DSC_8198Since her silver medal at the Olympics, Lisa Norden has been making a few changes in her triathlon world. She has started working with one of Australia’s most successful triathletes, Craig Alexander, and set her sights on the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, Vegas. Norden wants a world championship title across all distances by the end of her career, but before she goes extra long, she will be gunning for another Olympic medal in Rio. Matilda Raynolds has a fantastic, insightful chat with Norden about the decisions and directions she’s taking and making, with a hint of baking in there too.

WITSUP: To make some of our newbie triathletes feel a little better about their first race, could you describe for us how your first race went, where it was and how you went?

LN: It was a very small local race near my hometown in Sweden. I showed up on a steel frame old-fashioned race bike four sizes too big and a pink bikini. I breastroked my way through the 400meters and was second last out of the water. Then things got better as I started riding and I managed to win the 16-19 AG category. I was far from hooked to the sport and continued to do horse riding for another year.

 

W: As the current ITU World Champion, Olympic Games silver medalist by 100th of a second and ITU sprint distance World Champion, what were some of the biggest changes and implementations you had to make in training to get to where you are today?

LN: I always had a big engine but it was the polishing of my skill sets that Darren Smith did that brought me up to a world class level. The understanding for what you need to do to be world class, the total commitment and the importance of details. I committed 110% to the sport and spent five years on camp training with a very talented group overseen by one of the best coaches in the sport. Nothing happened by coincidence – everything was done for a reason.

 

W: Up until this year, coach Darren Smith guided you to becoming one of the best ITU racers in the world, what were some of the most important lessons you took away from your time with Darren?

LN: To never let your skill set go. More and harder is not always the way to go – and should never be at a cost of technique and form.

 

W: You are now utilising Craig Alexander as a coach/mentor, how did this come about and how has Craig changed the way you are training and racing?

LN: Myself and Darren were both on the same page that it was time for me to move on and test my wings.
 I looked around for a new mentor and coach – knowing I didn’t want to find a ”second Darren” but someone who offered another angle on the sport and coaching. Crowie (Alexander) is one of the athletes I have a lot of respect for. The way he worked his way through from being quite average (excuse me here Craig…) to one of the absolute stars of the sport. It’s been pure work and dedication. Also the way he talks about the sport – he manages to combine it with being a great father and a husband – and still seems to have a nice balance appealed to me. 
I felt he would have all the skills to help me out on both the ITU circuit but of course also moving up on the half iron-distance.

 

W: Most of your coaches have been Australian, starting out in Sydney with Bondi Fit, Spot Anderson, then moving to Canberra with Darren Smith and now working Craig Alexander, do you think you will return to Australia to train and/or race?

LN: Australia is one of my favorite places to train with the only downside that it’s so far away (from Europe). But with the ITU World Series often starting down there, I’m seeing that as a great excuse to come back for a camp!

 

W: You are referred to in Sydney with the nickname ‘Herring’, where did this come from?

LN: Hahaha, that was back in the days when I was a ”spotti-dog” in Spot Anderson’s squad. As most people know Herring is a small smelly swedish fish… Go figure…

 

DEL_9825W: Is it true that you have a tattoo of the Olympic rings that you had printed on your hand well before you were selected because you had a dream to compete at the games one day?

LN: That’s a story with some truth that has grown out of proportion!
 What I did have was a silver ring with the Olympic rings on it. I got it as a graduation present in 2003 and carried it until the Beijing Olympics. Then I think I lost it in a race just shortly after.

 

W: In a post Olympic year you have moved your focus to long course racing having convincingly won by over 20mins at Ironman 70.3 Syracuse and marking Ironman 70.3 Vegas as your goal race, how have you enjoyed life outside of the ITU series?

LN: Very much so.
 Last year was a very intense year with ever growing pressure and media interest. I pulled it off and it changed my life.
 With that came a new era in my life with a lot of requests and people pulling me in all sorts of direction. I needed this year to have time to breathe and mentally recover a bit. 
Training for 70.3s has given me a new focus and something fresh to train for. It’s been a challenge that’s been fun, but not too big.

I have given myself two years for the 70.3 title – if I don’t make it by next year, I will save it until after Rio. The ITU Series is calling on me and I’ll be back in that circuit again next year.

 

W: You were a late withdrawal from Hy-Vee Triathlon last weekend due to a foot injury, with Vegas 70.3 World Championships this weekend, how are you feeling and how is the foot holding up?

LN: Obviously this is not an ideal situation. Even if the foot does hold up my run training has been seriously interrupted this summer.
 As Vegas has been my main goal this year I would love to go out there and be able to give it to myself all the way to the line.

If the body says no I guess I will have to accept that. It’s definitely time to go home and look after myself a bit once this race is out of the way.

 

W: Looking ahead, what is on the cards post Vegas?


LN: I’ll stay in Vegas for a few days to recover – think a floatie, pool and an umbrella drink… My family is coming out so it will be nice with a couple of days switching off from the triathlon scene.
 Then I’m off to London to hang out with Specialized and watch the ITU Grand Final. Following that I’m heading over to Beijing to race the IMG Beijing International Triathlon. This obviously depends on my feet and how the body is pulling up. 
 I had plans to continue the season, but with the prolonged injury problems this year I’ll call it a day and go home to get some rest and rehab.

 

DEL_7820W: I once heard you say that you are not a complete triathlete until you have done an Ironman and that your goal would be to become a World Champion across every distance, is this still the case and when will we see you race the full iron-distance?

LN: I guess you could call yourself a triathlete even without that long slow race on your CV… But yes – I do want to put a world title on every distance to my name. The game plan is to do Rio then move up to the iron-distance. Darren used to say I can race long when I’m old and slow, which would probably be about the right time post Rio…

 

W: In 2012 at the Swedish Sport Award Gala you won Achievement of the year, Swedish female athlete of the year and the Peoples Choice Award (Jerringpriset)!! Is triathlon a mainstream sport in Sweden? And as a very successful female sportsperson what do you think triathlon stakeholders need to be doing to increase the recognition of the sport and in particularly female sport globally?

LN: There is now something in Sweden called ”the Lisa Norden effect”. Races are sold out, beginners free style courses full and tri clubs growing by some massive percentages. From having been a very small niche sport triathlon is now a household sport that gets a lot of media attention.

The races in London, Stockholm and Auckland were very much to thank for that. I think the ITU is going down the right path, tight courses downtown where the crowd can watch and enjoy most of the race.

In Sweden they started to put sprint races together with town festivals, adding a kids race and make it to a big party. It needs to be fun and attractive to more than just the hardcore fans of the sport.

 

W: You have a number of global major sponsors, what do you think are the most important aspects to gaining new sponsors and keeping them on board?

LN: A genuine interest and a good relationship. I have chosen to keep my team small but strong. I don’t want to dilute myself too much but keep the quality in both training – and promotional work. I spend quite a bit of time on my homepage and social media sites, which is a great window for me to reach my fans and a big audience.

The sponsors I have are there for a long time and the contracts are all set up with that in mind. You want to find people and companies you like and products you can stand behind.

 

Quick fast five:

If you weren’t a triathlete you’d be? A princess or a pilot

Something we wouldn’t know about you? 
I’m quite a good baker and you’d find a few different sourdough types in my fridge.

Best advice you’ve been given? 
”Don’t try to make all your sessions great – keep them at good and get a lot of them”
 – Words from Simon Whitfield about a year out of the Olympic Games in London.

Can’t live without? Coffee

Your biggest faux-pas? I can’t think of any off the top off my head, but I’m sure there are a lot!

 

Text: Matilda Raynolds

Photo credit: Delly Carr

 

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About The Author

Matilda Raynolds

Professional Triathlete | http://twitter.com/MatildaRaynolds

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