When One Takes The Bull By The Horns – Buffalo Stampede

BRIGHT VIC 12 APRIL 2015 by Joan Cleary

When I think of a buffalo several words spring to mind like strength, wild, free, powerful, dangerous, unpredictable, etc. As I sat comfortably in my lounge room registering for the Buffalo Stampede I never thought to make the connection between the event and these characteristics. Before I knew it April was upon us and we found ourselves in Bright, all the family on my big adventure.

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We arrived on a beautiful autumn day just ahead of the first finishers of the Ultra – beasts in their own right. All starters were winners that day. As we relaxed in the Bright Brewery that night it was like we were amongst trail running royalty and the thought did cross my mind as to what on earth was I doing here – however nerves never set in, ignorance was bliss and the next morning at exactly 7am the 42SkyMarathoners were off to the sound of cowbells ringing.

What ensued for the next 42kms cannot be properly explained to anyone who hasn’t experienced the course. I was faced with 2 huge accents/descents (1029m accent and 1092m decent over 15km) and with my calves screaming at me I wondered how on earth I was going to get through the rest of the race. The descents were a huge amount of fun, out of control delirious fun. There were landslides of rocks, clouds of red dust, debris and even at one stage a human all rolling out of control down the descents. Mandatory equipment should include canyoning gear and a toboggan! I had purchased poles especially for this event and oh how grateful I was for them.

Running towards the first checkpoint (Bucklands) I had a vision of one of my daughter’s colourful leggings from a distance. Confused I thought this is not where they should be, I was meeting them at the next checkpoint then my confusion mounted as to which checkpoint I was actually coming into. My watch was telling me the kms I had already covered and they shouldn’t be here which meant my confusion escalated as to why so early in the race my head was already playing games with me! Then panic set in as to how they were going to get to the next checkpoint before me (because I can outrun a car!) as that was where I had planned my major refuelling. Anyway Strava shows me that my pace quicken significantly coming into this checkpoint, so seeing my family here was a huge bonus.

Onwards to the next checkpoint (Eurobin), I felt like I was settling better into the run at this stage. The little accent/descent (349m ascent and 333m descent over 9.1km) was a very welcome relief compared to what was already conquered. Seeing my husband here was great, he took his job as ‘crew’ very seriously, and had everything on hand that I had packed the night before. My kids on the other hand were too busy in the kids’ craft tent making a running mummy with pipe-cleaners so unfortunately I didn’t get to see them. And then I was faced with the beast, Mount Buffalo itself (1126m ascent and 86m descent over 10km). I was only 24km into the run at this stage.

This climb is a very runnable climb if you were starting fresh at Eurobin. However, with a hard 24km already under my belt, running wasn’t an option most of the time! When not running, I kept reminding myself to walk with purpose and try and keep up with someone in front (and if they run then you run!), some wise words from fellow BBRs. I did better than this and passed many runners on this leg of the run. I was greeted by my two daughters on the steps leading up to the Chalet and in my heart I knew the end was nigh with only 7kms to go. For the loop out and back to the Chalet the ascents/descents (430m ascent and 430m descent) didn’t look like much on the map in comparison to the other ascents/descents of the run but I got a rude awaking – there was still plenty of work to be done on this leg! This leg also included scrambling through rock formations (Chalwells Galleries) which was a little treat on such a tough run. The last 2km was the hardest, I knew I had to dig deep to try and get home under 7hrs but my legs had other ideas and several runners passed me at this stage which was a little disheartening.

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Coming up the final steps back to the chalet to the cheering crowd, ringing cowbells and my proud family was amazing. I knew that finishing this event wasn’t just going to be an athletic achievement. It was a state of mind, a state of mind that says anything is possible. And for this opportunity I thank my wonderful supportive family, my fellow runners and anyone who has lent an ear in the lead up to this event. I would also like to have a huge shout out to Tailwind, it was my only fuel for the event (despite my secret stash of gels, jelly beans, and an energy bar), Tailwind just hit the spot when required and kept me going. A huge thank you to the beautiful township of Bright for it hospitality and turning on the beautiful weather for the 3-day event. And lastly but by no means least a huge kudos to the event organisers for all their hard work in making this event possible whilst also making it a very family friendly one.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with my effort (7hr and 49sec, 73rd overall, 17th female home and 4th in my age group), however I sadly didn’t get called aside to have my two minutes post-race interview with the race director! Perhaps I should have amused the excited supporter who upon hearing my accent as I summited Mystic had presumed I had been flown in for the event.

Next stop for me is TNF50 in May and in August I will be taking on Oxfam 100 with 3 BBR members.

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