5 Questions to Marius Therkelsen, Winner AXTRI 2014

Yesterday I asked Marius Therkelsen, the winner of the Aurland Xtreme Triathlon 2014, to share his story with me. Marius finished 1 hour and 48 minutes ahead of me.

1. HOW DID YOU EXPERIENCE THE AURLAND XTREME TRIATHLON (AXTRI)?

'What a great competition, what a fantastic adventure. Even for us living in Norway, the nature sometimes takes our breathe away. Combining that, with the pleasure of pressuring yourself in a triathlon tougher than ever participating in before, really makes the feeling of reaching the finish line very special. I started with triathlon in 2013.

I knew how to run and how to cycle, but I have never been very fond of water. In October 2012, me and a couple of friends planned to participate in IronMan 70.3 in Haugesund the summer of 2013. To be able to swim 1.900 meters seemed like a nightmare to me. Luckily, I went from being a really bad swimmer to mediocre during the winter of 2013, and had a great experience in Haugesund, finishing in 4.39 hours. The triathlon “fever” was born and a couple of months later we decided that AXTRI would be the tri ambition of 2014. Before the season I put 7.25 hours and top 25 position as a target. I left Oslo on Thursday evening with two friends and we rented a cabin at Østerbø.

  Marius (left) with his buddies

Marius (left) with his buddies

Friday we tested the water (cold!!!), drove up to Stegastein (600 meters up in the first mountain) to enjoy the view and had a short run with some sprints.

RACE DAY

What a great atmosphere. Love these competitions with not that much participants.

SWIM

  seconds after the Axtri start, photo by Sverre Hjørnevik

seconds after the Axtri start, photo by Sverre Hjørnevik

Started ok, but had to stop after 50 meters with hyper ventilation. Had to breaststroke and calm down for a minute. Back into crawl and from there onwards I’m very pleased with my swim. The temperature was not a problem. 30 minutes was 5-6 minutes better that I hoped for before start. Like you Rogier, I was a bit slow in T1, but anyway, still happy after the swim.

BIKE

I really like climbing. The longer, the better. I’m not among the fastest cyclists in short distances, but I think I can have a quite good speed up the mountains without emptying my bucket of energy.

  Marius bike a Specialized Venge set up with a 52-36 crank and 28 cartridge

Marius bike a Specialized Venge set up with a 52-36 crank and 28 cartridge

I think I was around number 70 out of T1. Started to pass people immediately.
Saw a guy I know (he finished third) just a minute before me and I know he’s a really good cyclist. When I held the distance up to him, I knew that I raced quite good.

  Comparison of the Axtri climb with the Tour de France mountains. We took this climb twice that day

Comparison of the Axtri climb with the Tour de France mountains. We took this climb twice that day

A good feeling the entire first mountain. When the first mountain changed from serpentines to the area where you could see several kilometers upwards, I was really surprised when I saw the motorbike driving with the leader of the race. Estimated that it was 5-10 minutes in front of me, and was really happy. Some tourists called out that I was number 6 and I almost fell of the bike. Wow. Passed 3 more guys before the summit, now nr 3 after the first hill. Lost one position in the downhill. Not a good downhill racer unfortunately and especially when the tarmac was in such a bad condition. It was cold, so I put on wind-vest and long gloves. Felt that the second climb was harder, but at around 500 meters above sea I saw the 3 guys in front of me.

  Marius Therkelsen

Marius Therkelsen

New energy. Went up to second place, when Dag Torp-Hansen (best bike split, and number 3 in total) came from behind. I had no chance to follow. Passed the previous leader, so was nr 2 at the second summit. Lost one place toward T2. In T2 as nr 3, with 1 minute up to nr 2 and 7-8 minutes up to the leader. In total, the feeling on the bike was just great.

RUN

My best discipline, especially when it is in rough terrain and going upwards. After 1-2 km I passed nr 2 and quickly got an advantage. Knew that the 7-8 minutes up to the leader could be achievable as I know him as training almost solely on the bike. Also anticipated that the run course would give big time gaps. Really enjoyed the first half even though it was hard. Smiley tourists cheering was great.

  Marius Therkelsen during his trail run

Marius Therkelsen during his trail run

After 9-10 km I saw the leader some hundreds of meter in front of me. Was a great feeling. We shared some “good lucks” to each other. From there onwards; I really started to understand that this wasn’t a dream, I was actually in a position to fight for the win. The 7-8 last km was tough, started to feel that the competitions started some 6-7 hours earlier. When the last climb was taken and it was 2 km left, I understood that I would win. The last 500 meters I had tears in my eyes.

  Marius (right) celebrating with number 2 Kai Robert Vandsvik

Marius (right) celebrating with number 2 Kai Robert Vandsvik

  Results Marius Therkelsen

Results Marius Therkelsen

2. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR NUTRITION DURING THE RACE?

I had never competed or trained for so long, so it was unknown territory to me. Like you, I have to be quite careful on what I eat. Especially on the run my stomach is quite vulnerable for too much of these nutrition products. Ate regularly on the bike.

  • 3 bottles in total, 1 with water and 2 with Squeezy
  • 2 pieces of bread with raspberry marmalade
  • 2 “lefser”, a Norwegian dish à kind of a cake with sugar and cinnamon
  • 1 sportsbar
  • 2 gels.

During the run I just had some water.

3. HOW DOES YOUR TRAINING SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE?

This is my hobby and off course family and work is prioritized above.
Get around 6-10 hours training per week, of which around half is cycling, running or roller skiing to work and back instead of taking the bus/car. As my schedule doesn’t make that much more room for a higher number of hours, I skip long sessions and instead focus on getting much time in high intensity. For the last 2 years, I have had a 3 week rolling schedule, consisting of 2 very hard weeks and 1 week with less training, less intensity and more technique focus. During the hard weeks, I normally have 4-6 hard sessions, like 6x6, 4x10 etc on, just below or over threshold intensity. As I love a lot of activities, I train very varied. Cycling one day, running another day and cross country (during winter) / roller ski (when no snow). Swimming is infrequent, but normally I swim more in the summertime when water temp permits open-water swimming. I also try to train core strength 1-2X a week.

4. WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVISE TO BEGINNING TRIATHLETES?

Depends on your background, but I guess most are more familiar with bike/run than swimming. In most triathlons, the by far most time is spent on the bike or with running shoes. Hence, I think it’s most important to focus on these disciplines. There, swim until you are comfortable with the distance, but then, allocate most of your time to cycle/run. But keep training varied, as that makes you stronger in total and keeps the probability of getting injured as small as possible. I’m not that fond of brick workouts, but try some transitions bike-to-run just to be aware of sore legs in the beginning of the run. Try to plan your training as good as you can. Most of us are not professionals. We have family and work, and sometimes it’s difficult to find time for training. I plan my coming week every Sunday: when can I train, what should I train, intensity etc. Final tip: make your training sessions, a couple each month, to test/compete against yourself. I love to have some training rounds that I “compete” in from year to year to measure progress and give motivation. Strava is a great tool.

5. HOW DOES YOUR RACE SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE?

Remaining of this season (2014)

Birkebeiner-rittet in august (MTB cycle race in Norway with 20.000 participants, fight for age group podium in the cross-county-bike-run combination)

  Birkebeinerrittet

Birkebeinerrittet

And I will race the Oslo half-marathon in September.

2015-season

Ah, difficult to plan. My wife and I are expecting our third child, which obviously will make it even more demanding to train hard and go away for weekend competitions. But, as you, I dream of Norseman and I think I will participate in the lottery for the first time. If no luck, maybe enjoy the beautiful nature of AXTRI one more time. Competitions or not, the most important thing is to enjoy the privilege of being able to train with good friend and in lovely nature.

I feel that an hour of exercising is the best therapy for a tired head after a long day at the office, and when I can combine training with my sons and wife that’s even better: imagine being on a family trip with a heavy backpack etc à that’s quite good preparation for the run leg at AXTRI :)"

Thanks Marius for sharing your inspiring story and good luck with everything!