Extreme Triathlon Camp With Hans Christian Tungesvik
With COVID-19 effectively putting an end to all plans for racing this summer, we really felt the need to put together some fun activities as replacement. Following the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon from up close is one of the definite highlights of the summer, and the urge for a similar experience this year was indisputable.
So, what did we do? We gathered up an overly enthusiastic Argon 18 salesman, his astonishingly service-minded wife, an extreme triathlon world champion, and one of Norway’s fastest 70.3 triathletes. Marius, Therese, Hans Christian and Kristian workshopped the weekend program of their dreams, made their own little extreme triathlon out of it, and opened up for registration. Clever, huh?
20 excited triathletes, from a broad range of genders, ages and shapes, met up at 8:30 am in Drammen, 30 min outside Oslo. Bikes and bags were stowed into the tour bus and A18 van before we set sail for Eidfjord. Five hours, a couple of coffee cups, a few new acquaintances, and some majestic mountain views later, we arrived at Quality Hotell Vøringsfossen in Eidfjord – the official Norseman race hotel. Arriving at this little village, surrounded by tall, majestic mountains on three sides, and the calm, deep fjord on the last one, always gives a special vibe. A vibe that something unforgettable is in the works.
We checked in at the hotel, changed into our running gear, and gathered outside in the fantastic summer weather. Over here, 20 degrees plus and clear blue skies are not really daily occurrence – I guess some of us have been good this year.
- 45 min. run, 8 k: First order of business, training-wise, was to jog our bus legs out of the system. A 45 min. out-n-back easy run along a local, paved road following the fjord did the job perfectly.
- 15 min core: We finished the session up with a 15 min core workout, 45 sec. on/15 sec. rest, strictly directed by Hans Christian.
We saved the biggest element of uncertainty for last – testing the water. Eidfjord is known for its freezing fjords, even ultimo July, to the great torment of many triathletes. The excitement was evident.
- 40 min. swim, 2-3 k: After some Norseman-specific tips and tricks on dry land with regards to the course, sighting, buoys and temperature, we leapt into the fjord. The majority of the group, being wrapped in neoprene from head to toe, was positively surprised. 14-15 degrees on the surface is not bad, considering the ice melting from the mountains. We swam along the shore, and were able to try out the exact last 1000 m. of the Norseman race course, to the great benefit of those lucky five ones already enrolled for the 2021-edition of the race.
A bit frozen, we hit the showers, and started packing for the following day of adventures while waiting for the hotel buffet to open. A long and delicious dinner was consumed while chatting about everything and nothing, before heading to the conference room and listening to Hans Christian’s spectacular experience from NXTRI 2019. A proper mix of motivation for training and realization of the task ahead. “Big day ahead tomorrow – time to hit the bed.”
The alarm went off at 06:30. A lazy morning compared to race day, but early enough to get a feel for it. We jumped into our wetsuits and met up at the pier for a little dip in the sea.
- 30 min. swim, 1-2 k: The pleasant temperature from the previous day left us optimistic, so jumping into 11-12 degrees straight from bed was quite a shock. The freezing cold water reminded us all what we had signed up for - extreme. No time for breaks or pleasantries this am. – Just. Keep. Swimming.
We ran through the showers, into our warmest clothing, and rushed down to the awaited warm cup of black gold. A couple more of those, combined with solid amounts of bread, bacon and eggs, oats and fruits, and we were ready for our mission crossing the mountains. The A18 van was stuffed with bags, foods, drinks and tools, and we could get going at 9 am. in two different groups.
- 4-5 h. bike, 100-130k, 2000-2500 m. elevation: Riding those first 35 k from Eidfjord at sea level to Dyranut at 1300 m.a.s.l. was incredible. The old road meanders around the tunnels of the main road, staying close to the riverbed, clinging onto the steep mountainside as it slowly but steadily took us towards the mountain plateau. You really start thinking “who the h*** decided that making a road in this terrain was a good idea?!” Well, judging by the 360-degree smiles of the group, no one was really complaining. The road was tough for all, but the view and the feeling one gets, when pushing ones limits in these extreme, but incredibly beautiful terrains, makes it all worth it.
After a while, the gradient decreased and the intimidating rock faces faded towards a more open landscape. After 2 h+ of climbing in spectacular surroundings and perfect weather, we reached the mountain plateau top point at Dyranut, and found the mobile five-star A18 tavern, with hostess Therese welcoming us with the most delicious dishes. Bread, bananas, Nutella, chips, Oreos, crackers, water, Coke, chocolate milk, Red Bull – what more can a hungry triathlete wish for?
“Better fill those tanks, lots of speed down to Geilo ahead.”
High on sugar and impressions, we pedaled away towards Geilo. Those 55 km. of rolling downhills over the plateau, with winding roads, endless views and high speeds, made us wonder what happened when we were suddenly in Geilo and our hotel 90 minutes later. As predicted, no one was really ready to call it a day just yet. We took on the roller coaster that is the three climb-descend combinations hitting you in the face after Geilo. Some did one of them, some did two, before we all returned to Geilo and a well-deserved rest in the sun at Vestlia Resort.
The rest of the day was spent soaking up the fantastic impressions of the day, recovering in the sun, the spa or the bed, while waiting for dinner time. The hotel served us a mouthwatering 3-course dinner with mushroom soup, lamb, and chocolate mousse. Last but not least, the official Argon 18 Disc Golf Championship was held. It became a tight battle over the 9-hole course, but we were finally able to announce a winner, before we found our way to our rooms.
“Time to hit the bed for physical and mental recovery, tomorrow’s donna be a tough and wet one."
6:40 AM, and we anxiously pulled away the curtains - rainy and grey, as expected. Another round of proper breakfast in the buffet before we were all dressed up and ready to leave at 8 am. All smiled even today, despite the interesting weather forecast. To put it mildly.
- 4:30 h. bike, 110 k, 1500 m. elevation: The climb-descend triple was our first order of business this morning. Proper climbs of 3-4 k, with correspondingly long descends on the opposite side of the mountain passes. Never a dull moment, and time flew by over the first 2:30 h. Even the weather surprised us positively. The last challenge before lunch time was the legendary climb to Imingfjell: 7 k. with 7 % gradient. A hard climb after our 45 km. of riding, and a grueling one after 135 km on Norseman. Knowing what rich lunch table we had waiting for us at the top, it was no match for us today. Proper rain and heavy fog had entered the Imingfjellet plateau, making the lunch break a short and fast one.
Apparently, Mother Nature decided we should really get a taste of what an extreme triathlon can be like. 8 degrees, pouring rain and strong winds crossing the mountain really made it feel just like that – extreme.
And the smiling faces around the group suggested that people actually appreciated a hint of extreme. Descending the mountain, we had about 15 m. sight ahead of us, and the hairpin turns appeared through the fog out of nowhere. We had one accident where the rider had to choose between hitting the ditch and the car – and luckily made the right call.
A couple of bruises and a skewed wheel was the result. Fjuuh! We kept on rolling down the remaining 25 k. to Austbygde and the Norseman T2. Thankfully we had 20 k. more to go on the bike, as we needed to get some blood flow in the body to be able to change to running gear. Miland and our improvised T2 was reached after 4:30 h. on the bike, without one single spot on the body remaining dry. A quick change of clothes, and off we ran.
- 2-3 h. run, 17-30 k, 800-1200 m. elevation: The run was planned as 6 k. flat before entering Zombie Hill, to really get a feel for that readjustment going from flat running to climbing. Moral was high as we were all finally getting warm again, and realizing we were soon home. Hitting Zombie Hill, 7 k. with 9 % gradient, some were running, some jogwalking, and some were fighting their way up on pure will. The initial plan was for the toughest ones to go all the way to Gaustatoppen, but this was one of those days where the Norseman finish line would have been moved down from the mountain. Strong winds, thick fog and pouring rain. Some took the shortest way back to Gaustablikk, and other wanted a taste of the coffee all the way at Stavsro before returning.
Arriving at Gaustablikk Hotel after such a day conquering the course and the elements was an epic feeling for everyone. And the surprise of showers, robes and an hour in the floating saunas was indescribable.
What a way to wrap up the weekend! We headed over to the local pub for pizza, beer and bragging about the weekend’s adventures, before getting picked up by the bus taking us back to Drammen. Quite some smiles of satisfaction and sleepy heads on that bus ride, I can tell you that much.
This was the first time we ever organized such an extreme triathlon training camp. And what a success! (Not biased at all…) It is definitely not the last time we do it. From our point of view, this is the perfect experience for people who are planning to do, or already signed up for, an extreme triathlon event. It’s also a great opportunity for people who want a taste of what extreme triathlons can be like, without actually signing up and doing it. Or for athletes who just want a memorable weekend of tough training in beautiful nature with likeminded people.
Thanks to all participants for contributing with positivity, good vibes and great effort throughout the weekend! Thanks to CeramicSpeed, Zalaris, Trimtex, Notio, Quality Hotell Eidfjord, Vestlia Resort, Gaustablikk Høyfjellshotell, Lykkelige Sportsmann and Jenssen Turbusser for contributing. And a massive thanks to Argon 18 and the crew for organizing a weekend to remember.
See you next year!