Co-Founder and head of sales at Bookman, Victor Kabo, is a member of Team Bookman. In August 2016, he participated in the legendary Triathlon Isklar Norseman Xtreme Triathlon. Read about the race and his personal experience in one of the toughest races on the planet.
ABOUT THE RACE
The Black Finisher T-shirt
The Norseman 2016 Race Report
10 years after I first heard about Norseman I was finally here, backed up by an excited and super positive support crew. I woke up at 2 am and after checking the bike and making some last minute clothing adjustments it was off to the ferry and out in the fjord. The atmosphere was tense, I've never broken a race and I wasn't planning on doing it this time either. When entiring the race a year ago I thought that with good training and a reasonably perfect race I could probably make it in to the top 20 with a finish time below 12 hours, an hour and a half after the winner. Now, however I wasn’t in a perfect shape. As a new parent my exercise volume the last couple of months had not been great, but I still felt strong enough reach the top of Gaustatoppen and be one of the top 160, and get the famous black t-shirt.
Part 1 - Swimming
With a 400 meter deep fjord and the huge grey mountain wall in front of me I jumped into the black water and looked at the air bubbles from down below. I was suspecting freezing temperatures but it wasn’t too bad. Despite the water being warmer than anticipated I had a hard time finding my rhythm. Bad technique and no harmony combined with morning stiffness made the swimming tough. I was also really annoyed with the other athletes and a lot of small waves made swimming tricky. However, energy level was still good and I finished after one hour and 21 minutes. Not great but still OK since my focus has been the running and cycling. I finished in 88th position felt excited for the next part.
Part 2 - Cycling
The course started with a crazy 1 300 meter ascent during the first 35 km and this was my first time biking in the mountains! My plan was to try as best as I could not get carried away and burn through my legs too early. Through mountain tunnels and along deep crevices and rapid white water, it was beautiful! My pulse was low and I gained several positions so I felt good about it.
I reached the top and the first checkpoint at Hardangervidda and despite noticing it was now a lot colder I made the grave mistake to keep going without adding clothing since I still felt warm. The next 60 km was downhill and soon enough it became very misty with windy, cold temperatures and a lot of rain. Only five degrees above zero and a heavy downpour with side winds made riding sketchy and super cold. I managed to get a fleece and gloves on but it wasn’t enough and it was far to next checkpoint. I was shivering and couldn’t feel my feet but I still maintained good speed coming downhill and after a change of clothes and getting ready for yet another ascent my moral was rising again. All in all I got through another four heavy ascents, both passing and being overtaken by others. There was never a single dull moment, the road was filled with cyclists and their support crews! On the last and heaviest climb I started feeling stiff in legs and knees, all in all that was about one hour of work on the lowest gear! During the race I would only have needed three gears, the lowest, the highest and then one even higher.
At the top I found my two favourite supporters, my girlfriend Anna and my son Fred cheering for yours truly. It was a good reminder of what is important in life since the next stage of the course was extremely dangerous with a steep decline, on a wet and very badly paved road with heavy traffic. The result was several wipe-outs and punctures from tired and cold cyclists. I lost a water bottle but apart from that I could use the last 30 km to rest my legs in preparation for the running. The total time was 6 hours and 35 minutes which was about what I was aiming for. I was in 55th place after the cycling.
Part 3 – Running and finish
The running course consisted of 25 km of fairly flat running and 17 km of ascending 1 887 meters to Gaustatopp, I was looking forward to this part! I had a good feeling and a lot leg strength left so I started out with 4.15 minutes/km and kept passing my competitors one at a time. Up until 25 km it was flat so I could press on and worry about the mountain later. Everything went according to plan, I only had to stop once to bandage blisters after 18 km. My support crew was helping out a lot, one guy on bicycle and the rest of the team in a car that every 2km would deliver what I requested. So then all of a sudden I was finally at ‘Zombie hill’, and it was time for the first part of the serpentine road to Gausatoppen. My body was enjoying the use of new muscles and I could switch between running and walking to lower my pulse. I gained about ten spots, overtaking people that resolved to walking, it was a nice ego boost! Spirits were high and the support crew were blasting Rocky theme to get me going. At the 32.5 km checkpoint the black T-shirt was mine! After just over three hours and 37.5 km of running the road ended and the final trail started. One of my friends put his running outfit on to help me get to the top of that pile of stones. I was able to push hard during the last hour towards the top, and besides a low about 20 minutes from the top where I skipped food, I was keeping great pace. Up the top the weather was bad and after finishing I felt a little empty inside since it was now over but I was happy about getting in just under 12 hours and 30 minutes. I finished in 27th place, top 13 on the run! All in all it was a great day!