Training for your first triathlon? Upping your distance? Applying for an Ironman? Take some advice from one of the best, as Allan Hovda, the elite triathlete and Norseman Xtreme Triathlon champion, guides us through why he loves the sport so much, what got him interested in the first place and offers the tips for success to help you on your way…
How did you get into triathlon?
I saw a video of the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon on YouTube and was fascinated by the madness. But I never thought I actually could do it until a colleague convinced me to sign up – after that there was no turning back.
Why Ironmen as opposed to other sports?
I love doing the three different sports, which is why I never get bored. It always gives you challenges, but also a feeling of achievement.
What is your inspiration?
I get inspired by other people who break barriers and do amazing things that both themselves and others did not think they could do. My grandmother didn’t do any sport, until she started running at the age of 55, when my grandfather passed away. Last year she finished Ironman 70.3 Norway as a part of a team with her two daughters. She ran the whole 21.1 km at the age of 79! The health, strength and determination are truly inspiring.
I also get inspired by nature. Being outside with wind, sun (and quite often rain as well!) in my face and getting to see scenic places. It’s great to be out in nature and using my body for what it is “designed” to do.
What equipment do you use and how does it help you?
Ideally you want to travel light, but as a triathlete you bring your bike, helmet, bike shoes, running shoes, wetsuit and a lot of other equipment so travelling light is usually just a dream. I have an Osprey Sojourn 80L which is roomy, light and versatile without having to carry it on my shoulders. On my back I usually have my trusted Escapist 25 with my Macbook, camera equipment and other things I need when I travel. I also have the Rev 6 running pack which I use when I run far or on routes where I need some extra clothing or water on the way.
When did you start competing?
I did my first triathlon in 2009, the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon, and it took 14 hours. I had no endurance background so you could say I had a long way to, both in learning the three sports and in the race itself.
What are your favourite training techniques and why?
My favourite training sessions are the long bike rides. I also have a love/hate relationship with the bike/run combination-interval. I hate it when I am out of shape but simply love it when I am in shape and see what amazing things the body is capable of doing.
What’s your hydration strategy?
My hydration strategy is quite simple; I let my body dictate how much I drink by listening to the feeling of thirst. If the temperature and intensity are low I drink little and if it is warm and I am cranking up the heart rate I drink more. I honesty think a lot of people drink too much under training and competition and believe that after years of training and competition you will get to know your body quite well and what it needs.
What else do you look for in a running pack?
I look for the perfect design, good materials and being so weight so that you barely notice you have the running pack with you. In that regard the Rev 6 is my favourite at the moment.
What has been your favourite competition to date?
A lot of races are special in their own way. Norseman Xtreme Triathlon should be on every endurance athlete’s bucket-list and, together with Ironman Hawaii, is a competition that will always have a unique and special place in my heart.
What were the challenges you encountered in winning the Norseman and how did you overcome these?
It is very challenging – I’ve seen a lot of very good athletes perform below their best in that competition, so good planning and a conservative pacing strategy is essential. The forces of the mountain should not be underestimated. My biggest challenge was maintaining mental strength on the last part and I spent a lot of time visualising running up the mountain instead of walking. It worked.
What draws you to the Norseman competition?
It’s a unique race with its raw nature and amazing scenery. You are 100 % dependent on your own support team which also really makes it a team effort.