Sri Chinmoy Multi-Sport Classic Jindabyne 2007 Race Report
Sunday 18 March 2007
The day before the race was cold and windy. The day after the race was drenching wet. Race day was... perfect!
The Sri Chinmoy Multi-Sport Classic is a 12-leg endurance event for solo athletes or relay teams taking place in, on and around Lake Jindabyne and the eastern flank of Kosciuszko National Park. The 12 legs include 3 legs each of swimming, paddling, mountain biking and running through one of the prettiest and most diverse regions of southern Australia. The legs vary from relatively flat and easy to extremely demanding. The race uses every minute of the available 13 hours of daylight.
A riot of gleaming stars garnished the sky above North Kalkite boat ramp at the remote northern head of the lake, a tiny crescent moon no match for the dark bulk of the looming ridge. Slowly, an intermittent string of lights threaded down the silent escarpment in the pre-dawn stillness, converging at the water's edge with headlights, lamps and torches coalescing into a small, determined response to the stars' hegemony. From the cocoons of cars, vans and 4-wheel drives, parted early from their sleep emerged nervous, expectant, excited souls forming into a small but eager throng of swimmers, paddlers and supporters.
Due to ongoing maintenance works on Jindabyne Dam and the high irrigation demands on the over-stressed Murray River, the level of Lake Jindabyne - at 48% of capacity - is at its lowest since the old town was flooded in 1967. The retreating water has revealed new islands, exposed numerous snags and other debris, and forced the change of some of the water-based courses, including the first swim.
As dawn prepared her magic show, stars dissolved and the outline of mountains to the west hinted at challenges and adventures ahead, still dormant in the new budding day. 2 distant inflated yellow cones appeared against the far shore, announcing the first course on the day's menu: an appetiser of 1.5 km swimming in clear, soothing water.
While onlookers braced against the morning chill, first the 12 solo competitors at 6:45 am then 10 minutes later the 52 team swimmers launched into the relative (21C) warmth of the welcoming lake: a release of pent-up energy, the campaign finally underway.
First solo athlete out of the water was Jon Brookes (21:23), while team swimmers Dave Wilson (20:22) and Shanyn Sparreboom (20:26) almost made up the 10 minute deficit on the last solo athletes by the end of Leg 1.
As swimmers arrived on shore and passed the timing station, now it was the paddlers' turn to shine as an array of craft - mostly kayaks and skis, scarcely two alike - were flurried into the water to form a fleet stretching halfway down the serene lake, still blinking itself awake. The sun was just climbing over the eastern ridge as support crews climbed the road high above the ant-like paddlers, to rendezvous with them at Rushes Bay, East Jindabyne.
The leading team paddlers passed all the solo athletes except Jon Brookes who maintained his lead by 2 minutes after the 9 km paddle into Rushes Bay. Dan Smith (44:32) and Gabrielle Hurley (50:15) led the charge for their respective teams over a course made more challenging by the appearance of several new islands and a more-than-usually-muddy exit. Solo female athletes Michelle Aitken and Carla Zijlstra-Evans came into transition only 4 minutes apart and not far adrift of the men's field.
8 am is a respectable time to be starting your morning run. The 7 km route from East Jindabyne to Tyrolean Village is not a straightforward jog along the lake's edge as might be expected. The course does head along the rocky foreshore for a while, but then climbs the escarpment to follow tracks through the bushland with views across to the ranges beyond. Runners need to be fully alert as the route takes several unexpected twists and turns.
Jon Brookes held his lead through the 7 km run and surprisingly, it was another soloist John Kent who came into transition next, having passed several teams in a strong run of 33:44. Only team runner Scott Main (31:57), from the eventual winning "Aviator's Beach Club" team posted a faster time over the testing course. 11-year-old Reuben Caley ran an excellent time of 38:30 to help set up his team "PGR" for a win in the Mixed Team of 12 category.
The 9 km mountain bike which follows is a defining feature of this race. The eastern escarpment between Tyrolean Village and the dam wall is inhospitable terrain - steep, rocky and densely forested. Yet here the local mountain bike club has established a network of specialist single tracks which draws enthusiasts from Australia-wide. The loop course incorporates many of these purpose-built tracks, offering practised mountain bikers the chance to excel and a genuine challenge for all athletes.
It was Stephen Hanley who led his team "32 Flavours" into the outright lead from "The Foot Centre - Brute's" and "Aviators Beach Club" after the testing, technical bike leg. On the whole, riders appeared better prepared for this leg than in previous years, showing the benefit of course reconnaissance and sound preparation.
The second swim is the longest of the day - 2.5 kms from South Tyrolean Bay to Stinky Bay, through the deepest reach of the lake nearest to the dam wall. Dave Wilson (37:16) swam his team "The Foot Centre - Brutes" back into the outright lead over Shanyn Sparreboom's team "32 Flavours," though Shanyn predictably swam the fastest time for a female of 38:03. In the solo men's race, Jon Brookes turned a 5 minute deficit at the end of mountain bike 1 into a 2 minute lead after swim 2 with his swim of 43:28, while Michelle Aitken extended her lead in the solo women's race to 12 minutes. The water was so enticing by now that many non-swimming team members and even race officials could not resist the temptation of a refreshing dip in Stinky Bay.
Paddlers entered the fray for the second time, the field now spread over more than one hour. They faced the shortest and easiest paddle of the race - the only paddle which crosses the lake - a mere 5.5 kms from Stinky Bay, past Cub Island (which with the low water level had joined with its big brother Lion Island to form one large mass), to the western shore for the first time and into Hatchery Bay.
Nathan Haythorpe of "Team Hard Kays" set a new fastest time for this leg of 25:54 to move his team into 3rd place in "T4 Open" category. The outright lead again changed, with Randall Fitzsimmon once more giving "32 Flavours" the ascendency. The field was now starting to spread out: when the first paddler arrived at Hatchery Bay, some cyclists were still on the first mountain bike course and most competitors were on the second swim; by the time the final paddler arrived, the first runner on the second run course was about to enter transition at Sawpit Creek.
Following the shortest, easy paddle comes the shortest, easy mountain bike ride: 11 kms through rolling farmland from Hatchery Bay to Michaels Corner over well formed dirt roads, with 360 degree views across the lake and towards the beckoning mountains. Several teams gave this ride to one of their 'non-specialist' members, wisely saving their specialist mountain bike rider for the 3rd and most telling ride to follow. The chopping and changing at the front of the course continued with Ryan Poole bringing the "yellow jersey" back to "The Foot Centre - Brute's."
The change-over at Michael's Corner is more than just a transition from one leg to the next: it marks the transition from tranquil farmland to rugged National Park. The 12.5 km second run offers the greatest test for runners, with a steady climb from Thredbo River to Sawpit Creek picnic area for the first 5.6 kms of the Pallaibo Walking Track, followed by 6 kms of undulating terrain through the native forest of the Waterfall Track.
This leg proved decisive in the final outcome: it was here that Scott Main (1:02:11) transformed an 8-minute deficit into a 5-minute outright lead for his team "Aviators Beach Club," a lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the race. The sun had now reached its zenith - Scott reached the Kosciuszko Education Centre at Sawpit Creek at exactly midday, 2 hours and 42 minutes ahead of the final runner. Remarkably, at this point every single solo athlete and team had reached every transition within the cut-off times, and all remained in the race - though this was about to change.
If the second run course is formidable, the 42.8 km mountain bike leg to follow is probably tougher still. The second half of the course for 2007 was new, a change from previous years forced by no longer being able to ride through the Jindabyne Pumping Station - hence all best times this year become new course records. Starting with an 8 km climb on the sealed Kosciuszko Rd out of Sawpit Creek to Rennix Gap at 1600 metres, the course then descends for 11 kms to the Snowy River. Here is where the real challenge begins with a 500 metre vertical climb over the next 6 kms along the Gungarlin Powerline Trail, before easing down onto the Botherum Plain. From the Botherum Plain the track crests Kalkite Gap before plunging all the way to Horseshoe Bay and a welcome return to the lake.
This course was the subject of much of the post-race discussion amongst athletes. While the climb is difficult, the route takes in some rare mountain terrain and astonishing views. Athletes encountered a herd of wild brumbies on the Botherum Plain, countless kangaroos and even lyre birds crossing the track.
Just as the second run course decided the outcome of the teams race, so this final mountain bike leg settled the solo men's race. John Kent started the ride 5 minutes in arrears of Jon Brookes, and finished half an hour ahead of the now second-placed Ian Franzke. Michelle Aitken built on her lead over Carla Zijlstra-Evans which had become decisive during the second run.
With the new mountain bike course finishing in a little cove the other side of the Snowy River with no vehicular access, a new (and longer) third swim course resulted. SES and the National Parks and Wildlife Service ran two ferry services to take swimmers from the car park at Creel Bay to Horseshoe Bay, and brought mountain bikers and their bikes back to their waiting teams and crews at Creel Bay.
The fastest times for the new 1.4 km swim course will also become course records, assuming this route remains in future years. The swimmers, like the mountain bikers, were now done for the day.
It is common for an afternoon breeze to develop over Lake Jindabyne, and in past years this breeze has whipped up a chop to make it tough going on the final paddle leg, especially for the later competitors. This year, even though the breeze freshened a few times, it never induced the troublesome waves of previous years.
Due to the low water level, the final transition point from the third paddle to the third run had to be moved from Wollondibby Inlet (which this year became Wollondibby Valley) to the Sailing Club launching beach, a paddle of a further 500 metres. Notwithstanding the extra distance, Dan Smith took advantage of the calmer water to notch a new course record of 50:22.
Due to the transition change, the final leg of the Classic was reduced to a little over 4 kms on the cycle/walking path along the lakeside in front of Jindabyne, finishing on the lawns of Banjo Patterson Park. Unfortunately because this course was shortened the records set will not be counted, though the overall times will be, considering that the paddle course was proportionately longer. 11-year-old Teah Fogarty brought home Team PGR in style to take out the T12 Mixed division.
John Kent (left) claimed line honours in the mens' solo division with a winning time of 10:27:35, while Michelle Aitken took out the solo women's division in 12:18:27.
After most of the teams and solo athletes had finished, former Dutch Olympic long distance speed skater Carla Jijlstra-Evans completed her own personal triumph in under 13 hours. Following her was only stalwart Canberra competitor Jeremy Allen, crossing the line in 13:05:21, 10 minutes inside the official cut-off of 8 pm. After thanking his many supporters and accepting his finisher's trophy, Jeremy might have looked up and seen the first bold stars proclaiming the day's close. He could afford a smile, as Jeremy was one of many stars who had illumined this day with courage, determination and cheerful enthusiasm.
Congratulations to all competitors in the race, who participated in a true spirit of friendship and enjoyment in an inspiring setting. Huge thanks to all volunteer helpers, especially the Snowy River SES under Controller Les Threlfo who patrolled all the water-based courses; Jindabyne Scouts Association who patrolled the second swim course; and members of the Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra Sri Chinmoy Centres for course marking, construction, timing, catering and transition coordination. Thanks to the authorities involved in sanctioning and allowing the event to take place, including Snowy River Shire Council, Snowy Hydro, Kosciuszko National Park (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service), NSW Police, NSW Waterways, NSW RTA and Triathlon NSW.
Check the full results of the 2007 Sri Chinmoy Multi-Sport Classic and view the photo gallery.
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We look forward to your company for the next Sri Chinmoy Multi-Sport Classic in March 2008.
Meanwhile, please enjoy these other multi-sport events in the coming months.