Dirt, Dust And The Julia Creek Triathlon...

If you're searching for an off-the-beaten tri adventure to make your Facebook friends jealous - then look no further than the annual Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Festival advises Nikki Dudley.

My heart misses two beats as I hurdle arms first into the freezing, murky water of Eastern Creek. My tactic is to stick close to the swampy riverbank free-styling amongst the reeds to avoid the thrashing arms and legs as hundreds of competitors scramble for position.

Wave two is released and a sea of white swimming caps blur my forward vision as Luke, my partner, methodically taps at my heels behind. Gasping for air I momentarily panic that I won't be able to sustain the pace nor complete the full 800 metre swim that kicks off the sought-after event.

My chest pounds a million-miles-an-hour making it almost impossible to relax and get into a decent stroke. I beg my limbs to swing autonomously like they do in a swimming pool, and within minutes they yield to a rhythmical pattern beating to the tune of: harder, faster, quicker!

A blue marker balloon floats ahead signalling my least favourite leg is nearly over. I chuckle knowing this beacon also marks a submerged barbed-wire fence warning competitors to keep clear. You gotta love the Outback and their relaxed attitude to litigation.

Seeing Luke's bike dangling in the sea of millions-of-dollars-worth of equipment as I emerge from the water is satisfying. Friendly rivalry, I'm sure, is good for any relationship - as long as I'm winning.

Just as I'm struggling, Woodsy from Triathlon Queensland bellows out words of encouragement but the dusty transition area makes it near impossible to slip my muddy shoes into the bike's tiny black pedals.

I picture what the 25 km ride into a serious head-wind will be like without the comfort and strength of my cleats, and within seconds Luke flies past, sarcasm oozing at my misfortune. “Damn it,” I shout aloud, and in frustration I forcefully jam my feet into the pedal a stepsisters into Cinderella's shoes. Finally, success, and it's music to my ears. Or should I say, to my toes.  

The sound of screeching wind whooshes past my helmet, bringing up memories of how excited we were locking up the house and trekking 1700 kilometres via car, plane and coach to compete in one of the country's most gruelling triathlon events, the Julia Creek Dirt n Dust.

The memory gives me the courage to drop my forearms onto my tri-bars and grind: harder, faster, quicker! Not even the suction of cattle trucks hurtling in the opposite direction can stop me.

Powering into the main street lined with hundreds of colourful supporters and traffic controllers screaming words of encouragement, I imagine this is how Emma Snowsill feels as she charges first across the finish line.

Event Organiser Margie Rider yells out, “Go Miss Tourism,” as I swing my lanky legs off the bike and begin to awkwardly run in my cycling shoes (as I haven't mastered the dismount yet). Within moments I find myself being treated like royalty as cups of water, wet Chux and gigantic smiles from volunteers are thrown my way.

The final leg starts and I'm on a runner's high. Not even the sight of eighty-year-old local, Fred Schneider, loping past me in his battered akubra and stubbies, can dampen this feeling.

After one hour and fifty eight minutes later, I finish, overcoming the psychological struggle that a dead-flat road plays on your mind.

I am now officially 'done and dusted'. No body needs to know that I came last.  The Triathlon is part of a three day action-packed festival that includes a PBR Rodeo, Best Butt Competition, Ute Muster plus loads more.  

For more information on the Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Festival, please visit www.queensland.com or www.dirtndust.com

Word Count: 636
Author: Nikki Dudley

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