16 Oct, 2014

Running vs Cycling: What is the Right Mix?


Imagine running the 168 kilometre, Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in the same year as you ride your first Absa Cape Epic?

Well, this is exactly what Cape Town based athlete Branden Scott-Hayward accomplished in 2013.

“Both the Absa Cape Epic and the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc were on my top 10 wish list of events I had to do. It just so happened that I was fortunate to get entries for both events in the same year,” he commented.

The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc is a non-stop trail run which starts in Chamonix, France and after visiting Italy and Switzerland, it ends back in Chamonix. The race has a 46 hour time limit.

Branden’s “normal” training includes 150 kilometres of cycling, 50 kilometres of running and will often swim two kilometres per week, depending on whether he is training for a triathlon or not.

He believes cross training is vital to the preparation of any endurance event.

“Long distance running is one of the highest impact sports and I have found that cross training with running, cycling and swimming, I tend to suffer less injuries and pretty much don’t get as bored as easily. Running pretty much helps with any sport as it is a lot more intense than swimming or cycling,” he said.

To train for these two “monster” events, Branden added a few events, including the To Hell and Back, The Jailhouse Break triathlon, Makadas Leeuwenbosch Ride the Lion, the Totalsports Terra Firma, the Attakwas, the Lighthouse to Lighthouse, the Xterra Grabouw, the Pick ‘n Pay Argus MTB Challenge and the Pick ‘n Pay Argus Cycle Tour.

“In the three months preceding the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, I increased my average weekly running from 50 kilometres to over 100 kilometres which would include at least one long trail run of between three and four hours over Table Mountain,” he explained.

But what possessed him to run this incredible event?

“I used this race as a fundraising campaign to raise money for the LEAP Maths and Science School and I ended up raising over R12 000 for this cause. I finished the race in 38 hours and crossed over a few high mountain passes covered in snow and climbed a total of 9600 metres over the 168 kilometre distance,” he said proudly.

Regarding the Absa Cape Epic, Branden took part in the 10th edition of South Africa’s premier mountain bike event, which included 706 kilometres of tough riding and almost 16 kilometres of climbing.

“I think my Absa Cape Epic experience really helped with my mental preparation for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc as you need to be really mentally tough and determined to complete the Epic,” he said, “A very tough team event in some ways is a lot more difficult than a solo event as your partner is crucial to the enjoyment and successful completion of the event.”

Training for the Absa Cape Epic helped Branden improve his running up hills and trails and specifically with quad strength.

“And when I added swimming into my training mix, I found that my running and cycling speeds increased,” he explained.

So, according to Branden, you not only have to be physically well matched but you also need to be able to spend a whole lot of time suffering together without arguing.

Branden’s 2013 Absa Cape Epic partner was his brother-in-law, Raymond Bezuidenhout.

“Luckily Raymond and I were well matched in all of the above and never shied away from a few beers after an epic day in the saddle,” he quipped.

Brenden made a number of sacrifices for this effort, remembering that he not only holds down an important job as a senior financial analyst for Old Mutual, but is also a family man with a wife and two children.

“I ended up sacrificing sleep. I generally train in the mornings before work and try to get into the office by 08:30 at the latest. So my training starts at around 05:00 depending on whether I cycle to work and then run or swim or whether I drive to work and do a long training run,” he said.

As he started running in 2008 and continues to compete in at least two events every month, Branden’s favourite events which he takes part in regularly include the Totalsports Terra Firma, the Redhill Marathon, the Two Oceans Ultra, the Ironman SA, the Joberg2C, the Knysna MTB, the Hout Bay Trail Challenge and the Hobbit Trail Run.

For anyone who fancies entering either the Absa Cape Epic or the Ultra Trial Du Mont Blanc, Branden has the following advice.

“With any endurance event, your state of mind is just as important as your physical ability and training,” he advised, “mental strength becomes even more of a competitive advantage as the race gets longer.”