outside saying Coastrekers would be welcome; sadly it seemed we had not picked one of them.

TW Rushcutters Bay KioskAfter a couple of minutes a waitress came over and said the manager had told her to tell us that we couldn’t eat our own food at their tables.  We politely explained that we were part of Coastrek and it would only be a few minutes before we’d be on our way again.  She ignored out polite entreaties and told us again we couldn’t eat our own food at their tables. We pointed out that our table was also positively groaning under the weight of all the food we had bought from them and yes we were eating some of our own sandwiches too but really we would be gone in no time so perhaps she could bend the rules today. I recalled the early days of my Coca-Cola sales training where we were taught that if we were presented with an objection by a buyer that we couldn’t overcome we should ignore it and plough on. We couldn’t overcome her objectionableness so we chose to ignore her; we carried on eating and drinking regardless, too hungry and tired and in too much of a hurry to take too much notice of her rudeness and irrationality. She disappeared to fetch the manager.

Shortly afterwards, to our astonishment, the manager appeared carrying the laminated sign instructing that we couldn’t eat our own food at their tables. We politely explained again why we were there, repeating what we had told the waitress;

“We understand the rule and why you have it but today we thought you might make an exception as other cafes on our route have done,” we implored. “We’re part of Coastrek, walking 55kms to raise money for a blind children’s charity. There will be hundreds of walkers like us passing through so you’ll probably do a roaring trade if you welcome them.  We’ll only be here for ten minutes and then we’ll be gone.”

He clearly had forgotten to take his mood balancing medicine that day as he pointed to each word on his sign and carefully enunciated each syllable for the apparent simpletons before him. “Customers-are-not- permitted-to-consume-their-own-food-at-the-kiosk-tables.”

We tried to calmly and reasonably present our case again, with Heidi’s pearler of a comment possibly being on the outside edge of reasonableness although totally warranted and very funny at the time;

“Don’t you even care about the blind children?” she asked in her perfectly innocent Dorothy-from-the-Wizard-of-Oz home-fried American twang.

He said we were making his life very difficult and we should feel sorry for him for having to work on a Friday. We were astounded that somebody so rude and inept would be employed on any day of the week but we wisely kept our thoughts to ourselves.

He advised if we didn’t follow the rules he would have to send over the café owner and she wouldn’t be anywhere near as nice or reasonable as him.

“My, my,” we all muttered under our breath. “She must be quite something if she isn’t as nice or as reasonable as you.”

We offered to return our coffees and muffins and to have our $80 refunded to speed up our departure but Mr Chuckles refused to take us up on our offer. He observed our food couldn’t be returned as it was half eaten to which we replied if he left us alone it would be fully eaten in five minutes and we would on our way, making sure we immediately recommended his café for its fine food and welcoming ambience to all our friends.  He was not seeing the funny side.

Interestingly, all the time this arguing was going on we continued to eat our food and had pretty much finished by the time he left to fetch the less nice and less reasonable café owner.

TW Sir GalahadMeanwhile, the lovely Carl was our Sir Galahad, ambling over to the kiosk and enchanting the owner with his 100 watt smile, boyish good lucks and fabled Yorkshire charm, disarming her fully with some lively banter until we had finished stuffing our faces and taping our blisters and could be on our way.

I have made this point many times before on the blog but Australians just don’t seem to get the idea of customer service, in many places it really just does not exist.  Between us we had offered the irksome manager and waitress our guide to customer service 101, suggesting a much better way to have handled it would have been to say something like: “We don’t usually allow people to eat their own food here but as it’s a special day and particularly as you have been such good customers (remember Carl’s $80 spend) we are happy to overlook that today. If you wouldn’t mind leaving your table as soon as you’ve finished we’d really appreciate that as we are just coming up to our lunchtime rush. By the way girls, good luck with the walk, it’s a great thing you’re doing.”

The outcome would have been the same; we still would have spent $80 on muffins, eaten our sandwiches quickly and been on our way but our impression of the Rushcutters Bay Kiosk would have been far more favourable and we might have recommended them to friends instead of naming and shaming them here, telling everyone we know never to go within a million miles of the place.

TW Bridge SelfieAfter our brief and entertaining lunch stop, fortified by several chicken sandwiches, a muffin the size of a baby’s head and another handful of pills, it was time to tackle the second half of the walk.  The afternoon was a blur of more talking and walking with a few more of the team succumbing to pain relief as old back, hip and knee twinges reared their ugly heads as we notched up 40kms.  We started exchanging analgesics like kids swapping candy in the playground I was particularly impressed with Kate’s paracetamol plus caffeine which hit the spot instantly and gave me the extra spring in my step that I needed to tackle the afternoon’s walking. The combination of sugar, caffeine, analgesia and endorphins resulted in the kind of “I can leap tall buildings” high I had not experienced since giving birth to the twins when the gauge broke on the gas and air machine and the midwife had no clue how much nitrous oxide I had inhaled.  As a team of eight I think we probably downed enough pills and rubbed on enough Voltarin to contribute to a significant jump in the share price Smith Klein Beacham. It was definitely a good day for selling your shares in Big Pharma.

TW WolloomoollooA few friends had suggested we take with us a list of “conversation starters” or be prepared to play lots of “I spy” in case we ran out of things to talk about in our 12 hours together. They clearly had no idea who they were dealing with and running out of conversation was definitely not going to be a problem.  With only ten minutes to go we did resort to the alphabet game, tackling the A_Z of countries and foods with ease. We struggled with rivers managing only the first and last with Amazon and Zambesi. At a push we might have managed Nile and Murray but that’s probably all and we were about to abandon the game altogether when lovely Simone called to advise she was waiting to cheer us over the finish line would we mind hurrying up so she could go for a swim. She suggested we ditch rivers and try body parts to provide a humorous end to our day. We powered through ankle, bottom, chest, duodenum (Caroline is a fitness instructor!)  to the very creative X and Y chromosomes (thank you Agnes) pausing briefly at, obviously, p for peanuts and v for Volvo before finishing with a rather inventive Z for all the zzz’s we would be having at the end of our day.

TW Almost HomeAs we approached the finish line on Balmoral Beach we were amazed at how good we felt both physically and emotionally, that we had stayed together as a team of eight and we were crossing the finish line in a pretty impressive time of 10 hours and 40 mins.  Given that we were eight women walking together and which meant we had had to spend at least two hours of that time queueing to go to the loo it was an even more impressive time.

TW Race to the Finish 3 All our children and husbands/partners who had been on daddy day care all day were waiting for us at the finish line. Our children could not have been more excited if we had just won a gold medal for the marathon in the Olympic Games and we probably would not have felt more elated if that had been our achievement. We crossed the finish line exactly as we had started; eight smiley faces in a line together but this time accompanied by our 25 kids, all anxious to get a piece of the glory, to be the first to grab mum’s finisher’s medal and to make sure they got one of the Hydrolite ice pops ideally reserved for those who had completed the race but at the very least for those who crossed the finish line no matter where they had started from.

TW Bubbles at Balmoral 2We hugged our hubbies and kids and then made a bee-line for the crystal clear water at Balmoral to cool our hot and tired limbs.  Champagne corks popped and we posed for more photos than Kate Middleton on her wedding day.

Our finish time of under 11 hours was extremely impressive (some teams took over 18 hours) and we felt rightly very pleased and proud of ourselves.  We didn’t take a medal for a fast time (it’s not a race) but if they had been handing out gongs for teams who laughed the most and who got the most words out in a twelve hour stretch we would have taken first place for sure. At the 10k mark many hours earlier, I had remarked that I would be keen to do it again next year. Heidi laughed (she assumed it was the painkillers talking) and said we should probably see we feel in another 45kms before signing up again. But at the end we all felt fantastic; the effects of the analgesics, alcohol and natural euphoria created a feeling akin to that which follows childbirth except this time there were no more new-borns to care for, only more Champagne, a well-earned shower and a delicious massage to look forward to.

Lauren had thought of everything and had arranged for our lovely friend Kate, a massage therapist, and her colleague Monica to come and do a home visit that night for anyone who wanted to take advantage.  We were fighting to sign up and after a quick shower and gigantic bowl of pasta I hobbled round to Lauren’s for my much longed-for treatment. In our usual spirt of divide and conquer, Richard was taking Matthew and Katie out for the evening and I took Ben and Zach to Lauren’s for a play.

On the walk over, Zach asked me what a massage was and I was trying to explain when he realised he knew the way to Lauren’s house and ran off, mid explanation, in the hopes of a cricket match with some of Lauren’s four gorgeous kids.  When I eventually got to the end of Lauren’s road I was surprised to see both boys tentatively hovering at the top of the driveway instead of belting cricket balls around Lauren’s back garden.

“Go in boys. The door is open and Lauren won’t mind,” I shouted as I came round the corner. Zach came running towards me with a most concerned look on his face.

“We can’t go in Mummy, something really weird is happening inside. Kate is there with Charles’ mummy and Kate is rubbing her all over with cream and guess what? Charles’ mummy is NAKED!”

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and so it is, I needn’t have bothered with my inadequate explanation; that’s what a massage is Zach!

About an hour later, Lauren’s husband, Wick returned home, weary from several hours of kid’s cricket with their four little ones in tow. The children instantly exploded into the house to play with Ben and Zach and Wick staggered over the doorstep, put down his heavy cricket bags and immediately did a double take, wondering if he had entered the right house.   Apparently it’s a little unusual for him to come home on a Friday night find his wife and two of her friends in various states of casual undress and dishevelment, glistening with essential oils, whilst two more of them lay naked bar a carefully draped towel on two massage couches on his back deck. He was definitely lamenting that he had not brought home a few of the dads from cricket, they would surely have been impressed at a typical Friday night in the Adlam household.

TW MedusaMy massage with the wonderful Monica was so divine and relaxing that I actually lost the power of speech, as did Tam, Natalie, Kate and Lauren and we could have happily laid there all night with our medusa-like hair and our glazed, “one flew over the cuckoo’s nest” expressions!  It was like being on holiday in Bali; the breeze gently wafting the palms, the cicadas chirping and even the odd playful nip from a mosquito to add to the authenticity. If only background noise had been a little more Morcheeba and a little less MarioKart we could have forgotten ourselves completely and been in Paradise.

TW HaremHaving recovered quickly from the shock of returning home to find a veritable harem where his family used to reside, Wick adopted the very Aussie approach of “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” and was soon stripped down to his boxers and lying prone on the massage couch, ready for Kate’s magic hands to soothe away the muscular woes of four hours of cricket.  Kate and Monica specialise in therapeutic sports massage – they are not for the faint-hearted and can have you wincing in pain as they work on a stubborn bulge of lactic acid. It does mean that although you start off in undies, by the time they have finished getting deep into the gluteus maximus your undies are hitched so far up or down as to be completely ineffective at protecting your modesty and you’re either too relaxed or in too much pain to care much. Wick was just relaxing into the pose of partial nudity to enjoy his massage when the doorbell rang – one of the mum’s from cricket had come over to enquire about a bat and a score sheet. We can only imagine the thoughts that raced through her mind as Wick scurried to the door, glistening from his recent application of oil, simultaneously trying to hike up his shorts and pull down his towel whilst maintaining the air of professional cricket coach as his semi-naked entourage of concubines grinned inanely from the sofa, unable to string one coherent sentence together between them. Whatever her thoughts, we are pretty sure, as she hastily exited the house, she would have been scouring the front garden for signs of pampas grass and fretting that her own Friday nights were rather dull in comparison.  E.L James may well use the scenario as inspiration when penning the next adventures of Mr Grey and Miss Steele.

Would we do Coastrek again next year? We got very fit, we walked some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the world, we raised over $10,500 for the Fred Hollows Foundation (thank you again to all our very generous sponsors), we talked and we laughed for 12 hours straight and became incredibly good friends, proud of our achievements and sense of camaraderie and team spirit. I think I can safely speak for the rest of the Talkie Walkies when I say an emphatic yes we would do it again in a heartbeat and may even be ready to tackle something a bit more challenging next year – watch out for the sponsorship links heading your way.












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