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At long last, the finish line. Photo credit: James Page.

Triple Brutal - not for wimps! Part three – the Run

30-Nov-15

Last updated: 20-Aug-18

By James Page

The Brutal Events Triple Iron Distance Triathlon consists of the three Triathlon disciplines x 3 in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park. James Page took it on.If you missed them, here are parts one and two.

Part Three: The Run – 78 miles

The run started with a climb to the summit of Snowdon. Ben, my brother-in-law, was the mountain goat, he loves those hills. He had already been up Snowdon with Darren during his race. After some food we set off in heavy rain and strong wind. We made our way up at a good pace. At the half way café we stopped to shelter from the rain and I had a cup of tea and a Mars Bar. I then saw torchlights behind us approaching fast. It was Rich Fuller (triple) he was in good spirits and moving fast. He was still smiling; every time I had seen him he had a beaming smile on his face and was clearly loving every minute of the race.

As we proceeded, the rain and wind were getting stronger. I could see Rich up ahead speaking to the medic at the 3/4-way mark. We joined them to find out that we were being pulled off the mountain due to the poor weather conditions up on the summit. Apparently the temp was down to -7C and the gales, fog and rain made it too unsafe to continue. The medic told us that we would have to see at the bottom what mileage we would have to do to make up the distance and that everyone else was being stopped from coming up. 

To be honest the wind had been taken from my sail. We took a steady walk down. Rich flew away, running down. He was looking really strong. As we headed down we came across Mark Yates (triple) who was with his support crew and his dog. The rain was pouring down. As I got down off the mountain I was told that I would have to do an out and back run of five miles to complete the Snowdon leg. Pretty fooked off with this, I dropped my bag and then ran the mileage with Wendy in the rain. When I got back to transition, I ate some of the food I had ordered - a Meat Feast pizza and bacon roll. I then got into my tent for a 45-minute sleep. It was bloody freezing. Wendy wrapped me in the sleeping bag and Dryrobe, my head hit the pillow and I was gone. 

But strangely as quick as I closed my eyes, she was waking me up again. I desperately wanted to go back to sleep. I was in a delirious state, I didn't have a clue where I was or who she was. My race was done, there was no way I was getting out of that tent. Wendy pulled me to my feet and I started to realize that I was still in the nightmare (that's how it felt at that exact moment). I still had 65 miles to run. It was pissing it down with rain and I was soooooooo tired.

She helped me out of the tent and into the transition tent and then dressed me whilst I stuffed more pizza and bacon rolls down my throat. Life was coming back to me, I felt like I might be able to actually run. YeeeeHaaa!

With only 13 laps X 5.2 miles left to run on an undulating multi terrain course. Eeeeeeesaaaaaayyy!!!! It rained most of the night. When the sun came up, the weather jumped between sunshine and showers for the rest of the day.

Wendy ran the first lap with me. It was raining but it felt great to be off the bike and to have eaten some food, which I was able to keep down. It was amazing running with Wendy, my first time with her on our own since the race began. I was so happy to be with her. I was also glad that she ran first with me as it meant she could then go and get some sleep. The support team had been superb and I know the long hours were taking their toll on everyone. We ran well together and quickly finished the lap with no incidents. She has been an amazing strength to me throughout this whole race and during the build up. I owe her everything.

Lap 2 was with my sister-in-law, Nancy. She is a really strong runner as well as very calm and level headed. This was a quick lap and she helped me settle into an even running rhythm. My goal now was to get five laps done before 8am. I just needed to keep cracking out the laps during the night and rain. I was starting to refuel now and could tolerate most things so every lap I stopped briefly to drink hot, sugary tea and eat, mainly crisps and hot soup.  People were surprised that I could run on a belly full of food, well, after 30 hours on the bike with not a great deal to eat, it was easy. 

Jamie, who was still checking out the route for his double attempt in a couple of years probably didn't realise he was going to do so much exercise. He ran two laps with me. Both fast laps. I couldn't believe I was still running, neither could he. During the first few laps every time I came across someone I would either walk or run with them to chat and catch up. I was pleased to see some of the doubles I had seen on the bike were still in the game, toughing out the laps. It was nice to catch up with Will Denny and Mark Yates, they were both looking great. Will in particular had come alive and was loving the running. I was so pleased for him!

Lap 5 was with Matt, my spanner monkey. He was great company and really loved the experience of trail running. I think it inspired him somewhat. It was a pretty quick lap and I loved it. My lap times were pretty constant and I was well ahead of what I thought I would be able to run. 

Laps 6 and 7 were with Deb who was training for her upcoming marathon. We had a couple of good laps, however on the second lap with Deb I did feel a bit low and at one point was convinced I had seen a large lizard looking at me on a wall. I was clearly tired. Justin told me that he would be waiting for me at what he had named the "Perch" (about three miles into the lap) and that he would have a surprise for me. As I approached the Perch, I heard Justin shouting down at me. As I crested the hill I saw to my surprise a 6'4 Minion. Absolutely  fantastic. It really made me laugh, what a legend. He stayed there the whole day cheering everyone on. That moment changed my race! Not only was I still laughing but I had completed over half the run and was definitely on the homeward straight with only six laps to go. I had been lifted by the big furry Minion.

Laps 8 and 9 were with Zac and Jake. What a treat, those boys impressed me, not only did they smash the bike, they were now about to smash the run. Lap 8 was with Jake, he was really encouraging and pushed me on at speed. At the start of lap 9 I was told that I was in third place just behind Rich Fuller and just in front of Mark Dodgson. I discovered that Mark had been in bed for about seven hours being sick and had thought about throwing in the towel but had decided to carry on and finish. It must have taken great mental strength for Mark to come back from the brink and carry on after being so unwell, being unable to eat anything apart from blueberries. TC was well out in the lead by this point.

I knew that Mark was strong even if he had been ill and that Rich just kept smiling his way round looking super fit. Matt had let me know that there were trophies for the top three. Having never won anything or been placed anywhere near the top of the field at any race, this gave me a new impetus.  So at the start of lap 9 I had the bit between my teeth. What was I thinking?  I, how could I even think about racing for a place with 25 miles left to go, totally bonkers to attempt to run hard to catch the person in front of me. Poor Zac, he was in for a fast lap in an attempt to make some ground on Rich Fuller and put some time between Mark and myself. 

The lap with Zac was pretty quick, we ran most of the hill, passing Simon Jacobs (triple). It was the first time I had seen him since the start. Mad really! Every lap I was stopping at the aid station and maxing out on Salt and Vinegar Twirls and Cheddars, which I was, now relying on to survive. At the aid station on this lap I had run so hard to catch Rich, that I caught up with him at the aid station, he was just leaving as I arrived. I felt like the job was complete and had expelled so much energy getting to this point that I could just relax back a bit now.

Rich was gone as quick as he came into sight, whether that pushed him on or whether he was just going through a positive stage in his race. I ran down into transition and thanked Zac for "Beasting me". I checked out my nipples which were pretty sore. School Boy Error, I had forgotten to put any Vaseline on them and because of all the rain they were destroyed. To be honest though I did not notice them too much, they were the least of my problems. I would set myself goals to reach and then reward myself with some BetterYou Magnesium oil that Wendy would massage on. I had no shame. I would just drop my running tights in the transition tent whilst she worked her magic!

Lap 10 started with Grant. He was doing well considering he had raced and I think deep down he was beating himself up for not doing the full Brutal. He was great company. He kept telling me to take it easy. I was in a sort of mad state desperately trying not to get caught. In hindsight it was a really dangerous mental state to be in so close to the end. It could all come tumbling down if I didn't watch out. Another quick lap and I seemed to be getting quicker. 

Laps 11 and 12 were with Nancy. She was going to calm me down, the level headed voice of reason. I had somehow run myself into second place. As I started lap 12 I saw Mark Dodgson who was still going, he had four laps to go. I ran with him up to the bridge. It was great to catch up with him. He had had a really bad time with sickness and lack of food but was a true legend for carrying on. I got quite emotional as realisation had set in that as long as I finished I would win a trophy. I was choked. The lap was slower than the previous four as my mind and body had almost fallen into a relaxed state.  Maybe I could ease off now. My legs were starting to scream at me however I finished the lap strong and ready for the final lap. 

Lap 13 unlucky for some - me yes and no! Well it was a game of two halves really. We set off together, Wendy and I, at speed with only 5.2 miles to go. What on earth could go wrong, after all it had run reasonably smoothly since the off? I set off at a bonkers speed and as I hit the dirt track about one mile in I realised that I had left Wendy trailing behind. I had had around 57 hours to warm up, she was running cold holding my drink and a bag of Salt and Vinegar Twirls as back up food in case I hit the wall. After realising I was leaving the one person behind who had got me here in the first place I waited for her to catch up. We then ran at a decent pace together along the dirt track towards the road section. As I was running along I made the mistake of checking behind to see if Rich had caught me. I was aware he was quite close and I would need to get a move on to stay away from him.

As I turned my head I must have wrapped my pole around my leg and went flying to the floor. It happened so quickly I had no time to react and the next thing I knew Wendy was pulling me up off the floor crying, as I was bleeding from my face. I believe I passed out for a nanosecond as everything went black and then all I could see was shattered glass and temporary blindness, which fortunately lasted, only seconds. As Wendy pulled me up from the floor with super human strength, I could feel blood all over the left side of my face. She was wiping it up with a buff. I love buffs, they are just an awesome multipurpose piece of kit! I am ashamed to say that at this moment I slightly lost control and my behaviour was like that of a small child having a tantrum I started swinging my poles around hitting the nearby bushes shouting "it's all f**ked". Wendy quickly brought me back to reality and told me to get on and run. She had already called back to transition to get a medic out to me. There was no way I was waiting for that. I told Wendy she would have to get a lift to the top of the hill section as I wouldn't be stopping to walk. With that I was off, running flat out. I rounded the lake and hit the hill, running the whole way up like a man possessed. I had clearly lost the plot.

As I neared the top of the hill, I remembered that one of the kind residents had said they would leave some fruit out for the runners. I got to the box and went through it like a desperate animal looking to get calories into my body. After a couple of strawberries and three massive raspberries I was off again. As I reached the highest point on the run course Wendy jumped out of the car that had picked her up and joined me. Once she was with me again, a calm came over me and the animal that had taken over my body left. We then ran down through the woods on the off road section passing Paul Ward (triple) and then past the Slate Museum. 

I crossed the line in 58 hours and 21 minutes, having started on Saturday morning well over two days ago. The breakdown of the 78 miles was Snowdon 4 hours 4 mins/13 lake laps 17 hours 51 minutes. The sense of relief flooded through my body. I could now stop. I collected my medal and trophy from Claire, the race director, and was on cloud 9. I did it, I did it, not only did I do it but I smashed it. My emotions were wild. I hugged and kissed all the support team, without them I would have never survived. I was then taken off by the medic to get the wound on my head sorted out. Sadly I was too cold and sore to hang around and see anyone else finish. Mark Dodgson came in and congratulated me, which meant a lot. 

The rest was a bit of a blur after this, but one thing I can say is that I have total respect for my fellow competitors. What an amazing bunch of people, who supported each other through what was undoubtedly a pretty brutal event. I also have the utmost respect for everyone who stood on that start line and took on all distances, the half, full and double. It takes great strength from within to start it and to complete it, is just a bonus. I look forward to coming back to the Brutal to support others and take enjoyment from that. Supporting is way harder than competing!

The following morning we headed down to Pete's Eats, the mecca of Llanberis for an Even Bigger Breakfast, which I had become accustomed to enjoy. Without any planning or conversation, six of the other finishers were there with their friends and family. It was great to see the guys, swap stories and share experiences, a bond we had shared together. It was the icing on the cake for me.

The true hero of the event was Paul Ward, who battled on to almost 7 am Tuesday morning to finish the Triple Iron. This must have taken pure mental grit and physical stamina to keep going and I take my hat off to him!

I am so appreciative of the support from my friends and family who have put up with my training over the year and supported me through the many build up training races I have completed to get race ready for the big day and, in particular, my wife, Wendy, who provides the foundations for me to achieve on.

A big thanks to my support crew who this year were also supporting others as we also had my brother Darren racing the Full distance Triathlon and Grant racing the Half distance. At times people were split up all over the place getting the three of us through what would undoubtedly be a massive achievement for each of us. Thanks go to Wendy, Nancy, Ben, Grant, Matt, Justin, Mark, Darren, Nadine, Holly, Tony, Jake, Zac, Megan, Ben, Jamie, Debbie and not forgetting Jenny at home looking after everything, including the dogs and the children when they returned. Previous members of the support crew - Chloe, Mark and Helen - were very much missed but provided excellent support from afar!

Thank you to Claire and her team who organised a great race with outstanding marshals and medics who kept us all safe. Thanks to the other competitors who just made the race what it was. A life experience I will never forget. 

If you missed them, here are part one and part two.


For more heroic feats, read this.

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