The snorting bovine managed to draw me back again… The Buffalo Stampede was my favourite event last year and this year cemented that. In my head and my legs! The event is that good. Once again the Mountain Sports crew nailed it.
This year there were four races over three days, an 11k vertical and 26er on the Friday, the Ultra on the Saturday and the Skymarathon on the Sunday. The Grand Slam, being the combined 26er, Ultra and Skymarathon, adds another twist that really seems to be catching on.
Of course there is a very good reason why I was only racing on the Sunday, the Buffalo Stampede is step two on my build to Ultra Trail Lavaredo. It’s also my longest run since imploding on the Hounslow, so a solid performance was going to be an essential confidence builder.
The Weekend Begins
I was running the Skymarathon on the Sunday, but to do the Buffalo Stampede properly you have to kick things off with the social run on the Thursday evening. This year it was pulled together by the guys at La Sportiva and led by Aaron Knight of Alpine Trail Running. Followed with some La Sportiva Mountain Ale and pizzas from the Bright Brewery its the perfect way to start the best weekend in Australian trail running.
The only problem with racing on Sunday meant I had two days of wishing I was racing! I had toyed with doing the 11k on Friday and spent Saturday wondering why I didn’t sign up for the Ultra or the Grand Slam. So in the meantime I hit up the expo at the start/finish line in Bright and got some gear. A pair of new La Sportiva Akasha’s and some Black Diamond carbon poles. A review on these will come later.
The family and I also checked out the midway turnaround for the 26er which was right at the bottom of a rather nasty hill. Luckily I would only be running down it.
Fortunately the Skymarathon course remained unchanged from last year, so my detailed course description from 2015 continues to apply. As a quick reminder, the second half looks like this, finishing atop Mt Buffalo.
You can also watch this cool video!
The best piece of advice you need to know about this course – don’t smash yourself in the first 10k (Matt Murphy basically says the same!). This was my single goal for the race: to make it over Mystic and Clear Spot and arrive at the Buckland aid station in good shape. While last year my wheels didn’t fall off until the start of the Buffalo ascent, if you burn all your matches by the top of Clear Spot you are kind of stuffed later on.
With that in mind I cruised off at the start. At the base of Mystic (about 3k in) I was 1:40 down on last year. I grabbed my poles off my pack and got to work figuring out how to use them! By the top of Clear Spot I was one min up on last year, a great improvement given it was achieved without burning virtually any matches.
Of course stopping to put away my poles wasted a most of that gain. By Eurobin at the base of Buffalo, I was pretty much on par, feeling significantly better than last year. Had the poles helped?
My outstanding crew (Kira and the kids pictured above) recharged me at the aid station, handed me my poles and I was ready to tackle the beast. I started pretty calmly and at about 2k into the 10k climb I started to wonder who on earth really likes 10k of climbing. And then slowly I started picking off runners, one by one.
My local running store Pace Athletic and Matty Abel had set up a party station mid climb, which was totally unexpected, and by now I was in full steam, feeling stronger and stronger. The only negative was that around this point the poles were becoming a 50/50 proposition. On the dirt sections in the trees they were fine, but on the rock and in the flats (which there are plenty of in the last few k’s of the climb) they were, kind of, just, in the way. Maybe better coordination will come with more experience!
When the top arrived I felt relatively great. Is there anything better than your family being the first people you see when you get to the top? My climb of Buffalo was nine mins faster than last year.
Another recharge and I was off. How good is Red Bull in aid stations btw?! I firmly believed I could sneak in under six hours, which would be a great achievement. Pretty soon, however, I discovered that while my legs felt fine going up, my quads were in a slightly more tender condition. By the time I exited the Chalwell galleries I knew the sub six hour dream had evaporated.
In the end I finished with a time of 6:10:03 and 41st position. That’s eleven mins better than last year, but the same position! In terms of training, I am certainly less progressed in my cycle at this stage compared to last year. My goal race comes a month later this year so the improvement is good news. It’s interesting that despite less pro’s at the pointy end and more entrants, the larger field is clearly much deeper.
Mountain Sports, and every one around the event did an amazing job. The start line in Bright, the Finish line experience, social media, interviews, it was all good. Everyone else who contributed to the event were outstanding too especially the vollies.
Next stop on my trail to Lavarado is Mt Solitary Ultra (this weekend) then UTA100 and finally the big one in 10 weeks time.
Gear for the race:
- La Sportiva Akasha shoes.
- Fusion PWR tights
- Compressport socks, calf guards and shirt.
- UD AK Pack.
- Black Diamond carbon poles.
- Trusty old red Inov8 hat.
- Hammer Perpetuum (first race, second run), Winning gels and lollies, Coke and Red Bull.
Each and every piece scored a 10/10