The 3rd Austria eXtreme Triathlon took place on June 24, 2017 and is now established as one of the most challenging long-distance events worldwide – including 5800m in altitude, river swimming and alpine tracks. We asked Austria eXtreme Triathlon president Maria Schwarz a few questions.
- What is the story behind the Austria eXtreme Triathlon?
It’s actually the story of two brothers who didn’t succeed to get slots in an extreme triathlon in two consecutive years, so they decided to organize their own, just for themselves and three friends. However, organisation had hardly begun when requests to be included came flooding in – and it became the Austria eXtreme Triathlon.
- How did you find a suitable course?
This was quite a challenge. We invested many hours, days, weeks to find and set the race track. It wasn’t easy to make ends meet as it had to be challenging, to pass through beautiful and impressive scenery from the river lowland up into the mountains and, of course, to be safe. I think we did well.
- How many people are involved in the organisation?
There’s the core team of eight people with their specific responsibilities, eight complementary characters that work very well together. Then there are many volunteers, including the fire brigade, kayakers, motorcyclists, just to name a few. All in all, about one hundred people are involved.
- How much work is behind it? Have you ever counted how many hours of work you spend on the race organisation?
In any case too many, we should recalculate this with a usual hourly wage rate… Seriously, we somehow work on the Austria eXtreme Triathlon every day of the year. It is nice to see that our enthusiasm is contagious. When we started, our older daughter did not understand why the race is so important to us. Now that she is involved too, she knows why.
- Where do the participants come from?
This year we had athletes from 28 nations, including China, Thailand and Australia.
- The race starts at 4:30 in the Mur river, with a current and a temperature around 14°C – how do the athletes handle that?
The athletes are usually well prepared and quickly adapt to the current, which includes choosing the right tracks up – and downstream. Clearly, athletes from northern countries are more used to cold conditions than those from the South, but swimming split times are generally quite good. We start at dawn, but they come out of the water in daylight.
- Your race emphasises team spirit, the supporter has to run the final 17km with the athlete, they have to finish together. Why this approach?
I see that team spirit is missing in many triathlons but I am convinced that it is central to the experience of such a race. Of course, it’s also for safety, as the final 17km include alpine terrain over 1000 vertical meters and snow field crossings – it was already a long way to get there, that’s where you need motivation and support.
- For the 4th edition in 2018 you switch from a lottery to a first-come-first-serve system. Why?
There’s lots of work connected with the lottery system and planning is complicated for the athletes. We simply want to make it easier for everyone.
- What makes the Austria eXtreme Triathlon unique?
It’s our philosophy, the attention to detail. There are the beautiful landscapes that the athletes experience with their supporters, pure nature at the river bank, the beautiful valleys, the gorges, the mountains. The team spirit with the supporter, but also among the athletes, is something quite unique, which makes everyone grow together.
- When will the Austria eXtreme Triathlon 2018 take place?
On 23 June 2018, registration is open from 15 August 2017 at 3pm. As usual, the only requirement for participation is a minimum age of 18 years. There is no difference between professionals and amateurs, all start together and are treated the same. Whether at the briefing, on the track or at the obligatory brunch and the victory ceremony the day after the race.
- Where would you like to see the Austria eXtreme Triathlon for the 10th anniversary?
Who knows? Our focus is now on the 4th edition 2018. The demand and the interest are high, we look forward to meeting many nice and interesting people. And whatever happens, the Austria eXtreme Triathlon will always be about the common experience of an extremely hard but always wonderful day.
For more information please visit the website.