Tuesday, 24 August 2010
It was a busy weekend in the Optician Editor houshold.
Sunday morning started with the Evans Liphook sportive which turned out to be a lot hillier than promised. Number two son certainly didn't like the first hill that seemed to go on for ever. It turned out to be my moment of glory as I was the only person to stay in the saddle in the time we were at the climb. Back at home it was down to the alloment to pick veg for the sunday roast.
there was more excitement when we found a grass snake caught up in one of the nets.
No2 son ( who wants to be a gamekeeper) held onto the beast while I snipped away at the net. It seemed unphased by the experience and slithered off into the compost heap.
Thursday, 19 August 2010
All of those who read my race report or the race report in (Optician August 27)will assume that the whole of the Optician teriathlon Team will betalking a well earned rest.
I had decided to have a break from exercise after developing a sore knee a month or so before the AdH challenge. It held up well in the race but was a bit sore afterwards but stopping is easier said than done.
My middle son has suddenly been bitten by the bug and has already had me riding as many hill as we could manage on Sunday morning and has another sportive lined up for the coming weekend. He's also angling for the two of us to do the Crawley Late Summer tri.
How can I resist.
Friday, 13 August 2010
This was a really great race in a fantastic setting and a lovely lake. In the swim the French seemed a little more intent on arm wrestling their way around rather than swimming but I came out of the water feeling remarkably fresh. The bike started well with a steady section down to Schleinne. I found myself exchanging positions with Chris on the flat sections. I found the first climb really comfortable and the view from the top was amazing and the descent was nice too. I was surprised to be at the top of the second climb so comfortably and hit 84kph on the final downhill to Bourg d'Oisan which is at the foot of Alpe d'Huez. On the final cimb didn't really notice the heat until the first bend on the Alp and really suffered from the 3rd or 4th hairpin. With 5km to climb I decided not to attempt the run as my knee was increasingly painful with each pedal turn.
Hats off to Nigel, Lyndon and chris who all did superbly with a challenging run course in the heat and altitude. Overall a thoroughly enjoyable day and I intend coming back to finish the whole thing.
The best part of the day is a close run thing between seeing the rest of the team finish and descending the alp with Nigel after the race and still getting to over 70kph while trying to take it easy.
Also felt a little sorry for fee who would have loved the course hope the achillies is better soon!
On Thursday waited to see Lisa in the sprint race and missed her entirely at the bottom of the mountain she flew through near the front of the field, going on to a strong finish.
My first impression of the ADH climb was on an early recce of the first few corners with James, where I was struck by the sheer scale and relentlessness of the road ahead of me. Driving up to the top the next day confirmed what I already knew: it was going to be a very hard day.
I was feeling slightly apprehensive right up to the final preparations, and was actually glad when we got into the water and set off. I found the water temperature more easily bearable in my wetsuit than expected. The first few minutes of the swim were very physical and aggressive as swimmers fought for space. I was happy to follow the crowds as I tried to settle into some sort of rhythm, unsure where the swim course actually led. I was aware of a helicopter hovering just overhead, and the spectacular setting, but little else other than my fellow competitors until I finally saw the exit chute and prepared for T1.
As I reached my bike, and made my fumbling switch from swimming to cycling gear as quickly as possible I was aware of a local television camera filming me at close range which didn’t help my concentration at all. The first few miles of the bike course were a pleasant gentle descent which the early morning sun made warmer than expected. I was caught up by Lyndon just before the base of the first climb Col du Grande Serre. I had planned to use as little energy as possible on this first of three climbs, but even in my lowest gear my legs were soon feeling the pain of every turn. I was shocked by the gradient and length to the summit. There were few spectators at this point, but I found an excellent atmosphere was developing between competitors exchanging words of encouragement.
There was a long way from the top of the first climb to the second climb, which had several unmarked climbs to sap what was left of the strength in my legs. As the temperature rose, I tried to eat and drink as much as possible, but found I couldn’t digest as much as I knew I needed to eat to fuel myself to the end. Thankfully the second climb, Col d’Ornon didn’t seem to be anywhere near as hard as the other two. It was very long, and exposed to the sun, but the more gentle gradient made it a far easier experience than I had feared.
Descending at speeds of around 45mph quickly brought me to the bottom of the big ADH climb. As I set off up the gradient I had been on the bike for 4 hours and my legs which were already giving me constant pain began quivering as well. I resolved to keep going whatever happened, alternating between seated and standing positions to keep the pedals turning. Occasional shade from trees at the side of the road and drinking as much as possible gave some relief from the now scorching sun, and support from spectators and fellow competitors was fantastic.
I eventually reached T2 feeling in no fit state to run a half marathon, but pulled on my running shoes and set off at a gentle jogging pace. Soon the rough and hilly terrain had me realising I would have to walk some of the way. For the rest of the run I alternated between running as far as I could, then walking as fast I could. I set myself the target of completing the run in under 2 hours, which I just managed, encouraged by seeing Lisa, my family, then Chris on the way. I was elated to finally reach the finish where I had an emotional reunion with my wife and daughter, before joining the waiting Lyndon on the very inviting deckchairs just after the finish line.
Two days later I had recovered enough to have one more impromptu ride up the road to ADH. For me this was one of the highlights of the week: no crowds, no timing, no pressure, just the opportunity to enjoy one of cycling's most iconic climbs for its own sake.
After driving through France for 10 hours and reaching the foot of the alps near Grenoble I saw my first glimpse of Alp D'Huez, the mountain was so high that the top was not visible through the clouds!
On reaching the foot of the mountain I realised the enormity of the task ahead, it was like looking at a brick face to infinity. Driving the first 3 bends and seeing a 10-14% gradient made me question how anyone could cycle this! I had trained hard at home, on the welsh hills but nothing can prepare you for this, mentally or physically. It felt like I had turned up for an exam without revising!
Each bend was marked clearly, counting down from 21 to 1 and driving these bends you being to understand the history of mountain with Tour De France markings and famous cyclists having their names etched on the side of the road. It was the Mecca of the cycling world.
Next morning I decided to face my demons and cycle the first 4 bends which boast the hardest gradient. After 200m with my heart rate up to 170 I realised that speed was not important but rhythm and controlling lactic acid build up was going to be the key, in theory!
On the morning of the race I arrived at the swim and the atmosphere was tense among the 1200 competitors taking up this challenge. I could see looking around that this was hardcore triathlon country.
Waiting for the swim start was interesting to say the least with everyone pushing for position and a helicopter hovering 20m above our heads.
Swimming is my strongest discipline so I wanted to get a good start. I did this, although the European triathletes are rather rough in the water to say the least. On the bike I had a good ride to the mountain and on reaching the foot of Alp D'Huez there was a carnival atmosphere with music playing and horns blowing and lots of people shouting encouragement. I slowed my pace, as did everyone, and braced myself! The first 4 bends went well helped greatly by the support on the way and I got into a rhythm.
Completing each bend give you a massive sense of achievement, by half way I began to believe I could achieve my goal to cycle this mountain without putting my feet down, I felt an inner euphoria even though I knew there was a long way to go. By 3/4 of the way up the mountain and 10km of mountain ridden I had no feeling in my legs. I had gone from pain to numbness, but support from fellow triathletes and spectators kept me going. I reached the final bend after 90 minutes of climbing, Rob, my husband, was on this bend and I could see the delight on his face that I had made it. I made him run alongside me for 50m which was a test of his cardiac strength! Onwards I went to the historic finish, I couldn't believe I had got to the top of my nemesis.
The run leg was okay although hilly and at altitude the finish was in sight.
200m to go to the finish a Frenchman tried to overtake me, we had a sprint for the line and I won!
On reflection this triathlon was my biggest sporting achievement, not on a position or time basis but to take yourself so much out of your comfort zone that you really don't know what the outcome is going to be, but then then to achieve what you only dream you could accomplish gives you a sense of euphoria that is difficult to describe.
I will pass the experience of this optician triathlon to my children, that dream the impossible and believe in yourself and anything is possible.
The setting was amazing - arriving in Bourg d'Oisans a on the Saturday before the race was great an enabled me to soak up the atmosphere and make a few trips up to Alpe d'Huez. This included a ride up early on the monday morning with very light traffic, I only saw 3 other cyclists (plus a guy slogging up on roller-blades!) As a big cycling fan I felt like a pilgrim!
The lake was beautiful - didn't feel cold at all. It was the cleanest open water I have ever swam in, and possibly cleaner than a lot of pools I've been in as well. I knew the swim was going to be a matter of just surviving for me. Survive I did, exiting the water in about 45 minutes. Did my usual trick of falling over whilst trying to remove my wetsuit in T1.
The start of the bike leg was just great - 25km of fast roads in a large group with little regard for the drafting rules. It was impossible not to draft on account of the numbers and the fact that the road was still open. I underestimated the time and effort if would take to climb Col Grand Serre - I felt great and must have passed more than 100 riders on that climb - but would pay for the fuel spent later on. I felt good throughout the second climb as well, but on the approach to Alpe d'Huez climb felt the first twinges of cramp in my quads - never a good sign. The climb up to Alpe d'Huez was an exercise in nursing my tired muscles to the top. I could only apply the slightest pressure to the pedals. I thought I would have a dig after hairpin 5 - the result being massive cramps in both legs meaning a dismount at hairpin 4 to stretch. At this point all thoughts of setting a good time went out the window and my mindset changed to focussing on simply finishing. I got going again with a push from some spectators and managed to get to the top.
The run was a question of survival, i.e. not cramping. The food on the run was great and after throwing down all sorts the cramps began to improve. Got over-ambitious and had another big cramp on the downhill run on the first lap. Thankfully it was the last big one of the day - more banana and salty crisps seemed to fix things. Liked the fact that it was 3 laps, rather than one big loop, it made it easier from a mental perspective. Was so glad to see the finish - managed to get in just under 8 hours.
Already thinking about next year, wondering what it would be like if I can avoid cramping up.
Monday, 9 August 2010
While I am waiting for the team to report back on their race I thought I would fill you in, as it were, on my experiences.
We all knew this was going to be a special one and that really hit home when we saw the mountain and took a pedal up the first few steep turns. The sheer scale of the mountain takes your breath away, literally. As the team gathered ahead of the race there was clear apprehension about the task ahead.
The arrangements for the event helped in taking our minds off of the day as we decided the best way of getting to the start on the morning of the race without driving. The orgainsers were suggesting cycling ( with all of your kit) from the finish at Alpe d'Huez. In the end we decided as a group and Lisa and Rob, the unofficial sixth team member, Evans provided the bulk of the transport.
the swim was manic. I simply could understand
A- why everyone thought the water was cold, and
B - why everyone was fighting at the start when the race was so long. The helicopter swooped overhead and we were off.
In the end I did a very wayward swim which took over 47 minutes. The main event, the cycle, started with a long downhill section and I was glad to have put on the arm warmers and jersey but I didn't really need them for warmth. The climb of the Col Grande Serre was the first shock. This was a mammoth climb that seemed to go on for ever. I spotted more than one rider taking a rest before the event had really even got going. At this stage I just began to fear the worst and thought there was no way I was going to make it to the finish line if we had three climbs like this one to beat. I decided to keep the effort low and take on plenty of food and water. I passed, then was passed, by James Eastwood a few times but other than that spent my time looking at the spectacular views and chatting to other competitors.
The col d'Ornon proved to be a breath of fresh air. The climb was shallower but manageable and enjoyable. I began to believe I would be there at the finish.The best moment was meeting my family in the village at the foot of ADH. I stopped for a chat and a drink and also left my jersey, arm warmers and cap behind.
When the climb of the ADH started for real it was clear this was going to be a question of mind over matter. I picked my lowest gear and got my head down.
Disaster struck at bend 17 (of 21 counted form 21 down). Along the route were waterfalls cascading down the mountainside. I had managed to pour some energy drink over my head ( by accident) so thought reaching for the mountain water would be cleanisng and refreshing. I reached out, reached a little more, then a little more but I just couldn't reach the water. As I stretched out my left hamstring locked up and I had to leap from the bike to stretch it out.
The rest of the climb was spent managing this cramp, I just wanted to finish. As the climb went on I felt easier and easier and finally passed James within sight of the finish.He was suffering with a painful knee and wished me luck on the run he wasn't going to be able to tackle. I had been on the bike for 6hrs 18mins.
The three loops of ADH provided a sting in the tail as the altitude and rough terrain conspired to make the going tough. I promised myself I would run the first lap and then see how things were but soon after starting I noticed people walking.
I felt relieved and kept my promise to run the first lap but thereafter walked some of the uphill section and enjoyed the stunning scenery. I found it a great excuse to myself to do this ( and walk) rather than not enjoy the event and run,hence the run time of 2hrs 20.The selection of foods at the aid stations also proved a massive distraction as did the toilet block which had a cold tap that I couldn't resist putting my head under. I found myself chatting to the crowds more and more but by lap three decided to get a move on. In the final straight I outsprinted a nice woman from the Wrecsam Tri club on the request of my South wales colleague Lisa -- sorry Kay.Just to show I was fighting fit.
At the finish Lisa and Rob provided me with a great welcome as the other team members had headed for the bath by this time. Rob also took me and my bike back down the mountain, a great act of generosity that I definitely owe him a pint for.
I had wanted to cycle back down ADH and in my post-race euphoria probably would have but I also had all of my kit ( wetsuit etc) to take back. Lisa's advice not to cycle and Rob's lift provided a safe and relaxing end to my day.
There were many battered bodies at the finish I am glad to report that mine was not one of them.