BC Bike Race – Stages 0, 1 and 2 Already!

I guess I am already a little behind on my race reporting given I have done the Prologue in North Vancouver, taken a ferry to Nanaimo, rode 70km offroad there, swam 4km in the pool next to the finish, slept, then drove to Cumberland to ride another 53kms of dirt today before a short run and some legs up time.  It has been a whirlwind three days!  This race is fantastic!!

To say this is going to be an amazing week is a complete understatement.  First off, I couldn’t do a week of better training doing anything else.  Sure, I could do a mtb stage race on dirt roads but that would not be fun.  This race is TRAILS!!  And not all super gnarly launcher trails.  For the XTERRA crowd, I promise this is the best training you could possibly do IF you consider yourself an INTERMEDIATE (ie the blue trails on the ski mountain kind of rider).  There are no hucks, no jumps and no skinnies you have to ride.  You just need to be able to negotiate some longer steep descents that flow and some roots now and again.  It is rideable fun!  Funny that I should find two other off road triathlete types here:  Ingrid Rolles is racing solo category and Yu Yumoto is leading a Japanese tour group. 

Now I can feel already where my weakness is on the bike.  Lack of mileage and lots of running really has killed my high end power.  If we go steady hard (and by we I mean me and the group of men I bounce around in) then I am all good.  However, if there are harder attacks, fast starts or steep ascents, my acceleration just sucks.  I get dropped at the start of the race pretty bad.  I am glad I am here to really put my head down and address this weakness.  Also, my ability to ride singletrack with the BC crowd is also in need of some sharpening.  Too many easy trails on the XTERRA circuit and my ability to really haul ass in gnarly stuff is impaired.  Again, I am in the right place to sort that out.

After three days I am leading the solo women’s category.  I have been beaten by three women, however, and all three are no strangers to the mtb scene.  Catherine Pendrel, Mical Dyck and Wendy Simms all race in the mixed team category and all three have beaten me the last two days.  I can sort of ride with Wendy, that is, until we go downhill and she destroys me.  That girl is an animal in singletrack.  So cool.  So far I have a decent lead on my competition but given I have now ridden more hours in two days than I have averaged per week this year… I need to ride conservative!  I also plan to mix in some swims and runs to keep myself in “training” mode so hopefully I keep it all together this week.

Thanks very much to the folks at BC Bike Race for letting me come and race and to Shimano for the fancy shiny new XTR to test in real mountain biking situations.  So far, all is well with the bike, the body and my head.  Day one was a short 9 mins and 35 second prologue, Day 2 was 3h58min in Nanaimo (I DIED in the last 30 mins) and today was 3h25 mins with me DYING in the last hour somewhere.  I couldn’t ride singletrack anymore by the end.  I am really not used to mountain biking it seems!  However, I will live to fight another day.

Tomorrow is Powell River.  The new course should be good fun for all.  Start time is noon but first we need to ferry over there after spending a night here in Cumberland.  I am at the Riding Fool Hostel which is super funky and cute.  I have a room full of girls to stay with so it is like adult sleepover night. Haha!  So stay tuned for the race week story: Visit BC by Mountainbike… with Melanie McQuaid.  You would never be able to ride this stuff, all in a row, as fast as you can without this race.  This is a killer opportunity.  If you have been thinking about it.. stop it and just get ready to do it.

Stay tuned!

Two Weeks, Two Races, Two Tweaks, Two Podium Places

Well, it would be an understatement to say I am underwhelmed with my opening of the season.  I would have expected to have felt better in my races at the end of this last five weeks than I have.  In particular, I am disappointed with my runs that left me off the top step.  Given my focus on running, that was not what I had hoped for and really indicated how power on the bike wins these types of races and how my power on the bike was sorely lacking.  This past weekend in Richmond was a short drag race (2h race time is the shortest race ever) with me, Renata and Shonny coming off the bike together and me getting absolutely horsewhipped by their attacks on the bike and fading in the heat on the run. Not a good feeling to have in your legs.  The start of this year has been unfamiliar territory given I have been the strongest or at least equally strong to any girl on the bike in this sport for as long as I can remember.  However, I did things different for a reason and still am committed to my plan for this year.  If I did things the same I would have most likely gone to Maui with similar form and that has not been good enough to win for three years.  No thanks.

Both Renata and Shonny took turns whalloping me in Alabama and Richmond and it was groundhog day on both race mornings with stupidly hot and humid weather, flat and twisty race courses, and stifling hot runs.  I decided to try out my new Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper 29er in Richmond so it would have a real world test scenario and although it certainly didn’t cost me any time, I think pilot error impeded any gains in time.  More due to unfamiliarity with the drivetrain and climbing on big wheels I think.  I found I was either over or under-geared for a lot of the course which cost me time I gained with my momentum.

I also rocked a new S-works helmet and new S-works mountain bike shoes which allowed on the bike shoe on/offs in transition that made an already fast transition even faster.  I loved riding that 29er bike and look forward to more 29er research in the future.  Thank you to Ben at 3 Sports in Richmond for inviting me to a nice evening of Q&A at the posh new store, for building and primping my late arriving bicycle and for helping me pack my ten tons of stuff that I needed to haul back to Canada.  You are a star!

I think the lack of cycling training in the early season has really shown in this early part of the year.  With Maui still four months away and that race representing a much different kind of racing I am still sure I am not having a bad season.  Although Shonny and Renata have started the year much stronger than I, I did have a win in different weather on different kind of course, so I think I have just been outraced in the Southeastern humidity.  Texas, Alabama and Richmond were all very similar bike courses with identical weather conditions.  It is clear that I was weaker than I would like in those conditions but perhaps if we had different conditions the start of the season would have been different.  I don’t know the answer to that but I do know that my running is actually quite good so the outcomes of these races are misleading as to where my form is.  No question that some work has to be done though.  Congratulations to both those girls on really putting on the show.  At least I have been a part of the show, despite not having the starring role.

Last season at this point I had four races and four wins.  This year I have done five races, scored one win, two seconds and two thirds.  However, I went on to start coming second and third later in the year in 2009 and knowing there is a gap in my training I have a chance to fill I am confident that once I address it I can cash in what I have put in the bank earlier this year.  I guess only time will tell if  different approach is going to work out this year.  I know that if I look at all three sports individually I am much, much better at swimming and running than last year and behind where I was cycling.  I knew that before I started this five week trip.  It hasn’t all come together… yet.  But it will.

So I want to thank Mark, Dianne and Jay for making all the off the race course time in Alabama and Richmond absolutely killer.  Thanks to Mark for opening a bottle of Opus with me.  That was killer!  Having friends in Alabama who like wine is pretty cool… you guys have to come to Sonoma.  Thanks to Jay for offering random historical facts even when tested with difficult questions. For instance, I asked Jay why there were so many cement pineapples on the old mansions gate posts and fences.  Without skipping a beat, Jay told me that in early colonial England, the pineapple was a sign of hospitality.  So there you go.  I really enjoyed the hospitality in Richmond and Birmingham and even if this was a slightly less successful season opener it has been all podium and solid.  I look forward to building from here.

Big shout outs to my team for really performing well in these races.  Emma has really established herself as “the next to step up” essentially solidifying fourth in the series with two more fourth places in the pro field, outsplitting me on the run at BOTH events, I might add.  Fred won the OVERALL amateur event in Richmond, Jo won her age group in Alabama, and Meiling was second in her age group in Alabama.  Marcus rocked some vastly improved bike splits and has been really improving every race.

I start the BC Bike Race on Saturday.  Sticking to my plan, this second half  of the season (and really we aren’t even halfway through the season yet..although the main part of the US XTERRA series is done until Nationals) is all about finding my bike legs and capitalizing on my run.  Seven days of 60-70km of riding per day in sweet BC singletrack is a good place to start.  I think I will make up for any hours on the bike lacking in almost one week!  Wow… should be an exciting, beautiful and memorable challenge.  Too all my fellow racers.. see ya on Saturday!  I will have something special from Shimano to show off… stay tuned.

Mel’s Interview with Herbert from Slowtwitch

The amazing Melanie McQuaid

Written by: Herbert Krabel
Date: Sat Jun 12 2010

 This weekend Melanie McQuaid is defending her XTERRA Alabama title and after her recent win at XTERRA Italy looks good and ready to do so. Meet the Canadian Pro with a very amazing attitude.

Slowtwitch: Mel, thanks for talking to us.

Mel: Thanks for the invite! Hopefully we have some witty banter.

ST: So when were you home the last time?

Mel: Not sure, some time in May? Luckily I have good friends to water my garden for me.

ST: Didn’t peg you as the gardening type for some reason. Do you actually have a green thumb?

Mel: Yep. Must be the Dutch heritage. My mom’s parents are both from Holland. My mom is an obsessive gardener as well.

ST: How much gear do you currently travel with?

Mel: A ridiculous amount. Bikes, shoes, swim stuff, triathlon junk. Then the rest of it centers on makeup and outfits. I am not sure the athletic benefit of those items but if Maxim suddenly schedules a photo shoot I am so ready for it.

ST: Is that Maxim shoot on the horizon? Read more

Sardegna è il migliore – Winning European Championships

The Tuesday after Waco I was on my way to Heathrow to meet up with Ross on our way to our Italian getaway in Sardinia.  I have missed my friends on the island for five whole years and I was so excited to share them with him and to reunite with my adopted Italian sister Roberta.  It had been too long since I last raced in Italy or in any European XTERRA race so I figured the European Championships would be a good place to get reacquainted with Euro style racing.

Obviously winning also colored my experience 😉

Sandro Salerno puts on an amazing show with his team from the Island Group.  Italy is second only to Hawaii in terms of pageantry, fun, food, organization and participation.  In fact, Italy destroys Maui in terms of food with the buffets of typical Sardinian dishes complete with red and white wine.  Amazing, amazing parties!  Winning the race didn’t suck either :).  I managed to find my legs somewhere over the Atlantic and won the race with a strong bike and nearly as strong a run to take the win over Renata, with Sybille Matter in third.  Carina Wasle rounded out the podium for the Euro Championships since I am not a Euro and didn’t count.  Frankie Batelier held off Olivier Marceau and Felix Schumann to continue an impressive streak in Europe.  These European athletes are fantastic.  I really enjoyed hanging out with all of them.  I should really race in Europe more.  The quality of the race was so outstanding.  I said it about Villacidro but really, if you want a destination race that is as amazing as Maui, this is the one.  The course is similar in some ways as well… only a lot more fun.  Island Group puts on a pageant to be remembered.. complete with a giant bucket of parmesan cheese.  I mean really… go just for the cheese.

Ma famiglia italiano.

There is an amazing recap of the race at http://www.triathlon-hebdo.com/.  Vous devez etre capable de lire en francais pour comprendre.. haha!  Si non, les photos sont bonnes…  The rest of the trip was equally wonderful so I will talk about all the non racing shenanigans which represent all the reasons why you MUST go race in Sardinia at least ONCE in your life.  I am definitely going to go back.  It is so incredible I can’t believe I waited five years to return.  Read on for more…

Read more

Keep Waco Wacko!!

There were many preconceived notions about what Waco, Texas was going to be like as a city, given its national reputation courtesy of David Koresh.  It wouldn’t be considered a destination with miles of technical single track and super friendly locals who opened their homes and their park to us.  The spirit of XTERRA friendliness was alive and well when we got there.  Cameron Park and the Brazos River offered a nice venue for a brand new stop on the XTERRA tour.

Unfortunately for me, we also found the first week of “summer” with 93 degree temperatures and soaring humidity.  Stupidly I spent too much time focusing on riding the course than avoiding the heat and had some troubles, dropping rapidly from first to third before the run even started and that is where I finished.   Renata Bucher rode past me like I had stopped to wait for her which was awesome to witness and Shonny was consistent and faster than me on the run so she took the next step on the podium.  Emma Garrard had a career best fourth place to rock the MelRad oval on the podium and Christine Jeffrey claimed the last step.  I was amazed at how fast we actually completed the race, a blistering sub-2:30 when it seemed the race would be over 3 hours in preriding.  Never have I underestimated how fast we would go on a course like I did here.  Well, in particular I underestimated how fast Renata would be..ha!

I had the pleasure of staying at the Miars family compound, complete with a golf course and a 25 yard pool on site.  That was pretty awesome.   The course was a quick 20 minute drive and there we found a huge city park with miles and miles of singletrack.  The race was almost 100% singletrack and reminded me of the riding in Ontario.  There weren’t any long climbs but there were millions of little steep ones, over and over and over again.  It made the course really demanding because there were no long periods of rest. The highlight was a section called Vortex that included a sweet half pipe run where you rode up the sides all the way down the canyon which reminded me of “No Horses” on Hornby Island… some classic fun singletrack in BC. The run was similar with a few more open sections but also the longest climb in the race.  Add to that an uphill swim (the swim seemed like we were going upstream the whole time because downstream we had a headwind and chop) and a whole lot of heat that I personally was NOT ready for and you have a difficult race.

Not much to say about my race.  It was abundantly clear that I came too late to acclimate properly for the heat conditions and as a result did not perform how I had planned.  I really didn’t feel that great right from the gun in the swim and it didn’t improve much as the race continued.  I often underestimate how much the heat crushes me when I am not used to it and thus, the result is my race.  Shonny and Renata really have opened the season strongly and I can’t afford to make any mistakes and not be behind at the finish.

After the race I spent a bit of extra time in Waco before my European trip was scheduled.   It was awesome to spend some time swimming with the Waco Tri Club who do an open water swim on Monday nights at 6pm.  After our little paddle in the river we all hung out and drank margaritas on the grass and talked triathlon.  Not exactly a perfect recovery drink but an absolutely fabulous way to spend a balmy summer evening.  Thanks for inviting me guys!

So off to sunny Sardinia.  It has been a long, long time since I have made the journey to race the European tour… lets hope my quick trip to Italy is a successful one.  That’s all folks!