Extreme triathlete Avidon eyes Berg debut

When the field of paddlers gathers for the start of the 2022 Berg River Canoe Marathon outside Paarl on Wednesday they will be feeling fresh ahead of their four day, 240km journey to Velddrif. All bar one. Ultra-athlete Ingrid Avidon is the only athlete aiming to complete the Freedom Challenge Extreme Triathlon this year.
By the time she starts her maiden Berg marathon she will have completed the Comrades Marathon up run course and then done the tough Freedom Challenge 2 200km Race Across South Africa (RASA) bike ride from Pietermaritzburg to Paarl, hoping to get there in time to join the field at the start of the Berg River Canoe Marathon.
The Freedom Challenge was started by adventurer David Waddilove many years ago, but he started by running from Cape Town to Durban, then completing the Comrades and the Freedom Challenge before concluding with the Berg River Canoe Marathon.
Avidon is in the middle of her brutal 12×12 Challenge in 2022 that involves twelve successive tough sporting challenges, including her first MyLife Dusi Canoe Marathon in February.
That outing produced plenty of drama as she and her partner Themba Ngcobo ran most of the 36km final stage into Durban with their K2 canoe smashed into two pieces.
On the weekend Avidon successfully completed the Comrades marathon route up-run, largely unnoticed, and was pleased to finished well with the twelve hour target she had set for herself. hen she focussed on her mountain bike to start to legendary Freedom Challenge RASA ride. “I hope to get to Paarl on July the 2nd, so that will give me a few days to rest and recover before the Berg,” said Avidon.
“I am not the first person to attempt this triathlon,” said Avidon. “To date at least sixteen people, one of them a woman, have successfully completed it so my dream, although difficult, is certainly not impossible.”
Avidon’s goal of completing the Freedom Challenge Extreme Triathlon as a pinnacle event on her 12×12 calendar has been complicated by the unusual Cape winter weather.
The Capetonian has been training hard for her maiden Berg, but with desperately low river conditions due to the lack of early winter rains, she hasn’t been able to complete as many qualifying races as she would have liked.
As she rides the 2 200 kilometres to Paarl on her mountain bike she will be watching the weather and river conditions closely.
“Believe it or not, less water in river is better for me,” she said before her Comrades up-run got under way. “Only time will tell. I will just have to see what happens to the weather in Paarl when I am cycling.”
Her concern is the arrival of heavy winter rains just before the race that may leave a flooded river for the race.
“If that happens I might just try find a really competent paddler to escort me in the race. And then portage almost every dangerous section,” she said. “This might take forever though but I am willing to try.
“When I conceived my year of twelve extreme challenges, I was looking for an ultimate challenge to take me completely out of my comfort zone and into a new realm of self-discovery, both physically, emotionally and mentally,” she said.
“I usually do feel stressed, nervous and emotional just before a big event and the last few weeks have been an emotional roller-coaster ride ranging from excitement to fear. Will my body cope? Will I be successful? What if I fail? Will I disappoint others? Am I being responsible? Am I a bad mother?” she asked.
“At the outset of my 12 x 12 journey, I had no idea of the catharsis of emotions that lay ahead! The old adage: “be careful what you wish for”, now rings loudly in my head.
“I am being pushed way out my comfort zone and am learning many things about myself, both good and bad,” said Avidon. “I am a work in progress.”