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Lyndy Wickham’s Norseman Race Report

If you thought an Ironman was hard then you've probably never heard of Norseman.  Read all about Lyndy Wickham's amazing Norseman race experience from August this year below:

The Norseman Extreme Triathlon is the 3rd hardest Triathlon in the world. You start with a 4m jump off a car ferry then a 3.8km swim in the Hardanger Fjord, water temp 13 degrees. 180km bike ride over 5 Mountain passes, temp 5 degrees, wind and rain, 3500m climbing. 42.2km Run, 25km flat then 17km @ 10% to finish on top of Gaustatoppen at 1850m, temp at the top 2 degrees.  250 race slots balloted worldwide, 3087 applicants, around 300 competitors, only 160 allowed to finish on top of the Mountain.  5200m total climbing.  In 2016 47 women were in the race, only about 40 competitors were older than me. I’m one of only 6 New Zealanders to have competed, and only the 3rd New Zealand female to have done the race.  Less than 3000 people have done this race, only 300 women have done this race, 177 of those women have finished on top of the Mountain for a black T shirt.

Those are a few of the statistics that make this race such an exciting challenge!  A friend sent me the 10th anniversary video of the Norseman 2 years ago as a joke saying ‘you should do this race’.  I watched the video and forwarded to my husband with a message saying I want to do this race!

Two years later after loads of hard training including The Kepler Challenge, Boston Marathon and Queens Birthday weekend in Ohakune riding and running up Mount Ruapehu, and 45hrs of driving and flying (mostly flying) we arrived in Geilo Norway, a wee ski town halfway along the Norseman bike course. 

We spent a few days there checking out the second half of the bike course and all of the run course, except the Mountain Trail itself, thought I would save that bit for race day all going well! 

We came across the Crew doing the race themselves which was really cool, I rode with one of them for a bit and he gave me some handy tips – real nice bloke!  (Thanks Jacob I never forgot what you told me!)

Monday we headed for Eidfjord, inspecting the first half of the bike course as we went, stopped and played in the snow on the side of the bike course – don’t get THAT in Kona! 

Oooed and Ahhed at the glacier from the bike course, this was one STUNNING country with magnificent scenery, how would I be able to concentrate on my race, riding and running through such a gorgeous landscape!  Fjords, Mountains, Plateaus, Rivers, Lakes, rock and trees, just breathtaking!
Arrived in Eidfjord and settled into the 5 bedroom house we had to ourselves in the campground (long story about that, but we were jammy that’s for sure!!)

Eidfjord is a tiny town, but it’s certainly very warm and friendly.  Race week went fast, as it does and it was finally nearly race day.
I had set the alarm for 1:20am.  Breakfast, then walk to transition to get bike checked for lights and hi vis vest and racked! 

Wetsuit etc on, seeya to husband/support crew Steve, then boarding the ferry at 3:40am.  Full dive hood on, wetsuit up.  Then the hose down with water pumped from the Fjord (drops our body temperature so it’s not such a shock when we hit the water).  The back of the ferry opened and we all cheered, then very quickly people started jumping.  I am a real chicken and was dreading the jump – hadn’t practiced it either.  Got to the edge held onto my cap and goggles and jumped!

Seemed to go down for a REALLY long time then seemed to take a REALLY long time to come back up!  I actually thought it was fun, but glad I took a big breath before jumping!  Swam to the start, tried to keep out of the good swimmers way and tread water till the Ferry Horn went, the kayakers lifted their paddles and we were off!  We swam against an outgoing tide and the Fjord was rough!  A few competitors got seasick.  But I enjoyed my swim, just aiming for the lights on the shore, (there are no course bouys) the bonfire behind the turn bouy at the 3km mark was really good though!

Rode out of Eidfjord, first 10km was flat and I couldn’t believe I was actually doing the Norseman!  I was really excited.  Then we started climbing and going through tunnels – some were lit with candles.  My light worked really well with a high beam for the unlit tunnels, the surface was really rough with lots of cracks and potholes.  The first climb takes you to the Hardanger Plateau, it is 40km and takes over 2hrs.  Up there the temp dropped to 5 degrees and the fog was thick, quite eerie as it was really quiet.  Our support had received a message that we had to keep our hi vis on till the fog lifted. 

Steve had been stuck in traffic and not caught up till Dyranut (2hrs riding in) I was very relieved to see him as was worried there had been an accident!  We got an extra jacket on and carried on, some real nice riding on the plateau, though the wind had come up and it started raining so was really cold.  (a few pulled out with hypothermia)  At Geilo (90km into the ride) I layered yet another jacket on.  Fortunately then we also started with more big climbs so that helped with warmth – though I was barely warm enough. My crew (husband Steve) was well organised and I had very few stops. 

The support/cheering from other athletes crews was LOADS of fun and made the whole day heaps of fun.  I know it is an oxymoron on that course – massive climbs, bloody cold wet conditions and fun all in the same sentence.   Climbed the last big bike climb of the day with plenty of spare energy and put my Nana pants on for the ‘dangerous descent’ (there were a few crashes on the bike) and flew through the rest of the ride.  By the time I reached T2 the rain had stopped and it was warm (18 degrees).  As I exited T2 they held up a card with my place on it – 135!! 
I just had to hold my place!  Didn’t think I could get any happier or more excited than I already was!  But as we know in racing it isn’t over till you cross the finish line!  I just let my legs do the running and tried not to get too far behind them, slowly but surely I made up a few places, the scenery is lovely as we trot along and I was thoroughly enjoying my race! 

Again the support and sportsmanship was outstanding!  Finally we were faced with Gaustatoppen, the beautiful Mountain – though a little shy that day with a layer of cloud on the top.  It looked a very long way away.  I was starting to feel the run but was still moving well.  Turned onto the road up the Mountain and started on working to achieve one of the goals I had set myself. ‘You can’t run Zombie Hill they said, it’s unrealistic to run Zombie Hill they said, nobody runs Zombie Hill they said’.  I want to run Zombie Hill I said. 

I managed to run the whole of Zombie Hill and made up a few more places while I was at it too.  Crossed the mat at the 32km point and the race director shook my hand checked my health and I went through!!  I had made it!!  Steve had had to park the car a fair way off the road and was running down to meet me with our packs for the Mountain, we were both incredibly overwhelmed as we were both sure I wasn’t going to make the top 160.  Steve sent me back to see what place I had got through in – 99th!  I was stoked! 
From there we had to go to the car to get the rest of what we would need for the Mountain then headed up the last bit of road to the gate at the 37.5km mark.  Through that and we were on the Mountain!  Nothing would prevent me finishing on top of the Mountain now, there was no more running from here but I went as fast as I could. 

I faded badly in the last part of that climb, it was steep, hard and rocky, but FANTASTIC!  Finally we reached a very cold (2degrees) and subdued finish line that was amazing! 

So that was the Norseman Extreme full distance triathlon – basic, true, unique as described.  It was an incredible experience with incredible competitors and an even more incredible organising crew! 

I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to experience it and finish on top of the Mountain.  As I said any description of this race is pure cliché, no words have been invented, so best thing is to experience it yourself......
The ceremony the next day was really good, they brought up the top 3 men and women, the two winners were given $5000USD to donate to a charity – how cool is that!!

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