NORSEMAN AUG 2018
“Only the fastest 160 athletes among the 250 that start are allowed to climb the final mountain.”
THE NORSEMEN (OR NORSE) inhabited southern and central Scandinavia between 800 and 1300 AD. The idea of the very first Xtreme triathlon held in Norway in 2003 was simple: having done an Ironman is tough, but finishing an ultra-ironman to become a true Norseman is even harder. The man behind the first Norseman was Hårek Stranheim, who originally wanted the race to go through the most beautiful landscapes of Norway. He also wanted the participants to share their adventure with family and friends, who will then become their support through the day (personal support cars are mandatory and they have to provide food, drink and personal needs in case of extreme weather). At the same time, the race wasn’t only a journey through a nice landscape with a bunch of friends. It’s supposed to be brutal. “Let the race end on top of a mountain, to make it the toughest full distance triathlon on planet earth,” reads the Norseman’s official web page.
The course still stretches point-to-point and has many epic elements: from the iconic four-metre jump off the ferry into the Hardangerfjord at 5 a.m. (Norway’s longest fjord located in the south west of the country with temperatures often around 10 C), to the top of the Gaustatoppen peak (1,850 metres above sea level and 220 km away) and through the Hardangervidda mountain plateau. In total, the vertical gain of the bike leg is 3,800 m and the run 1,432 m. However, only the fastest 160 athletes among the 250 that start are allowed to climb the final mountain and to be awarded with one of the famous finisher t-shirts. The ultra-family of Xtreme events expanded to the Celtman (Scotland) in 2012 and the Swissman (Switzerland) in 2013.
ALTHOUGH IT IS A NEW ENTRY on the Xtreme calendar, the Bearman can easily be listed among the hardest. The “race of the bear” is located in the French Pyrenees around Amélie-Les-BainsPalalda and the bike leg features 4,700 m of vertical gain. As with the other Xtreme events, the Bearman is a self-supported race, so athletes have to bring on their hydration and nutrition and be prepared for the lack of aid stations. (The organisation does point out the main water stops for both the bike and the run.) On top of the common gear for these kind of races, and the fact that the race is unsupported, athletes must also bring warm clothing and bike lights in preparation for when the sun goes down. If you want to experience an Xtreme event in a true family environment, the Bearman is the race to go to as it’s organized by a family (the Laidlows), who also organize training camps and offer online coaching tailored for the Bearman and/ or any other goals you may have for the season. The philosophy behind the Bearman is to bring triathlon back to its roots.