Canadians Are Crazy

Did I mention that Canada had the second largest delegation at XTERRA Worlds this year? Well, after the race it seems that the entire Canadian triathlon community has crushed my twitter, email and Facebook accounts with support for going down in a blaze of glory. I love you guys so much! Here is just one example:

Dear Melanie,

Just want to say how much of an inspiration you are and how courageous your performance was this past weekend. I am more impressed that you left it all out there and DNF’ed than had you won!

You make me proud to be a Canadian.



Insert my tears of pride here. However, no plans to try to inspire with that particular strategy next year. That last 35 yards was expensive. 🙂 Thanks guys. Oh Canada! xxoo

2011 XTERRA World Championship, Maui, HI

“Excellence is not a destination; it is a continuous journey that never ends.” Brian Tracy



I am quite certain that having my race end in unconsciousness within yards of the finish line is the worst ever DNF.  Losing the World Championships being passed within meters of the line is still easier than a DNF.  This is a hard one to process for me. Why?  Where did I go wrong?

It is ironic that I tweeted this the night before the race:

racergirlmel racergirlmel

T-1 days = “The ultimate is not to win, but to reach within the depths of your capabilities and to compete against yourself.” Billy Mills


Certainly that is exactly what I did on race day.  I went out to war to find out how hard, how fast and how strong I could be.  I gave it everything and in the end Lesley Paterson proved the strongest on the day.  Of course in hindsight I wonder what I might have changed to have things turn out different.  I had created a big gap… what if I had slowed more at aid stations, what if and what if??  At the end of it all, aside from addressing hydration with more vigor, I really wouldn’t change a thing with my race execution.  I was the strongest I have been in a long time, I raced brilliantly for 99% of the day and I found my limit to my performance.  On that day there was only less to give, not more, and that is the best way to be satisfied with your race, your career, or anything in your life.  If you always give it absolutely 100% you really can never have any regrets.  That approach will only bring you experiences and performances that remind you that you were really living and performing at your maximum potential.


I remember my race on Sunday up to about 2 miles of the run to go.  The run was 3.5 miles up and 2.5 miles down.  I believe at some point on the descent things went haywire.  Here is the race according to the XTERRA twitter feed and my recollection.



Erin Densham is followed by Canadian and 3- time XTERRA Champion Melanie McQuaid #XTERRA #XTERRAmaui


This was one of the better swims I have had at Worlds in a very long time.  Erin Densham is an incredibly decorated ITU athlete with 2008 Olympic credentials and World Champion stripes in the Under-23 category.  She is a huge young talent and I am hoping that her first taste of XTERRA has her hooked for life.  Having her at the race was so exciting and motivating.  Swimming beside her to the first buoy sent my confidence skyrocketing.  What an awesome start I had beside all of the superstar men: Conrad, Olivier, Ben Allen, Ivan Rana, Frodeno, Llanos.  It was like a cool ITU men’s race start and I jumped right in it.  Then I was drowned at the first buoy and ended up swimming to a 1:45 deficit on Densham after T1 which is still fantastic.  I was out with Marion Lorblanchet who beat me by a minute last year and Lesley was just behind the two of us.



Bike mile 4: Lead women Erin Densham followed by Melanie McQuaid 1 min back and Marion Lorblanchet of France at 1:40 back.


I started the bike very conservatively.  Knowing that the early miles were very steep and bound to be congested I focused less on the annoying  pileups that inevitably happen as the race sorts itself out in the early miles and let my legs open up and start feeling good. My Fate was the perfect bike for these steep climbs and although some of the men would put more power in than I, I would take back any gaps over the top.  There was a strong group forming around me.



Mile 6 Women’s Bike: McQuaid in first 1:45 over Densham with Marion Lorblanchet 2 minutes behind.


Once I saw Densham I did not want her to have an opportunity to get on my wheel so I picked the pace up as soon as I caught her.  I was also starting to feel good and decided it was the time to start really hammering.  I was intent on staying in the group of men that were riding around me as it was motivating to have a wheel to follow.  Riding Shimano XTR 2×10 with a 38/26 chainring was a very good decision.  I would alternate big/little ring all of the time.  Riding Pisgah Stage Race made this entire bike course seem easy.  I was feeling good.  I had lost one of my two electrolyte bottles though.  I believe this is the fatal flaw in my race.  The cage on my seatpost has proven 100% ineffective regardless of what kind of cage I put on there.  With a hardtail the bottle would either bounce out or the cage would break on me at US Nationals and Canadian Nationals.  Why did I think the stupid thing would work here?  I guess I thought a steel cage would hold but I was wrong.  I only had one bottle of electrolytes and then drank only one bottle of water and a bit after.  Not enough.  #fail



Women’s Bike 15: McQuaid in first followed Lesley Paterson 5 minutes back. Carina Wasle in 3rd and Erin Densham 4th.


At mile 13 I started to dig in.  I knew these were crucial miles where I could really start making time.  I think I have developed some solid endurance on the bike this season and I saw that it was easier for me to stay with some of the men in the last 8 miles than at any other time in the race despite some attacks and shuffling in the group.  I was feeling really good and motivated from here to transition.  I rode in with Thomas Vonach, Jason Michilak, Cal Zaryski and others.  Unfortunately Thomas was too fast to follow on the run but I did have another fellow to follow who I couldn’t identify.

2011 bike worlds 2

The last mile of the bike.  We all look like cinnamon powdered donuts.  🙂


Run Mile 3 for Women: Melanie McQuaid holds her lead with Lesley Paterson running into second position. Followed…

23 Oct Favorite Retweet Reply



I went out onto the run feeling like I still had good legs.  I left transition with a little 5 oz bottle of Powerbar electrolyte drink and Saltstick tabs in it and planned to rocket to the top of the race.  The hardest part of the run by far was the first 3.5 miles, after which it rolled back down the hill to the finish.. with a short hill right after 5 miles and at the finish line. I knew if I got to the top with any kind of a gap the race was mine.  I was actually climbing well on the run but was certainly wondering whether I was going hard enough or too hard.  I had an awesome run time trial before I left Victoria but this run was different and  I didn’t have a lot of feedback in the first half of the run.


Paterson and Lorblanchet about 3:35 back.

23 Oct Favorite Retweet Reply


At four miles this race seemed to be well under my control and when any of the guys would pass me they told me I still had a large gap, was totally good and just to let it rip downhill.  With rolling largely downhill travel, albeit with one steep and nasty uphill I would have thought myself capable of holding off even the fleet footed Lesley given gravity was my friend.  I knew I needed a gap to beat Lesley as I was positive she would beat me but my estimations would have put her out of contention when I was told she was at minimum 5 minutes back off the bike.  She was actually more than 6.



Lesley Paterson has run herself to within 1:20 behind McQuaid after mile 5


Disaster is unfolding.  No recollection of any of this.  Gravity and instinct were likely propelling me forward.



Wow! Paterson just passed McQuaid nearing the beach

23 Oct Favorite Retweet Reply


It was hard to go back and read that.

I saw some video of me staggering through the creek section just before the sand.  It looks like I can’t see where the trail goes and I am having trouble balancing.  I made it across the sand as I was told that with the help of some friends cheering me I made it to the grassy lawn in front of the Ritz where I faced a short run uphill to the finish line.  I was told that I staggered, took a few wobbly steps, grabbed the fencing and tried to get myself to the line.  I also was told I refused medical attention and jumped out of the golf cart they were trying to use to get me to the line.  I am proud of myself to even know what the right thing to do is when I am completely out of it – FINISH!!  However, I was incapable of finishing.  I had found my limits on that day.

Maybe, like the honey badger, I just needed a nap and then I would come back to crushing it?



2011 worlds finish 2

“What looks like a loss may be the very event which is subsequently responsible for helping to produce the major achievement of your life” – Srully Blotnick


I have nothing but the utmost respect for Lesley, Marion and Helen our women’s top 3 on the day.  Lesley’s performance was outstanding and her run was phenomenal.  She is a great and worthy champion.  Big congratulations to Canadians Danelle Kabush for 5th place and Brandi Heisterman for her 9th place at her first World Championship and congrats to Cal Zaryski for another 40-44 Age Group World title to add to his collection.  Canada was the second largest delegation to the XTERRA World Championship this year and I am so proud that was the case.  Way to go team and congratulations to the folks behind XTERRA Canada as you are very much the reason why that is the case.


I would also like to congratulate the MelRad racers for being the champions that they are.  Not everyone had the best day but they were the most classy, sportsmanlike and fun group of people I could ever have the pleasure to spend time with.  Kate Button (  went from 46th overall and 50 minutes behind the women’s winner in 2010 (her first ever season of triathlon) to 20th overall woman, 2nd in her age group and 30 minutes back her second year.  Awesome.  Jo Markham was also a superstar with a 3rd in her age group with Kate (25-29) and Fred Smith ( was 2nd in his age group (35-59) and 8th overall amateur male.  Three podiums is incredible and those are awesome and inspirational performances.  The whole team (other than myself) finished the race despite Keri’s broken chain and some first timers at the Worlds so that, all in all, is more than I could ever ask for in a group of athletes I work with.  You guys were and continue to amaze and inspire me.  Thank you!  And thank you too Dee Thatcher our fearless leader who kept us all in line all weekend.  You are so great!


Although I fell short of one goal,  I want to thank all of my sponsors for their contributions to my otherwise excellent 2011 season which was highlighted by an ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship title, another USA Pro Series Overall Championship title, 3 more Regional Championship titles, the Canadian National Championship title (I am undefeated on my home turf… when can we have Worlds there?) and another USA Championship win.  I also won some fun races too like the Pisgah Stage race, the silly Tour de Suds and I took a second and a third place at Ironman 70.3.   It has been a really, really great year and I am thankful for all of it.


Thank you Shimano, AVIA, Nathan, the entire @iamSpecialized team, Maxxis, Sundog Eyewear, Powerbar, Profile Design, Titec, Champion System, CycleOps, USANA, ESI grips, Justin’s Nut Butter, and Genuine Innovations.  I am proud to have you on my team and know that every time I toe the line I have an advantage on my competition because you are with me.


Thank you to Markus Blumensaat, RMT at Left Coast Health, Paul McIntyre at Broadmead Orthopedic Physiotherapy and Day Deans-Buchan, chiro at Cedar Hill Sports therapy for their contributions to my health.  Thanks to the guys at Procity Racing for their contributions to my bike’s health and Donnie and Dave at Maui Cyclery for all the pre-Worlds panic avoidance.  Thanks to Aaron Altura for being my Maui mafia.  Thanks to Neil Harvey for my awesome swim and Houshang Amiri at the Pacific Cycling Center for his cycling training group that I couldn’t get up to speed without.  Thanks to Clint for the awesome open water sessions! Thank you to my training partners Erinne, Annie, Jamie, Mical, Regan, Sunday boys, Marilyn, Jen, Fred, Buttons, Shawn, Steve-o, Ryder, Ben, the Shootout, Jasper, Mike, Palmer, Woodie, Jonny, Bill, Ross and all the other people I have spent some time hanging out or training with this season.  Thanks to Scott Vannan, Maia and Tammy for the hilarious and incredibly beneficial Pilates:  Deconstructed sessions that are now indispensable.  Thank you to all of my incredible homestays this year.  Thank you to all of the race directors including Team Unlimited, the TR3 people, Pisgah Stage Race, WTC, the Phoenix Tri Club and more who put together such amazing events and thank you to all of the volunteers at those events.  I will always try to pay it forward.  You guys helped me get here and I love you so much for it.


And lastly, thank you to the XTERRA family for offering me a life full of friendships and experiences that are beyond amazing.  I love this sport more than anything and hope that I can try to push the boundaries, expectations and level of the sport in the coming years.  Next season is like a chapter I am so excited to start to read in a really good book.  Only I can decide what is written.  See you next year.




Pisgah Stage 5 Highlights

Watch more video of Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race 2011 on

Highlights from the last day of an awesome race. The clip includes some of the Pilot Rock descent where sadly Thom caught the big corner I blew completely. Enjoy!

Ridge 2006 Montebello Watermelon Unveiling

It is the last stretch to the XTERRA World Championship in Maui on October 23rd.  This year we are racing in Kapalua.  I think it is great that we are going to try a new course!

Last week, I flew home from North Carolina to recover from the Pisgah Stage Race  and get myself mentally and physically prepared for one last race this season.  Only, it is the one last and MOST IMPORTANT race of the season.  Still, my goal this year has been to treat each race experience with the same calm, rational and relaxed approach to avoid any excess pressure that can come along with overemphasizing any event.  I think it is better to be relaxed and let your body do what you have prepared it to do.  Your head only gets in the way of that happening.

I actually had the watermelon unveiling on Saturday night.  The largest melons were these gorgeous yellow flesh variety that sadly blew their tops.  I guess a bit too much watering had them exploding out of their rinds so those ones were not edible.  I also did not have a camera to show the insides.  Lame.

However, they smelled watermelony.  The smaller ones were all cut open and the verdict was:  tastes like watermelon as well!  They were the size of a really large apple and sweet, red watermelon flesh was inside each one so finally, I WIN!!!  Yes!  :


watermelon aug 15

This watermelon grew to about the size of a large softball.  You could eat it.

Paul brought one of the nicer wines I have tasted recently. I had opened a bottle of Gaja (ready to concede because I wasn’t sure whether I had won or not) and then after we drank the Ridge and it was crazy how much better that bottle was.  Wow. Fantastic and thanks buddy!

Drink this.  It is fantastic. It will make you run fast.

So because I knew we were having nice wine I made thin crust pizza, Regan came over and the three of us had a fun night that ended around midnight.  Of course, the 8km was the next morning at the ungodly hour of 7:15am.  Ouch.

Needless to say I was late to the start and as they were counting the last two minutes to start I was taking off my warm clothes that were my substitute for a warmup.  When the gun went off I trotted off with the thousands of other early birds to enjoy a sunny, warm October morning.  The Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon is a fun event that features an 8km, half Marathon and full Marathon that absolutely ignites the city.  Very cool event to take part of.

The race was won by an Olympian named Hailey Stellingwerff  in 27:58 (it is a milldly hilly 8km along the water) and Kyle Jones won the mens.  Gillian Gook was second, Melissa Ross was third, and I ran in for fourth in 29:26 which is a decent effort for me for sure and a shock given my complete lack of any preparation in the morning. I am attributing the good run legs entirely to that wine that Paul brought.

I then rushed home to hit the 9am mountain bike ride with the boys which was absolutely hilarious and so much fun given the trails are in PRIMO condition.

My legs are also primo.  Lets hope it stays that way until Worlds.  Coming soon…..

Racergirl Television Episode 3 – Pisgah Stage Race

Talking a bit of triathlon and a bit of mountain bike racing in North Carolina

2011 Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race, Brevard, NC: Stages 4+5 and Overall

Stage 3 seemed like the turning point for me.  It was a shorter stage with a little bit easier technical challenge so I started to inch my way closer to the 40+ elite men at the front and the more days recovery from the USA XTERRA Championship in Utah the better my legs were getting.  I also find having a carrot dangled in front of me makes me ride faster both up and downhill so as I got closer to the men I would ride faster to stay there.  I was still taking it a bit more conservatively than I was proud of on some of the downhills but what I considered conservative was starting to be faster.

It is funny how different the mountain bike community is and how different mountain bikers within that community are.  Mountain biking has the endurance junkies like Jeremiah Bishop who are spandex, heart rate monitor wearing yoga participators.  Not much different than a triathlete.  Then there is the other end of the spectrum:  the wool jersey, baggy pants, rigid, singlespeed, singletrack junkie that would probably prefer to shuttle the climb.  This race had both ends of the spectrum and everyone in between.  Including a dude on a Pugsley who couldn’t seem to get the start times right as he was late more often than not.

Our household had its first show of blood with Fred gashing his knee to the kneecap on his stem after running over a camera lady.  That shows how technical the descent was as running over a person looked like a better line than what was on the ground.  He had a visit to urgent care and emerged with four stitches and a knee that looked like it was 9 months pregnant with a white squirrel.  Nasty.  Needless to say he was still finishing and planning to win anyways.  Nails I tell ya!

Stage 4: Promised Land Loop 39 miles, 8000 feet climbing

Yes, 8000 feet.  That is a first for me.  So are any stages above 30 miles so 39 miles and 8000 feet, wow.

This was the mother stage according to all those who figured they knew what they were talking about.  Apparently this was the stage that would have all of us begging for mercy by the finish and hallucinating before we got there.  I was pretty sure I was hallucinating when randomly in the forest some dude with a banjo appeared on one of the switchbacks of a climb but he really was out there 30 miles out in the middle of nowhere.  Awesome!  I think this was also the stage with a beer feed zone?

This stage started pretty crazy with us climbing the super steep Black Mountain climb connecting to a trail called Turkey Pen.  To give you an idea of how hard this intro to the stage was it took me over 90 minutes to ride 7 miles.  Ouch.  It was so worth it though as Turkey Pen was loamy, skinny, steep, rooty, twisty awesomeness every time we went downhill.  Sadly, we had to go up vertical goat paths to get to the downhill which did mean a bit of hiking for about 2-3 minutes at a time.  I was with both of the top singlespeeders for a lot of the race and saw how hard they had to pedal which completely eliminated any whining I might have done in my 28×36 as I think they were riding a much bigger gear with no options.  After we finished that first 7 miles the race started to open up and included another dose of Squirrel Gap Trail which I crushed compared to Tuesday.  I had a decent battle with the top Open Man that day but he dropped me on the last climb from the horse stables.  My main competition in the women’s race was Karen Potter but given she chose to ride a hardtail for this race I feel like she might have brought a knife to a gunfight.  The funny thing is that I always put the same amount of time on her no matter how long the stage so I was probably going out harder and dying whereas she was staying the identical pace throughout the day.

4 hours and 56 minutes of pure rad awesomeness later, I was in the creek for a dip and still in the lead.  Same goes for Fred and Shawn and Kate was all smiles again after the stage.  She was also eating pretty much nonstop from morning to night which was one of the other insane things I witnessed during the week.  I had to be careful not to leave any of my toiletries lying around lest they be mistaken for dip.

Stage 5: Transylvania Loop, 42 miles, 6,400 feet climbing

The last stage was far and away my most favoritest of them all.  I had the hot tip of leaving clean/dry shoes and socks in the first aid station which made the 40-odd F day much more bearable after EIGHT full dismount creek crossings.  That is right, we did 8 ice baths in the first 15 miles and then got down to business climbing up Laurel Mountain.  Did I mention how cold it got the last day?  Heather was an angel to lend me her winter riding gloves which I appreciated so much the whole day.

The race started with a road section that Garth assaulted from the gun.  When I found myself in the break I felt it necessary to stay there just for the heck of it and was happy to see my legs were the best of the whole week.  When Sam, Jeremiah and Adam caught Garth Prosser and I we were not far from the first piece of singletrack.  At about 7 miles I was in FOURTH.  Yeah baby!  However, as we stormed downhill I was passed by four more of the top guys who I followed to the aid station at mile 15, sadly losing time at every creek crossing.   This was the only day I had a chance to be in front of the evening’s sponsor at any point in singletrack:  Sycamore Cycles’ Wes Dickson who was racing pro as well.  I struggled a little with getting on and off my bike on the Laurel Mountain climb because I chose to ride new shoes with brand new cleats which were a bit tight in my pedals.

Those moments of mild frustration were quickly forgotten when I started the descent on Pilot Rock.  Lots of big rock features, and tight, rooty switchbacks are right up my alley.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was pretty happy with it all.  It was so ridiculously radtastic.  Thom from was on that descent and after an initial moment of camera-shyness caused a dab I managed to clean the rest of the descent all the way to the bottom which earned me a solid whoop from the white squirrel as I rode past him on the rock garden.  After another road section we rode to the Avery Creek trail and the uphill singletrack leading to that descent proved to be the cracking point of some of the boys in front of me as I rode past three guys there and never saw them again.  I have to admit I wanted to beat them so I was flogging it up the last climb on Black Mountain.  I still didn’t catch the super fast Gerry Pflug who has won the police and fire games but I think I got the closest this day.  I finished 8th this stage which was my best finish overall of the race and I still felt pretty darn good at the end.

Big smiles all around when Fred, Shawn and I all won our divisions and Kate won the first check of her pro career.  Not too shabby MelRadders! We celebrated with a glass or two of the Shannon Ridge Zin we all hauled out of there for winning 🙂  I was sad that Kate didn’t own the pie eating contest at the end but she says she is only good for volume not speed.  I did get some fun video of Adam’s battle with the kids, which was good entertainment to end a freaking amazing, hilarious and memorable week.

This race is a must do.  If you think you are badass for riding BC Bike Race and Trans Rockies you can’t actually claim anything until you come and attempt Tom and Heather’s race.  We all look like we have been wrestling cats now with our arms and legs covered in scratches… this is the reason there is a lion in the logo.  You go out there and wrestle the Pisgah lion in the trails.  The Pisgah Stage Race has all the sketchy, steep, gnarly, nasty descending you hope and wish for that you must earn with heart and leg pounding ascents and gorgeous vistas.  195 miles and 29,000 feet of climbing is the badge of badass that all you mountain scouts are searching for.  Go and get some for yourself.  I will definitely be back as the combination of awesome course, incredible volunteers, random trailside memorabilia (including a giant white squirrel, a banjo player, Darth Vader, funny lady yelling in the bushes, and awesome aid station people) and incredibly friendly Brevard locals makes this a world class grassroots adventure.  All the fun and comraderie of a small race organized with the precision of a pro event.  Kind of like TR3 and BC Bike race had a baby… haha!

Oh yeah and all you XTERRA racing people… I am guessing you are going to see some fast bike splits from Fred and Buttons.  The secret to that isn’t so secret anymore!  Kate is a 2nd year rider so where there is a will there is a way to complete this race even if it is technical.  That said, she turned pro in her second year so she is a bit of a freak.

I will be especially happy if this race has carved the legs I need for a good go at the XTERRA World Champs.  I couldn’t have worked any harder this week and I am feeling so calm and happy about the race.  So now it is time to sharpen the triathlon skills for a short while.  Departure for Maui is only a week away and the big show is three weeks and counting.  So looking forward to our new course!

Thank you so much to Shimano XTR for a perfect performing bicycle all week.  Thanks to Chris Avery for maintaining my Specialized Epic 29er for me, we all totally appreciated all your help!  Thanks to Champion System for my super comfy race gear.  Thanks to Maxxis and the Ikon 29er EXO for smooth rolling every day. Thanks to Powerbar Perform and Pure and Simple bars for tasty fuel on the trail.  Thanks to Nathan Hydration for the hydration packs and Catalyst electrolytes we were pounding every stage.  Thanks to Sundog Eyewear for 20/20 trail vision.  Thanks to Profile Design and Titec for comfy gloves and solid bits and pieces on the bike.  Thanks to ESI grips and Genuine Innovations Race Day Air kits.  Thanks to USANA for maintaining my health and GoPro for helping me document the race.  Thanks to AVIA for helping me look cool NOT running all week, haha!  Thanks to Powertap for the solid preparation for the event. Thanks to Todd and Heather for the invitation to the race… you two are fantastic and thanks to Hunter Subaru for the sweet parking spot for Shawn’s Outback at the awards dinner.  Lastly thank you to Fred, Buttons and Shawn for an incredibly fun week in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I am sad it is over.. until next year!

Now… back to the pool for me.

2011 Pisgah Stage 3 Highlights

Watch more video of Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race 2011 on

This is some video from the third stage of the race with some cool follow video with Adam Craig. This was one of the LESS technical days of the whole week. But super fun and fast and short.