The website for the Norseman claims this:
“The Norseman is the world’s
toughest long-distance triathlon. It is also the most northern, taking place at
the same latitude as Anchorage in Alaska. The race is a travel through some of
the most beautiful parts of Norway. It is not a normal circuit-race as it starts
in a fjord and finishes at mountain Gaustatoppen at 1,850 meters above sea
level. Total ascent is 5,000 meters. The water temperature is normally about
15.5 degrees C, and the air temperature normally ranges from 6 to 28 degrees C
through the race day. The race is limited to only 240 competitors. The
competitors need to bring their own support. Norseman is the race any hard core
triathlete should do once in a lifetime.”
is some months back and I get a call from Mark Miller, he tells me he had
applied for the Norseman and gotten accepted.
I knew what that meant. I
remember the first time they held the race 10 years ago, it intrigued the hell
out of me and frightened me at the same time (it’s a sickness).
I told him he was nuts and that I was jealous.
He then explained he needed a support crew, someone that could drive
along with him all day then run up a mountain at the end with him (Sherpa time!
– I do believe that I was Tenzing Norgay in my previous life).
Asking me to go halfway around the world to witness insanity and run up a
mountain is like asking Eric Bernard if he wants his socks to match.
we were set, I just had to keep my butt in enough shape to run a few miles up a
mountain….he on the other hand had to pull it together to knock off a beast of
an ironman in a foreign country. Our
final schedule had us taking off on
Tuesday, racing on Saturday and returning on the Monday….a whirlwind tour at
best. Some 11,000 plus miles
in the air. Our flight out on
Tuesday took us from Lafayette to Houston, Houston to Amsterdam (10 hrs),
Amsterdam to Copenhagen, and finally Copenhagen to Bergen.
In Bergen we were to rent a car and drive through the country side for
almost 3 hours to our village of Kinsarvik.
is named after the river on which it sits, that empties into the Hardanger
Fjord. For all those except Trevor
“Geologist Boy” Casper, a fjord is a long narrow deep inlet formed by
glacial activity. In other words, a
deep ass pond formed by a giant piece of ice cutting the shit out of the earth.
Miller was going to swim his 2.4 miles in this monster – this lil
swimming hole was 1200 feet deep, so he wasn’t going to be touching bottom
(hell not even Ben Hawn can touch). The
race director said, no worries on the sharks, just watch out for those lil
killer whales! Holy crap!
like all good plans…..they go to shit in a hand basket right away.
We landed in Bergen intact, but bikeless.
The bike box wouldn’t fit on the final plane, so they just left it
behind…no big deal Miller could just run the 112 miles across the mountains.
So, we waited for the next flight, but no bike.
To make matters even worse, I had a monster migraine come on.
As we were getting in the car I vomited my toe nails up for about 10
minutes. I rivaled that crazy bitch
on the exorcist. Poor Miller, we had
been in the air or airports for 20 plus hours, his bike was a no show, his only
friend and crew for 5000 plus miles in any direction is puking his guts out, and
we have a three hour drive through the mountains left before we can rest.
You have to love it when a plan comes together.
we had to stop along the way for me to puke – the sounds of a wretching
mongoose rang out through the Nordic valleys – we added a whole new twist to
the yodeling thing. Finally, we
reached our fjord and had one final ferry ride to the village.
The drive was beautiful minus all the vomit.
is a town of 495, well now 494, they had a funeral the second day we were there.
There was one restaurant (the one in our hotel), one café, one store,
and one gas station. Ruud Vuijsters
(of Holland) now Lafayette fame, schooled us in the ways of the Nordic peoples.
Basically, he said pack a briefcase full of cash because the food and
booze are outrageous. Folks, I am
not making this up, beer was $12/bottle, and vodka was $20/glass.
As for call brands, ha! You
got what they had. The average meal
ran us about $90. That was for a
salmon wrap and a reindeer burger. I
can only imagine the cost of liquor in their strip joints (I digress).
am a salmon lover, and I ate salmon at all but one meal for six days…..salmon
the nectar of the mongoose! That
made up for the lack of liquor in my system!
I didn’t get a buzz until our last day in Norway (celebration time).
to add to Millers woes, his phone wouldn’t work in Norway.
I had to do some funky things to mine (probably broke some kind of laws)
but got mine to work. We harassed
the airport about his bike every few hours.
It seems his bike arrived on a flight sometime in the middle of the first
night we were in Norway. They
assured us it was on a truck the next day. Those
fuckers last name must have been Obama, because that bike never saw a truck for
two days. It wasn’t until late
Thursday night that the hotel desk called and told us that the bike was on a
truck stuck across the fjord, the driver had missed the last ferry.
I figured yep; tell me another lie….or so I thought!
morning was a lot like Christmas. I
woke up, ran downstairs and there was a bike waiting for me.
I definitely wasn’t a good boy, but hell may I never get what I
deserve. I raced up the elevator
(more on that deathtrap later) knocking the paint off the walls with the bike
box to show Mark and alleviate some of his anxiety.
The bike is here! The bike is
put his steed together and went for a test ride.
I borrowed some fishing gear from the front desk and went try my hand at
fishing in the fjord. They offered
to rent me a boat, but the way our luck was running, I decided to err on the
side of caution….yep, believe that shit….me and caution in the same
sentence….this wasn’t my race…it was Millers and I didn’t want to screw
things up for him. So I became a
bank fisherman….hootie hoo.
race was set to begin in another village just up the fjord from us, the village
of Eidfjord. If this were Louisiana
it would be a 5 minute drive, but this ain’t loosyana folks.
The roads here are one lane, grades (hills/angles) that would make a
mountain goat slide on his ass, tunnels, rocks on the edge of the road and
cliffs on the other. My nerves were
shot on every drive. You would come
around blind curves only to lock up in the front of another vehicle.
Did I mention the car we rented was a standard (fun!).
Several times we found ourselves or the car we were facing having to back
down this one lane death trap to a spot wide enough where we could pass one
another. There was even a
“secret” button you would press and the mirrors would fold in on your
already compact car so you wouldn’t rip them off on the rocks, a cyclist, or
another vehicle…..Norway the land of the narrow shit!
We made it to Eidfjord, took our photo
opportunities, and went to the pre race briefing and listened to the race
director as he scared the hell out of everyone.
After the meeting we returned to Kinsarvik to get the Sherpa wagon ready.
This race is totally unsupported, so your crew has to have all of your
water, food, etc. for the entire
race. I can remember the race
director stating that crews should be made up of more than one person…..ONE
RIOT-ONE MONGOOSE M8! Note to
self….there are no ice chests in Norway (Burton & Jim need to open a K2
outlet). So we improvised and bought
a wash tub, some giant waters, coca cola (to defizz overnight), pretzels, etc. You
should have seen the look on their face when I asked where the bags of ice were.
No worries, I spoke with the kitchen staff at the hotel and found their
ice machine…..we had all the ice we needed!
Norway is one big block of fricking ice and I couldn’t get a damn
The night before the race Mark and I spoke
about what this race meant to him. He
was dedicating it to his dad Bruce Miller. His
dad had passed away some years back and I know how much it would have meant to
have his dad here and watching him accomplish such a feat (I know all too well).
Marks dad knew what it meant to endure…….he was a tough man, a
hero……if Mark is chasing something, he is chasing being the man his father
was…..if he was going to finish this race….he was going to have to dig deep,
deep into his warrior past, his warrior soul…..his warrior blood.
2 a.m. came early (usually they are kicking
us out of a bar at that hour). Instead,
we were waking up to enjoy one of the most epic days of our lives.
We loaded the car, stole our ice from the kitchen and started the trek to
Eidfjord. We set up in T1, Miller
was cool as a cucumber (wtf does that mean anyway) – I like cool as the other
side of the pillow better! This was
going to be his 24th Iron distance race.
However, this was going to be the toughest he had ever encountered.
As for me, I was pooing my pants for him.
I hate the cold, especially cold water.
The water temp was 14C or 52F – go swim 2.4 miles in the cold dip my
friends – oh and did I mention you have to jump 30 feet off of a ferry (not a
queer – a large boat that carries vehicles) into 1200 feet of water that may
or may not have killer whales waiting to snack on you!
I know Navy Seals that wouldn’t swim this shit.
Hell the water was so cold it could give John Holmes an Inny or possibly
end his career!
Well Miller boarded the queer…I mean
Ferry….and off he went into the darkness…..they told the racers they could
use the chicken door if they wanted….a small door at water level where they
could slip into the fjord rather than jumping off the deck of the ferry.
Miller tells me he jumped off the deck….we’ll leave it at that! (just
kidding). I had a little secret in
my pocket. A way that Miller would
be able to know I was up the road and waiting for him to give him the “shit
that kills” (water /food/encouragement).
It was my world famous (now anyway) DUCK CALL!
Just as the ferry let out its blast on its whistles……I hit the duck
call. The whole dock erupted in
laughter….yes, the first time in my life people were laughing at me.
Now to the battle, the race started at 5 am.
I could see the ferry in the distance and heard the blast of the horn.
My heart jumped and I knew it was on….
All men are artists….some men paint, some
men cook, some men endure…… It is 5 am August 4, 2012, in Hardanger Fjord,
Norway and Mark Miller (Son of Bruce Miller) is about to paint his masterpiece!
This race was so cool.
They built a bon fire on the bank to guide the racers to their first swim
turn. It wasn’t long until people
started to come out of the water. I
have never seen anything like it. The
cold water had destroyed the feeling in their hands, feet, and their
equilibrium. People were literally
crawling out of the fjord, their handlers helping them into T1.
Carnage is the word that comes to mind.
At 1:19, I saw Antonio’s locks come flying out from under the swim cap.
Amongst all the Norweigen, German, French, and other buy a vowel
gibberish….I hollered “GOOD JOB MILLER” – it kind of startled everyone
and I elicited a smile from my frozen athlete.
We went into T1 where I helped him disrobe and get into his cycling gear.
This is Europe, so nudity is very
acceptable. I did explain to Miller
right then and there that all bets were off if his penis touched me at anytime.
He giggled and the cameraman filming this mini porn even had to laugh out
loud. It was damn cold.
I was shivering and I had a coat on and here was Miller standing butt
naked in T1 having just swum 2.4 miles in a frozen pond, welcome to the
We finally got him on his bike and on his
way. The first climb out of T1 takes
the athletes up 3600 feet of climbing in the first 40k of the race….through
tunnels and overhanging cliffs all while the roads are open to traffic.
Listen folks, there were no road or course markings (except little signs
every 20-30K with the distance traversed thus far).
No course marshals (with the exception of three spots where there were
some major turns). In this
race, you were on your own!
This first major climb was so steep that I
almost burned the clutch up in our car. And
no I am not a shit driver. Several
crews burned theirs up and their racers were left on their own.
I helped a girl on the run from Italy that had lost her crew in just this
manner. With all of the racers and
crews going so slow up the hills you were forced to stop and start – stop and
start - on inclines that rock climbers would be looking for footholds on.
I was pooing and worried! I
knew Miller was a strong cyclist, but this was brutal.
This made Rouge Roubaix look like a pancake flat ride (and no I am not
It took the average athlete (if you call any
of these guys average) 2 plus hours to traverse the first 24 miles of this race.
That is a 12 mph average for you nonmath types.
I would leap frog Miller, park in any cubby
hole or sheep/moose path I could find. I
would blow the duck call like a man possessed, scream “Warriors Blood” at
him (he knew what this meant), and give him anything he needed.
We made several changes of clothing along the first half of the bike.
The clouds rolled in, the temps dropped to below 40F and the wind was
blowing. Hell I had the heated seats
on and I was shivering.
He/we then broke out onto the Hardanger
Plateau. A plateau covered in
glaciers and fjords. It was somewhat
windy (rhymes with wendy) and windy (rhymes with wine-dee) – man am I a
linguist or what? There were rolling
hills and I mean hills. This ride
was a sufferfest. Miller was riding
smart and staying within himself.
I watched the times starting to slip and I
was worried. This course was
brutalizing me in a car and I was watching the carnage it was inflicting on the
athletes. I had my speech for Miller
prepared. We were going to get into
T2 no matter what and keep moving. I
never needed it, the man was an animal and a smart animal.
Had he pressed this bike at any time to garner a little time, his race
day would have been over.
I watched him suffer up many a hill.
I would park at the top and wait, watching the grimaces on the other
athletes as they rode past. Offering
encouragement and a blast from the duck call.
I am sure several of them wanted to shove that call up my ass by the end
of the race!
I knew we had to be out of T2 by 5 pm (12
hours). The swim and T1 had us out
at about 1:30. That gave us 10-1/2
hours to complete the bike. The way
things were looking it was going to be about a 9 hour bike leg.
We weren’t discussing it, but we both feared the cutoff and how his
running legs were going to react after such an ass kicking on these hills
(scratch that) mountains.
He entered the last big climb up Mount
Imingfjell. This was just cruel.
90 miles into a brutal bike leg, they throw a mountain at you.
I met him at the base, explained this was it, climb this, 10K flat at
top, then a 30K drop into T2. I told
him he was a cinch for the cutoff and he was going to knock this off.
All along the way, I would scream out the car window, or from the side of
the road “WARRIOR BLOOD”.
I waited at several stops up Imingfjell to
offer up fuel, encouragement, and plenty of high balls from my duck call!
The hills were alive with the sound of MONGOOSE!......OK Mallards!
Miller finally made it to the top intact.
What a stud! I would have
surely quit this damn race a long time ago.
I can honestly say that I could not have completed this bike ride, given
any amount of time. The next 10K
that the race documents said was flat……well those bastards are kinned to
OBAMA too! Lying shits…..but then
again, I don’t think there is a flat piece of land in Norway.
Finally he reached the last descent, and
what a descent it was. I almost lit
the tires on fire on the car feathering….OK smashing the brakes to avoid
careening off the mountain! Not sure
how Miller made it down. I am sure
there were plenty of curves where you couldn’t have driven a finishing nail up
Well, about 10 hours and 30 minutes into
this torture fest, we entered T2. I
use “we” lightly. I got all his
gear out, laid it in a changing tent. These
guys are my kind of people. The
changing tent was unisex and it had windows – huge plastic see through
So once again, I got to dress Miller (I know all of you are jealous).
His penis never touched me, so I remained as part of the crew!
He looked good.
He told me he felt like he could run and was gonna go for it.
I was scared to say the least. I
told him I didn’t have any idea about how I was going to support him on the
run. I needed to pick up his bike,
all his gear and get up the road and see about it.
This was kind of neat. This
is a point to point race and the crews pick up your gear as you go.
No returning for gear after the race.
I loaded up the bike and gear faster than I
thought I could and was able to meet him just up the road.
It appeared that he was going to run along the edge of guess what????
A FJORD! Hence the name
Norway – land of the fjords! Land
of the obvious!
The first 20K of this race is somewhat flat.
I say that in Norweigan flatness. Coonasses
would say rolling hills. Miller ran
this portion of the course like a man possessed.
I was so proud of my friend. I
couldn’t believe how well he was doing. I
was blown away. I would leap frog
him every mile or so and park wherever I could, blasting music and my duck call.
The locals were sure loving me.
We were starting to leap frog a few runners
and I got to know them and give them flat coke, cold water (which they were
amazed we had – even in the land of giant fucking ice), pretzels, you name it.
An Italian girl had lost her crew to vehicle issues loved my music (limp
bizkit, billy idol, etc.) She would
sing as she would go by and partake in the goodies of the Sherpa wagon on
occasion. Another local girl whose
family was leap frogging with me would tell me “blow you whistle – blow you
whistle”. So I would let the duck
call err whistle rip for her.
Her husband was something else.
He told me this was her first triathlon.
HOLY SHIT! And that she
hadn’t trained enough, and it was showing.
I explained that he needed to bring her to a regular Ironman race where
she would probably podium! What a
weinerschnitzel! If he wasn’t
proud of her I sure was.
Finally at about 20K we made a turn and up
ahead lay Gaustatoppen, the final mountain and finish line.
It shown in the distance like a great beast rising up from the valley
floor, topped in snow/ice. It was
awe inspiring to say the least and so was the show my friend Mark Miller was
putting on. The man was still
running. Like we always say at ultra
races….look marge there is one of them and he is still running!
At 25K into the marathon (for you Americans
an entire marathon is 42K), you make a turn and start to climb, and that is an
understatement. They call this next
7.5K climb Zombie Hill. At the top
is the final cutoff at 32.5K. If you
could make this by 17 hours and 30 minutes into the race, you had all the time
you needed to complete the final 10K, there would be no cutoff.
When we made this turn, I was elated, I knew my friend was going to
accomplish this amazing feat and knock this epic race off.
The climb was tremendous, with long long
switchbacks. I would drive up and
park the car at each switchback, grab a water bottle and run down to meet him
and walk up with him, letting him fuel and hydrate.
We repeated this carnage for 7.5K. It
took my legs out. It didn’t help
that I had only had a snickers and a liter of diet coke all day.
It was on one of these lil climbs that we
met some of Rezvani’s girlfriends.
I could hear the clanging of their bells as a herd of sheep came running
down one of the hills at us. I was
cracking up….how awesome. Miller
and I talked and walked and enjoyed the scenery and savored what was about to
happen. I am so thankful to him for
allowing me to share in this adventure. I
have no problem living vicariously through someone achieving something as
tremendous as this. Life is about
opportunities and my friend isn’t afraid to grasp them.
We topped Zombie hill, checked in at the
final checkpoint and headed for the finish.
The course had failed to crush his spirit or his legs yet, he began to
run again. He ran all the way into
Gaustablikk. In Gaustablikk, they
put you on a double out and back course for 6K (3K each loop for you dummies
still reading this far into the report).
It was at this point that a full rainbow
appeared in the sky on top of the mountain.
It was beautiful. All I could
think about was how the rainbow signified Gods promise to man…….and quite
possibly for just this moment in time, Mark Millers promise to his dad to
complete this race in his honor!
I fought back tears (F***…ya’ll – it
was an awesome moment) as I saw my podna come out of the trees and approach the
finish line. 16 hours 42 minutes and
39 seconds. The toughest ironman in
the world was his! He had knocked
her off! The only place in the world
where you can get a daylight finish in 16 hours….the Nordic/Arctic Circle…
24 Ironmans, this one being the damn hardest
thing I have ever witnessed. I have
seen my share of stupidity when it comes to races folks.
This made Leadville look like a 5K.
Well after more nudity in the parking lot as
Miller cleaned up, we ate our weight in food at the hotel buffet only to be told
like the Holy Family, there was no room at the INN!
This meant we had a 4-1/2 hour drive back to our hotel in Kinsarvik over
plateaus and mountains in the middle of the five hour long night ahead!
Did I mention we had been up since 2 am!
This feat of endurance wasn’t over yet.
We joked about hitting a moose,
well…….guess what……on one of the plateaus, a cow moose the size of a
suburban jumps out onto the road in front of us.
I had a diarrhea attack and pushed the brake pedal through the floor of
the car. After hyperventilating, I
thought, wow…..all that meat…..and I had a pocket knife in the glove box…
(you can take a boy out of the country…but you can’t take the country out of
We finally arrived at our hotel at 4 AM.
Happy, nerves frazzled from driving through tunnels and one laned roads
all through the night….but knowing that the goal had been accomplished.
We had traveled halfway around the world, and my friend had smoked the
toughest 140.6 miles on the planet…..Tenzing and Hillary didn’t have shit on
these two coonasses!
So, in the end, thanks Mr. Miller, not Mark
Miller, but Sergeant Bruce Miller (Millers deceased father).
Thanks for never giving up, thanks for enduring.
Your feat of endurance happened halfway around the world too.
However, you didn’t sign up for your test.
It was April 9, 1942 in the Philippines and you and your fellow soldiers
were captured by the Japanese and forced to march 80 miles in intense heat, as
they starved you, brutalized you, and murdered those around you.
You survived the toughest US military travesty of all time…..the Bataan
Death March, only to be imprisoned in a POW camp for 3-1/2 years.
By enduring, by surviving, you were able to
return home, have a son, and pass on your code, your ethos…..your “WARRIOR
BLOOD”……and I was able to witness it in action halfway around the
I never met you or saw you in
action…..then again….maybe I have!