IT is not often that an athlete in preparation for a major event has to slow down his training methods, rather than intensify them.
But that is what has happened to former South African hockey star Clyde Abrahams after switching from the fast lane of international sport to the more measured tread of preparing for Ironman SA.
On Sunday, the 34-year-old Abrahams, who played top-level hockey for more than a decade before retiring after the 2008 Olympics, will test himself in a new arena in SA’s premier endurance event.
The difference in the training required for the two disciplines has been one of the biggest challenges for Abrahams.
“It’s totally different to what I was used to playing at a professional level in hockey,” Abrahams said yesterday. “Hockey is all about being explosive and this is purely endurance.
“I actually have to pull in the reins a bit – in hockey you are sprinting all the time and if you do that in Ironman, you will burn out.”
Abrahams’s path to Hobie Beach began when he and a friend, Charlton Kerridge, decided to expand their cycling sessions to include triathlons.
“We decided to try some local triathlons and thought, if we are cycling, let’s add a bit of swimming and running. It just developed from there.”
While Abrahams paid tribute to his family – he has an 18-month-old son – for their suppport, he acknowledges the challenge has been a life-changing experience. He is keen to spread the idea to his hockey friends for training purposes.
“It’s a lifestyle change, you are healthy, you eat better and you train all the time, so I’m hoping to influence some of the hockey guys to take it up.”
While the experience is completely different to his hockey days, he says the discipline needed to reach the top in hockey had helped him.
“Playing hockey at that level you have to have discipline and do the hours of training,” Abrahams said, “so that sort of discipline has helped with the Ironman training.
“But there has been bit of acceptance as well because hockey was all about preparing to play at the highest level and Ironman is sort of humbling, because you are not at the level of the pros and you are there to have fun and to complete the event.”
In January, Abrahams completed the Ironman 70.3 in East London and is now excited about the bigger challenge ahead, if slightly nervous as well.
Abrahams is still involved in hockey, but only at club level, playing for Lakeside Cavaliers in the Premier League.