In 2014 I, Albert, wanted to do a more complex competition, than just a speed skating competition or a run competition. So, I did my first triathlon. It was the Twentse Winter Triathlon, where the swimming is replaced with speed skating on ice. I loved it, and decided to go for more triathlons. Not long after, I discovered this “Norseman extreme triathlon”, which sounded so nice. A little bit extreme – I like that – and a triathlon – I love that – and in the beautiful scenery of Norway – that’s just great! Since then it became my once-in-a-lifetime-most-extreme sport challenge on the top of my bucket list. Still, I had to learn how to do freestyle swimming, and get past this difficult lottery. After failing the lottery two times, in 2017 I was actually shocked at first when I received the mail with the message that I got lucky in the draw. Hell yeah – let’s do this! My first full triathlon – the Norseman.
In short: I never trained so hard in my life. From January up till the start of the Norseman I swam 178 km, speed-skated a few hundreds of kilometers, ran 506 km, and cycled 2994 km. I focused mostly on running and swimming, as my strength is in cycling. My condition was already good, and improved a little bit with this training I guess. I was lucky not to have any major physical injuries during my training. Based on the stats from my personal race history, and Norseman race results from other years, I expected that I could finalize the Norseman race at a place around 150 – 175. This meant that a black t-shirt should be possible. For me it was thus a double competition: finish the Norseman, and finish on top of Gaustatoppen, and get the desired black t-shirt.
The trip to Norway
In short: Norway is beautiful. Me and my support team did some hiking up to the highest mountain of Norway – Galdhøpiggen – and some hiking in Besseggen.
My preparation was perfect. I ate a pan of pasta, which my support team made for me. I imagined all steps, transitions and pauses for raceday, and checked that everything was prepared. And then another few times. I went to sleep at 7 in the evening, and dreamt about the black t-shirt.
I’m really not a morning person… Mindlessly, raceday started “on autopilot”, and things and persons got where they had to be. At a certain moment – maybe I was still dreaming ?!? – I was on a ferry to Stavanger – I jumped or fell off, and started swimming to the coast.
3.8 km swimming – 1h 25m 51s
After a certain while of swimming – I just kept pushing with my arms and followed the shoreline – I dissociated a bit from time and other athletes. I was slightly further away from the shore, and following my own path. How long was I already swimming? I had the feeling it might have been 2 or 3 hours already (maybe more ?!). Am I lost in the Fjord?
I didn’t really experience the extremity of cold water, as this Norseman edition didn’t have that. The water temperature was just fine. Anyway, at a certain moment I was back in Eifjord again, and everything was going according to plan (position 201).
First transition – 3m 53s
Did I use elastics in my cycling shoes to make a quick transition? Yes. Did the other athletes at the same time do that as well? I am not so sure… Once out of the water, Marjan – my support – was standing ready and helped to pull out one of my swimming socks, and I did the rest of changing to cycling gear. I left the transition in position 184 (passed 17 folks). Bye, bye.
180 km cycling – 7h 07m 53s
Every time I get on a sports bike, I get excited. I love bike. Especially in Norway. In the first 90 kms, I went all the way up to position 137 (passed 47 folks). This was my best position in the Norseman race. At that moment, I figured out that I was peddling a little bit too hard, and reduced my speed a little bit, to save some energy for the running. The descents were awesome and I was going very fast ( 80 – 90 km/h), and I managed to pass cars and some other athletes there. During the cycling, I had just two stops for refreshments (in Haugastøl – 66 km – and Bjørkjeflåta – 134 km), and I finished the cycling at position 158.
Second transition – 2m 36s
Marjan – my awesome support – was already there. Great. Another athlete is laying (sleeping or resting ?!?) in front of my tray, so I dropped my bike on the grass, and manage to do this transition still reasonably fast. I left the transition at position 155. Bye, bye.
42 km running – 6hr 33m 16s
I just got off my bike as stiff as a lantern pole. This is as expected. At this moment, I am close to a breakdown but I keep on going. I can’t run in the first few kilometers, so I walk, and sometimes I try to run a little bit. My dream of a black t-shirt shatters, as I am now in position 164. Here I told my support that they shouldn’t be counting an a black t-shirt finish anymore. I feel terrible …
Excitement in the WhatsApp group that follows my race progression.
By the way, the day before, I created a WhatsApp group for people that can follow me. At this moment, there is a lot of excitement.
Surprisingly – but as expected in my pre-raceplan – I am able to run again after a little while. Not really fast, and sometimes with walking, but more running than walking. Now and then, I am passing another athlete. Sometimes I feel a little bit embarrassed, as I might just have ‘stolen’ somebodies black t-shirt. Especially around the 160th place, it is very difficult to say a “friendly hey hey” to the other – now strongly competing and distressed – athlete.
My spirits go up, and I get the hope again that I might just make it to the 32.5 cut-off point in time for the black t-shirt. As it is quite warm at this moment, I asked my support to stop more often (every 2-3 km) for something to drink.
Going faster with an interval approach
I carefully monitor myself via my sports watch, and I see that I only “run” 6-8 km/hr. It’s really more jogging then running. It’s not going fast at all… I start thinking, and come up with a plan to go faster. From 20 till 25 km, I did intervals: 1 minute fast-walking (6-7 km/hr) and 1 minute fair running (12-13 km/hr). The average of this interval scheme is 10 km/hr, and that’s faster than my previous jogging of 7-8 km/hr. As a result, I passed another athlete that is just jogging – and I keep my mouth shut about my interval tactic – and I reach the foot of Zombiehill at position 159.
I am quite happy that I reached the foot of Zombiehill. With my tiredness, running doesn’t make sense here anymore, but I am able to keep up a fairly fast-walking pace up the hill.
The 32.5 cutoff point
I manage to keep on going, and reach the cut-off point at position 156. What a relieve! I guess I am still dreaming! I barely managed to stay away from my nightmare of finishing white as 161th or so. At this moment, I a am a bit a zombie now, and I try to ignore the tiredness of my body.
But how close was I, actually? Well, the 160th person passed 3m 48s later then me. So, really, I’ve been soooooo lucky that everything went just smoothly in my race. It’s not hard to imagine what one slip would have caused…
After the cutoff I took a small break and continued walking up the hill. Black finish in sight – yeah! I can finally think again about some more relaxt stuff, such as the evening diner. On the other hand I feel tired. This is how Frodo must have felt, while climbing up the tower of Sauron…
I kept on pushing. In the last stretch, I have to sit now and then down on a rock, to regain my breath. I’ve drained all the energy from my body now, and I can only go forward as soon as my body finds some left-over fuel. In the end, I reached Gaustatoppen in position 142.
Thank you so much.
Now I know for sure that this is truly the most awesome triathlon on earth as I experienced this adventure myself. I am very grateful for having gotten this chance, and towards all the volunteers that supported during this race. Next to the organizers of the Norseman, I owe many gratitudes to my support team, who did everything perfectly, and kept me going until the end. Thank you all!
Do you like my story?
In that case, I would like to ask you – if you are willing – to make a small donation to AfricaSport. As a reward, I will send you a nice postcard with a personal message from Switzerland after I finish a new challenge: the JungFrau Marathon. You can do this donation here: https://teamjungfrau.wordpress.com/doneer/ Greetings from me and my support team.