Bridgitte Hartley and Christie Mackenzie have confirmed their entry for the Fish River Canoe Marathon on 8 and 9 October, excited to take their form from the world marathon championships in Romania the week before into the race.
Hartley and Mackenzie were the dominant women’s crew on the final stage, but a swim at Cradock weir, twenty minutes from the race finish, left the door open for Jenna Nisbett and Kyeta Purchase to scamper past them and take the honours so they will be out to reverse the drama of 2019 that saw the K2 title slip through their fingers in the closing minutes of the race.
Pietermaritzburg-based Hartley, who has won the K1 edition of the race in 2018, is looking forward to another shot at the K2 title, and says her partnership with Gauteng resident Mackenzie has grown since that last Fish challenge.
“It is a great combination that clicks almost immediately when we get into the boat together,” said Hartley.
“I spent a really good week training with Christie in Johannesburg last month, getting in some speed sessions, distance sessions and the infamous Dabulamanzi dice which is pretty intense, and the boat felt great.”
Hartley said that their personalities are well matched, and they are able to monitor each other’s composure in the heat of competition effectively.
“I enjoy Christies confidence and power in the boat. She normally drives the boat in the front seat, even though we did swop during our training last month because the boat was fitted with a t-bar, and it felt just as good,” said Hartley.
“If I get stressed out during a race she is always there to calm me down, and similarly if I sense she is getting carried away I can calm her down.
“The one thing I do know about Christie is that she will always give you 100% in every training session and every race,” she added.
Hartley jets off to the world sprint championships in Denmark this weekend, and after a brief sojourn in Hungary she will join the national marathon team in Romania, where she is excited that their race schedule fits in with their K2 plans perfectly.
“We both race our K1 races on the same day,” she explained. “I have my short course race and she races the Under 23 K1, so that means we have a full day after that to get into the K2 together and settle into it before we race.”
She added that once the world marathon championships end it will be a race to get down to Cradock to prepare for the Fish.
“We can only leave Romania on the Monday so I plan to go straight down to Cradock from Johannesburg. That will allow us to get two full days tripping in on the river before the race.
“I am really looking forward to this year’s Fish! There are quite a few women’s crews that are going well at the moment and it has been fantastic to have the women’s race at the Fish being so close and exciting in the last few years.
“I have only ever won it in a single, so I would love to win it with Christie this year. It is a tactical race. You are tempted to go hard but you have to balance it with caution and not making any mistakes,” she added.