South African Landie Greyling has had plenty of success in adventure and trail racing in her home country. In the last year, she’s begun racing trails internationally, and the 2015 Transvulcania Ultramarathon will be the most competitive trail race she’s seen yet. In the following interview, learn about Landie’s pre-trail running life, what she likes about the sport, and what strategies she’s applying to this weekend’s race.
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Landie Greyling Pre-2015 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here on the island of La Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands before the 2015 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. I’m here with South African Landie Greyling. How’s it going?
Landie Greyling: Yeah, I’m really happy to be on the island of La Palma. It’s been treating me well so far—relaxing in the pool and getting some nice rest in. So that’s good before the race.
iRunFar: Yeah, you guys are set up in a pretty nice spot here.
Greyling: Yeah, I think we’re pretty spoiled. You can’t ask for much more than this. There are about seven or eight different pools to choose from, and you’ve got the beaches and the cliffs right there, and the food’s great. We’re really, really blessed.
iRunFar: It’s just up the African coastline several thousand kilometers from your home to here. Is this your first time in the Canary Islands?
Greyling: Yes, it is actually.
iRunFar: What do you think so far? It’s really different from South Africa, right?
Greyling: Yeah, the landscape, obviously, is really different. There are lots of black, gnarly rocks which we’re not used to. This is palm trees and island life, so it’s very different. The weather has been great so far. It’s not as hot as I expected it to be. I have no idea what it’s going to be like on Saturday.
iRunFar: Yeah, knock on wood for this weekend.
Greyling: I’ve been hearing some rumors that it can get quite hot especially on the other side of the island, and that’s when you’re sort of in the latter part of the race. That could be quite interesting, but luckily in South Africa we’re used to quite warm weather. Hopefully it will be okay.
iRunFar: Maybe this will actually not feel quite so warm compared to South African summers.
Greyling: Yeah, especially in the town where I live, it can get up to 40 degrees [Celsius], so sometimes it’s really, really hot. If you have to train in that it’s not always as much fun as you would like it to be.
iRunFar: Let’s talk about your background and where you come from and where you live. You’re an up-and-comer on the international trail-racing scene. I understand you’re an accountant back home. Tell me a little bit about your background. How did you get into mountain running, and what do you do when you’re not?
Greyling: I started out adventure racing and sort of doing everything—mountain biking, hiking, abseiling, canoeing. Then I just sort of realized that I enjoy the running part more than the rest of it. I did a couple trail races which was pretty new in South Africa in 2011. I got into a few races and the results were pretty good and I enjoyed it very much. I grew up on a farm and we had lots of farm trails and things like that. I always liked to explore and just be outdoors. I loved hiking and being out in the mountains. I think it’s one of those things where I decided to take up the trail running, and then I’m also quite competitive. So that helped to try and push it and do the best I can. I started out with Salomon South Africa two-and-a-half years ago. My first international season was last year. I started out with Zegama which was quite an interesting opener to say the least.
iRunFar: That was probably a fascinating eye-opener. You did well there. You snuck inside the top 10.
Greyling: Yeah, I did sneak inside the top 10. I felt like I was on some other world and it wasn’t even that good. But for me in my first international race, it was a really awesome experience. Obviously the vibes there and the atmosphere are amazing.
Greyling: I couldn’t believe, like thousands of people cheering you on. It feels like you’re on some red carpet. It was amazing. That helped me finish the race. It was an amazing experience to realize that this is what I want to do. The energy and the people that you meet in the trail running circles are just amazing. I realized that this is where I belong, and I want to be part of this family.
iRunFar: It sounds like you’re sort of taking to the Skyrunning circuit for this year. You’ve just competed in, about a month ago, the Buffalo Stampede in Australia which was the Oceania Skyrunning Continental Championships. That earned you some points for the ultra part of the Skyrunning World Series. Did I get all that verbiage right?
Greyling: Yeah, that was pretty much accurate. I’m also still new to it, so I think we’re in the same boat. Yeah, I think I’m going to try and do the Ultra Skyrunning Series this year. As you’ve mentioned, I’ve got points for the continental race, and this will be the first international one for me. From there on, I’ll try and do two more to get the three plus the one. Then, yeah, it depends obviously on how it all goes, but that is the big plan.
iRunFar: Talk about your race for a moment at the Buffalo Stampede. You had a really strong day and came out, in the end, ahead of some of the fastest girls from New Zealand and Australia. Talk about your day.
Greyling: I think it was one of those days that everything just sort of worked out as you hoped it would work out, and it never normally does in an ultra. There’s always patches where, not that I’ve done that many, but there are always patches where you feel, “Oh, this is terrible,” and something, your body, your nutrition, something isn’t right. For that race, everything just sort of seemed to work out. I really just had a very good day. It was lots of fun, and I enjoyed it. I think that’s also one of the key things—if you really enjoy the running and what you’re doing, then it makes it a little bit easier on the long runs. All in all, I just think I had a good day. It was a great experience in Australia.
iRunFar: Coming off of that, which is a great way to start a racing season, how do you translate that energy and those good feelings into this race which is a lot different?
Greyling: A win like that gives you a lot of confidence, but obviously I’m very much aware that this is a very good international field that I’ll be lining up against—some of the best in the world which is really great for me. I want to race against the best. But it will be my biggest race up to today, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how I can go and how my legs will be after the Buffalo because it’s only three-and-a-half weeks ago. Hopefully I’ve recovered from that. Yeah, it really will be a great way for me to see how I am in the international field.
iRunFar: You kind of have that sparkle in your eye, like, you can see you’re a competitor. How are you going to balance that side of you with tempering, “Wow, this is a really long race. I climb a huge volcano and I have to come back off it again and there’s a lot of other fast girls?” How do you temper those dueling factors?
Greyling: I think I’m one of those people who can sort of have a vision of the entire race. I like to sort of picture things. Especially for this race, my plan or my strategy, if you can call it that, will just be to sort of run my own race. I’ve done that in the last three or four races that I’ve done. It’s worked for me. Initially when I was first starting out, I just sort of ran and ran with everyone. You don’t know where you’re at. It’s hard to sort of pace yourself. Once you get to know your running style and your abilities and your strengths and weaknesses, I think it’s better just to plan your race according to that rather than, say, just go out with the girls and see how long you can stick with them and sort of take it each kilometer at a time which can make for a long day out if you do that. So I think I’ll really try and start out steadily and watch myself and see how my body reacts to the uphills and to the downhills and to the terrain which is quite different than I’m used to. I’ll be very wary about what’s going on with my body and how far I get into it.
iRunFar: What are your strengths in this type of race? Where are we going to see you excel the most this weekend?
Greyling: It’s difficult to say, but I really like downhills and the technical terrain. We have a lot of that in South Africa. We don’t have that big of mountains, so I wouldn’t say I’m yet a very strong climber over the long climbs. Maybe shorter climbs I’m just fine, but the longer climbs, I might not be as good as the European girls. I haven’t really measured it, but last year I could see I’m stronger on the downhills than the uphills. That’s the only sort of measurement I have. But I enjoy downhill running, and I enjoy just running as well.
iRunFar: This could be a decent format race for you given that there’s such a long downhill in the second half of the race if you’re able to get there…
Greyling: In decent shape?
iRunFar: Yeah, all in one piece.
Greyling: That’s the condition, I suppose, if you can get there in one piece and not get overexcited in the first half of the race. That will be ideal. That’s sort of the plan.
iRunFar: Well good luck to you out there. My last question for you is, after this race, where’s your indulgence. What are you looking forward to doing as an “I finished Transvulcania.”
Greyling: I might have a cocktail or a chocolate milkshake on the deck and just sort of relish the experience of living the island style. At the moment you’re sort of thinking, I can’t do this; I can’t do that, and you just sort of watch everything. But it’s nice to just actually relax in this atmosphere and the surroundings. Everyone around here is on holiday, and they’re not stressing about some big race. I think it will be pretty nice. I’ve got about three days after the race here at the hotel. It will be nice to just enjoy all the facilities.
iRunFar: Allllll of the facilities.
Greyling: All of the facilities which is quite a bit, I would say.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you out there. We look forward to seeing how your day goes.
Greyling: Thanks, Meghan. It was lovely chatting with you.
iRunFar: Thanks again.