19th November, 2013
Everyone is here! What a journey – Giraffe, Baboons, Warthogs and Spring-Bok with some of the most stunning scenery of any desert in the world – even though it is 4 hours long everyone enjoyed the time to relax pre-race. Camp is set in the foothills of the Spitzkoppe mountain range, a set of granite peaks that suddenly jut out of the otherwise flat plains of the Namib. With a cool breeze blowing of the Atlantic camp is feeling a little chilly once the sun goes down – but soon heats up after 7:30, reaching 35°C in the shade by 11:00. Tomorrow’s route takes the competitors North to our dry river bed camp on the Omaruru, from here temperatures can reach a boggling 50°C.
Stage One – The Marathon
Adventure was everywhere during stage 1 of the inaugural Desert Ultra! Within 6k we knew we had a special bunch.
George Evetts electing to try and walk through a wire fence rather than hurdle it! The result was a painful dislocation and a trip in our ambulance to hospital. He is now back with us and is going to join in with the final stages of the race.
Then it was Mimi’s turn – this time not so severe, just a swollen and twisted ankle forcing her to withdraw at CP2. We weren’t finished yet – with several of the runners needing drips to fight off severe dehydration. Patrick Singh was the worst affected with huge muscle cramps at CP3. He was treated and allowed to carry on but after looking fit and healthy but as he crossed the finish line he later had another on-set of cramps and needed several drips to rehydrate. After further assessment Patrick was sent to hospital for further tests and to ensure his electrolytes were in balance (we have since heard that Patrick is doing fine).
We saved the best to last with 2 runners (Neal Roche and Dennis Grune) going missing between CP2 and 3, both having been seen heading West on a course set over North East. By 17:00 we had located Neal around 10k off course. He was safe and sound retracing his steps having refilled his water from a local farmer. Neal is now set to continue the race – albeit not competitively. Dennis was an altogether different problem. Dennis (we now know) had continued for a good few hours without seeing the course marking and was therefore way off course, in the Namib this is a real problem, giving us an almost 80km² area of desert to search with valleys and river beds further hindering our efforts. 5 teams went in to the desert backed up by our standby air support.
Dennis was finally recovered fit and well just after being spotted from the sky, making a dramatic and very welcome appearance at camp 2 in the Omaruru river bed.
Stage 2 was postponed until Tuesday 19th to allow all resources to be positioned for the safe return of Dennis – something all runners were more than happy to do and all did in the spirit of endurance racing.
Wining today’s stage for the men was Andrew Clarke, closely followed by Allan Leed and the women being led by Camilla Gry-Elmman (already 2 time winner this year as JU and MU champion!). The stage consisted of amazing burnt trees and grasses in a grey sand and rock landscape, the heat haze really showing the desert colours off at its best. The course reached a whopping 47°C at 13:00, the fasted runners having to brave this heat on the hottest part of the course – the white gravel road running in to camp. As with any extreme race, you get your evening rush of late on-set dehydration, and today was no different (and with everything that already gone on why would it!), Camilla Gry-Elmann, Steve Jordan, Allan Leed all needing treatment but all recovering during the evening and are able to carry on. A special mention for Edwin Snippe – his first ever ultra and he looks really fresh and well managed, coming in a very respectable 4th. All competitors and support have had a day in camp taking in the African sun. Tomorrow the 55km “Bushmen” stage, competitors can now expect to share their course with the African wildlife as we are now heading out of the farmlands.