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Christiaan has won most major races in South Africa, including The Otter 42km, Skyrun 100km, Ultra Trail Cape Town 100km, Heaven and Hell 90km, Table Mountain Challenge 42km

He ranks in the top 4 men in the general ITRA classification in South Africa and 1st in the XL classification (90 – 100km with 5000m ascent)

Race Reports

UTD 2021 – a fight to the end

By | 60 - 100km

My fascination with the Giants’ Cup trail started in 2014, when we were on holiday in the area. I ran from the hotel, Premier Resort Sani Pass, back to Castleburn, where we stayed. It’s a 30km stretch on the route. Somewhere on the trail a met a guy named Spurgeon, stating that he was scouting the route for a race.

A year later, the first Ultra Trail Drakensberg happened.

In 2017, yet another year later, Landie and I participated in and won the 62km race. By then, we have completely fallen in love with the Drakensberg trails and I still think it is one of the best places in the whole world.

After a few years of racing abroad, we finally returned to UTD in 2021. I was interested in racing something further than the 62km. The hundred miler was something we eyed in 2020, but missed it due to COVID.
With a newborn and toddler in the house this year, my training was not enough for a hundred miler and I decided to race the 100km, which I am thankful for. We can race again!

This year proved a very strong racing field, probably one of the strongest fields of a 100km race in the last two to three years in South Africa. Lots of young talent was showcased – Rory Scheffer, Robert Rorich, Brendan Lombard, Comrades runner Admire Muzopambwa, Phillip Shezi, winner of the Sani Stagger, and many more, including previous winner Stuart McConnachie.

All hungry to race.

We started in the dark and immediately, Scheffer sped off. I didn’t try to chase him, hoping that Lombard, also a fast runner, would race him and one of them would fall behind, giving the rest of us a chance.

I did not reckon with Shezi, as I did not know him, and Muzopambwa. Muzopambwa and I settled into a comfortable pace and ran together most of the way.

I really looked forward to going down Sani Pass, as I love downhills. And Sani was almost 28km’s of sheer pleasure, mostly trail, with a few slight climbs in between.

As expected, Sani took my breath away. Stunning views of the sunrise and green, green grass covering the highs… It was enough to fill my satisfaction of what I came for. There is this solitude in the rolling mountains, and the feeling of God’s presence… it’s simply something you have to experience.

We descended to the hotel, and it was great to see Landie for the first time, who helped me with a quick transition. We then settled into a good pace, Muzopambwa and I. Following the trail up a very steep climb, Shezi managed to pull away from us.

I felt quite comfortable in the first 36km’s, which was exactly how I wanted to feel. Coming into the aid station feeling strong, in fourth position, well in contact with second and third position, gave my confidence a good boost. Scheffer, however, was well away. Only a mistake on his side was likely to open up that first place again.

But then we hit the flat section: jeep track, my absolute least favorite section on any trail. Both Muzopambwa and Shezi pulled away from me, leaving me in fourth position once again. I however continued with what I knew was most important in a 100km event: eat and hydrate well, enjoy the trails.

At 46km’s, Rory Scheffer, whom I thought was leading by far, was found walking on the route. Muzopambwa and I, running together again, overtook him, and he mentioned something about his calf.

That left us thinking we were racing only one more runner in the front.

As is typical of a 100km race, you start to lose focus. It’s not halfway yet. You see more uphills than there really are. Muzopambwa and I started to slow each other down, instead of pacing each other. When he walked, I walked. When I walked, he walked…

We reached the aid station at 50km’s, I was hoping to see the family and get a quick refill of supplies and maybe a mood lift. Or two.

But there was not a trace of Landie, my mom, Christopher, Anzel… or our car. Something could have happened to the car, or them. I ended up worrying more about them than myself. But I decided to run to the next aid station.

The stations were well stocked with everything necessary.

Muzopambwa and I, by then my teammate and pacer, arrived at the 58km’s aid station, with Shezi leading by 15 minutes.

We had a medical check, which I passed, surprisingly. You somehow hope that they would find something wrong, that someone else could tell you to stop running.

But there was no reason to stop, of course. I could put one foot in front of the other. The pain was more mental, and it’s amazing how much a bit of support can mean.

That was where the race really changed for me. Landie joined, she paced me for the next 15km’s. It was my first time running with a pacer and it helped a great deal. It changed the way I thought and believed during those kilometres. More than motivation, she gave me a consistent pace and took over all the thinking. She reminded me of my form, rhythm, eating, hydration… the things I did not want to, or remembered to, do. Hearing from someone else that I could do it, I was doing well, was refreshing to say the least.

Landie kept us running at a 05:20 pace on the flats. It was comfortable, but at that stage I could not run any faster. Muzopambwa ran with us for a few kilometres.

Then, out of nowhere, Scheffer appeared again. I didn’t think he was still in the race, and scared me a bit as he overtook us quite easily.

That moment felt like game over, and I ran past the next aid station in an attempt to save time. It worked, and I managed to maintain contact with Scheffer, and Muzopambwa was with me again. I knew that I had to keep on going, Landie’s words kept us going. It’s not over until the end… Don’t give up, the one who gives up first will lose the battle.

I can’t remember racing that hard in a 100km before, with the positions changing constantly in the front.

I arrived at the 73km’s aid station just seconds before Scheffer.

However, right there a whole lot went wrong. It was jeep track, and Scheffer could outrun me quite easily.

I could still see him at the next station, but Landie’s pep talk did not ring in my ears anymore. She stopped pacing us.

I was in third position, and I knew one mistake could have the others overtake me easily.

We entered Giant’s Cup trail and the 62km and 32km racers joined us bit by bit. Once again, the Drakensberg was showing off. Those green, grassy hills and streams, with many hikers and campers who dotted the mountains.

It really is something all South Africans must do in their lives – camp in the Drakensberg and disappear from networks for a few days.

Thankfully, I ran with strength again and managed to catch Shezi just before the last aid station at Copham. It was downhill, and Shezi seemed uncomfortable.

That left me racing in second place, with some hope. But by then, you don’t care about positions any more. You run to finish.

There was one more hill and 12km’s left. I pushed to avoid being surprised again, motivated by the nearing end. I climbed well.

On the descent, I however lost some time. My tummy was cramping and I messed around, as is not uncommon for a 100km.

I then noticed a runner behind me. Thinking it was Muzopambwa, I started to sprint without looking back. It was the last three and a half kilometres to the finish line. I came in second.

Two and a half minutes behind me was Prodigal Kumalo, running to win the 32km race. Not Muzopambwa.

That taught me again, everything in a 100km is mental. It’s when you tell yourself you are tired, that you are. Or that you can run a hill, that you have enough energy somewhere inside to sprint race against the 32km winner… it’s all what you perceive. Your mental ability is either a win, or a lose. Everyone’s got a few war stories after a long race. Pushing through, fighting those thoughts, praying… That’s what makes us stronger, what makes us come back for more.

It was good to fight for 11 and a half hours, and I almost reached my fastest 100km time. But Scheffer deserves the win, coming back from almost pulling out, yet still racing hard to take the win… that is an incredible performance.

I’m thankful for our sponsors, they make it easy and worthwhile to travel this far.

We’re definitely equipped with the best gear out there, enabling us to compete in the elements.

My nutrition strategy worked a hundred percent, as I never felt that I hit a complete wall. Whenever I could not eat, I managed to sip on Biogen Cytogen, and did not get tired of the neutral taste. I knew it contained enough calories to sustain me. I also really enjoyed all the good fats and protein from my Buttanut sachets, keeping me strong the natural way.

A big thanks to Häzz coffee, giving me an extra boost and smile before (and after) the race.

I ran with my Naked HC Vest, which was a 100% fit for the UTD. I could manage all my compact K-Way gear and compulsory kit, leaving me to run incredibly free.

Adidas Terrex helped me to maintain a fantastic grip throughout the race. It’s the Drakensberg, yet I never slipped, never fell, never had reason for panic. I really trust my shoes and enjoy being able to take the risks and race my heart out.

Of course, Garmin navigation really saved the day, I had to check my watch numerous times to stay on the route. I loved being able to listen to music from my watch with Bluetooth earphones, which I needed especially on those flats.

It was lovely to see the 30 South team at the race! They gave us some real pep talks and support, all while their sunglasses provided me with excellent vision in the ice cold winds and sunshine hours alike. 

Lastly, a big shout out to Emperor Asset Management making a lot of what we do possible.

In the end, it’s not about who is there or not there. It’s not about your position. It’s your own race, your personal battle. Finish strong.

Otter report 2019

By | 40 - 60km | 920 Comments

Otter 2019

Introduction

It’s not often that you will hear someone returning to an event for the 8th time… Well, I did and for a trail runner who hates running the same trail or touch a treadmill where boredom might kick in this proves how much fun it is. I love coming back to the Grail of trail, the unspoilt beauty, the technicality of the trail, the tough competition and a world-class event. The Otter trail, known as the most impressive 5-day hike along the Garden Route coast is one of the most beautiful but toughest marathon distance trails I have competed in, and I love to compete for the top spot at Otter trail. Being the defending champion from the 2017 Classic route and an ever-improving Otter time, I had high expectations, despite recovering from injury 12 weeks earlier. With the right gear, plan and support team, I managed to pull-off success in 12 weeks to race competitive again, although only my 4th fastest time at Otter trail, but it gave me hope and I hope it gives others hope to what they can achieve with the right focus and plan. Otter, is a mental refresher, nature’s way to teach you mindfulness and a test for the human’s capabilities!

 

Event overview

It’s not often that you will hear someone returning to an event for the 8th time… Well, I did and for a trail runner who hates running the same trail or touch a treadmill where boredom might kick in this proves how much fun it is. I love coming back to the Grail of trail, the unspoilt beauty, the technicality of the trail, the tough competition and a world-class event.

Whenever I congratulate one of the Collins brothers about another successful year, they humbly respond that they are passionate about athletes who can run fast over technical terrain, and that’s why they have created the Otter trailrun. www.otter.run

I have been to many events across the globe, but I ascertain you, this event won’t let you down. The amount of detail and perfection that goes into this keeps on surprising year on year! Well done team Magnetic South!

If you want to be on the start line next year and be sure of success check out our website: www.alpasfit.com for customized online coaching.

Bloukrans Crossing by Jacques Marais

Route overview – Classic

The Classic Otter trail, mostly known as the most prestigious 5-day hike along the Garden Route coast is one of the most beautiful but toughest marathon distance trails I know of. If you want to familiarise yourself with what you will be doing, take a hike to the first waterfall at Sorms River rest camp and you should get a good idea of what you will be in for. You will experience boulders, stairs, 7300 of them, roots, forests, loose pebbles, water crossings, beaches and when lucky, some runnable trail. All these obstacles will keep your mind focused on the task at hand, to get to Nature’s Valley alive! Otter, is a mental refresher, nature’s way to teach you mindfulness and a test for the human’s capabilities!

 

The training experiment

At some point in an athlete’s career, you will face injury as one of many challenges. I managed to escape this since 2013, but in 2018 it all started to come back, suffering from a labrum tear in my hip, constant knee pain and eventually Plantar Fasciitis the final trump which took me out of running from  March until June. By this time, I was not only unfit, but lost hope and motivation and not to mention the 7kg weight I gained over the passive winter months. When I was finally cleared to run again, it took a few weeks to get my motivation back, and I needed a BIG goal to pump my veins full of adrenaline again! And there it was, Otter Classic, my favourite race only 12 weeks away.

My track coach, Ernie always said you can work well with a 12-week block of training to reach a good marathon time, and here I was, ready to be the experiment of our theoretical beliefs. I worked on a plan, chose a few milestone races and went for gold. There was also a bit of pressure here, as I was the defending champion in Otter and have successfully improved my time year on year since my first otter in 2011.

It took me 6 weeks of consistent running before I believe I could run 40km again, another 4 weeks before I started thinking of competing again. After 8 weeks of consistent training, I took part in the Table Mountain Challenge 44km trail and I was by no means at a competitive level yet, but got away with a podium. TMC was a good indication of what was still lacking and I gave strength training more focus. I also slowly saw a decrease in my weight after giving up my calorie cravings, which mostly came in the form of fermented red grape juice. 😊

 

Product Overview

Without the right gear it would be impossible to run a 5-day trail in less than 5 hours.

The Garmin Fenix 5x Plus is the one piece of equipment I use every minute of the day. The Garmin with its built-in wrist heart rate monitor allows for accurate monitoring of resting heart rate, which I track religiously to monitor recovery and potential illness. To me Otter is well calculated effort to achieve my time and once again I compiled my racing and pacing plan with the help of the TrainingPeaks app keeping me up to date of the minutes I loose on my ambitious winning plan 😊

The balance between Biogen electrolytes and gels kept me on a constant energy level and allowed me to sustain energy levels throughout the race. I also used one of the newly launched vegan bars and found it easy to digest and full of nutritional super powers. https://www.biogen.co.za/products/well-range/plant-based-protein-bar/

As we had only level 1 weather conditions the only emergency gear we required was the K-Way Windproof jacket. One of my favourite K-Way products are the white arm protectors which helps for both cold and sun protection. http://www.kway.co.za/

 

adidas Terrex Agravic Boa trail shoes proofed to be the best shoe for Otter trail A Boa® Closure System offers a personalised fit, while a grippy Continental™ Rubber outsole holds the trail even in wet conditions. I found this model to be wider than its predecessors, and I suggest going half a size smaller than your normal size. https://shop.adidas.co.za/wm-agravic-boa-shoes-320515.html?

Instinct 4.5L Ambition Trail Vest proofed to be exactly what I needed. Lightweight, breathable and designed by a runner! The 4.5L could easily fit 2 650ml soft flasks, a phone, waterproof jacket, and enough nutrition for the duration of the trail. https://instincttrail.co.za/trail-vests-and-bags.html#volume=45l

Often times runners neglect their feet which is the most important asset out on the trail. I use Versus Socks to protect my feet from blisters. Even going through the many rivers and sandy sections which creates sand-paper which is bad for any foot. www.versussocks.com

This was not my best Otter to date, but certainly a memorable Otter run, as I have witnessed records shatter, saw the new young talent coming through and could celebrate a double podium with my wife Landie and our son Christopher after a rollercoaster year of injury, work, running a business and launching the Maxi race one week before Otter. I am exhausted and relieved but praise God for the energy to live life to the fullest! On a bus to my next adventure: Cappadocia Ultra trail in Turkey this weekend.

Christiaan Greyling’s Race Report – Grand Raid Pyrenees (43km)

By | 40 - 60km | 285 Comments

What is Grand Raid Pyrenees?

Grand Raid Pyrenees is a festival of trail running and takes place in the small village of Saint-Lary-Soulan in the French Hautes-Pyrenees. Best known as a ski resort, but revived in summer when 6000 trail athletes arrive for some mountain air. Bars and cafes line the main street, Rue Vincent Mir, which makes it especially hard to run pass. To the west, the Néouvielle National Nature Reserve has high-altitude lakes, granite outcrops and pine forests. Trails lead around the shore of the reserve’s Lac de l’Oule, which is ringed by peaks. Read More

Christiaan Greyling’s Race Report – Skyrun (100km)

By | 60 - 100km | 196 Comments

What is Skyrun?

Skyrun is a 100km foot race over the Witteberg mountains at an average altitude of 2000m above sea-level. It is tough, relentless and challenging, and for this exact reason hundreds of runners come together in the small town of Lady Grey to test their faith and courage against the toughest challenge known to any South African Trail Runner. We suffer, sweat, share laughs and tears for up to 30 hours in some of the most remote places on earth. We dehydrate, get altitude sickness, vomit, get sunburned. We learn that our heads are stronger than our bodies, we pick ourselves up out of despair, run forth, jump fences, make new friends, see amazing views and test our gear against the elements of nature. We do this all for one reason: To finish and be a known as a “Skyrunner”!! Read More