Bit­terly cold, fe­ro­ciously hilly and very, very long. The Bru­tal is one of the tough­est triathlons in the world. So what’s it like to do it twice in one go? James Far­gus re­calls his hal­lu­ci­na­tory week­end of star­lit skies and gi­ant squir­rels…

220 Triathlon Magazine - - CONTENTS - OUR DOU­BLE BRU­TAL ATH­LETE Ex-Royal Navy man James Far­gus, 39, is the direc­tor of a re­cruit­ment con­sul­tancy called JSS Search in London. He has four Ironman fin­ishes to his name and has a daugh­ter, Holly, who’s 15. He lives in Sur­rey and trains with the Ph

It’s 5:52am on a Sun­day morn­ing and I was last asleep 23 hours ago. I’m freez­ing cold from the in­side out and to­tally alone. I’ve been cy­cling in the dark for 10hrs. I long for a noise, a rus­tle of the wind, a pass­ing car. There’s noth­ing but the voices in my head telling me it’s okay to stop. I’ve one bike lap to go be­fore the dou­ble marathon run.

Fi­nally, my ar­ro­gance has got the bet­ter of me. I wanted to find my limit and I’ve found it here in this cold, Welsh val­ley un­der what was a per­fect star­lit night, now smoth­ered in freez­ing mist. There’s frost crys­tallis­ing on my bike frame. One climb left and I can re­tire and be in bed warm, safe, asleep. I’m pulling the du­vet over my head, bang, I hit a cat’s eye and won­der if I’ve just fallen asleep de­scend­ing in the dark. I’ve noth­ing left to give. I’ve the last of my climbs up the Pen-y-Pass to do and then it’s a wind­ing de­scent. Then bed­time. Abbo, my friend who passed away a year ago from can­cer, and is the rea­son I’m here, would un­der­stand and tell me to stop.

I get half­way up the climb and I’m passed by a camper van, the first life I’ve heard for two hours. I need to stop for a wee and the van is now parked in the view­ing area. It’s a beau­ti­ful spot, with great views of Snow­don, the high­est moun­tain in Wales. I can’t wee as the in­hab­i­tants of the van are wan­der­ing around the car park. I cy­cle up the road a fur­ther 50m to pee in the verge next to a slate wall that’s the only thing be­tween me and a drop to the bot­tom of the val­ley. Above me is Snow­don, tow­er­ing im­pe­ri­ously, misty clouds shroud­ing its up­per­most se­crets, one for those com­peti­tors strong enough to dis­cover the rest. The ris­ing sun makes a glow around the back of the moun­tain. The night is over and some­thing in­ex­pli­ca­ble hap­pens in my head. I’m alive, I’m not beaten. I should be here. I’ve trained hard enough and have come so far. I have one more climb on the bike and then I’m run­ning up Snow­don. I’m go­ing to com­plete the Dou­ble Bru­tal for Abbo, for my sup­port crew and for me. I’m fin­ish­ing this f**ker.THIS IS REAL

The Bru­tal first started in 2012. It’s a sav­agely hard triathlon held over half, full, dou­ble and triple iron dis­tances. Each dis­ci­pline is set in the tough­est cir­cum­stances. There’s no need for cer­e­mony or pomp. The ath­letes here have come to find their lim­its. The swim is cold, the bike is mostly climb­ing, and the run is steep. This is no com­mer­cial-branded triathlon fac­tory; this is real and you will get found out.

With a month to go be­fore most iron-dis­tance races, you ask ques­tions like ‘have I trained enough’? For the Dou­ble Bru­tal, I’m ask­ing if I’m in­sane, ar­ro­gant or stupid. My friends con­firm all of the above. Apart from hav­ing arthri­tis, no car­ti­lage left in my left knee due to a ma­jor ac­ci­dent, and var­i­ous other mi­nor nig­gles, I’ve learnt to live with them. The week be­fore the Bru­tal is spent pack­ing my kit into tran­si­tion boxes, plus shop­ping for ev­ery con­ceiv­able food crav­ing I may have over what’s likely to be 40hrs of ex­er­cis­ing.

Fri­day is spent carb-load­ing in Llan­beris, and an ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion swim in the warm­est part of the lake. The evening is spent mak­ing sand­wiches, baked sweet pota­toes and at­tend­ing the race brief­ing con­ducted by Mark Yates, a former Triple Bru­tal com­pleter, who I’ve been lucky enough to have as my Bru­tal men­tor.


I wake up on Satur­day, heart beat­ing, my alarm hasn’t gone off. It’s 7am, I should be in the wa­ter. I panic and check my phone. It’s only 2am. I was dream­ing. Back to sleep for a cou­ple of hours. At 5am my alarm goes off and I’m into my trunks. My rental house is just over the road from the race HQ. I have a bowl of por­ridge and make two large Ther­mos flasks of cof­fee for the days ahead. I have a cou­ple of large cups and crank up the 1990s house tunes on my head­phones. And we’re in busi­ness.

The 7.6km swim is in Llyn Padarn, with eight loops just shy of 1km. Ath­letes must exit ev­ery two laps no mat­ter their dis­tance. If you’re brave enough to swim hard right



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