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October 2016

Race Report: Richtersveld Transfronteir Wild Run: Day 4

Day 4 De hoop to Wilderness Hot Springs

49km

Transfrontier country we were off in our groups, to start the days race on the other side of the Orange River in Namibia. A boat trip across the river to start the day was great.Amazing logistics to be able to achieve this. Not sure how Wild Run, Boundless South Africa and the national park staff managed this!

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The first few kms were fast along a sandy 4 wheel drive track, then we turned off and had some lovely running all the way up river beds and canyons, to a more steady gradual up. Then up the Zebra Kloof, and down, towards the fish river canyon. We had some great technical running in this section, Daniel from Suisse and Steve were flying through here. Then we were in the Fish River Canyon. It was stunning. I spotted some zebra and some bok. There was a lot of crossing from one side of the canyon to the other, to try and find some animal trails and a more direct line. There were potential short cuts which Dawid, Tobias and I didn't take which I think we should have. As Daniel and Linda caught us up having taken a short cut, it was obviously a good idea. I found this terrain hard going, a lot of soft sand mixed up rocky river bed, where you had to make sure you picked up your tired legs....

"there was at least one face plant for me."

Then we were on the wrong side of the river bend and pushing through rushes and wondering if we should swim across. Again we saw Linda and Daniel fly past on the other side. So it was a nice cooling crossing of the Fish River about 3-4 km from the end and we had to catch up again. With the finish line in sight, Elsabet appeared out of nowhere. We had seen her ahead a few times during the day and when stopping to get water, but not since. She and Dawid sprinted for the finishfollowed closely by the rest of us. This was a hard day, long and quite technical underfoot with quite a bit of route finding. Everyone had different distances on the GPS depending their route choice. This could definitely be done faster, there were no records broken here. When it was tough, you just had to stop and look around to appreciate the enormity of where we were in Fish River Canyon, the second biggest canyon in the world!

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The camp was yet again stunning very remote. I don't know how they got all the gear in. We did discover the hot springs for our feet, as we were a little cold after our cold recovery dip! But there was also the hot showers....amazing! Last opportunity to sleep under a blanket of African stars in the desert was a must.

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Race Report: Richtersveld Transfronteir Wild Run: Day 3

Day 3: Hakkiesdoring to De Hoop

40km

This was a great day. I loved it. The scenery was stunning and the running was so varied. The morning light with a little cloud around, especially the 'Springbokvlakte', made for such enjoyable running. You had to turn and look behind frequently. Dawid disappeared off somewhere along the Springbokvlakte. It was down to Tobias and me which was great, keeping each other right on navigation and at a pace which was good for both of us.

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Then we hit the Tatesburg boulders which again was enjoyable, interesting, fun travel. Scrambling and climbing over enormous grippy boulders, with the occasional leaps from one house sized boulder to another. The boulders are the result of a glacial age millions of years ago. The route was marked out at this point, so it was nice to put the map away for a while and be able to just enjoy the travel over this amazing terrain. It was great coming across the rest of field throughout the morning, everyone with big smiles.

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Then we had glorious run down a lovely gradient for 8-10km to get to the Orange River. The green of the river valley was a contrast to the red and black rock of the desert. The last 10 km or so home along the Orange River on soft sand was the tough part of the day for me. To finish with Tobias only a couple of minutes behind Dawid and...

"jump into the Orange River was another highlight of the day. It was surprisingly cold!"

This campsite was my favourite, just lovely to be able to sit and look out over the Orange River, to Namibia, while sipping a cold cider…along with yet another yummy lunch by Magda and the kitchen crew. Followed by a massage and Fran's yoga, I was enjoying the luxuries of this race! So spoilt! Then all there was to do was plan for the next day's run. Which was to be a long day, but exciting to think of going over into Namibia and the fish river canyon…into country where very few people have travelled.

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Race Report: Richtersveld Transfronteir Wild Run: Day 2

Day 2: De koei to Hakkiesdoring

33km - 630 m of climbing

We all set off in smaller groups depending on where we had finished the day before. I was the last to leave at 9.30am, with Tobias, Dawid, Linda and Stephen. We thought being a shorter day that this would be an easier day with not so much climbing. It started well going up the way we came in the day before for a few km, and then turning off to the left to explore a river valley. Dawid disappeared ahead at this point and we kept him in sight for a little while. We tried to choose a fast route cutting a few corners. It was a lovely downhill to an open valley with big red rock faces on either side. After 19 km or so we could see the yellow of the aid station coming into sight, although it took a while to get there!

jo williams outside sports nz

(Photo: Stephen Cunliffe)

It seemed half the field was there so we had a good catch up with people, everyone was having fun. We munched down some salty potatoes, refilled water and had some other yummy snacks and headed off to negotiate the route up the river valley. We immediately found ourselves on the wrong side, the others moving faster in the river itself or on the other side. So we made our way back down to join Stephen. It seemed to take an age, the travel was quite technical, sandy, rocky riverbed, and so was slow going. People were all over the place, above, and below and always seemed to be moving faster! It was tempting to stop have a picnic with Fran and Roland on the pass, but we kept going moving as a three, Stephen, Tobias and myself taking it in turns to find the best track. 

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Disaster struck 8km from the end where Stephen went over on his ankle.The ground was still pretty tricky riverbed and neither of us had decent tape to strap it, so it was slow, painful going for Stephen.

jo williams outside sports nz

It was a relief to reach the final checkpoint knowing there was only 2.5km to on a 4 wheel drive track so was easier to run. Tobias took off at 4 minute km pace. He was keen to finish and enjoying being able to run for a change, I tried to hang on! We came in about 10-15 minutes behind Dawid, in second and third, Tobias forcing an uphill sprint finish! This was one of the tougher days for me. The lunch, massage and yoga with Fran all helped for recovery for the next day of running.

jo williams outside sports nz

Sleeping out under the stars was just amazing this night. I don't think I have ever seen so many stars.  The memory of being woken by the noise of a stove and the smell of fresh coffee will stay with me for a while. Sipping coffee and munching a rusk while watching the sunrise. Thanks Fran and Roland for the invite to sleep under the African stars.

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Race Report: Richtersveld Transfronteir Wild Run: 5 Day Staged Trail Run

Richtersveld Transfronteir Wild Run: Getting There

I first heard of this race back in March. A friend Steve Granger was planning on racing and thought that it would be a race I would enjoy. I looked up the details and was very keen, but put it in the too hard basket. The travel, the cost, and the logistics… and I was committed to a trip home to visit family around the same time. I thought maybe next year. But then, when visiting my sister and father in Cyprus they encouraged me. We looked at flights from Cyprus to Cape Town and it was so much more reasonable than flying from New Zealand. One thing led to another and with a sponsored entry from Boundless South Africa, it was suddenly possible. So all confirmed and booked with less than 2 weeks to prepare! I had spent the last few weeks mainly biking in Cyprus, having competed with my sister and another friend in the mountain to sea mountain bike race and a 0 to 2000m road bike race, both of which we won, but I had only done a couple of runs.

jo williams outside sports nz

So suddenly when on holiday in Crete, I was to run every day and hoped my body was ready for the challenge. It was fun and a great way to explore villages, monasteries and the coastline of Crete. It was also a good time to spend with my sister, who kept me company, and was a great motivator.

I have never run in a staged trail running race before and wasn't sure how it would go. Also, most of the gear that would be good for this race was at home in New Zealand, not in my back pack in Cyprus.  My other worry was navigating with a GPS, trying to download GPX routes and to get a hold of a GPS...all challenges.

On arriving in Cape Town, I met up with Stephen to run round Cape Town getting last minute supplies and a stop at "Run" to pick up a pair of Lone Peak Altra's. Teaming up with Anthony Erasmus the next day for the journey was great. He had done the race before so was able to give advice on the race and offer some reassurance. Also, to be able to share so much about South Africa as we travelled. Sharing two ZA V Ireland test games was a highlight. Interpreting the Afrikaans commentary on radio coverage I will never forget. Ireland were doing ok at this stage!

A few border crossings later in and out of Namibia, a wee platoon crossing over to Sendlingdrift had us at the start line. Meeting other runners, all nervous in anticipation. Anthony and I wandered around trying to figure out our GPS and trying to work out in which direction we were heading the next day. Whilst getting sorted, the monkeys nearly got a hold of my race food...you soon learn!

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After Owen gave us some GPS instruction, we had a briefing on what the next day had in store, with a fly over of the route. This was to happen every evening over the next 4 days.

We were introduced to some local Nama traditional dancing which surprisingly bared some resemblance Scottish and Irish Ceilidh dancing, despite being a tribe in remotest Africa.

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(Photo: Stephen Cunliffe)

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Race Report: Richtersveld Transfronteir Wild Run: Day 1

Day 1: Sendlingdrift to De Keogh

43km - 1180m climbing

At 8am we were all on the start line nervously with GPS in one hand and map in the other. We immediately went a different route to everyone else, having to negotiate a barbed wired fence unnecessarily and so I had the first war wounds within 10 minutes of starting! But we trotted on seeing other runners appearing in front from all directions. 

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We found a few locals to follow and thought “they will know the route” but soon were completely off track.We managed to find our way back on track before Check Point 1 (CP1), after splitting from the locals and a few others. 

Stephen, Linda, Tobias and I made our way through the first 30kms, although we did lose each other at least once. Tobias and I explored an extra valley and had to scramble up out of it.

"We found ourselves further back in the field when approaching the aid station and had to work hard to make up lost ground."

 

The terrain was mixed with white crystal stones, beautiful dry river canyons and hills with stunning views. We came to a section of 4 wheel drive road, so was an opportunity to run to "Helskloof Pass" before a more technical ascent up to Numeesberge. 

At this point it was only Dawid (local from Sendlingdrift) and I, with Tobias and Stephen just a little behind. We ran well together, Dawid route/track finding and me on the GPS and map.Communication was a little difficult with Afrikaans and English, but it worked. With encouragement from Dawid that the finish was round the corner, we made it to the Wild Runner finish banner and had a sprint for the line, coming over together joint first! Unfortunately though, Dawid had missed the first check point so ended up with a 1 hour time penalty. This is a shame and maybe due to the briefing being in English and he did not use the GPS and Map. I am sure next year will be different with some navigation coaching organised by Boundless prior to the event.

jo williams outside sports nz

Peter, one of the national park staff, who specialises in the flora, fauna and wildlife, gave us a fascinating slideshow during the evening briefing. He certainly brought the desert to life as he did with the complicated Latin pronunciations! he has an incredible passion for the area.

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