Winning Norseman: Emily Finanger

Emily Finanger turned Pro and got married in 2006 and spent part of her honeymoon racing and winning the 2007 Norseman Xtreme triathlon in Eidfjord, Norway. Meet this Boulder, CO implant.

ST: How long have you been going triathlon?

Emily: I started racing in triathlon in 2001. I started with a few sprint triathlons that year, my first Olympic distance was in 2002, first half Ironman in 2003 and then I jumped up to the Ironman distance last summer with Ironman France.

ST: What is your athletic background?

Emily: I was a competitive swimmer growing up. I started swimming when I was 8 and my family moved out to California from Long Island, NY. I think my mom made me join the swim team because I was really shy and she wanted me to be able to make some friends. I swam competitively all through college at the University of Minnesota. I usually ran in the off-season as a way to keep in shape but I didn't really start biking seriously until I started triathlon.

ST: What made you decide to race the Norseman event this year?

Emily: Lars has been writing about the Norseman for the last few years and was always interested in racing it. He was born in Norway and his Godfather lives there as well as some good family friends. His family is also of Norwegian heritage. My In-Laws gave us a trip to Norway for our wedding present and we knew we couldn't pass up the opportunity to race the
Norseman if we were going over there. We got engaged after Ironman France last year, got married the day after Ironman Hawaii in October so it made sense to include the Norseman in our honeymoon this summer. Some people might think that doesn't make sense but to us it did.

ST: Tell us more about Norseman and how it went for you.

Emily: Norseman was a great race. It required a different kind of planning because we each had our own support crews for the entire race. It really made me think about what exactly I would want to eat and drink and where along the course I wanted it. It was a little bit difficult to plan for because I never really pay too much attention to how much I drink or eat along the way.

The course changed the day before the race because the water in the fjord was too cold (low-50’s) where we were originally supposed to swim. They moved the swim 20km down the road to a section where we could get out of the water at the halfway point and get warm at a bonfire, if needed (the water there was 59-F). So, the bike ended up being 200km instead of 180km.
We had to get up at 2AM in order to eat breakfast and get on the ferry by 3:30AM. The ferry left the dock at 4AM and the race started at 5. You start the race by jumping off the ferry from about 20-feet up on the main deck (they give the option to jump from a 5-foot “chicken door” too). I ended up being the 3rd person out of the water, behind a French girl who travels to the race with her father but only does the swim leg. I didn’t find that out until the top of the first climb at 60-k on the bike when I asked my support crew how far behind I was and they said there were no other girls ahead. The bike course was absolutely beautiful. I just wish I hadn’t been so cold the whole time and I could have enjoyed the views a little more.

One funny part about the race was that I would be all alone on these Norwegian roads and all of a sudden I would hear a cowbell ringing. I would always get confused right away because I would think where the heck are the spectators around here? But, it was always just a sheep lifting its head up from eating grass and ringing their bell in the process. It is also the first race I have done that allowed racers to completely strip down in the transition areas. This kind of weirded me out in T2 when I was the only person in by the racks and everyone was staring. I opted to put a jacket over and “deck change” like I learned from years of swimming. I started the run as the first female but the run but I know a lot of time can be made up in a marathon, especially one where the final nine miles go up a mountain. There was no way to see how far ahead I was because it was a point to point race. I decided before the race that I would run the first 25km on the flat land and then I would walk up the mountain. I thought that was what everyone did. When I turned the corner to start climbing up the mountain, I started walking just like I planned. Then all of a sudden there was a guy who was still running and he ran past me. I was a little bummed because I realized that I had to run too. I wasn’t able to run the whole way up the mountain but I would give myself small goals to stay motivated. That worked out pretty well and I was able to keep my lead to the finish line. I got interviewed by the Norwegian version of Cosmopolitan magazine which was funny because the writer wanted me to stop and pose for pictures at mile 24 of the run. I don’t think she understood what a triathlon was, that I was still racing and if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to start up again!

ST: What are you doing during the off-season?

Emily: It finally snowed enough in Boulder that we can start having some winter fun. Lars got me into Nordic skiing last winter so I am excited to get out and do some skate skiing again. We have a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Thor, and a Black Lab, Izzy, and they love the snow and colder weather. I have been taking them out on long hikes so far this winter but now we can also bring them out when we go snowshoeing. I love being able to mix in some different workouts during the off-season. I am only working part-time right now as a physical therapist so I have a little bit more free time to enjoy playing my winter sports.

ST: What is going on in terms of sponsorship for you?

Emily: Lars convinced me to get my pro card last year after I started finishing in the top of the overall standings in races where there was money. My sponsorships last year consisted of a lot of product, including Quintana Roo wetsuits, HED wheels, Craft clothing and Cytomax nutrition. This year I will be working with David Greenfield and Elite Bicycles, which I am excited about.

ST: What is your favorite race and why?

Emily: My favorite race is probably the Lake Waconia triathlon back in Minnesota. Minnesota has a great triathlon scene and the races fill up very quickly. Lake Waconia was my first triathlon back in 2001. I got 8th my first time and then I won the race the next 4 years. It isn’t a very big race but it is very well run and it is a great example of the Minnesota triathlon community.

ST: What is on schedule for you for 2008?

Emily: I am not sure what races I will be doing in 2008. I am leaning towards Ironman Lanzarote in May and then fill in the empty spots with a few other races. We will go back to do Superfrog again now that it has moved to April. I think I will stick to 70.3 and Ironman distance races for this next year.

ST: You are married to Lars Finanger, a very good triathlete in his own right. How did you two meet?

Emily: Lars and I both went to college in Minnesota and started racing triathlons there. We met at a few races the summer that Lars started racing. He will say that I ignored him for the first few years but my story is that I didn't think he knew who I was. The next summer he had disappeared and I had no idea where he went off to but I heard he went to Belgium to teach. Anyway, we met up again a few years ago at the Lifetime Fitness expo in Minneapolis when he was working for Inside Tri. He won me over by giving me a free pair of flip flops that say Inside Triathlon on them. We started dating long-distance for a while until I could find a job up in Colorado.

ST: Do you and Lars train quite a bit together?

Emily: We do train together but it depends on our schedules a lot. Swimming together is good because we can both get a good workout in, but if we run or bike together it isn't really very fair to him. It is a really good workout for me because I am trying to keep up with him but it doesn't help him get faster because I am not pushing him. So, we train together sometimes. Plus, with our schedules we have to fit workouts in around work so if we don't end up being free at the same time we can't train together!

ST: Do you follow any other sports?

Emily: I usually know what is going on in other sports and I enjoy college football. I pay enough attention to know how most teams in the NFL are doing. My family is from NY and they are all huge Yankee and NY Giants fans. I grew up as a Mets fan just to be difficult but now I don’t follow them as much. I definitely became a fair-weather fan when the Rockies made it to the World Series this year and got pretty into baseball during October. My sister went to the Naval Academy so I usually cheer for Navy football and I pay attention to all of the U of MN teams as well. Our roommate writes for VeloNews so I know a little bit about what is going on in professional cycling as well.

ST: What are your likes and dislikes in terms of food?

Emily: My biggest dislikes are probably mushrooms, any kind of runny eggs and shellfish. I don’t like the texture of shellfish. My favorite restaurant in Boulder is a Nepalese restaurant called Sherpas. We eat a lot of pasta and chicken dishes at our house because of the simplicity. I love to go out for sushi but usually I will order rolls and not just plain pieces of fish because that creeps me out.

ST: What type of music do you listen to?

Emily: My favorite kind of music is probably country but I am really not too into music. I like to listen to it but I usually don’t know bands or artists very well. I don’t make that a priority. I run with an iPod Shuffle during easy runs and that has a good mix of all kinds ranging from country to Coldplay to Lenny Kravitz.

ST: What was the last movie you saw and how did you like it?

Emily: I just watched “The Bourne Ultimatum” last night and I enjoyed it. I have read the three Robert Ludlum books in the ‘Bourne’ series and the only thing similar that I can see is that the character’s name is Jason Bourne and he is an assassin for the CIA. Other than that the story lines are completely different. But, the movie made for a good story and it was entertaining. Before that it was “Superbad” which was very funny. I also just saw the newest “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.

ST: Anything else we should know about you?

Emily: I moved around a lot as a kid and to date have lived in eight states. My father was a ship captain and moved all over the US, but that is nothing compared to how often my sister, a Navy Lieutenant, has to move.
I went to boarding school in New Jersey at The Peddie School. My swim coach was pretty tough and we had a good program but I tore the cartilage in my shoulder from the big change in swim volume when I went got to school. He made me kick the same workouts my teammates were swimming which I am guessing was somewhere around 60% of my entire high school career at Peddie.

Emily Finanger 2007 race resume

- Norseman Xtreme Triathlon (Norway) 1st place
- Superfrog Triathlon (San Diego, CA) 1st place
- Tri One-O-One (Clear Lake, CA) 8th place
- Lifetime Fitness Triathlon (Lake Nokomis, MN) 11th place