Iconic local athlete out of 2014 Midlands Ultra
Pietermaritzburg – Decorated South African multisport athlete Donovan van Gelder will not be taking part in the 2014 CompliMed Midlands Ultra Triathlon over the first weekend of March after he contracted a stomach bug recently and he believes that he will be undercooked when the South African Long Course Championships get underway at Midmar Dam on 2 March.
Van Gelder has been involved in triathlons at Midmar Dam for decades and the toughest part for him was being unable to continue his love affair with the venue as he misses out on the 2014 event.
“It was actually a very tough decision for me to not be taking part in the race,” Van Gelder said. “I have an emotional attachment to Midmar Dam and the Midlands Ultras are the biggest events that happen there!
“I have been fortunate enough to take part in triathlon, duathlon, running, cycling and swimming races there for the last 28 years and my first standard and ultra-distance races were held at the dam. I also regularly stay up there for training camps where I just go out on my own on the awesome training roads in the Midlands,” a disappointed Van Gelder added.
Van Gelder has had a busy schedule of late with the majority of his focus going into the recent SA Cycling Championships held in Durban which meant the former South African Half iron man distance winner, understandably, neglected the running and swimming training.
“Unfortunately, a combination of factors have contributed to me bowing out of the Midlands Ultra. Firstly, I put a lot of effort into training for South African cycling champs, which were held on my doorstep at the beginning of February. To have a chance of being competitive there I had to cut back considerably on swimming and running and I was always going to be playing catch up to get in race shape for the Midlands Ultra. I did hope that my increased cycling form would balance this though.
“Then, just after the cycling champs, I had a hectic week of business meetings which involved day-trips to Gauteng and Cape Town on consecutive days. The time spent in aeroplanes, confined with germs, resulted in my getting sick which cost me another week of training,” Van Gelder added.
After an illustrious career that has spanned nearly three decades Van Gelder was hoping to use the Midlands Ultra event as his swansong but after contracting the stomach bug he feels that the he would be doing himself an injustice if he was to take part after missing out on vital training time.
“I was also planning on the event being my last as an ‘elite’ or professional athlete and it worked quite well with it being given the SA Champs status, which certainly adds prestige for me.
“So, I could do the race on the 2nd of March for sure, but I hold the event and the venue in too high esteem to do it at anything lower than my best possible condition. So my retirement to the age-group ranks will be delayed by another 10 months or so and I’ll be back at the start line on the 30th of November trying to keep the youngsters honest,” Van Gelder said excitedly.
His record at the CompliMed Midlands Ultra is a good one with a number of podium finishes however it seems that time is running out for his first ever elite gold medal when he bows out in November. With family commitments and a full-time job getting in the pool, on the bike or on the road has become increasingly difficult for Van Gelder.
“I have finished second twice and third once in the past at SA Long Distance Champs so I’m still looking for that elusive gold! I am now 43 and have family and work commitments which are, understandably, higher up my priority scale than training and racing and I am finding it tougher and tougher to compete with guys who train full-time and who weren’t even born when I did my first triathlon,” he said.
The CompliMed Midlands Ultra Expo and Registration happens on Saturday 1 March and the racing takes place on Sunday 2 March and for all the information on the event go to www.midlandsultra.com.
Photos supplied by: Gameplan Media