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The Extreme Athlete Who Walks Her Own Path

At age 38, she could barely lift a milk carton. Seven years later, Anna Wretling has completed an Ironman and fought her way up to the Gaustatoppen summit.

– My mind keeps it together because I'm good at turning off inefficient thoughts and focus on the positive ones, she says.

How do you react when crossing the finish line after 3.8 kilometers of swimming, 180 kilometers by bike and 42 kilometers of running, in ten hours and one minute? With an unclenched fist? By breaking down from the effort? Or with a shrug and an "oh well?".

Anna Wretling belongs in the third category.

If you follow her on Instagram, you will see how she crawls up slopes, balances on bridges, tests ballet and does yoga exercises with her children. Ticking an Ironman off the list is only a part of the great training puzzle.

So it's by no means odd that she is often called a pusher of boundaries and an extreme athlete, the mother who started training at the age of 38 and since then – within only a few years – has managed everything from a marathon to fighting her way up to the Gaustatoppen summit.

I was one out of seventeen women who reached the summit in the Norseman (the world's toughest extreme triathlon). It was something I'll never forget.

After 3.8 kilometers of swimming in an ice-cold fjord she cycled 180 kilometers over five mountains in snow and rain, to then run a marathon stretch of 42.2 kilometers, were the last 17 kilometers is a steep incline up an 1,800-meter-high mountain – a stretch that participants have nicknamed "Zombie Hill".

– It was extreme in every way. The cold and the poor weather necessitated completely different arrangements, with changes and warm clothing having to be taken on and off. You have to bring a car escort and you get several pages of regulations and guidelines to read before the race. Here, men and women compete on the same terms.

Taking her own path has always been Anna Wretling's style. It is therefore not uncommon for people in the training business to question her training model. In the beginning she just trained out of want and desire, but more recently according to a plan from a coach who is quite unconventional. The goal to train as little as possible but with the highest effect – to train hard but smart.

– In any event, the overall feeling is the deciding factor in all sessions, regardless of timing, mileage, pulse or wattage. All training takes place according to effort, says Anna.

Her methods have nevertheless resulted in her reaching the top one percent in the world in her Ironman age class. In other words, speed is not determined by equipment or the number of hours, but rather by ingenuity, continuity and effect.

– Long-distance running does not suit everyone, and many suffer from dips. But my mind keeps it together because I'm good at turning off ineffective thoughts. Like during the Alcatraz race (Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon 2016). I'd imagined that it would be a pure nightmare to swim through shark-infested waters. But that thought wouldn't have helped me then and there, so I chose to focus on the fact that it would only take up one hour of my life at the most. How hard can it be? I try to dampen rather than amplify the difficulties, I like to put things in perspective.

I refuse destructiveness and to turn things into problems.

This is a way of thinking that has, in fact, followed her through the years. The aim of Anna Wretling and PowerWoman is to inspire and elevate women, instill courage and to dare them to challenge themselves.

– We have started a club for all athletes where the purpose is community, encouragement and the joy of training. There's a huge force in women who cooperate and support each other. We want to take advantage of that force. As women we should not limit ourselves because we don't believe in ourselves or are afraid of failure. We shouldn't be afraid of not being able to do things. I hope to inspire other by showing that, even if I'm terrified of many things – I don't let it stop me.