Dryland Traverse – Stage 1 – King of the Hills

The start of a journey

3rd November 2017 – It is time for stage 1, total elevation of 1480m. Having a rowdy group not too far from us we were awoken around 4am, an hour before our alarms were set to go off. The early bird catches the worm right? It was a very hot night, so a lot of tossing and turning happened as well as a throw of the blanket and the tent “door” opened for air.

First thing we did was go wet our faces and get into kit – before making our way to the breakfast bar. We were spoilt for choice: scrambled eggs, mince, fruit, muesli, yoghurt. What do you eat before a grueling day out on the trails!?

Breakfast was delicious. 6am and we went to go pack our packs with water, caffeine shots, Racefood and of course some droe wors – the sweetened nutrition can get a bit much. Fast forward to 7am – we started in group A because of the prologues fantastic time – first to start, first to finish right? WRONG. The reason for the staggered starts is that the first 8km of Stage 1 is single track, rocky, and….STEEP. So to avoid, as much as possible, a really bottlenecked start to the race, this is what needed to happen.

What we thought was ready for stage 1 🙂

We got a nice 100m of running before the walking climb started – had I bitten off more than I could chew? The reverse of last years Stage 1 was due to safety issues – big respect to Dryland Event Management for this. Needless to say I found the start more tough than last year – last year I could walk (a lot) and run when I felt strong. This year saw LOTS of glute burning, heavy breathing, PG rated language in the first few kilometers. We had to let quite a few people pass us, I suffered but used this suffering to an advantage and took as much of the beautiful scenery in with every pit stop I made, and there were many. Apart from my moans and groans, I knew we were not alone. What we were experiencing, everyone was experiencing and we did our best to motivate each other as we took each big step up.

Can you spot race village in the distance?

Water point 1 was at the 8 km mark, after the major climb of the day was over – approximately 1000m to be exact. Unless you see it and experience it for yourself, you cannot begin to imagine the extent to which we are catered for in the Dryland Events. Name something and it was there – from bars to sweets to steak? YES STEAK. There was fruit, ice old water, amazing volunteers helping to fill our packs. Well done guys, you pulled out all the stops.

From water point 1 it was undulating right until the second water point. However, the running was few and far between for me, supported greatly by my team mate and loving boyfriend Mark, I pushed forward slowly – taking each kilometer as it got thrown at us. The next 13 kilometers we experienced a vast array of different terrain types, and for the avid roadies we are, this was particularly difficult. Sand, then loose rocks, onto some concrete slabs….whoops some more sand – it was something to experience. This lead our road conditioned feet to hurt quite a bit. But for your proper trail runner this is where you excel DRASTICALLY.

Water Point 1 – after climbing 1000m

21km into the race after a gradual steady climb we were met with so much motivation at water point 2 – wow these volunteers really helped us and tried to take as much of the “fuel reloading” off our hands. “Its all downhill from here” they said – and it really was.

Downhill should be easy but after 21km of hell, the legs hurt, the feet pulsated and it was run 700m walk 300m for most the way home. We hit tar for the last 3km, but my tar roadie legs were nowhere to be found. It must have been roughly 35 degrees by then, the heat hit us hard, bouncing off the tar, sticking to our already heated soles of our trail shoes.

The echoes of the mic started to ring as we saw the sign for Kobus Se Gat, our finish line for the day. A mere 1.5km away. Let’s do this, sole to tar we marched off to the end. The most welcoming end I have experienced in a long time. There were smiles, frowns, athletes lying all over the place. It was a tough day out. Heading back to base camp for a shower, a painful massage, a Savannah and a lie down were on the cards next. I couldn’t wait! I skipped lunch, the stomach was not ready for food, liquids and more liquids is all it needed.

Race village shenanigans after a tough day out

The dinner was yet again, superb! Felt like home, tasted like home with pork, pumpkin pie, salad, and green beans – divine.

Some really tired bodies were in the race village tonight – further confirmed by the masses that left almost immediately after dessert to go lay horizontally and prepare both physically and mentally for Stage 2 tomorrow morning.

After a glass, or perhaps two glasses of some red wine – it is time to do the same. If I have not yet enticed you to take this challenge next year, I will be back to enlighten you with my adventures of stage 2 tomorrow.

Until then…sleep tight.


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