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by Mat Jones   |   September 26, 2017

Norseman 2017

What do you do when your hundreds and hundreds of hours of intense training end in a DNF (Did not finish)? How do you deal with being removed from a race that you have invested thousands and thousands of dollars, taken your teammates away from work and family, flown halfway around the world, put yourself in the public spotlight only to fly home wondering “what if?”

My story of Norseman 2017 starts in November of 2016, when I received an email inviting me to participate in the world’s most extreme triathlon: “The Isklar Norseman.” I was so excited to be invited that I entered the race without consulting my family or coaches. I knew about the difficulty of the typical NXTRI (Norseman Xtreme Triathlon), but honestly couldn’t appreciate it without seeing the course and experiencing the conditions.

Fast forward nine months and hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of preparation and training. My coaches Dan Tigert and Barrett Ellis, and I, accompanied by my wife Mykl, arrived in Eidfjord, Norway for our first dip into the Hardangerfjord. We were still in awe of the amazing mountains and spectacular plateaus that we had just driven across from Oslo. I don’t think anything can prepare you for that first jump into the 50 degree water. Imagine needle-piercing pain over 100% of your body. Even with the best wetsuits on the market, and neoprene swim caps, the water seeps into your neck, arms and legs in what some people refer to as “heart stopping cold.”

Two days later I am being lead onto a ferry at 4:00 a.m. in the pitch-black darkness, and taken 2.4 miles out into the fjord, where 248 of the most dedicated amateur triathletes jump four meters into this freezing cold body of water and start our swim back to Eidfjord. Fifteen minutes into the swim my hands, and face were numb and it became a little less painful, and the swim became a mental game of identifying the bonfire at the turn buoy and focusing on just getting there.

There were a few times, approximately two miles into the swim, where my calves cramped and I had to roll to my back and stretch. When I reached the turn buoy at the two-mile mark, I was well under my estimated swim finish time, and then I had to turn into the surf. A front had moved in and the winds had picked up, so now on top of the freezing cold water, the rain and the increased wind, my calves were now in a continuous cramp and I had no kick left. I made the last 4/10 of a mile to the water exit, where I had to be helped from the water into transition. My race crew was there to help me change into my bike bibs and jersey, but the torrential rain had me just as wet as if I were still in the water.

Off on the bike, and what a spectacular ride it was. The first 40k of the bike is a constant climb from 6% to 17% grade and the elevation gain, coupled with being soaked to the bone, caused some shivering that led to hand and back cramps and eventually I had to slide off my bike and stretch on the side of the road. The shivering continued and worsened to the point that when I reached the medical checkpoint a the 40k mark, the race officials ask me several questions. My words were slurred and my hands cramped. The race officials pulled me from the race to treat me for hypothermia.

I had never DNF’ed a race and didn’t intend on this being the first, but when the medical team took my bike away and I couldn’t do anything about it, I was out of luck. The race crew radioed my support crew and they came to my location and wrapped me in blankets and rushed me back to Eidfjord to a warm shower for 20 minutes before being released two hours later to head back to Oslo. I was heartbroken and embarrassed, but while making the five-hour drive back to our hotel, I started reflecting on my mission and why I was even there.

I joined Team ZERO a year ago while preparing for IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder, to race for my wife and stepsons in honor of her late husband and the boys’ father Matt Spaeny, who lost his battle with prostate cancer in 2015. The hours of training I had put my body through, the injuries I had endured, the stress of traveling across the globe, the logistics of getting four adults and equipment to the race site, the meal prep and time away from friends and family, the football, basketball, baseball and band performances I missed really pale in comparison to the hours of chemo, radiation, surgeries, and treatments that Mr. Spaeny had to endure. My pain in no way can compare to the pain that Jake and Luke felt when they lost their dad, or when my wife Mykl lost her late husband to this dreaded disease. I can only imagine the heart-wrenching pain of hearing a terminal diagnosis, much less hearing the doctor say that there is nothing more they can do and it’s time to get your affairs in order, or the mental torment of discussing your own funeral and picking out your cemetery plot…. I cannot fathom that!

Why did I attempt this crazy triathlon? Because, when caught early, prostate cancer can be defeated. I race to raise awareness, to raise money, and to try with everything in my being, to prevent the heartache and pain of losing someone that means so much to his family, his community, his church, his co-workers. To lose the breadwinner, the medical insurance provider, the little league coach, the trumpet teacher, the boy scout leader…. Yeah, I have some big shoes to fill, but while I am taking care of this family, I will do everything in my power to raise money, raise awareness, and encourage men to get tested. To get their prostate checked, or even get a PSA. It honestly only takes a few minutes and can save your life.

Join me in this fight to end prostate cancer once and for all… Join me in this fight to bring awareness… Join me in this fight to provide financial support for those who have no resources, or whose families need support while undergoing treatment… Join me in preventing this disease from taking one more husband, father, brother, co-worker, or friend.

If you have any questions about my journey, or my story, feel free to shoot me an email.