My name is Erik. I could introduce myself as an Norseman finisher, but I find that a bit harsh on all you guys who unlike me, will earn Your t-shirt as a result of vigorous preperation and consistent exercise. My Norseman entry was in a blur of ignorace and I just trusted my luck. Although I do have a black Norseman finisher t-shirt somewhere, I can’t remember me crossing the finish line at mount Gausta as a grand triumph of mind over matter. What I do remember is me crawling on all four , sobbing and missing my mum a lot.
Now it’s been almost twelve years since I did Norseman as an athlete, and the memory of it all is a bit faded. The jump from the ferry, the ride up Måbø valley, crossing the Hardanger plateau, Zombie-hill and the finish at mount Gausta… All the things you are fantasizing about these days, are becoming more and more vague for me. The memories are still there as small flickering glimpses in my mind,. They’re like fish swimming in a black forest lake who every now and then break the surface for a split second and leave ripples in the water, but they submerge to an uncertain depth just as quickly as they emerged.
With one exception: The climb over Iming mountain!
The memory of that climb stands clear, hard and cold in my mind. Like a iron rod set in my spine. The bare thought of it leaves a bitter taste of metal in the back of my mouth. Iming mountain is the fifth and final climb on the bike leg. Måbø vally and 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 maybe you’ll break a sweat on your upper lip. The Iming mountain pass is no such thing. She will strike you, hammer you with her bare knuckles and grind you down to a weak-willed substance of convulsions, despair and pain.
On the Iming mountain, it’s payback time! You will pay for the altitude in Måbø valley you climbed to fast in a bit of a panic because your swim split wasn’t as good as 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 of Iming mountain that will leave you with a memory you’ll never forget. It’s not the first steep bit of the climb that transforms your brain from a single sharp crystal of performance to a sticky lump of regret. 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! Barguil; eat your hart out! T2 here I come!” – 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, up here it always rains. The tailwind that made you believe in miracles on the Hardanger Plateau, has turned into a headwind that hits you in the face like a coal shuffle, with a strike so hard it could be delivered by Hell’s own stoker. And the climb never ends. There is always a bit more round that next bend. And round the next one. And then another one and then a bit more. To climb the Iming mountain is like killing the supervillain in an ’80s Hollywood action movie. It just won’t die!
When the downhill finally materializes, you are in for the treat that is the descent from Iming Mountian down to Tessung valley. 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. You plunge into the downhill with feet who now have a core temperature of just above zero, with legs you can’t feel from the hip and down, arms more attached to the handlebars than to your shoulders and a brain that has a reaction time equivalent to the lag of yesterdays oat porrage slipping off a wooden spoon. So it’s not precisely what you would call a “flight on the wings of love”.
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 as light as 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 makes your tolerance for lactate pain hard currency in “Zombie Hill”. We didn’t come up with that name just because we thought it had a nice ring to it.