The Buffalo Stampede is one of the most brutal races on the ultra calendar covering 75km and 4545m of climbing. An out-and-back from Bright to the top of Mount Buffalo tapping Mystic and Clear Spot along the way. It’s iconic for it’s brutally steep ascents that are technical and demanding.
This was my second Buffalo Ultra. My first was in 2016 and one of the hardest I’ve done. In 2016 I finished 9th in 9:56:00 and that feeling of crossing the finish line is one of the greatest.
This year my goal was to do better than my 2016 effort and given the work I’ve put in training I was confident heading into it. My goal time was 9:30:00 which was reasonable since Buffalo does it’s best to throw you into the pain cave and ruin your day.
Kicking of at 6am it was still a little dark. It doesn’t take long to hit the first climb up to Mystic, a 500m ascent to get warmed up. I took it very easy. Trying to run this first climb is a death sentence but people still try.
One sure way to destroy your race is attacking the descents too hard, too early. This is easily done on the infamous Mick’s track, at -45% gradient it’s a monster. I took it very easy, saving the quads for later and just got to the bottom safely.
It’s always a good feeling tapping Clear Spot (10km mark) since you know much of the hard climbing is over, for now. I got into a nice rhythm, smashed my mash potato, cruised up and over Keating Ridge and into the Eurobin aid station clocking up 26kms.
At this point the field was pretty spread out. I came in in 3rd place running with 4th. Refueled, left in 4th place and began the 1000m climb to Buffalo Summit. It wasn’t long until I caught and moved into 3rd place. I was feeling very strong on the climbs and took advantage of that.
At the Chalet Aid station, again refueled and quickly began the loop still in 3rd place and about 10 minutes behind second. The Galleries are always fun, scrambling through the rocks. I recall in 2016 I was cramping up massively at this point. This time however, not even close. I was in good shape.
Coming into the Chalet aid station at the 42km mark again, still feeling great. I had really closed the gap to 2nd place who was only 2 minutes ahead, and apparently looking way more fresh which was a good sign!
On the descent I caught and passed 2nd place. I tried to not get too carried away and just kept the legs turning over and remain comfortable.
About halfway down Buffalo I felt the first tweak in my ITB. I’ve been having ITB issues for the last month leading into the race which is just depressing when you’re in top form but can’t run due to an injury. It was well enough to start but this is what I feared.
It did not feel good and brought me to a walk. I didn’t walk for long and tried to take the edge off on the steep downs hoping it wouldn’t do it again.
Entering Eurobin aid station at the 53km mark in 2nd place, 14 mins behind 1st and a few minutes in front of 3rd and 4th. It was a quick stop for me, grabbed more mash, more water melon and electrolyte. I got moving pretty quickly. I was very happy with where my energy levels and felt I had heaps left in the tank. My ITB was hanging in there but it did not feel good at all and just hoping it would hold together for the last 26kms. I smashed the anti-inflammatories hoping that would do something.
I took the climb over Keating Ridge fairly easy since there were two monsters waiting for me at the 65km mark. A few minutes into the descent it happened, my ITB locked up, I couldn’t straighten my leg and every step was very painful. Running was impossible.
I walked for 500m trying to get some movement and start running again. Limping along for 100m it again flared up, very painful to put any weight on it and forced into a walk. I knew deep down my race was over.
3rd and 4th place passed me and there was nothing I could do about it. I tried running after walking for about 2km but again 100m down the road running become too painful.
At this point, 60km deep, I had to make a decision, do I continue even though the race I wanted is over and just finish by walking it in and hope I don’t do any more damage? Or tap out and not risk major damage? The thought of rupturing my ITB and turning a few weeks of recovery into a few months was not a risk I was willing to take. So, I made the tough decision to drop. No matter how right that decision was it never feels good to drop from a race.
I gave the word and got a lift back to the finish line for first aid. The medical officer felt my knee and said “Faaaark!”. It was in some ways comforting to hear, reassuring me I made the right decision to drop.
I haven’t had a good run in my last 3 races so the way it went bums me out even more. But I’m remaining positive and spending the next few weeks doing all the right things to fix it.
I was on track to crush my goal time and have one of my best races. I guess now this race goes onto the ‘I need redemption’ pile, so I’ll be back next year. For now, it’s preparing for UTA and hoping I don’t see a repeat.
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