Happy Birthday To Me – A Win In Michigan

I bet when I told a bunch of people I was travelling to Battle Creek they were probably thinking at that point my job sounded like work.  I admit, I may have felt the same.  Battle Creek is not like Maui, Lake Tahoe, or Snowbasin with resort cache and cosmopolitan coolness when you think of visiting.  However, now that I have been to this cool little town (home of Kellogg’s) it is definitely tops on my list of “welcoming” races.  First the course was great:  warm water swim (in a wetsuit), twisty, technical (at 20mph) singletrack for the bike course and the run, topped off by the warmest, friendliest, most helpful, welcoming and outstanding locals EVER!  The people here are amazing.  On behalf of myself and I am sure the ENTIRE pro field (between the Team Active folks and Erin Kummer this venue managed to homestay all of the pros!) THANK YOU THANK YOU for such a wonderful race experience.

Special thank you notes go to Steve Bessonny, his wife April and two kids Madison and Alec for hosting Jim, Renata and I.   They couldn’t have been more fun.  The unlimited Kashi treats were a nice added bonus, mmmm!  We really had fun during our stay and yes, you guys are in the running for the Homestay of the Century award.  I have some amazing friends around the world that started as homestay families and I really hope Steve and April won’t mind being added to my list!  I think a bike trip is in our future.  Thanks to the Team Active bike store for the mechanical tweaks, to Mark McCullough for chiropractic tweaks, to Mike Wood for the swim hookup, to Jim and Joyce for putting on a super fun race and to XTERRA for bringing us to Kellogg country.  Obviously Steve’s place was the hot place to be given Renata and I went one-two in the women’s event!

Yes, the race went well.  I won the event with the second fastest swim, the second fastest bike and the second fastest run.  The bike and run I was less than 10 seconds off the fastest times but I was smoked by Christine Jeffrey in the swim.  Always work to be done!  In the end I had a three minute gap to Renata Bucher who outran Christine, who outran Shonny who outran Jenny coming out of T2.  Exciting racing in the women’s event!   Oh yeah and it was my birthday so I got all I wanted.. a win!  It was looking pretty dismal for me on Monday so I am very pleased with my performance this time out.  Read on for the story…

Monday of this week I was sick.  Sit on the couch, no training, no swimming, try to manage the illness kind of sick.   Las Vegas air conditioning and unhealthy people – that must have been it.  Tuesday it got worse.  I started coughing, my head was full of goo and I had a brutal headache.  Then Wednesday the crap hit the fan and I was done for.  I was barking when I coughed.  That night I had a complete asthma meltdown and did not sleep a minute.  When Ross woke up he asked if I was still going to get on the plane to Chicago on Thursday morning.  It actually had never occurred to me not to go but when he said that I thought maybe it would be sensible to skip Michigan and go to Alabama healthy and a bit fresher.  Lucky I decided my ticket was purchased already in a certain way and I didn’t want to miss the race if I was capable of racing.  I got on the plane.  I apologize to every person on that flight as I was the germ carrier in that germ tube!

When I landed in Chicago it took a solid 1h 45 minutes to get a car and get out of there.  Nothing went smoothly.  I had not slept in about 36 hours at that point and was facing a 3.5h drive.  I drove an hour and a half and stopped on the side of the highway to do a 20 minute run only to make sure I stayed awake.  Little did I know that I drove across a time zone when I went through Indiana from Chicago which meant I showed up on Steve’s doorstep, unshowered, unkempt, no sleep in 39.5 hours, coughing a fit and at the inconsiderate time of 11:30pm EST (instead of 10:30pm CST which was already unreasonable).  “Hi, I’m Melanie!  Nice to meet ya!”  Yikes!

So he showed me to my room which I welcomed heartily and proceeded to get a whole 5 hours sleep that night.  I only coughed until 3am.  While I was lying there not awake I was telling myself that being sick was going to make my body fight harder and get stronger and all the lack of sleeping was only going to get me on the Eastern time zone quicker.  This is the power of positive thinking.  In fact all week I was telling myself:  

• It was not the flu so it would go away quickly. 
• It was an extra long taper. 
• Coughing doesn’t affect your legs.. fever does. 
• I trained a lot, six days off wouldn’t matter.
• If for one minute I was thinking negative I would be done for.

In a way I was right but only in that telling yourself you are all good can sometimes just make you ALL GOOD.

The next day I went and checked out the course.  Riding with no tension on the pedals I zigged and zagged through the forest thoroughly enjoying myself without tiring myself out.  Lucky break number one was the fact I could see the course without actually digging myself into a hole.  I rode the run course as well.  The course was pretty flat, with a couple short climbs, some fun high speed drops and a lot of interesting singletrack to keep us amused.  Overall the riding reminded me of trails in Southern Ontario.. like Hardwood Hills in Barrie, actually. 
Saturday I decided to ride the course with some efforts and felt like garbage.  Absolute poo.  I indulged in some self pity and lack of confidence on the phone with Ross.  He set me straight.  I went home, sat in Steve’s massage chair and read a book.  Distraction can be a good thing.  At the prerace meeting we asked if we could swim 1500m.  That set a little firestorm of debate and made some people unhappy.  Luckily that silly debate distracted me from the fact I was feeling crappy.  Feisty competitiveness can trump all.  And it did!

Race morning was FREEZING. It was 33 degrees F driving up to the venue.  I packed an undershirt and a bunch of emergency clothes but I did not pack warm gloves.  Bummer.  After a quick warmup I was in the water (which felt nice since it was warmer than the air) trying to get warmed up and focused.  Then the gun went off.

Sprinting in the water did not feel good.  I think I had a little leftover phlegm so I could not bilateral breathe and I got tired before the first buoy.  No mans land again for Mel.  I lost as much time in this race to the leaders as I did in Vegas over a longer swim.  Crappy.  But somewhat expected as the sprinting and no air did not jive with Mel’s slightly less than 100% lung capacity.  Whatever.

Off onto the bike.  The first lap my legs were rock hard, freezing cold and unresponsive.  I was doing a good job steering my bike but that was likely because I wasn’t going fast enough.  Coming around for the second lap I could see the group of fast women mountain bikers formed behind me.  That is when I told myself, self, time to HTFU.  How much do you want to win this thing?  Do you wanna wallow in I’m sick self pity and let them catch you or make them work for it?  Lucky break:  Right when I was telling myself this three strong men came riding by:  Jim, XTERRA guy and Matt Boobar.  The freight train of speed was a perfect illustration to myself of how soft I was being.  So I got going.  I held on to Matt until I fell in the river crossing (oops) but I still had a much better rhythm on the second lap which I am positive I would have negative split.  I totally baffed my transition with frozen fingers as I couldn’t get my mountain bike shoes off and then I was having trouble using my hands to put my AVIAs on.  In fact, I couldn’t feel my feet until the second loop of the run.  That is what you get for complaining about the heat in Vegas.

Out onto the run I didn’t hear anyone coming in as I left T2 and my legs felt pretty good.  The run was really a test of rhythm and leg speed, both of which I have plenty of right now.  The AVIAs ticked over effortlessly and I had a solid, steady and speedy run.  Comfortable speediness is the best kind.  I was happy to win such a short, high speed kind of race.   My winning time was 2h20 minutes. It would not have been my first inclination as a “suited” course to me but obviously it was.  I also think that kind of race helped me since some of my high end suffered from being sick.  Having an opportunity to be smooth and steady certainly was another lucky break.

Conrad won the men’s race in front of Mike Vine from Canada, Josiah Middaugh, Dan Hugo and Nico Lebrun.  Their race was very tight.. all within around two minutes?  Fast boys going very fast.  Conrad the fastest.

So now I am off to what is rumored to be a very muddy course in Alabama.  Bring it on!  Alabama is the mountain biker’s kind of race… so the battle royale shall continue with the addition of Lesley and Danelle next week.  Thanks for reading!

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