bikes general trip reports

a weekend in the exciting metropolis of canberra

Plan for the weekend – drive to Canberra on Friday, compete in the AROC Adventure Race on Friday evening; spend Saturday lazing around and relaxing; get up early on Sunday, and compete in the Urban Polaris.

The weather’s plan for the weekend – look pleasant and sunny when we arrived in Canberra on Friday, then 20 minutes later, have a front come over, spawning mini-tornadoes, gale force winds, thunder and lightning, and tearing the city apart, throwing trees everywhere. So, the Friday night adventure race was postponed until Saturday evening. Oh… what’s that? …. you wanted to have some time to actually sleep and maybe recover after adventure racing? Well, that’s a pity.


We take time out of our busy schedules to meet Scruff the cranky cockatiel

So, Saturday afternoon saw us hauling ourselves out to Lake Burley Griffin (again). This time the weather was a bit better though. We collected PFDs, and course maps, got our bikes set up. The race started at 6, as 200 or so people – all wearing PFDs and race numbers – created a stream of yellow along the lake shore, as we ran to collect kayaks (well, rigid three person canoe type things with kayak paddles).

Across to the other side of the lake, first checkpoint, back to the first shore again, wet shoes, wet pants, we ran to pick up our bikes and head off on the mountain biking leg. Not much biking, we collecting a few checkpoints out around Mount Ainslie before dumping our bikes at a transition area in a random park, off for a checkpoint to checkpoint run leg (the location of the next checkpoint is only revealed when you get to the one before it).

Picked up the bikes again, back to the main transition area, pick up PFDs, we get to run back to the kayaks again (hoorah). Across to the other side of the lake, and another run leg. We get the map for this area when we arive – a quick loop around the National Gallery – Old Parliament – Library area, then back to the kayaks, a horrible paddle across the lake in the dusk, into the wind, then off on the final run leg, in the dark. I pull out my trusty new headlamp, aha! Brilliant for finding checkpoints in those hard to spot places. We run through the last area, skipping the checkpoints we don’t need – this section involves collecting 70 points worth of checkpoints (out of 85). Then back to the main transition area, and we’re done. In under 3 hours too.

Now before we set off, we heard that the first 20 teams back in under 3 hours would get to do a ‘bonus lap’. We never thought we’d get back that quickly. Thankfully however, us and the team we arrived with were 21st and 22nd respectively, so we didn’t have to go out again. We cursed our bad luck. Then sat around and ate sausages, waited for the prizes to be handed out, and came away with some bike cleaner as a spot prize. Before heading back to bed (by, oh, 11.30 or so).

Sunday morning, we wake up at 6.30, and leave as soon as we can – we’re suppose to register for the Urban Polaris between 5.30am and 7.30am.

Starting times are staggered, a group leaves every ten minutes from 8.30 (due to numbers, with over 300 teams competing, mainly teams of two). Once you start you have seven hours to collect as many checkpoints as you can around Canberra – collecting a checkpoint involving clipping a scorecard with a special punch to be found at each location. Each checkpoint is worth a different amount (more points for harder to reach places), and if you’re back late, you start getting points deducted.

bike uphill

Pushing bikes up the steep hill at Mt Majura (look, I promise it really was very steep, and by the time this photo was taken we’d gone a long way up it and it was getting less steep)

So, we set off to do a loop of Northern Canberra – a few novelty checkpoints – waving down a kayaker paddling along the lakeshore; one in a climbing gym (at the top of a climb); one in a bowling alley (bonus points for pins knocked down with two balls); one at the zoo, over the tiger pen. 85km and 6 hours and 57 minutes later, we arrived back to the start, muddy and exhausted, with sore knees. We decide it would be silly to drive back to Melbourne that night, and crawl back to Rich’s to fall asleep.