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.