Robyn Owen slays the Otter
11 September 2016
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live and over the last weekend there was an incredible run down along the most gorgeous part of the South African coastline. It’s known as the grail of trail, the Otter run. It’s iconic in trail running circles and what a race it was.
Last year was fantastic, this year I think was even better. An incredible performance both on the men’s and ladies’ side. But we’re joined now by the ladies’ winner Robyn Owen. Robyn, welcome onto Old Mutual Live, thanks for joining us.
Robyn Owen: Hi, thanks Brad, thanks for having me.
BB: Robyn, let me just set the scene, for people who’ve been around the sporting scene for many years, they might recognise the name Robyn Kime. You’re now married so married life is obviously treating you well.
RO: Yes, very well, thanks Brad.
An awesome surprise to win Otter
BB: Let’s talk about that run at the Otter, an incredible race. I mean yes, you won, congratulations on that but from a race perspective what a race. It was neck in neck pretty much right to the end.
RO: Yes, absolutely. I couldn’t have expected anything like how it went off. There was such a stacked ladies field and I was thinking: Well, maybe a top 10 finish would be good. Yes, just it felt great on the day to be running alongside an international superstar like Stevie Kremer.
I was just chuffed to be there in the beginning and hoped to hang on as long as I could. It happened to suit me that the last few K’s were extremely technical which is my strength and I got away but I’m overwhelmed, I can’t believe it went as well as it did.
BB: Yes, I mean Stevie’s pedigree speaks for itself. She’s a fantastic runner but it was quite an interesting race in the sense that your strengths are slightly different to hers. So on the climbs and that she would pull away but you were obviously stronger on the technical stuff and the descent. The lead was constantly changing hands. How soon into the race did you think: You know what, I might have a shot at this?
RO: Maybe about three quarters of the way in I thought that I think maybe I can hang in there and get it. In the early stages of the race I was very happy to be up there but I was expecting to blow. I was thinking: This is too hard, I don’t normally run this hard, I’ll probably blow. But it’ll be a good day anyway. Just close to the end I started thinking that maybe I’ll pull it off.
The advantage of no expectations
BB: I read that, that you said you were just going to go out and see what happens, go out as hard as you can and if it comes off, it comes off. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. It’s brave to approach a race in that sort of manner but when it pays off it pays off spectacularly. But on the flipside of the coin, when it goes wrong it can go wrong badly too.
RO: Absolutely and I had a massive advantage coming into this race in that I had no expectations. I’ve never performed well at a massive trail running race before and I had absolutely nothing lose. If I’d blown halfway and ended up finishing the race 20th there wouldn’t have been, nobody would’ve looked down on me and said: We wanted you to win.
BB: Yes, you say you’ve never performed well at a trail run but people like I said, who’ve been around the South African sporting landscape for many years will know your name, particularly in paddling circles. You’ve really made a name for yourself in paddling. You had a very good Fish River again this year so you’re still paddling. Do you think coming from a different sporting background has helped and taken the pressure off slightly?
RO: Most definitely. Yes, I felt a lot less nervous at the start than I would’ve at the start of a big paddling race, for instance. When you’ve won a couple of Dusi’s and then you’re lining up there as the favourite you can feel the pressure of all the eyes on you. It definitely makes it more difficult going into the race. You’ve got to be more sure of your strategy and there’s a lot more nerves. Whereas it’s great when it’s your first time. You’ve definitely got a bit of a mental advantage from that side.
BB: Let’s talk about firsts. It was your first Otter, from an experience perspective what were you expecting coming into it? Did it live up to expectations, did it exceed them? Tell me a little bit about what you were thinking leading into the race.
RO: I did the Otter three years ago in the other direction so I knew what it was like out there, I knew it was absolutely beautiful. I had an idea of what the trail was like and just knew it’s one of the best sections of trail to run so it could never have been a bad day.
BB: Yes, absolutely.
RO: Worse case you take a long time but I could spend 10 hours on that trail very happily.
BB: Is it one of those runs that you just have to do as a trail runner, it’s there and you know what, we’ve got some amazing trails to run. But the Otter is just, there’s something special about it?
RO: It is, it’s iconic and I think the organisers just make the event really world class. It’s such a privilege to be a part of it so I’d definitely recommend everyone put it on their Bucket List.
Loving tackling multiple endurance challenges
BB: I say year after year after year I want to run the thing, I need to just set the goal and go and do it because it looks absolutely incredible. But Robyn, you’ve had a pretty good year so far from a performance perspective across the board. I mean, I mentioned the Fish but we chatted about it, funnily enough, here on the podcast, the Rhino challenge as well. You had a pretty impressive performance there just a few weeks ago as well, so things are looking up for you.
RO: Yes, definitely. That Rhino Peak Challenge was a fantastic event to be a part of, I guess not really a race as such. But it was a race and it was fantastic to be a part of raising so much money towards conservation as well. I think it’s big ups to those organisers for putting together such a novel event. I hope it grows from strength to strength every year. I’d really love to be back and involved next year.
BB: Yes, I think so too. It just puts a nice angle on it, there’s so many great runs, let’s be honest, we are truly blessed to live where we do live. When you get a race like that or a run like that put on and there’s a different angle it definitely peaks the interest.
Robyn, I need to ask you when do you actually rest because I know you’re leaving shortly for Australia to take part in the World Adventure Sport Championships as part of South African team Painted Wolf. Do you ever take any time off?
RO: Yes, I take a lot of time off. This year I did a big adventure race in February and since then I’ve really not done very much. The last three weeks have been busy with the Rhino Peak challenge and then the Fish Hoek and then the Otter. But up until now I’ve had quite a chilled year and now I’m going to rest quite a bit in the next two weeks before we leave for Australia.
BB: What are you guys hoping to achieve in Australia?
RO: You’re always hoping to win so it’s the biggest, most competitive adventure racing field ever. In an adventure race there’s so many things that can go wrong and you can never predict the outcome exactly but I think we’ve got a very strong team. We’re extremely excited about thrashing it out there against all the best teams in the world.
BB: Sounds brilliant. You obviously love the outdoors and just being active. Out of all the things you do, the paddling, the adventure racing and the trail running and that sort of thing what’s your favourite, what do you absolutely love doing?
RO: I absolutely love all of it. I think also it’s always a challenge to train for more than one sport at a time but I think that challenge is perhaps also a bit of a blessing in disguise. I believe that most of the top athletes over train and when you’ve got to try and balance three you’re always slightly undertrained at each one but I think that that’s better than being over trained.
BB: It’s interesting you say that because, like you say, a lot of the top guys stick to one discipline, to what they do and they absolutely smash it, they put in hours and hours and hours. But do you find that doing the cross training and I use the term cross training because it doesn’t matter whether you’re on a bike or if you’re swimming or whatever. Have you found that it’s helped the other disciplines?
Like your paddling’s helped your running from a cardio perspective or your running’s helped your paddling? I know that in a lot of the paddling races there are portages so you’d need that running background if you want to be competitive but do you find that that the one makes you stronger in the other?
RO: I think so. I’ve never really focused on purely one enough to know whether that would be better or not but I think the cardio fitness definitely translates and probably the biggest advantage is avoiding injury. You’re still training your cardio systems but you’re doing a wide range of different activities and you’re much less likely to injure one specific body part.
BB: Yes, I’m a huge fan of cross training. It also alleviates boredom that when you are getting a bit sick of one thing you can switch across, do something else and almost get your love back for the thing you were getting bored of.
RO: Absolutely yes, the mental side of it is probably just as important as the physical.
BB: Well Robyn Owen, congratulations once again on your Otter win, fantastic run. Best of luck for the trip to Australia. We’re going to be following you closely and hopefully it’s a South African victory especially in Australia. We love beating the Aussies but it’s even better when we do it in Australia.
RO: Thanks Brad.