My name is Erik. I could introduce myself as an Norseman finisher. But I think that is a bit harsh on the others. I have a black shirt somewhere. I might have stolen it. If you ask for my story, don’t take my words to the ba
nk. Everything I say might be a lie. Or at least, not necessarily the truth. It’s my truth. How I remember things. And I’m known for having a poor memory.
It’s been almost ten years since I did Norseman. And to be honest – the memory is a bit faded. The jump from the ferry, the ride up Måbø valley, the Hardanger plateau, Zombie-hill and the finish at Gaustadpeak. All the things you are fantasizing about these days, are becoming more and more vague for me. They’re small flickering glimpses in my mind, blurred by age and time. Eac
h year it fades away a little more. Like glossy pictures in an old chocolate-box. They’re there. They are like fish swimming at the bottom of a black forest lake. Every now and then they break the surface for a split second and leave ripples in the water. But then they submerge to an uncertain depth of my mind just as quickly as they emerged.
With one exception: The climb over Iming mountain.
The memory of that climb stands out, clear and black. Like a cold, iron rod in my mind. The bare thought of it leaves a bitter taste of metal in the back of my mouth. I will never forget it. And Iming mountain won’t let me forget her as easily either. It’s the fifth and final climb on the bike leg. The three previous hills after Geilo are just like small gentle waves in the landscape. They will let you pass by with a small sigh and you will maybe break a small sweat on your upper lip. The Iming mountain pass is no such thing. She will strike you down, hammer you with her bare knuckles and grind you down to a weak-willed unsustainable substance of convulsions, despair and pain. On the Iming mountain, it’s payback time. You will pay for the altitude in Måbø valley that you climbed in a bit of a panic because your swim split wasn’t as good as you expected. You will pay for your hubris on the Hardanger plateau when a treacherous tailwind made you believe in miracles.
It’s not the hairpin bends and the 10% gradient that will leave you with a memory you’ll never ever forget. It’s not the climb up to the final top that transforms your brain from a single sharp crystal of performance to a sticky batch of glue. It’s the bit after the point where you think you reached the top that will break you. Because when you think, “Yes this is it! I made it! I am a hero!”, you have another 200 meters of altitude left to climb. You just don’t see it. It’s a false flat. Welcome to Iming mountain. And trust me, it always rains. The tailwind that made you believe in miracles on the Hardanger plateau is now turned into a headwind that will hit you in the face like a coal shuffle. With a strike so hard it could be delivered by Hell’s own stoker. When you think that salvation and an easy downhill ride is near, there is just another climb round the bend. Then another one. And another one. The Iming mountain is like the supervillain in an ’80s Hollywood action movie. It just won’t die!
When the downhill finally materializes, you will find no salvation. No rest. Just the sense of pure agony and fear. You are now in for the treat that is the descent from Iming Mountian down to Tessung valley. When your feet have a core temperature just above zero, you can’t feel your legs from the hip down, your arms are more attached to the handlebars than your shoulders, your head feels like someone swapped your brain with cold oat porridge – now is the time when you have to ride down a steep downhill, on tarmac that best can be described as unsettled gravel someone shoved up the mountainside an early Monday morning back in the ’70s. After a full weekend bender.
It’s not until you reach the safe haven in the forest at the bottom of Tessung valley that you can try to summon, with a rough level of accuracy, whether you will make the cut for the black shirt or not. Because even though you on a normal day have the running step of a prima ballerina and a sub 3 hour marathon PR, the climb over Iming mountain will make you waddle out of T2 in Austbygde like a rheumatic bulldog.
It’s the climb over Iming mountain that transforms your tolerance of lactate pain into hard currency in “Zombie Hill”. We didn’t come up with that name just because we thought it had a nice ring to it.
Merry X-mas. Enjoy the fudge. You’re going to need it.