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What is it that makes Norseman Xtreme the world's ultimate triathlon? We have spoken with one of the gold-medal-favourites.

Published: August 3, 2017

3,650 athletes submitted an entry application this year. Only 250 participants are allowed to start.

The fastest times are a little more than ten hours on the route, and the last participants to tumble across the finish line clock in at just under 24 hours.

By that time, they have swum 3.8 km in the slush-tempered Hardanger Fjord, ridden 18 miles across the adjacent plateau and run a marathon (42 km) up to the peak of Gaustatoppen Mountain, which is situated at a suitable 1,883 metres above sea level.

These stats are why Norseman Xtreme is widely considered the planet's toughest triathlon in (the extremely demanding) Ironman distance.

 

Watch the competition live here: 

Triple trivia about triathlons:

* A triathlon consists of three disciplines - swimming, cycling and running, in that order. Distances range from Super Sprint to Long Distance, with a span from 12.9 to 159 km combined.

* The triathlon became an Olympic sport in Sydney in 2000. In the Olympics, competition is usually held in the normal distance: 1,500 metres swimming, 40 km cycling and 10 km running.

* In Norway, there are an estimated 40-50 triathlons held each year. The season stretches from the middle of April to early September.  

 

Extreme triathlon as slow TV

The Hardangervidda mountain plateau - the scene of madness - is pristinely located in all its wild splendour and the place where Norseman Xtreme is renewing itself. New this year is the possibility to follow the drama, second by second, from your easy chair or treadmill.

Dag Oliver, press contact for the festival, tells us why it might be a good idea to check this out:

"This is an extreme triathlon presented as slow TV. We follow the participants from the moment they enter the water until they reach the finish line, and all through the beautiful odyssey to get there.

What makes Norseman Xtreme unique in a global context?

"It's all about how at one point a new type of event was created where the organisers moved away from earlier limitations." It caught on and become a hot topic - a global phenomenon. Among those who applied to participate this year, there were people from 80 different countries. 

Norseman
Credits
Norseman.
Photo: Kai-Otto Melau

Credits
Norseman.
Photo: Kai-Otto Melau
Dag has a few theories on who might draw the longest straw during this year's race.

"Kristin Lie, who won in 2015, is the big favourite in the women's division. In the men's division, there are a bunch of very strong Norwegian guys any of whom might win on a good day - Allan Hovda, Lars Christian Vold, Lars Petter Stormo. According to the stats,  the American Jordan Rapp should probably win. But, it is an advantage to know the route inside and out."

Running is the hardest part

Someone who knows the route in detail is previously mentioned Lars Christian Vold. This year, the top extreme triathlon athlete and National Geographic blogger will participate in his seventh Norseman.

He's doesn't allow himself to be fazed by predictions about favourites.

"Last year I ruined my chance for a victory when I crashed on the final hill while cycling, so this year I'm only entering to battle it out for a win. And I'm convinced that I have a good chance of winning, yes," says Lars Christian.

"Which of the disciplines is most demanding?"

"Running is the hardest part. Because it comes after many hours of hard work during the swimming and cycling. And because that is when I will be using whatever energy I have left." 

Norseman
Credits
Norseman.
Photo: Kai-Otto Melau

Credits
Norseman.
Photo: Kai-Otto Melau

He also has advice for this year's rookies:

"It's important to make efficient use of your energy and get to know your body so that you can do it in the best possible way. It is also a good idea to set secondary goals for yourself, during both training sessions and in competitions, so that you will not be overwhelmed by all the work you must do. And with regard to each individual discipline: Focus on your technique while swimming; include volume training in your cycling; and be sure to step up your running regimen gradually so you won't get injured".

Dig deeper

Vold has second, third and fourth place finishes from previous Norseman Xtreme events. As he wrote on his blog: “This is not the Olympics. Here, you don't even get a medal for doing well.”

If it is not the Olympics, it is nevertheless unique in the world, according to the world-class triathlete:

"There are not very many other races like this, at least not that I have come across. It starts with the ferry and swimming in cold water at the head of one of the world's most beautiful fjords, as the sun is just barely rising. It's a route that makes it possible to dig deeper than in any other race I've been in, specifically because of the variety in the terrain.

Norseman
Credits
Norseman.
Photo: Agurtxane Concellon

Credits
Norseman.
Photo: Agurtxane Concellon

No matter how things go for Lars Christian during this year's race, it would be hard to top his greatest memory from previous years:

"My finest memory from Norseman was when I popped the question at the peak while knowing that I had given everything I had. And she said YES."