Carla van Huyssteen – a sucker for punishment
01 January 1970
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Brad Brown: Welcome onto Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. It’s quite nice this time of the year to talk about some other things other than the Old Mutual Two Oceans and Comrades. Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with those races. But it’s time to realise that there is life after those races and there’s some pretty cool things on the calendar and the horizon here in South Africa.
We’ve got some athletes who are phenomenal athletes in their own rights that don’t particularly race those races. We’ve got one of those athletes on the podcast today. It’s great to catch up once again, Carla van Huyssteen, welcome onto Old Mutual Live.
Carla van Huyssteen: Thank you very much for having me.
BB: Carla, you come from a very multi-sporty background, obviously you’re a very strong runner. That I would guess is your forte and you love running. But looking at 2015, you had quite an up and down year coming off a big injury, you ended up breaking your wrist.
Then end of the year you were racing really well, back into it, obviously rejuvenated after the break. But this year, 2016, has been pretty rough for you from a racing perspective. It’s been go, go, go, pretty much from the beginning of the year.
Being a Jane of all trades keeps you busy
CVH: That’s correct. Sometimes you make the mistake of after ending a year very well, just sort of going at it again at the beginning of the next year, especially with our racing calendar. From January onwards it was literally back to back racing from Jan/Feb/March. Being a multi-sport athlete and a very enthusiastic one as well, I do tend to keep myself very busy.
If it’s Xterra’s or if it’s trail running or even, I did Tour of Good Hope, which is a pure road race. Then the weekend thereafter did African X trail running. I have been sort of pounding my body a little bit at the beginning of the year. Somewhere along the line I’ll have to think of resting somewhere.
BB: You find it had to say no, don’t you?
CVH: I have the biggest FOMO ever, I don’t know. I know people say you suffer from it and everyone seems to be suffering from it these days. But I know I just love racing and I love going to the events really. Sometimes the racing part of it, it’s not that enjoyable if you’re tired. But just the event itself is always so well represented and I just love going to all the different races. Ja, I do have a little thing, I’ll race till I’m dead. But I think that’s not necessarily the cleverest way of going about it.
Mixing it up with all different kinds of events
BB: No, if you carry on like that, this might kill you, that’s probably not the best way to do it. You recently did an IMPI Challenge, I think it was your first one for a couple of years. You ended up winning the thing, that’s quite an interesting change as well, to again, it’s multi-sport, but it’s slightly different.
CVH: The IMPI Challenges are really nice. I must say, I really enjoy going to them. It’s a really good day out. I love trail running, I love getting into different nature scenes. You get to go to the reserves and the IMPI, what I enjoy about it is you sort of go and then you have to stop to get over this little obstacle. I get these little mini breaks which I usually need by the time I get to the next obstacle.
The organisers have really been very good at sticking to their values, keeping it, not simple, but keeping it manageable, obstacle-wise. That if you’re a good athlete, and overall athlete with upper body strength as well as lower body strength, you can get over the obstacles, which is really nice.
Love the Knysna Oyster Festival
BB: Carla, let’s talk about what’s on the cards for you because you’ve got quite a busy few months ahead. I think the last time I saw you was at the Knysna Oyster Festival a couple of years ago, at the Big Five. It’s an event that you love doing, it’s at an interesting time of the year. Because, I don’t want to say it’s in the off season, but it’s in the middle of winter.
It’s a fabulous event, if someone has never done it before, I’d really suggest it. The two runs particularly are very special. That Featherbed Trail Run is spectacular and then the Knysna Oyster Festival or the Knysna Marathon or half marathon is definitely one to do. You end up doing all five and you’ve been roped into doing all five again this year.
CVH: That’s true. I must say, it’s so difficult to stay away after you’ve been there and experienced the whole week. I think sometimes I promise myself I’m going to go out there and just enjoy it, but being really competitive.
Obviously we all go out as hard as possible. Each day I keep on telling myself, just go and enjoy it, just run and don’t put so much pressure on yourself. As competitors and professional athletes, we tend to always want to just go out as hard as possible. But I’ll definitely be going back to Oyster Festival this year.
I know Andrea Steyn who won the festival last year, she’s going back as well and maybe myself and her will link up a little bit and enjoy the week together. We’ve actually got this ASICS Beat the Sun race coming up, which I’m very privileged to be going to. It’s six South Africans going, well not six, actually the African team, there are six athletes. We’re going to go and race around Mont Blanc. It’s an opportunity, I literally cannot say no to.
The intrigue of Beat the Sun
BB: That race is quite interesting. We’ve chatted about it before here on the podcast to Dawid Visser actually. It’s going to be interesting to get someone else’s take on it. But it’s a wonderful opportunity and yes, it’s a marketing tool for ASICS, the running brand. But gee, from an athlete’s perspective, it must be pretty exciting to be part of a race like that. Tell us the mechanics of it, exactly how it works for someone who possibly hasn’t heard about it?
CVH: So, ASICS Beat the Sun is basically a race that ASICS Europe is putting on. It’s a race against the sun around the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc. So basically the event is on exactly the same trail as the ultra trail is run on. It’s in a sort of relay between the different continents.
We have six team members in every continent team. Then you have to beat the sun as in from sunrise to sunset, to get around the whole course. As well as then, there’s a little competition between obviously the different continents as well.
The sections are varied between 3km to about 30km and there’s 13 different sections. Then we’ll all be ending up running, I think, two sections and then one lucky or unlucky athlete needs to do three sections. I’ve looked at the different sections and I’ve seen the race that was last year and it looks absolutely spectacular. I also saw that the athletes were suffering quite a lot. If you’re not used to the uphill, but especially also the descending. It’s a lot of descending, as much as you’re climbing, you’re actually running downhill as well.
The European teams that I’ve seen, they’re very well adjusted to those descending. But I think that’s actually something that can get you more than you actually think. Basically the whole race will be based, we’ll be based in Chamonix and I’ve never been there. So I’m absolutely thrilled to be going there and just seeing those spectacular mountains.
BB: There are so many races, you talk about not being able to say no. There’s so many races, not just in South Africa, we’re so blessed here Carla. Just with the amount of races we’ve got access to. But globally, what are some of the ones on your list that you still want to tick off before you kick the bucket?
What races are still to be conquered?
CVH: As in South African races or international races?
BB: A bit of both.
CVH: There’s too many! That’s my problem at the moment. Luckily this year I did the Sani2c, which was one of the Bucket List mountain biking stage races that I really wanted to do. I got the opportunity to be racing that this year.
Then I think on the trail running side, stuff like the Otter and the Cape Town Ultra Marathon and mainly the off road. I’m not that interested really in the road running scene, I don’t think my knees and my hips are particularly well adjusted to road running.
On the off road, trail running scene, there’s so many mountain runs and just in KZN where I’m staying, there is really a lot of the trail runs. The multi-stage trail runs that I would really want to do. Even the Sky Run, even if I can’t do the long one, maybe even the shorter one.
Then Epic on the mountain biking scene and going back to XTERRA World Champs in Maui on the off road triathlon scene. Even the ultra runs in Europe, doing the ultra runs, I would love to be able to do it. That’s something I haven’t really delved into. I don’t know how my body will actually react to that. But then hopefully by the time I hit ultra running, I’ll be able to focus on just running instead of trying to spend time in the pool and on the bike.
I don’t know. I did the Cape Town Argus Cycle Tour this year, so that’s also a tick that I did. For the rest of the year though, I’ll be doing the ASICS race and then doing the Big Five and going to ITU Cross World Champs at the end of the year as well as doing the dual x that’s still up and coming. There’s still a lot of races coming up.
When will the time come to focus on one discipline?
BB: You’re obviously still loving the multi-sport side of things and keeping yourself busy with that, do you see yourself at some stage in your career, in the future, focusing on just one of them? Whether it be mountain biking or running or swimming or whatever it is? Do you see yourself as the years go by, you’re going to continue on the multi-sport trip?
CVH: I’ve sort of made up my mind to try and just start running next year. Obviously with being a multi-sport athlete, it takes such a lot of time if you want to do it at a high level. Becoming professional is almost the only choice I had if I really wanted to perform well and achieve a few of my smaller goals or bigger goals in triathlon and off road triathlon specifically.
Then maybe going into next year, we’re actually opening a little business in Hilton, so maybe I’ll have to go back to work a little bit or I’ll have to support my husband in the business. Then I thought of actually just focusing on trail running. I don’t know how long that’s going to stick though because I have FOMO of just missing out on all these amazing mountain bike rides that are around our area as well.
I’ve always had this thing that I would love to run and maybe see how well I can perform or just see how well my running can actually become if I only focus on that. Maybe next year you’ll see me at the Otter or a few of the bigger running races, I’m sort of trying to get my mind heading in that direction.
BB: Carla, I have to ask this, you live in KZN where Comrades Marathon was not that long ago. You’re a South African, I’m sure if I ask you this question, what are your memories of Comrades as a kid. You probably watched it, have you got any ambitions to maybe one day run that thing or is that, that’s just another level of crazy and I’m not interested?
CVH: I think I’m definitely interested in running the Comrades at a stage, but I think at the moment there’s so many off road road running that I would want to do first. Maybe if I have more distance on my legs and I start going on half marathons and marathons and see that I’m actually able to do it.
At this stage I don’t want to cause massive injury because my focus is more triathlon and I mean in an off road triathlon, you want to be able to run a fast 10km or a fast 15km. Speed-wise I still want to improve my speed a lot and I don’t really want to lose that now.
But I think it’s a confidence thing for me. I think once I get to run longer distances and see that it’s actually a possibility for me, ja, maybe I’ll definitely join the hoard of people getting there, going along the race to the coast. Maybe I’ll try the Up run before I go for the Down run though.
BB: I love it, Carla, best of luck, we look forward to seeing you out there. We love watching you race and ja, you’ve got lots on the cards. I don’t want to say rest well because you need to get some training in there at some stage, but all the best.
CVH: Thank you very much and ja, good luck to you and I hope to hear from you again.