Act like a Team to be a Team
Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Oxfam Trailwalker reminds me what a great team feels like.
Three friends and I, along with 2 crew, participated in the Melbourne Oxfam 100 km Trailwalker last weekend.
On paper, we would not have been considered a fast team; Michelle and I, two middle aged women, Madi much younger than us, as was Callum, the only guy in our team. We were an unlikely mix, but got on well together during training and thought we had a chance of finishing the event.
Not only did we finish, we came third team overall
“Our result was not just a testament to our fitness, but also to the preparation, race strategy and ultimately teamwork that played out during the day”
Here are the teamwork nuggets that were reinforced throughout the day:
Act like a team to be the team
From the outset we decided we were a team, and we were going to compete and finish as a whole team. No one was going to be left behind. We focused on behaving like a team as we competed, moving in pairs, never leaving someone alone at the back, and keeping the distance between us tight. In less than 2kms we observed teams splintering. Our slower teammates were the pacers to us, knowing that going slow at the start would benefit us towards the end. Did it ever!
Have a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)
Aiming to cover a distance of 100km as a team was always going to be tough. The pressure was dialled up as the temperature rose to 31C during the day. The heat got to a few of us, some developed blisters, we looked salty, and there were a variety of upset tummies. We were constantly reminding ourselves that we had put the training in, we were fit, strong, hydrating, fuelling, had a great crew and that we are going to finish it. It would have been so easy to give in to those demons, but we talked each other out of it every time.
Make sure that the strong support the weak
The beauty and also the challenge about Oxfam is that your team isn’t really validated as a finisher if all four of the original starters don't make it to the finish line. Acting like a team to be a team was sacrosanct. However, to enable that the stronger team members had to give of themselves to ensure the weaker ones could keep moving forward. This included swathes of PMA, as well as physically tethering those who needed that extra pull or psychological safety net to get them over their personal hump. We all took it in turns being weak and strong right up to the end.
Adjust in real time
The trail was brutal with around 2000 m of ascending and descending over the day, exacerbated by the heat which resulted in significant attrition across the course. If we didn’t adjust our plan about pace, nutrition and fluids to respond to the heat and how people were feeling, we would not finish as a team. Our original plan of 30 minutes run, 5 mins walk dropped to 8 and 2 minutes as the day wore on. We checked on individual priorities prior to each check point. Our crew had ice for us, and gave us bags of it to munch on as we left every check point. Responding real time to our environment saw us succeed way beyond our expectations.
It’s an old adage but a very true one. We planned as much as we could beforehand, picking the team, picking the brains of adventure racers, trail runners, and suckers for tough events as to what works well for them. We applied it all. We had a great coach to get our bodies fit, and a great crew that anticipated and responded our needs.
All these little things came together to deliver an unbelievable performance! But most of all, we all had to act as a team on the day to be that great team!