Whoa… Chicago was not good…

Okay, how humiliating is it to have your worst race EVER while everyone is watching to see how you do?  8,000 people received a magazine with me on the cover… I had to REPRESENT for my Xterra peeps!  Unfortunately, I think I swam better two years ago in Los Angeles when I was off course heading for Canada and they had to send a jetski for me… This time my body shut down after one too many flights, one too many days living in AC, and one too many late nights in another time zone.  After turning around immediately after coming home from Utah, immediately jumping on a bike I unfortunately ran out of time to ride a lot and travelling for 7 hours three days after an 11 hour travel day… Mel went down for the count.  I just sucked in Chicago. 

I woke up with a fever and a sinus infection, decided to start anyhow (the rule of thumb from mountain biking was always if it was above the neck, okay to try) but really had a terrible day.  Started ok for the first 200 m of the swim (finally got to wear my Aquaman!) then blew to smithereens drowning in my own mucus and dog paddled the worst swim of my life into a head on current for a swim that seemed as if it would never end.  It wasn't pretty.  I kept looking to see if I could climb up a ladder on the side and run away to hide.  I trotted to transition wondering if I should even bother getting on the bike.  Told myself that maybe it was just the swimming that would be bad.  Nope. When I got on my bike, I laughed as my Orbea Dance Team cheered me up the overpass (which felt like it was about a 30% grade that day) and committed to a lap.  Unfortunately, the Orbea Dance Team was at the 2nd lap turnaround as well.  Not wanting to let them down, I finished the second lap as well and laughing at them made my day from hell not quite so bad.   I had to “git er done!”.   I had some fun riding my new Ordu which sure looks fast with its fancy new wireless Powertap 2.4 wheel and my fast Limar aero helmet!  The good part about my ride was my cadence, I stayed in the upper 90s to 100ish for the ride which was the goal.  The bad part was the watts.  I am pretty sure I can push that average for some 4h rides… yikes!  Regardless, I finished the bike, got off and went back to bed at the hotel for 16 hours before heading home first thing the next morning.  That is how my first trip for the Chicago Triathlon went.  I hope a number of the other 8,000 participants had better races.  Sam McGlone sure did, winning the women’s!  Conrad represented for Xterra with a solid 6th place, so I am stoked for him.

The good part was spending time with Sundog Eyewear in their expo booth and checking out all the cool new styles for 2007.  I would say their glasses were a hit at the race.  I also caught up with Orbea and Saucony and did some autograph signings, chatted to a lot of the racers and met some of the road girls.  All in all a good time and I will go back to show I really don’t swim THAT bad, even if I make jokes about my bad swimming all the time.   My race in Los Angeles does not have to be very good to be better than this one!  So, until LA, thanks for the cheering race fans and for me, eating some humble pie once in a while builds character.  Or something like that…

From The Hotseat, Bagging an Important Win at the 2006 Xterra Mountain Championships

There is no satisfaction like winning when you really, really, really need to.  It is like the greatest release when you cross that finish line knowing that you got what you came for and you performed under pressure.  I LOVE that feeling!  Not so much that I will seek to recreate that situation for myself – but it still feels good to get it done.  I had to win this weekend in Utah in order to have a shot at the overall series win.  Now I do, if I win in Tahoe the series title will be mine.  It is not a new situation by any means… I think I have been here, oh, EVERY time we have raced the series against each other.  But this weekend I won the final stop before the nationals convincingly and creating an exciting finish for the Xterra US Championships series is what Jamie and I are here to do. 

Utah was a big, fat win.  Second place, which was Jamie, was over four minutes behind.  What is really, really amazing to me is that this race was up high, most of the course was at about 7000 feet.  Remember the old Mel, convinced that she could not win at altitude?  She has left the building.  The new and improved Mountain Mel figures that with a little preparation, altitude might not actually be a factor.  I think that finally, after five years, might be getting close to figuring out altitude.  Is the fifth time going to be the charm?  Will Mel be crowned Queen of Altitude along with Queen of the US Points Series?  We will know on October 2nd.   

The last two weeks were all about preparing for a race in Utah which would give me the confidence that I could win on the slopes at Lake Tahoe.  I wanted the kind of race that says, “Mel is a climber and can win regardless of venue”.  It wasn’t about what other competitors thought of my chances to win, it was about what I thought.  I didn’t have the perfect 100% race like Maui, but for altitude it was a truly amazing race.  I didn’t get this done on my own.  I had some incredible experiences with some amazing people in Utah that I would like to share.  Utah is amazing.  It is the perfect altitude for athletes, the weather is awesome, the terrain for training is spectacular and the people are the so friendly, generous, hospitable and genuine.  I think I have made some friendships I would love to treasure for life.  My race experience in Utah will be a life experience I can carry forever.  In all the fun there were still some “dark days” on the way to my best race this season, so read on…..

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The VERY Dirty Duathlon at the Xterra Midwest Championships

Ah, Wisconsin, America’s Dairyland full of cows and corn fields.  There are a few features of Wisconsin that stuck with me.  First, everyone runs and cycles without a shirt (usually a good thing).  Ice cream is not quite rich enough so in Wisconsin they prefer to freeze custard to up the ante (could be a good thing depending on how much you partake in the shirtlessness).  They have something called the Duck Blind where for $20 you get all you can eat brats and free beer while you watch a minor league baseball game (only very fun people take their beer seriously, these are the folks in Wisconsin) and finally, you can buy 40 different foods on a stick at the State Fair (an amazing statistic, I can’t even think of 40 things to stick on a stick).  The highway speed limits suit the elderly and handicapped and state troopers are located at every mile marker to enforce them which I will get back to later in this report. As for the race, the Midwest Championships has bitten me twice now… good form two years in a row and two races that really did not go my way.  I am really stoked with how I handled the race today given the circumstance.  As they say, I “got ‘er done” and pulled in second place in a race that was somewhat miserable but still fun in a demented sort of way. 

Mother Nature was out on a rampage on Sunday.  A big show of thunder and lightning started shortly before GO-TIME so I just knew we wouldn’t be swimming .  I always say the swim really doesn’t make much difference in Xterra and this race further drove the point home when the swim was completely cancelled.  So while we stood in the rain freezing our booties off because no one had any clothes for the weather (we all ended up in garbage bags huddling under the tents) the Team Unlimited crew set out to mark a 2 mile course to create a long Le Mans style start for us to run to our bikes (you can hardly call it a leg of the race since the run was so short….)


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