The 17th Sri Chinmoy Triathlon Festival was staged in and around Canberra on Sunday 24 November 2013. Full results, both overall and by category follow:
Rarely if ever have conditions aligned as perfectly: recent rains had rendered Canberra's tracks and trails soft and fast, the surroundings an ever-refreshing green; the day dawned still and a little overcast, Nature herself a chorus of encouragement for all who bent their wills, minds and bodies into the formidable quest which is Canberra's Sri Chinmoy Triple-Triathlon.
Though only two women completed the course solo this year, their two monumental performances combined to present a breathtaking race for the ages. Julie Quinn is the acknowledged "Queen of the Triple-Tri." This year she broke her own overall course record with her 12:15:59, and set no fewer than 4 new leg course records en route â for all 3 run courses as well as the 2nd bike. Yet somehow she did not win. Unheralded, a new face had appeared at the start, Shannon Proffit from Queensland. Emerging from Lake Ginninderra 2 and a half minutes ahead of the next (male) swimmer, we wondered whether exuberance had got the better of her and she had simply started too fast. Julie was 6 and a half minutes behind, after only one leg â¦ Julie duly regained 5 of those minutes on the 1st bike, and by the end of the 1st run had taken her customary lead position. The next swim though, would effectively decide the race. Shannon swam an incredible 51:11 â a full 17 minutes faster than Julie and a time bettered by only 2 female team swimmers. Indomitable, Julie pegged back time on each of the succeeding bike and run legs, but a further 8 minute deficit in the final swim proved too high a mountain for even Julie to climb, leaving Shannon Proffit the new Women's Champion and Course Record holder in an amazing 12:02:59, one of the most striking and dominant debut Triple-Tri performances ever. We salute and applaud these two shining athletes for staging a truly inspiring and uplifting race.
In the men's solo race, Travis Wayth from Porepunkah, Victoria returned from the disappointment of losing his way and valuable time on the first bike leg in 2012, to state his credentials in the most emphatic way by winning the race in a superb 11:26:49. Still only in 3rd place half way through the day, Travis paced his race perfectly, saving his best legs for the back half where the going is traditionally the toughest.
In second came Canberra's Seb Dunne in 11:46:44; a consistent and cheerful performer throughout the day who collected a new course record for solo riders in the (slightly shorter now that Dairy Farmers Hill has been removed from the course) 2nd bike leg, of 1:49:51. A slowing pace on the final run leg might have made Seb vulnerable to a famously fast-finishing David Baldwin, whose 11:48:16 ranks as his second best time ever in 8 Triple-Tri finishes (the most by any solo competitor).
In 4th place was first-time triathlete and birthday boy Steven Hanley, who seemingly cruised through the course without a worry in the world; his 13:21:16 a wonderful return for a first solo attempt (Steve has previously participated in highly-placed teams for many years).
The 50+ solo category saw 8-times Ironman Adam Mort from Mudgee post a wonderful finish of 14:31:52. Adam was a train all day, single-mindedly pushing to the goal which he reached with perhaps the broadest smile of all. Special mention also to Martin McGready whose time of 13:37:10 was a lion-hearted effort, the culmination of 3 years' focus. Unfortunately an inadvertent technical breach by some over-enthusiastic supporters meant Martin's time could not be formally recognised, though in the annals of the Triple-Tri, he stands an esteemed finisher. We hope Martin will honour the Triple-Tri by returning with his dauntless spirit to race again.
There is often a battle royal between the fastest Team of 3 and the fastest Team of 9 and this year provided one of the most fascinating such duels in years. In the red corner, representing the Teams of 3, "Stuff the Puffs" are proven performers â veteran Triple-Tri stalwarts John Fleming, Dave Osmond and Rob Walter who everyone knew would post fast individual splits and a very competitive overall time. In the blue corner, a surprise team had emerged when Peter Klein â who had been trying to assemble a crack Over 50s combo â and Luke Grattan â whose aim had been his usual flawless super-elite team of all-stars â both came up short. Peter and Luke then surprisingly combined their efforts and presented with a refreshing mix of younger guns (Oliver Bourne swam the fastest times of anyone for the 1st and 2nd swims, Brad Morton the fastest ride for the 1st bike and Craig Benson was just 2 seconds from the best time for the 1st run) and some older, wiser heads in Simon Claringbold, Peter Zygadlo, Luke Grattan and Peter Klein. The result was a riveting contest in which "Under the Radar" shot to a 14-minute lead after the 2nd swim, only to watch their lead slowly be whittled away â¦ yet in the end "Under the Radar" prevailed in 8:45:28, just 4 minutes ahead of "Stuff the Puffs" in 8:49:33.
Second T3 Open was "The Kudos Junkies" (Kane Orr, Trevor Jacobs and Nick Horspool) in 9:52:22; from "Hell Racing Team" (Guy Jones, Chris Helliwell and Gary Rolfe) in 10:15:54. All Over 50s T3 Open of "Pushing the Envelope" (William Wilson, Guy Manera and Wayne Twist) travelled from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane respectively to join forces in Canberra for their category win in 13:14:20. The irrepressible duo "Smart and even smarter" (Eugene Irvin and Michael Benson â who said of his team mate: "What Smart lacks in ability, he makes up for in incompetence") took out the 60+ T3 Opens with 14:30:42.
Alexandra Debeljako, Scott Chancellor and Murray Robertson formed a winning combination "Tri Friends Club" in the T3 Mixed category with 10:03:27; from "Joint xosize" (Andrea Coleman, Jeff Gough and Jeff Grey) in 10:24:00; and "Beezoid Tough Kids" (Marish Beesley, James Kidd and Jono Beasley) in 11:14:34. Not too far behind them were the "Bullfrogs" (Petrina Quinn, Phil Fogarty and Peter Fogarty), whose 11:42:56 took out the Mixed T3 All Over 50s and set a new course record in the process!
In the deepest and most competitive category of T9 Open, behind the stellar "Under the Radar" came popular Triple-Tri regulars from Goulburn and Wolongong, the "Giant 440 Woody's" (Rod Smith, Rodney McWhirter, Peter Oberg, Andrew Dawes, Andrew Oberg, Jaemin Frazer, Lori McWhirter, Michael Beard and Stefan Hesse) in 9:35:27; from another Triple-Tri evergreen, the "Aviators Beach Club" (Dave Hayes, Sean Davis, Andy Thomas, Richard Palmer, Shelby Friedman, Damon Bennett and Jason Hart) in 10:13:15. Though his team didn't place in this category, Dylan Cooper blitzed a long-standing record for the 2nd bike leg by 7 minutes, setting a new benchmark of 1:22:32 for this demanding course.
In the T9 All-Female Teams, first home were "Skywhale" (which was missing in action on the day) â Sally Parker, Danielle Winslow, Kristen Connell, Lisa Moore, Vicki Sweeney, Judi Barton, Stacey Rippon and Felicity Ryan) taking top spot in 11:53:50. Next were "Rad's Roses" (Krissa O'Neil, Bec Thorpe, Pam Muston, Alison Hale, Bianca Mauch, Diana Schneider, Samantha Bradley and Kate Forrester) in 12:09:07; and "The Hybrids" in 12:39:48 (Claire Howell, Janecke Wille, Sharon Marsden, Adrienne Nicotra, Michelle Inglis, Shoko Okada, Fiona Fraser, Tara Sutherland and Jose ten Have).
A stand-out performance came from "The Tearaways" â the only All Over 60 T9 Female team of Pam Munday, Rae Palmer, Carol Baird, Brenda Day, Toni Bolschelar, Maryann Busteed, Nerida Clarke, Ann Ingwersen and Cathy Montalto, who missed only one cut-off in the whole day, and that by barely one minute. Organisers will review the cut-off times for all legs in the light of "The Tearaways" wonderful contribution to the 2013 race.
"Powered by Powells" (Jennifer Bardsley, Simon Edwards, Simon Fairweather, Iain Addinell, Rod Higgins, Adam Leane, Fiona Mavris and Allison Campbell) powered their way to 1st place in the T9 Mixed in an impressive 9:30:35; from "Shaun is optimistic" (Caitlin McCluskey, Charlotte Peterson, Patrick Jackson, Jacqueline Sale, Mark Van Der Ploeg, Dario Mavec, Bronwyn Thomson, Shaun Archer and Natalie Archer), whose 10:56:23 featured a stellar final run leg from Natalie Archer â the 3rd fastest time for the leg on the day and a new female course record. 3rd in this category were "We Just Want to Finish As Well" (Charles Higgins, David Cooper, Gregory Miller, Jeremy Mickle, Will Witheridge, Anna Engwerda-Smith, Marie Taylor, Cathryn Geiger and Brendan Hatton) in 11:06:42. "Rad's Ravers" (Peter Dunn, John-Paul de Sousa, Carol Harding, Lindy Dunn, Caroline Campbell, John Kennedy, Hugh Crawley and Ray Bramwell) were the second of Rad Leovic's teams to grace the podium, this time taking out the T9 Mixed All Over 50s in 12:57:19 â a new course record for their category.
Sincere thanks to all volunteers who helped on the day, in particular members from the Gungahlin and other SES Units who manned all the road crossings; to Fiona Mcwhinnie from Triathlon Australia who served the demanding role of Technical Delegate; to Hammer Nutrition for supplying their excellent products to all aid stations; Canberra Canoe Club and YMCA Sailing Club for support on the swim legs; Sports Medicine AUstralia for medical support throughout the event; officers of the National Capital Authority, ACT Government's City Services, Canberra Nature Park without whose support and cooperation this massive event could not happen, year after year.
Firstly I have to confess, I am not really a triathlete. I did a dozen triathlons in my early 20's before I worked out that I was an awful swimmer, a modest rider but a pretty fast runner. I also enjoyed running more than riding, and lots more than swimming. So I've spent the last two decades as a runner and haven't done a triathlon in 18 years, but having recently talked a bunch of mates into doing an Ironman I thought the triple-tri would be a good first comeback triathlon.
I also figured as a young fella, that one is fast when young, and then you get slower as you age. So as a life-long strategy I chose to run fast while I was young, and leave long-distance races, such as marathons and Ironman until I was an old codger. My thinking was that this would allow me fresh challenges, without being reminded that I am not as fast or strong as I once was. Being 41, I was no longer able to pretend that I was in my youth, so here I am building towards Ironman WA in December 2013.
With a target set, it was time to start preparing - dust off the 1992 Malvern Star and buy a pair of swimmers. I also had to face the reality that I had never raced further than 50 km or 3.5 hours, so I needed experience at fueling and fatigue management, not to mention facing an intimidating long open-water swim. The Sri Chinmoy Triple Tri has a 3.5km open water swim, so I figured I would give it a go and sent off my solo entry.
The knowledgeable triathletes that I mentioned this to were of the unanimous opinion that I was perhaps being a little ambitious. I had realistic ambitions for the day (i) finish, (ii) complete the swims confidently, (iii) enjoy myself, and (iv) take the solo course record for the final run leg.
We had a beautiful day for the race - dead calm for the first swim. Into my old custom fit Aleeda wetsuit. It's a credit to the benefits of a fitness lifestyle that a custom fit wetsuit made for me when I was 21 still fits at 41 as well as it ever did. As a non-swimmer, wetsuit swims are by far the best kind of swim. I can't swim and my longest training session has been 1500 m with breaks, so I approached the swim with some trepidation.
The start was low key in typical Sri Chinmoy fashion, with a dozen of us in the water for the solo start. We spread out quickly, or to be honest the pack swam away from me quickly, as I modestly made my way around Lake Ginninderra. In training I'd had issues with lactate accumulating in my arms. It appears this is from 3-breathing, whereas in the race I 2-breathed and had absolutely no issues with fatigue. It seems my muscles just like oxygen too much. The water was fairly warm until the major turn, but then was much colder once we turned towards the swim exit. Around this time the lead team swimmers went past like a motor boat.
It was a relief to get out of the water because I now knew that I could complete the race - my biggest uncertainty was whether I could really do the swims. Although the big swim was still to come, I was sure I could complete it. Being early in the morning it was still fairly cool, so two cycling jerseys and winter arm warmers were the go for the first ride. It still took until the base of Black Mountain for me to really get my mojo back after the coldness of the swim. The walk up 'push-bike hill' on Black Mountain was the first chance to really meet my fellow competitors, they really should have a photo on the web site of the stream of lyrca clad athletes all walking up the fire trail pushing or carrying their bikes. Once we neared the asphalt I started riding again, and set my normal riding pattern for the day - pass people going up hills and on flats, and let them past as I rode like a Nanna in a 73 Corolla on the way back down. I could make excuses about riding a 'mountain bike' with no suspension, commuter tyres with solid bead and 55PSI. But the reality is that I am barely a cyclist, and certainly not a MTB'er. On the bright side, although the tyres gave very little grip I had no pinch flats and they are fast on the smoother surfaces.
Coming off the bike I downed a salt-fizz in transition. I used one of these in nearly all the transitions for the day, and if avoiding cramp is a measure of success then this was adequate for salt replacement. They are also a pleasant taste to 'resample' during the swim. My other nutrition for the day was a single gatorade bottle on each bike leg and then endura gels, where I had three on most ride and run legs. I ate one banana in T4 to keep my wife happy, and had some fruit at an aid station late in the day. I have adapted to gels in running races, where I can carry enough to give myself nutrition certainty when custom drinks are not available. I also find that gels avoid the horrible mouth and throat effects of too much sports drink. I raced in Sugoi tri-shorts all day as a trial of gear for Ironman, these were great. I used chamois cream at the start of each ride, and had no chafing and no issues with the chamois on the runs. I am used to racing in running shorts that have a pocket that can hold my gels, so I did all three runs holding my spare gels in my hand. As a runner I don't believe in race belts as I have no fleshy bits to support them.
Given goal #1 was to finish I needed to avoid spending any go-beans on the runs. So on each climb I stopped and stayed with the first competitor that I caught, so I walked up most of the early hills. The feeling on the course was very much like a long training run, I had several extended conversations with new friends. On this run I met fellow solo competitors Warren, James and Nick, who I would see and travel with regularly throughout the day. Coming down through the War Memorial I diverted to pause and reflect for a minute at the Montevideo Maru memorial in memory of my grandfather, then rejoined James and Nick for the trot down to the boatshed and completion of our first triathlon of the day. A team competitor we were with had fallen three times on the run - beats me how.
The swim down Lake Burley Griffin was flat, and my confidence was buoyed not only by the successful 1500m in leg 1, but by having my mate Jon paddle with me the whole way - I do recommend an escort paddler for this leg. I swam this 3.5km leg non-stop with only the barest twinge of incipient cramps in my legs that were driven off by a few kicks. The water temperature was variable, and for the second time today I came out shaking from the cold by the time I finished. I still think this is a small penalty to pay for the benefits of a lean body on hills. The shivers passed quickly once on the bike as the day had warmed up nicely. Maybe I'll invest in one of those newfangled wetsuits that has sleeves.
The second cycle is probably the hottest leg, especially as the breeze doesn't make it to the stretch at the back of Mt Stromlo. My helper Jon rode most of the remainder of the course with me. Having returned from Afghanistan about 10 days earlier he had not had the opportunity to swim, ride or run for six months. I'm sure he would have been a fellow solo competitor otherwise. He took a tumble over his bars on one of the downhills prior to the Uriarra road crossing and lost a whole swag of skin, but still rode what must have been close to 100km in the afternoon without complaint. Summiting Stromlo is a watershed moment in the race. I reached here feeling comfortable save for a lumpy throat converting itself into a bit of a head cold, but I knew it was all (figuratively) downhill from here. The challenges that I thought were a risk were behind me - I had swum the two longest swims, I had done most of the mountain biking, and I had avoided cracking with fatigue or going out too hard.
I walked up the steep pitches on the bike and run legs, as well as the technical downhills on the bike, this is a safe strategy, but I left many minutes out on the course. If you want a good time for this race, getting good MTB skills and a sensible bike will pay dividends. The Lake Tuggeranong swim had a bit of surface luffed up by the breeze, which set up a modest washing machine effect near the exit at the Arts Centre - but at 1200m it is best summarised as a refreshing dip at this part of the race. I wet suited for it, but I think a good swimmer would be faster without the transition delays. The final ride includes two sharp climbs, plus the famous tunnel under Hindmarsh Drive. I think riding the tunnel is for people smaller or more skilled them me - probably both.
Into the last transition I still pretended to myself that I was going to shoot for the solo record for this leg. I was fairly fresh and had the advantage that the day was now cooling into evening. I struggled into the toe-socks and five-fingers again (I did all my runs in these) and set off up Red Hill at a trot. Coming down towards the bike path in Curtin I was about a minute outside the time I figured I needed. I had been using the goal of racing this last leg as an excuse to go easy in the rest of the event. This had served its purpose - I was on the last leg and was going to finish, I had avoided going out too hard. I had enjoyed myself, and completed the swims. As a bonus I was going to place in the middle of the solo field, which is always nice and was certainly more than I deserved. Approaching the aid station I elected to enjoy this last leg and finish fresh and happy rather than shatter myself in a probably unsuccessful attempt on the record. So I stopped at the aid station, gorged down half the remaining fruit, and chatted to the volunteer for a minute or four (really? it felt like two but the Garmin never lies), and I then pattered down the bike path to meet my wife and kids. The kids were happy to see me back in my home suburb, so I ran with them for a bit, before pressing on towards the finish at a pace 5:45/km and a heart rate of 120 bpm. I felt invincible, it was so smooth and comfortable just cruising alone the bike path towards the finish. Every race I've ever done before I've flogged myself to grab every second as I approach the finish - easing off to savour those last few minutes is a completely different experience.
It was close to dark as I reached Yarralumla Bay and crossed the line hand-in-hand with my kids Charlie and Delle, in a bit over 14:13. I was rewarded with the famous Sri Chinmoy post-race food and presentations shortly after. I was surprised to discover that I came 4th U50 Male, and 5th solo overall. Hat's off to the other Craig that was faster than me and took out the over 50 category.
Logistics is a big component of this event for solo competitors. Transition kits are essential, my crew were great (thanks Mum, Dad and Jon), planning is probably a little easier if your crew have raced before themselves and know Canberra. Knowing the course, at least roughly, is also an advantage and minimises risk - several non-local solo competitors took wrong turns. The course directions on the web are ambiguous in places. The marking on the day is good, but there are a hundred opportunities to err.
The solo Triple-Tri has a mystique about it, and as with most big challenges this is sort of justified. It is a long day and is only achievable by those that are really fit. But it is not only for the elite. There were clearly two groups of solo athletes that finished the event. The racers that did 12 hours, and the rest of us that did 14 hours or more. Racing the event takes thorough preparation and has the risk of overextending. But many, many Bilby's could complete this event if their goal is simply to finish. Sure, you need to be able to ride and run for a few hours without being shattered, but the regular transitions seem to keep you fresh throughout the day. I approached this race as though it was an epic training day and it pretty much was. In post-race recovery I had much less muscle soreness than I would from racing a marathon, but have noticed my metabolism in a funny place that affects sleep and eating this week. This is a classic local race that is more accessible than you think.