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Penny Comins Completes Norseman Xtreme Triathlon

Penny Comins Completes Norseman Xtreme Triathlon

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:

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.

Norseman XTreme Triathlon

The Swim
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

The Bike
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.

Norseman XTreme Triathlon

The Run
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.

Norseman XTreme Triathlon

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!

Norseman XTreme Triathlon

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.”

Boulder IRONMAN Headsweats

Boulder IRONMAN Headsweats

It’s been 11 days since Headsweats Sr. Account Manager, Lisa Maloney, and her husband, TR, completed the first full IRONMAN in Boulder. It was an amazing feat and we are so proud of what they accomplished. Here’s a recount from TR of the rigorous trainging and day of event, enjoy.

Lisa_TR_IM_Pics

My first Ironman event was back in 2009, and once I could walk up and down stairs again I swore I would never do another one. You know, “one and done.” Late in 2013 there were rumblings about an Ironman in Boulder. My wife works at Headsweats, so sporting news is common at the dinner table. She and I began talking about the event that night, and before I knew it we were both signing up for the big day.

Other couples thought we were nuts. It’s bad enough having one tired and cranky IM athlete in the house…why would you want two? We brushed aside those thoughts knowing that we make as great a team as we do a couple.

Long before the last snow we were prodding each other out of bed at 5am to make our way to the pool for morning swims. We rode together and ran together whenever we could. Most of all we recovered together and made sure the other was eating right and stretching.

Before we knew it the race had arrived and we were ready to go. We woke up, had breakfast together, grabbed our race bags and headed out the door. There we were, ready to go and sitting in the car looking at each other as the engine would not start—more drama for race morning!

After remedying our car issues, we were there at the start of Boulder’s first Ironman, marked and ready to enter the water. We held hands and strolled down the ramp and wished each other well. As soon as Lisa’s foot crossed the timing mat she was gone! She entered the water so fast I thought she was being pulled by a jet-ski.

The swim seemed to take forever! I know Lisa wanted to get on her bike (her strength) and I wanted to get on the run (my strength). Before we were even out of the water we both had our issues to deal with, she had to deal with broken goggles and I took a nice kick to the face and sternum. Seeing the exit arch was pure heaven.

After a quick trip through the transition tent, I was on the bike wondering if Lisa was ahead or behind me. Little did I know, she was a full 6 minutes ahead of me! Even with broken goggles full of water, she dominated on the swim.

Once we were on the St. Vrain out and back, I caught a glimpse of her and we both smiled from beneath our dorky shaped helmets and went back to work. It wasn’t until mile 80 that I finally caught her. She was having a great bike leg and it was impressive watching her pass guy after guy. Finally I pulled up next to her, cheered her amazing effort and made my way forward.
Right around mile 85 the heat began pressing on us and I was pushing the pace to finish the bike. It was then that I realized the insanity of hurrying a 112-mile bike to run a marathon. Luckily the crowds on the course were picking up and the screaming and fun signs lifted my spirits to keep at it. During the hardest climb of the day, I was greeted by the Headsweats crew and I can honestly say it is the only time I have ever smiled on that climb.

Off the bike and into the running shoes is when the real shock came. There were SO MANY PEOPLE CHEERING ON THE PATH! It was insane! I knew Boulder would come out pretty strong but this was like nothing I have ever seen. All racers have their names printed clearly on their number and soon I had what seemed like 5,000 fans.

With the 3-part out and back two-lap course I knew I would see Lisa soon. This was the whole goal of the training and picking Boulder Ironman as our event. We would see each other multiple times throughout the day. Speedy Lisa was 8 minutes behind me when I saw her running down the path. We slapped hands and kept going. Soon I would see her again and we would yell words of encouragement.

During the run my stomach started giving me trouble and I knew I would miss my goal but at that point I didn’t really care. I saw so many friends that I decided to make the last 6 miles a party and started jumping in photos with friends and stopping to give my step-daughter a sweaty hug. At one point, I even ran up to a cooler and grabbed a beer. Boulder knows how to party and Ironman is no different.

Running down the finishing chute I heard the words all Ironman competitors want to hear from Mile Reilly – “You are an Ironman!” Not only did I hear them I was there to hear them for Lisa. Our journey was complete. We dreamed together, trained together, were tired together and finally raced together. Congrats Boulder for putting on a great race. The scenery, the tough course and the amazing Boulder community made it a special day that we will never forget.