Jenny Fletcher’s Triathlon on the Alpe D’Huez
Triathlete Jenny Fletcher, who went pro this year, just got back from France where she competed in a triathlon on the famous Alpe D’ Huez. (How did this former model become a professional triathlete? See previous article) The Alpe d’Huez is one of the main mountains in the Tour de France (although not in the 2010 course) and when mountains are rated for steepness with 4 being the easiest and 1 as the hardest, there are still a few mountains which are considered exceptional—beyond classification ( hors catégorie)—one of these is Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps. This is the setting for Jenny’s triathlon last week. And as she was preparing for that, she spent a couple weeks training in France and watching the Tour. Her experience was an amazing one and here it is in her own words. (Thanks, Jenny!)
We rode every day, followed by watching the Tour, followed by great meals and a special thanks to Ink for introducing us to many great wines from the French region!!! Everyday was jam packed! Day one is just a fun 2hr ride to prepare us for the next day…. Tourmalet and Obisque!! Seriously one of the best days of the trip was the second day! Being able to ride those climbs, seeing the writing all over the ground, crazy fans everywhere reaching the top, the views, the ride down the other side only to climb again!!! 5hrs 40mins all logged on the Suunto which I can’t wait to download!!!! I actually rode so much the memory was reading full on the last day in Paris when we were time trialing around the park! Too bad I don’t have the logging of the speeds we were hitting on that ride….. So fun!!!! Amazing amazing amazing!!
The Alps are incredible! Very majestic and so beautiful to drive through! The drive up Alpe D’ Huez even more incredible!! The 15km drive is insane…. With 21 bends it is one of the most famous climbs to ride and by far once you reach the top one of the most scenic! I stood in awe at the top and just looked around feeling as if I had reached heaven itself! It was breathtaking!!!
Race morning I wake up to rain pelting at my window. Aghhhhh a cold and rainy day…. Oh well… Glad I left all my warm clothes in Paris?!!! (somebody tell me why I wasn’t thinking and only brought flip-flops up to the top of a mountain….. Yeah not so smart) thankfully Milani had supplied me with a warm jacket the day before! It was a lifesaver!!
The race doesn’t start till 2pm so that gives us time to set up T2 and then bike down the mountain to the swim start! Wow what a gorgeous bike down! We took an alternative route down and I was biking through the clouds… It was insane! The lake was so pristine… and cold but somehow I am getting used to the cold swims. From Escape from Alcatraz to our early morning ocean swims and Siri’s freezing pool in the desert that somehow this water didn’t phase me… in fact I loved it! As we sat on the rocks waiting for the swim I watched fellow athletes shivering and thought boy am I glad coach prepares us for all this! I was so calm and enjoying the moment! As we neared 5mins I slid back into the water and awaited my first ever mass start!!! Loved it! The swim was great. Loving my new Xterra wetsuit that I haven’t been able to use due to warmer swims and soaking up how efficient and great I felt!
Onto T2…. Did I tell you I had no idea what the bike would be like… Next year I won’t make the same mistake… We start climbing right away and then we are on a section of flat and fast roads going through little villages and winding our way to the bottom of the climb…. I had no idea when we’d hit it…. But I knew when we did I would know! The first 4kms are very steep and hard! Going from a fast time trialing to an uphill climb state took me a while to work into it. I decided not to count the turns but just climb. All my focus was on just trying to relax my breathing and climb up the mountain. It took all my energy! My body and legs weren’t feeling it today but this is the race I had been dreaming of so I pressed on! I reach back to get my GU’s….. They aren’t there! I went into panic for a moment as I specifically chose to wear the 2 piece trisuit as it had pockets and they must have fallen out in T1…. Immediately I regain my focus… I’ve done hours of training with or without water and GUs to teach my body it can race and train under any condition…. I press on heavenward!!
Reaching T2 was so rewarding… I’m in and out of there as fast as possible and onto the run! What an amazing run! Climbing the side of the mountain…. It’s mostly trail running… My favorite!!!
Then there is that glorious moment… Reaching the finish line! I hurt in this race… Throughout the bike and run it hurt… But I crossed the line… And finished in 5th place overall! There’s extreme satisfaction in that!!
There’s this moment I have at the finish something only I can relive… But I’m standing there all alone at the end of this race…. Rain pouring down… And I look up to heaven in the stillness of that moment and smile…. For I have now raced Alpe D’ Huez!
For a girl who loves lake swims, to climb, & trail running this race was a tough one for me on that day… I somehow feel like I have unfinished business there… I have to go back and race it again. Next year I plan on podiuming! Not that that is everything to me but I know this is my race and next year I’m going to conquer it!
This is by far the most amazing race I have ever done! For the US Escape from Alcatraz is still number one but as far as racing Europe and my dream of climbing Alpe D’ Huez and experiencing it in Tri form, I was blown away!! I can’t wait to go back next year!!!