21 January 2014

Buffalo Stampede SkyCamp 2014

Group Photo
I was fortunate enough to be involved in another training camp on the weekend of the 17-19, this camp was being hosted by Mountain Sports in preparation for the Buffalo Stampede being held in Bright on April 5 and 6.  The trails were being toasted by a heat wave and the 28 campers were eagerly awaiting working with Brendan Davies and Hanny Allston over three days on the newly sanctioned Sky Running course from Bright to Mt Buffalo and back.

Firstly I will warn you, this will be a longish blog, I have so many angles to look from on this one, why I was there, whom we were with, the course, my expectations/goals, Sky Running and Bright.  So I will start with Sky Running and go from there.

Sky Running

Officially, Sky running is any race that meets set criteria, criteria is based on length and vertical gain as well as terrain.  Essentially a race must gain a large amount of ascent within a set distance and the gain is massive.  A vertical km race, which is the accumulated climbing time on selected steeper sections of the course must achieve 1000m of elevation within 5km, so it’s tough going.  As well as massive climbs, the race must be on trail, go up a mountain and have something unique about it. This is something that until now has not been held in Australia.

Mt Buffalo
Climbing Mystic

I have watched many clips on YouTube from Europe and America.  I can’t wait to see a few from home start to pop up, I will be heading back to the net for study time on techniques and styles when running the steep and technical trails similar to those overseas.

To me it is finding technical and beautiful trails, massive hills and linking them together in the craziest and most challenging manner possible.  There were times I was cursing Race Director, Sean Greenhill, over the 3 days, possibly the most was when I had a threshold effort up Clearspot Hill, 2.1km and 600m up in around 26min with a continual gradient of around 30%.  But it’s more than a challenging course, it is the ambiance of a town, the nature of the bush, the aura of a race, it’s just got that something and the Buffalo Stampede in Bright to me has it.

Mt Bogong
Sky Camp

I was at camp as part of Team Mountain Sports, along with Mark Lee, and we were there to check out the course, plan, prepare tactics and push each other on the trails.  Mark is a more experienced runner than me, only by a year though, and is quick, bloody quick.  I rate him very highly as a runner and as a bloke and Mark is going to set some trails ablaze this year.  As a team we are aiming to do well in the Team Event at Buffalo and with Jo Brischetto and Ingrid Donald on board as well I feel we be quite strong.
A top of Buffalo

Kel a top of Buffalo
I was so keen to learn, absorb, run, enjoy and climb at camp, this was my motto in my training log, my goals for the week.  I was so happy to have Kel with me and for her to be back running again.  I knew she was going to benefit from the weekend and it was good to immerse ourselves in this beautiful little town.  Places like the Ovens River, the Velo CafĂ© and the Brewery were regular hangouts for us over the 4 days we were there.

The camp was modified and manipulated to fit in with heat wave that was sweeping the Southeast of Australia.  We ran at night and early in the morning to beat the heat and tackled the toughest of tough trails that I have ever run on (more on the course soon).  We were given amazing and expert info on training, diet, nutrition, programing, racing, night running and gear from Brendan and Hanny, both in seminars and on the run.  Most importantly we were waited on by Mel Parry and Sean Greenhill, the excellent preparation of food, provision of transport, aid stations, encouragement, and wisdom were just a few things they provided campers with.

Another switch back on Mt Buffalo 
From camp I feel all campers would have went home more confident, knowledgeable, eager and excited about the Stampede in April.  Yes slightly intimidated but massively informed, it was a bit like getting the answers to a test, except these answers can only be achieved with consistent, dedicated and specific training.  I hope everyone can remain committed in the buildup to the race so they all take their place at start line able to use the advantage from being on course.
Switch back on Buffalo

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with everyone at camp.  So many people were there, all for their own reasons but with the same goal, that is what makes running so unique, some run to win and some run to finish, but both will celebrate their victories the same.  I enjoyed meeting new people, reaffirming past friendships and developing a network of fresh Sky Runners.

Buffalo Stampede Course

It is epic!  Marathon – 42km with 3000m of elevation gain.  Ultra Marathon 75km with 5000m of elevation gain and loss!

Partway up Clearspot
Seriously there are two major hills in the first 15km of the 35km journey to Mt Buffalo.  “Mystic” is massive, up 500m in a short space of time from Bright then down a descent that is so steep and loose.  A gentle 2km between the Mystic descent and the start of “Clearspot” allows you to very quickly settle yourself into the next up and down which is in my opinion far steeper and tougher than Mystic and is in fact the toughest climb of the race  If your in the marathon, well done it only gets better from here, if your in the ultra you have to do this in reverse after 60km!  I think it is slightly easier going in reverse but after 60km and over 3000m of climbing and descending in my legs I might have another view come April.

Clearspot to Buffalo
Close to the Chalet looking back track

The next section is relatively runnable track from “Buckland” to “Eurobin” via Keatings Ridge.  Sean Greenhill described it as “3/4 pluvio” so it will be reasonably tough and if you’re struggling it will be very tough indeed.  The ascent of Buffalo via “The Big Walk” is 10k long gaining 1000m of gain, all on single track that changes as you rise up the mountain.  It starts steep, a little like the decent into Jenolan on the 6 Foot Track, then it flattens out and becomes a little winding through beautiful woods that line the middle belt of the mountain.

After a quick crossing of the road you begin to hit the exposed rock sections that can be seen from afar on Buffalo, switching back and forth over technical rocky terrain.  The trail begins to head towards the “Chalet” and becomes more sheltered for a 1km or so, once at the Chalet the loop section begins.  A small out to Lake Catani, involving a stair filled descent and ascent (think Leura Cascades in length) followed by a loop that is quite technical and highlighted by the pass through “Chalwell Galleries”.  You then retrace your steps back to the Chalet for the long journey back to Bright or the short sprint to the Chalet depending on what event your in.

Seminar time

On the return trip back to Bright the decent into Eurobin is long and could be quick and potentially quad busting!  The section after Eurobin to Buckland may be easy on the way out and may feel as though it got longer on the way back, especially as we will all know what lays ahead. The last 15km will be make or break at the pointing end, with massive time gained or lost if people can’t run/hike or descend effectively.  For those aiming to finish it will be an adventure, they will take so much from this section if they do.  I remember in a post I wrote on the TNF50 about the Sublime Climb where I said if you don’t have a good reason for running then this section may break you, well this is 10 times worse.
Looking back towards the finish

The course is what it is, the profile shows it’s severity and Sean Greenhill has outdone himself on this one. There are a few spots where jaws will drop, people will question themselves and these sections will be balanced by the beauty of the environment, the glorious single track, switch backs on Mt Buffalo and the atmosphere of the race.  I love the course and the challenge it sets me, I just love it!


I took them all - tested and Talons
are my pick come race day
I want to train well in the lead up.  I will be aiming to replicate the course in my training, specific preparation to a plan will be key.  I know a few locations that have similarities (but on a much smaller scale), in my opinion, places like Hassans Walls, Mt York, Mt Canobolas will make great training grounds.  I will use these areas to assist with my preparation so when race day arrives I will be ready to do my best at this point in my career.

I have no goal time, it is too hard to tell.  I just want to run up well and back down well, walking away satisfied with my performance and happy that it reflected my training.  Obviously if I do well then that will be a bonus.  Ultimately I want a strong team showing, I want my team to do well, and I will be doing my best to help achieve this.

Bright on dusk from Mystic
I also want to see Kel prepare well and run strongly in the marathon.  I know she has the ability and I really want to be apart of her Buffalo Stampede buildup and race.  I think she is heading in the right direction after her injury and know she is going to build in momentum in the coming months ready to peak on race day.

With Kel before the night run
I don’t think I will push the pointy end, I will be towards the front but not like an STS event or local race.  This is the real deal and with the best of Australia and overseas just testing myself against these athletes will be an eye opener that’s for sure. 
I will finish off by giving a bit of time to Bright.  A town surrounded by mountains in Victoria, which has a great atmosphere and laid-back attitude.  Highlighted by nature and its beauty with hangouts that are warm and welcoming.  It is truly a special little place as mentioned by Sean and Mel, and I will back many times in the future.

At the brewery - made it there a few times.


  1. Great wrap up and summary of the course Wes! Time to put the knowledge to refine your training and success will be there for the taking!

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  3. Great blog! I can't wait to tackle the marathon course. Thanks for the inside info and best of luck in your preparation.