Ash Bennett – Gored by the Buffalo!

The buffalo stampede marathon was a race on my 2017 list and with the course in reverse I was even more keen to how I would go, particularly considering there was so much descending at the start and knowing that you have to leave enough in the tank to really climb strongly up Warner’s Wall and Mick’s track. Add into the mix a fast 3km finish along the river back into bright.
The night before was relaxing and I had some pizza for dinner to fill up followed by an early night as had to be up Buffalo before 7am. I did around a 15min warm up and got to see a very beautiful sunrise. From there time went very fast as I quickly made my way down to the start line where everyone was ready to go. Lining up for the men was Tom Brazier, David Byrne, Vajin Armstrong, Matt Murphy, Ashley Hoffmann, Aaron Knight, Loughlinn Kennedy, Charlie brooks, Jarrad Page, Edwin Perry and John Winsbury. It was a very solid field with two outstanding women also lining up in Lucy Bartholomew and Kellie Emmerson.

Buffalo Stampede SkyMarathon 2017

As the start went off it was a fast pace to settle the field before hitting the single track which has lots of rock stairs and cool things to jump. My plan was to go hard for the first couple kilometers to show I’m ready and then back it off until the descent of Buffalo was done. At the front, Matt Murphy and Ashley Hoffman really put on an impressive pace on the first 8k loop in which I decided to stick to my plan and drop back, but not too far from the front. It was so much fun going crazy fast, but the marathon is a long way and by putting a couple mountains at the end it was going to be interesting.
Unfortunately I had a nasty fall about 7k in, which was my own fault…I took my eye off the trail  and ended up going over on my left side. John stopped to see if I was ok and as I got up I told him I’m good and to keep going. From this point I knew that would make my day a lot harder as my knee had a small bit of pain. I continued on and the cheering coming back to the car park was amazing so I kept going however going down the stairs the pain was there in my knee – Not a good sign!
The run back along the big walk trail is a great one. There are some awesome views looking back towards Bright, but you have to keep your eyes on the trail as much as possible. A bit further down I was feeling ok so pushed the pace again to see if I was coming good. However not long after that effort my body was feeling weak. I found myself falling across a boulder and went down hard with the left side again. At this point it was pretty much game over! Coming to the bottom of Buffalo was so awesome. The cheering was very loud and as much as I wanted to stop there I decided I would see how much further I could go.
The climb up Keating’s Ridge is one that is not too steep but it goes for 3km and it’s good to settle into a strong steady pace as after it there is a 3km flowing downhill which leads into a long road where you can make up time and speed. On the way down my knee was sore and many runners passed me. I spent most of the road section running with Lucy as it was very close between her and Kellie at this point for the lead female. They powered on in the distance up the ridge as I became slower with lots of things becoming very sore at this point, making the trudge to the top of Clearspot extra taxing. Once again the cheering and supporting at the Clearspot checkpoint was amazing and it was also starting to get really hot.

I didn’t trust my knee for the descent down Clearspot so checked myself into the medical tent where they cleaned my cuts and removed some of the rock and dirt out of my skin… was over…. I called in a DNF. It’s a horrible thing, the DNF, but we are only human and some times it dose not always go to plan. Enjoy the moment that is there for you whether it is running as fast as you can to the finish line or enjoying the amazing views and company on the journey. We are very lucky to have such an amazing, supportive endurance sport where we all help each other along the way.
As the saying goes “When you mess with the buffalo, you get the horns” which is quoted from the lovely race directors Sean and Mel Greeenhill. I have runThe Buffalo stampede the last 3 years and will find myself continuing to return each year. It’s such an awesome event, organised well and the vibe is amazing!
Special thanks to Skyrunning Australia/New Zealand, coach David Byrne, Nike(nrc) where we put on some awesome training session weekly, Andrew Badrock for your time to help out in the morning and offer crew after you ran the ultra the day before, all my lovely friends of the trail running Australia wide and thanks again for your time.