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Ben tames the beast that is the world’s hardest Half Ironman

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Our athlete Ben Abdelnoor tames the beast that is the world’s hardest Half Ironman

It is billed as the world’s hardest Half Ironman -the Wasdale Tri features a 1.2-mile swim in England’s deepest waters, a 56-mile bike incorporating a gruelling 7,217ft of ascent, topped off by a run over the country’s two highest mountain summits. Brutal.

The race has been on my agenda ever since last year’s inaugural event was cancelled due to atrocious weather conditions. One year on, we were treated to clear, bright skies.

First up was a 7am out-and-back swim across Wastwater. The deep water was chilly at just 13 degrees Celsius, but with the adrenalin firing all around my body I set about the task ahead.

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It was 38 minutes later that I exited the water. As expected, standing vertical again proved a bit of difficult balancing act! Soon, however, I was in the transition area and ready to pick up my bike.

Next was a strength-sapping 56-mile haul over the Lake District’s most brutal road passes, including two near-vertical ascents of both Hardknott and Wrynose. In total there was over 7,217ft of climbing. The ride took me four hours and seven minutes.

Riding into the transition area in 15th place I remained focused, knowing my strongest discipline was still to come. And so it was that I set off on the 13-mile run determined to make up ground on those in front of me.

Ahead of us lay 4,583ft of ascent and the type of rocky terrain that I knew suited me.

With my training partner Chris Stirling 15 minutes ahead, I pushed hard on the long climb up to Styhead Tarn. Running beneath the towering slopes of Great Gable, I finally got rid of my biking legs and increased the pace.

Using competitors ahead of me as targets, I picked them off one-by-one, and by the summit of England’s highest mountain -Scafell Pike -I had moved into the top-10 and closed the gap on Chris.

Down into Mickledore, I then scrambled up the ghyll to Foxes’ Tarn before reaching the summit of Scafell -England’s second highest summit.

Then followed a long run off Slight Side to Eel Tarn and back towards Burnmoor Tarn. It was here that I finally caught Chris, who was in third place. Together we shared our sufferings and offered an encouraging word to one-another.

By now, however, I was exhausted and I shoved another chocolate bar down my throat in a bid to stave off that feeling that I was going to bonk….

Side-by-side, Chris and I ran the final two miles together, talking of salty crisps and sugary drinks, while at the same time both trying not to cramp up as we climbed the stiles en route.

Finally, after seven hours and 35 minutes I reached the finish line in fourth place. I was shattered. It was a relief just to stop running!

And so how tough was it? Well, Eric Blakie, who finished in just over 10 hours, said to me afterwards: ‘That was the toughest event I’ve competed in -and that includes the Marathon Des Sables!’

I wore my super-lightweight inov-8 X-Talon 212 shoes on the run and, as always, they delivered superb grip and traction. I also used the new Race Ultra Vest, which will be available in spring/summer 2014. I have been testing the all-mesh, body-tight, fully-breathable vest all year and it is an awesome piece of kit.

I also wore my inov-8 Race Elite 105 Windshell on the bike. The athletic-fit of the shell ensured an aerodynamic, warm ride.

Race Elite 105 windshell F blue lime F2

The weekend before the Wasdale Tri, I won the Three Shires Fell Race in the Lake District.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try and learn a route, it can’t quite prepare you for what actually happens on the day. I feel like I know the 13-mile (4,000ft ascent) Three Shires route like the back of my hand -yet I spent a lot of this year’s race engulfed in thick mist and wondering as to my exact whereabouts.

I pushed myself to my limit on the second climb, up onto Swirl How, desperate to open up a gap on those chasing me. I then busted a gut running down Wet Side Edge.

You can therefore imagine how frustrating it was to then have to stop in the mist and get out my map and compass. Then again, it also brought me a sense of relief when I saw my chasers emerge from the mist, thus assuring me I was on the right route.

Shortly after the halfway mark I dug deep again and by the summit of Pike O’ Blisco had opened up another gap.

Heading for Blea Tarn, I was determined to hit the racing line. Alas, just minutes later I had lost the trod I was on and felt disorientated in the mist.

It was then a relief to see Steve Birkinshaw appear out of the mist. Less of a relief was realising Tom Brunt, Dave Wilby and Jim Davies had forged ahead and I was now in fifth place!

With one final climb and descent to go -Lingmoor -I pushed really hard. Seeing Dave had made a break and now led on his own, I watched him up ahead. Every time I saw him walk, I made myself run. It hurt, but I had to make it hurt if I was to catch him.

I finally moved alongside Dave as we reached the summit. ‘Do you know the way down?’ he asked. ‘Only as well as I’ve known the rest of the course!’ I replied.

We promptly deviated off the regular route, which, I should add, Dave spotted rather than me…

By the time we hit the track in the valley bottom I had opened up a 30-second gap. I ran on to the finish line to win the race for the first time and with it breath a huge sigh of relief.

Again I wore my super-fast, super-gripping inov-8 X-Talon 212 shoes.

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