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The 7.2 mile swim. Photo credit: James Page.

Triple Brutal - not for wimps! Part one – the Swim

30-Nov-15

Last updated: 20-Aug-18

By James Page

The Brutal Events Triple Iron Distance Triathlon consists of the three Triathlon disciplines over three mental distances covering a gruelling course set in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park. There are options on distances from half, full double and triple iron. James Page took on the big one and here is his story.

Part One: The Swim – 7.2 miles

The distances are phenomenal:
Swim 7.2 Miles  - 4 hours 44 minutes
Bike 348 Miles - 30 hours 17 minutes
Run 78 miles - Snowdon 4 hours 4 mins/13 lake laps 17 hours 51 minutes

Three weeks before the race I had been worried (a clear understatement). I dreamt about the Triple every night, I had a constant pain in my stomach and kept having conversations with myself about IF I finish. My confidence and self belief had been destroyed. 

On the Wednesday before the race something in my mindset changed. I don't know what triggered the change but on the way home from work a sense of calm came over me and the pains in my stomach subsided. I thought to myself "you are going to be fine, you can do this". I had put in the training required and started to believe in this. I got home and instead of being negative and stating IF, I kept saying WILL but didn't vocalise this too much in case it came back later to slap me in the face!

On Thursday morning before the race, one of my crew, Justin arrived and we packed up the van, and boy, was it packed. I don't think we could have fitted one single extra thing in it, we had rammed so much kit and food in, enough to cover every eventuality. Better to have too much than not enough, although I could guarantee I would never use half of it. We headed up to Llanberis and race HQ to set up our tent. All double and triple athletes were allowed to have tents set up in transition.

Friday Morning and we were up early and out on the bike course. I had told Justin we would stop at a nice coffee shop at Beddgelert on the way round. I had no intention of stopping but I knew he was a little worried about riding the loop so I thought it would make him feel better. Riding the loop was awesome. For the first 5 miles my legs felt like lead, after that they felt great. It was just what my body needed after not an ounce of training in the last week. Justin did a great job and it was really nice to share this with him.

We spent the rest of the day chilling out, eating and then checked into our house. We had a house booked on the bike course just outside of Llanberis and I would use this as my transition on the bike. Over the course of the afternoon the team gradually assembled. Brutal Support Assemble!

Over at transition I registered and then headed to the briefing. It was great to catch up with some of the other guys doing the double and triple. There was a great atmosphere, a mixture of excitement and anxiety. My wife was not due to arrive until just after midnight. I struggled to sleep until she got there.

I had been welcomed into the #TeamBear family during the build up to this race. Their motto is #sufferbutNEVERsurrender! I have taken great strength in this and before I went to bed on Friday night thought I had better write it on my arm so that when things got tough I could refer to it.

Race morning. 5am and the alarm went off. I felt really chilled on the outside and overwhelmed with worry about my ability to withstand the cold waters for somewhere between 4 - 5 hours. It was not the distances that troubled me but the cold. #JKS (Just Keep Swimming) would ring around my head throughout the swim. I covered my legs in BetterYou Magnesium Oil ready for the off. For breakfast, I ate the normal ritual of porridge and banana, followed by Science and Fitness Glyco Source and I was good to go.

6am and I arrived at transition. My body had already gone into flight or fight mode and I emptied my body of everything that was not required. After getting changed we headed down to the lake for the briefing and start. You could just sense the nervous energy in the air. I tried to simply remain in my own thoughts #JKS focusing on the fact that I didn't want to let anyone down. 

I shook hands with a few of the other competitors, wished my brother good luck who was racing his first triathlon and waited to get in last. The least amount of time spent in that cold dark lake the better. 

The green hats were the half and full competitors, the red the double and the blue the triple. It was funny how the red hats and blue hats just hung back and let the others thrash it out. When I eventually got into the water right at the back, it was cold, much colder than three weeks previously when I swam there for the Big Swim. I looked over to my right and saw Mark Dodgson. The race had started but we took a moment to wish each other luck and stated that we would see each other on the course. I had got to know Mark over the last year. He's a great guy, a good friend, super fit and was one of the favourites for the win. It was a real special moment for me and that moment had been caught on camera, unbeknown to me. It is one of my favourite pictures from the event. What would the next three days bring?

SWIM

I started swimming, no problems with the goggles, which was a relief. I had really worked on my sighting and gradually started passing people. I got into a nice rhythm and kept trying not to think about the massive distances ahead. I had to complete 12 lake laps and after every two laps, as per race rules, had to get out, run over the timing mat and then get back in.

After the first two laps I was feeling great, I just kept telling myself #JKS. As you enter the water after getting out, you have to go through the 'cold water down your suit' situation each time. This was fairly unpleasant.  After lap three things took a turn for the worse. I started getting cramp. I think it was the cold taking its toll on me. All I wanted to do was piss in my suit but I just couldn't go. I thought it would warm the suit up and make everything ok. It never came and I spent the next nine laps cold. As each lap passed I felt colder and colder. I could feel my pace had dropped right down and people were passing me.

As the laps went on, I would get out and throw some tea down my throat in an attempt to warm up the core or take a bite of something to eat to keep my energy levels up. At lap eight or nine I felt like my race was over. How could I carry on in this cold? Thankfully the water was still pretty calm but the sun was now out, making it difficult to sight the buoys on the leg back to the start and the timing mat.

#JKS it will soon be over. Lap 10 done and things changed. All I had to do was get back in the water and swim two more laps. Once I had done this I would never have to swim ever again if I didn't want to. Lap 11 was "peaceful" as you can imagine as there were only 13 of us left in the water by this stage. It felt like you had the lake to yourself. As I passed the buoy and started lap 12 I smiled. This was probably the first smile I had cracked since getting in the water. I was going to finish the swim! That final lap seemed to go quite quickly, but in reality it was probably my slowest. The feeling of relief heading towards the finish line of the swim was pumping out of my chest. I couldn't wait to get out.

As I exited the water I punched the air with joy. I had done it! My dry robe was put on me straight away and I walked back to transition. I don't really remember much of this but allegedly I didn't look good. As I got into the transition tent my body went into an uncontrollable spasm where I could not stop shaking. I threw tea all over myself and lost the ability to use my hands. I was assisted by my support team who undressed me, dressed me and then attempted to get me warmed up. Thank God for the Brutal Beard which I had grown especially for the race. I think at this stage someone fed porridge to me. About 40 minutes passed and just couldn't warm up. In my mind I was starting to tell myself I was too cold to carry on. Wendy told me to get on the bike and warm up as sitting there was doing me no good, she said to ride up to the house 3 miles away and see how I felt. So that's what I did and it seemed to work.

Apparently I was in 4th place after the swim having completed it in 4 hours 44 minutes.

For the rest of this epic tale, follow the links.

PART TWO: The Bike
PART THREE: The Run

Review Triple Brutal - not for wimps! Part one – the Swim

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