If you are thinking of doing Norseman and you’re based in the UK then its worth knowing the logistics of how to get there and back and how much it’ll cost. Whatever figure you’re thinking of, double it and then add a bit. That’ll be the figure you actually spend!
There was only two direct flights to Norway from Scotland when I booked. The choice was either Aberdeen to Bergen, or Edinburgh to Oslo.
The closest Airport to the start in Eidfjord is Bergen but the closest airport to the finish in Rjukan is Oslo.
I’d rather have a short drive after the race than before so I booked Oslo. I also live much closer to Edinburgh Airport than Aberdeen.
The flight was 2 hours but the wait in the airport for luggage was at least 90 minutes!! My luggage could have flown most of the way back in the time it took to arrive.
Most airports don’t allow bags to be left unattended but in Oslo not only was there unattended luggage strewn all over the place there was also unattended cats and dogs.
We paid £700 for three return flights to Oslo (2 x extra luggage and 1 x bike box)
I hired an estate car so that their would be enough room for everyone and the bike.
Last time I was in Norway I wrote:
We enter the destination as Eidfjord. The GPS thinks for a minute and then tells us it’ll take five hours. Nonsense! We’ll be there way before then. I was right. It was wrong. It took longer.
Driving in Norway is slow. Cars barely ever go above 50 kmph and even rarer do they overtake.
This may partly be due to their being barely a straight road between Oslo and Eidfjord. It may also be due to speed limits that I have unintentionally broken throughout the Journey.
I decided this time we’d only drive half way to Eidfjord rather than do the whole journey in one go.
Cost was £410 plus the cost of one and half tanks of petrol which is probably at least another £100.
We needed 5 nights of accommodation. One to cover the first night when we only drove half way to Eidfjord. Then two nights in Eidfjord before the race, one night at the finsh and one night before catching the plane.
Night 1 (£140): 3 bed apartemnt in Geilo https://www.booking.com/hotel/no/ustedalen-resort-apartment.en-gb.html
This was a great place. It was very quiet and recently refurbished. We had dinner in a local restaurant and I apologise to Santa but I eat Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. It was one of the best dinners I ever had. The red nose was the tastiest bit! The only downside was the cost. Three main meals, two deserts, two beers and a coke came to £140! I blame brexit!
All the food in Norway was amazingly tasty. If the food didn’t bring tears to your eyes to your eye then the bill almost certainly will. There’s no such thing as a free meal here.
Night 2/3: £150 (3 bed airbnb in ovre eidfjord https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/21688216)
I was told to phone a number to let the host know we’d arrived. I did. There was no answer. I tried again and again and again. There was still no answer. Eventually we found a woman waling the street and it turned out she was the owner. She said she hadn’t received our calls. How strange!
The place was a bit of a dump. I think it must have been converted from a shop as the layout was strange and the lighting was that strip lighting you only see in department stores where they don’t want any dark bits in case you use the shadows to steal stuff!
It was fine for out purpose ie it was close enough to Eidfjord to get to the ferry on time but it isn’t somewhere you’d book if you were after a romantic getaway.
Night 4: £70 (one bedroom hotel in Rjukan Gjestehus https://www.booking.com/hotel/no/rjukan-gjestehus.en-gb.html) £100 (2 bed room hotel in Rjukan Hytteby https://www.booking.com/hotel/no/rjukan-hytteby.en-gb.html)
Andrew has already discussed his accommodation in the previous blog. I stayed in a holiday park chalet. Its a great place with a brilliant onsite cafe. The pizza’s are amazing! If you’re doing Norseman try to get booked here.
Night 5: £150 two rooms at Best Western Oslo Airport Hotel
Just after we checked in a fire alarm went off. It was a chilly evening so I put on a jacket before leaving the building. There was about hundred people outside, everyone had wrapped up warm except one man – he was naked except for a pair of pants. I bet he was fully clothed when the alarm went off but thought to himself – this is an opportunity to get naked. Nobody will complain and I’ll have the perfect excuse.
The hotel is very convenient for the airport as its only a 5 minute drive away. It also does a great breakfast. Unlimited waffles!
Food(£I don’t want to know)
The food was excellent wherever we went but it was also very expensive. I haven’t the courage to check my bank statement to see how much it all cost but budget to spend at least double what you do in the UK for similar meals.
It’s hard to go a race and not buy the t-shirt, the cycling top, the yellow duck dressed as a minion with a Norseman tattoo! Tths was genuinely this was for sale and Andrew bought one. Due to the exchange rate everything was at least a third more than the equivalent UK product but worth it to have a reminder of the day…except the duck. That was just burning money!
Overall (£1920 + food cost)
A famous quote says travel is the only thing you’ll spend money on but come back richer for doing so. They obviously have never been to Norway. You may have great experiences but you will definitively feel very, very poor!
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the union of swim, bike and run…”
With these words the race director opened the Norseman briefing the day before the race. However, he missed one important element. Triathlon is not just the union of swimming, cycling and running, it’s also the union of athlete and supporter. The race is unsupported by the organisers so every athlete needs their own team on course to feed them, clothe them, pick up their swimsuit and bike after them and generally support them throughout.
And, after 18 hours, here’s what I learned:
- Accommodation – It’s an early start. Athletes must be on the ferry by 4am. If you don’t want to be getting up the day before then finding accommodation near the start in Eidfjord is vital. Top tip though – if you do find accommodation make sure it has curtains. Mine didn’t and I now know how hard it is to get to sleep in a country where the sun rises in April and sunset is October. Groan. So, so tired…
- Nutrition – the athlete will get hungry and will start to demand every food type they can think of in order to escape the monotony of their twentieth energy gel. “Bring me a steak sandwich!”, “I want a black forest gateaux!”, “Where’s my swan!”. A good alternative to energy gels is a small bit of grated cheese. The flavour will reset their tastebuds and provide a contrast to the rest of what they eat. Top tip though – don’t store the grated cheese in a plastic bag in the car. It will soon become a big ball o’melted cheese.
- Timing – there is no need to rush out of Eidfjord when athletes leave the first transition. Unless they’re eventual Norseman winner Allan Hovda, it’ll take your athlete at least an hour to clear the first climb and for them to reach the start of the route where support is allowed. Have a nap! Have some breakfast! Let the traffic clear! Then follow them up the mountain!
- Decoration – Personalise your car with the athlete’s face. Allan Hovda did but we didn’t but then have you seen Iain’s face?!?!?
- Amusement – If/when it’s sunny, taunt the athlete with a Magnum. They won’t appreciate it and that’s what will make it funny.
- Stocking up – there’s not many places to stock up with food and drink between Eidfjord and Zomebie Hill. It’s important you make the most of each stop by learning Norwegian. That might sound like a big effort just to buy extra supplies in the local Spar but, trust us, when you buy sparking water and not still water because you can’t read the label and the athlete is expecting Norway’s answer to Evian, you’ll thank us for this tip.
- Fellowship – Remember to cheer the other athletes until… you realise it’s the same ones passing every time on the run route. Then remember you have something to check in the car so you don’t need to shout “Good luck!” for the tenth time that hour.
- Fellowship – Remember to give the other athletes names too. Shout out in particular to Nic Cage, who was the spitting image of Nic Cage, the Walking Dead, who we were sure died on the bike but was still shuffling along the run route bent over and doubled up, and Stephen, who’s actual name was Thomas and who was always just behind Iain, but we got his name wrong once and it then just stuck. Go Stephen!
- Photography – Take lots of pictures. Particularly of the athlete changing and looking hot, sweaty, beat or depressed. When they complete the race and two years later they are still going on about it, you’ll have the perfect blackmail material to keep them quiet.
- Photography 2 – Top tip, don’t use a zoom lens near transition 1. You never know what you will see through it as everyone seems to ignore the “Keep Yer Pants On, Dear God, Man!” policy.
- Clothing – only someone wearing the official supporters t-shirt can enter transition. At the briefing they said their would be two t-shirts for each team however the race pack only contained one. We never found out which was correct. One t-shirt or two. But, check your pack when you pick it up and check with the volunteers that you have the right number.
- Timing – there are some sections of the bike route which are very fast and cyclists are almost going as fast as the cars. Or at least that’s our excuse for when Iain arrived at the second transistion 30 seconds before we did.
- Rjuken – don’t try and check in to your hotel while the athlete climbs Zombie Hill it takes much longer than you think to drive through town and back up the hill. Though it was good to see the room had curtains…
- Rjuken 2 – … and only half a double bed…
- Rjuken 3 – … and the toilet had a lock on the outside of the door. Why? Who’s going to lock you in??!??
- Rjuken 4 – Basically, don’t stay at the Ryuken GuestHus…
- Enjoy it – the day flys by. You get a front row seat of 250 inspiring people who battle on no matter how hard it gets and you get to see lots of brilliant bits of Norway.
- Crisps – also you can eat crisps in your car all day. Mmmmm, crisps!
Norseman is point-to-point (or fjord to peak) race starting at sea level, with a four meter drop off a ferry into a fjord. It comprises a 3.8k swim to the beautiful town of Eidfjord, then a hilly bike leg (3.5K elevation) crossing Hardangervidda mountain plateau, and finally a marathon run to the top of the 1850m peak of Gaustatoppen.
The race is limited to 250 competitors of which 160 finish at the mountain peak and the rest finish at the town below the summit. The originator of the event describes the race perfectly:
“I wanted to create a completely different race, make it a journey through the most beautiful nature of Norway, let the experience be more important than the finish time, and let the participants share their experience with family and friends, who will form their support. Let the race end on top of a mountain, to make it the toughest full distance triathlon on planet earth”.
I have only ever cycled a 100 mile bike ride twice before. The last time was IronMan UK back in 2015. I had never done a non-stop 3.8K swim. My only two times doing so had involved loops with an Australian exit. I also had not ran a marathon since IronMan UK.
Basically I prefer shorter events.
Despite this I’d always wanted to do Norseman. I think it’s the jump off the ferry start that attracted me. I grew up on an island and regularly travelled by ferry to the mainland. It was a very boring journey and I used to joke with my brother that one of us should jump off just to add some excitement to the trip.
I decided from the beginning that my aim was a white t-shirt so I wouldn’t have to worry about how fast to race. I would instead concentrate on being fit enough to do the distances.
Swim (1hr 22 min)
The race starts at 0500 which meant getting up at 0230 to catch the 0400 ferry. What they do not show you on the videos of the event is that the ferry has a very comfortable TV lounge. I sat and read a book on my Kindle. It helped keep my mind off the race.
At 0445 I went down stairs and entered the water using what could only be described as a belly flop. I didn’t see many other people use this technique. Possibly because upon entry most of the fjord ended up on the ferry.
It was a short swim to the start line. I’d swam the previous day in skins so wearing a wet suit meant this felt tropical in comparison.
I kept a steady pace for the swim. It was very easy to sight the route. I kept the land 20m to the side of me and followed the coastline back to town. Occasionally the water would get very cold. I suspect that was the points streams were entering the fjord.
I reached the exit and stood up and promptly fell face first back into the water! I always struggle with staying upright after a swim. I paused for a minute and then tried again. Thankfully this time I stayed up.
I ran into transition and was met by Nic. She said she’d won a bet with Andrew as she thought I’d be out in 80 minutes. He thought it would be at least 90.
BIKE (8 hr 10 min)
The bike leg starts with a 40K climb. I’d broken all the climbs down into units of measurement known as “crow roads” The Crow Road is a climb starting at the back of my house up the side of the Campsie Hills.
I find cycling more manageable if I break objectives down into things I know I can do. The first climb is five Crow Roads. Similarly, for the flatter section I’d think of in terms of how many commutes to work it would be. My normal commute to work is a 8 mile cycle so when cycling the plateau I’d calculate how many commutes to the next town.
This made the experience manageable but I do not particularly enjoy long bike rides so its always a struggle to enjoy it. My support team said I was like a stroppy teenager. One minute I’d be demanding a banana but then as soon as they got one I’d say “Why’d you get me a banana. I wanted an apple!”
Because I don’t ride long distances often enough I also struggle to refuel on the bike. I prefer to stop at a cake shop and enjoy a break so I did the same here and enjoyed a particularly good bakewell tart from a shop in Geilo.
Other food delights on the bike (other than gels and bars) were a Twix, a chocolate brownie and an ice lolly which I refused to take as even I have limits of what should be eaten in race!
RUN (6hr 3 min)
My aim was to get to the bottom of Zombie Hill in 2hrs-ish and then walk from there. The great thing is from that point I could have a support runner. I was really looking forward to having someone to speak to but after my stroppiness they probably weren’t looking forward to speaking to me!
I made it to Zombie Hill in good time and thankfully Nic was pleased to see me. She’d filled a bag with food so we were good to go. I felt good so we were able to walk quickly. I’d cycled zombie hill a few years previously o I knew roughly what to expect when climbing. That made it easier to do.
Thankfully I was not in the top 160 so I got to head to the village rather than the summit.
The village finish is 10 laps of a hotel complex. There’s a great atmosphere as competitors finish, music blares out and Norwegians wave flags.
I was happy to cross the finish line in under 16 hours as I was desperate to get to the pizza place in Rjukan before it closed 🙂
Norseman is the ultimate triathlon experience because its about sharing the journey with friends and family. We all had a great time in Norway with experiences that’ll last a lifetime.
Can you smell chlorine? Any one who has ever been to a public swimming pool will say ‘yes’ – that strong smell that hits you as soon as you walk in the pool is the smell of chlorine. Except it’s not. Chlorine doesn’t smell. What you’re smelling is the sweat and dirt and who knows what else that’s come into contact with the chlorine in the pool. A strong smell just means that the odourless chlorine has done it’s job and kept the water clean by reacting to everything in it.
Chlorine is counter intuitive. The truth is the opposite of what you think it should be. The smellier the pool, the cleaner it will be.
The same thought applies to swimming. Why do we shower before we swim? We’re just about to cover ourselves in water so why do we… cover ourselves in water before we go in. Or why do we shower afterwards? Surely, the whole point of swimming is to avoid the need for a shower?
Which reminds me, I was getting my hair cut last year when the hair dresser said, with no prompt or link to our previous conversation: “Are you a swimmer?”.
I thought he must recognise my swimming from my broad shoulders, strong biceps and v- shaped back. (Also my deluded opinion of myself).
He said: “I can tell because your hair is so damaged!”.
He then went on to tell me that the best way to protect your hair is to add some conditioner to it before you start. The conditioner will protect he hair from the chemicals in the water.
Which made me think – why don’t they just fill the pool with soap?! Why don’t they just turn it into a giant bath?
In fact, people say when they are going swimming that they are “going to the baths”.
It’s a genius idea. And no fact or sensible claim that you can’t actually swim in soap because you’d die if you swallowed it will change my mind!
Anyways, I was thinking about all of this when I washing my wetsuit at the weekend. I thought: “Why am I washing a wetsuit? It was in water. I’ve now got it in more water. Isn’t this pointless?”
And even though I was thinking this while everything I brought back from the Carron Valley reservoir was washed through my wetsuit – from twigs and grass to at least two boats and a fisherman with rod – I thought it’s brilliant idea. From now on – no more washing my wet suit!
And even though I’m typing this covered in a red rash from head to toe why don’t you give it a go? Trust me, it’ll be as clean as a swimming pool!
A few years ago I received a Christmas present – a voucher for a Trackman golf fit session. Trackman is a radar tracking system used by golf professionals to ensure they have a perfect swing.
The session was really interesting. For an hour I hit golf balls whilst a man analysed all the stats generated by the radar system. At the end he said to me “You have the swing of a professional….”
I interrupted him “YES!! I’ve always wanted to be a golf pro. Should I quit my job and concentrate on my game? Should I change my name to Tiger Todd? How many competitions will I need to play before I’m a millionaire?”
He didn’t answer me. He finished his sentence. “…a professional footballer!”
He went onto explain that he had many clients who were professional footballers and they all have the same fault. They balance their body weight on the front of the their feet rather than the back. A professional golfer always balances on the back…in fact most golfers do it except professional footballers and I.
I’d played golf for 30+ years but I didn’t know I was doing it incorrectly until then.
Last Christmas I received a bike fit voucher as a present. I’ve been slightly scared to use it because the only sport I’ve played longer than golf is biking. I didn’t fancy learning I’d been doing that wrong too.
I bit the bullet and went along last week to get tested. The fitter used the retul system which is an adjustable bike rig that setup to be an exact copy of my current bike setup. The advantage of using this rather than my bike is the rig can be endlessly adjusted whilst I’m sitting on it. A normal bike fit would require me to get off the bike to adjust it.
The first question he asked was what type of fit I was interested in. I choose comfort as 99% of my riding is for fun.
The next question he asked was about my injury history. He was surprised when I said “I rarely get injured.” He said that question normally takes at least 30 minutes to discuss. In my case it took 30 seconds.
We then did a series of physical tests. By the end of them he declared my legs were almost identical. Which explained my lack of injuries as most people have one side different to the other which leads to imbalances and injuries in the body when doing repetitious actions such as running and biking.
The only change he recommended after the physio exam is that my saddle is too small which I think is the polite way of telling me my ass is too wide
After that I had to sat on the bike as he attached monitoring points to various parts of my body, The points were mapped to the Retul system, so that all my stats could be accurately mapped.
As the system has done thousands of Retul fits a range of good stats has been set. His job as a fitter was to adjust my race position until my stats matched the good stats of a Retul rider.
After thirty minutes of riding as he made adjustments to the bike rig I went from mostly red numbered stats to mostly green.
He then took my bike and adjusted the setup to match what he’d changed the rig too.
I asked him if I’d been riding incorrectly all these years. He looked at me and said “not incorrectly just differently to everyone else!”
I’m not sure that was a compliment.
Who gives socks as a present?
Normally, that’s the question you ask every Christmas as you open the package that felt like a Cashmere jumper only to find it’s five socks from Tesco – and the sale price has been left on.
I don’t mind though. I love getting socks as it means I’ve not had to buy socks in years. See also boxers. See also aftershave (received once, never used). See also a coffee machine (still unopened as I don’t drink coffee).
That’s why I was really excited to finish the Race The Blades half marathon, a 13.1 mile race on the tracks running through Whiteelee wind farm. At the end, along with the obligatory t-shirt and medal there was also a paid of socks in the goody bag.
If there’s one thing you want after a race it’s the ability to change into a clean paid of socks!
(Even if those socks are covered in images of wind turbines).
So, well done to the organisers and to the sponsors, Scottish Power, you gave me another chance to avoid buying socks for the foreseeable future.
If only you’d start giving away smart trousers for work or shirts then I’d never need to shop again.
(Unless they were covered in images of wind turbines)
The race itself is deceptively hilly: it lulls you into a false sense of flatness in the first six miles before throwing all the hills into the final six. Last time I ran it – see here – the race came up short, literally. It was 200 metres too short. This time it was the right length and with the summer heatwave abating for a few days it was also a pleasant morning with nice dry trail roads to run on.
It was also my last ‘official’ race this year – I’ve got nothing booked now until July 2019.
So, for the rest of the year it’s feet up (with socks on, of course!).
A few years ago, Andrew and I wrote a book: Jukebox Durie.
It was a collection of stories about football and music e.g. what was the first team to play music at a match, why do Man United sing Glory Glory Man United, and who sings about chip buttys?
We managed to find something interesting (to us) about every football team in England and Scotland. We wrote it originally for a Scottish football blog but when that stopped, we collected all the articles in the book.
You can read some of the original articles here http://scottishcomedyfc.com/category/jukebox-durie/
So, who sings about chip buttys and why am I mentioning it now? Sheffield United fans sing the song. It goes like this:
“You Fill Up My Senses
Like A Gallon of Magnet
Like A Packet of Woodbines
Like A Good Pinch of Snuff
Like A Night Out in Sheffield
Like A Greasy Chip Butty
Like Sheffield United
Come Fill Me Agaaaaaaaain
Na Na Na Naaa Naaaaa “
I had to google the exact meaning of the lyrics – Magnet refer to a pint of beer (bitter) that’s no longer made, though it used to be widely available in Yorkshire. Woodbines are cigarettes. Snuff is ground tobacco that goes up the nose and, lastly, a chip butty (chips in a roll) is simply delicious – the greasier the better.
Sheffield United are nicknamed ‘the Blades’, which is a tenuous link to last weekend’s race – Race the Blades. Which is not as I first thought a race around Sheffield but instead it’s a race around Whitelee wind farm, the UK’s largest onshore wind-farm.
The race is an off road half marathon. It was my last long run before Norseman so my aim was to do it at a steady pace to finish in 1hr 50min.
There wasn’t much car parking at the start so the organizers had opened up some of the track road for parking. We thought we’d arrived in plenty of time to get a good spot but we ended by over a mile and a half away from the start.
It meant I didn’t need a warm up as the walk from the car did a good job of that. Registration was quick and easy but like all races there was a massive queue for the loo and no toilet roll.
I was curious about how many toilets a race should have so I checked online and the recommended number is 1 per 10 users. No wonder there’s queues as a 400 person field should have 40 toilets but I I suspect the cost of that would bankrupt the race!
The course was well marked with two water stops. I wore trail shoes which turned out to be a good choice as the toe protection came in useful when I occasionally kicked a big stone.
There’s a couple of hills on the course which are both in the second half. I think a few people ran the first half too quick as I passed a lot of folk on the hills as they dropped to walking rather running pace.
Overall I was happy to finish in 1h 50min. Exactly the time I aimed for. I was even happier when I opened the goody bag at the end and saw a great selection of sweets, fruit, drink and freebies such as a pair of socks and a medal which spins like a wind farm blade.
This week was the last week of Norseman training. Thank f$%k!!!
I don’t know whether I’ve done enough training. I’ll discover that in a couple of weeks time when I attempt the race BUT I do know that I’ve done all I could in the time I had available.
My aim has always been to complete rather than compete so, on that basi,s since the start of the year my training stats are:
Distance: 2,720.5 mi
Time: 184h 41m
Elev Gain: 100,682 ft
If I was to ride 2,720.5 miles from Glasgow then I’d end up in Baghdad in Iraq. I suspect at some point in Norseman I’ll wish I was in Baghdad as, even getting shot at, will be more pleasant than the swim/bike/run!
100,000 ft of elevation is the equivalent of cycling three times the height of Everest. Which sounded impressive until I looked up the record number of climbs of Everest. Kami Rita Sherpa has summited 22 times! So, my paltry three times is just a walk in the park to him.
184 hours is a long time to be biking. I could have used that time to learn to paint, speak a foreign language or more likely just watch television. 184 hours of TV means I could have binge watched:
All of Game of Thrones (63 hours)
All of Breaking Bad (62 hours)
Every Marvel film (36 hours)
Every Harry Potter film (22 hours)
One episode of love island. (1 hour)
Distance: 544.1 mi
Time: 100h 1m
Elev Gain: 37,493 ft
If I’d have run from my house for 544 miles I’d have ended up in the sea but, if I ignore that pesky issue, then I’d have ended up in Schleswig-Holstein in Germany. Which until now I’d never heard of! After a quick Google search I can reveal the most interesting thing I could find about the place:
On the coat of arms for the state, the symbols of Holstein and Schleswig can both be seen. The two lions represent Schleswig while the leaf of a nettle is for Holstein.
Before the Prussians took over the region, the lions faced away from the nettle. But legend has it that Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck couldn’t bear the idea of the ‘Danish’ lions pointing their bums at the Holstein nettle, so they turned to face it instead.
Sorry – it was not that interesting a story but its the best I could find!
Time 19h 4m
When training for an Olympics Michael Phelps would swim 80,000m a week. That’s 1600 laps of a 50m swimming pool. I’ve managed half a week of his training in six months. Which is why I don’t have any Olympic medals but how many episode of Love Island has he seen? I bet its none. I’ve seen loads. Who’s the success now?! Umm, probably still him!
Hopefully, I’ve reached the start line fit, injury free and happy. I can’t ask for any more than that.
(Although I have one long run and one long bike ride still to do. Hopefully I haven’t jinxed them!)