The Norseman XTreme Triathlon is just that – extreme. So, naturally, Headsweats Athlete Penny Comins had the 5,000 meter ascent race on her list. Daunting and a challenge, Penny describes each section of the race. Here’s a brief description of Isklar Norseman XTreme Triathlon:
“The course runs point-to-point – or fjord to peak: Starting at sea level, with a 4 meter drop off a ferry into the Hardangerfjord, crossing the starkly haunting Hardangervidda mountain plateau, finishing at the rocky peak of Gaustatoppen, at 1,850m above sea level and 220km away, Norseman is a long day’s journey through some of Norway’s most spectacular scenery. The total ascent is 5,000 meters. The water is cold, clean, and comes lightly salted. The weather can be anything from brilliantly beautiful to blasting blizzard. If you’re really lucky, you may see porpoises, orcas or reindeer – or, more likely, baffled locals who think you are nuts, but will cheer you on anyway.”
But did Penny rock it? Yes, yes she did. Here’s her full race account:
“Dubbed the toughest triathlon in the world Norseman Xtreme Triathlon is on everyone’s tick list who are serious about long distance. The coveted black t-shirt, awarded to the top 160 finishers, is what all are racing for. The finish line is the mast on top of Gaustatoppen at 1,850m, the tallest mountain in Sweden.
Arriving in Eidfjord I felt strong in body but not in mind. The sheer size of the landscape gripped me. Race morning started at 3am. I refused to think of it as early and just stuffed in breakfast and then chatted insistently with Kris (Texan and winner of the BlueSeventy competition) and Melanie (Black Line London athlete) as we walked on to the ferry. We all gasped in realization that this was going to happen when the lights of the hotel became twinkles in the distance.
I had many fears coming in to this race and top of the list was the water temperature. I worked closely with BlueSeventy and used their thermal range to abate the cold. Wax ear-plugs were a key to keeping the cold water from getting in to my head too. Freezing patches of water were in front of the waterfalls feeding in to Hardangerfjord. These didn’t last long and I was thankful that it wasn’t this cold for the entire 3.8km
Taking in the huge lakes, moss green land dotted with bright red houses brought it home to me just how special this race was. Having a head wind the whole way was acceptable as the sun shone through the clouds. Life was good. I was ahead of my predicted times and finding a lot of the course fast and flowing despite what the profile had indicated.
My jubilation was quickly quashed as a lady with a flipchart informed me I was in 191th position leaving T2. Knowing I needed to be in 160th or less to be allowed to the top of Gaustatoppen I put the foot to the floor and ran as hard as I could. Playing Pac Man in my mind I chomped each athlete in front of me, counting down from 191.
Crossing the timing mat I was in 157th place. I had done it. I had actually ran myself in to contention for a finish on the top. I couldn’t see the mountain as it was still covered in cloud. I wondered if it was even open at the top and more importantly if I really wanted to get to the top!
I made it to the top, all a little wobbly from my poor nutrition strategy, exhaustion and altitude. It was a white out and not the usual rock star feeling you get on the red carpet of an Ironman event. I didn’t even know my time until I got my phone and the messages came through from everyone following me. It all didn’t matter. I had completed the journey. The feeling of achievement is still with me today. I have had that finish line proud feeling for five days now and it isn’t wagering like most do after you get your medal.
The family feeling is what makes Norseman so special. You travel over such raw landscape in every element the environment can offer. Athlete and support crew feel this journey and want everyone to finish. No-one asks your times or splits. It is all about survival and completion.”