A finishing time of 26 hours and 35 minutes in a triathlon would normally mean something had gone a bit wrong.
However, for Boston runner Chris Cope, 36, it meant first place – and a course record.
That was because this was, in fact, a double triathlon, and not just any double triathlon – it was one of the events which make up the Brutal Extreme Triathlons competition in North Wales, voted the ‘world’s toughest triathlon’.
The double comprises a 4.8 mile swim in Lake Padarn, a 230-mile bike ride, and a 51-mile run, which includes an ascent and descent of Mount Snowdon.
Boston and District Athletic Club member Chris took on the challenge last weekend, aided by wife Naomi and brother Matt, who offered such support as getting food, sorting out any injuries and making sure Chris, who is diabetic, was in control of his insulin injections.
Chris, a former Boston Grammar School pupil, set off for the swim at 9am on the Saturday in what he described as ‘torrential sideways rain’.
My legs were moaning and all they wanted to do was sit down. You have to keep going though; one more step is one step less.
“If it was bad for me, spare a thought for Naomi, who had to stand in this rain for two hours making sure I had everything I needed; at least I was in a wetsuit,” he said. “The surrounding mountains were beautiful, but you don’t get much of a chance to appreciate the scenery when you are trying not to swallow the constant waves.”
After two hours and five minutes of swimming, Chris was in sixth place and moving on to the next stage.
The bike ride through ‘stunningly beautiful but ridiculously hilly’ countryside around Mount Snowdon eventually brought some better weather for Chris, but also a large pothole as he was going downhill towards Llanberis at 35mph – in the dark.
“My front tyre punctured and I was bouncing on a metal rim down the mountain road,” he said. “Thankfully I got stopped safely but my fingers were too cold and it was too dark to change my tube. I walked with the bike for 10 minutes until I got some phone signal to ring Naomi; they drove over and we swapped the front wheel and I was off again.”
Chris finished the bike ride section at 2.20am on the Sunday, about 15 hours after he set off, but now in first place.
Ahead of him, though, was the ascent of Mount Snowdon. This, Chris described as his ‘lowest point’.
He was, however, accompanied on the journey by Matt, who helped keep his spirits up by thoughtfully bringing with him Peperami and a music playlist with 90s dance anthems, which he played on a small speaker.
“My legs were moaning and all they wanted to do was sit down,” Chris said. “You have to keep going though; one more step is one step less.
“We made it to the top and checked in with the medics at the top of the climb and then turned round and went back down. Sadly the darkness meant we had no views to enjoy but we had cracked it and once at the bottom all I had to do was 40 miles around the lake before I could rest!
“The eight lake laps consisted of a flat first half before a steep climb and then descent through rough trails full of rocks and tree roots.”
Chris, a father of two who now lives near Nottingham where he works as a GP, would finish the run in just under nine hours. His total time was a course record by more than an hour.
The event was a warm up for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii next month. Chris paid tribute to his support crew, saying they are ‘worth their weight in gold’.
“It was a team effort and there is no way that I could have completed it without Naomi and Matt’s help,” he said. “I can never thank them enough.”
“I was stiff the next day but managed to get to work,” he added. “Within two days I was training again.”