Birkett changes routine

2014-12-10 00:00

FOUR-TIME Dusi Canoe Marathon champion Andy Birkett is taking a different approach to his 2015 build-up campaign, spreading his training around the country at the expense of traditional training on the Dusi course.

Birkett has come off a solid 2014 base that included successes at the Berg and Breede Canoe Marathons, the Sella Descent in Spain (third) and the thrilling Hansa Fish in Cradock where he narrowly lost to world champ Hank McGregor.

He has stuck to a tried and trusted Dusi training formula for much of his successful Dusi career, but this year is set to break that mould after planning a summer of training around the country.

He will join a squad training camp in Plettenberg Bay in December before moving to Underberg in the New Year ahead of the N3TC Drak Challenge for his favoured training camp at the high altitude venue that assures him of clean water.

He has gambled by spending less time in the Mngeni and Msunduzi River valleys.

“It’s such a difficult call,” says Birkett. “During the summer there is usually little water in the river that you don’t spend that much time paddling. Conditions are usually quite different come race day.

“Having said that, it looks like it is going to be a low Dusi so some time on a low river will be useful.”

Despite making the race more arduous, Birkett relishes the prospect of racing on low, technically demanding rivers.

“I actually enjoy a low river,” he said. “It takes a special kind of athlete to be successful on a low river.

“Jason Graham [Birkett’s double Dusi K2 winning partner] is phenomenal on a low river and I learnt so much from training with him a couple of years back.

“Lance Kime is definitely another one to watch if we are in for a low Dusi next year.”

Birkett spent the entire 2013/14 summer with Sbonelo Khwela as they plotted their successful campaign to win the 2014 Dusi K2 title. However, the two friends find themselves as adversaries as they plot their individual assaults on the 2015 K1 crown.

Birkett has realised that much of his summer training plans don’t involve any training partners. He plans to approach his K2 partner to join him for a few training sessions at his base at Shongweni Dam.

“Sbonelo is running so well at the moment I want to join him for a few hill sessions.

“It’s a shock tactic because on current form he would beat me in a Dusi by 20 minutes.”

Birkett has three K2 titles to go with his solitary K1 title and he is eager to add another singles scalp in 2015 to make up for the one that got away in 2013.

Having followed Khwela home on stage one, Birkett charged into the lead early in the second stage before a swim at the gnarly Thombi Rapid effectively ended his title bid.

Birkett’s misfortune saw Khwela return to the lead, which he held until a mistake at the Pumphouse Weir, which allowed a determined and steady Lance Kime to clinch his maiden Dusi title.

Birkett’s greater training priorities have also changed in recent years since his successful foray into the mid-year flatwater marathon season. It saw him win the U23 marathon world title in 2013 and earned him a place in the South African senior team to the 2014 Marathon World Championships in Oklahoma City in September.

“I love marathon racing and preparing for the SA Champs and hopefully the Worlds in 2015 will be a priority for me.

“The training is different to the traditional Dusi training where we normally lose a lot of weight, so it has become a bit of a balancing act for me now.”

The 64th edition of the Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban from Thursday 19 to Saturday 21, February 2015.

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