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Noel Ernstzen – the Master Blaster (the first 50+ runner to run sub 5 hours in the Otter Trail Run)

Noel Ernstzen – the Master Blaster (the first 50+ runner to run sub 5 hours in the Otter Trail Run)

Ultrarunner caught up with Noel Ernstzen – he’s been called a few things; Ou Ballie (old man), Bullet, youngster, Old man in a young man’s body, Master Blaster. I’m sure his rivals are calling him a few more names which can’t be repeated here!

Al he says is: “I LOVE THIS SHIT!!”

Herewith his bio:

I was born in 1959 on a chicken farm on the slopes of Tokai forest and have lived most of my life in the shadow of Table Mountain. My dad was the local forester so most of my youth was spent running around Tokai farmlands as they were in the 1960s.

At junior school I was a keen runner and showed much promise, until at age 13 I discovered surfing. My sporting career was then pretty much finished until I hit 38, and found myself slightly podgy, smoking and all round not feeling the greatest. Once I decided to try and do something about it, ARGUS cycle tour sounded like it could be fun, so smashed my first Argus in 6:30hrs. After finishing I was gobsmacked by the guys that managed to ride under 3hrs, and decided I would set that goal for myself. About seven Argus’s and many kgs later I managed my 2:51, and ticked that box.

At the age of 42 I moved on to adventure racing and that’s when the competitive bug bit hard, as I realized I was fairly good at the long stuff and could for the first time compete against the youngsters. By the time I hit 50 I was a competitive road and Mtb rider, and would grudgingly go for a run every now and then.

Being someone who always enjoyed tackling new races, I took part in the 1st Epic, Sani2C, Joberg2C, W2W, African X, when in 2009 Magnetic South, announced a five day duathlon, of which the Otter Trail, was day one, I jumped at the opportunity.

It was at that stage that  realized that a fair bit of running was involved and if I wanted to be competitive, I would need to start taking my running more seriously. I finished that race  4th   VET, with a 6:45 Otter, and learnt the sad truth about just missing out on a podium. In that first Otter, I think it was Ian Donwauchup who was the only one to run under 5hrs, and I remember wondering what it must feel like to run that race under 5hrs.

After 3 more Otters and getting close in 2011 5:12, I missed 2012 as I was unsure about the RETTO as I had never run that direction before. Everything in 2013 was based on my quest to do a sub 5, and the truth be told, the only thing that was different from previous years, was the belief that I could actually run under 5hrs. In 2012 and early 2013 I had started winning a number of races, and was starting to be able to compete against the very best, and this gave me a massive self belief, so the morning of Otter 2013, I was far more nervous about the prologue, than I was about my sub 5. My biggest concern was that if I failed to make the Abangeni, “The Challengers” being the fastest 20 on the prologue, my belief that I belonged with the elite, would fail, and self doubt would creep in, and I knew that was the only thing stopping me from achieving my sub 5.

Unfortunately due to undergoing a knee op in August, I had to put my 2014 RETTO aspirations on hold, and have tried to save my 2014 season by giving myself time to heal before the last big event of the year for me, Beyond Ultra in Namibia in mid November.

My first big adventure race was in the Augrabies about 8 yrs back, and I loved the isolation of the terrain and found that I am fairly capable of handling the heat, so I have been keen to tackle a tough international Desert race that attracted a strong field ever since I started trail running. So I was extremely excited when my sponsors, Vivobarefoot announced their sponsorship of the Beyond Ultra series, and that they were prepared to pick up the tab for my entry and race expenses for the Namib Challenge in November. However my lead up has been non-existent as far as being able to train correctly, so I am hoping that I can still get by on guts and determination.

I am looking to qualify for the SA Team in the Ultra distance World Champs in 2015, so would look to doing well in the qualifying race in January.  I will be taking part in one or two international races in 2015, either in France, Mont Blanc, or in Spain. My 2015 aspirations include a sub 4:30 Otter, as I believe the 4:15 record will also be broken next year.

About two years ago I started a small running group, we met at Tokai forest every Wed evening and ran for about 60 min. My aim was to encourage runners to get fitter and faster, and also encouraged them to enter races. I now get between 60 and 120 runners every WED evening, and have 7 groups ranging from, Brisk Walkers, Woggers, Supa Chilled, Nice n Easy, No Pain No Gain and Just Pain!! The system encourages folk to work their way up the “pain” level and I am now seeing more and more people taking part in races……I love seeing the camaraderie amongst the groups, and how excited people get when they move up to the faster group.

I also train a group of between 6 and 10 women every Thursday morning. This is very much a one on one training run where I help them train for individual races and teach the art of how to race, breathing techniques, the importance of core training, nutrition and most importantly, self-belief.

I strongly believe that most people over-train as far as mileage goes, and rely far too much on quantity rather than quality. I run everyday, and twice daily on many occasions, but most of these runs are short and very specific. I have very very seldom done a training run over 25ks, and rely on a balance of speed and hill work to gain fitness. I do core work daily as I am a strong believer that my endurance comes from a strong core. I believe my biggest asset however, is my ability to race clever and get the most of my body on any given race. Many people can run, but very few know how to race, and I feel this gives me a huge advantage on many who may be fitter and faster than I am.

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Zelda Coetzee

Media Manager & Blogger at UltraRunner ZA
Really crazy lady with a passion for trail running and photography. She is often referred to as the "Ultra Mommy" because she takes good care of everyone on the team.
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About The Author

Really crazy lady with a passion for trail running and photography. She is often referred to as the "Ultra Mommy" because she takes good care of everyone on the team.

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