top of page

Norseman Race Report


What a race, what an experience.


There is a reason this race has a cloud of awe and wonder around it, why people apply for years in the lottery in hopes of getting a coveted spot on the ferry. Yes, it is beautiful. But so are other races. Yes it is hard, but there are harder. What Norseman has, that I have never experienced at this level, is a community and a camaraderie between athletes + crew + staff. When I reflect on Norseman what comes up is not the trek up Zombie Hill, or jumping off the ferry. It was the other athletes that came and hugged me as I ran to the finish. It is the many support crew of other athletes that cheered for me all day long just as hard as their athlete. It is the tears in the eyes of Knut, a stranger until a few weeks ago that spent his week making sure my race was amazing. It is the look of “you are my type of crazy and we are in this together” that is in the eyes of the all the crew, support teams and athletes. It permeates the race the moment you step into Eidfjord. This race is intimidating, it is a massive physical and mental challenge. Thinking about tackling it alone can be overwhelming. But the moment you set foot in Eidfjord it is clear, you are not doing this alone, we are all doing this together.



Qualifying for Norseman


I am going to try and give a pretty detailed report. I always find other race reports helpful when planning my own race and I have been asked so many questions about the race itself, how you get in, in addition to how I raced so I will try and cover them all here.


I got into Norseman by being the female winner for Starvation Xtreme Triathlon (you can read that race report HERE). If you want to race Norseman you can get a spot by being the 1 or 2 M/F spots at an Xtri race (Xtri is a series of extreme triathlon races), get a wildcard spot at an Xtri race, enter the lottery, or earn points by racing other Xtri races which push you to the front of the line in lieu of the lottery (new this year). Your odds are far greater if you race another Xtri race, plus they are awesome. I highly recommend the Starvation Xtreme Triathlon. If you can finish that race, you can literally finish anything. It's hard, like really really hard. James Lawrence (Iron Cowboy) and his crew definitely know how to push you to your limits.


Black Shirt or Bust!


My goal for this race was a black shirt. The first 160 participants that get to the run checkpoint at 37.5kms are allowed to climb the final kilometers to the top of Mt. Gaustatoppen and receive a black shirt. 161 and above must run back down the road to complete the final distance and receive a white shirt. Everyone that finishes is a Norseman, but to receive a black shirt, that is next level and quite the “thing” in triathlon. That was my goal. For the first time ever, I was actually racing everyone for a spot. Which is fun and also like oh damn. There is no pro category, no age group. Just male, female all racing to be the first 160. It is impossible to know the caliber of the field and where I lined up, I just knew I needed my A game.


Pre-Race


This is my first international race and the biggest time change I have had before a race. I knew I needed time to travel and adjust so I would be fresh on race day. I have also never been to Norway and love to travel so I took the opportunity to get to Norway a week before. I purposely picked long layovers to ensure my bike had the best chance of making it. Between layovers and a very delayed flight to Bergen + waiting for a rental + 2.5 hrs of driving to Eidfjord, it took 28 hrs and change to get to my first hotel. When I did, I promptly set off the fire alarm at midnight for the whole hotel by taking a hot shower without shutting the bathroom door. Whoops. Sorry, dont mind the American over here that didn't get the shower memo.


While I had my moments of frustration, I took each delay and fire alarm as a way to strengthen my mindset for the race -> calm, patience and humor. A final mindset training before Norseman if you will. Control what you can control, choose your reaction, and when in doubt, find the humor.


The next day I took a dip in the fjord, a crisp but not insanely cold 57 degrees. I was eager to get in the water to experience the temperature. Water temperature going into this race was my biggest concern. I generally do quite well in cold water, but I just don't have a lot of experience in water under 60, especially at a full IM distance swim. You are allowed to have extra neoprene (vest, caps, booties and even gloves) so I had it all. I just spent the last 6 weeks pretty much only swimming in open water. Where I was in Northern Arizona for the summer and had no pools. So it was all murky lake swimming at 9kft+ altitude. I have been so used to my breath being taken away by the lack of oxygen I barely even noticed the lung restriction that comes with the cold water and I was relieved to feel my feet were actually too toasty in the booties. I sat treading water in the middle of the fjord alone, I knew I was going to be just fine.


I drove the bike course to the race end at Gaustatoppen. It is a point to point race so the end is about 120 miles from the start. I am extremely happy I saw the full course ahead of time. The weather was terrible which would be indicative of race day. It was good to see the type of condition the road can be in because when I drove back to Eidfjord and for the few days before the race, the weather was insanely beautiful.


I am also glad I saw Gaustatoppen in all its glory before the race. I can see how turning the corner with still 14 miles left to run and seeing the mountain ahead you for the first time could break you in a race. She is enormous! I pulled over on the road and started laughing. “Cool, cool, so we just run up that?” Sticking with my mindset theme - calm, patience and humor - I continued laughing as I drove up Zombie Hill. It was so steep and so long. I mean I knew it was going to be a hard race but damn.

So we just run up that?

End up back in Eidfjord for Tues until the race with many stops to marvel in Norway’s beauty. This is my 42nd (I think) country I have visited. I have seen so many beautiful places in this world but Norway, whoa, blew my mind. I literally yelled “oh my god” and “what?!!” like every 10 minutes. At some moments I had tears in my eyes just taking it all in, so grateful to experience such beauty and power.



Morning views airbnb views

I also had one of the best airbnb finds ever! Tiny little cottage on the edge of the fjord. I wanted a full Scandinavian experience for this race! About 20 mins outside of Eidfjord on the other side of the bridge. It was a perfect spot to be out of the race craziness but close enough to still feel a part of it. I am a social person and can easily lose track of time. I find if I am in a race environment I will basically hang out and chat the whole time the days before a race and before you know it, I am exhausted and side tracked. So I chose this place to help give me some space from the buzz so I can prepare for what I knew would be one of the hardest races of my life. Decisions like these can seem insignificant, but they can have a huge impact on race.


It warmed up so much the water temperature in the fjord was about 8 degrees warmer by Wednesday. Crazy! I assumed it was cold, so I put on all my cold water gear and jumped in. It took a few minutes before I realized how hot it was. I was actually overheating. Never in all my thoughts of Norseman did I consider the water temp would be 65.



Support Crew is Key!


I met Knut, my support crew on Wednesday. One of the things that makes Xtris different from a standard Ironman type triathlons is they are point to point races and the race does not provide support. So you have to have at least one person drive a car with all your things and give you nutrition, hydration, gear etc. In this race, you also had to have a person run with you the last 3 miles of the race to the final peak of Gaustatoppen. You literally cannot do this race alone. You become a team with your support crew and your race is very much in their hands.


While I have many friends in triathlons, traveling to Norway for a week and supporting my race is a pretty big ask :) When I raced Starvation, I found Craig, a local ultra runner to run all 26.2 miles with me. I met him in T2 and we became quick friends and he is one of the reasons I won that race. I had such a great experience I figured I would try my luck again and see if I could find a local crew. My coach reached out to a teammate in Norway who posted on a few forums that I was looking for someone to help support my race. Knut raised his hand. It was his third time supporting a foreign stranger in Norseman. As much as I love racing, he loves supporting athletes. He was amazing. He raced Norseman a few years ago and knows the course inside and out, a huge bonus for a support crew. And he also seemed to know like everyone at the race. This amazing man answered all my questions, spent 4 days with me, made me dinner, and kept all the sugar flowing through 13 hrs and 42 mins of racing. He became a dear friend and totally helped to make my Norseman experience even better. To all future athletes, if you need a support person, Knut is your guy (unless I am also racing then hands off)!



The day before the race the talk was of warm water temperatures and many thunderstorms ahead. We were going to have a great start to the race, not too cold, not too wet, but from the end of the bike on, well, it Norseman would be what it promised, a race with the course and a race with the elements. What makes Norseman a challenge is not just the course but the unpredictable elements + the course. I can be snowing, hot, raining, lightening, and all of the above. You have to be ready for anything that means gear wise but also hydration and nutrition. When the weather shifts, so do your needs. I love this extra element to racing. You have to be organized, know when to adjust plans, know your body well, and your support crew has to be on board too. It is something I think I do quite well and as much as I would love a sunny and hot race, shifting weather and worse conditions would be to my advantage, especially on the bike. I might live in a warm climate, but man it gets cold in Arizona on winter rides. I can also handle my bike well in the rain, I have plenty of experience of technically riding in Costa Rica and Northern Arizona in down pours. Turns out, I would have ample opportunities to have a cold, wet, technical ride.


Mindset


My mindset going into this race formed in the weeks before while training in the Arizona mountains but it fully solidified itself the week of the race - finding calm, patience and humor. Humor was a new one for me. I have never intentionally used it in a race. But it kept coming to me in my traveling hiccups, in the amazing time with new and old friends, as I took in the beauty of Norway - laughter and joy. I find that if something is funny it's because I am calm and open to the unexpected. So I decided to add this into my mindset. If I can stay open and find the humor, find the unexpected joy, then I can stay open to all the possibilities and discomfort on race day. I know that it is when I resist the race, the weather, the problems that arise, the darker thoughts of doubt, that is when the suffering happens, that is when the struggle is amplified. But when I can stay open, that is when I am able to unlock the deeper parts of myself and flow. I knew this race would be full of so many unknowns, so many challenges that staying open and resisting nothing was the way through this experience.



Race Morning


I woke up at 1:30am. Earliest wake up ever. Check in was at 3am and I am a “get to transition when it opens' ' women. So 1:30 am coffee, food (2 bread muffin things, 2 bananas, couple of tablespoons of Justin Vanilla almond butter which I traveled with because that is how I roll). We were there early, right before the line got enormous, check in then waited until I could get on the ferry.


I decided to race in my favorite kit, the Love the Pain pink cheetah kit. I love this kit and it is very much in line with my mindset theme of humor. I found it so amusing that I would be grinding away in these harsh, dark, conditions in hot pink. I know it brings light and humor to me and perhaps it might bring some light and humor to others. Also, it would be easy for Knut to spot me.


As we sat in the hotel lobby I took off my sweatshirt and started to put on my wetsuit. When I looked up the entire lobby was staring at my hot pink kit. Yep, it's me! I started laughing. Humor already.


Swim


We boarded a ferry at 4am. I found some friends and we chatted about the conditions and the need to have our numbers tattooed, stuck and hung all over + 2 GPS trackers. No way I was getting lost on this course. The water ended up being 15.5 celsius, about 60ish degrees. Absolutely perfect temperature. I still elected to wear my neoprene cap. I did not need it, but I also did not overheat and I knew the day would be cold so in the end I think it was the right call. I jumped off the ferry around 4:50 and started swimming to the kayaks. That is a pretty amazing way to start a race! The race start horn blew at 5am and I still had not made it to the kayaks. Oh well, I just turned left and started swimming to the lights fighting through a rather strong current.

Me on the left asking the volunteer 7 times where the kayaks were :)

After IM Texas and the worst swim of my racing career, I overhauled my stroke with Glenn Mills. He is an incredible teacher. It has been a struggle to know how fast I have actually been swimming with basically only open water swimming after changing things up, but I knew what mattered in this race was swimming steady and being fresh out of the water. So I focused on my form. I worked on not being frustrated when I had contact with others and stayed on feet. I found a groove and the more I swam the better I felt. The last 1k, after we turned around the smallest buoy ever, was super choppy. Which I love. After 6 weeks of all choppy lake swimming, I started making time on people. I might not be a fast pool swimmer, but put me in chop and I can move!


I had my best race swim ever. Time was my slowest, but it was slow for everyone with the current and chop. I ended up about 10-12 minutes behind the fastest female swimmers (pros included), which is just about where I am in my better Ironman swims. '


Time 1:21


Bike


There is about 11,000ft of climbing on the bike according to the race maps. When I read other race reports many stated the biggest grade was 17-20%. It is not. I promise, if you ride 17%, it leaves a mark. Max grade is more like 10%. The climbs are not punchy but they are long. There are also many miles of flat to rolling roads that just beg for a TT bike. I decided to use Dragon, my TT bike, but changed out the rear cassette from a 30 to a 34. Honestly 34 was not needed. I think I used that gear maybe twice? But I did spend plenty of time in my 32. If you can climb and descend well in your TT, it is the faster option. I was not worried about this bike course, it is a course that is well suited for me. But I did have a healthy respect for it. I had many big climbing days (8,000ft+) in my legs from training and the 3 yearly trips I run with Pura Vida Cycling Challenge where we spend a good chunk of time riding grades well above 17%. But any way you cut it 11kft of climbing and running a marathon after is going to be pretty hard. I wanted to ride this course strong, steady but also a bit on the aggressive side.


The first 90 mins or so of the bike was basically straight up. It was about 52 degrees when we got out of the water and very humid by my desert standards. I heat up fast when I climb so I just put on arm warmers, the reflective vest they make you wear and got to work.


Hot pink cheetah for the win!

If you have ever been to Norway, you have driven through miles and miles of tunnels. I am talking about tunnels that twist, turn and climb up a mountain. Riding through these tunnels on the course was super cool. By the top of the climb it was getting colder and I grabbed a rain jacket and banana from Knut. I think I may have eaten 6 bananas on the bike course? I usually like one here and there but for whatever reason, I wanted bananas all day long at this race. In races like these, having options for fuel makes a huge difference.


We had been racing towards rain clouds all day and by the time we got to the top of the last climb it was clear it was going to pour on us. I had taken off my rain jacket at some point because I was so hot climbing, put it on, slammed two rolled pancake things (best bike nutrition ever), and focused on the last 25 miles. It was basically all downhill with a short technical section then TT bars the rest of the way. Except it was pouring. I had planned to ride this section very hard and lean on my bike handling skills + a bit of risk taking. The road is not closed or swept. It is open traffic and there is quite a bit of traffic just with all the support cars alone. At one point there were rivers of water on the road, I was doing 30mph in my TT bars and just passed a few cars and I hit a bump and got pretty knocked around. I was fine, steadied the bike, but that was about my limit for chances. This is how a risky ride turns into a really stupid ride. So I backed off a hair and erred on safety, well safetyish (I still sent it).


By the time I got to transition I was soaked and cold but I knew I just had the best executed bike leg ever in a race. Sometimes you have to feel your run legs to know if you paced the bike right, but I already knew that I had run legs, I was pretty fresh, but I also rode really well. So far, I had my best swim and my best bike of any race ever. Now it was time to face Gaustatoppen.


Time: 7:16

Nutrition

(I am usually very accurate on my intake but with the cold weather and climbing I went by what sounded good and consumed more real food than normal and totally lost track):

Skratch Superfuel - 2 bottles

The Right Stuff - 1 packet. Even in a cold race I still supplemented with salt. I sweated quite a bit and I would also rather err on the side of more sodium than less.

Skratch Chews - a bunch

Cliff Bloks - lots

SiS gels - 2?

Bananas - 6

Rolled pancake things: 4

Calories total: lots

carbs: so many


Run


I quickly learned they had to shut down the top of the mountain due to lightning. So this meant that the black shirt cutoff would be around mile 23, right where the trail started. But instead of going up the trail to the top, I would run down 3 miles to a new finishline to complete the race. Same distance, same Zombie hill, still 3,700+ ft of climbing, but sadly not a trek up to the top. I was disappointed and I let myself take it in for about 30 secs, then I put on my shoes, turned on my watch and focused on what was going to be my race. 2023 is the race that I will experience. Not 2022 or 2021 or many other races with a mountain top finish, that was not today. Today was a race to mile 23 then a steep downhill miles 3 run to the end. Ok then. Lets go.


Running out of T2 I was 108th overall, well within range of 160. A relief but also not super comfortable. I am used to being passed on the run and if something went wrong I could still be in jeopardy.


I hit the “flat” (I think most races would consider the first 15 miles as rollers but I guess when you climb up a mountain the last 10 miles, this is flat in comparison) road and found my pace. I did not do any specific paced running training for this section as I would for an Iroman. My coach, Marilyn, and I focused on long runs, long trail runs with lots of vert (like running the Grand Canyon), and some over speed work. Training at 9,000ft elevation for 6 weeks before the race with some heat made the pace I could sustain for 15 miles a bit of a guess. We assumed I could hold 8:50-8:45s with plenty in the tank for the last 10 miles, but I was prepared to slow down if needed. Coach, as usual, was dead on in her predictions and I was thrilled to check off the miles right in range.


I really focused on calories in these miles. I wanted to make sure I stayed on top of my carb needs in the colder climate and I started using Coke much earlier than I usually do but I knew I needed the caffeine and quick sugar boost. I also kept the bananas rolling. I might not eat another for a year.


The part I was looking forward to the most on this course was the last 10 miles of the run. Especially Zombie Hill (5 miles of 10% grade switchback road). I knew what to expect and I guessed if I could run up it, I would make up a lot of positions. My whole day was to prepare me for the last 10 miles. When I turned the corner to start up the climb I was in the best physical, mental and emotional shape I have ever been at this point in a race. It wasn't that the course wasn't hard (it clearly was!) it was that I had prepared for it so well and because I was able to keep my mind calm and patient, I made all the right choices on effort, nutrition and gear up until that point.


My coach nailed the training going into the race and I worked alot on my mindset for this race. I work on it all the time (I am a mindset coach afterall) but for this one I embedded it into all of my work. It was in my meditations, my visualizations, I tried to bring the calm and patience I wanted on race day to all areas of my life. And on race day, for one of the first times ever, it wasn't a struggle or even a thought to be calm and patient. I just was. And for humor, joy was an undercurrent of my day. I was smiling all the time! A support team that had been leapfrogging me all day yelled to me at mile 14 “you are still smiling!” I yelled back “of course I am, it is Norseman!” They later told me I was the only athlete still smiling by that point. Yes I was in pain, yes I was cold, yes I was tired, and yes I was happy. This race was a great reminder that while I do love to suffer, it doesn't all have to be suffering. Managing my mind doesn't always have to be like wrestling a gorilla. You do it day after day, training session after training session and it just becomes the way you show up.


Power walking like a champ

I started to run up Zombie and much to my surprise realized I was one of the only athletes running. People that had passed me running sub 7:00min/mile I was now passing in some weird version of a slow jog. It was a huge boost to realize that at that point I was accelerating while others were downshifting. About half way up my right hip seized up. I tried to keep running but it was no longer an option. Shit. So I switched to power walking. I am talking like full arm swing power walking from the 1990s. I was far from reaching my aerobic and endurance capacity so if my legs would not run then I was going to move my body as fast as possible for as long as possible. I continued to pass people. For whatever reason, when people decided to walk, they decided to walk at a slow pace. Knut came up and told me I had like 2 hrs to go 2 miles to get the black shirt and I could slow down if I want. I said, “I know, but I am racing this until the end.” And so I power walked from mile 17 to mile 23. When I started Zombie Hill I had dropped to 122th. I finished the race in 108th place. I passed 14 people because I made the choice to just walk a little faster.


At mile 20 Knut said I don't care if you want me to walk with you or not, I am so I can give you nutrition and hydration. Love that man. So Knut joined me for the last 6 miles. Power walking and downhill running like a champ.


Run Time: 4:52

Nutrition (once again all guesses)

Coke: Mile 2 and on every 20 mins

SiS Gels: 6?

Bananas: 3?


A brief break in the storms for some beautiful sun

Finish Line Feels


The 3 miles were a welcomed downhill run. As we ran to the finish line, I took in the small crowds and also the makeshift ending to an epic day. Ironman finish lines are loud and flashy. This by comparison was almost non descript which made it that much more amazing. I didn't need crowds or an announcer to tell me I was a Norseman. The experience out there in the harshness and beauty of Norway told me. The day of calm, patience, humor and joy in what turned out to be my best executed race, told me. I was a Norseman.


Overall Time: 13:42

Black Shirt

108th overall place



Learned many lessons that day. I learned to accept that I was made for this. Not just triathlons, but long hard races. Races that require planning, resilience, a strong mindset, these are my races. The harder the better. I will always race Ironmans, but there are many more Xtris and races that push the boundaries in my future.


It was not a day I expected. I expected the usual highs and lows of racing with dark thoughts, self doubt, and physical pain. Of pulling myself out of a hole and overcoming challenges. Instead, what I found when I stayed open to the experience was beauty, calm, patience and joy. What I learned about myself that day did not come from a huge struggle to overcome, it came from no struggle at all. It came in the form of flow, calm and joy. What an amazing lesson to experience, that growth does come from challenges but it doesn't mean there has to be struggle in those challenges.


Norseman is an epic race. It demands the best of you well before you jump off that ferry. It is a race of community, camaraderie, of beauty and grandeur. It is 100% worth all the effort it takes to experience. I am different because of my experience and I am forever grateful to everyone that helped make it happen.










Comments


bottom of page