It has been ages since I profiled anyone on
Rockhoppin’ Trail. Back in 2013 it had been my plan to write regular profiles,
but somehow life, time and training got in the way and instead I stuck to
the loose, unscheduled kind of style that is more appropriate for Rockhoppin’
There’re no rules for who gets to be
profiled on Rockhoppin’ Trail – I decide! The person can be South African or
international, man or woman, short or tall, young or old, carb crazy or
paleo… There’re only two criteria:
- they must have achieved something incredible
on trail; and
- they can’t simply be amazing people we've heard or read about – I must have met them personally.
Because of time constraints and trail
distractions, I’ve only profiled a handful, but they’ve all been impressive.
Check on each to read their interviews:
And now I reckon it’s about jolly time I
profiled another great achiever. This time it’s the young South African dynamo,
Robyn Owen (nee Kime).
| (photo by Terence Vrugtman)|
Robyn wasn’t widely known in trail running
circles until recently, when she stormed this year’s Retto version of the Otter
Trail Run (the Otter route in reverse). She not only smashed an incredible 22
minutes off the women’s Retto record, and became the first women to achieve a
sub-5 for that direction (by a massive margin of over 10 minutes), but achieved
the fastest women’s time for either
Suddenly the name Robyn Owen was on
everyone’s lips in the trail running community – who was this kid, where’d she
come from? But young Robyn is no dark horse – she is an athlete extraordinaire
who has been excelling in pretty much every adventure sport she’s taken up.
She’s enormously talented, she’s not afraid to face the most gruelling of
endurance challenges, she’s strong and she’s fast. But what makes Robyn extra
special is that she’s one of the most humble athletes out there. That puts her
permanently on the top o’the podium in my books!
| (photo by Terence Vrugtman)|
I first met Robyn in 2013, running the 37km
Matroosberg Skymarathon. She amazed everyone that day – seemingly coming from
nowhere, she not only scooped a clear win in the ladies by a massive margin,
but kept the lead men on their toes. She finished 5th overall, just
20 mins behind race winner AJ Calitz, and just seconds behind speedsters Ake
Fagareng and Noel Ernstzen, who both panicked they were about to get chicked!
Profession: civil engineer
Achievements: Apart from
whipping the Retto, Robyn has…
Passions: (apart from Mike) Loves wild, beautiful spaces, seeing new places, meeting
interesting people and creatures, being active, challenges, competing…
- smashed the Dusi Canoe Marathon five times
– three wins in a K2 (pair) and two wins in a K1 (solo);
- represented SA at the World Long Distance
Mountain Running champs 2013 in Poland, finishing 24th as the
highest SA finisher;
- raced with Team Merrell Adventure Addicts
in adventure races in Swaziland, Australia, Brazil and Chile;
- raced with Team Sanlam Painted Wolf in the
2016 World AR Champs in Australia. Out of 99 teams they finished 4th,
overtaking a team just 3km before the end in an impressive sprint finish.
in life: Still to be determined. In the meantime she’s having as much fun and accumulating as many rich
experiences as possible.
| Robyn and Mike doing what they love best (photo by Mike Owen)|
LD: Your Retto win must’ve rocked your world – it
certainly rocked the entire trail community! Looking back, what are your
thoughts on that day?
The strong ladies field was a major topic of the Otter in the days
leading up to the race. My name made the long list of favourites but only near
the bottom. Being in the enviable position of having nothing to lose, I could
afford to run a bold race.
my pleasant surprise nobody sprinted off the start line; the front ladies pack
ran the first 2 km across the Nature's Valley beach together at a fairly
civilised pace. As we got to the end of the beach Stevie (Ed: Kremer) pulled
slightly ahead to enter the trail first and I tucked in behind her for the
first hands-on-knees climb. I then stayed on her heels for the first half of
the race – on an absolute high the whole time. At Bloukrans I couldn't believe
how well my day was going – to be sharing the lead of "The Grail of
Trail" with the super-star of trail running after 10 km was already more
than a dream come true. If I'd blown and limped in last, or even if I'd pulled
out later on, I still would've classified it as a good day.
|Robyn hot on the heels of Stevie Kremer during the Retto|
year there was a slide into the Bloukrans river and we decided to go down it
together (there was a prize for the best slide photo of the day). Unfortunately
the water at the bottom was less than knee-deep and Stevie hurt her ankle as I
landed on top of her. She ran on as if nothing had happened and never mentioned
a word about it in the post-race interviews, but later that afternoon it was
very swollen and she walked with a definite limp. I still feel pretty guilty
and think the result might have been different if that hadn't happened.
after the halfway point I started battling to match Stevie's pace on the
climbs, and knew that I'd have to make up for it on the descents if I was to
keep in contention. On a particularly long technical descent I passed her and
got a lead which I managed to hold for a few kilometres, but then she came
jogging past as I heaved up a climb I would never have thought runnable and
disappeared out of sight. The game of cat and mouse continued a few times
before we were back together at the waterfall with 3 km to go. Two of these
last 3km are very technical: giant boulder-hopping along a rugged shore rather
than trail running. This is my favourite type of running and I gave everything
I had left in me to pull a gap.
LD: Were you clock-watching? Also, when did you
start to realise that you had the win in the bag?
Once we got to the waterfall together I knew that I should be able take
it, but I could feel myself being reeled in again on the final few hundred
meters. It was only on the final corner when I could see the finish line about
50m away that I was confident.
don't run with a watch (I actually had planned on wearing one just for this
race but I forgot it in my tent). Just after halfway I asked Stevie the time
and knew we were on pace for around 5 hours. Then Mark Collins ran the final
2km with me and told me along the way that I was under the ladies record for
both directions and lying 5th overall. The finish still felt a very long way
away but I did have a few goose-bumps from then on.
LD: Let’s talk Dusi. Having
seconded the Dusi a few times, I’ve seen what you guys go through, and I know
how the heat in that Dusi valley can ramp up – it’s gruelling out there. Would
you say that the challenge is what attracted you the most, and that realising
what you could achieve drove you to push even harder?
sounds about right. I grew up in Pietermaritzburg, watching a thousand canoes
crash over the first couple of weirs in the Dusi Canoe Marathon every year.
It's a big event for the little city and one that everybody knows about. It was
one of the obvious challenges that as a kid I dreamed of doing one day, and I
was fortunate to get that opportunity quite early on. (Yes, the Comrades is
another one but I'm shelving that for one day when I'm really big!)
LD: Strong at canoeing, strong
in trail running, strong in rock climbing… the natural progression then was
towards adventure racing, right? Tell me about your time with Team Merrell
Adventure Addicts, and the races you guys did in Swaziland, Australia, Brazil,
and the one in Patagonia – 3rd team to finish out of 26 starters!
RO: (I'm actually a very novice rock climber, I just
pose in precarious-looking places for Instagram photos!)
Amongst the outdoor
sporting community I’d heard a lot about adventure racing – that impossible
sport where crazy people race for days through wild terrain with hardly any
sleep. I wasn't sure why anyone would want to do that, but the fact that there
were people who could and did always intrigued me. The invitation to join the
Merrell Adventure Addicts came many years before I expected to be attempting
something so crazy, but it caught me in a yes-mood. (Who could say no to
all-expenses paid trips to Swaziland, the Australian Tropics, the Brazilian
Pantanal, and Mystical Patagonia anyway?)
Those races were all
absolutely fantastic experiences. It was rewarding to discover that there is
life after "the wall" (the one that you hit when you "blow"
or "bonk" as frequently happens towards the end of races that last a
few hours), and that you can actually feel ok after two or three or four days
of almost non-stop forward motion. The sleep deprivation hallucinations were
interesting. The places we visited were absolutely incredible. I raced with and
against amazing and interesting people and learnt a huge amount from them
(technical skills, soft-skills and inspiration for future adventures).
| Team Sanlam Painted Wolf in training action (photo by Terence Vrugtman)|
Then you joined Team Sanlam Painted Wolf to compete in the AR
World Champs in Australia in November. The Collins brothers + Andre Gie + you =
that’s a winning combination if ever I saw one! And that week you had us all on
the edge of our desk chairs as we e-watched you push on. You finished 4th
out of 99 teams, and did a sprint finish to pass an Aussie team just before the
finish! Chat a bit about the race from your perspective.
RO: The ARWC 2016 in the Shoalhaven in Australia was
relatively easy from a survival point of view, but it attracted the biggest and
most competitive field that an adventure race has ever seen. The racing was
fierce. We made a few navigation mistakes and lost motivation quite early on,
dropping back to 25th about a day into the race. But after a regroup
we pulled our way back to finish 4th three days later (of course a
huge amount happened during that time but it would make too long a story for
here). Of the races I have done this was the one where I had the least
sleep and the sorest feet, but it was also the one I enjoyed the most. Mark,
John and Andre were amazing teammates –
apart from being brilliant racers, they looked after me and made me feel
like a valuable part of the team. We had a far from flawless race but the
setbacks never dampened the spirit of the team for long, and when we did go
well we were pretty speedy! The crazy sprint finish for the final two of more
than 600km is something I will never forget.
LD: You and Mike have
started a trail guiding business, called For the Love of Adventure. Tell me
RO: We are both happiest when we are outside in wild natural spaces, and are
passionate about travel and exploration as well as the amazing places on our
back doorstep. We launched For the Love of Adventure to share these passions
with others. We offer guided hiking and trail running around Stellenbosch and
the Western Cape, as well as custom adventurous holidays both near and further
afield. Our dream is ultimately to both have an outdoor lifestyle that is
financially sustainable. (https://ftloadventure.com)
LD: Next up on the
racing front: the Coast to Coast Challenge in New Zealand. Tell us about
RO: The Coast to Coast "Longest Day" is
a single day individual multisport event involving 33km of steep technical
mountain running, 70km of river kayaking and 140km of road cycling from the
west coast to the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. It is tagged
"the World Multisport Championships" and is a major event in New
Zealand. I don't know exactly who I will be up against, but the competition is
likely to be very strong. Local knowledge apparently plays a big role, especially
on the run and paddle sections, and I plan to go over a couple of weeks
beforehand to familiarise myself with the trickier bits.
LD: Who’re you sponsored by?
RO: I am an ambassador for Best4Sports, the makers of CrampNOT: the
world's first neuromuscular complex for exercise induced muscle cramps (the
world's first preventative and cure for cramps that actually works), as well as
a few other revolutionary nutrition products which will be launched soon.
As Team Sanlam Painted
Wolf, we’re sponsored by Sanlam as well as a host of other great people and
| (photo by Cherie Vale)|
LD: And on the cards for next
year is surely Otter 2017. Tellme tellme!
RO: Yes, I hope to be there. 4h30 is an alluring
target for the women that I'm confident will be broken at some stage. I doubt
that I will be the one to do it but I would like to at least help to put the
LD: What would you say are your
strengths that pull you through the tough moments?
RO: I don't think that I'm any better than anyone
else at pulling through tough moments. Generally, once you're in a tough
situation you don't have much choice but to pull yourself through it. I
probably do voluntarily throw myself into unpleasant situations more often than
most. Is that a strength or stupidity?
LD: Finally, your most amusing
thought during a particularly tough racing moment?
way, those thoughts shouldn't be put into writing!!
Labels: Andre Gie, Best4Sports, Coast to Coast Challenge, Collins brothers, CrampNOT, For The Love of Adventure, John Collins, Kime, Mark Collins, Otter, Retto, Team Sanlam Painted Wolf, Wolrd Multiposrt Championships