She was in the top six at both Kona and last year’s rescheduled IRONMAN World Championship in St George, is #16 in the world rankings and yet Lisa Norden seems to be coming into Challenge Roth relatively under the radar.
Part of the reason is the fact that the Swede, second behind Nicola Spirig in that stunning Olympics finale at London 2012, has only had the one low-key, indoor race this season.
But as we found out when we caught up with her in Roth, that doesn’t mean she comes into this short of fitness.
She told us: “I actually did the Arena Triathlon indoors in Sweden three months ago which was a super-short event with qualifying in the morning and then the final in the afternoon.”
But that saw the emergence of a calf issue which would ultimately rule her out of her early-season target of the PTO European in Ibiza and has since led to an unconventional build-up in swim, bike and run.
Unusual brick session
She took part in an open water swim race at the Stockholm Simfestivalen and then on two wheels headed to her first-ever gravel race in Finland – an up-and-down 177km which she followed the next morning with a 34km run!
“We had to regroup a little bit after Ibiza in terms of the plan for Roth, which was always one of my big races,” she explains.
“We had bit of a crazy plan, but I think it turned out quite well with three weeks of altitude in Livigno then we needed to do something productive with that window afterwards. It was like, okay, let’s go to Finland gravel. At 177k it was like an Ironman distance and then followed by the long run afterwards. It was my first gravel race and I met Ruth Astle and India Lee on the startline which was nice.
“It was a mass start and super tough and to be honest beforehand I was standing there feeling my collarbones and wondering if I was about to do something stupid!
“I’ve done some road races in the past, big ones too. But this one was crazy because it had everyone together, the pro men and women. It was undulating trails in the forest and very technical – but I had some massive power numbers so it was a great workout and then I recovered enough to do the run.”
‘Such a change in the dynamic’
Norden says she’s been focussing on her cycling, which was a strength anyway, but adds: “I’m very aware my marathon time has to come down too and that’s also what we’ve been working on simultaneously.”
And she knows that with the stacked field on Sunday – all the IRONMAN world champions since 2015 and six athletes from the top 16 in the world – she’ll need to be on the top of her game.
But with her ITU background, the best racing the best is sonething she’s very used to: “Coming from World Triathlon racing, every race you turn up to has a good field.
“Full-distance is a bit trickier because you can’t really race ‘no limits’, you have to calculate what you’re doing.
“It used to be that my coach told me, you can do Ironman when you’re old and slow, don’t do it now. But now you have such a change in the dynamic.
“You have such a big pool of talent and everyone can swim, everyone is in the wind tunnel. Everyone is doing all the details as well. So every year it gets better and better at the top and the midfield gets better too. And it’s making for really good races.”