Deb Harding preparing for the 2009 Dirt n Dust Triathlong at Julia Creek.
Deb Harding preparing for the 2009 Dirt n Dust Triathlong at Julia Creek. Stephan Malone

The Julia Creek Dirt & Dust Triathlon

MENTION the word 'flesh' to Deb Harding, and she'll no doubt start going on about her middle aged figure. The truth is, the spirit in this girl more than makes up for any inadequacies of the flesh - but even these are being resolved as she undergoes an extreme makeover of the athletic kind - transforming herself from a self confessed 'middle aged, fuller figured, chardonnay-loving sloth' to a force to be reckoned with on the track, on bike and in the water at the 2009 Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Triathlon.

Deb's journey to the starting line began back at the 2008 Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Triathlon, where she got chatting to 'a guy called Brad Bevan'.

"I didn't really know who he was or that he was such an extraordinary athlete who was top of his field," says Deb, aged '40-and-holding'.

"He is a busy guy but spent some time listening to my dreams and plans and associated complications and set me on a path which ultimately could save my life."

Brad referred Deb to the Wesley Corporate Health unit for testing, where physiologist Rod Cedaro identified various health issues including 'diabolically' high iron levels, skeletal imbalances and ongoing back problems.

"These had to be resolved before I could even consider 'training', so I spent 10 days at the Wesley Back Rehab unit," Deb says.

"The program was phenomenal value for me, really a new start on life - from there I joined the Croc Squad run by Brad Beven and Rod Cedaro, and got training.

Then the fun really started…as Deb's training diary shows.

July, 29 2008

I had my first stroke correction swimming session last night and thought I might die. I have never had any formal swimming training and explained to the coach that I grew up in the desert just an hour from Julia Creek. Our 'pool' was a water tank cut in half and we learnt to run in circles to get the water going fast as it was only about two to three foot deep. Our main concern was getting wet to beat the heat and avoid ripping our feet open on the rivets on the bottom and sides.

Mind you, as a tourist thing my father set up the Kynuna Surf Club of which he was captain. He had a barbed wire rescue wheel and a surf board made out of flattened corrugated iron - they were fun days.  

August 7, 2008

Last Tuesday I did a run session under the Story Bridge with the Croc Squad. I was overwhelmed as it was a different world. I was running late, went to the wrong end of the bridge then was confronted by a sea of runners who all looked professional and like they knew what they were doing. Meanwhile, I couldn't even find a car park. Some runners pointed me in the right direction but couldn't help with the parking situation. (It felt like the first night I went swimming - I sat in the wrong squad - wondering why the coach was late!)

I parked illegally and nervously got out of the car with my little folder with information needed so the coach could give me direction. In my anxious state I left the strap of my heart rate monitor in the car. Eventually found the squad and the coach and then didn't know what to do with my keys, folder so decided to put everything in the car.

Next thing coach asks "Where is ya stuff?"  "In the car..." "Come on let's be quick and get it..."  Coach had to hurry off as he had 'elites' who were competing on the weekend. Anyway, we stretched, then the running began.

I was the snail of the group which suited me as I nearly died. I was meant to do 4 x 1kilometre sets of running doing each 500m in 4.20secs. After 3 x 1km sets Coach called out: "Better call it quits Deb - I want you to be able to walk tomorrow."  Thank God. It was so good to have someone give me permission to 'go slow', which is the way to burn fat. I have a long journey ahead of me but one which I think will be successful.

Things to remember when you are an old fart attempting to fit in with 'fitties'.

  1. Be on time
  2. Know where to park
  3. Have a check list of everything you may need
  4. Don't wear undies that creep up ya bum
  5. Tighten up the sports bra so that your 16DD breasts stay in place
  6. Listen to the coach and LEARN TO SLOW DOWN.

At the time of writing, Deb's big goal to start - and finish - the 2009 Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Triathlon was looming, and she remained determined to achieve it.

"While I don't expect to become an elite athlete as I now do things just for me rather than being competitive, I wanted to find the courage or motivation to allow me to move through physical and mental boundaries to participate," Deb says.  

"Having attended the Dirt n Dust as a spectator year after year, I have had the opportunity to spend time with the athletes and to learn a little more about them and their sport.

"Brad and other elites who support the Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Triathlon have really helped boost the profile of the event," she says.

Deb describes the community impact of the Julia Creek Dirt n Dust as one where 'outcomes can't sufficiently be put into words'.

"Naturally, the event injects financially into the business community and surrounding districts as a result of people making their way to Julia Creek or returning for family trips, and that little dot on the map is now more widely recognised both nationally and internationally," Deb says.

"However, the human and emotional element is what really stands out.
"All invisible boundaries are disregarded in the bush and people of all walks of life, abilities and status come together simply as 'people' to enjoy the hospitality provided and to mix and mingle.

"The locals - the people who make the event possible - welcome everybody with open arms. Nothing is too much trouble. Having grown up in the bush and appreciating the value of visitors, I feel that it is sort of a reciprocal arrangement - while the locals welcome us visitors into the fold, hopefully we contribute something to their lives as well.  

"The Dirt n Dust definitely strengthens ties between the bush and the city and each year one returns with new acquaintances, new memories and the anticipation of doing it all over again.  

"Sometimes things can become a bit lonely in the bush so I suspect that the new friendships made and experiences had for the locals would in some way sustain them, both young and old, for a period of time and then before we all know it, the next festival is on the horizon."

2009 Julia Creek Dirt and Dust Festival
When: April 3-5, 2009
Where: Julia Creek

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