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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Altitude Preparation Camp Week Three

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


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Nationals Preparation Week Two

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?

Read more….

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Pre Nationals Altitude Camp Week One – Epic Rides

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…

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Pre-Departure: Homesteading

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…

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A Few Of My Favorite Things

I LOVE SUMMER!  This year we have had a bona fide summer in Victoria with the past week registering temperatures in the 30s (90s) which is downright hot.  I love it.  This works perfectly with my plan to do another “Tucson-style” training block here in Victoria as the temperatures are cooperating and I am getting more and more motivated.  Part of my motivation stems from some really cool stuff my awesome sponsors have sent my way in recent weeks.  I am very lucky!  So to kick off a list of my favorite things…my full cycling and triathlon kit courtesy of Pactimo and Betty Designs:


Jersey, shorts, arm/legwarmers all match glasses, helmet and GU Chomps..haha!

The new Raptor from Sundog Eyewear in Mel-suggested “rose-colored” lenses… these are the best mtb lenses on the planet!

I have been doing some long road/trail running in the AVIA Avi Lite 2 lately.  I love the pink and I really like the shoe!  And yes, those are my USANA products in the background.  USANA supplements and Sense skincare to keep me healthy!

Sweet new TT bike and helmet from Lazer!  New Shimano Dura Ace with the cool Dura Ace levers! Profile aerobars (awesome!).  Saris Powertap with Ant+ technology to keep it honest!  I am having so much fun riding this thing.  Now you would think I would have learned something from my last half-Iron experience and have started preparing earlier and blah blah.  Well, no, I didn’t.  But I think that this time around the preparation for the half fits well with what I want to do building up to Maui so there really isn’t much pressure on the race and as a consequence I am not too stressed out about it.  I need to do some long, hard aerobic work while I am home so that I go to altitude with a big engine.  I do notice my average speeds on this bike are quite high though… I think it is fast.  Plus I can ride with my butt back on the saddle so I can utilize the “power booty” which is going to be good news on race day.  Hopefully it goes well!

Larsen and Crossmark are the two best tires for xc racing – in my opinion… totally reliable!

Maple PRO bars.  Addictive.  Delicious.  Wonderful.  Getting a case of them?  Pure bliss.

My favorite things at home though…. read more…

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Hurricane Ridge and Cramming Training Into Legs

This little update is very overdue mostly because I was busy training and not writing.  I managed to pile in a whole lot of miles in my little two week break and that is going to mean one of two things.  From what I have seen this course is flames or glory.  I am hoping to turn down the suck and turn up the rock this weekend.    Not much in between I am afraid.  The course is gnarly even though it is almost 100% uphill so bringing your skills and your big engine is necessary.  For both the run and the bike.  Put it this way.. I nearly crashed RUNNING the UPHILL on the run course.  Chew on that one a little while.

So in preparation for this race I decided to suck it up and train.  Hard.  Conventional wisdom suggests that given my race schedule, lack of a break and general fatigue that a break in training and a rest were in order.  I would agree with that.  However, staring down a hard race that I knew was all climbing meant that I needed some legs.  Legs that I wasn’t sure I had after some unhappy racing on my last trip.  Don’t get me wrong… I raced well given what I had but some of the shine had come off my form and I didn’t want to see how dull I could be if I was not training before this race. 

This meant mileage.  A whole pile of a lot of it.  Mostly biking.  I did a ton of running the first week but ended up doing mostly riding the second week.  Scientific recap of exact training details follow if you read more.  The highlight of this training block was very much the group “race” up Hurricane Ridge.  Hurricane Ridge is a 17 mile climb just a puddle jump across the water from Victoria in Port Angeles, WA.  Every year on Canada’s birthday (that is July 1 for the American’s in the audience) a bunch of Canadian cyclists like to celebrate by racing to plant our Canadian flag on the top of Hurricane Ridge in the U.S. of A.   We all board the 6am ferry, start climbing the 5 miles to the ranger station where we take a photo and GO!  12 miles of fun.

The Racers

No real flag is ever planted but there is a cup where the winning male and female have their names engraved for all future generations to remember their climbing prowess.  This was my third win (I was the only female professional athlete present so “winning” is used in the most loose fashion possible) and Max Plaxton’s second win (holding off a charging Mike Neil) so the mountain goats took the cup.  It was a very fun day complete with Pro City cheerleaders, Team Palmer trying to take me down, Ross taking 15 minutes off his time and Team Rockracing looking fabulous.. which is the most important.  Enjoy the story.

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When I got home from Arkansas I was Fried.  Capital “F” fried.  I was so burnt out on travelling you can’t even imagine it.  I started travelling in Little Rock at 10 am and didn’t get home until 12:00 PST.  To fly for approximately THREE hours!  The storm season in the US seems to be early and terrible this year.  Anyhow, I hit the wall when I came home.  I have never had a schedule of XTERRAs as compressed and aggressive as we have had this year.  If you think of it, an XTERRA is about an hour longer than your average mountain bike race so racing them back to back to back is very hard on your body.  You always find a million little bruises on your legs and arms after a mountain bike race, not knowing where they came from and after this many races I was finding bruises on my bruises and a lot of fatigue.  When I added to that the travel and lack of training I think I was just feeling “off” this week.  Like, I don’t care if I ever do another triathlon kind of “off”.   Don’t worry, it has passed with a couple good training sessions but I was in need of some respite for sure.  We did one of the most beautiful rides in Victoria… here is a pic of us.. before we were lost and frozen.

It was a rainy day but still pretty cool to be out there.

While I was gone, Ross put the finishing touches on his baby to make it driveable.  Yep, Ross built himself a hotrod.  I can hear him coming from about a kilometer away.  🙂  He loves it.  It is a really, really cool car.  Makes him look extra hot in my opinion but maybe I am just a tirebiter at heart.

Ross and his baby

Read more for the nerdy training recap and the schedule for the next week and a half…..

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Mel’s Visit to Red Rocks Canyon and Zappos HQ

Anyone who knows me personally has had a peek into the “other” side of Mel.  The side that likes wearing dresses, makeup and really high heeled shoes that I actually am incapable of walking in for more than an hour, requiring frequent shoe rest breaks during an evening.   It is a side of me that is almost 180 degrees removed from this version of myself that won the XTERRA US Cup last weekend in Vegas:

The harder core version of mel, trying to stay ahead of that dude behind me…

I believe in balance.  I like to balance the aggressive, confident, focused version of myself with a softer, more feminine and more creative side.   That side of me wears dresses, gardens, collects hundreds of bottles of great wine and cooks dinners requiring three days of preparation.  Therefore, I have had a personal relationship with Zappos.com already.  Zappos started as shoesite.com during the dot com boom in the nineties and since then has since rung up a BILLION dollars in sales while branching into outdoor gear, clothing, watches and all sorts of other cool stuff. 

The newest project at Zappos is the new www.tri.avia.com website where you can focus your online shopping for the AVI-Stoltz and AVI-Bolt in a one stop shop.  Conrad and I were invited to come to a Zappos open house for their running brands, take a tour of the facilities and visit with some of the uber-cool, super young and hip staff that work there.  Thank you to all of our hosts, especially to Kelly, for your wonderful hospitality.

Ed welcoming a happy Zappos employee…


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