Triathlon life in Bowral

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In summer, triathlons were the focus and  after Saturday sport we would jump in the car to race triathlons.  We were dependent on the triathlon magazine of the day to find out when and where to race and the Wide World of Sports for the Hawaii Ironman coverage in October each year for inspiration.  

Our Bowral yearly routine between 1985-1990,  was the January Taree Aquatic Triathlon, the February Sri Chimnoy Long Course, in March and April I watched a few mates do the Ironman at Forster and Akuna Bay, then we hit the winter fun run circuit and in spring  we had the Windsor, Nowra Triathlon, Canberra short course and  Nepean races. Each summer we tried to tour (holiday) to race locations – Yamba Foster, Noosa and New Zealand. 

A group of us trained twice a day. Often we would go to Bowral pool in the afternoon and swim 1km. I would do the 20 laps while Bernard did intervals. Then we would go home, we lived a block from the pool , and got ready for a 30km ride – that’s why he was faster than me. 

Swimming was always problematic in Bowral. The pool was only open a few months of the year and initially was not heated. One afternoon we went to the pool and the water temperature in the 25m pool was 14 degrees. I swam 40 laps very quickly, walked home, had a shower, put on the trackies and climbed into bed shivering. Bernard and I would be lying in bed calling out to each other throughout the house as we warmed up.   This was also the period where we would have cold showers to condition ourselves for the cold water in Canberra. 

On a few occasions Glen and myself would drive to Thirlmere Lakes ( near where Ivan Milat lived) and we would swim in the lake.  The trade off for the warmer swims was swimming with snakes.  


As for cycling. 

Bowral was a great place for bike riding. We had a 30 km and 40 km out and back course towards Fitzroy Falls. Sometimes we would go up the steep section of Old Southern Road, towards Mittagong past the airport to Alpine. Also we would turn right at the top and go out along Range Road and do the rolling hills and come back past Bong Bong Racecourse. There were longer rides out past Sheepwash bridge and then out to Robertson and Kangaloon and sometimes we would come back via Moss Vale. Now and then we went towards Wombeyan Caves but we found the roads were not that good.

There were quite a few cyclists in the area who were not into triathlons. So there would be some groups and this would involve some pack riding which was quite an experience. Most of the rides were by myself or with one other person. However, most of the time we would ride side by side and talk and now and then draft if we wanted to pick up the pace or share avoiding the wind. In the seven years riding I only had one flat tyre in the last month during a long ride out to Kangaloon.

We would try some adventurous training with rides to Kiama and swim in the indoor heated pool after which Jenny Paul and Therese would meet us to have lunch and drive back to Bowral.  Another solid hit out was riding down the escarpment towards Albion Park for Robertson or into Kangaroo Valley from Fitzroy Falls.  Wence also rode the freeway from Liverpool. 

We trained as much as possible while teaching and in the holidays we would have trips which were more like training camps.   At Yamba we pitched the tents in Calypso Caravan Park. We would put all the bikes in one tent and sleep in the others. In the morning we would ride to Maclean along a very flat sometimes windy course adjacent to the canefields. We would then turn right and go to Angourie to swim in the Blue or Green Lake – old quarry. Our runs would be an out and back course along the river or to Angourie and a swim and run back.

We also booked a site at Town Beach, Foster for the month of January.  Once again with two tents and people would come and go while we trained.  This led to racing at the 1986 Taree Aquatic Triathlon ( 1.5/50/12 – 2:45:39) around the Australia Day weekend before we headed back for the new school year.  

In the winter months while doing the fun run circuit there were biathlons and Duathlons which involved the run/ride/run staged race.  The Holsworthy Biathlon ( 5/40/5 1:56:20  and 1:44:30) series 1986 and 1987(1:50:40) was a great training ground with the pace fast and hard the whole way and on the traffic free roads of the army barracks. The 1987 Goulburn 5/40/5  (1:50:50) and  1988 4/40/4 (2:04:20) Biathlon were memorable.  I missed another year after a late night and did not get up for the drive the morning of the race.  Also, this was the race in which my trusty green reynolds framed snapped at the gear levers.  I had to ride without putting downward pressure on the handle bars. The Berrima Biathlon 5/20/5 was a fun local event to do and I did get up after a late night out.

We experimented with gear.  There were no tri racing bars and initially no clip pedals.  We rode steel reynolds steel framed bike which were highly geared making climbs hard work but our leg stronger even though our cadence was never too high.  Tri shorts were made by textile teachers in bright pink blue and yellow colours and after a while we had race singlets to compete in from previous races. We even splashed on Oakley glasses.  My running shoes were Adidas New York New York and I had elastic in them so I could put them on quickly in transition.  The race watch was a Casio watch with a stopwatch function.   

As for the racing. 

One of our first races was the Nowra Shoalhaven Triathlon with Murray Court and Campbell the home town of Bernard. This involved a swim in the river and a run along a country farm road, still with the dung of the milking herds having just passed through, followed by a run through the suburbs and hills of Nowra. At this race we experimented with cold showers, prior to races to toughen ourselves up.   

The Sri Chimnoy long races and sprint races in Canberra had lake swims, fast rides on the federal main roads and runs around Lake Burley Griffin. I did not appreciate the significance of Sri Chimnoy and his philosophy, probably because I was concerned about the cold water swim. We never particularly liked the swim as we could never judge and cope with the temperatures. I did end up making good use of a singlet sleeve long john wetsuit.  The cycles were always fast and sometimes cold and windy. The half marathon around the lake was always hard because of the flat nature and the impacts of the fast cycle on the legs. 

The trip to Canberra also gave Bernard and myself time to catch up with friends. Murray always beat me in triathlons and running but I could hold my own in cycling.  In our last triathlon together at Acton Park I finished ahead of him because, even though we both had a big night on the grog the night before for some reason I raced better the next day.  I will take that as a win.  

We did one race in Windsor (1985) where we rested the bikes in a paddock on the barbed wire fence, swam in the Hawkesbury River, scrambling up the muddy bank to get to our bikes. 

On the central coast in  1988 (1/40/12 2:53:00) and 1989 was  arace at McMasters Beach with an ocean swim,  muddy transition area, a double loop around the Kincumber/Killcare, with the switchback climb to Killcare and concluded with a run through Boudi Boudi National Park with some steep firetrail hills. 

In 1986 Weave picked me up and we went to the Snowy mountains where he was going to meet his canoe coach in Berridale.  On the way we stopped off in Cooma  for  me to do the local  Triathlon (Cooma Tri 1500/15/9 1:37:34) which had the swim in the council pool. 

In 1986 Glen from Bowral and myself were pretty fit and had a base and a series of personal bests under our belt. So we decided to go to New Zealand in January 1987, to compete in a triathlon series. The races were on the east coast of the North Island with one in Lake Taupo.   They were sprint events 500 swim, 20km cycle and 5km runs ( Pauanui NZ 500/10/5, Whangamata Tri 500/20/5 1:30:39 and Lake Taupo Tri 500/20/5) . In addition, we did two road running races, a mountain race. and an ocean swim. 

Glen was very good and highly competitive and I would finish in the top 10-15% of the participants. We did three triathlons, a road race, an ocean swim and a King of the Mountain race  after a morning triathlon race. On one occasion we cycled further to the race than the race itself. We stayed in youth hostels and actually cycled further to races on the morning of races than the races themselves.  

When travelling to Lake Taupo we sent our gear with some other travellers to the Youth Hostel in Rotorua and rode there from the coast. Murray Campbell was quite a good triathlete and often finished in the top 10. We managed to write up a report on this trip and got it published in Triathlon Sports in 1987.  

It was a great adventure. After one race, we were having a few beers and I saw there was a mountain race that afternoon.  It involved a 2-km run through town and a run up to the top of a mountain and back by whatever path you wanted. This was the only time I beat Murray Campbell because I had no fear, ignoring all trails barrelling down the mountain slope. It was so much fun.

There were some dangerous moments as well.  In one race with an ocean swim the surf was wild with over 2 metre swells.  They moved the race to behind an off-shore island.  The race had white buoys which were useless in a sea of foaming white waves.  I swam around for 30 minutes not seeing one buoy, mostly near other swimmers, but panicking when I found myself in the swale of a set with no other swimmers around me.  I was so relieved to hit the shore and run the additional 800m along the sand back to the bikes. 

When in Rotorua we went into a pub and as we walked in we saw it had concrete floors, the patrons looked at us as I imagined them hosing out the blood for the fights at the end of the night.  We could not back out so we sat at the bar, had a couple of schooners, and ended up talking to the locals as we told them why we were there.   

The Nepean Triathlon, which is the oldest triathlon in Australia, was the pinnacle of our season with a swim in the cool Nepean River – sometimes freezing after they let the water out of the base of Warragamba Dam. While in Bowral I did the Nepean Triathlon in 1984 800S/40C/14R  (2:28:20), 1986 800/40/14 (2:09:50), 1987 800/40/14 (2:14:30) 1988 (DNS -ankle injury), 19891/40/12 (2:19:20)  and 1990 1/40/12 (2:18:28). 

Glen would drive down the night before and sleep in his van with the nikes.  I would drive down on themorning of the race.  

The swims in the Nepean Triathlon were a lottery. Earlier on in the races I was in the first wave and in the end I did not really care. In fact if I started in the back I enjoyed moving through the field. It was always a thrashing river swim and one year it was extremely cold when water was released from the bottom of the dam upstream.

The cycle was scary because there would be big packs ripping along Northern Road with the traffic.  It was the only time in my career that I was at the pointy end of a race. On one occasion the whole group moved to the right-hand side of the road to avoid a pothole – into the oncoming traffic.  On another occasion, I was riding in the middle of the pack holding on for dear life at over 40 km per hour and felt a touch on my back wheel.  When I turned around I could see the whole pack went down behind me.  I don’t think I caused the stack but it did bring down the lead female competitor. 

The runs changed a bit over the years between 12-14km and the course was over different sections as they were building the freeway up the base of the mountain. The out and back section along the river helped me keep track of the runners and for years there was a band under the bridge. After one race I remember meeting Robert DeCastella about running  while he was supporting his wife Gaylene Clews.

As for the different races. 

In 1985 the 39 year old Stewie Mc Neill won the race ahead of some of the legends of the day such as Mark Pringle and Bob Telfer. I remember crossing by Stewie with 6km to go and he was sledging the young guy running ahead of him in the lead saying things like a 40 year old is going to run you down and sure enough he did. An Amazing run. I also note that a 22 year old Greg Love ( 3 time winner of the Six Foot Track and placed in the top three 9 times) was in the top 60 places for the event. I finished 2:28:20 in 158/1221 not a bad debut. Annette Ricardo won the women’s race in 60th place overall and I finished behind the 5th women.

1986 was my year I set PBs in 5, 10, 12, 14 and 42km. The race was won by Greg Stewart followed by ironman legend Marc Dragon and Simon Anderson (Spot). The first woman was Louise Mackinlay in 73rd position. Yours truly tended to race amongst the 2nd and third women and this year I squeezed in 99/1200 ahead of the second women. The swim was short as I did the 1km in 11:30 and the fastest swim time of the day was 7:20. I was wrapped and terrified of the pace of the pack during the cycle which saw me through the 40 km in 57:50 and with fresh legs I ran the 14 km??( at least 12km) in 52 minutes. My finishing time was 2:09:50.

In 1987 other things in life took more priority after a very self indulgent 1986. I don’t have a swim or a cycle time but I did manage 64 minutes for the 14 km run leg and finished in 2:14:40. The race was won by Nigel Barber with Spot Anderson  in second place and Greg Welch debuting in 3rd place. Sue Turner was the first woman in 27th place. I finished in 138/919. I think this was the race where I was in the main pack chasing the leading pack there would have been 60-80 riders in the pack. I am not sure what happened but I was in the middle of the pack flying down Old Northern Road. I felt a clip behind me and turned and everyone behind me went down. I heard later the lead women were in the pack that went down. I still wonder to this day if I was the cause.

In 1988 I rolled my ankle  for a DNS on Thursday during a trail run while on a school camp.  Up until then I had never run on a trail and was not to do so  for a couple of decades.

In 1989 I finished in 234/1138 with a decent swim of 18:30, 66 minute cycle and 54 minute run which must have been 12km. My overall time was 2:19:20. The winner Greg Welch (1:46) did 40 minutes for the run and was followed up by Brad Bevan and Spot Anderson (no longer Simon on the results). The first woman was Michelli Jones in 70th position in 2:00:40.

In 1990 Brad Bevan won in 1:47 with Tim Bentley 23 seconds behind him and Bruce Thomas in third place with Liz Hepple in 1:57:15 in 61st place. My swim was still decent with a wetsuit at 19:50 the cycle was slowing to 64 minutes and the run was a bit slower at 54:00. I guess 2:18:25 is alright for a 30 year old. 

Murray Campbell and Murray Court and Murray Flannery completed Ironman races. Glen did the Akuna Bay Ironman which finished with a run to Manly,  Bernard and Shane did the Foster Ironman and I guess because of their efforts I did the the 1986 Anzac Day Marathon because I didn’t have the courage to train the distances for a race over 3.8 km swim, 180km cycle and 42 km run. 

This magical era came to an end in the late 1980s.  Murray Court had moved out of VIctoria Road with Deitzie, Murray Gray went to Colorado to do her PhD, Murray Campbell moved to Texas Queensland to become a farmer, Murray Flannery moved to Lennox Head to continue his career as a landscape gardener. 

In 1990 Jenny and I moved back to Sydney. The Murrays retired and we went our separate ways and my path of exercise took a different turn. 

Triathlon Races 1985-1990

1985 

The Nowra Shoalhaven Triathlon  (1/50/10)

Windsor Tri 1/30/10

1986

Holsworthy Biathlon 5/40/5 1:56:20

Taree Tri 1.5/50/12 2:45:39

Cooma Tri 1500/15/9 1:37:34

Shoalhaven Tri 1/30/10 1:58:40

Holsworthy Biathlon 5/40/5 1:44:30

1987

Pauanui NZ 500/10/5 

Whangamata Tri 500/20/5 1:30:39

Lake Taupo Tri 500/20/5

Holsworthy Biathlon 5/30/5 1:50:40

Canberra Tri 800/30/8 1:36:02

Goulburn Biathlon 5/40/5 1:50:50

Shoalhaven Tri 1/30/10 2:00:55

Taree Tri 1.5/50/12 2:43:50

Sri Chinmoy Tri 2.3/59/16 4:02:36

Deakin Spa 1.2/33/8 1:57:05

Nepean Triathlon 800/40/14 2:14:30

1988

Deakin Triathlon 8

Goulburn Biathlon 4/40/4 2:04:20

Deakin Spa Tri 1.2/32/8

McMasters Beach Tri 1/40/12 2:53:00

Nepean Tri – ankle injury

1989

Berrima Biathlon 5/20/5

Canberra Tri 500/20km/5km 1:03:02

Nepean Triathlon 1/40/12 2:19:20

1990

Nepean Triathlon 1/40/12 2:18:25

Shoalhaven Triathlon 1/30/10 1:57:57

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