“A boutique running holiday” – that’s how the Wildrun team describes the trail running event along the Wild Coast, and beforehand I thought that was probably over exaggerated a bit... It appears I was wrong! It’s been an incredible experience, beyond my expectations. To learn about how to prepare for such an endurance event as much so as the actual run itself.
Lisa is OmniBlend’s Sales & Marketing manager, and avid runner. In this series she’s sharing what she learned about training for an endurance event, specifically in terms of nutrition.
The Wild Coast Wildrun is one of South Africa’s most sought-after trail runs along the rugged coastline of the Eastern Cape, and appears on many trail runner’s bucket list. As the Wildrun approached, I got a little bit more anxious about what to expect, and how my body would hold out. In preparation of the event, I explored how to optimally train to be able to comfortably run the distance, and remain injury-free. Would it be enough?
The 3-day trail run covers 112km, and as such being able to burn fat for fuel is beneficial. I trained my metabolic efficiency with guidance of Adrian Penzhorn, registered dietitian and sports nutrition coach. Based on Adrian’s recommendations, I’ve been paying specific attention to my protein intake. Following the results of the Fat Max Test, to further improve my metabolic efficiency, I also incorporated both long slow runs, and intervals in my training programme. So at least theoretically I was well prepared!
We arrived in Kei Mouth on the 30thof August, and received a warm welcome from the WildRun crew. It appears to be an event that is so appealing to runners that they come back for it a 2nd, 3rd, and even a 6th time! The atmosphere was relaxed, with a great sense of comradery among the runners. It was very useful to hear about the experiences from previous years, and exchange the last tips & tricks regarding the river crossings and what (not) to pack.
The Wildrun is an experience, not a race. That’s how we approached it too, having put the training effort in to make it an enjoyable experience rather than a gruesome one! Running on trail for 3 days in a row is no easy feat, and preparation makes a huge difference. It all came together during the event, and as we crossed the river with the ferry on the first day, there was nothing left than to just run, take in the scenery, and enjoy the experience!
Picture credit: Mark Sampson
And what an experience it was! The Wild Coast is breathtaking. Wide pristine clean beaches, Nguni cattle grazing on the hills and chilling on the beach, and the trail meandering on and off the hard beach sand onto the cattle trails. Traversing some rock formations, and climbing some increasingly steep hills that offered the most amazing views. Dolphins swam alongside us for kilometers on day 3, adding to the magic of the run.
Every day I ran comfortably, at what felt like a leisurely pace. For nutrition I used Tailwind dissolved in water, which worked great offering plenty of energy and electrolytes to keep me fueled and hydrated. My heartrate during the runs was quite low, meaning I was able to burn mostly fat for fuel and I consumed less than the recommended caloric intake for a run of so many hours, and felt fine. The control points half way the run each day offered some orange, biltong, salted peanuts and other nibbles too, which was a nice snack. For recovery, I took a Tailwind recovery protein shake within 30 minutes after finishing each day.
Picture credit: Mark Sampson
Being able to finish in the top 25% every day, and feel comfortable to be able to enjoy the run and take in the scenery was first prize for me. I participated to celebrate good health, and to enjoy one of the most beautiful places of South Africa in a unique setting. Overcoming the fear of running long distance again, learning about training methods and nutrition, and finding so much joy in running the event made it a fantastic experience. On top of it I finished 3rdLady overall, which made it even more memorable.
Reflecting on the Wildrun, I realized however that participating in such an event is not a stand-alone activity. What entering this type of events brings is a journey of exploring, learning, discovering new places and meeting new people. Defining your own goals, learning about how to achieve these, and then working your way towards achieving it adds an extra dimension to the run. This ‘work’ comprised of many fantastic training runs exploring new routes, being more conscious about my nutrition, and reaching out to people to learn. This is what made the entire experience so incredibly valuable over and beyond the 3-day event, and continues to be so enriching.
For anyone still reading, and interested in which factors apart from nutrition & training may have played a role, I’m sharing a few other factors that I think were beneficial to me.
I haven’t gone very technical on my gear, as this run isn’t a technical trail run. In fact, I ran day 1 on my road running shoes, to go easy on my feet and not wearing the same pair of shoes over 3 days (the road running shoes being a bit softer). I stuck to the same brand for both my road running and trail running shoes, as the brand just fits my foot (go by what suits your feet and don't worry too much about the brand). I took the advise to not take my shoes off before or after a river crossing, and wear a double pair of socks to protect my feet against fine sand. Usually running on thin running socks, the double pair of these thin socks did the trick and prevented blisters.
Aside from the training runs, I’ve been walking a LOT. Outside the border collies loved the longer walks, excited to go out without fail, even on the rainiest of days! At home and at our office I was clocking about 3 hours a day on the treadmill desk, walking while working. Working on a treadmill desk helps to be more active during the day and spend time on your feet, to build stronger leg muscles, and even to develop your core.
Strength & flexibility
I’ve also done strength exercises: squads, lunges, various abs exercises, push-ups, etc. A friend introduced me to Hot Pod Yoga, which was the encouragement I needed to do more for my flexibility, and learn about movements to support flexibility. I was a bit nervous about the hot pod at first: what about the risk to overstretch in the warm environment and cause injuries? The classes were great though, with very good instructors, and small groups. It made a big difference to me in developing both strength, and flexibility.
Science of Ultra was my favourite podcast to listen to and learn more about ultra distance training (and by all means; listening to these stories makes running 112km over 3 days seem like child’s play!). It was useful to hear about experiences, and techniques, and finding a new ‘normal’. One of first shows that I listed to already shared an important lesson: when training for or running an event, remember why you do it in the first place. That reason should keep you on track during training, and during the event when it does get tough.
I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to participate, and the enriching experience it turned out to be. Special thanks to Adrian Penzhorn of Food for Sport for the insights into the right nutrition, which really has been an eye opener.
And if you're now keen to participate in a trail run trough Africa's most beautiful places too, check the other events on the Wildrun calendar.