Part 2: The Epic Of Keystone

So in our continuing adventure, one hour from crossing the line at mountainbike nationals, Melanie is in a Ford Tahoe cruising at max speed toward Quebec regional airport on her next installment of the weekend’s itinerary ? the US Central Xterra Championships in Keystone, Colorado.

My coach, Houshang, deposited me at Departures with plenty of time to get a boarding pass, be frisked for a fork at Security, and hop on my turboprop jalopy headed for Montreal. Then I would pass Customs and jump on another turboprop jalopy headed for Chicago, this time two hours of legs by my ears. After about an hour layover, I was finally seated on a packed 737 on my way to Denver, my final stop…

I rubbed the mud out of my eyes as I breezed through DIA, met Dale from Compex Technologies who was going to whisk me away to Boulder where I would crash a couple hours before the start of the race. In at 1am, up at 6:30am, to wolf down a Powerbar and hop in the car to drive the 1.5 hours to Keystone.

All went pretty smoothly. Got my number, transition set up, did a whole six minute warm up, then walked to the swim start. So cool to have a brand new Orca wetsuit, which felt amazing to swim in, and luckily the freezing cold water erased some marshmallows out of my tired foggy head. However, when we started the swim, I knew it was going to be a tough day.

Just a little background, Keystone resort is a beautiful mountain town at, like, 10,000 feet above sea level. Imagine you have just run a 10km race at max speed and sprinted the finish, and imagine the feeling you have while you are trying to catch your breath. Two swim strokes and that was me. Coupled with the fact my arms were dead from carrying my bike for 25km the day before, and I thought, seriously, that I wasn’t going to make it through a 1000 m swim. It was very, very, very hard.

So imagine my delight to get out of that damn pond. I have never been happier to face a climb to 12000 feet on dead legs? what a relief! So I jumped on my bike (1.5 minutes behind Jamie? normally I swim with her on a bad day, so that far behind is an indication of how my speed was doing?) and started to cruise up the mountain.

I was testing out my new K2 T:Nine Razorback SL on that day, and the smooth ride up to the top was just what the doctor ordered. With calm, persistent determination, I rode my way to second by the top. At the top I rode smooth and conservative, nowhere near my potential (didn’t want my lack of preriding to cost me another flat!) and got to transition in second.

(Another note on this descent, if anyone knows me, my organization is sometimes ?my own style?. This weekend was a coup because of help from Hugh Walton from Descente, and my buddy John Koenig, who saved my ass basically, but it was not without a hitch. That was small, but significant. I forgot a spare tube. Small, but major. So this was on my mind the whole way down the hill at 50km/h bouncing off sharp rocks. But did I mention the Maxxis High Roller UST does not flat? Lucky for me, and carrying on? )

I could see girls coming in as I went out on the run, but I had a gap, which I increased by the end of the race, with a solid, gut wrenching, suck it up kind of run. Jamie schooled me, over 7 minutes by the end of the race, which I expected given my ?preparation? for this race. However, posting the second fastest bike split and third fastest run, at altitude, while exhausted, was satisfying. My goal was achieved, a second place ensures that by winning the finals, I can win the overall, which is a departure from last year where I couldn’t win the series unless Jamie fell down and had a crap result. Now I can just work on my race, rather than hoping for something to happen in hers.

So finishing 2 very difficult races, 10.5hours of traveling, and over five hours of muscle crushing, body bruising racing in 24hours must be among the most crazy things athletes have planned, but the final result for at least part of it was ok. Now I am taking a break to prepare for the big races facing me at the end of this season.

While I was at Keystone, a nice lady showed me a print of some of her artwork, and described what she had drawn. I was flattered to be a subject, and have posted the picture in the "other photos" section of my photo gallery. Her name is Amy Seltzer and has a company called Velographixx in Colorado Springs, so you should take a look.

I would like to thank Houshang Amiri, my coach, for preparing me both mentally and physically this season, and for conspiring with me to make this weekend happen, although I am sure he would have preferred to maybe have had it simplified. I would like to thank Saucony, Ford Cycling, K2 Bikes, Compex Technologies, Powerbar, Maxxis, Sundog Eyewear, Giro, Shimano, Descente, Orca, Hypoxico, Deuter, Rider’s Cycles, Pacificsport and Arq Salon.

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