Each year Australian triathletes trade in the beach for the harsh Queensland desert. Professional triathlete Sam Betten describes this year’s little known triathlon gem and how he took the title for a second year
Words: Sam Betten
If you asked most athletes about the iconic Australian triathlon events, Noosa, Mooloolaba and even IM Melbourne would surely top most people’s list. However there is one hidden gem that has seen triathlon royalty Brad Beven, Loretta Harrop and Emma Jackson crowned as its champions amongst many over the course of the race’s 19 year history. A race that embodies everything a triathlon in Australia should.
The Dirt n Dust triathlon is held in the small town of Julia Creek located between Townsville and Mt Isa in outback Australia. Without question, this event is up there with some of the most challenging sprint distance races you will ever find on the planet.
Combining the tough course, outback heat and whipping wind, for many this is one of the toughest races of the year. The swim leg is held in a muddy creek 25kms north of the township of Julia Creek. This year due to the lack of rain, the swim was almost cancelled as the depth of the creek was well below usual levels. There is always a running joke on the starting line between competitors to keep watch for the crocs. This is quite possibly why the affectionately named Brad ‘The Croc’ Beven is a two-time champion of the event.
Although no crocodiles were spotted this year, there was an abundance of catfish. Apparently one even managed to swim its way into one competitor’s tri top! After escaping the water unharmed and running through the dusty transition area, you head out onto what was the toughest bike conditions ever seen during the Dirt N Dust Triathlon. The ride back into the town of Julia Creek is quite literally into the horizon with nothing to see except the harsh outback heat rising off the tarmac in front of you.
The added challenge in 2013 was the brutal headwind with most competitors struggling to push even 30kph. While on the bike, every athlete looks for the Julia Creek water tower rising up from the distant horizon. This beacon of life is the only landmark competitors have to judge the distance before their second transition. It is always a relief to be able to say you have survived the ride but with a 5km run over the hot tarmac, the day is far from over. It is however a welcome change from the solitude of the cycle leg with what seems like the entire town of Julia Creek cheering while you run up and down the main street.
This year saw both Sam Betten and Emma Jackson defend the 2012 titles and crowned champions of the 2013 Dirt N Dust Triathlon. For every competitor, tackling the most extreme elements in the event’s 19 year history was an achievement in itself.
The Dirt N Dust Triathlon captures a different side of Australian triathlon, taking athletes away from the beaches and into the Australian outback. If you are after something a little different to add into your 2014 race calendar then this might very well be the race for you.
For more information on Dirt and Dust, head on over to their website at www.dirtndust.com