The Dryland Traverse is a 4 day stage Trail Race, taking place annually in the Klein Karoo. The race covers the Cango Caves, The Swartberg Mountains and the World Heritage Site, the Swartberg Mountain Pass. With only a few days to go, we caught up with First Ascent Ambassador, Stefan Wahl, to hear how his race preparations are going.
1. You just recently finished the Drakensberg Grand Traverse. What on earth is making you do another so close to the last one?
I don't want to give you the classic 'life is short, fit as much in as possible' answer because with running that can be very detrimental but in some way that was my excuse for choosing Dryland Traverse. I have done a few stage races before including multiple editions of the Southern Cross Trail Run, and at each of these events people would tell me that Dryland Traverse is a MUST-DO! It has thus been on my bucket list for a long time and this year I think it is ideal to shake the last bit of Drakensberg out of my legs and also have it be a final big weekend before I head North again to run Skyrun. I feel one should always listen to their bodies when asking the question: 'am I doing too much?' and thus far no red flags have been raised by my body. I will definitely take some good R&R time off at the end of this month.
2. Tell us more about your preparation building up to a race such as the Dryland Traverse?
Before the Cape Town Marathon and much more so afterwards, I was struggling with some Achilles Tendinitis and for quite a while now I have been unable to put proper mileage in. I have resolved to doing some really big slow-paced missions in the mountains including multiple hikes in Jonkershoek, sweeping Marloth Mountain Challenge, a traverse of the Franschhoek Mountains, a traverse of the Hex-River mountains, a Traverse of the Drakensberg. I have consequently been able to stay fit and have also gotten rid of my Achilles issues. It is definitely not the best type of training for something specifically like the Dryland Traverse which is a fast run but in the bigger picture with Skyrun also kept in mind I am very happy with my past few weeks of 'training'. The fact that I did many back-to-back hikes and missions would certainly count for a great deal as I feel that back-to-back type of training is an essential ingredient in preparing for a stage race.
3. What would be your favourite thing about a race such as this?
The People...DEFINITELY the people!! Not only do you get to mingle with like-minded people for the entire weekend, but you make life-long friends, go through the same struggles every day and you start looking forward to telling war stories of the day's running to your new (or old) friends after the days running. You also get to know the the organisers really well and you get to realise how much of themselves they have put into the race and this just makes it all the more special. In my opinion, a stage race is the best getaway for anybody who finds running remotely entertaining. The Dryland Traverse will also take me to places where I have never run before and that alone is a win! Our country is beautiful, in fact I think we live the MOST beautiful country and we should grab onto each opportunity to explore our landscapes more.
4. As this is a 4-day race, gear is obviously an important part of it. What gear will you be using?
I will be going as light as possible and will definitely look no further than packing in First Ascent's extremely lightweight Men's X-trail Jacket. This will keep me warm in the morning while also provide ample protection against the elements if need be. I will be wearing the X-Trail Tech Shorts as well accompanied by the First Ascent Corefit Tee and X-trail Edge Visor. I will be running in my Saucony Peregrine Shoes (if they actually survived the Drakensberg, haven't had time to check) and my trusted Suunto Ambit 3 running watch. I will be eating Racefood and Tailwind. I will obviously also pack the essential emergency gear for in case anything goes horribly wrong.
5. Do you have any race rituals you do before a new race?
I will make sure I know what to expect on each day regarding distance, terrain, and elevation gain. I will also try and memorise as much of the elevation profile as possible so that I can be mentally prepared for the climbs. Then I will definitely drink a beer the night before the race to calm the nerves :)
See the Dryland Traverse website for more info.cc