Julia with her Supporter Alex Nikolopoulos finishing SWISSMAN 2016.
We are hearing from many athletes that they are already thinking about the SWISSMAN every day. Of the supporters, we learn this less often. But in hindsight we know from many supporters that they too were at times xtremely challenged by the SWISSMAN.
Alex Nikolopoulos will support his wife Julia during the SWISSMAN on June 24, 2017 for the 5th time and is thus the most experienced SWISSMAN supporter.
Alex says: “The most important rule is that the athlete comes first. Whatever you are doing as a supporter, always remember that the other athletes as well as their supporters should not be hindered in any way. Also, you should be aware that the day will be really long and will certainly not go as planned. With all care for the athlete one should always remember that oneself should not come too short. First, to pass the day, but above all because the supporter must accompany the athlete in the end. ”
Alex prepares the car as well as possible. All clothes and food should always be ready for use. “At the same time, you can still prepare a box into which you can put all the used clothing, bottles and whatever. That way, you can control the mess in the car. ”
The SWISSMAN crew assumes that all supporters have dealt intensively with the course. Do not just look at the route of the athletes, but also the routes and parking lots for supporters.
The current course-maps are available as gps and kml files.
Alex says: “The swimming is still quite relaxed for the supporter. After the athletes have been brought to the ship, you have a lot of time which you can use well to sort the material, the food and the clothing. To always keep an overview in the hustle and bustle, I pack a separate box with all kinds of clothes for each discipline. It is very important to be prepared for all weather conditions. Even if it is still nice and relatively warm for the swimming, it can be cold in the high mountains and rain. As a supporter, I was freezing badly despite three jackets, when it was really cold I think it was 2 years ago. I always use the time to eat decently, because the day is still long. Approximately 40 minutes after the start, you can slowly walk to the swim exit, so you can definitely be there in time. ”
By the time your athlete has left the transition zone, it becomes challenging for the supporter. Alex writes: “Especially for the first 30-40 kilometres, the track is quite crowded and it is not always easy to get past the cyclists. But no matter in how much of a hurry you are, always remember not to hinder the athletes. So be careful to pass with sufficient space and do not hold the athletes up. Unfortunately, it happens again and again, especially by uninvolved drivers, who are probably wondering where all the madmen come from ;-) Fortunately, the traffic is not so dense at this time.
Ideally, you have checked with the athlete beforehand where you will be waiting for him, there are plenty of opportunities to stop safely and hand out food or clothes. Nobody has to stop in the middle of the street and block the traffic.
Later, in the mountains, it becomes harder to feed the athletes on course. The roads are quite narrow and partly also quite full. However, at the latest on the passes, there are plenty of possibilities to park. Depending on the weather, you should also take the time to put on something else, because the downhill can get very cold. ”
During the run, Alex accompanies Julia with a MTB or trekking bike. As it is partly over unpaved paths, one does not get far with a road bike here. Whoever wants to accompany his athlete by bike should not underestimate it. “With all the food, you will be carrying a lot and some climbs also hurt on the bike.”
“From Grindelwald on, you run with your athlete. But running is exaggerated: From here it goes only uphill, and partially so steep, that almost all athletes just hike. And there are also always couples, where the supporter slackens, that should not happen, of course ;-). The last part is like chewing-gum. Even if you see the finish line at some point, it takes a good 2 hours until you finally get there. This can be very gruelling. ”
After the finish line, Alex recommends that the athlete changes quickly. “Then you can enjoy the view of the surrounding mountains. During the race, as a supporter you have no eye for it, unfortunately. ”
To ease the changing after the finish, you will now, with the starting documents, get a transition bag each for athletes and supporters for your warm clothes after the finish line. This innovation has been discussed controversially, but the growing number of big suitcases has almost overwhelmed our resources and possibilities last year.