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 millions of pounds of lost confederate gold, if there are any treasure hunters looking for a lost fortune then they need look no further than 50 metre from the start line of Challenge Roth 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 – Support Tips (Iain)

There is a misconception that you can drive as fast as you like on a German Autobahn. You can’t. I found this out during a previous German trip when a policeman handed me a speeding ticket after I’d raced along a road from Cologne to Stuttgart. I had wondered why I was the only car, on this section, driving fast!

My driving has improved since then. During this trip, after I’d completed a left turn, a man wound down his car window to shout “Schweinhund” at me. He also waved his fist. I’m sure that must be German for “Nice manouver. Well done you.”

A car is essential for Roth as the nearest affordable accommodation to town was 40K away in Nuremberg. I’d visited the city before in 2006 during the World Cup. I had a three game ticket to follow the USA and one of the games was held in the city: USA versus Ghana. I can’t remember anything about the place but I hoped a visit back might remind me. It didn’t! I still don’t remember anything about it. The beer must have been good there…

2006 – USA! USA!

TOP TIPS

  1. Get a good navigator. I had three people in the car who each had a shot at navigating. They gave me the wrong directions to the hotel, They gave me the wrong directions to transition, they gave me the wrong directions to the swim start, they even gave me the wrong directions to Roth. As Roth is the one place everyone else was going to too, just follow the other cars, not your passengers!
  2. On race day work out where to park in Roth as it is very difficult to drive from the swim start to Roth due to road closures. We got lucky finding a space but it took us two hours to do what should have been a twenty minute trip.
  3. Go to Solar hill. It’s only a 25 minute walk from the swim start. The atmosphere is amazing. And once your athlete has climbed the hill on lap one, you can head to Roth for the run.
  4. Get petrol before race day! We nearly ran out whilst driving around. There were lots of petrol stations but not many open on a Sunday. Thankfully we got one but make sure you have a full tank in advance.
  5. It’s a long day. I was up at 0415 and didn’t get back to bed until 0030. There’s lots of standing around and walking. I managed nearly 15 miles of walking in the day.
  6. Cross the finish line with your athlete. Challenge allow non-athletes into the finisher chute. Take the opportunity to take in the acclaim of the crowd without actually having to do the race! Like John Terry at the 2012 Champions league final when he appeared on the pitch in full strip despite not having played the match.
  7. The internet reception for mobiles doesn’t work very well on the course or in Roth. Too many phones in one place made it very difficult to get a connection. Make sure you print out maps in advance.
  8. Bring Euros. There was lots of opportunity to buy food and drink on the course but finding a cash machine or an ATM was next to impossible.
  9. The tracker is good for working out what time your athlete should be in places. Use that to plan when to spot them but see point 7. Don’t rely on it always being available.
  10. When you get home. Your athlete will try to claim a lift back to their house because “their legs are tired!” Tell them to GTF and drive you instead! You deserve it!
My lap of honour. Andrew got in the way of the pic!

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!

St Marys Loch Triathlon (Iain)

It is two years since I last did a standard length triathlon. Which is my excuse for why I forgot to take my bike helmet to transition. Thankfully, someone spotted my mistake. I ran back to the car to get it.

It wasn’t my only mistake, I lost my swim cap during the time it took me to receive my swim cap and then walk the short distance to the loch to put it on. I still haven’t worked out how I manged to do that.

The swim temperature was announced as 15C so I was surprised when I got into the loch that the water felt much colder. I swam a little distance to warm up and water suddenly became warm. I assumed it was just a cold patch at the start but the fluctuating temperature was present throughout the swim. On one stroke my hand would enter warm water and on the next the next it would enter freezing cold water. Very strange.

I enjoyed the 2 lap swim. The loch never felt too busy and I was happy to swim round with no one near me. I think swim drafting is cheating so I try to avoid it. I’d rather do the swim using my own power than be dragged along by someone else.

I got into transition after the swim and discovered the socks I had left there were inside out. I had to correct that before starting the bike. A gentleman has got to have standards!

The organiser had warned us that the roads might be slightly busier than usual because there was a classic car rally taking place nearby. There was also a beer festival on. Beer and cars. What could possibly go wrong?

Thankfully the classic car drivers must have been sleeping off their beers as other than a Model T Ford I didn’t spot any classic cars.

The organiser said no-one had ever got lost on the route. It was easy to see why. There is only one road and no option to take any other route.

The route itself was on a decent road surface. The road was undulating rather than hilly but there was a draggy climb near the end.

The race manual describes the course as “It’s almost completely flat (really!) – a couple of small undulations – maybe 5m climb on each. “

Not according to my watch. It shows there was 70m of climbing. Which is not allot but it definitely is not flat course. The trail means there’s lot of small up and down sections.

I like running off-road so I really enjoyed the run but it definitely did not match the description of the course.

OVERALL

It was a great race. I got a PB for the distance and its definitely a course I’d do again. The race gets a bonus point for its t-shirt which is a snazzy baseball style affair.

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

Outdoor Swim Review: Balgray Reservoir (Iain)

“Is this where the group meets for swimming?”

I was standing half-naked in a car park next to Balgray Reservoir when a man approached and asked me this. I don’t normally frequent car parks in the buff but I was getting changed to go swimming and there was no facilities nearby.

I was not part of a group and did not know what he was asking about so I replied “Sorry I’m not part of a group”

He looked confused by my answer. I realised he was probably confused as to why I would be half naked, trying to get one leg in a wet suit, if I wasn’t part of swimming group.

 So to put his confused mind at rest I added. “I‘m swimming too but just not with a group.”

He didn’t go away. He waited a minute and then said, “is it a 800m loop?”

“Is what a 800m loop?” I asked.

“The swim?” He replied.

“I don’t know. I’m not with the group!” I was starting to get annoyed.

He waited a minute and then said “Are you in charge of the group?”

“NO!!! I’m not in the group! I’m just trying to go for a swim!”

He looked like he finally realized I was not able to help him but it did not stop him from asking one final question.

“How much is it to join?”

REVIEW

Ease of Access: There’s a car park next to the reservoir. No toilet or changing facilities. I had to walk through mud to enter the water.

Water quality: A bit murky and grim but reasonably warm. it was 14.5C when I went (June)

Swim Quality: It was quite easy to do a reasonable loop by aiming for some of the local features e.g. a tall power tower, a big house on the hill etc. The water was calm.

Would I go back: Probably not. There’s nicer places to swim.

Bealach Beag (Iain)

Is the winner of a race the person who crosses the finish line first or the person with the fastest time?

You might think that these two statements are mutually consistent but….

At the weekend, Andrew and I headed to the north west of Scotland to take part in the Bealach Beag sportive – a 72km race that includes the UK’s biggest road climb. An ascent of 626m from sea level in just 10km.

I’ve done the race four times. Andrew has done it three times. He has beaten me every time.

Race 1 – I did it on a mountain bike. Not because I am an amazing biker but because I did not know any better. I quit half round because I was knackered.  

Race 2 – The first year Andrew did it too. We both did the long version of the race. I had learnt my lesson from my experience with the mountain bike. I brought a hybrid bike instead. Andrew brought a road bike. He won.

Race 3 – We both used road bikes. The temperature was unseasonably warm. It was nearly 30C during the climb. Andrew was wearing shorts bib shorts and a light cycling top. I was wearing winter gear. I felt I was biking in a vertical sauna. He won.

Year 4 (this year) – I had been training for the last four weeks and I hoped that was enough to beat Andrew’s five months of Challenge Roth training. Just in case it was not enough, I had taken radical weight saving action to eek out the best performance from my bike. I removed the bell

I also had a cunning plan….

At the start of the race we were both given a time dibber. We had to dib in at the start and dib in at the finish to record our time. At the start line, I let Andrew dib in first. I then deliberately waited 10s before I dibbed in.

At the finish, we both raced for the line. Andrew thought he had just pipped me as he dibbed in first. What he didn’t realise was that I had a 10s buffer on him. We received the paper results and it shows quite clearly I’m the winner or am i?

If you look at our Strava times it clearly shows Andrew beat me by 5 minutes because he did the climb 5 minutes faster than me and then paused his Strava at the top until I appeared. He then restarted it and we continued on the course.

So… is the winner of a race the person who crosses the finish line first or the person with the fastest time? All I’ll say is that on paper I’m the fastest Todd.

Number 1!

I used to be a contender (Iain)

This time last year, I cycled the 2000m climb of Mount Tiede in Tenerife. It was 3 hours of climbing and afterwards I felt fit and strong.

Last weekend, I cycled the 300m climb of the Dukes Pass in Aberfoyle. It was 22 minutes of climbing and afterwards I felt so tired I called the Police to report my cycling fitness had gone missing.

The Police explained that they don’t investigate crimes against fitness but if they did they would have arrested me years ago – “ello, ello, what is going on here? Do you call that a front crawl? I’m taking you to the nick for G.B.S. Grevious Bodily Swimming!”

I graphed my performance on the Duke’s pass and it looks like my latest result took a dive off a cliff of consistency.

Afterwards I put this onto Instagram

Thge key point is the “I wonder if my consumption of macaroni pies and bakewell tarts is anyway related to this? “

How can you tell a diet is unhealthy? When the dessert is larger than the main course. Check out the size of my bakewell tart.

On a positive note the dinner was vegetarian so there must be a slight bit of healthiness in it.

Afterwards my wife said to me “how can your time be that bad due to the food. Did you eat it before you went up the hill?”

No – I had it afterwards but I think it points to the conclusion that I’m not a clean living performance machine.

So from now on I have to eat a little bit healthier and try to get back to my previous times…or I do what any middle aged male cyclist does when faced with getting slower – spend lots of money to fix the problem.

I’ve often noted the more expensive the bike the wider the waist of the owner.

PS – I actually had two macaroni pies but I only took a pic of one so people wouldn’t think I’m a fat bstrd!

PPS – I don’t regret it. they were delicious.

Paisley Mural Run (Iain)

A couple of weeks ago I attended a training course in Paisley. It wasn’t a very exciting course but one afternoon my tutor received a phone call.

“Hello….what…who is this?” He said into his phone.

I assumed it a local Garage. He’d told me earlier in the day that he’d put his car in for a MOT.

“OK…great…23,637 pounds and 17 pence?”

OMG! What the WTF had he done to his car that he had to pay that amount of money for an MOT?

His face went bright red and he said

“….is this a windup? Really??? Oh my god. I don’t believe it”

It wasn’t the garage. He’d just won £23,647 and 17 pence on a radio show by answering his phone and telling them the prize figure they’d revealed on the breakfast show.

Unsurprisingly, for the rest of the afternoon, he struggled to concentrate on the course!

I had only been to Paisley once before. It was in the evening in winter. It was dark and I couldn’t see anything. Paisley does not have a great reputation so some might argue not seeing it was a good thing.

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Paisley. I walked from the train station to the training centre and I was surprised by how nice the buildings in the town centre are. At one point on my walk, I passed a man. He greeted me warmly with “What the fuck are you looking at?” I wanted to say “the neo-classical and Georgian period architecture” but instead i just walked on very quickly and didn’t look back.

I was also surprised at how many murals Paisley has which got me thinking that the town should advertise a Mural Run just like Glasgow’s
https://twinbikerun.com/2018/11/30/glasgow-mural-run-iain/

So to help them out I’ve come up with a suggested route. Its 5K-ish and takes in all the interesting bits (that I could find in Pasiley centre) including

  1. A statue dedicate to the 1932 legal case of Donoghue v Stevenson. You can read about it here
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8367223.stm Its an interesting story involving a cafe and a snail.
  2. A mural to Rangers…sorry St Mirren Legend and BBC radio star Chick Young.
  3. An Alien

The route can be found here
https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2461031551


And if you don’t believe me about the Alien. Here is the proof.