When the Boss told me to get my butt to Alpe D’Huez I was somewhat concerned. Although the 2007 race ended happily ever after I was still haunted by the level of masochism required, coupled with memories of my flying leap over a crash barrier and into a bush. But you don’t argue with the Boss. You just (Alpe) Do-It.  So on Monday I found myself aboard the chuffer to Gren-Nobble, where my close friend from Nepal-cum professional photographer Becky Marshall picked me up. And we set of like Thelma and Louise, complete with flowered headscarves (but unfortunately minus Brad Pitt) towards the Alpe.

For those who don’t know, the Alpe D’Huez Long Course Triathlon is akin to pulling your nails out with pliers. It hurts. A lot. The race comprises a 2.2km dip, a 115km bike that is up, up, and up, down, down, down, then up, up up, down down down, and finally up up up again (note: omission of the word ‘flat’) – the icing on the cake being the off/on road 22km run at 2000m, which again is up or…down (note: again, flat doesn’t feature). And to top it off, the powers that be decided it would be good for us to race in an oven. The thermometer topped 32degrees. Although my cheeks were probably close to self-combusting boiling point.

The day before was spent sharpening up with a swim, a bike (half the Alpe of course), a wee run and a press conference – finished with enough tuna pasta to sink a small ship. The race kicks off at the respectable hour of 9.30am (much better than an IM which always starts at the crack). I free-wheeled 25km down to the start, with my Birmingham Running and Triathlon Club (BRAT) buddies Robin and Megan, and once again realised that if I was to have any chance of winning the race I would have to improve my snail like descending skills and find some balls from somewhere.

 I was pretty pleased with my swim, which is in the stunning Verney’s Lake (14 degree ice bath = the wee in the wetsuit ‘heating’ technique was employed to full effect). I swam over a minute faster than last year, although I lost a bit of time trying to strip in T1. Regardless of how much lubrication I apply I always seem to have to do the funky chicken dance to extract Blue Seventy rubber from my ankles, but this was soon forgotten as I mounted my P2 and hit the hills.  I pushed it up the first 16km climb, the l’Alpe du Grand Serre, through beautiful alpine forest at an average of about 10%. At the top it was straight down. I must have had some balls for breakfast because, whilst not super speedy, I didn’t get an attack of the tortoise. Upon hitting the bottom I was climbing again, a long drag where I managed to overtake a few of the boys. Who didn’t smile at me.

Again, at the top of the Col the only way was down. Haunted by memories of last year’s near head on collision with a 4 wheel dive I decided to stay on the right side of the road, and managed to descend without any encounters with cars, crash barriers or bushes. The final climb is, of course, the infamous Alp D’Huez. It’s about 16km long, 21 hair pin bends and goes from 750m up to1850m (any more and I would have reached the moon). Luckily I still had some beans and grinded my way to the top, passing a few of the blokes and finding myself in 2nd place overall. It was great to see all the Tour De France messages painted on the road, and the atmosphere was superb as I came into T2 with my bright red face.

The run is 22km and a mixture of tarmac and off road hiking path. Like the bike it is up and down, at 2000m. And hot enough to roast a chicken. I felt strong for the whole of the run, and thankfully my dodgy hamstring behaved itself and I didn’t end up jogging like a cowgirl. I ran 5 minutes faster than last year – starting off 7minutes behind the first guy (and eventual winner), Marcus Ornellas, and crossed the line with a gap of 1min23, and a beaming smile. The support from the crowds really was amazing, not to mention the post race feast which made the recovery much easier and gave me the fuel I needed to dance the funky chicken to the YMCA at the finish line all night long!

Congrats go out to my teammate Stevo who, despite running out of gas on the Alpe climb, managed to hang in there and post the fastest run split of the day – only two weeks after IM Austria, and to Bella for forcing me to cycle like a man woman. Of course, I want to thank the race organisers, Cyrille Neveu and Eric Le Pallemec, for everything they did to make the race such a success. It truly is an amazing event, and is getting bigger and better with each passing year (http://www.alpetriathlon.com). Merci beaucoup to all the great volunteers, especially Damien and Anthony, for being my beck-and-call boys. And a huge cheers to my wing-woman Becky who shoved a big lens in my face and captured me in all my sweaty, red faced glory. A selection of the photos (including a quality peachy butt shot and proof of my inability to dance) are on her website, but there are many more –  http://rebecca-marshall.jalbum.net/Chrissie_Huez/

……..and finally a HUGE congratulations to everyone who rose to the challenge, took on this legendary race and conquered the mighty Alpe!

This win is dedicated to my wonderful Nanna, who was diagnosed with cancer two weeks ago, and unfortunately passed away the day after the race. She was at the forefront of my mind from start to finish. I carry her spirit, energy and strength with me, and will do in the months and years ahead.