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TriHards Race in Brendan's Backyard!

TriHards Race in Brendan's Backyard!


In the early days of 2008, the boys of the TriHards team gathered for their regular Wednesday afternoon around Lake Burley Griffin and began the following conversation (meaning, of course, that they weren’t running fast enough!)

Father Brendan - You know guys, that adventure race in November was a lot of fun. I won’t be here for the February race, but I’ll come down for the Lake Macquarie race if you’re keen.

The Cyborg - Yeah, that was heaps of fun. Remember all that mud and slush on the ride leg, and paddling through the storm?

Mr GPS - Fun? The race in November, where we ran kilometres up drainage tunnels by mistake, in a storm? Where Brendan’s chain broke, and we wound up standing around in the rain for an hour after the race? Then drove to the coast?

Father Brendan - Yeah, that’s the one! That was great. So, are you keen for the Lake Macquarie Race in April?

The Cyborg - I’m always game, it should be fun!

Mr GPS - I’d love to join you, but as you know, I’ve been busy trying to make my own adventure racing team, and our first product is due around then. I might be able to make the February race, but don’t think skipping town is a good way to start the life of a young racer.

Father Brendan - You know, I grew up around there, I know that place like the back of my hand! We should do really well!

And so the fate of the TriHards was set, the team had agreed to race in the Lake Macquarie event in April. All that was left to do was plan the race, and tell our respective partners... Which is to say, nobody did much of anything until early April, resulting in most of our partner’s thinking it was just some sick April Fool’s joke.

Friday, 18 April

The team had been gathered, Hideaway Hayden had opted out of the race, but Brave Brendan had organised a ring-in, Mark “Navcom”, a friend from his misspent youth in Newcastle, adding to the overall hometown advantage of the team. Plans had been made, gear packed, and the Cyborg and the Administrator departed from Canberra ready and raring for the race!

The young couple picked Father Brendan up from the airport, only to discover that once more, the Cyborg has forgotten his bike helmet... Fortunately, on arrival at Brendan’s ancestral home, they found that Brendan’s father was also a keen rider, and accommodating enough to both lend Brendan his bike (little did he know what it was in for) and Chris his helmet! With equipment settled, the eager trio sat around the table to discuss the race. Fortunately for the team, the Super Administrator had come through again, and brought along printouts of all the race details, including the maps.

Upon looking at the maps, and consulting local street directories, the team discovered that they had no idea about the area, so set off for a reccy mission to check out the race start. After getting lost in a maze of streets at Murray’s Beach, a security guard found us, and told us all about the area, how much we could buy houses for, and wished us luck in the acrobat race.

Saturday, 19 April, Midnight

Unknown to anyone else, the three racers gathered under the moon and the rain to make a sacrifice to Huey, the infallible God of cloud and rain. Huey tends to follow Canberrans wherever they go to ensure the dim Canberra weather surrounds them to make them feel at home. There is only one way to appease Huey on a trip away, and that is to sacrifice a kangaroo. (A little known fact is that this is the real reason animal activists are protesting the culling of roos on defense land in Belconnen, such a culling would ensure fine weather for Canberra for many years to come).

Unfortunately for the team, kangaroos were not in the abundance in which they can be found in Canberra, so a stuffed toy was burnt while prayers were cried out to Huey for the rain to stop, at least for the duration of the team’s race.

Saturday, 19 April, Race Day (Morning)

There was still rain falling in the morning, as the mighty team gathered at Brendan’s ancestral home to fit bikes and equipment on the nice, clean X-Trail. Mark “Navcom” introduced himself to the team, and after all such pleasantries were exchanged, the team headed off to the bike drop, all were nervous, yet somehow excited, and quietly confident for their chances in the coming adventure. Once more, each member of the team had different goals: Father Brendan wanted to win the race, the Cyborg hoping to finish, Navcom hoping not to get us too lost, and the Administrator hoping to find some really cool local shops.

The team got lost on the way to the bike drop, but didn’t take this in any way as a bad omen for the race. After all, it was just a bike drop, and checkpoints have much better directions, and are easily identifiable by the 30cm x 30cm white box...

On time, and ready for adventure, the team checked into race headquarters at Murray’s Beach where (fortunately) they weren’t asked to buy a house and land package-and there was a coffee shop opened. The Cyborg took the chance to refuel on caffeine, and the team headed back to the car to go over the map and determine the best courses... The single map... The single, large scale, undetailed map...

With the map, control card and all other important documents laminated (thanks once more go to the Super Administrator), including a super-special secret fold in the map to make the race just that bit more exciting, the team was ready, and gathered at the start/finish line, where they were told the Novices were about to finish already! (While watching other teams struggle with the cross word). Looking about at the gathered ensemble of very fit looking people wearing copious amounts of lycra, they didn’t feel at all concerned about their chances, and didn’t feel out of place at all in their t-shirts and shorts. Fortunately for them, Brown-Nose Brendan had thought ahead and donned his AROC buff for headgear...

Race Leg 1: Crossword

The first leg of the race consisted of running around Murray’s Beach in search for checkpoints containing clues for the crossword. Thinking ahead, the team made the wise decision to gather the checkpoints and clues from the last to the first, which would result in final downhill runs to the last checkpoints, and get them away from the crowded masses. Unfortunately, half of the other teams had the same thought.

Collecting the clues was accomplished quickly and easily by the team (particularly given some checkpoints already had answers). Navcom was leading well to each checkpoint, and the TriHards were filling in the cross word in no time at all - it looked as though they were on par with the rest of the teams.

Race Leg 2: Bush Bashing

After getting through the “warm up” stage of the crossword, the team was eager to get onto the race proper, though somewhat confused at not receiving any orienteering maps (perhaps they’d all been used by those spoilt Classic Group 1 teams?) Nevertheless, with faith in Navcom, they pushed on into the bush.

And into the bush...

And deeper, deeper into the dark jungle.

Upon leaving the relative civilisation of the housing development, the bold team discovered that Brendan had forgotten to put anyone else in charge of mowing the lawn when he moved to Queensland. Consequently, Brendan’s backyard was very overgrown. The team had to contend with vines all too eager to catch their running legs (hence they slowed down-due to OH & S concerns rather than fatigue, confusion or being lost!)

Fortunately, the NavCom was up to the task and had them on the right track for checkpoint one in no time at all. “Watercourse” was the hint for checkpoint one, and the team followed every creek and gully in sight to no avail. Then, once they’d given up on following other teams and actually listened to the NavCom they found it without further ado.

“Checkpoint 2 is about 200 metres away at 150 degrees!” the NavCom commanded, and the team went, disregarding the scrub between the team and the checkpoint (note to self: add Machete to equipment list!)

Race Leg 3: A Paddle Across the Pond

Our intrepid adventurers emerged from the dark of the jungle to the side of the lake, much like Livingstone searching for the source of the Nile, however instead of emerging to find Lake Victoria, they found Lake Macquarie, and row upon row of yellow plastic bathtubs.

Fortunately for the crew, it had transpired that some of the serious group one classic contestants were not as fast on the kayak as expected, so there was a bottleneck in awaiting the arrival of all the craft. This brought everyone back into line, and put the team back into the pack. Eager to gain some ground, they swallowed the magic paddling potion of Gu, concocted from various substances with names only an industrial chemist would understand, but they certainly do the job. And the team was off and racing in the water.

And they paddled well, with Brendan’s superb counting up the front and firey Gu coursing through their veins, the TriHards were beginning to gain ground, paddling well into the middle of the pack.

The race course required a short detour to Checkpoint 5, on a small headland in the lake opposite the bike drop. The plan had been for Father Brendan to leap from the bathtub at this stage and sprint for the checkpoint, however upon seeing the craggy cliff face, young climbing Chris couldn’t help himself but to scramble up the mud and muck. Little did he know that the short 2 centimetres on the map actually represented approximately 300 metres, and his sea legs were unused to land!

Nevertheless, the stamp was obtained, and the team set off across the lake once more, the relief of bicycle seats in sight! All they had to do was battle a headwind, while water slopped over the sides and into the bathtub-fortunately they had the plug out, and thanks to our friend Venturi, the water did not swamp the tub!

Race Leg 4: StreetSmartz

Alas, the team were disappointed; the comfort of bikes was in sight, but those wily race organisers had other trials planned for them. The team had to race through some streets-and not even find checkpoints, but write answers to various vague clues. This is where contacting the checkpoint sheet came in really handy, as it meant they couldn’t write on it! Fortunately, the team was wise, and wrote on one of the few scraps of paper (you know, not detailed orienteering maps) provided to them instead.

With the NavCom at hand, the team made short work of this leg, eager to get to their bikes and on to their forte.

Race Leg 5: I Can Jump Puddles!

Glad to be off their feet and onto their bikes, the team quickly discovered that in Brendan’s absence, nobody had turned off the watering system, flooding various sections of his backyard! The ride leg started with a puddle approximately 20 metres long, which they took to with relish! There was so much fun to be had on the single track trails, that the team totally forgot about the infamous checkpoint 12 and enjoyed their rides for a while!

But all good things comes to an end, and the TriHards had to get serious. So, following the NavCom, the team set off in search of the infamous Checkpoint 12. On finding a large inland lake, and hearing other teams saying there was no way through, Water Rat Cyborg went to check for himself, forgetting he was in fact on his trusty bike, and not paddling his trusty kayak. As the water rose higher and higher, the Cyborg pedalled on, until the water reached the bike’s crossbar, and the wheels sank into the stucky mud. Then they made their traditional mistake of listening to other teams when they say that is not the way, and moved on out of the lake.

The NavCom came to his senses first, and turned the team around. After pedalling the lake, and navigating through more sloppy track, they were rewarded with checkpoint 12, then rapidly on to the following checkpoints, together with a new tailing party of girly-riders.

The brakes began to fail on the NavCom’s bike, as all creaked and groaned on mud-coated bikes around the track. The Cyborg and Father Brendan put aside the sneaking suspicion that NavCom was just slowing down for the girls, and did some emergency tightening of his brake cables, which seemed to fix the problem.

With all the checkpoints gathered, all that was left for the team was to scale a mountain on their bikes, and embark on a run leg in the bush-maybe even with an orienteering map!

Race Leg 6: Piece of Cake!

With the climb to the top of the mountain done, the team was eager to commence the next run leg. Their legs were tired from the climb, but they were looking forward to navigating with real orienteering maps. However, on arrival the TriHards were informed that we were too late, and the run leg was closed. So they got a rest, but would not achieve the Cyborg’ primary goal of finishing the race (nor, with the handicap of missing all those checkpoints, Father Brendan’s goal of winning). It was at this stage that they were also informed that one competitor had already been airlifted off the hill after coming off his bike going down.

It was now three o’clock, the time they had planned to be running through the finishing arch...

Race Leg 7: The Long Road Home

So, without a rest from their bikes, the team set off once more, down the hill. And it was a great downhill run, on a long, wide road, with a number of jumps to break up the path (no doubt that’s what led to the other competitor’s downfall). The boys did not find the sight of another competitor coming up the hill, trailing blood behind at all disconcerting, and raced on ahead (though, NavCom was most likely very grateful for his brake adjustment!)

The TriHards raced through the mountain tracks, eager to make up some ground, and get the race finished. The Cyborg took every opportunity possible to take his bike through puddles in a desperate bid to clean all the mud off himself and the bike and come out looking presentable at the finishing line.

The TriHards reached a junction, populated by many teams of the race. It seemed there was a council being held. Many of the teams were younger, and the race statesmen heard cries of “I’m hungry,” “I’m tired,” and “I’m bored.” The gallant men of the TriHards all looked at each other for confirmation, and said, “It’s getting dark. We should start to seriously think about heading back.” And so they set off for finishing line, disregarding all intervening checkpoints.

And this is where the secret map fold came in truly handy and let the team know it was there! NavCom stretched and stared at the map, but could not decipher the paths hidden in the map’s secret section. The real route of the team to return home will never be officially revealed.

Suffice to say, dear reader, than while the TriHard’s faithful immoral support crew waited on the entry side of the finishing line, in true Brendan style, they snuck in the backdoor. At the same time Huey, good to his word, released the rain he had held back all day, and drenched the TriHards as they prepared to leave.


Well, the race was run, if not completed, and the mighty men of the TriHards, known for being as hard as rusty nails went their separate ways once more, with bold promises and intentions of making the Lake Macquarie an annual event for the team-though, next year deciding they would opt to run in group one to further their chances at completing the race before cutoff.

Race Stats

Date: 19 April, 2008
Location: Lake Macquarie, NSW
TriHards: (Father) Brendan, NavCom (Mark), Chris (Cyborg)
Results Crossword Bush Bashing Paddling Streetz Single Track Rogaine Ride
TriHards: 0:38:30 0:52:32 0:46:35 0:31:14 1:33:17 DNS DNF
Event website: AROC Sport site