Race Report – by Caroline Fox

A couple of years ago Simon and I embarked on an exciting new hobby called ‘Triathlon’.  It all started with a fun triathlon in Nantwich and we both did OK – I certainly got off to quite a confident start and have enthusiastically been entering all sorts of events since.  However, I don’t think I always pay enough attention to the differences between the races we are now entering and the original ‘fun’ triathlon (with people running in fancy dress around a 2.5k route….).  For Simon though, Norway had received a lot of attention as this was his 2016 ‘A’ race after training hard all season….

So, Norway – 70.3 Ironman!  We were  both keen to try a branded ‘Ironman’ event and saw it as a great excuse for a mini break somewhere new.  After all the usual craziness of packing bike boxes and making (essential) last minute homemade flapjack we set off to prove ourselves in ‘The Land of the Vikings’.    We got to Oslo OK and just about made the tight transfer to Haugesund.  At the cute little airport in Haugesund we trotted off to get our bikes from the oversized luggage area – there were a few bike boxes there but not ours!  The plane was too little apparently to cope with all the Ironman bikes so some would arrive later on.  After filling in all the ‘lost luggage’ forms, we missed the bus to the hotel and grabbed a taxi with another ‘no-bike participant’.  I had a good chat with the Norwegian lady and agreed we were both at similar levels and would probably finish at the same time in the race (more on that later…)

I normally like to stay in ‘carefully sought out quirky’ accommodation but for this, we had decided to take the easy option and stay at the hotel hosting the event – great decision…  The place was full of atmosphere and the hotel was incredibly relaxed about the number of people pushing bikes around and keeping them safely in their rooms!  We got ourselves registered and set about searching for another unnecessary event top from the ‘Expo Village’.  Then, off to the pasta party in the evening. This is when we started to get a bit nervous….

All of a sudden we felt like we were staying in a ‘real’ athletes village.  There was a lot of active wear and compression type gear on show (my M & S t-shirt felt all wrong…).  We soon found out the event was being used for the ‘Norwegian Championships’ – everywhere we looked there was another powerful Viking sporting a ‘confident athletic glow’.  This certainly wasn’t Nantwich ‘Fun’ Triathlon…  On a positive note though, our bikes arrived later in the evening.

We had all day Saturday to sort ourselves out before the race on Sunday.  It was great to have the time to prepare properly even though it rained most of the day.  This was the first time we had done a race with the transition bags system but it all seemed really well organised and we started to get a little bit excited about taking on the Vikings…

After a lovely meal out on the harbour, we headed back to the hotel for an early night ahead of a 5.30am race-day start.  I spotted a couple of people at breakfast who didn’t look like they were part of the Norwegian Olympic Team – maybe there were some other participants here who simply classed this as a hobby???  So, after the obligatory bowl of porridge, we made our way to the event start.

The race…

Swim – not long before the start the swim was shortened to 1500m from 1900m (cold water temperature as well as a fairly chilly start to the day).  The volume of swimmers meant the ‘washing machine effect’ seemed to go on and on for me… Simon had sensibly taken a slightly wider line and missed some of the mayhem.  The lake was lovely and after some crazy cold swims at Salford, felt quite nice and warm to me!

Bike – A truly spectacular course.  Mostly closed roads with fantastic aid stations and never ending local support.  To different degrees, we both found it a challenge but for me, the scenery and constant support were great distractions.

Run – It was a 2 lap course.  I passed Simon at about 3k for me and 18k for him.  Great to see he was having a really good race and a bit of a boost for me to crack on with the rest of my run.  As I started to loop round onto the 2nd lap I saw the lady from the taxi – out of 1500 people, we were likely to finish together after all! Then, I saw her divert down the finish line – a good hour or so ahead of me. Clearly she had been taking a modest view of her performance and I had miscalculated some what….(I have now invested in a Garmin to get a better handle on things…)

Eventually I crossed the finish line in 6hrs 38 – no walking and far from being last (my only criteria). Simon had crossed the line in 5hrs 17.    We spent a great hour or so hanging around the finish line, soaking up the atmosphere, eating free burgers and drinking free lager – both tasted amazing.

We went to see the ‘Awards Ceremony’ and admired the awesome times.  Following this, the ‘After Party’ was a great finish to a wonderful day – we enjoyed more beautiful food (included in the entrance fee) in a big marquee on the harbour with all the event volunteers.

The whole experience was brilliant and we would definitely recommend this event.  It was voted the best Ironman 70.3 in 2015 and we could see why.

So, what next?  Nantwich ‘Fun’ Triathlon again or a Full Ironman???