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Amanda Higgerson spent all hours training in soft sand on Coolangatta Beach in preparation for her women's one-kilometre beach run at the world life saving titles in Italy.
When she arrived in Riccione there was no sign of any soft, white sand anywhere; it was firm and black.
The Port Macquarie Surf Life Saving Club member returned home this week without a medal around her neck, but still satisfied with her fourth-place finish.
"I had been training in the soft sand because for every other surf carnival we have in Australia they make us run in soft sand," she said.
"They put witches hats up on the sand dunes and make us run in the softer sand so that's what I was expecting.
"There was none of that - the sand on the beach was black and it was rock hard."
All that preparation counted for nothing at the start line when Higgerson gave three competitors a 40-metre head-start.
The trio eventually finished on the podium with Higgerson one further spot behind in fourth after it proved too much to overhaul.
That's despite Spanish runner Cristina Colomo Garcoa taking a wrong turn before she stormed home to chase down Higgerson and finish in third behind Oliver Nicola and Sabine Geyer.
"I just didn't want to come last so I was really happy with my race," Higgerson said.
"The Spanish lady didn't go around the correct flag and kept running after the first turn by which time I thought I was in third, but she came back and overtook me. She was determined to get a medal."
The 64-year-old said she still didn't know exactly what position she was in as every over-60 runner who was registered had also been put in the same race.
"Anyone from that 60-80 age bracket were all put in the one race so you didn't know who was in your age group which didn't really matter," she said.
"There were literally thousands of people around, but it was only one kay so I took off as fast as I could.
"I haven't done worlds before; I had been looking forward to this holiday in Italy and the carnival happened to be there and that's probably the only reason I did it. I'm really glad I went."
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