Challenge Roth 2016 Race Report

Di Chesmar is this months ‘Client of the Month’. Di has recently returned from Challenge Roth in Germany where she did a PB for an Iron-distance race. This is her story.

There was every chance that I might not experience this day.  Why Challenge Roth?

It was a big decision to make and yes, I was certainly happy to be on that start line.  I was excited for the day to start.  Being hosted by a family living in Roth made the entire experience go smoothly.  Probably a lot smoother than if we had been staying in a hotel.  Christoph was able to answer questions I had and if he did not know, he found out the answer.

Unlike both Ironman New Zealand and Challenge Wanaka, no athlete pre or post race weigh-in took place.  I knew I would be around 56/57kg which put me in a positive frame of mind.

I can hardly believe that this was my fifth iron distance event.  My first was Ironman New Zealand back in 2009.  I could never have predicted this scenario back then.

I took the same approach as that for Challenge Wanaka.  Be involved in the hype and pre-race festivities as little as possible.  This was the right approach.

The approach included:

  • Putting my timing chip around my ankle pre-race night.  I had to pay 5 Euro for this chip.  It seems that some competitors buy a timing chip which they own and use for various races.
  • Not attending the carbo loading party
  • Not completing a pre-race psych sheet
  • No lists !
  • No race belt (nuisance around my waist as my body tends to swell/bloat in long distance events)
  • Used a Bento box for gels and chews
  • No lollies
  • Determining an average cycle speed and on the run, a running race pace
  • Utilising the aid stations – no food in cycle top and tri singlet pockets. I never found out that the nutrition on course was 32Gi until the Expo and I bought some and tried it a couple of days before the race.  My stomach usually tolerates anything.
  • Utilising a Katmandu money belt to hold my headlamp as there was no special needs bags.  As I had never run with the belt, I did a ten minute practice the day prior to the race.
  • I worked out my expected finish time, along with each discipline time and each transition.

On the Saturday night, during our barbecue, Marle put the compulsory ‘tattoo’ numbers on my arms.  Interesting where they had to be positioned as I would have them covered up until the run leg.


Transition bags

Bike – cycle shoes (ah yes, the lovely comfy ones that cope with feet swollen in the heat), some gels, eye protection, cycle gloves, white arm coolers for sun protection, cycle top – I could not wear this under my wetsuit as the wearing of race numbers under the wetsuit was NOT permitted.

Run – cap, shoes, socks, anti chafe cream, clean shorts, tri top (with number pinned on the front), clear lense eye protection (I chose to leave the dark lens cycle glasses on & when it got dark I tucked them into my bra).


I had a reasonable sleep and woke to the alarm at 4.20am.  This was actually the time that the first shuttle bus left from the Roth school center to the swim start.  There were five shuttle buses leaving every 20 minutes.  The shuttle bus may only be used by athletes who have come to Roth without a car……

Ready  to leave for the swim start

So while the shuttle buses were leaving, I had a cup of tea, a banana and some yoghurt for breakfast. At 5.10am I gathered up my red cycle bag, green “after” bag, wetsuit etc and Christoph, Marle, John and I hopped in the car to travel the 10km distance to the swim start.  About 4 km away from the swim start, the traffic was down to a snail crawl.  I needed to be there by 6.15am at the very latest.  The red cycle bag had to be deposited by that time.

With cars going in both directions, athletes, supporters, cyclists, motorcyclists and police in abundance, Christoph stopped the car momentarily to let Marle, John and I out.  We then walked to the swim start.  At this point I ended up ahead as I squeezed through groups of people and made my way over the bridge, dropped down the bank and headed to bike transition.

Marle and I walking to the swim start
A blur of colour as athletes move in the same direction

At this point I realised it was possible to enter bike transition on the morning of the race.  I was all organised and had nothing extra I needed to do apart from check that my bike was still in the same spot.  It was.

Now to get rid of my red cycle clothing bag.  Another realisation.  It was me who needed to tuck it in behind the correct group of numbers, not a volunteer.  I found this really handy actually as I got to go in the area I would be running through in around 3 hours time.  Good for familiarisation.

Next I needed to get into my wetsuit, make sure I had my two swim caps and goggles, throw my shorts and jersey into the green “after” bag and deposit it in one of the trucks (who would transport it to the finish line).

Swim 3.8 kilometres

Women athletes were identified by their red swim caps and men by their green caps.  I wore two caps with my goggles wedged between them.  This was in case I got kicked in the face – my goggles wouldn’t get kicked off, although I would have still been able to swim without them.

All swim caps had the athletes swim wave time printed on them (6:55:00).  There were two main swim waves for the women.  The first group had 300 and the second group had 250.  3 groups x 200 athletes had left before the first women’s group.   Groups were five minutes apart.  Ten groups x 200 athletes were to follow my group plus an eleventh group with the remaining athletes.  This was just the individual competitors. 

An hour after the start of the last individual wave, 3x waves of relay swimmers started (a total of 650 team swimmers).

Athletes went through to the marshalling area through a small gate and marshalls either side checked each cap to make sure you were in the right group.

Scores of people lined the bridge, the bank and every other available space !!  The balloons started to rise before our swim wave.

A loud gun (with a puff of smoke) started each wave.  Hot air balloons were rising from the opposite river bank.  As we made our way down the red carpet to the water, there were cheerleaders each side doing a kind of Mexican wave.  That was very cool. Thousands of spectators lined the banks 7 deep and the bridge was packed around 4 deep, according to John.  I eased my way down the concrete steps, embraced the warm water, did a few strokes and headed to the deep water start line, starting my Garmin early and tucking it back under the wetsuit sleeve.

BANG.  We were off.  Awesome.  I didn’t need to do too much sighting as I just followed the feet in front.  I have never done an event where I can draft in the swim.  This was absolutely amazing and I loved it.  We were lucky that the morning was overcast.  Every breath I noticed the crowds lining the bank.  We swam down to the next bridge.  The crowd was a bit thinner here.

All the images in the group of 5 below, apart from the top one, are credited toGetty Images.

The men didn’t take long to catch up to us.  I didn’t have any bad experiences as they passed me.  In fact I tried to use them for drafting as they passed by.

Ooops, I never really checked the swim course map much and when I had swum under the bridge, I realised we needed to turn, so my turn was maybe a little wider than it should have been.

The wash of athletes on the other side gave the impression of slightly choppy water all the way back.  Before too long I was heading to the red carpet where marshalls in white coats were helping us onto the steps.  The white coat aspect made me chuckle.

Challenge Roth
ROTH, GERMANY – JULY 17: Jan Frodeno of Germany exits the swim during the Challenge Triathlon Roth on July 17, 2016 in Roth, Germany. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images for Challenge Triathlon) *** Local Caption *** Jan Frodeno

Team Sean missed me coming out of the water as I was just too fast (faster than expected that is).

The view from above as Team Sean left the swim area to head out to a bike spot. The ropes marked off the finish of the swim where the volunteers in white coats waited for us:-)

Transition 1

I easily found my bag and raced into the tent.  I am sure there were other people in there ha ha, but I was so focussed I cannot recall.  There was just the one tent which is a great idea.  Just inside I asked a volunteer to help me get my wetsuit off.  I planned to waste as little time as possible.  Good move.  I grabbed cycle gloves, put on my shoes & cycle top (which had a 2nd spare tube in it), sunglasses.  I already had my shorts & bra on.  I didn’t bother with the arm coolers – hoping it would remain overcast for a long time.  Out of the tent, I ran along the barriers spotting “my” Datev sign, ran down to my bike, threw my helmet on and ran out to mount my bike and head off.  We crossed the bridge where heaps of people were still watching all the remaining swim waves go off.  We had to cross this bridge three times.

Images below are Getty Images.  “Now where’s my bag, where’s my bike?”

Cycle 180 kilometres

The flat and fast bike course

Because Team Sean had missed my swim exit, they also missed me heading off on the bike !!  However John got some interesting images of other cyclists leaving T1.

A tandem about to head off with a sight impaired athlete.  I don’t recall seeing any tandems but I did see a couple of recumbent cycles.

In an image above you can see the draft zone chalked on the exit from T1 onto the bike course.  I don’t believe it was observed that well.

I had some drink and something to eat once clipped in.  Driving the bike course on Friday was extremely helpful.  There were many little towns to cycle through and not many long boring stretches.  On the way out, I discovered that one such stretch was a false flat.  It seemed to take ages until I found some cycle legs.  I had the stitch for a while and I cannot blame it on the course nutrition because I was eating my own usual nutrition at that point.


The aid stations were well stocked and organised.  I was disappointed to see rubbish dropped on the cycle course.  That was meant to be a no no, but I guess with 4000+ athletes on course, it was going to happen.  The cycle was non-drafting too.  Motorcycles were everywhere checking, but I never saw anyone in the “penalty box” and I did see a lot of cyclists drafting.  Sheers numbers sort of made it impossible not to.  Chalked on the road several times was the correct distance box athletes were meant to observe.

Not many women passed me but as you can imagine, heaps of guys did.  About a handful of them gave me some verbal support as they zipped past.  One said he had done Wanaka and pointed to his cycle shirt 🙂   Nice.

Somewhere on the bike course I spotted Steffen and then the rest of #teamsean Germany 🙂    That gave me a nice lift, although I am used to not having much support on course at iron distances and trust myself to get by with my own determination.  I didn’t realise at the time that Helen’s Team Sean sign was being made good use of !!

The first time I descended the switchbacks I saw a cyclist lying up against the (protective) haybales, his face covered in blood.  I understand he was airlifted to hospital.

Haybales also protected some of the sharp bends in the roads in the villages.

Although Jan Frodeno’s world record time captured most of the Tri world’s attention at the 2016 event, each age group athlete is treated with the same welcoming spirit as the pros. Here are a few shots of the age groupers on the course.

The images below are on a flat bit of the course.

There are several little climbs to negotiate, lined with people.  Then there is the famous Solar Berger.  Now that was amazing.  Also amazing was that I had guys (trying to) passing me on the way up here.  Near the top, the crowd covered the road, parting so there was just enough room to squeeze through.  On the second lap I was wondering when I would get to the Solar Berger. It wasn’t until I crossed the bridge for the third time that I realised I had already gone up the Solar Berger – there just weren’t any crowds there !!!

I turned off towards the finish line.  Man it seemed to take ages to get there.  I dismounted, removed the Garmin from the bike mount back to my wrist mount and let the volunteer take my bike.  I didn’t have to rack it myself.  In fact I have no idea where they put them.  Great organisation.

Transition 2

Into T2 and a volunteer handed me my bag.  Wow.  I didn’t expect that.  Straight into the mixed change tent.  Stripped off my shorts and cycle shirt and put on fresh gear.  Kept my cycle glasses, put on my Qwik Kiwi cap and headed out to the Portaloo.  First time I had needed to go all day (including pre-race).  Then I was out onto the run course.  This is an out and back type of course with all sorts of dog ends.  By now the cloud cover had lifted and it was quite hot.  At an aid station not far from the start, kids were handing out pairs of sponges.  Yessssss.  I squeezed one over my cap and held onto the other.  This is what I ended up doing each aid station.  One to instantly cool, one to hold and squeeze on the way.

My main diet on the run course was cracker biscuits (salt), bananas (stop cramp), the occasional chew or bar, plus water, ISO (which I read on another athletes’s blog did not contain salt) and Coke which was to be a saviour as usual.

At 17km on the run course, along the canal bank, I spotted #teamsean Germany again.  I told them that I was “now feeling pretty good”, which was true.  When I got down to the bridge, I had to turn off.  This bit was a real mongrel dog end.  I didn’t enjoy it much at all.  The course took us out to a village, looped around and then we headed back to the bridge.  Some walking up to the bank.  Aagh, back running I was feeling blah.  I had a sore toenail on my right foot which was annoying (it actually was a blood blister).  As I approached #teamsean Germany I announced that the “wheels had fallen off”.   John said I only had 17km to go.  I did some mental arithmetic and knew he was wrong as I had only just reach the 18km marker.  That messed with my mind a bit.


I think I was doing a bit of walking / running.  I wouldn’t see them again until after I had finished.  At least this eliminated any possibility of sympathy seeking. I had to dig deep and get on with it.

Further along the canal bank I watched a guy stop and lie and down in the grass.  Hey, that’s a great idea, oh but it won’t get me to the finish line any faster.  So on I plodded.  Little did I realise that my plodding pace was actually faster than the average pace I had set myself.

On the canal, there were “rescue” boats going up and down.  I saw them collect a couple of athletes who pulled out.  I also saw two  large boats on the canal.  That was an exciting distraction.

#teamsean advised that they saw many people walking alongside the canal, including relay runners. Damn I hurt.  I would happily have pulled out at that point.  But it wouldn’t be easy given it was an out and back course, so I might as well carry on.

The course was marked each kilometre.  Some seemed to take ages to get to.  At the other end of the canal there was another dog end.  It was a bit later in the day and didn’t feel as nasty as the other one.  Back to the canal I knew I was on the “last straight”.  It was a great feeling (apart from the sore toenail) to get to the point where I first entered the canal route, turn away from the canal and head towards town.

Light was diminishing fast now and I stopped to sort my headlamp.  I asked a guy to unzip the Kathmandu bag & get it out.  This he did.  Then I asked him to tuck my cap into my tri back pocket.  It wasn’t until I set off again that I realised he had poked it into the Kathmandu bag, so I stopped again and tried to sort it out.  I think the back pockets in my tri top had disappeared as I could not find them.  Abandoning that idea, I clutched my Qwik Kiwi cap until the finish line.  My Qwik Kiwi top has stretched a bit.  It has even undergone some sewing repairs as a large tear appeared in the front after my last race.  I have a new (smaller) tri top but it is a snug fit.  I don’t like wearing tight clothing in an iron distance.

Headlamps weren’t mandatory.  In fact I don’t think they are even mentioned in the race manual.  I never noticed the Katmandu belt whilst running.  In fact I wore it under my tri top next to my skin.  It was brilliant and I will now use it when doing long training runs in winter to carry my headlamp.  So quite a few athletes ran without headlamps.  There were given some sort of handlight to carry and/or glow sticks.

Back in Roth a young guy asked if he could run with me.  Of course, if you want.  He had been the cyclist in a relay team.  By now cobbles were the surface underfoot.  Tired feet weren’t too happy, but it was a case of suck it up and keep moving.  There were some dog ends within the town.  There were not many supporters along these areas.  Aid stations were starting to pack up and some had run out of certain foods.  I asked for cracker biscuits at one and they had none and asked if I wanted some bread.  In no state to think clearly, I grabbed a slice of brown bread, wondered why the hell I had it and when I spotted a box of bananas I quickly ditched the bread without eating any of it.

The course became a bit confusing in town with the volunteers diminishing.  Even the guy accompanying me wasn’t too sure and asked anyone around if we were going the right way (in German).  At one point, we did a left hand turn and going straight ahead there looked to be another athlete.  If it was, he was going the wrong way probably.

A couple of days later, Marle showed me where I had run when we were shopping in the Market Square.  I had no idea that the very last part was through the Market Square uphill until I got to the start of the red carpet.  I do not recall running uphill.

The guy kept looking at his watch.  I only occasionally looked at mine to see the pace screen.  Near the carpet he peeled off and ran around the outside.  I hit the red carpet and on queue the fireworks started. I have never seen these before at Challenge Wanaka as I have been still out on course.  I looked up to see colours and explosions.  The stands were a sea of glow sticks and sparklers.  Someone offered me glowsticks and I said no thanks, I have my headlamp.  I was in another world.


Running the red carpet meant doing a circuit of the arena/stadium (makeshift).  On the last corner, a guy was sort of dancing waving his glowsticks.  I must have had a burst of adrenaline as I picked up my speed, racing past him to the finish line.  I thought I had finished in 16:00:01 – I forgot I started my Garmin early and probably hit the stop button late.


Over that finish line, I bent over to catch my breath.  I saw a photographer crouching on the ground and someone hung a medal around my neck.  Then I moved to the side.  Someone asked if I wanted to lie down, but I was ok, apart from sore feet.  I moved away a little and watched the fireworks.  I don’t get emotional after events, but I had tears in my eyes this time.  The fireworks seemed to go on forever.  It wasn’t until later that I was told it was Jan Frodeno who put the medal around my neck.  To be honest, I may not have recognised him anyway, but I was a bit embarrassed.  #teamsean athlete fail:-)


Sorry Jan Frodeno.  I didn’t realise it was you who gave me my medal.

John said later that after the athlete behind me finished, the finish clock was turned off.  Athletes finishing after that time are still recorded in the results. I am pleased about that.  It was a tough day out there.

Then I headed to the finishers tent.  Needed some help up onto the massage table as my legs kept cramping.  The masseur removed my shoes and I saw that I had a massive blood blister.  No wonder it bloody hurt.  He squeezed cold water over feet and then massaged my legs – bliss.

Blood blister and chaffing from heart rate monitor strap – ouchy.

John and Christoph appeared and they took #teamsean to another level, getting me my finishers certificate, finishers shirt, taking my timing chip to go and collect my bike, plus get my red, blue and green bags.  I went and grabbed a bit of food – pasta with green Thai sauce.  What I really wanted was a McD’s and chips ha ha, but I survived just fine without it

Marle and Jens caught up with me outside the tent.  Christoph drove John & I with my bike & bags home while Marle & Jens walked.  What a massive day.  It is one I will NEVER FORGET.


This 5th iron distance was exactly 22 mins 30 secs faster than my previous fastest raced in 2009.  My finish times so far are not age group world breakers by any means, so I have room to improve 🙂  The eight women in my 60-64 age group all finished.  I was a rank outsider for sure with the 7th person finishing 1.5 hours ahead of me.  The fastest in my age group was a Swiss athlete who blitzed the course in 11:56:12.  Respect.

For the data geek in me:

Year                                  July  2016 Roth                            Feb 2016 Wanaka
Age group                           60 – 64 yr AG                                 60 – 69 yr AG
Race weight                           56/57kg                                           56 kg
Total time                            15:56:59                                           16:58:24
Swim 3.8km                         1:33:40                                             1:46:58
T1                                           6.58 mins                                       10:53 mins
Cycle                                      7:38:21                                            8:26:03
T2                                          7:59 mins                                       9:12mins
Run 42.2km                           6:30:04                                            6:25:16

2016 Challenge Roth competitors
Women    Men    Relay
Individual Starters                          561             2845
Relay teams                                    650
Finishers                                         479
Diane’s finish position                   475

Total Kiwis starting = 36
Total Kiwis without a listed finish time = 30

Note for spectators
It is not possible to be everywhere on the course.  Chose one or two places to view.  Make sure you head to the “stadium” EARLY.  My supporters arrived around 8pm and the area was three quarters full.  It holds around 5,000 people.  Make sure you do not need to use a toilet as you may not get your spot back !  It is free to go in from around 7pm.  Prior to that to see the elites finish there was an entry charge of around 5 Euro.

Special thanks to my husband, John.  He did the best job ever as my personal helper 🙂   He also took charge of the camera and is responsible for most of the images on this page.  Sharing the experience with him has given it so much more depth.  We can talk about the things we saw and did.  He saw things from a different perspective.  I know he really enjoyed being part of it.  It was nothing like any other events we have experienced.  Just a shame I couldn’t have brought a few others with

A massive thank you to my family and friends for their virtual support from afar. #teamsean ROCKS.   Robyn, my oldest daughter, took my breath away when afterwards I saw she had done a running commentary on Facebook.   She probably knows more about what happened than I do.

Another massive thank you to #teamsean Germany. The level of local support could never have been anticipated.  I feel very humbled.  We have made some new friends.  It is because of their support, kindness, fun that we plan to return in 2017 to watch and/or be in a relay team.  A homestay makes the world of difference to the experience an athlete will have in a foreign country or unfamiliar environment.

A huge thanks to Coach Ray Boardman, Qwik Kiwi Endurance Training Consultants, for his unfaltering belief in me and his ability to get me on the start line in good shape once again.

Also thanks to the health professionals who help me keep my body and mind in shape, Nev, John G and Simon of Back in Action.

Why Challenge Roth?
Registration Day for Challenge Roth
Swim practice in the Main-Donau-Canal
Cycle check in for Challenge Roth

Plus someone else’s 2016 race report I enjoyed reading here

Postscript: If you would like to read about how I started with entry level women’s triathlons and worked my way up to bigger events, I have written a blog for my Coach, Ray Boardman of Qwik Kiwi Training Consultants.  You will need to have a quiet 25 minutes to read through it.  The blog contains links to other separate post event write ups.   My Ten Years With Qwik Kiwi

By Di Chesmar

Originally Published:

Tri Training NZ

As client of the month Di received a bouquet of flowers delivered to her today.