Twas the night before the Isklar Norseman Xtreme Triathlon and all through the cabins, not a creature was stirring, not even a triathlete. The wetsuits were hung by the athletes with care, as they dreamt of the black tee shirt, that would soon be theirs. And the ferry stood still on Eidfjord’s cold waters, waiting to take them beyond the shore. Soon they’d be jumping and their heart rates racing….
Well, that’s not strictly true...although the town of Eidjford, Norway was quiet and peaceful, our triathletes heart rates were already racing with nervous excitement and anticipation that race day was upon them.
I was one of the lucky ones, my role for race day was sharing our athletes’ Norseman journey on Instagram Stories (@nxtri)and sending out the press release on Sunday. Instead of butterflies whirling around my stomach, I slept soundly. From 2:55am my alarm was set and I suspect like many of our athletes, ready to go off every minute - just in case I slept through the first, second and third…
But let’s go back a few hours... Hundreds of athletes and their support crew are all sitting shoulder to shoulder in the gymnasium. It suddenly goes black. Silence. The heart-pounding music of Norseman starts to build. We are all watching the 2017 Norseman race film. Excitement, expectancy and pre-race nerves fill the gymnasium.
I wasn’t racing and yet this film raised the hairs on the back of my neck. We saw the athletes being showered in cold water as they prepared to plunge 4 meters into the icy fjord waters from the ferry. Intense looks spread across their faces. It was time.
Then epic landscapes emblazoned the gymnasium’s wall, many times it was just an athlete on their bike in the middle of a big mountain plateau or looking marooned in a wasteland only suited for reindeer and rocks. It was just them. A lone triathlete, no one to see them, hear them or cheer them on. Just them and their sheer will to make it to the finish line and claim their black tee shirt.
It then cuts to Lars Christian Vold and Anne Nevin climbing the final steps of Gaustatoppen to their victories, smashing the course records and claiming the world’s most coveted black tee shirt - the one goal all of our athletes share, and yet only 160 will be able to claim the prestigious prize.
"Do your best and have fun along the way!"
Isklar Norseman Xtreme Triathlon Race Director
Torill Pederson, Norsmena's Race Director, then shared with us her final words of encouragement and Norseman wisdom before opening the doors and releasing our athletes and supporters. The atmosphere lifted and became more jovial. It was now time for them to head back to their accommodation to get some more food, relax, breathe, think about what’s ahead in a calm and relaxed way and finally sleep, waiting until that alarm goes off and adrenaline kicks in.
I was lucky to grab 10 minutes with three times World Rally Champion Andreas Mikkelsen, who was racing Norseman with his navigator and co-driver Anders Jaeger.
We briefly chatted about what made him decide to enter Norseman, how he had prepared for the race, how it differed to rally driving and how he was feeling with less than 12 hours to go!
"We [Andreas and Anders Jaeger] always had this dream of doing Norseman, because the bigger the challenge, the better it is!"
Three times World Rally Champion and Norseman black tee shirt finisher
While the athletes and their support slept (or tried to sleep), the media crew met to talk through what to expect, how to stay safe and respect the athletes. As questions were being answered and media badges collected, I could see the clock ticking by and my hours of sleep quickly diminishing.
It was just past 11pm when my head hit the pillow and my alarm was set for 2:55am. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this excited to get up so early.
2:55: The alarm went off. I could hear Helen Webster, my roommate and editor of Triathlon 220 stirring. I thought really? Is it time already? Yes, this was it. Time to go and follow and share the athletes’ journey as they raced in the earth’s ultimate triathlon.
3:10: But first, Helen and I did the very British thing and had a cup of tea. Then we braved the night’s air and got the cameras rolling.
Header photo credit: Agurtxane Concellon