The Sri Chinmoy Triple-Triathlon is its own universe.
In this universe, all the planets aligned and the gods saw fit to party for the 20th staging of its grand Cosmic Play.
All the inner and outer conditions were auspicious, the numbers and omens propitious: the training and expectation had peaked; a week of rain cleared the lakes of bacteria, greened the views, gladdened the cheering bird-chorus and softened the ground to the perfect tackiness for fast racing; the pre-race hail storm had exhausted its fury, leaving a stage of calm and readiness; the highest-ever quality field gathered; the sun shone with the optimum degree of brilliance; the wind blew always towards the finish line.
The 20-strong field of soloists included 8 previous winners of either the outright or over-50 categories, male and female, along with another 8 highly-credentialed endurance athletes making their Triple-Tri debuts. This field wasn’t just star-studded, it was a supernova soup! At the dawn start, anticipation was high, nerves alive, senses alert, hearts thumping, minds and bodies fully focused on the momentous adventure ahead.
The early legs – first swim, Black Mountain ride and the long run over Mts Majura and Ainslie – are about settling into a rhythm, finding a groove and embracing the racing state. The middle legs – the long Burley Griffin swim, grinding Stromlo ride and hot slog over Mt Taylor – are the heart of the contest, to be endured as best as possible to set the stage for the final legs – a dip in Lake Tuggeranong, Wanniassa and Isaacs Ridges ride and final run over Red Hill – which can be a painful battle for survival or supercharged surge for glory … or both.
This is the first time in its history that the entire solo field – and it was the largest field ever – has finished this gruelling race; testimony to the superb preparation, depth of courage, determination, character and commitment of this elite band of champions. The top 12 solo finishers came in under 13 hours, and 17 under 14 hours, which far surpasses anything previously achieved on this stage.
Julie Quinn and husband David Baldwin have a long and intimate association with Triple-Tri Universe. Both have participated in teams since the early years and David has the highest number of solo finishes – 9 in all. They have missed the last few editions with a busy schedule of international rogaining, yet both felt drawn to the starting line for the 20th, with expectations high that David might give the course record a decent shake in the Solo Male Over 50 category.
The standard of the Solo Male Over 50 category has risen dramatically with the course record falling by large chunks 3 times in the last 4 years. David Baldwin, racing in this category for the first time, grasped the challenge wholeheartedly, not only lowering the record once again but taking it under the formidable 12 hour barrier to cross the line in 11:56:04. In an inspired run home, he just missed his own record for the final run course for solo athletes set back in 2005 (of 1:09:08), by a mere 12 seconds.
Julie’s own overall course record had been broken in 2013 by an amazing race from Queenslander Shannon Proffit in a breathtaking 12:02:59. That year, despite attaining her best time ever, was the only one of her 7 Triple-Tri starts Julie didn’t win. This year was Julie’s first time back at the Triple-Tri since that day. Poised, calm and graceful as ever, she was focused, composed and clearly enjoying her work as the day progressed and the legs folded one into the next. The record was not within sight: her only goal, to offer her all. Nevertheless, a new record time for the 2nd bike leg of 2:01:56 was setting up her race nicely. By the end of the Lake Tuggeranong swim, Julie was only 2 minutes behind husband David; after the last bike she was only one minute behind. Was this what stirred David into such a spirited final run? Whatever the case, emerging from the tunnel at the Hartigan St transition, Julie was one minute behind course record schedule. She would have to blow away her own daunting course record for the final run leg just to be in the picture – and then some. When the going gets tough, champions stand up. Throwing caution to the wind, she went for it. The small gathering at the finish line, still exuberant from David’s finish minutes earlier, were elated as Julie sprinted home to reclaim her crown as Queen of the Sri Chinmoy Triple-Triathlon, taking 3 minutes off her own best leg time (new leg record of 1:27:41) to achieve the incomprehensible. The new record glows at 12:00:09.
There has been a 13 year gap since Alina McMaster’s back-to-back victories in her only previous solo appearances at the Sri Chinmoy Triple-Triathlon in 2003 and 2004. With an event of this magnitude, there will always be uncertainty leading into the race no matter what one has achieved previously or how much training one has done. Alina aimed to finish, yet like several others on the day, found herself carried by the spirit of an extraordinary occasion which swept her to an astonishing 13:28:21, just 7 minutes outside her 2004 winning time, flooding with joy and inspiration not only her immediate family but her huge extended family of friends and supporters. Kudos and immense respect to a class athlete of immense heart!
In 2002, Canberra legend Jason Chalker was at the height of his athletic prowess and an international career of professional off-road triathlon racing. A giant of the local off-road scene, Jason’s crowning achievement (in our eyes) was his monumental solo effort at the 2002 Sri Chinmoy Triple-Triathlon, a seismic event of such magnitude that when the dust settled an unscalable mountain remained, bearing the numbers 10:25:03. While some have perhaps dared to dream of reaching that pinnacle, most have just admired this massive peak in silent awe.
Rowan Beggs-French first tackled the Triple-Tri solo in 2011 – and won in 11:56. After a stint living in Darwin, he next attempted the race in 2015 – and won, taking half an hour off his PB in an astonishing 11:26. This year would be his 3rd expedition into that unknown world of personal challenge and discovery which is the vast hinterland of Triple-Tri Territory, and he would be facing his strongest competition by far. Rowan started well: despite giving minutes away in the water, ideal conditions favoured his strong suit, the mountain bike legs. Jason Chalker’s record was a distant peak obscured for the moment by much closer mountains in the form of a host of elite athletes all vying for today’s title.
By the second swim, Rowan knew he was going too fast. He wasn’t following his race-plan script. Was it was adrenalin, fear of the looming competition or inspiration? His mind was telling him: you are going to blow up. He couldn’t obey. He was going too fast – and loving it. He blew away the course records for the next two bike legs – 1:42:20 his new time for MTB2 and 1:15:31 for MTB3. Amazing. This brought him into the final transition with victory assured. All the surrounding mountains had been transcended. Only one remained, now clear and looming. He was still going too fast. He was still feeling fantastic. He would soon feel even better … The impossible summit was visible. Just one solid run of 13 km was all that was needed. Crossing the line with arms upraised in sheer ecstatic relief and unbelieving triumph, Rowan had achieved the impossible. He had blissfully stared down Time. It stood for 15 years: now the unmovable mountain had moved. Another has risen higher in its place, inscribed thus – 10:21:10.
The closest anyone had ever come to the great Jason Chalker’s record was Klayten Smith’s victory last year in 10:39. Klayten is a 2-time Triple-Tri champion drawn inexorably to the start line this year, despite an injury-afflicted year. The powers of persuasion backed by overwhelming enthusiasm of his friend and Canberra resident Michael Brennan, proved irresistible. Klayten and Michael would be close to each other throughout the morning, running together on Mt Majura and Mt Ainslie, until Klayten drew gradually ahead. Their placings would swap again in the final run however, with Michael – who only does these events to “keep fit” in skiing’s off-season – claiming his 2nd consecutive 2nd placing in 11:26:42 ahead of Klayten’s 3rd in 11:28:23. Both performances would have won this race most other years.
Tom Brazier made his mark as a quality runner, winning the inaugural Sri Chinmoy Canberra Trail Ultra (100km) in 2013. Adding mountain biking and some swimming to his training palette, he’s now proven he is capable of anything. Tom’s 4th placing of 11:32:00 is one of the most impressive Triple-Tri debuts ever, powered by his top class running and supported with excellent mountain biking. If he starts taking swimming seriously, Tom will be very much in the frame for a future Triple-Tri win.
Hopefully many of the soloists will offer their own stories, so we will limit ourselves here to listing, and applauding each of their times:
Coming in 5th place in a superb 11:39:47, came 3-times Ironman Dale McCormack. Rounding out the sub-12 hour finishers was multiple-winner Trevor Fairhurst, thrilled to achieve his best result for some years. Paul Ledbrook completed his first ever Sri Chinmoy Triple-Triathlon in the top 7 placings, clocking an excellent 12:09:45.
Adrian Sheppard has participated for years in numerous Triple-Tris, mostly as a competitive mountain biker. Completing the race solo has been his dream all along and this year he has done it in style: another fine debut finish in 12:14:57. Sydneysider and Ironman Blake Nielsen had participated once in a Triple-Tri team and that was enough to persuade him also to go solo: another impressive first-up effort of 12:21:32. Brian Black is another Sydneysider and Ironman and another Triple-Tri debutant: his finish in 12:51:31 a huge achievement.
In 11th place, Craig Johnston’s 13:15:54 almost exactly replicated his first finishing time from last year – we hope Craig will become a Triple-Tri regular. Over 50s 2nd place, Ross Beatty, just keeps getting better and finished emphatically in 13:16:58. Local Canberran Andrew Dankers finished his first attempt in an impressive 13:23:34. Kel Rankin from Picton was another to complete on his first attempt, finishing strongly before the sun went down in 13:36:18. Andrew Renwick, a crowd favourite, returned for his 4th Triple-Tri and 4th finish in 14:54:12; closely followed by former 50 and Over winner from Wagga, Geoff Breese in 14:57:51; while Joshua Smith was the final of 8 first-timers all of whom finished, in 15:18:27.
TEAMS OF 3
“Teams of 3” is for the purists and the elite. Despite all efforts to assemble “Gun” teams of 4 to 9 members over the years, the overall course record for teams has almost always been held by a team of 3 – and so it remains.
The fastest out of all the Mixed Teams of 3 was “Shoklo’s Nifty Fifty”, racing in the T3 Mixed All Over 50s. Former solo finisher Martin McGready partnered with super-swimmer Rose McGready and super-runner Jeff Grey to obliterate the course record for the category by over one hour, setting an amazing new record of 10:26:35 – this one is likely to stand for many years to come.
The T3 Open category was again won (in 9:15:03) by the Triple-Tri’s most famous team, “Stuff the Puffs”. Despite their irreverent name, this is a serious combination which has changed over the years but has always included Dave Osmond riding all the bike legs. Indeed, Dave was presented with a special award this year for the extraordinary achievement of having ridden all 60 mountain bike legs in all 20 editions of the Sri Chinmoy Triple-Triathlon – and all at a highly competitive level (Dave still holds the course record for MTB1). His companions this time around were James Johnston in the water and Matthew Crane in running shoes.
“One of Each, Thanks” brought together a slick combo of Duncan Adams, Richard Smyth and Andy Isbister to take 2nd in 10:05:28; while Russell Rockford, Andrew Bryant and Jason Martin combined for 3rd place under the banner of “Crusty’s Crew”.
The only All-Female team of 3 this year were “Triple Treat” – Rosie Williams, Katrina Cousins and Leanne Wilkinson teaming up for an admirable showing of 11:52:05.
“Jo Joe Tom Time” was actually sans Tom but they kept the name (“Jo Joe Steve Time” doesn’t have the same ring to it), and just as well – Joe Howland, Steve Hanley and Jo Brischetto took out the Mixed Teams of 3 in 10:37:13. 2nd place in 10:44:59 was “32 Flavours sans Steve” (because Steve had defected to the winning team), of Katie Binstock, Seb Dunne and Peter Preston; while 3rd was taken by “CIA” (Anna Gurnhill, Christo Norman and Iain Johnstone) in 11:29:38.
TEAMS OF 4-9
Standout performance in the Teams of 4-9 came from “Hack Remnants” who smashed the course record for the Open Teams of 4-9 All Over 60. Comprising Alex Gosman, Trevor Jacobs, Peter Clarke, Steven Meredith and Nathan Carroll, the vastly experienced quintet turned back the clock in more ways than one to stage an exhibition of Triple-Tri team brilliance with their consummate 11:18:25.
The tightest competition is often in the Open Teams of 4-9. The all-conquering “Under The Radar” of previous years evolved from a Mixed ensemble to a formidable Open Team of 4-9, this year acknowledging their status as very much “On The Radar”. Fielding Jarrod Lee, Matt McAuliffe, Reuben Caley, David Allen, Jay Vine – who equalled Dylan Cooper’s record of 1:22:32 for the 2nd mountain bike leg – Jasen Higuchi, Emma Gillingham, Dave Medlock and Craig Benson, the team was unstoppable. Their only real competition was with the organising crew who scrambled to get transitions set up in advance of their lightning advance – in the case of the transition from swim to bike at the end of the Lake Tuggeranong swim, “On The Radar” were victorious! Their winning time of 8:21:08 was one of the fastest ever recorded and over half an hour ahead of another superb combination of “Massage One ACT” in 2nd place with 8:52:58, comprising Conor Sproule, Dylan Cooper, Trent Dawson, Corey Bacon, Michelle Cooper, Scott Imhoff, Wayne Corlis, Ed Hall and Nuru Somi (who blitzed the final run leg in 49:05). 3rd place in this category was taken by the stalwart Goulburn set-up of “Giant 440 Woodies #4 Pete”, featuring Rodney Smith, Rodney McWhirter, Jaemin Frazer, Andrew Dawes, Andrew Oberg, Kerry Baxter, Lori McWhirter, Michael Beard and Stefan Hese.
“The Buzz Lightyears” also hailed from Goulburn, recruiting Terry Withers, Kerry Baxter, Craig Johnson, Mark Stutchbury, Rodney Smith and Andrew Dawes to take out the Open Teams of 4-9 All Over 50. People have been members of two different teams in the past. Yet Kerry Baxter, Andrew Dawes and Rodney Smith created history today by all three of them representing two teams, where both their teams won podium positions in two different categories.
“Ladies Who Tri” brought together Lauren Hendricks, Elizabeth Mutton, Aoife Connors, Aoife Farmer (that’s right – two Aoifes in the same team!), Justine Kennedy, Lee Steel, Rosie Staude, Nicole Bruce and Thea Chesterfield to take out the All-Female Teams of 4-9 in 12:11:58.
Yet they were not the only All-Female team – just the only one under 50! “Three Squared FIT” came to the starting line with Rosemary and Belinda Robinson, Robyn McLelland, Andrea Teunissen, Elizabeth Lowe, Geraldine Cusack, Leanne Tennant, Maryann Simpson and Julie Delandro – all over 50 and out to conquer the course which they duly did, in 14:21:46. “One Foot Out of the Grave” took this age thing even further, boasting an All-Female Team of 4-9 All Over 60 (with two of them over 70!), to win their unique category in 14:54:53. A mighty congratulations and deep bow to Nerida Clarke, Rae Palmer, Carol Baird, Brenda Day, Connie Clement, Cathie Sims, Margaret Hadfield, Ann Ingwersen and Cathy Montalto!!
One of the youngest teams in the field, yet already Triple-Tri veterans, “KAOS” shone in taking out the main prize in the Mixed Teams of 4-9 in a superlative time of 10:15:36. Cassia and Saul Cunningham, Corey and Ryan Smith, Ella, Zoe and Paul Cuthbert, along with Adrienne Nicotra were awesome. a perilously close 2nd place was claimed by “Herding Cats” in 10:17:41, a team with probably more combined Triple-Tri finishes than any other with Iain Addinell, Rod Higgins, Vanessa Haverd, Rachel Meyer, Simon Tilley, Allison Campbell, Mark French, Julia Graczyk and John Fleming. The podium was completed by “Resultz Racing” – Anna Reynhout, James Allen, John McPherson, Siobhan Palmer, Kieran Denny, Matt Shadwell, Eva Ellmer, Andrew Reed and Rob Mulfird breasting the tape in 11:08:21.
The unofficial “Best Team Name” award this year goes to “Triple Tripass”. Honourable mention to “Wacky Waving Inflatable Flailing Arm Tube People” – for no succinct reason.
Heartfelt congratulations and thanks to all who participated either solo, in a team or as a helper, friend or supporter on this thrilling day.
Our sincere gratitude for your tireless service to Gai Webster, Technical Official from Triathlon ACT; Craig Johns also from Triathlon ACT; to John Birch and his team from Canberra Canoe Club; to Chris Ablett and Jonathan Muller of YMCA Sailing Club; to Emma of Lake Ginninderra Sea Scouts; to Connie Chan of Hammer Nutrition; to Mike Corrigan, Pat Siciliano and Cathy Pine of Sports Medicine ACT; to volunteer course marshals Nic Bendeli, Geoff Barker, Beverley Jende, Paul Mahoney, Kent Forster, Carinna Tong, Sue and Norm Brennan; to the course sweepers Jean Douglass, Tim Burns, Paul Cuthbert, Peter Lockey and Richelle Turner; to the staff of My Rainbow-Dreams vegetarian cafe; and to members of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team of Mongolia, Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Torquay and Canberra.
See you next year for the 21st!