I think triathlon, after all being an international sport rather than a national sport here in Norway (yet), demands race reports written in english 🙂
So, July 14. the day had come at last: My debut as a triathlete! And my God was I looking forward to this day! The praise I had heard for this route leading up to the competition was enormous: The arrangement was supposed to be tip top, the sea crystal clear (but cold), and the scenery breathtaking with steep and winding mountain roads up Trollstigen and a grueling climb on the run/walk part up to the finish at Trollveggen. They where right in every aspect of this description. Trollveggen Triathlon is a custom distance triathlon, with 1200m swim, 34km bike and 5.7km run. But don’t be fooled: 1500 altitude meters makes this a challenge, despite the short distance.
Before the race: After enjoying a good nights sleep (except for the fire alarm going off on the school we were sleeping at about 12AM), the anticipation and excitement levels where running high as me and the others from Trondheim Triatlonklubb were biking down to the start line. After lining up all the T1 gear and sending away the T2-box to the top of the mountain T2 zone, I felt the nervousness coming when pulling on the wet-suit: I had really no idea what was in store for me this day. Despite a felling of uncertainty, I was also feeling confident that if I stuck to my race plan, avoiding any stunts on the swim and focusing on technique, I would be fine once the bike leg started. The swim warm up was basically a swim cool down: 13 degrees celsius! That is extremely cold, even with a wetsuit. But the cool water cleared my mind (although taking away my breath); I felt ready to start!
Swim leg and T1: I positioned myself somewhere at the back on the right side of the start field. I had really no idea on how my at best average swimming skills would stack up in this field. BANG! suddenly we where off in a sea of arms and legs kicking in all directions. I kept my focus, avoiding rushing the start, and got around the first buoy after 100m quite well. Because of the cold temperature the swimming was reduced from 1200m to 800m, in 2x400m laps. I was struggeling to keep my face in the water, and saw a lot of other swimmers having the same problem. After about 200m I settled into my swim, and focused on techinque only. Climbing the field steadily, I was somewhere in the middle of the back after the first lap, and got out of the water as nr. 29 of the about 120 competitors on the start line. I was really pleased, and felt extremely awake as I ran into T1. I could see some of my team mates there, the strong swimmers like Cathrine and Morten. The best swimmer from our club and the fastest overall, Magnus Bru, had already left T1 several minutes ago. T1 was fast and efficient, providing an excellent start to the race.
Picture from the swim start (for more pictures see www.facebook.com/pages/Trollveggen-Triathlon-2011/)
Bike Leg and T2: With my trusted Cervelo S5 bike, I was soon powering up the field steadily picking places. I said hello to Cathrine as I cycled past, knowing that she would be in the race for one of the top spots in the female competition today. At the turning point I was around 15th place, and was getting help from Matz to keep the pace on the flats (he was riding with aerobars, which seemed to be quite smart on the flat bits). I was trying to eat, but kept loosing my food out of my tri-suit: Not something to be recommended if you want to go the distance 🙂 Suddenly it started to climb, and I saw the 9km left to T2 sign, and I knew that 750 altitude meters was ahead of me. My legs felt really fresh, and I kept a stady pace continuing to move up the field. Before we started on the Alpe d’Huez part of the climb with tight twisting corners, I looked up and almost fell of the bike: The fog had lifted so you could see every part of the winding road until it dissapeared into the fog again 1km before the top. I could see Henrik Oftedal in the lead several bends before me, and knew that there was work to do.
This is the famous Trollstigen, the picture is taken from the platou where T2 was. What a finish to a spectacular cycling leg!
I kept up an even pace, but could see no more cyclists in front of me. There where a lot of people cheering in some of the corners, which was motiviating. When I got to T2 I was notified that I was in 4.th place! I changed quickly, grabbed some food and started on the climb towards the top.
This is me in one of the Tour-de France like corners. I was really loving it!
Run (walk) leg: The first part of the 5.7km run course is quite flat but with some rocks and some bogs. I settled into a steady pace, not really knowing the challanges that lay ahead. I reached the first steep and rocky climb, and suddenly I felt a new type of pain: My lower back kept giving in, forcing me to crawl up the hill like an animal! I could do nothing about it, and it frustrated me so much I was actually screaming out in frustration and pain a couple of times. I talked to some of my team mates after the race, and they described this as a normal condition in this race. Maybe som more abs and back strenght training can cure it? After the first steep part I could stretch out a bit on a really rocky path, and also there was some soft snow to run on.
The signs indicating the kilomerts krept by in snale pace: was I even going forwards? I kept imagining hoards of people catching me from behind, but no one came. The tourists along the route was cheering me on, and I tried to be brave. Still I could see no competitor in front of me, but was told that he was not far ahead and just as tired and bent as I where. I kept pushing forwards, and as I saw the 1km left sign, I could do a bit of running on a nice flat stretch of snow. Gritting my teeth I managed a final sprint up to the finish, 750 altitude meters above T2. My legs gave out on the finish line, but a cold Cola and some coffee quickly cured that. And still better: I managed to keep the 4th place on the run, and could not have been happier with my triathlon debut! I stayed at the top for a bit cheering on my competitors and club mates running in to strong overall results.
Piercing the fog. This is from the steepest (and of course) most rocky section of the climb. The band keeps you on track!
Things are not feeling fast when you are going 4×4 🙂
To sum up, this was a really happy ending to my triathlon debut! A big thanks to Richard Merlid and his family who are the creators and organizers behind Trollveggen Triathlon, and of course all the volunteers also. You are all doing a fantastic job! If you want to know more about the race, visit http://trollveggen-triathlon.com/.
Have I signed up for next year? OF COURSE!! 🙂