2012 Cue Outback Triathlon
In many ways, the Cue Outback Triathlon is more adventure race than triathlon. More about survival than fast splits; more about a good doublegee defence than an aero set-up. After a seven-hour drive from Perth the previous day, I joined just over 40 hardy souls for the 2nd annual event on Saturday October 6.
Weather-wise, it was an average day for the historic gold mining area -35degrees, a 30kph wind and almost zero cloud cover.
Lifeguards zipping around an old mine pit in a rubber ducky (400km from the coast) is quite an unusual sight. Even stranger, was when we joined them at the water’s edge. Organisers claimed it was a 500m leg. We later found out it was closer to 900m. Still, the water was cool, clean and there was plenty of room to pick a line. Without the normal thrashing and bashing of a metro swim leg, I got out of the water placed a little better than mid-field, in just under 17 minutes
Straight away, we were confronted by a 300m uphill scramble to get out of the pit to T1. By the half-way point, those who decided to do the dash in their full wetsuits were walking. The rest of us were close to anaerobic.
Lifting my mountainbike off the rack, it felt like a tank. Last year about 80% of the field DNF, mainly due to long stretches of doublegee patches. As a result, I’d gone crazy with puncture prevention – green goo pumped into thick tubes, covered with liners, covered with heavy duty kevlar tyres. Add two extra tubes, pumps, repair kits and a couple of kilos worth of hydration and I found myself piloting an A380 into the desert. Early going was ok – hard corrugated dirt road. But then we turned into a narrow track, following an old fenceline, the fun began. You’d pedal for a kilometre or so, and then hit deep, soft sand, mixed with a bit of pea gravel. These stretches were usually no more than 20m long. The first couple of times, you’d work up some momentum and skim over the top. But as energy levels started to drain, momentum was virtually non-existent. For the risk-adverse, getting off and pushing was the only option. Others trusted their tyres, riding around the sand through thick scrub. I did a bit of both. It was hard-going and, at times, pretty lonely. No drink stations and a scattered field meant there were moments when you were wondering whether you were going the right way. Every now and then you’d come across a dejected rider sitting under a tree, waiting for the truck to come past so they could hitch a lift home.
After just over two hours, highway bitumen finally appeared. From there, it was a short burst to the town oval to T2. I took longer than usual to get my heart rate down and get some cool fluids onboard. Someone was handing out icy cold quarters of oranges. After sucking back hot water and gels for most of the bike leg, they were heaven. Then it was up Water Tower Hill and back into the bush for a 5.5km run. On a normal day, this would have been pretty easy. But at this stage, every part of me was saying stop. My belly was sloshing around thanks to all the water and oranges I’d guzzled. After about 1km, the compromise was walk 500m, then run 500m. And that’s pretty much how the day ended. Final result – 5th in the men’s solo, in 2hrs56min. The winner was a fella who runs a pastoral station just out of town. This was definitely a course for those with local knowledge. On paper, it’s a short race. Personally, I reckon it was harder than this year’s Busso 70.3.
Having said that, it was a unique event, well organised and enthusiastically supported by the Cue community. Competitor numbers more than doubled this year, including a good-sized contingent from the Kalgoorlie Tri Club. As word about the race gets out into the wider triathlon community, I’m sure many more will be making the trip from Perth and beyond. Just bring some good tyres and a sense of adventure!