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On the weekend of February 7-9, Goondiwindi will host its annual ‘Festival of Hell’, which encompasses the infamous Hell of the West triathlon (a 2km swim, 80km cycle and 20km run), now in its 29th year, and a number of additional complementary events the day prior on what is now known as ‘Super Saturday’. Described as one of Queensland’s most iconic long course triathlon events, HOTW is certainly one for the bucket list if you haven’t dared to attempt it already. Here are five reasons why we love this laid back, local long course race …
1. The diversity
Uber competitive age groupers, professionals and social triathletes - this race attracts them all! Every year, some of Australia’s very best triathletes and a contingent of internationals descend on Goondiwindi to compete side-by-side with locals and amateurs, toughing out the relaxed but competitive long course event in some of the hottest, most challenging conditions of any triathlon in Australia. According to the HOTW president, the prize money on offer isn’t what attracts professional athletes, but the history of this iconic, community-centric race and the desire to ensure its survival in the “very corporate” IRONMAN world of triathlon. If you’re looking for a decent long-course hit out but need a break from the all-consuming M-dot, HOTW is for you!
2. The course
HOT HOT HOT. The Goondiwindi temperature in February (up to 38 degrees) is what sets this race apart. A 2km freshwater swim in the Macintyre River, followed by an 80km (40km out-and-back) flat cycle along the Barwon Highway, topped off with a 20km run back along the river (3 loops - perfect for spectators!), presents athletes with a formidable challenge, undoubtedly enticing to athletes who love to race in the heat. Due to the timing of the event, it’s a great early-year race if you’re ramping up Ironman training or even looking to compete in a team as a warm up for whatever is on the agenda for the rest of the calendar year.
3. The community feel
Nothing beats local hospitality, and Goondiwindi offers it in droves. With an average of 500 competitors, HOTW is big enough to warrant a well-organised and professional event, but still small enough for race morning bike racking! The relaxed and casual approach to this race helps to curb many a pre-race jitter, as do the local volunteers, assisting as ushers, aid station attendants and in a variety of other roles. The location of race transition - in the centre of the town at Goondiwindi Town Park - means the race (racking, transition set-up etc.) is also easily accessible for athletes and equally handy for spectators and supporters (no huge line ups to cross roads for better vantage points etc.). The race attracts a strong and loyal following amongst age groupers, with many competitors embracing the community event and returning to compete on a yearly basis, only adding to the laid-back and familial atmosphere.
4. The weekend “festival”
Recently rebranded as the “Festival of Hell”, events now span the entire weekend, and athletes of all abilities and their families can participate in additional races on ’Super Saturday’ including a 5 or 10km charity run “Gundy Inferno”, an enticer triathlon “The Firestarter” and “Hell Kids” - a kids triathlon open for ages 6-11. These events really encourage more local and family participation, adding to the festive atmosphere and offering the opportunity for an even larger contingent of athletes to descend on Goondiwindi without having to commit themselves to the formidable distances of the iconic HOTW race.
5. Its “feel good” factor
When you participate in local events like HOTW, the impact of both your time and money spent in regional areas like Goondiwindi cannot be overstated. Each year, this event benefits the Goondiwindi Region’s local economy significantly - every dollar spent by athletes on accomodation and local services helps to support the community, which is particularly important during these times of drought. In fact, HOTW is run as a not-for-profit incorporation and donates a significant amount of money back to the local community groups, sporting clubs, schools and charities who volunteer their time over the weekend. What could be better than knowing you are making an impact on a local scale, while doing what you love? Surely, this “feel good factor” will help to keep those mental demons at bay during the last 10K of the run leg… :-P
Good luck to all our awesome T:Zero athletes racing Hell of the West next weekend! Remember to stay hydrated, have fun and give it hell!
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