Thoughts on Norway and Norseman

After two weeks in Norway, I have to say it was a fantastic country to visit.  The people are rather reserved, Max and I initially called it indiferent, but after some interaction are very friendly.  The country is beautiful, both rural and urban.  After being in Dublin and London, I have more respect for what Oslo has to offer.  Good times.

As far as the race, I am not ashamed to admit that I was in over my head.  Good lesson to learn now and not on the summit of some 20,000 foot peak.  Great experience and a great way to progress, mentally and physically. Am considering next year, but not sure if it can happen.  The biggest concern being financial.  Would be nice to get another full-iron race in before then, but not sure the feasibiity of that.  Am currently on the south coast of England, after some time in Ireland and London.  Will try to post some stories and/or photos. 


Norseman conversation

To summarize my experience at Norseman, here is the conversation I was having with the sensible part of my brain:

215am Saturday morning, in gymnasium with 50 other people
Matt: Wow, people are up already?
Sensible Matt (SM): Of course they are. Most people went to sleep hours earlier than you and don`t want to be late getting on the ship.

400am on ship as the sun the is coming up on the fjord.
Matt: Wow, it`s cold!
SM: Duh.

455am standing on edge of ship, waiting to leap 12 feet off the edge into the water
Matt: The longer I wait, the less time I`ll be in the frigid water!
SM: Jump in you wimp so that you are actually ready when the race starts!

About half way through the swim you had to climb out over these big rocks, walk past a fire, show the organizers that you are not hypothermic, then climb back in and swim along the coast to the transition area to finish the 2.4 miles.

Approximately 724am after an hour and 18 minutes of swimming
Matt: How do you walk?
SM: Act normal so that they don`t pull you out of the race for being disoriented!

On the first climb, 3500 ft of switchbacks.
Matt: Why am I not passing tons of people?
SM: Maybe because the people in this race are actually well prepared and are not the standard triathletes who have less climbing skills than you. If you did more than 3 triathlons in preparation, maybe you would not be as surprised.
Matt: But, I did the World`s Toughest half-iron and passed dozens of people on the bike and even placed.
SM: But that race is only marginally harder than other half irons. This is way harder and twice the distance in difficult weather. Toughen up!

On the exposed ridge line at mile 105, after the 5th climb, in the cold fog and rain.
Matt: Wow, this is hard.
SM: What did you expect? You are in the mountains of Norway, on the course of the world`s hardest triathlon. Did you expect sunny So Cal weather and tail winds?
Matt: Well, no, but, you know, just saying. I don`t know. I guess, maybe.

Transition 2, after 125 miles of cycling with 10,000 ft of elevation gain:
Matt: Wow it`s not cold! I can feel my feet. Can`t wait to run.
SM: Remember how Nick told you how important bricks were and you did one?
Matt: Yeah, of course, so I did one.
SM: Just wait and see.

After 3 or 4 miles of the marathon
Matt: My feel and ankles are killing me! wtf?
SM: See above conversation, dumbass.

From mile 5 to 15 I was feeling pretty good and able to keep a decent pace. Not as fast as I`d hoped to be going, but not just shuffling. When I reached the bottom of `Zombie hill`, a 3000 ft winding climb up to the checkpoint 4 miles up, my crew informed me that I was at risk of not making the cut-off to enter the mountain.

Matt: I can run up this!
SM: If you do, you risk being in poor mental health at the checkpoint and not being able to continue.
Matt: Let`s listen to Norwegian black metal on Max`s ipod. I`ll kill all the zombies on this hill!

At the mountain checkpoint, about 20 miles into the marathon.
Organizer: You missed the mountain cut-off by 10 minutes.
Matt: Shit!
SM: Shit!
Organizer: Don`t worry though, you would not be able to go to the top anyway. We have not let anyone all the way up for the last couple of hours.

Why did I not push harder if I was close to missing the cut-off? Well, my bike computer stopped working in the rain and I don`t wear a watch. I just had no idea I was close until it was too difficult to make up the time.

Matt: Let`s walk the last 10k.
SM: Hanging out is pretty cool.

So Max, Aidan and myself walked together for the last 10k and finished at the hotel 1000 meters above sea level. I was slightly disoriented and very sore, but not miserable. We had some great conversations about life and about adventure and about what it all means.
My goal time was 15 hours. Factor in the extra miles added to the bike, the headwinds and rain, and my decision to walk the last 10k, and that adds the 3 hours to make my finish time of 18 hours totally fine with me.
Next year?


Norseman full-iron starts in 7 hours.

My favorite part about traveling and about doing events (or adventures!) is putting myself in some unique situation and taking in all the ups and downs of the experiences the new situation produces. This race has been on my mind for over a year; those who know me know that is much longer than I am usually capable of thinking about something. Spending 3 days at race headquarters has given us the opportunity to feel the excitement build. It is very real now. It`s not the first time I`ve said, `this is going to be the hardest thing I`ve ever done.´ But that is not why I am here.

A friend of a friend asked me before I left, `Why something so extreme?´ And I never thought of it that way (seriously- despite the word `xtreme´in the name of the race). How did I answer? That as you approach the difficulty of something like this it`s feasibility becomes real. Suddenly it is a reason to go to Norway and a time to put myself in a very unique situation indeed. The `hard` part of it is harder than anything I`ve done, but not by leaps and bounds. During the lows I have an adequate bank of experiences to draw upon for motivation and during the highs I can experience something like never before. All this in one of the most beautiful environments I`ve ever been in. And with friends who traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to help make it happen.

We`ve already met lots of people, Norwegians are very excited that we came all the way from California to be here. They ask how long I have been a triathlete and how many times I`ve been here to do the race. I tell them that I never considered myself a triathlete and that I slept on couches for two months to save money to come here to do this race. They appreciate that we sleep in the gym and cook all of our meals.

Pre-race concerns are the obvious ones: Did I swim enough? Cycling is my strength, but did I ignore it too much to swim and run? Have my two weeks of traveling before hand make me soft? Will the stiffness in my left knee get better as the day goes on?

Goal 1: Finish the swim. Period. Goal 2: Make it to the mountain checkpoint before the cut-off (if the weather is bad, you cannot finish on top of the mountain and you finish out the run on flat). Last year all but a handful made the cut-off, the year before only the leader finished on the mountain top! It depends on the weather.

Am returning to this post now at 930pm, before I go to sleep. At the pre-race meeting this afternoon they announced that they had to move the swim deeper into the fjord due to some international triathlon governing-body rule about water temperature minimums. Now the bike is 12 miles longer! I don`t mind so much, but man, it`s already going to be a long day. The race starts at 5am local time, 8pm Friday night in California. Think of me before you go to sleep and again when you wake up!

Oslo to Eidfjord

Yo from a pda getting free wifi. Pretty advanced considering we slept
in a shed behind a school last night.
Oslo was a great city to be the most stationary I've been in 2 months:
4 days. Saw a natural history museum exhibit about gay animals. rode
cityshare bikes to the viking ship and thor hyerdhal museums, a vegan
buffet, a sculpture garden,etc, etc.
Epic train/bus trip to eidfjord yesterday. This is a small town with
1000ft cliffs on 2 sides and a fjord on a third. Unfortunately it is
cold and rainy.
Met some of the race directors tonight, were impressed we slept out;
they were apologetic, but we explained that we didn't care!
Now we are comfortably chillin in the local community center/gym with
kitchen access and even a tv. Very nice indeed. Less than 60 hours to
race time! Definitely getting nervous.

What’s this Norway race about?

Today I arrived in Oslo, Norway to begin my five weeks in Europe. But I feel kind of like I’ve been traveling for five weeks already. After a week on the East Coast I’ve gotten quite a few questions about the Norseman triathlon I am doing on August 4th. So what’s up with this race?
It’s an iron-distance triathlon, but this is far more adventure than race. First a boat takes all participants 2.4 miles into a fjord. Everyone jumps off and swims back to the small town of Eidfjord to complete the first segment (equivalent to about 180 pool lengths). Then onto the bike for 112 miles through the mountains of rural Norway. There is no official support so I need a crew to hand me food and water. Max from Swarm!/Team Bonobo is coming out as is Aidan, Morgan’s close friend from England who was not able to continue on the PCT due to an injury. Chris Kostman also hooked us up with his cousin, who lives near Hammer, Norway. Amazingly she is coming out and helping as well. After the bike, the marathon run begins. The first 15 or so miles are mostly flat, but the last ten miles take you up Gaustatoppen to a peak nearly 6,000 feet high. More info on the course here. My crew must accompany me for the last leg to the top and I have to wear a pack with warm clothes, cell phone, emergency bag, etc. Amazing. I hope to finish in 15 hours.

I read this on the plane ride here: ‘If you are assured completion then the challenge is too easy.’ Maybe that sums up my interest in a race like this. It is also a damn good reason to come to Norway (or to travel in general). I am convinced that (almost) anyone could complete this sort of race, if they were set on doing it. I’ve merely put myself in a position where I have to prove that to myself. The anticipation alone is worth the entry fee. Can’t wait to get out there. Hope to update frequently and maybe even post pictures.

New fixed breaks (away)

This is not so new, but this is the first chance I’ve gotten to get photos up. This bike was custom made by my good friend Trystan from Rapha. Actually it was a collaboration that also included Bernard, formally of Seven Cycles and Bill the Nurse. Trystan sized me using track geometry and built it around the Ritchey break-away system.

The only external piece that makes a break-away frame look different.
Custom burrito tree head badge.
The seat tube and top tube section that splits
All packed up in a suitcase ready to take on the plane

This version of the carry case is not a back pack. Bad idea.

Cheap. Timely. Convenient. Pick two.

Some person in the bike industry once said, ‘Light, strong, cheap, pick two.’ and I’ve found it be accurate most of the time. Does it have application outside of bike parts? I think so. As I plan my five weeks in Europe, 7 years after I first went, I am finding myself trying to force convenience without comprising time and expense. While this time I probably will not be sleeping under skateboard ramps or in the scaffoldings of buildings, I still do not want to drop a grip of money I don’t have for comfort. Where is that balance? Is comfort the fourth variable? Do I get to pick three then or still only two? Last summer’s trip, which was 4 weeks on the Great Divide cost Steevo and I fraction of what most people probably spend (our total costs for lodging was $14. Combined.).
Double centuries after sleeping under a park bench, cool. But a full-iron triathlon? Probably not a good idea. What would the 17-year old me do?

Why Orange County is Scary

Recently I’ve been staying in Orange County, ‘South County’ specifically, and overall it has been much better than I thought it would be. Out the door of where I am staying I can run in the park, ride through canyon roads in the mountains, walk to multiple restaurants, Trader Joe’s and other grocers or chill at a lake with a 5,000 foot mountain as the back drop. One evening there we counted four or five different languages being spoken. This neighborhood is one of the most diverse places I’ve stayed; LA is diverse as a whole, but most neighborhoods are pretty homogeneous.
Despite these new realizations, OC still has its generalizations that all too often end up being true. One of which I present as photographic evidence.