Well Day two see the Ultra Marathon take centre stage
A gruelling 75 km Sky race that will take the runners from the centre of Bright at Howitt park to the Top of Mount Buffalo and back.
Oh did I mention they need to climb and descend Mistic and Clear Spot … Twice
Yup, that a total of 4545 M of ascent and descent over the 75km.
So not for someone out for a wee stroll in the mountains.
This is a serious test for your legs, agility and endurance which holds a proud spot on the Oceania Sky running series.
Its terrain can be challenging and speaking to many of the runners there certainly seems to be a debate about the use of poles.
Pole or not to pole that is the question!
Below is this years course.
It is a cold and smokey morning as the runners and spectators start to gather at Howitt park.
There is a real buzz as they complete their final preparations, check their packs, take their pre-race pics and kiss goodbye to their loved ones.
It is a long day in the mountains ahead and one that is sure to be full of adventure and emotion.
A late entry to the Ultra is Lucy Bartholomew.
Most of you will know this young hotshot as the forever smiling runner that is making great waves in the ultra trail community locally and abroad.
I was lucky enough to see her at the start line and wish her well, I wonder how she will go today!
It is great to see so many people turn up for the start and once briefing is complete, the countdown begins and then the 142 runners are off to a huge roar of encouragement.
The bells and cheers ring out through the early morning air and with it the Buffalo Stampede Ultra Marathon 2016 is underway.
From there the runners head off into the morning mist and I head off to meet them at the Aid station at Eurobin Creek, 24km into the race.
By that time they will already have summited Mystic, then a technical descent to Bakers Gully and the gruelling climb to Clearspot.
They then head up to Keating ridge with beautiful views across the alpine range.
(They really has to be seen first hand to truly appreciate their natural beauty.)
By this point, the runners will have tackled 1378m of ascent.
Sam McCutcheon passed through Eurobin aid station in the lead at 2h 24m.
Matt Murphy 2 mins behind, with Ash Bennet with Andy Lee, Ben Duffus, Majell Backhausen in a group a further 7 mins back.(Taken from Buffalo stampede FB page )
With yes, you’ve guessed it, Lucy Bartholomew first female past the aid station.
With Amy Lamprecht and Maggie Jones in hot pursuit.
(I can’t find all the split times so please let me know if this is not correct)
From there it was a 10km – 1126m Ascent up the Big walk to the top of Mt Buffalo.
The Big Walk Talk
For anyone that has completed this section, you will know that it is a grind.
It is in no way as steep as Mystic or Clearspot but is a consistent climb for 10km with no real respite.
So on weary legs, any niggles will start to show at this point.
Halfway up mother nature helps out and puts on a show at Mackie’s lookout
And that is one of the great things about this race.
The views are amazing.
It is a real boost to your motivation when you look up and see scenery like this.
Also, It really gives you a real sense of perspective as you look down to the township of Bright in the distance and realise that that is where you have come from.
And also in the case of the ultra runners, where you need to finally return to cross that finish line.
A general sense of relief can be seen on the runner’s face once the big walk is completed.
The welcome sounds of the bells and cheers from the Mt. Buffalo aid station is a great motivator.
The pictures below show the aid station at the top of Mt Buffalo.
I’m not sure if the water on the ground is actually tears of joy from the competitors!
Once sufficiently restocked with supplies and encouragement the runners embark on the next section.
It is a looped section which takes you via the underground river track over tree-lined paths, rocks and creeks to Lake Catani.
From there runners follow the water’s edge along the Lake to Chalwells Galleries.
Chalwells Galleries is another unique part of the race.
As after 40km of leg pounding, heart-stopping running in the rugged wilderness they make you squeeze through a couple of tight spots in the large rock formation and lower yourself down into the narrow gap trying not to cramp or snap your hamstrings along the way.
A dull echoed can be heard from within with some expletives for the course creator. Thanks, Sean !
But that is part of the fun of it all.
It is not supposed to be easy. And anyone taking on an Ultra in the mountains loves these sort of challenges.
They then returned down back past the lake and along the undulating mountain path to the Mt Buffalo Aid station.
From there they retrace their steps back down the Big walk and Mackie’s lookout.
Before heading back down I took some time to enjoy the atmosphere and the views at the top of Mount Buffalo, which are spectacular.
As well as taking the obligatory legend shot looking out to the Alpine ranges in some form of deep thought =:0)
I made my way back down the mountain and saw some competitors coming into Eurobin creek and this is when things start to get interesting for them.
This is when nutrition and the body start to show signs of weakness if any.
With a confronting climb back up to Clearspot it is a mental challenge to keep the momentum going and no one out there would be not feeling the grind at this point of the race.
A great indication of its toughness was eventual race winner Sam Mccutcheon’s description of being crab crawling up the steepest parts.
It is always amazing to see people push themselves past a point that most would stop and Sam is a great example of this.
In his post-victory interview, he explained how he was using road running shoes, was not a big hill fan and had to borrow most of the gear that he used!
Finishing in a time of 8hrs and 24 mins is a super effort for a flat road runner =:0)
I think this great picture was taken by La Sportiva Australia just sums up how tough the race was for him.
And with this, I followed the runners back to the finish line in the heart of Bright.
The crowds gathered in anticipation for the winners to come across the line.
Below are the results :
- Sam Mccutcheon in 8:24:51
- Matt Murphy 8:45:34
- Danny Garrett 8:58:49 A great fight for 3rd with
- Majell Backhausen 8:58:57
1. Lucy Bartholomew with the second all-time fastest time of 9:51:06
2. Amy Lamprecht at 10:45:03
3. Maggie Jones 10:52:56
But let’s not forget the rest of the runners. Some who finished just below 17 hours.
This is a monumental effort.
So for anyone that finished the 75 km Buffalo Stampede Ultra I salute you!
You have shown great strength and courage and shown that you can overcome great obstacles to achieve your goal.
Once again the support from the volunteers and organisers was fantastic.
Caine Warburton was the man with the mic at the finish line and I have to say he was brilliant.
As an elite runner himself his candid and knowledgeable interviews were fantastic.
One of my favourites was with Matt Murphy where he just turns to him and says
” You look rooted mate!”
I spoke to many supporters along the way and you could see a real sense of pride and admiration for what the competitors were trying to achieve.
Like Kay and Ralph that were out there supporting their son Tom in the Grand Slam.
And It would amiss of me not to mention these warriors.
Around 80 people have taken on the Grand Slam event this year.
That is all three events; the Sky 26km – 75km Ultra and 43km Sky marathon events.
A total of 143.7km and a massive 9329m of elevation over the three days.
Today would have been tough for many but I am sure when the Grand slammers wake tomorrow they will have a better appreciation than most what is to come.
Well as the night comes and the last of the runners finish, their epic journey complete, it has been a memorable Buffalo Stampede Ultra 2016.
With new winners crowned and hundreds of new legends born our journey is nearly done.
Tomorrow, along with 200 runners, I compete in the Sky Marathon which is sure to test our mind and body and without a doubt, spirit.
All you can do is your best and make sure you enjoy the moment in the mountains.