Saturday, August 3rd, 2019, Hans Christian Tungesvik was crowned XTRI World Champion and winner of Isklar Norsman Xtreme Triathlon after a thrilling sprint finish at the top of Moun Gousta.
Hans Christian Tungesvik is in this race recap putting you into his mind before, during and after the race.
Aiming for the Norseman Podium
November 2018 was the time when I decided that Norseman would be my A-race for 2019. After attending the race in 2018 as a support for my training partner Richard Rozok, it became clear to me that i didn’t want to be left out of this incredible event the following year. Considering my 11th and 6th place finishes in 2016 and 2017, respectively, I felt that it was now time to step it up and aim for the podium.
I have been dreaming of someday winning this race for many years already, but in my mind the realistic goal was to finish on the podium.
Norseman Xtreme Triathlon is just an epic race. The atmosphere in the small village of Eidfjord, the magical and majestic surroundings, the freezing waters, the nervous athletes, the gusty winds and endless climbs, the support crew, the infamous Zombie Hill, the feeling of reaching the summit of Mount Gausta – for me there is no other race like this one.
Being a Norwegian, Norseman is simply THE race on the calendar.
As they announced that the inaugural Xtri World Championship would be held as a part of Norseman, there was no doubt in my mind what I would be doing August 3rd, 2019.
My strengths and qualities as a triathlete also fit this competition very well – so why not chose something I’m good at? I love being able to basically do all my training outdoors, no matter the weather or temperature, hence rough weather conditions would not bother me too much. I am a small and light guy, well fitted for the 5000m+ of elevation the Norseman course has to offer. My family has a mountain cabin on the racecourse, so I have been able to get my fair share of training hours on the course itself and know it would be hard. Last but not least, I am able to dig deep when the going gets tough. And believe me – Norseman will get tough.
November through January was great was great in term of training quality, and I was perfectly on schedule. February through April, including 8 weeks training camp on Mallorca, came with several challenges. Longer periods of sickness, several minor injuries, and subsequent mental …
“Is this even worth a try…?”.
It turned around in the beginning of May, the body started responding well to training, and Ironman Lanzarote showed me that my fitness was actually not that bad. This could be done.
From there on, the last 10 weeks leading up to Norseman, everything has gone better than perfect. Ironman 70.3 Jönköping gave me confidence me shape was better than ever 4 weeks out of Norseman.
The last month, including 10 days training camp on the Norseman course itself, have been very specific. Riding the hilly course. Running Zombie Hill. Swimming in cold mountain lakes. Repeat. It’s been the toughest weeks have ever done, in terms of training, commitment, prioritization, and dedication.
And it brought me to the start line healthy, injury-free and in the best shape of my life.
When the gun went off at 4:55 am, I could feel right away that this was a good day. Found a nice group with pre-race favourite Allan Hovda from the beginning, before I went my own way the last 2,5k of the swim. Out of the water in 4th in a time of 51:05, and onto the bike leg in 2nd. Perfect – ahead of schedule.
Controlled from the start before hitting the 25k climb to the mountain plateau at 1200masl. I felt very strong, went to the front of our group, and we caught up with the leader (Mark Threlfall, presenter at Global Triathlon Network). I kept the effort steady to the top and could finally enjoy some high-speed sections crossing the mountain. I didn’t look back much, and suddenly I was told a gap of 1-2 minutes had opened up to Marius Elvedal and Allan.
“Did I go too hard? I still have 7 hours left …”
It also gave incredible motivation, and I hit the four smaller climbs after the halfway point feeling strong and excited. After 110k, I hit my first mental rough patch.
The chasers were closing in, and I started to get tired. The support team pushed, fed, and motivated me, making me focus on the right things. Up the last brutal 7k climb, I found myself having gained back energy, and the gap increased. I rolled into T2 on my Argon18 E119 Tri+, having ridden solo in front for 150k across the mountains, leading my dream race by more than 3 minutes.
“IS THIS FOR REAL?!”
I knew Allan is an incredible runner, especially on the first 25k flat section. I was prepared for him catching me. I made a decision to keep my planned pace, let him go when he passed me, and take advantage of my strong suit – the climb. He caught me at the 15k mark and extended his lead to 2 minutes by the time we hit Zombie Hill. Definitely within reach., and now I got to be accompanied by my support runner Richard Rozok. We kept the gap steady up the legendary Zombie Hill, but Allan increased his lead to 3:30 at the mountain gate at 37,5km due to a couple of visits into the bushes on my part. I was so tired. 5k left on rocky trails to the summit at 1880masl.
I checked in my backpack at the mountain gate and entered the mountain. It was a terrible feeling started running rocky trails at first. But I got into it. I ran where I could and tried to walk fast and light at the steeper parts. Felt like I kept an OK pace.
I tried to tell myself that 3 minutes is nothing on this mountain. Looked up to try and get my sight on Allan, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Cola. Water. The trail was packed with tourists and spectators cheering us on, and more and more of them kept saying that the guy in front looked much more tired than me. Some said he was 4 minutes ahead. Some said 1 minute.
“They are probably just saying that to be nice. What if he really is completely done?”
I wasn’t able to accelerate, but I kept the pace and pushed as hard as I could. And thought to myself that if he beats me on my best day, I can’t be disappointed. I realized that sub 10 hours was actually within reach, so I started focusing on that goal. 5min before crossing the finish line, I said to my brother:
“Oh well, 2nd place in Norseman is good too. Actually, very good”
AND THEN. I looked up, and I finally got my eye on a white and light blue tri-suit a couple of turns ahead of me. And the guy wearing it looked tired. Very tired. Something happened inside of my brain, and I remember thinking:
“You don’t know if you’ll ever be this close to a Norseman victory ever again”.
My whole body rushed with adrenaline, and I started sprinting while shouting to Sindre:
“This one is fu**** mine!”
Acting totally on instinct I sprinted everything I had, overtook Allan just before the first steps of the stairs 150m before the finish line, and didn’t dare to look back until I was able to let all the emotions go when crossing the finish line.
THE CRAZIEST THING I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED.
XTRI World Champion. 9h59m40s.
Now Aiming for Kona
First and foremost – recovery. Mentally and physically. I have been thinking, training and living Norseman for the past 10 weeks so intensely. I just need a break. Time to enjoy the feeling, reflect on the process, and spend time with the ones that support me unconditionally.
Furthermore, my next goal is Kona. That was the main reason I started this project two years ago – qualifying for Kona in the pro field. Well, for now, it is a dream. But apparently, some dreams do come true.
Bike Setup for Norseman
I put loads of time and resources into optimizing my bike setup for this race. Everything was chosen for a reason. Given 0,08% difference in finishing time between 1st and 2nd, I think we can agree it was all about the marginal gains this time.
I rode my Argon18 E119 Tri+. It was set up with Zipp Super-9 clincher disc wheel, and ENVE SES 60mm front wheel. Both wheels had Vittoria Corsa Speed 23mm clincher, with Vittoria latex tubes inside. I rode 53/36T oval chainrings from Absolute Black, and 11-28 Shimano Ultegra cassette. The bike is fully upgraded with CeramicSpeed bottom bracket, oversized pulley wheels, and UFO chain. Aerobars and extensions are from Drag2Zero, and I used the Elite Crono aero bottle for my hydration. Pedals were Garmin Vector 3, and bike computer was Garmin Edge 520. Mandatory bike light was KNOG Blinder Mini Chippy front and rear.
Photos: Trimtex / Kai-Otte Melau / Ola Morkan
Text: Hans Christian Tungesvik
Facts on Norseman Xtreme Triathlon
The course runs point-to-point – or fjord to peak: Starting at sea level, with a 4 meter drop off a ferry into the Hardangerfjord, crossing the starkly haunting Hardangervidda mountain plateau, finishing at the rocky peak of Gaustatoppen, at 1,850m above sea level and 220km away.
Norseman is a long day’s journey through some of Norway’s most spectacular scenery. The total ascent is 5,000 meters. The water is cold, clean, and comes lightly salted. The weather can be anything from brilliantly beautiful to blasting blizzard, sometimes all in one day. If you’re really lucky, you may see porpoises, orcas or reindeer.
Simply one of toughest and most iconic triathlons on the planet.
3.8km in the Hardangerfjord with water temperature between 13 and 15degrees Celsius. The swim begins with a water start, after the athletes jumps into the water from a ferry.
180km from Eidfjord by the Hardangerfjord with about 1,500 meters of elevation.
42.2km from Austbygde and to the top of Mt. Gaustatoppen. The first 25km are fairly flat, while the last 17.2km are a consistently steep climb up to 1850m.
Total distance: 226km
Total elevation: +5235m
Course info from nxtri.com
Hans Christian Tungesvik
- 27 years old
- Professional triathlete from Norway
- Sponsored by Argon 18, Trimtex, Salming, CeramicSpeed, Shimano, SailFish, SiS and Lazer
- XTRI World Champion and winner of Norseman Xtreme Triathlon 2019
- Ironman World Champion 2016 AG M18-24, Kona, Hawaii
- 6th place Norseman Xtreme Triathlon 2017
- Norwegian Champion Long Distance 2018
- 8:41 in Ironman Barcelona 2018Follow Hans Christian’s journey towards Isklar Norseman Xtreme Triathlon 2019: