Iron men and women – A 3.8 kilometer open-water swim, followed by a grueling 180 kilometer bike ride, rounded off with a lung-busting marathon. Are you ready to push the limits of human endurance? (All pictures shot by Charlie Crowhurst; courtesy of Getty Images)
Iron men and women – Over the last year British photographer Charlie Crowhurst has covered a number of triathlon events in Europe, producing otherworldly images which highlight the exhausting, lonely reality of endurance sport.
Iron men and women – This photograph by Crowhurst almost has a volcanic feel about it, setting the swimmer against the backdrop of the fiery red sun setting in the distance.
Iron men and women – Each triathlete is given a number before undertaking the challenge. "I guess people do it to give themselves a goal or something to aim for," Crowhurst told CNN. "Perhaps they can't achieve anymore in a working capacity and want to push themselves in another field."
Iron men and women – Crowhurst uses digital filters to create his own unmistakable style. "These events are a real test of not only physical stamina but mental too and I think a lot of people underestimate the mental aspect and how tough that can me," he said.
Iron men and women – One last deep breath before this competitor prepares to take on chilling waters at the Challenge Almere event in the Netherlands.
Iron men and women – Here, a conventional shot of one of the competitors is shown. "I usually look for about a dozen pictures using a digital filter but it's interesting to see the contrast," said Crowhurst. The effect is striking...
Iron men and women – Crowhurst's use of filters creates a much more dramatic portrait of the competitor."Essentially it's human versus clock and you're pushing you body to its limits and, for some, training for it can dominate your life," he explained.
Iron men and women – Triathlons can become a battle between man and nature. "The winds hitting the competitors on the bike leg of the Challenge Almere event this year were particularly strong," said Crowhurst.
Iron men and women – "I don't have a favorite picture. You always enjoy the work you have just done," said Crowhurst, who captured thick cloud lingering over the start line of the Challenge Austria event in Walchsee.
Iron men and women – Crowhurst uses different forms of transport to shoot the competitors, meaning he doesn't have to complete a triathlon himself. "The best shots on the swim leg come if you are able to get in close on a boat," he revealed.
Iron men and women – The transition between the different disciplines is key to ensuring competitors secure a good time. "Personally I feel quite emotional when I'm standing at the finish line watching some of the participants finish, as you can feel and physically see how overwhelmed with emotion they are at what they have just achieved," said Crowhurst.
Iron men and women – Crowhurst is the son of photographer Alan Crowhurst, who has used similar digital techniques to cover horse racing and sailing events.
Iron men and women – "I really liked this shot of a single cyclist set against the windmills," said Crowhurst, of this dark image taken at the Challenge Almere event in the Netherlands.
Iron men and women – Crowhurst captures the loneliness of a long distance cyclist during an Ironman event.
Iron men and women – Reigning world triathlon champion Javier Gomez is pictured on his way to winning the Challenge Barcelona race in 2013. '"An amazing athlete," said Crowhurst.
Iron men and women – Spain's Gomez came out on top after an energy-sapping four hours of racing.
Iron men and women – Long into the night the final finishers cross the line at the Kalmar Ironman in Sweden, many hours behind the winners. "When you see them coming in after 15 hours or more I feel it almost adds to the sense of emotion and real achievement," says Crowhurst.
Iron men and women – That winning feeling. Henrik Hyldelund of Denmark crosses the line first in his home Ironman in Copenhagen earlier this year.
Iron men and women – Crowhurst usually concentrates on capturing the efforts of the non-elite competitors and uses a motorbike to find the best spots on the course to capture their plight, perfectly illustrated at the run leg of the Challenge Austria event.
Iron men and women – The lesser athletes can, as Crowhurst explains, produce the most touching stories. "I remember I came across one guy in Copenhagen who was balling his eyes out," he recalled. "I asked him if he was OK, and his reply was, 'Yes I'm fine, I just beat my time last year by 30 minutes.'"
Iron men and women – A competitor in Sweden feels the pain after completing the 226km endurance test. "My respect for anyone finishing these events is total," said Crowhurst. "Personally I feel quite emotional when I'm standing at the finish line watching some of the participants finish, as you can feel and physically see how overwhelmed with emotion they are at what they have just achieved." (All pictures shot by Charlie Crowhurst; courtesy of Getty Images)