I wasn't looking forward to yesterday's race at all. So long since I'd done the race (3 years - last year cancelled, year before I was injured), I'd forgotten how much fun it is. Hardly even been on the course in training other than the nearby areas. Julie was keen to do it, so I'd written her a 3 month program which she'd stuck to diligently, whereas I'd done about half as much...
Got up before 4am, not wanting to think about it at all. All the gear was organized and Al arrived about 4:30am as did Lisa who drove Julie away leaving us to pack Al's car. Headed off to the start, then 5 mins down the road realized I'd forgotten my gloves and clear glasses for the first bike leg. Popped back home and also grabbed a folding chair, then down to the lake to get ready.
Mingled with the other individuals and support crews at the start, and began to warm to the idea of racing. On with the wetsuit and down to the lake. A few words from Prachar and we were on our way.
Couldn't swim a straight line for a while, then settled in with a small group of 3 others including Anthony Evans. Just cruising. Lake G is pretty clean and the occasional weedbed made me think of coral reefs and more exotic locations. Came out of the water in pretty much the usual time for me, just under 28 mins - surely it's more like 1600-1700m than 1.5km?
Into the chair and on with the gear. A few team cyclists were hanging around, Richard Bontjer admiring my shiny new KHS (thought I'd better give it a quick once over in honour of the day). Out onto the ride just ahead of Michael Kerr, a Cronulla guy who has been doing the offroad dus and XTerra races. Mellowed through the first half, got pushbike hill done, passing Mark Davis who'd flatted at the dam. Up to the top and down, walked the technical part of the descent since I hadn't even inspected it - didn't look too bad, in fact all the bike course seemed a whole lot smoother this year. Soon passed Ross Beatty and at Belconnen Way Tim Sawkins said I was in 5th. Given I had no chance of catching Jason Chalker, Paul Smith, Stu Bardsley or Anthony Evans I thought that was doing OK. Davo passed me on Lyneham ridge, but I beat the rest of the team riders to the transition.
Onto the run and just cruising again. Working at getting the fluids in and peeing fairly regularly. Dave Shep passed me at the haripin on the way up Majura and Adrian at the steep section. Got a drink at the top, and noone in sight down the road and the rough descent into the pines. No leg trouble either for which I was very grateful. Guts started to tighten up a bit though, so had a quick pitstop and inevitably 3 people immediately came past - Woodie, Mark Davis and Robbie Preston. Off again and Anthony Millgate cruised by, fairly quickly catching Mark Davis who was also pulling away from me. Refilled my water bottle at the horse gate above the pines. Morning was still fairly cool, pleasant views over Hackett Hill. Onto the Ainslie climb and walked a few steeper sections but otherwise kept it going. Sammy handed me a new bottle at the summit and I eased down the descent, another individual catching up at the war memorial. As I suspected, he said the run was his strength, so I hoped I'd leave hime behind on the swim. Don't even know if he finished - #13, will have to check the results when they come out. Along the lake he pulled away, but I beat him into the water thanks to my slick transition team and the shopping bag wetsuit trick.
The lake was glassy smooth across to Kings Ave, but my swim mask was leaking and I had to stop several times, eventually taking it off completely, washing it out, dipping my face and finally seating it properly. Rounding the corner at the Gallery the wind had sprung up and a building chop made progress slower. I thought of Julie who'd been worrying about the forecast of winds and hoped she'd cope OK. Sammy met me at the High Court and I had a gel and good suck of sports drink, then carried on. Tried to draft a female team swimmer - no trouble keeping up, but she then stopped to sight the marks and I nearly swam over her. Stayed with her the rest of the way until we finally hit smooth water about 200m from the end.
Another quick change in the chair and I was off on the bike again, thankful that most of the wet business of the day was over, but with no idea just how much I'd be looking forward to the last swim by the time I got there! Got stuck into the sports drink, had some powerbar then went to drink from the camelbak - no joy - damn! must have been put in upside down. Quick stop, whipped the bag out and turned it over - beautiful sweet water! Over Dairy Farmer's it was really warming up. Got a flat on Pipe Flat - couldn't find anything inside the tyre so popped in a new tube, squirted in the CO2 and fingers crossed. The climb up Bluetts was an oven - full sun and not a breath of breeze. Still rode the whole way, passing a few team riders walking up. Stromlo wasn't so bad, but still hard work, very glad to hit the top and the shady forest looping around before the fast descent to the road. I'd now gone through 2 large bottles of sports drink and Al gave me 2 fresh ones. The rest of the leg is fairly flat, but baking hot. By the time I hit Cooleman ridge I'd drained the last of my sports drink and sucked the camelbak dry too - nearly 5 litres of fluid in 2.5 hours! Starting to feel pretty knackered, really struggling on the smallest climbs.
Through the next transition and Gary Rolfe gave me a good plastering of suncream. I took a camelbak for the mountain and a couple of gels. Could barely raise a trot up the road and walked most of the way to the top, figuring I'd better eat and drink. Forced some stuff down, but I was starting to make sizzling noises. A few female team runners came past - Sam Robinson walked most of the way, but was still pulling away, another ran and walked and yet another ran solidly to the top. I started to close on Sam as we descended, and passed her after the aid station where Al handed me a bottle and took the camelbak off me. The bike path was a welcome change, just enough downhill that the legs could roll over with little effort. Once under Drakeford drive though the breeze dropped away and the temperature soared. The run/walk team runner was walking here and asked how far to the aid station as I passed. Only a few hundred metres later I grabbed a few cups of water and doused myself. On to the lake, and the flat track made it a big effort to keep the legs turning over. Shane Rattebury had been buzzing around on his MTB, and was stopped by the track by the dam where the girl who'd run up Mt Taylor was passed out under a tree. Only 1km from the end of the leg, and she ended up having to be carried away!
Finally got to the lake and Al tried to tempt me with some food before it was back into the water. Beautiful cool relief. My swimming wasn't pretty, but I was glad to be there. Turned the buoy, and as I went down the lake the waves seemed to be building. Noticed the clouds coming in and few flashes of lightning, and by the time I got out a storm was ready to break.
Off on the bike, and it was a struggle to get over the bridge, the wind was so strong. Made for a ripper tailwind along the bikepath section, and the rain came down for 10 minutes or so, dropping the temperature nicely. Finally onto the climb to Wanniassa trig, and the granny got a good workout but I managed to ride the whole way, even the rocky section on the first climb, again passing a few team riders. Whizzed down the descent and Al had a fresh bottle for me at the underpass, then cruised around Farrer ridge before dropping down to the climb up Isaacs ridge. Walked the steep start to the main climb and the goat track, but the rest of the tracks were really smooth and the shortcut along the ridgeline was very welcome, dropping out a descent and climb back to the crest. Even the steep descent was supersmooth, the grader must have been working overtime. Down the fun singletrack and through the pipe, popping out just as Michael Kerr headed off up the hill, challenging me to a crawl to the line!
Up to this point I'd no idea where the other individuals were. I'd just assumed I was in 6th, and now it appeared I was 7th or maybe worse... I set off up the hill, but Michael seemed to be pretty strong on the climbs, so I let hill pull away a bit. I was running with Helena at times - she'd run all the climbs, but I'd catch her on the rougher descents. Through Red Hill lookout the marshal confirmed I was 7th individual. Michael was still in sight, but seemed to be pulling away down Carruthers St to Curtin bike track. I so didn't want to be chasing to the line after 12 hours of racing already. Around the loop and through the big tunnel, who did I spy but Mark Davis walking the aid station, totally blown! Back in 6th after all. On towards McCulloch St bridge, and a runner in white top and black shorts seemed to be coming back to me. Didn't recognise who it was, but he seemed to be struggling, then pulled out a water bottle and started spraying himself all over. Finally caught up at the bridge, and it turned out to be Michael after all, meeting his support crew with fresh bottles. I kept the pace on, and managed to put in 100m or so by the Cotter Rd bridge, then put the hammer down to the bottom of Gov Gen hill. Passed Doug Fry here, and ran the hill. A stone in my shoe was starting to bother me, but I knew I couldn't afford to stop and look at it now. Across the road and 3km to go. Kept the hammer down and feeling pretty good, I gauged I was running about 5min pace between the 17 and 18km long course markers which I was pretty happy with. Over the last hill and wound it up for the finish, ending up with 12:42 for the day and about 78 mins for the last run.
Felt really good after the race. Still fairly well hydrated which was definitely the key to getting through the day. Had a feed and a shower and then reports came in that Julie was on the last run. Naomi headed off to meet her and run from Deakin Offices, carrying her mobile. As 14 hours rolled over, I gave her a call and they were on Lady Denman approaching GG's climb. Carla had been left behind on the 2nd bike or run, but was still continuing. Andrew Richards and I hopped in his car and got to Dunrossil just in time for then to cross to the road, and I dashed over to give some quick encouragement, but she was looking great. Back to the finish, and shortly they appeared on the road and triumphantly finished in 14:24 or so - a sensational effort and very well managed race.
The presentations started 20 mins or so later, and Anthony Evans headed off to track down Carla who managed to finish in a bit over 15 hours, but very much the worse for wear. It was great to see the team results right up there again this year - awesome efforts from Mal, Davo and Gramps, Sally, Simon and Adrian and all the others. Julie got another enormous trophy - much more of this and we're going to have to install a pool room!
5:30 am on Sunday morning I wasn't too nervous at the start because my brain just wasn't letting me think past the first swim. Headed off in the half light in a rather warm L. Gininderra. Goggles quickly fogged up so it made it a bit tricky to see where I was going but there were others around me to reasure me I was heading around the corner. Out of the swim in a reasonable time and quickly out onto the bike. Seriously cruised the first section and tried to get some food in. Carla came steaming past on the footpath near the new pool a few minutes into the ride. Thought that would be the last I saw of her. Cruised on with the aim of not stressing on the first bike at all. I had done several rides over this part of the course at the same time of day (earlier actually) so it seemed all too familiar. Saw the first team riders as I headed back down the road from the top of Black Mtn and Davo flew past me on the single track down to the back of the Gardens. As the others caught me and said hello it was actually quite a nice feeling for a change not to feel like I needed to push it like they were! At this stage I decided to back off on the sports drink (having already consumed a bottle and half + muesli bar and powerbar on the ride) and finish my camel bak by the end of the ride. The plan was to try to get to the second tri super hydrated in an attempt to ward off the drying effects of the hot day. Coming into the end of the first bike was pretty amazing with a really noisy transition - so many people encouraging me.
Few swigs of sports drink, bites of food and off onto the run. Having lived in Watson for a couple of years the track up the hill is pretty familiar. With an aim on this run to try to get through a 500 ml bottle of fluid each half hour meant I seemed to spend half the run sucking on my bottle and the other half ducking behind bushes (sorry to all the guys who had to put up with finding me on the side of the track). I felt pretty good all through the run, especially with walking up all the steeper parts on the hills. I thought that it might slow this run time but I'd be grateful later in the day. As I ran over Ainlsie I looked down onto the lake and it was like glass. I wondered if I would make it to the swim before the wind. By the time I reached the lake my answer was clear - No. The waves didn't look toooo big but I was very glad I had organised Steve to kayak with me.
Into transition, on with the wetsuit, and an introduction to Steve and we were off. As a not very confident swimmer I was a bit nervous with the waves but soon worked out that if I just rolled a bit more as I breathed that I wouldn't suck in any water and that I was making progress. As we got under Kings Ave bridge the waves caused a slop off the walls that tossed me around a bit so I paused, grabbed a drink from Steve and psyched myself up. Along to the jetty and a pause on the lilo for a couple of gels and cruised onwards to the ferry terminal.
Tucked into bananas, pikelets and museli bars at the ferry terminal while changing and getting sun-creamed by Gary (yay!). Off on the bike and stuffed way too much food and sports drink into me. Started feeling nauseous around Dairy Farmers Hill and realised I didn't need to eat that much!! Also realised my camel bak wasn't full which I would need in the sun so threw this at Amanda at Coppins Crossing and asked her to meet me at Uiarra Rd. Up Bluetts Hill I passed lots of team riders pushing their bikes so got a big surge of encouragement from that. Not only had Amanda filled my camel bak but it had ice in it as well. I think this was a huge success as I didn't get hot at all going up Stromlo in the heat. Caught Carla at the bottom of the last pinch and exchanged a few words. She wasn't feeling great and wanted to know where the top was. At this point I also wondered where the other two girls (Theresa and Sue) were - I hadn't seen them all day - were they in front or behind? Found the last part of the bike really cruisy and got in two powerbars along Cooleman ridge.
Another noisily encouraging transition and up the road to Mt Taylor. Another icy cold camel bak gave me lots to suck up the hill. Walked the dirt from the end of the road but was walking so strongly that the pace didn't slow too much. The clouds started to roll in and the wind built at this point as the thunderstorm headed my way. It cooled things down nicely and when it started to rain as I reached the aid station it was great. Rolled easily down the bike path and chatted to Shane for a bit who told me how David was going.
By the time I got to the lake the storm had passed over and the lake was like glass. Good thing too because this was my worst leg. I didn't feel great as I swam out to the first bouy and needed to take a couple of breaks. That ended up to be the theme of the swim - go a few hundred metres then stop for a few breaths. I think it was just because I had done far more swimming in one day by then that I have ever done! But I was a bit stressed when I reached the end of the swim. Slight hammy cramp as I got out instead of the classic foot cramp but nothing to worry about.
Onto the ride with a banana sandwich in my hand at which point I realised I can't jump gutters and retain a slippery bun in one hand (have to work on that one). The bike path seemed really cruisy but I was having trouble breathing. I realised after a while that stressing in the swim probably had tightened all my chest up and I would just have to try and relax and I would be able to breath again. Put me in a bad way going up Waniassa and I ended up walking a lot of the dirt up there but was still encouraged by seeing team riders (and passing some). Sucked some sports drink and this seemed to help. Passed Amanda at the underpass off Waniassa and said I wasn't going well. Met up and chatted to a team girl around Farrer ridge and finally relaxed and cruised off. Onto Issacs ridge and was determined not to let the hill bother me. I walked from the bottom of the steep section of fire trail but still passed four team riders and felt strong walking. Along the top to Schafers trig and knew I was nearly there. Tried to ride the tunnel but kept wobbling from side to side (hitting my helmet) so gave up on that one and had a not so stylish exit (walking).
Managed to raise a trot for the first 50 m up Red Hill (mainly for people watching) before settling into a steady walk on the ups and jogged the flats. At this point it seemed so much easier to walk strongly but I knew that was slow too and I was pretty keen to get home. Got the marshal excited at the top of Red Hill when he realised I was the first solo girl so that was a boost as was making the marshal at the road laugh by saying as I ran past " I am soooo F**ked - oh well...". I heard Naomi from way up the hill as I came down to the Deakin exchange and she came with me the rest of the way. Didn't need her for the dark though as we still had about an hour of daylight! But having someone talk at (with) me for the last part was great. It is a long way to roll down that bike path and I was grateful I had run it already when I was stuffed in training. Naomi's phone rang and it was David asking where I was. Then he met me at the Governer Generals but I could smell the finish so stopped for about a second! Then Sam came out on her bike to bring me home too. Managed to up the pace slightly for the last couple hundred metres because everyone was watching! What a great feeling to finish and to know I had done it well.
Woke up at 5:30am, planning to get to the end of the first swim awaiting transition at around 6:15am. I decided not to eat breakfast as I had 3 hours between the next two legs to go home, drink, eat, stretch, etc. I had originally thought it would be alright to ride between the finish of each leg and the start of the next, however Roger and a feww other people told me this would be a bad idea. I talked my mother into supporting me for the day, driving me to legs bringing me food etc, she agreed, something to do with the event being held on my birthday I think. Anyway we got to lake ginnenderra at around 6:20 and found Roger and discovered I would not need to start until about 6:50. Registered then stood around chatting until Roger told me to get ready as the swimmer was coming out of the water.
Got tagged and off I went, as you do at the start of an event like this I was powering away pretty fast, still applying the power on the bike track corner up onto the bridge to cross the lake too late I felt my wheels slide out form under me and realised there was loose stuff (sand or tree leaves or something) on the corner and so I went sliding along the bitumen on the first corner in the event. Got back up and moving but rode more timidly for a while after that. The off road finally started up next to Bruce with a fun little gutter to ride over (most people were walking it), a little bit more climbing up to the top of the ridge and then down and over the golden gate bridge to start the climb up to Aranda bushland.
Had fun on the swoopy drop down behind black mountain to the bottom of push bike hill. Tried riding up push bike hill for about 50 metres, discovered that this was not a realistic option so got off, shouldered the bike and walked up. Half way up Aaron and his brother were waiting to surprise unwary team members by videoing them in pain. I tried to grin through my grimace. At this point I and my jersey and knicks were soaked with sweat as if I had been swimming. Finally got back to a gradient on which I could ride, hopped back on and rode, past the crowd and onto the road. I noticed at this point my bike computer had stopped working due to sweat overload (it doesn't work in the wet). On the way up the road Aaron and his brother drove past with the camera out the window. At the top of black mountain the marshall asked me what my number was, they obviously were unable to read the big number written on the plate on the front of my bike, so I yelled it out and rode on down. Now for some fun, steep lose rocky single track down black mountain that is usually closed to cycling. If only the darn triathletes would get out of the way so I could do it at a more reasonable speed.
Climbing again up to the saddle, then around little black and down the track with the fun water bars. After crossing Belconnen way they send us straight up to the first water reservoir, a bit steep but hey there was single track coming, wheee. Near the end of the single track I noticed my back tyre getting low. Damn a flat or somehting, next to the second water reservoir I stopped, tried pumping the tyre up, it was going down to fast so I had to change tubes. Pulled the wheel off, with the tube out I found where the hole is was and looked at the tyre, some idiot had dropped a thumb tack on the single track and my tyre found it. Got out a spare tube and went to inflate it, found it wouldnt inflate due to a gaping slice in the side, tried my next spare tube, same problem. Some tool in my toolkit was cutting into the tubes. Wondering what to do I rang Aaron to say I was going to be late, some kind person (I think Dom Sims from team Wise Owls) going past lent me a tube and I was able to get going again.
Later as I was approaching Mitchell, there was no one ahead anywhere and I thought there may have been some markings sprayed into the grass near a gate but couldnt be sure so kept on going. I got the road from NATEX to Mitchell and couldnt find any markings, damn those things I was not sure about were arrows. Turned around and found I had dragged about 8 people the wrong way with me, we went back and through the correct way.
As I approached the finish of the leg I heard my cousin Jackson yelling "Go Devo" and the general crowd cheering me on so I got up and sprinted a bit, hopped off the bike and tagged the runner. One leg down, two to go, hopefully I will have better luck on the next two.
Went home, fixed flats, put new spare tubes into a sock and tools in another sock in my toolkit, changed the back wheel tube to one of my own so I could return the borrowed tube. Ate food, stretched, tried to dry my bike clothes on the line. Ran out of time and we drove over to the ferry terminal.
I had about a 40 minute wait before Aaron came out of the water finishing the that swim leg for my team. Hopped on the bike and got moving, I suspect I ride this section of bike track too often, I tend to turn my brain off on it, I didnt notice any thing much until I got into the cork plantation area. Enjoyed the far too short section of single track, then began the climb up to Dairy Farmers in the heat. Damn it was hot. I hugged the right hand side of the firetrail to get the shade from the occasional taller tree. Passed Amy on the way down from Dairy Farmers and had a quick chat as I passed. Tried getting down flat time trail like along the pipe line fireroad, don't know if it helped much. At coppins crossing Aaron and his brother were there filming again. Remembered to say thanks for their encouragement. Had to walk the last 30 metres or so on the climb up to the top of Blackies there, was kind of pleased to notice I got further up then anyone else nearby at the time. (then freaked out/amazed on monday morning to hear Dave Baldwin had ridden this and every other steep ridable section all day while doing the event solo)
On the way down to Uriarra road a sharp stick or something skewered my back tyre and I had a flat again in all of about 2 seconds. Stopped to change the tube, A photographer came past and took photos of me changing the tube, all the people I passed climbing up and more passed me, Amy came past. Finally got moving again, crossed Uriarra road and said no to the drinks station, I was pretty sure I had enough water left. Started climbing up stromlo, stopped and chatted with Amy for a bit while I ate some food, Russ Baker came past me suffering a lot in the heat. I hopped back on the bike and climbed the rest of the way up to the top.
Crossed Cotter road and there were heaps of people, many telling me to go slow, I was wondering what the heck was going on, then there was a rider down and some people looking after him, he must have crashed with too much speed over the poorly placed humps (a bit like the hump in the park near the Mackenzi st Gate in hackett that claimed John Meyer's leg, the neck of someone from Darwin (Sean met this guy while learnign to breathe again) and coller bones and similar body parts of many many other riders over the years) of dirt/garbage.
Riding round the back of Duffy pines and I almost rejoiced to learn they were not making us climb up to the trig point there, no more climbing until Waniassa ridge, wheeee. When I got to Waniassa ridge I found Heidi cowering under the shade of a small tree. I was somewhat surprised as Heidi had started her ride about 40 minutes before I left and I didnt expect to catch her. I stopped and had a chat to Heidi and ate some more food, learnt she was pretty much feeling dead by now. She had done the first run (20 KM up Mt Majura and Mt Ainslie) and now the longest hottest bike leg also. I knew once we got to the top of this little steep section in 50 metres or so the rest of the course was pretty much flat so I talked Heidi into walking up the hill with me.
Made another wrong turn at a corner soon after, I saw an arrow pointing straight ahead leading intot he corner, there was a track going straight ahead, thought the main fireroad turned left. There were no other arrows or X marks so I went straight, got a bit further and there were no markers at some intersection so started to wonder if I went wrong. I again had dragged about 5 people the wrong way up here. We all turned around and went back, then Roger came through and went around the corner we went wrong at so we got back on the course. Had a chat to Roger as I passed him. The finish of the leg was downhill on bitumen so I got in a tuck and pushed a big gear down, tagged the runner and now I only had one more leg to do.
Mum and I were planning to go out for lunch somewhere between the legs, with just less than 2 hours before I had to start the next leg we were going to be cutting it fine. So of course I stood around talking to people for half an hour before we finally drove away. We went to a cafe at the Weston shopping centre and I had a hamburger (great race food really...). As I got out of the car at Tuggeranong after lunch I was reminded why it is a bad idea to not drink enough and not stretch enough between legs. My right leg cramped up and I was unable to move, stood there trying to massage my leg until I could move for a while. Ahh what fun I still had to do the final bike leg, eventually my leg felt kind of alright after more massaging and stretching.
At the transition area I spent too long talking to various people so when the swimmer came out of the water and tagged me I was not quite ready, rushed to get gloves and helmet on and make sure my camel back was fine. Then away I go for the cruise up towards Waniassa ridge.
As I suspected as I got off road my legs felt a bit close to cramping up even in my lowest gear up the hill so I had to get off and walk about half the climb, I was still passing people more often than being passed though so didnt feel to bad. Had a bit of fun on the way down to the underpass, didnt have as much fun on the way over to Isaacs ridge (probably fear of what was coming), decided 20 metres into the steep section up Isaacs ridge that yes indeed I was going to be walking it today. Got to the top and shouldered my bike for the goat track. Had a quick rest and a museli bar at the top and got moving. Rejoiced that the organisers had let us shortcut along the ridge top instead of dropping down and climbing up the fireroad a bit again. As I came in view of the final climb I almost cheered. After the descent I thought about trying to do time trial position all the way along the flat trail there but my body wouldnt let me stay low for very long now. Dropped down to the tunnels, through them with one foot unclipped (so as not to cramp up) and tagged the runner. Woohoo all three bike legs completed.
Due to completing the last leg earlier than anticipated (I was guessing leg times from Dave's estimated of his own times thinking he would have slowed down to my speed for the day as he was doing the whole thing) I did not have a lift to pick me up yet. So I stood around talking for a while. Mum got there and I took her home and drove over to the finish to see Dave and everyone, see our teams finish, eat pasta, etc. Dave looked perfectly normal 20 minutes after finishing the event and talking to him or seeing him walk around you would ntobe able to guess he had just completed the whole event solo. I decided to wait to see Julie finish as she was in front from what we heard.
Anyway congratulations to Stuart, Dave, Julie, everyone else who competed. I had a great time, and weirdly even though it is a fireroad event I am kind of looking forward to doing it next year, hopefully I will be able to organise a 3 person team.
Thunderbirds Are Go! Our team - Alan Vogt, Richard Bontjer and Andy Hill came second in Male Teams of 3 as well as second overall in the 2002 Self Transendence Triple triathlon.
We completed the 6.2km of swimming, 100km of mountain biking and 45km of running in nine consecutive stages in 9.05.34 - 7 minutes or so shy of the winners!
My race day starts at 4.50am - well before the alarm (weird, as I only do this when I set the alarm). I go into the lounge room to relax on the couch before working out what to stuff in my little bag of tricks. It's mostly ready though.
Wetsuit, cap, goggles, earplugs, Vaseline, towel, 4 bidons of trusty blue energy drink, shorts, thongs, sunscreen and a hat. Yeah, OK I'll take the Red-Bull for the middle leg.
I have a quick shave just before going out as I know from bitter experience swimming that far in the wetty will see my neck red raw - hopefully this will help.
I get to the first swim leg and drag the gear out and walk to the start area - its kind of dark and surreal as many rubber people creep about in quiet anticipation ahead of the go signal.
Applause as the nearly twenty soloists dive into the unknown at 5.30 sharp. I can't quite fathom how these guys (and girls) can keep it going for up to 12-14 odd hours (or more) - riding and swimming maybe, but when it comes to running I just can't see me doing anything that long.
I register and get a number drawn on ... nearly time. I meet Andy our runner for the first time (Hi Andy, I'm Alan). He looks like a runner should - compact, lean, not much of him - a wind dodger.
Those who know me know I don't look at all like a swimmer, so I can only wonder what Andy's first impression of me might be seeing a rather chunky, shiny headed 38yo guy in a very bright yellow wetsuit from a past era amongst this sea of lithe black ORCA's. The old wetty has been in the cupboard for at least ten or so years (when I used to race a little) and surprised was I to find that it fits me better than ever - so the training has done something at least. I hope it translates on water.
I'm up first leg of the day and want to make a good impression for the team and so I start to get a little tense. Am I prepared for three legs, can I hold it for 6.2km hard and not let down the team? Dunno. Too late to make adjustments now anyway. I make a dash for the toot (race nerves) so I need'nt carry anything extra with me. Yeah, I'm good to go. I put vaseline around my arms and neck where I know the wetsuit will rub, put on the cap, goggles, jam in the plugs. Ready.
They call us into the water and hey, the water is really really warm. It feels like Dickson pool - shame really, as a brisk fright of cold usually gets me swimming a little faster.
Off we go, and I'm straight into a top gear sprint to get to the front of the pack which - despite the pain - is the best thing to do lest I get many smacks to the head and climbed over as the thrashing carnage sorts itself out behind me. I wish I had done a warm up now.
My lungs are burning, I can't get a breath, I've got no rhythm and we've gone only 250m! Uh oh, stay calm, stride long, pull hard. I know what to do, but I can't seem to get a rhythm happening or even out my breathing. I'm in touch with the leader, so I am where I need to be, but I wish I felt better about being there. This continues till I turn the big bouy and hang a left to come around the peninsula and start heading toward the swim exit. I still feel ordinary, but I'm past halfway now. The leaders are a little way ahead but not so far as I thought they might be - so I dig in for the rush to the beach.
I see the finish shute and meet the thick thick weeds in the approach to the shoreline - slow going, murky and slimy but otherwise OK. I get out of the water about 4th or 5th and tag Richard. Go Richard! It feels strange getting out of the water, the legs don't seem to work all that well - hopefully leg two will see me swimming better.
Andy gives me a ride to my car and I head over to the bike/run transition and wait for Richard. He'll be a little while so I drink some fluids and chat to some guys from Cooma who MTB, tri and sheep farm. Nice guys, and they are acting support crew for one of the solo women.
Richard collects more than a few soloists during the first hour of his ride - and wonders whether they are going too slow. I freak out Andy good a proper by saying Rich was coming through the gate. After Andy has a mild coronary, and fumbling for shoes - I correct my statement (as its not Richard). Jeez Al, relax.
Richard shoots up the hill and Andy screams off toward Majura and Ainslie at a bloody decent clip. We work out when we think Andy and I will finish our next respective legs so Richard can head for home and will get to his transition a little before I guess I'll get in.
There are a handful of people at the swim 2 leg start (Boatshed Restaurant) - strange as normally triathlons are awash of people and sports fashions. The rolling nature of this event feels very different to a typical tri event (or at least what I remember of them). I find a shady spot, do some stretching and share some banter with the people I must try to beat in the next leg. Not easy when I know how fast some of these guys are. John Flemming swims with our group most days during the year and he is fahn fast. His mate Anthony is also there as is Luke Grattan. Another guy who's team has been top three for the last couple of years quizes me about what time I'm going to do (I think he's worried I'm a threat - HA!). I play sly and and say about 5 minutes greater than his time. I hope that helps, coz I really want to go flat out all the way. I sneak away to feed myself a Red-Bull, get the suit on and do the final prep.
Andy shoots up to transition, the boy is on fire. We guess we are about third (not sure) He said he didn't lose or gain places (though he did get a little lost), but he must have made some good time on the couple of people in front.
I dive in and throw the arms into top speed - and thankfully they feel great. This leg is 3.5km and I've done it twice before when in Mikeys team. I have energy and the arms are moving fast. This is great.
I pass the first bridge near High Court and turn to skirt the edge of the lake towards National Library. John Flemming squirts by me like I am treading water (bastard). He will put a good five minutes or more into me during this leg. I think I can do with some stroke correction, as I find myself swimming a little like a sailboat (tack left, tack right etc). John swims as straight as a die without lifting his head. I turn after a bouy beyond the second bridge and head for shore. I'm still going as fast as at the start, feeling great - happy man! I come through the shute - Richard says great swim and he's away. Annie has just arrived this instant and Declan says can we go ride the paddleboats dad? He doesn't quite get racing yet. Right now I'd love to know my split time.
We hang around for a half hour, I eat fruit, an energy bar and drink up and I am surprised how big the gaps are between the top twenty competitors (especially top 10). Andy is there, chilling under a tree, pretty relaxed about things at the moment. We are in third position at the moment. Luke Grattan and I jump into the water for a warmdown and swim out towards the last bouy we past. The wind is whipping up and a large number of sailboats and windsurfers are coming out into the race area - this could get messy. I think better of swimming out too far and make a slow cruise into shore. I am glad I got through this swim before it got too choppy.
Annie gives me a ride to my car after I find out where to go to the next ride/run transition.
Its getting very hot and windy as I get to the ride/run transition down in Waramanga - I know this is going to affect the riders and runners. A couple of riders come through transition are looking a little worse for wear as the heat takes its toll. Richard comes through at speed and I shoot to the shops to buy some Coke for him and hand it over to him at the Lake Tuggeranong Park (did I mention Richard rode between all his ride legs?) We find a cool spot to wait. Andy comes in and it is clear we are in second now.
Andy shoots in and I shoot out. Now this water is choppy! I drink liberally and thrash massive as I head north to the first bouy and round it for a fast fling down towards McDonalds. No-one passes me and I hammer like no tomorrow pausing only a few times to see where I am supposed to go. The terrain gets very interesting as I go for the ladder up the wall only to find big nasty rocks at the base OUCH. I tag Richard and he's off - we are down 7 minutes on the leaders
They forgot to take splits for the first four swimmers through and so I make hasty notes and plan to get Richards time from him to see if I can work out my split. I get to the Garran tunnel in plenty of time to see Andy getting ready - he is tired and not sure how he will go. The heat is taking its toll on everyone it seems. Richard comes through a little slower than he planned, and the Isaacs hill has seen him crawl the hills a bit. Still a good time.
Richard and I drive to the finish line and wait for Andy to come in. Time to eat. Annie, Declan and Saskia are there and we hang about until about twenty or so competitors come in.
Top day and a nice surprise result for us all. We were hoping for top ten, so a podium finish is just huge. We end up about 7 or so minutes behind number one team Where's Roy. We are happy.
Hoping Thunderbirds may be a Go for next year too.
Fortunately Al Vogt put his hand up to be the resident fish. After some chasing we found a runner who could do the distance, Rob Walter. Rob has been off competing in Orienteering events in Europe. Hmm, he should be quick - I hope he isn't too serious about winning? Unfortunately he badly twisted his ankle 2 weeks before the race. Rob chased up a couple a mate, Andy Hill who had also been competing in Europe. We were set.
Sunday 4:30am. Alarm goes off. I scramble for the alarm think "Goddamit, why the hell is the alarm on?" I struggle into consciousness to realise I had to get up to race. Crap. I carefully blunder in the dark (to avoid waking Grace) into the kitchen for some breaky. Somehow I get stuck watching the teleadds. Why is it that at 5am these shows become interesting. Go to the toilet a couple of times - perhaps I shouldn't have eaten so much dhal last night? I succumb to the inevitable and head out over O'Connor ridge to the chirping of birds towards Lake Ginninderra for the start of the event.
Leg One: Swim. Al suited up for a 6am start. The individuals had already started at 5:30am. Long day ahead for those guys. Al does a flying first leg and comes out of the water in about around 7th place, about 1.5 minutes distant of the lead swimmer. Not bad.
Leg Two: MTB. After a deceptively easy start to the ride around the lake foreshore I hit the first climb up to Bruce Ridge. My legs were already feeling lactic and I had the taste of last nights dhal in my mouth - not promising. Up and over the gutter and I hit the first bit of singletrack and an opportunity to rest my legs. I pass Dave "MBO "Searle on the decent from Bruce Ridge and say a quick hello. My legs started to feel better just as I hit the climb up to the Aranda ridge. I saw Simon Tilley ahead and used him as a distraction to push up the hill quickly. I give Simon a casual hello as a cruise on by - hey, he didn't need to know that I was feeling like crap.
The decent over the waterbars was fun -weeeeeeeeee. My thoughts then turned to Crash and Gunnar who had both come unstuck on these very waterbars with dramatic results. I ease the brakes on a tad to wash a couple of kays off. Better not to pinch flat on the abundance of rocks anyway.
I cross over to Black Mountain for the easy fireroad roll around the base to keep my legs fresh for the my worst fears - Pushbike Hill. I did a mixture of fast walk, grovel and jog up the climb. I was surprised to pass Tom Walter 2/3s of the way up. Tom is a quick runner cheekily told me to "take it easy, its a long race" as I "jogged by on a steep rocky section. Possibly due to lack of oxygen I simply said "I know". Later in the day I was to remember Tom's words as I was forced into an almost crawl up Isaacs Ridge in a mixture of heat exhaustion and cramps in both legs. Still, we beat Toms team :). Surprisingly it was here that I started to pass the first of the individuals, only 1 hour into the race although they had a 30m minute headstart!
I hit the tar road for the final section of climb to the summit of Black Mountain. Dave Osmond comes whizzing down, already with a 2 minute lead - bugger. Still, Dave is renowned for being a very good mountain runner and recently competed in the World Mountain running champs and did very well. He previously has won the Empire State Building stair climb - a very silly boy.
I take it easy for the rest of the leg to conserve energy for the rest of the event. Nice tempo pace and do nothing special and end up doing under 1'30 - pretty close to the course record and less 3 minutes off the Dave's time. I'm very happy with that.
I ride home to restock my drinks and food and a wee bit of babysitting.
Leg 3: Run. Andy got his chance to strut his stuff. Apparently he lost a couple of minutes on the first team, but part of that was getting lost and loosing 45 seconds. Dunno what else happened.
Leg 4: Swim Al headed out for his longest stage - the 3.5km swim. He did very well and kept us well in touch with the top teams. I think a couple of teams got past up, but only just.
Leg 5: MTB. This leg starts with a 3km biketrack ride along the lake before heading into Greenhills. Normally this is a quick section, but the strong headwind made for painful boredom. I was happy to hit the shade in the pines and pass Paul Smith, who seemed to be having trouble with his camelback. The climb up Dairy Farmers Hill in the full sun made me realise just how hot is was now. I also felt the first twinges of cramps in my legs. The lack of trees in this area made it feel like I was in the Sahara. Still, the decent down Dairy Farmers and the meander into the seldom used fireroads out the back of the hill in the pines was very nice. Down to Coppins Crossing - weeee, before I hit the climb up form the river then snake along the fireroads. The climb leading up to Uriarra Road is renowned for being long, steep, exposed and slippery. This year was no exception. I saw Dave Osmond a long way in the distance, but not far ahead I saw Tom Walter again (his team got past in the swim) and eventual Solo Winner, Jason Chalker. I chased a bit harder and made it over the climb with surprising ease. I caught them on the climb up Stromlo. Tom was looking very shagged, but Jason was looking very strong indeed and he tried to keep on my wheel on the Stromlo ascent. After a few more twinges of cramps in my legs on the Stromlo accent a decide it is time to commence survival mode - keeping a good consistent pace but not go hard anywhere.
I make it up the initial bite onto Cooleman Ridge for the fast and twisty home run. Finish about four minutes behind Dave and I pulled a fair bit of time on the other times - I was happy with that.
At the transition I move across the road for some shade and eat a Gu and Sportsdrink while seated on an ants nest. I was hot and tired enough not to care.
Leg 6: Run: Andy did well and pulled a few minutes.
Leg 7: Swim. Once again, Al did a great job with a super fast swim leg.
Leg 8: MTB. Waiting at Lake Tuggeranong my thoughts turned to how little training I have done this year and that the next 30 kms is not going to be much fun. Oh well, not much I can do about that now.
Despite the nice tailwind the long uphill bike track climb from Lake Tuggeranong to Fadden was just the right thing to prime my legs to cramp as I hit the Isaacs Ridge climb. All I could do was soft peddle to avoid cramps and keep up a consistent easy pace on the climb. Oh well, atleast I was okay on the flats and downhill. That was until I hit Isaacs Ridge where my legs locked solid through the Erindale Drive underpass and I had to walk bow legged the initial steep bit of the climb up Issacs Ridge. I rode up the middle bit of the climb but again resorted to walking for the final steep and rocky section of climb to the top of the Ridge. Ahhh, the top of the ridge! I appreciated the decent and was a bundle of smiles when I popped through the tunnel for the finish of the bike leg.
While my time was nothing to write home about, I was most surprised that had done a reasonable time.
Leg 9. Run. Andy did a great job and retained our 2nd position overall and in the mens team of 3.
Yaah. Considering I only expected a top ten result I was ecstatic. Bring on next year.
The terrific support that our team gets from Judy, Sally's mum, means that I don't have to get up too early -- at 7am Judy and Sally picked me up, telling me that Sally was second out of the water, once again giving Simon a great start on the bike. Simon had been suffering from conjunctivitus and a cold last week and had contemplated withdrawing, so we weren't sure how he'd go.
At transition and the tension starts to mount, as the individuals start coming through. Davo appears, waits a while for Trev, and then we all wait an eternity until Richard Bontjer appears and hands off to Andy Hill, followed by Tom Walter (to Dave Shep) and then Simon about 2 mins back. Off up Majura at last! Straight away I'm breathing hard and the legs are feeling tired, so I'm torn between thinking "jeez I'm going slowly!" and "maybe I'm going too fast?". Up Majura, say hi to DB near the top -- now I'm SURE that I've gone too hard, but still there's no sign of Dave Shep. Down the big hill, get a bit lost after the turn off, but finally get into the pines. Wow, this road is a real rollercoaster. Gee, I'm going really slowly now. I must have lost lots of fitness. Out of the pines and tip more water over my head -- it's only 8:30 and already uncomfortably hot in the sun. Bludge over Hackett hill and, amazingly, spy Dave Shep in front. Aha! Maybe things aren't so bad... So, push really hard up Ainslie, let's blow past him on the climb, eh? But where's he gone? Did he take a wrong turn, or is he just blowing me into the weeds?? Finally break out onto the summit, legs are rooted now, and still no sign of Dave. Into the painful descent and the left calf tightens up a bit. this IS going to be a long day! Unexpectedly, Dave comes into view and I catch him near the bottom. We run together at a pretty solid pace to the lake, then I pull away slightly towards the end. The time is my best yet 1:20 on the nose, and it seems I've narrowed the gap significantly to Andy and Trev in front.
Sally puts in another gun swim, and the pattern of the race is set, with 4 teams in the "lead pack". We are in fourth, but within three minutes of first. One hour into the 2nd rids and we see the cyclists cross Uriarra Rd. It's pretty clear by now that only a miracle will stop the Osmond juggernaut -- he's already about 4 minutes up on Richard who's overtaken a tired looking Tom. Simon is another couple of minutes back but looking strong. At the transition Simon has just overtaken Tom and I set off up Mt Taylor with Dave S in pursuit. Finally overtake Jason, the lead individual. He's starting to suffer, and the heat on this run is shocking. The ascent goes OK, I only walk about 10m, then charge off down the hill on increasingly sore legs. Dave has dropped back a bit, and disappears from sight on the descent. His legs must be quite sore. Even though I've done this run three times, the stretch from Mt Taylor to the lake is interminable, and by the end of it I'm absolutely blasted, just wanting to stop and walk. After what seems like hours I'm finally running into transition, only to find no swimmer! Arrggh. Sally! Sally! I don't have a clue what's going on, and I'm in no state to work it out. Several hours pass. Days, weeks go by. Then, relief, there's Sally running over the grass. We tag and she's off. Dave Shep comes in about one minute later, tags John then flakes out next to Andy and I under a tree. We're all totally hammered. No one dares contemplate the next run.
I take the swim I was dreaming about for most of the run then dash to the car and we're off to the next transition. Sally holds off John so we hang onto third place. I'm desperately eating anything I can cram in, and drinking litres of sports drink. Again we catch the riders in the middle of their leg, this time as they go up Isaacs ridge. Dave is well clear and looking comfortable, Richard looks to be dying in second, while Simon looks OK except for his nose which has dripped blood everywhere! Tom has already dropped a couple of minutes.
We arrive at the last transition and Davo is already there and relaxing. Shit. Simon will be here soon. Where are my shoes? SHIT!!! I've left them on the beach in Tuggeranong!! Judy drives off to find them while I resolve to start the leg in training shoes, without orthotics, and meet her behind the "telephone exchange" in Deakin. Simon comes through a few mins after Richard has tagged Andy and I'm off again, feeling pretty good up the hill. Soon I'm going down, however, and the shoes are terrible! My feet are sliding around and the toes are getting squashed on the descents. I'm also getting a blister on my arch. Things are getting quite painful and I'm wondering what I'll do if Judy isn't waiting in Deaking with my race shoes. To be reduced to a walk now would be tragic. Amazingly, as I come down the final hill, there they are, having arrived 90 seconds earlier! They've saved my bacon! In the new shoes I feel like a new person, and my spirits soar. Having taken it easy in the uncomfortable shoes over the hill, I'm feeling quite good on the bike path and the kilometres unroll with surprising ease. I'm not setting any records though -- a timing test on the bike path markers shows that I can't break 4 min/km pace, and I'm slowing noticeably in the final stages. Now I'm on the final stretch, into the yacht club and it's all over. Suddenly I'm a total wreck. My legs are cramping, and I feel shattered.
About 5 mins later Dave Shep comes in, looking pretty good. In the final tally we're third in a new best overall time (just) of 9:07:03, about 8 mins behind Mal/Davo/Trev and 70 seconds behind Alan/Richard/Andy. All of us in the team surpassed our expectations, and we were all stoked with how we went. Most notably, Sally came within a whisker of taking the record in the long swim, even though she's not focussing on swimming at the moment
The orienteers who were new to the TT, Andy, Robbie and Dave, are all swearing that they won't do it again. I'm hoping that they change their mind cos it was the closest racing that I've had and made for a great day.