Challenge Roth – Swim 2019 (Andrew)

For 140 years, treasure hunters scoured the coast of Georgia in the United States for the SS Republic, a paddlewheel steamship that sank in 1865 in a hurricane with a reported $400,000 in gold and silver coins on board. In 2003 the ship was located and more than 50,000 precious coins, worth an estimated $75 million was discovered.

While the Challenge Roth canal may not contain millions of pounds of lost confederate gold, if there are any treasure hunters looking for a fortune then they need look no further than 50 metres from the start line – as that’s where my £500 Garmin 945 now lies.

It was a stupid mistake. One I’d even predicted. I’d bought the Garmin a few weeks ago so that I could play music at the end of the run. I’d changed the wrist bands to quick release straps and, during a race simulation at a training swim, Iain had pulled the watch accidentally as he tried to swim in front of me and it had fallen off.

I’ll be clever I thought. I’ll put the wetsuit over it and that way it’ll be safe.

I was wrong.

Just after the start, just as everyone was jostling for position, someone accidentally caught my arm with their stroke and ran their hand along my arm catching the watch.

Which was more than I could do. As I felt it slip, tried to catch it, but only managed to grab hold of the straps. The watch was gone! And with it my only way to know the time, my speed and how far I’d gone as I was relying on the watch to last all day. I had no back up.

And now no choice. I had to complete Challenge Roth entirely on feel.

F@&k!

Getting Ready

Beside the start line

Saturday was nearly 30 degrees with clear blue skies but the weather forecast for the race was for the heatwave to end and for rain to clear the air. We woke at 430 a.m. with the intention of collecting another athlete (a former member of Glasgow Tri Club) at 5 a.m. That left 30 minutes to dress, eat something and try not to think about the fact it was actually 3:30 am in UK time.

The drive to the start involved a missed junction, which wasn’t a problem for me but for Iain it meant we’d have to take the next junction and a car park which would be shut until 11am while the bike course was closed.

Getting round was okay though. Iain dropped us off at transition and then went to park while we checked the bikes and dropped off the swim and race bags. The swim bags needed to be dropped off by 6:15 but other than that we were free to enter and leave transition, even after the race had started.

Mine’s the green bag

A cannon signals the start of each wave with the rain stopping just as the professionals started. There were thousands of people around the canal, more than I’d seen at any other race.

Every five minutes another wave would set off and another blast of the cannon would sound.

I was swimming at 8am, the second last wave, and it was easy to get lined up. Swimmers could wait near the start and when your wave was called you were directed into a pen as volunteers checked your swim cap to make sure the time printed on the side of it matched your start time.

Once everyone was in the pen, the previous wave would start and you were allowed to enter the canal and line up.

I stayed near the centre, as it was quieter, and hung back so as not to be swum over by the faster swimmers. I thought I had it sussed. I would avoid a melee and be able to find my own pace. But we all know how well that went…

KABOOM!

The race started. There was the usual flurry of legs and limbs but no fighting for position, just the accidental crossing over of a few hundred swimmers in a few short metres.

And the less said about the next five minutes the better…

The water was warm. Almost 25 degrees, and just shy of banning wetsuits all together, but it was calm and swimming was as easy as swimming in a swimming pool.

Sighting was easy too. There was very little need to look forward as you could always judge if you were swimming in a straight line by looking at the side of the canal. Provided you could see the bank, the people and the trees, you always knew if you were getting closer or further away.

Because of that, I swam most of the way in the centre of the canal. The side is reportedly easier but it was quieter in the centre and it gave me free reign to carry on at my own pace and just count out the strokes. 1. 2. 3. 4. Breathe. 1. 2. 3. 4. Breathe.

You swim around 1500 metres to the next bridge, then around 1700 back to the bridge overlooking the start before swimming under it and doing a u-turn back to transition.

I felt strong throughout, and the fact you’re always swimming to something – bridge, then bridge, then under bridge, meant the swim was broken up and didn’t feel like one long slog.

There are also metre signs on the bank but I didn’t look out for them. I prefer not to know how far I’ve swum when swimming. And, thanks to my accident at the start, I would also find out what it was like to cycle and run without knowing how far I’ve gone either. Damn!

Transistion

Where’s my watch?!?!?

This was the bit I was looking forward too. I’d read that the volunteers in transition will help you get out of your wetsuit – something I always struggle with as I can never get the wetsuit off my legs. Prisoners in shackles have more chance of getting free than I do with rubber wrapped around my ankles.

And it was true. As soon as you grab your bag from the ground as you go into the tent – each bag is laid out in numerical order – a volunteer starts to help you strip, empties your bag and hands you everything you need.

Except a watch.

Sadly, they didn’t have a spare Garmin.

I changed into full cycle gear and eight minutes later (a new record for me) l was on my bike and away.

Challenge Roth – Travel and Registration (Andrew)

Roth, like cloth. Or Roth, like both. I’m still not 100% sure how to pronounce it. Instead, when asked where I was going in Germany, I’d say Nuremburg, because that’s the nearest city, only 35 minutes away. Which was okay until we picked up our hire car and found out that in German it should be Nurnberg.

Getting round ain’t easy when you don’t know how to pronounce where you’re going!

Luckily we had a flight to Munich and a hire car with Satnav, a feature that every car rental agency trys to sell you as an upgrade only for you to find it is already part of the car. Does anyone pay for it? If so, I’m going to open a care hire agency which will upgrade your car to include four wheels and brakes too…

We had an SUV but, given this is Germany, and Munich is one of it’s financial centres, the alternative was a Porsche. There was about 50 in marked bays throughout the pick up centre. But, sadly, no room in the back for a bike box so we got an Opel, which is German for a Vauxhall. I thought the 4k swim, 112 mile cycle and 26 mile run of Challenge Roth would be the hardest part of the trip, it turned out it was harder to not only find where we were going but also asking how we were going to get there.

The drive to Nurnberg nee Nuremburg was just under two hours. We stayed in Furth, an older area with a hotel next to the motorway. From there we could get to and from Roth easily.

Next door to the hotel was an Italian restaurant, Vapiano, which provided dinner on Friday and Saturday night. Unlike most restaurants it didn’t have any waiting staff. Instead you would queue on one side of the restaurant to order with the chef who would then cook your meal in front of you so you could take it back to your table, which means that my abiding memory of it wasn’t the food – which was decent – or the atmosphere – which was good as we had tables outside – but the queueing and queuing and queuing some more while those in front of us picked up their freshly cooked pasta.

It must be popular though: on the Saturday night there was a bride queuing in full bright white bridal dress and train. Though in full white, I hope she avoided anything which splattered.

Registration

Roth Guide To Roth

On Saturday, registration is open in Roth until 1pm. Beforehand you can have a practice swim in the canal for 90 minutes first thing in the morning. You can’t swim at other times as you are warned anyone caught swimming will be banned from taking part. I’m not sure how they would know if you were taking part but, as the 90 minutes came to an end, the number of police boats, coast guards (canal guards?) and other boats patrolling the canal to make sure everyone had left the water made me think you wouldn’t be able to sneak in for a swim without a visit to the local German police station.

At this point, it was still uncertain whether wetsuits would be banned for the swim. We decided to swim without them so as to find out what it would be like. We were the only one’s though, everyone else had their suit on. That seemed strange. If you know wetsuits could be banned, why wouldn’t you practice without them so you’d know what to expect on Sunday morning? It would be worse to practice with them and then turn up and find out you can’t use it.

But it doesn’t say where you need to wear Speedos – you could wear them on your head

Registration itself is straightforward, once you figure out where to go. The expo is large, with lots of booths, tents, a Challenge Roth shop, beer gardens, food trucks, and no mention at all on the map of where to go to register. In fact, this was a common problem we had – we couldn’t figure out any of the maps. Perhaps it was named something else in German.

Once we found it – one of the biggest tents, naturally – it took seconds to register. And, even better, the organisers had confirmed that we could swim in wetsuits the next day. The water temperature was 0.2 degrees below the cut off point when wetsuits would be banned.

Racking up

You have until 4pm to rack your bike back at the canal for transition one. You also drop off your transition two bag here for running and the organisers will sort it out for you.

The transition is easy to find, back at the canal where we’d swum earlier and where gunboats now patrolled the waters to stop any rogue athletes having a cheeky dip, and there was 1’000s of car parking spaces.

You need to have not only your bike, helmets, all stickers and your transition 2 bag to get in but also your transponder. Not sure why.

Your transition 1 bag can be brought in the morning along with your after race bag.

The night before

After that, it was back to Roth. Time to rest, and queue, and then queue some more at Vapiano, before back to the hotel room to prepare the after race bag and double check I had everything to swim and in the bike back. Which I thought I did until I woke up at 2am and thought “Do I have my goggles?”

Which I didn’t – whoops!

Roth T – 4 Days (Andrew)

Six days before Norseman 2016 I did something stupid: I picked up my bike bag while taking it down from the attic – and pulled a muscle in my back.

Five days before Noresman I was prodded by a physio and told “this will hurt, but in four days, everything will be okay.”

For the next four days my back hurt every time I twisted or turned. And then, on the fifth day, everything was fine. But I have to admit, it was a worry and didn’t help my nerves in the run up to the race.

This year, yesterday, I was careful. I took no chances. I asked my wife to get my bike bag from the attic…

Roth T – 7 Days (Andrew)

My last ride before Ironman 2015 was my usual circular route to Whitelee wind farm and back. I wanted to see if, after months of training, it felt any easier and did I notice a difference.

I did. I felt stronger, faster and that I could have easily carried on – which was good, as it’s a 25 mile loop and the Ironman had another 87 miles…

I decided to ride the same loop this time but in a more scientific way: I would check Strava to see if I could beat my records around the course.

And…

I DIDN’T!!!!

I came second… again and again and again. All my records, a silver medal.

I blame Iain.

He lent me his time-trial TT bike and for the last couple of weeks I’ve tried it on this loop and have, inadvertently skewered all my records with the TT bike times rather than my own bike.

Now I know how F1 driver feel when they race Lewis Hamilton. You can be your best, you can even train harder than anyone else, but the person with the best tech always wins.

Damn you, TT equipped Andrew!

Roth T – 8 Days (Andrew)

With a heatwave of 40 degree plus across central Europe I think I may need to revise the following list to include a portable fan, a bucket of ice cubes and lifetime of living in the Sahara desert.

As it may be too late for a pasty Scotsman to suddenly develop a tolerance for hot weather (which, as any Scotsman knows, is any time it’s not raining), I’ve prepared the following list of Roth essentials and will now spend the next week trying to work out the one item I need but have forgotten to include – because there’s always one thing I forget!

Swim

Trunks

Chafe Cream

Goggles

Swim Cap

Transition

Towel?

Energy Bar

Salt?

Bike

Bike – VERY IMPORTANT!!!!

Di2 Charger

Helmet

Shoes

Socks

Shoe cover (rain)

Waterproof shorts + jacket (rain)

Shorts

Arm warmers

Top

Sunglasses

Nutition

Garmin 910 

Garmin 500

Run

Trainers

Socks

Shorts

Tshirt

Belt

Runcap

Garmin 935xt

Nutrition

Bluetooth headphones

End

Socks

Boxer

Tshirt

Jumper

Jeans

Trainers

Clothes

T-shirts

Socks

Boxers

Jumper

Other

Camera + charger

Laptop + charger

Kindle + charger