It’s the last night ride. The sun sets and the valley looks all hazy and magical. In the dark I find another rider with whom I continue riding. Again, these moments bring indescribable joy, as if everything gets easier when having such a fun distraction and while riding through mystical darkness you have a beautiful moment that will become a nostalgic memory within the near future. The shops are closed and getting food and water seems difficult, we stop to negotiate our options. And while I suggest to ride through the night to finish, the local mosque opens their doors for us and insists we rest, bringing out bread and sardines. At that point in the race my voice has disappeared completely, resting here in this safe shelter seems a smart idea, yet conflicts with the earlier plan pushing closer to the finish line. This night, symptoms of dehydration appear again accompanied with the snoring of my new friend. I just lay down, drinking as much as I can, comforting my sweat outbreaks and shivering alternately with many toilet visits, all while waiting for sunrise, as this continues to solve all my problems.
The mosque was beyond generous and we stocked up on bananas. Climbing the mountains of Souss-Massa-Drâa close to Aouguenz and then descending to the ocean. The smell, the road, the climate it changes again. It’s a good day, enjoying the ride and I even happily hike the long two hour sandy stretch to the finish. Jut in time for the party! Thinking back of the warm welcome all the girls awaiting me, sets tears of joy in my eyes, so many hugs and strangers cheering as I finish. What a strange thing we all did. I would like a special mention to the female riders, Andrea, Jackie and Jenny awaiting me with hugs and pastries. And than, I feel proud of every soul riding this race and I feel fortunate to find this warm empathic community of aliens that all figured it be a good idea to ride ultra races and blast through desert landscapes.
To use Carrie’s frase from “Sex and the City”; “I couldn’t help but wonder…” “could I have done better? What if I wouldn’t have had my period? What if I allowed myself to rest longer? What would the race look like if … But then again, isn’t that silly?”
In all honesty I prefer to look back and feel nothing but grateful. It’s important to be content with any achievement, to be proud of this first(even any) accomplishment and finishing within the time. Riding among so many strong other riders, encountering beautiful souls and being surrounded by such magnificent scenery is a treat in itself. Having the chance to do this in the first place is something to feel grateful about.
Note: This text and the drawing were provided to us by Quinda and we decided to split it into three parts due to its length.
The amazing photos were taken by Jonathan Hines, Lian van Leeuwen and Quinda Verheul.