“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!