Friday 15 July 2016
There were two opportunities for athletes to have a practice swim in the canal. These were between 0630 and 0900 hours on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 July 2016.
Note : The Main-Donau-Canal is a state owned waterway which is mainly used for boating and ships. As it is extremely hazardous, life-threatening to swim outside the above mentioned hours, participants can only do their training in the Main-Donau-Canal during the above mentioned hours on the official race course. Athletes who do their swim training outside these hours in the Main-Donau-Canal will not be allowed to participate in the competition. These athletes will be disqualified from the event.
At around 7.15am our host, Christoph, drove us the 10 kilometres from Roth to near the start line. I say “near” because the traffic was pretty chaotic and parking was a premium. It would have been a nightmare trying to drive ourselves there. His local knowledge was extremely handy. We arranged a pick up time at a pre-determined spot.
I got into my wetsuit on the canal bank and left my gear with John. A lady near us left her bag unattended and went swimming. If I had been on my own, I would have felt quite comfortable doing the same. At no time did I feel that my gear would have been at risk of being stolen.
Off the red carpet my toes detected steps. Slightly slimy steps – wide, not deep. I felt my way down these until it was deep enough to move out into the canal. The first thing I noticed was that the canal water was warm. Hardly the need for a wetsuit. The second thing I noticed was that the water matched the grassy banks and trees – it was green. It tasted ok though.
A third thing that I noticed was that the safety boat remained on the bank. It occurred to me that athletes would come and go during the available practice time and there would be no accounting for anyone. At the Challenge Wanaka practice, we had to “register” and got a number. Safety boats were out on course.
While I swam for an hour, John busied himself looking at Transition 1 where the bikes were to be racked the following day (Saturday). I really enjoyed being in the water. It was relaxing. Coming back I did drift a little close to the bank and I hit my hand on the sloping concrete side – ouch. A fourth thing that I noticed during my swim was that there were distance markers along the bank. The easiest way to stay on course was to keep in line with the side of the canal. Race day, the swim went up around the corner in the image below – to the next bridge and turned around and came back, past the start line, turned around a few hundred metres to the start.
From the bridge where people would be standing up to 5 deep on race morning. YES, FIVE DEEP. Unbelievable. To the right of the picture you can see the bike stands set out in a paddock. The run from the swim exit to Transition 1 was not much.
This paddock of bikes was closest to the swim exit. I think there was another paddock further over which may have been for the relay teams.
I LOVE these bike stands. It was easy to rack your bike. The back wheel slotted in nicely. I wish we had these for our events in New Zealand. Small bikes do not swing in the wind. Handlebars / seats / pedals / wheels do not get tangled. A lesson could be learnt here.
As I finished my swim and negotiated the slippery concrete steps, I lost my balance and fell back into the water. John caught one of the guys giving Granny a hand up ha ha.
Out of the water I wondered where I might change. Out of the corner of my eye, or maybe not, I glimpsed (male) athletes changing right where they had left their bags. Good enough for them, good enough for me I thought. Once changed (European style), a young Mexican athlete approached me to use my towel to “change under”
Then we walked back to our pick up point. Traffic was still chaotic and athletes were still arriving to take the opportunity for a canal swim. I spotted a nice grassy paddock alongside the walk down to the swim start.
Just after we got picked up I noticed that a wrist band signifying I was an official athlete had come off. I thought it was there prior to the swim and thought perhaps it had come off whilst I was getting changed. I had my passport with me, so Christoph took me back to registration where I was given another one. Christoph and his eldest son are standing with me at the desk in the image below.
Friday is the last day to register. Look how many bags remain in the morning ! A sea of green.
The archway in the above image says “Welcome to the finish line”. I guess this must be part of the stadium. At night it was like being in an Olympic arena.
So Friday morning was busy with the swim practice and an extra visit to the registration tent.
Friday afternoon Christoph kindly drove us around the bike course. There were several climbs but they seemed to be all good (although tiring when doing an iron distance). I was most keen to see the “steep descent”. This wasn’t as steep as my imagination lead me to believe thank goodness, but that didn’t mean I hair-brained it on race day.
Friday evening we walked around 20 minutes with our hosts into the centre of Roth – the Market area where there was a band set up, elite athlete introductions on stage, food, drink and festivities that went on until midnight. That will be another post !
How I came to go Challenge Roth is here.
My view on registration day along with illustrations and “tips” is here.
My thoughts may assist another athlete heading to Challenge Roth in the future.
By Di Chesmar
Originally Published: https://dichesmar.wordpress.com/2016/07/22/swim-practice-in-the-main-donau-canal/