Desert Ultra 2018 Race Report – Stage Five

It’s a long race report. But then it was a long stage…

24th November, 2018

We all headed for bed early last night.  Most of the runners and race team took some time to watch a genuinely spectacular sunset over the Brandberg followed by the rise of the full moon on the opposite horizon, after this natural wonder we all gravitated towards our sleeping bags, assuming it would be a long day today.  We weren’t wrong.

Breakfast in the dark this morning was a fast-paced but bleary-eyed affair as crew raced to get to their vehicles and power out into the sand to beat Adam Kimble to their checkpoint positions, and the runners worked to cram their kit into their race packs for the last time.  Blisters and sun-burn had been dressed and treated the night before to save time before our pre-dawn start.

At 4am everybody tore off into the dark.  The race team headed out to CP1 in unison, this first 5km stretch was entirely uphill and on deep sand.  At this high point the 4x4s were lined up and all headlights illuminated to guide the runners to the top.  Once at the top the runners picked p our standard trail markers again and headed on, hoping to cover as much distance as possible before the worst of the sun.

In these cool early morning hours, the runners were able to watch the light creep across the landscape.  The colours in the sky and the sounds of the awakening birds and insects are amazing to experience.

Still, keeping trend with the previous few days, the temperatures soon escalated.  By 9am, any cloud cover that had hung over us was burned away and by 11 the temperature was closing on 50 degrees again.  The heat wore on the runners and unfortunately Nikki was forced to pull out again.  She fought hard today but recovering from her difficulties earlier in the race whist covering a 92km course was a mammoth task.  She’s now safe and well and full up on the feast our Namibian team has prepared for us.

Adam Kimble crossed the line after 9 hours and 25 minutes.  He said the race was rad.  The closest runner to him was more than a half-marathon behind at that time.  He has since spent the afternoon at our camp at a Namibian Save the Rhino outpost, enthusiastically greeting all the other runners as they arrive.  Though it was quite some time before he had any company.

Kimble took first position overall having comfortably won each stage along the way.  We’ll collate the numbers when we get Wi-Fi but it seems certain at this point that he has set a new course record.  Kristina Madsen finished in 2nd overall and first female having claimed that position from the start and held it through to the finish line.  In third overall was Joffy Bastard (honestly it’s his real name) who surprised everyone by completing his first marathon, first ultra, and first multi-stage during this event.  He gave everything today and took third overall.  At the start of the day he had a lead of 39 minutes over Kevin Mayo.  Kevin had pulled level with Joffy by CP3 this morning but Joffy and Kristina pulled ahead from there and 3rd place was secured.

Michelle Hincks took 2nd female.  She has gone from strength to strength over the course of the week and thoroughly earned her finish line beer.  3rd female was Emmanuelle Le Loarer who crossed the line each day with her ‘Team France’ partner Olivier Le Bras.

Archi Stewart has beaten the time he set for himself last year and won his tussle with the mighty Wolfgang Schonegger who has now finished his 3rd Beyond the Ultimate race.

Karl Riegl is another runner completing his 3rd BTU race today.  He has beaten his demons after being forced to withdraw from this race last year.  He has been plagued again by the stomach issues he suffered last year and has fought throughout the race to get calories in.  We know of very few people who could have completed this course under the same circumstances.  We’ve saved an extra beer for Karl tonight and the whole race team is over the moon to see him make it through.

Bakiye Duran, our first Turkish runner, has completed the entire course with a smile on her face.  She doesn’t speak a lot of English but she has been kind, and full of energy throughout, always laughing and posing for the cameras as she runs into checkpoints.

Aaron Trindall has completed our Jungle Ultra in the past but struggled in the freezing temperatures of the Ice Ultra.  The Desert Ultra seems to have played to his strengths though, a Dubai resident he has plenty of experience in the heat and he has marched his way right through the long course today.

Isabelle Kursava, our other American competitor suffered a hip injury on day one of this race which left her near doubled-over as she crossed that finish line.  In spite of this she has won her fight with the desert today completing the short course and crossing her own finish line at CP7.  We say short course, she still completed 70km today.

Mark Hamber has managed two very notable achievements.  He not only finished the short course as well, he also did so with arguably the largest blister any of our team have ever seen.  He has been unbreakable throughout and put in a massive effort on the final day.

Elsewhere on the trail, Emma Zadrozny and Victoria Saker formed a partnership today and have kept each other’s spirits up throughout.  Emma’s feet have taken a beating and the medics have had to make some ‘adjustments’ to her trainers to accommodate them, but the chat between the two has kept her distracted.  They were the last to reach camp, just a few minutes ago, almost a full day after they started the stage.  The last assembled runners and race team holding vigil in the dark welcomed them across the line.  There were a lot of emotions as they brought the event to a close.  Now we’re all heading for our beds for a long overdue rest.

Mike the Medic has asked if he can be included in the blog.  So there he is.  Mike was part of the Exile Medics team, led by their founder Brett Rocos.  They have once more been invaluable.  There is no doubt that we have people who have finished the race today as a direct consequence of their care and attention.  They have remained available for 24hrs a day throughout the event and have done so with a smile.  As always we want to say thank you to them.

It is impossible also to finish this race report without saying a massive thankyou to our Namibian Team.  Gert, Francois, Alda, Louwtjie, Gawie, Henko, Michael and their team have been amazing again.  Their local knowledge, Namibian ingenuity, untiring effort and obvious passion for this event have made for an amazing event.  They have made many friends amongst our runners and medics and we look forward to celebrating with them tomorrow.

Comms will likely be limited tomorrow as we attend our medal ceremony and after party at a nearby, luxury lodge tomorrow.  Our runners will be ready for hot showers, cold drinks and a massive buffet.  They’re going to need to have a lot of food ready for us.

The final thank you, as always, goes to those who have been following the race at home.  It means a lot to these runners to know that there are people sharing in the experience at home, whether you are checking n on our Instagram or eagerly watching the dots on our GPS trackers.  You’ve all taken a journey with us too and it’s been a pleasure.

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