21 February 2010

Day 1: Heat and Thunderstorm

Fantastic day to start the run. The field assembled at the start in the half light of dawn. Reasonably cool with a soft breeze. With a "Three, two, one... go!" we were off, trotting down a good Jeep track. The Sun was rising over the Namib as we worked our way across the plain, heading for the mountains.


After dawdling around a bit at the beginning and stopping to take photos, I caught up with Sam and ran along with him for a bit, having a chat. Then I took off and passed Alpheus and a little while later Mimi. Saw some Springbox and Oryx quite near to the path. Rounded a small mountain and passed Nel and the cameraman at some Bushman paintings. Didn't stop to have a look, but at a run they appeared to be rather good examples.


I could just see Buys ahead a few hundred metres. Slowly reeled him in as we approached the bottom of the pass. I had no real intention of passing him at this stage and I was feeling comfortable with the pace. Ascended the pace at a walk: it was way too rough to run.


Just after getting through the pass we went down a gentle slope, around the corner and arrived at the first checkpoint, which was something of a revelation with icy water and crisp fresh rusks. And a chance to sit down in the shade and empty the sand out of my shoes. Arrived just after Buys and he left a few moments ahead of me.


Ran along in the footsteps of Buys for another couple of km before joining him for a shortcut across the veld to the second checkpoint. After refuelling again we started on the long gradual incline back up to the mountain range. About halfway Buys stopped for a walk break but I was feeling fine so I pressed on. Arrived at the pass alone with no sign of Buys. Could see the long, long straight fence stretching towards the finish, maybe 10 km away.


Had to walk down the pass because it was absurdly rough. I cannot believe that they even contemplated building a road through there! Running along that fence was tough and I started a run 5, walk 1 regime, more out of boredom than fatigue. It really took... ages to get there. I kept on thinking that in another km I would get to the end of the fence but it just stretched on and on. And on. Eventually when the camp site was directly across on my left the fence finally came to and end and I turned the corner for the last stretch across to the finish. I really could not believe that I had come in first. It was an amazing feeling to cross the line. But not half as amazing as the feeling of sitting down. It took quite a long time for Buys to arrive, and when he did he was looking shattered. It was really hot by that stage, somewhere around 50° C. I felt for the folk who were still out there. We went across and plunged into the pool. By the time we got back, Mimi had made it into camp. After that there was a gradual dribble of tired and hot runners back into camp.

When everyone was in and we were all sheltering from the heat under the big open sided tent a storm started brewing over the mountains. Lots of lightning and rumbles. The wind picked up and soon the storm had moved overhead. We got a short, sharp and windy downpour. It was over within a few moments but broke the heat. Beautiful sunset.

I was feeling pretty good at this stage, enjoyed my dinner and got to bed quite early. Heard from Buys just before hitting the sack that he had decided to pull out of the race.



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