Kane Reilly has been moving closer to a podium in recent years, and 2015 may be his year, according to former Otter winners. Photo: Jacques Marais/Sony

Hill repeats: only cure for Otter Bite?

by Kane Reilly, best times: 2012 Retto (5th overall in 4h48min) and 2013 Otter (4th in 4h28min).
Published in http://www.gomulti.co.za

The 42km distance of the Otter’s pristine Garden Route trail is not what delivers the infamous Otter Bite. It’s the many short, steep, and often stepped climbs that do.

With an aggressive up-down-up-down route profile that resembles nothing else you’ll find in SA, it’s important you approach training differently.

Vertical matters. In your training in these last weeks to the event, focus on vertical gain, not only kilometres covered. Whether you’re running, walking, or crawling, perfect uphill practice makes perfect. Personally, I think that judging intervals on vertical metre gain rather than time or distance is a good idea. Do sets of intervals between 50m and 100m vertical gain. Try adding one of these sets into your week over the next six weeks. It will go a long way to getting you conditioned for the Otter climbs.

Get conditioned for what’s coming. Try adding some short hill repeats to your training which simulate the steep stepped Otter climbs.

Find climbs that simulate Otter’s. (There are anything from 7-11 significant climbs, depending on whose measure you use – Ed). Look for local climbs that are stepped and preferably extremely steep.

Race day tips. Once they hit you (and you will appreciate the deliberate use of hit – Ed), embrace the climbs. The more you enjoy a climb, the smoother it’ll be. This doesn’t mean attack them all! The classic ‘don’t overcook the beginning’ applies here. Climb within yourself, and embrace every step that comes your way.

Power hike or run, that is the question. I think the running versus power hiking choice is highly individual. Some athletes power hike a lot tactically, but personally I prefer to run slowly up climbs, taking small steps. The key isn’t whether you are hiking or running, but rather that you aren’t burning too much fuel too early in the race. If you feel your heart rate is getting too high, hiking is a good idea.

Podium pressure? Nah. Eleven months ago I just wasn’t sure what kind of running I’d be able to do again. So I’m just stoked to be running Otter!

Kit you recommend. I’ll be running in Salomon’s loose-fitting shorts, The Salomon Sense 4 hard grounds (perfect for the forest and coastal terrain), with a three-litre Salomon S-Lab hydration pack.