On Valentines day I competed in the World Winter Triathlon Championships in Norway. I had done my usual mix of winter training on rollerskis on the roads and carparks of Norfolk and endured the usual comments from car drivers and dog walkers alike. Plus I had done a week on snow in Austria to get the ski technique upto scratch. I had run and cycled through our lovely British winter and felt fairly well prepared, well at least I was used to the cold.
I flew from Norwich via Amsterdam on the 12th with mountain bike and skis in tow and arranged to meet one of the GB team at the hotel near Oslo and reccee the course. I left Norwich at 0610 and arrived at the hotel at 1330, a record transition into ski kit and we were skiing the course by 1430! The course was a 3.2km lap which had to be completed twice on race day. Four lung bursting hills to ski up and then descend with wobbly legs followed by some twisty trails through the woods. Great fun in sunny, below zero conditions.
We then assembled the bikes and cycled the snowy tracks through the woods, proving to be a real challenge just to stay on the bike. I actually fell off five times and ended up carrying the bike up most of the hills. It was like extreme cyclocross, we were supposed to do three laps on race day!
The next day we walked the run the course which was a combination of hard pack snow on the road and then ankle deep snow in hilly woodland tracks, making the run laps total 4.5k.
This was my second trip to Norway and I love the stunning scenery, with snow in the trees it was very picturesque.
We then watched the Elite race and cheered on our one GB entry Rodrie Buffet, a very fit lad from Wales who specialised in cross country running. We were amazed to see him leading the run through the snow only to see him go backwards on the bike section as the mountain bikers and Nordic Ski experts reeled him in. He eventually “bonked” big style and had to throw in the towel halfway through the ski. The poor guy looked like he had done an Ironman when we found him!
The age group race was on the Sunday. A mix of Russians, Italians, Scandanavians, Americans and various other representatives from the snowy nations and some Brits to make up the numbers.
The temperature had gone up overnight and the snow temperature was now only -3 degees, therefore 15 mins before the race a change of course was announced for the bike as it was considered too soft to ride. We now had three laps on a hard packed snowy road with some soft bits on the bends for added comedy moments. Great we hadn't even had a chance to view it and I had let most of the air out my tyres to get grip in the soft stuff! Oh well we were all in the same boat.
The gun went off and about 30 hardy fools raced off into the woods to stumble and fall around in the snow on foot. This was a real energy sapping run and even spikes did not seem to make much difference to traction.
This was immediatly followed by the mountain bike section which was like a fast time trial on a carpet of thick snow with some hairy icy bends. This is also draft legal which can be quite annoying when a guy from Lichtenstein sucks your wheel for most of the course and refuses to do his bit on the front. I was glad to get back to transition without falling off or punching him!
The really hard bit of Winter Triathlon is the cross country skiing. Normally when you do a tri and you start to run your legs feel like somebody elses for the first mile, so imagine that feeling then try and balance on very narrow skis and skate up and down hills for 6.4km. This is absolute aerobic jelly leg pain. The hardest bit is having muscled up the slopes with screaming thighs and glutes you then have to hold a racing tuck on the downhills, turn at the bottom and do it again and again! I have so far not managed to find an event with quite the same fatigue factor as this one. One of the GB competitors discovered that it is possible to get cramp in your butt cheeks!
I managed to finish in 63 minutes and tried to pose a bit coming into the last bend with some flashy skiing like the pros
and promptly fell over in an undignified heap, much to the amusement of the commentator. I came 16th overall and 2nd Brit, so I was pretty pleased with myself. I will definately be back next year.
The winning time was 53mins the slowest was 1hr 41
If anyone would like a unique challenge and has a bit of cross country ski experience I can thoroughly recommend doing it next year plus you get to wear a nice Lycra suit with GB stamped on it.