While last year’s test race was the hardest race I have ever done, this year’s race was the most beautiful. This is my race report from Lofoten Triathlon Extreme distance, one of the three races of The Arctic Triple.
Waking up to a completely calm sea with 15 degrees already at 4 AM could not been a bigger contrast from last year when we had a solid storm. After having bad weather at both Swissman and Norseman I must admit that it was a relief when the forecast predicted 19 degrees, sun and absolutely no wind.
Starting the swim next to Tom Arne Arnesen, who also participated in last years test race gave me the best possibilities for a good swim. He is a stronger swimmer than me, but not that much better. Therefore I tried for my life to hang on to his feet, and managed to do it for maybe 100 meters. By then I was redlining and unfortunately had no choice but to let him go and find my own rhythm. The sun shined up just after the start, which was magical. It also made it a bit more challenging to navigate and see the buoys which made me do a 90 degree turn to go on the outside of a buoy. Other than that the swim course was pretty straightforward regarding the navigation. The sea was crystal clear, fresh and very salty. It was also a long swim. Actually the longest open water swim I have done. I got out of the water in 1:18, a lot slower than expected, but could see that my Polar V800 had logged 4496 meters. Out of the water as nr. 6, not very far behind the others.
I immediately felt good on the bike. Pedalling with the same watt and heart rate as at Norseman two weeks earlier, my breathing was much calmer. That made me doubtless that something went wrong already early on the swim at Norseman, and not just from being very cold a couple of hours. Without the wind, the rolling terrain in Lofoten is fast. It was such a good feeling flying together with Mr.Boardman in a deep aero position and good power output. I flew passed the other and was leading from about 20 km on the bike and continued to increase my distance fast. The bike course was stunning last year as well (it was the same), but with the storm all the focus was on staying on the road. Now you could actually admire the beauty of the sea and the mountains. I passed the second aid station in Leknes at 67 km feeling great. After another 20 km, I arrived at Leknes again thinking this cannot be right. At the last junction it was a sign point left, so I turned left. The problem was that it was only in my head that the sign pointed left, because in the real world it pointed right. I had climbed a hill and ridden 6 km in the wrong direction(!). Luckily the organizer tracked my erroneous turn and got a car exporting me back where I turned wrong. That made my “bonus-tour” only 12 km, instead of 20 km and the loss “only” 22 min. Needless to say, I was no longer in the lead. The good thing is that I was not far behind and regained nr. 3 and 2 quite fast. The leader did take me more time to regain, but after about 110 km I was again the race leader. I felt very good and strong up until 4 hours averaging 268 watts including the zeros, which is a new PB. Considering having to stop a couple of times for crossing sheep’s on the road that was very good. After that I started fading a bit and could not hold the same intensity until 4,5 hours which was the goal. Turning right towards Henningsvær I decided to take it easier and enjoy the scenery. After pushing hard for 4,5 hours I deserved it and it was probably wise both regarding the run and the recovery time for the next full distance only three weeks from now. I rolled in to Svolvær feeling good after a 208 km long bike ride with 1350 m elevation.
The run course is 45 km, but it is not a 45 km run. It is 25 km running and a solid mountain hike. The first 25 km is nearly flat and mostly on tarmac. The views are nice and the air fresh. I started good at 4:10min/km pace but soon slowed down as the terrain got more rolling. The speed was not right were I wanted it to be, but I arrived at “Haugen farm” the bottom of the mountain in 1:47, a couple of minutes faster than last year. Backpack pickup, a little chit chat with the medic and refuelling with water and some chips and nuts. I was ready for my mountain hike! Last year I was not prepared for such “unrunable” terrain and so harsh and cold weather. This year I was prepared, but luckily did not have to take any of my clothing out of my backpack. The conditions were just perfect! While I last year was running to survive I now did it of pure enjoyment. I transformed into a mountain goat jumping from one rock to another loving every little jump. With clear weather the views were absolutely stunning, and several times I had to take a short break from pretending to be a mountain goat, and just let the impressions sink in. I am so fortunate and privileged to be able to do a race in so unique and amazing nature was a thought that crossed my mind a lot on the mountain. Coming down from the first mountain ran on a small beach and I got an urge to take a jump in the welcoming water, but let the opportunity pass.
From the bottom of the first mountain it is 7 km fairly flat terrain (relatively speaking) before you arrive at the bottom of Tjeldbergtind, the grand finale of Lofoten Triathlon, with a superb view over both Svolvær, Kabelvåg and the mountains and sea surrounding them. I must admit at that point I was getting a bit tired and was not in the conditions to love it as much as I had crossing the first mountain. Was it actually this steep? I had been there no less than three times when I visited Lofoten earlier this summer, but running up there fully recovered was easy. After 11 hours of hard effort it was not. On the top, my younger brother Emil, was waiting for me and we had a pleasant decent together. Running downhill is not something I usually do too much off, and especially not technical challenging downhill’s. It demands both the pure technical skills and specific muscular strength. My potential of improvements there are huge! The last 2,5 km, from the bottom of Tjeldbergtind and to the finish line (aka the rack for drying stockfish called “hjell”) is a very pleasant run. After such a long and tough day with so many hours that demands your full attention and concentration it feels good to hit the tarmac again. You can run it while looking back at your race and the special moments along the way. You can look forward to crossing the finish line with the knowledge that it is in the very near future. Personally I was looking forward to see my family again after a hectic period before and after Norseman and hectic days towards the race. Running along the pier and around Svolvær Torg was magical! The speaker did an awesome job getting the crowd all enthusiastic and exited. I was high-fiving everyone before I picked up Jonas and ran underneath the “hjell” as the winner of the very first official The Arctic Triple Lofoten Triathlon. The sensation is difficult to describe and impossible to really understand, unless you have finished a similar race yourself. The more effort you put in to reach a goal, the more rewarding it is when reaching the goal. Lofoten Triathlon is beautiful out of this world, but that does not mean it is not demanding. Nothing comes easy, especially not the last 20 km on the run, which took me more than three hours to complete. Tired, yet ecstatic and filled with so much adrenalin that the fatigue is hardly noticed. Emotional, relieved and very proud.
Check out my video from the race made of André Eriksen who also made the official teaser from the race (which I have put last in this blog post).
Performance-wise it was not my A-game. My swim was the usual mediocre type, I faded more than expected after 4 hours on the bike, and I did not push myself to my limits on the run. Still, it was a very solid effort, and hard enough to count as a good test of my body. A body that felt good, but lacked the 100 % confidence, after the breakdown in Norseman two weeks before. Now I know that I am back on track and that the failure on Norseman most likely will be written in history as a one-time event. My knowledge on the issue has increased tremendously and I will reduce the risk factors in the future. Holding back on the run, especially going downhill, was also probably a reasonable choice since I am aiming to put up a fast performance in Challenge Almere just three weeks after.
I will thank Maria and Frank for putting up this amazing race in full scale. It would not be possible without the tremendous effort of the awesome crew and the experience would not have been as memorable without the cheering crowd. You all deserve a super big thank you from me and all the other competitors for making the experience magical!
Do you want to join me next year? The registration opens Sunday 4. september 😀