Mel’s Four Week Training Plan to a Half Ironman

Of course I would include a mountain bike race as part of my Ironman preparation. All road and no dirt makes Mel a dull and unhappy girl! I have completed two weeks of what I call my Ironman preparation which includes a lot of aerobic base work on my bike and a healthy increase in run volume. Despite the looming half-Iron I have planned in Sonoma I wanted to keep in touch with some mountain bike speed so I decided to jet to Calgary to do one of our Canada Cup mountain bike events in Canmore. I hadn’t been on my mountain bike in ten days! I was a little nervous but as soon as I drove into the mountains and did one lap of the course any thoughts that I had made the wrong decision vanished. The Canadian Rockies are truly breathtaking (not to mention the altitude) and my weekend ended with a second place to Mical Dyck which is totally solid. Read on for my story of photoshoots, plush hotels, wildlife viewings and racing madness, both on my bike and in the car…


I really noticed last weekend doing a fast local group ride how much running takes the “snap” out of my legs. Every little climb they would attack would leave me gapped out the back chasing to get back in the group. DOH! I felt the same in a midweek race I did where I managed to stay in only because I can chase like a fiend. I know that if I don’t keep injecting some speed into my program I am going to become a diesel engine. This is the kiss of death for mountain biking because you cannot maintain fast momentum. So I planned a race this weekend to combat the "singlespeed" development.

I flew to Calgary on Thursday and little did I know that July 4th (Happy Birthday to you U. S. of A.!) was the start of the “Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth” aka The Calgary Stampede. For those not in the know, the Stampede is a weekend of chuckwagon races, bullriding and general rodeo shenanigans that happens once a year in Calgary. In honor of this weekend, every service person you see and a large percentage of the general population is wearing a cowboy shirt, hat and boots and greets you with a “howdy!”. Only in Calgary… and Montana I guess…

So my first order of business was to meet my friends at Sundog Eyewear for a sneak peek at the 2009 lineup and a heart to heart on what I would really like to see in the “active” category moving forward. I think we had a great meeting and I am really looking forward to the sweet new glasses I am going to have for the second half of the season. Sundog is SO committed to making the best glasses on the planet for athletes from all sports and they feel that they can get this done while keeping the price under $100. Check them out at to see for yourself.

My second order of business was a photoshoot for the catalog and that was going to take place the following morning at my hotel in Kananaskis. Ever been to Kananaskis? Heaven on earth. Seriously, every way I turned there was another photographic moment of a rocky peak or gorgeous forest or a clear sparkling river. I absolutely loved it there. Getting the sweet upgrade to Signature Club with morning breakfast and afternoon appies and drinks didn’t hurt either! Thanks Sean for hooking me up at the Delta Lodge. Awesome.

One of our photographic locations

When Michal (from Sundog) and I went looking for a location for getting the shots done we would basically walk one minute from the hotel. That made it easy. We spent a couple of hours getting casual and bike shots (the Constable glass is really cool…. look for it soon) and before I knew it I was packed in the car headed to Canmore to preride the course with Danelle.

Canmore is a cute little town next to Banff where a number of the cross country and biathlon ski team athletes train so it was funny to see the number of people roller skiing in the area. Danelle and I rode from her house up to the Nordic center to ride the course. Here is a quick description of the Canmore course: four switchbacks on a double track road into a short false flat semi-single track, left turn up a road, left turn into about a 2 minute singletrack climb, right turn for a little more singletrack before turning left up the “Oven” a super steep ski path section up, right turn down a fast, rooty, rocky, technical descent (for a while), small road section, more singletrack, fast road downhill, more singletrack, more road, fun singletrack into a section called the “Coal Chutes” which is a sketchy coal dust super steep descent, up a ski path called “Georgetown” which is a three minute climb from hell that feels like 10 minutes, then left onto a bit more single track before bombing the road back to the Nordic center. The lap was just over thirty minutes for us racing. Fun! I did two laps on Friday and then Danelle and I went for a swim in our wetsuits in Spray Lake, which is a glorified freezing cold pond. Gorgeous though.

Our swimming venue…. 250m across

After that I got some curry chicken takeout at the Railway Café and jetted back to my palatial digs in Kananaskis to sprawl on my king size bed and enjoy my solo weekend in luxury while watching the US Swimming Olympic trials on television. Does it get any better?

Apparently YES! Saturday morning I woke up to watch the Tour de France while having my morning coffee. Vive la tour! After watching Valverde come from nowhere to win the stage I hit the trails in Kananaskis for a morning spin and tourist visit. I rode some fun trails down to the golf course and took the bike path back.

Just another gorgeous spot in Kananaskis

Before long I had packed everything and was on my way to the race. After a little more warmup we were lined up and starting. I had a good start but not as good as Danelle who shot straight to the front and was leading up the climb. Way to go girl! Mical attacked her near the top and I punched it to grab her wheel. We rode together up to the top of the climb (Mical rode granny whereas I rode a bit to much middle ring… reminder to myself to ride more granny gear at altitude) and down the descent. I was stoked to be actually MAKING up time on the descents because whenever we were on a road section Mical would stand and attack. Thanks to the BMC Fourstroke! OF course, like I was experiencing on the road ride, I cannot attack, I can only go one speed right now. So although I got some time back on the Georgetown climb (I was climbing well) every flat section I was losing time to Mical. I think I may have needed a bit more pressure in my rear shock and rear tire but no matter, my legs were crap in the flat sections and Mical was stronger. I fought to try to use the sections that I was riding well to my advantage but I was getting tired and my big week of training was catching up to me by the end. All in all it was a great race with me fighting hard to stay in front of Jean Ann and at the same time having a super fun time riding the descents. By the end of the race I was even feeling reasonably strong on the coal chutes descent so good training both physically and technically. Done and done. Congratulations to Michal Dyck for winning the race and Jean Ann McKirdy for taking third not far behind me. Danelle Kabush was a solid sixth place as well so good representation on the XTERRA front.

Pretty done at the finish- photo by Chris Redden

Of course, I had a flight booked home that night and in Canada, unlike at the NORBA events and XTERRA events, awards tend to take some time. I was unable to stay longer than one and a half hours after the race ended so I missed the podium which was totally unfortunate. Thank you to Roddy and Mike for giving me my check though, hah! I blasted down Hwy 1 to the Calgary airport, threw the keys at the Thrifty guy without getting a receipt (likely a mistake) and ran to the Air Canada gate with one minute to spare (arriving 31 minutes before my flight was scheduled to depart) and hopped on a plane to Victoria. By 8pm I was enjoying barbequed Salmon with Ross while watching some Arrested Development on DVD. Ah, life is good!

So today I am off for a 90 minute run which will not include any efforts but will include some fun trails. Up next weekend is the Squamish Triathlon for a test ride on the TT02 and a visit with Peter Reid and Malaika. Should be fun…. Thanks so much to all of my sponsors and in particular to Gary, Michal and John at Sundog Eyewear for the wonderful Italian feast. Looks like it worked out well for the race!

Happy trails until next week when it is going to be happy on the road racing….


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