FISH RIVER 201216
My Fish River Canyon record attempt was a personal quest for me wanting to push my own boundaries while running in one of the most beautiful but harsh environments on our planet. This personal quest could not have been made possible without the help and support of a number of passionate individuals – thanks team, I was not out there alone!
We drove up to the Fish River Canyon just over a week before my planned record attempt in order for me to recci and familiarise myself with the route. Before we knew it, Vanessa, Craig, Tinus and I were deep in the Canyon on a two day scouting trip. This fun little adventure was one of the highlights of my trip…we covered just over 60km during the two days and had plenty of laughs along the way. Conditions in the canyon were ideal for a record attempt – water levels were perfect and day time temperatures were not too high. After two long days in the canyon we finally reached Ai Ais where we spent two days relaxing in the hot springs before heading to the Fish River Canyon Ultra race village where I would be sweeping the first part of the race to ‘Emergency Exit’ in order to scout the first part of the trail for my record attempt. This was another very cool adventure and I even got to see a Vesper Scooter in the Canyon. I realised very quickly that the first 15km of my record attempt would be the hardest as most of the running would be on soft sand and large boulders. Hiking out of the Canyon left me feeling excited and confident about my record attempt in a few days time. I had now pre-hiked the full trail and was mentally prepared for what was to come on record attempt day.
We spent the next two days at Ai Ais and were joined by the guys from The African Attachment who were there to make a short film on the record attempt. The day before the attempt we moved up to Cannon Lodge and before I knew it I was standing at the top of ‘Hikers Decent’ about to start my record attempt. I had been waiting for this day for over a year and the adrenaline was rushing through my body. Boom! I started my Suunto Ambit and was heading down into the Canyon. I glanced up at the guys filming out of the chopper and both pilots (Jeremy and Philip) had huge smiles on their faces. This got me even more amped and I wanted to give it everything I had.
The early morning light in the Canyon was surreal and it was one of the best trail running experiences I have ever had. I followed the river down the middle of the canyon and the terrain consisted of white sandy beaches, boulder fields and harder more compacted powdery gravel. The first 4 hours flew by and at times I felt I was a character in a computer game leaping over rocks and dodging puddles of water. I love competing in races but being out in the Canyon on my own was very refreshing and I loved every moment of it.
The second half of the Canyon opened up a lot more, the temperatures rose and my legs started to tire a little. Luckily the terrain was more runnable and I maintained a steady pace. I looked at my watch a few times but never had much of a time strategy. The attempt was more about the experience than running a specific time. That said with about 14km to go I had to swim at one of the river crossings and the chopper landed for the film crew to film me. As I exited the river Jeremy (pilot) said he thought I could run the trail in under 7 hours.. I did a few calculations in my head, shifted into competitive mode and focused on sub 7 hours. I counted down the km’s and was very relived to see the pipeline that ran along the final 2 km’s of the trail. After 18 months of planning, one failed attempt (due to flooding), I was about to achieve my dream of running the Fish River Canyon Trail! Up ahead of me was a massive troop of baboons blocking the trail and I had visions of them attacking me for my Red Bull e-shot and Hammer Perpetuem. Luckily this was not to be and they scattered as I approached. A small group of local’s and Ai Ais guests had gathered to welcome me at the finish. I ran up the final fews steps and was elated to have finally run the Fish River Canyon trail – I stopped my watch on 6h:57min and saluted her (Canyon). It would be foolish to say I had conquered the Canyon as I have realised from my past experiences that she is far greater than I or any human will ever be. I have a very healthy respect for the enormity of the Canyon and this run was about paying respect to her.
Thanks to my sponsors for making this possible as will as my support team. A huge thanks to Vanessa for planning the attempt, Tinus and Russel from AEP in Namibia, Craig, Greg, Dean & Dale for capturing the experience and last but not least Phillip and Jeremy for insane flying of the chopper. Thanks to all who have supported and encouraged me along the way!!
Pre Attempt Press Release:
After having to abandon his Fish River Canyon Trail Run record attempt in 2011 due to heavy rains, Ryan Sandes will be back again at the beginning of August 2012 to hopefully defeat his long standing nemesis – breaking the record for the quickest time to run the Fish River Canyon Trail in Namibia. The record for the 84km trail run – set in one of the harshest climates and terrains – was originally set on the 13th of July 1990 by South Africans Ronnie Muhl and Bruce Matthews – both seasoned Comrades runners – in a time of 11hrs 42min. It was then beaten by 3 Namibian locals Russell Paschke, Charlie du Toit and Coenraad Pool on the 16th of August 2003 in a time of 10hrs 54min.
Charlie du Toit, a veteran of 4 Comrades Marathons and who has a sub 7hr 30min silver medal finish to his credit, summed up this achievement by announcing that in his opinion it was harder than anything he had done before. “This canyon is not for the faint hearted and an attempt to run it should not be taken light heartedly”.
Enter the Sandman, “A few years ago I had the privilege of running part of the Fish River Canyon on one of the stages of the Racing the Planet Namibia race. The canyon is one of the most beautiful places I have seen, but at the same time is one of the harshest environments I have run in. I really battled in the canyon due to the extreme heat and terrain and running in there was one of the toughest days of my athletic career. Since then it has been on my list to come back and defeat. Last year we were all ready to tackle the record attempt, when heavy rainfalls and flooding in the canyon forced us to abandon everything. This year it will happen, I will not let the canyon get the better of me for another year,” says Sandes.
On the 23rd of July, Ryan will be heading up to the Fish River Canyon to attempt to break the current record. Ryan will be scouting the route for a few days with Russell Paschke and Tinus Hansen from www.africanextremepromotions.com, and assisting with the Fish River Canyon Ultra Marathon. He will then attempt the record run on the 01st of August.
“I know this challenge is going to extremely tough, especially coming off the back of my running the Western States 100miler in the USA at the end of June, but I can’t wait to get back into the canyon. The record attempt will be filmed by the African Attachment / Wandering Fever so I will keep everyone posted on where and when you can watch it,” says Sandes.
Joining Ryan on his attempt to run the 84km trail un-aided will be a couple of enthusiastic journalists to see if they could survive even running part of the distance.
For more info or to follow Ryan’s record attempt please follow Ryan on his facebook page ort on twitter @RyanSandes.