What does 130 degrees feel like? I think it’s best described as the type of heat that you feel everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re under a shaded tent…you can’t escape it. It’s rough of course, but to be honest, you don’t come to the middle of the desert searching for ideal conditions. Deep down, whether we knew it or not, all the competitors came to the middle of the Namib Desert for an epic, HOT experience. And that’s exactly what we got!
Even though I had run a stage race in the Gobi Desert just three years ago, I forgot about the little nuances of the week and the “routine” of it all. Those are the things that make stage racing so special. It’s the seemingly endless hours laying underneath a canopy, with your legs up on a chair, chatting with your fellow competitors, the race crew and the incredible team of medics. It’s drinking room temperature water all week, wishing for nothing more than a cold can of Coke or an ice-cold beer. It’s eating expedition food for every meal and dreaming about what you will eat when you are no longer stranded (by choice) in the middle of a barren desert. And it’s the recognition that there is virtually nothing you can do to get clean until the week is over. You simply must succumb to the relentless sand all over your body and your kit!
And then, of course, there is the EPIC. Chasing after wild horses while being dwarfed by the Brandberg Mountain, the largest peak in Namibia. Watching as a herd of elephants walks right through the campsite, grazing on the trees as they pass by. Seeing giraffes and rhinos running in the distance and feeling so small in the middle of such a vast place. Running 160 miles over the course of 5 stages, trying not to spontaneously combust from the 130-degree heat. And most importantly, forging lifelong bonds with the other crazies who willingly decided to join you on this endeavor. There is an unspoken bond between all the athletes toeing the line at a self-supported stage race, and when you experience such highs and lows together as a group, you come out the other side with some of the best friends you’ll ever have in your life.
Unplugged and without access to the typical pleasantries of everyday life, seclusion in one of the oldest and hottest deserts in the world has given me so much amazing perspective. If you have an opportunity to experience a self-supported stage race, you must. It will change you for the better. For me, I once again had one of the raddest and most memorable weeks of my life. The friendships and the memories made in that desert are permanent. The win and the course record were just the cherry on top!