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No Rain, No Pain

13 May 2012

13 May 2012

No Rain, No Pain

In the wake of ANZAC Day, a day celebrated as the “forging” of Australia, it seemed entirely appropriate to focus as well on our real origins - the story that gets lost in the ANZAC legend. Australia wasn’t forged in the crucible of war; it was the dumping ground for Britain’s lower classes. Our first roads, buildings and trails were not hewn by the steady hand of mates in khaki, but hacked from hard labour under the whip.

So, when you think about it, the Capital Punishment is really a celebration of Australia’s European founding, whereby riders face transportation; an arduous journey from their comfortable homes and cars to the sunny paradise of Stromlo Forest Park.

They say “Three’s a charm”, and that was certainly the case for the third running of the Capital Punishment. After being postponed due to the incredible amount of dumping (rain that is, not the one by Guy Pearce) on the ACT earlier in the year - after all, we can’t all ride Surlys!- the Capital Punishment broke with tradition and was raced on an absolutely beautiful Canberran day: nice and cool, with clear skies (once the fog lifted) and nary a breath of wind to slow down the eager riders.

Three TriHards stepped up for the Capital Punishment; both Junior and the Cyborg had entered all so far and weren’t about to spoil their unblemished record, while Groucho, who didn’t enter the 50km in 2011 entered the 100 in 2012 to make up for his missing mileage (Junior did the 100 because, as we all know, he wouldn’t even get out of bed for 50km and the Cyborg did the 50 because, as we all know, he’d much rather back in bed than riding).

And to continue the theme of threes, the Cyborg foolishly set himself three goals for the Capital Punishment: (1) To finish in under 3:33 (real time - not the official time which takes out the untimed section); (2) To clean Hackett Hill; and (3) To finish without falling off. Which just goes to show how far the Cyborg has come from his original goal of “Finish”. He had even moved himself up from his traditional start group in the friendly part of the field to the people who expected to finish in the 50-60% of the pack... which would move him into the average range

The Cyborg was confident in his abilities for this race. After all, he had been training. And he had a plan. A well-thought out, detailed plan of attack based on his experience of the past two events, training over the recent weeks and wide ranging reading. And the plan was simple:

  1. Warm up before heading to the start line.
  2. Stay warm at the start.
  3. Take it easy out of the start.
  4. Go a bit harder through Majura.
  5. Relax in the untimed section; slow the pace down to a cruise, take on food and drink, but don’t stop.
  6. Relax in Black Mountain, then put on some pace through the arboretum.
  7. Pace up, race down Stromlo
  8. Warm down and stretch after finishing.

A simple, commonsense plan. The Cyborg was familiar with the course, familiar with the territory, and more familiar with himself (so, in theory, able to pace himself). What could possibly go wrong?

1. Warm Up

Does having the heater on in the car count? The Cyborg turned up with a bit of time to spare, which was spent (a) perving on bikes and (b) waiting in the dunny line and (c) posing for photos for the Immoral Support Crew (and talking about his plan).

2. Stay Warm at the Start

It was cold, but it wasn’t freezing, and the Cyborg did the Canberra Winter Dance which is kind of like Riverdance, but much slower and less graceful.

Cyborg in the start pack..

3. Take it easy from the start.

He actually achieved this one; the confident Cyborg had moved to the front of the start group before heading out, so remained at the front of the pack (without getting too excited) as he head out; while he did overtake a few riders, it was at a slow, casual pace, and he wasn’t getting too carried away.

Until, of course, he reached Hackett Hill. Goal number (2). This hill had crushed him in the first and second races. But this time he was ready. This time he’d been training!

He began his push up the hill, only to find himself riding next to what looked to be a commuter out for a Saturday morning ride. Amidst all the carbon and lycra was a sturdy, steel-framed bike, complete with a milk crate on a rack over the back (chock-a-block with gear), ridden by a guy in t-shirt and shorts - no sign of lycra anywhere. And to add insult to injury, the breathless Cyborg, panting as his legs worked to carry him up the hill, watched on as the commuter took a phone call and had a conversation whilst riding one-handed up Hackett Hill. Naturally, this meant that the Cyborg had to put on a burst of pace (making him slightly faster than a snail, but slower than the ants overtaking him).

And pace he did, past the commuter, then past walkers. Not powering along, but making it, climbing. He was going to achieve Goal 2 for the day! But then fate - or perhaps AROC agents, knowing the Cyborg would return should he fail to achieve his goals - dealt the Cyborg a cruel blow in the form of two walkers, side-by-side, with a slight gap between them. The Cyborg managed to ride through the little gap, but had to slow so much he lost momentum, and wound up walking the last few metres. Purely because of the blockage, of course, and nothing to do with his racing heart!

4. Go a bit harder through Majura

Amazingly, the Cyborg’s legs (and senses) were still fairly fresh as he rolled into the fast, flowy trails of Majura. Some queues formed on the first, rather rough track (put there no doubt to sort the slower riders out!) Fortunately many of the slower riders (which would have been the Cyborg last year) let the faster riders through, and the Cyborg had almost a clear run all the way through Majura - not blindingly fast, but there was no dismounting!

Another marked sign of improvement was the short work the Cyborg made of climbing out of Majura and down to the McKenzie St gate and the start of the untimed section.

5. Relax in the untimed section; slow the pace down to a cruise, take on food and drink, but don’t stop.

The untimed section meant it was time for the Cyborg to relax, catch his breath, take on some food and prepare himself for the remainder of the journey. So, naturally, he put the bike into the big gears and thrashed it, seeing how fast he could go, and how long he could keep it up (he didn’t really feel like eating at the time). In no time at all, he found himself at Black Mountain, though fortunately not too worn out.

6. Relax in Black Mountain, then put on some pace through the arboretum.

The Cyborg knew the fire trails at Black Mountain well, from previous Capital Punishments, and various other events. There would be some biggish climbs, on loose gravel, and steep drops. So the Cyborg took it easy on the first climb, which led to a turn and a fast downhill run ... which ended in a sharp turn and another uphill climb! What torture! To climb, come down fast, then brake hard so as to make the turn, only to climb another pinch! AROC do like to keep riders on their toes! And for about the third time in his life, the Cyborg began to feel the onset of cramps!

So a new plan was devised - he’d stop at the arboretum drink station to take on a gel and have a bit of a stretch. Sure, he would have been much better served doing that in the untimed section, but in reality he was racing his own time, so that didn’t really matter. A little more pushing, and he was there - tempted by snakes and hot cross buns, but settling for the gel in his pocket (and a couple of cups of Endura at the station). Then it was back to the trails towards Stromlo.

Stromlo, which started to loom like a dark shadow over the event; standing out over the riders menacingly. The challenge still to meet. Riding parallel to the Cotter Road, the Cyborg found himself in a very odd situation - alone. No pack, and no riders near by; it was just the Cyborg and the various voices in his head asking him why he was doing this to himself.

7. Pace up, Race Down Stromlo

Then it was into Stromlo Forest Park, where the Cyborg continued in his solitude. His legs started to fade as he rode into Fenceline, which would have worried him save that for some reason, even when it’s the first track he rides, his legs fade on Fenceline. Perhaps it’s lined with kryptonite, or whatever is kryptonite for the Cyborg! And while he was sorely tempted to have a go in the Playground, he pushed on into Cockatoo Switchbacks to start climbing Stromlo.

And surprisingly, the climb wasn’t too bad. Fortunately, he wound up catching up to other riders, and tailing one with a good pace (fortunately, because otherwise he would have set his own pace, and lasted five minutes!) But that ended as they approached City View, where (according to the plan) it was time to go harder. And go he did! Glancing at his watch, the Cyborg saw he was awfully close to the 3:00 mark! He let the bike go, and she ran around Western Wedgetail, then across Skyline, then into the Luge.

Towards the end of the Luge there is a rocky patch, with a b-line to the right, which the Cyborg always misses. Normally, it’s not so bad (apart from being rocky), but on this occasion, the Cyborg actually spotted the b-line, before missing it. Which is bad, because that’s when he looks down that path instead of where he’s going! The heavens favoured him though, for riders were stopping right in front of him, calling his attention back to the track. Then a helpful rider pointed out the back wheel of the Cyborg’s Cycle had flatted...

At just a few minutes under three hours, the Cyborg seriously contemplated just riding through on a flat; but his goal was really 3:33, and not to trash his bike. So he pulled over and changed out the tube, while watching riders fall off in the rocks (it would have happened to at least three while he was standing there!)

New tube in and pumped up, the Cyborg set off at a break-neck pace to make up on time lost changing the tube. So much for relaxing! He sprinted to the end to finish in 3:15 (real time), achieving goal 1! And, in the process, he’d achieved goal 3 as well (not falling off).

Cyborg crossing the line, alone.

8. Warm down and stretch after finishing.

The Cyborg warmed down on a meal of takeaway Thai food, fish cakes and spring rolls to be precise (he couldn’t wait for pizza- how crazy is that?!) So, it was kind of spicy (warm) and he did kind of stretch his culinary tastes...

All in all, the Cyborg was relatively happy with achieving two out of three of his goals for the race, and was almost ready to start talking himself into doing the 100km event next year. Save that the 100kers entered at a different location, and didn’t have to ride Hackett Hill. So perhaps he hasn’t graduated; perhaps he’s not ready. Perhaps he’ll just have to do the 50km again, and again, until he gets it right...

As is usual with AROC events, it was a well-organised, fun event, with heaps of friendly marshalls along the way to guide the riders, and a fantastic hub stocked with a variety of food at the end. Many thanks go out to the crew at AROC and their army of volunteers for putting on yet another fantastic event!

Race Stats

Date: 28 April 2012
Location: Canberra, ACT
Rating: Excellent Adventure
TriHards: Cyborg, Junior and Groucho
Event website: Capital Punishment Site
TriHard Time Placing
Cyborg 2:49:31 405/800 Total (which means his guess about his start group was right!
Groucho 5:41 509/818 (who was slightly out on his)
Junior 6:33:48 709/818 (which means his self-seeding was also correct)
Pictures: Facebook Album