Monday, 25 March 2013

Namib Desert Challenge: Stage 1

Three letters. We knew it would be. H.O.T. Actually, the morning from the 07h00 start was perfect for running. Cool. From 09h00 it was quite warm. From 10h00 it turned quite very warm. From 11h00 it was getting seriously warm and from 12h00 is has be absolutely frikkin’ cookin’. At about 13h00 my wristwatch read 36C. Personally I think my body temperature was cooling the reading from reality. It’s always different to knowing that it is going to be hot to experiencing the heat. Yes, quite different.

This first stage started into the sunrise. Slight mist across the grassy plain. 

I was running with good company in the form of Caroline, a runner from Canada. We stayed together for about an hour until I made a pitstop – I couldn’t catch her after that although I could see her in the distance. She has a really smooth, easy and relaxed style.

From the plain we headed up and over one of the mountains here on a quad bike / 4x4 track. Luckily the shade was on our side but fast disappearing.

Something I’d forgotten about was the elegant water points. They’re set up by the Soussusvlei Lodge and manned by Lodge staff, who are so friendly and helpful. They help to fill your bladders, offer water and this crazy salty electrolyte solution and a very delicious iced tea. I’ve taken a shine to the latter solution. There are also orange and apple slides, cookies and bananas. I just keep to the ‘nanas.

That's Joe in front and I think that's Dave in the orange top and I'm not sure how the other guy is...
Not long after the first water point we hit a sandy river bed. We’d been told this wasn’t a desert gaiter stage today. It certainly was! We’re actually chatting about it now in the shade of the dining tent in camp. We must have been through a good 10km plus today of sand. We’re all going to wear sand gaiters every day from now on, even if they say it isn’t a sandy day. Maybe not as sandy as the desert stages, but still sandy. This is going to be a running joke and we’re setting up people every evening, during briefing, to ask Terry whether the next day is a ‘gaiter day’.

After plodding through a sandy section, Tony and Deon came past me. Both trip-trapping through the sandy - trotting like ponies. I'm a lazy bum when it comes to sand and I settle into a walk usually but I thought I'd up the pace and run the sections. GREAT decision! Although I know it is easier, often, than walking, it's usually that little extra effort required to run that I slack on. But, what you lose on the slide you gain on the roundabout and this is the case of running through sand. I did really well with it today (pretty chuffed) and so I'll aim to keep up the momentum tomorrow.

The second water station is where I discovered the iced tea. A great taste change.

And then a long slight uphill jeep track. Up, up, up. Tony and Deon left the water station before me so I had people to chase. 

Tony still ahead of me in the distance. Not for long though with my cunning run-walk strategy.
I caught Tony not far from the top and we both overtook Deon at the bottom of the mountain. At the top, Tony and I took photos before ambling down.

Tony - he's a climber, Seven Summitter, skied across Greenland last year... we have much to talk about this week.
This long open road to the finish I recalled from previous – and not with any fondness. I think it helped knowing what I was going into. I rocked it for the first couple of kays and really, really felt it on the last three kays, which were cooking. Tony and I had been with each other for a while and then he began to feel the heat so we parted ways. He recovered well and came in 10 or 15 minutes behind me at the finish. I think I ran just under 6hrs.

Today’s winner, Argi (Argyrios with a long Greek surname starting with a ‘P’), is a Greek chap living in England. Totally made for running. I think he had a third place at Atacama Crossing (seven-days, staged) and when he ran Marathon des Sables in 2006, his first staged ultra trail race – coming from a ski mountaineering background – he placed 35th. Nice pedigree. He ran a 3h20 stage. Elegant.

As I type this it is 17h50 and my wristwatch, in the shade (off my wrist) reads 36C.

We’re in for a cooker tomorrow. I remember it being quite a flat and open stage. Nowhere to hide...
Of interest... there will be another running of this event in September and thereafter the race will annually be in September instead of March. Conditions will be similar though – still hot. Hahahaha.

We’re got a good mix of runners with some South Africans, some runners from Botswana, an ex-SA who lives in Malawi, an English lass (Lucy was here last year too), the Canadian Caroline, the other English guy Charles and American couple from Colorado and a dad-and-daughter from Arkansas. Ages probably range from late 20s to late 50s. A really nice group of people. I think there are about 29 runners.

There were more runners last year and this too is reason for the race moving to Sept. Terry said they had so many enquiries and a bunch of other runners who paid the deposit but asked to move it to this year as the is Argus and Two Oceans and then Comrades coming up. September should prove to be a really good time for this event. It’s a good one.

Till tomorrow.

[QUICK UPDATE] - second today was Marius - from Cape Town. And third was Asa. He's the ex-SA living in Malawi. Turns out he's a year ahead of me in school and he went to Jeppe Boys, a school up the road from me (I have many friends who went to Jeppe - small world).


Alan Cowell said...

Super update Lisa. keep it coming and best of luck to everyone.

Rosemary Hendry (NE England) said...

Excellent commentary. You took me right into your adventure!

Jonathan Thompson said...

Fabulous vistas and commentary.

The heat !!

Go Lisa

Hear in Malawi said...

Thanks for the update Lisa. Take Asa's pulse for me, just to check he's not overdoing it! Tell him Peter told you to.