July 2007 Recap from Mel

Wow, long break from melrad.com reporting! A recap including mountain bike nationals and a super high altitude XTERRA race in Crested Butte, Colorado…

With another month flying past we are now entering the critical homestretch of the season. I am so excited about the next three XTERRA races…three races that I am definitely focused on taking top prize.

I decided to remove an altitude training camp in Silverstar from my schedule in order to be home swimming more with my NTC training group and focused on my cycling. The end of my month home training camp would be the Canadian mountain bike nationals at Mount Washington. It was great to get back in with the group to bring my swimming form back along with my mountain bike speed. I worked a lot on my running earlier this year so I ended up missing some of the work I did in the past on the bike. I am happy to report that my home plan went super well and things are really starting to come around.

The first week home from Virginia I spent on the couch-pretty much solid. I found a new video game to waste a lot of time with and basically checked out for a whole week. Ross thought I was the most useless waste of space for that week but that is what it took for me to get back to a place where I could train again. I really broke the string before I left for my last trip with too much training and travel and basically did not feel good for a whole month. It was kind of tough because even after my week of recovery it did not magically feel good. It felt WORSE to train but the fact that I wanted to train even though it felt awful was a good sign.

So each week I built my intensity and a little volume, working mostly on speed. The fourth week I took a break in order to recover in time to race mountain bike nationals. It was not ideal for that race because resting makes you a bit flat but that was the plan and nationals was not my priority. The week before that race I was a mess with indecision. I was so tired from the training and was placing so much pressure on myself to perform in a race I had not even committed to. It was ridiculous. I should have been so much more relaxed about it because no result in that race would really matter but to me, all races matter to some extent so being me… I worried about it.

In fact, a lot of good stuff happened in that race. The highlights including riding (well most of it since the course had large sections of unrideable terrain) the first climb second behind Marie Helene. Given I have not seen one second of speed up until that race I felt really good about that. Unfortunately, because I wouldn’t commit to doing that race I also did not go and practice the course. That meant I crashed most of the way down the hill and was passed by Kiara and Catherine while I balanced on my head a few times. On the second lap I rode back up to third but Kiara, the wet, rooty, gnarl champion kicked my butt on the way down the hill again. On the third lap it got cold. Like winter rainy gross cold and my legs turned to crap. I managed to turn in two more laps about the same speed but still ended up passed on the descent first by Amanda Sin then in the last kilometer by Wendy Simms. I passed Wendy back for one second thinking it would be cool to finish fifth rather than sixth but I decided to crash one more time and she rode away to finish fifth. We high fived at the finish after a fun battle in the muck. So it really sounds like I suck at descending according to this report and I truly don’t think so. I think it is more a case of: IF the race is important and you’re racing mountain bike specialists who are going to train for the nationals seriously, DON’T expect to descend as fast without practice. Silly triathlete. Still, some decent form is coming around since I did ride uphill fast for awhile.

The day after that race Ross and I blasted down to Seattle with the car packed with training equipment and snacks with the bikes strapped in the handy Thelma on the rear. We stayed a night with Ross’s friend Dan with a gorgeous house on Lake Washington with a fancy speedboat which we used to tour Bill Gates’ and Howard Schultz’s houses on the water. Pretty incredible neighborhood. Dan’s house was absolutely spectacular with quite a bit of Gabriel Ross gorgeous furniture. After a fabulous dinner, yummy wine and fun conversation we hit the sack. The next day we all got off to a super late start with Dan having a cruisy day and Ross and I cruising to Salt Lake City. Whoa, that is a LONG way! We got in about midnight and crashed in our hotel which was organized by my friend Tom – thanks so much!

The next morning we went to do a recon mission on the Ogden course. Truly there is no better course for Melanie. It rocks. Even with the altitude I absolutely levitated to the top of that climb. Poor Ross was crushed by the elevation and my good legs were no consolation. The view was incredible!

After our ride we did a quick dip in the Pineview Reservoir and hit the road. We had a long way to Gunnison ahead of us. We arrived late at night to Mel’s home away from home at the Burt mansion in beautiful Colorado. These are our favorite people in the whole wide world. So, at home with Ash, Jack, Em and Sam the week flew by with evenings of fine wine and tour watching. What a mess of a Tour, huh? Yikes. That is not inspiring… I am sorry. I wonder if the IAAF World Track and Field Championships are going to have the same stories… somehow I doubt it.

So I had planned to race in Crested Butte a long time ago. Originally that plan included three weeks at altitude in Vernon to prepare as the CB race is at 9000 feet. Mel winning at altitude has happened a lot in the last couple of years but it has not resulted without serious preparation. I scrapped the altitude plan in order to work on speed for three weeks as I felt my month at altitude would force me to work on aerobic capacity instead of speed, so I needed to do it while I was low. This meant the CB race was an experiment racing on the fifth day at altitude. It was probably okay if I wasn’t racing a top pro like Jenny Smith. I was training with Jenny last September before Tahoe and regularly had my butt handed to me here in Gunnison. If the World Champs were in Gunnison with a 500m swim Jenny would be a standout favorite for the win. This year she has been posting top splits at most of the races on tour so a race in her backyard, with Mel suffering altitude sickness and Jenny admitting that her good form is coming back…. Well I would argue that the favorite for this race was not the one on top bill.

Regardless, I did my best to prepare for the event. I had a good look at the course (which is FANTASTIC) and tried to keep a lid on most of the rest of my training with some decent swims during the week. Decent, not good. The main problem was this stupid injury I created by wearing orthotics that fell apart on me. I still don’t know what is wrong but I am unfortunately experiencing some pain in the outside of my foot when I run. It is like spraining the side of your foot. So dumb.

Race morning I did a loop of the swim and was BLOWN! It is amazing how 1000 feet more crushes you. Gunnison is 7700 feet and CB is 8800 feet, with the lake we swim in a tad higher. It did not bode well for Mel. I swam as hard as I could and got completely dropped by my normal swim partners including Josiah Middaugh, who is the opposite of me and just stepped up a notch with the altitude as well. I am stoked for him getting back to winning after the bad knee year (he broke his patella, which makes my dumb sprained foot seem even more annoying).

So when we got on the bike I was torn. Was I enjoying myself because the singletrack is fantastic and just like home with slippery roots and rocks and challenges all over, or was it horrible since I pretty much had to coast and rest every time I used a watt of power to get myself up over an obstacle? I think at the end of it all I totally enjoyed all of the downhills and hated all of the uphills, ha! I waited for Jenny to catch me even though I was going as well as I could the whole day. In fact, she got me right at transition, which on a decent day would be a good race. Would I have enough to hold her off even though she was acclimated?

In the end, no. I am sorry that I couldn’t even make Jenny’s win better. It was all I could do to not walk the uphills. I ran well, again on a downhill, for the first 500m and then I blew to the moon. I just couldn’t go. Jenny powered past me on the climb and I never saw her again. I had nothing and feeling that poorly I started to notice how sore my foot was, the blisters forming from my new orthotics, how tired I was feeling, blah blah. I just didn’t fight at all and shuffled into the finish. It was a pretty poor performance. That said, Jenny rocked out and was very strong and I would have had to be on my game to beat her and I was not. A new pro from Boulder named Sara Tarkington was third (and she won the past race in Buffalo Creek) and my buddy Jackie was fourth and also took the spirit award. With no swim or run training (and half a wetsuit on at the start of the race) she swam, rode fast then cheered for everyone else on the run.

After the race we all went for a fun lunch which Brian Smith capped off with a double bloody Mary. Nice. Good times with the Boulder boys (and Mya) and the Smiths. After some hilarious stories from Seth and Jimmy about creatures in the sea we said goodbye (I will be in Boulder in a week) and off they went.

In all, Crested Butte XTERRA is an amazing event that will offer a huge challenge and some breathtaking vistas. This area of the world is gorgeous and the people are fantastic. I am looking forward to some more training here before I head elsewhere for my upcoming races. Congrats to Josiah, Seth, Greg, Ryan and Cody for their top five places in the men’s race. Sounds like a national event, only missing Conrad! I am stoked for Jenny in winning her first XTERRA…. I know winning the first one is habit forming!

Three weeks to Ogden XTERRA….

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