Being back in Ascona was very pleasant. The historic and charming, yet stylish and well-groomed Swiss city, right with the border to Italy, was just as beautiful as I remembered it. Three years had gone since we visited the place last time, and even if our stay at Ascona only brings out good memories, my performance at Swissman does not. It was time for revenge. I was there to win.
The day started insanely early, at about 02:30 AM, as normal at Swissman and Norseman. We all went to the boat as normal, but I had a very strong feeling that it would never depart. The weather was warm and calm as we entered the boat, but the roar of thunder came from the mountains and lightening lid up the sky. The swim was rightfully cancelled as just 10 minutes later the storm hit Ascona with heavy wind and pouring rain.
Instead the start was delayed 45 minutes, and 3800 meters swim was replaced by 4 km run. I did not wish for a duathlon, but performance wise I guess it was slightly beneficial
I started the run semi-hard, being right behind the leader who held a good but comfortable pace. While I can swim as hard as I can for one hour without hurting my performance on the bike, I have experienced that running hard hurt my bike. Even a very short run. Therefore I was happy running in to T1 as second guy, right behind the leader with great legs.
Out of transition I was in charge with a clear goal of never being caught. The rid out of Ascona and its neighbour city Lucarno was unusual calm, as the rain was heavy and it had some sharp turns. After averaging 230 watts the first 10 min, I was clear of the “technical” part, and ready to hit the pedals hard. And that’s what I did, but pushing 280 – 300 watts felt easier then it ever have done before. I have done a lot of long interval sessions at that pace, typically 6 x 20 minutes, but never with so fresh and recovered legs. I felt super comfortable pushing that power at the same time as I held my head and body low and aero. Most people prefer a road bike on Swissman, which I perfectly understand, but I do not think it is better if you look from a pure performance perspective. I had four guys trying to hunt me down, but the distance slowly increased.
Swissman is quit flat the first 48 km, before it goes lightly uphill. At Airolo the steep part up the Alps begins and the only guy hunting close was Ramon Krebs, the winner for Gigathlon a few weeks before. I still felt very good and the distance to Ramon increased and I knew I would be hard to catch up. When I got to the first Alp pass, San Gottardo after the iconic cobblestone road I had an average of 282 watt, for 3 hours and 20 minutes(!). Better and stronger then my performance at Norseman last year and a proof that cycling all day the whole winter in the Serra de Tramuntana in Mallorca had paid of. After nearly freezing to death in Swissman 2013, I put on a warmer cycling jacket and started my decent. Then my race went downhill in more the one way. My legs were golden, but my head was not. A guy walked in front of my as I rode of, and I had to turn slightly right to avoid him. I took the wrong way downhill, the old cobblestone road. It is longer, slower and much more dangerous to ride. It is also a dead end and I had to put my bike on the shoulder, walk across a small river, and climb up a short steep hill to get on the right road again. To call me stupid would be an understatement, and at more the one moment I was sure my race was over. It was like a nightmare. Being back on the right road again my 5 minutes lead was reduced with 6 minutes, and I had to hunt again. At the flat part before the climb up to Furka I passed Roman, and kept pushing hard to regain my lead.
After spending a winter in Mallorca, and having very nice roads outside Oslo where I live, I am spoiled with nice views while riding. Still, the view when riding the Swiss Alps still takes my breath away. They are so beautiful, yet mighty and fill you with respect. The nice thing about climbing is that I actually can lift my head and enjoy the view since the aerodynamic loss is marginal when going steep up hill. The last climb up to Grimselpass was hard, but reminded me why I wanted to go back to Switzerland. It’s down right awesome!
It was raining down from Grimselpass, and I was riding so slowly downhill it was boarder line embarrassing. In most of the turns you can have full throttle, but then you have to know the course. I did not want to risk anything. Coming safe and sound to Brienz, and T2 was first priority.
It was on the run I got the consequences of under dressing while cycling, in the Swissman 2013. That’s why it was a hard run then. At least that was what I thought. The run at Swissman looks fairly flat but its not. It goes up, and down, a bit flat, before it goes up and down again. It makes it hard to get a good rhythm and the running speed that I wanted. My legs did not respond. The sunny and hot start of the run quickly turned to heavy rain and thunder. It was a real thrill running in those conditions. It was also a lonely run in those conditions as it is not super pleasant for supporters. Seeing my support crew at the aid stations was therefore especially motivating. I was running with no idea how far I was in front, but wanted to push as hard as possible anyway. Running the last and very steep 9 kilometres with me was my 13-year-old brother, who was a bit stressed out with the task. Having as much lead as possible would be preferable to lift the weight of his shoulders.
While passing my support at 24,5 km, Jenny shouts out that, Ramon have pulled out of the race. The next guy behind me was 30 minutes back. With that knowledge I did what I have wanted to do the last one and a half hours. Stop with one of the many red benches along the route, sit down, and take out that bloody stone on the inside of my right sock. Relief!
Getting that positive feedback on my time splits is not always positive performance wise. It is a bit difficult, because I want Jenny to give me the correct times, but staying motivated to really suffer is considerably reduced with a big lead. Why suffer? The question is legitimate. To increase your performance it is not just about increasing the endurance thru training, but just as much increasing your mental strength. Pushing your mental strength can therefore be valuable for future races. That’s why I tried all the cards on hand to keep running as fast as possible. Honestly, I did not succeed in that task.
Coming in the Grindelwald was great. I had started to become a bit chilly and was looking forward to running with some company. Especially the company of my younger brother, Emil. I put on a wool jersey, light rain jacket and my backpack before we started the climb towards the finish line at Kleine Scheidegg. Going up 1100 height meters in 9 km means a rather steep climb. The first half is really steep and my running pace was so slow that when Emil went from running to fast walking, he still held my pace. Walk when you must and try to run when the elevation allowed it. One leg in front of the other. Keep focus and remember the sooner we finished, the sooner we would get some delicious Swiss chocolate (not to mention a hot shower and a proper meal). Emil fought like a tiger and did a great job as my supporter. We had such a nice trip up the mountain and with the sky opening up and giving us sun the last four kilometres it was pure enjoyment. Taking a selfie during competition is nothing I had done before, but it just had to be done before we teamed up with Jenny and ran the very last hundred meters. It was the most awesome finish with the most awesome supporters! I got my revenge on the Swiss Alps and won Swissman 33 minutes before Andreas Woplert, who finished second. The pictures say it all!
To my support crew, I owe the biggest possible thank you. Also my sponsors, supporters and everyone who cheer me along the “tri-road”. The Swissman is a unique competition and it would not have been possible without the Swissman organization and all of their volunteers. You are the best!
- Googles: HUUB Aphotic (not used despite heavy rain;))
- Wetsuit: HUUB Archimedes II 3:5 (was not wet either)
- Watch: Polar V800
- Bike: Boardman TTE Signature
- Wheels: Zipp 808 Firecrest Tubular
- Tires: Vittoria CX 25 mm
- Gear: Shimano DA Di2 with 53/39 front and 11/28 cassette.
- Clothing 1: Humanspeed High Intensity Aero topp and shorts from start to finish
- Clothing 2: Compressport PRO Swiss calfs
- Clothing 3: Castelli T1 Stealth top on the bike + Castelli Gabba from Furkapass untill T2.
- Helmet: Louis Garneau P-09 Aerohelmet
- Bike shoes: Louis Garneau Tri-400
- Bike computer: Polar M450
- Power meter: Polar Keo Power pedals
- Running shoes: Hoka Clifton 2
- Visor: Compressport Ultralight visor
- Glasses: Oakley EV Zero
- Jacket up from Grindelwald: Compressport Hurricane wind storm protect
- Backpack from Grindelwald: Osprey Pack Rev 6
- Post race for recovery: Compressport Full leg