No country does “extreme” quite like Norway. There, on the morning of Saturday, August 3, at least 226 of the world’s most hardcore athletes jumped from a ferry into the chilly waters of the Hardangerfjord, where they faced a 3.8-kilometer swim.
After emerging from the frigid fjord, it was onto their bikes for another 180 kilometers, followed by a 42.2 kilometer run. (That’s a marathon.) As they covered this vast distance, ending atop a mountain and climbing, start to finish, more than 5000 meters, they battled a strong headwind, dense fog, and periods of torrential ran.
So it goes in the Isklar Norseman Extreme Triathlon, an epic Ironman-distance battle of athlete vs. self and the elements, and this year’s winner, Markus Stierli of Switzerland, managed to complete the course in 11:25:16. Trailing him were runner-up Dirk Wijnalda of the Netherlands (11:41:33) and third-place finisher Allan Hovda of Norway (11:49:30).
“Isklar Norseman was for me the perfect race,” Stierli said after the race, according to Xtri.com. “Wet, cold, and lots of wind.”
On the women’s side, Norwegian native Inger Liv Bjerkreim Nilsen finished first, overtaking Lydia Waldmuller of Austria toward the end of the run and finishing in 12:43:14. Waldmuller held on for second, crossing in 12:55:20, while Norway’s Line Foss rounded out the women’s top three with a time of 13:01.34.
“Everyone is in great pain,” Norseman Extreme Triathlon head Kalle Jensen told the Norwegian Aftenposten newspaper on Saturday. “At the same time, everyone wants to cross the finish line before time is up.”
Founded in 2003, the Norseman has a reputation for being the world’s most extreme triathlon, and this year’s running showed why. There was even an unofficial fourth leg tacked onto the end, since a lightning strike the night before disabled the cable car that was to have shuttled finishers back down the mountain, and that meant an extra five-kilometer walk. At least it was downhill.
“I guess that’s why it’s called Extreme!” one participant remarked.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg