The inaugural Sri Chinmoy Off-Road Duathlon was staged in and around Black Mountain Reserve and the National Botanic Gardens in Canberra on Saturday 2 July 2005.
This race was to be the only Off-Road Duathlon staged in Canberra this Winter, with both a Long-Course and Short-Course option.
One of the most attractive attributes of Canberra as a city in which to live and to visit, is the large areas of nature reserve spread throughout the urban environment. Black Mountain Reserve and Aranda Bushland comprise several hundred hectares of native eucalypt forest right in the centre of Canberra, adjoining the CBD, the Australian National University, CSIRO Headquarters, the National Botanic Gardens and Lake Burley Griffin. With such ready accessibility and an extensive network of excellent tracks, Black Mountain Reserve affords a heaven-sent venue for the enjoyment of running and mountain biking in a natural setting.
The first run course for the race saw another innovation. This was the first time an athletic event has ever taken place within the grounds of the National Botanic Gardens. The organisers and participants alike are most grateful to the Director and staff of the ANBG for allowing the use of this special environment. The venture proved very popular and we look forwarrd to returning to the Gardens for the same event next year.
The Long-Course race started 30 minutes prior to the Short-Course. After the initial run in and around the Gardens to start up the heart and warm the muscles, competitors mounted their mountain bikes for a foray into the forest. Both races completed an initial 7 km loop featuring a fast circuit of Little Black Mountain. For the Short-Course, this was the entire mountain bike route, whereas the Long-Course athletes then proceeded onto a larger 16 km circuit around the base of Black Mountain and incorporating a stint in Aranda Bushland.
While the Long-Course athletes were enjoying their ride, the small but cheerful band of Short-Course athletes finished off their final 2.5 km run through the forest. Bradley Morton and Allison Campbell led from the front in the men's and women's races respectively, and both finished comfortably clear of their rivals.
The Long-Course race was a case of "They Came, They Saw and They Conquered" for Sydney-based husband-and-wife team of Blair Martin and Heather Evans. Pre-event speculation had centred on which of the local off-road and adventure-racing specialists would rise to the occasion over a tough but familiar course. But Blair and Heather had other ideas and the locals could only admire as they were offered a master-class in off-road athleticism.
Heather set the tone for her race with a nearly one-minute lead after the first run course of only 3.3 kms, while her husband set up a smilarly comanding gap of 45 seconds over the men's field.
Tom Landon-Smith made up a lot of ground during the bike leg, and was the only athlete on the day to clock under one hour for the combined 23 km mountain bike course. He came into transition a little ahead of Blair Martin, but it was soon clear from the way Blair took off onto the final run that Tom was going to have his work cut out to protect his slender lead.
Blair Martin blitzed the final 7.5 km mountain run in 33:07, nearly 4 minutes faster than his nearest male rival, former Australian 5000 metre track running champion, Rod "Rocket" Higgins. The long run course featured the infamous 750-metre "Breakfast Hill" up the side of Black Mountain, though this was compensated by a couple of kilometres of stunning views afforded from the "Forest Trail" which circumnavigates the mountain near the summit.
David Baldwin relied on his mountain running expertise to surge past Tom Landon-Smith for a hard-earned second place.
Meanwhile in the women's race, the outstanding performance of the day saw Heather Evans record the second-fastest run split of all the competitors (including a quality men's field), being bettered only by her husband. Julie Quinn ran a strong mountain leg making up substantial ground on Alina McMaster, but the 2-minute advantage Alina had enjoyed after the mountain bike leg proved decisive in the end for second placing.
Congratulations to all participants in this race. The course was enjoyed by all, and it is certainly planned to return to the calendar in 2006.
(pictured: David Baldwin, Tom Landon-Smith, Alina McMaster and Heather Evans post-race)
Full race results are now posted, along with a small event photo gallery.