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“Everything is a more difficult than I imagined.”

Outdoor Swimmer: As you’re

approaching the half-way point, how well are you keeping to your planned

schedule?

Avram Iancu: The 60-day

timeframe was mostly symbolic. It comes from a novel that was also my

inspiration to embark on this journey, The Danube Pilot, by Jules Verne. The main

character in the book travels down the river 50km a day in a boat, totalling

57 days. The aim of this journey is not to finish in 60 days but to set the

record of swimming the Danube without any fins or wetsuit.

In 2000, Martin Strel swam

the length of the Danube in 58 days, although he was using a wetsuit and fins.

Mimi Hughes, who also swam the length of the river, took 89 days, although she

did not use fins. Definitely, I will not be able to arrive at the destination

before 57 days as I am not using a wetsuit or fins; I am expecting to complete

the journey in around 70 – 75 days.

The first 400 km were

extremely difficult due to obstacles such as shallow water, many dams,

boulders, etc. I am expecting that once I pass Vienna and all the dams, I will

be able to swim a lot more each day and get closer to my initial estimation of

swimming 40 – 45 km a day.

OS: Is there a lot of

variability in the water temperature? It seems that some days you are

comfortable and others you get really cold: why is this?

AI: Swimming without a

wetsuit I feel all the variations in water temperature. Sometimes the water

temperature can change hour by hour. For example, mornings are always very cold

whilst in the evening the water temperature is warmer if it was a sunny day.

Different rivers join the

Danube. Often they come from the mountain tops and as a result the water

temperature of the Danube drops. For example, when the Inn river joined the

Danube (just after Passau, Germany) the temperature dropped from 21°C to 14°.

Added to this, my physical

and mental strength also differs from day to day.

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OS: Are you managing to

eat enough to maintain your weight? What do you eat and drink each day?

AI: I always have a

huge appetite which I think is good. In the mornings I usually have muesli

soaked in water, hulled hemp seeds, eggs, turkey and/or fish. Once I am in the

water, I drink energy drinks every half an hour and each hour I have a bit of

chocolate or a hemp seed bar. After around 3-4 hours of swimming, I meet the

ground team and I have a warm lunch, such as soup. In the evenings I try to eat

a lot of food rich in protein so it helps with my recovery. I also eat a lot of

raw fruits and vegetables throughout the day, I drink a lot of hemp protein

shakes and supplement my meals with hulled hemp seeds, to reach 5-6000 calories

daily.

Over the last 25 days I have

lost around 6 to 7 kg, so I may need to boost my nutritional intake.  Even though I have lost some weight, I can

definitely see muscle gain on my chest, shoulders and dorsal muscles.

OS: What has been harder

than you expected?

AI: Everything is a lot

more difficult than I imagined. It is a huge project from every point of view,

including logistically. Aside from the effort of actually swimming each day,

sorting out logistics is not easy either. Every day we face new challenges

which we did not foresee. For example, it is very hard to plan a stop where the

river and the road may meet so we can meet our ground team. Even though the map

might show a road reaching the Danube, that may in fact not exist.

I also did not expect the

high number of dams in Germany and Austria, and the fact they would make moving

forward so difficult and slow.

OS: What has been easier

than you expected?

 AI: Nothing

has been easier than imagined.

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OS: How is your body

holding up? Where does it hurt? How are you managing to stay injury free?

AI: I have a strong

body, with a good capacity to adapt and transform to the different conditions I

put it through. It is not easy and my muscles are always sore. There is a lot

of muscle and joint pain in my shoulders. Also, my chest and dorsal muscles

hurt every day.

So far, I have managed to

stay injury free with the exception of an incident that happened around 15 days

ago. The water was only 1-1.5 m deep and we failed to notice a log with a sharp

tip around 30 cm from the surface. I impaled myself on it, but luckily I hit it

with my rib and not my stomach. I got a big scratch from my rib down my belly

which is still hurting after all this time. The water is very deep now so I am

not encountering any problems of this nature anymore.

OS: How is your mental state? How does it change from

day to day? What helps you stay positive and optimistic? How do you keep going

when you feel low?

AI: This is a very good

question. Both for this journey and for crossing the English Channel, I think that

95% of the challenge takes place at a mental level, with only 5% physical.

Obviously you need a strong enough body to be able to push itself to the

limits, but it is mostly a mental challenge. For example, at the moment I feel

horror each time I have to get back in the water because of its cold

temperature. It is only through sheer determination that I can convince myself

to push forward.

The weather also has a huge

impact on my mood. I actually think this applies to everyone – when it’s sunny,

people tend to be more positive, and when it’s raining, windy and cold we get

quite depressed. I am also influenced by my team, who are, of course, going

through their own challenges or feelings of disappointment in regards to the

weather or the distance we manage to swim. But this is what it’s all about;

pushing all physical and mental limits until we arrive at the Black Sea.

OS: What advice do you

have for other people planning swimming adventures?

AI: For all open water

swimmers, swimming in rivers such as the Danube is the best way to get closer

to nature and to rediscover the beauty of God’s creation.

It is important that

everyone tries to push past their limits, and then to discover that these

limits are not what they expected and they can push much further. To discover

our real limits, we need to leave our comfortable homes.

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