This past weekend I had the honor of attending the 2017 edition of the Dryland Traverse and it blew the wet muddy socks off my feet! On arrival each and every person was warmly welcomed by the most classic and sincere character, Johan. Although I am still not entirely sure what his role was for the event, he managed to execute it with flying colors and the biggest smile in the world.
He was ALWAYS present and in his own unique quietly loud type of way made every person feel part of the Dryland Family. We were immediately sorted out with our race goodie bags which included a whole lot of amazing BIOGEN goodies, a custom Dryland Cirque du Karoo T-shirt and the most incredible First Ascent summer hoodie. It was about 38 degree celsius, but the UNLIMITED supply of ice-cold BIOGEN rehydrate that was available made the heat bearable.
The prologue which would take us all through the world-renowned Cango Caves took place during the afternoon/evening of Thursday after the registration was complete. The prologue took the format of individual time trials with each person being set off into the caves at 30 second intervals. After exiting the caves the route undulated for another 6kms to finish at the race village at de Hoek mountain resort. We were blessed with a natural lightning show and some rain showers to cool things off after a scorcher of a day. The rest of the night consisted of CBC beers, amazing local cuisine and getting to know many of the happy faces out there.
Day 2 would see us cover the longest distance with the greatest uphill and a mammoth of a downhill, all in the highest temperatures known to man (slightly exaggerated). After 8km we had already done more than 1000m of climbing on some incredible single track trails. At 21km the climbing of approximately 1500m was done and we were left to survive the final 12km of downhill down the Swartberg Pass. Luckily the 21km aid station had ice cold CBC beers and amazing steak on offer. Temperatures were in the high 30s and this downhill took its toll on most of the runners. I thought I was about to die with 2kms to go until I saw that 2nd place runner Edson Kumwamba was even closer to kicking the bucket than me. It was very special to finish such a grueling stage together with friend and teammate Edson.
The finish at Kobus se gat seemed like a battlefield with runners lying around like ‘pap-snoeke’ everywhere. Once again the CBCs and BIOGEN saved many lives. If you were able to get up from the spot where you had collapsed a few minutes (hours for some) ago, then you could go and collect the most incredible Boerewors Roosterkoek inside. On return to race Village, we were served a proper lunch and then most people headed to the ice cold swimming pool to spend the rest of the day. EPT offered massage services and due to their incredible service they had their 11 massage beds occupied for 100% of the weekend. They saw me a few times and I can seriously say that it was life-changing :)
Day 3 threw some fast trails at us starting at Rust en Vrede. It took us across the Raubenheimer dam through some rivers and past some ostrich farms. The 23km route with just under 900m of climbing saw the top runners finish in way under 2hours and left all with massive smiles on their faces. The afternoon followed the same procedures as day 2 with lunch, swimming pools, massages and CBC’s. Dryland brought the circus to town and that evening saw the greatest collection of runners-turned-clowns that the world has ever seen. The themed party certainly lived up to its name and podium pictures have never looked any more foolish. We were able to get rid of our stiff legs by dancing into the morning hours with all the greatest tunes.
With most runners still feeling the ‘circus’ running through their veins, it was a very slow morning on day 4. Fortunately the final stage was tactically scheduled to start a bit later and after many cups of coffee and another royal breakfast we were all in top shape and ready to take on the final 10km. This was definitely some of the most enjoyable 10km I have done and without giving too much away, I’d say that my shoes was not dry for a single moment of it. Afterwards I had the biggest lunch of my life, and after the final prizegiving we packed up and took on the long road back to Cape Town.
Some of the things that stood out to me from the event:
The Passion and soul put into the race by the organisers. Johan’s friendly face wherever you look, Bernard’s very funny and very informative route descriptions. I've never witnessed such friendly marshals en-route and the teams manning the aid-stations were superstars! The team dishing out the food were also the friendliest bunch and so accommodating to special requests (not even to mention the quality of the food). The security guards wanting to get in a quick chat every time you walk past them. It was basically impossible not to be extremely happy all weekend long.
The food!! Everybody that knows me, knows that I absolutely love food, and this weekend’s food was nothing short of everything that I want in life. Breakfast, lunch, supper and dessert every day with unlimited snacks in between. Local food with enough options for all to be happy. From local bunny-chows to pumpkin-pie and corn tarts and all the different meats and all the different salads. Cheese and breads for days and a wide variety of fresh fruits.
The DJ! I have never experienced a DJ that could pick up on the mood so well and compliment it with the perfect music/sounds all the time. Music was playing for most of the weekend, and not once was it a nuisance or inappropriate. Very specific snippets of songs was played at very specific moments and certainly added to the overall mood! Well done mr DJ!
Themed Party! I won't say too much about this, but I heard from several people that the party alone would be enough to attract them to the event every year. EVERYBODY dressed up and made an effort and the result was incredible!
The people! This race attracts such a special group of people and it honestly feels like you are all apart of a big family at the end of the event. This is definitely not a rock-up, run, go home event and that is, amongst other, thanks to the people attending the event!
The local runners! I am completely humbled and inspired by the talent I witnessed from the local runners who took part, and comfortably won this race. Ettiene Plaaitjies, in specific, who can run a 64min half-marathon and humbly says that it is not that big of a deal. These guys are the real-deal and would smash so many of our local trail races given the opportunity!
Thank you Dryland Traverse and First Ascent! You have added to my 2017 in a large way and I WILL be back!