Norseman Xtreme Triathlon 2019 | Race Report
The alarm went off at 2am on race morning, after a good 5-6h of sleep. It turned out that shifting my sleep rhythm the last week leading up to the race actually worked. Breakfast, bike check-in and a last quick visit to the loo, and I was ready to board the legendary ferry. I found some good friends in Jo Ringheim, Jarle Wermskog and Marius Elvedal on the ferry, joking and taking the edge off the brutal day we had ahead of us. Finally the ferry opened its jaw, allowing us to make The Jump into the fjord. I didn’t even think about the temperature, before approaching the kayaks forming the start line.
The inner feeling I had during these morning hours was completely different from my two previous Norseman starts. I felt calm. I felt confident. I knew I had made it to the start line healthy, injury-free, and in my best shape ever. I was ready to attack the course and grab this day with both hands.
4:54;59. BOOM - let’s go!
SWIM - 51:05, 1:19/100m
From the first stroke through the water, I immediately felt I had a good day. Sounds weird, but I felt controlled, strong and calm. I saw one guy swimming away from us from the get-go, and assumed it was former ITU pro Mark Threlfall from GTN. I found Allans legs quite early as I started right beside him, and got comfortable there for the first kilometer. We were now a group of 4-5 athletes chasing the leader, with Pierre Gasparei leading on Allan, me, Marius Elvedal. I had a quick look at my watch with said average pace 1:18/100m. That can’t be right - just keep swimming. After about 1,5k, I thought to myself that Pierre led our group too far out in fjord, instead of taking the shortest way close to shore. Especially considering the forecasted tide against us, it would make even more sense to stay close to shore. Despite staying comfortably in the group with the main pre-race favourites, I made what felt like a rather ballsy move turning right, and going my own way straight towards the sight bonfire on shore. Marius and a couple of other guys followed me, and suddenly we were separated by quite a lot from the two others. At least enough to make me feel like I had dropped Pierre and Allan, giving my a huge confidence boost. I kept it strong and steady towards the turn buoy after 3,2k. Right before the buoy, I see two green swim caps making the turn 10 seconds before me. “Oh well, I wasn’t THAT strong”. I got up to them during the last stretch towards shore, and exited the water together with Pierre and Allan. Perfect - exactly where I wanted to be.
T1 - 1:23
Went smooth, fast and efficient with the help of my brother Sindre. Wetsuit off. Socks on. Bike shoes. Reflective vest. Bib number. Helmet, and glasses. Onto the 180k bike leg in 2nd, with about 3min to the leader.
BIKE - 5:13;08, 34,5kph
I took time to get into my rhythm and take nutrition the first part of the bike leg, and suddenly Allan and Marius passed me right before the beginning of the climb. I initially planned to stay behind and follow their pace, but I quickly felt that my legs were strong, and knew that I had to take advantage of my strong suit - hills. I went to the front, and kept my plan regarding power output surprisingly comfortably. We passed Threlfall during the Måbødalen tunnel after 15k, and I had time to think “shit, I am leading Norseman” for a split second before grinding on up towards the mountain plateau. After a while I saw to my surprise that Allan actually didn’t really keep up with me and Marius. Just keep it steady, don’t go crazy. Right before Dyranut, Marius passed me to gain some seconds before he had to stop. Due to fog on the mountain plateau, the race director instructed everyone to take their reflective vest back if they had taken it off at Vøringsfossen. Marius had. I had totally forgotten as I was too focused on catching my second breakfast from my support team. Thanks mom Helle, for teaching me to appreciate the value of food! I was back in the lead, kept on pushing according to my plan, and as it turned out, I would actually ride solo for the remaining 150k of the bike leg.
Normally I wouldn’t have dared to go away like that, even though I didn’t really put in an extra effort to get away. But this day I just felt different, both physically and mentally. A gap slowly but surely opened up during the high speed sections crossing Hardangervidda, and suddenly my support told me I was about 1 minutes in front of the two chasers. All the way towards the halfway point at Geilo, my mind shuffled between the following thoughts: “Holy sh**, I feel like a million dollars” - “Did I overdo it? I am not even half way… In fact I have 7h left!” - “Keep eating. Keep drinking. Keep it steady” - “Oh well, no matter how this ends, no one can blame me for not trying” - “Remember what Coach Frank said: make this your day” - “Man, this mountain plateau is SO beautiful!”. Definitely an interesting mind game.
Hitting the first of the four climbs after Geilo, I was very interested to see how the legs would react on entering climbing mode again. And they obeyed quite well. Awesome support from family and friends on my way up to Kikut, with my name written on the tarmac, made me feel like a paler and older version of Egan Bernal for a split second or two, wearing my reflective “maillot jaunt” and all. Couldn’t stop smiling. And down on the other side chasing speed tucked down on the frame at 80-90kph. Hitting the second climb was the first time I really felt I started getting tired. And also the first time I was told the chasers were closing in. Not much, but still closing. No surprise, this was also the first time I hit a rough patch mentally. Thanks to my incredible support team, they were able to gradually shift my focus to myself, nutrition, pacing, and the things I was in control of. I got through climb two and three keeping the gap at around 1:30, and actually felt I get some energy back approaching the last brutal 7k climb up to Imingfjell. I found my rhythm, definitely struggling and digging deep, but still keeping in mind I had a marathon ahead. Positive splits, amazing cheering and support, and tail wind on the plateau made it tolerable. The last 30k of downhill into T2 flew by while focusing on saving energy, fuelling properly, and preparing mentally for a battle. I rolled into T2, my strongest discipline in triathlon, alone in front of the legendary Norseman Xtreme Triathlon - “IS THIS FOR REAL?!”
T2 - 0:24
Yet again smooth, fast and efficient. Handed the bike over to Sindre, slipped into my running shoes, and grabbed my glasses, some Redbull and gel. No time to miss when you have an incredible runner like Allan chasing you. Even had the best T2 split of 0:24 together with Kristian Grue - subgoal obtained!
RUN - 3:53;37, 5:35/km
First 2k I didn’t look at my watch, just tried to get into the rhythm. High cadence, efficient technique. Water, cooling, energy. Under the unusually hot conditions my support team provided me with everything I needed in terms of cooling ice cubes inside my trisuit, a selection of delicious liquid food, refreshing beverages and the crucial mental support keeping me cool and contained. I was aware that the probability of Allan closing in on the flat part of the run was high. And he was. Actually he was running 15-20 seconds faster than me per kilometer, even though I kept it steady at 4:05/km. Closing in step by step.
Surprisingly enough it didn’t stress me up, but I had to make a choice. Do I increase increase my speed to play with his head by keeping the gap steady for a while? Or do I stick to the plan and hope he cracks? I chose the latter. Having spent days and weeks training at my family’s cabin at Gaustablikk, I have my fair share of Zombie Hill sessions under my belt - that’s where I might have an advantage. He passed me at 15k, gave me an encouraging word about my bike split and a “knuckles”, and trotted away from me at the same impressive pace. During those last 10k before Zombie Hill I still had relatively good legs, but had to make a couple of quick stops into the bushes.
By the time we entered the legendary Zombie Hill, he had increased his lead to two minutes. Definitely within reach. Finally I was also able to get company from my incredible support and training buddy Richard who fed, encouraged and pushed me the last 17k of the run. It was mainly a monologue. R: “Come on Hansi, I am so proud of you! Keep it steady, he will crack eventually!” HC: “Hhmmpft”. I was digging deep, focusing. A quick change of shoes to the more comfy Greyhoud - sweet relief! Keep running, keep running. The gap was kept more or less steady up Zombie Hill, but after a couple of more visits into the bushes towards the Stavsro at 37,5k, Allan extended his lead to 3:30. I was so tired.
I checked in my backpack at the mountain gate, and entered the mountain. It was a terrible feeling starting running rocky trails at first. But I got into it. I ran where I could, and tried to walk fast and light at the steeper parts. Felt like I kept an OK pace. I tried to tell myself that 3 minutes is nothing on this mountain. Looked up to try and get my sight on Allan, but he was nowhere to be seen. Cola. Water. The trail was packed with tourists and spectators cheering us on, and more and more of them kept saying that the guy in front looked much more tired than me. Some said he was 4 minutes ahead. Some said 1 minute. “They are probably just saying that to be nice”. “What if he really is completely done?”. I wasn’t able to accelerate, but I kept the pace and pushed as hard as I could. And thought to myself that if he beats my on my best day, I can’t be disappointed. I realised that sub 10h was actually within reach, so I started focusing on that goal. 5min before crossing the finish line, I said to my brother: “Oh well, 2nd place in Norseman is good too. Actually very good”. AND THEN. I look up, and I finally get my eye on a white and light blue trisuit a couple of turns ahead of me. And the guy wearing it looks tired. Very tired. Something happens inside of my brain, and I remember thinking “You don’t know if you’ll ever be this close to a Norseman victory ever again”. My whole body rushed with adrenaline, and I started sprinting while shouting to Sindre “This one is fu**** mine!”. Acting totally on instinct I sprinted everything I had, overtook Allan just before the first steps of the stairs 150m before the finish line, and didn’t dare too look back until I was able to let all the emotions go when crossing the finish line.
THE CRAZIEST THING I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED.
Xtri World Champion. 9h59m40s.
And to be able to share the moment with my beloved family and friends awaiting me at the finish line makes this day something I will never forget.
There are so many people I want to thank for supporting, believing, cheering that I don’t really know where to begin. First and foremost I have to thank my family for the unconditional love and support in doing something out of the ordinary with this pro triathlete project. Thanks to my incredible support team during the Norseman weekend, consisting of Sindre, Richard and physio Hagbart at Høvikklinikken, for getting me through this race fulfilling my absolute maximum potential - you guys have such a big part of this victory. Thank you Frank for planning my training, pushing my physical and mental boundaries, and taking my performance to levels I didn’t really believe were obtainable. Thanks also to the rest of team Coachfrank for world class training partners. Thank you Allan for what was probably the most epic battle for the win in the history of Norseman. Knowing I was able to compete with you on one of your strong days is makes this huge for me. And also to Jarle, Marius and all others competitors for forcing us to push all the way to the finish line. A massive thanks to all friends and training partner for making the daily training (mostly) a pleasure. And thank you for all the nice words and messages - it means a lot that people are following and cheering!
At last, thanks to all my amazing sponsors for making it possible for me to go all in, spending all my time working to obtain my goals in triathlon.