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Matt's Norseman 2009 Report
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matt-the-cat




Joined: 01 Sep 2006
Posts: 95
Location: Oxfordshire

PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:36 pm    Post subject: Matt's Norseman 2009 Report Reply with quote

If you read all this you'll deserve a black tee-shirt...

It's gone 3 o'clock in the morning as we arrive at Eidfjord. I don't think many of us have slept, and neither have the local teenagers who are still up drinking outside a local bar. They look at us in disbelief; a great army of neoprene clad soldiers marching towards the waterfront with support crews scuttling around nervously. The whole scene is surreal, and the atmosphere is magical. Nervous tension has been rising since the race briefing yesterday, where we sat in a darkened hall to watch a film of last years race, complete with dramatic music. Everyone is spellbound. A local girl plays some haunting folk music lit by one bright light and her shadow dances up the walls, then the minister for tourism describes the region with such great passion we all know that this is going to be a very special day indeed...

The transition area is a hive of activity right alongside the ferry. Everyone speaks in hushed tones, maybe through nerves or perhaps because it is still so early in the morning. It's good to see a few familiar faces and exchange a bit of banter. Once the bike is racked I check my kit over about three times. Unable to think clearly I'm sure I've forgotten something but there is not much I can do now but head onto the ferry. On board, the atmosphere is electric. Some people choose try to hide away on the lower deck, running through their race plans, sipping nervously on energy drinks but I go up on deck to look out over the fjord and take in the calming night air. This must be the most beautiful location for a triathlon swim anywhere, and so I take in as much of the views and atmosphere as I can. The ferry engines finally whir into life, and as we drift out onto the fjord it finally hits home; there is no turning back now.We wave out to the people left standing on shore and, as Eidfjord becomes a blur of twinkling lights on the horizon, I begin to think can I actually swim this far? The fjord's icy smooth calm of the last two days has been replaced by an angry chop and, as we pass beyond a headland, the wind has noticeably picked up. On deck it is buzzing. Some of the bigger names are being interviewed for TV and there are a lot of people taking photographs. People are gathering now ready for the off and the air is tinged with excitement. As the engines begin to quieten everyone is aware that we're approaching the race start. Drinks are finished, caps are pulled on and goggles adjusted. I look up towards the night sky, the moon is still up and thin clouds race in front of it. The whole scene is framed by formidable rocks rising steeply up from the fjord, and it is hard not to think about the 400 metres of icy cold water that lay below. I begin to think I'm crazy not wearing some sort of boots but, during the final announcements, the news that the water is a lovely 17 degrees is met with loud cheers. After some final manouevering of the ferry, the ramp is lowered into position and the first brave souls move forward ready to plunge into the Hardangerfjord.

I seem to travel a long way underwater. Bubbles are rushing past my face, adrenalin is shooting through my body. Maybe I'll just keep falling? Then, as I exhale all the air from my lungs I rush back up to the surface and swim away from the ferry a bit to regain my composure. The race canoes have lined up near the shoreline and up above, on the main road, I can see the lights of parked cars and a big Norwegian flag. This is the race start but it seems a very long way away to me. I start swimming breaststroke and then front crawl. I reach the mass of bobbing heads surprisingly quickly and end up treading water next to Harvey. Everyone is bunched in quite close into shore but we decide to stay out wide to the left in plenty of clear water. And then, when I least expect it, the ferry horn blasts out across the fjord. Norseman 2009 has begun.

I am so far away from the melee I cannot see any other swimmers. I'm breathing to the left so I look out across the huge expanse of the water and I can see the lights of the ferry. Beyond that the first of the early morning is creeping into the sky. I feel so relaxed it is unreal. As I exhale under water, I look down into the darkness. Jellyfish are drifting past just a couple of feet below me. Normally this would freak me out but I enjoy watching them float in the darkness. Sometimes as I turn to breathe into a wave I take a mouthful of salt water but I just blow it back out as I exhale. I've never swam like this before, and although I'm not swimming fast by any means I'm enjoying every minute and just wish I could swim like this forever. Moments later, my idyllic swim is interrupted by a jellyfish. My right hand, entering the water, suddenly hits one. It's drifting very shallow compared to all the others I have seen and takes me by surprise, luckily I almost punch it out of the way and manage to avoid any other contact with it. Now I swim with my head a bit higher in the water, looking forward and trying to make sure I avoid any more. Past the headland, we can see the fire lit on shore and I head for the only buoy on the race. I need to swim closer in and converge with a big pack of swimmers, for the first time in the race I'm swimming on people's feet. I notice a few people have come to a standstill; there are huge rocks coming out of the water and I think they've swum right into them. I seem to be catching the water better and feeling stronger as I go on so I now start passing people when I can. Before I know it, I'm turning around the yellow boat and swimming in towards T1. People are lined up all along the shorefront cheering and clapping. It seems a shame to get out, the bit I most feared has turned out to be the most enjoyable. Now the hard work really begins.

Ceri is there right next to me in transition and we have a quick chat. I'm raving about the swim but he describes it as brutal. He's been stung on the face and I feel bad for my enthusiasm but we wish each other good luck. Ceri sets off and I have a very relaxed transition. My support crew are there and doing a brilliant job as if every second is vital, maybe I'm being a bit too laid back about this? Spike rushes by in a bit of a panic, looking like he needs a pitstop. I leave T1 with plenty of encouragement from the Ladyboyz support crew (thank you all!) and head out on the bike.

I'm not sure what to expect on the bike. It's my strongest discipline and normally I'd ride a bloc to gain as many places as possible. Today is going to be a long day so I just keep it very steady and try to ignore the number of people passing by me. After only a couple of miles I have the first of several toilet stops and it doesn't seem like very long before we hit the first climb of the day up to Dyranut. There are riders scattered all the way up the rugged climb and it is tempting to try and pull some of them back but I stick to the race plan and ride easy for the first 70 miles. The old tourist road almost looks to be hewn from the mountain itself and it is hard not to imagine we are entering some fantasy world, there is no other traffic and the only sound is the water crashing in the gorge below and the breathing of riders as they struggle upwards. I catch up with Ceri and we have a quick chat before he encourages me to press on. Eventually the old climb merges onto the main road, here the gradient seems less severe but the climb carries on relentlessly and the road is suddenly much more exposed and we end up having to battle a strong headwind that will make things difficult all the way to T2.

I'm still getting familiar with how the race works and the amount of support crews that line the road. I seem to have been climbing for so long that I'm sure I've missed my first checkpoint. A bit further down the climb there were a lot of people, maybe I missed my crew? Despite riding conservatively, my legs already are aching and I feel my initial optimism from the swim beginning to ebb away. Will this climb ever end? Then, after a succession of false flats, we finally hit the top of the climb and I see the Endurancelife banner rippling in the breeze. Again, the support crew are amazing, and seem intent on saving every second but with jaffa cakes on offer I'm in no rush to get going too quickly.

Back out on the bike, feeling a bit more refreshed, I push on. It's not long before Spike cruises past. We have a bit of a chat on the next uphill drag before he zooms off on his tribars. I decide to try and keep him in sight as a bit of a carrot (sorry Spike!) but it's not long before I need to stop again and so he disappears into the distance along with numerous Norwegians with aero helmets. The support crews are continuously stopping every few km and so some people become very familiar. It feels a bit like groundhog day on a bike, but some of them are very cool and give lots of encouragement and so I cannot help but smile. After the checkpoint at Geilo, the bike starts getting harder with the first of three distinct climbs. The gradient doesn't seem too harsh but already I'm grovelling in the 25 sprocket and I'm only half way through the bike.

I'm not sure if it is on the second or third climb but I start to feel reasonably good. I can suddenly see Spike up ahead dancing on his pedals and this gives me a bit of a lift. I'm starting to pass quite a few people now and feeling strong but still aware there is an awful long way to go. The second part of the bike goes really quickly and it is not long before I am at the base of the final climb, the Immingfell. Support have numerous goodies on offer and I put a serious dent in their fig roll rations. I'm still struggling to finish a fig roll when the road veers up alarmingly and I'm back in the 25 and out of the saddle for long stretches. I see Suzi and she tells me that Harvey is just ahead and as I come around the next bend there he is. It's not until near the top of the climb that I manage to catch up with him and we compare how tired we feel! The wind is racing across the plateau and it is a real struggle to keep the pedals turning but I just put my head down and concentrate on pounding away.

I know I'm nearing the end of the bike and am looking forward to the descent but the wind means I have to pedal hard all the way down so it is hard to recover or take on food. In the last few miles I see Cobbie ahead who is easing off before the run, I pass him some water. I think we are both relieved the bike is nearly over.

Cobbie is straight out on the run and looking good. I have a bit of a stretch and admire the view across the lake. This triathlon is beautiful. Harvey and I leave T2 at the same time, trying to put on a good show. I'm planning to stop once we get out of view and answer the call of nature, Harvey is talking through a run walk strategy which suddenly sounds quite appealing. My toilet stop goes on forever, maybe I'm drinking too much but the sun is now blazing and the temperature must be in the high twenties. When I get back out on the road Harvey is a long way ahead and it takes me forever to pull him back. He looks to be running well.

We run/walk for the first 15km or so and it is great to have the company on this neverending road. Sometimes he forges ahead and I feel like I'm struggling, sometimes we run/walk out of synch. After a while Harvey says he is going to run faster but walk for longer. I'm finding it quite hard to stay with him on the run. But we seem to be walking for very long stretches so I start to push the runs again. This happens for a while until the elastic seems to break. I'm not sure what to do, Suzi is still coming past me so he cannot be far behind. I push on at my own pace and no doubt will bump into him later. It is really hot now and the road seems to stretch on forever but the Gaustatoppen is slowly looming into view.

I'm glad to finally get onto Zombie hill - the road has been long and relentless and it is good to use some different muscles and not feel too bad about walking so much! I see Suzi at the first hairpin who says Harvey is about a mile behind and struggling a bit. I'll carry on to the mountain checkpoint and see if I can wait there. Some competitors in front of me are happily throwing their rubbish down the side of the hill - I've seen a rabbit trail of discarded Maxim products along the whole course and I suddenly feel very angry about how some people are ruining this beautiful event. I'm determined not to have to go up the mountain section with them so I powerwalk hard all the way to the mountain cut off.

The relief is overwhelming. Thinking about getting the black t-shirt has kept me going all day and now I am nearing the finish. The road still reaches onwards, not as steeply, so I attempt to run some bits. My hip flexors and knees are beginning to suffer a bit and I'm glad now that I used a run walk strategy. Dark clouds are gathering menacingly around the summit and I suddenly worry that we'll be turned around at the final checkpoint. It starts raining just as I get there. Initially it feels refreshing after the heat in the valley below, I'm caked in salt and sweat and the drops of rain soothe my skin but I'm getting cold very quickly. Spike and Cobbie are at the support van and I assume they have already been to the summit finish but I'm pleasantly surprised that they are just about to make a start on the final climb. I have to make a decision about waiting for Harvey but I now have no idea how far behind he is and the weather is getting worse, it makes sense to keep moving and go up with people I know so I quickly put on my mountain gear and we start the final climb to the finish.

Spike sets a good pace up the mountain. We all stick together and have the odd chat and stop to look out on the amazing scenery below before we head into the clouds. Susannah is there shouting encouragement (fantastic support all day!) and takes a photo before we head up to the finish. A dog comes bounding down the mountain, tail wagging and wearing some sort of survival backpack which makes me laugh, my dog would be really grumpy if I made him come up here. It takes us an hour to get to the summit and we all finish together, arms aloft. It feels incredible. I cannot stop smiling, I've had the most unbelievable day and will never forget it. We huddle under big Norseman blankets reflecting on an epic race, and enjoy what tastes like the best soup in the world.

Finish Time: 14.57.12

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'd like to say a few thank you's:
Max for all the time I spent in the triathlon void. Now you will be sick of the sight of me.
My family for all their support and Jacky & Dave for the lakeland visits
Harv for all the training, lifts and early morning swims this year. Sorry we didn't finish together.
All the Ladyboyz support crew, you were amazing
Thanks Suze for all the support, ice lolly and cokes. You rock! Have a great time in Annecy.
Spike and Cobbie - keep on climbing!
Ben for keeping me running and for the Percutane
Ceri for the lake swims
Andy Sherwood for bike help and big gear climbing in the Chilterns
Endurancelife support crew and competitors - you were fantastic!
Noah for putting up with my swimming (but I did manage to swim 3.8k fc!)
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Bluepoolshark




Joined: 09 May 2006
Posts: 1252
Location: Swimming with icebergs

PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent report, well done on a great time too Clap

I couldn't agree more on the swim, it is an amazing setting Cool
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Bainsy




Joined: 11 Jan 2006
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Location: TUnbridge Wells

PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 1:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

brings back great memories - well done, its a fantastic race..........
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KingInk




Joined: 24 Oct 2006
Posts: 254

PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cracking report - and well done!
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craig7




Joined: 23 Nov 2005
Posts: 1468
Location: North yorkshire

PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Congrats on achieving the Black T, great report too ! Smile
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Slacko




Joined: 15 Sep 2006
Posts: 4216
Location: There or thereabouts

PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 3:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I want to do this race more with every report I read. Smile

Great report on a great race, well done Matt. Cool
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Cobbie




Joined: 02 Aug 2005
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Location: Chester

PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A grizzly fellrunner says chapeau

Not me obviously...I just say well done and a cracking report Wink
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Cleo




Joined: 15 Aug 2006
Posts: 6710
Location: at the top of a hill shaking my pom poms

PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know, each race report is so different and yet so fantastic. Well done on a great race!
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-Kevin-




Joined: 08 Nov 2007
Posts: 51
Location: Livin' on the edge, near Leeds

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done and great report - you'd think those jelly fish would know better than to mess with you Norseman types, eh?

Smile
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LadyboyHarv




Joined: 06 Oct 2006
Posts: 903
Location: Oxfordshire

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ace report mate...and I should be saying a big thankyou to you for the early morning training sessions/long rides etc...its sooooo much easier and motivating training with someone that is just as keen and eager.

Several times on the run after you dropped me, I saw you ahead, just disappearing around the corner, and Suzy (my spport crew) told me you where close, and I thought about putting in a big spurt to catch you up, but then realised that I was in fact totally knackered and didn't stand a chance in hell...who was I trying to kid! LOL

Enjoy your well deserved holiday now mate...we have some serious swim/run/swim/run/swim/run bricks to do on your return!! Wink
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Last edited by LadyboyHarv on Fri Aug 14, 2009 9:43 am; edited 1 time in total
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Luke




Joined: 22 Apr 2005
Posts: 521
Location: Bristol, UK

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 9:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report. Well done. Sounds like an amazing experience.
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Silje




Joined: 02 Oct 2006
Posts: 182
Location: UK

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just love reading Norseman reports and yours is another cracker!! Well done on you mountaintop finish and a very well executed race!! I'll just keep dreaming that maybe, maybe one day I'll do this race Very Happy
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Carlito




Joined: 28 Aug 2005
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Location: Edinburgh

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done Matt. Fantastic result and great report.

And another race added to the list of races I want to do in early August/Late July Very Happy
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ejls2




Joined: 01 Apr 2006
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Location: South West London

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done on the black t-shirt and the very well written report. It's strange how everyone either loved or loathed the swim though.

I was geting very pissed off by the maxim gels too, especially when I slipped on one on the 7k climb on the run! It kept me going though. I kept imagining the offending litterer was just ahead of me and I was going to catch them and do bad things Wink

Good thing I didn't know that the person in question was about 3 hours ahead!
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mudman




Joined: 11 Mar 2007
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Location: Algeria/Lanzarote

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Superb report, well done Sir!
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