Conquering the Buffalo
Normally I’m pretty quick at putting up the post-race blog post, but after this race I needed a few days to decompress, then, well, then I was back at work and had to do work... with uh, Office Sandwich Toaster & Wide World of Beers & the Friday BBQ... You know important stuff.
Anyway now it’s time to talk about the Buffalo Stampede Grand Slam. The Grand Slam was thought up last year by a couple of guys and I honestly thought they were completely and utterly crazy and was happy just to stick to my Ultra SkyMarathon. But having already conquered the Ultra, this year it was time to step it up and the Grand Slam was now an official race. Taking place over 3 days it took in the 3 of the Buffalo Stampede races, leaving out only the Kids Races (I could have taken them!) and the Sky12’er which was on at the same time as the Sky26’er and on the same course, so I pretty much did that and kept going ;)
Buffalo Stampede Grand Slam Races:
Day 1 - Friday
Day 2 - Saturday
Day 3 - Sunday
I went into the Grand Slam not knowing if I’d be able to pull it off, it was going to be my first multi-day event (Not counting that time I did the GNW100 & backed it up with the Bumble Hill Burn the next morning) and I had no idea if my body would hold up, or if I could hold back enough to survive all the 3 days.
We got into Bright on the Thursday and I got my race gear ready including cooking a pasta, meat, vegie dish that I could eat for the next 3 nights... uh, recovery and carb loading. It was a theory, I think it worked, or at least it didn’t hurt. The first race, the Sky26’er was a late start at 8am. I got down to the park at around 7am (after breakfast of 1 slice of raisin toast, peanut butter & banana with a powerade - I also ate this for breakfast for 3 days straight). Rego was straight forward and I got my special Grand Slam bib & vest and then stood around shivering for the next 45 minutes (I really didn’t need to show up that early).
For most of the Sky26’er I had to keep telling myself to “stay calm”, “stop racing” “Why are you in third!?! You really need to stop racing”. The race went over the first two peaks of the course, Mystic & ClearSpot. Both mostly hiking to get to the top of, then a terrifying, “oh dear god, surely we’re not expected to run down that!?!” to get back off. I liked the uphill, but not so much the downhill. Over the peaks the turnaroud for the race was at the Buckland Aid Station so the spectators at the aid station got the wonderful entertainment of seeing everyone come off the side of Clear Spot. Mum was there and I completely understood her comment of “I thought you weren’t racing?” as I came in neck & neck for third place. I knew I had to back off. So back over the two peaks I way backed off on the descents so I could try and not blow out my quads on day 1 (I kind of succeeded). Then the pleasant jog back along the edge of the river and into town. Day 1 finished with me in 6th place for the Sky26’er and 1st place female in the Grand Slam with about a 3 minute lead on second.
I spent my afternoon sitting in the river, perusing town, packing my ultra gear and doing a tour of the chocolate shop (A wonderful post race arvo).
Day 2 I was again down at the park too early and huddled by a heater as all the runners showed up for the Ultra. This included my coach Matt Murphy and Bernhard & Ciaran from Terrigal Trotters. Another pack start and I’d decided pre-race that this one I was actually going to race... I wasn’t exactly fresh, but I knew I had enough in the legs. Off we went, back over the same 2 peaks from yesterday and straight through Buckland where I munched on a delicious Nutella sandwich and enjoyed the slight downhill. Then it was up over Keatings Ridge. This hill is possible to run, or walk.. It’s a close call and I’ve done both in the past, but for today I’d pre-decided that I should hike it. We hit the hill and I switched to “Bushwalking with mum” pace..... Matt says you should “Hike with purpose” this is essentially the same thing, only faster. All those forced marches that we were made to go on as children totally pay off in this sort of race, I thoroughly enjoyed the hike, didn’t get overtaken by anyone and was totally refreshed by the time I hit the downhill to Eurobin Aid Station. Into Eurobin I switched out gear with mum who was waiting for me and hit the Big Walk. 10km’s straight up Mt Buffalo. This is a mix of run/walking. It really only gets tedious towards the end, but having done it the past couple of years I knew what to expect and I just sucked it up.
Lots of people cheering me on up the top of Buffalo as I headed into the loop and my favourite part of the run, Charwell Galleries, this cool rock climbing component. I ran into Bernhard on my way back up to the Aid Station and was delighted to see him going well. Through the aid station and headed back down the Big Walk I saw Ciaran and all I could think was “This is going to be a very long race for you”, but he was getting it done. Coming down the Big Walk I clipped a rock hidden under a bush and supermanned it onto the track, fortunately no major injuries and even better, no witnesses! Up and back running, into Eurobin, back over Keatings Ridge. I threw a pretzel party coming down the other side of the ridge, this is where I get out my sealy bag of pretzels and start munching my way through them while my legs keep on ticking over and I’m just enjoying the pace.
It was getting late into the day as I passed through the intersection at Buckland and the next few k’s are that enjoyable downhill I had in the morning only in reverse and instead a grinding and soul sucking uphill, this was the only stage of the race where I gave any thought to not doing the marathon tomorrow, the thought lasted all of 10 seconds before I forced it out of my mind and focused only on today, just today, tomorrow I couldn’t even think about. I hiked the last climb into Buckland Aid Station and I was feeling it. This was where it went downhill for me last year, and the same was happening this year. I hit the ginger beer & pickles and prepped the poles. 2 summits and back into town. The climb up clear spot wasn’t as bad this year, I knew what to expect, but the descent was horrible. My quads were sore starting out and by this stage of the race they were blown. It was a painful “thud, thud, thud, slide, thud, slide, slide” into Bakers Gully Aid Station where I had more pickles, ginger beer and even a cup of coke. I switched my visor for a headlamp and set off for the final summit. Up Mick’s track was a grind and down the other side was painful as the sun was setting and my headlamp lit up a dusty track ahead of me. The final 3k along the river into town was hard work, but I could see an end, I crossed the finish line in the dark in 5th place, 1st place Grand Slam Female. Then it was straight back to our accomodation to eat dinner and get ready for the marathon.
That night I didn’t get much sleep, my legs were twitching and painful and I was too amped from the race and having nightmares about falling off Clear Spot. The next morning I got up not knowing if I’d be able to walk, let along run. The initial steps were painful, but my legs were moving... I headed down to the park and huddled by the heater with another Grand Slammer as the marathon runners arrived. They seemed so soft, this was their first and only race, they had no idea what they were in for! I started the race with about a 35 minute lead on the next female, a lead which I was keen to hold onto. The first 2 climbs were hard, but the descents were crazy hard. My quads were trashed and each step/slide was painful. I got into the Buckland Aid Station neck & neck with Susan who was currently in 2nd in the Grand Slam. It was way too early in the race to let her get in front, she could easily make up the 35 minutes, but I did have one advantage, all the serious downhill was done! Terrified that she may overtake me I took off, eating pretzels and nutella I was running sub 5’s through Buckland Valley headed for Keatings Ridge which I was planing on hiking the heck out of! Up over the ridge and I couldn’t see her behind me, I blew through Eurobin Aid Station and onto the Big Walk. My stomach was grumbling during the climb and I managed to force a gel into me, but yuck! 3 days of gels is terrible! I switched to chocolates and jelly beans when I could tell I was going flat, I couldn’t let her catch me! If I got to the top of the mountain I knew she wouldn’t have enough time to take me out in the 7k loop.
I hit the aid station not in the best form, but some coke, ginger beer & pickles picked me up as I headed into the loop. This was not my finest running and I realised when I hit the Galleries that even my arms were tired. Through the rocks and on the way back I came across Kate Barsby who I was delighted to be beating.... It made me feel much better. Then I saw both Susan (2nd) and Isobel (3rd) not long into the loop looking about as bad as me. Actually all the Grand Slammers I saw had this kind of zombie look on their faces.
Up the final stairs to the top of Mt Buffalo and across the finish line. I can proudly say this is the worst marathon I have run in a long time coming 20th, but I finished, within the cutoff and was the 1st female Grand Slammer (6th overall). It was a fantastic feeling!!
Buffalo Stampede Grand Slam Results: