Never Too Old to be Punished
Canberra’s Annual Capital Punishment Endurance Test proved to be a race against elite mountain bikers. However for one local man it was a race against himself, and against the immovable force that is the ageing process. For 70-year-old Joe Walters, competing in this fierce competition was a chance to prove to himself that he can still evoke memories of a youth gone past.
Capital Punishment is a mountain bike endurance competition, which this year attracted 1,459 entrants. It is the first event of four mountain bike competitions known as the Maverick Marathon series. The event was brought to life by organisers Alina McMaster and Tom Landon-Smith. Both of them were inspired by their participation in the international series of Discovery Channel Eco Challenge Events. They aimed to share the fulfilment and sense of achievement that they acquired by, as McMaster stated, ‘bringing those multi-day challenges to a format anyone could participate in’.
Walters was inspired to participate in Capital Punishment by his son, who was a competitor himself in 2013. Walters signed up for the 50km race in January, and the thought of losing his $100 joining fee was just the boost he needed that persuaded him to go through with the event, as he had started getting cold feet in the week leading up to the competition.
As with any challenge in life, Walters was no stranger to setbacks or difficulties. He spent weeks experimenting with energy foods until he found the perfect combination, which consisted of cereal, bananas, protein bars, bananas, energy jellies and well, more bananas.
However, the main challenge he encountered was the actual track itself. There was a part of the track around Mount Stromlo that he had not previously encountered. This consisted of 14 kilometers of zigzagging single track and 9 kilometers of open fire trail that worryingly went straight up.
Walters explains his thought process at the time: “This was my challenge, if I stop I am going to have to walk. I put it in the lowest gear and crept up the track at one point going as slow as 3km/h.”
He did make it up, although he had to walk his bicycle the last quarter of the way up the track as he could not peddle any further.
According to McMaster, Capital Punishment is the biggest mountain bike endurance competition in Australia. However, the number of competitors is decreasing due to the emergence of numerous similar events. She said the appeal of Capital Punishment for all ages is because the event, “doubles up as a challenge as well as tour.”
The race is divided into five age categories, with the 60+ referred to as the Grandmasters. McMaster said there had been no prior incidents concerning a competitor from the grand masters category, however she warned, “the race is taken at [their] own risk and competitors should have been riding for many years and know what to expect.”
For Walters this was his first mountain bike challenge. Out of 710 competitors in his heat, 635 completed the race. Walters had set a goal to finish the race in five hours. Overall he came 619th with a total time of 4 hours, 25 minutes and 55 seconds. Out of these competitors, 14 riders were in the 60+ age category. Of these Grand Masters only 10 completed the race, with 70-year-old Walters finishing 10th.
Walters was incredibly pleased to beat his target by 35 minutes. Although he is not ruling out next year’s competition, he could not give a definite answer that he would be returning to the event. While Walters thought he might have achieved better results if the track was released prior to race day, his only negative comment towards the entire experience was his disappointment that he missed out on a bacon and egg roll after the race.
Text by Talia Liolios