Underberg - Following a tumultuous end to 2019, South African paddling king Hank McGregor will be at the 2020 Drak Challenge from February 1-2 but won't be putting any pressure on himself to contest for the title.
McGregor had a tough final three months of the year after he was diagnosed with shingles and the illness forced him out of action at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in China and prevented him from not only competing, but training too for large parts of the last three months.
The three-time champion of the Drak Challenge believes that his illness has given him a fresh perspective on competing and he'll go into this year's edition of the Drak Challenge with an open mind.
"It was an obvious set-back last year with my shingles but I am just taking it day by day at the moment," the Euro Steel star said.
"I am still recovering and just trying to stay healthy and not exert myself too much but I am looking forward to paddling again.
"I am going into races a lot more relaxed and I have a different perspective on racing but I am going to try and do as well as I can."
The competitive element will never fade in McGregor as he looks beyond the Drak Challenge to a busy second half of 2020; however the veteran's approach to the Southern Drakensberg classic has been revised drastically.
"Usually I would have had a busy festive period as I usually race the Cape Point Challenge and then train hard for Drak and then Dusi, but it has been very different this time around," he said.
"I'm just going to go out there and enjoy myself and I hope that I have a clean race - unlike last year!
"Although last year was disappointing, it made me realise that there are so many races besides for the race for first.
"You forget what the majority of the field are doing and that they all have races within the race whether it be for the top 15 or 20. I appreciated seeing that perspective of the race last year."
The Drak Challenge will give McGregor a good gauge as to how his recovery is going and although there he is downplaying his challenge he will always be someone to keep an eye on.
"I am going to race hard but there is no pressure and if I am not at the sharp end of the race at the finish then I'm not going to be disappointed," McGregor added.
"I've had to work my way back slowly and I am not there yet but I am getting there and it is still going to be a long process."
The Drak Challenge canoe marathon takes place in Underberg on February 1-2.