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Big Brutal Swim, all things Brutal Triple Iron with a dash of Cycle2Work day for good measure!

Ironjediby IronjediSep 9th 2015
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Big Brutal Swim, all things Brutal Triple Iron with a dash of Cycle2Work day for good measure!
As part of the build up to the Triple Iron I decided it would be good to take part in the Big Brutal Swim in Lake Padarn, Llanberis, North Wales. A chance to swim in the lake for the triple and a chance to experience the cold seemed like a no brainer. I roped my brother Darren in who is taking on the Full Brutal and he was keen to come and recon the bike and run route. We also dragged Jake along (to bring the average age down clearly) and arranged to meet up with some of the other nutters taking on some of the distances at the Brutal Triathlon.

On the Saturday before the Big Brutal Swim we met up at 7am with Brett (full), Mark (triple) and Alan (double) and smashed a couple of the bike laps. It was a great ride with a taste of what's to come, around every corner we had different weather, however overall it was an enjoyable day. At the end of the first lap my rear derailleur gear cable snapped, clearly the power I was driving through it was too much for it. We were about three miles out from Llanberis and Jake made the mistake of asking "what we were going to do". "You're going to pull me to Llanberis so I can go to the bike shop and fix it, that's what". So that's what he did, assisted by Mark who pushed me from behind. It was quite tiring holding onto his saddle bag with one hand and holding my handlebars with the other. Jake did a great job though, really strong. What was funny was when we came to a slight decline I tucked myself into a really low aero position and free wheeled, the only problem was I was travelling so slow. Jake got his own back stating I looked like a "dick". After a quick pit stop we cracked out the second lap and headed to Pete's Eats café where we all smashed an Even Bigger Breakfast including the bacon rind, well I did. My body is not a temple unlike the other chaps.

Later that day we all met again minus Mark and ran a loop of the course round the lake. That went well and without pushing it too much we were round in approx 55 minutes. Brett, Darren and I then stripped down and jumped into the lake in our skins to feel how cold it was. Alan, in an attempt to avoid the swim, opted for another lake lap run. I can tell you it was pretty cold. So cold that our bodies were bright red with cold burns when we got out (not Brett's though as he is a hardened skins swimmer). We splashed around for about 10 minutes and were out. It was really useful to test out the temp and no doubt would help for the next day.

Later that night we met at the Heights for some food and got to know the guys a bit more.
Sunday 30th August arrived and at 0845hrs we were lake side ready to go, only just mind you as we were running pretty late. Sadly Alan had pulled out of the swim due to a bout of sickness overnight. Bunkhouse Belly! Darren had decided to move from the 2.5K swim to the 5K and Brett was swimming in skins (mental). Using the 10K swim as my last final test before the Triple, this day would either make me or break me. I wore everything I plan to wear on the day, a neoprene vest 2.5mm, two pairs of booties, a pair of gloves and three hats - my #TeamBear #sufferbutNEVERsurrender swim hat underneath my neoprene hat and then my Brutal swim hat on top. I can't believe anyone would want to swim in that lake in skins - brrrrrrrrrrrr.

I was so pleased to be doing something with my brother. I have been so impressed with the commitment he has put in over the year and he has certainly come a long way since I first rode and swam with him. He really has made the transition from couch to ironman in nine months. I was also modelling my new Brutal Beard to keep my chin warm in the water and apparently it prevents jelly fish stings!
I took my eye off Darren for a second and when I looked for him he was in, keen as mustard. I joined him in the water. Wow, it was cold, not as bad as the double triathlon two years ago but still pretty cold. The race started and my bro was off. I waited to set off near the back, there was certainly no need to be getting involved in the manic start. As I started swimming my goggles started leaking, I took in some water, my arms felt really heavy and I had a sudden small panic that I couldn't do it. I stopped and could see everyone pulling away from me. Panic set in and it was a real struggle with every stroke. Water was still leaking into my goggles and I spent the whole time to the first buoy adjusting them, swallowing water and breathing heavily. I needed to straighten my head out. I needed to finish this 10K to give myself any chance of finishing the Triple. After some soul searching and finally getting a seal on my goggles I calmed down and settled into a rhythm.

I had 8 laps to do and had to get out after every second lap as per race rules. When I got out after the second lap I noticed how the water near the shore was so much colder than the centre of the lake. I had a quick drink of Science and Fitness and a bite of a banana and got back in, crossing over the cold section first. I settled into a nice steady pace and cracked out another couple of laps. The weather was fantastic. At the start of the swim the water was so calm, although it got more choppy as the swim went on. After my fourth lap I ate a Jackoatbar, had a cup of tea and some more Science and Fitness. I was half way through and I was starting to think that I might finish this swim but as I started lap 5 I still had to battle my mind. I dragged myself round a further two laps, got out, drank more tea and noticed that I was getting cold really quickly.

Mark was pretty much with me for the last three laps, I think we were both keen to get it done and the final prep would be in the bag, Mark was holding off from entering the triple as it all depended on how he got on with the swim whether he would enter or not.

Lap 7 was the hardest, my arms were heavy and the lake had got more choppy however there were fewer people around which was a good thing. At the end of lap 7 I picked up and cracked out lap 8 to finish. I felt like I had some more left in the tank, which is good considering I have to swim an extra mile 3 weeks later at the Triple. Oh and ride and run a massive distance.
As I swam out of the lake I was really pleased to find I had finished it in 3 hours 39 minutes which is roughly where I had estimated I would be, and in 21st place out of 34 finishers. Mark and I rolled in pretty much together. I guess he's now entering the Triple! You can see below the delight on my face!!!! I put on my Dry Robe and quickly warmed up. Dry Robes are amazing, it's one of the best pieces of kit I have and would recommend them to everyone.

Darren had also finished the 5K, what an achievement for him, I was so proud of him. Brett had finished the 2.5K in skins with a mild bought of hypothermia and I can say that he is hardcore for doing that. Well done to him.
So with the swim cracked only three weeks remained. It was time to get my head down for the last couple of weeks of hard training before a week or so taper. During the preceding week it was the national Cycle2Work challenge. My work were offering £250 for the winning team's charity. I roped in 4 other guys who cycle and all we had to do was clock the most miles in the day to and from work - eeeeeeesayyyyyyy!!!! One of the guys dropped out due to injury, another could only ride one way. I felt a little pressure on me as I was the team captain. I also wanted to win the money for my Virgin Money Giving page. I got up at 2am and rode to work covering 82 miles and was ready to start work at 7. 30am. After a day's work I rode home clocking another 120.5 miles which equalled a total commute of 202.5 miles. Unsurprisingly our team won the money and that was my last long ride before the race.

I sit here this evening well into my taper, having ridden my last ride last night, got my one and only KOM on Strava and even got busted by Strava Wankers on twitter this week. All good signs I reckon. I have been having dreams about the Brutal Triple now for the last week and have this sickness in my stomach. I have one more week till the race and to be honest I just need to get going. This time next week I dread to think what will be going through my head as I embark on just about the hardest challenge of my life. I look forward to the next blog where I hope to have good news for you.

Remember to please vote on the link at the top of the page. Thanks James :-)
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