Tuesday, October 23, 2012

OTTER / RETTO harder than you think!

Back in 2009 I was luck enough to get to run the 1st OTTER trail race, I didn't have a good run and after swimming the river I spent the rest of the race cramping...

Roll on 2012, with a little more training and a year without injury and again found myself on the start line of one of SA's favorite trail. OK we weren't in the Tsitsikamma National Park at the start of the Hiking trail, we found ourselves on the beach at Natures Valley, the end of the trail... We were running the RETTO, the OTTER in reverse!!!

An early morning gathering of the best of the best...
Let me just side track for a bit, The Otter Hiking trail is a 5 day hike along the coast, and with a waiting list of up to a year, it's a must hike for all hiker, but why hike when you can run.

The count down started and off we shot, OK not quite we had to plant our 'dibber' (the timing chip) before we could head off... The really fast boys were right in front and took off like they were running a track race!!! I took my time and soon found myself passing a couple of people on the beach heading for the first climb of the day!!!

NO I didn't run up those stairs, I walked and at the top I found myself in the 2nd group of guys, the quick boys were gone, and heading for DISASTER!!!

OK this is where I need to tell you another thing, at the start I turned Mr. Garmin on, and he turned himself off!!! I tried again and again, but nothing... I had charged him the night before and for the prologue he had worked just fine... I want to say I don't know what happened, but I think as I unplugged him from being charged he turned himself on (he does this some times, but I normally see this and turn him off) and ran the battery dry over night. So I had to run the race watchless!!! Now for a road race that is no problem, because km for km or mile for mile you can see how far you have run and how much longer you are going to be out there, Not so in the Otter!! First hour or 2 it was OK then but then hours 3-5, I just didn't know how the clock was going, was I need the finish? Just how much longer did I have to run / walk for? was that last hut the last hut, or was there one more!!! I had no clue...

I'm getting ahead of myself, After that climb it was "flattish" till the climb down to the last hut on the trail (our first hut of the day.) I was 2nd in our group behind Greg (who would end up 3rd on the day). My race was going well and when we reached to bottom Ian (the eventual winner) past us on the beach and danced over the rocks as if it was a dance floor. To let you know just how tough this race really is that drop was over 100m and after a short run on the rocky beach past the hut we climbed up the other side... (another 100m climb our 2nd of the day and we had only been at it for 40min...)

I lost a little ground on that climb, but Ian was a man on a mission! At the top I didn't rush, we were less than 10km into the race and with 4hours of running still to go I wasn't worried. Then between 10 and 11km we hit the Mighty Blaauwkrantz:

OK So this is the swim!!! yes we had to swim about 30m before we could stand. That is Ian coming out of the water with Will behind him. The blur at the top right is me about to start my swim, Yes I was still in it...

the rest of the field
The water was beautiful

Straight after the swim, it's up the other side...

OK this climb was 10km further on, and although it looks like another swim, we had crossed the river higher up and it was only knee deep for 10m. If you look carefully you can see the huts to the left of my head and the the path leading down to them. The race doesn't drop to the huts, but follows around the gouge before dropping to the crossing point. just before I started the descent I could see 3 or 4 guys crossing the beach of the river and it looked like Ian, Greg and who knows... So at half way I was still there and there about!!!

But the 2nd half is what sorts the men from the boys, and in my case the young from the old!!! With only 20km to go the front of the race was hotting up and I was cooling down, the endless up and down was taking it's toll. I think I caught another glimpse of them at about 27km the next big river crossing, and in fact as I crossed the beach Mike, the early pace setter was heading back looking to pull out, I think there was blood on his head and his spirit was also broken. He had set out to break 4 hours!!! Since you can't really just pull out he did end up finishing the race in about 6h40!!!

I was still moving, and I caught one of the English men, and together we headed on. Then with about 10km to go (this is all guess work!!!) I had a little crap in my left quad!!! I stopped and walked a few steps down!!! and it went, the English men was gone... I potted on hopping that we were almost finished.

I think I was mentally tired and the legs didn't really want to climb any more. I was walking strong and kept going. Then it happened, Bruce Almighty (Arnett) passed me and like a Duracell Bunny he bounced up the stairs ahead of me... He would beat me by 15min.

The last hut and the race home, I now knew it wouldn't be long now before we hit the rocks and the waterfall and that would signal 2km to the tar... my footing was bad and I lost time as I had to walk more than was needed and although I had caught the English men again, he got away. A couple of other guys also past me, and I know I really should be beating them, but today was not my day. I reach the tar with John and Victor, and the 3 of us jogged the last 1.5km to the finsh together finishing 15, 16, and 17th. 5h09:16.


Yes that is a good time for 42km of single track with 2500m climb, but I feel I'm better than that and could have a 4h30-4h40 in these old legs, but that is a story for another day.

Now I really wanted to end with the picture of the 3 of us finishing together, but that is out there for me to show you guys...


  1. Exhausted just reading about this. Our running experiences are so different, I'll be hitting the concrete round down town Houston this weekend without a river, hill, cliff, rock in sight. Well done not the race, what sort of recovery does this take - similar to a marathon or more I wonder?

    1. No recovery needed, I ran my fastest 10km in over 4 years this last weekend...

  2. So I guess there was no way of keeping your shoes dry.

    This honestly sounds more than just a trail race. It sounds like a war of attrition where only the strong survive. You must be one of the strong.

  3. Great job Coach. Tough race. I think I'll keep my flatlands for marathons. Ha! I can't imagine what MY time would have been if you went over 5 hours. Awesome!