I chat to the 2015 SA Ultra Trail winner, 2016 SA Long Distance Trail winner and top South African female trail runner… Nicolette Griffioen. I asked her a few questions about her training, injuries, achievements and advice for anyone looking at getting into trail running.
Nicolette has been running now for almost 5 years and in a relatively short period of time has achieved some fantastic results!
MK: How did you get into trail running?
NG: I live in a nature reserve and started my running on dirt roads. I’ve never had to run on tar and don’t enjoy it. My first race (which was a 10km close to home) just happened to be trail and I came 3rd so I was hooked!
MK: How much training do you generally do per week on average?
NG: I generally run between 40 and 100km per week depending on the distance of my next race and the phase of my training. I cycle more for cross-training and enjoyment than to be professional although I do compete in off-road triathlons when possible. I’m currently only managing to fit in two rides per week – a 45min spinning class during the week and a mountain bike ride up to 50km on a Sunday.
MK: What is the most challenging part of your training?
NG: intervals and taking proper rest days.
MK: What do you enjoy most about running?
NG: Being outside, breathing fresh air, hearing the birds – training my body while calming mind. Everything really 🙂 Oh, and running with my trail dog and sharing her pure joy at being free!
MK: What are a some of the main events you have taken part in and what are some of your best achievements that you are proudest of?
NG: My first big win which I’ll never forget was at the Dryland Traverse 3-day stage race in 2011. Some of my more iconic races since then include the 100km Ultra Trail Cape Town (my first ultra) which I won in 2014. I’ve done the Otter African Trail Run 5 times and my best position is 2nd place (last year beaten by the brilliant Spanish Emma Roca.)
Also in 2015 I won the Num Num Trail and Crazy Store Magalies Challenges, and had great fun running the African X stage race in a female team with Carla van Huyssteen (we came 2nd.) I raced two ultras in France last year – the world champs in Annecy where I finished in the top 30 females and first SA lady, and the Festival des Templiers in October where I was 6th lady, again first SA lady.
This year I won the Xterra Buffelspoort and the Drakensberg Northern Trail 40km (SA Long Distance Champs 2016)
What I’m probably most proud of were my first races in each distance – my first 10km trail race, my first 20km, my first “mountain race” with lots of climbing, my first stage race, my first international race. These are the ones that stand out most and were the toughest in terms of not knowing what to expect.
NG: My worst injury has been an ITB related issue causing severe knee pain. I wouldn’t say this was a direct result of running but rather a combination of a few small issues. Fortunately, some physio treatment and good rest sorted it out. The most demanding part of my training is back-to-back long runs when preparing for an ultra – maybe 60km on Saturday and 30km on Sunday.
MK: How do you find physio treatment to be beneficial?
NG: As a professional athlete physio is great for a number of reasons. I find that a weekly sports massage relieves tension build-up in my muscles, making them less injury-prone (especially true for my calves.) Secondly, treating any niggles from training is the best way to make sure they don’t escalate into full-blown injuries during a hard race. Finally, a post-race session is great for recovery before you get back to training!
MK: What are your goals for the future?
NG: I only have one goal when it comes to running and that is to always enjoy it… Hopefully I still enjoy it for long enough to travel the world and do a race on every continent!
MK: Your advice for anyone looking at getting into trail running
NG: My advice to non-runners would be to just start training where ever you live – you don’t have to find a trail immediately. To road runners that are keen on trail, I definitely suggest doing a trail running race. If you can run 10km on the road you can run 10km of trail… Doing a race will give you a chance to meet other trail runners and then it’s easy to find out where the best training routes are and maybe join up with a group on the weekend. Trail runners are always very friendly and happy to go out running at almost any time! 🙂