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”

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: Preparation for a Successful Season

Winter, for those of us in the Northern hemisphere, is the time of year to reconnect with your non-racing friends, reflect on the past season, and build some enthusiasm for the upcoming year. At the same time, you want to give your body a break. Since this time last year you will have completed hundreds of hours of training and racing, so it is important to take some time off to regenerate not only your muscles, but also your nervous system. You need a mental and a physical break in order to be at your peak training potential.

Since our Xterra season does not end until the end of October, I think it is beneficial to take at least two weeks completely off, meaning NO training. Sometimes this needs to be even longer, depending on your level of burnout. I usually go by feel. If I really don’t FEEL like training, I don’t do it. I wait until I really want to go to a workout or for a ride and until then I drink coffee, hang out and do yoga. This period of time varies from year to year and will vary from one person to another. I think that during this break is a good time to start thinking about what your goals are going to be for the next season.

During this training break, create two lists of goals. The first list should be your Outcome Goals, i.e. what are the results you would like to get (what place in a certain race or what time for a 10km). The second list should be your Process Goals, i.e. how you are going to achieve those goals (what skills do you need to develop, injuries to clear up, muscle imbalances to correct, techniques to improve). For example, one of my goals for 2006 is to defend my world title. In order to do this, I have three process goals. The first is to lower my race weight, the second is to improve my swim technique and the third is to work on my technical skills on my mountain bike in the winter. I invite you guys to share your goals on the forum so that you can all inspire each other next season and help each other achieve that success!

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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”