Norseman 2015 The Run up the Big Mountain

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I’m off and running out of T2, and the first feeling I have is that I’m scared. Having been passed continuously all day it feels like 39 more people passing me is a likely option. And if that happens, I won’t be allowed to finish at the top, and I won’t get a black shirt. As I’m thinking about that and getting my self settled in the first mile, a girl goes whizzing by me, running at a pace 30 seconds per mile faster. Oof-Da… This was when I started to look inside myself. I needed a game plan.

We are running on the left side of the road along the edge of this beautiful lake called Tinnsja. I look ahead and see many athletes strung out ahead of me. I’m trying to find a level of effort that keeps me clipping along, but doesn’t get my cough worked up into a tizzy. Oddly enough, that pace seems to be in the 8:10-range. I find it funny that I have raced literally 11 Ironman races at 8:00-8:10 pace. I’ve tried hard over the years to get this number down, and it seems even on my bad day, here I am again at 8:10 pace.

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About a mile into the race I pass a man and I think to myself, Okay, I’m back in 121st now, and that gives me an idea. I set a goal of making it to Zombie hill at mile 15.5 in 100th place. Pass 21 people in the next 14 miles. I have no idea where that came to me, and in retrospect I don’t think it was necessarily a good idea, although Troy disagrees. I’m not a fan of outcome goals. I would rather set goals that I am in control of, but this 100 goal really motivated me in the moment.

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I took it person by person and I would repeat the number in my head “There’s 120, There’s 120, There’s 120” until I caught them, then it was “There’s 119, There’s 119, There’s 119” I was making good progress in this area. Running down people one by one by one, staying in the low 8s. Troy and Andrew were crewing me every 10-15 minutes and I ran into a few logistical problems here that I didn’t think about going into the race.

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So in an Ironman, on the run, everyone has access to the same aid stations. So you get into a routine of going through the aid station and if you get a hankering for something you can pull into the buffet and take your pick. In Norseman your crew is providing you aid and your options are what you packed and what you told them to offer you. So again, a similar thing was happening as did on the bike, I would be running someone down and their crew would be hopping out every 1/4 or 1/2 mile to provide aid, whereas my crew was more like every 1.5 miles. I became incredibly jealous of the other competitors and their crew system.

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At one point I am passing a girl on her right side, and her crew is running along her left side, and she looks to have her three best girlfriends crewing for her, and they are offering her fresh cut up pears. It made me angry. Because I had been so sick before the race I didn’t pick up things at the store that I thought would feel really decadent like that. So my crew could offer me Osmo, water, Honey Stinger chews, or Picky bars. The same stuff I train with every day and race with every race. Fresh pears….I’m still jealous of her.

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Around mile 10 I started asking the boys, begging the boys, for Coke. Every around me had been offered Coke from their crews and I was super jealous. A few miles later, the boys appeared with Coke. I took a sip and it was fully carbonated, warm coke. I spit it back out. There was no way. I couldn’t stomach warm coke. I continued to try to sip on my Osmo, also warm, as I had neglected to purchase ice. To be honest, Norway doesn’t really have ice for sale. I asked Troy for ice thinking maybe he could find some where he found the coke, and he pretty much said “Nope.”

On I ran. Around mile 13 I started to feel like I was slowing down. Just two more miles to Zombie hill and I was in 106th or so. Every time I would see the boys I would update them on my placing. I started to really feel the effects by mile 15 and wasn’t communicating too well with my team any more, just trying to make it to Zombie hill. Finally I pull in there, just having passed the person in 100th place. I had met my goal. They had an aid station there too. I was so excited. They had food and different energy drink. I took both. They tasted excellent.

Troy had taken my jacket and dipped it in a river and was trying to pass it off to me as “ice.” I just remember thinking…what if I need my jacket later, now it’s all wet? Poor Troy, he was problem solving so well and I was just unresponsive and confused. 

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Oh Zombie hill. I was so excited to reach Zombie hill. I finally get my first look at the first switchback and I’m ready, let’s do this. I’m running up it and there is a guy ahead of me walking up it. I’m making very little progress on him, but I am making some, so I keep running. I pass him after a long time. I make it about a mile and then I’m walking. Troy and Andrew are there and you are allowed to have a pacer starting at Zombie hill so Andrew hops out and joins me.

We do some talking and walking. The next 5 miles go about like this: there is a group of men walking the whole thing, but they walk faster than me. So they pass me walking. Then once they all pass me, I start running and pass all of them back. Then I walk and they catch me and pass me back, then I run and pass all of them back. So they are walking the whole thing, but I am walk/running. We are making the same progress. Those Norwegian men have long legs and they walk really fast. They are super hikers!

Around mile 5 of Zombie hill, so mile 20ish in the race, I start to get in a pretty low spot. Andrew keeps offering me grapes and keeps asking me to drink. I take the grapes one at a time, and I drink when he tells me to. As we climb in elevation, my lungs start to misbehave again, and my energy starts to get low, very similar to the tops of each of the climbs on the bike. I stop talking to Andrew and we just walk. I try to walk fast, but my head is screaming such icky nonsense at me. Lots of “you suck” “you’re washed up” “why do you even try” It was bad, and I just walked along and listened to it. I tried to keep combating it by saying “you are going to get a black shirt”

Somewhere in here, I think in the 20 or 21 mile range there is an aid station and checkpoint and a timing mat. Andrew and I get to this spot and they have bread. I grab some of that bread and the medical lady looks at me. I can tell she is worried and she starts talking to me, asking me if I am okay and if I have been eating and drinking. I tell her yes and high tail it out of there, she scared me. I hear Andrew tell Troy that medical is watching me. All this time, Andrew is a major champ and is really trying to keep me eating and drinking. He has come up with these little sugary gummy men and I am eating them when he offers them to me. I really liked those gummy men, especially the red ones.

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At some point in here the road just never ends. This race is brutal in that the last 10.5 miles of the race, you climb 5,400 feet of elevation. Yea, it’s steep. Towards the top of Zombie hill (a 7.5 mile road up to the top where the road then turns into a hiking trail) there are many false summits. You think you are almost at the famous 23 mile checkpoint only to be disappointed by yet another stretch of road. With 1 mile to go Andrew goes ahead to prepare my gear bag and get it checked and approved at the mile 23 checkpoint and I am alone for a bit. Troy comes back after dropping him off and parks and walks with me.

At this point I am pretty done, and all I can think of is making it to mile 23 and hearing what place I’m in. This final stretch with Troy people start passing me again. A couple ladies pass me and my brain just curses over and over again. F bombs, F-it bombs, Screw-it bombs. I’m so dejected. Troy is walking next to me and he’s got stuff shoved in every pocket that he’s offering to me. It’s all the stuff he could find in the car, he’s trying to get me to eat more, but I don’t understand why. He actually pulls out a jar of olives and offers it me. I look at him like he’s gone mad. In my brain I am livid…olives…really Troy..olives? But I keep my mouth shut as I get passed by a few more people.

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Somewhere in here I start crying. Troy is telling me I’m going to get a black shirt and I’m crying and telling him how horrible I feel. I’m coughing and just really done, so little energy, and I’m sad. He lets me cry and is there for me and I eventually stop. We keep walking, and I hold his hand.

We come around yet another corner and there is this big arch and I know I’m finally at “the gate.” I walk through the check point and they tell me I’m in 95th, which means I can go on to the top, and Andrew is there with my gear bag. At Norseman it’s required that you have a pacer the last three miles, and you and your pacer must wear a backpack with emergency gear. You have to have spare clothes, headlamp, money, phone, spare food, and spare water. All this gets checked before you can head onto the trail portion of the race up the mountain.

The lady asks me where I am from and I say “Denver, Colorado” and a few people cheer, mostly Troy. I say bye to him and head up the mountain with Andrew. I haven’t seen Andrew in a mile, and now I know I’m going to get a black shirt and I’m really chatty. The cheering at the checkpoint gave me a rush of adrenaline and I’m running solely on it. Andrew and I are talking about life, and racing, and it’s like I’m totally fine.

The trail is rugged and very uneven. There are many little trails all mixed together and you are constantly picking the best route and making your way. My legs are really tired. Picking up my feet is hard and I’m not traveling very fast. I get passed by a few racers, and then a few more, and then a few more. Whatever.

Somewhere around mile 24 I am utterly done. I stop talking and pretty much feel dead to the world. I keep climbing the best I can. I lead sometimes, and other times Andrew takes over, and when he leads I cry silent tears, I just let them roll. He would hand me gummy men, or my hand bottle and I would try to eat and drink, but I was pretty over it all.

There are many other people on the trail. It’s a Saturday afternoon on one of the more busy hiking trails in Norway. There are lots of people up there who don’t really know what we are all about. And then there are the crews of people who already finished coming back down. So I am constantly looking not for the best path up, but really for a clear path up. People seem to be doing a pretty decent job at giving the racers the right of way, but not all the time.

At one such point I was in a low place and a couple comes hiking down and we are stepping from rock to rock and the woman bumps into me and knocks me off balance. This  encounter literally obliterates me. I stumble around a little bit to regain my balance and when I do I just start balling. Just crying heaving sobs and the lady stands there saying “I’m Sorry, I’m so sorry” I can’t even look at her and my head is screaming inside “do you have any idea what I’ve done today” but I just cry. There’s that awkward moment where nobody quite knows what to do with me, I’m making a spectacle of myself, and then I just start walking onwards. I never looked at her, or talked to her, but man, she absolutely knocked out of me the last bit of resolve I had.

And then came the ladies. Every single woman I passed in the first 15 miles started passing me back. One after another after another and I didn’t care, and I hated that I didn’t care. I have been the girl to run down someone late in the race who went out too fast and now I was the girl that went out too fast, and I hated that. I felt embarrassed mostly. I walked on. Some more tears were shed.

Towards the top Andrew starts telling me we are almost there. I can see the finish line and it still looks like so many steps away. At this point the trail is more like uneven stairs, many rocks piled all over and you are stepping from rock to rock. There is also an exposure element and I started walking really close to the edge. I have always liked edges and I often run on the edge of things, the edge of the white line, or the edge of the road. Edges comfort me. But they scared Andrew who knew I was in a pretty bad way. I will admit, I did let my mind wander to what might happen if I fell off. It was a comforting feeling. I also thought about what would need to happen for me to quit the race. I came up with: if a helicopter arrived, I would quit. If a 4×4 vehicle arrived, I would quit. That was all I could come up with. Walking back down was not an option. So I walked the final steps to the top.

As I took the final steps to the top Andrew is telling me “you arrived, you made it.” I’m standing on the timing mat, and I’m looking down, and I’m crying, because I’ve pretty much been crying for the last 1/2 mile. Not tears of success, just of pain, and sadness, and bonking, and feeling like doggy poo poo. I know I have finished because my timing chip is beeping but I look up and nobody is acknowledging that I am even in the race. There wasn’t a single clap, or good job, or even recognition that I am a participant, no photo, nothing. A man comes up to me and says “timing chip?” I reach down, take it off, and hand it to him. Then he said “gps” and I hand him my race belt. He takes the GPS unit out and hands it back to me. Then he walks away. No “you’re done, or congrats” Nada. Another man walks up to me and hands me a rolled up blanket. No good job, he just walks away after I take it. I see the camera man there and I look at him. He says “you are from the morning, you made it.” and I nod, and cry. He had interviewed me that morning and I think back to the interview and how peppy I was, full of optimism, sucking on a cough drop. I felt like a completely different person standing there now, completely empty, and just tapped out, done, so over it. There is a line for soup, so Andrew and I get in that line. The soup is a cream soup, potato maybe. I take 2 bites and that’s about all of that. The soup lady says “good job.”

We go into the hut that is on top and I put warm clothes over what I am wearing. No spot to change without getting naked and that’s not happening. I had been really excited about the advertised waffles at the top so I ask Andrew if we can get a waffle. We get to the counter and ask “waffle” and the guy looks at me and says “Oh we ran out of those a long time ago”..ouch..insult to injury. I wasn’t fast enough for a waffle. They have nothing else there except soda. Andrew buys one for his trip down the mountain and I walk out empty handed. We get back outside and nasty weather has rolled in. It was clear and nice when I finished 20 minutes prior. I ask if we can take a picture because when I finished we didn’t take a picture and there wasn’t anyone there taking pictures. I think they only take your picture if you are winning or a top contender. So Andrew dug out his goPRO and snapped few.

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Thank you Andrew!

We started walking down to the funicular entrance and that was so painful. I was not happy about that walk down. I was coughing bad and in a low low place. It’s warm in the funicular line andI am relieved. Andrew leaves me there and starts his hike back down the mountain. The funicular line took a long time, maybe an hour, and the two guys ahead of me were very kind. They actually were the guys who produce the Norseman movie every year. They could tell I was not doing well and made me sit down. All the ladies that had passed me at the end were in line with me as well and they were chatting and happy. I just sat there wrapped in my blanket and tried to cough the lungs out of my body.

Finally on the funicular we rode that down into the belly of the mountain. Then you get off the funicular car and onto a strange and tiny little railroad car that takes you from the depths of the belly of the mountain to the exit of the mountain. Then you get off and you are on a completely different side of the mountain than you left your crew. I knew this so Troy and I had agreed I would meet him at the host hotel. At the funicular exit I waited for the shuttle to the hotel, and that was like a 20 min drive. Finally the shuttle delivers me to the hotel but Troy isn’t there. I have his phone in my bag so I crash onto one of the lobby couches, connect to wifi and text him. He’s still waiting for Andrew to get off the mountain.

I am so tired and bonking at this point. I just sit there and cry. I took a video and posted it to Facebook and then I just cried and coughed all the way until Troy arrived. Finally, it was over.

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Tomorrow…my insights…


 

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Norseman 2015 The Bike

Whew! Okay folks, here we go. Things are about to get real. This was hard to write. Some serious vulnerability happening here, but heck, you only live once! YOLO!

I want to send a huge thanks to all of you that signed up for the webinar next Monday! We had a GREAT response over the last 24 hours!! It seems quite a few of you are excited about this idea. 3 more days to sign up! It’s free. If we hit 100 registrations, I’m going to give away some OSMO bundles during the webinar. In case you missed my update yesterday:

Monday, August 31st, 7pm (Denver time…you know, Mountain time) I’m going to host a webinar on my #trihacks. It’s going to be around 60 minutes long, but I’ll stay longer if people need me to. I’m planning on talking a little about WILLPOWER because that’s what I’ve been delving into personally over the last few months, and then we can free form it from there.

It’s free so we can see if I suck at it, or if you all like it.  SIGN UP HERE

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The Norseman bike ride:

I headed out of transition to stunning views as the sun was rising. The first little snafu I experienced was losing my Smith glasses. I was shoving them in my pocket with cold hands, and then a few minutes later I went to move them and they were GONE. Uug. Will be ordering a new pair stat.

The first 35-ish kilometers (20ish miles) you climb around 4,000 feet in elevation. There really isn’t any warm up. Maybe enough time to put on a pair of gloves, get in aero, and BAM, climbing. Last sighting of my Smith glasses. Sad…

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I was not feeling too peppy and I was about as cold as one would expect after swimming in 50 degree water. I had talked to Muddy the day before about my situation and I must say, he knows me so well. We didn’t even discuss not doing the race, he knows that’s a decision I would have made or not made on my own. So his advice to me was simple “Go into Diesel mode” which pretty much means, don’t step on the gas, just persevere, slow and steady. Easy to say, hard to execute.

The first girl went by me very early on, and in the first 3 miles I was getting passed often and quickly. I had no problem letting that go because I literally felt like everyone was very strong and seemed to be hard charging. I have never been passed like that in a race and I just absorbed the feeling. When we started climbing that first big climb I continued to watch racer after racer haul on by me.

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I had gotten out of the water in 24th overall (men + women) and by the top of that first climb I must have lost 60+ places it felt like. All the top contenders went by me within 15 miles and I was embarrassed to be wearing #7, people knowing that was an elite number. I wished I could have just blended into the crowd more, but I realized quickly…nobody cared. It’s a personal event. Everyone is focused on themselves and their crew team. I did manage to look around. The scenery was amazing on that first climb!

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I tried to take the climb easy, I had put gearing on my bike to give me gears to spin, and man, I was using them. There was a lot of spitting and blowing snot. I tried hard not to hit anyone with it, but my nose and chest were offloading like a liter of fluid. It was gross. Just gross. The coughing was every 35-60 seconds so about what I had been experiencing the few days prior. I felt half dead to be honest, but I climbed on.

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The other athletes crew teams passed us and I even saw Troy and Andrew go by in our Volvo, whom we called Mr.Beepy. There are a series of tunnels in the first climb. Norwegians LOVE their tunnels! They build them EVERYWHERE and we loved driving through them during our 2.5 weeks in Norway. Biking through them was interesting. They are very dark, and warm, so I was pretty happy in there, it felt like a cave, which was pretty much what I wanted to curl up in. They do smell like car exhaust, but my sniffer wasn’t working too great anyways.

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At 25k Troy had a fresh bottle for me, and then I saw him and Andrew again at the very top of the climb in Dyranut. This area of the course was crazy town, lots of crews, and vehicles, and athletes pulling over, putting on coats, or stopping to eat. I was being overtaken by the mid pack and there were a lot more cyclists around me. If you look at the elevation chart of the bike you see that it’s rolling and downhill all the way to Geilo. Before the race I told Troy to go ahead and provide SAG at the top the first climb and then book it to Geilo bc I would be fine with two bottles and rolling downhill.

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This was my first really big mistake of the day…but maybe a blessing in disguise in retrospect. In my condition I should have asked Troy to bunny hop me every 5 miles instead of sending him 50k down the road. But that was our plan and off they went. This whole section of the course is on the top of a huge plateau. I knew it was cold up there because I was losing motor control of my hands which is really rare for me, but I really couldn’t tell what sensations were because I was sick, and what was the conditions. And honestly, the bone shaking hacking I was doing up there was requiring a lot more toughness than the temperature. Usually the snow is melted on the plateau this time of year, but their cold summer meant the snow was still up there, and that snow was why the fjord was so cold. It was 7:30 in the morning, and I found out later that the air temp was 0C or 32F.

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My lungs were angry but I was learning that dealing with that was going to be constant. The altitude up there, combined with the cold, combined with being in wet tri shorts, put me in a really bad spot. My wet tri shorts froze to my skin and I started to feel my skin underneath take on the feeling of dead meat as my body moved the blood flow away from it, mostly just the section between my bum and my hips. I was still getting passed continuously, had yet to actually pass a single person, and I was not moving fast. I would pedal anything up, and then just coast anything down. Sometimes in aero, most the time not.

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A lot of this section gets a little hazy but there came a point where I was not mentally there any more. I wasn’t thinking clearly, or making good decisions. Two times in this section I rode off the side of the road accidentally. I just wasn’t with it and all of the sudden I was in the dirt off the road. I would stop and kinda wonder how I got there and then pull back on the road. I remember wondering after one such occasion how long it would take Troy to find me if I crashed in the rocks. I remember thinking it would be a long time because he would sit and wait for a long time before coming to find me, maybe days. And I remember thinking that it would be okay. The best way I can describe it is that I stopped having any regard for my safety. It wasn’t a conscious decision, my mind just got strange and didn’t quite care any more. And honestly, thinking back on that over these last few weeks has been one of the hardest things to get over. Hard to explain, but I’m doing my best.

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The road started descending and I just sat on my saddle trying to remember to make the turns the road was asking me to make. I was well beyond any sort of racing brain, just out of it and ridding down a random road in Norway. And I was cold, but also very numb.

At 90k I saw Troy screaming on the side for me and I pulled in to where he and Andrew were stopped. I could not speak. I could not think. I knew I needed warmer gloves, and I knew I needed to get out of my wet tri shorts but I looked at them with dead cow eyes and tried to talk. Mumbled Jumbled words came out. I tried again and got out “gloves and shorts.” Troy said “I can get you gloves” and I said “shorts” and he said “I have gloves” and I said “shorts” and he said “I can only get you gloves.” I know my husband well enough to know when he’s lying to me, but I was so out of it I was confused and kept saying “shorts” and he kept saying “gloves.” I finally just looked at him with confused eyes and got back on my bike. No new gloves, no new shorts. (He’s so cute…how he puts up with this…I have no idea, but he says he loves it)

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Looking back, this was the spot in the bike portion of the race where I am surprised I didn’t quit. The only reason I didn’t was because my brain was working so slowly that it couldn’t even process that quitting was an option. It’s like I was too dumb to quit. It’s really hard for me to describe, but it’s probably the worst I have ever been off mentally since I was in labor with my daughter. Totally confused and not with it.

A mile later Troy and Andrew were on the side of the road again with warm gloves. I looked Troy dead in the eye and said “where are my spare shorts?” He looked me back in the eye and said “I left them in transition.” Suddenly it all became clear. He felt horrible for leaving them so he was trying to not tell me because he thought I would be mad. But the minute he told me my brain popped into problem solving mode and I looked at him completely clear headed and said “I have a spare pair in my luggage, they are Coeur brand, get those.” It totally got me out of fog-brain and I was coherent for the first time in 55k.

A few miles later we were in the middle of climb #2 (there are 5 climbs in the race, and 12,000 feet of total climbing on the bike) and Troy and Andrew are on the side of the road with my Coeur shorts and food. I stopped and put my bike down. Now I’m in an odd position. I need to get nude. There are racers riding by, crews driving and cheering on the side of the road. People are watching and I kinda wave to a guy and ask him to look away, which he does not. Then I change shorts. It was pretty awkward but I got it done and got back on the bike, two more ladies passing me in the process.

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Those shorts were apparently my good luck charm because changing into them was a turning point in my race. Honestly, if the last 80k was just as miserable as the first 100k, I would not have finished Norseman. I would have ended up in a ditch, but lucky for me, I perked up and pretty much became “normal Sonja”. Now, my lungs weren’t going to let me push, and I was still coughing every 30 seconds, and the race had passed me by a solid 80k ago, but it felt nice to not feel like death.

Climbs 2, 3 and 4 are all on the shorter side, and I found an interesting pattern. I felt good at the bottom of the climbs when the temps were warmer and the elevation was lower. As I got to the top of them my lungs got very angry and I would suffer big time until I descended to the bottom once again. I also figured out that the cough drops were making my stomach really feel crappy, so I quit those and just let the cough roll with it’s bad self.

I actually passed back some people on these middle climbs and would tell them good job. This was when I figured out that Norwegians don’t do that. They don’t talk to other people and when I would say “Good Job” they would give me this really funny look. But, it felt good to me, so I kept saying it. The crews on the other hand were great and many of them would cheer for me as well. Many crews would hop their person every few miles, but Troy and Andrew timed their SAG much farther apart so I would see other peoples crew team multiple times before I saw mine. Which way was better? Who knows… both worked.
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I remained in a similar pattern for the middle three climbs and finally found myself at the base of the last climb. Everyone says that this is the worst one. I also read that your crew can get stuck if you don’t time it right and you will beat them to T2. I didn’t want that to happen so I had told Troy the night before to just provide me SAG at the bottom of the climb and then drive to transition and I would ride the last 40k without SAG. So I got my last handoff from them, was in pretty good spirits and off they went.

As I climbed this last one, which really was quite steep and quite long, all the people around me had a different plan for their teams than I did. Their teams were seeing them every 1/2 mile to mile on this climb. I got a bit down in here. I honestly needed the emotional support more than anything and I felt really sad that my crew was gone. I definitely spent some time in here just feeling very alone, and even had some thoughts about my life the last few months. I don’t usually do that in races, I’m very in control of my mind, but I think feeling like I was “completing” and not “competing” opened up my brain to some dark spots. There was this one crew, their racers name was BOB, and he had like 20 people crewing for him. They were pretty amazing and kinda adopted me a little bit out there. They cheered for me every mile up that climb. They were so kind and gave me love out there which I had grossly underestimated my need for.

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The final descent is a bumpy one, and everyone had been warning us about how horrible it was. I felt it was bad only in comparison to the pristine Norwegian roads. It was about standard for a California descent. After the descent is a long flat section of 5 miles or so and I pulled over to go pee because I hadn’t peed all day yet and I couldn’t hold it any longer. Apparently 7 bottles is the max I can hold without peeing…I am a camel!

After my pee stop, a few more miles and I’m at T2.

Oh T2….the most strange strange part of Norseman. So Troy is in there, they have like 15 bike racks. They don’t need many because your crew is going to take your bike after they get you out of there. So Troy grabs my bike and he has ALL my stuff laying out in T2, it was amazing. The T2 is small, and it’s a rectangle, and it is lined 2-3 deep with spectators. Not cheering spectators…literally just people watching you. I remember looking up and making eye contact with several people, they were like 10 feet away. I’m in bike shorts…I need to run in either run shorts or capris. I look at Troy with panic…there are no change tents. I said “I don’t want to get naked” and he says “Oh, everyone is doing it” and in my head I’m like “that doesn’t help me.”

Literally all I could think about was that in order to get into my capri pants, I would to take off my shorts, which meant I would need to bend over. Spectators are staring at me 10 feet away, and like 300 of them. I knew one thing…. I WAS NOT BENDING OVER NAKED IN FRONT OF 300 NORWEGIANS. I have thought a lot about this since and why I felt so weird because if you know me, you know I am NOT a modest person. I think it was because I felt so extremely vulnerable. I wasn’t racing in the lead, I was really sick, and now I had to get nude on display.

I remeber saying in my head “just get it over with” and I laid down on the grass and shimmied my shorts off. I remember looking up and seeing people watching me like they were watching TV. There was the awkward moment of my bits being on display as I tried with frustration to wrangle my capri pants on, struggling to get them up. Troy pulled my knee warmers off my legs and I put my run shoes on and got out of there. I have never been so happy to leave transition in my life. Worst strip show ever…

Running out they tell you what place you are in. This is probably a good time to explain to those of you that aren’t familiar with Norseman the set up. So, Norseman accepts 260 athletes. I got in by applying for one of the 5 women’s Elite slots, hence #7. At mile 23 of the marathon there is a checkpoint. If the weather is good, and you are in the top 160 people (men and women are not separated here, and there are no age groups, it’s top 160 and that’s it) they allow you to continue UP the mountain on a rocky dirt trail the last 3 miles, and you get to finish on “the top” at the Guastatoppen. If you do this, the next day they award you with a black finisher t-shirt.

If you aren’t in the top 160 at mile 23, they turn you towards a different finish line lower on the mountain and you get a White finisher shirt.

Exiting T2 they told me I was in 121st place. I had been passed by 97 people on the bike. And because all day, my entire Norseman experience was getting passed like I was standing still, 121st seemed VERY CLOSE to 161st in my mind. That number scared the dickens out of me.

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Norseman 2015 The Cold Swim

It’s HERE! The Norseman Blog!! I’ve finally put down all the juicy details about this epic race, along with some really good insights I got from the experience. This post was delayed for a few reasons. ONE, I’ve been working hard on the back end of Rising Tide Triathlon Coaching which has been amazing (if you reached out to me for coaching recently, I’m so jazzed! Thank you!).

TWO, this race took some serious reflection before I could extract the good insight out of it. It actually happened on a ride just this week and I had to pull over and record a voice memo to myself so I wouldn’t lose the AHHH-HAH!! Look for that blog in a few days.

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Before I launch into it… I’ve been talking to LOTS of athletes these days. I keep asking and asking and asking what they are looking for in coaching, what they want me to put out there, and what is missing in the industry. It’s been really neat, and if I haven’t talked to you yet and you have something to tell me on this topic, feel free to comment below. So, one thing that kept coming up when I asked what people wanted from me was more “triathlon hacks.” The little mental tricks, or the efficiently tricks that I seem to always be looking for, sharing, blogging, etc. Well, people want more of that! Okay, I say, I see where that would make a lot of sense. So, as a tester, I’m going to do it.

Monday, August 31st, 7pm (Denver time…you know, Mountain time) I’m going to host a webinar on my #trihacks. It’s going to be around 60 minutes long, but I’ll stay longer if people need me to. I’m planning on talking a little about WILLPOWER because that’s what I’ve been delving into personally over the last few months, and then we can free form it from there.

It’s free so we can see if I suck at it, or if you all like it. 

SIGN UP HERE

Okay, enough is enough….. What’s it’s like to swim in 50 degree water? …let’s do this.
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The lead up to Norseman wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for me. A week before the race I started to cough a bit. My first reaction was “no big deal”, the race is a week away. It’s not exactly ideal to travel sick, but I had a week to get better and MANY of you assured me I would be fine. As the days before the race went by I got worse, but I expected that. On Wednesday I had a really bad day and just could barely function. My cough was deep in my chest and not very productive. I wasn’t coughing up green goo, it was lots of clear and really painful. I posted FB videos every day and tried to keep my chin up, I was in Norway, it really wasn’t that hard!

On Thursday we traveled to Eidfjord (swim start town) and I swam in the fjord. I felt it was really important to do a test swim since the water was “the coldest this time of year since 1963” as we got told over and over again. I traveled to Norway with my wetsuit, earplugs, neoprene cap (with the little strap under the chin) and spare swim caps. But after a scary email from the race director on Tuesday Troy scoped out a surf shop and then I dragged myself there to purchase a neoprene vest, booties, and a full hood that went down your entire neck and into your wetsuit.

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So, I felt prepared for the test swim. Except the bad cough part.

Boy was I wrong. I actually had no idea how I was going to swim 2.4 miles after just a 20 minute test swim. I’m a really hearty girl, but DANG that was FREEZING…put an F-word in front of freezing, that’s how cold it was. I still get cold thinking about it. Turns out I was a bit clueless and swam very near where a river feeds into the fjord and so I actually swam in 47 degree water. The swim TANKED me, I ended up walking out of the restaurant we went to afterwards and falling asleep in the car for 4 hours.

Click on the Facebook Link below if you didn’t see my test swim video.

https://www.facebook.com/sonja.wieck/videos/10206169967461612/?l=278620508603185535

Because I was so under the weather, Troy did everything. Every single thing. He put my bike together (a first) and got everything ready for the race. I slept, and tried to enjoy the hours I was awake. Norway is the most gorgeous place I have ever visited in my life, hands down!

Friday I did an 18 mile test ride from our hotel to the race meeting. I coughed and spit my way through it, but did convince myself that it was possible to ride a bike in this condition. The pre-race meeting was crazy. The whole thing was dark. We were all in this auditorium and they started it off with some traditional music and then played last years video, which we all had watched….ohhhh….300 times by then. I have that thing memorized! They told us billion times to be nice to our crew and to follow the rules. There are a lot of rules for the athlete and the crew since this race is totally self supported. The roads are not closed, you must obey all traffic laws, and your crew must not endanger ANY racers by making sketchy Tour de France driving moves. If your crew gets a penalty, the athlete serves it. Norwegians are brutal…this race is legit.

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Friday night we had a race meeting with Laura and Andrew, my crew from London, and they headed to bed with their two little ones. Troy and I went on a walk and sat down and had a big heart to heart. I hadn’t eaten much of anything the last two days because the cough had stollen my appetite. A few potatoes and some toast were pretty much all I could get down.

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Should I race? I was still just as sick, if not more sick than I was days prior. My dilemma was really HEALTH versus I CAME ALL THIS WAY. We chatted and I really felt in my heart that I wanted to start the race. They had changed the swim to 1.2 miles instead of the typical 2.4 miles because they didn’t want anyone in the water after 75 minutes. The recorded temp was 10C or 50.6F I believe.

https://www.facebook.com/sonja.wieck/videos/10206175735525810/?l=3143766673361902510

I went to bed that night knowing I would start the race. It was the crummiest packing job. At midnight I was wide awake, and worried. I couldn’t sleep and I got tired of rolling around so I sat up and I got into my meditation position. I set my alarm for 15 minutes. I figured if I was really tired, then mediation would put me to sleep. 15 minutes later…”gong..” still awake, but feeling better. So I went another 15 minutes, and another, and another….75 minutes later my phone gonged again and I got up ready to get on that start line. I applied my race tattoos, lucky number 7, and put my kit on. I fumbled around in the bathroom for a bit until Troy woke up around 2am and we started getting ready. YAY Sponsors! Coeur, YAY, Osmo, QR and Tribella! My homies, my tri-family!!

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Laura was taking Annie for the day and driving to the finish with her two kids, and Troy and Andrew were my crew for the day. We dropped Annie at their hotel room in exchange for Andrew and got in the car. I was in a FANTASTIC MOOD. For some reason, that meditation had me rarin’ to go. I knew I was still sick, but I had energy. Andrew was like “You are like a whole different person” and we (I) cranked up the tunes in the car and sang the whole way to the race site at the top of my lungs.

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We arrive in Eidfjord 25 minutes later and it’s the strangest situation. Because the race is self supported, Troy came into transition with me. They check that you have front an back lights installed and that they are on and blinking. Walking through transition I was excited and was saying HI and THANK YOU to all the volunteers and people working for the race. They just looked at me. Norwegians and not socially outgoing and they had no idea what to make of me. They literally would look at me with a “Are you talking to me” face. It was crazy. No good lucks, or anything like that. It was very serious. If you are a massive introvert….Norseman is the race for you!! hahahha!

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Everything went like absolute clockwork with the race. They were unbelievably organized and their concern for the athletes was amazing. They wanted us safe in that water. I said my goodbyes to Troy and boarded the ferry.

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The ferry is a car ferry and there is a nice section up top with couches and tables where all the athletes sit and get ready. I found two guys to chat with, one friendly talkative Norwegian (kinda rare) and a German man who had done kona 4 of the 5 years I had! The time passed quickly. Soon enough we were suiting up with all the layers. I had booties, neoprene vest, Roka, full hood, ear plugs, swim cap, and then I covered my face and hands in Vaseline.

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The 20 minutes before the start of Norseman were my favorite 20 minutes of ANY “before an IM” time in my life. All 260 of us were down on the part of the ferry where cars would usually park, you’ve seen it in the videos and we were all in our wetsuits. They had big hoses and were spraying us down with fjord water so we had time to get used to it before the big leap. This is a safety matter so you have time to warm up the water in your wetsuit before jumping in, very smart! We walked around waiting for them to tell us we could get in and I made eye contact with like 20 or 30 people. I actually hugged 6 people I did not know. It was a really intense and intimate moment that all 260 of us shared. Really special and I will never forget it.

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They made the call to jump in and I was one of the first 10. It was an AWESOME jump. I haven’t seen a picture but I went for it, and I screamed ALOHAAAAAAAAA on the way down. I think I threw a double shaka and a big smile! I was expecting massive pain upon hitting the water like my test swim, but it was okay. Cold, yes….as cold as my test swim….no, not even. So I was pretty jazzed about that. I positioned myself in the middle, in the front-ish and I looked around. I looked into peoples eyes and looked at their body language. Some were fearful, some excited, some just ready to get going.

The ferry blew it’s horn and we were off. My whole goal was to swim at a rate that did not get my cough in a tizzy. So I started under control. A few minutes in I felt like the cough was good so I looked to the group ahead and made my way up to them. Then I passed them and picked the next group ahead. It was the first time in a swim where I swam people down. I felt good and steady and I think I only coughed 3 or 4 times in the whole swim, which was probably the longest period I had gone in the last week without a cough.

I made sure to look at the view as the light started to brighten. It was gorgeous, just as gorgeous as the movies make it seem. I even had the thought that if I made it no further, I was so glad to have the swim experience. Towards the end there is a huge bonfire on the shore line and I could literally feel the heat of that bonfire on my face. It was amazing. Shortly after we went through several cold patches that were similar to my test swim and I was reminded how bone chilling it was. Soon enough I saw the exit, grabbed a helping hand an stumbled my way onto land.

Running to transition the coughs were immediate. I coughed my way to transition and then suddenly Troy was running next to me. He was saying “you swam so well” and I was thinking…I was powered by beauty. Swim: 32:23! and 2nd woman out of the water. Dolphin Pod Power!!

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We got to my transition spot and the male with #1 on his shoulder was exiting. I was feeling very accomplished to actually be in transition with the prior years race winner.

The transition at Norseman does not have change tents. I’m not a modest person, but I did not want to change out of my wet tri shorts. READ: I was unwilling to get nude in front of several hundred Norwegians. Oh, give me a few more hours…. My plan was to put on booties, knee warmers, arm warmers, jacket, hat and gloves, and leave my tri kit on. I did all of that and before I knew it I was yelling thank you to Troy and headed to the mount line.

Whew, okay, things are about to get real…tomorrow…

One more reminder, Monday, August 31st, 7pm (Denver time)

#trihacks webinar.

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In the comments….Norseman reactions? Anyone ever experience water that cold? Or do you just want to share what you are looking for the tri coaching industry that you think I should provide? I’ll be responding to comments tonight and tomorrow morning. 

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