Sunday, October 29, 2006


Blackwood Marathon Relay 2006

The Blackwood Marathon Relay has come and gone for another year, and as usual it was a great event, the local community really gets behind this and makes it a success. Despite going for 28 years it has changed little over the years and still has the earthy feel it's always had.
Pre-race is when old friends catch up, injuries and age are given as pre-emptive excuses for any poor performances that might occur during the day. Clive Choates was doing his 19th ironman and looking foward to his 20th which will be next year. I always have trouble with names and faces so I just kept calling everyone "mate" to hide my embarassment. Ypu only get to see these people once or twice a year so you can't really be expected to remember all these faces can you?
Since I was doing the canoe leg I had to leave early so as not to get stopped by the road blocks for the runners. We parked at the top of the hill and carried the kayak down to the canoe paddock. Another round of gossiping to catch up on the canoe news and then we waited for the runners.
Each runner is given a good cheer and a the canoeist , full of adrenaline races off down to the river with his canoe in tow. "Canoes" ranged from sprint boats to surf skis to bathtubs. My runner came in quite late, suffering the combined effects of age, flu and lack of training. At this point I might add that I was a ring-in for team number 1, the Bridgetown Tearways, which has been doing the event every year since it's start but were being whittled away by those events that many years bring. I was required to do the canoe and the swim but having also suffered a flu for the last few weeks I invited Banjo to do the swim which he relishes.

The water water level was the lowest anyone could remember and there was the usual traffic jams in the tight spots but other than that no significant problems. A lot of people could have done themselves a favour by getting to know their craft a bit better or even getting a faster boat. I stopped to help a young girl who had an ocean type ski and still had the rudder tied up out of the water. The low conditions required a few portages but for the second half it was full steam ahead. A young girl rode my bow wave for a long way and I was quite impressed that she kept up, we were amongst the tailenders and she obviously new what she was doing. At some stage my rudder had been bent at right angles but it didn't seem to be much of a problem so I ignored it and kept going. I picked up 30 places which took our team from 90th to 60th place.
After lunch the swimmers assembled in a long line to await the swim. The hot weather made the water inviting. Banjo did a good swim, picking up a few places, handing over to Ric on the horse.
The horses suffered in the hot weather, with a few being serverly distressed. Ric held our place overall, riding sensibly on his borrowed horse.
The cycle leg is very hilly, setting a trend for the other marathon relays, with a series of long unending climbs up out of the valley. It starts of with a stretch of uphill gravel which requires a good shove from a helpful bystander, "keep pushing until I clip my feet in!"
Once again our rider Barry picked up a few more places to give us 51st place overall.

After helping out with the horses some of us went over the Wheatly farm. located near the horse finish for a coffee and cakes. The farmhouse sits on top of a very high hill with commanding views over the whole area. Sitting on the verandah in wicker chairs with the sun setting over the distant hills it was one of those "Life doesn't get much better than this" moments.
Eventually we headed into Bridgetown to the finish for the presentations and long stories over cold beer. Tim and Sarah, a married couple had once again taken the winning Ironman and Ironwomen titles. Tim has long had bragging rights as being the faster but Sarah is just a few minutes behind and is getting closer each year.

Winning team was Skilled Engineering, who come back and win year after year with a team that has varied little over the years, setting very high standards for the rest of us.

People I chatted with include; The Wiesse extended family and friends who are organised and move like army ants to keep their athletes supported.
Damon Willmore who is working hard promoting the Karri ride. (Which is on top of my TO DO list this year.)
Racheal, who I used to train with a few years ago and haven't seen for years.
Grant Pepper who organises the resurrected Naga Challenge, one of the best small mutisport events I've done.

Well that's the Blackwood for another year, now it's back to the real world.

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