"Las Triple Triathlon"
So our brave and gallant team of three boys had a cracking day of racing at the Sri Chinmoy Triple Tri in Canberra.
What the hell is the Triple Tri? It is a 9-leg beast of a race that demands the utmost respect!
It is three off-road triathlons back to back, in various distance (think about it as a big relay). It makes a loop around Canberra, hitting every lake, every mountain and nearly every bike path. We start in the pond-like Lake Ginnindera and end up at Yarrumlumla at the Sailing Club. It adds up to around 6km of swimming, 100km of mountain bike riding and 45km of running.
It is a beautiful, brutal race.
You can have 9 people doing it, with one taking each leg, or you can do it solo or anywhere in between. We decided to do it as a team of three. A triathlon relay. Team HMAS Friendship.
The line-up was as follows:
Tommy Brazier: The gun runner, Tom has honed his skills doing 100km races and was worried that this one would be too short. We gave him the first two runs to destroy himself, so he could relax and let poor old Murray do the last one.
Ed Hall: Big E was an unknown quantity because he had made the smart decision to ditch mountain biking for the world of road cycling, but we had faith that he would get the job done. He would do all the bike legs, a very solid day out.
And of course, there was me. I had hesitantly volunteered to do all of the swimming legs, as well as the last run! My cycling crash three weeks before had left me with a less then ideal preparation but I thought I could gut through the swims without letting anyone down.
We spent the night before the race gorging on pesto pasta and sweet potato, talking smack and working out logistics for the big day on Sunday.
We knew that there was another team of 3 who would give us some serious competition throughout the day. They were seasoned veterans of the race and were very strong athletes. I was more worried about them then Tom and Ed, because I knew their swimmer was better then me. We would soon see by how much.
I was staying away from the boys in the house of Tom's mum, who had kindly given me a bed. The day began at 5am, as I prepared for the first 1.5km swim that would start us off.
So it was that I found myself in the scummy Lake Ginnindera at 6am, watching duck poo drifting past me and trying not to think ahead to the 3.5km swim that awaited me later in the day.
I did my usual, excitable sprint at the start and found myself leading the field, not the smartest beginning to a 9hour plus day of racing.
I dropped into a pack of 4 swimmers and while I slowly slid off the back of them, I was within 40 seconds of the leader, giving Ed a good crack at our rivals.
When not competing or eating, the day is taken up by driving to the next checkpoint to hand over for the next leg. So Tom and I made our way up to Antill St, below Mt Majura, where Tom would begin his first and longest run at just under 20km.
Ed came screaming into the transition, just behind our rivals, having taken a wrong turn on the course (it happens).
Tom then proceeded to annihilate the entire field on the Ainslie/Majura run and posted the fastest split of the day (a hugely impressive effort considering that the majority of racers were only doing one leg, or one run).
This gave me a couple of minutes lead over our competition for the start of the 3.5km monster swim in Lake Burley G.
We started behind King's Bridge and swam down the middle of the lake, under Comm Bridge and into Acton Ferry Terminal.
It is a long, hard slog of a swim. As soon as your arm enters the water you lose sight of it in the murky, dirty depths. Visibility was at a range of about 5 to 10cm.
Luckily we had a little bit of a tailwind, so I cruised down the lake. When I occasionally flipped over to do some backstroke I could see the orange cap of our competition, slowly but surely gaining on me (he would take 2 and a half minutes off me in this swim). I could also see my kayaking escort, who I would say hello to every time I did backstroke. He said nothing back. It was a long swim.
With about 400m to go I was over-run by my rival but, tactical genius that I am, I cut across and sat on his feet for as long as I could.
So halfway through the race we were neck and neck and we knew it would be very tight. (there were two teams of 9 in front of us, with some pro-triathletes and Martin Dent, enough said).
Big E gave us a little lead for his second ride and then Tom, being the backbone of the team, proceeded to put another 3 minutes into them, running up and over Mt Taylor into Tuggeranong.
I was looking forward to finishing my swimming with the last leg looming but that was short lived because it was now in a 25m pool (due to the water quality of Lake Tuggers). It would be a lot of tumble turns with a run in the middle as you had to get out and run to the end of the pool to start again (3 x 400m loops of the pool, ducking in and out of each lane).
Luckily, I am nearly 2m tall, so because I could push off the wall each time so I only swam about 15m a lap. Perfect.
The pool temp was about 30degrees, so I was feeling pretty drained at the end, but we had our 2 and a half minute lead still intact and only 2 legs to go.
And so this is where things got tactical. I was feeling fresh (relatively fresh, after 6km of swimming) so I would do the final, 13km run over Red Hill. Tom had smashed himself knowing he only had to do 2 runs, so we put our plan into action.
So it would come down to the final leg. Did I feel better after 6km of swimming than their runner who had done nearly 30km of tough trails?
Ed came in with that crucial 2 and a half minute gap and I took off, up and over Red Hill!
I felt amazing, and my splits started at 5:00 per km as I climbed over Red Hill and got down to around 3:40 in the first couple of flat km's, but that's when the day caught up to me and I started to fall to pieces.
I began to cramp in both arms. Arms! WTF, who cramps in their arms when they are running. And my toes.
I had to rein it back a little, otherwise I would have been in real trouble. This wasn't helped when our rival teams swimmer and cyclist started waiting for both of us at certain points along the course and providing splits and updates.
Finally, after 9 hours and 8 minutes of racing (something like that), we finished.
The tactic had worked, as I put over 6 minutes into their poor, tired runner.
We won our division, and come third overall. Beating teams with up to 9 members in them.
It really is a fantastic race. It is lonely too, because we were out in front the whole day, we rarely saw any other teams because the field gets strung out by hours.