“Destroyed” Owens conquers the Stampede
Tom relives his Australian adventure
Posted on 20/04/2015
It’s a week since the Buffalo Stampede Ultra SkyMarathon in Australia () and I’m flying back to Glasgow – a good time to reflect on the race! Here’s a quick report:
I was asked if I fancied running the ultra about 4 weeks before the race. We decided at 75.5km, 4,500m+/- it would be perfect preparation for the World Ultra Trail Champs in Annecy (Maxi-Race 85km : 5300m+/-) where I will represent GB. A good opportunity to get my long training run in the bag and practice nutrition, pacing etc with not too much expectation. But most importantly I was seriously excited about visiting the Victorian Alps and catching up with Aussie friends. It would be challenging coming from a Scottish winter and racing in potentially much higher and drier conditions but I felt reasonably confident having bagged a couple of good March hill runs in the Scottish Highlands and a brilliant week at the Salomon Advanced Week in warm Mallorca immediately before travelling to Oz.
The ultra course starts in the township of Bright and involves an out back route to Buffalo peak (~1,350m alt). The outrun had two very steep hills (Mystic Mtn and Clear Spot), fast running then a fast climb over Kesting Ridge followed by a mainly runnable climb up Buffalo Peak. There was a fun 6km loop at the top of Buffalo including a couple of tight squeezes through the impressive Chalwells rock Galleries. Then back the same way! There route has some lovely single track through the bush, steep hikes and a lot of fast running, plenty of vertical….a bit of everything!
I’ve never done a long out and back race before but figured it would be a good challenge and I shouldn’t get lost on the way back!
The race started early in cool temperatures with a slow pace, so from the first hill I decided to run my own race and settled into a steady pace I thought I could sustain for the day and started pulling away on the first two hills. I was really enjoying running through the bush- seeing a kangaroo and loads of exotic birds.
Aussie Salomon team mate Matt Cooper was crewing me and I got to see him every 10km or so at aid stations. I ran well up down Buffalo Peak and grew a 10-15min-ish buffer on 2nd place Andrew Tuckey. I blistered both big toe nails on the run out (this is usual for me in 1st race of season with steep descents) so had to ease back on the downs but was still moving well enough. It was brilliant to receive so much encouragement back down Buffalo form the other races heading up the hill.
Fortunately during the race we had some cloud cover for parts of the day but on the run back the temperatures were raising and zapping me. I couldn’t believe how much fluid I was needing to drink! I kept a steady pace going, knowing I had a good buffer to Tuckey but wanting to save energy for the last two steep hills. I was delighted to get over the penultimate hill- Clear Spot – and looking forward to the final climb over Mystic and 3km flat to finish. As I approached the bottom of the descent I tripped on a wire fence that had been knocked onto the track and immediately my calves locked and it triggered all my other leg muscles to start cramping horribly – I had to walk down the remainder of the hill backwards and do some stretches. It was pretty embarrassing with several folk watching the episode!
I was starting to panic that I wouldn’t be able to run the last hill or would be caught by Tuckey who specialises in strong ultra finishes. Fortunately Matt Coops was at the Aid station and got me thinking positively again and packed me off with a couple of slices of water melon and some coke. The last climb up Mystic was seriously steep and I stopped a few times to stretch out the calves, the descent was equally tricky on Mtb trails and with the legs still cramping uncontrollably I shuffled down and along the last few km to the finish. Fortunately I knew I was well clear so could enjoy the run in.
I’d been out for 8h17min – I was over the moon and hugely relieved not to have blown the race. I was totally destroyed and had to sit down immediately to control the cramps! Andrew Tuckey (AUS) finished strongly 11min back for 2nd, with Martin Lukes (NZL) in 3rd 5min min later. Salomon team mate, Landie Greyling (RSA) had a great run for 1st lady in 9h40min.
Full results here:
Most importantly it’s been a big learning curve and confidence boost for the IAU World Ultra Trail champs next month.
I am indebted to Salomon team mate Matt Coops ( Leeah) for crewing me and keeping me focused. Also to my team mates Jarad Kohlar, Blake Hose, Stevie Kremer, Mitch Lanne, Claire-zoe Balas for all the encouragement and time checks. Thanks to Marcus Warner (Skyrunning ANZ) for showing us key sections of the course and to Sean Greenhill the race organiser – top organisation !
It was a super weekend of racing and really the festive atmosphere and hospitality and encouragement from the Aussie trail running community was incredible. I was super proud to see my Salomon Team mates run so well in the the marathon and 32 km races.
As ever, huge thanks to Salomon Running for the opportunity and for the best Sense and SLAB kit.
I sustained myself on High5 () zero electrolyte tabs, energy bars and then gels towards end of race. Topped up with some watermelon slices, banana chunks and coke from the aid stations.
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Trail Running Community Manager, Salomon UK
Speed Cross 3
15 years of sports marketing experience, 30 years of running and racing on hills, trails and fells.
The community manager role at Salomon couples my passion for trail running with my enthusiasm for social media, community interaction and event management. It s very rewarding when you connect with people and help them develop their knowledge, or merely put a smile on their face.
Personally it also means that get to run in some of the worlds best equipment and run in some great places around the world – something that many runners would be rightly envious of!