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Alpe d'Huez Triathlon. The definition of #ShutUpLegs

August 15, 2018

 A race where Jen's Voigt's #ShutUpLegs takes on a whole new meaning.

Photo by James Mitchell. Taken on one of the 21 hair pins, that characterises the  Alpe d'Huez climb. The grimace says it all.

 

The famous Alpe d' huez triathlon has long been on my bucket list. The iconic race, set in the beautiful French Alps, was a challenge that fascinated me. The organisers, have made the event, a week long triathlon festival. A duathlon, kids races, the long race which is the main event; 2.2km swim, 118km bike (features 3 mountain passes; the Alpe du Grand Serre (1375 m) the Col d'Ornon (1371 m) finishing with Alpe d'Huez 1800m), 20km run on road/trails at the top of Alpe d'huez. And the short race; 1.2km swim, 28km bike (including Alpe d'huez) and 7km run.

Initally i had entered the main event, thinking "its like a 70.3 race". On viewing last years results and seeing 7hr + times next to the leading finishers, I had a rethink.

 

3 reasons I switched my entry to the shorter race. 

1) Talking to those who had tackled the long race, the general agreement was "You need to be Ironman fit".  I was 70.3 fit, definitely not Ironman fit.

2) We had booked a week in the Alps and it was more appealing to get in a good amount of cycling and running in the mountains, rather than resting up for one epic day and then collapsing on the sofa afterwards.

3) I plan to race Dun Laoghaire 70.3 on Sunday 19th Aug, 2 weeks afterwards.  I didn't think my legs would have recovered in time.

 

The organisers, were great and switched my entry, so a solid week of training in the Alps, combined with a shorter race, was the new plan.

 

To stay at the top or the bottom?

The main decision, when planning the trip. Do you stay in the ski resort of Alpe d'huez, where the race finishes, making registration and putting your trainers in T2 easy. Where you have the bonus of rolling home to your shower and sofa after the race. Or do you stay in the valley, where the start of the race is, and where you don't have to finish every ride with a big climb. 

I chose an AirBnB flat at the top in Alp d'huez. By the end of the week and the 5th time of riding up Alpe d'huez I was seriously questioning this decision. Let's hope sleeping and living at altitude and accumulating lots of hilly miles, has given me a good fitness boast.

 

The race

 Female swim start. By James Mitchell.

 

The short race, is roughly the equivalent of an Olympic distance, in terms of time.

Two words describe this race. Scenic. Tough.

The swim was in Lac du Verney, I struggled with my breathing from the go. We were in the valley, so I didn't think altitude would be an issue, but I was gasping for breath in the washing machine. I calmed myself down, slowed down and settled into a rhythm, catching people in the second half. I came out around 20th.

The bike consists of a flat section from the lake to the bottom of Alpe d'huez and then it's all up, up, up. 

 The graph shows speed (green line in km/hour) and elevation. 15km on the flat at avg of 40kmp and then 1hr6 up the mountain at 10kmp! A race of contrasts.

 

It is a non drafting race, but due to the number of competitors and the flat section before the mountain, it got pretty congested. Fellow Brit and friend Claire Shea-Simmonds rode past me on the flat, informing me, I had a chain of riders, all on my wheel. We tried working together to get rid of the riders, though as soon as we hit the climb, the elevation sorted everyone out. 

 The start of the bike. No time to take in the views!

 

There were 2 drinks stations on the climb, I took a bottle at each, having gone through my own 2 bottles, the heat was getting to me. My tactic had been to go steady up the first half of the climb to the village of Huez and hope my legs had something left for the second half. I followed the plan, glad i did as my legs stilled yelled at me as we neared the top. I think, I would have been a real mess, if I had started harder.

 Just keep going up!

 

Onto the run, 1 lap of the circuit. The previous day the athletes racing the long route, had braved the run loop three times. It looked an absolutely brutal experience for them after the 118km bike. I was pretty happy, to only have to contend with 1 lap. 

The run was non eventful, a bit of trail, it is either up or down, with no real flat running. 

I finished, happy to jump in the paddling pools in the finish area.

 8th place and 1st Brit for me. A solid hit out.

 

A week of Mountains

It was a solid result, within a good week of training. The legs were a bit tired, from the training, but it was a good experience, to see how I coped with racing within solid week of riding. I highly recommend this area, as a training base. plenty of outdoor pools, running trails and endless mountains to ride up. Most of the rides and run's can be seen on Strava here

 The weeks Training Peaks diary. A bike dominating week. A nice 10,000m + of elevation over 6 days. You don't end up with many miles, but lots of elevation! The crepes and chips at the end of each day, were very much needed.

 

 Adam claims this is his favourite picture from the trip. Titled "Suz, does get tired and needs chips"

 The van. We started the trip with 2 days, travelling and sleeping in the van. Stories about the van, are more appropriately told in the pub.

 Final day and post race 'spin' to the top of Col la Croix de Fer

 

 The Brits post race on the balcony.

 

We had a great week in the Alps, brilliant weather, great scenery and had a blast with a whole bunch of other Brits who were out there. Highly recommend it.