| Inspirational Races in Beautiful Places
Sat Aug 18, 2012 6:30 pm la marquise
I can say it was neither a surprise nor a disappointment that Spike applied for a ballot place at Norseman 2012, the 10 year anniversary edition. With his green t-shirt awarded in 2011, this race is more of an addiction than an option. For my part I was delighted when Spike was allotted a slot – I had a happy partner and a weekend in beautiful Norway with the best collection of people in the world. Yes, Norseman is a good place to be.
This year the ‘lucky’ co-support to accompany us was the very gorgeous Spacemonkey (aka Beck) who has been a friend for about 15 years and has gradually got into triathlon to the extent that she has competed in long distance triathlons and in the European Champs at Eilat this year. So she’s a fit women, well up for a dash up to the top of Gausta.
We had sorted flights and accommodation early, as, with races on both Saturday and Sunday, it was obvious to me that sleeping space would be at a premium. Being the control freak/organiser that I am, I contacted Flat Earth the week before the ballot asking if we could have first dibs on a room if Spike was lucky enough to get a place in the race. Hurrah! We got the place, the room, and even a room at the main hotel at Gaustablikk.
Flights were booked for Thursday evening and a motel booked near Oslo airport. Then we heard from Beck that she needed to change her flight to Friday as she had been given Olympic Velodrome tickets for the Thursday evening session. Moi? Jealous? NOOOOOOOO! I confess to having misgivings that Beck didn’t appreciate her role in this Norwegian escapade. But that was really because I wanted to go to the velodrome. However, I put my foot down when Beck suggested that she hired another car on Friday night to get to Eidfjord. Logistically this would be a nightmare as we must be in one car on race day to share the driving and for all the manoeuvring required in a long distance point to point race. Also, it would have cost her a fortune.
Several months later, the Thursday of the flights arrived. Spike decided to re-jig his race checklist, splitting packing into groups of items required for each stage of the race:
• Clothes possibly needed during the bike ride
• Mountain pack
• Regular clothes
Just as we got on the A12 Spike realised that he had forgotten to pack his camera. Damn. Oh well, no photos this year.
This packing routine actually saved us a lot of time once we were in Norway, so was well worthwhile. We flew BA as they have a positive attitude to bikes and a 23kg per person baggage allowance. Last year we had to pay extra with SAS as the staff didn’t know their own airline’s policy. After several emails we were reimbursed the surcharge, but I didn’t need to go through that hassle and stress again.
We arrived at Flat Earth on Friday afternoon to be greeted by wonderful Jane. We felt right at home as we had been allocated ‘our’ room again. There were some Belgians staying there, one of whom, Wim, was bitterly disappointed at my arrival. He had seen the room was reserved for Susannah and hoped for serial Norseman winner (and Celtman winner), Susanne Buckenlei, as his housemate.
We discussed race support practicalities as the Belgians were newbies and I wore the multiple offender shirt. I tried hard to dissuade them from driving straight to the top of Zombie Hill, but they didn’t believe me, till Spike sauntered by:
Me: They’re planning on driving straight up Zombie Hill to the checkpoint.
Spike: Ooh, you don’t want to do that.
Belgians: Hmmm. Maybe we’ll re-evaluate that plan…
Jane had used her immense fount of common sense to split residents by race day. All the Saturday people stayed at the White House and all the Sunday folk stayed in the main Activity Centre, so that neither set would be disturbed by ridiculous sleeping patterns.
We went to downtown Eidfjord to do a bunch of hellos. Hårek, inventor of Norseman, was brimming with excitement. Dag pointed out the huge Norseman Smiles banner on the hotel wall. I was delighted that it featured a massive pic of Cleo, Savaloy and myself taken during the long wait in T1 last year. And there was a teeny pic of crouching Spike wearing his green shirt.
Friday was spent getting the bike together after its journey and getting race kit sorted. Then I popped over to the White House to meet the Saturday racers. I didn’t quite get who was who, but it was nice to meet you all. Spike and I settled down to a yummy scrummy risotto, followed by a good night’s sleep.
On Saturday morning Spike registered and treated himself to a Norseman thermal cup at the merchandise stall. You understand that this isn’t just any thermal cup. This one keeps Norseman drinks warm. It also meant that with the 2 amazing mugs Cleo made us last year, we now had 3 cups - one each.
At lunchtime the bus pulled in outside Flat Earth and off jumped Beck, all safe and sound with all the kit and food she’d promised to bring. My earlier misgivings were 100% unfounded. Beck had arrived at Heathrow way too early, and, with all that time in hand, decided to buy a new camera. Hurrah! We’d have photos after all.
It transpired that our hire car, a Skoda Octavia, is the same model that Beck has at home, so she was very comfortable driving. Hurrah again.
With the new packing arrangement and the extra day in Norway we felt totally calm and relaxed. This is not normal. Lots more hellos at the race briefing – and some Norwegian modern dance. The Norseman love was spreading into every nook and cranny of Eidfjord.
We had an early pasta feast and settled down to sleep at 9pm. Unfortunately, one of the instructor’s college tutors turned up from the Netherlands with his mates on motorbikes for a night of vodka and Jägermeister. They made various attempts to stay quiet, but they weren’t very successful in their efforts. It was pretty hot that evening, and, though I got to sleep quickly, I was awake by 11:30 and couldn’t get back to the land of nod. At 1am I got up and had a cold shower (the hot shower was in the cellar). This had the advantage that when the alarm went at 2am I was instantly wide awake and already clean. When I went downstairs to make breakfast we found sleeping bodies. We hoped they were Dutch bikers and not trolls. It really didn’t matter if we made a noise as they weren’t going to wake in a hurry. The kitchen had that after-party look. I made breakfast (porridge with hazelnuts and fruit) and tea for now and to take with. We were ready to go, barring a final loo visit for Spike (see his previous Norseman reports for ‘issues’ during the swim). Ah! Now let’s hunt for new loo paper….
At 2:30 we drove down to Eidfjord and were very lucky to get a parking place outside the Co-op, very close to T1.
Spike got his kit set up. Only one supporter (wearing the correct t-shirt and wristband) could accompany the athlete into T1. As Beck had no desire to help Spike strip off in T1, I was allocated this honour. Spike was pretty much sorted, so we went out to chat with Beck.
On exiting T1 I felt an arm wrap itself around me. It was a very nervous Hårek wanting reassurance. We gave him the best motivation one can give to get round Norseman: the news that Beck had brought some English bitter especially for him, to be presented at Gausta. That cheered and inspired Hårek for the next 140 miles.
Then something very strange happened. This has never happened to Spike at any race.
He was ready and not scurrying about in a tizz, checking and re-checking stuff. We had time for photos and chats and tea drinking. Eventually the boat gangway was deemed ready for action and we waved Spike off.
Now the support crew has the long wait (about 2 hours).
We met, amongst others, CJExplorer supporting Chopsy, and Grainne and Patrick, who were supporting David Costelloe of Limerick Tri. Full of enthusiasm and definitely without a clue of what the day ahead held in store, they were adrenaline-fuelled, superb company.
It’s a fact of life that when you’re waiting urgently for someone to come in, each minute feels like at least 10. Eventually the gorgeous one appeared.
Me: Come on Spike you sexy beast!
And I grabbed his hand, leading him to his T1 spot.
Fully aware of Norseman traditions, Spike stripped off his wet kit. This was why Beck really felt no need to have the T1 wristband. Nobody needs to see their mates naked. With no bathroom needs to attend to (phew) Spike was soon on his way.
Beck and I lost no time in grabbing all the discarded kit and spare clothes and heading back to Flat Earth at Øvre Eidfjord, where we cleared up our breakfast remains and packed all our kit in the car. The non-trolls were still fast asleep and not disturbed by our crashing about. Yes, we were ready for the world famous Dyranut buffet breakfast. There was no time to be lost.
When we approached the entrance to a road tunnel, where the athletes took the tourist road, Grainne and Patrick were waving violently at us. We rolled down the window and they told us that Spike had just gone past. This was very helpful as, when we emerged from the tunnel and had to stop at the race marshal’s instruction, we were looking out for our man. Sure enough, Spike joined the road and we were able to give him ‘an indication of our presence’.
Ok, time for calculations: it was 30km to Dyranut. Beck put her foot down when safe to do so, but with so many cyclists and tunnels, we definitely stuck to safety first.
We parked at Dyranut, got the lucky bottle carrier and bag of spare clothes, and had time for round 1: Tea, hot pancake with yogourt and strawberries. I reckoned I could get round 2 in before Spike emerged. Mmmm smoked salmon sandwich with some herrings on the side…. I took a mug of coffee (just 1, Cleo, honest) and stood outside with the kit.
Chopsy came by, suffering big time, stuck in the big ring. He had dropped from 13th out the water to 115th up the first mountain. He’s seriously well hard, that boy.
He told me that Spike was a couple of minutes behind. CJ looked after him with expert attention. He’s a handy man to have as your Norseman crew. With Chopsy and CJ en route to Geilo, I chatted with the lady that owns the Dyranut restaurant – she was supporting some local friends and recognised me from previous races as a frequent eater. Spike appeared.
Me: What would you like?
Spike: That coffee (gulps it down in one)
I took his hi-vis top, gave him a warm jacket and food and he was off. Just time for a final visit to the buffet table: one more hot pancake and another cuppa…
After meeting Spike at Geilo we got into the regular routine of stopping at the top of each summit with a variety of food, drink and clothing available.
A new addition to the support kit, with the bottle carrier, was a small hot water flask. I filled it at Dyranut, then again at the petrol station just before T2. Spike liked having v small cups of coffee as the day drew on.
We saw plenty of Chopsy and Hårek throughout the day as they were at a similar pace as Spike. Of course they got suitable encouragement.
At Dagali the rain was pretty heavy so Spike put on a waterproof which he handed back at the bottom of Immingfjell. Beck and I made an extra stop at the bottom as the weather had changed and we knew that Spike wouldn’t want to overheat on the steepest ascent.
As Spike crossed the timing mat at the summit he was in 110th place. This really shows the incredible calibre of athlete in the elite Norseman race. The first year Spike raced he came in 40th, since then, as the race has risen in popularity and notoriety, all the fast and hard boys have put it on their ‘must do’ list. Spike has slowly shuffled down the finish rankings… Importantly, he was still comfortably inside the 160 limit of those allowed to the mountain top to attain the coveted black t-shirt.
With a good descent to Ausbygde, Beck and I were barely ready for Spike when he sped into T2. Others were fussing over putting T2 kit into the wooden boxes, but I knew that anywhere in the field was fine.
Running kit on, Camel-crack (one that sits on your bum) clipped on and Mr Gazelle loped off. But suddenly Spike was contorting into all kinds of strange unlikely shapes. He was cramping badly, at a stage when this has not happened before. We found a parking place as soon as was possible and gave him salty fish and cashews. The cramps eased and Spike assumed his usual running style.
Chopsy was a few minutes ahead, but was building up to a severe bad patch, paying for the unplanned exertion on his ‘fixie’ bike.
This is the section of Norseman when you really get to know the other athletes and support crews. We all cheered on each other’s athletes, offering encouragement and banter.
Spike was taking the first 25km at a decent but steady pace, gradually overtaking a few athletes who had set off too hard. I knew that we had to keep getting calories into Spike to prevent him from bonking. Using the little and often approach we stopped pretty much each kilometre. We found that banana broken into bite-sized pieces alternating with orange segments and occasional cashews worked well. Once he managed 4 cashews in a single sitting. What a monster.
We did our best to urge Chopsy along, but he was in a very bad place. Spike caught him at about 15km. At the base of Zombie Hill we met the very friendly American marshal. Spike had completed the first 25km in 2 hours 11 minutes in approx. 100th place. Now the hard part was to come.
Beck walked a fair bit of Zombie Hill with Spike. Athletes overtook us. At about 28km a refreshed Chopsy caught Spike back and headed off up.
Spike saw a path off to the side and reckoned that a troll hunt was necessary. Apparently toilet paper is required to hunt trolls. Another support car wanted to join the hunt but I dissuaded him. He might have met something nasty in the woodshed.
During the long hike upwards a familiar face strode past. It was Hilde Larsen, who I had met in the same place in 2009, when she was 2nd lady. She made Zombie Hill look like a stroll in the park. Conveniently, Hilde overtaking Spike allowed me to move into each parking spot as her parents vacated it.
Spike reached the 32km point in about 100th place. I had warned Beck that once Spike got past the mountain checkpoint at 37km, he’d get a second wind. Looking at Spike plodding up the mountain I couldn’t blame her disbelief. The 5km to the mountain checkpoint seemed to go on forever.
We stopped frequently to offer support. Spike was not in a happy place. He knew that he was safely inside the 160 limit, but he was digging pretty deep to push himself onward. He asked for more water, so I handed him some energy drink and swore blind that I wasn’t sure whether it was water or a mix. With 500m to the checkpoint we went ahead to park and get the mountain kits out.
Dave and Beck embarked on the rocky trail to Gaustatoppen. Beck told me that after a few minutes Spike realised that he was catching the person ahead. Suddenly he was in race mode and he scampered off. Beck next saw him at the café at the top!
Meantime I saw a very cheerful Hårek reach the checkpoint to a rousing chorus of Happy 10th Birthday (in Norwegian) from the marshals. I chatted with one of the marshals. She asked me how my day had been. I got as far as saying how relieved I was that he would get his black t-shirt, and promptly burst into tears. What a wuss.
I drove to the hotel, unpacked the car, did a load of sorting out grotty stuff, washing water bottles etc. and realised that I couldn’t find my purse. Oh hell. I must have left it in the garage at Ausbygde. Reception kindly called the garage for me, but they hadn’t seen it. Damn. I called the bank and cancelled my credit cards. Then I cleaned up and got cross with myself for being so bleeding stupid.
I cheered up when I received a text from Beck that they were enjoying hot drinks in the café at the top. Spike had overtaken Chopsy on the final ascent. That’s quite a scalp. Everyone was happy. I suggested that when they reached the road they should catch the shuttle bus to the lift exit, where I would meet them. By this time it was dark and I was exhausted, so I was delighted when they managed to cadge a lift all the way to the hotel. Next thing we were all hugging in the hotel lobby.
Beck had been a superb support athlete all day, doing loads of driving, keep calm and good-humoured while I flapped, and accompanying Spike up a lot of Zombie Hill and the mountain. Thank you.
As athlete, Spike took first dibs on the shower, but I had to remind him not to stay there all night as Beck wanted to get clean too. A few minutes later I had to remind Beck that if she stayed in the shower much longer the dinner buffet would shut. Lovely, thoughtful Beck had brought a mini bottle of champagne to celebrate. That was about the right amount we could deal with. A clean happy team did justice to the amazing Gaustablikk Høyfjellshotell’s evening meal. Little did I know that I was eating the last of the hotel’s smoked salmon…
We slept thoroughly and next morning we took on the breakfast buffet challenge. I had to make do with herrings, and pretty much every other foodstuff known to mankind, but no smoked salmon. Happily, I found my purse in my coat pocket. D'Oh!
We went to the t-shirt ceremony, gave beer to Rolf and Hårek, and listened to the amazing traditional singer.
I was shocked at the number of people who carried on chatting over her beautiful and passionate performance. Then more trouble started… there is one man who has completed every Norseman. He was presented with a pink t-shirt.
I know someone who is planning at least 4 more trips to Norseman…
If Spike gets a slot to race next year, I’ll learn some Norwegian.
There are some perks to doing Norseman support:me with Spike and Hårek
~ Last edited by la marquise on Sun Aug 19, 2012 9:02 am; edited 1 time in total
Sat Aug 18, 2012 8:12 pm Bainsy
you guys need to stop posting - its going to cause a divorce when i tell my wife i need to go back to Norseman or Celtman or Wensleydale
Apparently doing support crew is easy with 2 kids - right ??
Life is free - take it in big chunks.....
2006 IM CH, 2007 IMF, 2008 Norseman, 2009 100 hour Raid Pyrenees, 2010 Marazion, 2011 AXtri, 2012 - White Horse Challenge, Tonbridge, 2nd baby, 2013 - Aberdeen to Southampton bike, 2014 Gauntlet
Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:14 pm Cleo
Fantastic report! I felt like I was right there with you!!! I'm so pleased the mugs are still in operation. Great stuff! And we're famous on the Norseman Smiles wall! Yay! Super work Spike, LaMarquise and Spacemonkey.
It *is* about the bike.