After a memorable 2022 that saw him win twice internationally and three of the major national river marathon titles, Dusi legend Andy Birkett will return to KwaZulu-Natal’s premier event, the Dusi Canoe Marathon, in 2023 from 16-18 February.
Birkett racked up a twelfth Dusi title with apprentice David Evans in 2022 to see his record improve to twelve wins in thirteen years, with just the K1 race in 2013 the only race he hasn’t won since 2010 which highlights his dominance of the gruelling race.
The Euro Steel star has finished eighteen Dusi Canoe Marathon’s and has arguably perfected the preparation and execution of a race plan, however he doesn’t go into each race with the same routine as the last.
“I wouldn’t say I follow the same plan every single year because I can’t remember what I did last year!” Birkett said with a laugh.
“I would say though that my goal and emphasis now has become to not get injured,” he explained.
“I saw in the first few years when I tried to tick the boxes of what to do in my Dusi build-up I would force it a bit too much and get injured and be forced to take more time off.
“Then you get to race day in a worse shape than if you had just backed off a bit and listened to your body.”
With years of Dusi preparation under his belt, Birkett is still trying to find new ways to make training more exciting and less mundane in the lead-up to the race.
“One thing that I have done is I’ve tried to change things up and make training more enjoyable and not just try and tick boxes.
“I really enjoy the paddle/run sessions that we do over the weekends and just getting creative with those and making sure it’s not just doing the same thing every weekend.
“Even during the week I try and mix things up and I think I’ll try different things this year that I didn’t do last year.
“We’ve got the lagoon here in East London and I also try and spend as much time as I can on my ski in the ocean.
“In terms of running, we always find new trails to run and explore and I just try to use what I have at my disposal and not force the plan,” he added.
Birkett is in KwaZulu-Natal this weekend at Midmar where he will share his insights with paddlers on how he goes about preparing for Dusi and he feels that even an event like that helps in diversifying his preparation.
“Getting a group of people together to train always helps and this Midmar Mini also helps because I remember in KZN we always used to have tripping sessions on the river and with a crew of people it’s a lot of fun.
“Down in East London I’m training with Matt Fenn, my wife Nikki and Josh Fenn so it’s nice having the group there to work with.”