The Otter is NOT about speed!

by André Gie, Otter 2010 winner.
Published in

Andre Gie's face says it all at the end of one of the early Otter African Trail Runs. Photo: Jacques Marais/Sony

Andre Gie’s face says it all at the end of one of the early Otter African Trail Runs.
Photo: Jacques Marais/Sony

If you look at the times run, (which are frikking crazy impressive these days by the way), the Otter is not a race about speed. If you can average just over six minutes a kilometre, you will go sub four hours, and take a lot of cash from the organisers.

Let me reiterate: the Otter is not about speed. It’s about rhythm and strength.

Look for a rhythm. The course changes constantly and whoever finds that rhythm will run a great race. A good mantra is “fast is smooth, and smooth is fast”. You should not feel that you are putting in effort. Relax.

Get strong. The course is up and down, over and over again. The singletrack and coastal sections will make you feel like a wet noodle if you haven’t done your homework. You don’t need gym or core training, just do fun stuff on unstable surfaces. Technical trail running and hiking, rock climbing, paddling, and surfing will all make you strong.

Train in the environment. If I have time to do stuff, I’ll rather do something rad and outdoors. I do climb and used to paddle lots (paddling in my opinion is the best extra training a runner can do, but the paddling in Cape Town isn’t as rad as Knysna). For leg strength, I’d rather hike and scramble up steep stuff than do lunges, thank you.

Need a strength boost? If you really feel the need to do extra strength, just do something that requires carrying a pack uphill. Trad climbing is the business for this. Carry 10kg or more of gear up steep hills beats squats every day.

Study strength tweaks. For the most epic book on training, read Training for the New Alpinism, by Steve House and Scott Johnston. Best training book for any outdoor athlete to read.

Aim for efficiency. Find out where your tipping point is with running and walking. Often it’s quicker overall to walk sections that are uphill so that you are fresh for the runnable sections.

Train on trail. Don’t do too much on the road. A frikking strong hike ability is much more important than leg speed.

Don’t dehydrate. Cool yourself off at every opportunity.

Don’t carry too much. A small pack helps to eliminate unnecessary gear. Consider a pack-vest, which fits close and makes running technical terrain easier.

Get shoes that are low to the ground. For me, Salomon’s S-Lab Sense/Sense Pro models are the way forward.

Good vibes and high fives!