Up we go
I quickly jumped on my bike to complete the new 20K warm-up - in the pouring rain. The next 40K, a climb from Eidfjord to Dyranut, could be one of the reasons people from around the world come to tackle the Norseman. Weaving along an old tourist route, and with no cars to worry about, we could only stare in awe at our surroundings.
Around every turn otherworldly waterfalls poured over the edges of magnificent canyon walls. I almost didn't mind the 1,250m climb to Dyranut, but as soon as it flattened out, I was glad to have my gilet, as we had to battle bitterly cold crosswinds and driving rain. I was so cold, I had to use my wrists to change gear.
The last climb - a killer of a mountain called Imingfjell - came as we approached the 160K point. We'd been warned that this was the point at which we were in danger of digging too deep and having nothing left in our legs for the marathon. But once you're at the top, you know that you only have 40K to go, all of them downhill. I had aero bars, but I spent most of the time clinging onto the drops as though my life depended on it - which it did, as there were bumps and potholes that would have made me go splat if I hadn't been careful.
After just over seven and a half painful, hours in the saddle I reached T2, in the town of Austbygde. I was welcomed by the fabulous EL crew and, to my surprise, sunshine. As I left transition a volunteer flashed a piece of paper - I was in 151st position - just inside the 160 cutoff limit.
The received wisdom is to try to go hard for the first 25K of the run, along the flat(ish) road that borders the stunning lake Tinnsjøen. After that, prepare to walk because you'll hit the 1800m wall that is Gaustatoppen.
It is normally during the run leg that I start to race, and I usually make up time lost in my diabolical swim. But this time I was reduced to the dreaded Ironman shuffle, thanks to my exertions on Imingfjell. Along the way, I met James Heraty, another member of Team Endurance Life. We decided to stick together and shuffle our way to the finish.
Our aim was to reach the 32.5K cutoff and so be in with a chance of claiming a coveted black T-shirt. Only the first 160 athletes to reach this checkpoint by the 14:30 cutoff would be allowed to continue. The rest have to turn around and go back down the mountain, finishing at the 1,000m mark and collecting a white finishers' T-shirt. We made it, with over an hour to spare, in about 135th position.
We picked up our mountain packs at the 37.5K checkpoint and continued to crawl up the mountain. The final 4.7K features boulders, rocks and a pitiful excuse for a path. But now we could see the finish, which is marked by an old NATO radio tower. It was a slog to the finish, but with James' wife, Cat, calling encouragement we eventually crossed the line, 16 hours and 4 minutes after we set off. The panoramic view at the top was worth the pain.
At the award ceremony the following day, with the rain falling and Gaustatoppen shrouded in mist, 223 athletes gathered for the group photo. (In the end, 168 black T-shirts were handed out because eight athletes finished at the same time.) We smiled, knowing that we had conquered the world's toughest long-distance triathlon and we had the T-shirt to prove it.
Are you tough enough to take on the Norseman?
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Discover our top tips for taking on the Norseman or be inspired by our stunning photo gallery of the event.
The essentials that helped Tobias Mews complete the challenge:
- Blueseventy Helix wetsuit and Zoggs Predator goggles.
- Planet X Superlight Pro Carbon bike with Shimano Dura Ace groupset, Profile Design T2+ Alloy Aero Road Bars, Profile Design Aero Drinks Bottle, 52mm Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR clincher wheels. It worked a treat.
- Met Sine Thesis helmet.
- Shimano TR02 Carbon SPD shoes.
- Bento box - filled with Powershots, Zipvit Energy Chews, SiS Energy bars.
- Orca tri shorts, K-Swiss tri top, K-Swiss tri arm warmers, K-Swiss tri wind vest, K-Swiss tri sun visor. Despite the wind, rain and, finally, the sun, I never overheated or became too cold.
- Mizuno Wave Rider 14 trainers.
- Adidas Eyewear T-Sight sunglasses.
- Salomon S-Lab Skins vest with 1.5-litre bladder for the marathon stage. Inov-8 Race
- Pro 12-litre hydration bag with two-litre bladder for the mountain stage of the bike. Contained: Petzl e+LITE, Skins, Buff, gloves, OMM Kamleika Race Smock, two energy bars, mobile phone and money.