‘Brutal’ Norseman attracted hundreds

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Call them gluttons for punishment, but 500 hardy souls from 37 countries took part over the weekend in what’s been called one of the “most brutal” races in the world: The extreme triathlon known as the Norseman. 

Norseman racers swim in the Hardanger Fjord, then cycle up the mountain to the Hardangervidda, then run up Gaustadtoppen, for a total of 226 kilometers in a single day. PHOTO: nxtri.com/Jørgen Melau

Participants started gathering in the mountains of southern Norway earlier in the week, and they faced daunting challenges. The race involves swimming 3.8 kilometers in the chilly Hardangerfjord, followed by a 180-kilometer bike race from sea level at Eidfjord up the mountain to the plateau known as Hardangervidda. That involves an elevation climb of round 1,200 meters (nearly 4,000 feet).

The cycling race course continues over to the ski center of Geilo before heading down the valley of Numedalen and over to Tessungadalen. Then starts the last leg of the Norseman, a 42.2-kilometer foot race from Austbygda via Rjukan and up to the top of the distinctive peak known as Gaustadtoppen, with the finish line at an elevation of 1,883 meters. Total distance: 226 kilometers, or 140.4 miles. Half of the participants race on Saturday, the other half on Sunday.

The warnings on the organizers’ own website are ominous: No service stations during the bike leg. A risk of “extreme weather conditions” on the mountain. The race “is harder than any other long-distance race.” And as if that’s not enough:

“During the Norseman, you will probably be cold, you will hate the hills, sometimes you will feel lonely and you will probably experience being unusually emotional during the weekend. Please do not decide to do the race before you have read the Race Manual!”

Many do, including a family that’s also faced huge challenges battling cancer, a 52-year-old woman from Sandvika with a husband and two children who works as a financial adviser, and 28-year-old Øyvind Johannessen, a triathlon coach who won the Norseman in 2008. They contend that it’s all about discipline, structure and setting goals, in addition to being very physically fit.

Statistics show that 95 percent of those taking part finish the race, reported newspaper Dagsavisen. The fastest time on record is 10.5 hours, while others take as long as 22 hours. They, however, risked missing the victory dinner at a hotel on Saturday and Sunday evening.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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