Here Goes Nothing?

I just got back from 2.5 weeks of sunny bliss in Tucson, Arizona.  On the eve of my departure from Victoria for this trip I was still not sure I wanted to go.  I was having such a fun time with Neil’s swim squad and things were going well in that department, the weather wasn’t THAT bad in Victoria and although I felt slow, I was getting the aerobic training in and my final excuse was I just wasn’t ready to start travelling.  However, I am SO glad I went! 

The duathlon  result two weeks ago was a surprise for me.  I had put in a hard week of training and I just wasn’t sure if I had any speed at all for racing so to perform pretty well at that race was, well, a happy shock!  I carried some positive momentum into week two of my training block and rode the two hard group Tucson rides on Tuesday and Saturday on the Shiv.  I laughed at myself for being the only one on the group rides on a TT bike the second week.  I am pretty sure if I were on a road bike I would avoid the time trial bike at all costs in a group so I was giggling about whether everyone around me was trying to avoid ME.  Ha!  I was riding pretty well so when I stuck to the front group on the Saturday Shootout I decided to also ride the Madera Canyon addition and after being dragged to the top of that I was stoked to follow Ben Hoffman and Troy Wells for another hour or so to make the total number of rides over 100 miles officially 10 for the year.  Chatting with Ben a bit about what he was doing for training made me more calm about my preparation for Abu Dhabi for sure.  Even Rinny was giving me some advice on how to race in Abu Dhabi at one of the swim practices.  The Ironman pros I have met on this trip were so helpful in helping me get an idea of what I should be doing over there.  Honestly, going into this I was very nervous and unsure of what I could do. 

I added number eleven on the Wednesday after when I rode to the top of Mount Lemmon.  From the west side of town that is a bit of a ride and that marks an absolute world record for me in terms of long rides.  I know you Ironman types ride 100 miles seven days a week but for me.. that is a lot of riding. Crazy.  I have to say I prefer to just smash myself for 4-5 hours.  You Ironman types are insane.  Add all the swimming and the running to a program and you have a recipe for an only-training soujourn in the desert.

A nice bike, a nice day and a big cookie is all you need to get yourself to the top of the mountain

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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 

 

PCC Kicks Off 2011 with January Camp

Pacific Cycling Centre’s third camp of the 2010-2011 season took place on January 20-23 in Victoria, BC. The camp consisted of long endurance rides, technical ITT’s and a gym session. The camp was led by Head Coach Houshang Amiri.

The first day started with two time trials, one up Willis Point followed by the11km loop around Lands End. “The gruelling Willis Point time trial went well for most, as there were many improvements from the last camp in December, [and it] was great to see that everything was moving in the right direction,” said Annie Ewart.

The initial dry weather made way for showers, but “nobody was complaining because the conditions were one hundred times better than when we had done the time trial in December,” said Ewart. “The time trial went well until I realized that I had to be in English class in an hour, so unfortunately I had to do a ‘third’ time trial cycling home, so that I could be in my desk on time!”

Day two of the Camp greeted everyone with sheets of rain. As XTERRA World Champion Melanie McQuaid observed: “We are definitely a hardy bunch!” The focus was team time trial intervals, with two main objectives from the training. “The first was to give the younger or newer road athletes more experience riding in an echelon with some speed, and to learn the dynamics of the exchange,” explained McQuaid. “The second objective was to increase aerobic fitness by injecting some higher intensity training into our long rides. The efforts were still 80% and less, so nothing anaerobic, but enough to make the 4-4.5 hours of riding of high quality in rolling terrain.”

The athletes were grouped according to their fitness levels and McQuaid was in the same group as Erinne Willock. “Riding with her was challenging me to rise to her level, as we have always had a friendly competitiveness in training that benefits us both.” Each group rode consistently fast for the three 12 kilometre efforts. McQuaid felt the benefit of riding with strong road cyclists. “It was a great boost to our fitness in light of the half-Ironman races we have scheduled for early in the season.”

The highlight of day three was no rain! A long endurance ride – to Duncan – was on the schedule, a total of 165 kilometres and 5.5 hours of riding. “The ride started by going through Langford and then we hit the base of the Malahat which is a 20 minute hard climb up Island,” said Erinne Willock. The ride featured many punctures due to the debris on the road and the riders had many re-groups. “We re-grouped after the climb and descended into Shawnigan, and then we completed a lap of the lake before heading to Cobble Hill,” said Willock. “We eventually reached Duncan at 3.5 hours and enjoyed our hot coffees and treats.”

After three grueling days, the last day, which consisted of hill repeats, was tough for the riders. “During the hill repeats we all worked on our climbing techniques and efficiency while keeping the intensity at ~85% of MAP,” said Tyler Trace. “Houshang was on side providing us with instant feedback and adjusting the intensity depending on how we were feeling. We regrouped after the workout and did 54 minutes of easy spin.”

“It was great to ride with the PCC group for the January camp. Having a solid group helps keep you motivated through tired legs and poor weather. We all thought it was a great training camp with Houshang giving us full support – I find his camps to be the best way to prepare for the upcoming season,” said Trace.

Registration is now open for Pacific Cycling’s Centre’s Spring Training Camp, which will be held on March 14 – 19. For more details visit www.pacificcyclingcentre.ca/camps/default.html.

Stewart Mountain 10 Miler: Season Over!

I flew back from Hawaii to arrive in Victoria first thing in the morning on Friday.  That overnight flight from the islands is not a treat but the weather on arrival was.  Gorgeous sunny weather was on the menu for my first day home.  Too bad I wasted some of it falling into a coma. 

The next morning was Stewart Mountain… my most favorite of all Bob Reid and the Prairie Inn Harrier trail races of the season.  It is 10 miles up and over Stewart Mountain… and through/around everything in between.  This year it was a swim race.  Instead of giving us the option of many of the run around trails it was an exercise in run-throughs with every puddle and swamp leaving us with soakers.  Coming back from warm 27 degree plus weather… this was not my cup of tea.

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Gunner Shaw XC 2010

I remember back when I was “just” a cyclist and the East coast riders would talk about the “rules” for cyclocross racing:  no training allowed, no whining allowed, and no organizers making the races too long allowed.   Westcoast didn’t have much cyclocross racing until recently when Wendy Simms and Normon Thibault brought the Island Cup series to Vancouver Island and thus spawned a new generation of cyclocrossers.  Now cyclocross has enjoyed an overwhelming resurgence in popularity which has made the events themselves a lot more serious and important.  People TRAIN for it now.  Cheaters.  That goes against the code of offseason which means don’t train, just suffer periodically.

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Annual Altitude Adventure and the Fall Classic

I am back in Vail, Colorado for my annual “Get yer lungs in shape” altitude acclimatization block for the US XTERRA Nationals which will be on September 25th at Snowbasin.  My friend Kevin and I have a good deal going.  He lets me stay in his Vail palace on the golf course and I in turn make sure he eats a year’s worth of vegetables and greens during my stay.  Not a bad trade, especially for me given I just cook what I like to eat and he pretends to like most of it.  Ross decided to come for part of this trip because he is not a dummy… Vail house on the golf course in sunny September, anyone?  So for now I have Kevin and RT entertaining me while Jacky doles out the heinous training program that is making me lie down on the floor in the middle of the day due to maximal hypoxia.  Fun fun.  Track workouts at 8,150 anyone?  Thanks to Ingrid Middaugh for coming to help me get through it!  (there is a lot of running talent in the Middaugh household).

 

Running with Ingrid on the track in Eagle.

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Specialized Triathlon Team Invades Headquarters

After Wildflower, the entire long course Specialized Tri team converged on Specialized HQ for product knowledge training and meetings with designers and engineers responsible for product development.  With a cast that included Rasmus Henning, Macca, Phil the Shiv Graves, Des Ficker, Ben Hoffman, Caveman, Jordan Rapp, Bobby Big Man Behan, Kristin Peterson and Jimmy Archer it was a pretty good show to say the least.  I hadn’t met a few of the crew before so it was nice to put a face to the name and get to know more people on the earth that are really good at what they do.

 Me and Bobby at Wildflower (thanks Rich Cruse!)

Given the team pretty much kicked ass all over the place this weekend (Desiree 2nd, Phil 4th, Rasmus 5th, me 5th, Conrad 10th with a monster bike split at Wildflower and Ben 2nd IM St George and Macca 4th Alcatraz) we had an all podium squad to present to the folks at Specialized and explain why Specialized is branching out into triathlon in a meaningful way.  We were given the overview of what is coming and all I can say is start saving your money.  You are going to want what is coming because the Shiv is only the start.  XTERRA people too 😉 there is candy in the works for your sweet tooth.  I would tell you but then I would have to kill you. 

We talked with many product designers and engineers but really only Jordan was talking their language in numbers and angles and widgets and such.  Macca summed it up for me: “Just give me what is the fastest, mate.  The fastest!  I want that!!”  Amen, my friend.  However, I do find that some of the women’s products could be even better and I think Desiree and I were able to provide some of that feedback so ladies… we have your back!  Having time to hang out and socialize with the Specialized crew and put Jeff, Myron, Joe, Ryan, Geoff, Ashley, Garth, Clint and all the other designer/product people’s faces to names (too many I already forget!) was awesome.  It was amazing to meet all of you and nice work by the way.  The amount of testing Specialized does on their products while innovating is pretty cool.

Clint:  “This is where you put your head.”  Mel and Ben concentrating so as to not miss a single hint on usage… 🙂

The personalities on this team are very animated and it was a good time, all the time.  Between Conrad winning the lunch ride World Champs on Monday to Macca false starting the 50 yard freestyle World Champs on Tuesday morning at the pool it was clowning all the time.  Rasmus and Kristin put on a swim clinic for the rest of us while Bobby proved that you have to stay faster than the team manager or you are FIRED!! Hah, just joking.  On two counts: one, he’s fast! and two, well, yeah, you have to stay faster though.

Swim Camp courtesy of Rasmus

I am really stoked to be part of this group.  If you add Simon Whitfield, Javier Gomez, Lisa Norden and Barbara Rivieros to the mix, which comprise the short course team, this triathlon team contains the best of the best in this sport.  Our team has more World Champions, Olympic Champions, World Cup winners and ass kicking ability than any other team in any other sport.  I think Mike Sinyard is going to be blown away when this team paints a big red “S” across disciplines in triathlon from the top of many podiums this season.  Looking forward to my contribution to the effort!

Lookin Forward To a Sweetwicked Weekend

I think the whooping cough is getting ready to leave the building.  I still hacked a little at swimming today but not so much that I couldn’t finish before my sendoff to make the pace times.  I think Ron couldn’t decide whether to pile on the mileage or make me do less.  In the end the last days have been heavenly and short… only 5.4 and 5.6km each.  I remember back to when that wasn’t so short.  In fact, I was so devastated about not really being able to train last week and only got in 17km of swimming.  Then I looked at my averages from last year at approximately 15km and it all seemed so silly to be worried.  Of course, I still feel a bit crappy and I forgot how to run and swim and bike but it should all come back to me soon.

And it better because there is some SWEETWICKED racing this weekend here in Victoria.  My favorite store, ProCity***, is hosting the first Island Cup mountain bike race this Sunday at 10am.  Who needs to leave town to train??  Bring it on people, I am racing the “expert” division and we get to ride the funnest trails ever including your favorites like Shock Treatment, Little Face, Fire Drill and that one near that rock with the tree and the root.. you know, with the dirt?  Registration is from 9-12 and the clocks change I think so be prepared for that.  Beginner racing at 10:30, intermediate at noon and experts go at 2pm.  Leisurely!   More info on trails etc HERE.

See ya there people!  Maybe we should all do a fourth lap on foot just for fun….  oh and Victoria triathletes out there on the interweb, XTERRA Canada is Sept 5th.. time to start practicing!

***  ya, I know, it’s not a Specialized store but what can I say.  The boys are cuter there 🙂

 

cross country

Alan Described It Best

So I have been going mental with a cycling camp the last four days… once I do the swim tonite I will have 24 hours of training in four days.  After very little bike volume for a number of months I was HURTING and GRUMPY and SORE today doing repeats on the back side of Willis Point.  The boys did nine.  I should bake them cookies for that.  I have no idea how that would be possible.  I was scribbled and did five.  Very obviously, this will pay off for all of us so thank you Houshang Amiri (http://www.pacificcyclingcenter.ca) for putting this all together for us.  I haven’t ridden that long/hard for a long time.  Ouchie.  I would like to give a high five to Erinne and Nic, the two other girls who did the whole camp. Erinne did six repeats today.  She is more manly than I am.  I have a sore throat so I figured doing a tiny bit less might lessen the chance that I get the whooping cough in the next two days.  My throat has been sore since Friday when I rocked up the fastest Willis Point time trial in my LIFE!  Screw you, old cycling Melanie, I kick your butt!  Then again my throat is raw from breathing so hard that day so I have been suffering for that asswhooping of myself for four days…who’s laughing now?

Okay so the point of this entry is I was google alerted to Alan’s recap of our day at the Olympics.  So, so fun!  I was stoked to be a part of Canada’s historic haul of medals and I had a super day with Alan cruising around town and cheering at the Olympic oval.  Even if I was the sole Canadian in USA Speedskating seats.. haha!  Sorry guys!  Gotta cheer for my girls 🙂  It reminded me of part of my experience there that I will share with you after his recap.

So instead of me re-recapping.. here is Alan’s version of events.  If you have never been to the Elbow Room, you must go.  The food is good too!  READ MORE

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