My road to Norway, by CBCG athlete Andrew Nelson
On November 13th, 2016 I scanned my inbox and nearly missed the most monumental message I've ever received: “Andrew Nelson, Welcome to The Iskbar Norseman Xtreme Triathlon.” I had entered the lottery for Norseman every year since 2011. Six years ago, however, I held a naive concept of what the race would entail, let alone what it took to train for and compete in long distance triathlon. Today, now that I miraculously got an entry, I'm a completely different athlete. I'm infinitely more prepared, and correspondingly more terrified.
To contextualize my original naïveté, in 2010 I spectated my first Ironman in Coeur d’Alene, and was captivated. The following day I registered for next year’s race. I was that guy: training on a fixed gear city bomber bike for my first race, which happened to be a full distance event. Not only was IM CDA my first triathlon, it was also my first real open water swim, and first time going the distance on a road bike (not even a tri bike), borrowed from a friend. In hindsight, I was comically unprepared.
In a way, I feel similarly three weeks before toeing the line at Norseman. In the years between that first race and today I’ve acquired a fancy bike, lots of spandex, and worked with exceptional coaches who've empowered me to advance from a novice participant to a bona-fide competitor. But the legendary extremity and epic nature of Norseman bring me back to those original days in the sport, questioning want I've gotten myself into.
After my ill-advised, but relatively successful debut at CDA, I thought “Eh, I did one, I can do any of them.” Since I started big, I sought out another potentially absurd goal: the legendary Norseman. I annually tossed my hat in the ring, and in the meantime, I found myself developing as an seasoned triathlete. I spent four years completely burning myself out physically, trying to go faster. I went two more years hating endurance sports and not racing a single multi-sport event, barely excited to ride my bike unless it was to get drinks. But I made huge strides and kept entering that damn lottery.
Then on that pivotal day in November, I got said email message. Here's how it looks:
So nonchalant; so matter of fact. Here you are now, with a major life event on the horizon. With the invaluable support of my CBCG coach Chris Boudreaux, I dove back into the most intensive training of my life over the past eight months. My personal life has been chaos, my work life has been a roller coaster, and most of my training was in the trainer dungeon or on a treadmill thanks to the worst Portland winter in 24 years. Looking back, though, I’ve reveled in every minute of it. It’s been fly by the seat of my pants, hanging on for dear life fun.
Despite being terrified of the race, living in a new house that barely has running water with my girlfriend Alana and new one-year-old terrier puppy, navigating the logistics of flying across the globe for a race,and myriad other First World problems I won't bother to document, I’m more amped up for this race than any adventure I’ve done to date.
For once, time goals are on the back burner. My principal goals are to not poop myself; to enjoy the wild new country, landscape, and culture; and to revel in the support of my amazing girlfriend Alana. She's sacrificing an estimable amount of time and energy to travel with me. Despite having an allergy to waking up before 9am, she’s on board to wake up at an insane hour, act as Sherpa, drive the support car all day, and deal with, well, the unknown.
Lastly and most importantly, this race wouldn’t have happened without Chris Boudreaux. Bagg connected us shortly after I received the aforementioned email about Norseman, and his approach and coaching style turned out to be the PERFECT fit. I’m really so confused by coaching and training plans, and am honestly confounded why certain workouts show up on on my plan (despite reading/listening A LOT about it). But I completely trust Boudreaux, and everything has worked like mercury - the variable paces, the intensity, the volume, and of course, the surprising but appreciated recovery. I’m a bit of a set-it-and-forget-it athlete, but I had feedback about damn near every workout, and always the right feedback. He doles out a tiny bit of snark when needed, and then is a stalwart during the pity party moments. I can’t thank him enough for working with me for the last eight months.
The next few weeks are going to be packing, obsessing over not forgetting anything, bike tuneups, and all the madness that comes with a destination race (and follow-on vacation). I’ll check back in after my day of competitively exercising with some photos, stories, and recommendations if anyone else is nuts enough to go do this race.