Race Report By the Cyborg
In July I participated in the Sri Chimnoy Black Mountain offroad duathlon. I did the long course. I learnt many lessons from that event; but two things in particular stood out for me:
- Triathletes are really fit.
- Triathletes are very organised.
I foolishly undertook the long course, and it turned into a bit of a suffer fest for me, which wasn’t helped when I managed to make a mess of every transition. Though, I did complete the race in less than five hours, which was my goal, so at least I didn’t make a mess of that!
So, when I was told about the Googong event, I was hardly enthusiastic - particularly when, upon reading the information on the site, the short course was rated “Demanding” and the long course “strenuous”. To us normal people (yes, I like to consider myself normal) that’s similar to saying climbing Everest is “difficult” and K2 “technical”.
But, it did involve a paddle leg. So, despite my better judgment, I entered - though only the short course! I had learnt some lessons from my duathlon debacle! So, the planning and preparation began. I would like to say training, but you know, who has the time to train?
Now, I mentioned the logistical abilities of those triathletes, didn’t I? Their ability for swift transitions from one discipline to another? Swapping shoes, packs, donning and dropping PFDs and the like in record time? I’m not one of them. But, at least I’m aware of that! So I decided that in this event I would work around my weakness. I would simplify my transitions by racing adventure-race style: that is, carry everything on me and not change during the event.
So, my plan was to wear one pair of shoes throughout meaning no bike shoes, and no change of shoes for the paddle leg. This could potentially result in wet feet from the paddle leg onwards, and that foreign feeling of not being clipped onto the bike, but it was only 11kms - how hard could that be?
In addition, given the first run was only 3.3km, and the paddle only 5km, I thought I’d just take the one bladder pack, which I’d leave with my bike and put on at the start of the ride (3rd) leg. That would solve any problems with dropping the pack to put on my PFD et cetera.
All in all, I was thinking I was pretty clever, and all sorted for the race.
So I arrived at Googong Foreshores around 8:30 in the morning of a bright, sunny day. Perhaps a little too bright and sunny, with a forecast high of 24 degrees, and the short course starting a little later in the morning, it may be a bit warm to go two legs without water. Nope, I had a plan, and I was going to stick to it! I did, however, ensure I drank much water at the start.
Then I unloaded the kayak, and the bike, chatting away to the Bowral Branch as I went. And, as I sat the kayak down, I had a thought: wearing shoes should change the position of the footpegs in the kayak; so I’d have to adjust that. I quickly jumped in and adjusted them. I say quickly, because for some reason I felt it was important to get it done as soon as possible, even though I still had a good two hours before the start!
But, with all the adjustments made, I could socialise; chatting to Bowral Branch about bikes, and the Triathlete about all sorts of gear (including his brand new superfast ski!) and generally try not to stress or get nervous about the forthcoming event.
After observing a moment’s silence, at approximately 10:00 the long course competitors set off. The short course would commence once they’d completed their run leg (5km), so that was our half an hour’s notice of start time, a half an hour of waiting under the warming sun, which really would have been plenty of time for me to fetch a water bottle and put it in the kayak.
Leg 1: Run (3.3km)
The first run leg was a 3.3km run along the lake foreshore, starting at the carpark and running along a track before taking in a climb to split the field out a bit. I took a while to find my comfort zone, but once again on finding myself climbing, I began to push a bit harder, overtaking the Triathlete and his wife on my way up. Then it was back down the hill, and around the lake foreshore once more on a goat track, littered with fisherblokes sitting in their tried and true positions, watching we fools run around in the heat!
Leg 2: Kayak (5km)
At this stage, I was still feeling fairly good, I grabbed a cup of water as I ran through transition, then straight into the kayak and onto the water I went. Feeling much more in my element (which is surprising, as I hadn’t done much paddling in the past year!) I headed out of the little bay, and watched as another competitor pulled over to the side early. When I was near enough, I asked if he needed a hand; he was fine, and just had to adjust his rudder cables.
So I paddled out, and into the wind, when I thought it would be a good time to drop my rudder. Bracing my feet against the foot pegs, I began to steer her into the wind and paddle harder, only to feel my left leg straighten out! I’d made a classic mistake in not taking the kayak out for a test paddle after adjusting the foot pegs! The rudder was steering me constantly to the right. Fortunately, I am generally quite comfortable steering by stroke and lean, rather than rudder, so up it went (though, it was sorely missed in the wind!)
Paddling with one leg straight and one bent certainly made things a little more difficult! So I braced my knees as best I could and paddled on.
It was a nice day for a paddle, to watch the scenery, and all the superfast skis fly by me in my red Tupperware kayak. Yes, red goes faster, but there’s no way it’s going to catch one of those long, fibreglass skis!
Though, I did manage to catch one. Coming around the fourth turn brought us all beam-on into the wind, which was a little more interesting for me, and far more challenging for those serious types out there trying to paddle planks! As I approached the turn, I watched on ski rider go in the drink. He made it back up, and started again.
Then he went in again. And again. By the time I had reached him, he was a bit tired and cold. So I held his paddle while he attempted to climb in again. Then he fell out once more. I was starting to get a bit concerned about him, when two other kayakers came over to provide assistance, and in no time they were rafted up with him, and he was up and gone again. The rest had done me good too, and I began to power home.
In a few more minutes, I pulled into the shore feeling fairly fresh for the paddle, though my left Achilles felt a bit strained after paddling all that time with my toes stretched down to the pegs.
Leg 3: Ride (11km)
The Bowral Branch were much more prepared than I, and had reconnoitred the course a week prior to the event, as much to try out their new kayak, the Mango, as anything. They told me there were a few climbs in the ride, and a magpie. So, the initial climb from the carpark didn’t seem like a big deal to me, though I was starting to miss my SPDs!
From the carpark the course went through a gate and onto “undulating” firetrail. I should have known. The undulations consisted of bar-biting climbs, followed by nail-biting descents! Before long at all, I was deeply regretting my decision to wear running shoes throughout, as I pushed the bike back into granny gear and bit back down on the bar for yet another climb!
Fortunately, about halfway through, when I was starting to lose a bit of spirit, a magpie swooped in to encourage me!
Forty-five minutes and about 11 km later (including what felt like 22km of ascent!), more wildlife came along to help me on my way, in the form of kangaroos, flanking me and forming an honour guard as I approached the intersection and the turn down to the London Bridge carpark for the transition to the run. Fortunately for me, my honour guard dropped off well before the transition, as it would be very embarrassing to be outpaced by kangaroos!
Leg 4: Run (3.3km run)
The final leg of the event was to be short, 3.3km run, including a river crossing. Given the heat of the day, I was actually looking forward to a dip in some cool water. And, naturally, the run leg started with a climb out of the transition area. So, up I went, then down, then around and across and, after what felt like three kilometres, I reached the river crossing.
The organisers had provided numerous options for the crossing, whereby competitors could either run/swim across, be ferried across in a little skiff, or take a kayak across. But I was looking forward to a swim, so in I went! Of course, I didn’t give much consideration to the fact that while it was a warm day, the river’s source was in the Snowies. It was freezing. Fortunately, it was quite shallow, so only some tender parts were frozen.
Until about three-quarters of the way across! About halfway I thought I’d be right, my bottom half was cold, but I had managed to preserve the rest of my body from the spine-tingling cold. But I kept sinking after the halfway mark. And, sure enough, by about three-quarters, my nipples went under, sending shivers right through me. I did, however, emerge feeling quite refreshed on the other side, if someone disappointed to find that I had only progressed about a kilometre into the run leg!
So, back up some firetrail I went, climbing hills, then down hills, and twisting around, when I could see other runners ahead of me. I didn’t quite have it in me to sprint after them, so I continued at a decent jog until I’d reached London Bridge. Here I had to stop to take a photo. Because it’s really a picturesque and fascinating place. This pause had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it marked the start of the uphill climb out of the little valley!
Photo taken, I headed uptaking my time over the tangle of rocks, until I reached a road, where I could stretch out and run once more. The course from there was actually relatively easy, and downhill: down the road to the transition, around the corner, then I managed to pull out a sprint to the finish line!
Overall, it was a fantastic event; and while I came in second-last in my division (as I did at Black Mountain) at least I wasn’t moving down the ladder! And, oddly, a part of me regrets doing the short course over the long - for all the hassle of going out to Googong, organising gear and the like, a longer race may have been more worthwhile - it may also have been the death of me (not to mention the fact the long course involved carrying your bike across the river on the run leg!)
Many thanks go to Sri Chimnoy for organising a fantastic event - and the caterers for the delicious food afterwards. And also to the Triathlete for giving me a lift back to the start - saving me from my foolish notion of riding back to the start (after all, it’s just 11km!)
The TriHards have some pics on their Facebook page.
|Date:||18 September 2011|
|Location:||Googong Dam, South of Queanbeyan NSW|
|Rating:||(1) Walk in the Park (Only in terms of cleaning!)|
|Leg 1: Run||Leg 2: Paddle||Leg 3: Ride||Leg 4: Run||Total Time||Position|
|Event website:||Sri Chimnoy website|