The Marloth Mountain Challenge Ultra Skymarathon® is no small feat. 55km of technical, challenging terrain and around 3500m of elevation gain. Bet your glutes tweaked at the thought of that! Top South African pro, Ryno Griesel, is no stranger to mountains, in fact, he relishes in them. Griesel co-holds the men’s and overall 220km Drakensberg Grand Traverse record with Ryan Sandes (they did it in 41hr29min in 2014), which has a balmy 9000meters of climbing. Forget about your glutes, that calls for a beer to calm the nerves. In this article Griesel chats about his love of mountains, and how to get up them efficiently.
Dreaming to the top
Griesel, an accountant by day and a trail runner in every other aspect of his life, embraces climbing by finding ways to stay motivated, even when the going gets tough.
“I try to remember the sense of achievement I got from reaching the previous summit and use it to motivate me to get the top of the next one,” says Griesel. “I look forward to the view and the sense of achieving something I initially thought impossible. It’s addictive, and always leaves me dreaming for more!”
Sometimes though, having pros tell you that you should use an upcoming view to will your body forwards and upwards doesn’t really make a difference to your climbing. So Griesel shares some practical advice that will get you stronger and confident to tackle the mountains at the Marloth Mountain Challenge.
Getting to the top
Griesel’s first bit of advice is to train on similar terrain and practice climbing equally tough climbs before the MMC, to ensure that you’re ready. On top of that, practice going uphill for long! “We use different muscles climbing steep hills than what we would normally engage in flat and fast running, so try to find longer consistent climbs to teach your body climbing endurance.”
Do you live in a place that is distinctly void of mountains, and concerned you won’t be able to replicate the climbs – don’t stress, Griesel has a plan for you too. “If you don’t have mountains close by (me neither, I live in Gauteng) make the most of your immediate terrain and do your repeats on pavilion stairs.”
Pick up your pace with poles
To make use of trekking poles in a race is completely subjective, unless the race specifically stipulates they are not allowed. If you really struggle getting up climbs, and lose lots of time, why not invest in a pair. “Utilising trekking poles with the right technique can help you climb stronger and save energy,” says Griesel. If you are intending on using trekking poles, be sure to train with them prior to MCC. Another tip from Griesel is to get used to carrying your pack, especially over long distances on during some of your hilly training sessions. “If you are going to race with a back-pack, train hills with it on, as a heavier pack can alter your body posture and alignment which can lead to early fatigue and injuries if you are not used to it.”
When to power hike and when to run
Without sounding repetitive, how you get to the top of a hill is subjective and everybody is different. Some people shuffle, some whine, some run and some power hike. Griesel believes that there is a good time to power hike and a good time to run, and knowing when to do either can help save a lot of energy. “There is always a trade-off between economic running and power-hiking and experience will teach you how and when to alternate between the two.”
Economic Running can be compared to the granny gear on your mountain bike and is best used on a medium incline hill, something that you’d be able to ride up and over in granny gear! To engage in economic running, shorten your stride, increase your cadence and keep your body upright. Use your arms to increase your cadence if need be and look up towards the top of the hill to make your breathing easier.
Power hiking on the other hand is better suited to steep inclines, and can be compared to pushing your bike up a hill too steep to ride! To power hike, use your straight arms (with your hands on your knees) to push yourself forwards and upwards, take big steps and pushing through them with your heels. “You are essentially changing your body into 4x4,” says Griesel, “so you’ll need to increase your power and be more energy efficient at the same time.”
With all that advice your confidence should be significantly boosted, enough to consider entering this tough, but incredible trail race. For more information visit the website!
Article written by Bryony Mc Cormick