‘It’s just so long’ – Long Course Weekend race report

June 30th, 2024 • Posted in News |

Approaching Long Course Weekend, I’d done plenty of swim, bike and run training. BUT … I hadn’t run more than 16 miles (slowly), and hadn’t biked more than 70 miles. My swimming was fine, but apart from that I was feeling underprepared. Combine this with the fact that in 13 years I have never started a race that I did not finish, and I had a fair amount of anxiety* going into the weekend. I really, really wanted that 4th medal.

*(a lot)

Long Course is an incredible event in Tenby that attracts over 10,000 athletes. The full event is basically an ironman over three days. So that means a 2.4 mile sea swim on Friday evening, a 112 mile bike ride Saturday, and a full marathon on Sunday, closely followed by a red carpet ceremony and 4th medal for those who complete it all. Even more closely followed by a huge Italian meal and wine and beer and cake. Many people do shorter events, or variations of these distances. But I was in for the full Monty. Except without the stripping.

My wife Tracey and I travelled down and met up with our good friends Mike and Sian. Mike is a great training partner––we’ve done loads of biking, running, swimming, drinking coffee and eating cake together––and this was the big weekend! We had a lovely apartment overlooking South Beach, where we almost had great nights’ sleep. Almost. The reason why it wasn’t quite perfect is below.

It’s said that in Tenby, even the sea swim is hilly. Funny joke, right? I mean, how can the sea be hilly? Easy. From the roads above the beach on Friday evening the water looked ‘like a millpond’ (my wife Tracey’s words), but that was from the high steps and I suspect she didn’t have her glasses on. I loved the build-up to the swim––the music, the fireworks, nervous chatter with fellow competitors, meeting both old friends and new, and being able to pee in your wetsuit with two thousand people standing around you––but once in the water I realised just how rough it was. It wasn’t too bad out to the first turn buoy, where the usual chaos ensued––best description is a giant washing machine filled with fists and feet and you have to swim through it.

But after this turnaround, and embarking on the long stretch towards the lifeboat station, there was a huge swell that pushed you off course and frequently slammed you down from the tops of waves into the next trough. People were puking from sea-sickness and swallowing water smashed into their faces by the swell. Sighting was incredibly difficult when you couldn’t see over the top of the wave coming towards you. Remember that last scene in The Perfect Storm? It was a bit like that, except without George Clooney. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but it was still choppy as a martial arts film. Many dozens of swimmers were pulled from the water by rescue boats (the speed boats had a busy couple of hours). Lots more competitors swam one lap and then didn’t get back in. ‘Bollocks to that’, was a phrase heard more than once on the beach.

And weirdly, I loved it. I don’t know why, but I found the whole rough swim great fun. Saw a few jellyfish. I refrained from punching any this time. Er, let me explain. When I raced Ironman Wales in 2016 I saw a jellyfish the size of a VW Beetle at the first turn buoy on lap 2 of the swim. Punching it was entirely unintentional and merely a function of my somewhat panicked few swim strokes to get over and past it, and I’d like to apologise to the jelly and hope it’s OK. If it is still alive it was hiding last weekend. Anyway, I swallowed some water (euch), and I ended up doing two 40 minute laps to complete the 2.4 miles (my Strava said more like 2.6) in 1:21. I was wobbly running up the beach to the finish, and I already knew my neck was chafed into raw meat (so bad that it hurt to keep on my medal. But I kept it on, of course. Well earned). But that was the swim over and medal #1 –– done.

We spent Friday evening in our apartment eating pizza and getting ready for the early bike start. This consisted of looking at my bike for ten minutes wondering what I’d forgotten, staring at the huge pile of bike kit I’d brought deciding what to wear, and generally taffing*

*(the triathlon version of ‘faffing’, which involves agonising over what you might do wrong, what kit you’ve forgotten, whether you’ve brought the right food, if that tyre really should have been replaced, etc.)

A 5:30 alarm call was actually OK, expecially after a brilliant night’s sleep*

*(Not. I hate seagulls)

The weather was perfect for the bike, and Mike and I stuck together. Our plan was to take it easy and preserve our legs for the marathon the following day. I must have been over-enthusiastic with the hydration, but the regular toilet stops acted as brief breaks for our legs. Lots of flapjacks helped the ride pass, and salt tabs to fend off cramp. Oh, and a big shout-out to the feed stations and brilliant marshals––arriving at the first feed station and a veggie sausage bap was epic, and those serving chips at a later feed station should be made Dames and Knights of the Realm. I mean it. Marshals are a special breed of humans, and I love them all dearly.

A note here about the phrase ‘Schoolboy Error’. And another phrase, Read Your Race Pack. And another one … Always Follow A Plan. I could tell you that Mike and I came in at the end of the first 70 mile lap just 8 minutes before cut-off intentionally. I could say it was planned, and that we knew what we were doing standing around in feed stations chatting and making sure we didn’t smash the bike too much. I could, but I won’t, because it’s not true.

Anyway, back out onto the second lap (which is a repeat of the toughest and hilliest part of the first lap, just for fun), we met a competitor at some traffic lights who asked if I had any painkillers. I’d necked mine by then unfortunately, to stave off sore feet I sometimes get on the bike, and when I asked what was wrong she said, ‘It’s just so long.’ And she’s right. It’s so LONG. The organisers should accept this fact and state it in the race title.

Our bike went generally without incident, although we did see a couple of nasty accidents. Sobering. Some of those roads are tricky, but I noticed just what good conditions Pembrokeshire roads are in compared to those around where I live in Monmouthshire, whose roads are more suited to gravel bikes. Mike and I sailed over the finish line, and it was medal #2 –– done! Back to the apartment, it was time for spag bol and cake and refuelling for the next day. Less taffing this time … trainers, tee shirt, shorts, number, jelly babies, job done.

Another night passed listening to seagulls arguing and screaming and shagging and just generally living it up directly outside our window, and a very civilised alarm call of 8 a.m. meant it was marathon day. This was always the part of the weekend that worried me most. I’m not a great runner, and my training had comprised lots of 8, 9 or 10 mile runs, and only a couple at around 14 or 16 miles. Not ideal.

Mike is a natural runner, so he skipped merrily off into the distance and I settled in for a long day. My plan was to stick at 10 or 11 minute miles, and as usual the first couple of miles were faster. But I soon settled into my plan. The best thing about the run? The people. I ran with my friend Jules and his son for ten miles, then just before Pembroke (the halfway point) I went on ahead, a little worried about the 6 hour cut-off time. I also ran with 7 or 8 other different people at various stages, and every one of them was lovely, encouraging, and helped the miles pass by.

I love triathlon. I love everything about the sport, but most of all, it’s the people. If you have any doubts about humanity, just go and race a triathlon (or a marathon, long bike ride, whatever), and your faith will be restored.

Which leads me to the finish of the marathon. Down that last nasty hill into Tenby (and after 25 miles, a steep downhill is torture that should be illegal in most civilised countries), and the support from Tracey, Mike (he’d already finished in a banging time of 4:04) and Sian, and many friends from my tri-club the brilliant NEWTS, actually got me a bit emotional, especially heading onto that red carpet and down the finishers’ chute. My big smile was because IT WAS MEDAL #3 DONE, in a not dreadfully terribly crap 5:15. I was very happy with that time! All three long distance events finished, I grabbed a beer and some food, bumped into some more old mates around the race village (hi Matt, hi Nathan!), then headed along the red carpet with hundreds of others to collect that 4th medal. Brilliant. Around 800 people started the full distance Long Course, and only about 400 finished all three distances. I’m guessing that’s mostly because of the tough swim.

I’d been looking forward to Sunday evening for a while … a nice Italian meal with Mike, Sian and Tracey, some wine, some beer, and a bloody good relax. Despite the seagulls. It was lovely.

I’ve had lots of chats with people about whether Long Course is harder than an ironman (which takes place in one day with a 17 hour cut-off time). I’m still undecided. With an ironman you’re toe-in-the-water at 7 a.m. and you know you have a long day ahead of you, and you’re mentally prepared for that. With Long Course, you have the evenings and nights between disciplines to stiffen up, rest, refuel, and stress about the next day.

Whatever, that competitor Mike and I met on the bike who said ‘It’s just so long’ was right. But it was great fun, and Tenby rocked! And I see they also run a Long Course in New Zealand, Belgium, Mallorca … perhaps it’s time to go on tour!

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Half-Brutal Triathlon Race Report – 2022

September 20th, 2022 • Posted in News |

I’ve done the Half Brutal triathlon before, back in 2017, placing 29th out of 90 starters. And I did the Full in 2018 –– now known as the Brutalist Brutal Ever –– when a red weather warning shut Snowdon and I had to run two more laps of that lake in the dark, with a fading head torch, in 40mph winds and rain. I think they call it character building.

So I knew what I was letting myself in for doing the Half Brutal again this year, right? Well, yes. But being 5 years older, ten pounds heavier, and less fit with post-Covid loss of mojo meant that this was destined to be pretty much the hardest race I’ve ever done.

There’s definitely some advantages in revisiting a race you’ve done before, especially one like this. My Half Brutal of 2017 remains one of my favourite races out of a dozen halfs and five full-distance ironmans. The low-key organisation, cameraderie, Brutal Events’ desire to give you the best race experience, and that utterly stunning landscape made it a pleasure (if you set aside the pain for a while). So it was an easy choice to go back, and knowing the layout, the route, and what I was about to face meant I was pretty laid back about the whole thing. Pre-race butterflies, sure, but if you don’t get them you’re odd and possibly not quite human.

It’s funny how memories can fade. I’ll get back to that later.

My good mate Mike was coming up to support me, having signed up for the Half just a few weeks before and then coming down with Covid. He made the wise decision to defer––even though he was over the illness, this isn’t a race to take a chance with. So it was great having Mike take me to the start in the morning, help me carry my kit, and generally ease my nervousness. Top bloke.

This is going to be fine, I thought. Atmosphere in the transition tent I’d describe as nervous excitement, with a hint of rubber and chamois cream.

I’ve done this before, I thought. It’ll be fine.

That fading memory, again …

The Swim––following a minute’s silence for the Queen, who’d passed away just two days before, we entered the water … and it was like a bath. Lovely! Ah, I thought, a good omen, this is going to be easy. I finished the swim in 34 minutes, a great time for me. Note to self: only swimming once a week for two months before a race is obviously the way to go. If such lack of training translates into decent times across the board, I was probably going to win!

Onto The Bike––I’d planned on hitting about 1:50 for each 29 mile lap around the Snowdon, and the first lap I was spot on. There’s only one nasty steep hill, and the 3 mile climb up to Pen-y-Pass is just a long slow grind, with mind-bogglingly glorious views to distract you from any discomfort. The weather was perfect, sun peeking through the clouds, and I kept glancing up at Snowdon’s summit. Cloud-wrapped one minute, clear and exposed the next. I was looking forward to getting up there later in the day, trotting up like a frisky mountain goat, leaping from rock to rock and dodging past people out to climb for the day and acknowledging their impressed applause. Yep.

The second bike lap was five minutes slower, and I was feeling it in my legs, but I still enjoyed it. Apart from almost being taken out by a car overtaking another cyclist (not racing) who was climbing Pen-y-Pass from Llanberis side, while I was descending in the middle of my lane. Mostly drivers were pretty good, but it does seem common in the area to be overtaken on blind corners, so those racing all had to keep their wits about them. Brutal’s insistence on every cyclist wearing hi-viz was very wise.

Off the bike and onto The Run––and as usual I went out too fast, happy to be on two feet and jogging around the lake. A couple of miles in and the hills hit … and so did the cramps. And no, not the punk band. I necked down some crisps at the aid station, and though salted peanuts are the devil’s own food I had a couple of handfuls, sucking in the salt.

I jogged most of the mountain climb last time, I kept thinking. I’ll be fine. Ah, my poor faded memory.

Pain is like this. I always hated the dentist, but I got through my dislike of injections etc by trying to observe objectively, and regarding the pain as research (I write for a living so anything is research). And pain is something you don’t remember after it’s gone. It’s fleeting (okay, maybe not so fleeting, as DOMS always hangs around for a few days, but you get my drift). So yeah, the pain fades, as does the memory of pain.

As I finished the lake run and tried to inhale more salty food in transition, I was actually looking forward to the mountain. 9 miles up and down and I’d done it before. No problem.

I started out, and soon the problems began. My legs were weak and cramping, and that first steep climb up the tarmac path was tough. It all very quickly became tougher. I jogged maybe 200 metres in the first mile, then I decided to just slow to a power walk. This I did, but soon the ‘power’ bit of that phrase disappered. Then the ‘walk’ bit almost vanished too, as I found myself struggling to put one foot in front of the other.

I’ve done some tough races. I like them. I’m not particularly fast in any discipline (apart from post-race cake eating, perhaps), I’ll never chase a podium, so I like challenging myself with races like The Fan Dance, Ironman Wales, Blaenavon Triathlon. But I’ve never felt so tired, weak and pained as I did climbing Snowdon. I’ve also never DNF’d, but there was half an hour on that climb when I really started to wonder if I could do it. I was necking down flapjacks and gels, drinking water, but what got me through was what I love about these types of races, and the Brutal in particular––other competitors. I started climbing with a couple of other guys, and I’m not sure I’d have finished otherwise.

At last the top was in sight, and we had glorious views, and I suddenly felt better. I knew there was no way I wouldn’t finish now, so along with the other guys I started jogging back down. Weak legs meant I almost took a tumble three or four times, but I managed to stay on my feet. Yes, it was hurting almost as much on the way down, but we could see the lake now, and we knew the pain would end soon. And then we hit the tarmac and we were almost home.

What a great feeling. Mike was at the finish waiting for me (and he bought me two much-needed coffees, loaded with sugar), Brutal Claire gave me my medal, and somehow it was Job Done.

Anyone reading this, take note – they use the name Brutal Extreme Triathlons for a reason. This half-ironman took me 9 hours, and I still finished in the top half of the field. It is … Brutal. But it is amazing.

A few beers and a curry later, I completely failed to sleep through the night because of pains in my legs and Achilles and heels, but I was buzzing. And I kept reminding myself (as I did on that long painful run) that we do this stuff because we love it.

And as for that poor fading memory––yes, toughest race ever, and I went to some very dark places despite the sun being out all the way up that mountain … but I’m already thinking about confronting the Full Brutal once again next year.

I mean, I’ve done it before, after all. I’ll be fine.

Run Walk Crawl: Getting Fit In My Forties‘ available now from Amazon.

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The Brutal extreme triathlon – race report

September 17th, 2018 • Posted in News, Random Stuff |

They call it The Brutal.  That really should have given me a clue.  In truth I knew some of what to expect, because I did the half-iron distance last year and loved it so much––despite feeling like (and probably resembling) a gutted chicken by the time I’d finished––that I entered the full ironman this year.  The organisation, the stunning setting and scenery, the low-key atmosphere, the camaraderie, and the sense of achievement after completing the half convinced me that this should be my big race of the year.  And big it was.

So, so big, so long, so epic, it’s a day I’ll never forget.

So, where to begin?  How about the hotel the night before, the fight, the police, the raucous wedding, drunken 2am singing (not by me), the drive-by shootings* (*one of those did not happen).  My lovely wife came up to support, so I thought we’d treat ourselves and stay in the Royal Victoria hotel, only about 200 metres from race base.  It looked nice from the outside.  So did Fawlty Towers.  To be fair it wasn’t bad on the inside, possessing a sort of it-was-grand-here-30-years-ago charm that I guess I prefer to the sterile this-could-be-a-lunatic-asylum aura of a Premier Inn.  It had character.  So we checked in and decided to eat straight away.  It would be a stretch to call the allegedly thrice-cooked chips once-cooked, but the pizza I had was almost definitely a pizza.  Then it was off to do the usual pre-race stuff––register, eye the racing-snake competition and get scared and convinced I haven’t done enough training, rack my bike, go to the briefing, dump my stuff in transition so that I can claim a chair for myself, stand staring at my three big bags and mountain pack slowly convincing myself that I’ve forgotten just about everything.  All went well, and I was feeling pretty relaxed and eager to get going.

We then went back to the hotel to chill with a very small glass of wine (for me) and a nastily larger glass for my wife and a bit of mindless Friday evening TV.  Except we were destined to discover the TV didn’t work.  Oh well.  Entertainment came in another form, however, when a fellow guest had an argument on the second floor and punched his hand through the window, almost showering us with glass as we walked back.  We locked ourselves in our room and piled the furniture against the door (not really, but the thought was there), and watched two police cars and a van turn up.  This was all before 8pm.  It was looking to be a long night. 

Who needs sleep the night before what has been voted by Triathlon 220 magazine as ‘the world’s toughest ironman’? Eh? What am I, a wimp?

Luckily, the wedding guests seemed to have drunk themselves into a coma by about 1pm, their last shred of energy expended in a slurry rendition of a song I’m not sure even they recognised directly beneath our window.  And … I had one of my best night’s sleep before an ironman, ever!  I must have had 5 hours!  I sprang out of bed at 5am* (*crawled), the usual pre race nerves and chafe cream application (I did it myself … it wasn’t the time to get distracted), then it was down for the swim.

Temperature was announced as 16 degrees.  Applying the Brutal Quotient, I’d guess maybe 14, but after a bit of ice-cream head I set off and settled into a comfortable rhythm.  Lake Padarn is a stunning place to swim.  The water is clear and crisp, and whenever you turn for a breath you see staggeringly beautiful scenery.  Two laps and out over the timing mat for another two laps, and I was taking longer than I should.  It’s entirely likely that my 1:26 swim and 4200m recorded on my Garmin was due to my unique swimming technique* (*shit sighting and zig-zagging like someone dodging a sniper’s bullet), or perhaps it was that Brutal Quotient again.  What, was I expecting this to be easy?   

A power walk 200m back to transition with Tracey––up at 5am to support me, bless her!––and then I did something I’ve never done on an ironman, or any race, before.  Any guesses? 

A full change.

About now is when I should apologise to everyone else in the transition tent.  Although a) most other people were stripping off and showing various degrees of naked flesh, and b) after that cold swim no one would have noticed much.  T1 must have been 10 or 12 minutes, but every one of them needed.  I hadn’t really been focussed too much on time, and this was all about comfort.  The ride to come was long* and would be tough*.


A quick kiss from Tracey, then onto the bike.  Now, a comment here about the weather: right now it was OK.  Overcast, a little drizzly, but temperature-wise it was perfect, and I was very comfortable in bib short, a skin, jersey and arm warmers.  More about the weather later.  Oh yes.

5 miles into the bike, just after the steepest hill on the route (although far, far, far, far from the longest) I saw a guy by the road who appeared to be in trouble.  Still standing and holding his bike, he was wobbling and pretty much out of it.

“You okay mate?”

“No, I’m not….”

And when his eyes started rolling and he hit the deck, I knew he was in trouble.  I called the race medic immediately (had the number programmed into my phone.  Top tip: ALWAYS DO THIS).  In my race-head state and still a bit wobbly myself from the swim, the mileage I gave them was 14 (my average pace to then) instead of mile 5, but luckily they called back 2 minutes later to confirm and I corrected myself.  What a numpty.  Meanwhile the guy was sitting against a wall and he’d come around a bit––still dizzy, and with pains in his neck that were worrying me a lot.  So we chatted for a while, talked about races we’d done and wanted to do, all the usual triathlete talk, until the medic rocked up. Phew!  After chatting to the medic about what I’d seen I shook the guy’s hand, wished him luck, and went on my way.  I checked in later, and he was OK, but obviously they’d pulled him from the race.  Sad, but better safe than…

This half hour stop knocked me for a bit, and it took me a while to settle back into my bike.  The beautiful scenery helped.  I really can’t think of a more gorgeous place to race––the mountains, the vast skies, the deep, stunning scenery, streams tinkling by the roadside … just wonderful.  It took my mind off the pain.  For now.

So, the bike was four epic laps, each about 29 miles.  The big part of each lap, and the most stunning, was the climb out of Bedgelert and then up and over Pen-Y-Pas, with a nice descent back into Llanberis. Each lap was around 2,500 feet or so of climbing, the the Pen-Y-Pas climb was a long slow drag, but none of it was too steep.

The first lap felt great, and I’d have done it in about 1:50 without the stop.  A quick bottle fill-up, then I was out onto lap 2.  I saw a guy a few miles in being helped into the medic’s car with blood all over his face, but that was the only accident or mechanical I saw.  Considering the weather later in the day, that was a miracle.  Within a few miles my main concern was that I needed a wee.  I was trying to take on a litre of water per hour to keep up with my prolific sweat rate (sorry about the detail, but hey ho).  Now, around where I live close to Abergavenny there are always field gateways and little nooks and crannies where you can stop, but North Wales seems to be Solid Stone Wall country!  I swept down into Bedgelert––a lovely descent, and a beautiful town with people sitting outside coffee shops having a lovelty cappuccino and cake…––and a few miles later I found what will, henceforth, be known as Tim’s Quarry.  Three stops, three pees, observed only by a confused goat.

At the end of lap 2 I saw Tracey, had a hug, and she helped me with nutrition––more gels, more flapjacks, two more bottles of water, and a bag of mini cheddars which went down a treat.  Then it was on to Lap 3. 

This was getting tougher.

But looming out of the distance, like a giant hauling itself from the rocky terrain of Wales, snarling and drooling and with me, and only me, in its sights, was Lap 4.

This was when the wind picked up.  I’m not sure what speed, but by the time I’d hauled my sorry ass to the top of Pen-Y-Pas and started on that lovely descent back to the end of the bike ride, I was almost having to pedal to move downhill.  Two things struck me at this point (beside the heather, litter, and assorted sheep being blown around by the hurricane force winds):

  1. If I’d brought my Canyon, I’d have been blown off (not in a good way) and ended up in a wall or a hedge or halfway down a rocky slope.
  2. I do this for fun.

It was a tough lap, lap 4.  It made me question things.  Myself.  Bike manufacturers.  The Brutal Quotient, that means that this ironman bike ride is 116 miles, not 112.  But hey, no one said it was going to be easy.  I was very happy to get off the bike and hit the changing tent.  May I hereby issue apology #2 for any of those who caught an eyeful when I changed, but really by now I was past caring, and I’d just spent almost 9 hours on a bike so GIVE ME A BREAK!

Also on lap 4 I feared I was starting to hallucinate.  When one boy racer whizzed past me in a souped up red Renault Clio, so close that I felt the breeze against my legs when he roared by with a splutter of oversized exhaust and fat tyres, I thought it was odd enough.  Then two more came.  Two more.  Two more.  I shook my head, blinked a few times.

Two more.

Is this a North Wales thing?  That all boy racers are legally obliged to buy a red Renault Clio?  Very odd.  Very funny.  Apart from the tosser who almost hit me.

It’s time for the run.  Three laps of the lake, and then up and down Snowdon.  By this time Tracey had gone on her own brutal adventure to climb the mountain on her own, and I planned on seeing her while I was on the way up and she was coming down.  I sort of hoped she might have bought a pasty for me.

The wind was really up now, and the mountain tops were no longer in view.  On Lap 1 I hooked up with Simon and James, a lovely couple of guys who were probably running a little too fast for me, but they dragged me around that lap and we had a good chat. Unfortunately, they were also bearers of bad news––the mountain had been closed due to a red weather warning, and we’d have to finish our marathon with 2 extra laps of the lake.

My first thought: bollocks.  Snowdon is what makes the Brutal brutal. It’s iconic, and although I was tired and aching and hurting in places I wasn’t sure I’d ever been aware of before, I’d been looking forward to it.  But I needn’t have worried … the brutality of those lake laps were destined to come back and bite me.

My first concern after Lap 1 was to check that Tracey was OK. I called and she was on the way back down, having been evacuated from the cafe at the top and told to get back down ASAP just a minute after buying a big cup of tea and a pasty.  Yes, she got me one too!  But knowing she was Ok meant I was OK to head off on four more 5 mile laps of the lake.

Simon and James were a bit too speedy for me so I told them to go on ahead … and thus began a very lonely few hours.  It soon became dark, and by Lap 3 I had to use my head torch full-time.  There were a few pockets of support––I’d call them pouches instead of pockets, though they were very vocal and fun––but other than that it was me against the elements.  

And the elements were giving it everything.  Wind roared and howled along the lake.  Pitch darkness fell.  A couple of times I found myself walking up slopes with my eyes closed.  The feed station on the far side of the lake was an oasis of human contact, light, and mini cheddars, but I was started to find it really hard going.  At one point, mounting a rise, the wind nearly blew me over, and it took my breath away.

There was about 2 solid miles on the far side of the lake which was tough and technical trail running, terrain lit only by the limited splash of my head torch.  It was slippery in places, and for tired legs this was very hard going.

4th lap was the worst.  I was in a dark place, and also in a dark place. Exhausted, more tired than I’d ever been in a race, I ran 100 seconds and walked for 30.  Then walked uphill, and staggered down the trails, careful not to trip and fall.  It really was …. brutal.

And then the finish line.  There was a marshal with my medal, and Tracey, and that was it.  The most subdued finish line I’ve ever seen, but also the most welcome.  I had a hug from Tracey––I might have sobbed a little––and the marshal, and then wobbled into the tent for a cup of soup, tea, and a sit down.

Bloody hell.  I’d done it.  16:58 hours of racing in the most beautiful, rugged, brutal landscape nature has to offer.  I’d never really had a time in mind, but I’m happy with 17 hours.  48th out of 81 finishers is fine with me.

Physically and psychologically, this was the hardest race I’d ever done, and there were times––long moments––when I really wasn’t enjoying it and wondered just what the hell I was doing.  But as usual you forget the pain and the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment kick in.  Big thanks to my coach James, couldn’t have done it without you, mate.  A big shout-out to the NEWTs, best tri club there is, for all your support and help and for tracking me through what turned out to be a Very Long Day.  Probably for you as well as me!  Also kudos to Brutal Events, the marshals, organisers, and everyone else involved in putting on a stunning event, keeping us safe, and doing everything they can to ensure the athletes achieve their aims.

And finally a massive thanks to my lovely wife Tracey for coming along to support me in every way possible, as always.  I definitely couldn’t do this mad sport without you. Love you.  

On reflection, I’m not too disappointed the mountain section of the race was closed.  It doesn’t detract from how tough this race is. The extra two laps ensured it was iron distance, and that last ten miles for me was the hardest couple of hours I’ve ever spent doing anything, ever.

Brutal by name…


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Race planning for 2017…

October 26th, 2016 • Posted in Random Stuff |

Those who know me — or those who read this blog, or follow me when I’m on Fb and Twitter — will know that I have a more than passing love of triathlon.  In fact, it’s become a big thing in my life, and my love of swim/bike/run/eat is growing.  This year I raced Ironman Wales (you can scroll down and read my race report), and I decided to not do a full iron distance next year.

Instead, I’m doing a half distance race called the Brutal. It’s got that name for a reason.


Honestly, I think it’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  The swim is a chilly dip in Lake Padarn in Snowdonia, the bike is two laps around Snowdon’s footprint (almost 60 miles involving over 5,000 feet of climb), and then the run is one lap of the lake and then … an ascent and descent of Snowdon!

Yep.  I’ve certainly let myself in for it this time!

As well as that, I’m racing a flat half-ironman in June (the wonderful Cotswolds 113), and I’m also in for the Velothon in July.  And there’ll be other races too, I’m sure, but for now these are the three booked in.

Can’t wait!

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