Hey my fellow vokers! I hope that you are all busy adventuring as the snow melts and the trails are tacky.
As of today, I can’t believe that I am already over 3 weeks out from finishing the 2nd race in the quest to become the first female in the world to complete the 4 Deserts race series Grand Slam Plus.
For those just chiming into the journey, this is a series of 5 x 250k (155 mile) self-supported Ultra Running races in 4 Deserts and 1 Jungle throughout the world, while carrying everything that you need to survive on your back. This includes food, sleeping supplies, safety equipment and any luxury items you care to tow along the journey. The race team will provide medical aid in extreme cases, hot and cold water, and a tent to share with up to 9 others. The first race took me to Sri Lanka and I placed 9th overall and 2nd female. You can read about the journey a few articles down in the Voke Blog.
The tale of Namibia was a super sweet one to say the least and ended with landing the spot as the female champion! With the boys, I was 6th overall and broke 30 hours with a time of 29:10 for the 250k distance. From the Atacama Crossing in 2015 to this race, that is a personal best at this distance by 6 hours and 14 minutes!
The race in Namibia started like all of the rest with coming right off of an uber travel schedule and slightly jetlagged. Travel to Africa was especially long as you went around the globe and then down the globe on two very long flights followed by a local flight to Namibia from Cape Town. With so many exciting things going on with my coffee business Stoked Roasters and my marketing business Mariash Marketing, I tend to fly in right in time to get a nice sleep and wake up to athlete check in with a bit of a hustle.
Upon arriving, I was already in love with the climate compared to Sri Lanka. It was dry, breezy and a little cool at the host hotel in Swakopmund. The 3.5 hour bus ride to camp 1 is always a fun one as 220 nervous individuals are ready to get going after so many weeks and months of preparation. In this case as well, many folks had issues with their luggage making it so we were all jumping in to donate gear to the cause. I immediately donated my poles and knew in my gut I would be ok without them.
The race started off right from the bat in heavy competition. Kathia Rached from Lebanon caught up at the 10k point and put on a hard press. The entire top of the field was jamming out a very quick day. About 15k in I realized I needed to settle back into my own race and let Kathia go as I was beyond my heart rate caps and pushing it too hard with a long week ahead. I am also convinced that travel also makes my belly a little upset on day one and thus I had some stomach issues and was another reason to sit back in second. At the end of the day I was roughly 15 minutes behind Kathia.
Day two came quickly and it was another day along the coast with 25k of beach running. It was exhausting. Once again Kathia came on around 10k and put on a hard press along the beach. I felt again I was in a moment where I needed to settle back and stay in my own race and my heart rate cap rules. It was hard to watch her zoom away but I knew once again the race had barely started and there were many miles left to go. On stage three of the day as we began our route inland I was able to take on the rocky terrain with a stellar sidewind with more ease and was able to keep the gap for the day between us at only an additional 4 minutes.
Day three was all inland and extremely hot at around 100+ degrees. It was critical to turn to making sure your electrolyte program was in key form. Dry heat seems to be a strength for me and on this day I was able to push the gap between Kathia and I down to 1.5 minutes by winning the stage! Taking over the leader bib was right on my fingertips and I dreamed about it the entire night. Beyond Kathia the ladies competition was very steep so there wasn’t any room for error or a bad day if you wanted to gain the top spot.
On day 4 I had another stellar day and was 33 minutes ahead of Kathia and became the woman’s leader! With a time gap of only 33 minutes it meant that the long stage of 48 miles would have to be on que and perfect or I could loose it all. I started off easy and relaxed and was leading the day in first lady and 6th overall. At around 22.25 miles I heard someone on my heels and low and behold it was Kathia. This became the critical point to decide how bad I wanted to win this race. If I stayed with her, she could potentially gain strength and push past and I would be at risk of falling apart mentally and physically and giving up the lead position. At that moment, I dug so deep in myself and pushed an extra layer of might and will to find it within myself to drop her. I raised my heart rate by 5 beets and started hammering forward and was frightened to ever look back. I ran the entire next marathon worried she was right on my heels and pushing with every ounce of energy I had in my body. The last 12k were grueling in beach sand that navigated along the shoreline and it seemed the finish line would never show up. It also had a few rolling sand dunes leaving you literally crawling up them with all of your might. I finished this day in utter exhaustion at 5:03pm (9 hours 3 minutes). I was literally crying and collapsed at the finish line as every ounce of my grit was depleted from my body. As I looked back, it turned out that in that marathon I had maintained 6th place overall and created a gap of 12 minutes on Kathia.
On the last day, I realized that I could easily break 30 hours and decided to try to run the last 10k in under an hour to push hard to the finish as the female champion. The terrain had rocks, rolling sand dunes and a soft sand with granite chunks all around as well as a gnarly head wind. I pushed with all of my might to win another stage in 57minutes, break 30 hours, become 6th overall with the boys and the female champion!
This race will go down in the books as one totally full of every kind of sand running you can imagine, hot temps, stellar wind, epic views and gnarly competition among the top 4 ladies. To win, you could never walk and had to zoom through every aid station. In the end, I was the ladies champion by 53 minutes!
Out there VOKE TAB is my savior. I took one every day at the last stage of the run and then one mid day at camp to help me stay up a little longer. You really see the blissful pick up it has when you are out there.
As always, I am honored to take on this journey in honor of the LymeLight Foundation to raise awareness and funds for Lyme Disease. Additionally, I hope this epic feat inspires the masses to get outside and explore!
Cheers and get VOKED!