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Bas’s Backyard Blitz!

30 November 2008

30 November 2008

Bas’s Backyard Blitz!

The mighty TriHards put on an excellent performance in Bas’s Backyard to achieve their best result to date in an AROC adventure race, finishing the race over an hour before the cut off, achieving a number of firsts along the way!

“You will get wet” - these words greeted us in the email from the AROC team about the race. These words don’t mean much from other people; from a weather man they may well mean “Bring your umbrella to work tomorrow,” from a kayak guide it would mean “You’re probably going to stuff up and roll into the water,” but from the AROC team, these words mean something different. The AROC team don’t say that when entrants race though puddles that reach their seats, they don’t say that when you’re paddling in pouring rain on Lake Burley Griffin.

The TriHards
The TriHards, relaxed, happy and ready to go!

No, when the AROC team say “You will get wet” it is a dire warning. It means entrants have to swim. And, given the event headquarters in close proximity to Lake Burley Griffin, that means teams would have to swim in the Burley... Preparation was in order. Gear had to be waterproofed, extra vitamin-c consumed, and antibiotics ordered to fight the perils of the lake (there is reason the locals shorten the name to “Burley”).

But the TriHards took heart when the bike drop was revealed - in Bas’s backyard! Majura Pines, home of the TriHards’ single track training sessions. Their familiarity of the area, and the potential paths from there to Lake Burley (along the lines of Mr GPS’s weekday commute to work) would definitely work out to be a great advantage to the team (along with all of the other Canberrans in the race.....)

Race Day

A forest of bikes.
There were many, many nice bikes on display!

Canberran skies had finally cleared after a week of storms and rain, to reveal Mount Majura that morning a sight to behold. The pine forest was shining as the early morning light reflected off the hundreds of bikes casually leaning against trees, eagerly awaiting adventures with their riders. The TriHards appreciated the view for a moment, jealously eyeing the many excellent bikes on display, before leaning their trademark budget bikes next to a black tree and heading for Burley for registration, and the showbag!

The maps provided much comfort for the boys; the race truly was in Bas’s backyard; it would start with a rogaine around the familiar territory of Mount Majura (some of it actually followed trails the team had ridden during their training sessions), followed by some single track riding before heading back over the hill to and back towards the lake via Mount Pleasant. This was all familiar turf for Mr GPS, who was so confident of the terrain; he never bothered to take his compass out.

Mr Tom greeted all the participants at the start of the race, an went over a race briefing with everyone, including introducing all and sundry to Steve Cooper, the creator of SleepMonsters, and providing information as to changes in rules. The 10-metre rule at checkpoints no longer held; all team members would have to visit a checkpoint. This would go against the tradition of Mr GPS sending a runner while he calculated the next route.

[9:10 TA1] Running to Stand Still

Tom started the race at approximately 9:10, and the teams headed off at a brisk pace! The TriHards, excited and eager to get the race under such advantageous conditions, set off at a run to their first checkpoint, 2 (5 points ), only to end up joining the end of a long queue and waiting to punch their card. And waiting. And waiting. But it was finally checked, and with all of the other teams having run off whilst they waited, the field was much clearer for running.

Fortunately for all involved, it was a very mild day in Canberra; the wet and stormy weather had passed (a far cry from the November 07 race), nor had the sun returned fully, leaving the temperatures to rise to the low 20s; excellent conditions for a race. The shade of the forest also helped keep the blazing sun at bay.

There was a nice view from a not-so-high rise.
One of the great things about adventure racing, and rogaines for that matter, is that you get to go places you probably normally wouldn’t. There was a bit of pain involved in climbing that little hill, but it did provide an excellent view.

The TriHards route had been carefully planned, as usual, on the bonnet of the adventure truck; and they were confident of their route. Knowing the territory and their ability to run up hills, the boys elected to skip checkpoints 15, 16, 17 on top of a hill, and pick up the points at checkpoint further south instead - while still leaving checkpoint 7 (furthest south) as an available option to duck down to make up any points they may have missed on the way. This proved to be very effective for the TriHards, who felt sorry for the teams they saw trying to jog up the mountain.

And so the checkpoints fell rapidly before the Trihards, after 2 came 4,3, 13 a quick stroll up to 18 to warm us up, then south along to 19, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, and then north to 6, 5, 1 (Mr GPS here - please take a moment to appreciate what a good course this series of numbers is, I might have to talk to Borg about getting a map image put up as that would probably assist - but for now, just enjoy them in their purest form). All without much of a hitch, save for Mr GPS getting caught up in many spiderwebs on the way; by the end he was looking a bit like Indiana Jones (no, the classic version, from the start of Temple of Doom), and the Capt’n and Cyborg were grateful for him clearing their path.

And so it was, that after 48 relatively uneventful minutes, the TriHards were already back at the first TA, exactly 130 points in hand, and ready to head out onto the single track!

[10:00 TA2] Tie a pink ribbon around the old pine tree...

The single track was not marked on the map, but the TriHards were not deterred; they had covered many of the tracks at Mount Majura over recent months; mostly going the wrong way. So they were accustomed to the climbs that could be found throughout the course. And it was an excellent course, the only complaint being that it was marked by pink ribbons. Sure, they’re clearly visible from a distance in the forest, but they’re pink!

This is where the new TriHards polite tradition sprang up; the insistence of Mr GPS to say "Good morning" to every team which passed, or the TriHards passed (on the odd occasion that they passed teams!) Perhaps after seeing all that pink, he forgot the first golden rule of manhood "Nice guys finish last," or perhaps he was angling for the prize for politest team.

The course did indeed cover a lot of familiar TriHards territory; so it was very pleasant going with only a slight accident from the Capt’n as his front wheel dug into a root, and back wheel flicked up. Fortunately, the Cyborg has a bad habit of tailgating, which meant the Capt’n’s back wheel hit his handlebars instead, and didn’t go all the way over. This would prove to be the only accident of the TriHards on the trip - a new record for riding at the potentially bone crunching Majura!

The single-track section ended with checkpoint 23, where a map was provided which told the team exactly where they were; but the TriHards need not have stopped. This was Mr GPS’s backyard; he already knew the way, so the bold boys rode off once more, over the hill and down what is normally their home stretch on their way to TA3. This route is Mr GPS’s commute to work, so while the TriHards watched other teams move all the way out to the road, they ducked up another path, and happily rode on a very nice track to the transition.

[10:40 TA3] Sh*t Creek

At TA3 the team swapped their bikes for another topo map for the next rogaine leg. This involved visiting nine out of 11 checkpoints; Mr GPS and the Capt’n plotted an excellent course, while the team sucked down some Gu to fuel their rogaine. Heading off into the hills of Mount Pleasant, once more, Mr GPS’s navigation proved to be a boon to the TriHards, with checkpoints (every one of which seemed to have the clue "creek") falling in short order.

Checkpoint 25 proved to be far too much fun for the Cyborg, who got to jump down into a "creek" deeper than he was high, before checking the card and crawling back out again, unfortunately in his excitement, he punched the wrong box, which proved to be the only bit of confusion for the whole section.

Checkpoint 26 was protected by a vicious barbed-wire snake lurking in the grass, which managed to spin around the Cyborg’s legs and bite him in several places, though the bites were not serious and nowhere near enough to stop the ’borg. The team headed on up the never-ending mountain for checkpoint 31. The good news being, of course, that from there it was all downhill! So off they dashed, through clearings (with lawns much shorter than in Mr GPS’s actual backyard) where dogs could be patted on the way to checkpoints, and finally along a row of houses and back to the TA.

[11:30 TA4] Bicycle Race

The next leg was a straight ride leg, visiting a few checkpoints along the way which included codes and actual reading of something other than a map, which could indeed prove to be a trial for the TriHards. Reportedly, many teams had difficulties with checkpoint 35, (I know, because I spoke to two people from two entirely different teams, and in journalistic terms that is many sources!) The TriHards, under the leadership of Mr GPS, however, had no problem finding that, or any other checkpoint along this stretch. Though, the team had to remind Mr GPS as he started out to Brindabella Park that he wasn’t going to work today, and they quickly turned back down to Fairburn Avenue for the coded checkpoints. Even the difficulty of encountering grass once more (which left Capt’n Charles in cold shivers for a few moments) didn’t deter the men, as they gathered their codes and headed for Anzac Parade.

The AROC people had cleverly set five checkpoints along Anzac Parade, one for each memorial on the east side. Teams had to write, in two words, what each memorial was for. This proved to be quite a test of the team’s cognitive abilities a little over halfway through a race.

From Anzac Parade, the team raced back down to lake’s edge, and shot back to HQ, picking up two other checkpoints along the way, and noting how far ahead of time they were with only one leg remaining.

[12:20 TA5] Blokes on the water

To achieve their goal of completing the race in 4:45 (shaving 20 minutes off their Sydney time) the TriHards had to complete the last leg by 1:55; and reaching the transition at 12:20 certainly lifted their spirits. Though, they knew full well the trials which lay ahead....

Classic course competitors for the last stage were broken into two groups, the top half of the field, and the bottom half. The top half would, upon arrival at TA5 grab a kayak, and paddle up towards Molonglo Reach, then leave their bathtubs to swim across the river and gather the checkpoints at Dairy Flat, before swimming back across the river and running back to the HQ. The second half of the field would do the reverse. The TriHards, already assuming they would be in the bottom half of the pack had already identified a good put in point.

Eager to be back underway, and noticing that some teams had already finished (must be the lycra), the TriHards donned their PFDs (Personal Flotation Device, not to be confused with Portable Document Format, the popular Adobe document specification.... not that I’m a pedantic geek....) and took on more of the Glorious Gu. While they’d normally use it for paddle fuel, swimming involved water too; and it would be beneficial for the swim.

The TriHards ran around the corner from the HQ and onto their planned put in location, which turned out to be everybody’s put in location; and walked in, screeching in ever so manly a fashion as the cold water hit those parts that it really shouldn’t. Swimming in racing gear is a really interesting experience, particularly with the PFDs on. Many were trying various techniques to swim with the least possible effort, freestyle, breast stroke, back stroke and all sorts of variations. Generally speaking, the TriHards just flailed. But that was fine; they got across.

Mr GPS and the Capt’n emerging from the water.
No, these are not creatures rising from the black swamp, it be Mr GPS (mapcase) and the Capt’n (front right).

Now, as the name suggests, Dairy Flat is cow territory, and there were many landmines left in the long grass (and, it should be pointed out here, this grass - which has the benefit of natural grass cutters in the form or large, grazing mammals - was longer than the grass which could be found at Mr GPS’s house). But this was not a challenge for the nimble TriHards, who managed to grab checkpoints 49, then 48 in short order, even being able to gather enough energy to jog in between (at some stages).

Then it was a return to the water, where a bull was keeping an ever-vigilant eye on all the funny yellow creatures which were milling about. At this stage, it would be fair to say that should the bull become annoyed and decide a TriHard belonged on it’s horns, the boys probably would not have run away; and may have even enjoyed a break being pushed around by the bull. But there was no such luck, and they had to swim back across the river at a section which was wider than the initial swim, which at least gave the TriHards the opportunity to feel the gathering head wind before jumping in the bathtubs....

As it turned out, there was also a kayaking 24 hour race on the day, so teams had to be careful to avoid kayakers who, in their razor-thin K1s would no doubt either cleave swimmer’s skull in two, or cut straight through even the sturdiest of bathtubs. As the TriHards headed into the water, a green mirage was setting off; which the team actually managed to keep up with until they started to consider a short cut through a non-existent channel.

Paddling would be the TriHards’ stronger discipline; resuming their normal, steady stroke, the team managed to make great progress towards the finish. Headwinds did not deter them; they pushed on. Swimmers did not deter them, rather they gave them something to aim for. The TriHards were on track for their earliest classic finish ever (out of the two classic races they’d actually completed) and nothing was going to diminish their drive now!

So, it was on to shore, pack the kayak and paddles, then run around to the finish line where the team paused momentarily for a photo, and completed the race in 3:53:51 - 50 minutes earlier than their stated goal! And, just when it seemed that things couldn’t get any better, when the Cyborg ordered coffees for the team, the excellent coffee stand had the right sort of milk for every TriHard!

Triumphant TriHards at the finish line.
The TriHards triumphant at the finish line. No, we didn’t all put on weight during the race, we’re still wearing our PFDs

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

Race Stats

Date: 29 November, 2008
Location: Mt Majura to Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra, ACT
TriHards: Bas (Mr GPS), Charles (Capt’n Charles), Chris (Cyborg)
Results First Rogaine Single Track 2nd Rogaine Ride Paddle/Swim
Average: 0:45:05 0:38:24 0:47:08 0:48:21 0:47:55
TriHards: 0:48:26 0:39:57 0:48:16 0:49:39 0:47:33
Placement: 50/90 Overall, 24/35 male
Event website: AROC Sport site

Achievements of the Day (in no particular order)

  1. Managed to get a soy flat white at the end of the race.
  2. Finished an AROC Classic.
  3. Finished an AROC Classic in just under four hours!
  4. Managed to ride through Majura Pines without any serious incident or injury!
  5. Managed to stay ahead of Doc’s team!
  6. Managed to get a soy flat white at the end of the race (yes, that one is there twice - it’s more of an achievement than you know!)