Desert Ultra 2019 Race Report – STAGE ONE

Stage One is over and 30 lightly toasted runners are now safely in their tents…

22nd November, 2019

Desert Ultra 2019 set off exactly on time after a smooth morning for the race team and the runners.  These are a strong group and all of them rattled through their kit admin, fuelled up and hydrated with time to spare before the first stage brief of the trip.

Stage One begins with a 14km stretch across rock strewn scrubland which is the only unmarked stretch of the race.  The runners are instructed only to leave Spitzkoppe and aim for the centre of the Spitzkoppe Saddle, two lower granite hills with a pass right through the middle.  Once through this gap they found themselves on the scarcely used 4×4 trails which make up the bulk of this part of the race.  Here it’s a simple case of following the red flags our team have planted on to the next camp.  Easy.  Or it would be if it weren’t over 40 degrees in the shade.

At the time of writing, the last 2 racers have just made it to the Omaruru River Bed Camp.  Phil and Ben got chatting early in the day and seem to have enjoyed the opportunity to put the world to rights as they marched steadily along the trail.  They’ve arrived in darkness to a warm welcome around the camp fire our team have built for the runners to gather around.  Once the sun has set it gets cool quickly here.

The afternoon heat had an effect on few of the runners who got a chance to see their lunch again as they passed through chunder alley in the midday sun.  This is of course, not the real name of this area, but the monicker stuck as runners consistently pick this spot to decorate the sand as they struggle through the heat.  All runners recovered under the care of our medics though and pressed on to win the day.

A couple of runners have had the misfortune to arrive in Namibia only to find that their luggage has gone elsewhere.  It speaks to the spirit of races like this that all the other runners banded together and put together enough kit from their own spare items to put them back into the race.  That and a quick trip to the mall in Windhoek.  Unfortunately, one of those runners, Jason Carpenter, found that his new shoes rubbed badly and the unfamiliar food didn’t agree with him and he pulled up at CP2.  Jason is now joining the race team to support the other runners and plans to jump back into action once he is reunited with his own kit. 

At the front of the pack, Dave Mohring (Speedy Dave as he’s known among the team) put in an outstanding performance, toughing out some serious nausea, to take the stage win ahead of Spaniard Julen Calzada Urdabai.  Just 11 minutes behind in 3rd is Namibian runner Wim Steenkamp who is putting in an amazing performance on his home turf.

First woman and eighth overall is Katarzyna Orzechowska who is just 10 minutes ahead of Eliza Miles in second.  Third is Tamara Radovic and all three have been unflappable all day.

A special mention goes to David McIntosh who has the award for heaviest backpack.  The calories required to fuel a machine as muscly as David means a lot of weight to carry.  David is powering along though and creates enough positive energy around camp to power a small city.

Tomorrow’s stage is the Brandberg.  The runners will climb for much of the first half of the stage before running alongside the Brandberg Mountain range, home of the highest peak in Namibia.  Tomorrow promises to be a little hotter.  The runners will be glad of the extra shelter and shade provided by the valley sides of our river-bed camp tonight.

The 51km stage begins at 8am local time (6am UTC).

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