It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been a week since I completed the Norseman Extreme Triathlon, and as I look back on the experience, I am reminded of the old saying, if things can go wrong, they will. Leslie and I left Omaha Monday evening and arrived in Bergen, Norway Tuesday evening, but not without incident. Our flight out of Omaha was delayed approximately 1 hour leaving us around 20 minutes to get across Newark to the international terminal. We rushed through customs, and security, grabbed our stuff and took off. We looked like the crazy train dashing in out of people, yelling, “Excuse me, move please!” We made it just as they were closing the doors. Phew! We settled in for the long flight, thankful our bags made it too. Unfortunately, when I opened my bike bag at the airport to make sure everything looked ok, everything was far from alright. In all my race travels, I’ve been lucky not to have had many issues, so I thought everything should be just fine, right?! Wrong. I noticed a crack in the platform of my aerobars. I immediately panicked and called Shane while Leslie starting looking up bike shops. We went to two and were pretty unsuccessful at finding a good solution. We went to the store and bought heavy duty duck tape. HA! If all else fails just use duck tape, right? Thankfully I can laugh at that now, but it was pretty stressful then. First tip if you’re using a soft case, wrap any contact points and wrap some more. I now suggest using foam pip tubing, then bubble wrap, and then finish by duck taping clothes around it (No issues on the way home). After all that, we still had two hours of driving to do before we got into Ulvik, which is a very small town off the beaten path. It was close to midnight when we arrived and we had no idea where we were going. There were no street lights or street signs. All we knew was that it was by a fruit farm, so we had to be close. We sat and waited as the lady we rented the Airbnb from came and found us. Not stressed at all, we called it a night! Second tip for Norseman: stay in the small, quaint town of Eidifjord close to the race start at the Qaulity Inn Hotell.
Fast forwarding to pre-race prep, where luck finally seemed to be on our side. We met a good mechanic who works for Intersport in Olso a retailer of Fuji bikes. I trusted him to cut down my base bar making a shorter lever arm so that I wouldn’t put as much pressure on the platform near the crack. I also used epoxy to harden the crack. He said it would hold up and it did. Leslie and I also chatted with some other Chiropractors and they offered to let her use one of their tables for treatment. It was awesome! I usually don’t take the day before the race off but it was raining and I was super unmotivated to get in a cold, wet wetsuit the morning of the race. I also wanted to give my mind and body a little more time to decompress after being overwhelmed with me bike issue. Luckily, Leslie being an amazing friend, and support, was about to help calm me down and paint a picture for me that it was going to be ok on race day. We also bought some cool Norseman gear and prior to the race, I opted to be a test subject in their ongoing research project, so I followed up with them before we headed back to Ulvik.
Race morning came quick! My alarm went off at 1:40am! We got up, made coffee in the press, grabbed food, last minute things, and headed to the race start in our packed to the brim Toyota Toausthybau. It was basically a small, zippy station wheel. We got to T2. They checked bike lights, reflective vest, and helmet upon arrival, which created a huge back up, and added race day jitters. (I prefer the day before check like they did in Alaska.) Tip 3: be prepared for a line and it’s not fast, they pay close attention to the details. I boarded the Ferry, that would take to the race start, with my friend Geir, who had offered to help with my bike issues. It was nice to have a friendly face with me, because it was dark and surreal. I was on this huge boat getting to embark on a journey that many people have been waiting for years to do. I was 1 of 4,500 individuals selected to race, and no matter what, I was going to race! We got out to the start and the ferry deck opened. It was time. One by one we jumped in. I was one of the first to plop in none too gracefully I might add. LOL! I warmed up as the kayakers formed a line for the swim start. The water was cold, but nothing I hadn’t experienced before. I wore my Xterra Vector Pro sleeved suit, Xterra lava booties, and Xterra Neoprene cap, trusting in that gear choice because of my great swim at Alaskaman two weeks prior. The flare went off! I noticed several people off to my left. Since I’m not one for taking off in an all-out sprint from the beginning, I settled in as they started to drift back. I could see a couple of people in the distance in front of me but I could never bridge the gap. I sighted the bonfire at the end and made the left turn around the buoy. From there it was a straight shot to the finish. I felt great and comfortable in the swim and was never taxed. I was 6th out of the water and 2nd female, back by 1 minute.
Leslie was waiting for me in T1 and helped me quickly change gear. Still dark out, I followed the lighted candles on the ground leading out to the road. Within in a couple of miles was the first climb. The views are incredible, rocky cliffs, waterfalls, and lush overgrowth of trees and wild plants and flowers. I wanted to take in more of the views, but I knew I was racing some very tough women. At that time, I was second on the bike I had to put my head down to keep it. I did a lot of grinding and mashing. Luckily, that’s how I ride or an 11-28 cassette I typically use, on hilly courses could have been a disaster. At times I felt I was doing more strength training than riding. Here is your fourth tip: Use an 11-32 cassette unless you’re a very strong male professional. I was riding quite well and met up with Leslie around mile 42 to refuel. 5th tip: Have your support exchange gear and refuel you on the go, rather than completely stop. You will lose less time. I stopped, and looking back, Leslie and I wish we would have planned it differently because I would have also been carrying less weight on the bike. This also allowed another gal to close in on me. I was now in 3rd, but that was ok. I was riding within my means and the other ladies were still a bit further back. The climbs were relentless, some as long as 5 miles, but the reward? Incredibly fast descends. That was until around mile 85-88 when I was descending, and I heard a very loud pop, like that of a shot gun. My tire immediately went flat. Panicking I got off my bike. I looked down at my wheel, the carbon had delaminated from the rim, it was basically shredded. Now what? Well, the wheel’s damaged, therefore there would be no point in changing it. I yelled to some men riding, “My wheel/tire just exploded, do you think I will be ok riding into T2?” They looked at me like I was crazy! Ummm, it’s risky. I obviously didn’t have another wheel and regardless Leslie was already in T2 set up with my run gear waiting. So I did the only thing I could, I got on the bike and started riding. It was very slow and I kept my right hand on the rear brake the entire time while descending back to T2. Disappointed, I should have been able to tuck into aero and fly. This happened to also be the side with the crack so I was extremely cautious to keep the pressure there lighter than normal. No reward for all that climbing, that’s for sure. To make matters worse, with approximately 8 miles to go it started to rain! Oh great, wonderful! I had completely no control over the bike, I was scared, anxious, upset, not to mention frustrated. I’m not ashamed to say, I cried a bit watching the other women hammer passed me like I was standing still. At the corners I would get off the bike and walk, knowing that if I turned at all the bike would completely go out from under me. As I neared T2 I wanted to DNF so badly. I had a lot of “what ifs” running through my head. Finally, I remembered what I’m always telling my athletes, not every day is going to go as planned, you do the best with what you’re dealt. Besides, I came all this way. I was going to at least get the black shirt!
I saw Leslie in T2 and explained what happened. She told me I was still in 10th place, and I’d be able to finish and have a great result under the circumstances. Determination in place, I said ok, I’m ready! I started off fairly steady. Leslie stopped every 1.5-2 miles and provided fuel for the first 25K, which were relatively flat. It rained a couple times which was quite refreshing, because otherwise it was fairly warm. When I reached Zombie Hill I immediately realized why they call it Zombie Hill. Everyone was hunched over and shuffling as they make their way up the 4.6 miles to the top! You’re pretty much trashed once you see Gaustatoppen towering at 1800m up---and that’s the finish! Uneasy footing, boulders, loose rock, small washed out areas made for quite a challenge. There was no path but, Leslie did an awesome job navigating us to the top! We were so thrilled to reach the last 200 m of stairs because that was the final stretch to the finish! I finished in 13:55, 11th female overall.
Leslie, thank you so much for being the friend and support I needed for Norseman! I couldn’t have done this without your help and positive energy. Thank you for listening and being there when times got tough and making light of the difficult situations. You’re the type of friend everyone needs and I will remember this crazy adventure we had forever!
A big thanks to my coach, Shawn Wierick, Triple Threat Racing, for getting me to the start line and ready to race two weeks after xtri Alaskaman! Leslie Martin, with Martin Chiropractic and Wellness, for all of the adjustments and wonderful ART treatments and for being my Norseman support, Niki Kubiak for my nutrition plan and superb attention to detail in making sure I was adequately fueled and hydrated for another Xtri event. Specialized Physical Therapy for their preventative treatments, orthotics, and use of the AlterG. Scheels (Omaha), Rotella’s Italian Bakery, and First Nebraska Financial Services for their kindness and generosity, Rocket Science Science Sports for the comfortable race apparel, and TYR Endurance Sport. My family, Eric, friends, and Crush 3 Team for your endless support and encouragement! I love you all!