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Helensvale Daybreak Toastmasters Member Steve Dalton: As a tech guy my brain is wired in a way that means I'm naturally introvert. My life has been a continual journey of stepping outside my comfort zone, and Toastmasters has been a great tool to force me out of my shell.

Since joining Toastmasters I've been able to lead teams, facilitate meetings, run numerous events and conferences, pitch to investors in Silicon Valley and speak on the TV and radio. Thank you to all my wonderful Toastmasters friends for helping me to where I am today.

Listen to Member Steve Dalton's interview on technology after visiting Silicon Valley here

SPEECH BY Janet Rayner - "Blood Sweat and Tears Team 8 Legs"

It was freezing cold and dark
We could feel the anticipation in the air - eerily quiet considering there were over 2000 people all huddled together about to experience one of the biggest challenges of their lives. Everyone hung their heads and fell silent as the sound of the Last Post sang out.

A reminder of why we were here, what we were doing, remembering those lost in Papua New Guinea  on the Kokoda Trail. Raising funds to help put local  young troubled teens into a program to help them improve their personal development, confidence, consideration for others and team work.  If these kids stayed in the Kokoda Challenge program and we raised enough money they would get to go the the PNG trail and experience it first hand.

The last post complete left many if us with goose bumps and some not so dry eyes. Also the anticipation of what we had been training so hard for for months.

The start gun goes off. A glance at each other in our team of 4 - myself, my husband, and our good friends Maureen and Angela. The glance that reminded us why we were here, and also why our goal finish as a team if 4 within the allocated time - that is all. Something that statistically less than half those that start this challenge achieve. It is not about a race or being faster than the other teams it is about finishing as a team.

Complete with our trail gear, hydration pack, snacks, first aid, layers of clothes, head torches, energy gels and food we eagerly anticipate the start gun.  the Kokoda Challenge . 

96 km of unforgiving undulating grueling terrain through the mountains. Flat,grassy, steep, rocky and very very steep. Up and down grasping at whatever you can to pull you up foot by foot to the top, only to comedown again then up again then down again then up again........I think you get the picture.

We took off up wallaby drive Mudgeeraba. If you know it it is steep, we walked up to the top and entered the first mountainous section of the 96km. Over the last few months we had trained every Sunday for 8 to 10 hours straight through most sections of the challenge as practice. This one we had not, we were surprised at the steepness of it once we wound through a couple of streams and clambered up the trail at one point leading into Alstonville.

We were looking forward to the first time we would see our support crew made up of  friends and family. They would be at 6 of the 14 checkpoints, approx 4 hours in between each time we saw them.

We reached  Pollys Kitchen enthusiastically, our support crew had set up camp and we had fresh water , new supplies, food and more warm clothes. Smiles all around we were happy to see them !

The  7 creek crossings were initially our worst nightmare.  We had been  to briefings from past experienced competitors and had feedback from many people who had completed this challenge themselves.
Chafing, blisters, freezing, cuts, falling and injuries all in our minds.
We were told all sorts of ideas how to get through by a guy called Scott who had won the event the year before. 96km in around 1 hours, they ran the event of course.

Maureen during our creek crossing training had squeeled at spiders webs and refused to cross with her shoes on at the start. A good friend of over 25 years I had to tell her to get her big girl pants on when she took a miniature towel and decided to remove her shoes and socks, cross the creek, put them back on and do the same again for each of the 7 crossings! A few weeks of this and sheer determination she was ploughing through those creeks not a worry when the Challenge came.

Just a few more KM in the dark and we arrived at  Numinbah Hall early evening and in the dark.

Tired sore and hungry, we swiped our arm band at this checkpoint. Our team rule maximum 15 minutes  at the checkpoints where our support crew would be set up camp for us. We saw another team with Alfoil caps like foil shower caps on the heir heads at their camp. Now I had trouble not laughing out loud at that one ! Anything to keep warm and within 20 minutes we were on our way again, now this was hard. We were very tempted to stay in and our support crew had to get stern.

As the night wore on we needed support to tell us to get going again, the camp and chair and blankets was so inviting compared to the freezing cold steep rocky terrain we had ahead.

The Environmental Centre near Hinze Dam was a quick stop for fresh socks band aids refill of water and back on the track. No support crew but this one stood out. We had heard stories........inviting, warm, hot soup, packets of coffee beans.  Those who had fallen asleep here in past years - there were many that had not woken or been able to push on from this point to finish the challenge.

We had NO idea what lay ahead, this trail was one of two which we could not train on as it was Army land and closed until the actual event.  We were tired and sore the feet were already feeling heavy and burning like fire from the pressure of being on them for 18 hours at this point.
My husband and I were ahead And Maureen and Angela together behind. Angela and I run together, the things I have seen her endure are admirable. She is tough. There was a lot of doubt right here for the whole team. we could not believe the steep trail and it was so rocky - all I could see was the flickering of headlamps way way high above us indicating that other teams were way up there SO high!  The only  way I could get me head around it was to focus literally on one painful step after another.

It was at this exact point I realised this was not only a physical challenge - it was more of a mental challenge.  I could not think too far ahead.

The next checkpoint was at the very top of a hill on a flat lush paddock filled with cars and vans and support crews. It was so warm and cozy. Deck chairs, blankets, massages, We had anticipated its arrival for hours. The trek to get from the last checkpoint to here was very very tough. Food was making me feel a bit sick at this time.

I cannot remember what was said but to me it was funny. So funny that I started giggling and could not stop. You know that belly laugh that we don't get enough of? Boy it felt good. We headed out again for the next few hours. We knew it would be daylight next time we saw our support crew.

We headed along a ridge on a gravel trail, wider now,  I caught my husband sleep walking a couple of times although he would deny this. I would talk to him and he would snap "I am not asleep". I walked on his right to ensure he did not head off the edge.

Then we discovered a snake. Now this was not expected. Given all training and the event was in cold winter snakes had not been a thing to really consider.

We negotiated a way around the snake then heard a noise.....
This was a no no! Rules are NEVER leave a team member. What was she doing alone?. We called out to her to warn her she was walking toward the snake. She kept walking oblivious to our yelling she had music blaring through her iPod. I waved my pole in front of her STOP! Snake.
I invited her into our team and she spent  a couple of hours with us, Shannon Willoughby is her name, a journalist for the GC Bulletin.
Shannon published an article in the GC bulletin a couple of weeks later comparing the challenge with childbirth and her  conclusion was child birth was easier!  she kindly mentioned Bob and I in her story.

Two things we now had to look forward to..
1. Daybreak
2. The ever so "Lus" paddock Mt Nathan

There were 2 things we were really looking forward to and anticipated the whole way through. 
One was daybreak , an indication we were nearly there (we thought)

The next was the giant paddock at the top of a tough incline opposite Clagiraba road Canungra.  We had talked about it as a team we knew in our mind once we got there we were so close to finishing in 18 km or so more.
We reached the top after some first aid for my husbands knee, Maureen's foot, and Angela's blisters and I was SO sore and SO tired as we all were, feet on fire. We were directed to a different route no where near our lush paddock and ended up at this checkpoint number 12 in after a grueling few KM'S before and in unfamiliar territory.  I cannot explain how that does your head in. We all struggled with it. Physically but more importantly emotionally. Now this is what the troops in PNG would have experienced it is not as if they knew their terrain.

74 arm bands handed in said it all. Cut off the wrists of the participants and laying on the desk. We really needed our support crew at this point. We were grumpy, unhappy about the change in track and so so tired and sore.
The downhill runs were now harder than the uphill due to the muscle and knee pain. The gravel slope leading to the support crew saw many people slip and fall and hurt.
They only had 18 km to go........

There was no way in this earth we weren't finishing this as a team.

We moved on from the last time we would see our support crew after many encouraging words, smoothies, fresh socks and hugs.

A couple of KM on Angela decided to sit on the gravel and take her shoes off. She had blisters and was walking the rest of the way in bare feet!

At this point with her in her bottom on the ground shoeless I spotted a poor guy who was being helped down the hill by one team member. They were alone.  His knees had obviously gone on strike and he was showing typical  signs of "No Knees" syndrome. I will demonstrate for you.  I felt extremely sorry for the bloke who was taking each step painfully however this sight along with Angela on her bottom sitting like a naughty child with no shoes was just too much. I started giggling and no way I could stop. It took ages to compose myself, demand Angela out her shoes back in and let's move now so we can get this over and done with !

We finally crossed the line 4 of us as a team, I was holding hands with my husband and we all hugged.  Tired sore and happy smiles........

A summary of our promise ..

My husband asked me to complete this challenge with him and suggested it might give us a healthy dose of respect for each other.

We spent more time together in training leading up to the event than we had in years.  This experience strengthened our relationship with ourselves and with our friends, our team mates.

All of our 8 Legs finished in just on 32 hours my husband and I holding hands as promised across the finish line......Tired, sore, worn out and so happy to finish together - thanks to our determination and our support team.

Team 8 Legs were grateful for the Blood Sweat and Tears


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