Double Brutal & Chirk Update

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John Royle's Double Brutal Race Report

Where to start! A glass of wine, the internet and a credit card in easy reach are all a middle aged baldy bloke needs to get himself into trouble!  Unfortunately, my search engine still runs on steam and it pointed me towards "Brutal Events".  It would have been rude not to have a quick perusal of such an enticing website so I clicked a few links and…. what was this "Double Brutal" thingy?  Well, I've done one Ironman and finished it quite strong, even if it was in a time of 13 hours, if I double that time and added a bit more for the extra climbing and such and a time of 32 hours seemed plausible.  So, with a flourish of key strokes I am instantaneously £300 lighter (quite reasonably priced really Mike!!!) and any free time, and more, I may have had in the following ten months evaporated.  The plausibility of finishing in 32 hours was soon dispelled when I clicked on another link and started to look at past finishing times and then, still fuelled by red wine, a revised time of 36 hours was plucked out of the ether!  The cold light of day and the first task was to work out a training plan based on predicted racing times and the enormity of what I had done suddenly struck home.
Roll on the hours on the bike, starting out in the middle of the night, looking for more hills and arriving back home when the rest of the house is just awakening. Roll on the 5000m sessions in the pool two or three times a week and the brackish taste of open water.  Roll on the quest for different run routes to alleviate those deja vu feelings, the endless hill reps and the Sunday long run starting at 4 AM.  The heavy training schedule was whittled down at times to prevent over-training and bring a balance back to family life but soon enough it was time to taper.  It was like no other taper.  The more time I had to think about what I was about to embark on the more nervous I became so, as any sensible person would do, I tried to keep myself busy and hid behind “well there’s nothing more I can do now!  I’ve just got to run with what I’ve got!”  Don’t think about it and it will go away!
Finally, race day and the swim in Llyn Padarn was a barmy 17 degrees (wonder if I can get the £20 back for the neoprene swim hat that lays unused in my swim bag?) and the tea, consumed after every double lap along with words of encouragement from Lorna (Number one, two and three in the support team) used more to help the gels down than warm me up. The swim went according to plan.  The first double lap was crowded enough for me to draft some of the other slow swimmers with the second lap being less so as the participants of the Half went on their merry way to T1.  Laps three and four, though quite solitary affairs, were pleasant enough except for being attacked by the creature from the black lagoon (someone decked out in full neoprene - hat, gloves and boots to go with his wet suit). He was wearing a red swim cap as well so I steered clear of him because I heard that they were all nutters! Swim done more or less bang on time (3:08.27) and sedately onto T1.
Fluid, nutrition and out onto the bike course. Out through Llanberis and the smell of lunch cooking from the Plasgwynant was a better indicator of the turn to the short, sharp climb through Ceunant and on to Waunfawr than any signage.  Left onto the undulating road to Beddgelert (no headwind is always a bonus on this stretch).  I missed the aid station on the first lap as I was going down the hill into Beddgelert too fast to stop (or want to).  Next it was along to Nantgwynant where my front derailleur decided that it didn’t want to change up to my big chain-ring (still, better to be having to run on a 39/11 on the down hills than a 53/30 on the up hills!). The climb from Nantgwynant, which was initially accompanied by a band playing, to Pen-y-Pas isn’t overly steep but long enough for me to call it the forever hill by lap six!  Then, from Pen-y-Pas back into Llanberis, the pain goes away with a fast, technical decent to the timing mat, a quick stretch, a fiddle with the front derailleur, a few words of encouragement and off onto the second lap.  Settling into my pace now and all was well until I came to Ceunant for the second time and I couldn’t change down to my small chain ring.  Nightmare!!!  I had to stop and push the chain off with my fingers before I could continue.  By the time I got to the Gwynant for the second time I had perfected the art of changing down with my the toe of my shoe without having to get off the bike (this worked until it was too dark to see and then I just stuck with the 39 chain-ring for the rest of the laps).  Lap three and the routine was set.  Turn left at the smell of food (dinner now replaced lunch), short, steep climb, turn left at the bottom of the steep descent (mind the speed bump TC), along the valley, past the lakes, miss the aid station, Beddgelert, the band still playing on, the Gwynant, Pen-y-Pas and the all too brief reward back to Llanberis.  On lap four the enormity of the bike hits you - not even half way and you've got to do it all again! Still, head down and keep on pedalling, then there are fewer and fewer people still riding, then it goes dark, then there are more stops to stretch, then it gets cold (another stop for a long sleeved jersey), then (on lap six by the Gwynant) you try to think of an excuse that everyone will accept as good enough for you to stop, that you will accept as good enough for you to stop! And you can't. A quick pit stop at transition to take yourself round a corner and give yourself a good talking to with a little reminder of Rule No. 5 (and while you're at it you change into your winter longs) and back onto the bike for the final two laps. Lap seven and things start to change.  The smell of food has gone, no band playing and the shadows begin to take on sinister shapes.  The last lap starts into the head wind that has been there all day but is now so cold that it goes through my clothes as though they were made for a mythical Emperor!  Even with the cold the last lap is one of the better ones and I even found time to look at the stars, unspoilt by light pollution and cloud cover, when I stopped to stretch at Rhyd Ddu and half way up the Gwynant.  In the early hours of Sunday morning it was such a relief to not have my tender arse stuck to a bike seat and my body tucked into a position that is far from natural that I could have given my bike away........ almost!  The bike took me a staggering 19:38.53 over two hours longer than my predicted scenario.  The bike was now done and T2 was even more sedate than T1.
With my mountain safety, John Ingram and John Hill, ready to go and me feeling amazingly sprightly I get myself ready for the mountain lap.  Forty minutes later, and an episode that could have been construed as ‘nudity in transition’ if anyone had been looking at the baldy, middle-aged bloke wrestling with a small towel and a pair of Ron Hill’s in the corner, and the three Johns, all dressed against the cold, set off up Snowdon.  With head and hand torches at the ready but never turned on we navigated the steep Tarmac road to the Llanberis path.  Dawn is breaking just as we hit the track and the surrounding hills are silhouetted against the clear morning sky. By the time we reach the Halfway House the sun has risen and the views are stunning!  Then we see a busload of tourists ahead of us. Determined not to let them beat us to the summit we crack on at a fair pace without actually running. Just shy of the cafe we overtake them. Not as much of an accomplishment as we'd hoped as they looked in worse shape than I did!  At the top we looked out on a sight that I have never seen, after many, many trips to the summit - a view of such clarity of Anglesey and the west coast set in a clear blue sky without a single cloud.  Unfortunately we had to leave the view and descend to the lake and the rest of the double marathon but it certainly buoyed the spirits.  The Snowdon leg was completed at a fast walk in 3:30.22 half an hour more than planned but without my quads being mashed.

The lake laps didn't seem as daunting as they did prior to me starting my challenge (maybe the lack of sleep, maybe the good company, maybe a combination of the two!).  Again, I decided to crack on with the run, forgoing any sleep, as I just didn’t feel like sleeping.  Lap one and two were completed with John Hill for company.  Running, of a fashion, on the flat and walking up the hills with John shoving bits of Clif bar and Clif Shots into my hands to consume with whatever drink I was carrying at the time. Fred ran the third lap with me pulling me along on the flat and feeding me on the hills. Lorna got her own back on me on the fourth lap telling me to "keep up" on the flat and, again feeding me on the hills. Fred did another lap with me, which was the next fastest after the first, and then everyone abandoned me to run the last three laps on my own. Well, I wasn't really on my own - there were five of us still out on the course. The quote of the race came from one of them on the sixth lap. "I can't see why they have to send us to the other side of the lake! It's not like it isn't brutal enough!" I mustn't have been thinking straight because I couldn't help thinking "But that's the best bit of the course!"

along with "That's why its called The Brutal!". The second to last lap I came across a runner who was on his last lap and he told me to get this lap over with and the last lap "you'll just fly".  I took him at his word until I met some locals and spent fifteen minutes talking to them about who knows what! You know it’s a long race when it goes dark on you twice and you still haven't finished! That left the last lap and, sure enough, I did fly - well, its seemed like it. Looking at my times it was more the flight of an ostrich than a falcon but, even in the dark, it was one of my better laps. The finish was no Ironman funnel but the eight or so people clapping you in seemed fitting with the event somehow.  The heroes having left long ago it was just the survivors left.  The lake laps completed in 12:01.14 bringing the total event time to 39:02.12 which, even though it was three hours over my worst case time, I was happy with.  I managed to stay awake for the next finisher but after being awake for 42 hours and racing (figuratively speaking) 39 of them the camp bed in the corner of the marquee looked too inviting. I am still not sure if the furthest corner of the marquee was purely so that I wouldn't be disturbed of just that I smelled so bad no-one wanted to sleep near me.
I awoke at five thirty the next morning feeling better than I should and spent the next couple of days waiting for the onset of the dreaded DOMS. It never really came (I suppose I'm a little disappointed on missing out on the extra sympathy), I could even walk down the stairs forwards with minimal discomfort. This resulted in the aside from Lorna that "I obviously hadn't worked hard enough".  What more can you say after that?  Maybe next time….

John Royle

Chirk Sprint 19 April 2015

Entries open at 18:00 on Sunday 23 November.

Please enter online,even if you miss a slot you will go on reserve list and be offered entries when cancellations are made. It is better to be in the system rather than make last minute requests close to race day. We we will make every effort to get members a slot.

This sold out in 80 minutes last year so remember fastest finger first!

Borders League 2014/15 Fixtures

Race 1 – Sun 9 Nov 2014: West Cheshire

Race 2 – Sun 7 Dec 2014: Chester Tri

Race 3 – Sun 11 Jan 2015: Birkenhead

Race 4 – Sun 8 Mar 2015: Prestatyn

Race 5 – Sun 22 Mar 2015: Wrecsam Tri

Race 6 – Sun 12 Apr 2015: Eryri

Race 7 + Presentation Night – Wed 22 Apr 2015: Wrexham

2014 North Wales XC Championships

Men's Start 2:45pm.  Ladies Start 2pm.     

4 October

 Treborth Track, Bangor, LL57 2RQ    

18 October

 St David’s College, Llandudno (LL30 1RD

29 November

 Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, Wrexham, LL13 9NG

31 January

 National Sports Centre, Lilleshall, Telford, TF10 9AT

7 February

 Marches School, Oswestry, SY11 2AP