2011 Kickoff At the Desert Classic Duathlon

This year’s race at the Desert Classic Duathlon sets a new record for me in early season racing… in that I have never raced in February “for serious” before.  And by “for serious” I mean compete in a race that includes other pro athletes that are trying to win, of which there were many on the start line at McDowell Mtn on Sunday.  Starpower including Leanda Cave, Christine Jeffrey, Jordan Rapp, Ben Hoffman, Pedro Gomes, Nathan White, Cody Waite, Trevor Glavin, BOTH of the Wassner twins, Lisa Ribes…. and more!  Wow.  That was a lot of race winners in there.  So when I said… let’s just take this out easy girls… everyone was laughing.  At me.

The laughter all started the day before when I rolled into Joel’s place.  Joel was my homestay for the weekend.  Everything about staying with Joel was like being at “home”.  He has a wicked party house with an awesome kitchen, a garage full of bikes where the mountain bikes outnumber the road bikes (only way to go), a sweet car but a practical truck and (start the drumroll) a sweetass wine cellar organized by country.  He didn’t even realize that I am a rabid fan of Riesling (although I would put in a bid for Alsace as the best region) and I was thoroughly impressed with the rest of the rather large collection.  It is a shame I didn’t sample some of the Italian gems in there… but I digress.  I was racing this weekend, remember? 

Good times all around.Innocent

Well, I almost forgot the race.  I got up super early to do the Shootout group ride on Saturday in Tucson and anyone who knows me knows that I have a hate relationship with early.  So when I drove to Phoenix I was so tired and was facing another morning of early but had too much to do to get ready to actually go to bed early.  So when my alarm was ringing again at dark-thirty on Sunday morning I hit snooze.  Three times.  Hmmm.

Then I hopped in the car and headed in what I thought was the right direction to get to McDowell Mtn Park, a place I have enjoyed countless mountain bike events at in the past.  Well, apparently my inner compass is dysfunctional in the morning because I kind of found a stupid long way to get there and rolled in with about 15 minutes to spare before the start.  Crappers.  I did about 8 jumping jacks to warmup for the race and wished I had more clothes with me since Leanda looked not only menacingly fast but frustratingly comfortable in her base layer.  Boo for bad clothing selection.

I was, of course, completely dropped in the first mile of the race.  Leanda and Lisa shot out of a cannon on the start and were essentially gone immediately.  The rest of the girls just dropped me normal-like.  Luckily I have actually trained so within a mile or so my legs realized it was go-time and not bed-time and I started going faster.  I had to stop myself from running the fun bermed trails the way I would ride them on my mountain bike.  So many good memories of racing at McDowell!  And, having the run sections off road meant I could make some good time on the downhills and uphills on speedy road triathletes, which helped me make my way to the front of the main group with Christine in tow when we got to T1.  Leanda I think was a full 45 seconds or so away out in front.

mel chris desert du

Classic XTERRA battle 🙂

Then I forgot how to do triathlon again when I ran away with my bike without my helmet on.  Triathlon 101: Don’t unrack your bike without a helmet on.  Stupid girl.  Rack the bike again, Christine left without me, helmet on, get bike, oh and get going.  Off I went with some super slow corners out on the road as I wasn’t sure how slippery rain soaked roads were or how good my handling skills would be with my hands cold.  Did I mention it was freezing out in not-so-sunny Arizona?

kerry yndestad photo bike

Kerry Yndestad’s Desert Du Photo from Facebook

Leanda was super strong.  I cut into her lead a tiny bit but when we did the big up/down/uphill section I think she stretched her lead again to stay safely in front of me.  I did outrun her by a bit on the second run but not enough to really challenge her as I was 29 seconds back at the finish.  I was stoked with the effort and happy for Christine that she was solidly in third at the finish.

So for the first race of the year it was certainly a good eye-opener and an awesome workout.  I think the sun at this time of year makes me happier and thus able to train a bit harder.  Which is necessary given the season is right around the corner.  Leanda is a rockstar so coming second to her is a solid day at the office for me.   Congrats to Nathan White for winning the men’s race and to my Specialized teammates Jordan Rapp and Ben Hoffman for taking 2nd and 4th in a very close race.

Thanks to Joel and his hilariousness for a fun weekend – good luck in IM New Zealand (and send some love to Christchurch!).  Thanks to Brian and Scott for inviting me to finally do the Classic. I love the Phoenix Tri Club for all they do.  Thanks to John Barr for letting me live in his place in Tucson for two whole weeks!  And thanks to all of my SPONSORS for getting behind me this season and getting stoked about my huge schedule this year.  I am pretty darn motivated by the new and exciting challenges I have set for myself.   Looks like things are coming along in good time.

The Threshold of the 2011 Season

Well we are on the threshold of another season with a winter of training behind us… again!  It is amazing how quickly the offseason disappears.  It seems like a week ago that it was getting dark at about 4pm and now I drove home in a beautiful sunny sunset at 5:30pm.  I am pretty sure that spring is on its way to Victoria but I am not so sure about my poor fellow triathletes stuck on the East coast!  How are the 3 hour roller rides going you guys?

I am off to Tucson in a week to train, which I am very excited about.  Not because I have to go away to train because the weather in Victoria is completely manageable all winter.  I am going because I need to put myself in a similar riding environment to what I am going to encounter in the Middle East.  Yep, I am starting my season at the www.abudhabitriathlon.com.
The race is crazy.  A 3km swim, a 200km bike (!!) and a 20 km run.  If we could cut in half the proportions it would be much more manageable but there you have it, a huge money race in the desert, with its own distance and a fantastic marketing team.  When I was invited, I could not say no.

This year is going to be even more of the evolution I have been trying to force for a number of years.  I think I probably could have done better at more XTERRA races had I stuck to the formula that won me races three and more years ago.  However, I always wanted to be one of the more well rounded athletes in the field.  I didn’t want to hide my weaknesses, I really wanted to address and fix them.  Triathlon is a game of push and pull where an improvement might draw from a strength to create weakness until that improvement is ingrained.  I certainly have felt that has been the case for me.  I believe if you stick with it, you can make a permanent gain.

Last year I had a horrible race at the one event that was the most important to me – XTERRA Worlds.  However, my commitment to change won me my first 70.3 distance event, earned me the fastest run split at the Alcatraz event, a US XTERRA Champs win, a Canadian XTERRA Champs win by 16 minutes with the fastest run, European XTERRA Championships title and a 3rd place at the XTERRA 21km Trail Run Worlds with a more than 8 minute improvement from 2010.  There was a lot of good in making changes last year even if the final event might have me question the entire plan.  Certainly things went wrong in the end, but not everything was wrong.  Definitely the intent was right.

So with that experience, I am again committing to making myself a better all around athlete with a focus on competing at both the XTERRA World Championships and the 70.3 World Championships.  Right now I have all but one of the XTERRA events on my schedule and four 70.3s but since WTC enforces qualification, the 70.3 points race will take precedent.   I need to qualify first and compete in the XTERRA USA series second.   This is actually a tall order because the series is first and all the fun 70.3s I want to do are second but we’ll see how that goes…Laughing  Abu Dhabi is a fact finding mission to learn more about the long distance racing and to see how much work I need to do on my TT bike to race with the best cyclists in Vegas later this year.  I have found it very difficult to apply my strength on a mountain bike to my time trial bike so this year this is a #1 priority…. to be able to use my biggest strength.  I have been doing a lot of work on my fitness and position on that bike so hopefully we find improvement.

Thanks go out to Specialized for 100% supporting me in my bid to establish myself as a solid, well rounded and versatile middle distance (2.5-4.5h) racer.  If I can pilot the Shiv properly, I think my results on the road are going to be much better.  Nathan, AVIA, Shimano, Sundog Eyewear, Maxxis, Profile Design, Titec, CycleOps Power, Genuine Innovations, USANA, ESI Grips, Justin’s,  and Saltstick are all joining me for another year.  The exciting new partnership I have to announce is my relationship with Powerbar.  I felt that with my step to some longer racing, where my nutritional needs had changed, I also needed to change my partner in this regard. The folks at Powerbar had been helping me with some of my questions on longer distance racing and have now stepped up to support me and MelRad Racing for the 2011 season.  Thank you to all of my long term and new sponsors for believing in me and my team and for getting excited about all these exciting disciplines of triathlon.

My 2011 kit thanks to the uber talented Mallory at Specialized!!

Thank you to Neil Harvey of Island Swimming for inviting me back to his swim program.  Neil had me swimming sub 20 speed my first  year of triathlon… since then I haven’t been close to what I could do.  I almost feel like I just need to go to the pool and it starts happening.  Neil’s zen approach is exactly what I need right now.. oh and a solid ass-kicking by a bunch of 15 year olds.  My new swim coach who was my first swim coach 10 years ago is an essential part of the back to basics approach I am taking.

Also, thanks to Houshang Amiri for consulting with me again on the cycling.  I felt my strongest years were in collaboration with Houshang, so although I take a lead role in all of my programming, having a sounding board who knows me better than any other coach is fantastic.  I have participated in one of his winter training camps and I invite anyone to get to know Houshang at one of his camps:  www.pacificcyclingcenter.ca.  Canada’s best time trialist, Svein Tuft, works with Houshang.  He can make us wimpy little triathletes faster if he can make a protour guy top 5 at World Champs.

So, another year and more changes.  I feel like if you don’t make yourself uncomfortable you can’t improve.  Every year I try something new and see what that approach will bring.  I look forward to challenging the best girls on the road to see if I can rise to their level.  I also really look forward to toeing the line with all the cool and fun dirt girls, especially our new XTERRA World Champ Shonny V for another season.  I know what it is like to wear the crown and the target… but she isn’t getting any sympathy from me. Laughing 

 

Overlooked Superfood: The Onion

Overlooked Superfood: The Onion

Photo: Jon Davis

Published in Triathlete Magazine and online: Feb 1st 2011 1:26 PM EST by Nutrition

Xterra pro Melanie McQuaid explains the benefits of incorporating onion into your diet.

Written by: Melanie McQuaid

A family of superfoods that is a lesser-known superstar is the allium family. Often considered a flavoring rather than a food, garlic, onions, leeks and chives have potent health-enhancing qualities. These foods enhance the production of glutathione, a tripeptide that serves as an antioxidant for the liver. By helping to eliminate toxins and carcinogens, glutathione puts the allium family on the list of anti-cancer superfoods.

Onions contain calcium, potassium, vitamin C and folate. It is believed that anti-cancer benefits in onions come from the sulfur compounds known as allyl sulfides. In addition, onions contain the flavonoid quercetin which is associated with immune-boosting properties. It is interesting to note that onions and garlic contain a wider variety of health-enhancing sulfur compounds when cooked. There are still many benefits of raw garlic and onions, but this is good news for those who prefer them cooked. However, cooking them longer than 30 minutes can destroy most of the beneficial compounds.

One of the most delicious ways to enjoy onions is to caramelize them. Once cooked, they can be added to salads, sandwiches, pizza or sauces to add a wonderful sweetness and flavor to any recipe. If you shy away from onions because you are afraid of bad breath, eating them this way could change your mind, as caramelized onions will not give you any potent onion aftereffects.

References:

Fillion L, Henry CJ. “Nutrient losses and gains during frying: a review.” Int J Food Sci Nutr, 1998 Mar;49(2):157-68 1998. PMID:18310.

Song K, Milner JA. “The influence of heating on the anticancer properties of garlic.” J Nutr, 2001; 131(3s):1054S-7S 2001.

Whole foods. What they give you that supplements can’t. Mayo Clinic Health Letter 1998 Aug;16(8):7 1998. PMID:17690.

The following recipe is a tasty way to enjoy the health benefits of onion.

Melanie’s Warm Arugula Salad

salad
Photo: Jon Davis

1. Peel and slice two medium onions in uniform thin slices. First cut in half, lay them cut side down on the board and slice thinly along the bulb. It is important to have the pieces nearly the same size.

2. Place pan on the stove over medium heat. Add oil to the pan and continue to allow both the pan and oil to come to temperature. Add the onions. They should sizzle but not splatter. Ensure you have enough oil to come in contact with all of the onions.

3. Stir every 30 seconds or so to ensure all of the onions contact the heat and the oil. Initially, the onions lose all of their water so the onions will reduce in size while the liquid in your pan increases. Then the sugars in the onions start to break down, which causes caramelization. Don’t cook past a dark tan stage; you will risk burning them. As the onions start to brown, turn down the heat a bit to keep them from burning. They should cook 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Place warm onions over a large bowl of arugula, sliced strawberries, feta cheese and pecans. Add a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and olive oil to taste. Mix, allow greens to wilt slightly and enjoy!

Note: You can use red, white or yellow onions in this recipe, but green onions won’t work. In addition, the white portion of leeks will also caramelize well if you would like to substitute. As members of the allium family, leeks have equal superfood benefits with their own special flavor and are fantastic in soups. Leeks contain vitamin C, vitamin E, and some B vitamins including folate along with the minerals copper, iron and potassium. They contain phytochemicals including saponins, which promote immune system health and can help to lower cholesterol.

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