The Norseman Xtreme Triathlon 2014 proved to be an amazing experience. The most beautiful countryside I have ever seen also gave way to some of the toughest conditions.
Mountain range down into the fjord
The beautiful scenery at Eidfjord.
Here’s a quick trip through the race….
The morning began with a 1:30 AM wake-up call in order to arrive at the race site before 3. There was no day before transition setup so we had to get everything in order in the black of the early morning. At 3:30 the athletes were allowed to board the ferry which would transport them 2.4 miles out into the fjord for the swim back.
The ferry awaits the athletes
The ferry location where the athletes jump.
The support teams (Chris and me) were left to drink coffee and mentally prepare for the long day ahead. The racers took the plunge- jumping 5 meters into the 50ish degree water before swimming to shore.
Andy came in from the swim at 1:11- 4 minutes before we had hoped. Once you see your athlete one of the support team can go into the transition area and help them change clothes. He said the water was cold and as he swam by the waterfalls coming down from the tops of the mountains the water was VERY cold. With all the shivering it was difficult to get all his cycling clothes on himself, so I had to help.
Helping Andy get out of T1.
It was essential to get the reflective vest as well as turn on his lights as there were many tunnels to race through.
Turning on the bike lights
Once out of T1, there was essentially an immediate steep climb over a mountain pass. As it leveled out there was one good meeting place to see if he needed anything before the first major climb of 26 miles to Dyranut. We met him at the top of the climb to give him a warm jacket. It was cold and very windy at this point.
Since every athlete had a support team, the roads resembled a professional cycling race with as a long caravan stretched out over the roads, cars pulling in and out between the athletes.
Helping Andy prepare for the cold descent.
The caravan of support
After the climb there was a very long descent. As we continued on the support crew were getting update texts from the race director. We were learning that the weather was getting VERY bad on the final climb. This climb is incredibly steep and continues for miles. The rain was coming down so hard and the wind was very strong and the fog was so thick you could hardly see. Driving by all the racers you could see suffering and defeat on their faces.
The horrible weather on Imingfjell
It was interesting to watch the buckling legs of racers as they dismounted their bikes in T2. I worried for Andy as I started to imagine how bad the marathon was going to be for these racers you could hardly walk in transition. When Andy arrived, however, he was looking strong!
Checking on Andy during the run
The first 15 miles of the run is rather uneventful- rolling and flat terrain to put you in a false sense of comfort. The REAL fun starts at mile 15 and continues to 26.2- as while you are in the valley you can look straight up and see the top of the mountain and your destination.
Mile 15 is the base of Zombie Hill- aptly named because it crushes the soul of every racer. It is over 2000 feet of climbing over the next 6 miles, all at 8% grade and steeper. Very few athletes could run the entire mountain. IT was mostly a walk/run affair. It is very important for the support team to pace the racer at this point to help prevent them from going to that very dark place.
Zombie Hill proved too much for many
Unfortunately, it turned out to be the breaking point for many athletes. About half way up the hill point Andy’s IT bands were both shot and we had to walk more than we ran. I think I talked for 2 hours straight trying to keep his mind off of the pain. At the 32.5k cutoff we did were not soon enough to be able to hike the treacherous part of the mountain. Only 160 athletes are able to make it to this point. We missed it by about 5 minutes. That doesn’t mean our race was over, however. We had to take the alternate route to finish the marathon- but it was still another 1300 feet of climbing. Luckily we had some awesome Norwegian cheerleaders.
The best cheerleaders around.
15 hours and 30 minutes later, we finished the journey. I can truly say that it was an epic adventure for the entire team. From the support crew standpoint it was unlike any other race because you were IN it. We watched other racers that had similar times as Andy for the entire race. We encouraged them as well as got to know their support crew. It was a very moving experience where you felt connected to so many people with so many stories from all over the world.
If you are considering the Norseman 2015, contact me as I have gained immense knowledge about coaching and training, traveling to and supporting this race.