I am not religious. I should be after Norseman.
Sometimes in life things speak to you for no visible reason. In the realm of triathlon Norseman was that for me from the moment I learned about it some five or six years ago. I had only started competing in long distance races, finishing my first in 2013. I saw videos and the atmosphere and spirit that was transported instantly appealed to me.
I never dreamt of Kona (far too slow anyway). I wanted to go up there. Mountains – though I am from a flat area with no hills. Loneliness. Cold weather. Somehow this seemed to be my world.
As many athletes before I entered the lottery five years ago without truly grasping what that would mean. Since then I skipped just one year applying. All the other times I learned to accept the disappointment after getting an email that said, that I did not get a slot. I used to say that I’ll go on with the sport until I get a slot. And planned for the upcoming decade.
11.11.17 at 21:19 I eventually got it. I was in bed after a wonderful evening out with my wife celebrating her birthday the day before. I simply said: “I got it”. And I was already pretty emotional then. I’m that kind of guy.
265 days after intensive training on as many small hills as possible, freezing rides and some cold swims I was there. Eidfjord at ten to three on a warm cloudy morning about to enter the magical ferry. I am neither superstitious nor do I believe in lucky charms – but in the living room of our basecamp in Ulvik hang a large image of the last ferry that made its way over the fjord. A sign in blue if you wish.
On the ferry after a while inside I decided to go outside to enjoy the atmosphere. To take it all in since chances are small I will ever see it like that again. I put on my wetsuit and stayed out there. Moved only down when Bent opened the hose, went down to stand in the rain, raised my arms.
I wanted to do as many of the things as possible that will stick to my memory when I’ll be an (even) old(er) man.
The door opened. I did not wait long, enjoyed the jump, swam over to the kayak, talked to Florian and treaded water.
And off we went. It got colder, it never seemed to end but after an eternity there was a light. I headed as good as possible to that light and expected to have one of the worst swim times of my life. Nothing I could do – I was swimming full throttle breathing which each stroke.
Turned out that I was doing okay. That helped even more to increase my good mood which I was absolutely willing to keep since I woke up at 1 am. Neither the moment when my Crewmember Marcel dropped the car key on the terrace floor which could have slipped through the planks, nor the moment when we did not find my race bib in the car left marks in my mood. All was good, nothing had happened – look forward.
On the first climb there was light at the end of the tunnel when I was thinking that I had done half of it – but the light was not the light from outside. And it was moving. It was the reflection of another rider’s front lights far in front of me. It was the first moment that day I had an inkling of spiritual experience or at least of a lesson for life – the light at the tunnel might be far away, even moving – but follow it. It will lead you.
Other emotions after reaching the top were gratitude, joy and excitement. Nature showed its beautiful side. Where there’s darkness (rain) there might also be joy – the rainbow. I had to grin what a lucky bastard I was to have the chance to be part of all of this. I appreciated the turns of my life that led me here.
It was time to stay in contact with my team. Being there with my team already was a major achievement in my life. My life’s not perfect – as isn’t yours. Unfortunately, my wife and me always must be prepared that her health takes another blow and we must follow that route. But here was I. And there was she – smiling all over her face, happy as a young racoon in a garbage can. Surprised to see me doing slow but steady and in a comfortable position to make my very big dream come true – finishing on Gaustatoppen.
Only few moments on the descents my concentration was only on the ride – most of the time (long time going uphill…) I had the chance to ponder on the beauty of all of it, how Norseman is such an exciting competition that remains calm and relaxed. Torill Pedersen’s words during race briefing where that way. It was a celebration rather than a lecture on rules. (Did she mention many?)
Then came the test. I must have passed my team at 40k without noticing them and them noticing me. They probably just where about to find a proper parking spot. Hardangervidda – as busy as a mall on a Saturday.
After the first stop I missed them I stayed calm – surely they would wait just a bit later to have a better parking spot. Maybe there was a misunderstanding – and they wanted to meet me 20k later not 10. They surely would wait for me. Only – they were not there.
Neither 30k after the last time I met them. Fears came up – did they have an accident? Did my wife’s health had one of those vicious moments she mastered a hundred times in her life before?
I started to believe. Not in God. Not in ghosts. Not in supernatural powers. But in things that I can not see nor touch. Belief in my life that eventually always opened a door. Belief that it will work out. I worked out that if I begged more teams for food and drinks I’d make it somehow to Austbygde and would start running barefoot if necessary.
I asked other teams for drinks and food an encountered an enormous friendship amongst all people around. Someone offered to bring me bananas, someone was adding sportsdrinks to the water someone else already poured into my bottle. Someone was so kind to call race office. I was at 90k in Geilo and still absolutely willing to enjoy all of it.
It’s part of Norseman. It’s part of life. Difficulties. Unexpected unwanted situations. I went uphill and my team came up. I was relieved – that nothing had happened to them. I knew that I was okay.
That same strain of character brought me up to Immingfjell. Certainly one of the hardest ascents I ever did in my life if not the hardest. My body brought me up. It did what I was asking it to do – spinning my bike with its 32 teeth I had bought for Norseman. I even passed a couple of drivers. Not because I wanted to pass them or be faster – but not to spin at a slower rate. I believed in my strategy and was anxious to get slower. So I kept on spinning.
Maybe I should thank the lord (but probably Shimano, Mavic and Swissstop) that I survived the downhill from Immingfjell. I’ve rarely ridden up that high – so neither that fast down. Some of the turns scared me nearly to death. I smelled rubber, the wheelset made a funny noise – and I still could not make the bike stop. But – I did make the corners. The rest was pure fun.
The run was okayish, even good the first 10k. My guts were tested when I started walking and my mind lost over my body. I was tired, my stomach made noises I just wanted to make it to the base of Zombie Hill – finally walking! What a relief. I had no reason to run. I was in a good position and I could not imagine the runners behind me weren’t a bit tired as well. I am lazy. So did not kill myself.
Some coke and some kind words from my wife later my good mood returned and there it was – five turns and a major climb. By then I was happily determined not to walk but at least march it up. And so I did.
With Kate Bush’s “Running up the hill” in my mind. For **** sake I have no idea why it came to my mind. But it did. (I do own the record. For the younger ones: That black thing you put on a rotating plate.)
“It doesn’t hurt me
Do you wanna feel how it feels?
Do you wanna know, know that it doesn’t hurt me?
Do you wanna hear about the deal that I’m making?
It’s you and me
And if I only could
I’d make a deal with God
And I’d get him to swap our places
Be running up that road
Be running up that hill”
I wasn’t running but making good progress. And there she was: Torill Pedersen. She congratulated me, maybe she even hugged me – I don’t remember. I was close to burst into tears and told her that I’d like to cry right here which she seemed to fully understand.
The race was won. The very big dream has become true. I had done it. Only those last ten kilometer – or 2,5 hours of celebration and joy and gratitude for all the people that congratulated all of us who where making slowly our way up to Gaustatoppen while they returned from their trip.
I don’t know if it is luck. Or fate. It could all have gone wrong even at that time. I slipped and stumbled and fell – but did not hurt myself. Some would say an angel held his hand above me. By then I was willing to say that something I can not see or touch helped. Luck, coincidence or whatever. Call it what you like.
Time to cry. After a wonderful walk that seemed to take ages. My wife was there and I thank myself to find the power to let myself go and just let the tears flow. Whatever happens in my life. That moment I was just in that moment.
I did what was in my powers to be there to be able to have these moments, these glimpses into the beauty of the world. That I eventually really was there still was beyond my influence. My life brought me there and I am thankful for that.
I sincerely hope that all or at least most of you have found what you were looking for that day. A rank sub 50, finishing at all. No matter what your aims are – I hope you had the chance to enjoy it. It’s been an incredible journey for me.
And I have to thank again Organisers as well my fellow athletes to make that event such an awesome experience. I am telling you – you won’t find as many images of me grinning all over the face from the past 49 years as in those couple of days in Eidjford and Gaustablikk.
You are special.