Meet Hanneké Dannhauser, South Africa’s leading lady in Obstacle Course Racing (OCR). The 29-year old Reebok sponsored athlete was first introduced to the sport in 2014, and has since taken the local OCR scene by storm.
She is renowned for her true sense of grit and firm belief in never giving up, and even crossed the finish line of 2015 Warrior #5 on her hands after breaking her ankle on an obstacle! Discover what it is that sets this Warrior woman apart.
You sustained an injury recently after an incident at The Grind in Cape Town. What was the extent of your injury and have you fully recovered?
The injury happened on an obstacle. I was doing some monkey bars that were 2.8m apart. My hand slipped and I fell on my neck. I’ve been out since the race; my injuries took a lot longer to heal than expected!
This injury really set me back, but all I can do is make the best of it. There’s been no running, hanging, or grip strength training at all. But that’s life, you can do as much as you can and the rest is not in your hands. If I race on Sunday it will be for series points.
So it’s the question on everybody’s mind. What is it that makes you so unbeatable on the OCR course?
I am definitely beatable! I don’think anybody is unbeatable, especially not me. I think the only thing that may be different about my game plan is that I don’t believe in giving up.
As long as it’s possible (if I don’t fall on my neck) then I will keep trying until I succeed. I know that if I fail, I will go back and work my butt off so that I don’t get caught out or beaten by the same obstacle twice.
You were extremely happy with an improvement in your running this year. What made the difference?
I’m not a natural runner. I spent some more time on the track instead of just focusing on the longer runs, and did some extra short sprint work. I trained for six days a week, and rested on Saturdays. Was also good to see some time come off the last Warrior Race too. Will have to build everything again after my injury though!
How do you get the majority of your strength training done?
I do most of my strength training in a functional manner, so weight training combined with short bursts of cardio. I believe that I benefit more from being functional than strong, because OCR is about carrying your own body weight. Your heart rate gets really high when you’re doing obstacles and stuff like carrying logs, so functional training is definitely the way to go.
Greg Avierinos recently shared an article about the best ways to balance strength and running for OCR training. What is your weekly approach to getting that balance right?
I try to run everyday, and do my functional / grip strength training in between that. An example of a couple of days in my week would be something like this: Sunday I’ll do a long, slow run with some grip training; Monday I’ll do functional training and include an endurance set; Tuesday I’ll take a break from the strength training and focus on a cycle and running session; and Wednesday I’ll get back to a functional session and some speed or track work later on.
It differs each week, though, depending on what I’m focusing on. Busy training for Sani2C at the moment, so doing a lot of cycling. I’d generally advise at least three strength sessions a week, and a run everyday. You don’t even have to run far, short bursts work really well!
Your determination to overcome obstacles, no matter how many times you fail, shows true grit. What is it that motivates you to push past your weaknesses?
I don’t like quitting, and failure is not an option for me. I live by the motto “Look up, get up, and never give up”. If there is a difficult obstacle, I’ll pray and keep going going because I know I’ve worked hard for this and should give it my all.
At the end of the day, I want to be an example to others on the obstacle course and in life. I want to show them that even if a situation is really tough, you can succeed if you just persist; maybe not on the first try, and maybe not even on that day, but go back, work harder, and you will overcome.
What is your approach to rest and recovery, especially since you’ve taken on more OCR races other than Warrior?
To have the discipline to recover is just as important as having the discipline to train.
Rest is more important after the race than before the race. Yes, you should taper before the race, but I make sure to only start again on the Tuesday after a Warrior.
There’s a lot of OCR events in South Africa, and new ones are popping up everywhere! I’ve decided to focus on the main races, so Warrior Race, Impi Challenge, GI Joe (mostly for training) and to prepare for World Champs.
I take my rest day on a Saturday, and take the day completely off. I never race on this day, which means I don’t get to do all the races that there are out there. It helps me a lot, because otherwise I would feel obligated to try everything.
Saturday’s are my day to spend time in nature and to spend time with God; it makes the decision making about what to enter really easy for me.
What are your some of your specific short term goals for the year ahead, and what is your ultimate dream as an OCR athlete?
My goals are quite simple. I want to try and complete every Warrior Race again this year. I also plan to do the short course at OCR World Champs in Canada this year, as well as the team event. The rest of the world really needs to watch out for what us South African OCR girls are going to do! We stand a really good chance at the podium.
My ultimate dream as an OCR athlete is to be the best version of myself, but in a way that will inspire other people. I know it sounds cliché, but to help other people is what makes life worth living.
What is it about the multisport lifestyle that you find most appealing?
I like the challenge of never knowing what to expect. I love how the training for something like OCR has so many facets. If you use a little bit of imagination, you can really have fun in preparing for a multisport event; whether trail running or rock climbing!
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