It may have been more than a month ago now, but Salomon runner, Majell Backhausen reflects on his Buffalo Stampede and how it didn’t quite go to plan… Even for lead runners have crap days and there’s a lot we can learn by understanding how we push through those days.
In the Red Hill Football Club change rooms, amongst the strong smell of deep heat and BO, there is a sign that reads ‘Get knocked down 7 times, but stand up 8’.
It is pretty fitting for a game of football where getting tackled to the ground is as common as running without underwear. But if you have been running consistently for anything longer than 12 months, in which time, you have set yourself goals and had a mixed bag of success or achieved them all. I’m sure you would agree, that this motivational quote is also very apt for the sport of Running.
The Buffalo Stampede, was yet again, a popular race on the calendar for the trail running community. It came with solid competition and so it demanded a solid block of training and commitment in the lead-up. There was no denying that it was going to be 75km of tactical, yet aggressive racing.
Physically in trail running, we can get ‘knocked down’; Twisted ankles, twisted stomach, falling face first down Mick’s Track, snakes bites, etc. But for the 2016 edition of Buffalo Stampede 75km it was a mental fall, that took its toll on race day.
I would have taken a physical fall, face first down Mick’s track on race day. Because that means I would have taken the right course, instead of missing the turn-off. So instead of the physical pain, I let the mental frustration get the better of me.
I was so pissed off at myself, so disgustingly pissed off. One tactic I wanted to employ during the race was smile and joke when my crew was there. That didn’t happen at all. I just looked pissed off and angry. That joke for Hayley about forgetting to bring some homemade bliss balls was totally forgotten.
I was so ‘amped’ for this event, I wanted to find the pain cave and get deep into its darkness, but instead, at the 6km mark I found a mental hole, hurrying to get back ‘lost’ time, just has a quicksand effect,putting me deeper in the hole.
Patience was required, just like in training or any moment in this sport, consistent patience.
We were rewarded with such a good day at Buffalo this year, the weather was all time good; the red cow bells bellowed out and there were friendly faces all along the course. Apparently there was also a disco bus half way up The Big Walk too. Signs that show this sport is growing in popularity and in entertainment. I like where it is heading.
So many good reasons to be happy and enjoying a day of racing, especially with a support crew of unbelievably committed and inspiring people. But far out, it was hard on that day to talk myself around making one stupid mistake. It took approximately 40km to realise, sometimes shit goes wrong but, it shouldn’t stop you.
Well, in actual fact it took me about 5km to come to this realisation, after I crossed over the trail with Joel Fitzgerald, he was cramping and stopped in his tracks. He said, ‘It’s getting through the shit days that count’.
This one line was a total game changer.
It was better than any gel, homemade bliss ball, caffeinated substance or red jelly frog. It was just the plain old truth.
The 75km Ultra, is a gnarly beast. The advice from some seasoned veterans Caine and Blake was ‘You can not plod your way in for the final 20km’, this course demands respect all the way to the finish.
So at the 42km mark, with the knowledge that I could not stop, because I was ‘just’ having a shit day. I employed a tactic that will almost always guarantee an ultra finish – One foot in front of the other – repeated.
When people cheer, clap and ring bells as if they were Japanese bear bells with the sole purpose of scaring away bears and the runners are the bears in this case. It is just like hearing a motivational quote on the trails, it is energising! Volunteers deserve a huge thank you, the medical staff and race organisation do too. But if you’re a loud, energetic and excited onlooker, you also deserve a huge thank you and even a hug. It means a lot to the slightly shocked-looking runner who passes by in silence, maybe with a small nod of acknowledgement.
This is also relevant to any other runner out there on the trail who can spare the energy to say, ‘well done’, ‘keep going’ or ‘great stuff’, etc. These actions grow the spirit of our sport and the is so damn important!
I was so stoked with the passing encouragement of other runners and I made sure everyone I went past, received that small bit of my energy in the form of an encouraging word. Again, it is so damn important.
Although I was still pissed with my position in the race, that bad though was diminishing with the enjoyment of descending Buffalo. If runners are close at this point, anything could happen.
The time updates on the runner ahead shrank and my energy to push on was grew. The early tactical running was all in an effort to run from Eurobin Creek to the base of Warners Wall. A section that saw Ben, meet a familiar friend, Mr Bonk.
It is pretty painful smashing the final steep km’s of the Ultra, especially when you have 2 minutes to make up to get a place on the podium.
And the speed at which you ascend the final climbs of the Ultra again seem painfully slow when the blue shirt ahead is what you need to catch. So close, but so far.
I moved towards that finish line like a conservative idiot, accepting defeat as if 3rd place was out of my grasp. Until 150m from the end, where I saw the Blue shirt and I sprinted. I hoped he wasn’t going to turn around, but he did, and he sprinted.
75km, 4500m of brutal climbing and all it came down to was 8 seconds.
That hurts, even now it is still frustrating and it hurts.
But that day of racing taught me a lot. The motivation it has sparked is huge because I let myself down and that needs to be rectified.
You can never entirely predict what will happen in an ultra until it’s finished and getting through shit days really does count.
Running Buffalo 75km with the guys and girls that all towed the line, was a day in running, that will always have a little burning flame in my memory.
A sincere thank you to Hayley, Dylan, Blake, Caine, Lucy, Rob, Matt, Mel, Steve, Fabi, Andy and Cam. Support of the S&S crew that is so helpful and appreciated.