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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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”

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”