Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun overview available here.
We started Day 1 from Sendelingsdrif. Running out of from the campsite it only took a few hundred metres for us to split into several groups: one group made an immediate navigational error taking a right turn too early, a group of fast “locals” set off in their own direction, and the rest of us followed the GPS track. About 2 km into the race the advised track to follow first took us north in a semicircle into a mountainous area with winding technical trails, before going south towards our first CP. I spotted the lead group having turned south straight away, and I assumed it was a navigational tactic to cut out the loop as it would be a lot quicker. The briefing had been a bit ambiguous as to route choice but I decided to follow the advised route that was on the map and the GPS as I was under the impression this was the right thing to do. I was also conscious of safety: if something would happen to me in this remote wilderness I would prefer to be on the course rather than somewhere else.
Indeed it was a pretty route. I fell into a group with a few South Africans until the first CP, which was at approximately 8km. This was just a mandatory control point or Radio Check Point (RCP). Every day we had a couple of mandatory RCP’s in addition to one main aid station (ACP). It was only at the ACP that we could get water and some snacks so it was important to plan your water supply and carry enough to see you through.
At the first RCP I had already lost 30 minutes to the lead group because of the different route choices we made. This was annoying but too late to rectify now and I pressed on. The terrain had been technical but now it flattened out a bit. Maybe because of this I lost focus for a couple of seconds, stumbled on a rock and fell. I cut my knee open and the blood was pouring. Having foreseen potential medical issues in this arid and unforgiving landscape I had a first aid kit I my bag. However, the tape and wound closures wouldn’t stick so I soon gave up and thought it would have to air dry. The knee seemed more bruised than actually damaged and I could still run.
My legs felt very heavy on this day and I also felt a bit light headed. I struggled to stay on my feet and fell another three or four times before the finish. I tried to soak in the magnificent landscape; scenery, which may well have been from Mars! Sand was replaced with rock and then with sand again until for the last 4km I could stretch my legs out a bit on a dirt road to the finish. Before this however I managed a clumsy navigational mistake which had me scrambling and climbing over a ridge rather than taking the way around on the road. I was not the only one to do this but it was a costly mistake which I couldn’t afford given the route choice earlier in the day. When I finally finished I had had a physical and mental battle on a tough first day.
Jc from the medical team gave me a thorough check over, as I was worried about both my knee and my wrist and the fact that I had fallen so many times. My blood pressure was on the low side but everything else was fine. I put it down to the intense travel schedule to get to the race, which had consisted of 24 hours of flights and airport transfers, quickly followed by a 9 hour road trip. Enough to make anyone feel like they’ve been run over by a bus!
I was pleased I had gotten through day one in spite of the hiccups and once I had had a bucket shower, changed into clean clothes and had some lunch I felt better and ready to tackle Day 2. I said to myself that this week was first and foremost about experiencing the magical place that is Richtersveld, and the race was secondary to that.