Just Brutal – The Double
I’ve wanted to try the Brutal for a few years but never had the feet or bottle for it. This year I decided to go for it with the Double. With Enduroman as my main aim for the year I thought all I would want to do was finish. After winning the Triple at Enduroman my own expectations changed and I started to wonder if I could podium again. I made sure my training went along the same lines as it had for Enduroman, the only difference was the NDW 100 a few weeks before which helped mentally but probably didn’t physically.
The trip down was a bit stressful, Claire drove the whole way in really bad traffic and I had to message the organiser, Claire Smith (Brutal Claire), that we might be late for the briefing. After a terrifying drive down the pass into Llanberis in weather that needed a Wagner soundtrack we got there about 5-10 minutes late and snuck into the back of the briefing. The wind was just ridiculous, and they had no chance to get the event marque up that evening. Luckily they mentioned at the end something they had said earlier on – that the start had been delayed an hour to give them time to get everything sorted out once the weather broke – which it did but not until after midnight heaping more pressure on the organizers.
After a normal, nervy, sleep in the back of the van we woke to a calm morning. The organisers had managed to get the event marque up overnight and were busy with transition and the swim course. The extra hour was a welcome release of pressure as everyone sorted themselves out in transition and in the marque. It was really great to have the company of Doug as crew – he would be going up Snowdon with me and as someone who has been up Everest as well as Snowdon numerous times, I know I’d survive. He helped Claire and I cart the ridiculous amount of kit and spare kit I had loaded up. Also fellow Enduromaners Clive (Curry), TC, Kaja and Dave K gave the unfamiliar setting a familiar feel and it was great to see them, especially Clive who was busy early on moving and erecting dirty racking whilst wearing his nice new WHITE Brutal hoodie!!
Getting down to the swim start was relatively stress free – the stress was coming from the thought of getting into a deep, dark and cold lake – and staying in it for 3 plus hours. There were about 200 hundred of us over the three distances though so I knew the odds were good that the big fish would attack someone else. As it turned out I never really worried at all during the swim. After the initial scrum, made worse by a load of floating debris close to the start, it quickly became a very roomy and pleasant swim. I took an inside line to get away from the crowds and headed for the first turn buoy that I got round without incident, I just had to hold back as we approached to let a couple of swimmers on my outside get round. After that it was plain sailing – for a long time! We got out after two laps, quick nutrition stop and back in. I had rash vests and running bottoms on under my wetsuit so I never felt cold and the third and fourth lap passed quickly. At one point I did manage to convince myself that once I got out after lap 4 I would only have 2 more to do, so was annoyed with myself when I realised it would be 4 more! The rest of the swim was happily event free. I managed to lap TC on the back straight and had to dodge someone coming back to a buoy being escorted by a canoeist, I assume he must have missed it by not sighting. Getting out and going round for another two laps felt normal and soon I was heading for the exit for the last time. Just before getting there I managed to go past another red hat (double) and was told, on finding my feet, that I had exited in 4th. 5th however came out just after and proceeded to run to transition!
I was looking forward to the bike now that the weather was behaving, and I wasn’t disappointed with the route. After cycling out of Llanberis we were quickly on back roads surrounded by mountains. Most of the course was stunning and whilst working hard I tried to take it all in. The first lap was noticeable for how hard the first little hill was and how much fun the Pen Y Pass was, although fun would not describe it after 6 or 7 laps! I went past quite a few ½ and full distance racers who were already on their 2nd laps so had that Pass in their legs already, it was a nice ego boost to go past so many on that long gradual climb. Coming down the other side was something I had not looked forward to as I am always heavy on the brakes! But it actually was a very smooth and fast descent with sweeping rather than sharp bends, only once did the road turn enough to require any slowing.
TC whistled past me down this stretch on the 4th lap, I was happy to have almost made it half way before getting caught by him, but the speed with which he went by showed me I have lots of improving to do.
After each lap I would get more Herbalife Prolong and sort out any problems, my water bottle had fallen out of the back holder on lap 1 and split so we had to do a bit of taping to allow me to continue to use that spot. Once taped it stayed put nicely – almost till the end when it popped out at the bottom of the Pass, as I came to a stop to go back and pick it up I unclipped on the right and fell to the left! Lucky there was no traffic around at that time of night!!
Whilst happy to finish the bike I had not trashed myself so was pleased to be told I was in 4th place, again 5th came in not long after me. The first 3 were well up the mountain already.
Whilst relieved to get off the bike the idea of going up Snowdon was somewhat daunting. Early in my training I had imagined running so fast up the mountain that Doug would not be able to keep up but now, as I changed into my running kit, I just hoped that I hadn’t wasted his time by not being able to make it up. After the kit check we set off over the road towards the mountain. It felt awkward to run and Claire’s video of it shows that 230 miles of cycling can turn even a poor looking runner into something much worse! We ran to the foot of the steep tarmac slope and the walking began. Before we got to the hill proper the leader came by us from the opposite direction looking fresh. Not long after getting through the gate leading to the mountain path TC, in second place, came by at speed. I thought he would be able to run down the leader but it turns out the gap opened up a little further – both had amazing runs that my feet can’t comprehend!
Very quickly I knew that this was not going to be anything like climbing Snowdon on my treadmill. I hadn’t fooled myself into thinking it would but it was harder than I hoped it would be! I was pleased though that I’d spent so many hours running and walking up the incline on the treadmill as it had given me the extra leg and backside power that I needed to keep going. I became very aware that Doug was having to hold back, a lot. I am a slow walker at the best of times and I did start to feel guilty about going so slowly, especially when I kept catching Doug yawning! It was good to reach the first medic point as I’d remember from the briefing the day before that they were all positioned towards the top. After a little chat we continued up.
It was nice and warm by now and I had taken off my coat and wrapped it around my waist. Earlier Doug had seen lights coming down that we thought might belong to the third place runner and his support. It was now light meaning it would be harder to see if anyone was coming up behind us but the views opened up to us. When we met the third place runner, on one of the steepest sections, he was looking good. I’d recognised him earlier as Jonny who’d won the Enduroman Double in June so I was already thinking I wouldn’t be catching him and I’d be just trying to keep hold of 4th place – we still seemed to be a long way from the top. Up we went, we had great views now until we climbed into the mist but as we did we started to move into an alien environment with large jagged rocks defining a path to the top. We were passing walkers who were coming down from the top, at 7am! I had to put my coat back on over my pack to keep the wind and cold from getting into me. As long as we kept moving I felt warm enough, even in shorts. We went past the second of the mountain rescue crew who was hunkered down with his dog in the ruins of an old mountain hut, he told us we had 1000m to go. It got more and more rugged and we went by more and more walkers until up ahead we saw a couple of people stood looking back at us. We had made it, hand shakes and photographs were quickly followed by a faster decent. Other than the very steepest bits we were able to jog the whole way down. We passed the 5th and 6th place runners very quickly after the turn so I feared for my position as my run so far had felt so poor. We passed a lot of runners on the way down so it was clear that a lot of us must have been finishing the bike within a couple of hours of each other. I’m afraid to say I felt very pleased with myself that it was me going down rather than up.
Walking the steepest bit of the tarmac path we then ran (Doug ran I shuffled) back into transition. I got myself sorted as quickly as possible with new bottles and removing anything I wouldn’t need for the lake laps from my pack. Currie (Clive) informed me that the guy in 3rd was in the tent after finishing his first lap and that he wasn’t happy with his running and that I should go chase him. Alas, I was also not happy with my running, my feet had not enjoyed the boulder strewn mountain as much as you’d have thought! I set off to check out the “lake lap” with Jonny and his support runner following not far behind. They quickly went past me as I shuffled along the long, flat, side of the lake. I was more concerned on keeping an eye out behind me for the 5th placed runner who had come into the changing tent as I was sorting myself out. This first part of the lap is where you can run, unfortunately the pads of my forefeet felt as if they had nails going into them so I was having to take regular walks. Round the back of the lake it started to get “interesting”. The never ending tarmac hill is something I may never get over. Later I discovered that a run 10 walk 10 strategy got it over and done with before it got too painful but on this first lap it was just a slow slow plod. By contrast the steep steps we had to go up were much more fun to do and I actually enjoyed the later part of the lap the most and was able to run quite well through the woods, probably because the mind was on not falling over rather than the foot pain.
After a couple of laps it became clear I would not catch Jonny, he seemed to stop each lap for food etc and come out of the tent behind me but quickly go past me a little further down the track. I did try on lap 5 to push on and try and get myself away from him so he could not watch what I was doing but the following lap suffered as a result. Looking at the results afterwards I can see that I only gained a couple of minutes!
So the focus was on keeping 4th place. I started to think Claire was giving me duff info when she was telling me I was a lap ahead of 5th place. I knew, or I thought I knew, a couple of people had been just ahead of me but a lap behind earlier on yet she and Doug were telling me that 5th was resting in the tent. I carried on, getting slower over the last 3 laps. As I approached the loos on my penultimate lap I decided to trust their info and take a comfort break. However just as I was about to cross to the toilet block someone came up behind me chatting and telling me what lap he was on – meaning he had just overtaken me!! I went into the loos a little annoyed and accidentally dropped my drink bottle down the toilet – luckily it was just clean water in there but even after a good rinse I was not happy drinking for the rest of that lap!! I came out of the toilets and tried to chase the guy down. As I got to the aid station I was asking if anyone had seen this guy but no one remembered seeing him, when I got round to start the last lap Claire and Doug insisted again that I was in 4th and that 5th was still a full lap behind, was he my first ever ultra hallucination?!!
Having stopped for a few minutes to see Jonny finish in 3rd, and with my mind at ease about being the in 4th, I did my slowest lap to finish off what was by far my toughest ever race even though I finished 4th and many hours inside the cut off! James Page was asking me as I was coming to the end of the loop if I would be thinking of doing the Triple. At that moment I didn’t think I would be able to do it, the Double had been so hard. Luckily I’d entered the Deca next year, just two weeks after the Triple so for me it would not be a good idea. But when Brutal Claire puts it on again – I’ll be there.
Fuelled by Herbalife throughout
Total Time – 34:49:35
Swim Food – Prolong + Thermo
Bike Food – Prolong + Protein Bar, Thermo, Niteworks and Liftoff
Run Food – Prolong + Thermo, Niteworks and Liftoff
Tags: Brutal Triathlon, Herbalife 24, Herbalife Nutrition, www.smedley-wellness.co.uk