One of my favorite races on the planet.
Epic as it sounds.
Swim in a freezing cold lake > Cliimb this 'hors category' climb (& a few others thrown in to really smash the legs) and then run at an altitude of 2000m above sea level over trail paths.
Completion of this race for anyone is a superb achievement and one which you'll never forget.
I have blogged about this race before - because I have raced here now FOUR times.
This year was a little different and John Levison of @Tri247 wrote a glowing report here - with my race report included.
"SportieDoc Version 2.0" - I'll take that ;)
Top Tips for those who want to complete this incredible race:
(See Video at bottom of the page - en Francais ;)
1) A 27/28 rear cassette is a must for most. Compact chainset for less experienced climbers. Ignore the race organisers advise of a 23 rear for 'competent riders'. Remember you have to run off the bike!
2) Take a double swim cap - or a cap with ear covers. No matter what the outside air temps are, the lake is always glacial.
3) The swim start is always chaos - stay out to the sides if you are not a super strong swimmer. Do a land warm up & short swim warm up - then get out onto the rocks on the side .. otherwise your arms and legs will suffer the effects of the cold.
4) Beware of drafting. The French officials are VERY savvy and they particularly seem to like to penalise the Brits and Aussies.
5) PACE it.
(Long Course has 3 big climbs - short course 1 - L'Alpe)
Get Aero on the first 20k's which are flat/downhill.
1st climb (Grand Alpe du Serre) is tough - work into it - alternating seated and some out of the saddle climbing to stretch out the lower back and hip flexors.
2nd climb (Col D'Ornon) is a steady gradient but goes on for a long time and is in exposed conditions, prepare yourself for this.
3rd climb is the Alpe DHuez. Starts steep and becomes more gradual in parts. I always work the bends, alternating my cadence and gear up if the gradient drops, or accelerate slightly out of the saddle - I seem to gain time on other competitors this way. But take into account that for most you will be climbing for 75-90minutes up this last climb.
I never eat solids in a 70.3 race but in this race I always have a Mars Bar chopped up along the way (a Brett Sutton favorite) and make sure I refill my bottles at the aid station.
Taking caffeine or a caffeinated gel as you approach the bottom of the Alpe is a good idea.
If its hot, you will need extra salts/minerals - this is a personal thing - but take it into account when planning.
Pouring cold water over your head is uber effective cooling and feels awesome. Perceived effort shoots down (temporarily ;)
7) The Run.
No one gets off that bike leg and feels super run strong (Mary Beth Ellis a possible exception)... just move one foot in front of another and keep your cadence high and gradually the muscles will come good.
The terrain is variable with trail paths and rocks to navigate.. it keeps it interesting. But on each of the 3 laps (long course) there is a steep 400m climb to ascend - play mental games - there is significant recovery time on the descent afterwards.
Remember you are at high altitude so breathing may be a strained unless you have been staying up at altitude for a while. HYDRATE.
ENJOY THE FINISHLINE :)
My report from my first time racing the long course race in 2010 (first long distance race) went like this:
it was a very testing day and I what my mother would term ‘character forming’. The swim was really rather chilly and seemed to go on for ages… but in retrospect it did go on in comparison to Olympic distance racing to which I am used… couldn’t feel my feet coming out of the water so was a wobbly run into T1! I’m always relieved to get out of the water in a race and get on to my favorite part the bike, where I can usually make up time. I kept saying to myself… hold back hold back…. It’s a looooong day out there.
Then… coming up the hill out of T1… I was fiddling with my shoes and going pretty blimin slowly when a motorbike pulls up and holds a card at me and says I’m drafting… well actually they didn’t say that, because they muttered the French equivalent, but I got the drift. My protests that I wasn’t even near the guy in front and that we were going so slowly up the hill at that point ant drafting would have been utterly fruitless… were met with deaf ears and the marshal sped off to claim his next victim. Now, perhaps my protests ,which were sans expletives but were non the less uttered in anger/disbelief had irritated said marshal as 15 minutes later minding my own business on a flat section of road a group of French riders passed me and spread out across the road… the road then narrowed and with cars coming the other way it was impossible to pass… so I sat up to slow down until I could pass again. That’s when Mr Marshal smacks me in the face with another drafting penalty. U t t e r disbelief. I’ve never had a drafting penalty in my life… and two within 15 minutes….. come on!
Onwards and upwards. The bike leg of this race was nothing short of spectacular. A mini drama on race morning with a flat tubular meant I had to borrow a wheel with a rear cassette of 23. Grinding it out has never felt so real.
The first Col tested the legs and I held back all the time thinking of that beast which I’d have to climb at the end. (Quite a few guys came storming past on this climb but all bar one i saw again on L'Alpe)
Crowd support in the villages we passed and on the climbs was awesome and really helped take the mind off the leg groans.
Ascending Alpe Duez I’d moved into second place and felt strong coming up the climb… It was very special for me climbing Alpe that day as I remembered by Dad climbing it back in his Pro cycling days in the tour. My step mum passed away this week after a year long battle with pancreatic cancer so I climbed that pass thinking of all the good times we had and hoped that I’d make them proud.
Coming into T2 I was thinking, ok, so I’m tired, but not thaaaat tired… run should be ok… Then smack No.3.
Penalty Box – 10 minutes! Standing – no food/no drink. I couldn’t quite believe it and as a result wasted far too much energy being angry and frustrated to ultimately no end… deaf ears… ‘making an example ’ the Marshal said. Thanks. My displeasure was well covered on the EuroSport coverage much to my subsequent embarrassment!
10 minutes over and I speed out of T2 only to find a minute later that my legs felt like lead… ok, I thought…. I’ll run into to it ‘find my rhythm’ as coach said. But it never came… and the getting through the 3 laps was amongst one of the hardest physical efforts ever…(the 23 gearing and standing post run didn't help) I have had a bruised bone in my toe for a while and the pain waxes and wanes but today with the terrain and gradients I was in agony after 20minutes. But I’ve never been a quitter, and no matter how much my body/mind wanted to stop, I pushed through and crossed the line pretty exhausted.
Video - Alpe D'Huez Triathlon 2012. (2013 coming soon!)