BRENDAN Boyce says he is in the leanest shape he has ever been in as he prepares for the World Championships in Doha this weekend.
Boyce will compete in the 50k Race Walk on Saturday night, and he is looking forward to the challenge.
Doha is renowned for its heat and humidity and the Milford man admits that he doesn’t know how his body will hold up in the conditions.
With that in mind, the Finn Valley AC athlete has done everything he can to get his body in supreme shape for one of the most arduous events in sport.
“I’m definitely the leanest I have ever been.
“I have put in that extra effort to get lean for Doha because it is going to be 40 degrees, and you don’t need any extra insulation.
“The plan was just to strip the body of any bit of fat that was there, and I have lost a couple of kgs in the last month.
“I’ve been on a ‘no cakes’ diet. I would usually have a bit of cake and coffee during the day, but I’ve been very strict with what I have been eating and drinking.
“There’s been no beer or wine and just a little bit of coffee here and there. It’s all pretty much water.
“I only have to do it for a short period, and these are the small sacrifices that you make.”
The 50k Race Walk will take place at night, but Boyce and his fellow competitors will still endure temperatures of in and around 32 °C, and 75% humidity.
Boyce doesn’t think his make-up gives him any real disadvantage over anyone else when it comes to dealing with the humidity.
“It’s very difficult to adapt to the humidity. There’s no disposition in humans to be good with dealing with it. It doesn’t matter where you are from really.
“I have been down in Almeria in the south of Spain, getting acclimatised with heat and humidity.
“We will be there for ten days before flying out to Doha directly from Malaga on Wednesday.
“I know some athletes have gone to Greece and others have gone to Turkey, and the whole Columbian team was with us in Almeria as well.”
While it is a help that the race is at night as opposed to during the day, it does present other issues as the competitors have a long wait on race day, and there will be no daylight.
“All events that are not in the stadium are taking place at night. I think they have air conditioning in the stadium so they will be very comfortable.
“The marathon starts at 11.59pm I think, and the 50k walk is at 11.30pm.
“It will be dark at that time, so I think they have some sort of special lighting system like they used for the Singapore Grand Prix in Formula 1 and I’m sure it will be perfect as it will need to be crystal clear for the TV cameras.”
It has been a fine season for Boyce, and he has already secured his spot in his third Olympics in Tokyo next year.
A lifetime best time of 3:48:13 at the 50k European Race Walking Championships in Lithuania in May was enough to secure his passage to Japan.
Everything is building towards the Olympics, but Boyce – who turns 33 the week after next – has also set targets for the short-term, and the World Championships in Doha were always at the fore point of his thinking in 2019.
“Tokyo is just over ten months away now, and Doha will be a great help in preparing for that, because they had a crazy heat wave there this summer, so the conditions might be difficult just like they will be this weekend.”
Doha is a controversial location for these championships, and Human rights organisations were up in arms when it was awarded due to their ill-treatment of migrant workers, hundreds of whom have died while building sporting facilities over the last ten years.
The Qatar city was awarded the championships under the leadership of then IAAF President Lamine Diack, who has since been ordered to stand trial on charges of corruption and money laundering following an investigation in France into doping cover-ups, extortion and bribe-taking in World athletics.
Boyce acknowledged that the championships should not be held in Doha but his main concern relates to the excessive heat that the competitors will face.
“There are definitely issues, but I’m not hugely informed on the politics of it. My main concern would be the conditions that the athletes are going to have to compete in.
“I think Qatar is even black-listed in the Arab world. My sister-in-law lives in Abu Dhabi and she won’t be able to get over, as there are no direct flights.
“I think it’s a joke that these championships and even the World Cup are going to Qatar.
“It’s a crazy decision to go to a country that has no major impact on global sports. That’s what happens when you put money before the athletes.”
There won’t be a huge amount of support for Boyce on Saturday, but he will have a loyal band of fans to cheer him on, including his new wife Sarah who he married in Laois back in June.
“Sarah will go over to give me support and my coach Rob (Heffernan) is travelling as well.
“Kate Veale who was out training with us here in Almeria is going to fly over with her dad.
“I won’t have huge support on the course because I can’t imagine too many of the other athletes will be out at 2am or 3am to cheer me or anyone on, they’ll be worried about themselves.
“But there will be a few Irish flags to keep me going.”
Boyce would love to be in the mix for medals on Saturday but conceded that that goal may be beyond him this week.
However, he is feeling fresh and trusts in his ability that he can deliver a big performance on the roads of Doha.
“I feel confident that I can put in a big performance. A lot will depend on what kind of impact the conditions will have.
“I was 17th in the World Team Championships last year, and 19th in Rio, and I am really confident that I can improve on that.
“Position-wise in the shape that I am in and the pace that I feel I can compete at, I think I can get 3:45.
“Rob (Heffernan) walked 3:45 in the last World Championships and that got him eighth.
“I’d be hoping to be in and around that mark, so I would be looking at top eight or ten.
“But that will depend massively on how I cope with the conditions.”
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