Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Dash that was

The Road to Nam is long...and straight.

The last training ride, Sandra, Adino, Kim, Kosima

The day finally dawned, with everything planned, prepped, cleaned, serviced, packed, checked, if it was our last chance. Even re-doing a friend's "homeless choobless" setup, adding a bigger safety margin.

From this... this. Don't cut that tube too close.
 The forecast said 30 degrees with a gentle breeze in our faces for the climb up to the top of Kupferberg, but at the start it was clear that 30 degrees was optimistic. Four hundred-odd riders can huddle into a small patch of shade when they need to.

Michelle pretending 
Michelle, our backup driver did a sterling job. Thank you Michelle for your calm, collected handling of your team. We might just snap you up again unless some young buck gets in ahead of us ;)

There was none of the usual pre-event stressing and hassling over loose ends, they were all taken care of. Which left us to do our thing without excuses.

Kim and Kosima : Brave faces indeed!

Up the hill in the heat is something we've done before, but usually at a more relaxed (read "lazy") training pace. At one stage I was convinced that my heart rate monitor was malfunctioning, and then it dawned on me that the combination of heat, race tension and the hill was pushing me harder than I'd planned. Looking back on it, this is where the intervals helped enormously. (Dankie Maryke!)

I was hugely surprised to find that we were at the top of the hill an hour faster than our (admittedly conservative) schedule. In my rush to hit my first long stage, I forgot to drink the first bottle of recovery mix. Too bad.

Sandra at the end of the first stage

On stage 2
Overlooking the Kuiseb at sunset
The next 70km stretch was a grind, with the wind making everything harder, but at least blowing the dust away.

Near the top of the Us Pass is the memorial to Nico van der Merwe, who died of a heart attack while taking part in the 2006 Dash. It's a sober reminder to those of us with heart rate monitors heading for the double century mark. I stopped here briefly just as the sun was setting .

Don't be fooled, the downhills of the Us Pass are not the end of the stage, there are a "few" hills before that very welcome sight suddenly meets you at the Kuiseb Bridge. My time was somewhere under 4hrs (completely forgot to push the buttons on the BiPolar)

Sandra set off on the stage to Khomas Safaris, by the time we passed her, she was well into the stage. This is a difficult one, primarily because of the hills and the dust caused by backup vehicles (and the lack of wind to blow the dust away). Michelle and I arrived at Khomas in good time, ate, rested, drank coffee and even tried to sleep. I had set my alarm for 01:30, but fortunately woke up at 12:45 and rode up to the check-in. Sandra had finished minutes earlier, much earlier than planned, so our timing was perfect.
Bloedkopje in the sober light of day

Khomas to Bloedkopje. This was the stage I had been fearing. How would I cope with the next 70km, having just done 100km hard km? Greatly helped by Sandra's earlier than planned finish, I set off on the long downhill which is the start of this stage. Thanks to a route change, we only had to share the road with cars for the first 13km, after that it was just the odd light up front and a few far behind. This was classic night riding (no idea of speed or distance, I just put my head down and hammered). The short detour past the Ganab water point was another welcome addition to the route.
Before long it was the lights of the checkpoint, again in way less time than we'd expected. ( I guess riding in the dark I'm not tempted to stop and sightsee ;) 70km in 3hrs.

Sandra set off on the dreaded stage to the Old Power Station. Dreaded because it was another route change which involved getting off the road and onto a 4x4 track and then onto the pipeline service track. In this part of the world that means one thing. SAND. Fortunately it was dark and then heavily misty, making conditions better/less bad than expected. By the time Sandra finished this she was still smiling, but I think only just. Not bad at all because I saw and heard some large-mouth men whining like stuck pigs about not being allowed to ride on the nearby tar road. Form, gentlemen, form.(South Africans often have skewed ideas about what mountain-biking means ). Go big or go home these same guys often say.....

The morning after.
The Pipeline Track that caused  all the fuss
From there it was the short "team-building" hop to Swakopmund and the finish. The finish and those 500ml Windhoek Tafels.

At this point it's fitting to stop and think of the people who make this all possible. The organisers (Aiden, JC and the rest of the team), all the admin people, the people who run the water points, the marshalls. The sponsors, the traffic department, everyone who contributes to an event that is so well run. I sometimes feel that the people who make this kind of event happen don't know quite how much they are appreciated. The person who took my bike from me at the Ganab waterpoint at about 2am with the words "Let me take your bike, get yourself something to eat and drink"
People who put months of hard work into something that's all over in 24hrs (well, the race is, their work goes on long afterwards).
As with any event of this nature, it's the organisers, the workers and the volunteers who are the thread that keeps it all together. "Thank you" seems inadequate.
Know that what you do is highly appreciated by so many. Know that for sure.

Highlights for me...
  • a handmade, personalised finisher's medal for solo finishers and a handmade, personalised "dog tag" for the two and four person team finishers.
  • the fact that Sandra and I were the first (and only) mixed masters team.

Lessons learned?
  • Get fit (I did 13 solid weeks of intervals, even more next time)
  • Plan the ride, ride the plan (Know what to do when, it's much less stressful that way)
  • Have fun, that's why we're here in the first place.

And yes, of course DC was there.


  1. Awesome Johann!

    Well done, get this write up on DC.

  2. Thank you, you're too kind!

    I feel it's a bit provincial and long-winded for DC, but that may just be my African subservience?
    The Dash is such a jol, you'd love it

  3. Subservience?

    We bow to no man!

    DC is pretty international now so maybe just email Big Johnny the link & let them decide, (else I might sneak it in in the comments section :) ).

    I reckon that it's easily on a par with some of the other epics that have appeared in DC.

  4. You also put a DrunkCyclist sticker on a road sign. You're obliged to register it on the mother site.

    They would never have seen a road sign that looks like that.

  5. @Hurben:
    Truth is, I'd be flattered to have it mentioned there, I'm just not good at self-promotion.
    I know it's a long way from you, but you'd probably be the first Kiwi to do the Dash, so get planning.

  6. It's got nothing to do with self promotion, it's just sharing rides & experiences with each other.

    The Dash & the Freedom Challenge, both are on my bucket list.

  7. Well done young man, now you know you can do it next year will be a walk in the park:)

  8. @Shane The Gods were kind to us this year, very kind.
    @Hurben If you decided to do the FC, you'd automatically qualify as a member of the Prince Albert Dikwiel Kommando and sundry benefits would rain down on you.