Goondiwindi triathlon hell

Andrew Smith, of Ballina, who finished ninth in the 40-44 years division.
Andrew Smith, of Ballina, who finished ninth in the 40-44 years division.

FANCY going for a run in the searing summer heat?

How about completing a triathlon?

Well, however you feel about those suggestions, they have nothing on what Ballina duo Lisa Skinner and Andrew Smith and Lennox Head trio Joe Lampe, Luke Harrison and Shane Flannery got up to last weekend.

The fivesome completed one of the most testing events staged in Australia – the race they call the Hell of the West.

A four- to five-hour assignment of swimming, running and cycling set in the dry and windy western Queensland town of Goondiwindi, Hell of the West attracts more than 600 athletes from Australia and New Zealand and is staged over double the Olympic triathlon distance.

The gruelling race began with the swim leg at 5am and got tougher and tougher as temperatures rose to 32 degrees through the day.

All five Far North Coast athletes swam the 2km, cycled the 20km and ran the 80km with distinction.

Lampe finished second among the professionals; Skinner won her age group (45-49 years) and finished seventh among all women; Harrison came second in his division (30-34 years) and fifth overall; Flannery was third in the men’s 45-49 years division; and Smith ninth of all men aged 40-44 years.

Lampe, 20, finished just three minutes outside the former race record which was smashed this year by three-time ironman champion Luke Mackenzie.

Lampe rated the race one of the toughest on the calendar but rued his choice of instrument for the cycle leg.

“I could’ve done better if I had a time trial bike,” Lampe said. “That would have been more suited to the course but unfortunately I had a road bike.”

Lampe’s teammate, the 32-year-old Harrison, was more than happy with his result, which came in the most trying conditions.

“At 5am you hit the water, just as the sun is rising, and it’s like diving into a puddle, it’s that muddy,” Harrison said.

“And the bike leg is tough. On the way back you are going about 10km slower than on the way out due to the headwind.”

Considering the conditions – not to mention the name – you wonder why anyone would make the 450km trip west to participate.

But, needless to say, putting their mind and body through hell is what these athletes are all about.