"Although I didn't feel 'bad' , rarely was there a time where I felt 'comfortable'. The frigid cold, unrelenting 10+% grade climbs, cramps, mild GI issues, frustrations with being mediocre at my strongest event and battling the emotional ripples this realization caused. Resiliency, determination, self realization, trust, and acceptance sum up aspects of this race and it was the toughest singular athletic quest I've ever done." Patrick Ellison
This journey started quite awhile back when Patrick notified me he would apply for the Norseman lottery, where they only allocate a small number of positions to U.S athletes. Before I forget, I'd like to note that 47 countries were represented by 249 athletes, with only 36 being women. Don't judge them for being sexist either, they often don't fill all of the female slots. So anyway, Patrick calls me and notifies me "it's on, I'm racing Norseman".
A very unique aspect of this race, is that each athlete must have a support crew or crew member through the duration of the event. This means Patrick was also soliciting me to be a Uber-Sherpa for one of the most challenging races I've ever heard of. It's takes place in a brutal, unforgiving and frigid environment he will have a hard time recreating while training in San Antonio, TX. My thought after our phone conversation was "holy shit he actually made it in". I also, remembered Patrick Finished St. George IM (on its last year) and savage man 70.3, which are/were some of the toughest events in the U.S.
Depending on where you're staying, plan to wake up around between 1:30 and 2:30 am. We were about 30 minutes north with a STUNNING view. We stayed at hotel Ullensvang since everything in Eidfjord was booked. TOTALLY worth the price and drive. We couldn't have been in a fancier place! We also had access to some grocery stores too, so it's not 100% vital to stock up before you get there. So the overall idea is...you and your athlete will have a VERY long day. Even after ONLY providing support all day, I was smashed when I was allowed to join Patrick for the last 18k or so. I was astonished he climbed up a freaking mountain!!! Check the elevation chart below....the very end is the mountain top finish.
Finally, you'll need to make hotel accommodations in Eidfjord for the start of the race and then stay in Rjuken for the finish. Most people stayed at the top of Zombie hill, which was coordinated by the race directors and where the awards ceremony was held. It was also full so we had to stay 15 min away....in Rjuken.
Race Morning etc...
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- T1 and SWIM - 1 Crew member is allowed to help their athlete during T1 set-up. Make sure you have your yellow reflective vest, GPS unit and head/taillights. They will NOT let you enter until you can provide all of those items and YES they are very strict about this. T1 was open from about 2:30 to 3:45....but It was early and I'm sure my times are a bit fudged. The crew member allowed in T1 should be very involved in the set-up because they will likely be dressing the freezing and incoherent athlete after the frigid swim. Plan for accidental nudity, bring some towels and accept that your athlete will shiver A LOT as their cold blood returns back to their core (it's normal). The Ferry leaves around 4 am and these Norwegian's are very prompt! Patrick was all set with his XTERRA Wetsuit, booties and neoprene head cover...we could only hope he'd find some comfort within the last 60 minutes, because it was about to be ON! The ferry pumped Fjord water into it's cargo bay so athletes could splash it in their face, preventing certain shock! From the shore we could see the ferry, hear the cannon and knew they were off! Now....there aren't any buoys to follow...just a wall of kayaks and a viking like fire on the shore...pretty awesome.
Plan for 6-8 Hours of Saddle Time
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After seeing Patrick handle the emotional battle of the bike course, we had no idea how we would feel or fair on the run. Needless to say, after the steep, grinding effort up that last climb...he was emotionally challenged to a entirely different level then he had ever experienced. The last 20k is a non-support zone since it's a very technical descent, so we headed to T2 to set-up for his arrival. He actually made up 3 or 4 minutes on the descent, putting him in 153rd position heading onto the run course...only 3 positions behind is good friend Simon, another American who Patrick works with.
"This effort and success are not mine alone. They are the direct result of a coach that designed a 9 month program of diabolical training evolutions. A guy who was there at a moments notice and even stood by my side to the very end. Always pushing me to journey on in the bitter cold, wind, rain, and sleet in spite a body and mind that wanted to quit. Onward to the highest point in Norway, a mother of a climb to finish atop Gaustatoppen. Thanks Nick you're one in a million." Patrick Ellison