Quintin van Jaarsveld
Dylan Bense will be fuelled by desire when he touches down on Camps Drift, Pietermaritzburg to tackle his 10th Dusi Canoe Marathon on Thursday.
It will indeed be a doozy of a Dusi for the Margate-based paddler, who by his own admission is considerably undercooked heading into the 66th edition of the 120km, three-day event.
Bense has just returned from a four-month sojourn abroad and said his hunger to join the elite group of paddlers who’ve earned their green permanent number – awarded to those with 10 Dusi finishes – drove him to enter this year’s race.
“That [achieving a Dusi milestone] is the only thing that’s pushed me to do the Dusi this year with almost no training, otherwise I would’ve sat it out,” he told eHowzit.
“The closer it comes, the more excited I get and I just got to concentrate on finishing this three-day beast.”
He said of his overseas trip, “I needed to see what’s out there, so I backpacked through Europe and the UK, experiencing different cultures and people and I absolutely loved every bit of it.
“I ended off with 10 days in Thailand for sun and diving in their crystal clean waters and had too many beers, which I’m paying for now,” he laughed.
Bense, and his father Rudi, are among a sizeable group of South Coast Canoe Club paddlers who’ll be in action in the biggest canoeing event on the African continent.
He’s slotted into training with his clubmates and said the gap in fitness levels is clear, however, he’s optimistic that he’s wealth of experience will help him get the job done.
“It [the time abroad] has impacted my fitness heavily and I was obviously a little heavy after coming back, but I’ve lost 3kgs already. Some of the new guys that had just started when I left are now miles ahead of me, but that’s to be expected.
“With all the chaps being so fit, it forces me to push harder. Two-and-a-half weeks training time is nowhere near adequate but I have no choice, so physically I’m not where I should be, but I think experience and a steady pace should hopefully get me through.”
Bense made his Dusi debut just before his 16th birthday in 2008. “I was privileged enough to have my father take me down in a double and introduce me to my first Dusi. It was the hardest race I’ve ever done with lots of blood, sweat and even tears,” he said.
Since then, he’s grown as an athlete and gained invaluable experience on the wild waters with each passing year. His evolution is evident in his performances, with Bense recording career-best results in 2015 and 2016.
Two years ago, he produced his best K1 result, finishing 117th in 10:31:29, while he and his K2 partner Daniel Muller-Nedebock last year placed 73st overall in 10:36:58.
He also holds the distinction of being the top-placed South Coast Canoe Club paddler in the iconic event for the past four years and, while he’s likely to lose that honour this year, ‘going green’ is the only thing on his mind.
“My goal is just to finish and get my permanent number, and to really take this year to actually enjoy the race.”
Photo by Jetline Action Photo/Gameplan Media