When I left for Norway with Mel on the Monday a neighbour said what crazy s**t are you two up to this week?
Arriving early to check out the course was wise. I felt much more comfortable knowing where I was going to drive. On the day of the race, we were up at 2am, I barely slept as the supporters could easily do something to cause a DQ. The briefing the night before was very clear ‘this is tough but cosy’. It was anything but cosy. Andy (Mel’s Husband) and I had spoken a few times about the race, I was pretty anxious about it, Andy waved the fears away. After the bike was racked, we saw Mel off onto the ferry. I took a photo of us all Mel looked tiny I was worried about her, Andy said NAH she’s tough. I know that but we had been swimming in the week, and it was freezing, I just wanted to get out as soon as I was in and I’m usually better at the cold than Mel, but she managed really well. We went back to the car and waited, setting an alarm in case we nodded off. I couldn’t rest and watched the live feed, once they started jumping in, we headed back to the end of the swim, coffee in hand we waited.
Standing on a rock to see over all the tall supporters waiting felt tense. We both spotted her at the same time and raced to our positions. Only one supporter was allowed in T1, Andy wanted to do the drying and dressing. Mel was so cold, I have never seen anyone look that cold and different to when I last saw them. She looked like she’d aged years. She could only manage two words at a time and was shaking so much she was stooped over like a 90 year old (sorry Mel but you were). Andy had a hell of a job dressing her, he also had to put up with me shouting out orders to collect this or dry that. He seemed to take it well which is good as we found out that was how the next few hours would be.
Mel set off on the bike and she still wasn’t moving very well. I kept my fears to myself but I did wonder how she would carry on if she didn’t warm up soon.
We were able to see Mel a few times heading up to the top and she able to string a sentence together so we started to relax a bit. Then at the top came the rain. The visibility was really poor and at times we couldn’t see the bends in the road. We were frozen to the bone within minutes of standing out in it. The car suggested it was 4 degrees but we later found out the wind chill made it much lower. Mel was wet and shaking so much on the bike we thought she might shake off the side of the mountain. It was scary again, Mel said a couple of times I don’t think I can go on. At one stop she was saying this while I warmed her hands up with mine, her hands didn’t feel like human flesh they were so cold. Each time she stopped she headed straight out. We were desperate for her to be warm and dry but even we struggled to be warm enough to do up zips or pull-on arm warmers. She headed off looking a bit bulky with all the layers. We were very relieved when she took layers off the other side of the mountain a good sign.
The downhill was fast, we struggled to get there before her once so didn’t risk that again. Most of the time we would pull up show an array of fuel and turn the car upside down meeting Mel’s needs and head off again. We got to T2 and set everything out we were getting mixed messages from the people at home tracking and what the numbers at T2 were saying. Mel was close to getting in the first 160 but she had indicated at one stop (pretty forcibly) she didn’t care.
Mel set off on the run with people to catch, she made a few suggestions about methods to work out how many and how long. Andy and I disagreed about what Mel had said the car became tense. At one point Mel screamed at us both ‘I need precision’ we knew she meant the hydration drink but the metaphor wasn’t lost on us.
I think because she was so near to being in the first 160 everyone around was anxious the other athletes and supporters were stressed and eager to get ‘it’ right. Unfortunately, it was tricky. More disagreements ensued mostly between the support in our car.
Andy got out and headed up the mountain with Mel. Mel was so close but missed the trip up the mountain by 7 places. I must admit I was worried about what would happen if she got cold again. It was blooming freezing up there.
I parked the car and met with Andy and Mel and we made our way to the end of the race. The 10 laps round the hotel and cabins was lovely and finally cosy. The old race director was waving a flag and cheering everyone on, there were fires and candles and lots of encouraging volunteers, hurrah it was nearly over. Mel crossed the line to the national anthem. It was emotional to say the least. I felt like I had accompanied someone through childbirth, Mel is one tough lady. I went to collect the car, it looked like a toddler had had a massive tantrum in it gels and sugary water everywhere. Oh, and within all of that we had to feed ourselves. We have laughed about the tantrums since. I think the supporters need to be tough and ready to shout at each other. Think hard before agreeing to do the Norseman. It’s certainly not for me.