Learning to Walk the Walk

Target Ironman


She’s one of South Africa’s hottest television presenters on Idols and Soundcheck Live on M-Net, a Jacaranda 94.2 DJ, as well as a corporate MC and motivational speaker. But one thing you might not know is that Liezel van der Westhuizen has her heart set on a very special goal this year – to complete Ironman on 25 April.

Why Ironman?
I wanted to achieve a big goal in 2010 and what’s bigger than Ironman? I love the three disciplines that make up Ironman, as well as the mental and physical challenge that comes with taking part in this ultimate triathlon. I got into triathlons after my dad showed me some triathlon and Ironman videos. I have only been competing since November last year, so I’m still very new to the scene and not very good at it! But I am enjoying everything about the sport.

You recently competed in Ironman 70.3, but just missed the bike cut-off. Were you disheartened?
I had an amazing race and wasn’t a bit disappointed. I was more motivated than ever. I was proud of myself for attempting it, even though I had hardly been on a bike before the race (I was a bit overambitious). The experience was amazing and I learnt a lot about myself. Now I know what to expect for the full Ironman.

How will you realise your goal?
I come from a family of runners, but my strongest discipline is swimming. I have started training with a coach, Mike Moriarty, and we’re working on my cycling and running. I train five mornings a week at 4am, doing either a bike or run session, or both. I gym twice a week and swim 2km three times a week.

How do you manage to fit training into your busy schedule?
It’s not easy. I never had enough time to train before Ironman 70.3 in January, so now I have decided to make time to train. This has seen me make some sacrifices in my work schedule, but I believe if it requires great sacrifice, victory will be that much sweeter.

Will you have supporters at Ironman?
My coach will be racing next to me the whole way and my partner, Dean, will be racing in his fourth Ironman. He will be at the finish line when I eventually get there, along with my parents and my cousins from Port Alfred, so I will have a huge support group!

Any plans to reward yourself if you achieve your goal?
I will buy a new bicycle, because I am using a hand-me-down. I also plan to buy a new pair of running shoes to start training for Comrades!

Why is it important to have a sporting goal?
It helps give you purpose and provides motivational focus – and it feels great to achieve a goal. Setting a sporting goal raises your self-confidence when you recognise your ability to achieve that goal.

Why are you so passionate about sport?
I grew up in a sport-crazy family and had the opportunity to take part in lots of sporting activities. That taught me a lot about myself, such as self-discipline. Participating provides us with some of our best memories in life. It also provides for conversation when there is nothing else to talk about! Sport allows us to make connections and friendships where usually we wouldn’t.

What are your sporting goals after Ironman?
I would love to run Comrades in 2011 and do the Eight-Miler at Midmar Mile. And of course re-tackle the half Ironman. Another sporting goal is to assist disadvantaged triathletes to compete in a triathlon or Ironman. My dad taught me this: You can, if you think you can.