Stellenbosch residents Landie and Christiaan Greyling will test their ultra-endurance pedigrees at the Penyagolosa Trails in Spain in April, when they tackle the 60km ultra event along with some of the world’s most competitive athletes.
Christiaan, 34, who in December was the first South African to cross the line in the 100km Ultra Trail Cape Town, will be hoping for a top five finish to improve his International Trail Running Association ranking, while Landie, 35, who gave birth to the couple’s son, Christopher, late last year, will be hoping for a top three podium spot.
Prior to Landie’s pregnancy, she was the first woman home at the 2017 Grand Raid Des Pyrenees in Europe and locally, has held titles including champion of the Ultra Trail Cape Town and Otter African Trail Run.
“Penyagolosa Trails is a new race to us, but we have raced in Spain many times and love it, as it is the second most mountainous country in Europe,” Christiaan said.
The event hosted the Ultra World Trail Championships last year and is part of the Ultra Trail World Tour. “I don’t believe in doing too many 100km events in a year, so we are both doing the 60km as a build-up to longer races later this year,” he said.
Preparation for the pair has included the 3-2-2-2 Stage Trail Run in Lesotho and the Trail Du Mont Rochelle in Franschhoek this month.
Landie will also race the Hout Bay Trail Challenge on Saturday, which doubles as the SA Trail Championships. This 40km race will see her racing against the country’s top trail runners and she hopes to do well. “This will give me a good indication of how fit and ready I am for Spain.”
With a five-month-old baby, the pair’s training has had to adapt somewhat. “Time constraints and a lack of sleep mean I am hoping to use muscle memory – less time on the legs more quality work to add speed,” Landie said.
“Juggling being a mom and running has definitely been the most challenging thing that I have done in my running career.
“Our parents don’t live close by so it is hard without the family support. My longest run to date has been one four hour run – breastfeeding, even when you are expressing, means the longer runs are a logistical feat.”
Christiaan intends to focus more on aspects like his diet. “I follow a low-carbohydrate diet and will ensure my body is fat-adapted for race day. I supplement my daily nutrition with vitamins. I have a big aerobic base which will take me through to race day, and this month, I will focus a lot on running and speed work.”
Both consult a biokineticist to assist with biomechanics “to prevent injuries rather than treating them”.
They do weekly and daily strength training including pull-ups, squats, push-ups and planks.
The couple also runs a coaching business, helping other athletes to reach their goals and becoming their best, while Christiaan also has a full-time job as supply chain engineer.
For Christiaan, an ultra trail run is a project plan. “If you want to run 60km in a certain time, you need to consider all the factors, nutrition, where the water stations are and what is available, and know what speed your top three competitors are running the race at.”
“Ultra trail running is a game changer in terms of the mind versus the body. You can be fully prepared physically but if you don’t have the mental strength you just won’t get through the sheer distances and mountain peaks,” Landie said. “After 70km things go pear-shaped and you have to focus on what you can control and forget about what you can’t.”
The sport is “the epitome of freedom, finding myself and discovering the beauty of nature and our creator’s plan for us,” Landie said. “The silence is so overwhelming after all the noises of our daily lives and technology.”
The grit of trail running can be transferred to anything you take on in life, says Christiaan. “You know you can succeed because you’ve tackled difficult things before and won.”