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An adventure in Norway - Bainsy's Norseman 2008
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Bainsy




Joined: 11 Jan 2006
Posts: 2314
Location: TUnbridge Wells

PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 8:35 pm    Post subject: An adventure in Norway - Bainsy's Norseman 2008 Reply with quote

Norseman 2008 – An adventure in the Fjords and Mountains

Norseman is widely reckoned to be the hardest Ironman distance triathlon in the world…………….I would not dispute that.

However, I do not think that it should really be compared to other Ironmen, it is unique in so many ways. It is more of an epic adventure than a triathlon……….

Why Norseman ?

Having completed two Ironman races it became obvious that I am unlikely to reduce my Ironman time enough to challenge for race honours or Hawaii qualification. I have, however, become more attracted to the idea of doing tougher and wilder events to challenge myself, so when I heard about Norseman it was an obvious choice.

The unusual thing about Norseman is that the organisers do not provide food or water stations, you rely wholly on your own (mandatory) support crew throughout the race. Endurancelife, an adventure race event company based in South Devon, were proposing to take a group to the race organising all logistics and provide support, so Aston (who I had coerced into also doing the race) and I signed on with them.

The serious matter of training for the event then began. For the first time ever I had a proper base training period over the winter with the short term goal of the London Marathon in April followed by Beaulieu Middle distance in June and the Marmotte cyclosportif in July.

The Marathon and Marmotte were long term goals of mine in terms of events that I wanted to complete and whilst my time at London was hampered by my triathlon (as opposed to run) training I thoroughly enjoyed both. Great events in their own right that would be major ‘season’ or ‘life’ challenges for most people.

In fact the Marmotte gave me huge amounts of confidence in my progress. This is a 179k cyclosportif in the Alps with over 5000m of ascent over 3 Hors category climbs and ending at the top of the legendary Alp d’Huez. I paced my ride really well finishing very strongly on the Alp (whilst many were wilting) and could have comfortably run off the bike.

My training was topped off by attending Camp Kia Kaha run by the Ironman Talk duo from New Zealand – great fun and a really good concentrated training block – invaluable…….

Getting to the start line

The adventure began 6 days before the event when the Endurancelife guys had arranged to pick up our bikes and some kit which they would transport over to Norway in their vans. Unfortunately this pick up did not inspire confidence as the 4pm pick up time drifted to 7pm and then eventually 9.15pm on Sunday evening. Not really a major inconvenience in the grand scheme of things but they needed to make sure the food and water was not quite so late come race day !!!

We flew out from Heathrow to Stavanger on Thursday morning along with 8 of the other Endurancelife crew. All went like clockwork and we were met by our 6 strong support crew in Norway and packed into a minibus for the trip to Eidfjord. The remainder of the gang were travelling from Manchester and were not so lucky with a long flight delay and then lost luggage meaning that their arrival at the race was not until c 6 pm on the Friday !

Whilst none of the journey from Stavanger to Eidfjord was part of the race route, it gave us a feel for the terrain and the stunning scenery in Norway. The weather was distinctly sketchy – rainy/cloudy and quite windy………..not ideal at all.

We arrived in Eidfjord around 7 and transported straight up to our camp site where we were staying in Norwegian Camping Huts and were greeted by Kate and Gary (the advance party) who had cooked the first of a number of excellent meals they were to provide us with over the next few days.

The next morning we got up and braved the water of the fjord for a short swim to test the water. The conclusion was it was cold – bloody cold. Definitely time to find that neoprene cap I had bought with me. Breakfast, down to town to register and have an explore, check out T1 etc etc. The weather was much better and the sun was beating down, probably 10C warmer than the previous day ! Back to camp, lunch, chill out, sort out kit and back down to town for the race briefing.

By this time Kristi (my girlfriend), Kate (Aston’s girlfriend) and Suzy (her sister) had arrived. They were supporting and had driven over from Bergen.

The race briefing, as with all things Norseman, was unique. We were all seated in a vast sports hall in the dark before we were serenaded by a local musician singing and playing haunting tunes on the violin. The briefing itself was concise and informative (a few race directors in the UK could learn a thing or two from it !!) and best of all the swim was going to be on the traditional course (as the water temperature was a balmy 17.5C) and the weather forecast looked like it meant the mountain top finish would be open.

Back to the campsite, huge pasta dinner, Endurancelife briefing (to work out how transitions and feed stations would work for our gang) and thankfully time to meet the Manchester contingent who had by now arrived, then bed by 10.



As you can see from the picture above, Eidfjord is a simply stunning place. My favourite sort of scenery. I will definitely be back to explore in a more leisurely fashion !

Race Day – pre race

The alarm went at 2am (no that is not a typo). I think I got some sleep but it can not have been more than 2 and a half hours. Pre race breakfast of porridge followed by muesli and marmite on toast, then down to the start for bike racking and number marking.

It was dark and wet by this point – not the weather we had been promised…….Overnight rain which would clear was Aston’s prognosis – I certainly hoped so. Racking your bike at 3.30 am is a slightly surreal experience but not half as much as boarding a ferry with 190 others clad in neopreme !

The ferry trip to the swim start takes about 40 minutes and the atmosphere on board is subdued. Aston and I found a corner with a few other Brits and there was a little nervous banter and plenty of soul searching until the tannoy announced that it was time to jump……………

Swim

The swim start is accessed by leaping off the ferry’s car deck – about 4m into the dark, cold unwelcoming fijord.

In reality the jump was not too bad and the water was brisk but not nearly as cold as feared or as where we had swum the day before. The start line was delineated by a line of half a dozen kayaks and almost before I had a chance to reach them the ferry’s horn blared out – there was no doubting the race was underway……..

The swim was serene. There was little of the congestion that is normal in an ironman race mass start, and I made my way quickly towards the shore where the effect of the current expected against us, was likely to be least. I managed to draft some feet for 10 minutes or so before overtaking and swimming my own race. Sighting was difficult as there were no markers or buoys simply the twinkling lights of Eidfjord some 3k in the distance.

The water was clean, slightly salty and I was really enjoying the swim. Breathing and seeing snow on the mountains bordering the fjord was slightly surreal. Breathing and seeing eagles flying above you even more so…….there was nothing not to like about this swim – except I did not seem to be going anywhere………

The twinkling lights of Eidfjord were remaining just that. I felt like I was swimming well, but I had no clue how I was doing in the field and could only conclude that I was having a bad day and was going to be down the field when I exited the water.

Then disaster – I had stopped for a moment to lift my goggles and have a proper look for where the turn point was, put goggles back on and started swimming, but I had obviously not put them back on properly as they came straight off my head and before I could grab them they had disappeared into the murky depths…….I had no options except to put my head down and finish the swim with no goggles – thank god I had laser eye surgery 2 years ago and no longer wore contacts !!!

Eventually I reached the turn around boat some 750m from the exit and turned for home. I picked up the effort a little and certainly felt the difference from turning away from the current. I reached the small beach and staggered out of the water noting the time on my watch at 6.34 am. That meant I had been in the water some 25 minutes longer than anticipated – my heart sank, so many hours spent training in the pool and to swim so slowly………but then I rounded the corner to T1 and there must have been over 150 bikes still left in the racks ????? This made no sense………It turned out that the current in the fijord was the strongest that they had experienced in the 5 times this race has been run. The quickest swim time was 1.04 and the slowest 3 hours. So whilst my time was disappointing, my position of 36th was far better than I had expected. Maybe I will carry on with the swim training after all !!!!

1.32.25 swim (36th)

T1

T1 was straightforward and Gary from Endurancelife was there to help with making sure I had all I needed – you are allowed a ‘helper’ in transition, which is unusual but appreciated ! Just like the nudity permitted in transition – I’ve spared you the picture of my naked backside in transition !



Bike

I loved this bike ride.

It is long and hilly and we had just about all the weather you can imagine (except, luckily, wind) but it was beautiful, the camaraderie amongst the other competitors and their support crews was great, I paced it well and it was a joy to ride.

The route started with 40k uphill to Dyranault and the Hardinger Plateau. The road wound uphill at a constant gradient of between 5 and 7% for the first 25k or so before easing off a little towards the top. The scenery was dramatic as we were directed onto the old tourist road up the hill, through unlit tunnels and sometimes seemingly clinging to the side of the mountain. The road surface left a little to be desired but travelling at the speed I was this was not too much of a problem !!

The downside of coming out of the swim up the field meant that, somewhat inevitably, I was overtaken by a lot of guys on the first climb. I was not goaded into upping my tempo though as there was a long day ahead and I rode well within myself. I reached the plateau at about 1.50 and as I have been hoping for 2 hours I was well on track.

The next 50 k was along the plateau, an undulating but relatively fast stretch, and then downhill to Geilo and the half way point. Thankfully the wind stayed away because with a head wind this section would have been soul destroying. As it was the weather had remained cloudy and drizzly which with the altitude gain meant I was beginning to regret not pulling on knee warmers and overboots at our first food and water stop. Still I was making good time and had regular cheers from the girls who were moving between me and Aston who was some 20 mins behind me. The great thing about mobile support was that if you had a sudden craving for a particular foodstuff you could ask them to try and source it, so when I really fancied an orange on the bike, I asked and it arrived…….Brilliant service !!!

I reached Geilo in 3 hours 40 (anticipated 4 hours) still ahead of the game and feeling great. The next section I was looking forward to, it incorporated 4 hills of between 3k and 7k and 6% to 9%. Having ridden a lot now in the mountains in France I know I am relatively strong at these uphills and I can grind them out at a good, energy conserving rate.

Whilst the usual drafting rules apply at Norseman there is an exception on the hills where you are allowed to ride side by side. This is great as you can chat and the grind becomes a pain you can share or simply a distraction to what you are doing. I caught up with James one of the other guys on the Endurance life trip and made friends with Bjorn from Denmark on this section !

The scenery had now changed and was less severe but equally beautiful………………

After about 130k we reached the last of the Endurance life feed stations which had been set up for the 15 of us every 40k or so. These worked really well and we had effectively chosen our own food and left them in the various vans for predesignated points around the course and the guys were on hand with a smile and helping hand filling water bottles etc. Coupled with our extra support team of Kristi, Suzy and Kate, we were really well looked after.

Now we had one last climb up to Immingjfell and then it was apparently all down hill to T2. Well not quite………the climb was a bit of a slog and probably the steepest on the course but nothing compared to say Joux Plane or the 1st few ks of Alp d’Huez.. That is not to say that I wasn’t very happy to see the top and grab a peanut butter and banana sandwich from the girls !!

The ‘downhill’ section started with an undulating 10k plateau !! But when the downhill began, it seemed to go on forever. After a couple of switchbacks it followed a river to the fjord at the bottom of the valley. Perfect for getting up some serious speed apart from the fact that the road surface was incredibly bumpy – almost rutted. This meant that you had to pay close attention to the road in front of you and take the edge off your top speed !

In no time I was at the end of the bike course at T2 on the edge of a beautiful fijord with a massive grin on my face !

7.24.51 (100th)

T2

T2 felt pretty comfortable. A full change of kit (more nudity in transition – well if you can why not !?).

It was pretty warm in the valley and the sun had now come out, I would guess it was early 20s C. The endurance life guys were not fully supporting the run but the girls were teed up to bring us water and gels as and when. So feeling pretty positive I set off.

3.56 (54th)

Run

My aim was to take the run in two parts, the flat 25k around the fjord and then the hill…….I set off running a comfortable pace and was covering a km every 5.5 minutes or so.

After an hour I had not seen the girls and as I had not taken any water or gels with me, I was beginning to panic as my strategy was to take a gel and drink every 30 minutes. Much to my relief, they finally caught up with me (and I am afraid I was a little short with them !!) after I had been on the go for about 1 hr 10 mins. Apparently Aston had slowed quite a bit at the end of the bike and hence they had had to wait for him in T2 for much longer than expected.

Kristi then ran the next 10k with me which was great. Someone to talk to and take my mind off the heat which was by this stage becoming a little oppressive. About 20k into the run I had to pay a trip to the bushes for what was to be the first of a number of trips and the beginning of my nutrition issues. Up to this point I had done really well eating and drinking but my stomach has a habit on ironmen races of rejecting everything after too long on the sports drink and gels and it looked like I was having similar issues.

Anyway I struggled on and got to the bottom of the hill having only had to resort to a run 10 min walk 2 min strategy for the last 3 or 4 k. The problem was that whilst I only had 17k to go, the finish was also 1650m higher then I was at right now and the imposing, scary prospect of the Gaustatoppen was right in my field of vision !!

The next 7k was the aptly named ‘Zombie Hill’ a series of energy sapping switchbacks with a consistent gradient of 10%. I was by now just about managing to get some water down me but little else and whilst my strategy had always been to walk this section, I really had to focus on power walking rather than just ambling up the hill.

There is a check point at 32k which you have to reach within 15 hr 15 mins to be allowed to head upwards to the mountain top (black T shirt) finish. I was comfortably within this, and whilst I resisted the salty liquorice on offer (WTF !?) I did manage to take a banana on board.

Next a 5k gentle uphill section to the mountain entrance. This was a slog. By now I just wanted to be on the off road section and the mountain top finish was constantly in view and looked impossibly far away. A few other competitors managed to run a portion of this 5k. I did not. I was struggling not to stop. I had to pay another couple of visits to the bushes (not a lot left to come out !!) and constantly struggled with my stomach. Kristi was brilliant from here on in, she walked with me, carried my water bottle, went back to get me clothes as the sun disappeared over the horizon and the cold of the early evening at the altitude we were now at kicked in.

I think this section was by far the hardest for me. I knew I was on the homeward section, yet the finish looked so bloody far away above me. The gradient was nothing, yet I could not manage to push any faster than a quick walk (in fact thinking back it was probably not even a quick walk) and my stomach was getting worse. You always go through bad patches in endurance races and I knew this – I’ve been there before, you have to just tough it out, think positive and be confident that you will come through the other side – or in other words HTFU !

After about an hour (for 5k !!) I finally rounded a corner and saw the final checkpoint. Before I reached that I caught up with the Endurancelife guys who had my mountain climb kit waiting (it is mandatory to carry a backpack with food, water, waterproofs and warm clothes) and Kristi who was coming up to the finish with me. Then you have to pass a medical check before you are allowed up the mountain. This did not seem to be that stringent……..which is probably a good thing.

So just 5k and about 650 m of elevation to cover. Kristi literally gave me a helping hand for the first couple of kilometres with a hand on my back pushing me on. For those of you who haven’t met her, she is 5 foot and about 50kg so this was no mean feat !

The path was not that steep initially but it was hardly a path either, merely a way through the rocks and very uneven terrain. I had contemplated changing into off road trainers at this point but decided against it – a mistake.

Trips to the side of the path (no bushes to hide in now) became more frequent and I became less conscious of getting out of peoples view – sorry guys !! This was so frustrating as my legs felt strong but I just had no energy to be able to push on and it was simply a matter of plodding onwards and upwards as the terrain became more bleak and effectively a scree slope. The top section actually bears an uncanny resemblance to Mt Ventoux in France which is equally bleak !

We were so lucky with the weather. No wind and great visibility. By this point we were meeting a constant stream of competitors on their way down the mountain who were great and full of encouragement.

I finally reached the summit 2 hours after we entered the mountain to be ticked off on a clipboard, given a cup of tomato soup (how good did that taste) and a toasty Norseman blanket. Very low key, but what a feeling of accomplishment, what a day, what a challenge. I was a NORSEMAN !! 6.52.37 run (118th)

Total 15.48.57

96th out of 186 starters

But the day was not over…………..the funicular railway which is usually used by competitors to get back to the road was not in operation as it did not have the correct licence (sounds like health and safety gone mad again !!) and so we were faced with a walk off the mountain in the gloom. We set off at 9pm and got back to the trailhead at 11pm. This was not much fun – but on reflection I think that getting the railway would not have felt right, this was an adventure and it was the right way to finish – following glow sticks down a mountain trail with a stunning sunset over the majestic lakes and mountains of Norway.

The Next Day

That night I literally fell into my bed wearing the clothes I had finished in and was asleep as my head hit the pillow. A shower and proper food followed in the morning with an all you can eat breakfast in the ski mountain lodge that all the competitors were staying in. A great atmosphere. We then made our way upstairs to pick up our black T shirts and take part in the ceremony. No prizegiving ceremony here. The top three male and females were invited onto stage for a round of applause and John A was presented with a ‘5 time finisher’ T shirt and that was it. It sounds cheesy but we were all winners.

We had all met our own personal challenges, made sacrifices to get where we had got to, trained when we didn’t want to, given up our social lives, put pressures on our relationships with this common goal to stand on top of Gaustotoppen and earn the right to wear a very special T shirt.

Without a doubt this race was one of the hardest things I have ever done, it was also one of the best days of my life.

Thank You

• To everybody who has sponsored me and allowed me to raise getting on towards £6000 for Spinal research and Project Viper
• To my coach, Richard Allen, who has reined me in and steered me in the right direction over the past two years (he is on the comeback trail next year – how about this one Rich ?)
• To Ian Ward who batters and kneads my muscles back into shape
• To everybody who has trained with me and kept me company on long rides over the past year – you know who you are
• To the Tritalk posse for good advice and humour !
• To the Endurancelife team – both fellow competitors and our support team – although I am not saying thank you for the hangover I had after our quiet night out in Stavanger on the Sunday night !

And most importantly

• To Kristi who is simply the best thing to have happened to me in a long time.
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Gus




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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report, Bainsy, a good read and fantastic achievement.

Admirable accomplishment raising so much for your charities as well.

What a nightmare losing your goggles - must've made a very tough swim even harder.
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Cleo




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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report, Bainsy! Thinking of going back?
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Norsemandave




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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report mate, made me jealous reading that, that I wasn't there.
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Spike




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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 7:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great stuff, Bainsy. I had no idea you lost your goggles - that must have been tough.
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Slacko




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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow. What a report, what a race.

Thanks for this Bainsy, a great read. Smile
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Lizzie




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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 8:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Congratulations, awesome achievement.
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MrsTricky




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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 8:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

An excellent report Bainsy Very Happy Am so impressed you carried on with no goggles - sighting was hard enough with them, so goodness knows how you managed, but you did a cracking time anyway!
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Bainsy




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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the comments guys - actually losing the goggles wasnt as bad as i thought it may have been. I guess would have been worse in a sea swim ??

Nothning for it but to get on with it really - sighting out of the water was easier as goggles were a little steamed but obviously couldnt see a thing in the water..........
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Angelina




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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 2:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, great report and amazing effort. Very well done!
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Cleo




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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 4:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bainsy wrote:
Thanks for the comments guys - actually losing the goggles wasnt as bad as i thought it may have been. I guess would have been worse in a sea swim ??

Nothning for it but to get on with it really - sighting out of the water was easier as goggles were a little steamed but obviously couldnt see a thing in the water..........


Probably just as well....the whales might have put you off your stroke if you'd seen them!
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neillm




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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Superb effort Bainsy ..... I wish I'd had the problem of walking down the mountain at 9pm ...I was still coming up then!!!

Looks like rather than becoming the 'face' of the Norseman, you have become the infamous 'arse' of the Norseman.. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great effort and fantastic achievement Bainsy, well done. Clap Cracking report too m8 Cool
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2008 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done mate. Damn impressed...
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Bainsy




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PostPosted: Sun Aug 17, 2008 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MatCowdrey wrote:
Well done mate. Damn impressed...


Cheers mate - you next for this one ?
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