How Ambleside’s Ursula took on the world’s toughest race

 By JAMES MADDEN

 Imagine you have just completed a two mile open-water swim, followed by a 112 mile cycle on one of the most demanding routes which requires optimum endurance and perseverance. Reaching the finish line, you then have to find the fortitude to clamber off your bike, to run 26 miles up the highest peak in England, Scafell Pike. Even those in the upper echelons of athletics would grimace at the thought. Now imagine this is your first ever triathlon and until 12 months ago, you didn’t even own a road-bike?

“Triathlon X was one of the best things I’ve ever done and although I probably won’t do it again, I can now use my experience to teach other people”

This was the position 50-year-old fitness instructor Ursula Brendling found herself in as she prepared to compete in Triathlon X. Brendling, who is from Ambleside, had completed the Great North Swim a month earlier and done plenty of road and trail races. But nothing like this.

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“I’m a fitness instructor, so I had a basic level of physical fitness but I only got a road bike last year and until January, I’d only ever swum a few lengths in a swimming pool”, Brendling said. “I took up swimming lessons and managed to get in to a routine where I would go for a cycle-ride three mornings a week. I’d done a couple of half marathons but never anything of this magnitude”.

Ursula, who seems to be the epitome of the word buoyant, constantly refers to her first triathlon experience as “brilliant” and “fantastic”, but as the conversation turns to regrets and adversities, the positive attitude fails to waver.

“It was a shame I was full of a cold, but it was brilliant, I absolutely loved it and the weather was fantastic. I knew how hard it was going to be and I knew I was going to be one of the last to finish, but I just found the whole experience exhilarating”.

sets off on run

Due to time restrictions, she couldn’t complete the final eight miles of the run, something Ursula views as the most frustrating element of the event. “Not finishing it was disappointing. I knew I could finish, it was whether I could complete it inside the designated time allocation. That makes it even more frustrating.”

Describing the swim as “the most challenging experience” due to difficult conditions created by the dense fog, I pose the question about a possible return next year. “I don’t think so, but I viewed Triathlon X as an event in isolation anyway. I probably wouldn’t get the support or the coverage like I had this time; it felt like a one off where everyone was behind you. It would be difficult to recreate that.”

Ursula cannot hide her delight for the constant support she has received from her many good friends. “The support was incredible and at times it kept me going. I am truly grateful for everyone who came out and supported me and hopefully I did them proud.”

So now Ursula is pondering how she can use this experience to help other people.

“The brilliant thing I can get out of this is passing my experiences on to other people. There is little point preaching about how to prepare for something when you haven’t had experience doing it yourself. Now I feel like I can share my knowledge with everyone else.”

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