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TriHards qualify for Advanced Leg!

16 February 2009

16 February 2009

TriHards qualify for Advanced Leg!

It is a little known fact that following achieving their goals of completing a classic course within the cut-off time in both the Sydney and Canberra AROC events, the TriHards began to dare another goal: to qualify for the Advanced Leg of the classic course. The TriHards, not being completely insane, would say, “Thanks, but we’ll get a steak sandwich while there’s some left!” and move on, but it would be nice to qualify. And, on Valentine’s Day, 2009, their wish came true: they qualified for the advanced leg of the classic course! Actually, all teams qualified for the advanced leg, due to the closure of Lake Ginninderra. But the ever-optimistic TriHards don’t permit trivialities get in the way of their boasting.


The first two races of the AROC Paddy Pallin season had boosted the confidence of the TriHards; who were not concerned with their lack of training of the Christmas break, nor the obligatory extra weight carried due to traditional overindulgence. They had new TriHards caps, they had branding on the adventure truck and, they had valuable experience from previous races and, most importantly, they had Roctane - the new, hard-core Gu! They were ready for anything!


The plan was simple. The Cyborg would awaken early on Saturday morning, jump in the freshly-branded adventure truck and head to the other side of Canberra to pick up Mr GPS at 5:30. Then, they would both travel over to pick up the Capt’n and be at the bike drop by 6.00 a.m. This would put them at registration by 6:30, with plenty of time to go over the maps and come up with the ideal TriHard course for the event, ensuring a smooth race.

It was still dark when the Cyborg awoke, at 5:36 a.m, in a scene reminiscent of the opening of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Fortunately, the TriHards are skilled at adapting plans to changing circumstances - a skill which would serve them well throughout the day - and the Capt’n shuffled himself and Mr GPS to the bike drop in another practical car; all meeting up at around 6:15, so not much time was lost!

The team was on-site for registration shortly after 6:30, gathering the all-important coffee and showbags, then examining the changes to the course and race plan. Due to the closure of Lake Ginninderra the paddle and swim legs of the race were taken out of the schedule, and replaced with everyone doing the advanced legs; which was somewhat of a disappointment to the team, as paddling is their strongest leg (of course it makes sense to have the shortest leg of an event as the strongest!) Coffee in hand, planning was underway - what planning could be done, that is! It turned out that there was no extra time needed, as most of the event would remain a mystery until legs were reached (or, in the case of the first rogaine, until each checkpoint was found!)

The TriHards considered this a good omen. It gave them more time for coffee, and looking at the branded adventure truck.

TriHards with new branding
TriHards, with new branding!

The TriHards were packed and ready by 7:55, and heading across to the buses to be transported to the start of the race... Being the polite team they are, the TriHards waited for everyone to board the buses. And waited. And waited. Shortly thereafter, buses full to the brim of yellow bibs headed out, while the TriHards watched, and waited for another bus, with several other teams. Fortunately, Alina soon spotted the problem and whipped up some of the wonderful attendant volunteers, who began to drive the teams to the start.

So it was that the Mighty TriHards were chauffer driven to the start in a BMW. No bus for these boys!

[8:55] Race Briefing

Tom giving a the briefing
Tom giving the briefing

Once all the teams were gathered, about half an hour after the scheduled time, Tom commenced the race briefing with his now common stealth moves; running from one side of the pack to the other, finally winding up downhill so that everyone could hear. And the teams were in for a treat of an event; there would be riding on tracks, riding on single track, riding on roads, sliding on water slides and running through bush! It was sounding like a truly challenging event! Including riding on the Gungahlin Drive Extension!

[9:01] Race Start

In similar fashion to the November race, a run was scheduled for the first leg; and it was a pretty straightforward fare of just running around and collecting all of the checkpoints. This was certainly a bonus, as it meant the TriHards didn’t have to try to add up first thing in the morning before their coffees had kicked in! And, for the first time ever, the TriHards spotted one of the lead teams, the Blackheart/Salomon team. They were over the fence, and running down the track before the vigilant TriHards had even reached the gate!

Queue for the checkpoint
Checkpoint queuing

The name and quality of the AROC races seems to have spread far and wide, creating a huge field on the day. Residents of Lyneham may well have been startled to see their hills infested with hundreds of yellow bibs running around in the reserve. The TriHards elected to start the race on familiar ground, and joined many other teams in the queue for checkpoint 3; which turned out to be a bit of a theme for the entirety of the first run leg. Despite the shortcuts taken, and the faster routes through the scrub, all their efforts seemed to result in catching breath while checking out the Camelback of the team in front at the checkpoint. (Though, given the number of bladder backpacks the Cyborg chews through, this could well be considered a good thing!)

[9:33] Ride Leg

With the first run leg out of the road, and the pack clearing out somewhat, the TriHards were onto their trusty steeds for the bike leg; which involved some relatively easy navigation and riding through streets, until coming to the single track at Bruce Ridge. The first checkpoint involved riding down roads, and onto a bridge; which was a great break after the run; the TriHards managed to cool off while their bikes carried them downhill on the road.

From the bridge for checkpoint 12, the course climbed up hill and back into the reserve, and onto the Bruce Ridge for some excellent single track riding. The AROC team had marked the single track to be taken with pink ribbon, no doubt in honour of Valentine’s day.

Capn on the single track
Capn on the single track

The single track had some excellent switchbacks, and many sandy corners. With the pack still slightly bunched up, it was an interesting experience coming around some of those corners! It started becoming reminiscent of trying to drive up and down the Clyde Mountain in summer, with queues of bikes at every corner!

“Always smile and wave when you see a photographer,” those were the sage words of the River Queen (one of the TriHards immoral support crew), which rang in the Cyborg’s ears as he came across a fairly straight section of single track and spied a photographer. Smiling, he lifted his arm up to wave, and look at the camera, only to feel his bike almost lose control as the front wheel did its own waving at a rock!

There were checkpoints scattered throughout the single track, though they were all right on the track, which allowed teams to push on through without stopping too much. The TriHards, always keen to check out other competitors’ kit, noticed quite a few racers going through. Perhaps this is a new trend; perhaps these teams had heard about all of the road riding involved in this event, and opted for the faster racers...

The single track popped out on the edge of the GDE, where the riders took once more to the road. Realising that a boost was needed, this was to be the first Gu break for the TriHards, eager for a bit of a boost for the ride leg (particularly down the GDE). With the help of the Gu, the TriHards made short work of the GDE section, before crossing the bridge into Aranda.

At the entrance to Aranda, a sign stated that riders must dismount. Perhaps this is some Aranda tradition, for travellers to show respect for residents. Or perhaps it was due to the large dip after bridge (somebody probably had an accident there once). So the TriHards, always keen to obey the rules, dismounted their trusty steeds and walked down what would have been an excellent dip on the bikes.

[10:56] Rogaine

The clever people at AROC had devised ways to make the already challenging rogaine leg even more challenging: Only the first two checkpoints were marked on the map. From there, competitors would have to read further checkpoint locations as they arrived at the checkpoints they’d already found. Kind of like the Island of Lost Souls in the Pirates of the Caribbean, only people who have been there know where it is! This was truly a challenge for the team, being unsure as they were unable to plot a course.

Mr GPS running the scrub.
Mr GPS running the scrub.

Nevertheless, the fearless Mr GPS plunged the TriHards into the scrub; perhaps his confidence was bolstered by the fact that he was still wearing his bike helmet, giving him the secure feeling of extra protection! The TriHards set off for checkpoint 19, spotting 21 along the way. Then, it was decided (after losing their first pen) to run back to checkpoint 20 to improve the number of known checkpoints and plot a better course.

This proved to be a bit of a mistake, and the TriHards really should have just had faith in the AROC course plotters (rather than thinking they would give us the checkpoints furthest from each location, making the TriHards run all over the shop). As it turned out, the TriHards were very effective at making themselves run all over the shop, and it probably would have been far better to just chase checkpoint after checkpoint. Nevertheless, the team worked their way through, with the infamous checkpoint 27 hiding until last.

It was during this leg that the Cyborg started to think about steak sandwiches. Delicious chunk of meat, wrapped in bread. Protein and carbs in one handy meal... It was while he had stopped to ponder such delicacies, and admire the nature around, that Mr GPS and Capt’n Charles began to run off. The Cyborg commenced the chase (eager not to allow the fated 100m distance between them) and stumbled across a pen which looked remarkably like his own! Note to TriHards for the future; if Mr GPS is going to carry pens, ensure they are stuck to his bike helmet, then they’re bound to never leave his presence!

With checkpoint 27 grabbed, the TriHards had only to jump a fence and start the long climb back to the TA. Mr GPS climbed first, and his keen eyes spotted a wire at the side of the fence, “Wire” he warned. The Cyborg followed, jumped off the fence and ran straight into the wire, gashing across his shins (wire chases the Cyborg on races, at least this time it wasn’t barbed wire! It must be attracted to the titanium!) “Wire” the Cyborg called back to the Capt’n, who promptly jumped the fence and tripped over the wire. At least we know the TriHards are consistent!

From there, it was a simple matter of hiking back up the hill to the TA. It was at this point, tired and dishevelled and without any hope of on-course coffee, the TriHards elected to try out the Roctane. Blueberry and pomegranate flavoured Roctane. The TriHards spent a few moments trying to figure out who comes up with these mixtures of flavours; are there men in white coats sitting in rooms somewhere mixing various flavours together and saying, “Woah, that works!” or, more likely, are there people in a room mixing artificial colours and flavours, come up with something tasty and say, “Hmm, that’s quite nice. I think we’ll call that one Blueberry Pomegranate”. So, when you look at the TriHards’ slow time for this leg, bear in mind that much time was wasted trying to find an answer to this little puzzle!

[12:07] Water Slide!

Water slide! Water slide! Even though the day was cold, and to the TriHards water slides were more a faded memory of youth, it still elicited tremendous excitement from the team. It was, after all, a water slide!

Mr GPS going down the chute
Mr GPS going down the slide!

The Roctane-fuelled TriHards made quick work of the short street ride to the water slide, and eagerly stripped off their gear to travel down the slides. In fact, they were so excited, they completely ignored the big “Don’t Run” signs to run up the stairs to the slide - well, the first landing at any rate. The boys had great fun, trying out each side, and being dunked in the water.

Three pairs of sad eyes looked back on the slide as they made their way out and back on to the serious matter of adventure racing (and wondering whether there are water slides in Lake Macquarie - come to think of it, last April, the entire single track course was a water slide, on wheels!). Mr GPS went straight back to business, picking up in the information for the remainder of the course. For now the TriHards were into bonus territory - the fabled Advanced Leg. Wet, refreshed, and relaxed, the TriHards were eager and ready for the challenge. After all, they still had one satchel of Gu left each! Of course, they didn’t take into account the wind chill factors of wet bodies riding on bikes through an overcast day!

It was at this point that the already hungry Cyborg started to consider the flavour of added onions on the steak sandwich. That would go down a treat - and count as vegetables. An almost-rounded meal!

[12:55] School Days

The first leg of the advanced section was a rogaine around the University of Canberra; similar to the first rogaine leg of the Canberra 2007 race in February; and the Cyborg was back on familiar ground; being an alumnus of the university. The bikes were dumped near the library, and the TriHards were off, grabbing checkpoints as they ran through the residential campus of the uni. Some of the new ressie blocks actually looked quite impressive!

It was after gathering the second-last checkpoint down near the physics building, where a young Cyborg had been given the chance to play with liquid nitrogen (oh, fun times) and not to far from the bar where he’d spent laborious hours trying to kill the brain cells used for calculus, that Mr GPS’s legs really started to give out. On their way to the last checkpoint, hidden in a secret garden at the design faculty, that the TriHards came up with a theory for this pain.

If you’ve read his profile, you would know that Mr GPS comes from a long line of adventure racing and outdoor types. He is born and bred for navigation and racing. But, like any specialist, bred for a single purpose, he has his limitations. Consider a Sherpa, who lives high in the Himalayas, his lungs accustomed to the oxygen-poor atmosphere, and growing at a larger size, how would a Sherpa go scuba diving, where the idea is to use as little air as possible (well, you can use as much as you want, so long as you don’t mind being labelled an air pig!)

Similarly, Mr GPS has trained and specalised in adventure races and navigation. But, this was not a normal adventure race; the TriHards were on the advanced leg, and Mr GPS’s legs knew it. Sure, they don’t have eyes, but they knew full well that they had run and ridden too far for a standard adventure race. They knew that Mr GPS had broken his side of the contract; consequently they began to protest, and would not be assuaged by any amount of Gu!

Steak sandwich, with onion, barbecue sauce and egg. Would that be too much protein? Surely there’s no such thing as too much protein after a race! The Cyborg could almost taste it already, the flavours mixing in his mouth... There was a boiling hole in his stomach that could not be filled by gu and nut bars.

[13:35] The Long Road Home

By the time the TriHards had returned to the transition area to pick up their bikes and head out for the last leg of the course, all of their bodies were agreeing with Mr GPS’s legs. Enough! No more! There was a reason the team were keen to politely decline the advanced leg: they all prefer sitting around eating steak sandwiches than become one with lycra! Nevertheless, the determined TriHards once more mounted their steely steeds and headed for the last leg.

Last ride leg to the finish
Almost there!

P is for pain. That is what the TriHards felt on their weary way to the checkpoint, at a pond (yes, P is also for Pond, and that may make more sense, but you weren’t there, trust me, P is for Pain!) Fortunately, the TriHards could travel the course on fairly easy bike paths and roads, and it wasn’t long before the Cyborg was counting logs at the side of a pond.

Q is for Questionable, as in Erik’s taste. How can anybody not love someone on Valentine’s Day? That’s just mean. Nevertheless, it’s true, it must be, for it is graffitied on the side of a power box: Erik does not love Laura. The TriHards considered trying to find said Laura to let her know, but then, that may spoil her day.

R is for reluctance; as were the TriHards to ride up yet another hill to count the number of trees in a clearing. They did consider that perhaps it may be a trick question, that they could get away with putting a zero on the card; after all, how can it be a clearing if there are trees in it? Fortunately, they overcame their reluctance, pushed on and counted the trees.

Finally, S is for STOP! Enough! The TriHards would now like it to be known that it is no longer their goal to be asked to do the advanced leg. In fact, the TriHards never, ever want to hear the words “advanced” and “leg” in a sentence together again! Their bodies protested every metre of the way back; the only thing keeping the Cyborg going was the thought of a steak sandwich, with egg, onion and maybe a bit of cheese. Yes, cheese would add dairy; it’d be almost an entire meal!

With the last checkpoint nabbed, the team headed for home. They passed a team where one of the members was running. Her frame was bent, or the wheel was buckled, at any rate, she couldn’t ride her bike. She assured the TriHards that she was training for a marathon anyway, so this would just be bonus training. The TriHards reconsidered the amount of pain they were in, and happily headed for home.

The last stretch of the ride leg was downhill, so the TriHards managed to gather up a bit of momentum for a sprint finish; they were met by the Immoral Support Crew, who gladly went to the Sailability Sausage Sizzle stand to attempt to grab a steak sandwich while the team handed in their bibs and timing chips.

So it was that five hours and 33 minutes after starting the race, the bedraggled TriHards crossed the finish line. Nowhere near their best time, and just outside of the always targeted 5:30 - but only just. And considering they did an (never to be repeated) advanced leg, that’s not a bad result after all. It was the hardest race the TriHards have entered yet (as evidenced by their consumption of two Gus and one Roctane each - yes, that means it was hard, not that the TriHards are hooked on Guey goodness!) The event definitely pushed the limits of the team, particularly with the removal of the kayak leg; now there are no split results for the team to look at and say, “Well, at least we did better than most in the kayak leg!”

All in all, it was another excellent event organised by the AROC team.

Race Stats

Date: 14 February, 2009
Location: Lyneham to Belconnen, Canberra, ACT
TriHards: Bas (Mr GPS), Charles (Capt’n Charles), Chris (Cyborg)
Results First Run Single Track Rogaine Ride/Slide Rogaine Ride
Average: 0:27:17 1:14:38 1:01:32 0:39:25 0:35:10 0:51:30
TriHards: 0:32:18 1:23:03 1:10:38 0:47:53 0:39:20 0:59:52
Event website: AROC Sport site

Lessons Learnt

Go Early, Go Hard!

This is the second race where the TriHards have started off at a decent pace, only to find themselves queuing at checkpoints. It’s worth considering either running faster to get ahead of the pack, or trying to plot a less popular course (perhaps watch which direction everyone else runs in, and run the other way!) Though, that may not help on the single track, where there is no chance to overtake other teams, so perhaps the initial sprint could be the go (though, no doubt, that would leave the TriHards beside the single track, puffing and cheering other teams as they pass!)

Finish Early!

The Cyborg can attest, it’s must better to finish the race on time, or early (preferably early)! With many hungry racers returning before the TriHards, there were no steaks left at the Sailability tent. In fact, there wasn’t even bread left. Just a couple of lonely sausages on a plate to fill the growing hole in his stomach.