Carrick is proud to be sponsoring award-winning triathlete Miguel Netto, who, this week, is set to become the only South African in his age group to race two Ironman World Championships in one year. Having overcome multiple injuries, Miguel is living proof of the power of endurance. He chats to us about his journey so far.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your history as a triathlete?
I’m a 36-year-old long-distance endurance athlete from Cape Town. I race long-distance triathlon – Ironman and half Ironman distance – and also participate in long-distance running, mostly 21km, marathon and ultra-marathon distance. I have raced 16 full Ironmans, nine half Ironmans, three Comrades Marathons – including cycling from Cape Town to Durban to do the run – over 30 marathons, the Cape Epic and many more stage race and ultra-race events. In terms of achievements, I have qualified for and raced three Ironman World Championships – two in Kona, Hawaii and one in St George, Utah – and two Half Ironman World Championships. I have had five podium finishes in Ironman events, won multiple silver marathon medals and took second place at the SA 50km Championships.
When did you realise that you wanted to be a triathlete and take part in Ironman, specifically?
I come from a running background and have always been fascinated by triathlons, specifically in Ironman racing. In 2010, I decided to do my first Ironman and I’ve never looked back! The sport is not only a hobby, it’s my life and a lifestyle that I really enjoy. From eating, training, racing, coaching, to everything else that’s involved, I use it structure my life.
What do you have to do to qualify for the Ironman World Championship and how is this different from other races?
Approximately 100,000 triathletes try to qualify, yet only 2,000 triathletes end up on the starting line. That’s 2%. Every Ironman event around the world offers a minimum of one qualifying spot per age group. More spots are given depending on the race and whether it is a continental championship. Each age-group is given slots on race-day and you need to podium or at least finish in the top five, to stand a chance of getting a Kona slot at the slot allocation the following day. You can only get to Kona by qualifying, you cannot just enter. It’s the most prestigious event in Ironman and endurance racing.
What are you doing to train for the Ironman World Championship?
Having raced Ironman South Africa in November and then raced the postponed 2021 Ironman World Champs this past May, I took a week off to refresh. I am currently training for the Ironman World Championships in Kona on 8 October. It’s not something I have tried before, and it’s not advised to run a Comrades so close to a big Ironman race. Yet, with the Comrades Marathon moving to later in the year as a result of Covid-19, my coach and I have had to find a way to fit them both in. The emphasis on training obviously favours running, about 120km–140km a week, but I am also still maintaining a solid bike and swim volume, with three bike sessions and three swim sessions a week. Whilst the training volume is tough, the key post–Comrades, is maintaining a balancing act between ensuring I get the right amount of recovery, and not losing my fitness and form in the following six weeks.
How are you feeling after the World Championship in Utah, USA? And how does this compare to what you were hoping for?
It’s been a tough few weeks dealing with some disappointment at the World Champs in Utah. I had a tough day, feeling the worst I’ve ever felt in any event I’ve ever raced. Yet, I somehow managed to push on and still finish a respectable 33rd out of 3,500 overall. Yet, I knew something was wrong and tested positive for Covid-19 the next day. I’m – disappointed that I could not have the day I knew I was capable of. Yet, I’m also super proud for pushing on and even finishing, never mind getting some sort of result in a World Champs that took place on a truly brutal course in harsh conditions!
What does it mean to you to be taking part in the Ironman World Championship?
If you race Ironman, then the Ironman World Championships is the holy grail! Many athletes try for years to claim a spot on the big Island of Kona, but some don’t even get the chance to. For me, it’s an honour and something I am truly proud of – to have raced three Ironman World Championships is a dream. Racing them is one thing, but actually recognising how much it took to get there over the years is what makes it so special and rewarding.
2022 is actually a rare and special year for the World Champs. Ironman World Champs was born in Kona, Hawaii and had been raced there on the same weekend for over 40 years. However, when Covid hit, Ironman had no choice but to postpone 2021’s event to 2022. However, it had to move away from Kona for the first time ever, as it can only happen once a year in October in Kona and they obviously already had the 2022 World Champs planned.– Therefore, for the first time ever, Ironman World Champs was moved out of Kona and hosted in St George, Utah this past May, where I raced. This year is therefore the first time they will ever have two World Champs in one year. For me, this is extremely special, as by racing both Utah and Kona, I will become the only South African age-grouper to qualify and race two World Champs in one year!
What has Carrick’s involvement been in your Ironman journey?
Through the years, I’ve made many contacts and met many incredible people who have supported me and my career. One such special person is Carrick’s Co-Founder and Non-Executive Director, Mike Fannin with whom I’ve ridden the Double Century with for the past three years. Mike and I have become good friends and he has followed and supported me in his personal capacity. When I spoke to him about needing support to try and complete this double World Champs year, he didn’t hesitate to help. – Carrick played a huge role in helping me get to Utah and race. I am very grateful for the backing and support I get from Carrick and hope to make Mike and the team proud for the remainder of this year’s journey as I attempt to make history!
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back and share your wisdom with yourself?
I discover more and more as I progress in this great sport and career. It’s such a humbling sport and there are just no shortcuts to success. For me, however, the biggest bit of advice I would give “old me” would be to remain patient. This word is a motto for me, my coach and my wide and whenever possible we say it to each other on race day. The word “patience” plays a role in all aspects of competing. Early in my career, being impatient and rushing, sometimes wasn’t the best method. Endurance racing is about building progressively, then reassessing before proceeding further, instead of just going full-steam ahead. Injuries, mental and physical fatigue, performance, and so on are all affected when you’re not following the plan and being patient. I know this because I’ve been there and made the mistakes.
What has been your biggest disappointment and what have you learned from it?
On 6 May 2020, the second day out of lockdown, I was out training on my bike and I was knocked down. I broke my hips, pelvis, all my ribs, my collarbone, punctured both my lungs and suffered multiple other complications. I spent three weeks in ICU and after a huge operation I was left unsure as to whether I would ever be able to use my left leg properly again – never mind even train or race! It was the lowest of lows for me and there were many days where I felt like giving up. I thought I was a mentally–tough person but this required another level. Remaining positive, trusting the process and committing to my recovery was a must if I was to stand any chance. After a long journey, one year later I ran the Cape Town Marathon as my first race back which I completed in two hours and 46 minutes. Two months later, I raced Ironman South Africa and finished sixth. Another four months on, I once again raced Ironman South Africa to finish second. Then to cap it all off, two years after my accident to the day, I lined up to race the Ironman World Champs in Utah! Here I am today, stronger, and fitter than ever, albeit with a lot of metal in my body, and one that aches more than it used to, having completed the Comrades and on a journey to another Ironman World Champs.
How can we follow your championship training journey?
I am actively on Strava and Instagram and will also be sharing various content with my sponsors and partners along the way.