Here are stories about training up high.

Two Weeks and Counting To Tahoe

I have spent this past week in Truckee, CA (at an elevation of 6000 feet) and it has been amazing. Although the evenings are very cold, down to 29 degrees F, the mid day temperatures are late 60s and comfortable with brilliant sunshine. I also have another incredible homestay and I fully enjoyed a few days with Rick before he was off to Yosemite and then Maui for his daughter’s wedding. My hosts here are Rick and Gail, friends of Kevin from Vail, and they are super cool people who live in an absolutely kickass area. They have both gone to Maui for their daughter’s wedding so now I am house sitting the abode. And what an home it is! Actually, it is kind of fun to compare Mel’s altitude training accommodation this weekend to those of Conrad and Amber which you can see here…. One is not better than the other, just very different! I feel like I may have the advantage only because I have had a couple of reconnaissance missions on the actual race course as I too love the taste of coffee on an open fire. It is nice out of an espresso machine though….

I have also been pleased with the training thus far. Honestly, I wish Maui was next week… the waiting is killing me! I feel like my form is awesome now and I am trying not to screw it up before October 26th!! So now the game is pulling the reins in… don’t rest too much… don’t train too much. Don’t want to peak yet but also, don’t want to get so tired I can’t dig out in time. This is a scary time for me because it is so easy to ruin a year’s worth of work… but you still have to work hard to make an awesome race happen so here is a little taster of the past week…

The Stephens House is pretty wicked…and you can’t even see in the GARAGE!!



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The Everest Awards

This year I had the honor of being nominated for an Everest Award at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado. Thanks to Joel Health and the crew at the Teva Games, I was convinced to change my plans for the second and third stop on the XTERRA tour in order to accommodate the awards night. Since I was already going to be in the US for the awards, I decided that I would also take part in the Oak Mountain Bump and Grind mountain bike race put on my BUMP on the same course that the XTERRA will be on in one week. Accommodating both the awards night and the mountain bike race meant a bit of in and out travel but nothing unmanageable. In fact, because I was in Colorado I decided I might as well go visit my friends at Descente in Boulder to do a bit of a fitting/fashion show of my new triathlon outfit. The weekend thus far as gone to plan so here is a bit of a recap… Read more

Changing My Best Laid Plans

I have a three week digital plan laid out for my training camp here in Gunnison.  The first week was fairly low intensity, heading to what looked like a low key road race outside of Denver, then a week of harder more balanced triathlon training and a week of taper leading into Tahoe.  Or at least, this was the first draft of my ideal plan.  However, when uncontrollables start to interrupt an ideal plan it is very important to include one other quality – flexibility.  That will be the new buzz word of the 2006 Tahoe Preparation Plan.  Flexibility.

The first surprise of this camp came shortly after I picked up my rental car to drive to Parker which is just outside of Denver.  I was super late getting out of Gunnison and had not picked up the car until 6:30 pm and by the time I packed it and was out the door it was after 7:00pm.  I had somewhere between three and four hours to get there.  Yuck.  I found a good radio station and hit the road just as it was getting dark and resigned myself to a long non-stop mission to my homestay i for the Parker Omnium Road Race.

It is amazing to me how sometimes you know before it happens what is going to happen.  It was dark and I was in the middle of a giant stretch of open space.  I thought to myself, “What would I do if I broke down here?”  I considered that I had a road bike in the back seat so if it were absolutely necessary to get somewhere from nowhere I could ride there.  I guess that gave me some comfort to know that.  

I bet it was only 15 minutes later that the engine light came on in my rental vehicle and all of a sudden I was coming to a stop.  The engine was in the red for the temperature gauge and the check engine light came on.  I was in the middle of I-dunno-where and no-cell-service-here.  Plus it was freezing cold out, not a nice night for a bike ride on the side of a very dark highway with no shoulder and lots of large vehicles.  I can add to that dilemma that I left the house with less than a bar of cell charge to start with and roaming drains the battery pretty heavily.  My worst nightmare was playing itself out…


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Oh off to altitude train I go…

I finished XTC Canada, an offroad triathlon in Port Moody, BC which will become our Canadian Nationals in 2007, just before heading down here to Gunnison, Colorado.  This will be my home base for my three week altitude camp leading into Lake Tahoe for the US Xterra National Championships on October 1st.  I think I am going to be ready.

The race on Saturday at Buntzen Lake was hard.  Hard not only because I felt like poo coming off a week of being sick but also just plain hard.  It was cold and rainy.  The bike course was pretty unforgiving, with lots of loose steep climbs that my crappy legs just could not get me up.  Plus the run was hilly and sketchy in sections and after a hard bike course with bad legs I was suffering.  Danelle Kabush was right on my heels the whole race making it a hard day at the office.  She schooled me on the run by almost 2 minutes!  I was glad to put that race in the bank because I needed to shake out the cobwebs before Tahoe so I think the next race is going to be much better. 

That being said, Xterra Canada is a must attend.  It is stunning.  The scenery is incredible. The swim is in a clear lake that is smooth as glass.  The bike course is sketchy when it rains, but just plain fun no matter what .  The run course is PERFECT training for Maui… just the right amount of hills interspersed with speed.  You should go.  Next year I am going to claim the national title so I will see ya there.

 Now I am up…. waaaaaay up…. sucking air through a straw at 7700 feet.  Gunnison is so cool.  I ride a town bike to go grocery shop, swim, to the bike store… you don't need a car here which rocks.  Ashley and Jackie Burt are my hosts who are also training for the race in Tahoe.  We are united with a common purpose… Tahoe domination.  It is so great.  Ashley, Jackie and Brian Smith took me out on this ride today to the top of the earth where I could barely push my granny ring (I think they were all about 15 minutes in front of me on an hour climb… wait till next week you guys!) and then we rode down a sketchier than Maui rocky descent that rattled the fillings I don't have out of my teeth.  FUN!  I was dropped mercilessly.  The swim and the run before dinner were accomplished because we are united by a common purpose.  Train hard and smart.  I love training camp.

 So I will be back with the details of my Tahoe preparation in a week.  I go road race this weekend, then I do a week of specific training before I head to Tahoe.  I will fill you in on the deets before the race so you have some info to take to the bookie before you place your bets on finishes in Tahoe.  

 I know who my money is on Laughing

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….. Read more

In Her Words: Melanie McQuaids Training Camp

This report filed October 9, 2005 on

(October is a big month in paradise. On Oct. 9 the ITU Age Group World Championships are in Waikiki, on Oct. 15 Ironman Hawaii comes to Kona, and on Oct. 23 the Nissan Xterra World Championships are held in Maui. Three weekends, three world championships. Let’s kick it all off with thoughts from Melanie McQuaid on the value of training camps as preparation for big races – and then watch Melanie contest for her second world title in Maui…….)

MY FIRST TRAINING CAMP was back in February of 1997 with the Canadian national mountain bike team. Chrissy Redden and I bunked together for the "Russian Death Camp" with head coach Yury Kashirin in Pinos Altos, N.M.. We rode the most mileage of our lives in mountains with climbs more than 10 miles long, were caught in spring snowstorms only a day after the temperature peaked at 80?, and discovered that three weeks in a cabin with anyone is a true test of friendship.

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