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Port Macquarie

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The Basics

Key Races - Triathlon & Multi-sport

Port Macquarie's major race of the year is now the "Oz Ironman" recently staged for the first time on April 2nd 2006 - the first of a 5-year contract with IMG. The official website for the race is here and includes information about accommodation, entries, the race itself, and the Half IM qualifying series. The town's experience of successfully running the Australian Long Course Triathlon between 2002-2004 helped the town secure the Ironman rights.

Along with the Ironman, Port has secured the rights to the "70.3" Half Ironman to be held on 5th November 2006. This year, 250 slots for entry to the full Ironman are up for grabs, as well as 75 slots for the World 70.3 Championship held in Florida. A separate website has been set-up for this race here

The Port Macquarie Triathlon Club stages a series of sprint distance triathlons during summer, as well as a duathlon series during the winter season. Most races are staged at the local Sailing Club on the Hastings River near McInherny Park. Sanctioning is now near completion for the 2006 Duathlon series, with the first race scheduled for the last Sunday of July. The following two races will be held on the last Sunday of August and September. Distances are 2.5km run / 20km ride / 2.5km run.

The summer triathlon season begins in October and incorporates races generally over a distance of 500m swim / 20km bike / 5km run. Longer distances are occasionally run, and there are half distance events and junior events also available at each race.

A small town 10km east of Laurieton known as Dunbogan stages a triathlon weekend around October, usually marking the start of the Mid North Coast Triathlon season. Junior events are staged on the Saturday, while the main event (800m/28km/7km) is played out on the Sunday. As is the way with many of the local triathlons on the Mid-North-Coast, the atmosphere is very social and team entries for the event are encouraged. In fact, it is quite common for local swimmers/cyclists (or injured triathletes) to be looking for a runner to make up a team for this event, so any fun-runners planning a holiday are virtually guaranteed a race on the day.

Trial Bay up at South West Rocks stages a similar triathlon weekend in February. The main event on Sunday (750m/28km/6km) also caters for team entries, which can be great for the fun-runner looking for a challenge. While only a short 6km run, it is staged over bitumen, dirt trails, grass, sand dunes, and then finishes with a punishing 1.5km run along the beach (shoes must NOT be removed or you risk disqualification). It's a fantastic finish to a very popular triathlon on the mid-north-coast. Just as importantly, the main race on Sunday is supported by a host of junior events the day before, starting at the 5 years age group. It makes for a fantastic weekend away.

March sees the staging of the 2.7km Gaolbreak Ocean Swim, again starting from the Trial Bay Gaol. The course follows the curved beach of Trial Bay in amazingly clear and warm waters off South West Rocks. The Bay is sheltered and generally free of jellyfish or any other nasties that may get some people nervous about ocean swimming, and is well patrolled by the local surf club members.

Key Races - Running

At both the Half and Full Ironman events, a 5km fun run will also be staged. This will likely occur on the Saturday morning before the main race, and will cover a course around the CBD and Hastings River area, starting and finishing in the Event Festival Centre to be set-up in Westport Park. Junior aquathons, and a 1km ocean swim are also likely to be staged for these weekends. Best to check the official websites for confirmation of events.

In addition, the Tri club assists with local charity groups such as Rotary to stage 1-2 fun runs each year - generally including both 5 & 10km distances. One such run is the annual Seaside 5km/10km classic usually held in October - but will now likely coincide with the HIM in 2006. This race involves a 'mostly' flat course around the river and Town Beach Headland. One hill is likely to be included in the 10km event, and includes a short stair climb at about the 7-8km mark. Entry fees are usually around $15 +/- for these fun runs.

Port once had a healthy winter season Cross Country series going. Alas, it had not been revived for 2005, but may make an appearnce in 2006.

Looking slightly further afield (topographically), there are a number of quality races held within an hour's drive of Port. Foremost of these would be the Macleay River Marathon held in June up at Trial Bay, South West Rocks (held on 11th June this year). This very friendly event staged over a predominantly flat course includes the full, a half, a 10km, and a 5km walk in the festival. As indicated, 80% of the course is flat with only a few short hills at the beginning and end (it's an out and back). The event is reknown for its great giveaways, and wonderful beach setting making it perfect for a swim after the race, and a great weekend away.

To the south of Port Macquarie, the town of Laurieton stages a tough 5km race in September each year known as the King of the Mountain. Last year's race was held on Sunday 18th September 2005. This is an on-road race that takes you vertically up the North Brother Mountain which poses an impressive backdrop to the small town. This is a tough, tough race. Apart from the last 500m, this is all entirely up-hill on a very steep ascent, with no plateau for a breather. From personal experience, you can add another 8-10 minutes to your personal best 5km time to gauge your estimated finish for this one.

Running Tracks

Well, Port Macquarie's only a small developing city, so it's not currently blessed with a track such as the Tan, Olympic Park, or the AIS running facilities - instead you have the wonder of the local scenery to put up with. There are however a number of reasonable-quality school grass ovals around town. McKillop College's Oval near the intersection of Koala Street & Ocean Drive is accurate - Oxley Oval near Port High School is one of the more scenic ovals on the NSW coast, however it's accuracy is a little lacking. Great for repeats, just as long as you work on times, not distances.

However, one of our local runners is straight out of the "Action" mould - at least in terms of his desire for accurate runs. To this end, an accurate 5km course has been measured stretching between the Town Beach breakwall, continuing along the southern side of the Hastings River through town, along Westport Park, and out to Settlement Point. Km markers are there if you look in the right spot, and the course is almost entirely flat making for good time trialling. A local may however need to point the km markers out to you ;) The Ironman Run-leg can be seen on the Ironman official website, and is well marked on the roads. It comprises a Half Marathon loop (which is run twice for the Ironman competitors). So if you're after a challenging 21.1km course, you'll find the flat for 60%, then hilly for 40% Run Leg a tough, but amazingly scenic hit-out. Bright green fluro km markers are there by the road-side if you look hard enough.

Places to run

OK - this is where it gets really interesting! Port Macquarie simply has to be one of the most picturesque running destinations anywhere in Australia. Unlike most coastal towns, there are a large number of accessible beaches in very close proximity to each other (even a 7km run could potentially take you through 8 different beaches). In addition, there are pristine coastal rainforests - rural hinterland - wetland forests - constructed timber boardwalks over coastal headlands - state forestry trails - lots of flat, fast roads around the north west side of town - boardwalks through nature reserves - and hills - in fact heaps of hills. You can entirely avoid them of course. However if you want a hill challenge, there's some great ones in the middle of town, let alone the surrounding hinterland of Wauchope, Laurieton, Bonny Hills etc - all within a 20-25 minute drive.

A couple of personal favourite runs of mine are described below: ---- except they're not yet - I'm still getting to it :)

Running Clubs & Groups

Other than the Triathlon Club and local Cycling/Swimming Clubs, there is no specific "running" club in town. There is a Little Athletics group which regularly meets at McKillop Oval (Friday afternoons). However while there are dedicated groups of local runners, there are no "Strider's" to pay any memebership dollars to.

There are however designated group runs around town that anyone is more than welcome, and more than encouraged to join. You could in fact find a group to run with any day of the week - but the two most regular groups are on Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning.

The Wednesday afternoon group leaves at 5.45pm from the local Fisherman's Co-op in Short Street adjacent the junction of Kooloonbung Creek and the Hastings River. A wide range of speeds are catered for, with the group ranging in size from half a dozen up to 20-30 on occasion. For those so inclined (usually about 20% of those attending), this generally comprises a speed session where you can time yourself over the measured 5km course (see above). 4km and 10km TTs are usually catered for. Drinks after the run in the warm-down area are a must-attend also :)

The Saturday morning runs cater for those wanting long slow distance and leaves from the Town Beach carpark at 6.45am. The likely route is often a bit of a lottery, usually dependent on who is doing the most talking that morning - they get to then pick their preferred route through the town. More often than not, a flat route is chosen, although a run along the eastern seaboard (including over the beaches) is not uncommon. As with the Wednesday run, all runners are catered for, but most runs are timed to take about 60 minutes. It is not uncommon for a few locals to turn up 1/2 - 1 hour early to get a few more kms under the belt before joining up with the group. So if you're a 2-hour+ long run type, you're likely to find a few of us there at 5.45am as well.

Places to buy Running gear incl. shoes

There are realistically only 2 dedicated sporting stores in town which sell running shoes. There's the Athlete's Foot which most people would be familiar with. This is located in the main street of town (Horton Street).

There is also a Sportspower store located in Settlement City, the large shopping centre just 2kms out of the main CBD. This store perhaps caters more specifically for runners (although nothing like the specialty stores you'd find in the city), and will happily order in nearly anything you can think of.

There are also 4 cycling stores in town, most of which offer a range of triathlon clothing in addition to their cycling range. The newest store, TRS Cycling Centre located on Clarence Street also has a range of running clothing and running shoes on display.

Medical & Doctors

There are 2 hospitals in town, although only one is public and caters for emergency patients. This latter facility is the Port Macquarie Base Hospital, which is located on Wrights Road accessed off the Oxley Highway near the Port Macquarie Racecourse. The hospital is approximately 5km west of the CBD.

There are a range of good physios, sports physicians, chiropractors/accupuncturists in town. While there are probably too many to name individually, GP Joseph McMahon is an avid runner and regular at the Wednesday and Saturday group runs. As is Bill Cumberland, one of the town's Orthopaedic Surgeons. Another regular at these runs, as well as an accomplished triathlete and executive member of the local Tri Club is Chiropractor Darren Gray. Darren is also actively involved in the management of the Ironman events, as well as many local fun runs. These gentlemen can be found in the yellow pages.

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