The Buffalo Stampede Grand Slam Part II
After getting back to my tent after the Sky 26er I decided to get everything ready for the next two days of running, I expected to be pretty tired after the 75km Ultra on day two and preparing everything for the final day would be the last thing that I wanted to do after a full day of running. I put everything I needed into separate bags for the Ultra and the third days marathon, trying to be as efficient as possible.
While sorting out all of my crap I met another runner who had come up with his family to run the Ultra, his name was Chris. He had told me how they were driving around checking out parts of the course earlier in the day. We spoke a while and he was a bit unsure about the whole thing which didn't make me feel any easier but I just laughed it off as I tend to do, although it did give me some comfort knowing that I wasn't the only one stressing over it!
After speaking to Chris I continued getting everything ready, had my shower, ate my dinner and chilled out in my tent for the rest of the afternoon and evening before trying to get some sleep.
I got about four hours sleep that night, I was still unwell and my ribs were quite sore. I woke up an hour before my alarm at 4:30am so decided to slowly get ready and then eventually headed off to the start line for the long, long day ahead.
I caught up with Andrew and a couple of other Grand Slammers before the race to see how everyone was feeling. Everyone seemed OK, one or two were really hurting which wasn't a good sign for the two days ahead. Luckily my legs felt pretty fresh apart from where I had fallen, my ribs were sore but I was confident it wouldn't affect me too much.
At 7am the race had started, the first (and last) 12.5km would be on the same course as the previous day so I knew what to expect this time around. By the time I got to the start of the big climb up to Clearspot I had a good idea of how my body was feeling and it wan't bad!
After the tumble from the previous day I was being extremely cautious on all of the downhill sections, this really impacted my time for the rest of the weekend. I knew that if I had a similar fall then I would most likely be out of the race so I didn't want to take my chances, it did however get quite frustrating seeing so many people passing me on the downhills.
Once at the 12.5km checkpoint where we had turned around during the Sky 26er we continued on straight through. This was a long, flat section along a dirt road and then eventually onto a sealed road. I managed to really pick up my pace on this stretch and made up a lot of time, it felt really good to be able to finally run without worrying about falling over!
Near the end of the stretch I caught up with another Grandslammer, Shaun Brewster. We spoke for a while about both of our running history and about a new race that he was helping put together for next year. Eventually we got to a very long uphill section, luckily this one wasn't too steep so I could get a good hiking pace going. Once at the top was a long downhill section that was easy to run, I was relieved that there wasn't anything as bad as those first 12km!
The 25km checkpoint was in a big open park area, there were lots of spectators and aid stations and volunteers to help refill everything, Andrews wife, Alix was also there helping me out. Once I had departed the check point I ran over a small bridge and past a couple of spectators, one of them commented about how I looked a lot fresher than anyone else who had run through, this made me feel a lot better! I was still being very conservative about the whole thing, I was getting closer to my maximum training run leading up to this - 35km. I didn't know how my body would cope after 50km so I continued my slow and steady plan.
Just after crossing the bridge was yet another long incline, this one probably took the longest out of them all. It wasn't too steep that it was a struggle but it was the length of the trail that wore a lot of runners out. The trail was narrow and surrounded by forestation, if I was out on a casual hike this would have been quite nice.
After a couple of openings, clearings, roads and more trails I was eventually getting closer to the half way point. There was one amazing spot looking over the mountain and all of the forest and cliff faces that for a brief moment made me forget about any pain or fatigue that I was experiencing. That's the great thing about running Ultras, they take you places that you would probably never think to go before and probably what keeps drawing me back to them, I'm pretty sure it's not the pain that keeps bringing me back to do these things!
I reached the last checkpoint before the halfway point and refilled one bottle knowing I would be returning shortly. There was about a 7km loop back to that checkpoint with quite a few steps throughout. At one section of the loop was a crazy cave like structure that we had to navigate our way through. At first we had to squeeze down a small crevice, not really knowing where to place each foot and then climb down, shimmy through and crawl under each section of this rock formation.
After the rocks it was back to the checkpoint which involved climbing back up a whole heap of steps, once there I completely refilled everything and then started my way back through everything I had just come through during the previous seven hours!
It wasn't too bad most the way back, I crossed paths with Chris whom I had met the day before at the Holiday park, he told me how he wasn't feeling too good and that he was wrecked! I told him to just keep moving and not to give up. He would eventually finish the race with a time of 15 hours.
After passing through the 25km checkpoint I met up with a guy named Richard who was doing the single ultra and we stuck together most of the way back. Once getting to the final checkpoint back at the original 12.5km mark I knew that it was going to be a tough couple of hours ahead. I packed away my sunglasses and traded it in for my headlamp as the sun would be setting shortly. I slowly made my way back up Duffus Drop up to Clearspot and then slowly back down the long decent trying not to slip over again in the same spot where I hurt myself. Finally we made it to the final big climb, out of all of the three days this was absolutely the hardest part for me. It seemed so much longer and steeper then before and this time we were in complete darkness apart from our headlamps guiding us. Each step was once again a huge effort, we both would take small breaks, I would be holding onto my poles with my head down while Richard was clinging onto large rocks trying to catch his breath. We would start up again for a bit and then rest again. Another runner caught up to us near the top encouraging us to keep moving even though he was also exhausted himself. Finally we made it, it almost seemed like we had completed the race even though there was still a few kilometers to go but at least we would never have to do that again.
After the final climb it was hard to run again but eventually we were able to, I tried to stick close behind Richard as we navigated our way through the forest. The dirt appeared so flat in the dark with just the headlamp shining onto it, almost like an illusion! I couldn't tell if I was placing my feet in the correct spots, sometimes I wouldn't and would slip or trip up. Near the end of the forest section I rolled my ankle and screamed in pain, luckily no damage!
Out of the forest we were back on the flat, open area for the final 3km. We picked up our pace for a strong finish, we both wanted to get under 13 hours and it was going to be close if we didn't hurry. The closer we got the quicker our pace became, we were a few hundred meters away when some kids yelled out to us to show us where to go, I accidentally hit one of them with one of my poles! I apologized and thanked them for their help. We sprinted (well it felt like sprinting) over the finish line, completely exhausted with a time of 12:58:44. The race director put my finishers medal over my head and asked how I was feeling, I remember lying saying how I felt OK when I felt anything but. I stopped my watch and it showed we had run 78km, 3km more than planned!
I sat down with some fruit and then realized how cold I was getting. It was already 8pm so I quickly gathered my things and slowly made my way to the parking lot. I saw Richard just as he was leaving in his car, he wound down his window and told me that he had just thrown up in the parking lot, I laughed and told him I would see him in future running events as he wished me luck for the marathon! I then got into my car and made my way back to the Holiday Park.
Continued in Part III