Chasing the Buffaloes

By Paul Thompson

On our recent trip to Boulder Sham and I went in search of buffaloes. With a little research we managed to track them down. We’d heard they herd every Sunday during fall at a parking lot just south of Nederland on Route 119, the Peak to Peak Scenic Bypass.

As we pulled into the parking lot we saw around 40 of the Colorado University(CU) Buffaloes, one of the top University teams in the US, with their coach Mark Wetmore. Within minutes they were off and I decided to try and hang with them. At last I’d get to experience Magnolia Road with the Buffaloes, both made famous by the book Running with the Buffaloes.

Mark Wetmore giving the CU Buffaloes their instructions before the run on Sunday.

Initially we headed along West Magnolia Road. Turns out after 1.5 miles we’d reached a dead end and we U turned back to the parking lot. The girls had already headed out on Magnolia Road (affectionately known as Mags) for an out and back 10 miles. We had a Flotrack video crew for company: they were doing a video documentary of top US university teams and it was the CU Buffaloes turn.

Starting some 30 seconds after they departed I struggled to catch them. It was my first run at 9000 feet for over two years. Fortunately a few stragglers dropped off the back, including Ammar Moussa (Flotrack video), a phenomenal young freshman who’d clocked a 14:05 for 5000m at age 17, so I had someone to run with. From the parking lot, where many discarded their black CU tee shirts as the 70F was warm enough for no tops, we headed south on Route 119 for a mile or so. The 16-18 mile run meant they had to log some extra miles before getting onto Mags.

The view along Magnolia Road on the way back.

We turned left onto Route 72, Coal Creek Canyon Road and I was now running with two guys from New Jersey (fancy that, coming all this way to run with guys barely 30 minutes from our place in Peekskill, NY. ) I told them that being an old fart and having run 16 miles the day before I’d be looking for a shorter run. They said that we’d soon be turning left and heading up Monster Mile on County Road 97. At the top if I turned left onto Mags I’d be 3 miles from home making it 12 all in: they’d turn right and do more miles out and back on Mags.

The CU runners doing the 16 mile run had this as their view heading down Magnolia Road.

Monster Mile did not sound promising and sure enough it lived up to its billing. I ground out the climb. At the top I was fried. It felt like I’d been trampled by buffaloes rather than run with them. While I took some satisfaction from there being three behind me this quickly evaporated when I realized I was the only one taking the short cut home. They all pressed on for at least 16. These guys have it.

The last 3 miles were brutal. At each ascent along the dirt road I slowed to a crawl: there was barely one degree of separation from standing still but it was enough. I got back to the parking lot after 1 hour 20 minutes of running.

This was the start of the run on West Magnoliai Road.

Sham decided we’d take the rest of the day easy with a 5 mile hike to Diamond Lake. That turned out to be a 12 mile hike from 9,000 to almost 11,000 feet.

But that’s another story.

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