Always Smiling Susanne Svendsen
It is very exciting to have my first interview with a top Run Bike Run Star. Beginning 2015, I had asked John Raadschelders (President of the International Powerman Association) and Bert Streumer ( World top Age Grouper Run Bike Run) who they would interview, if they had the chance. Both men mentioned her name without thinking twice: Susanne Svendsen.
She has been an abolute star in the Run Bike Run for many years now and she always wears a charming smile while sporting, which makes her a beautiful icon for our sport. Her nickname? Always Smiling Susanne Svendsen.
Said and done. We became friends on Facebook and I asked her if she was up to an interview and a short fotoshoot. She was on the starting list of the Powerman Horst (12 april 2015) and John had informed me that she would be there as from friday.
She reacted immediately. Yes, she loved to be interviewed. Her friend and coach Jasper would be present too. Friday, april 10th 2015, I arrived in good time in Hotel Asteria te Venray and 10 minutes later, Suzanne and Jasper joined in.
How did you come into touch with the Run Bike Run sport?
After highschool, in 1999, at the age of 20, Susanne took part in a sporting camp to find out what she really wanted. She had played handball since she was five years old and wanted to broaden her perspective. During this sporting camp, she ran her first Run Bike Run race and appeared to walk and bike faster than the others, the boys included. She liked it very much! She was used to biking a lot, and she often went running with her dog. At the same camp, she met Jasper. Two new love affairs in once.
Back home, she kept playing handball, a sport she was good at and familiar with, but Jasper advised her to stop. Actually, she is to small and to slightly built, which regularly made her ‘fly at all directions’ and suffer the injuries that came along. In 2001, Susanne definitely chose multisport. She started with triathlon. Swimming however proved not to be her cup of tea. Many times, she became ill after a race and the moment came that she made no progression at all any more. On the advise of Aksel Nilsen, who was her top coach at the time, she switched to Run Bike Run, which brought her immediate success. That year, she became Champion of Denmark.
After a specialized training of no more than five weeks she entered the World Championships at the Elite, a distance of 20-80-10 on a freakish parcours, although she had never biked more than 40 kilometers and had no bike experience in the mountains. She finished last, but was the first in her age group!
Remarkable back ground
She is born in South Korea, where she lived for seven months. She has been adopted by a Danish couple. She came into the world with a two falt claft palate and her childhood was dominated by operations. Other children used to stare at her because she looked differently. But this period has made her strong. She never gives up and her pain barrier is high. This pays out in the rough endurance sport which is Run Bike Run.
How does she train for Run Bike Run?
During the year, Susanne spends 15 hours weekly on biking and running: two times at an athletics club (one track and one road training) and 10 hours biking. Apart from that, she has core stability training and massage.
Her favorite exercise: the long runs of 2,5 hours. The long periods of biking, of more than 6 hours, she finds more exhausting and boring. She exercises everywhere: in the woods, the city, or on tracks, but without music. The most heavy training is fast running intervals from 1,5 k to 7 km, not once but four times! It really hurts! Sleep is very important for a quick recovery, and therefore she sleeps 8 hours a night at a minimum, often with a power nap of half an hour during the day.
Her trainer/coach and partner is Jasper Nilsen. They have been together for 15 years now. Besides coaching her, Jasper builds and maintains relationships with sponsors, and maintains her bike technically. He used to be a triathlete, but stopped when Susanne choose to dedicate herself on Run Bike Run and became so successful. It is very important for a top athlete to have nothing to care about and that is Jaspers part.
Regarding nutrition, Susanne is easy going. She eats anything she likes. She doesn’t count calories but she takes care to eat sufficiently. She adores italian food like pizza, pasta or lasagna. She doesn’t eat candy, simply because she doesn’t like it.
Where do you get this enormous motivation?
The strongest motivation comes from the sport itself: ‘really cool!’.
Apart from that, she finds it important that she has made many friends in the field, who have become sort of a family to her. Although they don’t see each other often, the elite competition is very intimate. Susanne calls them the “Powerman family”. (editorial note: well John, there’s a nice compliment to your organisation!). Everybody is happy for each other and nobody begrudges the success of the other.
Later on in the interview, she will say that again: the many friends that she has made are the best reward of this sport. And of course, the fact that she is so glad to have met Jasper (photo below) thanks to the sport, who can accompany her practically anywhere.
Can you make a living out of it?
The answer comes immediately: ‘Run Bike Run IS my life’ (she shortly looks at Jasper when saying this). If you mean ‘can you get by?’ the answer is: ‘Yes, I can. Although I won’t exactly make a fortune’. Susanne has no sponsors, but there are quite a few companies who provide her with products. Her revenues come from start and price money of various races and from her part time job in a day care centre. It gives her enough security.
Your finest victory?
Her first Powerman victory. She participated at the same time as the big star of the Powerman circuit, Erika Csomor, who attracted all the attention. In Weyer, Austria, they were room mates and they got along well together. When an interviewer asked Susanne about her goals and she answered that she wanted to win, she was not taken seriously at first. But she proved her competence during the race. It turned out to be the perfect race and in the end, she was 6 minutes faster than the supposedly unbeatable Erika. After this one, another 7 Powerman victories followed! Friends and other athletes not surprisingly call her Miss Powerman, and they are right. This nickname suits her, because the Powerman distance (10-60-10) feels optimal to her. Yearly, she does 6 to 7 of these races. Besides that, there are a few shorter Run Bike Runs and of course the Powerman Zofingen (10-150-30).
Your heaviest race?
Powerman Falkenstein 2014, 3 degrees, snow and a freakish track. ‘It was bitterly cold, the laps upwards the hill were to short to warm up whereas we freezed off our bikes while going down’. She had never seen that many athletes giving up. The course was a battlefield with ambulances and many athletes that dropped out. She did finish herself, but it certainly was not a pleasure.
She has never been injured, apart from an accident in 2006, when her knee was crushed. Having followed a good revalidation program, she is now perfectly able to sport again. It might even give trouble if she stopped with Run Bike Run, because her knee would probably stiffen up. And, yes of course you can fall off your bike. It is all in the game and this has never brought far reaching consequences to her. (I saw that she immediately had to touch wood when saying this).
What are your goals?
As far as 2015 is concerned: starting in many Powermans and reach the podium often. This year the highlight will be the WC long distance again: Powerman Zofingen, and 2016 will start with the EC Powerman in Horst to defend her title (editorial note: Susanne became third at the EC Horst 2015).
Do you have any advise for beginners?
‘Take your time to learn Run Bike Run. Build on your running and biking condition slowly, don’t force yourself. First the technics, running and biking. Doing so, you will prevent injuries. Your body has to be ready, let it adjust calmly’. She has seen to often that athletes overloaded in the first year, and disappeared from the scene. And that is a shame, as Run Bike Run can be so beautiful!
Without noticing, we are talking like this for two hours and coach Jasper asks us nicely to end the conversation. We finish in the garden of the hotel, take a few pictures and we firmly kiss goodbye. But I still need a striking shot of the couple and therefore I whistle shortly and yes: they turn around and there is the smile of ‘Always Smiling Susanne’.
Click, click, click, all right then, that smile is on my SD card!
Run Bike Run Now
- Name: Susanne Svendsen
- Born on february 7th, 1979
- Nationality: Danish
- Lives in: Viby Jylland, Denmark
- Lives together with Jasper Nielsen
- Education: Pedagogics (not finished). Works as a nanny
- Pedagogic assistent day-care centre
- Weight: 47 – 49 kg
- Length: 1.60 m
- Sport: Run Bike Run and 1 triathlon yearly
- Used to be a fanatic hand ball player
- 2015 Ranking: Powerman World Ranking: 1, ITU World 2.
- Records: 5 km: 17.50 (2012) 10K: 36,31 (2012), ½ marathon: 1.18.33 (2014) marathon: 2.49 (2014)