Desert Ultra 2017 Race Blog – Stage One

Today the runners got their first real taste of what it means to run in the baking heat of the Namib…

21st November, 2017

Our runners got their first taste of what being in the desert really means yesterday as they took their first tentative walks out of camp to explore their new home under the beating sun.  There is little by way of shade on the plains at the base of the towering Spitzkoppe Mountain.

The night before the race was passed under a clear sky filled with stars.  The photographers among the group were out in the sand catching as many of the milky way as they could manage whilst the runners gathered around tables and piled in their eve of the race meals.  They chatted by head torch reminiscing about times they’d raced together in the past and one by one headed for an early night.

The restless competitors were up again before the sun this morning going through their individual pre-race rituals and preparing themselves for a long day in the sun.  Time passed quickly as the sun climbed above the horizon and there was happiness as some heavy cloud kept the glare of the sun in check for the start of the race.

After a choral countdown Stage One began at 8:30am this morning.  Ahead of the field lay 47km of trail.  Around the first 13km was a slog across open scrub land, strewn with ankle battering rocks and clumps of tough, sharp grassy reeds.  The runners instructions were to aim for the gap between the saddle mountains ahead and hit the road on the other side.  After this a long, winding, scarcely used 4×4 track led them onward to the finish line.

The clouds kept the worst of the heat off until around 11am after which there was only a light breeze between the runners and furnace like conditions.  The stretch of track between CP1 and CP2 was particularly sweltering.  And number of runners suffered after making a fast start in the cooler conditions only to find themselves tired and in blistering heat.

The first runner arrived after only 4hrs and 47 mins.  Vicente Garcia came in first today, seemingly looking to come out as the fastest male in his third Beyond the Ultimate race.

Next over the line, almost an hour later, was Steve Williams looking strong and surprisingly cool.  An hour passed again before the third runner arrived in the shape of Toby Hoyle.  First female today was Sarah Watson who crossed the line looking very strong.  After this the runners started to arrive thicker and faster.

Camp tonight is at the side of a dry river bed which is, mercifully, lined with trees providing a little shade for the tired racers as they arrived.  And, as the day has gone on the clouds have gathered over head and the temperature has dropped significantly, something the last runners were very grateful for after a 10 and a half hour day out in the sun.

All runners are at camp safe and well.  One runner has DNF’d today having been caught out by the heat after a very quick start this morning.  He is well and may yet start out tomorrow.

Now we are gathered around a campfire built by Francois and his team.  The local team are indomitable.  They haven’t faced a problem they can’t handle without a glimmer of stress and their knowledge, skill and easy confidence in this inhospitable terrain is making everyone feel more secure.

There’s been a couple of giraffe sightings around Spitzkoppe and two of the runners spied a couple of elephants from CP 2 this morning.  As the race goes on the chances of seeing some wildlife will increase.

Tomorrow’s stage begins at 8am.  50km of burning trail lays ahead of them.

55VicenteJuan Garcia4:471
35Jonathan Raymond7:4813
50TomAbel Smith8:3820
27Peter Ryan10:3431

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