Why Belize And Guatemala?

Hola, amigos!

I have been promoting an adventure with Kathryn Bertine and her business partner in the company Bike CR, which caters to Latin American cycling camps/training trips. The camp we are hosting will be February 12-18th featuring an all-inclusive (we are THAT close to Mexico) seven day/six night (five days of training) tour of Belize and Guatemala on two wheels.  You might be wondering: why, of all places, are they going there?  I was also somewhat skeptical at first, my first concerns were whether those countries would be safe and hospitable to cycling.  Have no fear!  We will not be paving new ground in these countries as the cycling culture is alive and healthy.  Cycling is big in both Belize and Guatemala.

First get out a map and look at where Belize is: crammed in between Mexico and Guatemala.  Yes it is in right on the edge of the ocean.  Beautiful reef and a long stretch of coastline perfect for lots of post ride beach bum opportunities.  Belize is not just for watersports, it also has many cyclists using bikes for a variety of things.  From transportation, to hauling, to handy businesses, to racing, the noble bicycle is a key player in Belize’s transport system. 

The Belize Cycling Association does a great job developing aspiring athletes into competitive racers and has races ranging from the National Champs only open to citizens of Belize to the 140cm Cross Country Classic, a race so big with foreign athletes it essentially shuts down the country the day it takes place.  They are not strangers to spandex clad tourism. 

The roads are considered good to fair.  So there is not a brand new paved section of tarmac but it isn’t mountain biking.  Bring heavy, flat resistant 23-25 tires for this trip to be safe.  You know, like you would bring to Tucson.

Guatemala is just a hop/skip/jump away and hosts some incredible historical places and cultural experiences.  Seeing both of these countries on two wheels negates the unpleasantness that would arise from trying to navigate by car.  Moving slower on a bike is enjoyable- in a car it is annoying. 

So let’s go check these places out enjoying the warm seasonal afternoon 30C temperatures and get fit and cultured all at that same time.  Last year the superstar Chrissie Wellington was the guest coach and every single camp participant left with an amazing aura of awesomeness thanks to her. This year I have the dubious task of trying to fill her extraordinarily accomplished shoes.  Therefore, I plan to be if not as awesome at least as if not more enthusiastic about our adventure and will do some additional swim/run/core workouts while Kathryn whips us all into shape on the bike.    It is going to be a killer time.  Make it happen.

These are the details, see ya there: http://bikecr.com/bikecr_wp/?p=141

Questions?  Ping Kathryn at espnolympian AT aol DOT com.  Or me…. through the website. 

 

 

 

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.

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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Down for the count

The first cycling training camp of the season went quite well. I actually felt myself getting fitter each day as I piled on about 22 hours of cycling in five days. However, tis the season for social engagements as well. So after my lovely 26 hour week (including swimming but not including 3 hours of plyometrics and a yoga class) I went to Ross’s staff party. A 3 am bedtime was not part of the proper training protocol so my post-camp week has been pretty awful……

 

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Mel’s Training Camp in Phoenix

For 10 days after the NOVA race, I was training in Mesa, Arizona, a Phoenix suburb southeast of the city. Most of the roads I was training on were used in the Arizona Ironman the week I left so I had a good idea of what that race would be like. Windy! I was hosted by Debi, Kevin and Tiffany and my little mini camp was awesome. I think I got a lot of hard work done thanks to good weather, good friends and huge motivation. It is amazing how a little sunshine really changes my attitude as I was getting pretty desolate in the Victoria rain before I left to do the NMBS race.

After a day or two of somewhat casual training to recover from the mountain bike race, I hit the training pretty hard for about 9 days. Is this the best thing for Sea Otter? Probably not, but when your main focus is Xterra some mountain bike results may become casualties. I was focused on a hard block with some solid run volume. I also wanted to use the long climbs that are available in Arizona so along with the running I had a date with Mt Lemmon and a lot of plans with Usury Pass. Arizona is fantastic in April as the weather is ideal (80-90 degrees) and although the traffic is insane in Phoenix, if you can get out of the city it is so picturesque. That said, drivers in Phoenix are incredibly inconsiderate, bordering on homicidal, so I would be on your guard at all times riding in that city. The naive little Canadian was shocked and appalled at some of the behavior she witnessed in Phoenix. Can’t we all just get along, people?

The second night in Phoenix I visited the Phoenix Tri Club for their monthly meeting. What an AMAZING organization! The junior program is so incredible. I actually got to meet their main elite juniors, including Stuart and Claire Moty, and it is so motivating to hear how stoked they are about racing. In fact, Stuart wanted to talk mostly about mountain biking as he was pretty keen to buy a mountain bike. See, eventually everyone will be assimilated to Xterra. Continue reading “Mel’s Training Camp in Phoenix”

New Bike, New Look, New Friends at Frostbike

Before I put up my official sponsor announcement post, I would like to discuss my past weekend in Minneapolis. This is kind of a prelude to my sponsor announcements but I think it is really important to talk about WHY there have been some changes this year.

First off, I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota for the past three days. It was like, minus a million, I did all of my training indoors and…. I have never had as much FUN doing so. I am now riding for BMC and let me tell you, the bikes and the company are KICK ASS!

BMC is the newest brand for Quality Bicycle Products (http://www.qbp.com). You may or may not know this company but for sure, they are supplying you with something to support your bicycling habits. Quality is a huge bicycling stuff distributor based in Minneapolis and this last weekend they had Frostbike, which is essentially Interbike for vendors distributed by Quality. With a lot less porn given it isn’t in Vegas.

So anyways, this whole BMC thing started in Temecula. Just a casual conversation with Scott Thomson, who rocks the house, which turned into “wait a minute… what I wanna do this year (win stuff) is what you wanna get done (win stuff on a BMC bicycle)…. Maybe we should be having a less casual conversation?” A week later I am now BMC’s dirt diva. My first official appearance was incredibly promising as I was having so much fun with these Minnesotans…

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Floyd’s Camp In So Cal and The ESAs

Okay, I have sucked lately in updating this website…. And I have good excuses for it!  I have packed so much stuff to report in the last 15 days it is insane.  It will probably be impossible to include everything but I will try to at least feed you the juicy bits to go with the photos I have uploaded into the Training Camp gallery.

I woke up on Saturday January 20th thinking, screw it.  I don’t feel like getting on a plane, I am just going back to bed for another few hours and later I will just get up and go suffer on another ride in the rain by myself.  Luckily, Ross was making coffee so the thought of drinking some liquid motivation was more enticing than a few more minutes of nap time.  I got on the plane, flew to LA, got a car and jetted to Temecula.  The rental car agent was the nicest man ever: he got me a car with XM radio and told me my rate was crap and proceeded to save me about $300.  I love it.  My new favorite band is the Kooks.  Anyways, I arrived into Temecula late Saturday night to start what would be one of the most fun training camps I have ever attended.. hands down.  I was there to ride with the Powertap Floyd Landis Training Camp along with 22 other campers, two other athletes and a pile of super cool VIPs and staff from Saris Cycling Group.  Being late, my M.O., I started building my bike in the dark only to have my chain wrapped in a nice bow around my chainstay (had to go) so luckily Jesse from Saris, with only the slightest evidence of the “stupid girl” on his face offered to fix my bike and sort me out with my new Powertap 2.4 SL wireless.  YAY!  Thanks Jesse, you are the best!

The next morning was test day.  Being late January testing for me is a scary thing.  One, I know I am not really fit yet so going hard hurts, a lot.  Plus, testing is always related back to your weight and my weight at this time is not optimal.  That said, I am closer to optimal than last January so I think the Nature's Path food is doing its job.    January is not a world class month for Mel and my test results were being broadcasted to the group.  Luckily, I am certain I will go faster later this season but having Alan Lim look at my test results after a season of working with Floyd Landis is painful.  Almost as painful as Floyd offering to give me an arm fling back to Robbie Ventura during our race up Palomar as he watches me blow to pieces.  More on that later….

Anyways, this camp was like a retreat for the exceptional.  Pretty much everyone there was a B.A.M.F.  There were doctors, lawyers, social workers, computer dudes, contractors, architects, realtors.. you name it.  It was a group where as an athlete I could imagine me going to listen to them all deliver a motivational speech rather than the reverse.  The group was kick ass.  I have to say, sport tends to attract the cool people.  Especially the Canadians, right Joel?  Everyone at the camp was hilarious, especially the two badass chicks that flew from Hawaii to join the fun, Alison and Kate.  They rocked.  By the weekend we had a group from the RaceAthlete team http://www.raceathlete.com, come to ride with us as well which helped bolster the triathlete numbers of the camp.  A group of hilarious bloggers, one of whom is the great SimplyStu himself!   I did an interview with Stu, shared stories with Bolder, Rural Girl and Ironwil… very cool.   Great people, great rides and great conversation.  I would just like to say to the whole group, thank you for the fun times, I am so inspired by all of you!

OK, so about Floyd.  He is absolutely hilarious.  Down to earth, normal, respectful but frankly, an athletic freak of nature.  I tell you what… having your hip replaced is not day surgery.  It is medieval torture.  This guy is on his bike kicking my full-time-training-ass already.. and he is about 30 pounds from “Stage 17” weight.  Which, I am ashamed to admit, is within 10 lbs of Mel’s January training camp weight.  Freak.  Very nice freak and I would just like to thank Floyd for dragging my sorry ass all over the Inland Empire for the past two weeks.  These Xterra chicks are going to hate you for it Floyd because frankly, I am going to kick some ass this year.  I left California thinking wow, what a superstar and what a great friend to have.  I also am stoked to announce that Will, Floyd’s business manager and former pro mountain biker extraordinaire will also be helping me manage my career this year.  Will, you are a gong show.. glad to have you on my team!  Oh, but there is so much more…..

 

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Beginning the 2007 XTERRA World Championships Campaign

Happy New Year!! If anyone has visited the Photo Album recently they can see the evidence of the festivities we had at the Fairmont Empress the first morning of the year. Good times! We missed the annual MelRoss place party so we had to get the partying done in their dining room rather than ours. Good thing because I would rather me dancing on their tables than dancing on my own- oops, sorry Todd!

Anyway, I have been doing a number of things other than party since the Worlds in October. The first was take a break, which I did for most of November. It is very, very hard for me to stop training but I am happy that I took the time. Ross and I went down to Palm Springs (without bikes!) and hiked in the mountains, cruised modern and vintage furniture and checked out some old vintage cars. We also made it to Joshua Tree National Park, which was spectacular and cold! It is at somewhat high altitude up there (5000 feet and more) so the two fools from Palm Springs in their shorts got a little chilly by the end of our three hour hike. We had fun visiting the Parker Meridian hotel with Richard and lounging by his pool. Palm Springs is badass…

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The Tucson Triathlon Training Camp

The past week I have been training with the Canadian national triathlon team down in Tucson, Arizona. This is my first trip to Tucson and I have to say this place kicks ass for training. This camp has a great vibe and I am so appreciating Triathlon Canada for setting this program up for us because I couldn’t be benefiting more from this experience. Of course, I am getting my butt kicked daily in the pool, am working super hard on the bike and I am running on hilly, sandy trails so I am almost too tired to laugh at the goofy SNL dvds we are watching all the time. It is so great to get away from home to focus 100% on training because in this kind of environment it is so much easier to recover from hard training. My program for these three weeks has been very ambitious and I am happy with how things are going but it hasn’t all been easy sailing. This week is completely different from my cycling training camp I did three weeks ago at home so a lot of new stimuli have been challenging to adapt to.

I spend the winter doing weeks of big cycling mileage to push my base up and prepare myself for harder and more intense work as the season approaches. The point of this camp was to push to a higher load than I have ever done but keep it more balanced and triathlon-focused rather than mostly cycling. It is great to increase my swim volume because more time in the water will inevitably lead to better swimming. However, I wanted to keep the volume and intensity of my riding high to help me prepare for riding hard at Sea Otter in three weeks and at all the Xterra races this year. I will give you a weekly breakdown of exactly what I did this week and why I did it…

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The At Home Training Camp with some Olympic inspiration

"You can't leave footprints in the sands of time if you're sitting on your butt. And who wants to leave buttprints in the sands of time?" – Bob Moawad

One of the questions I get a lot is “What is a typical week for you of training?” That is a tough question because training is a very fluid endeavor, so week to week my body might need a different stimulus to get the same response. I change my training according to how I feel. However, there is one thing I have been doing for a number of years that has been working very well and it is the winter training camp series with Pacificsport. My coach, Houshang Amiri, the head coach at the National Cycling Center has been running week long winter training camps here in Victoria that I have participated in that I find really help to boost my cycling fitness in the off season. In this article I am going to catalog a “week in the life” of Melanie so that there are no secrets in the kind of work I do in the off season to try to become a stronger and faster cyclist…

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