Ask a typical road runner or cyclist if he or she feels they could tackle a triathlon , and chances are good they will answer that they feel they ’ ll be fine on the run leg if they can just survive the bike leg , or vice versa , but they are totally freaked out by the open water swim . It ’ s not just that they can ’ t see the bottom once they get into deep water , or that weather conditions can make the swim incredibly unpleasant , perhaps even causing sea-sickness , but the traditional ‘ washing machine ’ at the start , with other swimmers kicking you in the face or swimming over you , sounds like a frightening ordeal .
As a result , most road athletes who enter triathlon events tend to either be strong swimmers , or have at least done a fair amount of open water swim training to prepare themselves for a tri event . Seldom will you hear of a tri entrant , let alone an ultra-distance tri entrant , who actually doesn ’ t know how to swim at all … but that ’ s exactly how one would describe Mindlo Mdhluli ’ s situation earlier this year .
REGULAR ROAD RACER
The 37-year-old , who works as a Finance Manager at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg , is well known in running circles thanks to being one of the people behind the KZN Pacesetters . He regularly runs as a Pacesetter in races up to ultra-marathon distance , mostly in KZN and Gauteng , but also heading down to the Cape from time to time for events
Mindlo Mdhluli finishes his first triathlon at the Bela Bela 5150
such as the Gun Run , Two Oceans and Cape Town Marathon . ( Mindlo lives in Maritzburg for work , but also calls Pretoria home , so spends time in both KZN and Gauteng , and does races in both provinces .)
In the last two years he has also become an accomplished road cyclist , and that eventually led to his unusual triathlon debut . “ I decided I wanted to do something different , in addition to running , so I bought myself a road bike . I wanted to start doing cycling races , like the Amashova , Cape Town Cycle Tour and the 94.7 , and for a while I was doing both sports , but then lockdown came and all the races were cancelled . At first , I did some backyard runs to keep active and fit during the hard lockdown , but I soon got bored , and when restrictions were eased , I started running and riding more ,” says Mindlo .
“ In March this year , there were still no road running or cycling events happening , but there were some smaller multisport events taking place . I signed up
for my first one , at the Tinman Triathlon in Durban on 11 April , but selected to do the duathlon instead of the triathlon , because I did not know how to swim at all . The race went well , and I really enjoyed it , but I decided I wanted to move up to triathlons , and for that I would need to learn to swim , so in April I signed up to learn how . I also entered the Bela Bela 5150 triathlon in Limpopo Province in August , even though I didn ’ t know how to swim yet ! I told myself , if I am registered , it will give me the required motivation to train , and to keep my head screwed on properly .”
“ In March this year , there were still no road running or cycling events happening , but there were some smaller multisport events taking place . I signed up for my first one , at the Tinman Triathlon in Durban .”
Finisherpix , Instapix , Action Photo SA & courtesy Mindlo Mdhluli