BC Bike Race – Wow, what a ride!

BC Bike Race is summer camp for adults.  You and 500 of your new best friends from around the world get to spend a week riding the best singletrack in the world.   It isn’t every day (or anywhere else) you get to line up next to mountain bike superstars like Geoff Kabush and Catherine Pendrel and race to the finish and honestly compare your time to theirs.  If you don’t really care about your race time you can just focus on getting your money shot in front of the photographers when you see a good opportunity.  Meanwhile, the camp counsellors are planning dinner and accommodations for you so when you finish all you need to do is roll your bike to the transfer truck and hit the showers.  It is a week to remember for all.

Now that I am finally writing an update for BC Bike Race… it is over!  What a whirlwind of climbing, descending, roots, rocks, bridges, ferries, roads, bottles, GU, gingerale fruitpunch and Belgians.  The cornucopia of sights, sounds and experiences at BC Bike Race are hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t been there.  On a professional note, by day 6 my legs finally started opening up and I was feeling like I could climb on a mountain bike again.   My Specialized Era was the perfect bike for this race with lots of suspension when you need it, less when you don’t.  The Brain did it all:  I never had to think about locking/unlocking anything.  On the last day I managed to cross  the line second overall female (behind Catherine Pendrel) in Whistler so that was a solid way to end the stage race.    I did win every stage and the overall race in the solo women’s category… but along the way I was always measuring against Catherine, Mical and Wendy since they are the highest quality mountain bikers and were good motivation for me to compete with.  All of them chose to race in the mixed category so my main competition was Ingrid Rolles (a familiar face at XTERRA events) and she was fun to hang out with off the race course as well so good, fun, friendly competition all around.

The sweet sweet ride!

I managed to get in over 22.3 hours of racing in the seven days (add to that a few warmups and warmdowns), five runs, two swims, a hike up the Chief and three yoga sessions so that adds up to a solid training week to kick off the bid for a good showing at Worlds.   Knowing my legs were their best on the last day was a big confidence boost that the race was a good idea so I am excited to see what these new legs are going to be able to do.

Big thank yous go out to Andreas, Dean, Dave, Tom, Will, Dana and Beth from the race for making my week especially good.  That doesn’t include the hundreds of volunteers I thanked in passing every day for making the show go on… the ratio is 1 to 4 volunteer to participant, which is insane.  Thank you to Ben, Elladee, Adam and Lesley from Shimano for outfitting my Era with some sweetass bling Dyna-sys 10 speed XTR to test ride in some extreme trails.  Thanks to Ian and Specialized for supporting my bid at my first mountain bike stage race of this length (I did not have to tent it, thus the added ability to train!) and thanks to Ross for being my sherpa on the last two days.  Thanks to GU for delivering electrolytes and sugar and to Nathan hydration for a delivery method of getting them to my legs to keep them going over the long week.  I was also really enjoying Sundog lenses on my face during a variety of light conditions so good equipment all around.  I rode Maxxis Larsen TTs for the week and felt they were a solid choice over a variety of conditions and I also enjoyed a 36 rear cassette courtesy of the new Dyna-sys Shimano 10 speed. 

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BC Bike Race – Stages 0, 1 and 2 Already!

I guess I am already a little behind on my race reporting given I have done the Prologue in North Vancouver, taken a ferry to Nanaimo, rode 70km offroad there, swam 4km in the pool next to the finish, slept, then drove to Cumberland to ride another 53kms of dirt today before a short run and some legs up time.  It has been a whirlwind three days!  This race is fantastic!!

To say this is going to be an amazing week is a complete understatement.  First off, I couldn’t do a week of better training doing anything else.  Sure, I could do a mtb stage race on dirt roads but that would not be fun.  This race is TRAILS!!  And not all super gnarly launcher trails.  For the XTERRA crowd, I promise this is the best training you could possibly do IF you consider yourself an INTERMEDIATE (ie the blue trails on the ski mountain kind of rider).  There are no hucks, no jumps and no skinnies you have to ride.  You just need to be able to negotiate some longer steep descents that flow and some roots now and again.  It is rideable fun!  Funny that I should find two other off road triathlete types here:  Ingrid Rolles is racing solo category and Yu Yumoto is leading a Japanese tour group. 

Now I can feel already where my weakness is on the bike.  Lack of mileage and lots of running really has killed my high end power.  If we go steady hard (and by we I mean me and the group of men I bounce around in) then I am all good.  However, if there are harder attacks, fast starts or steep ascents, my acceleration just sucks.  I get dropped at the start of the race pretty bad.  I am glad I am here to really put my head down and address this weakness.  Also, my ability to ride singletrack with the BC crowd is also in need of some sharpening.  Too many easy trails on the XTERRA circuit and my ability to really haul ass in gnarly stuff is impaired.  Again, I am in the right place to sort that out.

After three days I am leading the solo women’s category.  I have been beaten by three women, however, and all three are no strangers to the mtb scene.  Catherine Pendrel, Mical Dyck and Wendy Simms all race in the mixed team category and all three have beaten me the last two days.  I can sort of ride with Wendy, that is, until we go downhill and she destroys me.  That girl is an animal in singletrack.  So cool.  So far I have a decent lead on my competition but given I have now ridden more hours in two days than I have averaged per week this year… I need to ride conservative!  I also plan to mix in some swims and runs to keep myself in “training” mode so hopefully I keep it all together this week.

Thanks very much to the folks at BC Bike Race for letting me come and race and to Shimano for the fancy shiny new XTR to test in real mountain biking situations.  So far, all is well with the bike, the body and my head.  Day one was a short 9 mins and 35 second prologue, Day 2 was 3h58min in Nanaimo (I DIED in the last 30 mins) and today was 3h25 mins with me DYING in the last hour somewhere.  I couldn’t ride singletrack anymore by the end.  I am really not used to mountain biking it seems!  However, I will live to fight another day.

Tomorrow is Powell River.  The new course should be good fun for all.  Start time is noon but first we need to ferry over there after spending a night here in Cumberland.  I am at the Riding Fool Hostel which is super funky and cute.  I have a room full of girls to stay with so it is like adult sleepover night. Haha!  So stay tuned for the race week story: Visit BC by Mountainbike… with Melanie McQuaid.  You would never be able to ride this stuff, all in a row, as fast as you can without this race.  This is a killer opportunity.  If you have been thinking about it.. stop it and just get ready to do it.

Stay tuned!

2010 Sea Otter Classic

Back on the road following the athletic circus again… so great!  This year we travelled to Monterey, California for the Sea Otter Classic Bike Event and were greeted with the most amazing weather we have ever seen at this event.  Sunny, around 16-20 degrees Celsius.. it was gorgeous.  This year I can’t call it the Ocean Weasel.  I had a great time.

Specialized was fielding the mountain bike team to beat.  Between the stacked boys team of Christophe, Todd, and Burry and Lene leading the women’s team with her silver medal from 2009 Worlds fresh in everyone’s memory.. the Big Red S was rocking.  The team also included myself, Rebecca Rusch (endurance Queen and Leadville 2009 Champ) and Conrad… so we had a complement of endurance types leading rides, signing posters and hanging around spreading the stoke.  It was really fun and I am glad I could come.  I had not intended to include this race this year as my whole plan was for a late, late start of good fitness so I came here worried that I was not ready….


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Island Cup, Victoria, BC

Last Sunday I decided to jump into a local mountain bike race put on by my favorite store, Procity.  I have mentioned before how amazing Victoria is to train in.  I ride on the road weekly with Olympian Erinne Willock.  If I show up at a local run race, likely one of many national or Olympic team runners or triathletes will be there.  If you do a local swim meet to test yourself over the 1500m, you might line up beside Olympic medalist Ryan Cochrane.  We live in Endurance, Canada.  So it is only suitable that when I showed up to race our teensy Island Cup that Catherine Pendrel and Mical Dyck would be on the start line (two from among our best mountain bikers racing professionally in Canada).  Added to that are aspiring talented locals like Joele Guynup and we had a solid race for a Sunday.  Thanks very much to Arran and Scotty for doing such an amazing job pulling together the event.  It was much bigger than I had expected!

I rode to the start as part of my warmup/training day and immediately was troubled.  First, my chain decided to give up on life on the climb into Hartland and broke.  Luckily, Christina Briante was coming to watch and gave me a tow up the entire hill so that I could go find a chain tool.   Thank you TINA!!  Luckily there were many helpful people there to not only lend me the tool, but help me through the process (including Troy who I refused to allow help me since I needed to practice!).  When my chain was fixed I went to warm up a little more and noticed that it wasn’t 100% happy but I did a couple of efforts and it held so no worries.  Having just come back from being quite sick I had NO expectations so I was not even close to nervous.  If those two crushed me I was totally okay with it 🙂 although I would try my hardest.

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Sea Otter Cross Country

The cross country event did not go as well as planned.  I felt fluttery in my stomach all day but not anything that I can pinpoint as a definitive reason for my less than stellar race. I think maybe I was dehydrated.  Or overheated.  Something that could be addressed at the next super hot race!

I ended up 22nd after tumbling backwards from much closer to the front.  I actually felt comfortable in the mad sprint to the dirt off of the race track in stark contrast to last year but that is where the highlight reel ends.  For some reason I just was not recovering from anything all day.  I had a solid race according to hr profiles but the race itself was terrible.  I wasn’t going all out and I still blew up! 

It was very hot.  It was fun to ride the downhills… even if I had to pedal them all!  I really did expect more than I got that day though… so I am bummed about my result but focused on making sure the next race is better!

The Specialized crew lit it up.  Christophe Sauser won the XC, Todd Wells and Lene Byberg the Omnium overall.

Sid Taberly and Max Plaxton of the Sho-Air squad took second and third.  That is a LOT of Specialized bikes at the front of the field!  Conrad had a great race too in taking 8th in the cross country.

Two weeks to Vegas!

Sea Otter Short Track – Briefly

Yesterday was the short track race here at Sea Otter.  The race format is 20 minutes plus 3 laps.  A lap takes probably 2 ish minutes?  Not sure on that one …  Anyhow, it is hard!  Emily Batty was phenomenal taking the win on the last lap and the usual superstar suspects were up there behind her including Lene Byberg, Catherine Pendrel, Heather Irminger and Georgia Gould, in that order.

I ended up 9th on the day after having a super start, riding in 3rd for the first three laps, fading, regrouping and then having issues that didn’t really send me backwards but more cost me energy I didn’t have.  Read on for more….

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Mel’s Adventures in the Excited States Part 2: Fontucky

I spent a total of three weeks in Tucson training.  The last week topped out at 30 hours and my legs were happily sore and tired by the end of the three week build.  I had some really great training sessions and even had some company from Sam McGlone during that week.  I am definitely feeling fit and was excited to hit the second US Cup mountain bike race in Fontana, California.

Before I get into the microscopic details of the last two weeks here is the good and the bad from the Fontana race.  First, the good stuff.  My overall race was much, much better than last season.  I think I have a really solid base right now because although I dropped to ninth by the end of the race from about sixth, my last lap I was gaining back time on Kelli Emmett and Monique Sawicki.  In the past I would have been fading quickly after 90 minutes of racing so to have a strong last lap and actually still feel very strong at the finish is a testament to how awesome my Specialized Era is and to how fit I am right now.  Another race positive was my descending was very good and I gained time on anyone I would follow downhill.  I also managed to ride the entire steep climb twice when I was not in traffic which felt good and the other positive was that no matter what I was feeling in the race I was having fun suffering through it.

The aspect of the race where I need improvement: the speed killed me on the first lap.  The pace that was set by Georgia Gould and Catherine Pendrel at the front of the field was too much for me.  After one lap I was DONE, stick a fork in me, must slow down now.  Doing two hour intervals on Mt Lemmon doesn’t really make you speedy, it makes you strong. It was a good reminder of how fast you can go on a mountain bike and having these fast mountain bike girls drag me around the course faster than I would have chosen is PERFECT race preparation for me.  My training actually came in handy on the first lap when we ended up having to hike the last bit of a steep section because of traffic -I managed to run past two or three people.  A bonus that my running would be helpful at a mountain bike race.  Now if only we had to run the last lap of the race instead of riding… that would have definitely moved me up at the finish!

Despite not having much speed I still rode strong in the top ten, finishing ninth which is a HUGE improvement on my poor finish in this race last season.  My next mountain bike event will be Sea Otter and even though I am going to work on a more balanced program including all three sports for the next month to prepare for Vegas I look forward to working on getting more speed into my legs.

So on to a recap of the training in Tucson, my sponsor/photoshoot week in Laguna Beach before Fontana and my trip home through Sonoma with a BFF getaway at the Fairmont Mission Inn…

A fun video of the race in Fontana last weekend…good to load it then watch…

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US Mountain Bike Cup #1 – Bonelli Park, California


This week was a blur.  At first I didn’t think I was going to have a mountain bike to race on the weekend so I had basically resigned myself to staying home in Victoria until the Fontana race at the end of March (as I had last season).  But then, all of a sudden, Ian the star at Specialized found something in his tickle trunk and I had a S-works hardtail to ride on the weekend.   So that meant a hasty departure from Victoria the next day.  I managed to talk Ross into letting me take his car (bigger and let’s face it, nicer!) and at the same time I talked him into booking a ticket to Tucson to stay for 10 days with Kirsten, Murray and I so I wouldn’t miss him so much being gone for 4-5 weeks.  So Wednesday I left Victoria, Thursday I got to Morgan Hill, Friday I did the noon ride at Specialized HQ where I grabbed a bunch of goodies before departing to Aliso Viejo.  Saturday I found myself pre-riding the first US Cup mountain bike on a Specialized bike with a Brain fork for the first time.  Sweet!

I have a bunch of pictures from the fun “other than racing” events this week but for the race fans I will do a quick recap of the race so you don’t have to go further.  The first US Cup at Bonelli Park was very impressive.  The support from Sho-Air, Specialized and Kenda Tires is awesome.  These people are really breathing new life into the sport.  Ty and Scott and Sho-Air have truly revamped the “series formerly known as NORBA”.  It was insane to see 700 people come to do a cross country mountain bike race.  Very cool.  The weather was hot and the course was hard, fast and fun.  Krista Park was too much for me on race day with a very strong finish.  I blew up with about half a lap to go.  Meanwhile, Krista had been stalking me and rode by me very strong while I coasted on fumes to the finish.  Great job Krista!  Also good job to Sid Taberly and Sam Jurekovic for taking 1-2 for Sho-Air as well.  Thanks very much to the guys at Sho-Air for taking good care of me in the feed zone and giving me a personal tour of the course on the day before the race.  If you haven’t been to an XC event in awhile, you might want to go have a look.  There is a whole new thing going on in mountain biking.

So other than the race, I have stories about my dinner at Montage the night before (not ideal as far as race prep but 100% necessary to add to my life experience and new friends list), my crazy driving habits and my fun friends.. read on for details…

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Ocean Weasel (aka Sea Otter Classic) Part Two

Well the start of the race weekend was looking promising. I knew the week coming to Sea Otter that the little switch that goes off when you transition from sluggish winter training to some “snap” for racing had actually… well, switched so I knew I was going to do some racing. As opposed to just some hard riding trying not to be dropped which I had done in the weeks before. I focused on one day at a time with a different strategy for each race with some true highlights and some absolute lowlights….

Photo from Short Track by Linda Sue Amundson

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Ocean Weasel Part One

This week I have been down in Monterey for the Sea Otter Classic, a multi day all things cycling festival held at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey California. I have done this race almost every year and it has had a few different iterations but really, it is mostly the same format. Gone is the time trial however, and the stage race format, so this year year I am only racing the short track and the cross country on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. I have been in California since Tuesday, however, so there have been a few things to do before the actual racing starts so read on for the week of pre race activity….

Bicycling Magazine ride in Pacific Grove

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