Saturday, 11 August 2018

August 4th 2018 Norseman

3.8km Swim 180km Bike 42km Run - Temperature 18oF 
Swim 01:05:13 - T1 04:29 - Bike 06:15:07 - T2 06:31 – Run 05:47:42 Total Time 13:19:04
59th overall BLACK T-SHIRT

I have applied for an entry for this race for the last four years and this year my number came out the hat. Despite having committed to RAAM in June this was too good an opportunity to miss, it most probably would be my only opportunity to do this iconic event.

The day started bright and early with the ferry leaving the dock at 4am. The ferry quietly chugged up the fjord and it seemed that in no time at all, we came to a halt 3.8km away from Eidfjord and T1. We all stood around on the car deck waiting for the bow doors to open and then jump into the icy water to get to the deep water start. One of the myths surrounding the event is that the swim start is a leap from the ferry but thank goodness it is just that, a myth! The organisers were a little miffed that the water was a balmy 17oC, historically it being closer to single figures and the first part of the extreme day.

The gun fired and we were off but with less than 300 athletes, the contact zone soon disappeared and I got into a firm rhythm with some occasional jostling at times for feet to follow. Since it was nearly light, to help sighting T1, they lit a huge bonfire on the shore which was very cool to see and swim towards. It probably ranks as one of the best swims I have had in an event, crystal clear water in the most beautiful surroundings facing into what was undoubtedly going to be an epic day making lifetime memories. It really is an old school event, the original extreme triathlon supporting by the community and just a very special vibe amongst the athletes and supporters. Its hard to describe but the buzz was fever pitch, the talk of the challenges the day would bring and the opportunity to compete for the famous BLACK T-SHIRT.
There is no support provided by the event organisers for the athletes, its old school self supported with each athlete allowed two supporters who must be identifiable in their race 
t-shirts. They must provide their athlete with all race day logistics and nutrition.

Its a 226km point to point race so sweeping up kit left in T1 and T2 is down to your team. Into T1 and Hector was there like a coiled spring, waiting with my bike kit and in no time running along side me helping to strip my wetsuit. 

He helped me on with my cycling kit, popped my bike lights on and gave me a slap on the back as I sped off out of T1 and straight onto the first 30km climb. Up into the clouds we climbed and as riders started to pass me I wondered whether I was showing too much respect to the course and should be more aggressive. I wasn't confident enough to go with them so I let them go and crossed my fingers that it was their misjudgement of the extreme event and not mine.

The ride to the plateau was just epic, about 1300m of elevation through tunnels and on the old mountain roads. Once up there the clouds started to break up revealing incredible vistas, nature at its best. Now down on my tri-bars, I could settle into a rhythm and crank it out. At 24km your crew is allowed to start giving you support in the form of nutrition and any change of clothes required. It is not unusual for temperatures to dip into single digits when high up on the mountain, only to climb into the mid twenties on the descents into the valleys.    

After the first big climb there were a series of four climbs punctuated by valleys floors and plateaus. I started to reel in some of the athletes that has passed me earlier and bagged a fair few on the last 20k climb before we hit the 20km 1000m descent into T2. I had left T1 in around 40th spot and entered T2 in almost exactly the same position. You earn your BLACK T-SHIRT by arriving at 32kms in the top 160 athletes so all looked good. 

The first 25km of the run is along the side of the lake and by this time the temperature had started to rise. I had planned to run at a firm pace and see if I could make up a couple of places before arriving at the base of ZOMBIE HILL. My support team kept me fuelled with coke and water, leap frogging ahead of me in the car and then jumping out and running along side with a small buffet selection of treats. I arrived at the base of zombie hill in 35th spot, a comfortable buffer to ensure I could bag the coveted garment.
I happily slipped into a power walk, the only realistic way to ascend  the 7km hill with an average gradient of 10%. Hector was allowed to accompany me from this point so I had access to a range of sugary treats from his rucksack including cheese sarnies, yum!

We were passed by one or two keen athletes who had a more effective walk but we managed to arrive at the 32km cut off point in 40th place. The next 5km section was rolling but my legs had no interest in running so we put up no resistance to the one or two who came past us. We arrived at the car park at the base of Gaustatoppen mountain. From the bottom of zombie hill to the mountain top finish was 17km and 1800m of elevation gain but then last 5km was straight up the rocky mountain path. Its mandatory for athletes to have a supporter with them for the ascent and both equipped with rucksacks and basic survival equipment.

 Its not even a shale path, its a trail of rocks marked with red crosses to pick out the route. Tired legs really struggled to lift up over the boulders. Its was truly extreme, something I might not tackle even with the right foot wear, never mind after 4k of swimming, 180k of riding and 32k of running.
But, the views were amazing and we were even treated to a rainbow half way up. That last 5k took over 90 minutes, something that would take a little under 25 minutes on a normal road. I crossed the line with huge sense of achievement and thrilled to have shared it with Hector, he supported me tirelessly all day and even carried my rucksack up the last of the ascent. We created some lifetime memories, what more could you ask of any event.

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