On the Throttle with Lisa Norden

Lisa Norden has been very busy racing the UCI Road World Championships and various triathlons - including an underground one in Germany. Meanwhile most other athletes likely felt lucky if they managed one actual event, but Lisa has been able to race 4 events in the last few weeks. We checked in with her to see how that all came about and what is next for this fast and well liked Swede.

Lisa Norden: Thank you, always a pleasure to chat.

ST: You just had a very busy weekend of racing behind you in Italy, but it wasn’t all as planned in terms of the events you ended up starting in.

Lisa: It definitely wasn’t a weekend I had planned or prepared for! Earlier in the year I had a long talk with the Swedish cycling head coach about TT Worlds. I raced Yorkshire last year and placed 14th in the ITT, and this year I had prepared well and worked a lot on both power development and my position. I ended up riding more than a minute faster at Nationals on the same course as last year and was thus curious to see if I could improve my results from Yorkshire. Unfortunately, due to Corona the World Champs in Aigle ended up being cancelled and we decided to switch the focus back to Triathlon.

If I would have gotten an earlier go ahead and Aigle was going happen as planned - I would have done a very different prep for it. But as it was, I penciled in Gdynia and picked up my swimming and running again. Just as I came back home from IM 70.3 Gdynia I was offered a start in the Pushing Limits race in Ratingen and booked my flights down to Germany. The day after that, less than two weeks out of the Imola World Champs, I got offered a start in the ITT. I changed my flights and continued on to Italy from Germany - and crossed my fingers for quick recovery from the Pushing Limits race.

The day before the ITT I was told that one of the girls on the team for the road race was sick and they asked me to take her place. My boyfriend who was back in Stockholm packed my road bike as I only had my TT bike with me and flew down with it the following morning. The whole Championships event was definitely not planned for, and it was quite a terrifying task to be honest.

ST: What were some of the COVID-19 related adaptations in Imola as far as you can tell?

Lisa: Well there is quite a few adaptations and guidelines around the whole event, access was strict and only teams were allowed into the starting area. Everyone has to do a COVID test 6 and 3 days out of the race. I did the first in Sweden and the 2nd in Germany, and they keep each nation to their own bubble to create different bubbles easy to isolate if needed. It was pretty cool because we were at the car track each team got their own garage to warm up and prepare in, the most luxury set up I’ve ever had.

ST: What about the Swedish Federation? What kind of precautions did they put in place?

Lisa: Basically all the standard procedures such as wearing a mask in the hotel and at the race venue, testing, a daily health monitoring check to be submitted to the head coach and social distancing especially to people outside the Swedish team. But in general - Swedes are reserved and naturally talented at social distancing so we are pretty good at that part.

ST: What was your job in the road race?

Lisa: As I was such a wildcard and with no previous road races in my legs I had no pressure to do anything specific. Our top rider Emilia Fahlin had broken her hand in a freak feeding zone accident during the Giro just a few days prior and was home to get medical care. Our second girl Wilma Olausson, was home sick and the other two girls in the team were not excepted to have any outstanding performances. But all the races from the World Championships were broadcasted on National Swedish television and of course you want to have three girls in the race if you have three places. I also think they wanted to give the commentators something to talk about putting me in the race. But in general they just told me to go out and give it ago, with a course that demanding maybe my fitness was going to be enough.

ST: When was the last time you had raced in a 143km race?

Lisa: Last year in Yorkshire. [laughs] I seem to only race the championships - not recommendable to anyone.

ST: How good did you feel about the TT a couple days earlier and what was the goal?

Lisa: I was very disappointed with the TT. My hope and belief was that I was capable of a top 10. I know my coach Philipp Seipp was super frustrated that we found out so late and he couldn’t really prepare me properly for it. I can now tell you from experience - racing a triathlon 4 days prior a World Championship TT is not to be recommended! Or a 70.3 only a couple of weeks before. It is a WATT- KILLER!

For the race itself, my legs faded a bit and I had a mechanical. I finished 24th. I think I would have ended up between 13-15th without the mechanical, but that was riding 25-30 watts lower than what I did at Nationals. So with good legs I should have been able to do better - in theory of course.

ST: You mentioned a mechanical.

Lisa: Taking the last left-hand turn entering the car track I was changing from the small to big ring. I’m using synchro shifting and probably was a bit too aggressive on the pedals. The chain dropped and got caught underneath on the inside. I tried to save it while rolling but ended up having to stop and the mechanic ran out from the car. I think I had adrenaline vaporizing out from my ears at that stage. I knew it was devastating for any kind of result, but I tried not to think about it and finish the last 4ks as good as I could.

ST: Talk about the win at the somewhat underground Pushing Limits triathlon in Ratingen, Germany.

Lisa: Yes, it was really cool actually. A secret location race in Germany, the swim was in a pool (1k) and the bike and run all around the small town. I have raced the Bundesliga in Germany for many years and I’ve always really enjoyed it. This kind of brought me back to a happy place.

ST: How did you first hear about that race?

Lisa: I guess having a German coach was very helpful. I had just come back from Gdynia when Philipp called me to check if I was interested. My calves were so messed up from the half marathon where I couldn’t walk properly for three days and I really even didn’t want to think about racing again so close in time. But he convinced me that I was going to be fine and that it was a good opportunity. These days you never know when you can race so you better take the chances you get.

ST: Talk about the race itself.

Lisa: The 1k swim was like a proper time trial, everyone had their own half lane and there was no drafting. Lucy Hall was in the race and like normal business she made us all look super slow. I think I lost about a minute to her. Not having a huge amount of confidence in my running I knew I was going to have to work the bike in a proper TT style. I caught Lucy at the end of the first lap and tried to buy me as much time as I could the remaining 3 laps. I tried to keep an eye on Imogen Simmonds who was closing in on Lucy but I saw I was gaining time on her as well. Thorsten Radde told me there was no girl who could go sub 1 hour on that course and I was really bummed to see I just missed it by only 6 seconds - which did include the full transition as well. I was a little scared starting the run but somehow my body really kicked in and I could feel that the work I had done with Philipp was paying off.

I’ve been on a kind of soul search this summer, trying to find the runner within me that I used to be back in 2012. She is slowly coming back now which is very exciting. I lost a little time to Imogen who was overtaking Lucy behind me, but not as much as I had feared. I ended up winning with an about 1.5 minutes and also took the overall course record and fastest bike split.

ST: How did you entertain yourself after the race before you flew to Italy?

Lisa: It actually turned out to be a VIP experience courtesy of Laura Philipp and Philipp Seipp. After I had finished the race I packed all my stuff into the rental car and drove to their house in Heidelberg. There are a few athletes in Seipp Squad living in the area and their house is sort of the Seipp Squad HQ. When I was there Sebastian Kienle joined in for a track run followed by a swim, but I think he is about 1 hour drive away. It’s not far from Frankfurt where I was flying out of and also doing the last Covid-19 test Tuesday morning.

Laura had raced German MTB Marathon National Champs and placed 3rd the day before and we both had an easy spin on the program. It ended up being this 2-hour beautiful ride with a coffee and ice cream stop. I also had a long treatment, a high-quality nap and I got to enjoy some of Laura’s amazing cooking.

ST: What about Gdynia?

Lisa: I had a good bike and an 8.5min lead starting the run. It was such a nice way to return to triathlon racing again in 2020 and being able to communicate something fun and positive!

ST: What is next?

Lisa: Well, let us see what is happening with the PTO 2020 Championships wild cards or roll downs. I was ranked 55 last year and as the ranking is frozen neither Gdynia or Ratingen improved my position. I’m on a small break now starting to work again next week, if I get a start I’ll prepare for Daytona. If I do not, I’ll just start to build for the spring.

ST: Are you mostly back home in Sweden right now or are you based elsewhere?

Lisa: Yes, I’m based in Sweden about 20k’s north of Stockholm. Apart from the winter it is a really good place for me to train. My boyfriend is a professional mountain biker so I always have good company to chase on the bike. Once the daylight disappears and it gets too cold, we’ll have to do some escape trips down south to Fuerteventura or Gran Canaria.

ST: How much indoor training do you do and what does that look like?

Lisa: Obviously living in Sweden it ends up being a fair bit. I have a Wahoo Kickr set up in one of the bedrooms that we converted to a training room with the full Zwift set up. Lots of the quality workouts ends up being done in there. Unfortunately I do not have a treadmill but I can go to the local gym for when the roads are too icy or the cold is too brutal. Living in a semi attached wooded house I don’t think my neighbors would like me too much if I ended up running big sessions on the second floor. But in general - I’m trying to stay outside for as much as possible. I normally do a bit of cyclocross racing for intensity sessions and I’ll swap my road bike for an MTB for the long rides. It’s so much easier to stay warm at lower speeds in the forest.

ST: How do your neighbors generally feel about having such active folks living above?

Lisa: I think most of our neighbors are kind of enjoying it. We are home and around a lot which is good in terms of looking out for each other’s houses etc. Sometimes I almost feel a bit guilty when I come back home finishing a run and they are out having a drink and enjoying a BBQ. I don’t want to make people feel bad about our slightly excessive way of exercising.

ST: As for your Zwift rides, how are they distributed in terms of specific workouts and simply riding?

Lisa: Most of my workouts seems to have a structure or some kind of focus task, so I very rarely “just ride”. Even a 2hr steady would be within a certain span of power.

ST: And where do you swim?

Lisa: I have a fairly new build aquatic center only 5 kilometers from my house. It’s an indoor 50m with a gym on the 2nd floor. I swim with the local club for my key workouts maybe three times a week and do another couple of easy sessions solo.

ST: Also, please describe one of your harder swim workouts.

Lisa: One of the toughest that keeps coming up would be a 30x100m @1:30 best avg. It’s super demanding and the last 10 is always survival mode for me. Another one would be broken 200’s - 50 from a dive, 100m, 50m where the coach tends to play around a bit with the start times. We would do 4-5 sets of that with 400m easy swimming in-between.

ST: When will you get the new Plasma 6?

Lisa: Oh, that is a very good question. I know Scott Sweden has one, as I saw it in the showroom, but yet I haven’t been able to try it. I guess early next year will be the D-day.

ST: Is there anything else we should know?

Lisa: Well next year is quite exciting as we have decided to make the move up to the full Ironman Distance. I’ve been getting closer and closer to it but always kept a foot in the short course racing with the Half IM having felt long enough.

I always said my triathlon career would have to include as least one Kona experience - and I’m guess I’m at the point where it is time to make the leap.

You can follow Lisa Norden on Instagram via @lisanorden1

Image 1 and 2 © Calle Friberg
Image 3 © Marcel Hilger
Image 4 and 6 © J Andersson Photography