Spirit in the Sky

Spirit in the Sky

Buffalo Stampede

A detailed race report by Sarah Ludowici

What a sunrise to start the day atop the Chalet at the Buffalo Stampede Sky Marathon. There was a bight in the air that hung in my quads for the first 10km, but it was perfect race day conditions.

I ran straight through the first checkpoint, running past 3rd and 4th female around this time. Off down the mountain we started. I felt light on these technical downhills before I lost the track and led a few people down the side of the rock face in the wrong direction. Those runners who we left behind soon caught up before we all found the track again. From here another local- Sydney female runner and I sped down the hill together, chatting, and ignoring the feeling of fatigue setting in our quads and my feet.

The gun went off and everyone made the usual start-of-the-race scramble. I always sit back off at the start knowing my best game is chipping away the people ahead. The first section was some nice, windy single track, and bouldering through the rocks at the top. I was glad to be following people at this point as I wouldn’t have known which little crevice to squeeze through.

Hitting the next checkpoint, I ran straight through again, leaving the other female runner behind. I knew this was a good chance to set a gap between us. So on the gentle uphills, despite not wanting or feeling I could run, I set my head down and just chugged away at the hill extending the distance between us. I soon caught sight of the other female ahead who was sitting in first place. I knew I was slowly gaining on her so just kept steady and calm. When I caught up, we ran together for a while, she let me know it wasn’t her day before she kindly closed the cow gate behind me and let me go. Running along the flat roads I was ready for the next checkpoint- I knew it was at the top of the next peak, but little did I know how long and never ending and exposed that climb was. I got to the first peak thinking that wasn’t too bad only to look up and see that that was just the warm-up. I put my head down and just focused on the next step, I got into a rhythm and just kept plugging away. I was very out of water at this stage, exposed in the sun and really needing some hydration. There wasn’t much I could do but keep moving. The need for water actually kept me motivated and pushing through. I started the bottom behind a group of 3 men, I kept consistent and made it into that next checkpoint before each of them.

I smashed some water, some coke, and grabbed a handful of chips before heading straight back down the other side of the mountain. This was my first race using gels, I underestimated by about half of what I needed so grabbed some bananas for the road to keep me going until the finish. The buffalo stampede descents are the toughest I have ever done. I wasn’t quite sure how to run them and it really just became a matter of staying upright and not falling over. I feel lucky to have only fallen once in total over all those tough, gravelly, steep descents.

My quads and legs felt out of this world when i got to the bottom, I found it hard to run but just did what I could before BOOM straight back up. Another long steep, gravelly ascent. Mystic- the one everyone had warned me about. My jelly legs just wanted me to fall back so I just focused on moving forward each step. What a relief to make it to the top! I was feeling a bit flat at this stage but new it was just down the mountain and a flat run home, only about 7km to go.

The last downhill was tough on the feet, they felt battered and blistered, but I just kept ticking them over for the the final flat surge along the creek to the finish. I was so stoked to finish and couldn’t wait to jump in the icy river by the finish to celebrate. Most of my mentality in training recently has been slow, long, and just finishing, so it was a good challenge to shift my focus to be fast. I felt mentally strong and calm on the day. I was happy with my effort and proud to get the win but have a lot to improve on for next time – more food, more water and shoes with more under foot for the descents. Looking forward to heading back next year, and in awe of those that did the Grand Slam!

The gun went off and everyone made the usual start-of-the-race scramble. I always sit back off at the start knowing my best game is chipping away the people ahead. The first section was some nice, windy single track, and bouldering through the rocks at the top. I was glad to be following people at this point as I wouldn’t have known which little crevice to squeeze through.

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