top of page

David Hinch Norseman Race Report 2023

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

Ten minutes thirty seconds in to this...(107) The Draw 2023 - Zalaris Norseman Xtreme Triathlon - YouTube is when a name not too dissimilar to mine appeared on the screen for Norseman 2023. One of 250 names drawn from over 4300 athletes looking to take on one of the hardest triathlons on the planet. First I knew was a message from #Dave Gibbs on one of my WhatsApp groups asking if I'd entered......"ummm yeah but how did you know abou........ohhhhh......bugger".

I kind of kept quiet as it might not be me…..Hinch is a common Northern Ireland....<roll eyes>

Eventually the email dropped and it got kind of real.

Jungle drum were already in full swing..... Richard "The Big Swede" Olssen, Norway resident, winner of three Norseman black shirts and a good friend we'd met on the first ever Mallorca tri camp in 2013 immediately contacted me to say he was in as my Support team! He had already contacted the accommodation at the swim start and booked it even though they weren’t taking bookings.

Naturally the first people I told were the cats.......they were indifferent to the point of almost being rude and I crossed them off the list of potential support crew. Clearly the next person i told would have to be more prepared to feign interest.

Coach Clark was immediately on board.

His 2016 Norseman effort was a lesson in pushing yourself way beyond what you think you have left and this is what drew me to this race. On the 2021 NC500 ride I did with Ali Schofield, Mel Walker, Mary Barabe and Dan Ellis we discussed a lot and future races came up. I said Norseman was the only race that genuinely scared me. It’s a little hard to admit but I enjoy racing too much and have in the past tended to coast races and not push myself. Norseman simply does not allow this and as Coach Clark pointed out I had to respect the fact I got an entry....the Black shirt was the only goal.

Cold water acclimatisation began by finishing any shower with it on fully cold for initially VERY short periods and gradually building the time in cold water up. Try it.....its awful but effective and eventually after an initial gasp you do get used to it....bodies are weird. 

The race is a point to point course so athletes need their own support crew. It vital that the crew know what is required and to have an understanding of what is happening both physically and mentally out on the course. I'd done a few events, training and cycling trips with OTCF athlete Mel Walker and Mel has always been a super positive influence and good company. Big Swede for the shouty shouty...Mel for the nicey nicey.

Nothing too special for the training and I continued to use TrainerRoad which has been okay - ish for the past few years getting me back to my previous best back in 2014. What it doesn’t do though is give you that positive group dynamic of being part of a club. I've always been made welcome by OTCF, attending rides and other sessions when invited and was likened to "next doors cat that keeps wandering in when you leave the door open". I of course appreciate all their help, micky taking and bailing me out for coffee and cake in typical cat fashion by not going to toilet in their flowerbeds.

<insert your own montage of swim bike and run training in inclement weather to Rocky and Top Gun soundtracks here>

Race weekend and the lead up was a week riding in the Alps ten days previously. Some say not the best prep but I disagree. Big hills, sustained efforts and ok perhaps not a great deal of recovery time but the past few years I seem to be at my strongest after tri camps, Dolomites rides etc. Alp D' Huez triathlon was a little worrying at time as we were stepping on large wet rocks to cross streams but I arrived at Richards place at Oslo the Tuesday before the race as good as I'd felt for a while.

Initial plans with the team centred around various scenarios and until I exited the swim they wouldn’t be known. As you all know....control the controllables. We even discussed a "Doomsday" situation in which I just have to bike as fast as I can for as long as I can and hope I am able to run versus the usual don’t burn all your matches approach. 

The jump (step) off the Ferry is easy. You walk forward, wait for the marshal to say go and take a step. Gravity does the rest.

Swim was lonely as only 260 ish athletes entered the water and quickly spaced out. The

water was clear, not that salty at all and swimming close the shore meant I could see the kelp beneath me. I felt good and in my mind swimming well. At the turn buoy located adjacent to a large bonfire on the shore for better visibility it was like swimming uphill. Finally seeing others around me also struggling didn’t make it any easier. I was expecting a 1:30:00 swim and perhaps because it was a stacked field, an unusually warm swim, tide was coming out (this was mentioned in the on line briefing and I didn’t even think it was a possibility!), I'd not put the work in....or all of the above it didn’t start well.

Exiting Eidfjord I was met by Richard and on my way in to T1 I counted approximately 30 bikes left.

Oh bugger!

Richard helped strip my wet suit off and as I grabbed the left cuff it caught on the wrist mounted timing chip ripping the cuff to pieces. Awesome.

Bike kit on and Richard handed me my drinks bottle with a stern look and "DRINK". I took a few big swigs and exited T2 not knowing my actual position but aware it was Doomsday. The initial climb seemed to last forever and was tough, Temperatures were higher than expected and my increased pace climbing on steep hairpins hampered my ability to drink. I took on as much as I could when I could.

First feed stop and a chance to assess, a half empty bottle was thrown to my crew and a full one collected with fresh flapjack stuffed in my rear pocket. With the tunnels completed Richard removed my hi viz vest and I continued on. By the next stop the weather had started to turn and I was immediately told to stop and put on a rain jacket. This is where a quality crew really help. Your mind is elsewhere and they can see the weather changing ahead. Don’t argue, extend your free arm, drink and eat, swap arms, eat drink....someone shoved a banana in my mouth.......

Bike was now a full on effort and I'd got what I asked for with worse weather. Over the next 160km I sat up for the climbs trying to keep above 220W and still eat. descents were full aero as much as possible and unusual for me still pedalling. I was passing riders but eventually at about 140km the landscape opened up and there was no one in sight up the road. I was still pushing but at that point I was angry at my poor swimming, not finding another swimmers feet to draft, the weather, the landscape, the sheep...

By 160km the rain was getting even worse. The 136 crew were still there at every feed stop, drive bys were pumping music from a playlist we’d built up from Coach Clarkes 2016 race and was accompanied by shouts of encouragement. Finally other riders appeared ahead and also a 20km fast downhill hairpin section including one that claimed Richard in a previous race with him overshooting and landing next to a steel spike sticking out of the ground almost ending (at the very least) his race. Risk versus Reward and I flew past the other riders with the occasional overshoot, inside cleat on the floor scrubbing speed and rain hitting my face so hard it hurt. Strava flybys are a fun recap.

T2 arrived 1km after the fast descent and as I tried to lean the bike to get my leg over the rear bottles Richard kept holding it upright, after two attempts plus Mels shouts to get a move on I may have politely asked him to "please let go the bike". All sorted and in T2 not feeling cold so full kit change not required. If anyone is actually interested in seeing that I'll send you my OnlyFans link.

The storm had meant the mountain was closed and as per race rules it became a time cut off. I know Mel and Richard were telling me the times and pace required and I may have nodded but honestly I wasn’t fully engaged. The ride had been hard, Zombie Hill loomed - albeit some 24km away. The plan inside my head for the run was to first see if I could run, find a comfortably uncomfortable pace and see how long I lasted. 5km ticked off, 8km passed...still running. Mouth was dry despite drinking, I needed something to taste and asked for jelly beans.

This carried on until the bottom of Zombie Hill with only a couple of walks and I had passed another three runners. Calculations were I had 2.5 hours to do 10k to get to the gate at 37.5km but I wasn’t doing well.

The walk with purpose up Zombie Hill lasted forever – almost as long as this race report. Water, gels, smiles and encouragement were all offered and sometimes accepted. After what seemed a long time we turned the final corner to the checkpoint at the eventual finishline to collect our survival bags. 5km to the black shirt checkpoint and I was told I needed to do it in 27 mins.

This rattled around in my head and I pictured a park run, 27 mins and my current energy levels. As I leaned on a feed station table I tried to figure out where the time had gone and was ready to sit down on the floor….just for minute….

Basically right there….I was done.

Richard appeared with our bags anxious to keep going. I heard Mel repeat to him that I’d said there was no way I can do a 27 min 5k.

A booming reply of “You have AN HOUR and twenty seven minutes….we go…. now…NOW!”

I straightened up turned and began walking. The next 5k passed by with me trying not to look up at the seemingly endless road ahead and the athletes who had made the checkpoint running (yes running!) back down the hill with their support, cheerful and smiling until eventually the final corner appeared for us with just a cattle grid to negotiate (Mel holding on to me physically steering me over it like I was walking through a minefield).

After checking in at and confirming we’d beaten the cut off I was sat down on a chair and added more clothing layers. I still needed to finish and after thanking every marshal – twice, we began the 5km back to the finish. No Mount Gaustoppen for us today.

The remaining kms passed by. It rained again, with added thunder and lighting. Others were still making their way up the last 5km with some running ahead of their support hoping to beat the cut off.

I hope they did.

Crossing the line together was done at a gentle jog with what little I had left. Apparently I didn’t stop talking all the way down – I cant remember. Richard had arranged accommodation locally and he knew that nowhere was open for food so we went to the post race buffet where I pushed a little food around my plate before resting flat out on a bench. My Norseman was coming to an end and I’d already decided to myself never again.

Thank you to Coach Steve for his support and help throughout, All the OTCF crew from tri camps, rides, runs, swimming especially Dan for dragging me out, Gemma and Craig, Ali and Andy, Sophie, Shawnie, Rob and Lindsey, Team Gibbs and Lincsquadders for all the support and messages. Binchy and Stenno for the loan of the wheels.

The last and biggest thanks you goes to these two beauties…..

“You can’t do it alone”

139 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page