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Sri Chinmoy Ultra Triathlon 2003Held 22nd-23rd March 2003, Canberra, ACT.
Capital PunishmentAn account of the 2003 Sri Chinmoy Ulta Triathalon, by participant, David Criniti
In a bid to save a few dollars, I'd booked into the Canberra YHA for Thursday night only. After all, I was competing in the 15km swim on Friday morning, and could just lay down on the grass for a few hours sleep on Friday afternoon before the 400km cycle began at 5:00pm. No need to pay for another night at the YHA, because I'd be riding until well after sunrise on Saturday morning. Then after the ride, I'd have another few hours sleep on the grass, saving me on Saturday's accommodation, grab a bite to eat, and try and relax before the 100km run began at midnight. Once the festivities concluded, I'd be off to the railway station and heading back to Sydney. Just a fun weekend in the nation's capital, which would see another ultra ticked off the list.
…and the theory would have worked too, if the drought hadn't turned into a deluge on Friday morning, just in time for the commencement of the Sri Chinmoy Ultra Triathalon. All of a sudden, sleeping on the grass between legs was not looking so appealing.
Anyway, I could worry about that after the swim. First I actually had to worry about finding the swim, whose location had changed in the past two days, unbeknownst to me. Wandering around Yarralumla Bay, half-asleep in the pre-dawn drizzle, I somehow managed to ascertain that the start was now at Black Mountain peninsula, and to arrive before the race began.
Six of us were having a crack at Australia's longest triathalon; last year's winner, Andrew Stanfield, Sri Chinmoy team member, Aryavan Lanham, Team Fatass members Thomas Lezenhofer and Dave Petit, as well as wildcards Wayne Tomasums and yours truly. With a couple teams also entered, and one person doing the swim as a solo event, there were 9 of us set to race the 15km swim.
After a great display of perseverance, I had endured what seemed like an eternity of torture, to overcome the first discipline; putting on a borrowed wetsuit; and was ready to join my fellow competitors on the start line.
With a beach start and a rocky shore, there were a lot of "oh, ah's" and cut feet before we actually got away, but we all survived, although none as well as Andrew "the fish" Stanfield, who powered his way around 30 laps of the 500m, triangular course in 4 and a half hours.
Not only was this my first triathalon, but also one of my first ever serious swims outside a swimming pool, so I took the first few laps out on the tail of a fellow competitor, until I gained the confidence to swim in a straight line without the aid of a black line on the bottom. After that it was pretty smooth sailing, and I was pleased to finish 3rd after Wayne, in just over 5 and a half hours.
What I was most proud of though, was my time-saving mid-swim pit-stop strategy which involved quickly grabbing my museli bar from the food / drink canoe moored next to the turning buoy nearest shore and eating it while backstroking to the next buoy. Saved me a good minute or two I'd say, with indigestion just a small price to pay.
Thomas and Dave, from Team Fatass had offered to store my gear in their car before the swim start, supposedly to keep it dry, but in what I now realise was a subversive tactic designed to oust me from the event with hypothermia as I waited for them to emerge from the swim with the keys.
Thomas came out first, and proposed a trip into town while Dave finished up, as Thomas wanted to purchase a rain-jacket to wear on the bike leg. I was happy to accompany him, as I knew I wouldn't be sleeping on any grass today; and concentrated on keeping warm, and keeping my eyes peeled for a St Vinnies store where Thomas could pick up a cheap rain-jacket. It was only after Thomas emerged from Snow Gum, jacket in hand, and wallet $600 lighter for the experience, that I realised how he earned his sobriquet "The Gear Man".
After a quick bite, we returned to watch Dave finish the swim, before they both left, and I again turned my attention to keeping warm and hopefully finding a place to sleep before the bike leg, which was to begin in a couple of hours. Thankfully, Sri Chinmoy team-member Audrey came to my rescue, and, despite having her hands-full with race-organising responsibilities, dropped me off at her house, where a nice warm bed lay waiting.
However, just as I began to regain feeling in my fingertips, she was back to drive me to the bike start. The bike leg was around a loop of just over 2km, throughout a showground on Canberra's outskirts, with one gentle incline that seemed to become less gentle as the km's wore on. The showgrounds provided a great backdrop for the event, and there was a lot of activity on the Friday night as people began to set up dodgem car rides and various stalls for an upcoming show.
There was also a lot of support on the bike leg, from lap-scorers and crew members, which helped keep spirits lively on a cold, damp night. Also keeping my spirits (and stomach) buoyed, were the famous Sri-Chinmoy mashed potato's and pasta that were in plentiful supply.
Andrew soon proved that he was a fish who could also ride a bicycle, as he surged ahead of the field from the outset, in the end finishing well ahead of the triathletes, and only just behind one of the team cyclists. I was impressed that his wheels did not stop rotating once in the whole 400km, compared to mine, which stopped at least every hour for a feed.
After threatening to withdraw for some time, Dave Petit called it quits after about 250km, and with fellow Team Fatass member, Lawrence Mead, who had come down to compete in the bike and run legs, already withdrawn, Thomas was left to fly the Fatass flag (try saying that 10 times).
The rest of us managed to get around in our own time. My only problem on the bike turned into a blessing at the 300km mark when I punctured my rear tyre; the blessing being that I had a very generous offer to change it for me, and I managed to grab about 30 seconds sleep in the meantime. Again, I finished in 3rd place, and again it was behind Andrew and Wayne. This time, however, 4th and 5th spots reversed, with Aryavan finishing ahead of Thomas, and moving into 4th place overall.
After being up all night cycling I was again extremely grateful to catch some shut eye back at Audrey's house, but time sped up and before I knew it, I had to haul my stiff legs out of bed and get going again. There was a bit of confusion, as the run location had also changed, but the fact that I was late didn't matter, as I was in the company of Audrey, who had in her possession the lap scoring sheets, and as the saying goes, "she who has the lap scoring sheets, rules the roost" (or something like that).
The 100km run leg also doubled as the Australian Road 100km championships, and therefore attracted more non-triathalon participants than the swim and bike legs. This leg was on a 1.6km out and back course along a bike path which ran around the shore of Yarralumla Bay. With a 12.30am start, and the path being lit solely by glow sticks and the light of the moon (when it wasn't behind the clouds), it made for interesting running, although what I was doing couldn't be classed as running.
A sore knee from the bike-leg, combined with a recurring problem with my iliotibial band (ITB) forced me into a run / walk pattern with progressively more walking thrown into the mix as the race wore on.
Having said that, it was one of my most enjoyable 100km's, with old-friendships renewed, and new ones made. At the lap-scoring end of each lap, the competitors again had no shortage of support with Sri-Chinmoy team member Fiona-Baird coming all the way from Adelaide for a stint in the lap-scorers tent, as well as recently retired ultra-triathlete Dave Petit.
For once, Andrew "bicycle fish" Stanfield wasn't out in front, with Thomas taking the lead amongst the triathletes, and doing Team Fatass proud. Wayne was not far behind, then came Andrew, myself and Aryavan.
As well as encouragement from the lap-scorers and crew members, we also shared encouragement with the triathletes from the Classic (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) and Long Course (2.2km swim, 80km bike, 20km run) triathalons, as they shared the bike path as part of their running legs, which certainly helped pass the time.
Despite the fact that Andrew didn't take out the run, he'd forged himself enough of a lead for it not to be of any great concern, and he took out the 2003 Sri-Chinmoy Ultra-Triathalon by quite a sizeable margin from wildcards Wayne and yours truly, who filled the minor places on the podium, with Thomas and Aryavan taking 4th and 5th respectively.
The 100km race proved to be a great event of it's own, with Mignon Tucker taking out the women's event, in what was allegedly her swansong (I say 'allegedly' because I've heard the word 'swansong' used very liberally in ultra-circles too many times), ahead of a very tight battle for second, which saw an ever smiling Vicki Godfrey relegate Kerry Campbell to 3rd. The ageless Shirley Young came in 4th to round out all the women competitors.
In the mens race, Roger Maxim had a great run to finish ahead of last year's winner Ian Valentine and Anyce 'Kip' Melham in 3rd. Kelvin Marshall came in 4th, after a 5 week hiatus from the ultra-world, which for him is an eternity, and Glen Gielissen rounded out the top 5. Also completing the run were Tony Cosoleto, Dave Billet, and ultra-running veteren Peter Gray.
In conclusion, this was another great event put on by the Sri-Chinmoy team. There were some small problems; a bit more notice about the change of venue of the swim would not have gone astray, neither would a bit more lighting on the run course. And of course some finer weather would have be nice, but I won't hold Sri Chinmoy personally responsible for that one! Seriously though, to have the opportunity to compete in the only event of this kind in Australia, and to be catered for the whole way, from the Friday to the Sunday, to such an extent that I competed without the help of a crew, is something for which I am extremely grateful. I eagerly await next year's event.