The Dynaster X3 is a mountain triathlon held in my home ski resort of Courchevel. For the past few years I have competed in a team of friends, completing only the cycle leg of the triathlon. However this year, as one of my 12 challenges, I felt it was only right to have a go at the whole thing. The event consisted of a 14km hill climb on my road bike with 930m vertical gain, a 6.3km trail run in the slushy snow, followed by 5km uphill ski with 950m of vertical gain. It was going to be a challenge mainly because it was a fairly short event… that probably sounds strange I know, but what I mean is I am used to doing very long events very slowly. Where as for this event I needed to go a bit quicker and actually get ‘out of breath’!
I was a complete bundle of nerves on the morning of the event. I’m not sure why, but I have not felt that nervous since I lined up on the start line of the Transcontinental Race, and i’m not sure they are really comparable! First task of the morning was driving up the mountain and placing my running and skiing equipment in the transition area, interspersed with a number of trips to the toilet for nervous wee’s! Then it was back down the mountain to change into cycle kit, get on the bike and do a short warm up ride to the start. Once at the start line I choose a pen to line up in according to the time I expected the cycle to take me, and waited. My nerves where not helped with the excitement of helicopters flying over head filming, the loud dance music blasting out of speakers and the commentator chatting away in French, as I just hoped he wasn’t saying anything important because I didn’t understand a word. Other than that I just looked around assessing bib numbers to determine whether people were in the solo category or racing as a team, and anaylsing peoples clothing and bikes and making assumptions on how good they will be accordingly (we all do it, even though we all know kit usually counts for nothing!).
Trois, deux, un, allez… and we were off! I had a plan, and that plan was to cycle the 14km at a steady pace where by I never got out of breath, so that I felt fresh and good for the run. Well that plan was out the window with in the space of 10m. Everyone around me shot off at such pace, I could do nothing but go too. After the first couple of kilometers blowing like a steam train, I settled down into my rhythm and did my best to ignore those cycling past me and just stick to my plan. After the first 5 km everyone had spread out and found their slot. I found myself riding with two other ladies in the solo category, and we never left each others wheels. I managed to drink and eat on the bike as I had hoped and the time was good, so all was going to plan. Now the next bit I had been meaning to practise… but I never got around to it!! Foolish!! From then end of the road and into transition area was a short run through the slushy snow with your bike and wearing smooth bottomed cleated cycle shoes… I pushed hard and left the two other girls behind as I ran up through the snow half pushing and half carrying my bike. (pic is of someone else running with bike as couldn’t find a pic of me)
It was a fairly slick transition, bike kit off, running kit on, shot bloc in my mouth for energy, and back out running in the slippy slushy snow uphill. Thats when it all started to go a bit wrong. My legs wouldn’t work! I was shouting at them to move but for some reason I just couldn’t get them to function, they where just doing whatever they wanted, which was not a lot. Within the first kilometer the two girls I had left behind during transition, ran past me like I was standing still, which made my heart sink. Then the whole world seemed to run past me. I was getting so frustrated. I then noticed that I was breathing very hard and that my mouth was still full of the shot bloc that I had not been been able to swallow. I spat it out and tried to find a rhythm. Half way into the run my legs started to return and I slowly was able to start striding out, and by the last couple of kilometers I was starting to overtake a few of the people who had come past me earlier.
Back into transition, and again I seemed to get my ski kit on pretty smartish compared to many others. I grabbed a banana and I was off. The first half of the skin was okay and I got into a good rhythm. It was fairly flat and easy. Then at the halfway point of Verdon, the terrain ramps up massively, and instantly I was struggling to get my skins on the base of the skis to grip to the wet snow. I wasn’t alone, everyone around me was slipping all over the place as well, with some people fallen to the ground. In moments like this your are supposed to use mostly your arms to keep you upright, but my energy levels were dwindling by now and my arms are pretty weak at the best of times. So I decided not to waste any more time slipping, and took both skis off and started walking up the next two steep pitches of mountain with my skis in hand. I was the only one walking, but was getting up the mountain quicker than a lot of those who were struggling on their skis. Yes people were looking at me funny, but hey ho. Then skis back on for another few kilometers of manageable steepness. I was now really starting to hit the wall. My legs were empty, and it felt like I was going nowhere. I kept drinking and nibbling on energy bars, hoping for a final burst of energy to hit me, but sadly it didn’t. The end was now in site, but another steep section was still between us. With my first step on the steep I slipped and was left in a bundle on the ground. So again I took my skis off and dug the toes of my ski boots hard into the steep snow to form steps up the mountain. It was exhausting, but so too would slipping every stride have been. My thighs where screaming, but the finish line was only a few hundred meters away. Once up the steep, it was skis on and mind over matter to power to the finish line. Cheered on by supports I managed to break in to a slow run on my skis for the last few meters towards the finish line. I finished in 3.29hr which I was pleased with (albeit an hour behind the winning solo lady!). If I was to do it again I would prepare better. I would do more than two training runs and I would practise a couple of times running after cycling. The bonus of the day was that it was Easter Sunday, which meant I had a great excuse to eat my body weight in chocolate eggs after the race guilt free 🙂