World Class Performance Points Program

I hate swimming.

Ok, now I that I have said that and made myself feel better, I can now move forward with my new swim performance program designed by Joel Filliol to try and keep me on top of my swim program.

I REALLY hate swimming.

Sorry, just had to slip that one in. In case anyone was wondering, my least favorite part of any triathlon is the soggy appetizer. I am not sure why I became such a hater when it comes to swimming because all I know is the only time I am not really in love with what I am doing is when I am on my way to a pool. This includes the numerous rainy six degree days this winter on the bike and the day I blew to the moon and still had to climb an hour and fifteen minutes up Mt Lemmon AND the day after that when we were running intervals and I couldn’t make my legs go any faster than the I-got-nuthin shuffle. Swimming is still worse. A good day swimming is still crap compared to a bad day biking. However, any day swimming is still better than any day not doing what you love and I guess swimming still gets some love for being part of a triathlon.

Despite my dislike of the discipline, I want to be better. In fact, I want to be just plain GOOD, not just sort of okay. Of course, I still want to be FAST on the bike and run, but I really would like to be a good swimmer and minimize the passing required at the start of races. Unfortunately, the only good way to be a good swimmer is to swim – a lot. The past four weeks I have been swimming an unprecedented amount for me, six practices per week! Unheard of! The results have been promising and as a result, encouraging. So to up the ante, Joel Filliol, head coach at the Pacificsport National Triathlon Training Center upped the ante by creating a little motivational points program for Mel to keep her on her swim game through to Maui…..

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Coach Mel: Sport Specific Technique and Strength Part II

Cadence work mostly increases your heart rate through leg speed and builds speed endurance but not necessarily leg strength. Our next workout will focus on building leg strength. Doing both the cadence work and this on-the-bike strength work together is a great idea, since they will complement each other.

If you are doing long rides outside, I would suggest adding some hills. When you ride the hills, instead of trying to go up it fast, put your bike in a big gear and grind it out at about 60 rpm. This will keep your heart rate down and turn the climb into a leg-press workout to build strength in your climbing-specific muscles. You can do this workout off road with a lot of success. If you need to do your long rides indoors still, I would suggest turning up the resistance for 3-8 minutes with 5 minutes in between to mimic a hill interval workout with low cadence. You can do these intervals both seated and standing but make sure you are comfortable seated because you need to maintain traction on your mountainbike.

On days where you don’t have time to ride for a long period of time, but have been doing gym workouts lifting weights, this time of year might be a good time to turn these workouts into a circuit. I do this workout at home with a ball, wobble board, weights and Powercranks. Powercranks on the trainer are a challenge. They are cranks which are on an individual clutch system which basically means you are single-legged pedaling all the time. You need a fairly high resistance to keep on top of the cranks, so it becomes a strength workout and you also get the benefit of the technique improvements associated with single leg pedaling. Double bonus! If you do not have Powercranks, or you don’t have space at home to do this kind of workout, do it in the gym with a spinning bike or on your trainer doing some single leg intervals instead of just pedaling.

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Coach Mel: Sport Specific Technique and Strength Part I

Now that January is in full swing, it is time to start thinking about a bit more sport-specificity. However, for most of us, the weather is, if not worse, not much better than the past couple months. During the winter, sports that are more winter-enjoyable can fill our activity plate, but since the season sneaks up on us quickly it is time to narrow our focus a little bit. While we continue the staples of indoor training I have some ideas on how we can build a bit more cycling work into the program without plugging in yet another movie and mindlessly spinning on the trainer.

I think that strength training should continue through January and February, but I like to make the training more sport specific by doing some of the strength work on the bike, adding little workouts to increase the amount of cycling volume I am doing and turning my routine for core and limb strength into a circuit routine. I will give you some ideas in two parts that will allow you to continue to work on your technique for cycling and still address muscle imbalances that you might be targeting, while at the same time building some volume on the bike. The good thing about these workouts is that they also will improve your technique. I think a lot of people overlook how beneficial a nice, smooth pedal stroke and quiet upper body can be for your cycling.

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Crested Butte Colorado – Career Breakthrough At Altitude!

It is hard for me even to believe that this is the FIRST race in my 11 years of racing road, mountain bike and triathlon that I have won a race at altitude. Incredible! Even when I was a favorite on the Canadian National Mountainbike series in the 90s I continued to falter at altitude, until now! What made a difference? Well, obviously three years of training with a Hypoxico altitude tent made a difference, as I have steadily improved at the high altitude races, but I think the fact that this year I MUST win at altitude to finish strong in the National Series has motivated me to push a little past the pain, and to prepare with scientific rigor. This was the reason that I went to my first Xterra Points Series race in Colorado, put on by the dynamic duo of Ashley Burt and Tina Kempin, both of the Crested Butte Bank, which sponsored and hosted the race. I wanted to have a race at a similar altitude to the race in Keystone, and Crested Butte fit the bill, over 9000 feet above sea level with similar race distance. I went to the race at the worst day of acclimation, after a week of pretty much sitting on my butt doing nothing, felt flat as a pancake, and busted ass to get the win. It was very satisfying. There were two very good locals there, Janae Pritchett and Jennifer Smith (known for NORBA racing), who are fully acclimated and ready for battle on their home turf, so I had some serious competition. This was very good for me, and the race was likely more difficult than the course at Keystone, so I feel like I had a good taste of what will be required at our last series stop before the finals. I had a fantastic week at the race, hosted by the awesome Burt family (the killer "B"s), so read on to hear about how cool Gunnison and Crested Butte, Colorado are… Continue reading “Crested Butte Colorado – Career Breakthrough At Altitude!”

Milwaukee Mishap Means No Number One

It was all over except for the news reports, I had a four minute lead built up by a third fastest swim and fastest bike leg, and as I went out onto the run I was certain my run was going to be a formality. I steady clicked through the miles, careful to drink whenever possible, and focused on leg turnover. Then disaster struck?. I took a wrong turn at about 4 km to go, adding about 600m while I traveled back to the course en route to the finish. I continued on, trying to not think about the error, but with about 300m to finish, Jamie surprised me, running by into the finish, and I had nothing to answer with and lost the race by 22 seconds. That is racing and it was my own error (likely caused by a little heat induced delirium, it was almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit and about 88 percent humidity, I spend a little time with an IV post-race) and I am SO mad that I handed over the win when I already owned it. I am now focused on our next race in Keystone, which may be pivotal for the series. I am at a 10 point disadvantage for the series, and I can?t afford to be more than that going into the finals in Lake Tahoe. Jamie and I have further pulled away from the rest of the girls for the overall title, almost assuring ourselves of the top two spots (barring a DNF disaster in Tahoe) but unless I win in Keystone, CO in three weeks, even a win in Tahoe won?t ensure a first place in the US Series. Nothing like a little pressure to make you step up, huh? So I am on my way to Boulder right now, my second favorite training place on the planet, to adjust to altitude and try and get my best possible race at 9500 feet. But going back a bit to the story of Milwaukee, city of beer and brats??. Continue reading “Milwaukee Mishap Means No Number One”

Claiming Silver Medal at the 2004 World Champs

The skies above Maui have opened up today, a storm announcing the arrival of winter and the beginning of the off season for me. I have just completed the World Xterra Championship, the biggest race of the season attracting the best and the brightest from around the world. In a close race and an exciting finish, I ended up second to Jamie Whitmore. My bid to retain the title became a strong second place with about two kilometers to go, and although I am obviously disappointed in not winning, I must congratulate Jamie for putting together a great race. As a result, I am totally focused on how I can be better as an athlete, how I can improve on this great, but not perfect season, and what I need to do to climb back to the top of the World Championship podium. But that can wait, because now is the time for me to go home and chill out with friends and be "normal" for awhile, before plotting next seasons course…. Continue reading “Claiming Silver Medal at the 2004 World Champs”

Repeat at the Xterra Canada Championships!

Repeating as Canadian Champion required some hard sweat equity as mother nature added some new challenges to last year’s course around Buntzen Lake in Port Moody, BC, just outside of Vancouver. In addition, the Xterra Canada crew changed the run, making it much longer and much more hilly, and some really cold water to swim in made this race the perfect last race as I prepare for the US Championships at Lake Tahoe in 2 weeks… Continue reading “Repeat at the Xterra Canada Championships!”