Tekst by: Bent Olav Olsen Translated by: Anja Agnethe Reiler
The road to the finishing line in an iron-distance race is long and paved with uncertainty. Everyone who has taken part in such a process knows all about this, whether you are a friend, family or athlete. Countless hours of training and preparation are involved. For the athlete it is hopefully mostly enjoyable, for the family it may perhaps bring mixed feelings.
To be able to cross the finishing line you probably need to make some adjustments to your life. You obviously need to exercise more and if you want to reach the finishing line you might want to cut down on your tv-viewing, and not drink as much beer, smoke as many cigarettes and eat as much candy as your average Joe. For some it is a great sacrifice, for others it is less problematic and more of a lifestyle choice.
Either way the ones who want to pass the finishing line have a clear focus. We focus on a goal. On the competition. We plan our exercise with the competition in mind and we think about the competition while we exercise, eat, work and brush our teeth.
This is the case for all the top athletes among us, but it is also true for the triathlon amateurs. Those of us who walk around in Morristown as relatively normal men and women.
I enjoy being at the end of the list
I am one of the last ones to cross the finishing line. I have 12h 12mins as my best Ironman time and because I am slowly approaching 50 this may be the finishing time that sticks. I am also a white t-shirt finisher from Norseman and I know that I will never wear a black one.
Which is fine by me, I am comfortable with who I am and I always enjoy being among the last ones. And I also enjoy organizing races for others.
This weekend I was one of the organizers during the tenth anniversary of Norseman Xtreme Triathlon. The tasks for a Norseman volunteer are many: I served coffee, I had athletes sign ”Release from Liability”, I tidied up, I kayaked and I was in a Race Marshall car both days. I handed out finisher t–shirts and I served at the turning point on the white course on Sunday.
In most competitions the first and the last arrive at the same finishing line and the finisher t-shirt is the same. As most of you know Norseman is not like that. The first 160 arrive at the finishing line at Gaustad toppen and get the black t-shirt. The others cross the finishing line at Gaustadblikk. Same distance, not as many meters above the sea and a white t-shirt is the prize.
Out there I met participants who had to face the fact that they were not going to get all the way to the top. Not this time. They were just about to complete a very hard race, but this would not include the legendary top peak as the icing on the cake… Close, but no cigar. Or?
A few may have perhaps realized this several months before. The workouts didn’t quite work out? There was less time for training and too much work? The body didn’t get rid of the flu fast enough? Most of them show up at the starting line anyways because they don’t want to miss out on the experience. And miracles do happen? Unfortunately, not very often when it comes to Norseman.
Others understood it early on in the competition. This was not going too well. You pedaled and you ran and you made your calculations. If I get into T2 in 40 minutes and I run with an average speed of…Then I can still make the cut off and will be allowed to walk up the mountain with a rucksack on my back and a black t-shirt in my sights. As long as the others aren’t too fast and they make the cut off at 160 participants instead.
I was sitting out there at the turning point of the white course. I had a fire going and a turning point marked on the asphalt. I wasn’t looking forward to the task. I had walked the white course myself a couple of years ago and even if I at that time knew that I wasn’t going to make it to the black one, it was rather a bitter walk. And now I was going to greet people on the same long walk. How was I going to meet all of you? What was I going to say?
At least now I know what I want to say:
After having stood there on a Sunday evening at the beginning of August, I am very impressed and I feel a lot of love for the athletes and their support crews. Our there in the darkness, lit only by the fire, I saw a lot of smiles. So many were talking. So many of you thanked me. Some were of course having a really tough time. The race of their lives slipped through their fingers, just short a place or two, although they had met the cut off. It is very hard to handle then and there. We respect that. Most of us have been there, more than once. The day that it didn’t quite go the way we wanted it to, had hoped for and deserved. But on Sunday everyone made the most of it and crossed the finishing line, most of you showing amazing enjoyment. And even though you don’t think the white shirt was enough, even if it felt like a bad substitute, the white shirt is the prize for an amazing achievement too!
Those of you who completed the race on Sunday do not readily give up, but because you as participants are a resource for whichever race you enter, I hope that you keep showing the same sort of sportsmanship and the will that you showed on Sunday. That’s why I still say: Don’t give up. Try again. With Norseman or something that might suit you better.
Because what you showed warmed infinitely more than my fire, even if it didn’t scare away as many mosquitoes.
As far as I am concerned, I know that I am going back. Not as a participant in Norseman, but at the turning point of the white course. That is my place!
Keep it up! We love you!