Mark Wolff raced his first Challenge Roth a couple of weeks ago. He gives us an incredible insight into what it’s like to experience the race as a competitor. It really is no coincidence that Roth keeps on winning awards. Hear more on this episode of 32Gi Sports Nutrition.
You listening to 32Gi Sports Nutrition I’m Mr Active David Katz. Thanks for joining us once again. For the last couple of weeks we’ve been doing a build up to Challenge Roth I mentioned last week that it had taken place, another resounding success. But now Mark Wolff recovered a little bit from doing the event himself, he’s back with us on 32Gi Sports Nutrition. Mark, how was it?
MW: It was incredible. It’s probably the most amazing event I’ve ever – first of all I’ve been spectator it’s been an amazing event. Now as a participant it was absolutely incredible. I don’t think you can top that. I don’t think you can ever top that.
DK: Well Mark coming to us over Skype this week. Mark you raced it yourself I know you didn’t have the race you’d hoped for. I know you had a little bit of an incident. But just talk us through how your race went.
MW: My race was good I was hoping for anywhere between 9.15 maybe 9.30. So I mean I was definitely in condition for that. I haven’t raced the course at Roth before. It’s a course that does bring a little surprises if you don’t know the course very well.
I had a decent swim. You obviously you got lot of nerves going out and I actually started off in the sub 9 hour group; which is an awesome group to start off with. You start with all the elite athletes. So you really get kicked and punched in there, in that group. There’s quite a bit of aggressive swimming in there.
Pushing on despite taking a knock
Then when I came out of transition unfortunately I was knocked off my bike by one of the other athletes. It landed up you know, my foot landed up on the big chain ring. Landed up with quite a severe cut underneath and little bit of a toe nail missing in the corner.
So I rode with little bit of pain for two hours. But there was no ways I was gonna stop. I mean you there you wanna get to the finish line. I actually enjoyed it, it was amazing the bike course was incredible. It’s not as flat as many people would think. There’s quite an amount of climbing.
It’s quite technical there’s no long time trial sections for sure. I mean the minute you actually get into a nice time trial position eventually you have to turn off and you go through the villages here and through little forest sections. But all in all it is quite beautiful and it is quite fast. If you a strong cyclist you can turn it into quite a fast bike leg.
I came onto the run and started off really well but unfortunately, and running is my thing, but I think that little fall on the bike it really hurt my leg. I just couldn’t hold what I wanted to. I was in a little bit of pain and I thought to myself well you gotta do the best that you can. I just pushed through it sucked it up and pushed through it.
But that’s long distance racing you know anything can happen on the day it’s a long day out. The run course is absolutely it’s beautiful. But also mentally challenging cos you can see very, very far to the distance. Most of the time you running alongside a canal it’s a very straight sort of a run. You only peel off in certain sections one through a town. Sort of one through a forest. Most of the time you can sort of see the distance that you running. So mentally it can be quite challenging.
The run is also it’s on a gravel surface, the German’s have actually, they’ve resurfaced the canal. So it’s actually quite awesome that they’ve spent so much money in getting it fixed up. But it is still gravel you know some people say it’s soft on the legs, it’s easy on the legs. So it’s a bit of a combination of that, a little bit of tar here and there. There’s some cobble stones in the old city and then obviously some asphalt in the other areas, and you run through the forest a little bit.
Getting a real feel for how the race is fuelled
When I enter a race like this, because we’re the official nutrition sponsors, I’m looking at everything from a nutrition perspective. To me that’s very critical because I need to experience what the athlete is experiencing on route. To see if we can better it or to see if we can add more value to what we’re currently doing.
I must say that the feeding tables first of all on the bike course were absolutely brilliant. I mean it was just it was very, very sleek. There’s no ways an athlete would actually miss his nutrition. Not be able to get new bottles, not be able to take on new bottles. It was incredibly well done. The spacing was good. The litter zones were really spread out very, very well in order to be able to get rid of anything on the bike.
And in the running course you looking at water tables every two and a half kilometres lining both sides of the of the run route. They have every single thing you can imagine. I mean from the 32Gi perspective, I mean we left magnesium even on the run route just in case people wanted. I mean they’ve got everything that you can possibly want as far as a run course go.
I must say the one thing that makes Roth absolutely incredible are the 6000 volunteers that actually give away their time to make this event happen. It is absolutely unbelievable they’ve been doing it so many years. They have got it really down pat. The support that these guys give at all the water tables and the marshalling and everywhere on route, you just can’t do anything but realise that this is a world class event and you.
You know people ask what kind of event is it, and when you know that Roth is, Challenge Roth, has won triathlon of the year last four years in a row. You know exactly why, it’s just to me it’s one of the pinnacle triathlons you can ever do.
The crowds offer incredible support
DK: Well Felix in the podcast we did a couple of weeks ago, I’ll put the link up to that, he talked about the incredible sort of element that volunteers bring. Not just volunteers everyone in and around the town who sort of take athletes into their houses cos there’s not enough accommodation.
You’ve talked about being there as a spectator now you are on the other side experiencing what is almost second to none. I know you’ve raced all over the world, but what was it like being a competitor with those amazing crowds around you?
MW: Well I think crowd support is incredible. The one thing that I tell people that gave me absolute shivers was riding up Solarerberg, which is Solar hill. 60 000 people standing on this hill. It’s like a Tour de France of triathlon if you wanna call it. You ride straight through this crowd I mean there’s literally no space. You look, talking like millimetres on either side of your bike, it’s absolutely incredible.
It’s not such a quick as people think. It does have little bit of a steep climb, but I don’t mind the hills.
The one thing that gave me a lot of pride was actually that as you get towards the top of Solarerberg was a big 32Gi banner right over the road. A nice arch right over the road which I got to ride under. If you think about where we came from to where we are today you know, that was just the most incredible experience that I had that. You know and a lot of pride obviously with what we’ve been able to achieve with the organisation to date.
But the crowd, the spectator support is incredible. Solar hill is definitely one of the, it’s probably one of the most iconic climbs in the triathlon world globally. Because of the spectator support and experience. You actually ride through it twice you do two loops through there.
A festival of a race
When you come through each of the villages, there’s a lot of special things going on in each of the villages that your ride through. You know restaurants are full. Pubs are full and people are there all day, cheering and spectating. Another area is when you ride through the Hilpoltstein side you go through something called the BML. We’ve got 1.6 kilometres of beer taverns on each side. All the Germans drinking having fun and playing music. Just the spectatorship and the encouragement of the crowds is incredible.
If you wanna know why it’s a world record breaking course I mean it’s not obviously yes it boils down to extreme talent, but the amount of support that an athlete gets on route can absolutely drive him very quickly to that finish line. And when you finish – that last five or six kilometres when you running that marathon.
I mean all you thinking about is getting to the finish, but those last five or six kilometres is where there is incredible crowd support. Through the main city of Roth and in and about it just really pushes you and spurs you on to the finish line. It was amazing.
Then obviously coming to the finish line in the stadium they’ve built a beautiful stadium, which accommodates thousands of people. You know to do sort of an, it’s a lap of victory to get to the finish line. I mean that again it’s you know what better way is there to finish an event it’s absolutely incredible. A really amazing event.
Then the pinnacle of it is the closing ceremony which is I don’t know how much they spend on burning fireworks. But it’s the most incredible firework to music display. Every single athlete is packed there in that stadium and it really is a good 45 minutes of you know of incredible sort of crowd support, volunteer support, athlete support.
Everybody standing in the stadium together celebrating the Challenge Roth. Celebrating all the hurdles that everybody’s overcome and actually leaving that event was the biggest high that you can actually leave an event with.
Entries sell out super fast
It’s quite incredible because immediately after the event finishes you’ve got a thousand people queuing up to physically take entries for next year’s event. They sleep out there the entire night. So the next morning when the entry list opens up those thousand entries that are given away.
Those people are, they drive from all over the place. Even athletes go, they sleep there the whole night waiting for the next day in order to be able to get entries. They get given numbers so that nobody pushes in the queue of course, but that’s how popular this event is.
DK: And the actual entries the sort of online entries sold out in next to no time for 2017 didn’t they?
MW: Well thousands of entries online. It went live on Monday morning which was yesterday, I think it was 10am CAT. I think you talking 10 to 20 seconds they were sold out immediately. There’s not an event that sells out that quickly it’s just incredible.
But once you’ve been a spectator or you’ve been an athlete you will just realise what kind of event this actually is. It’s just amazing that, that there’s a family here where the father he did something which was incredible. By bringing all the communities in towns together which people didn’t think was possible. He did something amazing.
Now with Felix and Catherine and their Mom, it’s just been they’ve taken this event to a different level every single year. I must say if anything in, in honour of what their father started these guys have just really done an incredible job.
If people say to me you know what triathlon am I going to do a European one, I can only think of one. I mean there’s plenty of triathlons in Europe to do but if you wanna do something that’s iconic and memorable that you will never forget for the rest of your life, Roth is the one to do.
Trying to get more South Africans over to Roth
DK: Now Mark even though tickets are sort of sold out, I know for 2016 you guys had some slots that you were giving away. Will 32Gi be doing the same thing in 2017?
MW: Look we’ve got a lot of South Africans that want to go to Roth, we’re gonna try and see what we can do. We’ve got some slots set aside, but in all honesty they get taken up very quickly. They’re very, very limited but it would be nice to try and grow the South African contingent in Roth.
I think that a lot of South Africans want to do it but a lot of them just either couldn’t be bothered and tried to get into the event or just stuck with the local events. Unfortunately there is only one full distance course in South Africa. I’m just saying to South Africans that maybe there is an option to go overseas to Roth.
So yes we are gonna try and see how many we can get overseas next year. I’m hoping it will have the biggest South African contingent at Roth next year, then in 2017 that’s ever taken place before.
DK: Well Mark fantastic effort at Challenge Roth this year. Thanks for giving us a feel of what it was like to be in that race and actually enjoy it from a competitive point of view. So Challenge Roth if you haven’t done it, if you haven’t thought about it to go and look.
But from myself, Mr Active David Katz and Mark Wolff on 32Gi Sports Nutrition we’ll catch up again with you again next week. Do tune in, in August because we’re looking at everything fat. We’re gonna have you covered. August is fat month.