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‘What sort of pizza do you want bro?’, Toms voice snapped me out of concentrating not to trip on the decent down Mt.buffalo. The boys Tom Lelievre and Randy Newman (my crew) had the brilliant idea of having a pizza waiting for me at the finish line.
It was just one of many moments of the weekend that spurred me on, gave me that little mental boost that kept me going forward towards the end of a long day running.
What a weekend of running it was! Three days, 144 kilometres with almost 10,000 meters of elevation gain. I’m one of those runners who enjoys the hills, only two other people had finished the whole course, and I felt the race could play to my strengths, so the Grand Slam felt like a fitting challenge.
Scotty Hawker from Mile27 had me super fit, we worked on hills, hiking technique, undulating tempo sessions and the long run. He also introduced me to using ‘The wizard sticks’ and towards the end of my training plan I really worked on being efficient with the poles which helped so much come day two and three.
The 26’er kicked off with a slight hiccup (I forgot my shorts!) so my mate Majell lent me some thanks god. Not sure exactly why he didn’t want them back after three days in them?
It was just great being back in Bright and seeing some familiar faces who were about to share some brutal jam packed climbs. I took Scotty’s advice and aimed for a fast but comfortable pace throughout – as best as you can on a course like this. Climbing up Mystic and Clearspot reaffirmed just how hard this course was…especially Micks Track! Wowsers.
I ran with Rob Zwierlein for a while, a well-respected Alpine runner and winner of the Wilsons Prom 100k. We exchanged some friendly chats throughout the back end of the course and I felt I was pacing well with another two days of running ahead.
I kicked a bit harder with the news of another Grand Slammer ahead Christian Warren (Top bloke!) and finished on the line together.
So far I was equal second overall in the Grand Slam, Frank Bittner with a ten minute lead.
Rest and Recover was on the top of the list after the first day and I jammed in one of my ‘Ultra_chef’ recovery drinks (Peanut protein, bananas, chia seeds and coconut water) and went for lunch with Tom after a dip in the river to ice the legs.
The 75km Ultra started a touch earlier on Saturday at 7am, the legs were feeling quite good at this stage and only a slight tightness in the quads.
This day went completely different mentally for me than day one, It started off being really conscious of moving efficiently and holding back as best as I could.
Up Mystic again I ran into fellow mile27 runner Michael Dalgarno, and being a Grand Slammer we chatted for a while. I couldn’t help feeling a slight pressure to hold my position throughout the day, which takes it toll especially when you have Rob Zwierlein storm pass you up Buffalo into second place and Michael and Frank also passing before the Chalet up top.
As in most of the ultra’s I run, I finish quite strong so I kept being consistent over the trail and managed to descend buffalo and pass most of the Grand Slammers. I caught Rob at the base of Clear spot, much to his surprise I felt when he turned to see me smiling behind him. From there I pushed on and finished strong ahead and kept telling myself to concentrate and not to fall in case of an injury.
I crossed content, once again in second position, a bit spent as you would be after 75km with nearly 5kms of vert!
Another quick recovery drink and a painful massage from Brewsters running team had me feeling tired, but the pizza crossing the line was just an awesome treat to have as a massive reward for day two.
My sleep was okay, on the dawn of the last day I woke up twenty or so times, I shifted the compressions around a bit on my legs and prayed for minimal pain in the legs when I woke.
A hot green tea and a bowl of muesli was a good distraction from the soreness in the legs and the slight doubt of how to get the job done today.
Once we set off for the last day I was determined to enjoy it and not to stress as much as I did the day before with positions and overall standings.
The legs were a little sore but I hit Mystic well and descended Micks carefully, keeping in mind the whole time to stay on top of my nutrition.
I had a fair idea where the other Grand Slammers were and Michael once again was around. We had some friendly chats and I realised he was also trained by Scotty. Once the decent into clear spot was done I was sitting forth overall out of the Grand Slammers and was feeling mentally stronger than yesterday, I wasn’t stressing as much and my running took over.
I caught Simon Byrne who was in third place in the GS for the day and we got chatting (another mile27 runner!) and what a legend he was.
We ran together really well, he showed great camaraderie which was exactly what we both needed heading into the final big climb up Buffalo. I climbed better than I did the day before, and felt super strong, everything was coming together at exactly the right time.
I knew if I was efficient for the next 7kms, Christians whopping thirty-five minute lead in front would still have me hanging on for second overall. The notorious rock climb and top loop was great, I felt in control and nearly caught Frank who crossed the line forty seconds or so I front.
The party up the top was great, I finished the last day in 6hrs 11mins. Christians mammoth run on the last day wasn’t enough to catch my time and Franks solid two days made him the overall winner. Big shout outs to all finishes of the grand Slam, big respect!
The podium feeling was so rewarding, a massive debt of gratitude came over me for my family and crew. The sacrifices they made to get me to this place and to have gone so well, and to my Coach Scotty for the advice, belief and guidance.
Buffalo Grand Slam was a monster!
Podium List – Total Slam time
1st Frank Bittner 19:24
2nd Patrick Bowring 19:49
3rd Christian Warren 19:59
26km (3hrs 31 min) 8th Overall, 2nd in Grand Slam Av pace (8:28)
75km (11hrs 7 min) 23rd Overall, 2nd in Grand Slam Av pace (8:19)
42km (6hr 11 min) 44th Overall, 3rd in Grand Slam Av pace (8:43)
Overall 2nd Grand Slammer!