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World's Toughest Endurance Test Near End
'Ironman' not hard enough for decatriathlon competitors
Ronald Schaefer (rs050474)     Print Article 
Published 2006-06-21 23:25 (KST)   
At a time when most people use their cars to get to work or to the supermarket, some rare athletes excel at feats of endurance, whose achievement sounds impossible to most people that hear about them.

Right now, such an event is on the way in Vidauban, in the south of France. I'm talking about the first-ever organized "Decatriathlon" in France and even in Europe, and only the ninth such sports event in the world.

A triathlon starts with competitors swimming, followed by a bicycle ride and a long-distance run. The annual Ironman triathlon in Hawaii is supposed to be the hardest such competition.

Now imagine this -- the decatriathlon in Vidauban has competitors complete 10 times the distance of an Ironman triathlon.

That means they will have to swim 38 kilometers, ride their bikes for 1,800 kilometers and run 422 kilometers to complete the competition.

The event started on June 11 and participants will have to finish it within 336 hours -- by June 25. Only 20 athletes from 10 different countries (including four women) will compete in this event, each of them supported by a crew of at least four people.

The swimming will take place in an open air swimming pool, heated to between 28째 or 30째C. Four swimmers will compete in each of the five 25-meter long rows and will have to complete the first part of the competition within 30 hours.

After a 3.2 kilometer-long connection to the bike course, they will cycle 350 laps on the 5.2 kilometer-long round-course in the winegrowing area of Vidauban.

The organizers chose a secluded road with little traffic for maximum security. After 240 hours (10 days) at the latest, competitors will have to transfer 1.6 kilometers to the running course and begin the 533 laps of 0.788 kilometer each.

As of this writing, five athletes have already finished the competition. Here are the results thus far:

1st: Fabrice Lucas (France)
2nd: Kim Greisen (Denmark)
3rd: Christophe Llamas (France)
4th: Martin Schytil (Austria)
5th: Achim Heukemes (Germany)

Fourteen other athletes are still competing and only one athlete has quit so far, a truly remarkable feat considering that athletes only slept two hours per day.

Even though the event has many sponsors, including a radio station, a bank and the French army, competitors won't be adequately rewarded for their efforts. Only the first three men and women in the competition will receive a monetary prize.

Each of the two winners will receive 1,500 euros (each competitor already has to pay 1,500 euros as a registration fee, covering accommodation in a tent and food supply for 14 days), the second-place finisher will receive 1,000 euros and the third-place finisher 500 euros.

The first overall winner of the competition will receive a trophy and the first, second and third place finisher in the male and female category will receive a gold, silver or bronze medal. To ensure fairness, all competitors will be tested for doping.

Considering the exceptional accomplishment of these athletes, I'll probably walk to the supermarket today.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronald Schaefer

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