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March 12, 2020

Three races, one day, one challenge, two running tops…..well that last element wasn’t exactly part of the script until the night before the race but we’ll get to that a little later. For the third consecutive year it was off to Port Macquarie for another crack at the Treble Breakwall Buster, which gives runners the chance to run a half marathon, a 10km and a 5km race all in the one day. Once again I’m using this run as part of the Comrades preparation as opposed to, for example, heading to Orange to run their marathon which was something I half considered in planning the whole “Operation Mabhida” last year before deciding it would be easier in terms of transport and logistics to head to the Port.

There were delays that would have made things for the average runner nervous, for the flight out of Brisbane was close to 40 minutes behind schedule. Fortunately with the renovations at Port Macquarie Airport ensuring baggage claim was relatively easy I was still able to make bib collection on the Saturday Afternoon with plenty of time to spare. Perhaps I could have used one of the three vouchers that would have given me a 10% discount on my pre-race shopping at the local IGA Supermarket, but it would have been pointless as the toilet paper allocation was exhausted (not that I need it). It wasn’t until I was laying out the gear that I decided to incorporate a second top (which was a long sleeved footy jumper) for the 10km. I figured that a fresh top may help me complete the 2nd leg a little quicker and that I could then make a choice over what top I want to wear for the final 5km.

Come race morning and the misty rain turned into showers. This was a little more concerning given the course, despite changes to combat congestion on a bridge, still had a fair bit of running on the grass particularly at the start and at the bottom turn of the half marathon loops. Despite the conditions the start went pretty much as planned, and I actually caught up to the pace runner that I wanted to be with almost at the commencement of the second lap. From there it was a case of trying to stay with as many purple bibs as possible, trying to find a little group to run with, but by the finish I was pretty much alone although certainly far from the last to finish.

It was a fairly quick transition which I felt was aided by a rapid top change. I initially tried to get my arms out of the sleeves before entering the finishing chute but found that to be too difficult to do on the run (plus my arms are probably too big to effectively do it quickly anyway). So as soon as I crossed the finish line for the first time the shirt immediately went off, and I managed to get through the crowds (some of them had finished their only run for the day, others were preparing for the 5km, and a few were after the coffee tent) to change shirts, down a water at the recovery table, then trudge off for leg 2. It wasn’t all that pleasant in that I had to stop with reasonable frequency with some soreness in the upper quad/lower groin region. That didn’t stop me from completing the 10km in a pedestrian 1:18 (official times would have it closer to a 1:30 as the clock for each leg started when the gun went off rather than when you crossed the line). Again I was thankful that I was able to see some purple bibs still completing the journey behind me, but I was also extremely mindful particularly on lap 2 of staying out of the way of the leading 5km competitors, which given the race was run on paths with runners coming in both directions, wasn’t as easy as avoiding the front running half marathoners at Perth’s City to Surf for example.

Three fingers signifying three Buster finishes. PHOTO CREDIT: TLC Photography Port Macquarie

The transition between 10km and 5km was a little bit slower, although I was thankful that nobody gave me a tap on the shoulder to say “sorry mate, you can’t continue”. Changing the bib was a little tricky, and I only bothered to pin the top of the bib to the top. I also managed to find the bottle of orange Lucozade which made the start even slower as I was making sure the fluids went down easily. I was able to run much of the 5km leg even if I was disappointed to not go all the way along the breakwall. Yet when I crossed the line I was pretty much on my lonesome, well behind the previous competitor, but well ahead of 15 others which was a change from previous years when I was closer to the last 5. There was even time to run a little bit of the last 200m backwards just for a laugh and to see if anyone noticed (the MC did), but it felt awkward around the final corner so I just wandered across the line to have 4 medals around the neck. Pleasingly this year for the first time, there were no duplicate medals to complete the set when in previous years I ended up getting 2 medals for 10km but no medal for say the 5km.

Apart from the blisters where my big toenails once were and a little fatigue in the legs, everything seemed to be pretty well fine post race. It would be the catalyst for the biggest block of training in the Comrades program, with my aims now being closer to 60-65 kilometres per week over the next month as opposed to the usual 50km. At this stage everything is all systems go, and unless we get told otherwise that we can’t go then I’m certainly planning to board the flight over on what would be the Queen’s Birthday in southern states, much less fly down for the Canberra Ultra at the start of April. For now it’s looking for climbs, hitting some 20km+ training runs, and generally getting myself more ready for this year’s edition than any other in my time running.



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