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Buffalo Stampede- Vajin Armstrong Race Report

Start of the Buffalo Marathon

Start of the Buffalo Marathon

April 5th and 6th saw the first running of a Sky race in Australasia, the Buffalo Stampede. Saturday was the 75km ultra and Sunday was the Sky marathon, clocking in at 41.4km with a solid 3000m of climbing and 2000m of descending. I had decided to do the marathon as this fit in better with my seasons goals and would be better preparation for my upcoming races, especially Transvulcania. Being three weeks after Tarawera it gave me just enough time to recover and then get in a few solid sessions just to keep the body ticking over.

There was a small contingent of Kiwiʼs heading over for the race, what we lacked in size we more than made up for with quality. Chris Morrisey and myself had a great day crewing Grant in the ultra on the Saturday, and he and Matt Bixley repaid the favour for us on the Sunday. It was really fun to be able to watch the ultra and it really reminded me why I love this sport, to see people be pushed right to the edge and see how they respond and push through is inspiring stuff. Big ups to Grant for a tremendous performance where he pulled back 4+ minutes on 2nd and 3rd over the final 8km and almost ran himself into a trip to France.

Some decent rain on the Saturday night plus the fact that the ultra had covered the course twice the previous day meant that it would be slippery on the steep and technical terrain early in the race. My plan was to stay in touch with whoever wanted to push the pace over this first section before getting to work on the more runnable section in the middle of the race. I knew on a course like this where there is a big climb late in the race, namely the Big Walk 10km with 1100m vert which starts at 24km, that this would be the decisive section of the race. Despite not having done as much climbing as I would have liked due to preparing for Tarawera I was still confident that I would be able to run the entire climb and put pressure on whoever was around me.

10258446_1411227289144030_9178745039409551903_nThe race started with David Byrne showing that he could certainly climb until his lack of traction started to cramp his style. The course was a real mixture with tons of really runnable single track and fireroad interspersed with a couple of very short and extremely steep technical sections. I ended up leading us over the top of the first climb up Mystic and then relaxed and took it easy on the super steep technical descent down the back to Bakers Gully. This was one of those descents that was so steep that it really jammed up your quads. I saw a few good spills ahead of me as well as some fantastic butt sliding and crab impersonations going on. I let a few guys get past here as I was happy to just get down in one piece and was confident I would catch them all going up Clearspot.

Clearspot is one of those lovely sights that you would only get in a Pine Plantation, where they have basically just bulldozed a firebreak straight down a very steep hill. This did make for a wonderful unrelenting hands on knees climb though which I thoroughly enjoyed. Moving past a bunch of guys I was now into 2nd and now trailing only the great John Winsbury of Dunedin(via Canberra). Descending off this hill Matt Coops came flying past, a fine demonstration of how being in the flow and enjoying the trail can lead to some fantastic performances. Coming into the first aid station at Bucklands I was a couple of mins down on John and maybe a minute down on Matt. On the nicely runnable climb over to Eurobin, which was the beginning of the Big Walk, I managed to roll past Matt but still lost another minute to Winsbury.

Vajin about 1/2 way up the Big Walk. Photo: MattB

Vajin about 1/2 way up the Big Walk. Photo: MattB

Coming up to the start of the Big Walk I just told myself run everything. Often on a big climb it is not our muscles or bodies that force us into a walk instead it is our minds. If you can just get more comfortable with being uncomfortable, you will find you can keep running for longer up steeper grades than you could have imagined. I set to work and was feeling pretty happy with how I was climbing especially when I saw Winsbury up ahead. I passed him about half way up and continued to work hard all the way to the top. I was in the lead now and only had a relatively simple 7km loop to the finish.

Heading out on the loop I was feeling strong and confident, that was until I squeezed my way into Chalwells Gallery. This was basically a slot canyon between two huge rocks, approx 30-40cm wide 150-200m long and when I arrived was full of lovely Australian bush walkers. With no way around them and they being happy to take their time and enjoy the whole experience, it wanʼt long until my 2min or so lead had disappeared. Standing around and chatting with another runner is not something I usually do in races, so finding David Byrne and myself doing this was quite a novel experience. With only 3kms to go and no fair way to determine what the outcome would have been without this unplanned interlude, we decided to live to fight another day. David is a top runner and is only going to get better, I look forward to meeting him again on the trails for round two.

Vajin and David Byrne at the finish.

Vajin and David Byrne at the finish.

It was great to see such a quality field turn up for such a challenging event and I am sure we will see this event grow rapidly in the future. Good to see some real depth developing in the Australian trail scene and the prizes and support that the Buffalo Stampede offered will only help fuel that. The chance to win a trip to Chamonix for the Sky Running World Champs is definitely a huge incentive and I wish Caine, David, Jacinta and Sarah all the best over in France in June.

As always Big thanks to all my sponsors and supporters and of course my wife Prasasta, La Sportiva (the best trail shoes out there, they come from Italy and will be available in NZ later this year) Ultimate Direction (the Series 2.0 packs definitely do the business), MACPAC (Chchʼs finest), the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team (inspirational) and the wonderful Lotus-Heart in Christchurch (all things nutritional).

 


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1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. Well done on an impressive race and quite helpful tips -look king forward to your next big race and ever-determined
    grin!

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