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.
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2013: Shannon Proffit Race Report
My friend told me about this race earlier in the year. And at the time it sounded like a really good idea to enter. I thought it looked like a lot of fun! He also said he would enter and we could do the race together. However as race day got closer his name failed to appear on the start list. Thankfully he ended up being one of my crew members for the day.
I had also roped my parents and a friend into being my support crew as my boyfriend was away that weekend for a work trip. I arrived in Canberra on Saturday morning from Brisbane.
We arrived at the swim start at 5am to pretty much an empty car park. After a few minutes more cars arrived and it felt a bit more like a race was about to start. I got into my wetsuit and walked over to the start area. I signed in and had a quick dip in the water before the race briefing started. As we were on the water’s edge my boyfriend came running up. He had flown down the night before to surprise me on race morning. It worked, I was super surprised. After a quick hug from him and a warning from the race director to watch out for snakes we were off.
I was really surprised to be leading the swim right from the start. It was great, I had my own little kayak escort. I took the swim pretty easy as I wasn’t quite sure how to pace myself for the big day ahead. Sighting was super easy as we were swimming directly towards the tower. It felt like I was heading towards the tower all day. I got out of the water and ran straight for my crew. They had everything laid out ready to go. I was hoping I would have had someone to follow early on in the bike as I had no idea where the bike went and what the course markings looked like. I had no dramas however finding the arrows marked on the ground. I made it to about the 4km mark before the first solo male came flying past me. Everyone who passed me during the day was really encouraging and super friendly.
I had no idea how tough the course was going to be. If I had of known I definitely would have spent some more time on my mountain bike in training. I really enjoyed the challenge of the bike legs. Pushing my bike up crazy steep hills, riding on loose gravel, lifting my bike over hundreds of gates, squeezing through tiny tunnels, looking for arrows and crosses along the way, dodging kangaroos and cows and of course just covering the distance of each leg.
I came into transition two still in the lead, but only just. After a quick change I was out on the run and heading up yet another hill. The scenery on the first run was really awesome. I felt like I was running in a foreign country. The weather was perfect all day. I ran the first run at my own pace not worrying about what was happening behind me. I knew Julie Quinn was a gun runner and that she would catch me pretty early in the run. She flew by me, and looked like she was doing it super easy, especially on the uphills. I thought I’d be doing a good job if I could limit the damage to about 10 minutes. So I was really surprised to see Julie just up ahead as I finished the first run.
After a quick banana sandwich I was heading into Lake Burley Griffin. I felt pretty good right from the start of the swim. I found it really interesting swimming point to point and was pretty excited to pass a couple of team swimmers along the way.
Out of the swim and I headed straight to my awesome crew. They did a great job all day of having what I wanted and needed ready. The second ride and run were really enjoyable. I found the second bike ride a little less technical than the first and the run was about the right length. I made sure I kept on top of my nutrition. I had a variety of gels, cliff shot bloks, mars bars, banana sandwiches, water, Gatorade and coke all during the course of the day.
The third swim went by really quickly and before I knew it I was off on the last bike ride of the day. I felt ok at the start of the ride and tried to set a decent pace for the first section. But as soon as I hit the hills I had nothing. I felt like I was going backwards. It was actually quite hilarious how bad I felt. I was actually laughing out loud at how much I was struggling. I was certain Julie would come past me at any moment. But I made it into the last transition of the day still in the lead. I had no idea how I was going to make it to the end as I felt completely out of energy and all I could mutter to my crew was, “coke, coke, I need coke”. But as soon as I started running I actually felt ok. Up a few hills, down a few hills, I kept ticking the km’s over and soon enough the finish line was in sight.
After 12 hours and 3 minutes I had finished. I had an absolutely awesome day and really enjoyed myself. A huge thankyou to the volunteers and the race organisers and to everyone who took part and of course my crew who looked after me all day.
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Warren Evans' Solo Race Report 2015
Triple Triathlon Race Report 2015 - by Warren Evans
The training build up to this race was similar to my build up in 2014, which went nicely to plan until thwarted by the 2014 race cancellation due to closure of the national parks because of hot temperatures and windy weather. This event is special. It’s an off-road triple triathlon, that’s point- to-point, taking athletes through the multitude of lakes and trails of Canberra.
This 2015 event saw perfect conditions, warming up to mid-20s with some cloud covering in the middle section of the day. I felt this year I was going to be able to race, as compared to my 2012 effort which was a survival to the line with a lack of proper training in the preceding months due to heavy workloads and injury.
Swim 1 – 1.5k
5:30am start for us 8 foolhardy solo athletes, with a small crowd of family and friends to wish us off into the murky lake Ginninderra in the breaking light. I struggled to see the buoys in the distance for this first swim, and ended up trying to follow feet instead, until I realised some had no idea where they were going either – and there weren’t many feet to follow!
First transition – my wife, Sarah Anne was ready with everything i needed for the first mountain bike leg, plus gilet and arm warmers as temp was still in single figures at this point in the day. I jumped onto the bike, and remembered how one has to be super attentive to look out for white arrows sprayed on the road / cycle path / trails to go the right way. I overtook a few people in front on the fireroads, determined to hold onto that comfortable / uncomfortable effort level. I missed one of the painted arrows and lost about a minute heading in the wrong direction in the forest. This wouldn’t be the last time! ‘Push bike hill’ lived up to its name – 10mins up super steep rocky trail that was difficult to walk up in cycle shoes. The trail climbed Black Mountain upto the base of Telstra tower, then we headed back down. Sarah Anne popped up on the trail on the way down and shouted that I was 5mins behind the lead solo in second place – wow, what a great surprise! Towards the end of the bike, I was passed by some gun bikers from the teams doing the event, and tried to jump onto their wheels for a draft but wasn’t able to hang on for long enough without going into the red zone. Sarah Anne met me at the transition zone with runners and running backpack holding water and gels.
Time to start the first and longest the run of the day. Out of T2 and straight up the first climb and then up to the highest point on the course, Mt Ainslie. Sarah Anne appeared at the top here, cheering me on as I touched the trig point and then headed across to Mt Taylor via some swoopy berm-filled downhill mountain bike trails – wish we could’ve ridden these instead of run them! Halfway through this run I looked at my watch and saw 3hrs36mins, and thought ah, if this was Xterra I’ll be finishing very shortly, but here I haven’t even finished the first triathlon! Felt fairly strong coming down Anzac Parade, past the multiple military memorials and then alongside Burley Griffin lake towards the leg I was dreading the most...
Swim 2 – 3.5k
The water was warmer than in previous years, but brown and visibility so poor you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. The first km I really struggled. The collar on my wetsuit rubbed, I felt super-restricted around my shoulders, and it was as though I’d forgotten how to swim – pulling through super early, lifting my head, etc, etc. Eventually I settled into a rhythm. I tried to keep a decent cadence, but it ended up being fairly low tick rate. My shoulders really ached, and I wasn’t able to relax them – perhaps the ride / run had made them tense/my wetsuit wasn’t pulled up enough over my sweat drenched skin in transition? Either way it felt like slow going. You swim the length of the lake and cross to the other side, under the large concrete bridge, there’s a water stop on a jetty around half way, so I took a quick stop for a drink of water, then continued doggedly, under the second big bridge and back to the other side of the lake. Then cramp in the right leg struck, so it locked out and dragged rather as I continued to pull myself forward as much as I could. Again, seeing where to go was abit of a challenge as the buoys are rather small, so had to breast stroke at every one to get my bearings and work out where to head next. Eventually found myself on the beach the other side – it felt slower than it was, and definitely was a mental challenge. Time gap to first place is stretching out now to 12mins.
The longest swim of the day is followed by the longest bike of the day. I headed off on the bike paths that crisscross Canberra to start, and then hit the trails. The race takes in ALL of Canberras hills and this leg had the pleasure of the long slog of a granny ring climb up Mt Stromlo. I was conscious of keeping the regular food intake going, as well as the fluids and salt tabs (every transition Sarah Anne would feed me salt tabs as the temps climbed). I managed to jump onto the
wheel of a passing biker from one of the teams and had a fantastic draft for 10mins on flat fire roads. I never got to thank him actually, as he was able to get across a road ahead of me before the traffic came through and we got split up. I headed down into the transition area, which is no more than an area of grass by a bike path, stacked with people, either waiting to tag team or looking for their solo racer. The heat was climbing at this point just in time for the next run.
This run is the shortest, but one of the toughest. Mentally, thing just start to feel hard at this point in the race. You don’t get much time to spin the legs out before you’re climbing straight up to the top of Mt Taylor, touching the trig point briefly, before bombing down the quad-busting steep path the other side. I can’t remember much of the remainder of this run except that I felt much better than I had the previous time when I had to walk backwards up the hill due to shot legs and stomach cramps! This run ends along some thankful shaded and flatter cycle paths all the way to Tuggeranong and the start of the final ‘triathlon’ of the day!
Swim 3 – 1.2k
Lake Tuggeranong was closed to swimming which, quite frankly, was a relief to me as last time this swim took me 37mins, and climbing out the metal ladder at the end with cramping legs was not fun! This time we were in the overheated water of Tuggeranong Leisure Centre for 1200m worth of laps. I was hoping this would be cruise, and a big push off each 25m length would save my aching shoulders. Unfortunately each push off made my right leg cramp so there was little value in doing this! Up and down the lane, under the lane rope for 8 lanes, get out walk to the start and repeat 3 times. The team swimmers were slamming around in the water, for some this is the only leg they do so they give it everything with little regard for anyone else, my yellow soloers cap meant nothing as they splashed and thundered past. My lazy cadence meant I was swiftly passed by someone in a yellow swimcap indicating another solo athlete which was devastating! He eyeballed me as he came past, checking out the competition. I then realised he was in first place and was doing laps in front of me, so wasn’t the 3rd place athlete overtaking me after all – phew!
24km sounds short, but was this bike is very tough, with 2 big climbs, and a chunky 5mins+ of bike pushing due to rock-laden steepness. At this stage I was struggling to get myself into the comfortable / uncomfortable edge, as didn’t have the energy to get myself to that place, despite diligent eating & drinking. I ended up missing a turning so got lost with a couple of other guys to the tune of 7-8mins and using up more energy having to climb back up hills. Frustrating, and started to make me panic a little as I knew 3rd place had started in the pool as I was leaving, even with a 25min time gap I didn’t know if he had more in the tank than me after this long racing. I tried to calm myself and focus on my own effort. When I didn’t trust my tired self not to crash on a not particularly technical downhill, I walked it, giving up more valuable time. The final 100m of this leg is through a tight storm drain tunnel – scooted myself along sitting on the top tube with my helmet scraping on the top of the tunnel, focussing on the light and noise of people at the final transition area at the end. Lovely to come out into daylight and hear the cheers for the person in 2nd place solo category – me!! Sarah Anne was again super-organised and diligent – quick turnaround and out onto the final run.
Up onto the trails and final set of hills to finish us off, then down to the relative flat concrete cycle paths for 6k to the finish. I looked at my watch as hit the cycle path – 11:28 on the clock, 6k to go, possible to go under 12hrs if 5min/k pace is held. I was ticking over at 5:20, and could just hit 5:10, but taking it down to 5min/k and holding it was beyond my energy levels. I was struggling to keep gels steady in my stomach too by this stage. Tried to relax and just keep moving forward. There were a few slopes encountered in the last couple of kms which made me smile, as I remember in 2012 these were the ‘hills’ that I was unable to run up in the darkness despite Sarah Anne, would run out from the finish line to find me, encouraging me on to the end! I managed to push on and cross the line in 12:07, feeling very satisfied with my effort and the result .
I definitely felt I was able to race this event this year, even if swims 2 & 3 were slower than wanted, and the final bike / run was not as racy as I wanted them to be. Massive thank you first and foremost to the lovely Sarah Anne who kept me moving swiftly through all transitions and gave me all the support and encouragement I needed. Thank you to Prachar and the team at Sri Chinmoy for another great event, creating a relaxed, friendly atmosphere and a fantastic spread of food post- race. And thank you to my fellow adversaries out on course, and all of you who sent messages of support, whether via text, email or FB – it really makes a difference. Now, where’s that cake??
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"HMAS Friendship" Team Report, 2015, by Murray Robertson
"Las Triple Triathlon"
So our brave and gallant team of three boys had a cracking day of racing at the Sri Chinmoy Triple Tri in Canberra.
What the hell is the Triple Tri? It is a 9-leg beast of a race that demands the utmost respect!
It is three off-road triathlons back to back, in various distance (think about it as a big relay). It makes a loop around Canberra, hitting every lake, every mountain and nearly every bike path. We start in the pond-like Lake Ginnindera and end up at Yarrumlumla at the Sailing Club. It adds up to around 6km of swimming, 100km of mountain bike riding and 45km of running.
It is a beautiful, brutal race.
You can have 9 people doing it, with one taking each leg, or you can do it solo or anywhere in between. We decided to do it as a team of three. A triathlon relay. Team HMAS Friendship.
The line-up was as follows:
Tommy Brazier: The gun runner, Tom has honed his skills doing 100km races and was worried that this one would be too short. We gave him the first two runs to destroy himself, so he could relax and let poor old Murray do the last one.
Ed Hall: Big E was an unknown quantity because he had made the smart decision to ditch mountain biking for the world of road cycling, but we had faith that he would get the job done. He would do all the bike legs, a very solid day out.
And of course, there was me. I had hesitantly volunteered to do all of the swimming legs, as well as the last run! My cycling crash three weeks before had left me with a less then ideal preparation but I thought I could gut through the swims without letting anyone down.
We spent the night before the race gorging on pesto pasta and sweet potato, talking smack and working out logistics for the big day on Sunday.
We knew that there was another team of 3 who would give us some serious competition throughout the day. They were seasoned veterans of the race and were very strong athletes. I was more worried about them then Tom and Ed, because I knew their swimmer was better then me. We would soon see by how much.
I was staying away from the boys in the house of Tom's mum, who had kindly given me a bed. The day began at 5am, as I prepared for the first 1.5km swim that would start us off.
So it was that I found myself in the scummy Lake Ginnindera at 6am, watching duck poo drifting past me and trying not to think ahead to the 3.5km swim that awaited me later in the day.
I did my usual, excitable sprint at the start and found myself leading the field, not the smartest beginning to a 9hour plus day of racing.
I dropped into a pack of 4 swimmers and while I slowly slid off the back of them, I was within 40 seconds of the leader, giving Ed a good crack at our rivals.
When not competing or eating, the day is taken up by driving to the next checkpoint to hand over for the next leg. So Tom and I made our way up to Antill St, below Mt Majura, where Tom would begin his first and longest run at just under 20km.
Ed came screaming into the transition, just behind our rivals, having taken a wrong turn on the course (it happens).
Tom then proceeded to annihilate the entire field on the Ainslie/Majura run and posted the fastest split of the day (a hugely impressive effort considering that the majority of racers were only doing one leg, or one run).
This gave me a couple of minutes lead over our competition for the start of the 3.5km monster swim in Lake Burley G.
We started behind King's Bridge and swam down the middle of the lake, under Comm Bridge and into Acton Ferry Terminal.
It is a long, hard slog of a swim. As soon as your arm enters the water you lose sight of it in the murky, dirty depths. Visibility was at a range of about 5 to 10cm.
Luckily we had a little bit of a tailwind, so I cruised down the lake. When I occasionally flipped over to do some backstroke I could see the orange cap of our competition, slowly but surely gaining on me (he would take 2 and a half minutes off me in this swim). I could also see my kayaking escort, who I would say hello to every time I did backstroke. He said nothing back. It was a long swim.
With about 400m to go I was over-run by my rival but, tactical genius that I am, I cut across and sat on his feet for as long as I could.
So halfway through the race we were neck and neck and we knew it would be very tight. (there were two teams of 9 in front of us, with some pro-triathletes and Martin Dent, enough said).
Big E gave us a little lead for his second ride and then Tom, being the backbone of the team, proceeded to put another 3 minutes into them, running up and over Mt Taylor into Tuggeranong.
I was looking forward to finishing my swimming with the last leg looming but that was short lived because it was now in a 25m pool (due to the water quality of Lake Tuggers). It would be a lot of tumble turns with a run in the middle as you had to get out and run to the end of the pool to start again (3 x 400m loops of the pool, ducking in and out of each lane).
Luckily, I am nearly 2m tall, so because I could push off the wall each time so I only swam about 15m a lap. Perfect.
The pool temp was about 30degrees, so I was feeling pretty drained at the end, but we had our 2 and a half minute lead still intact and only 2 legs to go.
And so this is where things got tactical. I was feeling fresh (relatively fresh, after 6km of swimming) so I would do the final, 13km run over Red Hill. Tom had smashed himself knowing he only had to do 2 runs, so we put our plan into action.
So it would come down to the final leg. Did I feel better after 6km of swimming than their runner who had done nearly 30km of tough trails?
Ed came in with that crucial 2 and a half minute gap and I took off, up and over Red Hill!
I felt amazing, and my splits started at 5:00 per km as I climbed over Red Hill and got down to around 3:40 in the first couple of flat km's, but that's when the day caught up to me and I started to fall to pieces.
I began to cramp in both arms. Arms! WTF, who cramps in their arms when they are running. And my toes.
I had to rein it back a little, otherwise I would have been in real trouble. This wasn't helped when our rival teams swimmer and cyclist started waiting for both of us at certain points along the course and providing splits and updates.
Finally, after 9 hours and 8 minutes of racing (something like that), we finished.
The tactic had worked, as I put over 6 minutes into their poor, tired runner.
We won our division, and come third overall. Beating teams with up to 9 members in them.
It really is a fantastic race. It is lonely too, because we were out in front the whole day, we rarely saw any other teams because the field gets strung out by hours.
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"Where's Our Swimmer" Team Report 2015, by Steve Hanley
View Steve Hanley's photos and report of his day out participating as a team of 2 with Millie Brent in 2015, at his blog.
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Steve Hanley's winning team report 2016: "32 Flavours"
View Steve Hanley's captioned photos for a fascinating blow-by-blow account of his team's victory in the "Mixed Team of 3" category in 2016.
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2005: Report by James Sullivan
View from the middle
â€œTo Beer or Not To Beer" is what happens when you can't think of a team name, but you know that it should have the word"beer" in it. So it was that Patrick, Mick and I set out on the Triple Tri journey. We knew that we weren't going to be competing with the big guns but there was some serious competition on our minds. Patrick's wife, Susie, was in a pretty good women's team, the"Transcending Chicks" and it became clear that we would be evenly matched. Our goal for the day was to beat the chicks- Rachel, Sam and Susie.
At the registration desk on Saturday, and again at the start on Sunday, it became clear that we picked the wrong name. Clearly"Two Kegs and a Six Pack" would have been much more suitable. How come Mick and I had the biggest guts on show? At least Patrick looked to be in shape. Things weren't helped by the fact that I was one of two people at the start not in a wetsuit. Man, I bet one of those things would have helped with hiding my belly. Still, at least the water was the perfect temperature for swimming.
Tip 1 when preparing for the Triple Tri: don't let your first ever open water swim be the first swim of the day. I had been training well in the pool and thought I'd do a reasonable time- just goes to show how much I knew. I put my head down and started swimming and when I looked up for the first time I was way out to the right of the pack. And I thought I knew how to swim in a straight line. I corrected and put my head down again. Next time I looked up, I'm way out to the left of the pack and a long way behind to boot. I was about ready to give up at that point, but Mick and Patrick would kill me. I finally got it together, but the extra distance I'd swum and the time it took me to figure out how to do it efficiently meant I was a fair way behind most of the 3 person team starters, as well as one or two of the 9 person team swimmers. More importantly I'd lost about 7 minutes to Rachel. Patrick had his work cut out for him already.
I handed off to Patrick and we made our way to the next transition, where I was due to start running. For this leg I was up against Susie, Patrick's wife. This was not a good situation for me. I've been running with Susie a fair bit, and generally I'm faster- in training. All her best race times are way better than mine though, she's a tough racer. For example, earlier this year she did a 2 hour half marathon. Not a very impressive time you say? Try doing it 8 weeks after having a baby and pushing the baby along with you all the way. Suddenly I'm hoping that Patrick comes in behind Sam so at least I don't have Susie flying past me on the way up Mt Majura. Patrick had a great ride though and I was off 7 minutes in front. I slogged up Mt Majura with no sign of Susie and started down the road on the other side. Suddenly there's footsteps getting closer. I look over my shoulder to see Emma Murray come flying past. How can she look so fresh after that hill, and be going so quickly? It's just depressing. Still, at least it wasn't Susie. I headed down the bike trails and over to Hackett Hill, twisting my ankle several times on the way, as usual. Coming over the top of Hackett Hill I see a guy from a team of 9 running towards me. "Wrong way mate!" I say, any comedic talent I had being beaten out of me by this stage. "Missed a check point" was the reply. I found out a couple of days later that the guy had missed the checkpoint at the top of Mt Majura and had to run back up there before continuing. He finished the leg too- mate, whoever you are, I salute you. If it had been me I would have burst into tears and curled up into a little ball, refusing to go on.
Finally slogged my way to the top of Mt Ainslie, what a relief. Only a couple of km's to go, I thought to myself. I was most disappointed to find out just how far around the lake I had to run to get to the transition, but on the upside, I was still in front of the chicks. Mick was a pretty good swimmer so we were in with a shot.
Handing over to Mick, it occurred to me that we were probably the only team to do all the swims without any wetsuits. Not only that, but Mick was going to take the prize for the least apparel worn in any swim. Wasn't he a sight in his budgie smugglers. No really, they had the words"budgie smugglers" written across the back. Hopefully, those who weren't revolted at the sight would be laughing so hard they couldn't finish the race. I went over to the library to provide Mick with his half way gel. Susie had come in only a couple of minutes after me, she had made up some time, so he had about a 2 minute start on Rachel. While waiting for Mick, I see this person go swimming by. Wow, tall, great stroke, and absolutely flying. Hang on, that's Rachel! Where the hell is Mick, how did he get so far behind so fast? Watching Rachel swim away, suddenly it didn't seem so likely we were going to achieve our goal. Mick came in, had his gel and left. Over at the transition point, Rachel came out of the water about 6 minutes in front of Mick. Patrick was going to have to chase Sam down again.
We went out toUriarra Roadto watch the guys go by at the halfway point of the ride. When Patrick came through he had a big grin on his face, he'd just passed Sam. She threw an empty gel pack at me as I yelled out encouragement and it occurred to me she was taking the whole thing too seriously. Later she claimed it was an accident, but I'm not so sure. At the transition to the run over Mt Taylor, Patrick came in first by several minutes. This was where we were going to start making time on the chicks as it was Mick's first run and Susie's second. She'd been saying all week that she'd start to struggle from here.
Sure enough Mick came in first to tag me for the swim throughLakeTuggeranong. I set off, and quickly fell into a good rhythm, also managing to swim in a straight line for a change. As I got to the end of the swim I thought I'd done pretty well, I cramped as I got to the ladder but that was OK, I was done for the day. Two people were right behind me. Unbelievable- one of them was Rachel! Susie had taken a bit of time off Mick on the run- told you she was tough- and then Rachel had murdered me on the swim. Two legs to go and we're level pegging.
It was Mick and Susie again on the ride and off they went. As Patrick and I drove to the final transition we were sure that Susie was done for and he'd just have to cruise home in the last run to keep the chicks at bay. Waiting at the transition, Patrick and Sam started preparing for their final runs. I was keeping an eye on the clock. I noticed a team come in that were just in front of us at the last change. Mick wouldn't be far away now. Then Susie came through the tunnel, she beat Mick- so much for tired. Off goes Sam, and now Patrick and I are starting to worry about how much time he has to make up on the run. Mick came in 4 minutes later and off Patrick went. Turned out Mick copped the dual bogeymen of cramps and gear failure. Still, Patrick is a good runner and despite the two rides he'd already done, we figured we might still be in with a shot.
Down at the finish line, my wife and kids had shown up with the beers. It took all my willpower, but I decided to wait until Patrick arrived before we opened them up. Waiting, waiting. The first solo guy came through and got a big cheer, as he should. It occurred to me that there's something wrong with him. I'd only done three legs and I could hardly stand up, but he did the whole thing and in nearly the same time as our team and he looked mildly tired. Clearly I'm missing that gene.
Then at the 11.30 hr mark, Patrick came around the corner and down the hill. He passed Sam on the way. Probably people were wondering why he crossed the line with his arms raised (49th place overall is not that exciting), but if you were listening you would have heard-"We beat the chicks!". Sam arrived 5 minutes later, just as we were sucking down the beers (Patrick tells me they're isotonic, which I guess means good for you. To me they were just good). They did well too, finishing 3rd in their category. Slaps on the back all around.
As soon as Patrick could catch his breath we were planning for next year. One thing's for sure, Mick and I need to get into better shape, or"Two Kegs and a Six Pack" will be making an appearance on the running sheet.
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2004: Geoffrey Pell
By Geoffrey Pell
I suppose it all really started a few hours after finishing Forster Ironman. Mark Urquart and myself were standing around in the enclosed beach pool near the finish line and we started discussing our next goals. I mentioned that I wanted to do the Triple Tri, so I began thinking the best strategy to get me there to be able to complete the event.
Even though I had a base for training for Ironman, I figured I could only have a shortish break before having to train right throughout winter to get myself prepared. I also figured I best become a bit more proficient (confident) about my Mountain Biking Skills so did 11 or 12 Mountain Bike races over the winter including the 12 hour enduro event which gave me peace of mind I had that covered.
My running would have to improve, so with a focus on run training (originally planned to doMarathonin October) and dropping weight session at the gym, my running improved over the winter.I also had to qualify for Forster Ironman 05, so I leveraged off the training for this event to nick up to Forster and do the ½ Ironman and got my spot which also served as a good hit out for this event.
Leading up the event was less than ideal due to from about the start of September having some sort of chest/throat infection that constantly reoccurred throwing my training all over the place. Further, in the week leading up to the race, my knee started playing up big time, but luckily managed to come good in the last few days. This did start to play with my mind however (and during the event as well) as to whether the injury would flare up or not.
Barry Wales and myself drove up fromMelbourneon the Friday and then met Bill Sinclair and Brian Curran who drove up the next morning. An afternoon was then spent navigating around where all the Transitions were which took ages and then went and registered which was pretty low key, although I did Race Number 1!! Then went back to the place we were staying and prepared all the stuff for the next day and went through all the instructions of what/where/when etc they needed to do on the day. Major logistical exercise this was!!
My approach to this event was not to race it, but just to finish it. Was not concerned about time or placings as I knew nothing about the course other than what I had read and a few snippets of info here and there. Therefore it had to be paced nice and slowly so as to not blow up to early especially when not knowing what was ahead other than distance to be covered.
The Triple Triathlon is based in and aroundCanberraand involves 3 consecutive triathlons back to back. i.e 9 legs. The swims are in 3 different lakes, the rides are off road - Mountain Bike, and the runs are also predominantly off road- cross country. Each of the Transitions between each leg however were in different locations. Therefore a support crew were required to transport equipment, sort out nutrition and all sorts of other needs throughout the day.Barry Wales, Bill Sinclair and Brian Curren were the support crew and stepped up to the plate admirably. The start time was5.30AMwith 18 solo competitors and close to 150 teams comprising groups of 3 or groups of 4 to 9. The teams started a bit later, 30 minutes later I think.
Up at 4.00AM, have breaky, and pack the car and off we go. All no drama. Arrive at the start about 4.50 at the banks ofLakeGininderraor so and there's only 1 other person there!! That's odd, a few more people arrive, but then we are told we're in the wrong spot!!! So we march on over to the start, register and it's then just waiting for the start. It was still pitch black not long after 5, but then it quickly lightened up and it appeared the whether would be nice with a bright sun and clear sky overhead.
The forecast (which I anxiously checked every day for the past 2 weeks) indicated it would be fine and 23, so that was good. A little concerned when reading a sign near the finish of the first swim that said"No swimming, green algae has affected this lake"- or words to that affect!!
Leg 1 1.5k Swim
This swim is inLakeGininderraand only 1.5k is a nice little warm up. After 1 minutes silence, we're off. The water temperature was OK, probably 18-19 or so and clear. Didn't seem too dirty, but tried making a conscious effort not to swallow any water. Started off well just easing into it and swam on one guys toes for a few hundred meters, but then veered off course and I only noticed as I started swimming through reeds. That was a bit of a bugger as I then had to get back on course but the group I was with were a bit in front of me now. Eventually got around to the end the swim without too much fuss, but was surprised by my time of 34.05. I was taking it"real" easy but didn't think that easy, as had done a similar time over 1.9k at Forster ½ 3 weeks earlier. Never mind.
Leg 2 35k Mountain Bike Ride
After getting out of the water, Barry, Bill and Brian (BBB) had me all setup ready to go. On the chair, they ripped off my wetsuit, cap and goggles, gave me my clothes and other stuff I needed and then had some nutrition. After about 5 minutes of so ginning around off I went on my bike. Trouble early, with all the teams milling around waiting for their swimmers to come in they obscured the first arrow which I subsequently went straight past and I was off course within 100 meters!!! About 300 or so meters down the road I sensed something was wrong as this didn't look like what I thought the course started with. I asked somebody who was practising and he quickly pointed out my folly, so I back tracked and then back on course and off I went.
The first few k's of the bike were straight forward before a getting off road. The off road sections were quite straight forward with a few hills to get you started. Eventually I got around to the bottom ofBlackMountainand saw this infamous"Push Bike". This hill was certainly a beauty but not as bad as I thought it might be. I rode a bit and then thought, leave it go and walked up as it was a bit rocky. I believe a skilled rider should be able to ride up it if they weren't racing the whole course. Up the top of this hill we get and then up a bitumen road toTelstraTowerand then back down the other side. There were some decent descents here where you had to keep your wits about yourself, but all negotiated safely.
The rest of this bike leg was pretty straight forward with a few undulations, plenty of gates to carry you bike over and then climb and some easy bike paths to finish up. Finished up fresh as can be and did this in 2.03.17. Satisfied with that as once again took it easy.
Leg 3 20k Run
Support Crew BBB were once again on the mark having all my stuff laid out for me. After a bit of yarn, quick change (which still would have taken all of 5 minutes) I was off and running. It didn't take long until it was pretty much straight up. I was advised to walk the steep hills to save my legs so I gladly accepted that advice and up I walked. Very steep it was but had a bit of a chat with another solo competitor who introduced himself as Jeremy. Eventually got to the top, had a bit of a drink at the aid station and then down the other side. It was interesting going down as it must have been a downhill Mountain Bike run as the wooden jumps were still in place. It would have been hairy to fly down that on a bike. The next few k's were smooth sailing, although I must have tuned out and run off course and luckily a team competitor called me back on course.
After another run/walk up and down Hacketts hill it was up to the top of Mt.Ainslie. Difficult terrain to run in here, but when at the top, the view ofCanberraand Suburbs from this spot was one of the best views seen. When doing Triathlons, you don't actually get to appreciate the surrounds, but this was the ducks guts. Schmick. The aid station at the top told me that it was only 3k to go, but I think that was a fib. Down the other side was very jarring on the legs and when down to the bottom, it was at least another 4k to the finish of this leg. It seemed to drag on and my legs were a little tired but still felt relatively strong. Jogged it real easy though not to spend energy early. 2.02.51 was what was recorded here. Once again, thought that's probably about where I would be. As mentioned earlier, time was not important here, it was all about finishing, although you would take good times if they didn't tax you too much.
Leg 4 3.5k Swim
After a bit of a breather, on comes the Wetsuit and its off into Lake Burley Griffin. Navigation was a bit of an issue at times here as I was swimming by myself for most of the way and the buoys were a fair way apart. Probably ended up doing a couple of 100 extra meters zig zagging around!! The first signs of trouble started early by getting plenty of cramps in the legs, especially when stopping to adjust the goggles. These seemed to subside, but then brought on a bad stich in the stomach and began to feel crook. It seemed just like last year when doing the Canberra Half Ironman, I must have taken a bit of water and got the"Burley Belly". Swum to the finish on the hope that it would go away which it sometimes does. Time was 1.18.23 which was quite slow but not worried as took it easy again and included about 5 mins of previous transition.
Leg 5 40k Bike
When in Transition, I knew I was not feeling good and BBB support crew knew it too. Tried getting stuff into me but wasn't interested in eating. Spent a fair while here in transition trying to settle down, so when this wasn't working a"comfort stop" was required. Still no joy, so just took off on the bike hoping it would go away.
This leg was probably the easiest of the 3 bike legs with plenty of open fire trails through what was formerly theStromloForest. As I was still in an ordinary shape, could not push hard so was a bit disappointed couldn't make up some time. Climbing over the gates was very difficult here as well. Still managed to climb well not have to get off my bike and push except one bit when my chain fell off gearing down up a steep hill. It was here that over a period of 5 minutes I swallowed 3 flies. One was spat out and the others contributed to nutrition!! Probably not a bad thing because unlike the previous bike leg, nutrition went to a standstill except for the Endura in the drink bottles.
This bike leg took you to the top of Mt.Stromlo past the observatory and then back down the other side. It was pretty uneventful for the rest of the ride with a few single tracks here and there but mainly fire trails. Rolled into Transitions with a lot slower than expected 2.38.28 time and more concerning feeling no better.
Leg 6 12k Run
Into transition and I was in grief. After sitting down, I was feeling very sick and just wanted the stomach cramps to go. Had to lie down as was not enjoying sitting down. After about 15 minutes of lying around, I thought this is going nowhere, so I had to bite the bullet and go on. Running was out of the question, although my legs were still feeling very good considering how much I had done. If they were shot, I reckon that would be it. So off I started walking stopping every 50 meters or so for a keel over. Unfortunately, the start of this leg was straight up this monster of a hill. Probably took about 20 minutes to get up.
The further I went, the further the realisation started to set in that I may not actually complete this event. If I had to walk it out like can be done in an Ironman I'd probably limp home, but the way I was feeling there was no way I'd be able to swim and ride again. Coming down the other side of the mountain was very depressing. Getting no better and Grim Reaper tapping me on the shoulder every minute or so telling me to give it away.
About ½ way down the other side, Brian Curran come riding up the bike path to see how I was and then a few minutes later Billy and Barry popped out from nowhere. I lay down on the ground for about 10 minutes and had an alca saltza they had brought along with some lemonade. Overheard a phone call Brian had with Bec Curran and just hearing his tone of voice and his"optimistic" description of how I was I then realised that BBB support crew knew I was well and truly stuffed. The lemonade enabled me to"release some air". Almost on cue I felt a bit better, so I got up and said, I'm going to continue. Not giving up, they (organisers) can get me off if they want but not quitting on my accord. Carried the lemonade with me and the walk became a fast walk and then a slow shuffle before getting back to a training jog!! I was over the moon by this point of time as I felt like I'd escaped from jail (not that I've done that before). My legs were still in good nick and with that I should be able to finish this. So jogged the remaining 8 or so kilometres which was all flatish at about 5min/k pace and finished and next transition in 2.03.06. Pretty ordinary time, but that was the previous Transition and the other stops up and down that Mt.Taylor hill that was a bugger.
Leg 7 1.2k Swim
Back in Transition, spirits up, but no urgency at all, just easy slow change into the wetsuit and into the water. I reckon another 5 minute transition at least here as BBB support crew were hurrying me along. The swim was shorter, but I was also conscious not to get any more water and go back down hill again. It was actually refreshing to get all wet again- a sort of a rest after the shoulders got blood flowing into them again. Bit more zig zagging and not long later come out of the water, but had to climb up a ladder which wasn't fun and cramped up temporarily again. Time was 29.47 which was slow but didn't care and it had the previous transition anyway.
Leg 8 24k Bike
After sitting down and taking off my wetsuit, felt a bit crook again, which was a concern, but it was a different sort of crookness than earlier. Brian gave me some potato mash he scored at KFC somewhere and that went down great. Made me feel good again. Started hoeing the nutrition in and was good as gold.
Off I went on the bike and the first 7.5k was all bike path. Was feeling like it was my first leg and I thought how good and easy is this!! Anyway the easy bike section suddenly turned quite hard with some rocky hills to climb. Eventually get to a section that was totally unridable where you had to carry your bike up as you couldn't wheel it up due to the rocks. Was then at the top ofMt.Wanniassa. Was very hairy coming down and was glad was feeling good again as would not wanted to be taking these descents without full concentration. Up and down the other mountains without too much drama (although it got a bit technical at sections) and it was a bit of single trail towards the finish. There were plenty of roos and rabbits bobbing around. Also made one wrong turn near the finish, but that was easily rectified. A great experience going through the tunnel at the end. Time recorded was 1.45.01.
Leg 9 13k Run
During Transitions, guts started playing up a bit, so after swanning around for ages, took some lemonade and began by seeing by what was now a stock standard massive hill at the start of the run leg. Actually this one, Davidson Trig. Wasn't that bad, but walked up the steep sections anyway. The end wasn't far away, but I still had to go over Red Hill, which I knocked over soon enough. Running down wasn't fun on the guts, but running on flats was not so bad.
Eventually got back down into"civilisation" i.e sealed roads and then it was all flat to slightly undulating from here on in. I'm gunna finish I thought. This is grand. Billy Sinclair popped out of nowhere and geed me along with Brian and Barry just around the corner. Knew I had plenty left in the legs, so upped the pace. Couldn't believe how far it was though, it just went on forever. Then the finish was there. Couldn't believe it. Came home in a storm and was told later I did the last 7k in 30 minutes. This well and truly tired me out. Got an applause from all who were around the finish line which was great. Not as big as Forster Ironman, but every bit as satisfying. The last run was done in 1.34.25.
The total time was 14.29.23. Wasn't concerned about the time albeit slower than expected, was happy I've now completed it, paced it well and got through when on the verge of despair. I was also lucky the conditions were perfect.The awards then took place and all the team winners and all solo competitors received an award and gave a little yarn to the crowd. The final solo competitor come in half way through the awards to a huge ovation also. Just before the awards were presented however, the organisers asked everybody if they could sing a song. Wasn't sure what was going on here, but off they (Sri Chinmoy team) all started bellowing out a rehearsed Congratulations song in accopela fashin sung with gusto and pashion. It effectively summed up how this team approach organising these events, i.e enthusiastic, laid back, organised and fun. A fantastic event put on and a great day.
Finally, thanks must go to Billy, Brian and Barry who put in a supreme effort supporting me on the day and without them would not have completed it, Andrew Sinclair for coaching/encouraging me to get to the start line, everybody I trained with on a regular basis and my wife Sharon and children for putting up with me and supporting me in the months leading to the event.
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2004: Mark Smoothy's Story
Take Mark's advice: grab a good drink, put your feet up and read Mark Smoothy's highly entertaining account of this epic race, his first time as a solo competitor.
(This report first appeared in the Queensland Triathlon magazine "Ultimate Challenge")
Hi there Ultimate Challenge readers, because you have been faithful and thus far uncomplaining readers of my epic stories these past few years, I decided to reward you with an absence of any Sharky stories in the last two issues. Well guess what? I am back, so grab that favourite coffee cup of yours and get them tired old feet up on that couch and get excited. First, about reading this story, and second, about actually considering doing something about competing in the race this story describes. The triathlon I'm writing about happened back in November 2004, but it left such a lasting impression that the memories spilled out five months later as if I had just done it yesterday. The 2005 event is once again on in November and I urge you to check out their web site www.srichinmoyraces.org/au for more information.
â€œAll individual entrants must include a detailed athletic history, highlighting endurance events completed and listing races and times."
That is the first thing that grabs your attention when first laying eyes on the entry form. Then in fine print in the declaration- â€œI have full knowledge of the risks involved in participating and that I have NO physical or MENTAL condition blah blah blah!"
November 21st 2004 just seventeen entrants fronted up to tackle this event as solo competitors. Trust me when I say you WOULD NOT start this event if you DID NOT have a mental condition! No offence meant to the other competitors, I speak only for myself here. It's true, I admit it, I am guilty, I have a mental condition! I like to think this condition of mine helps me to get through these events. Having completed this event last year let me say that I relied on this condition of mine many times throughout the day to get me to the finish.
This event attracts many teams and it is here the popularity and the sanity lies. In 2003, thanks to injuries sustained in a crash a week out from the event, I had to change from going solo to doing two legs for a team. 2004 same deal, another crash, only this time, five weeks out, which was enough time to recover, leaving me excited at making the start line.
The triple tri takes in three lakes in Canberra, it is an off road event that requires mountain bikes only and sure footing for the off road running legs. Throughout the day, the organisers in their infinite wisdom decided that competitors needed to see the beautiful panoramic view from the top of every mountain that surrounds Canberra. We're talking ten mountains here, ten very steep mountains in fact. They were right of course, the view was absolutely stunning, but six hours into the race and five mountains crested, this solo competitor just did not care to see another beautiful view ever again!
As a solo competitor it is compulsory to have a helper, with nine transition areas spread all over Canberra you need your helper more than you need a good head on your shoulders, and we all know by now that I didn't have that right from the start! My helper was my absolutely gorgeous, stunningly beautiful wife Jolie. Their job is to transport your disgusting wet clothes, your filthy mountain bike, your smelly shoes, your tasteless powerbars and energy foods from transition to transition, for hour after hour, as a matter of fact for anything from twelve to seventeen hours.
The responsibilities are enormous. Not only does your helper have to be supportive, engaging, witty and positive, trying to do it all with a smile on their face, but they have to be:
Ingenious- come up with ways of getting a wetsuit on quickly over a body covered in sweat? Plastic shopping bags did the trick.
Inventive- make unappetizing food like chocolate melted power bars seem like a delicacy! Weetbix and cans of creamed rice were nice alternatives- nice one beautiful wifey!
Encouraging- Even if you look like crap and you are two hours behind the leaders after just four hours,"you're looking good honey, not far to go, go get 'em my big muscle man!"
Super navigator - To actually arrive at the next transition prior to you. Heaven forbid if they don't, as the wrath of God descending on them with all His fury would be nothing compared to the child-like tantrum a tired triathlete could throw. Thankfully this maturity of mine was never tested as Jolie was there each and every time.
2004 was the tenth anniversary of the triple tri and the weather was near perfect with windless conditions and a maximum temperature of twenty-five degrees. Gone was the wind and pouring rain of last year, but Canberra being Canberra meant the brisk morning temperature of eight degrees was about twenty degrees too cold for this Queensland softy. Wetsuits were definitely the order of the day and as it turned out the water was the warmest place to be. The start you just have to love, we were all there ready for the 5:30am start and the race director informs us that we can't start yet as Billy Bob Thornton (not his real name) is running a little late! None of the competitors cared, what's another ten minutes added to a twelve hour plus day? The casualness of it all was just great and reminded me of some of the first triathlons I did in the early eighties where the start was actually held up because yours truly was sprinting down the beach yelling out,"Wait for me!"
Solo competitors had a half hour head start on the teams, so with just seventeen competitors, including one single solitary female entrant, the Lake Ginninderra swim start was awesome, no panic stricken dash for the first buoy, no trading punches with fellow competitors, there was actually no aggression at all. Everyone was respectful of each other and the lake was so serene and quiet that at times I felt like I wanted to stop during the swim and give my fellow competitors a big hug! I didn't though as I knew I had a big day ahead of me and hugs have been known to take up an awful amount of time! Instead I waited twenty-five minutes until the end of this first swim leg and satisfied my hug cravings on Jolie and then set out on my big thirty-five kilometre mountain bike adventure.
Two kilometres down the road I'm regretting setting out without any warm gear on, forgot about that old wind chill factor thingamabob. As another competitor passed me I said,"It's bloody cold mate, I can't feel my fingers or my toes." He replied,"You're not from around here are you?" He looked as warm as fresh muffins straight from the oven."Nah Queensland boy," I replied through chattering teeth. I think I was the only Queenslander in the field and so far I was doing my home state an embarrassing disservice. Not once throughout that entire thirty-five kilometres did I feel warm, not even the thirty minute climb to the top of Black Mountain at 812metres did anything about the ice running through my veins.
That mtb leg took me just over two hours. Starting out on the twenty kilometre run was the greatest pleasure of my life. Straight out of transition two was the 888metre climb up to Mount Majura, which takes about thirty to forty minutes of continuous running to crest the top. For the first time all morning I felt heat seeping into my muscles and I was warm and content. I was feeling so warm and enjoying it so much that I was in THE ZONE and didn't pay too much attention to what the marshal was saying to me as I jogged past. Ten minutes later I wake up to the fact that I haven't sighted another competitor and came across a man walking his dog."Excuse me sir, have any runners ran past you?" Knowing full well what the answer was going to be,"No sonny but if you are in the triple tri you have missed the turn where you have to climb a fence, don't worry it is just a couple of kilometres up the road!" I realised then what the marshal had said,"Don't miss the right hand turn over the fence and continue up the path." With forty-five kilometres in total to run for the day I wasn't that excited about doing a few more. Yep, still doing Queensland proud I was, next to the word softy we can now add dopey! Two long hours and twelve minutes later I finish the run and am more than happy to swap runners for swimmers. One triathlon down, two to go.
Transition four, the start of the three and a half kilometre Lake Burley Griffin swim leg was a welcome sight after twenty plus kilometres of running. My support crew of Jolie and a bunch of good Brisbane friends, who were at the same time doing the mixed teams event, were there full of encouragement, and once again I felt like giving them all a big group hug - but I didn't because I was a big tough endurance machine, not a soft-dopey-soppy-hugging-machine! That transition was memorable for two reasons, the first being how long it took (five minutes) for all five of my helpers (no worries about excessive outside assistance being allowed in this event) just to get my long sleeved wetsuit over my sweaty sticky body. And secondly, after shoving half a tin of rice cream down my throat my saliva became quite mucous like and as disgusting as it looked when spat into your goggles it made an excellent de-foggerer!
The course was point to point and very safe as you were never further than fifty metres from the bank for the majority of the swim. If you got a little hungry or thirsty an aid station was waiting for you about two kilometres from the start. You also went under two massive bridges which provided a good opportunity for any bored Canberra kids who felt like dropping gollies (spit bombs) on you as you went under. Anyway, I was surprised at how good I felt as I finished the swim in around fifty-three minutes, leaving a trail of rice cream saliva in my wake for the other competitors to swim through!
Transition five and I was surprised at how good I felt, surely this couldn't last? The next forty kilometre mountain bike course was an absolute ripper if you loved hills. This was the magnificent Stromlo Forest prior to the devastating bush fires a couple of years ago. Now it is just fire trails and miles and miles of nothing in-between. Twenty-five kilometres into this leg and the big one, Mt Stromlo at 782 metres, was there waiting to greet you. Not too many athletes around me were to be seen riding up this beast, at times it was actually faster to walk. I caught and passed a number of competitors who, sitting astride their trusty steeds, appeared to be stationary but if watched long enough, could be seen moving forward. Any time or placings that I gained going up climbs I generally lost on the descents. Memories of past falls still haunt me and I now accept that self preservation is smarter than fast descending. My time for this leg was 2:22:18 and I pulled into transition six weary and bloody happy to get off the bike.
As per usual my support crew was there waiting for me with warm encouraging smiles and my mate Lex planted a big sloppy welcome kiss right smack on my lips! Just kidding, it was actually my wife Jolie doing the kissing, bet I had you worried!
The next twelve kilometre run is memorable for two very different reasons; one reason is due to pain, the other due to severe embarrassment. Straight out of transition I began the long slow grind up Mt Taylor, which topped out at 855metres. I got off the bike thinking a sleep would be nice, instead I dragged my sorry arse up to the top of Mt Taylor and let me assure you I was definitely awake by the time I reached the top but still wishing I was asleep. Descending these monsters is by no means a whole lot of fun either, especially if you have been competing for 25 years and your knees prefer that you caught a cable car back down. The speed at which fellow competitors passed me on the descents was altogether impressive but frightening. This was one of those legs where no matter what I ate or drank I couldn't escape the lethargy I was feeling.
It was towards the end of this run, with five kilometres to go that my embarrassing moment made me forget for a few minutes how pathetic I was feeling. It was one of those moments when your body tells you â€˜it just has to go' and that is it, â€˜you just have to go.' At the time I thought I was by myself and made a quick dash into the bushes, dropped my dacks and, you know, just went. Not being prepared with any toilet paper I was looking for some leaves, an old paper, grass, anything, you know what I mean? I had my back to the trail and bum in the air when this lovely young girl, a fellow competitor, sticks her head into the bush to enquire if I was alright. She quickly realised that now was not a good time and continued on her way. After I retrieved my dignity and began running again I realised that as I was running faster than her and I was going to have to pass her. As I was catching her I was also trying to think of something appropriate to say. In the end (pardon the pun) I opted to put my head down and sprint at an inappropriate speed and say nothing. I completed that run in 1:19:00 and it would be a complete understatement to say I was so glad to finish.
With two triathlons down and one to go I was on the home straight but the body and mind by this stage was a tad on the tired side. Into my wetsuit for the short 1.2km swim across Lake Tuggeranong. The water was quite cool but something in the water refreshed me and twenty-five minutes later I started the last twenty-four kilometre mtb leg and felt fantastic. Please keep in mind that all quoted times generally included my leisurely transitions. This feeling stayed with me for two of the three climbs. For the Wanniassa Trig point at 809metres and Stanley Trig point at 814metres I was feeling awesome. The wheels came off going up Sheaffe at 793metres, where there was no other option but to push or carry your bike up and over the impossible-to-ride terrain. It was 300metres before the top that I cracked and just had to sit down, catch my breath, munch on some more disgusting energy bars and take in the awesome view for a few minutes.
The descents in-between these climbs are worth the effort of getting to the top. While some were hair raising, most were enjoyable and exhilarating as long as you descended within your limits. Though this leg was the shortest mtb leg it was in some ways the most difficult; three very steep climbs, technical descents, and rock strewn paths kept your times down, throw in a rest stop now and again and it is not unusual to go over two hours for this twenty-four kilometre leg. I came in at 2:07:23, which I was more than happy with. The name of the game for most doing the solo category is, regardless of anything else, to finish. With one run to go I was going to do just that.
Transition nine and a thirteen kilometre run to the finish, of course you don't get let off lightly with Mt Davidson at 749metres and Red Hill at 720metres to climb straight out of transition.
But, once you crest that last climb it is all downhill or flat from there for the remaining 8kms. I suffered immeasurably going over those last two climbs but once I hit the flat stuff I started to actually resemble a runner, rather than doing my Cliff Young shuffle impersonation. I felt like I flew around the course and was pleased with my split of 1:22:50. The feeling on crossing the line I could only liken to when I finished my first Ironman back in 1990. A very memorable and happy occasion that saw a bunch of wet stuff come out of my eyes. Yeh I know, nothing has changed, Smoothy is still a big bloody sook after all these years!
Look guys, you just have to take the jump and try one of these experiences. If you've proven that you can do an Ironman then you are more than capable of finishing this sucker. I promise it will be an experience that stays with you for a very long time, dare I say more so than an Ironman? If not for any other reason, do this race just so that you can scoff down the hot and awesomely delicious vegetarian food put on for you by the Sri Chinmoy team at the finish.
Just to give you an idea of how long the guys at the pointy end of the field take; Stuart Bardsley got around as the first solo finisher in 10:53:30. This race is not only for the guys with Alina McMaster proving that the girls can take on the Triple Tri and not only finish but finish well in 13:21:02. The teams are where you will find the fast times, with the team going by the title of No Names getting around in 8:14:00, with only four minutes separating them from the team of Puff Puff and Away. If you are not confident of taking on this race as a solo competitor then the team option is the fun and sensible way to go! Hope to see you there this November!
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2005: Trevor Fairhurst's Report
Well in 2004 I had a great race and enjoyed it enormously, I had bought a mountain bike specifically to do the race after hearing so much about it from Ron and the rest of the Bilbys Saturday Morning Bike Pack. Learning to ride off road and training for the triple tri 2004 went hand in hand, many many weekends flew by riding and riding.
This year however was different, a months holiday in August/September around Europe left 2 months to prepare for the race. The big mistake was not to have ridden all 3 bike legs continuously a few times. With a lot less technical proficiency than most, often a bit of power can get you out of trouble, but on leg 8 that power isn't there and therefore trouble is, I fell. However how the race panned out.
Pre-Start, having thought that I'd give a quick prayer for those in the Indonesian earthquake during the minutes silence there wasn't one.
Swim1 started nicely, seemed to be missing a buoy that myself and another competitor who i was with struggled with but ended up going around a canoe. Once round that the buoys were easy to spot swam in quite well after that and exited the water first. Had a fast transition.
Bike1 the bird that swooped Natalie and Myself twice last weekend at Canberra uni continued its dislike for me. However I nicely followed the route had a surprise that it was the second fence to go onto gossan hill, not the first as I'd practised. All went smoothly, grabbed a mouthful of coffee at the top of Push Bike Hill, saw another soloist as I descended the tarmac bit from the top. I had a great descent of the rocky bit which always scares me and enjoyed the rest of the ride around black mountain and its spur where i ride the occasional lunch time. Had the normal ride and push up to the water tank. I have no idea how people can ride that last loose bit. Single track was great although got caught out by the bit that was taken out and had to turn around to get back onto this years course, and lost a confrontation with a tree. The dog that I saw have a go at stewy in 2004, and had had a go at the group that did the course familiarisation ride in 2004 somewhere around Duterrau Cres wasn't out today. A bit of mud around the back of the racecourse which I guess was worse for the tailenders and all was great to transition.
Run1 Another fast change, and off. Passed by a woman feeding a magpie with a cockatoo on her shoulder. Made it to the top this year before being caught by the first team on the tarmac descent of Majura, Trevor Jacobs caught me running along the fire trail prior to the right up to the logs, last year he'd gone by on that tricky bit next to the fence shortly after leaving the tarmac. So I was probably going better than last time. Other team runners went by as I enjoyed the views, changed out of off road shoes at the top of Ainslie, Bilbys coach Gary Rolfe gave a bit of a cheer at the bottom then a nice long flat run grabbing the wetsuit lube at Kings Bridge from Ria one of my support crew. Ran along putting the stuff on, checked the buoys, looked at the team swimmers and into transition.
Swim2 Good transition again, unfortunately I didn't grow up with long summers and running around barefoot. I feel every stone and slowly picked my way into the water as someone without a wetsuit ran past me and swam away. It'd have been great to get into their slip stream and have a real easy swim but I could only hold the gap for a while. The swim went really well, I think the huge travel on my new bikes forks had saved my shoulders and I swam feeling good all the way. Grabbed a goo at half way as Dave Baldwin had recommended to me last year.
Bike2 Well the only thing on this leg I hate with a vengeance is the magpie on Blewitts, I've had many fights with it and never won. It starts at you on the bottom and never ever gives up, the good thing about the race is however it probably attacked the first riders and it'd have been hanging around at the top by the time I'd got there. The leg went smoothly, got caught out on the way up Stromlo where the bunny hop over a gap in the track was fenced out and was directed into a ditch. Crew was at the top, loaded up with Coke and Pringles, the gate was open heading off of the tarmac down Stromlo. (there are more than three sports in this triathlon, there are swimming , mountain biking and running obviously but there are also significantly 'bike pushing', and the 'bike and you over gate or fence' as well as the transitions). Over another hill then a nice flat bit to the end.
Run2 So up Mt Taylor, ran the less steep bit but walked a fair bit of the way to the top. Nice descent great views out towards the Brindabella's and of lake Tuggeranong where the race was heading. Heat was getting to me a bit the issue being I was not getting the food through my stomach although a diet of Pringles with the odd Mars Bar and Vegemite Sandwich might have had a little to do with it. Bruce got to overtake me, which was what he wanted, Steve Hanley from their team went past on Leg5 last time. Had a bit of a chat with a guy in a team of 9 as I watched the BMX riders performing stunts better than you see in a circus on my way into transition.
Swim3 Needed to cool down, so no wetsuit. Wish I could have taken the hat off too. The longer the swim went on the better I was feeling but all to soon I reached the ladder. Took the hat off and gave my head a swish under the water before climbing out for the hardest part of the day.
Bike3 It starts so easily just chugging along the bike paths. Then it goes to a long rocky track where I fell last year on a descent because I was leaning far to far forward in a vain attempt to let the shocks do all the work my legs were supposed to be doing. This time I fell going up but was quick to jump back on, last year I had a chuckle dusted myself off and then continued on. Sometime later pushed the bike up Mt Stanley, enjoyed the cool breeze up there and the descent with a few little bunny hops to do here and there. Only had to worry now about the last bit before the pipe, but once in East O'Mally it was marked out like a aircraft runway and the route was not to bad especially considering the general terrain around that area. Got to the pipe, picked up a bike tool off Sean, let the saddle down and into the pipe. This had been the leg I had most room for improvement on from last year and yet its the only one I felt that I had done significantly worse.
Run3 Had a check from Prachar I was sane (well by triple tri standards), guess chatting on the phone between shouting 5 to make sure I was registered at the random check points along the way had caused some concern. Nowadays it's difficult to know if someone is schizophrenic or hands free. But I was given the OK and this year ran off in a pair of running shoes, as opposed to a tennis shoe and a running shoe like last year. Got a lot of motivation from the team runners passing by as well as Bilbys out on the course. Through the finish and into Natalie's arms, 8 awesome transitions and aid all the way the support crew had nailed it.
Post race, Lovely dip in the lake, awesome pasta upstairs at the yacht club, 3 different types of Black Tea including Twinings English Breakfast and Tetley I probably over did it on the tea. Then Julie came in as second solo which was by far the performance of the day.
This race really shows the countryside of Canberra and Surrounds. It's marvellous. Hope to see everyone back next time.
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2007: Andrew Renwick
by Andrew Renwick, Solo Entrant
Canberra- 18 November 2007
There is a lot more that goes into this race than a single day so I will start with the most important part. The thankyous:
First and foremost to my support crew (Julie, AT, Paul, Mum, Dad, Stephen & Becki) for believing from the beginning. Without these guys I would not have made it to the start line, let-alone the finish. To Andrew & Amanda who gave up part of a well earned holiday to meet me along the way. To team FWS for sharing the day and the pre-race dinner. To Pete M and Graz for being awesome training partners. To Pete J for all the training and swimming tips. To all my mates who put up with my grandpa hours and wished me well. To Mark and the crew at Martin Place Physio for keeping the legs well oiled. To Annette, Shannon and the team at ING. To Tash for dealing with my gut issues, time and time again. To Barry from LineBreak for the top of the line garments that provided constant comfort & recovery. To Lance, David & Di for dealing with my troubled feet. To all the fellow competitors who provided support out on the course. To the volunteers and SES who manned the transitions and road crossings. Finally to Prachar and the Sri Chinmoy team for providing the opportunity.
Leg 1- 1.5km Swim Time: 0:27:06 Leg place: 5
Things to do next time: Make sure the toilets are open at 5 in the morning
After enduring a night of nerves, fuelled by â€˜the party next door' which only seems takes place when you really need sleep, we fronted up pre-dawn to Lake Ginninderra.
Like a nervous puppy I awaited the start knowing that come 5:30 it was game on, no stopping till the end.
The water was warm, my support crew was waiting around the corner, so after a moments meditation all I had to do was relax and swim.
Leg 2- 35km Mountain Bike Time: 2:10:39 Leg place: 5
Things to do next time: Nothing but the same
After a flawless transition I started out on the 1st bike leg. Having completed this leg for the last two years I knew what I was up for and that if I stuck to the game plan (high cadence and easy on the up hills) all would be well.
Push bike hill lived up to its name but I laughed in the face of Black Mountain. On the way up a fellow soloist jumped out of his saddle and passed me, smashing his legs and perhaps forgetting that there was over 140km and many more hills to go. I caught him on the way back down. We tagged this way until the transition.
Things flowed easily on this leg. Both the bike and the legs were feeling great, fuel was constant and sitting where it should be and my confidence was on the up. Black Mountain, one of the 10 big hurdles, was fading in the distance. Bring on the run!
Leg 3- 20km Run Time: 1:59:04 Leg place: 4
Things to do next time: Remember to Gurney Goo the feet
Confident or not this was one of the most daunting legs. It takes in two of the three highest peaks in Canberra and follows tracks that are more suited to goats than people, and that is the easy bit. The descents were even more demanding, proving relentless on tired quads.
After 16kms of hills the grass of the War Memorial and the path around Lake Burley Griffin was like running on air (almost).
With one tri down and an achievable swim to come I was ahead of my estimates and feeling great.
Leg 4- 3.5km Swim Time: 0:59:26 Leg place: 3
Things to do next time: Sun cream or zinc
After 55kms on the legs I was truly looking forward to this swim. My estimate was well over an hour in the water and while some may shudder at either the water quality or the distance, I was just happy to let the arms do all the work.
I reached the end in less time than it took me last year! Those extra pool sessions must have paid off.
Leg 5- 43km Mountain Bike Time: 3:14:05 Leg place: 3
Things to do next time: Sun cream or zinc, more food, drink lots more water and don't forget that it is a really long way
This leg will henceforth be known as the destroyer as it hurt a lot of people, me included. With temperatures in excess of 30 degrees, no shade and hard packed earth it was like riding inside a convection oven.
This was the toughest leg of the race (even including the last) and potentially there are many things I could have done better (drink more, eat more, and don't lose all my gels after going over the handlebars.) but that's racing. It was my darkest 3 hours and it crossed my mind more than once that maybe I was not cut out for this.
Stresses aside I still found the time to enjoy the Mt Stromlo single track, used for the SCOTT 24hr, and this leg also exemplified the true camaraderie these events with competitors and supporters alike helping each other make it to the end.
The last quarter of this leg was mainly flat (with the obligatory hill to push your bike up) and seemingly never ending. I pushed on and as with everything that feels as such the end was just around the corner. Never say die.
Leg 6- 12km Run Time: 1:28:27 Leg place: 3
Things to do next time: Drink more water
At 855 meters Mt Taylor looms over the 2nd run course like a fat kid over a cupcake, ready and waiting to chew me up. I'm not ashamed to say that I walked all the way up, the cool change had still not set in and after the last leg I knew that walking was as good a recovery as I was going to get.
As with the 1st run, coming down the other side gave no relief so it was a mixed blessing to hit the base of the hill for the run through the suburbs. By this stage my stomach had decided that it was time to close up shop for the day meaning that in addition to running there was a new challenge- swallow fuel. and keep it there.
Leg 7- 1.2km Swim Time: 0:25:34 Leg place: 2
Things to do next time: Eat bananas, they settle the stomach
Watery bliss is the only way I can describe this leg. I had been cooked then reheated and now it was time to cool off.
Having the ability to pull yourself through the water using only your arms is a great advantage at this stage of the race. As I stroked across Lake Tuggeranong I tried not to feel too pleased as I passed a couple of teams, knowing my crew was waiting at the end and thinking that surely I could afford a quick stop in at KFC.
Leg 8- 24km Mountain Bike Time: 1:51:30 Leg place: 2
Things to do next time: Eat more at the start of bike legs, especially when the start is flat
Only two legs remaining and thanks to course familiarisation I knew what was in store for this leg. a bunch of flat and then some really, really steep hills. I kept good speed through the initial part knowing that a higher average now meant less to worry about later.
According to the leg descriptions Mt Stanley is the steepest climb of the entire course. The picture to the right sums it up nicely.
Once at the top the rest is mostly down hill. High speed and recovery was the order of the day and by the time I was heading towards the under-road tunnel I knew that with a single leg left I was going to finish.
Leg 9â€“ 13km Run Time: 1:37:01 Leg place: 2
Things to do next time: Don't kid yourself, after 12+ hours 13kms is a long way
After the initial punishment of the climb/descent of Red Hill all that remained was an easy flat run to the finish, right?. wrong. The smiling faces of my crew met me for the final time at the base, I was feeling good, not far to go, right?... wrong again.
I ran for eternity to reach the next aid station."How far to go mate?"."oh, just over 6kms. but there is another aid station in 3".
Damn, 6 is a long way when you are expecting 2.
As I left, Simone from team Pulse Inner City Cycles turned up. I picked up my pace and she slowed so that we were running together (to be fair she slowed a lot more than I picked up J). This was fantastic as it took my mind off the relentless slog. At the higher pace I was flagging and really needed to slow. We parted ways but I will be forever grateful for the company, thanks Simone!
It seemed to take me so long to get to the next aid station that I was convinced that it was a lot further than the promised 3kms. Wrong again, 3 to go and my whole world was simply about getting one foot in front of the other.
Even in my delirious state I recognised that these last 3kms along the lake were beautiful. There were trees and birds, the breeze was cool. If only I did not have to run.
And then the magical and seemingly elusive finish line. My crew was there, my mates in team FWS were there, people I had met and who had kept me going out on the course were there and then. in 14 hours and 12 minutes and in 3rd place. I was there.
The end of a Journey
So there you have it. From the initial and hesitant comment of"I think I might solo the triple tri" to crossing the finish line I have been on an amazing journey. Commitment, determination and support from those around me provided the wind for my sails. I'm not sure where it will blow me next but I am looking forward to it all the same.
Result: 12:15:11 1st Solo Female (only female) and 2nd Solo! Overall course record for solo female (previous 12:46), and records for 1st run, 2nd bike, 3rd bike, 3rd run.
I had previously competed solo in this race in 2001 after being taken by the whole concept of the race even before I started doing triathlons. This year I was looking forward to competing with Alina McMaster who raced it last year and Kate Roper who is similarly inspired and had been planning for a while to do it. Unfortunately both of them have been injured so could not race. While disappointed not to have any competition in my category it did not bother me too much as I knew I could set my own goals and would have other competitors around me all day.
I calculated my times for each leg before the race and had summed them up to 13:20, about an hour faster than my previous attempt. I am a much better runner than then so I was fairly confident of going much faster but thought around 13 hours was a pretty solid target for me to aim for. It wasn't until after a good friend had made a comment about the record the day before that I thought I should just check out what the record was to have it in my head.
After a 4 am rise, we (my partner David who was also racing solo) and myself arrived at the start area just before our support crews. The usual pre-dawn last minute instructions, struggle into the wetsuit, registration and a quick dip in the lake and we were lining up for a start. I'm not a great swimmer and it seemed to me like everyone took off like a rocket at the start but after 500 m or so people settled down and I actually caught a couple of them. It took me ages to spot the turn buoy into the bay where the swim finishes and I had just put it down to my fogged goggles but apparently they only just laid the buoy before I got there - the early swimmers had to go around a canoe. Out of the swim right on the estimated 30 minutes to a salubrious transition with everything laid out beautifully.
I spotted David on the side of the bike path about 600 m from the transition - he had cramped. We had discussed the possibility prior to the race as he had been having trouble but it was very sad to see him in difficulty so early on. I knew there was not a lot that I could do so kept on going. I set off at a solid pace but one I thought I could keep up all day. The other couple of solo males close to me pulled away up Aranda Hill leaving me in one of the quiet moments of the day. By the time I had pushed my bike most of the way up push-bike hill the teams supporters were out and I was able to have a few words with friends. Up the road to the top of Black Mountain and my first hill felt good. A bit of a shock as I came down and saw Davo and Adrian coming up the road already, having started their race 1/2 hr behind me. I felt a bit better when they didn't actually catch me until the saddle on Black Mountain but they were going like something very scary was chasing them. Through the single track of Bruce Ridge and to more supporters at the O'Connor gate. I was able to quickly tell Brendan, David's support crew, that he was having problems and would be a while as I headed down the road. Onto Lyneham ridge and past another solo competitor already cramping. It is fairly flat from there to the end of the leg so I just kept things ticking over, exchanging encouragement with the team riders passing me.
The bike/run transition is always busy and I got a big cheer as I came in. Felicity (my helper) was there and directed me over to my mat where I changed camel baks and shoes and took off up the hill. The start to this run is hard as it heads directly up Mt Majura and made it difficult to eat at the same time. I walked a few of the steeper bits of the fire trail up to the top in order to conserve some energy and then stretched it out down the road. I had not checked where the course went through the pines and vaguely remembered from last time that it went along the top fire trail so was pretty surprised to see it head into a single track. Knowing the track and how windy it was I had a sinking feeling of my run time for this leg blowing out but was pleasantly surprised when we cut back to the flat main trail and followed this out of the pines. I felt strong and ran over Hackett hill well and up lots of the climb onto Ainslie. Emma passed me just before the top and was running really well. Once again lots of supporters gave me encouragement over the trig and I was encouraged to see Brendan waiting for David (this meant he was well into the run leg). I looked at my watch as I ran down Anzac parade and thought I'd be fairly close to the run record. As I came into transition, I made sure I ran past my support crew and that the timers had seen me before going to my towels and wetsuit.
Fiona had joined Felicity as support crew here and with their help and Naomi's I was into my wetsuit before I knew it and heading out into the lake. It was a beautiful day with no wind so I was determined to enjoy the swim. I concentrated on all of the techniques Fiona had been teaching me over the winter and felt relaxed. The calves were a bit tight and felt like they had a chance of cramping but if I kicked right with the whole leg this wasn't a problem. A quick stop at the national library jetty to down my gel and get some water from the aid station and I cruised on into the Ferry Terminal feeling really good.
The second bike leg start is very familiar to me as it is part of my daily commute so I cruised on out stuffing down lots of food and chatting to friends who passed by. Around over Dairy Farmers hill and I was thinking that the day couldn't be much nicer apart from the flies in my ears and eyes (I must try some corks on the helmet...). I think it was here that I passed Pete, another solo who I had done Trailwalker with earlier in the year. A brief relief stop on pipe flat and I was caught by a team girl. We ended up riding most of the leg pretty close so were able to chat about nasty magpies and her excessive training earlier in the day. The top of Stromlo came easily and the descent was good. I felt a bit flat heading towards Narrabundah hill and seeing my support crew giving me a cheer there made a big difference. This turned out to be my low point of the day. Up Narrabundah hill my quads started screaming at me as they were to do on each of the small climbs at the last part of the leg. I started to wonder how things were going to go and tucked into some more food (if in doubt eat and drink some more was the philosophy I was trying). The team girl gave me a draft along the bike path and into the maze that was the flags for transition trying to force people to slow down before tagging. My transition was set up in the shade under a tree and once again the slick crew of Felicity and Fiona had me out of there before I knew it complete with dribbles of sunscreen on the arms to rub in once I'd finished eating.
I knew this leg was going to be hot and sure enough it felt hot as I walked up the steep parts to the top of Mt Taylor. The last time I'd been up there was a CORC race when I rode the whole thing so I kept this positive thought in my head and strode on. A cheery hello to the girl on the trig and downhill to the lake (almost). This run leg was fairly uneventful with me catching a few solos and then a workmate who was suffering from the heat. I managed to convince him to run in the last kilometre with me which helped him a lot. But it was nice to see the lake and know I'd have a few minutes to cool down again.
This time it was only Fiona helping me into my wetsuit with Felicity having taken off with my bike to the end of the transition. I was a bit nervous about this swim having had a terrible time the last time I'd gone solo so headed out into the lake with that and Amalendu's words about being careful of cramps ringing in my ears. It turned out to be a great swim. I felt relaxed and let the wetsuit do the floating for me and just concentrated on ticking the arms over. Around the first buoy and I had a tail wind down the lake which was also very pleasant. I was pleased to see I was keeping up with the team swimmers around me. To the ladder at the end and I took my time getting out to ensure my legs and feet didn't cramp.
Felicity had my bike leaning against the wall and quickly I got ready to head off with a banana in a bun to munch on the first long section of bike path. I took the bike path at a steady but not fast rate as I wanted to save my legs for the Mt Wanniassa climb. I was a bit worried that my quads would start screaming at me like they did on the last bike leg. Henry came past me like a steam train at one point and offered me a 'tow' which I politely declined with some mumbled excuse like saving my legs and didn't point out that he was going WAY too fast for me! As I reached the gate at the bottom of the climb there was a boy of about 10 years there who was giving lots of people encouragement. After saying I looked great and I was the first girl he'd seen I lifted my bike over the gate to a "Wow, look at those muscles". Anyone else and I would have been very embarrassed but that's kids. I was pleasantly surprised to find my legs were good and strong and I rode well up the hill passing a few guys. Down the descent off the trig, around the dam and through the tunnel where Felicity was waiting with my sunnies having retrieved them from the swim start. Told her I was feeling good and headed off around Farrer Ridge.
Sometime around here I started to do the mental gymnastics about how long it would take me to finish this leg and to do the next. This is something I'm not great at towards the end of a race or when I'm going hard but I thought if I could get up Isaacs in a good time I would be looking good for the record. At the bottom of Isaacs I passed another workmate looking rather hot and ill. I asked if she was ok and thought I ought to stop but she said she was fine and I saw that she also had a mobile on her so I left her to it and headed up the hill. I was grateful again for my very light race wheels as I pushed/carried my bike up the un-rideable part of Isaacs. Over the top and I was still feeling strong and was even riding the other uphills in my middle ring! Around the bottom of the hill and onto Prachar's taped route which had a good wheel line in the grass by then, nearly came unstuck in the muddy gully and into the pipe. I gave the guy in front of me some cheeky advice about how to ride the pipe as he bounced off the sides and then popped out the end and, like everyone else, nearly came unstuck in the sand.
Saw Felicity and Fiona ready with the laid out rug. I was in a hurry though. I think I muttered something about being on a mission, asked for a bun with chippies and took off up the hill. Well, a slow jog anyway. The bread and chippies were a bit dry to be eating while running uphill so I kept taking mouthfuls of water to try to wash it down. I gave up just before Davidson Trig and the ants got half of the bun. Through the saddle and a brief walk up to the restaurant. As I ran along the road I passed a couple of other girls and wondered what they would think of me as a solo on my last leg passing them. I think I passed a solo guy on the way down the hill. The road at the telephone exchange was deserted which was a bit odd as normally there is someone there but I downed a gel and prepared for the slog along the bike path. I think I caught another solo under the bridge at the drinks station which I just ignored with a camel bak on my back. The path seemed to roll on well but I didn't feel like I could push super hard along here as my stomach was complaining. In no time though I hit the governor-general's hill and ran up it like I normally do in a lap of the lake - I was on fire! 3 km to go and I picked up another guy (team?) and told him to jump on my feet as it would make it easier. He hung on until the nursery hill and then fell away. I wondered where David was and if he would catch me as his transition looked very ready for him at the start of the run but I needn't have worried as he was still a little way back. As I hit the road and the last stretch around to the Yacht Club I started to get excited - I was really going to do it. Around the corner and down the hill to the finish chute and everyone was making so much noise - and for me!! All very exciting and I was stoked at what I had managed to do.
Afterwards I felt good - I was able to stand around and chat, had a brief leg cool-off in the lake and waited for David as I was told he was only 10-15 minutes away. He turned up, almost catching the 2nd male, and we had a good couple of hours exchanging stories with the teams. It is such a good race because of a challenging and interesting course and a real sense of friendly rivalry while wanting everyone to achieve their best. I think that can be summed up well by the top two male teams of three who are also best friends being so excited to race each other closely all day. It's also what makes a Sri Chinmoy race so good too.
I was also pleased to find the next day that I wasn't sore at all (apart from some chafing) and felt flat but fine riding into work. Obviously the training had worked!
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2011: Sukhajata Cranfield
Perhaps there is no other event which offers you the opportunity to circumnavigate a whole city in an off road triathlon. Each leg is unique, and this is why the best thing is to do the whole lot. It is not designed to be easy or even possible; It basically connects all the biggest hills in Canberra, seemingly getting nastier as the race goes on.
This was my second attempt at solo. Two years ago I got lost on Mount Stromlo when faced with conflicting arrows from different events. Five hours later, dehydrated and depleted, I found my way to Lake Tuggeranong, the only place I knew on the course. Although friends encouraged me to keep going, I was only interested in food and sleep. This year was very different. Having lived in Canberra for 6 months I had made an effort to familiarize myself with the whole course. I even offered to mark out the Stromlo section just to erase any possibility of getting lost. Knowing the course is a big advantage. Even if it is well marked, just knowing where you are and where you are going takes a lot of stress out of the day. Plus, you can pace yourself better when you know what is coming up.
This year I was very lucky to have as my helper the great Trevor Fairhurst - 4 time winner and number 1 enthusiast of the event. Sadly Trev was unable to compete himself due to injury but wanted to come and help a solo. Trev was so organised and so focused that I never had time to feel sorry for myself. It was a one way express train with no getting off.
The final run - the best I felt all day!
Knowing how punishing the midday sun can be, I was ready to battle with heatstroke, dehydration, cramp and nausea. But a miracle happened - the sun never came out. Instead it was the rain and wind which we faced - preferable any day for the endurance athlete. This made the day a lot more bearable. Coming from an ultra running background, I am used to the mental challenge of ever increasing pain and fatigue. But the great thing about the Triple Tri is that just when you have had enough you reach transition and launch into something else. Having said that, my illusions that it would be plain sailing after the long run-swim-bike combo were well and truly shattered by the torturous hills of the last bike and beyond. I think for many soloists the long slog up Mt Stanley must be the time when they lose or find themselves. Although the last bike is the shortest, it is probably the steepest and most technically challenging. If you are not from a mtb background it is really just survival mode. For some reason I enjoy the long swim across Lake Burley Griffin. Even though this year it was quite choppy, it is just nice to get off your feet and slosh around in a liquid world for a good hour or so. Like most triathlons, most time is spent on the bike, but without a solid running base you will lose most of your advantage.
In some ways having 8 transitions is tough because it takes time for your body to adjust to moving in a different way. Usually when you come off the bike it takes 10 minutes or so to get your running legs working. In the second half of a swim or run I would feel more relaxed. But the advantage of changing frequently is that your muscles get a break. On hotter days the swim is always welcome and is an important opportunity to cool down.
Everyone will have their own motivation for taking on this challenge. Most likely your friends are not all doing it. There is some hunger inside you to see what you are capable of. For many people the idea of the solo challenge is too daunting, but I believe that this is just a mindset. When you get out there and try it you find that you are capable of more than you think. The harder the goal that we set for ourselves, the more satisfying it is to achieve.
The fulness of life lies in dreaming and manifesting the impossible dreams.
The general rule is that you can never do enough training. Everyone has time and energy limits. Generally I just do as much as I can, always trying to increase, but back off when I get too run down. I like training. It feels good. Having a big event is just the motivation that makes training happen. Canberra is a great place to train for triathlon. Loads of trails and bike paths and not many people. The lakes are usually fine for swimming too, although most people still seem to go the pool.
I am always paranoid about hitting the wall in a long event so I try to keep eating even when I do not feel like it. Once you run out of energy it is very difficult to recover. I used high5 isogels, baby food and high5 energy bars mostly. Baby food is perfect - no chewing needed and usually very natural and nutritious. The bike is the easiest time to eat but it is not always possible. The second and third rides start with long sections on the bike path and this is the time to eat and drink. When you hit the trails you often need both hands on the handlebars. The end of the second ride along Cooleman Ridge is another opportunity. Trev put a Bento Box on my bike which was great as it is easy to grab food. The best thing is have bars unwrapped and broken up already. I would try to eat something every hour plus have gels and electrolyte. It is worth stopping in the middle of the long swim to have a gel. I had one stuffed in the sleeve of my wetsuit and this was not uncomfortable.