Louise Minchin on completing the Norseman triathlon
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 September 2019
The TV presenter swaps Chester for Norway as she overcomes an ankle injury to take part in one of the toughest races in the world.
I was feeling devastated when I wrote last month's column as I thought I had injured my ankle so badly that I was going to have to pull out of Norseman, the extreme triathlon I had been training for all year. You might remember, I had torn a ligament after running up Snowdon, and all those months of hard graft, jogging in the rain, cycling up gruelling hills, and acclimatising to freezing cold water were about to go to waste.
The only cure for it, apart from gentle physio exercises, was to stop running, and for once I did exactly as I was told. Amazingly, a week before race day, I was given the all-clear and I set off to Norway with my bike and family.
I imagined Norway would be beautiful, but I had no idea how impressive the landscape would be, with vertiginous mountains towering high into the clouds, waterfalls cascading into deep, dark fjords, and vast plateaus littered with rocks left behind by retreating glaciers. The most amazing part? I was going to swim, cycle and run nearly 140 miles through it.
Race morning arrived. Wrapped up in neoprene from head to toe, I was a bundle of nervous excitement as I boarded a car ferry with 250 or so other hardy triathletes. Obeying the instructions of a race marshall - 'Don't think, just jump' - I leapt into the inky water. As I surfaced, gasping for air, I caught a glimpse of the mountains surrounding me and knew it was going to be an epic day.
It was. The bike course was brutal, the first climb alone took me two-and-a-half hours and I had a worrying hour or so when I thought I had lost my family, who were my support crew. I almost cried when they finally found me. To my surprise, my ankle wasn't the problem on the marathon. It was the unexpected heat. The temperature soared to over 30 degrees and the only way I got though it was by being doused with cold water by kind souls who turned on their hosepipes.
The tagline for the race is 'This is not for you'. But 16 hours and 46 minutes after I started, I used one last ounce of energy to skip across the finish line with a smile on my face, and prove, actually, it was for me. I was a Norseman.