The “Hell of the West” began life in 1989 as what was then called an Olympic distance event comprising a 1.5k swim, 40k cycle and a 10k run. Co-founders Lex Dreier and myself were both novice triathletes at the time and basically wanted to put something back into the sport that we enjoyed so much. With the assistance of then Triathlon Queensland President Barry Hawkins we conducted the first event in October of that year with a field of 45 individuals. The event was a big success with Barry Hawkins and the visiting triathletes were very pleased with the way it had been conducted.
At this time in triathlons development “Olympic” distance, which are now referred to as standard or simply as triathlon distance events were the most popular and most promoted races in the country. The Goondiwindi team decided that the “Hell of the West” needed to be something unique if it was to prosper and develop a national profile. Because of the lack of quality longer distance races in Queensland it was decided that the event should be changed to a long course triathlon which is made up of a 2k swim, 80k cycle and a 20k run. With the support of Barry Hawkins the club applied to and was accepted by Triathlon Queensland to host the 1990 Long Course State Titles (we have hosted the state titles for six of the last eight years).
The first long course event was held in November of 1990 and attracted an excellent field (by the standards of the time) of 85 individuals. The local team were a little disappointed that the numbers were not higher but we were assured that the publicity that would be generated about the event and how tough it was would ensure its future success. Co-editor and 1990 competitor Barry Saw published an article in the following “Ultimate Challenge” ( Triathlon Queenslands own magazine ) that the event was a huge success and that it was “THE TOUGHEST TRIATHLON IN QUEENSLAND” which help create the mystique and excellent reputation that surrounds the event to this day.
Because of a full race calendar of events such as Port Macquarie etc around the November date of the Goondiwindi event it was decided to shift the race to late January which would also give competitors more time from the start of the triathlon season in September to prepare for the longer distance. At the time very few triathlons were run in January because it was considered to hot, but this only served to inspire the Goondiwindi crew to enhance the reputation of the event under the tougher conditions. Because of the shift from November to January the next event was held in 1992 with 120 individuals and four teams facing the starting gun.
The 1993event was again held in January with a filed of 134 individuals and 16 teams with the media profile still growing and continuing to promote Goondiwindi further and further afield. As it continued to develop over the next few years the event has continually “led” the triathlon community with new innovations and improvements. The “Hell of the West” was one of the first events to have five year age categories and to allocate equal prize money or prizes to men and women and pay those regardless of how many entrants are in each category. It was also one of the first events to incorporate a children’s triathlon in conjunction with the main event with the “Just for Kidz” triathlon continuing to be extremely popular. Innovations such as the water drums on the run course, 1k aid stations and the small juice type water bottles were not borrowed from other events but developed by the Goondiwindi team to combat the local prevailing conditions.
In 1994 a slight date change occurred with the event moving from late January to early February to allow more time to organise the race after Christmas and particularly to assist organisations such as the local scout group to rally workers. The local support for the event cannot be overstated with the Goondiwindi Scouts , Guides & Venturers in particular the cornerstone of the events success over the years. Their organisation of the river safety and in particular the run leg aid stations to deliver the vital water etc to the athletes in the later part of the event has been one of the stand out features of the race over the many years since its inception. In recent years the Blue Nurses have become a vital part of the overall “Hell of the West” success storywith other groups such as Rotary & Apex , the Goondiwind Swimming Club, the Goondiwindi Tennis Club, Goondiwindi, Boggabilla and Yetman SES services doing their part over the last thirteen years to assist the Triathlon Club. ( some of these groups receive the bulk of any profits each year ).
Over the next five years the “Hell of the West” continued to grow in stature and media exposure with the field sizes being: 1994: 186 Individuals, 1995: 220 Individuals, 1996: 250 Individuals & 50 teams,
1997: 315 Individuals 45 Teams, 1998: 267 Individuals & 35 Teams, 1999: 279 Individuals & 53 Teams.
2000: 250 Individuals & 73 Teams. 2001: 268 Individuals & 66 Teams. 2002: 247 Individuals & 50 Teams.