Houston embraces changes to his Dusi challenge

Pietermaritzburg - The Dusi Canoe Marathon has been a frustrating event for 2015's fifth place finisher Andrew Houston who has often had to battle illness before or during the race, but he is hoping that 2019 will be different when he takes on the three-day challenge from February 14-16.

Houston didn't take part in the 2017 K1 Dusi, but he has put in a number of strong performances in the K2 years. He and his younger brother Alan finished fourth in the K2 showdown in 2016 and in 2018 were fourth overall after the first stage before they had to withdraw.

Significantly, there have been some major changes to his Dusi preparations this season that, although not proven, he believes have helped towards him staying healthier than he usually is at this time of the year.

"I think not being able to paddle at Fish last year has been a bit of a blessing in disguise," Houston said.

"Often I have paddled Fish then come home, gone back to work and then started my Dusi prep and I haven’t given my body much time to recover which has meant that I am usually sick for about two weeks during my Dusi training.

"That hasn't happened this year, touch wood!"

Houston, who farms in Underberg on Glencairn Farm, has had to manage his time wisely with work commitments taking priority. This has forced him to change his training regime slightly and he feels that it is paying off.

"In the off season I did a lot of running and mountain biking up in the Drakensberg because it is too cold to paddle," he said.

"It has meant that I am definitely running fit and I am now working on getting my paddling up to scratch.

"With work taking up so much time I have had to shift my training to quality sessions and shorten the amount of time that I train for," he added.

Being based in the Drakensberg has meant that Houston, who is in a relationship with former junior Dusi champion Bianca Haw, has had to spend a lot of his training on his own but he has embraced the solitude.

"I've been going Hans Solo for my training!" he quipped. "I actually love being alone and training how I want to train.

"Alan came up and stayed for a bit and we trained together but otherwise I have been going it alone which I am happy with."

If Houston can remain fully fit and healthy then there is no reason for him to not push for a podium place, however his focus for Dusi isn't where he finishes the race but rather making sure he gets to Blue Lagoon.

"Maintaining my health is the most important thing for me and if I can do that then I will focus on where I can finish," he said.

"Obviously you always want to improve so if I can go and improve on my fifth place finish then I will be really happy."