Otter Trail Run prep:

I had an interesting conversation the other day about the Otter Trail Run so I thought it worthwhile to post some ideas and advice I would give those planning to take part in this premier event.
The Otter is one of the most memorable events that I did in 2009. I believe it is harder than HBTC (35 km), Rhodes Trail Run (52 km) and much harder than Baviaanskloof Trail Run (35km for 2009 route). These are the closest to the distance of the Otter. OK so now that I have scared most of you let’s get down to what is involved: There is over 2000m of ascent (and descent). This is broken down into short, very sharp ascents and fast, steep down hills. This quick switch between up and down takes a lot of fitness.
As the organisers website states you will probably take 70 to 100% LONGER than your normal marathon finishing time assuming that you are trail running fit. This seems pretty accurate from the very random sample I took of runners. So if you are in 3h marathon shape then you are looking at a finish time of around 6h.
Ok so how do you achieve this fitness in order to complete the Otter in under the 9h cut-off?
Remember this cut-off is tight and I would suggest you take your preparation seriously.

1) You need to learn how to run single track. 99% of the Otter is single track.

2) You need to learn to do steep climbs and descents: 2000m/40km means that for every km you climb (and loose) 50m so over 10km you need to climb and loose 500m in your training. Anything else is flat!
3) You will need to practice running with a pack. Personally I had quite a big debate around bottles vs bladder for the Otter. Bladder won and it will do again every time for this event.
4) You will have to swim for at least one river crossing. In other words your shoes will get wet. Use a good anti chafe product and the best socks you can find. BTW do not let the swim freak you. There are plenty of safety personnel who will look after you.
I found the Otter to be really hot and humid. You are running under a canopy of trees all the time. The race organisers require you to wear your race bib for the duration of the event. I chose not to wear a t-shirt under this as I was worried that I would overheat. I would do the same next time too.
I carried essential emergency items in two small Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Drysacks. A 1L and a 4L were sufficient- I think. I did not care if food etc got wet. On the subject of food: I was almost caught short on my standard rations. I found this run took quite a lot calories and I was very glad for all the goodies at the halfway refuel point. Cater accordingly!
I hope that I have not freaked anybody out too much. I recon it is better to be realistic about what is involved rather than hope for miracles on the day.
Above all enjoy the training and the run on the day! It is truly an unforgettable experience!
Hope this helps. Let me know either way.

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