I still can’t put my finger on what makes this race one of the best in the world, but I know it comes down to the beauty of the trail and the organizers - Magnetic South. I have never been to such a fun, exciting, happy and meaningful event. They add that extra bit of magic that no one can quite grasp.
The 2016 RETTO was the most exciting and most talked about race this year. Especially the ladies field! If I had a Rand for every time I heard someone say; “Wow, deep ladies field this year”, I would be so rich!
A definite highlight of the race was having the wonderful Stevie Kremer here from Colarado. Other strong ladies included Kerry – Anne Marshall (Comrades gold medalist), Robyn Owen (5 x Dusi winner and adventure racer), Nicolette Griffion (2 x ultra distance SA champ), Katya Sogget (winner of Two Oceans Trail) and Tish Jones (Cape Town Marathon winner). Usually the spotlight is on the men; but for obvious reasons this year it all about the ladies.
The roller coaster weekend begins with the prologue – a 4.8km speedy time trail which simulates what the Otter trail has in store. Very sadly, Kerry Anne had a horrible misfortune during the prologue and hurt her knee, I felt absolutely heartbroken for her. She was a definite favourite for the win and put her heart and soul into the preparation for the race. In true ‘Kerry – Anne style’ she remained the positive, twinkly person she is and supported us whole heartedly throughout the weekend. I can’t wait to see her absolutely fly next year!
Race day dawned with much excitement in the air. The 2km beach section settles everyone into a steady rhythm before the relentless ups and downs begin. I know it sounds cheesy – but I had to pinch myself as I found myself running with all these incredible athletes.
The field tends to spread out pretty fast. The twisty-turny, foresty nature of the race means that you don’t know where everyone else is. They could be 2 minutes or 20 minutes ahead and you wouldn’t know. As usual on this race, I found myself running alone for 90 % of it. It is the most breathtaking trail. From forest, to beach, to pebbly river crossings, to rocks shelves – not for one minute did I feel bored or long for it to end. I fell into a kind of trance for most of it, totally in my own world. I actually really struggled to maintain race focus. I found I would run for ages before remembering it was Retto 2016 and crunch time.
One thing I’ve learnt is how much all the little bits add up in a race. The line that you pick, your river crossings, tumbles and navigating tricksy rock sections all add up to an important amount of time.
Being alone for a lot of the race I had only myself to enjoy the trail with. At the last river crossing, I chose an absolutely shocking line and found myself on hands and knees half crawling through the deepest part of the flowing river. I don’t know how I got myself into that predicament but I won’t forget that moment when I burst out laughing at myself for choosing such a terrible line.
Before I knew it, I recognized the dreaded last rocky section looming. I had been so nervous for this part because technical running – although I’ve improved a lot – isn’t my forte. I surprised myself as my race mentality finally kicked in and I ended up running the last 5km split out of the ladies.
Having done the Otter twice before; I knew what was in store; and I was way too conservative in the first half of the race. I so desperately didn’t want to blow (as I have done previously) that I saved too much energy. I finished the race feeling so strong and full of bounce. This was a wonderful feeling but I do regret not giving it more. But… You live and learn, and I don’t doubt that I will learn from this experience.
I cut 10 minutes off my time which was not enough to get me on the podium but it was a good improvement. And I figure that if I can keep shaving at least 10 minutes off, I’ll get to that stop step one day.
The biggest shout out of the weekend needs to go to the one-and-only-super-human Robyn Owen. This humble girl ran the race that every trail running girl dreams of. I am so proud and happy to be her friend. She has big things ahead of her!
Enormous thank you’s to Salomon for the incredible support, Rush Nutrition for keeping my nutrition spot on for the whole race – no sugar lows, dips or tummy issues. And BOS Sport for the much needed muscle recovery afterwards and Sunnto for helping me to track the incredible +2500m of climbing. Mark, John, Christine and Belen – you guys ROCK!