The 2016 Buffalo Stampede Grand Slam - Sky Marathon And Afterthoughts
ANDREW HEDGMAN - ULTRAMARATHON RUNNER
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The 2016 Buffalo Stampede Grand Slam - Sky Marathon And Afterthoughts

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The 2016 Buffalo Stampede Grand Slam - Sky Marathon And Afterthoughts

The Buffalo Stampede Grand Slam Part III

Feeling completely exhausted after the ultra I wanted to get to bed as soon as possible. I quickly ate my dinner that only needed to be heated up in the microwave, had a protein shake and then a nice hot shower. 

I really hoped that I would get in some good quality sleep that night as the last two nights were pretty restless. My ribs had started to get worse and I still wasn't getting over my viral infection either. Unfortunately I was awake most of the night and got in maybe three hours sleep before my alarm went off for the final day, I probably looked like a zombie walking around gathering my things for the day.

We all lined up at the start line, for almost everyone there it was for the first time that weekend but for the less than twenty grand slammers remaining it was for the third and final time!

I was very confident about completing the final day, I already knew the course from running the ultra, my legs were feeling OK and even though my ribs were quite sore I knew that I could manage it well. The only thing that I was concerned about was how tired I was feeling from the lack of sleep, if it wasn't so cold I'm sure I could have lay down in the middle of the hundreds of runners and easily dozed off!
Without much time to think about where I could have a nap we were already up at the start line and then off for the 42km run. I instantly noticed how heavy my legs were feeling and my pace was obviously a lot slower then the previous days at the same point. We soon got into the forest in single file, having a lot of fresh runners around me made me realize how much more effort I was having to put in just so I wasn't holding anyone up behind me. Even though it was only half of the ultra, it was still going to be a long day!

After the forest I was already dreading the long climb up to Clearspot, I was so keen to get that part over with as it would be the most difficult part of the marathon. First I had to make my way down the steep decent down to Bakers Gully and I had never been any slower than at this point. I was still being overly cautious about having another tumble and my legs weren't feeling as strong. A lot of people passed me on this section, the only positive I could think about was not having to come back and climb back up!

Once I got down I was on my way to the start of the big climb up to Clearspot, once there I put my head down and started the accent trying not to think about anything other then focusing on each step up. About half way up I met a woman who had completed the ultra the year before and came back this year to do the marathon. She had a great sense of humour and we spoke a lot about the difficulty of the course and other races, it was really good to keep my mind off the hike up.

Eventually we both made it up to Clearspot where I met back up with Andrew from the previous two days, he was having a little trouble with his legs but managed to carry on. I didn't want to spend too much time mucking around so I left down on the decent. I noticed right away that it was a bit uncomfortable running down, my quads were still feeling alright but my joints were a bit achy which wasn't unusual, it just made me slower and probably made me look a bit strange when running downhill!

I got down to Duffus Drop, slowly made my way down and to the first checkpoint at 12.5km. Alix was there to help me out again which was really nice and then I was off again for the long stretch of flat road.

I wasn't sure if I would be able to last the entire distance of the road section without having to stop and walk parts however once I got going my pace picked up and I found it a lot easier than expected. I pushed on through until I was back off the road and heading up the long walk where I met up with Chris, at almost the same spot where I met him the day before! We spoke all the way up before I took off on the downhill section, I could tell that I was starting to get a bit tired so wanted to utilize the downhills as much as I could.

I soon got to the 25km checkpoint, knowing I was over halfway was a big relief. I refilled my drink, I had been using my own Skratch hydration mix for the entire weekend but I definitely needed it more for this final day as my appetite was almost non existent! I had my Bonk Breaker bars which were got me through the first two days but I had no desire to eat anything during the marathon. I did force myself to eat every now and then but it was always an effort.

It was then time for the very long hike up through the narrow trails, roads, clearings and paths before reaching the final checkpoint in the race. Alix was there to take my hiking poles so I could finish the final 7km without them. I was in no rush for the last few kilometers, I took my time going down all of the steps, cruised along the flat tracks and then got to a standstill at the crazy rock formation that I once again had to squeeze, slide and crawl through! It was a bit slower this time around, I wasn't as agile as the day before but eventually got through. After the rocks there was about 2km of flat and then the final kilometer had the steps and uphill section and back to the checkpoint, although this time it was the finish line. I pushed the last couple of hundred meters (only to find that I was feeling a lot better than I thought when running up the inclines) and crossed through the finish line where everyone was cheering and ringing the cow bells!

I was so happy that the run was over and I finally got to sit down and reflect on the past three days. For the grand slammers that had finished we all got awarded our trophies, there were about 32 that started on the Friday and only 17 left at the end of Sundays Marathon. Alix and Andrew drove me back to my car in Bright, I packed everything up and made a two hour drive to my Aunties place (driving for two hours isn't fun after three days of running). That night I had the best sleep!

Looking back I believe that I could have pushed myself a lot harder during certain parts of each day but am just glad that I finished. I was unwell, had a huge disadvantage with my lack of training (especially on similar terrain) and injured myself on the first day which also hurt my confidence with the steep downhill sections. Being able to finish with all of those negative aspects I really have nothing to be down about. 

I don't think I will go back to the Buffalo Stampede, I definitely won't be doing the grand slam again. Multi day races are my favorite runs to do, it's a whole different way of running and your strategy or plan of attack is constantly changing which is what makes it so exciting for me. For this race though, the repetitiveness of running the same course for three days (and running back after halfway for the first two days) was at times mind numbing. If I were to go back it would be for the marathon, a one way course to the finish line with great surroundings and atmosphere to take in! 

I've only just been able to resume training again after my ribs have been healing. I have the Ultra Trail Australia 100km to get through next month which will be a massive task to take on with only a couple of weeks of training in between recovering and the race. After that I will be completely focused on my next adventure over in India in July - The Himalayan Crossing Ultramarathon!

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