Borders triathlete Jenny triumphs in South Africa

Triathlete Jenny Close, originally from the Borders, now lives and competes in South Africa
Triathlete Jenny Close, originally from the Borders, now lives and competes in South Africa

A Borders woman has won her age category in a half Ironman in her adopted home, South Africa.

In a nation renowned for its sporting prowess, Jenny Close headed the women’s 35-39 age group in the South Africa Ironman 70.3 in Buffalo City, East London, on the country’s east coast.

Jenny, now living in Cape Town, told us: “It was my first 70.3 so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect other than its the second toughest of its kind due to the rolling hills on the bike route.”

The triathalon attracts 3,000 competitors from around the world and involves a 1.2-mile ocean swim, 56-mile bike race and 13.1-mile run. Jenny completed the race in 5.21.31, winning the run in her age group in a time of 1.46.13 and completing the bike and swim sections in 2.54.38 and 34.56 respectively, beating a couple of professionals on her way to victory.

The race on January 25 was her best result so far in an amateur competitive career of less than three years.

She said: “I loved the bike route. Rolling hills suit me perfectly – being lightweight I can climb hills relatively easily and on the downhills my deep-section Enve wheels, very kindly sponsored by Chris Strickland from Celtic Bicycle Wheels (in Jedburgh), make me fly!

“I was under strict instructions from my coach (Dave Sullivan) not to chase on the bike and stick to my race plan, but it was very hard to hold back when I was feeling so good!

“I was a little bit disappointed with my run as this is supposed to be my strength. I didn’t get my fluid and nutrition intake quite right, so my energy levels became very low during the second half of it and I struggled a bit with cramping leg muscles.”

The former (horse) eventer, who competed to advanced level, trains twice a day, with a cycle ride of four to six hours on Saturdays and a run of 20-30km on Sundays with friends.

“I’ve always loved running and I took up cycling when I moved to South Africa (in 2010). I did my first triathlon two-and-a-half years ago and swam the whole swim breaststroke and still managed to come third!”

The 36-year-old digital media manager represented Scotland in athletics and lacrosse while at school.

She and her South African husband, Pierre, return to the Borders for their next visit in the summer.

Jenny said: “My next big race is the full Ironman in April where I will again be aiming for a podium position. My dream is to qualify for the world champs in Kona.”