For all the things that have changed in our lives this year – staying apart from each other, avoiding gatherings, missing concerts and parties, working from home, all becoming experts in epidemiology – it’s worth acknowledging and appreciating how much has stayed the same – Canberra Winters are still cold, hills are still steep, rain is still wet, mud is still great fun, and exercising in Nature is still one of life’s deepest thrills…
For the annual Sri Chinmoy Off-Road Duathlons (2020 edition), held in the heart of the city within the grounds of the National Botanic Gardens and Black Mountain Reserve, Canberra prepared some of its best ‘social distancing’ weather, to ensure spectators stayed away, and participants lingered only fleetingly before racing directly to leg 4 of the day’s event – a hot shower at home.
With “Breakfast Hill”, our accustomed route up Black Mountain, closed to foot traffic for regeneration, a revised second run leg in the Long Course race measuring almost one kilometre shorter than the “old” route, meant that course records were bound to be challenged, despite the sloppy surrounds. Sure enough, new best times were set for this leg in all 4 age categories represented today.
It was Jarrod Osborne who set this new course alight with a sizzling 29:15 in the men’s race, though Trevor Spencer’s all-round consistency proved the winner on the day, cracking Dylan Cooper’s legendary Long Course record in the process with his new best time of 1:38:36. Next home was Dave Hardwicke in 1:40:46, from Daniel Simpson’s 1:45:28. Newly minted Male 50-59, Adrian Sheppard – one of the stalwarts of this race since earliest times – came 5th overall and claimed new records for every single leg of the race: 11:20 for the 1st run, 1:01:37 for the bike, and 34:25 for the 2nd run, for an impressive overall record of 1:47:24. Trevor Jacobs took out his accustomed 1st place in the Male 60 and Over in 2:27:22, his 45:23 now the record for Run 2, to sit alongside his bike and overall course records.
Penny Slater blitzed the women’s Long Course race, setting new best times for both 1st run (11:20) and 2nd run (33:58) en route to her outstanding overall course record time of 1:50:48, and a 6th outright placing amidst a tough field. Following Penny in the women’s standings were Jennifer Davis (2:10:46) and Melissa Clarke (2:14:58).
While there were no Over 50 women in the Long Course race this year, this category was the most outstanding race of the day in the Short Course event – Carolyn Dews raising the bar for a new Course Record performance of 50:48, which saw her also claim new best times for the 1st run (6:23) and 2nd run (12:58). Not far adrift of Carolyn were the impressive Simone Annis in 53:54 and Helen Way with 57:00. Alexandria Nicholls took out the women’s overall race with a fine 44:27, from Katrina Cousins (45:44) and Clarinda Sheeley (49:23).
Guy Jones ran and rode the Short Course men’s race as though breathing a higher grade of oxygen from everyone else, reaching critical turns on the course before marshals were even in place, to win in 38:04, from fast-running Steve Sibraa’s 40:10 and Cameron Pensini’s 40:57. Kim Houghton showed customary class in the Male Over 50s to take the top prize with 46:07, from David Baussmann with 53:19 and John Kennedy’s 58:27 (sorry David and John, there’s no Over 60 category in the Short Course race!).
Astonishingly, for a day when surfaces were at their slipperiest and potentially most treacherous, our medic Mike Corrigan reported not a single scratch or scrape to any human, with the greatest damage to be revealed in the coming week’s cleaning bills!