My latest triathlon adventure was like no other to date.
Julia Creek's Dirt & Dust Triathlon was started by a group of enterprising locals back in the mid 90's, with an aim to put Julia Creek on the map. The Festival is now a weekend smorgasbord of not only triathlon, but also bog snorkelling, bullriding, horse racing, not to mention Australia's Best Butt competition.
I travelled to Julia Creek with the CEO of Triathlon Queensland. I was the race referee, meaning it was my job to make sure the Elites, racing for a $2,500 first prize, had a fair race. It was the first time I'd been given this responsibility without another more experienced technical official on hand to help with any curly ones, and more importantly, it was the first time the Dirt & Dust triathlon had had the benefit of a "qualified" TO. So like many of the competitors, I also felt the nerves of a 'first timer'.
Although the distances seem harmless enough, the race is no walk in the park. The 800m swim is in a muddy outback creek. The ride is 27ks on a straight route into town (on Sunday this meant 27ks into a rather nasty headwind). By the time the 5k run starts, the sun is nearing its midday apex.
I take my hat off to all competitors in this event. None more so than my friend's mate Burke. He'd spent 5 months training for this, his first triathlon. In the process he'd reportedly lost 15 or 20 kilos. He told me after the race that he ran all of the run for fear that if he stopped he'd not be able to start again. He also admitted to having just a bit of a tear in his eye when he crossed what I hope is the first of many finish lines for him.
In fitting with the vibe of the weekend, the presentations for the Triathlon took place between the 3rd and 4th at the Julia Creek Racecourse that afternoon. We all proudly watched as Burke, to his surprise, collected his 2nd place prize in the Clydesdale category. It was his lucky day - the race organisers threw in the 3rd prize pack as well because, well, there were only two entrants in his category.
It was my lucky day too. I had the honour of witnessing what in my opinion is one of Australia's great destination triathlons. More importantly, I had a unique opportunity to offer my advice to help a small country community build on an event that is already one of the biggest on their calendar.
If you're looking for a race that's off the beaten track, both in location and ambiance, Dirt 'n Dust is certainly a must.