Quitting is forever and I will never complete the Desert Dash. Even my resting heart rate seemed higher than usual at the start, even taking into account my nerves.
The climb up Kupferberg pass was not as bad as I expected, and I was careful not too push too hard at the start. I was feeling good by the time I hit CP#1. Refilled my energy drink bottle and had some energy bars. The climbing continued from the CP, and the riding would have been pleasant if not for the headwind. I tried to get into some groups but most of the time I was isolated and battling the wind on my own.
Then finally it arrived, I hit the big descent before it got dark, which was absolutely awesome. I had to switch my headlamp on near the end as the sun started to fade behind the hills. I was glad I hit this section in daylight as it was a beautiful pass, although most of my focus was on staying on the road. I will try and post the video of the descent.
The undulating hills after the big descent were very tiresome but I still pulled into CP#2 still feeling pretty good. I was watching my time at the CP’s to make sure I did not stay too long, trying to limit my time to 5 mins max at each stop.
Refilled my energy drink bottle and took a big bight from my energy bar, and then I new I was in trouble. No matter how hard I tried I could not swallow the food. Knowing that if I did not get in fuel my legs would start hurting within the next 30-45mins. The only thing I could do was load up on fluids so downed a bottle of Energade, got back on the bike and moved out.
Something again did not feel right as my leg felt that it was getting wet. Checked my water bottle and that was ok, so the only other thing it could be was sealant from my tires. Checked my front and back wheels and looked like I had a minor leak on the rear one, but it appeared to have sealed up. There was a fair amount of swearing at this stage, but I took a few deep breaths. Relieved that it was nothing serious I continued on my way.
It was at this point that the nausea started, and still not eating, although I did manage to force a gel down, which luckily stayed there….just, but I was in trouble. My legs were starting to take strain, with the usual ache, due to not getting enough fuel.
The terrain was relentless, so much for a downhill race. Each short downhill was always followed by a short uphill. There was no flat, up down up down up down, and on and on it went. Difficult to find any sort of rhythm, and the ups were too steep to roll over using momentum from the downs. At the same time the headwinds continued to pound and going through each dip there was almost zero visibility due to the dust kicked up by support vehicles. Sometimes it looked like the road was just a wall in front of you. It was quite surreal. With out a support vehicle of my own I was cursing and wishing lots of dust for the riders who belonged to these support vehicles. Needless to say, I was in my dark place.
However much I knew I needed food, the mere thought of an energy bar made me want to puke.
I was only about 5k’s from the next water point, and was hoping to make it there so that I could hopefully find something else to eat there (wishful thinking – as I will explain later). The pain however was just too intense and I was brought to a complete standstill. I pushed my bike up the next hill, knowing that my race was done. An official’s vehicle saw me and waited for me at the top to see how I was doing. I had slowed so much in the last couple of k’s that there were only about 30 riders behind me at this stage. It was at that point that I decided to pack it in.
I was not the only one. In the vehicle was someone even more insane than me. Although he had a support team, he decided to ride the race, not only on a rigid (no suspension at all), but also a single speed (no gears). He also bailed due to the undulating hills, and found that he could not ride them without gearing. Take my hat off to him for trying.
The support crew who helped me get to the finish were fantastic. Constantly making sure I was ok, although they were surprised that I had no support team.
Few lessons learned. One thing that is crucial, is you need support on this race. The CP’s and water points don’t provide much (water, jelly babies and some biltong). In fact the halfway CP only had stuff for sale, and most food was gone for the back markers which were mainly solo riders. Even the water was on sale. The sweep vehicle I was in picked up another lone unsupported solo rider at CP#5, who did not get any food at the half way check point, and had to buy water there.
In general though, the organisation of the event, considering that they only had a few months to do so, was impressive. The event was originally cancelled and then taken over at very short notice by the new team. I do feel however that not enough information was given on what would be available and possibly more could be done for unsupported riders. Due to the overall support of the event and the commitments given by the sponsors I am sure this will improve for the 2016 event.
So as I said, quitting is forever, and I will never complete the Desert Dash………..in 2015. However as long as the team in Namibia decide to continue with this unique event, I will be back as I do not like unfinished business. I like closure.
The 36One is such a race that also needs closure and that is my next major event. With the 36One, I know more of what to expect both from a race and organisation perspective, however I may just try and get some back up support.