3-day Madness in CanberraAn account of the Sri Chinmoy Ultra Triathlon, 1st-3rd March 2002
By Thomas Lenzenhofer
The official results are here
3 guys heading towards Canberra with their roadbikes and lots of other gear and food. They have 2 things in common: They are part of the Fatass society and they are crazy. The weekends program was not a simple Fatass run as usual for Fatass activities. It was the Sri Chinmoy Ultra Triathlon in Canberra. This means 15km swim, 400km bike and 100km run in about 2 1/2 days.
These guys were Laurence, Thomas and Flimpyhead.
Laurence attempts the bike and the run , whereas Dave and myself would go for the full thing.
After the legendary Hungry Jack's stop at Marulan (this is a mandatory stop whenever Fatass goes to Canberra), we reached the Sundown Motel in Canberra at about 11pm. Since we would have to get up at 5am again we went straight to bed.
Listening carefully to the news on the radio to check what the deal with the closure of Lake Burley Griffin was. We heard last night that because of too high level of bacteria the Lake is closed for swimming. Great, this would be really bad if we could not do the swim.
Laurence slept in as he would not go for the swim anyway. Dave and I drove to Yaralumla Bay where the swim start is. We met the organizer there and they told us that the Lake is definitely closed, but the swim will be held in Lake Ginnindera instead. That was good news, so at least our Ultra Tri was going as planned .
Start to the 15km swim. It was a 500m loop which we had to do 30 times. Water temperature was at 22 degrees. There were a couple of guys doing the swim leg only and 5 starters for the full Ultra. Andrew who turned out to be the top guy throughout the Triathlon, Mark, Dale, Flimpyhead and myself. The swim was easier as I expected and I had no issues. I swam some 11km and 10km swims some years ago where I was much more tired than on this 15k swim. Only at the last 1hour the water got a bit choppy and it was harder to swim straight lines. Andrew came first, then Mark, myself, Dave and then Dale. Dave had problems with his shoulder - he said it was screwed. I completed the swim in about 6h almost exactly.
We had about 3 hours now until the bike start at 5.30pm at the EPIC in Canberra. We had to go back to the Motel to get our bikes and pick up Laurence. Dave and I were already tired now and wanted to sleep. But there was no time. 17:15 we cam to the bike start at the Exhibition Center. The bike course was a 2.7km loop in the Exhibition park , which we had to do 182 times. There was also a small "hill" in it. Almost invisible, but very visible after some 100kms :-)))
Start to 400km bike. This was a tough one, if not a killer. Maybe because lack of bike training? I don't know, but it was the hardest for me from all the 3 legs. Dave was riding very slowly since the start, he was screwed from the swim. I could ride the first 100km quite easy and at about 9:30pm I had 100km completed.
Time for a break. The support from the Sri Chinmoy people was excellent. There was soup, pasta, bread, cake, ect. - all sorts of stuff. At about 11pm I hit the wall pretty bad. I got suddenly very tired and slowed down a lot. I rode the same pace as Dave almost. But he seemed to have recovered a bit. I had problems with the temperature. It got really cold that night and put on already 2 Jackets and long cycling pants. Laurence was still flying and didn't feel cold at all - he still had just a shirt and shorts on. He kept a good pace since the start and didn't make long stops.
At 1am I was totally screwed. I stopped for a hot tea and soup, some bread and had a 10 minute power nap in the car. Then I put my 3rd Jacket on and started riding again. Dave was now in better shape than me. I was feeling really shit by that time and just kept riding slowly. This was the time when I thought every lap of giving up. I kept riding. My stomach was really bad and I kept falling asleep on the bike a couple of times. I could not see the road very good some times and also saw stuff on the road sometimes which was not really there. I decided to have another break at about 3am. I had a rest, hot tea, hot milk, hot pasta - all hot, cause it was freezing cold - about 5-7 degrees the people said. Again I sit in the car and wanted to have a power nap of 10 minutes.
I fell asleep for 30 minutes. When I started riding again I felt better. I was still slow, but at least my stomach recovered and I didn't feel so tired. I kept a good pace for a while and 1 hour later I hit the wall again. Dave had a short sleep as well in the car, but Laurence seemed to go well all the time. He slowed down of course, but had no problems with fatigue like Dave and I had. I had another 10 minute Nap.
Finally it got daylight and that helped a bit. I had some breakfast - hot chocolate and toast with butter and honey. During the morning hours I could slowly take one jacket after the other off as it got warmer. Andrew finished first around 7:45am Saturday. Then Mark some hours later and then Dale. Dale was a strange guy. Throughout the ride sometimes we didn't see him for ages and then suddenly he was riding like hell again, then slow as a snail. The last 100km I put full power to the pedals, cause I knew I would otherwise not make the cutoff time of 19hours. Dave in the meantime gave up at 305 kms, cause he was screwed and said he can't finish it in the cutoff time anyway. Laurence had problems with his knees and at least 5 times he stopped and said he pulls out. But then started riding again. He had only a couple of laps to go , but the knee was a problem and he could hardly climb that little hill.
I don't know where the power came from, but when I did about 6-7 minutes for one lap during the night - the last 100km I did one lap in about 4 1/2 minutes. I was flying again. Finally before the cutoff time I finished this 400kms as well as Laurence did just some laps after me. We were the last people in the whole park , only us and the guy who counted the laps. Glad to have this finished we packed our stuff and drove back to the hotel. We were all totally stuffed at that time.
At the motel we had a shower, something to eat and then went to bed. Cause at Midnight the start to the 100km run is on. At that stage we had no idea who to complete the run. Dave and I felt sick and had cough and sore throat from the cold air during the nigh of the cycle. After about 4 hours sleep we went to the Motel restaurant and had dinner. We all felt still very tired and I thought I would not be able to complete the run. But I had to, cause I came already that far and complete the first 2 legs. I wanted to get at least a bloody trophy for all this. The we slept another 2 hours.
Saturday 12am midnight:
Start to the 100km run. We were quite tired, but the atmosphere on the run course was awesome. It was a very mild night with moonlight, candles along the track and 0 wind. We could run in light running shorts and shirts, cause it was not cold. Excellent buffet again at the lap counting station with very nice and encouraging people. The track was a 1.4km loop, we had to do 72 loops.
When we started running I felt good the first 2 laps, cause I was so happy not to be on the bike any more. Then the next 10km I was very tired. After that I got into a nice pace and could enjoy the silence of the night while running along the candle-light track. Very nice. I picked up a good pace and completed the first 50km in about 5h 45 minutes. I never counted the kms I still had to do or I already did. All I thought about the whole time was how many laps to go. I knew it is stupid, but when I thought about how many kms to go - I got demotivated. But counting the laps was ok.
At 6am there was already going on a lot in the transition area for the other Triathlons which were on that day. Athletes for the Peace and all the other Tris this morning came and put there gear into the Transition area, which was just along the course. This helped a lot, cause every time when we came through they clapped and encouraged us. Andrew ran quite fast the first 3-4 hours, but slowed down a lot after that. Mark didn't feel well and was slow from the beginning. Laurence gave up after about 10km, cause his knee was getting worse. Dave said he plans to run 1 Lap and then have a power nap for a couple of hours. But the atmosphere inspired him that much that he kept on running.
I was flying most of the time - I don't know why, but I seemed to have a good pace for hours already and still enough energy to keep it going. The Sri Chinmoy people and the other triathletes were very encouraging and that also kept me going. I slowed down quit a bit on the last 10km, but I completed that whole thing in 11h 50min.
I was so happy to have finished the run and especially the whole Ultra Triathlon. What a feeling that was to run through the finish after all this pain and long hours of effort! I even made the 3rd place, cause Dale finished quite a while after me.
Dave was still going, but he was closer to the finish than ever before and it would have been stupid to give up now. He walked for a couple of hours and the sun was a killer. But he also made it to the finish about 3 hours after me.
We all got some trophies at the end which made us feel better and being worth the effort. Laurence for the 400km cycling, myself for the whole thing and Dave for the 15km swim and a second trophy for the 100km run.
After that Dave and I were definitely screwed and happy that Laurence drove us back to Sydney.
Next year we will be back.