Thursday, 28 March 2013

Namib Desert Challenge: Stage 4

That’s the big one done. 55 long kilometres in the bag today.

We started on the road just inside the gate of the Sossus Nakluft Park, heading towards the Sesriem Canyon. This wasn’t in the long route four years ago so I was looking forward to seeing this popular tourist site. It was well worth running to – quite extraordinary especially when you consider that this canyon does indeed get flooded. Last year the course was diverted big time as the canyon was flooded and rivers on other sections were gushing. Nel, our camp manager and route marker, says that he has photos from last year, which I really want to see because it just seems so inconceivable that this dry, harsh landscape could ever be flooded.

Sesriem Canyon. That's Joe ahead of me (I could catch him today!). Lovely shade.
The first waterpoint came up really soon. We think about 7km instead of 9.5km. It was in the canyon and a whole bunch of us were all together. I decided to take out the inner soles from my shoes to make more space, which worked really well. I’ll tell you more about this a bit later.

We got on to some hard pack and just ran, ran, ran across a vast, open area. This was very much the theme from today with many vast, open stretches.

By about halfway through the section from WP1 to WP2 I found myself at the back of the field. Two wee stops and one little-piggy-needs-attention stop had me chasing runners ahead. It’s amazing how much time it can take to reel people in. They may be moving slower overall than me but not substantially slower so catching takes time. I caught up with Lucy and then Deon and then John before the waterpoint where I found the father-and-daughter pair of Mike and Jennifer as well as English Dave and Botswana Dave.

I loaded up on liquids before hitting the dreaded tar section. 14km of tar from WP2 to WP3. We actually stuck to the side of the road, which was far more pleasant. By this time I’d caught English Dave (the same Dave from yesterday) and we made good time with my run-walk game. We ended up sticking together for the rest of the stage.

WP3 was very much the entrance to the duned area. Sossusvlei is like a funnel – broad at the mouth with dunes on either side many kilometres apart. And they close in further down. We kept to the right on a track that was mostly firm underfoot. 

Me, on the track to WP4.

Long track to WP4, which was at the base of the dune you can see in the distance to the right (or maybe a dune past this one?)
Getting closer to WP4. The band of trees on the right... they line the riverbed of the main stream feeding into Sosussusvlei.
Thank goodness for the warm breeze that was far more cooling than no breeze would have been. We moved well through to WP4 – the last waterpoint of the stage (at about 44km).

Howz this? A mini red sand dune across the original track - the route to WP4. The path diverts to the left of the photo.
From here we definitely slumped. We ran a few little bits but overall just walked the last 10-odd kilometres to the finish, which was hard work. We still, fortunately, had the wind but we were going straight into it. Better than no wind but a push from the back would have been a treat. 

On our way to the finish, shortly after leaving WP4.
It must have taken us 90 minutes to reach the finish, at the base of Dune 45. We ascended the dune – a definite highlight – and enjoyed looking back at where we’d come from earlier in the day. Vast!

Me with English Dave on top of Dune 45. A stage well done!
WP 4 was at the furthermost dune on the end of the row on the left. Yes, far in the distance. We're helluva high up. That was just the last 10-11km! If you follow the footprints on the dune you'll see a black dot to the left (tree) and to the right there's just a fleck - that's a regular-sized bus!
Argi took the stage win. Marius was second, Stephan third, Paul in fourth and Asa in 5th. Christine was first lady again, with me in second (but probably a good half hour – or more – behind her).

We’ve only got a short, 28km stage tomorrow.

The shoe thing...

OK, so I’m wearing my regular trail shoes – my third pair of this exact same model and I've been wearing these shoes for more than a decade - through many, many versions. When I put them on about two weeks ago I thought they were a little tight – but brushed that off as the shoes being relatively new.

Here’s my theory... For almost a year I’ve been running in both minimalist road and trail shoes. For about the last two months I’ve had a sneaky suspicion that my feet are a half-size bigger; but I wasn’t sure, especially as I mostly wear my older trails shoes if I’m not wearing the lean-and-mean ones – and they’re on their last legs.

So, my piggies have been feeling a little squished. Not overly so but enough that my little piggies have made triangle toes – something I’ve avoided for a good few years. And now I have proof that shoes that are a little squishy cause triangle toes!

I was debating whether to take out the inner soles from the start, but it didn’t feel right. By waterpoint 1 it was a good move. My piggies like their space. The only thing... taking out the inner sole turned my shoes into a minimalist shoe feel. 45-odd kilometres in minimalist shoes over sandy and, often, rocky terrain... Yes, my feet are feeling quite tired this evening.

Overall there are some runners with not great feet but for the most part they’re still standing, still walking and mostly still running. We’re all doing pretty ok.

The other thing for this post...

My 40:30 run-walk strategy. It rocks! Dave was running with me from waterpoint 2 and certainly for a good 30km we used this a lot. Provided you start walking earlier than later then you’ve got the strength and energy to walk strongly and then kick it up a notch to run with good speed for 40 paces. The key really is in keeping the runs to the 40 paces. You’ll feel like you can do more – and you should feel that way – but the point is that you don’t want your heart rate to climb nor your legs to feel tired. The short 30 pace walk is about recovery so that you can pick up the pace again. AdventureLisa’s 40:30 run-walk strategy. You read it here first. Ba-ba-ba-boom. *grin*

Finally, I’ve been told by the runners not to tell you about the fabulous showers at the camp, which we look forward to after the stages to get rid of the grit and grim. Nor should I tell you about the three course meal spread brought to the campsite by the Sossusvlei Lodge staff for our dinners. They don’t want me to tell you or you’ll think they’re having this cushy holiday with a bit of running each morning. So, I won’t say another word... ;)

That’s it for tonight. It is about 20h15 as I type this line and I’m the only one around now. The other runners are in their tents or nearly in their tents. These days are tough and hot so by 20h30 our eyes can barely stay open. Having a good 9-10hrs to sleep and rest is a treat – and we need very minute.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Like the 40:30 concept and will give it a try the next time. One part that catches my attention is that it is also forcing your mind to concentrate by counting. Try getting a runner after seven hours on the run to do simply maths like working out how many minutes/km they need to do to make cut-off. Tough. For many years I have used the Heart Rate Method, run to a HR say 150 (very individual/age based) and once you hit your 150 mark, walk. When your HR slows as you walk, you wait to below 140 HR before you start running again.