Richard Murray also won the Cape Town ITU Triathlon World Cup in February. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - South African man of steel Richard Murray may have had a running start to his triathlon season, but is set for one of his biggest challenges yet racing in his first Ironman 70.3 in Slovakia at the beginning of June.

Murray’s opening block of the 2017 season is cheese and chalk compared to last year, as he still has all his bones in tact while occupying second place on the World Triathlon Series (WTS) rankings list.

Going into this year, Murray decided to have a bit of fun, and the lack of internal pressure seems to be paying off.

“I guess it is good in a sense that I am not burning myself out in the training too much and I am saving myself for race day,” Murray said.

“I think it is the best start to the season I’ve ever had, last year I had two races before I broke my collarbone.”

The Capetonian has earned podium finishes in five of the six competitions he has lined up for this season, winning the Cape Town and New Plymouth Triathlon World Cups, the inaugural Super League Triathlon, and the South African Xterra title.

Murray finished in a creditable fifth place at the WTS Abu Dhabi, while he finished second at the Gold Coast event earlier this month.

A year ago, Murray was still reeling from a crash in the bicycle leg of the ITU World Triathlon Gold Coast which left his Olympic dreams in doubt.

“I only did six races in total last year, so I’ve already did the same amount of races I did last year, now in the middle of April,” Murray said.

“I have another 10 or 12 races still left for the year, and the Super League will be raced from October through to March which is usually when we would be having a break.”

Murray will miss the next two legs on the world triathlon circuit to prepare and race in the Ironman 70.3, also known as a Half Ironman, which consists of a 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and 21.1km run.

While Murray will be losing some points during this time, he believes the 113km race will benefit him for the rest of the season.

“I’m training for the (Ironman) 70.3 which is something else that is wild, I’ve never raced for a four-hour triathlon where I will be on a time trial bike,” Murray said.

“After that, recovery will be hard as well and I am racing almost all of the German league races (and) a couple of the World Series races.”

Given Murray’s incredible recovery from last year’s crash and his fourth-place finish at the Rio Olympics, it is difficult to think anything scares the gritty South African.

The Ironman 70.3 poses somewhat of a daunting challenge as he goes up in distance, despite having a propensity for the sprint events on the triathlon circuit.

“The 70.3 is a big ask, so I definitely want to see how that ends up going, I think it is going to be very tough on my body but it is going to be a good one,” Murray said.

“I have about six weeks of training to do so that gives me time to try and iron out things. It is a different position on the bike and the body has to adapt.

“The type of training that is involved will probably help with my endurance, it is also probably not a bad time to do it.”

Cape Times

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