Triathlon participants to swim in downtown canal - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Triathlon participants to swim in downtown canal

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Reporter Mary Milz takes a dip... Reporter Mary Milz takes a dip...

Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - The murky waters of the downtown canal seem a far cry from the pristine blue of a swimming pool. But this summer, some brave athletes will take the plunge.

Just for the record, no one is allowed to swim or wade in the canal. Eyewitness News got special permission from the city, and later this summer so will hundreds of others for an event that will be the first of its kind here.

The downtown canal is a popular destination for lunch and all sorts of recreation.

"It's very peaceful, a great place to walk," said one afternoon stroller.

But it's not exactly the place you want to get your feet wet, even if swimming was allowed.

The city spent months cleaning it out, but it still seems uninviting.

"I see floating butts and I can't see the bottom," commented Kathy Queen.

To test the waters, I hopped into the canal along with Don Carr, a triathlon organizer. The temperature was perfect - a bit like Lake Michigan on a summer day.

Don Carr is planning a triathlon in downtown Indianapolis, including a bike ride, six-mile run and swim - in the downtown canal from the Sailors Monument to Celebration Plaza.

"We're right in the city," Carr said. "It's just a beautiful location."

Carr says the much-maligned canal is in fact a great venue for triathletes.

"It makes it similar to a pool swim. It's only as deep as you see here, four feet, you can't get lost, 40 to 50 feet wide, so you can stop and stand up if you need to clear your goggles," he said.

But just how clean is it? We took the camera underwater to find out. It's not exactly crystal clear but no worse than most lakes. The city treats it weekly for algae, meaning we're swimming in chemicals.

"All chemicals are tested by the EPA. It's safe. We also test through a lab," said Carr.

"I saw you guys dripping over there when you came out. I thought, 'How did they get in there?'" said Angie Baer, a jogger.

It wasn't easy. We used a rail as a stepping point, but Carr Carr hopes to use a ramp.

Another issue: Participants are supposed to swim the entire distance, but here in the canal you can stand up and walk.

"You are supposed to swim and we'll encourage people to swim most of the time, but if they need to stop and walk a few feet that won't be a problem," Carr said.

Because of the width, he'll have to start swimmers in waves.

"We'll do 30 to 40 people every couple of minutes so it will be continuous."

"I like the idea of the course. The canal is an interesting venue," said veteran triathalete Jamie Jamison. But Jamison is not quite ready to stir things up and take the plunge. "Not at first. I'm a little afraid of the water. I know it's clean but at the end of August, it doesn't move much and it gets a little scummy."

Carr runs several triathalons at Eagle Creek hopes for a minimum of 500 entrants. The date is August 17th. Besides the Olympic distance, there's also the sprint.

Learn more about the triathlon

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