The 25th Sri Chinmoy Triple-Triathlon presented three remarkable records, each of them partly attributable to the weather.
a) – it was the smallest field ever assembled for this epic event;
b) – defying the multiplication of challenges posed by the weather on top of the already fearsome course, this small field achieved by far the highest ratio of finishers to non-finishes in the race’s history; and
c) – the event wrapped up in the fastest recorded time, a mere 16 hours.
On the one hand – knowing the sludgy condition of many of the tracks and trails after many months of sustained high rainfall in and around Canberra, and with high uncertainty surrounding swimming in any of the lakes due to fluctuating bacteria levels, many potential participants weighed the probabilities of a muddy slog-fest and/or weather-affected race day, and simply opted to forgo this year’s event.
On the other hand – the smaller band that assembled at the start line, knowing full well what they were in for (further focussed by the forecast of 100% certainty of heavy downpours, flavoured with speculation of severe storms), were fired with exactly the fortitude and adamantine conviction required to pursue and endure what was always going to be an “interesting” and challenging day out.
For the first time ever, every single solo entrant and every single relay team attended Saturday registration. For the first time ever, under ominous looming clouds, every single solo entrant and every single relay team fronted at the start line. For the first time ever, every single solo entrant, and all but one relay team, finished what turned out to be one of the toughest editions of one of the most gruelling races on the calendar. This race was created for exactly this field. This was a day for the few – the self-selected, brave, strong, determined, formidable and heroic few. And these few emerged, bedraggled yet aglow, as champions triumphant.
The Sri Chinmoy Triple-Triathlon is used to course modifications. The dynamic, constantly changing nature of the urban environment which is this event’s domain – with forests evolving into suburbs and even areas of lake becoming landscaped parkland – ensure there are alterations and deviations every year. Yet never before have we seen all areas of all 3 lakes completely closed to swimming for the 2 weeks prior to the event, requiring the preparations of multiple contingency plans for multiple potential scenarios, only resolving 2 days before the race when 2 of the lakes were opened to swimming, leaving only the Lake Tuggeranong swim in a pool. And never before have we been faced with such extensive and widespread areas morphing into bona fide swampland (yes, the final course was actually the “dry” option!!). With rangers from various areas of Canberra Nature Park updating concerns and requirements daily and almost hourly in the last days, the mountain bike and run courses saw 16 amendments in the final week alone. Despite all the changes, what emerged was not a compromise – we believe it was the best available route, offering all of the challenges, excitement, demand, opportunities and thrills that athletes expect from this famous outing.
THE SOLO ATHLETES
8 athletes might seem like a slim field – yet what this band lacked in numbers, they more than made up for in character and courage, every one (3 of them first-time Triple-Tri soloists) proving their strength, faith and unflappable tenacity over the course of a tumultuous day which seemed more like a lifetime.
Remarkably, 4 soloists finished within an hour of each other. In the over 50s, 5-time Triple-Tri winner and King of the Course, Trevor Fairhurst found new ways to elicit our respect, admiration and amazed awe with his record-breaking 10th solo finish in 13:02:21. Ahead of Trevor was only Matthew Pooley, 1st placed soloist in 12:41:53, literally riding his strengths (his riding) to a mightily impressive, daring and hugely deserved first-time win. Next home was another first-time soloist, crowd favourite Ben Crabb, superbly assisted by his daughters, clocking 13:21:08. Just 4 minutes later, competing for the first time as a freshly-minted over 50, champion Canberra athlete Aston Duncan finished decked in mud and glory in 13:25:21. The duel between Ben and Aston was an engrossing sub-plot within the day’s drama, playing out across the pathways, waterways and sodden ways north and south, morning into afternoon into evening, with both finishing triumphant in so many ways.
Joe Walshe is another local athlete with a loyal and enthusiastic following, finishing with a radiant smile of soul’s satisfaction in 14:11:38, well ahead of his previous best. Kel Rankin from Picton was next in 14:26:24, his third solo finish proving he is a winner under all conditions. Jon Schol is one of the Sri Chinmoy Triple-Triathlon’s greatest supporters and champions, and at 59 years, its most senior finisher, crossing the line in a typically gutsy yet humble 15:52:28. Finally, most appropriately wearing race number 1, from Ballan in Victoria, having previously participated only in a relay team at this event, Martin Phillips won the hearts of all and fired our spirits with his wonderful display of sustained focus and commitment, reaching his goal in 15:58:39.
RELAY TEAMS OF 3
“Stuffed Puffs” are the writers of Triple-Tri folklore, today continuing decades of dazzling dominance with their front-running 9:56:11. The trio of Dave Osmond, Adrian Sheppard and Ben Buchler were half an hour ahead of the following team (of 9) and nearly 1.5 hours in front of the next in their category, “3 Amigos” (Mark Mallinson,, Anthony Butt & Tom Allen) in 11:17:08. “Soli Deo Gloria” (Malcolm Pittendrig, James Oran & Joshua Lear) completed the podium placings for the Open Teams of 3 with 12:00:26.
Several of the best-performing “Teams of 3” were actually Teams of 2! – the indefatigable “Algae and the Toxic Bloomers” (this year comprising the sprightly pairing of Rico Fitch (aged 70) and Simon Claringbold) took home the Open Team All over 60 title in 14:21:18. Another impressive duo, “Maggie & Cate” (Caitlin Chandler and Maggie Welfare) came in just a few minutes later, to win the All-Female Teams of 3 in 14:34:17. And fastest among the Mixed Teams was the delightful and delighted couple of Kael & Louisa Hulin, claiming their victory in 13:07:04.
RELAY TEAMS OF 4-9
The “Giant 440 Woodys – 4 Pete” (Rod Smith, Michael Beard, Nathan and Jaemin Frazer, Andrew Dawes, Andrew Oberg, Lori & Rod McWhirter and Stefan Hese) have established Goulburn as the city in the world housing the 2nd-most Triple-Triathlon trophies (after Canberra), this year extending their remarkable run of podium finishes with another victory in the Open Team of 4-9, in 10:24:50. Goulburn’s trophy share was extended further in the Open Teams (all Over 50) by the “Buzz Lightyears O’50’s” (Kerry Baxter, Mark Stutchbury, Brett Storrier, Rod Smith, Ted & Melinda Goad, Andrew Dawes and Geoffrey McMahon), cruising home in 12:31:16.
Fastest All-Female Team of 4-9 was “No Nuts Just Guts” (Virginia Lindenmeyer, Rachel Dieckman, Prudence Guest, Carol Hartley, Caitlin Flux, Harriet Foster, Cath Spratley & Samantha Shields) in 14:19:45, while the All-Female Team All-Over 50 of “FIT and Fabulous” (Polly Templeton, Alison Purvis, Julie Alexander, Leeane Tennant, Helen Jeffs, Sarah Rainbow, Geraldine Cusack, Elizabeth Lowe & Narelle Patrick) completed the course in admirable time, only slightly missing one of the cut-offs along the way due to the enforced extension of the 1st mountain bike leg caused by the relocation of the 1st swim leg.
10:30:58 was the winning mark for “Resultz Racing” (Seth Gloss, David Medlock, Lisa Krakowiak, Anna & John McPherson, Rob Mudford, Michelle Welch, Matthew Shadwell and David Liddle) in the Mixed Team of 4-9 category; with “Not All Those Who Wander are Lost” (Jono Windsor, Aaron Farlow, Thien Vuong, Josie Gillham, Samantha Morley, Daniel Carson and Ivonne Nathan) taking 2nd in 10:45:46; ahead of 3rd placed “JTM 1” (Talia Chambers, Oscar Starmer, Andrew Walton, Ashleigh Lawson, Jamie Bedford, Bronte Clifford, James Tuggey, Jason Lee and Georgie Hicks) with 10:56:12 (edging out “Justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance” for the bronze medal by a mere 20 seconds).
“DrRMF” (Rose & Martin McGready, Chris Halliwell, Richard Haines, Jeff Grey and Sue Akeroyd) showed fine form to take out the Mixed Team of 4-9 (All Over 50) in 11:01:52. We are immensely proud of all the members of our Triple-Tri family, many of whom we only see once a year, returning from various places, occupations and callings to this special gathering. You may have noticed the “Shoklos” team of recent years gathered under the new monika “DrRFM” this time: we’re honoured to pay our humble tribute to the extraordinary selfless dedication of the team’s lead swimmer, Dr Rose McGready, supporting the wonderful people of Myanmar. Rose’s new foundation is inspiration in action: we wholeheartedly commend her cause.
To stage a race of this magnitude under such intense conditions tosses up challenges and hardships not only to the participants and their helpers and supporters, but also to the organisers and volunteers. Not only did every single solo athlete and relay team front up on the day – so did every single volunteer, even to stand in an open field alone under an hours-long deluge! Words cannot convey our debt of gratitude to all who helped ensure this unforgettable race started … continued … continued to continue … and ultimately, finished. In no particular order, our thanks to: the rangers of Canberra Nature Park; staff and officers of the NCA, Stromlo Forest Park and the Public Land Use team; YMCA Sailing Club; Lake Burley Griffin and Lake Tuggeranong Sea Scouts; Steve Hanley; Triathlon ACT Race Referee Peter Simpfendorfer; staff of Lakeside Leisure Centre; our medical support team of Rebekah Stamatis and Matthew Sainsbury; course sweepers Caroline Werner, Gareth Prosser, Kim Houghton, Paul Mahoney, Peter Fogarty and Michael Brennan; volunteer marshal and aid station attendants Nic Bendeli, Petra Lean, Rachel Pell, Judi Barton, Judith Bibo, Wilma Huneke, Suzie Gunning, Margot Tredoux, Greg Gourley and Steve Bingley; the staff of My Rainbow-Dreams café; and Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team members from Canada, Latvia, Czech Republic, Mongolia, Auckland, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Torquay … and Canberra.