16 April 2015

Reflections of a Broken Stampeder

Kel had just finished - super proud of her!!!
Buffalo Stampede 2015

Where to start…

When so much has been invested in something we all believe that the fairytale will happen and the ending will be perfect. Unfortunately the script that was written over the weekend down at Bright for the Buffalo Stampede Skyrunning Oceania Championships was different to the one I had been envisaging in my mind. With time past over the last few days to reflect it’s quite ironic that even though it most certainly didn’t provide me with my performance based goals I would not change a thing. And that everything happens for reason.

I was in great shape for this event and had undertaken a calculated preparation that was entirely focused upon the specific aspects of the brutal and challenging 75.5km Skyrunning course that Sean Greenhill has created. I had began building in November and this training evolved to the point where my numbers all indicated I was ready to race come April 11, and that is what I intended to do. I knew the course having done it before and after attending and coaching at Skycamp, furthering this knowledge with another trip to Bright in January to get some more course time under the belt.

Buckland Aid with Mark Lee
At this point I was well aware of the new Skyrunning Series for ANZ and was really hoping for a good performance in the April race. I also knew it was going to be tough going as both the course and the competitive field would ultimately lead to fast times and more risk being taken.

As I approached April I was carefully planning my preparation in training, setting goals and mentally readying myself for the event. I was also coaching Kel towards her Sky 26er event and we were starting to get knowledge of what medicial issue was causing her so much trouble and it looked as though things were on the improve. March had been a positive month with only a small mishap in training so all was on path for both Kel and I and we were looking forward to the Stampede.

Summing the ultra course up isn't easy, it is a beast from start to end. There are seven climbs, some utterly daunting and the others are brutal offering steep climbs and quad thrashing descents. The trail surface is mixed from hard packed firetrail, smooth flowing fire trail, downhill MTB single track and super technical rocky single track, with the variance in my opinion providing the great challenge for runners to prepare for. The climbs/descents all appear easier on paper and need to be respected or they will bite and the last 15km is close to the toughest of any race anywhere.

Descending of Clearspot at 67km is the hardest 2km I
have ever done - both times!
There was also great progress for both the Buffalo Stampede and Skyrunning in Australia in the lead up to April. The event had three races across Friday, Saturday and Sunday with entries being higher than last year, there were even some lunatics that thought it appropriate to attempt the Grand Slam – 26er, Ultra and Marathon! Skyrunning ANZ had attracted some quality runners from both home and abroad to compete in all events as well as establishing an Oceania Series across Australia and New Zealand. Runners from NZ, Europe, South Africa, the UK and Nepal all coming credentialed with many successful races across the globe. But for me it was Martin Dent that stood out. He is an Olympic and Commonwealth Marathon runner with a brilliant career highlighted with many victories and a superfast marathon pb! He now seems to be embracing new challenges and like the rest of us is learning his way towards the finishline at a Skyrace.

Wheels fallen off - time to reset.
We arrived in Bright on Thurday and by the time Friday had arrived, so had the realisation for Kel that she was about to undertake her longest run to date in sense of time on feet. The 26er was now 32.7km with 2050m +d and km for km rivaled the Ultra in terms of difficulty. She set off and I went up to the first road junction to cheer her along, Mark Lee was there as well and we offered encouragement to all the runners who had just completed their first major climb and descent of the day. Kel went through in great spirits and on track and this left me feeling content she would nail this little beast good and proper. I decided to go back to the junction to watch her come off Apex and head toward the final climb and descent to Bright. She came through looking so strong and smiled as she left the dusty flowing single track and hit the fire trail up the short but shockingly steep final hill that greeted runners at 29km. I then rushed back to the park to watch her finish and complete the 26er course and her first skyrace, I was so proud of her!

Running with a purpose all was going well...
and then I went across the bridge at Eurobin.
The atmosphere was surreal at Bright, there was a new energy injected into the event with the 26er. Bright is a special place, the Buffalo Stampede a special event and the Australian trail community is benefiting from events like this. The weekend provided memories, experiences and challenges for all and I'm hard pressed to think of any other sport that allows this to occur at every level for everyone involved.

Reflecting on my race has been difficult and this has been rewritten a few times. I am disappointed with my time as it's way outside my goal of sub 10 but I am also proud to have finished results aside. I have no real answers other than I missed the mark by a long way, no excuses either, what happened simply happened and I must learn from it if I expect to improve. I will be back for this race and while I know it's a bloody tough gig I'll be expecting if I prepare well to get that sub 10.

The last stretch into the finish
From Eurobin onwards I had to battle and was never comfortable in any way. My quads were cramping, thoughts were negative and I had over done my nutrition. I knew I needed to reset at the Chalet, I was desperate for that climb to be over but it was going on forever. At that point I just needed to suck it up and get to the top, there was no other option.

Mentally I feel this run has been vital. I probably was a bit soft and in the past melted when the heat got turned up. It was easier to stop, 8hrs + of pain could have ended at 4.5hrs in but quitting wasn't an option. I have put way too much into the race, my family had given up too much and I had to finish what I had started even though my race was not turning out the way I had wanted.

Finish line 11:11:5X not the result I wanted
but I finished.
I will spend time looking over my race but for me in the end it was a win. I was certainly chewed up and spat out by the course and my race made for a long day out, the second longest time I have run for in fact. But I won’t dwell and think of what if or what could have been, there is no point and whom would I be kidding anyway. I was at points where I wanted to be and I definitely nailed sections the way I set out to but there was the other side of the coin and this shows work is still required. I didn’t pull out and I was flexible with my plan, these along side a massive mental test are the positives I’ll be taking from the race into the future. Will I have another problem? Maybe, probably, who knows? But I think I am more equipped to manage it having run the race I did.

Off and racing!!!
One thing I know is that without Kel in my corner crewing for me it would have been very different. No matter what thoughts I had before each checkpoint from the Chalet to Bright I was assured of having someone who knew what I wanted and had done in training. She was tough but made choices that were beneficial and needed at the time and I'm indebted to her for this. They say sometimes tough love is needed and that is true, but having a crew who know what your limits are and will not let you give up easy is just as essential as training, especially when things hit the fan.

It was amazing outside of my own selfish feelings to see people I care about succeed too. Brendan's 2nd in the 26er, Kel finishing in such a positive manner and my training buddy Blair Hurst taking 4hr 50min off his ultra time from last year running 10:30 and finishing in the top 20, all being great highlights. Sometimes I get too caught up in my own running and need to look around a bit more as it's just a running race and everyone is doing the same thing ultimately.

Clarkey had some quotes from the weekend that stood out for him and he had the quote that stood out for me, “Numbers mean nothing in training, it is what happens in the race that counts”. So true, and by the way he ran awesome and was rewarded with a massive pb. Now it is time to move forwards and onto the TNF50 in May. I have 5 weeks to rest, recover and prepare for this event and I’ll be doing all I can to ensure I make the start line healthy, fresh and ready to go.

Blair "Hursty" Hurst - 10:30 and a massive PB 

Photo Credits

Kel Gibson
Ben Van Steel
Brendan Davies


Hammer Nutrition
Inov 8 Waist Down
Hammer Clothing Waist Up
Ultraspire Packs
Time Piece Suunto Amibt Sport 3 (lasted 10:47 just over expected full mode battery life)

Big thanks must go to my supporters;

Hammer Nutrition
Barefootinc/Inov-8 Australia
Mountain Sports
Sydney Trail Series

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