GOING THE DISTANCE | Farmer’s innovative Ironman 70.3 route an example to all
March 2020 ushered in a surreal period in the life of sporting folk, one that has tested so many, both elite and recreational.
Matches, competitions, marathons and sport in general have been adversely affected by Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns across the world.
Athletes have had to find solace in the realm of virtual events, which, to start with, were perhaps unique and created some interest.
But they may have run their course if runners to whom I have spoken in response the recent cancellations of major events are in a majority.
There are inspiring stories, still.
I was introduced to a would-be first-time competitor who prepared for 70.3 Ironman events, one in Durban that was cancelled last year and then the Buffalo City event in January, since postponed to September.
She decided she was not going to waste all her training twice and could not just hang in for another nine months waiting to compete. Lesser competitors may have thrown in the proverbial towel.
Angie Hattingh, who lives and farms in the Tarkastad district, did the bulk of her training on her own, using trails, dams and farm roads to prepare for the well-manicured course of an Ironman fixture.
She shared her thoughts with her friend, Lesley Millar, and together they started plotting a rugged and rural triathlon similar in distance to the 70.3 Ironman, which Hattingh had hoped to conquer.
The 1,8km swim was modified to 1,9 to match the shape of a dam atop the Winterberg Mountains. The 90km cycle became 94km on a mountain bike and the 21,1km run was pretty much that on rugged roads.
The farming community heard of the unique venture and rallied to the cause, offering to run, swim or cycle sections with Hattingh. Many others filled supporting and logistical roles, providing huge encouragement on the day.
The intrepid full-time farmer and mother of three arrived with two supportive swimmers at the high altitude “swimming pool” at 4.30am. A heavy mist and darkness greeted them. They could not even see the dam.
A resident farmer came to their aid and they were able to locate their bearings and start swimming by 5.30. It may have been January and the height of summer, but the air in the mountains was icy cold.
To the swimmers’ advantage was that the water was warmer than the air and the discomfort of the cold abated until after the swim when they emerged from the dam.
Hattingh says swimming is her weakest of the three disciplines, but she was well prepared and, though finding it tough, she completed the distance without undue distress.
Cycling the mountain trails provided a tough segment, but with a fired-up team around her, Hattingh completed the 94km in style. A previous three-day ultra-ride had proved to be outstanding preparation.
The run, which is probably her strength, featured interesting and testing terrain. Again, it had been an ultra-trail run over and through the Winterberg, spread over three days, which ensured the outcome of the run was never in doubt.
In conversation this week an elated Hattingh, referring to the community spirit that spurred her on throughout the day, said: “The event brought so many in the community together, it was fantastic.”
And the event is an example to all who seek to overcome disappointments in this era of uncertainty.
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