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!
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.
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. 😊
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.