Continued from Part 1
We’re one stage 4. In my head, I’m on my 6th loop. We are still slightly ahead of schedule. It is as if stage 3 tired my legs up to a point and that they have now “settled” there. I’m not capable of going much faster but I’m not slowing down either. My legs are simply going through the motions now, propelling me forward at a steady, constant pace. Other things, such as sore hands and a very sensitive backside starts to bother me. Getting off the bike at a water-point is a relief but getting back on, literally becomes a pain in the ass. It takes a while after re-mounting to find the “sweet spot” where the pain is bearable. A cluster of lights in the distance brings the realization that we’re nearing the next water-point. The sixth loop will shortly be a thing of the past.
The stage 4 water-point is, as always, a highlight of the race. A well-stocked table of refreshments greets us. Friendly staff fills up our water bottles and after a quick visit to the loo we’re eager to get going again. As we’re about to set off Werner appears out of nowhere and with a broad smile proclaims “I told you I would catch up!” We’re all together again. Over the course of the race the four of us have been bound together by a common goal. A camaraderie developed and upon leaving that water-point together I knew, barring a real tragedy, that we would finish the race together.
At the end of stage 4 we are allowed to again meet up with our support vehicles. Spirits are high with the end in sight. It’s 05h30 when we start stage 5, for me, loop 8. Psychologically I’ve won this battle. There is no way I’m going to quit after having completed 7 out of the 10 loops. Fifty more kilometers and we would reach the 300 km mark. Only 69 km left after that. Suddenly the realization dawns that I’m going finish this race. That’s not to say that the last third of the race wasn’t tough. Every so often Pieter or Silvio would set a brisk tempo at the front prompting me to remind them that we’re well within what we aimed for and that they can take it a bit easier. Stages 4 and 5 goes by in a blur.
Descending to Goanikontes through the spectacular Moon Landscape at the end of Stage 5.
Goanikontes is a little oasis in the desert and also the start of the last stage. Loop 10. Being solo riders and having endured everything the previous 323km threw at us we have little regard for the difficulties of stage 6. It is by no means an easy stage, but thick sand, steep climbs, rising temperatures and tired legs fail to dampen the spirits.
Realizing that the end is near a strange feeling of sadness grips me. It’s all going to be over in a while. A challenge that dominated my thoughts for much of the year is about to be completed. I’m grateful for the guys I’m with. Silvio was a constant source of encouragement. Tirelessly doing his turns at the front. Werner, steady and calm throughout. Even when he wasn’t feeling well after stage 3 he did not look fazed. I was glad to see him rejoin on stage 4. I always knew that Pieter would make it. I’ve known him for a long time. Twice we’ve partnered up and completed the Dash. You’ll search hard and long to find a more solid person and a more loyal friend than him. I’m quietly pleased with my effort. Earlier in the year Kilimanjaro kicked my butt, and despite a very sore behind, the Dash was not about to.
A couple of kilometers before the end the pace picks up. Pieter is aiming for a sub 21-hour time and he’s pulling us with him. Like a horse turning for home I find an extra ounce of energy and hang on to the wheel in front of me. We duck underneath the bridge and swing onto beach. The site of the Atlantic Ocean is just beautiful! I scan the crowd gathered at the finish for familiar faces and spot my daughter. There’s time for a high-five before the timing-mat beeps to signal the end of an epic event. Official time: 20 hours 50 minutes.
There’s a lot of hugging going on and plenty of emotion. “I’m proud of you” my wife whispers. That’s reward enough.
My 2017 Solo Dash, is dedicated to Josh Williams. A “Little Big Man” that taught me to focus on the “awesome side” and not the “other side”.