After starting off the year with a fourth place at the Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail, I was looking forward to a good year on the international trail running circuit with my hubby Christiaan, who is also a professional trail runner, and my two-year-old Christopher.
The plan was to race this year, and then, in 2021, try for another baby to expand our little family. But COVID-19 changed all our plans. With the local racing season finished, and the international races cancelled, we thought we may as well speed up the plan for our second baby, which is due early February. (We are keeping the gender as a surprise.)
Training for the epic trail run
Right now, I’m 22 weeks pregnant and I’m feeling healthy and strong. In preparation for the Otter African Trail Run, which takes place between 28 and 31 October this year, I’ve been running most days, but once or twice a week I still do double runs. I do an average 10km per day, but Wednesdays I do about 15km and Sundays anything between 20-30km. The runs are a combination of fartlek (this is when you alternate hard and moderate bursts of running) and hill sessions.
What keeps you motivated?
Training helps to keep my energy levels up. It makes me feel more productive and focused, and releases all those feel-good hormones. It’s obviously a little more taxing when I do uphills because of the extra weight I’m carrying, but the bonus is that I’m surrounded by nature, which fills my tank.
How safe is all this running for your baby?
If you’re used to a specific kind of exercise (I’ve been a professional trail runner for 10 years), I believe it is perfectly safe to continue doing it when you’re pregnant. But you obviously have to listen to your body and check in with your doctor or healthcare professional.
But isn’t it uncomfortable?
[Laugh] People often ask whether all the “bouncing” isn’t uncomfortable, but honestly, I don’t feel anything “jiggling” when I run. I’m obviously slightly heavier on the uphills, owing to the extra weight I’m carrying, but it’s worth it. I love being able to climb mountains, do summits with Christopher and Christiaan, and to enjoy nature in all its splendour.
I guess I’m used to it – I trained throughout my pregnancy with Christopher, too. And I know that if I feel any discomfort, I need to slow down and take it easy.
What about your diet?
Being pregnant, and so active, my body needs a lot more nutritious fuel. I generally stick to the 80/20 principle of eating, filling my body with healthy food 80% of the time, but allowing for some indulgences to curb my carb and sweet cravings for the rest. I find smoothies made with superfoods like avo, spinach, yoghurt, and so on, a quick and easy way to get all the right nutrients into my body, especially when I’m in a hurry.
ALSO SEE: 3 pregnancy super smoothies
On the trail, I’ll be wearing a compulsory pack that contains all the water and nutrients my body needs.
How has this pregnancy been different to your previous one?
When you’re training as a professional athlete there’s always the pressure to fit everything in, from training and recovery, to visits to the biokineticist and sponsorship responsibilities. I love my job, but now, during the pandemic, I’ve had time to be a homebody and to do special things with my little boy. Not having to focus on training for races, which requires a different mindset, has made this pregnancy a much calmer experience.
How will the African Otter be different for you this year?
The Otter African Trail Run has two editions – the Otter Race with a nine-hour cut off, and the Otter Challenge with an 11-hour cut off. For the first time, I won’t be doing the race [Landie won it in 2014 and was placed second last year]. I’ll be doing the Challenge. This means that I can really enjoy and savour the scenery this time instead of being focused on pushing for a time or a place.
I normally do the 42km trail in 5 hours, so I’m confident that even if I walk the ups and downs, picking up pace when it’s flat, I’ll finish the Challenge in good time.
What’s going to be the biggest challenge?
A trail run and specifically the Otter is unique in the unpredictability of weather conditions, so I won’t be taking any unnecessary risks. If the conditions are unsuitable on the day, or I run into any problems on the trail, I will pull out of race to safeguard myself and my baby.
Content editor and writer on Living & Loving, Sonya has over 25 years experience in the media industry. She edited Living & Loving magazine for six-and-a-half years and is the former editor of Longevity magazine. She’s won numerous media industry awards and is passionate about the health and wellbeing of moms and children.
Outside of work, she enjoys trying out recipes, reading crime mysteries and thrillers, practicing yoga, and exploring new destinations.
Learn more about Sonya Naudé.