With 31 per cent gradients and the UK’s highest peak, these races will separate the Ironmen from the boys.

Top 5 Hardest Triathlons

The final and grueling leg of the City To Summit Rat Race that takes competitors up Ben Nevis. (Photo Credit: Rat Race)

  • RAT RACE CITY TO SUMMIT

Where: Scotland, UK
When: 1-2 June, 2013
More info: www.ratracecitytosummit.com

This is arguably the hottest new addition to the 2013 race calendar and has ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ stamped all over it. The long-distance race starts with a swim in the Firth of Forth at Queensferry, Edinburgh, before a 112-mile ride to beautiful Glencoe for T2. Once you’re in the mountains it’s time to tackle the marathon-distance run which, as the race name suggests, takes you to the top of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. Billed as one of the toughest events around this will certainly test your legs. Make sure you bag your spot soon as places are filling up very quickly.

  • IRONMAN LANZAROTE

Where: Lanzarote, Spain
When: 18 May, 2013
More info: www.ironmanlanzarote.com

As if the distances in Ironman weren’t enough to contend with, Lanzarote is notorious for being one of the most testing long-distance events in the world. You’ll begin by churning through the water with 1,450 other triathletes in a 3.8km sea swim with a disorientating 20m run between its two laps – and that’s just the warm-up. Pictures of the volcanic island’s sun and beautiful beaches might lull you into thinking it’s tame, but don’t let the scenery fool you! Cycling while being battered by the incredible winds that sweep across the roads is a huge challenge over any distance, but for 180km it’s torture. Pain doesn’t come much worse than battling through those conditions for hours and then stepping off the bike to face 42.2km of running under the burning Lanzarote sun. This race is an unrivalled test of strength, character and mind-body excellence.

  • SAVAGEMAN 70.0

Where: Maryland USA
When: 15 September, 2013
More info: www.winthefight.org/savageman

When a middle-distance triathlon offers a full refund and apology for any competitor who has raced a more savage event, you know it’s not your average triathlon. Based at Deep Creek Lake State Park in Maryland, USA, a 1.9km out-and-back swim is followed by some monumental climbs squeezed into 50km of the 90km bike course. The Westernport Wall sets the tone with a leg-sapping average gradient of 25% and a max of 31% (type it into YouTube to see what you’re up against). After that, you’ll see the scenic and remote Big Savage Mountain looming large – a 600m ascent over 11.4km – before a fast, technical descent delivers you to Killer Miller, a gruelling 2km climb at 8%. Though the run isn’t quite so harsh, the double victory lap around the lake threatens to finish off your legs completely, with the odd climb thrown into the undulating route.

 

  • HELVELLYN TRIATHLON

Where: Lake District, UK
When: 24 March, 2013
More info: www.trihard.co.uk

While race organisers usually rely on the bike leg to put the boot in, TriHard have opted to use Helvellyn, one of the Lake District’s most demanding fells, to destroy your legs during the run. A 1.6km swim around the idyllic Ullswater lake – the only flat part of the day – is followed by a tough 59km bike loop, taking you through stunning scenery and up and down the contours of a sharply jagged route. Then it’s on to Helvellyn. It’s a testament to the difficulty of the run that you won’t be allowed out of T2 without food, clothing and emergency gear but with no food or drink on the 14.5km stony track to the summit of the UK’s third highest peak, you’ll need all the energy you can carry.

 

  • DORNEY SUPER SPRINT

Where: Berkshire, UK
When: 18 May, 2013
More info: www.humanrace.co.uk

Triathlon toughness isn’t just measured in distance – it’s about speed too. There’s nothing quite like the unique anaerobic pain caused by going so quick that the race goes by in a blur. With a 400m swim, 20km bike and 5km run, Supersprint is the fastest and most furious triathlon distance there is, and Dorney Lake is the perfect location for blistering speed. The swim in the rowing lake has no awkward sighting to hinder your split and the closed road around it lets you go flat-out on the bike – just watch out for the tight turns at each corner and remember a tailwind down one side means a headwind along the other! The run is across firm grass at the water’s edge that encourages a quick pace to lead you through the pain barrier to a fast finish.

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