Kyle Buckingham is a double Ironman Champion and one of South Africa’s most successful pro triathletes.
Based in the spiritual home of local triathlon, Port Elizabeth, Kyle has become renowned the world over for his potent bike leg and his strength on the run.
Kyle attributes these strengths to the amount of time he dedicates to the gym, as much as the time he spends in the pool, on the bike, and out running on the road.
But when South Africa went into lockdown, he wasn’t able to do those long training rides and runs and those gym sessions. It is a challenge faced globally and one that has resulted in a boom in virtual racing and training.
We caught up with Kyle to get his insights and experiences in this new world for virtual endurance training.
Q: What are your thoughts on virtual racing? Do you think it is easier or harder than conventional racing?
A: I think It is such a great idea. Firstly, it is great fun. Even though you are not physically next to your competition, you see them virtually. Also, it’s a chance to keep the fire burning with these small races. It’s super tough racing on the indoor trainer as there is always resistance against you, whereas outside you have rolling roads to help you with momentum.
Personally, I think it so much harder, and I’m sure other athletes will agree. When I did my last virtual race, I had a large semi-industrial fan, plus my air conditioner directly on me, and I was still overheating. My face almost turned purple, and that never happens to me after a hard effort on the road. It’s also a lot more humid inside, which makes you sweat a lot more and you constantly need to check in with your hydration because things can turn very bad if you let it slip.
Q: What virtual races are coming up?
A: There is a weekly pro virtual race every Wednesday but it is optional to participate. I took part for the first 2 weeks but have not committed to another race just yet. I also don’t have a smart trainer, which is one of the criteria you need to be able to connect with the program. I borrowed a smart trainer for the first 2 weeks so I will have to borrow it again if I want to participate in another race.
Q: Do you think virtual racing will positively impact the sport by bringing new competitors to races?
A: That is a great question. I think there will be a definite blend in triathletes who compete with sprint or Olympic distance, 70.3 and long-distance pro triathletes competing together in virtual races. This is very rare as we all know our strength in distance but it does make virtual racing fun and always exciting.
Q: Has there been any news from overseas with regards to this year’s racing season?
A: There has been some discussion that Europe might open up racing in August or September. I would love to get back to my racing but it definitely is a little nerve-wracking to get on a plane during these times.
Q: What do you think will happen to the sport of triathlon this year?
A: I hope that by the second half of the year, Europe will open up for racing I would like to do a few 70.3 events, and Ironman African Championships will be in November. That’s the race I am training for and the one I want to peak at. They say South Africa will possibly hit its infection peak in July, so I hope the race will still take place in November.