Rediscovering the Fun Of Mountain Bike Racing

Goals.  I have written before about how important goals are to help you find your way in your athletic pursuits.  However, if the same goals help you apply pressure on yourself, you will not be free to enjoy what you are doing and just do your best.  I think this is what happened to me at the beginning of this season.  No matter how I tried to frame my goals as process (faster swim, smoother bike, quicker run) they were really outcome goals (winning).  Because I was so worried about performance I could not enjoy the moment, and as a result my performances were less than they could have been.  It took a trip to the Canadian National Mountainbike Championships and then a Canada Cup mountain bike race for me to sit back and gain some perspective.  I went to those races to test myself against the mountain bikers and in the process gain some fitness.  However, my mind set for each of them was unfortunately not as positive as I would have liked – all outcome with no process.  This story is a bit about my mountain bike racing, and how I believe that is so important for Xterra athletes to develop bike fitness, but is also a bit of a mental lesson for all of us. As soon as we are not having fun, we will not perform.  Period.  Read on….

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Fun Times Racing In the Richmond Furnace

Another trip to good old Richmond, VA is marked by my semi annual visit to the medic tent … in fact, the medics welcomed me and reminisced about my antics in 2002 at this venue. That was first bout of heat exhaustion and unconsciousness where I took it as my first opportunity to puke on a sponsor when I ruined Kevin Tordoff’s shiny Saucony shoes. Carrie decided to steer clear of me this year. The end of the race involved Melanie toting the abominable snowman on her back for the last 3km of the run. Unfortunately, that was well after I had lost the race but insult to injury ensued with a turned ankle, some running road rash and probably some horrible photos of Melanie crumpling at the finish. I was pretty disappointed in general with my race in Richmond because again, my form just is not there and Jamie basically walloped me on the run. It was almost as ugly as Mickelson on the 18th hole. It is frustrating to me to have had this start to the season, when the plan was to be much faster now but what goes up must come down…. Maybe my timing will be all for the best when our big races are still to come. To fill everyone in on the math, with a win and two runner up finishes in the series, with two to go as long as I win one more of the races before Tahoe, the series is again going to come down to Tahoe.   That was NOT the plan but Jamie has basically been racing better than I and she is now a wafer thin 10 points ahead of me in the overall series. Back at it again this season I guess, the Mel and Jamie battle. The race was still fun because the bike course is fabulous, my homestay with Jay Paul was killer and I had a great time riding with some of the local women on their Tuesday night mountain bike ride. Stay tuned for more… Continue reading “Fun Times Racing In the Richmond Furnace”

Our Inaugural South East Championships in Pelham, Alabama

This past weekend Xterra visited Alabama for our first ever South East Championships event. The venue was spectacular, the locals incredibly friendly and the result was exactly what I was looking for. A first place finish – which ties up the series going into Richmond. I have to say that Alabama was a difficult race for me. First because I wasn Continue reading “Our Inaugural South East Championships in Pelham, Alabama”

Embarking on my Eastern Assault

My three week road trip started with a trip back to good old Hardwood Hills for the third stop on the Canada Cup series tour in Barrie, Ontario, which is about an hour north of Toronto. Weather was cool on arrival and quickly deteriorated to major showers for the first few days of the weekend. I was staying with my friend Tara Ross Continue reading “Embarking on my Eastern Assault”

Xterra Season Kicks Off in Temecula

Well, my first triathlon of the season is now in the history books and I am now flying back home to do some bike racing before I head out east.  Unfortunately, race #1 did NOT go as planned, but it was good enough to bag second place. I am going home a little disappointed only because I felt that my form was much better than my performance. I think I miscalculated some training and ended up pretty flat on the day of the race. My run absolutely sucked, there is no other way to describe it, and I didn’t ride much better. This was a bummer for me but great for Jamie Whitmore and great for Candy Angle, who nearly caught me by the end of the race.  The result was still pretty good, no matter how much I hate to lose, but the race was well below expectations. There was one positive aspect to this race and that was, thanks to Neil Harvey and the Pacificsport National Triathlon Center, my swim! I screwed up the start, swam alone for much of the first 400 meters, dropped back to a group and still ended up coming out of the water with the lead women fresh as a daisy.  Normally with that kind of open water tactic I would have lost a lot more time so my swim fitness is good.  I had a lot of fun, as usual, down in Southern California, so read on for the details of our trip…

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The At Home Training Camp with some Olympic inspiration 2

As my last block of training before heading into full blown race season, I had planned a training camp at altitude but I wanted to do it at home, in Victoria. Following the "sleep high, train low" philosophy, I decided to sleep at about 6000 feet while continuing to follow my VERY demanding training schedule without modification. This can be facilitated by using an altitude tent by Hypoxico. This year I have pushed to new levels not only cycling but definitely with my swimming and running, but using altitude can improve your aerobic fitness quicker and with less damage on your body because it will challenge your cardiovascular physiology without impact/training. There is a lot of debate over the effectiveness of altitude but I find it is mostly scientists that are debating whether it works. Coaches and athletes are just doing it and winning and not worrying about debates over scientific evidence. I truly believe that altitude, whether it is real altitude training or in a tent, works well for developing endurance fitness.

However, altitude is very demanding. There were some very ugly days in the pool, on the bike and trudging through some runs because altitude adds another heavy load to your body beyond what you are treating it to while training. Because I was still training at sea level, I could still do all of the quality work that I had planned, which really isn't possible when you go to altitude to train (at least until you are acclimated). It is important to use every physiological marker you can to determine how your body is recovering: your morning heart rate, your weight, an evaluation of how you are feeling and, particularly while training with altitude, your blood saturation (as determined with an oximeter). While training at altitude I use an oxygen monitor to determine exactly what % oxygen is inside the tent and an oximeter to see how this % oxygen is affecting me. HOWEVER, if one of these markers should be inaccurate, say due to an oximeter that is a piece of junk, you may make unfortunate decisions based on the marker. One of these poor decisions might be increasing the altitude. And thus begins the story as to why I skipped the NORBA in Fontana….. Continue reading “The At Home Training Camp with some Olympic inspiration 2”

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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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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The First Woman, Ever, To Repeat As Xterra World Champion!!!

I have to say my second Worlds win was much better than the first. Aside from the fact I actually don’t remember finishing in 2003 (heat exhaustion and unconsciousness met me at the finish), this time was special because I had an entourage of family including my dad, Ross, his mom and our great friends Murray and Kirsten, a legion of fellow Canadian competitors and an amazing number of supporters congratulating me after the race. To be the first woman to repeat World Championship wins and to have so many people genuinely psyched for me is a feeling I truly cannot describe. It was unbelievable the amount of noise we Canadians made at the awards dinner for athletes on the podium, not just for me, Brent, Peter and Mike, but for all the Canadians who took top spots in their age groups. It was special to win during Xterra’s tenth birthday which meant an extra special party with fireworks and the biggest attendance on record. I had a fantastic race, rode an incredible bike split, and finished not even realizing there was someone coming for me. The race was definitely exciting… Continue reading “The First Woman, Ever, To Repeat As Xterra World Champion!!!”

FOUR! Thats right, four second place finishes in the US Series for Mel

Four. That is the number of times I have been second in the Xterra US National Pro Series. After how much I psyched myself up to turn that into a first here in Nevada at the US Championships it stings a little to settle for second. I go back to the day in Milwaukee where I got lost on the course to lose by 22 seconds, I think about the lack of preparation for the run in Richmond where I lost by 30 seconds and I think about the 35 seconds that made the difference between a fourth second place and my first win overall this weekend at the finals. Sport can be so amazingly exhilarating and so excruciatingly heartbreaking. The race in Lake Tahoe this year was probably one of our best battles yet, with Barb Lindquist, arguably one of the best female triathletes of all time, keeping us guessing all the way to the end of the race. Even though I am disappointed that I couldn’t have had just a little better day, Jamie had a fantastic day and forced me to find some new courage to try and turn things around for myself. I had a rough day in Tahoe, and turned what could have become a disaster into one of my better performances ever…. Continue reading “FOUR! Thats right, four second place finishes in the US Series for Mel”