… It is not a contest but a celebration!
For this reason, this race must be viewed differently from a classic competition. At the end of this race all the competitors receive the same prizes and congratulations without any discrimination, there are no important cash or material prizes, all the competitors are presented and applauded on stage.
The whole festival lasts a few days and everything is prepared by the Nikiti authorities with the support of the local community and local or even international sponsors. The party starts on Wednesday with all kinds of cultural activities, ancient Greek music and folk music. On Thursday night I even caught a choir of about 20 ladies between 60 and 70 years old dressed all very beautifully and who sang divinely!
On Friday morning there was also a 1500m race for children between 12 and 16 years old, a race won by Tudor, a boy we will definitely hear about again! Tudor trains at Izvorani, swims very nicely and had a considerable lead over the 2nd place.
Back to the "big" race.
How did I find out about the race:
Around the summer of 2017, Bogdan and I kept looking for interesting endurance swimming races. And since there aren't too many, it wasn't too hard for us to decide. I am looking for something close by that can be combined with a vacation. A holiday where I can also train for triathlon, but if I can do some diving (a lot, right?!?). Bogdan had his eyes on Lago d’Orta and said to me… “see if there is one in Greece. You cross a bay… ”. When I found out he was near the house, I needed it.
On the internet you will find very little information about this race. It was very difficult for me to get in touch with the organizers of the event. The actual registration lasts several months. Not being a classic contest, the organizing committee is made up of ordinary people with normal jobs who work as volunteers and the poor also answer when they can and within the limits of the information they have.
Because I felt my right arm, because of the morning luggage, I tried to pull better with my left hand and handle my right arm as much as I could. It worked but over time I got more tired on my left arm.
At 3 o'clock the nightmare began. I had passed the middle of the race, the water was perfect and suddenly some small waves started. After another 30 minutes I was in a washing machine both literally and figuratively!
The waves coming from the south had an irregular shape with a very dubious frequency. Petrisor told me that 4-5 big waves usually came, followed by a series of small waves.
I talked to the medical team, they took my blood pressure again, weighed me, took my blood and checked the elasticity of my arteries again with a special device. At the departure we had a slightly higher tension 13 by 9 as we say in the people. In the end I had 11 by 7 and the doctor said it was absolutely normal. The arteries looked according to the age charts, which is good.
After about 20 minutes I finished with the doctors, I was hungry for a wolf and honestly I would have done something to a volunteer there .
Because it was already late, I didn't go to the hotel and I was waiting for the awards ceremony there. I tried to drink the two liters of Isostar that I had in my bag but it didn't fit more than a liter. I ate almost a whole chocolate, I took pictures with people and I drank about 500ml of water.
Meanwhile, the last competitor was out of the water. A super cute boy who was now literally destroyed. The volunteers carried him on their backs! I was shocked to see that a man in this physical condition managed to finish the race.
After ther race: Well, it was good. I had some pain in my left arm, but because I went through it before, I knew how to save it and in two days I was recovered. 3 days later I could swim like before the competition.
I couldn't eat much after the race or in the next few days. I had a very irritated tongue and mouth from the salt water. Fortunately, his nose was not badly affected by the salt water. If you end up in this situation, it is good to use honey to heal faster. I didn't do that and I struggled with eating until it healed on its own.
The first night I slept enough but I couldn't say I was sleep deprived. When I first swam 20km the next day I slept until 11 . In the following days I tried to sleep a little more than 6 hours as I am used to but it didn't work out for me because of the trip on Tuesday night to Thessaloniki (a boy with special needs just bought something from a store and we carat us too ).
Some technical data about the race:
- Theoretically the race would be about 26.2km. I estimated that I did about 30km because of the drift and the place where we approached the shore.
- The total time was 12:11 'according to the organizers. I'd say 12:12 'I like the way it sounds
- I consumed 14 gels from SIS, 5 boosts from Isostar and about a liter of cola all the way
- The Garmin stopped twice and I didn't bother to start it because the waves had already started and I had other priorities . Fuck Garmin! (garmin 935xt to make him laugh until the end). So I only have a piece of track but I know for sure where I went depending on the coastal reliefs (my skipper friends will appreciate the expression )
- The registration cost is 150e which includes the 3 nights accommodation at a hotel that costs 80e / night. Basically, the organizer comes with money from home. The boat costs another 300e for each participant! Once again bows to the organizers!
In conclusion, crossing the Toroneos Bay can be a pleasure, a torment or a struggle for survival depending on the weather. Many people can swim 30km but I still don't know one who overcame nature. In 2017, only 13 people finished the race, the rest being taken out of the water because the situation had become extremely dangerous. And don't imagine that some suckers are coming to this race . So the expression "swim or die" is as correct as possible.
I do not recommend this race in any form to one who has not swum at least 20km in open water and is not used to the rough sea that can end badly! I mean, you can try, but you have to have a very well-prepared crew and possibly have your own boat that knows what to do in an emergency. Greek fishermen are not saviors at sea! They are very good people, very nice but they are not ready to be rescuers when the situation reaches its limit. And we know what the limits of athletes are: never stop… let's keep going… don't give up other encouraging things that lead directly to death. Encouragement is good but there must always be someone with a fine eye who can see when the limit has been exceeded!
If someone wants to enroll in the coming years, I will be happy to help. I have all the data of the organizers and I think I understood how the organization of this event works. I know the area quite well already.
Maybe in the future I will even come as a support for a swimmer. I also have a boat permit and we can rent a boat… etc.
In the end I want to thank once again Petrisor for the support and support (it is not the poor man's fault that he is not ready to be a savior at sea), Bogdan Zurbagiu who encouraged and educated me all the time and without whom I would have been a fat man who does not swim more than 25m (now I am a fat man who swims a little more), friends who encouraged me all the time!
Thanks also to Nikos from Shark Fin diving centre. An extraordinary man! If you are going to Sithonia on holiday and you want to go diving as a beginner, I highly recommend it.
Thanks and all my good thoughts to the organizers who were great! There are some people with a big heart who make the history of crossing the Toroneos continuous!
… To say that see you at the next edition?!? . Very possible.