This is my 3rd attempt at what is perhaps the event which played the biggest part in attracting me to triathlon. Many years ago, in a former life as an electronic engineering student, I completed my Masters degree in Grenoble. Alpe d'Huez and the mountains around here where my cycling playground so a triathlon with a bike leg which took in those mountains is pretty much my dream event.
By and large prep went well (more on this in my season update) and despite some equipment hiccups in the week preceding the event which cost me my race wheels and the lower gearing I would have preferred to use I was relaxed in the final build up. After blisteringly hot weather in the 2-3 weeks before the tri race day was pretty much perfect conditions. Warm enough not to have to worry about clothing but far from the 48 degrees I'd been competing in earlier in July.
My race targets where pretty simple, I wanted a sub 40 minute swim for the 2.2km, 4 hours for the 115km (3000m of climbing) bike, 1:30 for the 20km altitude run and whatever final result that gave me.
It is a mass water start at Alpe d'Huez with just a single wave of all age groups, genders and pros, about 1000 triathletes in all, pretty intimidating. Life was made easier by the long start line which allowed the field to spread out although the turn around buoy number one was the expected crush. The field thinned quickly after that and it was much like any other swim.
I was out of the swim in 38 and a bit minutes which I was more than happy with, 8 minutes down on the quickest times. T1 was by far my best ever having finally decided to forgo socks and have my shoes on the bike.
I'd done a lot of training on the bike course and new exactly the power I need to ride on and just stuck to the numbers right out of T1. I'd opted for my DASSI DRC II Ltd. tt bike as in training I'd been able to maintain the same power while climbing as on my road bike and it would offer an advantage in the two long valley sections.
Spectators were helpfully shouting out positions on the climbs and I made steady progress. 133rd out of the swim, 54th near the top of the Alp du Grand Serre, 30th at the foot of the Col de Ornon, 23rd at the foot of Alpe d'Huez. I peaked at 12th on the final climb and then slipped back when under eating and drinking came back to bite me. I'm not beating myself up about this as I'd had a stomach problem around the 3 hour mark and if I'd forced food/drink down at that point I'd just have been sick and then worse off overall. It was frustrating as in the 7km I was suffering I slipped 11 minutes on my schedule (there is nowhere to hide on the Alp!). With the GI issues subsiding and having refueled I finished the bike feeling relatively fresh in 20th place.
4 minute 30 seconds per km was the target for a 1:30 run. After moving up 2 places in the first couple of km of the run I started thinking of a top 10 finish but while I held my pace quicker runners came from behind. The final 7km lap was a struggle, as it was always going to be, and I paid for my lack of long runs since Stafford as although my HR was comfortable my hips and glutes gave out. I normally like a fight towards the end of the run to get the most out of myself but when 2 people came up from behind I had nothing to give to hold them off crossing the line in 26th overall, 7th in my category and with a time of 6:26:50.
While work remains to be done I can take a lot from the race and was happy with my performance and the progress I have made since Stafford. My swim was competent, my bike leg (aside from fueling) is much improved and getting pretty close to it's former level and I've learnt that I run best when I've been doing races in training which is something I didn't do this time around.
So in summary it was 3rd time lucky and I will be back for more. 6 hours doesn't seem to far away, I can see where the times need to come down and I can see a clear path how to go about it.
I'll be updating my results so far this season along with my race calendar for the rest of the year over the next week and hopefully will get a blog up about my race equipment in the not too distant future.