In the six weeks since Norseman I’ve done relatively little training. The break has been good, as my body/mind were pretty fatigued, but all good things must come to an end. Last weekend, I was back running by taking part in the Arrochar 10K.
Did you have a type 1 fun weekend? Or maybe it was type 2? Hopefully it wasn’t type 3!
I thoughtthe only thing that comes in types 1,2 or 3 is diabetes. That is until I read Mark Beaumont’s new book about his 80 day around the world cycle trip. In it he says the number one quality he requires in a support person is that they enjoy type 2 fun.
Fun can be categorised! Although categorising fun does seem to remove the fun from fun.
Type 1 Fun
This is fun that you experience whilst doing an activity and once you’ve finished it you still think of it as fun. For example, a post race pint of beer is fun. You’ll have fun drinking it and you’ll never regret it afterwards.
Type 2 Fun
This is fun that doesn’t feel like fun whilst you are doing it but afterwards you’ll be glad you did it. For example, if you don’t go for a pint before a race you might miss out on fun but when you wake up fresh the next day you’ll be glad you didn’t.
Type 3 Fun
This is fun that is miserable whilst you do it and afterwards you’ll wish you hadn’t done it. This is when you do go for a pint before a race and then have another and another…the next day you race with a hangover. You’ll hate it whilst doing it and afterwards you’ll wish you hadn’t done it.
The interesting thing about type 3 fun is that over time it can become type 2 because you might forget how miserable you felt and might actually be glad you did the race.
Most fun experts seem to stop at 3 types. I’d argue there is a fourth type
Type 4 Fun
Fun that is fun at the time but afterwards you’ll completely regret it. Which sums up any time I’ve been to Krispy Kreme.
This is my last post about Norseman. Normal blogs about any old nonsense will resume next week! Although reading Andrew’s latest post he seems to have started a week early. NOTE: He is wrong – Ryan Gosling is great. La La Land, Crazy Stupid Love and Bladerunner 2049 are all superb!
This is not the most interesting blog I’ve ever written but I thought I’d write it as it is something I looked for when I got my Norseman place – a Norseman training plan.
My aim was to complete not compete. I split my training into into two distinct parts
Part 1: Get fit (Jan 1st until 12 weeks to go)
My base swim fitness was poor as I barely swam in the three months previous to January but but my swimming technique is good. I was confident I would quickly get my stamina back and that I wouldn’t need to work much on technique.
My base bike fitness was good for short rides. I was commuting to work by bike four days a week (15 miles per day) and I would occasionally ride 30/40 miles at a weekend.
My base run fitness was ok for short races. I could run 10k in 45 minutes and I’d run two or three times a week at lunchtimes.
For each discipline I created a schedule but deliberately didn’t put days against any session. I prefer to fit training into my week rather than fit my week into training. I also took the view that if I missed a session, I wouldn’t try and catch-up. I’d just continue as if I had done it. That way I wasn’t putting pressure on myself if plans went awry.
Running Schedule (per week)
1 x hill run – 4 miles comprising 3 laps of a hill.
1 x tempo run – 4 miles where I pushed myself to run above my normal pace
1 x recovery run – 4 miles easy pace on flat route
1 x long run – anything up to half marathon distance at an easy pace.
I commute to work by bike which meant I could do most of my bike training to or from work. My plan was to stick to my normal biking but to increase my mileage each month. As the weather was not great this winter/spring I added in some turbo sessions with a similar steady increase in time rather than distance.
In January I did 60 miles a week, in February I did 80, in March 100 etc
I stopped increasing it when I got to 120 miles as that was about as far as I could go with the free time I had available.
On the turbo in January I did one 45 minute sessions a week, in February I did an hour and then in March I hour 30 minutes etc.
I stopped increasing the length when I got to two hours as any longer than that on a turbo was incredibly boring.
Swimming didn’t really happen. I had a plan to swim twice a week but didn’t do it. Instead my sechedule became
In April I started going to my triathlon club’s swimming session. This ws a 2K-ish weekly swim. I went most weeks until Norseman.
Part 2: Get Norseman fit
Part 1 got me fit enough to do part 2 which was to take my now increased base fitness and attempt to do longer rides/runs.
I based it on starting 12 weeks out from Norseman. I listed the one key thing I had to do each week in each discipline. I’d normally manage to run and bike outside of this BUT the priority was to do these. By only having thee key points I was able to fit them into my week. I also preferred time over distance as distance can be a cheat. A hilly 100 miler is different to flat 100 miler but five hours in the saddle is always five hours in the saddle.
10K + half marathon
HALF IRON MAN
I was 172nd in the swim with a time of 1 hr 21 min
I was 209th on the bike with a time of 8 hr 1 min
I was 41st/58th run (white tshirt) with a time of 6hr 13 min
SO I comfortably made the white shirt times and cutoff. I also felt fine all the way round. I wasn’t quick but I was steady.
Looking back at my plan I couldn’t have done much more based on the time I had available and the desire to still have a life outside of training.
The downside of my plan – I had low level anxiety for weeks leading up-to the race. Every day I’d wake up thinking what do I need to do today to get through the race? If I was to do it again I wouldn’t have that anxiety because I’d trust in my plan. I could have avoided this by having a coach but I hate being told what to do. A coach would have made me more anxious!
If you fancy giving it a go hopefully this post and the one about logistics will give you a good idea about how to do it.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!”
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.
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:
BIKE Distance: 2,720.5 mi Time: 184h 41m Elev Gain: 100,682 ft Rides: 164
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)
RUN Distance: 544.1 mi Time: 100h 1m Elev Gain: 37,493 ft Runs: 101
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!)
I’ve not been ill at all this year until… two days before the race. Thankfully, it was only a head cold but it meant I had a worrying 24 hours on Friday wondering whether I’d be fit enough to take part.
I felt much better on Saturday so I headed through to Edinburgh to register. I didn’t mention my illness to Andrew. I didn’t want him to get the psychological boost of knowing I wasn’t 100% fit.
Registration was quick and easy. I spent longer in the queue to the expo shop than I did registering. I’m always amazed at the amount of tat for sale at the expo. This year’s prize for worst product goes to the IronMan door mat.
We stayed in Macmerry, a small village near the swim start. The village is tiny but it contains one of the most important facilities in Scotland – the Royal Bank of Scotland datacentre. Billions of pounds of banking trade goes through the site. There are no signs on the building to indicate its purpose. It looks like an anonymous industrial unit.
I used to visit the site when I worked for RBS. I joined RBS the day the bank collapsed. I don’t think those two events are linked. I’m pretty sure the damage was done before I got there.
Its the worst place I’ve ever worked! I left after six months but not before accidentally getting stuck in the door entry tube to the datacentre. I was there until a security guard rescued me. I don’t miss the place.
Last year we we were one of the last into the water as queuing for the toilet had taken priority over queuing to get into the water.
This year we were also one of the last in as there was still a lack of toilet facilities at the start. Hearing ACDC play “thunderstuck” is supposed to be one of the iconic moments of any IronMan race. It’s less iconic when heard in a portaloo as I tried to get my arm back into my wet-suit sleeve.
It took 30 minutes to get into the water as they only let three people in at a time. This worked out well as there was plenty of space on the swim. I never felt boxed in at any point. Although one guy did swim past me perpendicularly. I’m not sure where he was going!
I enjoyed the swim. The sea was calm. The water was warm and I felt great.
I decided to race the bike by “feel” which is my way of saying I forgot my GPS watch! I also forgot my water bottle and my spare tube. People who say bad luck comes in three’s are wrong. Bad luck comes in fours as I’d also forgotten my sun tan lotion!
On the bright side, this meant my bike was not weighed down with extra bits. I collected a water bottle at the first feed stop so it worked out fine.
The bike route is pretty flat (compared to where I normally ride). The long climbs aren’t very steep and the steep climbs aren’t very long. The first 30 miles are the best part of the course- good road surfaces and nice views over the East Lothian countryside. The route back into Edinburgh had some ‘interesting’ sections – some cobbled roads, a farm road and some pavement.
I was confident I was well ahead of Andrew so my plan was to run the first two laps of the course and then see how I felt on the last.
It very hot and there was no breeze on the bottom part of the course. The BBC claim it was 21C. Which coincidentally is also the race distance!
I didn’t spot Andrew until the 2nd lap. I was at least 20 minutes ahead of him. I knew at that point I’d won so I took it easy until the finish.
The course was good, the event was well run and I got home in time for my dinner. What more can you ask for in a race?
One major improvement this year is the t-shirt. Last years’ effort was shockingly bad. It looked like the sort of design a contestant from The Apprentice would come up with when they only have five minutes left in a design challenge but hadn’t done any prep work on it.