The Norseman Triathlon is one of those bucket list/once in a lifetime type of events. With a four metre jump from the ferry into the cold waters of the Hardanger Fjord for the swim, a ride across the Hardangervidda mountain plateau, and a marathon to the Gaustatoppen peak, athletes cover 226kms with a total ascent of 5,000 meters, and typically, the conditions are less than ideal. But it was these reasons that organisers wanted “the experience to be more important than the finish time.”

We caught up with Meredith Hill, who decided that this event was something not to be missed, and lines up for 226kms of epicness this weekend.

Text and images by Witsup

 

WITSUP: Norseman. Why?
Meredith Hill: When I first heard about Norseman, I though it was utterly ridiculous. I assumed it would be unachievable for me based on the cold and incredibly tough course. Then, I realised I had felt exactly the same way about the iron-distance triathlons before I ever attempted one. Completing my first iron-distance was one the most satisfying feelings I had ever experienced at the time, so I guess I’m chasing that feeling again.
WITSUP: You’ve been checking out the course for the past week. What are your thoughts? Is it living up to expectations? What are you most excited about? What are you most nervous about?
MH: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about the WHOLE thing! The course is epic and totally lives up to its reputation. The swim is 3.8km one way through the stunning Hardanger Fjord. Other than the four metre jump off a car ferry into freezing water, I’m not too concerned. The ride is pretty much what  I imagined but how it pans out will be heavily dependent on the weather. Norseman is known for miserable weather with sleeting rain, strong wind and temps down to zero degrees celsius. The run is probably my greatest concern which it never normally is. It’s basically flat-ish for 25km then starts the steep ascent towards the top of  Mt Gaustatoppen. It’s 17km of constant climbing to finish the marathon. I just drove most of it and its so much steeper than I imagined. I just dropped more F-bombs today than I have in the past month!

 

WITSUP: What are the most unique things about this race?
MH:
* The black or white finishers t-shirt uncertainty. The first 160 athletes to a checkpoint at 32km are allowed to continue towards to finish on top of Mt Gaustatoppen where they receive the coveted black t-shirt. For safety reasons, the remaining athletes are directed towards an alternative finish line where they receive a white t-shirt.
* The race is entirely self supported. We basically need a vehicle nearby with all our nutrition, clothing etc for the whole bike and run leg. Support crew must also accompany their athlete on foot for the final four kilometres off-road section up Mt Gaustatoppen to the finish.

 

WITSUP: What are you hoping to achieve from this race?
MH: Finishing up the pointy end of the women’s race with a black t-shirt!

 

WITSUP: What have you been doing differently in training to help prepare for this specific event?
MH: In my long rides I was trying to get in as much climbing as possible – often 3000-4000m over 180km. This has been hard on the Sunshine Coast where we don’t have a stack of mountains so it wasn’t unusual for me to repeat the same Crosby Rd Buderim climb up to 20 times.
For the run, my coach added in a lot of strength building stair climbing and Mt Coolum climbs with a 10kg backpack. Other than that, it wasn’t altogether too different from my usual iron-distance prep. It’s been said that the marathon is largely a race to the 25km mark. After that, less passes are made as the majority of the field are reduced to shuffling up the mountain.

 

WITSUP: You recently did Challenge Iceland as well, was this the perfect lead into this event based on the course and conditions?
MH: I actually didn’t research Iceland’s course or conditions very thoroughly before the race. I figured that if I was prepared for Norseman, I was prepared for anything. I just wanted a half-distance race two weeks before Norseman to dust off some cobwebs. I’ve also been dying to see Iceland so it ticked two boxes in one trip. Challenge Iceland was quite a surprise as the conditions were far tougher than I expected. In hindsight, I think it was a good little ‘icebreaker’ for me before Norseman.
WITSUP: Iceland was also your first pro race. When did you make the decision to go pro? What are you most excited about and what were your initial concerns with “going pro?”
MH: I’d weighed it up for a little while but only had enough confidence to take the plunge after I managed overall female amateur wins at my two main races in 2016 (Challenge Wanaka and Challenge Roth). In every aspect of my life, I’m highly motivated and achieve more by being amongst successful people. I’m excited to see how much better I can get within the sport by starting alongside the big girls now. My hesitation to go pro mainly boiled down to fear of failure. Particularly when racing as a pro puts you under the spotlight.

 

All the best to Meredith for this weekend’s epic adventure, we look forward to following up with her after the race.

About The Author

Stef Hanson. Chief.

Chief and founder of WITSUP Serious about what I do, but don't take myself too seriously

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