My time: 12:54:51 (2017 edition of Buffalo Stampede)
Mt Buffalo is a big lump of rock, standing out like – well a Buffalo. That’s the thing, you can see it from such a long way it is an intimidating beast, haunting you as you climb over Clear Spot with already hard-working legs. Try not to remember that once you get over there and mount the Buffalo, you’ve got to come back again. It’s a true test of climbing and running this course, you really need to be ok at both.
What’s the overall vibe like?
The start/finish in Bright is a race hub dream. There is an icy cold river to crash in at the end. A brewery so close even mashed legs can make it. Plus a wonderful water park for the family and kids to waste away a few hours waiting for you to come back – if you do!! The atmosphere at the start is like all ultras – a pit full of nerves and anticipation. The race draws a good crowd, eager for the challenge as the sun starts to rise. I will say this, Mountain Sports do find some ripping locations for their races and the main hub, they have that nailed and for me, that’s something I like in an ultra. A place to lounge around, have a beer and enjoy the scenery.
What’s the course like?
You may think this is a typical Alpine kind of course, but it’s not. Very different to say Mt Hotham up the road. The course kicks off with a gentle cruise along the river to Mystic Hill. The climb up here gets steep enough, so it will wake you up. The path up follows mountain bike trails that wind around and you feel it’s taking longer than it really is. Once at the top, it starts to be a lot of fun. I love the Micks Track descent. Mostly to watch and participate in the carnage. It’s straight down for about 800m from memory. Nasty, but a lot of fun. Once you get over that, it’s a few steps until you climb up to Clear Spot. That’s one of those climbs with false tops. Almost there, oh shit, no I am not. It’s a tough one but when you get to the top, you only have about 65km to go. Descending Clear Spot leads to some flat running along a dirt and bitumen roads until you hit Keating’s ridge. This climb is runnable for many, or if you’re like me, a bit of a nice hike until you get over the top and then a lovely run down to Eurobin checkpoint at the base of Buffalo. Eurobin is a great place for your supporters to hang out and enjoy watching the runners cruise through. The climb up Buffalo is not steep, but it is 10km long and never really backs off much. The trail is a stunning single track, so get excited about bombing back down that later. The chalet at the top is always a buzz with plenty of support and faster runners coming back down. The trip along the top of Buffalo is beautiful and also requires you to squeeze through some tight rocky spots. Just what one doesn’t need after that many kms of tough running. It is something different and a lot of fun. Back at the Chalet, that’s 42km done and you can suck in the big ones for the trip back to Bright. The descent off Buffalo is fast and free-flowing if your legs allow. Back over Keatings and then onto what now becomes the hardest part of the course. Climbing back up Clear Spot, dropping down again and back up Micks Track is crazy. If your legs and mind aren’t cooked after this, you’re not human. I had a pacer with me, really to make sure I didn’t die out there. On a couple of occasions, death seemed like a reasonable option and that is why we love ultras – they make you question everything about your sanity. Heading down Mystic is tricky enough, though you have the motivation and drive to get to the end. So close. The finish line is a buzz, the creek is a dream on tired legs and the beer is only a short walk for your mate to go and buy you one. A ripping, challenging, variable course that is worth having a crack at.
What are the aid stations like? Plenty on offer and I was around the 13-hour mark and didn’t strike any shortages.
How well marked is the course? No issues. Although my pacer knew the way down Mystic in the dark so not sure what the signage was like there.
What’s the parking like? There is a bit around, but my suggestion would be to stay within walking distance, makes life easier.
Is it good for spectators? Absolutely. Eurobin creek, the chalet on Mt Buffalo. The start/finish area. Heaps to do even for kids, so perfect for the family outing.
What was the weather like? Always been nice when I have been there, maybe it gets a little hot, so wear a hat. Can be cold on top of Buffalo so consider taking enough stuff to keep warm should it turn pear-shaped.
Where can I stay? Plenty on offer in Bright (AirBNB)
Where can I eat? Bright has plenty on offer. Personally I never make it further than the Bright Brewery…..pizza and beer….tick.
How do I get there? It’s a drive wherever you are coming from. The closest airport is Albury, or take the drive from Melbourne.
Final thoughts Many distances all over testing but beautiful courses. Great town. Well marked. Lock and load.