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24 Hours of Paddling!

12 December 2011

12 December 2011

24 Hours of Paddling!

Now, mountain biking is a lot of fun, orienteering is a sport as mentally demanding as it is physically, and adventure racing - well, that’s a great mix of multiple sports! But everyone knows the real reason the TriHards show up to adventure races is for the paddle leg. Sure, the other bits are fun, but nowhere near as good as paddling. You can tell by the amount of time the TriHards put into training in these other disciplines, to try to get their skills on par with their paddling performance.

A shiver ran through the TriHards at Global HQ when whispers arrived of a forthcoming paddling event. That shiver grew to unhinged excitement as more details emerged: not only was it a paddling event; it was in Canberra! And, as if that wasn’t exciting enough, it was a 24 hour event! That’s right, 24 hours of paddling on Lake Burley Griffin...

Border collie in a camp chair.

When the word went out that a team was being put together for this event, TriHards from near and far were beating down the door to be a part of it. Well, at least those who didn’t have prior engagements with weighty tasks of the world, such as washing their hair. In the end, this left just three and a half TriHards to take to the field, or the water: Mr GPS, the Immoral Support Crew, the Cyborg and the Leading Lassy. Another bonus feature of this event was that it was a dog-friendly, so Max joined the team to take the vital role of support crew while the Immoral Support Crew competed.

With the team chosen and the event locked in, the TriHards just had to sit back and wait for November 19. Other teams may well have spent some time preparing, say, out on the water paddling. But the TriHards are busy people and have far too much on their plate to spend time training, with the inevitable responsibilities of work, family and Anaconda opening a new store in Fyshwick.

Cyborg preparing the TriHards fleet.

So it was that absolutely nothing happened in the TriHards camp until the Friday evening before the race, when TriHards HQ was abuzz with bodies gathering together their most comfortable camping chairs, gas stove and percolator. A borrowed marquee filled out the camping equipment, and they were ready! Well, apart from stopping by the boat shed in the morning to raid the TriHard Tupperware cupboard.

They arrived at Molonglo Reach, the event HQ with plenty of time to spare, and promptly set up camp. Saturday was forecast to be a bit of a scorcher, so some shade and, of course, comfy chairs, to rest in between laps was essential. Mr GPS arrived soon after to set up his own camp, before heading back to pick up the rest of the Bamily, while the remaining TriHards went down to listen to the race briefing.

There was an interesting assortment of characters - and watercraft - around the timing tent. The Cyborg had never seen such a large selection of fibreglass toothpicks! There were skis, racing skis, paddle boards, very flash looking fibreglass kayaks, and the TriHards Tupperware fleet. Little did the other competitors know that the TriHards had a not-so-secret advantage. All of their kayaks were red, which meant they were bound to go faster! The TriHards adorned their kayaks with number plate holders, and the TriHards pirate flat, then retired to the campsite to prepare for the main event.

Cyborg carrying his kayak to the start

Ten o’clock rolled around quickly, and everyone was on the water ready to go. Everyone except for the Cyborg, who was fortunately carrying a large, red kayak, which certainly helped to part the crowds as he made his way down to the bank. In moments the field was off, and the Cyborg was entering the water to head back to the start line; and then start. And then catch up to the field. Fortunately he overtook a few stand-up paddlers, so wouldn’t be shot.

The course meandered down the lake, almost reaching Clare Holland House, which is a palliative care hospice. It was so nice of the people of the Burley Griffin Canoe Club to create a course where competitors could really retire from the race if they so desired! The course then turned and wound back down this thin section of the lake, ducking and weaving past swans, ducks and other water birds, until they arrived almost at the Monaro Highway, where they would turn again to head back towards the hq. Designing the course in such a manner (with only two turns) no doubt assisted the toothpick paddlers!

Now, a lot of teams would transition on the water. The next paddler would be in their boat on the start line, ready to go once the first paddler arrived. But this is not the way of the TriHards. Efficient on the water transitions may give rise to people thinking the TriHards were serious about the race; that they were competitive, whereas the team were merely out for a leisurely lake cruise on a sunny Saturday afternoon. So it was that when the Cyborg returned, he gathered the Immoral Support Crew from the dry ground of their camp, and helped her off in the Platypus, a red river kayak.

And this is when the 24 hour effect kicked in. You see a 24 hour event is in fact an experience in quantum relativity. There are so many people setting forth on doing so many kilometres, at such varying speeds, that the normal measure of time loses all meaning. There is little point in attempting to talk to competitors during these events in terms such as hours and minutes; for these become meaningless words. In a 24 hour event all time is measured in laps. An 24er doesn’t have lunch at 12, they have lunch after the next lap. They don’t go to sleep at midnight, they sleep for maybe three laps after they’ve done six.

The Immoral Support Crew out for a lap.

On her return, the Immoral Support Crew surrendered her kayak, and her daughter to the river and the care of the Cyborg, who paddled along with the Leading Lassy on her lap. Now, before you go calling child services on us - this was not cruelty, and the Lassy was not forced into hard lake labour; she volunteered for the mission. She is an experienced paddler, having paddled the great white Triyak, Moby, for 12km on the Shoalhaven River. This, however, would be her first solo paddle.

Pair o paddlers

Into the heat and the growing winds she paddled, with a kayak that liked to drift to the starboard. She wasn’t deterred by the encouraging words coming from white blurs as they sped past; and she pushed on despite the growing hot spots on her thumb, completing a lap and returning to the HQ in no time at all.

Mr GPS doing a lap.

Lap three for the TriHards was taken by Mr GPS, also paddling the Platypus. Well, after he capsized it in a foot of water at the start. While he made it all seem very accidental, the TriHards secretly suspected he just wanted an escape from the heat prior to paddling. And then he was gone, leaving the remaining TriHards to lunch for a lap.

The Cyborg followed Mr GPS, who followed the Cyborg, then it happened.

Well, it nearly happened.

TriHards transitioning on the water

The Immoral Support Crew decided she’d have a go of the Chilli, the TriHards’ flash sea kayak. Slightly sleeker and faster than the Platypus, though a little more challenging to manage. She actually wound up in the water and at the start line prior to Mr GPS’s return for the TriHards’ first on the water transition! However, she arrived at the bank shortly after Mr GPS, not quite happy with the Chilli, and set out once more in the Platypus. Though, it still counts as an on the water transition! And it turned out that changing kayaks was a stroke of genius on her part, for a few dozen strokes later, the support boat came flying up the river, putting a few paddlers in the river in it’s wake. The Immoral Support Crew, in the much more stable Platypus, was able to paddle on by (after, of course, offering to lend a hand to the poor souls who now had to climb atop a toothpick in the water.)

The Cyborg followed on from the Immoral Support Crew, towing a tupperware ski in his wake for almost the entire lap. Perhaps the second kayak was attracted to the first though friction on the plastic hulls causing static electricity and attracting the kayaks together. Or, of course, the paddler could’ve been taking advantage of the Cyborg’s wake. Noting this strategy, and how fresh the trailing paddler seemed at the end, the Cyborg considered adopting this strategy for the remainder of his laps. But that would mean sitting in the wake of super-light, super-fast fibreglass skis, which would just come across too much like kayak envy, so the idea was soon abandoned.

Mr GPS took his pre-dinner lap before heading home for a few laps to ensure his children still recognised him. Around that time the Immoral Support Crew elected to take the Lassy off site as well to hide her from the frivolities which were sure to ensue during the evening. Not to let too much time pass without a TriHard doing laps (if a 24 hour event is on, and there’s nobody doing a lap, does anybody really exist?) the Cyborg went back to the river.

This lap was followed by coffee, and some dinner cooked on the barbecue by the people from the Burley Griffin Canoe Club; hamburgers and sausage sandwiches were thoroughly enjoyed by the TriHards before the Cyborg elected to start the evening laps with a bit of novelty.

As the sun began to sink, and daylight turned to twilight, the Cyborg disguised himself by donning a Cordelta jersey for his next lap, hoping it would confuse some of those speedy Cordelta paddlers just long enough for him to slip by; and indeed it worked as he overtook a Cordelta paddler on that lap!

Cyborg paddling in a Cordelta jersey

Then the kayaks were set up for the night laps. No strong lights, such as headlamps, were permitted on the water as the course is two-way, and such lights may blind other competitors. So most kayaks were adorned with front (green) and rear (red) glow sticks. Most, of course, except those who had strung Christmas lights across their kayaks! The Canberra Bikes and Kayaks team ensured their boat looked like a floating Christmas tree - we never did find out if anyone left any presents in the cockpit!

Mr GPS was the first TriHard to head out for a night lap, navigating down the still, dark waters as the atmosphere cooled to find that the course had changed from a hot, boiling surface of water to a cool, fairy wonderland. The sun’s rays and heat were no longer reflected up into the paddler’s eyes, and the water became still and cool, broken only by the sound of paddles gently dipping in for another stroke. And all about the night was filled with the gentle glow of glow-sticks; some moving with kayaks, others secured to buoys, trees, and other obstacles in the water. On his return the rejuvenated Mr GPS reported that the night lap was a fantastic experience, so the Immoral Support Crew dashed out to find out for herself. The Cyborg followed her, and upon his return all three were in agreement - night paddling was great fun, so Mr GPS, then the Cyborg both headed out for more!

Following the Cyborg’s final lap, the tired TriHards elected to pack it in for the evening; Mr GPS foregoing the comfort of his tent for the much harsher conditions at home, while the Cyborg and Immoral Support Crew remained on site, comfortably sleeping in the adventure tent, and early in the morning, that sleep was ably assisted by the gentle pattering of rain on the fly. The Cyborg emerged from the tent in the cool, grey morning to start another lap amidst the drizzle - cooler conditions in stark contrast to the heat of the day before. The Immoral Support Crew headed home during his lap, to save Max from hanging around in the rain, and pick up the Leading Lassy.

On just about every lap the Cyborg had done he had seen Rampaging Rick, who had switched from bikes and adventure racing to kayaking; however the endurance aspect of the event was obviously taking it’s toll, for on this lap the Cyborg saw Rick pedalling. It seemed natural that if he was going to be up this long for an endurance event there’d have to be pedalling involved. He and a mate were in a double Hobie, a sit-on-top pedal kayak used by a lot of anglers. It looked to be fairly interesting...

Paddling in the rain.

Returning from his lap, the Cyborg picked up a tasty - and much needed - egg and bacon from from the BGCC barbie, before heading back to camp to brew a coffee and start packing up. Mr GPS joined him, though couldn’t stay due to Bamilial duties, so they relaxed and packed for a while. Then the Immoral Support Crew returned without the Lassy - as it turns out, shopping seemed a whole lot more interesting than more laps! So the Cyborg headed out on his own once more to increment the TriHards’ lap count.

And once more he saw Rampaging Rick on the water. Though, this time he seemed to have completely lost his senses - or perhaps he’d become very accustomed to the Hobie in a single lap, for on this lap he could be seen on a ski with no paddle at all. He was doing a full lap using his bare hands to propel him forward, As he passed, Rick assured the Cyborg that it did seem to be a good idea at the time.

With the last lap done, the TriHards quietly packed up and returned home, happy with their efforts in the challenge. Sure, they may not have done as many laps as the cool people on their fibreglass toothpicks and propeller-blade paddles, but they did have a lot of fun. We would like to thank the Burley Griffin Canoe Club for putting together such a fantastic event, Cordelta and WetSpot Water Sports for sponsoring the event. It’s a great, social event which only seems to be getting bigger and bigger - well worth checking out!


The TriHards have some pics on their Facebook page.

Race Stats

Date: 19-20 November 2011
Location: Canberra
Rating: (1) Walk in the Park - how could we get dirty in the lake?
Event website: BGCC 24 Hour Challenge site