I believe that there is no magic formula that, when applied, will make any athlete faster/stronger/better. I think you have to apply the right amount of training/recovery for an individual based on his or her background and needs. Therefore, I think it is no big deal to talk about what you do on the internet. If someone else tries to duplicate your training it will be very unlikely to produce the desired results. You have to know yourself and be true to that otherwise you can meet with disaster. So this preface is for anyone who thinks that any kind of “secret” is being revealed in these kinds of training stories. The secrets lie in what goes on after training. It doesn’t have anything to do with compression socks, ice baths and massage for recovery. The secret is knowing what your body can come back from and staying within those limits and only pushing the boundaries that exist in your own head. I think you can learn something from other people’s approaches but you shouldn’t automatically assume that it will work for you.
So on to our last “big” week at altitude which honestly, wasn’t that big. In fact, I finished this week and immediately (within 36h) went on a 1 hour 45 minute run where I ended up negative splitting and probably ran more than an mile further than the previous week so really, I absorbed this week well. Did I need to do more? Hmm, we’ll see in Maui… I have been getting some new advice, mostly on the running front but his thoughts are helping me to shape my overall program. Not talking about him yet. I will when I can dedicate some proper space and can show some solid results of his wisdom. He is my secret sounding board for now. Anyways, his advice was extreme moderation while training at 8000 feet with anything not-moderate done down at 5000 feet. Sounded intelligent to me.
Week three started in Boulder. After my not so hot 10km pace/marathon pace alternating run on Sunday I had only a swim on Monday to do. So I did that and then hung around with Becky looking at new fall fashions. Tuesday I was ready to go again. The plan was a big set of 2 minute intervals I attempted to do in Vail done all over again in Boulder. Luckily I had Kristoffer Nielsen to train with (along with Paul who wasn’t having anything to do with the intervals) and he made the set honest. They were hard. It isn’t often I am acclimated enough to hit the mid 190s heartrate within 2 minutes at altitude. I was going really, really hard. I found I was strong when Poorman’s Road flattened out a bit but was getting killed in the steep section around the corner by Stoff. I focused and suffered through my weak section telling myself I was getting better each repetition, which I wasn’t, but I was staying very consistent in distance per repeat. After that I bid adieu to Stoff and headed out for the run repeats which were 10×1 on a hill. Yuck. The first one was utter and complete crap. I almost considered bagging it but after three I was beating the pulp out of that hill almost to the point that it wasn’t long enough. YES! Done. Couch. Legs very sore and abused. Confidence at an all time high (even though Stoff crushed me I was good that day so I am stoked for him).
Stoff drops Mel but she keeps a lazer beam on him
So picking up where we left off in our recap of the MelRoss epic altitude trip… I woke up in Vail after a 24 hour long ride/easy pace week and enjoyed an easy swim, a trip to yoga and some bumming around Vail Village on cruiser bikes. It is amazing how going up another 2000 feet to 8300 feet at Kevin’s place can really up the ante on the nervous system. Ross and I were both easily knocking back 10 hour sleeps back to back in Vail. Pretty nice, actually!
Ross cruisin to Vail Village
So the next day I thought I would give it a go on the intervals front. Ross and I joined Kevin, Peter and Karl on a big set of 2 minute intervals. Of course we had to ride up to above 9000 feet to start them which felt wonderful. As Ross’s coach I cut him down one interval per set which allowed him to get photographic evidence of the carnage at the end of the set. Ouch. I am sure altitude is more a nervous system zapper because my legs were fine but my whole body was finished. It sucks going hard up high. Which is why Ross and I chose to ride up a bit higher to catch Fred’s Lunch down the mountain.. if you go up that high you deserve a single track reward before swim training!
Blown! What the heck is Kevin looking at in the distance?
A long, long time ago (last October in Maui), when the idea came to me to have a group of amateurs racing alongside me on the XTERRA tour, I envisioned a team. I wanted to have a group of athletes that I can hang out with at races and maybe help to go faster. I thought about how cool it would be to give the opportunity to amateur athletes to look, feel and behave like professionals without any of the stress or pressure of performance placed on them. I wondered, if you give this opportunity to amateur athletes with other conflicting pressures and responsibilities, what would happen? Would they rise up, given their opportunity? Does just FEELING like a pro make you race like one? Okay, well maybe they didn’t get 100% pro treatment but I did my best to give them the same equipment, clothing, nutrition and access to training and racing strategy I use and then unleashed them on the series.
Well I believe the answer to that is a resounding YES!! I did not choose one single person for Mel’s Rad Racing Team based on results. I confess, some were my athletes that I personally coach so I was well aware of their abilities, but others were chosen solely on whether I thought they would be great ambassadors and representatives of our team.
So when I discovered that we earned SEVEN regional championships with a team chosen just because they were cool people, do you think I was stoked? I think that is fanfabutastic!
Now every one of the athletes below is just plain awesome so it is tough to have true standouts in the group. I am lucky to have Kristoffer Neilsen here in Boulder with me, kicking my butt, as he has at nearly every event he has raced this year which is why he is regional champion. But there is one woman on this list I want to make particular note of because she is the reason why Regional Championships are so darn incredible and motivating for us as human beings. You never know what your potential is until you go on a quest to find it. READ MORE HERE
Tomorrow is a mystery, yesterday is history and today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.
In order to perform well at altitude, I need a solid block of acclimation and training at altitude. Although I have a solid grip on the series going into the final with a perfect score of 500 to Shonny’s next best 462, I believe that Nationals and Worlds are a showcase to the sport and deserve a very high priority. It is go-time, the point in the season where Ross and I are both on the same page: get Mel going fast. This year was a bit different since I skipped the early season altitude prep along with the Beaver Creek event to rest and repair an injury. Then I did a block of base training leading up to a 70.3 event in Lake Stevens, where I was pleased to earn a fourth place among very fast pros, a Clearwater spot (not going), prize money and some confidence that my fitness is going in the right direction and my injury had cleared.
So after an easy week to recover and prepare to leave (see my last post) I did one last hard road ride with the Wheelers to blow that last bit of crap out of my legs from a rest week (where my seatpost dropped and INCH since I didn’t tighten it enough, explaining why I was suffering so bad in the last hour of a 3h ride of 108km – very solid pace for hilly Victoria). This becomes relevant to this post soon. Sunday morning Ross and I hit the road on our Epic Mountain Bike Ride Adventure on our way to Vail, Colorado.
Now I must clarify what “epic” meant on this trip. First off, I went through the IMBA (www.imba.com) list of epic rides and cross referenced them with the route we were taking from Victoria to Vail. If a ride looked appealing and was in an area that was reasonable given our routing, it was on our list. I added to our list some of the rides I had found in the past that we liked and we would nominate to the IMBA list as well, or you can just try them sometime if you are in the area. Of course we rode without a GPS, a map, enough food, or a clue which made the rides ten times more epic than necessary. Not advised.. maybe at least find a map before you do what we did.
So without further ado… onto our list. We did Kachess Ridge in Washington, Twin Lakes Loop in Oregon, Mid Mountain Trail in Park City, the Mormon Tr/Great Western Trail/Jeremy Ranch Loop outside Park City, Three Suds Park City, and the Commando Trail in Vail. There are other rides but those are the biggies so read more for pictures and stories…
We have been in Vail now for about five days. It is funny, while we were in Park City Ross and I were commenting to each other about how we didn’t feel that bad. I was wondering aloud if I were not really feeling the altitude and instead would acclimate without any pain at all. Hmmm… that changed when we drove up to 8,150 feet. Ouch. Suddenly, the reasonable swim times (in yards) I was posting in Park City were gone. Now I am gasping swimming meters at 8,400 feet and I have resorted to using the snorkel more often so I can hyperventilate a little more and try to get my arms turning over. It isn’t much better when I run or bike. Here’s hoping this gets better soon.
I am going to post on the epic ride trip next but first: an ode to summer.
Before we left I went into a flurry of gardening. First, I wanted to put some winter veggies in so that I would have loads of beet greens and carrots to cook into yummy soups when I got home. Also, I wanted to harvest what I could before it all died from frost or lack of Ross watering.
The bounty I picked from the garden: cylindrical beets, green peppers, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes in red, yellow and zebra green striped, strawberries, cucumbers, and heirloom yellow and orange carrots.
One of my key crops this year was cucumbers. In particular, pickling cucumbers. Unfortunately, I think you would need an acre of pickling cucumbers to really get enough at a time to justify the mayhem of making them since they will produce a lot per plant, but not all at once. I did make a huge amount of pickles, just using some local farmers crops in addition to my own.
Icing the cucumbers will prevent them from getting mushy in the processing!
I used fresh dill and elephant garlic to spice the pickles.
I also made raspberry, blackberry, blackberry-lemon and strawberry jam. All from local berries and there were probably 12 of my own strawberries in one of the jars (haha!). I think the raspberry turned out the best since I boiled it the longest. I made it the old fashioned way: fruit plus sugar. No pectin or that crap. It is more difficult it seems but I just need practice. This is my first crack at true homesteading. 😉 Read on for more…