AG tale: The Brutal

Jane Manning has a surprising first encounter

I was sat in a pub in South Wales after a satisfying day spent mountain biking when I first heard about the Brutal Triathlon (writes Jane Manning). With a name like that it certainly promised to be a gruelling race. A week later I was a fully paid-up race entrant, and reality began to set in. 

Yeah sure, I’ve got a soft spot for challenges. And admittedly I possess some of the character traits that tend to be associated with the sport. Perfectionism. Determination. A need for structure. A deep-rooted love of all three individual disciplines. It borders on obsession actually. But at that point the sum of my triathlon experience consisted of two meagre sprint races, both of them flat and road-based.  

What had I let myself in for?

Piling on the pressure

I entered the Half Brutal - the shortest of three Brutal races on offer, all set in stunning Snowdonia. But still, this is a half-Ironman distance triathlon. Not exactly the most sensible pick for someone who has their ‘L’ plates still firmly zip-tied in place. 

Especially given the added bonus features that come free with the scenery: the 1.9km swim takes place in a cold, murky lake, while the road bike section is 95km long and (unsurprisingly for North Wales) quite hilly. 

But the real jewel in the Brutal Triathlon’s thorny crown comes last of all, on the run. It’s not just any run. Not just any off-road run even. After a quick 8km dash to get the body accustomed to moving without wheels again, this bad boy takes in a 7km ascent followed by a 7km descent of Mount Snowdon itself.

Reading the description, I knew this race was like nothing I’d ever attempted before. To keep myself motivated between long, lonely training sessions, I piled on the pressure by telling all my friends and family what I had signed up for. 

Like all good sporting novices who haven’t stung their acquaintances for sponsorship money before, I started fundraising too. So I spoke of the race often. But the words that came out were just that – empty words. I was going through the motions, but I had no idea what it would be like, or how I’d fare, on the day.

And then the big day came. Saturday 21st October.  After six months of what had felt like slow-motion preparation, suddenly everything seemed to be unfolding in double time. One minute I was waking up in a B&B in Llanberis. Then I was scoffing breakfast. Then racking my bike. Arranging my shoes and equipment in transition. Lovingly covering everything with a generous sprinkling of talcum.

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