Triathlon – A fine base for Ultra Trail Running – Odessa Perelson


There is no doubt that training three disciplines gives you an advantage when it comes to endurance and cross training events.

And thank goodness for that, because my ultra distance trail run training has been severely lacking!


Lining up for my first ultra running distance at the start of the Giants Cut Uncut, 65km one day trail run in the Drakensburg, was very much like lining up for my very first 70.3.  I knew it was going to take most of the day, I had to consciously think about my nutrition, and I wasn’t quite sure that I was going to be able to finish.

I had the advantage of running the same trail over two days earlier this year, where John proposed in the setting of the tall rocks along the river.

With this sentimentality, and some familiarity of the route, the first 42km went fairly quickly.  The next 21km was an unfamiliar distance.  How will the legs hold?  Can I mentally complete another half marathon?  Have I controlled my nutrition correctly?

What I did learn is that although you stay warm when moving, after 42km you naturally slow down.  And with the rain and wind that again started pelting into my eyes and an ear (depending on the direction I was facing), the single digit temperature started taking effect on my fingers, hands and toes.

7h30m later after 2800m of climbing in cold and rainy conditions, crossing the finish line as 2nd lady in this inaugural event was very rewarding.

65km?  It can be done.


Otter Trail Run.  The “Holy Grail of Trail”.  If you have the privilege and honour of gaining an entry to this event, then do it.

If you are an experienced trail runner however, take the hype with a pinch of salt.

There is no qualifying race, but the way they speak of the gruelling conditions, you would think you’d need a full medical examination and a sky-diving practical to participate.

Not saying that the terrain isn’t difficult.  Its a 41km obstacle course over rocks along the coast, and up and down stairs in the forest.

In some places, if you had to trip and fall, and roll 5 metres away from the path, you will fall off a cliff and die.  Or you’d land at the bottom and have to wait for help.  For this reason they make safety gear compulsory.

The weather conditions being less than perfect, with wind and rain again on the menu, we were required to carry “Level 3” compulsory gear, comprising of the regular space blanket, strapping, whistle, and cellphone, as well as a thermal long sleeve, a fleece long sleeve, a long sleeve rain jacket with hoody, a buff, and a backpack.  This backpack was “new gear” for me as I usually run with a waist belt.  I didn’t know that the hydration bladder had a stop valve, and lost all my water in the first 10km without noticing the leak in the rain.  “Never try anything new on race day” – unless the race organisers threaten to penalise you if you don’t.

With John’s persistence, we had this honour, and found both of us qualifying in the top 30 men and women after the 3km prologue the day before the race.

With all the admin over, we could finally enjoy what we came out to do – run the exquisite Otter Trail.

The elevation gain is 2600m.  But there are no mountains like the Drakensburg.  The elevation is made up of mainly 8 short, steep climbs, with very large, knee-breaking steps.

There were two short swims (piece of pie for a triathlete), and plenty of ankle deep river crossings.

With only one food station (sponsored by GU) along the way, we had to carry most of our own nutrition, with the option of filling up water at the huts or at some of the rivers that were marked with a “safe drinking” sign.

41km went quickly over 6hr57m, to claim another 2nd place female position in the Otter Challenge race.  (The pros raced for prize money in the “Otter Run” race two days later, in glorious weather conditions.)

John also had a great race, finishing in 7h43m and in the top 30 men.


1. When it’s wet and windy, what really matters is the predicted air temperature.  The extra buff is necessary in the Drakensburg, but only acts as a sponge in the double figure temperatures of the coast.

2. When there is rain, ziplock EVERYTHING.  The sponge effect is real.

3. Train in all weather conditions.  Easier said than done right?

4. Know your trail shoes.  You can’t take a 4×4 into the jungle on road tyres.  And just because the tyre is pretty and has a branded name, does NOT mean they are any good for your terrain.  There are no fashion shows in the bush.

5. Nutrition is practised.  I have found that I prefer plain water, and wont eat more than one gel or bar an hour, no matter the distance.  Where John on the other hand needs to carry a picnic basket, directly proportional in size to the duration of the event.

6. Half Ironman training can get you through a long-distance trail run.  As if you needed another reason to tri!



– Odessa Perelson


Author: Tissink_Admin

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