As preparation for the Ironman Wales competition next month, the Ely Monster Middle Distance race was not too bad a try-out for Ben Cross.

The BRJ club member, from Wyton, finished 19th in his age group and had good reason to be quietly satisfied. Especially since this was the first time he had swum outside of a pool and the first time he had tried swimming, cycling and running a long distance all in the same day.

At 30 years old, he has reached a stage in his life when he wants to stretch himself physically and mentally.

Last weekend's sort of contest will do the trick, especially considering he was a non-swimmer nine months ago.

The big wake-up call came when he entered the freezing water – everybody was shrieking – and when the horn went he found it was literally a free for all.

“People were getting thumped, kicked and even swum over, everything you can imagine happened,” he said.

“The timing chip on my ankle even got clattered so hard that one of the plastic brackets snapped off it and I thought I was going to lose it before I had even exited the water.

“At one point, about 30 minutes in, the people in front came to a stop. I stopped, too, as I couldn't get past, and realised the current was so strong that those who stopped swimming were getting pulled backwards. I had to laugh and consequently swallowed a load of water. That wasn't so great.”

On to the 56-mile bike section and Ben set off well. “The ride was incredibly tough against the wind, but I put my head down and ploughed through. It rained, too, and while it wasn't pleasant I suppose it helped to prepare me physically and mentally for Wales,” he said.

He actually did a much quicker bike time (2h 55m) than he expected and the 13-mile run was also strong (1h 46m). Four laps of the scenic city later and he was in good spirits, finishing the event in 5h 33m.

Cross will be up at Rutland Water for the next two weekends carrying out 100-mile bike rides to prepare his legs for the big one. Ironman Wales takes place on Sunday, September 14 in Tenby.

He is raising money for Scope. To donate click here.