Often touted as one of the toughest one day swim/bike/run events, The Norseman Triathlon appears to have lived up to it’s reputation according to this year’s runner up, Meredith Hill.

Text by Witsup | Lead image by José Luis Hourcade

 

WITSUP: Congratulations on a huge accomplishment, something that not many people on this planet have achieved or will achieve. Has it all sunk in yet?
Meredith Hill: Thankyou! No it probably hasn’t sunk in at all. We travelled straight home afterwards so I haven’t had much time to reflect. A small part of me keeps thinking about the fact that I couldn’t hold my lead and got passed on the run at 28km. Perhaps when that fades, I can more fully appreciate that I walked away with exactly  what I said I wanted.

 

W: Can you try to explain each part of the race with one word?
Waking up – Didn’t! (hadn’t slept)
Stepping up to the leap off the boat – Exhilaration
Swim start – Timid
Half way through swim – comfortable, and building
30km into bike – Climbing
50km into bike – Cold!
90km into bike – Climbing
120km into bike – Climbing
First 25km run – Cruising
28km run – Wall
32km run – Lactic
Finish – Grateful
W: Did the event live up to your expectations? What was different?
MH: Yes, totally! I probably expected to suffer due to the elements a lot more than what I did. Perhaps we had a milder year but I think I had mentally prepared myself to be miserable at times for 13-14 hours.
I had heard the marathon had a steep up hill section, but it was far worse than I had anticipated during my training. Thankfully I saw it before race day so I was somewhat mentally prepared when I reached it on Saturday.

 

W: I assume that with this kind of race, you’re not going for time, and in your pre-race interview you wanted to get that black t-shirt and finish at the pointy end, which you did. So how did your race day stack up to all of your goals either before or during the race?

 

MH: No, this is definitely not a course for fast times which has been quite different from my last few iron distance races where speed has been my main focus. I had to change my mentality towards taking less risks, being smarter with nutrition and stopping to put on adequate clothing to ensure I made it to the finish. Finishing is never a guarantee with this course. Things can turn south very quickly.
Other than a fairly significant bike mechanical issue which persisted throughout the race, my day largely went to plan. My biggest challenge here was trying to stop it affecting my head space and just roll with it, knowing it was costing me so much time. I mentally chunked the day into smaller portions and tried not to think about the uphill run until I got there.
My largest concern leading into the race was “zombie hill” – seven kilometres of switchbacks at about 10%. I knew I was going to be entering a level of ‘hurt’ I’d never replicated in training. This is where I was passed by the eventual winner (a Norwegian mountain runner) and I didn’t have the physical strength or mental willpower to go with her. That hill got the better of me. I had hoped I’d be able to handle it better and that’s going to haunt me for some time to come.

 

W: Can you pinpoint the hardest part of the race?
MH: Zombie Hill. 100%!

 

W: Can you pinpoint the highlight of the event?
MH: One highlight is hard to choose as the whole race was spectacular. But standing at the top of those steps on Mt Gaustatoppen with 360 degree panoramic views and hugging my support crew was pretty damn special.

 

 

W: If you were going to convince others to do this race, what would you say?
MH: Buy good gear! Spare no expense on quality. Talk to people who have done it. It’s a long way to go to DNF.

 

W: Would you do it again?
MH: At this stage it’s not on my radar. I’m not really a trophy hunter in this sport so I don’t have that burning desire to go back for the win. I’d rather direct my time and energy to experience another race I’m yet to do.

 

W: What did you learn about yourself from this event?
MH: That I need to figure out how to tap into that next level of suffering.

 

W: What’s next?
MH: I hadn’t planned anything beyond Norseman as I was unsure how I would handle it physically and mentally. My love for triathlon still burns strong so I’m going to start some research on events like Celtman and Swissman. I’m always looking for destination races that will scratch my ‘travel itch’ as well as being great triathlon events.

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