Up close with Norwegian Lars Petter Stormo

Lars Petter Stormo has 2 Norseman titles to his name, plus he won IRONMAN Haugesund in Norway this year, and he came to Kona early with a big goal. He chatted with me about his season, the race in Kona and his plans for the future.

Slowtwitch: Thank you so much for your time.

Lars Petter Stormo: Thanks to you, it´s a great honor.

ST: What are you currently up to post Kona?

Lars Petter: After the race we have had some relaxing days in Kona in vacation mode. We have been snorkeling, relaxing on the beach and we went to the top of Mauna Kea to watch the sunset. Beautiful! We are looking forward to another week in paradise before heading home to cold and dark Norway.

ST: When did you arrive and did you feel well leading up to the big race?

Lars Petter: We arrived Kona two weeks before race day. Because of the heat and time difference (12 hours) we need the two weeks to acclimatize and get use to the heat. This year I decided to focus 100% on Kona after winning IRONMAN Haugesund in early July. Because of this I did not race the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon in August for the first time in many years. I then got a lot of time to build up and prepare for Kona and the training went very well. Coming in to Kona I felt really good and my shape was better than it´s ever been I think. The last two weeks before the race in Kona were also very good, and I followed my training plan and felt strong and ready.

ST: How big was the Norwegian crew you traveled with and hung around with?

Lars Petter: I traveled together with my wife, Trude, and her brother, Jarle, who both had qualified for Kona as well. It´s really cool to be three from the family training and racing here together! We get a lot of fantastic experiences together, and training together makes us all perform better. This year my parents also came to Hawaii and they arrived 1½ weeks before the race. In total we were 18 athletes from Norway, so we met several of them during the last two weeks.

ST: You mentioned winning IRONMAN Haugesund in July. What does that overall win mean to you?

Lars Petter: The feeling of crossing the finish line first on such a big race in Norway was awesome and a dream came through. At IRONMAN 70.3 Mallorca in May I finished 2nd overall, and it has long been a dream for me to be the first athlete across the line. So to make it in my home country was a fantastic feeling. I have done the 70.3 Haugesund two times before and I think it’s a great race. The full distance this year was beautiful and a very hard and fair race.

ST: Where did you qualify for Kona and what was your time then?

Lars Petter: I qualified in South Africa in April. There I was the best age-grouper with a time of 8:42:16 and I finished in 13th place overall. South Africa is an awesome race with a beautiful course and crazy good spectators on the run.

ST: Since you already qualified in South Africa, did you consider not racing Haugesund?

Lars Petter: No, we love racing and wanted to do 3 full distance races this year. In 2017 Trude and I did 4 full distance races and that might have been a bit too much. We wanted to do a race before the summer, both to get a good summer vacation and to get the best preparations for Kona. Since IRONMAN Haugesund was the first ever full distance IRONMAN in Norway it was one of my main goals this year to try to win that race.

ST: You were second in your age group and 5th overall amateur in 8:37:27. Talk about your day.

Lars Petter: Race day morning I got through body marking early and had plenty of time to check the bike, relax and soak in the atmosphere together with Trude and Jarle. When the cannon went off for the pro men the adrenaline really started pumping and I was so ready to get the race started. I positioned myself towards the front before the start and long before the cannon went off the field was very aggressive, and fighting for positions. When the cannon finally unleashed the field, it was crowded the first hundred meters before I could find my own rhythm. I felt really good during the first half of the swim and could feel that the pace was really good. After the turn around the BodyGlove boat it got more chaotic. I think the current was against us and it got crowded with people fighting for positions. I could feel that the pace was much slower on the way back, so I was very happy when I came out of the water and saw 55 minutes on the clock.

Out on the bike and found my own rhythm up Kuakini and coming up on the Queen K I was happy to see that I was near the front of the age-group field. Last year I found myself together with Christian Haupt [overall AG winner 2017] on Kuakini and we rode together all the way until I got a puncture after 140 km. This year I passed Dan Plews on the same spot up Kuakini and I knew he was one of the favourites for the overall AG victory, so that was kind of funny. Coming out on Queen K I followed my strategy to take it as easy as possible the first half out to Hawi. The legs felt great and on the second half I could push hard and I worked together with Dan Plews and another guy to get away from the rest of the group to keep up the good speed all the way back to Kailua-Kona. It was the fastest Ironman bike split I have ever done (4:32), but also the easiest. The conditions were fast, but I also felt really good all day.

Through T2 I was pretty fast and I got a small gap to Dan Plews. Out on the run I was top 5 AG overall and I was catching up on the guys in front. My goal this year was to win (after second place last year), so on Ali’i drive I tried to run fast but safe. After about 10 km Dan Plews caught up with me and I tried to follow him, but he raised the pace to 3:30-40/km, so I had to let him go and hoped he would blow up in the heat. After the climb up Palani I felt tired and knew it would be a long and hard run on the Queen K. I could not keep my pace and had to find a survival-pace that got me to the finish. After the Natural Energy Lab I did not have much energy left and it was a long struggle coming back the Queen K in the heat. Coming down the red carpet on Ali´i drive was as always a fantastic experience and I had time to enjoy it and soak in the atmosphere.

Even though I did not reach my dream of the overall AG win I was happy with my performance and the time of 8:37 and 2nd place in my AG. I had not dreamed of a time that fast, and this year there were five guys faster than me.

ST: How well do you or did you know Dan Plews?

Lars Petter: I had never met him before, but I was very aware of him and that he would be the man to beat this year. A friend of me told me about him after his strong performance in Ironman New Zealand this year, so I had checked up on him. The first time I saw him was when I passed him up Kuakini. It was kind of funny cause I felt he noticed me too, and later on the bike we exchanged some words and it turned out that he had got a tip about me as well.

ST: Did folks try to hang on to your wheel?

Lars Petter: No, not that much actually. I was racing at the front of the AG field, and I feel the guys try to race fair. Of course it was a pretty large group who just sat in the back not doing any work at the front, but as far as I could see they tried to race fair. On our way back from Hawi it was me, Plews and one other guy who did most of the work and after a while it was just the three of us left.

ST: And what did you see in terms of drafting a bit further back as you came back from Hawi?

Lars Petter: I did not see any of the big packs that I saw pictures of, and it looked like everyone was trying to keep a distance to the guy or girl in front. When I’m racing I try to put my head down and focus on my own race, so I actually don’t look much at what’s happening on the other side of the road. I feel that most athletes try to race fair and keep within the rules, but then again I’m at the front of the AG field and it might be different further back.

ST: Did you see Vinokurov? And what do you think about such a person racing?

Lars Petter: No, I did not see Vinokurov during the race. I have zero tolerance for drugs in sport and think the rules and sentences should be harder. But I don’t try to waste energy thinking too much about it and I will not allow it to ruin my passion and love for sport.

ST: Were you drug tested in Kona? And any other time this year?

Lars Petter: I was not tested in Kona this year, but I was tested both before (blood) and after (urine) the race in 2017 and 2016. This year I was tested after the race in South Africa, and last year I was tested both in South Africa, Austria and Kona. I think it’s great that they are there to test both AG’s and the pros. #iamtrue

ST: Your background is racing mountain bikes I believe. When was that and what was your best result?

Lars Petter: Yes, that is correct. My racing background is mountain biking and I was on the Norwegian National Team from 1996 to 2002. I won several national races and was national junior champion. In my first year in the sub 23 category I got 6´th place in the European Championship which probably is my strongest international result. But even with good results it was not possible to make a living of mountain biking in Norway, so in 2002 I started my studies as a construction engineer.

ST: And that is your day job now?

Lars Petter: Yes, I have worked full time as a construction engineer since 2007. I manage most of my own projects so I can manage my total workload as well as possible. Both my employer and customers know about my big triathlon passion and that it’s a huge part of my life and they are very kind and flexible.

ST: You won Norseman in 2016 and also back in 2007. What does that race mean to you?

Lars Petter: Norseman in 2007 was my first big triathlon and my introduction to the sport. But it was not before 2012 I started to train more seriously for triathlon. I have done Norseman 6 times (2x1st, 2x2nd and 2x4th) and it has been my main goal and motivation for many years. It´s an awesome race and it has given me some of the best experiences of my life. But after doing it 6 times I now feel hungry for new experiences, new challenges and new races. There are so many great races out there that I wish to do, and together with my wife we are looking for new challenges and destination together. The hunger to do Norseman again might come back, but for now I wish to focus on other challenges.

ST: Do you have any race on your bucket list?

Lars Petter: There are so many great races and locations out there, so the list is long. My wife and me love to travel and see new places, so the total experience is what we are looking for in new races. We would definitely love to race in Asia, Australia, South and North America, but also big races in Europe are on our list - like Challenge Roth. Next year the IRONMAN 70.3 WC in Nice would be really cool to do. We did the full distance in Nice in 2016 and love the course.

ST: Talk about your race bike. How is it set up and have you done any aero work?

Lars Petter: I ride a Trek Speed Concept Project One. This is my third year on a Speed Concept and I love it! The setup is with Sram eTap, Zipp 808 and a disc for all other races than Kona, Quarq powermeter, Speedfil bottle cage between the arms and behind the seat, and Ceramic Speed bottom bracket, chain and oversized pulleys.

I´m super comfortable on the bike and use it for 90% of my bike training and only use my Trek Èmonda road bikes for easy spins as variation.

ST: Who helped you with the bike fit?

Lars Petter: I have done it myself. Since I have been racing bikes since 1993 I have pretty strong feelings about how I like me bike setup and what works for me.

ST: How much swimming do you do during a hard training week and what does one of your hardest swim sets look like?

Lars Petter: I try to swim 5-7 times per week, and at the most I swim around 20,000 meters a week. I focus a lot on the speed work and intervals with short breaks. I’m lucky that I can do most of my swim sessions together with my wife so we try to put together sessions that we can do together at the same start time.

The harder swim sets would be with main sets of 6x400 meters with a start time of 6 minutes. I could do these sets at a start time of 5:40-5:30, but to make the set work for other people joining we often start at 6:00. Another set I like is 40x50 meters with high speed. I probably could have done it with a start time at 50 seconds, but I often do it together with my wife and we then have a start time of 60 seconds to make it work for both of us. This also allows me to push harder on the 50s.

ST: Anything else we should know?

Lars Petter: We have some big dreams for the next couple of years and we are working on getting things together so we can make them happen. I know that I have the potential to raise my level and I am trying to find a way to make my dream come true. So I am considering going pro in 2019 if I can get the finances together. It is now or never.

I log all my training on Strava so people can follow what I do there. Both me and my wife also try to share a lot from our experiences, training and travels on Instagram, so feel free to follow us there as well. Instagram: @lpstormo and @trudews

ST: Why turn Pro now? Your day job financially allows you to race in various locations, and have the toys you want.

Lars Petter: I can always go back to racing AG, so I feel it is now or never. Also I really love the triathlon life, and if it could be possible to do that 100% for a couple of years it would be a dream come true. Another thing is that I now win my AG and often AG overall in most races, so to continue my progress and pushing myself further, the natural step up is to go pro. One more thing is that I love the head to head racing and fight you get in a mass start. With the rolling starts in AG, which by the way is a great solution for safer swims, I feel this fighting head to head is a bit lost. So to be able to test myself in a pro-field would be great and a big challenge that I would love to work towards.

You can follow Lars Petter Stormo on Instagram via @lpstormo