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My first 100 miler

By Extreme stuff16 Comments

The legend of the first marathon runner dying is rooted in ancient Greek history. To announce the victory to the people of Athens, the legend says that Pheidippides, a messenger and soldier, was sent to run from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens, a distance of approximately 42 kilometers. According to the story, Pheidippides ran the entire distance without stopping. Upon reaching Athens, he burst into the assembly and exclaimed, “Νενικήκαμεν!” which means “We have won!” After delivering this message, Pheidippides is said to have collapsed and died from exhaustion.

Now, if you run four marathons in a row over the mountains and survive, they give you a belt buckle and the title of a 100 Miler. But you do feel like dying four times on the way to the finish line. 🙂

It is an absolute miracle and protection from God that I ran 165km over that very technical wet terrain without falling once, like Habakkuk 3:19 – God, the Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on high places.

The route is absolutely stunning, but brutal. It was well marked and well thought through. I love it when you can’t quit a race because it is too remote; if you quit at 130km, it will take you longer to get back than just to finish the damn thing! 🙂

Some tips Get seconds that lie for you and do not give you love. Brett and Neil were excellent in telling me that I was looking good and strong, but I realized they lied when I vomited everything they just fed me at Wilderness. Landie is like a drill sergeant in endurance races, and she will never let me sleep, so when she was not around at Oakhurst, I took a 7-minute nap to try to get the nausea thoughts out of my head. It did not work, and I realized Landie was right. 🙂

Brett, wake me up with a coffee when I snore- it took 7 minutes 🙂

Train less, plan more I didn’t do 160km weeks, but I trained hard, harder than anything in the last five years, I would say, but I lost about two hours due to bad planning, not to fitness. I would say my fitness was spot on, and I think I could have gone out even harder, but with my inexperience in 100 milers, I was rather conservative. My new motto is – Run when you can, because at some point things will go wrong and then you need the time in the bank to fix it.

My monthly running totals looked like this:

  • Dec – 240km (Holiday and wine)
  • Jan – 297km (Lack of motivation and goals)
  • Feb – 255km (Sick)
  • Mar – 401km (Great)
  • Apr – 424km (Better)
  • May – 416km (Including the Miler)

It was not the distance but the combination of workouts I chose that worked well in the end. I chose to self-coach this race, as I had to learn for myself what works and what doesn’t. I apply this methodology to many of my miler athletes, and I have so much still to learn and experience firsthand. No amount of mileage can give you the results you want, but the right combination and a healthy body.

My race I was told that in milers, you spend hours with someone and really build strong camaraderie… Well, not in this miler. I was alone for 25 hours! From the gun, Doug set out at a pace, and I followed by keeping him in sight, but running with respect to the three quality athletes that settled in closely behind me. Brandon, Gabriel and Kennedy. I ran well within my aerobic capacity, climbing at a heart rate of 150bpm with nasal breathing to calm the nerves… I loved every step of the technical start.

Descending from Keerberg was a bit of a scare for me as it is like a sheer cliff with some footholds, but I managed to get down there alive and prayed that everyone else did. Going into Herold, I was told that the gap grew to 8 minutes and was quickly fed two jaffels and sent into the dark rainy night by Landie, my parents, and my two kids. This section was hard and slow as the rain, fog, and trail camber made running impossible. I caught the last glimpse of Doug when he disappeared over the top at Dizzy Heights and was convinced that I would find him later, but I also saw the headlamp behind me, which belonged to Brandon Hulley, another force to reckon with… I loved the descent from the top, through Tierkop, and ran a few 4min30/km into Dikkop. My last smile of the race😄…

Dikkop 66km still feeling strong and 10min ahead of schedule

After Dikkop, we were heading into Groeneweide, the most runnable MTB trails of the race, and there I was walking whenever it looked like a hill. Surprisingly, Brandon’s light did not get closer, and I kept moving. I got nauseous and had stomach issues and was struggling to keep anything down except for some soup and coke at Groeneweide. I knew electrolytes would be the solution, but as I reached for my bag, I could not find them… they were lost at Dikkop; and here I was running 33km without any electrolytes… I had my first sit down at 81km, and this was a bad habit I adapted from here onwards. I somehow managed to keep moving as I was still very close to my goal pace. I lost my humor on the steep climb from Wilderness River back to the 7 Passes Road just to drop us back down again to the river…. I did not read the route properly and arrived in Wilderness nine minutes outside of plan but shattered, vomiting whatever I tried to take in… I managed to keep in some crisps, and my seconds lied to me and said I looked strong and they would see me at Oakhurst.

The trail to Oakhurst was a memorable one; I had never run there before, and I enjoyed the night sounds, called a hadeda, and it answered about five times while I pulled the pontoon across the river. I got really lonely and at one bench sat down to see if any runners were coming from ahead so I could at least chat with someone, but no one came, and I marched forth. I once sat on the trail at the top and fell asleep on my arms and woke up when I fell off – it worked well. Music played a big role in getting me out of this mood, and I played Pianoman while singing along. I moved fairly well into Oakhurst but an hour behind plan. The vibe was so good I wanted to stay and took a nap to wake up with a coffee. The nap was seven minutes long, but I did not get my nausea under control. I managed to eat a jaffel or two and walked the most runnable jeep track of the night. Bergplaas was coming!

Bergplaas is very remote, and I was feeling like a dead man marching in the forest at 4 am. I was hoping to see some life, a bushpig, an owl, or even Doug, but it was quiet, just me, my sick body, and a corrupted mind. I prayed a lot, switched my playlist to gospel, and somehow got through this section to see the most amazing sunrise at Bergplaas aid station. I sat down and realized how far I had come and how far I still had to go. I realized the privilege of being hungry and having food, shoes, although I had some blisters, and supporters who do aid stations.

The rest was tough; I puked more, but realized it does not kill you and does not have to slow you down, so I made peace with that and actually enjoyed this section. The climb into Tierkop was a breeze, and I then saw Landie, who surprisingly showed some empathy and encouraged me to just finish it. It was so good to see a familiar friendly face again!

I took forever through the aid station and down to the dam to start the last ascent of the day, but did I get a scare on this one. When I started the climb, I could see not even 1km behind me were two runners fast approaching! One in white and one in red/orange. My heart sank into my shoes, as I thought this was Gabriel and Brandon working together to dethrone me from 2nd into 4th after 24 hours of racing. I smashed two Biogen gels and gave everything. For 2 kilometers, I raced them without looking back, head down and giving it my all until I heard behind me another familiar voice of Ryan Sandes, who was leading the 40km race! I collapsed into a grateful walk and finished with a smile, but strong, in 2nd place in my first 100 miler.

A 100 miler is a team sport as there is no way I could have done this without the approval and help of my wife (two weeks before her first Comrades), the help of my mother-in-law with the training, babysitters, seconds, bio, my strength coach Ronel at Runstrong, Pilates and breathing, and some track sessions with Ernie’s group, Brandon taking me on the route, Jacques and Zane keeping me interested, Biogen, Buttanut, and Bootlegger fueling me all the way, and Aquabox for pure mountain spring water. But above all, it was not possible to do this without a healthy body and blessings from Above. I did it 4Them!

Everything is in the support an nutrition in a miler

The story of our 2021 Skyrun

By 60 - 100km12,457 Comments

What is Skyrun?
Skyrun is a 100km foot race over the Witteberg mountains at an average altitude of 2350m above sea-level. It is tough, relentless and challenging, and for this exact 700 hundred 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”!! 

I would like to dedicate this race to mental health and to a dear friend and the well known race MC we lost. RIP Raasbekkie, Carel Bezuidenhout. 

It was the first time in four years I was able to race Skyrun again, and for Landie, a first since 2015. As parents of two, training and actually racing such an event is a different kind of special. 

Two days before race day, I told Landie that it was possible; I could run a sub 13-hour race. 

We were on a farm in Barkley East, visiting one of our client-friends Gerrie du Toit, and the sight of those mountains in the distance… it had me. There was simply no reason for me not to try and push for a personal record time! Besides a niggle or two, I had a relatively good build-up for full-time employee, business owner and dad of two.  

We were happy with Landie’s decision to race the 65 km, as the caesarian with Anzel is still only 9 months away. 

Landie smashed the day, sharing the podium with one of her athletes, Kristen Heath –  both of them snatching the previous record – what a sight! 

My race strategy

The start of the race was, and will probably always be, pure thrill. People and flares cheering you on at 4am in the morning with a few dogs barking in the distance, I had goosebumps all over. Then you hit the single trail, immediately gaining 700 meters of elevation for breakfast – to the first checkpoint – The tower.

I just kept a close watch on my pace, and led the first part of the race on planned calculations. However, Simon Tshabalala sneaked past us and just kept increasing his lead. 

I decided to stick to my plan, and to run my own race with the ultimate goal to beat my winning time of 2016 which was 13hours and twenty three minutes although it was tempting to go out and race the runner in front. 

I managed to check through all the checkpoints on my planned time – which felt like mini victories. 

CheckpointPlanActual
TOWER01:0101:01
OLYMPUS02:2502:27
SNOWDEN03:3603:32
AVOCA04:5104:48
SKIDAW05:4705:37
BALLOCH06:5006:38
EDGEHILL08:1308:21
TURN10:5510:47
HALSTONE12:1512:18
WARTRAILL 12:5512:59
Comparing my actual to plan times

The highlight of my race

was when myself, AJ Calitz and Arlo van Heerden all wiped out on probably the same rock early on in the race. I am sure Arlo was laughing at me when his foot got caught on exactly the same rock and landed face-down where I just wiped the dust off my forehead.

My nutrition plan worked like a charm but there was no way I could replace the 8000+ calories I burnt according to my Garmin, (Take note for a quick fix summer body) 🙂 I used a mix of Biogen protein bars, gels, cytogen, Buttanut nut butters, sandwich, and soup.

Running out of Balloch, the medical checkpoint, Grobler Basson and I soon realized we were running the same pace. We naturally stuck together, which certainly motivated us both to keep moving when fatigue kicked in. on top of Bridal pass (75km) I realised a sub-13 was definitely possible and introduced the idea to Grobler who certainly wanted to be one of 5 men to ever achieve this. Into the next checkpoint we unceremoniously started pacing each other towards this goal. 

When competitors become teammates

After 12 hours of running together without either one of us showing weakness we spoke about the elephant in the room: Were we going to greet each other and leave it to a sprint finish? 

It was incredibly helpful running the race together, and being friends outside of the race – having trained together quite a bit, there actually really was no point for us to split.

We committed to share a second place, on condition that we go for the sub 13 hour race. The sports began! 

Descending went slower than we thought – this part is never fun due to the technical terrain. 

We caught sight of the finish with 8 minutes to go for the royal sub-13, but with a fence or three and a river to cross it was going to be tight. Making matters more interesting,  Grobler got stuck in the fence, and we got our sprint finish alright! We finished in a time of 12:58:44, being the 4th and 5th persons to ever run a sub 13 hour race in twenty five years, crossing the line side by side. 

What an awesome race!

Tshabalala ran at a phenomenal pace. He definitely was the winner of the day and made no mistakes.

Closing off my 2021 season

To be a Skyrunner means more than just finishing a 65 or 100km race. It means that this person has committed and devoted at least 6 months of focused training, weekends of sacrificing social events with friends, discipline to follow a healthy diet and spending thousands of rands on quality gear and professional coaching. To be a Skyrunner means that this person does not give up, no matter what! 

These qualities are what makes athletes unique in every walk of life.

I have been so blessed by my heavenly Father with health and ability to run. I had quite a bit of pain in my hipflexor beforehand, and up to my pre-race run, I was not without discomfort. A week before the race, I was still unsure whether I was going to run. And yet I raced the entire day without pain! 

Thank you to our sponsors, K-Way, Biogen, Garmin, Adidas, Buttanut, Hazz, Aramex, 30South, Karoo Pistachios, Almond Girl. You make it easier for us to do the toughest 100k races in the world at remote places like Lady Grey.


Pure Adventures delivered a world class event and it was a privilege to take part, and even more to have mobility and health. If it wasn’t for events which motivates me to train, I would have been a person I would not like to know.

Heaven and Hell Q & A with Trail magazine

By Extreme stuff

How did the name “Heaven and Hell” relate to your experience at the race?

“The name says it all, heavenly views from the top, but absolute hell to get there!” 


Did you appreciate the loop format?

Yes, it made nutrition planning straight forward as you know exactly what you can expect. Our blood pressure and oxygen saturation were taken every 14km. According to my Garmin, my oxygen saturation was on 89% average throughout the race. 


What elements of the race were most challenging?

It becomes extremely difficult to think straight when you are sleep deprived, running 18 hours non-stop and you have to do another 22km, 6-hour lap with 2 000m ascent to finish. 

Is there a particularly funny/interesting/scary/inspiring memory from the race you’d like to share? 

I’ve learned that hours feel like minutes, the impossible is possible, and that our mind is the strongest tool we have!


Would you do it again?

Certainly!

Running through the night and yet 10 hours to go
Aid station setup between laps
Thinking – What did I sign up for…

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

By 40 - 60km21,986 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 - 100km13,573 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