Icon Extreme Triathlon in Livigno was a Brutal challenge.
Sit back for the movie. Race report will follow.
Icon Extreme Triathlon in Livigno was a Brutal challenge.
Sit back for the movie. Race report will follow.
Some weeks has passed since the great Swedeman Extreme Triathlon in Åre Sweden. As you know by now, I seem to subscribe to fourth places, and a fourth place I took! Swedeman is the last addition to the Xtri tour, of which I have done the absolute majority (ans several similar triathlons). Remains are the 2 in Canada and Alaska, as well as Janosic in Slovakia…
But before taking you through the days before and the race day, I need to thank my facilitators;
Charlotta Oom – who lets me do epic shit
Family Samuelsson and Patrik Sjögren – who gave me an offer I couldn’t resist
Colting Wetsuits – enabling me the smoothest swim
Garmin Sweden – training with precision
Simcoachen – endlessly trying to improve my poor technique
Nordic Wellness – providing me with training options all over Sweden and over the whole year!
GoCoCo Socks – no chafing with your support!
O2Extreme – the obvious choice of club
Racepaddle – sharpest paddles on the planet
VJ crew – Great breakfast and great shoes
Icebug – Traction in all weathers
Swedemancrew – for putting up a great race – super well organized.
Anyway, the streak started with 4th place in Celtman Extreme Triathlon – the complete saga. continued with the 4th Place at Swissman Extreme Triathlon, and 10th place at Norseman Extreme Triathlon, and after a year of some injuries StoneBrixiaMan 4th place . Last year I surprised everyone with a second [sic!] place on ThorXtri!
When I learned about Swedeman, I immediately understood that I had no choice but participating. After doing 5 Extreme triathlons, there was really no choice but beeing part of the inaugural race in Sweden. I have also spent some time in Åre and I know that the scenery is fantastic. I also realized that the preliminary course would be quite hard, and that especially the run would be a challenge to say the least…
So I enrolled very early and got a slot in the lottery. We were a good number of athletes from west Sweden that were very interested, and eventually a bunch of us enrolled. I think that the ones that didnt race this year may have plans for the coming year…
But enrolling to an Extreme triathlon is a bit like “it sounded like a good idea at the time”, and one easily forgets about all the training that one needs to do. Over the past autumn and winter, I had some quite big issues with one of my feet, preventing me from anything lika running. But despite averaging about 60 k monthly, I managed to run the Göteborgsvarvet 21 k @ 1:21 – not too bad considering virtually no training. I did train quite a lot during the spring though, as I had quite some extra time, but I also hurt myself by completing the Nordenskiöldsloppet, 220 km of cross country skiing in North Sweden. The race turned out to be quite tough this year, but I was in decent cross country form, having trained decently and performed 2 Vasaloppet this year. The problems with Nordenskiöldsloppet were two: 1) I had some bug in the system and 2) I didnt DNF (quit). The longer story is that I became successively weaker and weaker during the race day from about mid point. Somewhere there I started coughing some blood, most likely not too alarming just some irritated mucous membrane. At about 130-140 k, I fooled myself with convincing myself that “its not so long until finish” (but still the distance of a Vasaloppet), when I had been out for surely 12 hours and the dark rolled in and we had to take headlamps on. From that point I became slower and slower, and the 80-90 k to go would take easily 8-9 hours… The real problems only came when I had about 40-30 k left or so. I had been ridiculously slow, but still moving. I had taken at least 4 gels per hour (meaning that I totally took about 60 gels over the whole race…). But with only a few hours I started to have such short of breath that I had to stop and rest over my poles every now and then, difficult to breathe.
Conditions became worse and worse, and in the end it was obvious that I should have pulled out. the last 18 k also my headlamp abandoned me… But quitting at the right time is not easy, not when you have invested about 3000 kilometers of traveling by car, and 200 km into the race. Quitting seems to be no option – unless you would like to come back next year again. Being rational at that point is not easy – so I took the wrong decision and continued. Eventually I finished, and just minutes before the “medallion time” (21 hours 17 minutes), which by no standards is a fast time.
Watch the clip:
Next mistake was to let my great buddies from O2Extreme and SK Glädjen to take me home to the cabin – instead of visiting the race doctor. Saving the details of my conditions the coming hours and days, the summary is that I got pulmonary edema as well as two sided pneumonia.
I really recovered fast, based on the x-rays, the doctor couldnt believe that I was in such OK condition after all – “you should be much more sick based upon the tests and xray”… – but the planned 2 weeks as a triathlon coach at Playitas had to be cancelled (sorry, Svenska Triathlonförbundet that I couldnt make it…)
During the spring I got an offer I couldnt resist… I was contacted by Fredrik and Patrik. Fredrik was originally planning to race, but due to some injury he wasnt able to. Patrik was supposed to be his supporter. The basically called me up and offered me the best package deal possible. They were going up by car, had an apartment that was rented and offered me full support with staying in the apartment and full service during race day.
I like : “where do I sign…”
Really it was a very very kind offer, and with the addition of Fredriks family, I would become absolutely fully taken care of!
After a long magic summer, August approached and so did the race. I had still some major issues with sore feet preventing me from running, but biking and open water swimming had been really consistent. I had been prepared with great coaching by Simcoachen AnnaKarin Lundin and superior wetsuits from Colting Wetsuits. The Onsala Swimming team had done som real epic swims including swimming from Nidingen and also the (almost) 20 k Lygnern swim.
This time, I was going to race the Swedeman with a BMC TimeMachine, a full aero triathlon bike with my Zipp 808s. The Swedeman is a long rolling course of 205 kilometer and 2000 meter altitude gain, but I believe a tempo bike is the right choice on this course, as there are no real climbs, just up and down all the time.
I sent a lot of my equipment to Åre in advance with Fredrik, and came up with overnight train arriving on Friday morning. Timo, the VJ man took me for a great breakfast.
Registration was business as usual, but I was really impressed that the crew had attracted so many nationalities! Great fun! At the expo, I got this brilliant idea of buying a pair of neoprene gloves, as they actually were allowed. I figured they would provide me with better catch and a faster swim… But remember the rule ” dont try anything new on race day…”
Bike was tested and we went to the T1 for setting it up on Friday evening. The T1 is located at Swedens largest waterfall that we were actually supposed to swim under! from the bottom of the waterfall there was some hundred meters and a decent hill to run op to the T1.
We had a relaxing evening, and slept a few hours until early wake up call. We walked down to the shuttle bus that would take us to the swim start, me and Fredrik. He was actually planning to swim, and then DNF after the swim. Good choice of him, as the swim would be a very strong experience. The trip out to swim start was short, and we all started to get into our wetsuits. The location was just among some trees by e beach of the lake and really nothing special. You couldnt see the waterfall, and the wind was blowing a very strong headwind, surely 13-14 m/s.
The crew had arranged a nice ceremony with a native swede sining jojk, a very traditional type of swimming.
The start approached, and when the gun went off we ran from the beach. I made a quite tactic start, running far out in the shallow water, and then diving “jump-butterfly’s”, and I got myself in the best position, easily 10 meters ahead of the rest. A great example of experience and tactics 🙂 ?
A not so great example of experience of tactics was to use the brand new (yes untested) neoprene gloves. I took about 10 strokes in the water and quickly realized that the gloves was a no-no. How could I use them without trying them first. Thy filled with water like balloons and I had to face my rookie mistake and stop to take them off. Stoll shallow water, and I angrily tore them off and put them under my wetsuit… I just saw my precious position fade away and it seemed I was passed by easily 5-10 guys. Damn!
I started swimming and it was first quite difficult to get into rythmn. it always is, and with the choppy waves it was much worse. Water was really pleasant, and very shallow all the way. After half way, we were just a couple of guys together, and I thought I was still in about 5-10th position. I managed to stick to the feed of one guy, and we dropped the other guys in the pack somewhere with maybe 1 k to go. Now we saw the impressive waterfall, and after a sharp turn there was a few hundred meters över to the other side.
I got out of the water still believing I had a good bunch of people in front of me. I had prepared a special tactic, as I knew it would be hard to run up the steep hill with no blood in your legs and a wetsuit on, so I actually took everything off at the bottom by the waterfall. It took me some seconds, but then I could fly up the hill without beiing constrained by the wetsuit, and at the same time I got dressed with my biking outfit, just the jersey. everything else was in my pockets for a fast transition.
I came into the transition area first or second, but I just had to take my bike shoes on and I was off. But at the time I still thought I had several guys in front. I had again lost track of where I was positioned, but later I would learn that I was actually out of T1 first!
Most of my clothes I had in my bike jersey pockets. The support car with Patrik would take some time as he was waiting for Fredriks swim. In the beginning it was cold to bike, and it took quite some time to get my arm warmers, bike gloves and jacket on. Not that easy on a tempo bike that just screams “Faster” in the strong back wind, and I was still wet from the swim so everything got stuck.
Eventuellay everything was on. All of the sudden, I think near Åre, Graeme Steward came up to me for some nice words (before he dropped me like a stone). Surprises seem to be the feeling of the day, and yes, I was surprised that he wasnt in front. I was never told that I had mede such a great swim nor excellent T1.
I came into my rythmn, trying to be conservative on the many rolling hills, keeping an eye on my Garmin Vector watt meters all the time. It took forever, but eventuella Fredrik and Patrik came with the support car. I was in good mood, but really couldnt believe them when they claimed that I was second! only Greame was before me. I had to ask like 3 times if they were correct. After all, I had made a lousy swim start with the issue with my gloves and thought I had missed a bunch of people in the start.
The bike ride was actually quite nice. Beeing close to the front means that thera are not that many support vehicles that overtake you all the time. So the ride felt safe from that perspective. Not as safe was the wind. Several times it felt like i was going airborne with the side wind and my zipp 808’s… And still i am a grown up man…
The scenery was really nice, especially the loop away from the interstate road. in fact, I had prepared myself for a quite boring 205 km bike ride but it was much nicer than expected.
A Swede called stefan passed me at some point and first he seemed a big angry. but when I passed him and we chatted for a couple of seconds, he was really nice, just focussed. Strong biker, but we overtook each others all the time. I had already started to full up my bladder and had tried to empty it – the triathlon way. I am no expert at this, and it really takes forever. So every time I had to pee, Stefan put 500-1000 meter on me, which I had to fight in order to catch up. Then I had to pee again. Repeat.
So even though Maurten (I only used Maurten energy drink on the bike) is great, i had to stop and continue with gels only. Still my stomach was a bit full, but OK, minus the peeing.
The bike is long, and at about 170 k or so, Stefan started to drop off. soon, a norwegian strong biker came passed me. Graeme was miles ahead. Swedish miles, that is. I was told that he had put 6 minutes in 60 k on me in the beginning. And I was by no means slow. Kudos, no matter if those 6 minutes are exact or not.
So I was third when turned up towards Åre Björnen. I have boked those switchbacks before. it is a decent hill but we are not talking about Gotthardpass. But the problem was that I had this video crew like 5 meters ahead of me, so i just HAD to flex my muscles and push hard. After all, the important thing is the fighting spirit and looking good on the pictures, right? So hard you can push after those 205 k, that is.
I demounted the bike, and Fredrik took it. by calves were so stiff that i had to trip on my toes the 10 meters to my transition spot where Patrik had laid out my shit. Talking about body waste – i commanded Patrik to rinse my quite new great SIDI bike shoes. I have done that rookie mistake before to just put smelling stuff in a plastic bag for a day or two…
The T1 was acceptable and i hiked off up the mountain. A relief to stop after 100 meters to stop and pee a bit more relaxed. When I came into the forrest, the trail was very nice, but up and down all the time. Soon, I passed the norwegian guy, he had taken a small detour, but clearly his strength must have been the bike, as I never saw him (nor Stefan) again.
I carried on and came to the first aid station at 6 (?) k. I cant remember why, but I yelled a bit on them, I think it was due to some misunderstanding of the gels, but I quickly understood that it was only me beeing a bit stressed so I apologized to the great volunteers, I hope they understood.
Next stop Lillskutan in poor weather. Up there somewehere was my friend Timo, I was dead tired when I got there and just continued. Thanks for the cheering. Now down over the mountain towards Fröå gruva, After a while I could see several guys behind me, maybe 500 meters or so. shit.
I made it to Fröå, I think that was about 20 km into the race. some fast energy and refuelling my redbull coke that I was carrying by Patrik. Given my run form, i was now on overtime. my feet started hurting and i had to force myself to continue. running wasnt the bench mark, but moving was what i could do at that point.
I was just longing for Huså, at 32 k, where the final climb was to begin. I knew that from that point it had to be more of a walk than a run, and Patrik would be with me. But still 10-12 k to Huså. Nightmare, but still #2. I was passed by first one guy, Johannes Kiefer, who was running so lighty. I was just envious – i could run like that, but just not now… 2 k before Huså, after some nightmare swamps, i was passed by this other lightweight guy…. So obviously #4 now, right?
Huså was a relief, really the gate to the finish, although we expected 90-120 minutes to the top. It is soooo easy to fool yourself in such situations….
In Huså, which was very well arranged with a mandatory 2 minute gear check (very good practice making it very fair to everyone) there was some confusion, and for the second (ok Patrik, the third…) time today i yelled a bit on a volunteer. Again – sorry, but I realized my bad immediately. Fredrik/Patrik told me one thing and the volunteers told me something else, the issue was cleared after maybe 1 second… 🙂
Some energy and the kit check and off we went. Well Patrik flied off, and I just started walking. Later, I would learn that he had been just a bit worried that i would be too strong for him. Boy if he was wrong. I had nothing left just then.
We powerwalked up the slope and almost missed some signs taking us into the trail. we were lucky, or rather Patrik had both been reconning before, and was thinking clearly. 1 or 2 others were not that lucky, as we later MUCH later would learn that we were actually now back in second place, even though we were convinced that we were 4th.
One guy, Johannes Kiefer, had continued up and completely missed the entry to the trail, that was the runner that passed med just after Fröå. A pity for him, as he was solid and would have taken the second spot if it wasnt for the bad turn. where the other guy (the one passing me 2 km before Huså) went is still a mystery. maybe he is still on the mountain?
Anyway, we were convinced of beeing in forth place, which is standard procedure as you know for me. We powerwalked almost all the time. my feet was hurting but i was OK in terms of energy in general. It was “just” my feet and legs that were smashed. No real serious cramps. like i had several times before, for instance in Stoneman, where I thought my achilles tendons would snap in my step.
We were approaching the summit, slow, but steadily. I “ran” for a few meters where I could. when approaching one of the first summits, a whole bunch of people approached from behind. My main concern was just to continue, i was number fourth anyway, right? So i lost one position to Simon from Norway, but several was on the way up from behind. when i came close to the real summit (the finish is about 1500 m after the summit), i was told by the supporter of Greame that I and a guy close by were number 3 and 4. i couldnt believe it. didnt dare to believe it.
I and patrik was passed just then by Patrik Viklund and came into fourth. no gas in the tank to respond to the guy just passing me. We clombed over the crest, with maybe 300 meters lost to the third guy. a friend told us that we were REALLY number 4 now, so the last intel was right.
Had I only known this half way up from T2A/Huså…. Could I then have made anything differently?
With only the downhill of 1500 meters left, i got so pumped with adrenaline that I totally forgot about the coming cramps and the more-than-hurting-a-lot feet. I flew down and for a second thought i could catch #3. The shift from a sloggy walking to flying down came so fast that neither Patrik my support, nor Christian from Maurten could keep up with me for a while. When strong, my long legs and childhood running over boulders has given me quite good speed over difficult rocky terrain.
No way I could catch Patrik Viklund, but probably made up 200 meters on him. Eventually we were separated by like 40 seconds. 3 minutes separated second to fourth place… That after 13 hours on the road (mountain)… Greame had finished an hour earlier – massive kudos to him…
I slowed down the last few meters before the goal at Kabinbanan, and me at Patrick finished.
What a race. Maria was there documenting the whole thing, and I was so relieved it was over that I came into tears.
The question WHY remains to be answered.
Maria, so caring, had prepared some champagne for celebrating the finish, and I was so impressed by that. Later I should also learn that some mystery friend had ordered some coffee/beer and buns to my party at the restaurant at Kabinbanan, but we went down before those could be delivered. But that stubborn and thoughtful guy didnt give up (he never does), and had something delivered to my house later. #nevergiveup…
So again, big thanks to the organizers and everyone that puts their passion into making something so wonderful. And than you all my supporters along the road….
Coming up next: Berlin marathon, known as the WORLDS fastest marathon, and will be known as MY slowest marathon, as well as the Swimrun Finale of the Year, Koster Swimrun.
ThorXTri. Where shall I start.
It has become a tradition to do one or two of the Extreme triathlons around Europe each summer. Why? If you need to ask the question, you will not understand the answer.
Anyway, the streak started with 4th place in Celtman Extreme Triathlon – the complete saga. continued with the 4th Place at Swissman Extreme Triathlon, and 10th place at Norseman Extreme Triathlon, and after a year of some injuries StoneBrixiaMan 4th place last year.
I would say they all are really unique and all have their charm. Before ThorXTri, i should probably say that the races in the Alps are favourites, even though they were very very hard. Many are using Norseman as the mark of a really hard triathlon, but the bike and run courses in Stoneman and Swissman are killing your legs… Take a sneak peak of the images from Stoneman and you will know.
I was really looking forward to the ThorXTri, but as often I really didnt finalize my plans until very late. A complicating factor was that the support runner I had in mind couldnt come with me, which I found out a bit late. so i had several weeks of trying to find a supporter, which is both mandatory and neccessary, being an exposed race with little arranged support and a A to B race. Eventually, the Norseman Black Tshirt finisher Per Svensson, who wanted to experience ThorXTri from the side volonteered, and Per should prove to be an excellent supporter.
Training hadnt been excellent due to major distractions such as family (eeeeh?), work and lack of focus. I had almost 2 weeks of biking on Mallorca with many short bike rides in 35+ degrees. Not su much swimming or running though.
We headed up to Norway and the Stavanger area only on the day before the race. I think this was suboptimal in hindsight, as we didnt have the time to drive down to Lysebotn to experience the fiord in daylight and do a prep swim. I really would recommend a test swim the days before in order to acclimatize to the cold. You really dont want the chock on race day…
Anyway we came up to the race brief for the usual information, and as many “extreme triathlons”, it was both a bit tension/nervousness as well as a low key/relaxed setting. I did a short test bike ride, as I had just serviced my quite new Zipp 808 wheels. After the last ride (in rain) they had actually rusted in a bearing, making them really really poor to roll. but after some greasing of the (non servicable) bearings, they seemed ok. I was taking the chance in order to get a bit deeper rims. My Zipps are with carbon brake surface, which might not be optimal for hairpins in pouring rain….
Anyway the bike setup was an aero type road bike with Shimano Di shifters, clip on tempo bars and extra triahlon shifters on the aero bars. a reasonable compromise I thought. I think the bike setup worked really good, but if you are really comfortable with your tempo bike, it should be an advantage, especially if there is a strong headwind predicted.
I and Per stayed at the Högfjellshotell and had a quite poor fish n chips for dinner. I added with some beet juice and several carbo drinks.
We prepared all race kits with all possible gear i could need in different bags. travelling only 2 people in a big family car means great room for gear – all clothes you can think of, better to be prepared as the weather forecast promised rain rain and more rain.
We arranged the initial drinks, I was testing the new elite drink Maurten from the research based company from Gothenburg, allowing twice the carbs in one bottle but still allows your body to absorb well. Yes, the same drink that has been used by virtually all maraton winners this year, and also the (failed) sub2h attempt by Nike etc.
I slept OK for several hours before the race. we got up and got a wrap. Per drove us down to Lysebotn, it took an hour, but I could almost sleep dispite all the turns with the car.
Now much to arrange in T2, more than the ordinary stuff.
There is a passenger ferry that takes you out in Lysefiord, and unfortunately I hadnt been there during daytime, and in the middle of the night you could only feel the presence of the walls. LYsefiord is the same venue as Rockman Swimrun, another awesome competition I won some years ago. Vinnare Rockman Swimrun med Team Icebug
Me and Thor the man before point of no return, the entry of the ferry.
Many athletes were a bit tense (as they should be!) on the ferry out. I dont really stress up that much before a race – i think its a by-product of my over-developed capability to immediately fall asleep in various situations, such as on the ferry on the way out to a beast of a triathlon. So I did.
The starting point is a cliff in Lysefiord just below the most famous skydiving cliff in Norway. The 100 athletes gathered together for a pre-war photo, and we “warmed up” by testing the water. a few minutes before start, we got into the water as it was a water start. I had been on Mallorca for 2 weeks just before and wasnt really used to the 11 degrees water. 11 degrees in your face is really really cold, 5 am in the morning.
I am quite used to harsh conditions, but i felt this was cold.
The gun eventually went off. There is just one way to go in the fiord, as the sides are thousand meters high. At the end of the fiord the lights from Lysebotn are just visible. The group spreaded out quite quickly, and after a few 100 meters, I decided to drop the guy I was drafting on and got away.
It was surprising, but after a kilometer or so, I couldnt see anyone. i was swimming straight to Lysebotn, so i wasnt on the wrong way for sure. I am an OK swimmer but no fish, so I was really surprised that I could maybe be leading.
In the bottom of Lysebotn, there are 2 hydropower stations and a river that drops 6 degrees mountain water into the fiord, which is mixed with the salt water. But it also creates an out-going current.
This means that a weaker swimmer will be affected much more by the head current than a stronger swimmer, in relative terms. Add hypotermia to this and you have a challenging swim section.
The swim isnt longer than about 4 k, but i think it is poos gps connectivity that makes all gps watches from polar, suunto and the like to freak out and show swims of 4500 m or similar. The Garmin is spot on (not really, actually.. 🙂 Nevertheless, the fastest swimmer does the swim in 1:20, which is quite poor over 4k, but it is the current that adds about 20 minutes to a decent swimmer. A poor swimmer needs probably 40-50 minutes extra?
I stopped feeling my feet after about 1 k. Then I stopped feeling my legs. I didnt kick anything, and from time to time I shivered in my body. I was cold but not hypotermic. Then I felt I had to start kicking hard for a bit even though it is very poor dividend, but just to get some warmer blood in my legs and feet.
It was pitch dark and you could just barely see the mountain sides. I didnt want to stop and illuminate my watch, so i wasnt sure how long i had swum. it felt like forever, but it was the coolest swim I have done. Perfectly calm and like a mirror at times. the cold make your preception sharp, in a way.
I kept going, and when i had maybe 1 k to go, there was this group coming up from the side – where the hell did they come from? I swam over, and got into line, but then I felt i should take control of the pace, which i did.
I led the group into Lysebotn, and believed I was first in. I pushed a little harder the last 100 meters. I was cold but I thought i was ok.
When I got out of the water, i was told I was third (one guy like 10 meters in front of me) and given the T1 split and the images from T1, I think I actually almost was going into hypothermia. Did I say that my mid was sharp? or maybe blurred?
Per helped me through T1. I Hadnt prepared too much, as I just wanted to get my gear on and go, but i did a mistake not having a proper towel in order to dry up faster. now it took forever to get my tight bike gear on as i was both wet, shivering and cold.
Several athletes had to be pulled out of the race due to hypotermia. even more athletes had to be taken up and dropped near the swim exit in order to be able to finish. One hero swam by himself for 2 hours 40 minutes. In 11 degrees water…
Eventually I got away out of T1, and I think I was third out on the bike.
The bike starts so hard with a 1000 meter climb on switchback turns. Maybe the most scenic road section in Norway. I set a steady pace uphill, kept my watt on the Garmin Edge a bit under 300, but still, the first 800 meters of climb showed an average power of 289. Too high of course.
I moved up one position to #2 during the first climb, which was so long. Eventually I got to the top, and started fearing the downhill ride – the rain, wind and hairpins in combination with my Zipp 808 was making me nervous. I took it really easy on the decent.
Later I learned that there was one guy that crashed into the wall, and had to be evacuated into hospital.
After a while, the course flattens, and becomes more undulating. Per caught up with me after the no-support section and started to coach and support me.
I had chosen to go with the new sportsdrink for winners, Maurten from Gothenburg. It worked fantastic, but the day was cold and wet, so I had to stop taking fluids if I didnt want to pee every 5 minutes.
I rocket came from behind from Tempo triathlon on a tri bike, but I kept my steady pace. It is a long day. The rain came. then it started raining more. and more.
Then the asphalt went poor. and it became worse. soon there were road-building signs, and riding with my tubulars and 10 bars felt like a drill hammer.
At times, the rain became a serious factor. At worst, i couldnt see more than 20 meters ahead. but then it stopped. and the sun came out. and then it started again.
This is Stavanger, right?
Per was with at all times, taking photos, asking me if I wanted anything. I just kept going, and didnt need much. Must have been super boring for him.
After hours, I suddenly saw the rider in front of me, 500 meters further down. It seemed to be the Tempo triathlon rider. I said to myself: “I will catch him”, but just powered on steady. I gained a little, and then he got away again on the downhill sections.
The route is very scenic, up and down hills and through farmland and small villages. Like a fairy tale.
Eventually, we came out to the coast, and he was still a few hundred meters out. Do I need to say that drafting is no big problem in Extreme triathlons? In many of the races i have done, there has been practically no changes in the positions during the bike ride.
With only a bunch of kilometers to T2 I passed him, who apparently was Stian from Stavanger. But just a few k further I was taking in fast on Gunnar, who had been in the lead from the morning.
So it happened, after 6 hours 12 minutes (plus the swim), we came into T2 just separated 1 minute at most. I was in the lead of ThorXTri.
The average speed was just a fraction more than 30 km/h (as there was a 10 minute tunnel bike ride, the data above is not completely correct).
Local media was there and took some photos, and maybe even asked me something.
First out on the run after a decent T2 I started jogging. I had the mandatory superlight backpack with the “waterproof” jacket and other stuff. The first 9 k is unsupported and along the coastline. It was like running in a post card, with the nordic sea rolling in onto the shore. Fantastic.
But my respiration was not as fantastic. Scroll down if you dont like stupid tactics and hurting yourself for no real reason, such as continuing with a malfunctioning body.
Immediately i felt there was an issue with my breathing. I have had problems on and off during the spring with asthma or allergy-similar symptoms, but this was probably something else.
I was running 4.20-4.50 pace the first 9 k to the first aid station. could I keep the pace? my respiration was bad, it felt like someone was strangling me. The cough started after just a couple of kilometers. Then i started coughing up some of the red gels also…. and some more red mucus before i realized i was coughing some blood.
I kept going, but i was forced to a somewhat slower pace. I had problems getting my energy in, and of course pace became slower and slower. Cough continued, and Stian passed me a bit after the first aid station. he looked solid, and had a co runner all the time with him, which is a great strategy if you can arrange it.
My pace was slower, and sometimes the run was not much more than a walk, but jogging I was.
We came into an industrial area, and for a moment, Per was just a bit ahead of me. That coincided with me missing a turn… I had feared taking the wrong way, and after one kilometer i realized I was wrong. I became so depressed, but i just had to run back, making the marathon 2 k longer…. that wrong turn took quite a bit of my motivation away.
I found Per again, waiting for me, and he hadn’t even realised I was gone for a while. I hadnt lost any positions on the detour.
My condition was all but good. Do I need to tell you that the rain came and went? Gusts coming in from the side making it difficult to run straight in the rain, and 10 minutes later the sun was out again.
I had to force some redbull+coke down and some gels. I hated them, but needed them.
One step after the other and eventually the bridge over to Stavanger was there. After that, it was “only” a loop around a peninsula and down to the Three swords monument.
But this little loop was like 15 k. More live-postcards to run through in the northern part of Stavanger. I had absolutely NO clue on how far I was in front of the number 3, but I knew I was slow. I just kept going, slow jogg with absolutely no stride at all.
Eventually after the loop, I came down to the bridge again, and expected Per to meet me soon. it took longer than expected but finally he was there. I had lost track of the total distance (due to my detour before), so I couldnt calculate how long I had to go, making id hard to motivate myself.
Per coached me on and finally finally we could see the Three swords from a distance.
The last part was no more fun, but only a relief. Thor, my good friend came with me to the monument and ran with me the last 100 meters to the finish line.
Finally I made the finish line as second over the finish line after just below 12 hours!
I had became the 10th legend of Thor, after there was 8 finishers 2016 and I was second 2017.
What an honor, Thor!
The ThorXtri proved to be worth its name as an extreme triathlon. It is hard, but more varied than many of the others. The bike sections in the races in the alps are surely much harder, but the full experience of ThorXTri makes it a winner.
The totally unique and cold fiord swim that you cannot find anywhere else in Europe.
The very varied cycle route combining hard switchbacks with undulated farmland, and finishing with a scenic coastal stretch ticks off everything you can ask for.
The running is not that hard (if you hadnt swim-biked before, or you end up doing it with a northern gale head wind), but extremely pittoresqe.
A great extreme triathlon that has all components of becoming a star. consider only the 10-fold in participants from 2016 to 2017!
Thank you Thor for making this race possible!
Thank you Per making my race possible!
What a race! StoneBrixisMan was a completely INSANE race,
I have been fortunate enough to race in many spectacular races, including Ö till Ö, Ironman Hawaii, Xterra Maui, and many of the “extreme” triathlons – Norseman, Celtman, Swissman and now StoneBrixiaMan.
The Norseman is The original, The Celtman is the raw and rugged and the Swissman is a real beauty. StoneBrixiaMan surely qualifies as one of the great ones. The StoneBrixiaman surely will be the harder one with 4000 meters of climbing on the bike and 2000 on the run…
The executive summary is that I finished 4th after a chaotic but ok swim, a hard bike (consider 24 km per hour but still posting 4th he’s bike split…. 4000 height meters). But the run… was no real run. It was a long run with harder cramps than I knew was possible. Read on for the full story.
First a few images…
I got to know about the race from the extreme triathlon community this Autumn. The last few years I have surely looked for more spectacular races than ordinarily triathlons. This often means harder, but for me the key parameter is the experience and uniqueness the race has. The extreme triathlons are often with many height meters, and after all, I don’t consider myself as a great climber. After all, I weight like 10 kg too much.
The StoneBrixiaMan seemed to be a really nice race. It was the inaugural race this 2016, which adds some charm. I got in contact with Franscesco, the race director who I directly connected with as a really passionate guy about triathlon. I signed up for the race early, with a few friends that were going to join, Eventually, a couple of these guys dropped out for various reasons, I could tell that was a loss from their side! Eventually we were 3 swedes joining the race.
The arena is set in northern Italy, starting in the beautiful Lago Iseo, close to Garda, and goes northbound into the Dolomites, with bike passes like Mortirolo and Gavia. If you know anything about biking and Giro d Italia, you instinctly will understand that the bike ride is hard… The run is set around beautiful Ponte Di Legno and finished at Paseo Paradisio.
The race is a standard ironman distance length of almost 4000 m swimming, 180 mm biking and 42 k running. The icing of the cake is 4000 meters of climbing on the bike and 2000 meters of climbing on the run. The gradient on the bike is up to 20%, so meow sure you have the right gearing….
I drove down to Bergamo and Lago Iseo with my family as we were combing the race with some other holiday, relaxing by the Adriatic Sea (great but predictable), visiting Venezia (always a tourist trap, but now a tick in that box for the kids) and several days of via Ferrara climbing and hiking around Cortina (fantastic experience, and great to be able to share such experience with the boys)… We arrived two days before the race very late, and stayed at a great hotel in Brescia. The day before the race we went up Marone for the usual race meetings and hang out with the other crazy guys and girls. The atmosphere around an extreme triathlon is always very released, and also at StoneBrixiaMan. The starting kit was impressive, including 6 real kit bags (no plastic shit) and a personalized race suit from Santini with my name printed on it. How awesome!! (this was actually going to be a theme thoughout the event, as we were welcomed with a great StoneBrixiaMan down jacket at the finish line, and a personal plaque made of stone on the race ceremony.) Compare this with your usual useless common medal and ill-fitting finisher t-shirt on virtually all races…
I had been given bib #1 – an honor from the race direction!
Back to the pre race. We hang around talking to the other athletes, and had a nice relaxing day in Marone,. I fitted my bike and racked that in T1. I tested my new 2XU wetsuit, as it was almost untested. My old wetsuit was falling into pieces, so the speedy help from Timo at 2XU and O2Tri was appreciated! Naturally, the wetsuit worked like charm. We all got one safety buoy to use during the swim. fitted with a led light so they would be visible during the night swim.
Eventually we went back to the hotel for the last preparations, including the fixing of several bottles of de-carbonated Coke-redbull mix to be used on the run section.
I didnt get too many hours sleep (like 3), as the alarm was set to 2 am. Did I tell you it was an early start? Super early? The boat was to leave 3.30 and the race would start at 4 am from the boat…
My family was supporting the bike leg from the car, and we had decided to bring the 3 kids to the starting line, I’ll tell you they were tired when we woke them up.
Race day! We came to Marone in good order… for the final preparations. I only had to fix the last things with the bike, lube up with some Vaseline and get into the new 2XU wetsuit.
The boat came along the shoreline and was an impressive sight. It had fireworks on it so every now and then there were flames shooting off. Impressive and got us all into a great exiting mood. It was completely dark. We all boarded the boat with excitement. I was calm and did some stretches during the 30-40 minutes long trip out to the starting point. Now the information was in Italian only. We started to get more and more confused as the race direction explained the course around the buoys and culminating in rounding a small island with a beautiful castle. The water was completely calm and dark. Two kayaks would provide guidance and safety, and the concept was that one kayak would lead with an illuniated big blinking safety buoy from Restube, and all athletes should follow. Hence only the leading athlete would need to follow the kayak and all others could follow the swimmer in front with blinking Restube.
Almost without any warning the gun went off!
Completely confusing and I was swimming only in the general direction that had been pointed out. I couldn’t see the kayak, despite I knew I was among the first swimmers. Absolutely no sign of the bouy that we should round several hundred meters away – and of course the weak blinking light was completely invisible from the surface for a swimmer. I swam a bit with some others, but had to stop again and again and breaststroke in order to find any sign in front of me. Nothing, except from a couple of equally confused swimmers around me. Eventually we saw the first rounding buoy, and I was among the first to round it, but still no kayak! There was not a bend in the course, but interestingly enough we started to meet swimmers who were swimming in the absolute opposite direction. When looking at the swim track below, one can easily see how poor we kept the direction. I am normally a quite straight swimmer, but this time the track is really funny.
Eventually, we rounded the small island and it became obvious where to swim into Marone. I was, however still a bit uncertain as I was completely alone. Surely I couldn’t be swimming so solid?
Despite my questions, the swim was really relaxing, dark and flat water, lights on the shore in the distance and the island to swim around.
When coming into the quay and the T2 I was cheered by my great family and the spectators. I was number 3 out of the water! I have everything to thank AnnaKarin @simcoachen for this solid result. It appears that the lead kayak had led athlete number one, and as he was a bit faster than me and number 2, that was why we hadn’t seen him. The distance between number 1 and us two was significant, but with better arranged swimming, I could have shaved of a couple of minutes… Anyway – the race is new and it always takes a year or so before all things are in place. Better light beacons and a more straight swim course will do the trick.
I had an effective T1, my younger son was cheering me on and filming me. Everything went smooth and I got away fast on the bike, despite taking on a pair of GoCoCo socks. I knew it was going to be a long day in the saddle. In fact, I had the fastest T1 overall.
So the bike started. The initial way out of Marone goes on a bike only track just by the lake. Surreal and great start. Several close turns made the 40+ km/h part quite interesting.
The first 60 km are quite flat. Or rather they don’t have such hard grade as the rest. This part goes through the valley up to Edola. Here my family caught up with me a couple of times. But then they disappeared. We had arranged that they would stay close to me most of the bike ride, but it started to become a bit lonely. In fact many of these Extreme Triathlons has been quite lonely for me. Staying at the relative front means very few other athletes, and in fact, you just see the once or so during the whole day.
What I didn’t know then was that my family had their own version of adventure. They missed me again and again at the aid stations, possibly took the wrong way and eventually had a puncture. How often do you get a puncture on a car these days and what is the likelihood to get it on race day? Naturally the car has no extra tire, so the family was stranded somewhere along the course. But with some great help from Francesco everything was solved eventually. Her blog is quite funny, read it in Swedish here: https://vardagsbekannelser.wordpress.com/
Anyway, I pushed on and whizzed through Edola where the real climb begins. Climb is not your average back-yard hill. This is Mortirolo where many fights has been fought in Giro d Italia. It just goes up on small narrow roads in the wood. There were signs of gradient of 20%, and believe me, you really need some power to climb them. Fortunately I had changed to a 11-28 cassette on my road bike fitted with additional aero bars (I chose not to use the tri bike, which I am glad for). I think it was at km 90 that I saw number 2 at the aid station. I had much better speed on the bike and soon I passed Johannes Kiefer from Germany. Now I was number 2 of Stoneman…
I wondered what had happened with my support/family. Maybe thy just had had enough of my crazy ideas and went back to Sweden? I had planned to get aid from them every now and then, but fortunately I didn’t need anything, as I could get most from the Aid stations.
Over the Mortirolo and down on the Monno side. The ride was so beautiful, yet so hard. I kept close eyes on my Edge displaying the power data, careful not to push harder than 300 watts at any time. But that is easier said than done. Eventually I got to the pass of Mortirolo where bikers were coming up from the Ponte di Legno/Monno side in numbers. The downhill ride was fast just as exciting it shall be. I lost some traction in some of the serpentines, but generally I was OK. I got down to toe road taking me to Ponte Di Legno, and realized it was a solid uphill ride until getting there. In Ponte Di Legno, the next epic climb would start, the Gavia pass. Equally known to everybody who knows anything about cycling. But in reality, the climb had already started, if you look at the height curves. My legs, however already cooked. A tickling sensation of cramp was there every now and then, but not much to do other than power on.
Ponte Di Legno is a really nice small mountain village and I came through it as second. We passed the main walking only speed and tourists had to throw themselves to the sides. How fun. Fantastic to take the course through the main square of the village! No sign of my family/support….
The Gavia climb started and here it was full of motor bikers and cyclists, on such a great day for cycling. I passed many (out of competition), but no one passed me. Maybe I wasn’t doing so bad after all. I just kept counting down on the altimeter on the Edge, and at the same time watching todays average speed dropping and dropping. Also the 30-second wattage was declining more and more. The climb just went up up up. My power could barely get me uphill sometimes, despite the compact drive and 28-cassette and 50 rpm… Later when analyzing the race, one can easily see that my power was in fact declining on this part, and it is obvious that I had pushed too hard on the bike. The cramps in my legs started to become a big problem. I understood that if I get a real cramp attack I would have to stop and stretch. There is very little rolling on the Stoneman. And standing next to the course for a while is to use valuable time poorly- I barely managed to get myself to the top at 2600-something meters above sea level. That is higher than any mountain in Scandinavia. I was happy that the bike leg was almost over, now it was only a downhill stretch.
I was given my jacket that had been sent up to the top, much appreciated, as it was below 10 degrees up here, and now it was time to get down fast. I got some gels and swallowed a banana. Going down sounds easy but it can be quite hard. Hard for the shoulders and arms, and only the braking is a bit hard actually. After every hard bend, you want to accelerate fast again. The Edge logged 73 km/h which isn’t that much, I had 82 on Swissman 2 years ago.
But it was great to coming down. I cheered all athletes on as I met them. The motorcyclists were lethal as usual, using the whole road. Scary at times, but I got down safely, trying to hydrate and fill up energy, which is easier said than done at such speeds.
I came into Ponte di Legno at full speed and confidence. Would my family be here now? Would Marco the local supporter be here?
Later, I was to learn that my bike split wasn’t that bad. 3rd overall of all athletes, and I came to T2 second. But to give some idea how hard such bike course is, consider that my average bike speed was 25.4 km/h, over the 4000 height meters. Still that was the 3rd best time. Remember that I have no particular climbing skills, and I am far to heavy to be a good climber.
The T2 was at the main square – great venue for the Stoneman. The supporters got my bike and I was handled my T2 bag. There was Gustaf and all the others – also Ludvig my older son that was going to bike with me while I was running on the first loop! I changed fast to a running vest and shoes, stretched for a second. Marco was there, first time I saw him, but watching the video shot by Gustaf, one can see I was really in the zone, completely focused on the task.
There was a bit of confusion when I started the run. I was given a bit confusing directions so while I was all pumped up with adrenaline and trying to turn to the opposite direction I fell hard on the slippery pavement. I had my iphone in my hand and was sure I had crashed that. Or my hand. But all went OK and we started off.
Initially I was good on energy and full of excitement to start the run. The run starts uphill and circles Ponte Di Legno the first 20 k or so. I ran solidly for the first 4-5 k despite the hard start of the run course. But then I rapidly started to loose energy levels. At the second aid stations I got my first real cramp attacks, on the inner side of my thigh. I had to walk for a bit, but changed between jogging and walking. Ludvig was supporting on the mountainbike and had problems to keep the pace uphill, but had naturally no problems on the flats. Marco was great, but as we didn’t really know each others by then, he couldn’t be too hard with me. I think he pushed me appropriately and all the time urged me to get fluids and energy down. But this was my second problem – I had some issues with my stomach and was afraid to mess it up completely. In hidsight, I think I should have forced myself to get more energy in – no matter what.
My condition became worse and worse, but I had some moments during the first lap with at least some jogging speed. I had the decency to jog through the Ponte Di Legno at km 20, when the rest of my family cheered me on and gave me strength. Marco was great.
Ludvig dropped off as he wouldn’t be able to bike the rest of the course. Soon after km 20 I was passed and came into third place.
An extreme triathlon can sometimes change from racing to surviving, and at this point it was all about doing my own race, but Marco motivated me with arguing that I would be stronger and come back later.
I was struggling harder and harder with cramps in my legs and stomach. The legs were completely wasted especially on the back side of the calves, the front of the lower legs an inner thighs. Fortunately, I had packed my super lightweight poles that Marco gave me.
The course would now only have uphill. In fact – the run course is “almost never flat” as they said on the race meeting. It went up on the road towards Gavia and then turning off towards Passeo Tonale, where the REAL climb and rugged terrain would start.
It was hard. We came into some meadows and I was passed again this time by the German guy, now fourth position. I tried to respond, but had no possibility. At this time, I had changed the gels and redbull-cola to get some solid energy by the Indiebars instead. It seemed to work OK and my stomach accepted them. My energy improved slightly, but my legs were so bad. The cramp attacks came in waves.
We got into the forest and there were some really really steep inclines on the dirt track. I couldn’t almost get over them, despite my walking poles. It was all a struggle and no racing. I became demotivated, as I must have misunderstood the number of kilometers to Passeo Tonale, which seemed to never come.
Eventually we got there and could actually see the Passeo Paradisio, the station where the Stoneman would end. It was so high up, 2600 meters above sea level. We passed the last aid station and the track towards the top continued down for a while. I couldn’t believe it.
The course markings were on this bit poor, so I became so uncertain whether we were on the right track or not. Marco ran ahead and found a mark. Great.
The area is so beautiful, but even if I had really enjoyed the scenery on the swim and bike, I could not absorb the surroundings. We continued up so slowly. Passed yet again and in fifth place. I counted the kilometers but couldn’t get it right. I asked Marco for altitude readings again and again as I wanted to preserve my energy rather than clicking up the alti on my Garmin Fenix 3.
I could hear Marco was lying to me saying that we were “”almost at xxx meters” – and I understood he was exaggerating a bit. But I accepted the small lies.
Suddenly I saw the back of the German guy again, he was having problems too. I couldn’t believe it. I had come 4th in Swissman and Celtman, and now I was about to move into 4th position with only 45-60 minutes of racing left. This became the goal of the day, and I pushed e bit harder, if only a little.
The terrain was really rugged and over the big boulders my cramps would sometimes stop me for some considerable time. I just couldn’t keep going without some stretching.
Suddenly I saw Gustaf, my wonderful younger son meeting me. He hugged me. The goal must be close. The German guy was not miles away but I had confidence that I could defend the position. Up and up again. Coming over the crest I saw my wife and Filippa.
At this time of the race I got really really emotional. So much hardship and so much pain. They were a couple of hundred meters away and couldn’t really see my conditions, neither my pains or my near-breakdown of strong emotions. I got myself mentally together, but after the crest there are some small steps downhill. My calves got a cramp attack at this point so I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t stretch it out with my own body weight, so Marco had to help me. Then the other calve the same thing. Would I be able to get to the finish line 400 meters away? Would I need to crawl?
Look closely on the first image of the ones below and you will see Marco pushing my calve to a stretch…
I starteg jog/powerwalking and hugged my Filippa and was cheered by my wife. Last uphill to the finish arch. Couldn’t believe it was soon over. Very very emotional.
The “run” had taken me 6.13 hours. I cannot believe how slow that is.
Franscesco hugged me. I hugged my family. Tears were not only close. So happy it was over. Questioned me why I was doing these things, but at the same time I just knew why.
I came 4th in the inaugural Stoneman, the first non-italian. There seems to be a curse over the extreme triathlons for me and fourth places, but I can only be happy anyway. 30% didn’t make it, and had to abandon or didn’t make the cut-offs. Understandable and all respect to them.
The race must be the hardest one I have done of extreme triathlons, but along the Swissman it is certainly one of the most beautiful.
The photographer Danielle Pezzoni had captured my emotions and hardship at some key occasions during the race, and the images are just stunning.
On recap, I am happy with the race but still a large chunk of disappointment. If I only could have kept together with decency during the run? The winner was outstanding, but with optimal performance and training I could possibly have shaved of a couple of positions.
Truth is, however, that even if my training has been regular, I have been lacking real long runs and real solid bike sessions. There is no way to cheat yourself into a performance at a race such as Stoneman. I have had solid results on London Marathon and Göteborgsvarvet this year, but even a Marathon is obviously possible to hammer through with good result with minimal training and high determination.
On race day I did some tactical errors. We all do. Looking at the power files, it is clear that I pushed too hard on the bike, and I had to pay for it on the run. I had 3rd best swim, 3rd best bike and 14th best “run”. I really tried to get my energy in, but I should have forced myself harder with the energy, both on the bike, and certainly on the run.
Franceso and the rest of the team has created a fantastic event. Thank you for letting me experience it.
Thank you Marco for helping me but I am sorry I coukdnt give you a nice run in the mountains.
Thank you to Simcoachen, GoCoCo, Indiebars, Garmin, Nordic Wellness and O2Tri/2XU who help me in various ways.
Charlotta – thanks for letting me do all the crazy things.
För något år sedan kunde man lyckas rätt bra, typ vinna på Råda triathlon om rätt personer var sjuka/på semester. Nu är det istället SM en måndagkväll i månaden. Sjukt starkt startfält.
Idag fick man vara nöjd med att komma i middle of the pack. Eller typ 7a-10a i allafall.
Gustaf var med och körde korta vuxenbanan (11 år). Grym prestation. Skall bli intressant att se vad hans placering blev. Bra kämparinställning.
Idag var jag ovanligt otaggad, och hade varken viljan, benen eller orken. Bättre lycka nästa gång.
Har också en intressant utveckling av min cykelkapacitet med 40watt sämre kraftutveckling än för en månad sedan. Dålig träning eller byte till Tri-cykel är troliga anledningar. Mer om det en annan gång.
Bilderna talar för sig själv? Visst ser jag ut att njuta?
Sprang Göteborgsvarvet idag. Mycket osäker på prestationsförmågan, eftersom jag sprungit 2 bra lopp de senaste veckorna, (London Marathon och Onsalarundan), men träningen har varit både dålig och undermålig.
Jag startade i grupp 1 och hade planen att ändå köra hårt. Startade första milen på 35.39, trots att jag var tvungen att springa om ca 500 löpare i min grupp, för att komma fram i ledet och få bra ryggar att springa på. Mitt personbästa på milen (bana!) är 35.35 så det är något som inte stämmer. Under andra halvan tappade jag rejält, men slutade på 1.17.16, vilket jag är mycket nöjd med, givet träningsmängden.
Som alltid var det publiken och alla som hejade på mig som gjorde det där extra – tack!
1.17 räcker till 111 plats av 65.000 och en 8e plats i min agegroup. Klart nöjd med det. Vill givetvis springa under 75 minuter någon gång, men då krävs bra träning.
Mycket märkligt efter loppet då jag fick otroligt ont i baksida på ena knät. 4 timmar senare släppte det snabbare än det kom. Kanske kombinationen voltaren+vin är ett bra botemedel.
En halv sida utfyllnad idag: