2015 IM 70.3 Los Cabos

Visiting San Jose del Cabo for the first time at the 2015 IM 70.3 Los Cabos

I’ve never visited San Jose del Cabo so the idea of racing IM 70.3 Los Cabos event was appealing- if only to tick a travel box while doing my job as a pro athlete.  Many aspects of this race were questionable in the final leadup to an Ironman event (Would I get sick from the water/food? Do I even need a race at this point? Would the airline travel challenge my immune system?) but I decided to stick to my Ironman Arizona plan as we originally laid it out and went.  It seems to have been a good decision.

I was better than IM 70.3 Las Vegas, I had a great swim and I had a great time.  Plus I won a bit of money, got some great exposure for Trek Mexico at the presser and I now have a whale shark BFF.  All around good times and noodle salad.


Pre race pomp and circumstance. Read more

2015 Ironman Canada

This quote sums up my 2nd place (and fastest bike split) debut Ironman Canada performance and why I am so happy with what happened but hungry, motivated and determined for more:

“A win doesn’t feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn’t last as long as the bad. Not even close.” – Andre Agassi

Coming that close to winning my first Ironman was insane.  But losing the race that late in the race leaves me with the belief that I could maybe win an Ironman.  I don’t know that I truly thought I could win Sunday.  I don’t really feel “bad” about anything on Sunday because I truly gave my best on the day.  The fact I made some mistakes and didn’t win means there is still unfinished business and I am so glad.  It is what drives us.

Danielle Mack executed a super strong race under terrible conditions to win her second Ironman.  Although I love a lot of the girls I race against- because they are amazing people I admire so much- having a former XTERRA age group World Champ win this Ironman makes me very happy.  I am so happy for her and I am so glad she got to experience the wonderful vibe and support my country brought on the day.  So my sincerest, biggest, proudest congratulations to you Danielle on such a great race!

Third place was another Canadian -Jen Annett- who posted the fastest run.  XTERRA girls and Canadian girls are tougher than a $3 steak so the race conditions were no match for us.  Thank you to the rest of the field for making my first Ironman such a hard effort because I wanted nothing less than my best on the day and that is exactly what I gave thanks to you guys.  What a day.

Thank you Whistler for welcoming us, taking care of us and inspiring us.  Through terrible weather there were volunteers and fans everywhere, from Whistler to Pemberton.  I actually had tears welling up coming in off the bike because there were SO MANY PEOPLE!!!!!  It was overwhelming.   Thank you thank you!  I never would have expected an Ironman to create career moments but there are many from Sunday.  Whistler, you rock.  Also thank you to Ironman Canada and WTC for this event.  I appreciated so much the opportunity to race in my home country and seeing the familiar faces from Ironman in Victoria and Whistler helped me calm my nerves.  Thanks a lot guys.


Absolute destruction

So here is my day:

 “What you feel doesn’t matter in the end; it’s what you do that makes you brave.” – good old Andre again.

The weather was not good for anyone- there are no magical powers that make you good in cold weather it is just 100% acceptance of the situation and immediate problem solving to make the most of it.  Well, and maybe some experience slogging through it (the Canucks and Brits are good at this).  I was just determined to have the best possible first Ironman I could-no matter what the conditions.  I told myself: “No one gives a crap whether you are cold, sore or tired (I was all of the above).  What are you going to do about it?  Make this count.”

I was worried about how much to wear because I am so terrible riding no hands on my time trial bike so what went on was going to end up staying on for the duration of the bike.  I knew it was going to be chilly and cold so I chose long finger gloves, arm warmers and a vest.  The vest was key.  Make no mistake, when it is less than 15 degrees Celsius you better keep your core warm or you are going to burn a bunch of calories you can’t replace. 

So with my outfit planned out I went and swam my first straight 3800m swim.  In hindsight, I need to swim more super long swims.  I stuck on the feet of Karen Thibodeau and Laurel Wassner until we passed buoy number 4 and then I think maybe the lead changed between those two and the feet I was on disappeared.  So I dangled and wondered do I punch it to stay in their group or do I cool it and get dropped.  How much does swimming cost in an Ironman???  So I tried harder for maybe 50m and then I gave up the chase because they really were too fast for me.  I plowed alone in the water all by myself (well other than some REALLY fast AG athlete who passed me at about 2100 m) until the last 100m when a couple of age group men, Liz Lyles and Cait Snow ran by me into transition.  Dangit.

So then we are on the bikes and since it is only a 5’ gap to age groupers I am seeing more Agers already.  Liz had blasted out of T1 without putting many clothes on so I didn’t catch her again until about 15km down the road.  I tried to make a joke when I caught up and went by but she was not happy about the weather.  She is tiny and she needed a parka and a toque.  I was told to cruise it up Callaghan and not go hard so I didn’t.  I did not realize there was a $1000 prime to the top (I think this was good in hindsight).   I had Laurel in my sights but she wasn’t coming back super quickly.  I just stuck to a heart rate and minded my own business.  I think she was planning on the prime because once she won it the gap evaporated and I passed her on the second switchback down the hill.  Then I was in the lead.  Woohoo!

bike riding IMC


Thank you to Eon D’Ornellas, 4x Olympian and 2x Canadian road race champion for changing my tire for me before the race and offering excellent pre-race cycling advice.   He said to take it very easy on all of the technical bits and I took that advice.  This meant any skills I had were waste because I took absolutely zero risks all day and rode my brakes like a Cat 5.  I was very, very slow on every corner which I am sure didn’t help pad my lead.  I don’t regret that though… I did NOT want to run my first marathon with road rash.

I just kept plowing away in 10cm deep puddles for 180kms all by myself and man, it took forever.   No one was setting any records…. We couldn’t go fast even when it was flat because the flat had a massive headwind.   Not a soul was around so I was singing songs to myself (thanks Beth for the advice!) and smiled to stay positive.  I was passed by a few Agers up to Callaghan but passed up to three or more of them by the Meadows (not sure if they were AG or pro men).  I struggled in the Meadows section.  My hip was hurting from some kind of weird cramp, I was all tense and freezing and I couldn’t hold aero position – so I was standing up a lot.  That was a terrible, terrible section for me.  I also saw the rest of my competition all riding together (legally!) and they really weren’t that far.   Cait Snow was riding by herself, all smiles as usual.  On the run she was cheering for me…haha.  She is such a freaking star.  I would not want to go to an Ironman just to finish for points especially after just kicking ass and winning in France so high five Cait – you are so damn tough.  Thank you for the encouragement out there.  Can’t wait to cheer for you in Kona!

I live in Victoria and have ridden so many rides in my career in equally crappy weather with Houshang Amiri’s group.  I just kept going back to that.  “You can live through this, you’ve done this a million times, if it is hurting you it’s hurting everyone.”  That is the benefit of being tough in the winter… you are ready for any race.

When I rode into Whistler the crowds were incredible.  They were calling my name and freaking out.  I almost started to cry.  It was effin crazy.  So I was so stoked to get out there and run when I came off the bike (I was stuck leaning forward for about 15 steps- yikes) I tore into the change tent.  Then I couldn’t get my armwarmers off but got the gloves and vest off ( with helpers), changed my socks, put on a race belt, put on my Fuelbelt and was off running.  My transition was not fast.  I saw Christine Fletcher come ripping out of the portaloo… almost missing her lead biker duty! Hilarious. 

Then my Fuelbelt fell off and a yardsale of random sports nutrition was everywhere.  So I started running around collecting it all and a volunteer tried to spiral pass one of the flasks to me… which I of course missed.  I ran around the corner and the belt fell off again.  Picked it up and put it on again … nope, down again.  The belt I have used a million times in training refused to Velcro shut in this race.  WTF.  So I salvaged two gels and a flask at a feedzone and carried on without the rest of my stuff (salt pills, extra gel etc) and tried to carry the flask.  Which I dropped two more times in the first kilometer.  When the race comes down to about 120 seconds you start to remember these things in crystal clear detail.. haha!


hold belt

Race belt snafu plus hair tie destruction.  Even my hair elastics weren’t up to the task.

Then I got to running.  Unfortunately, I chose to run based on heart rate rather than on pace.  Dumb dumb dumb.  Now I know you should run on heart rate or pace- choosing whichever is not fantasy. Everyone warned me… including MBK, Brent, Beth Gerdes and Kelly Williamson…..  I think the words were “Don’t go out TOO HARD!!!” by all of them.  So running 6km at 4:00/km pace (2:48 marathon) and another 8 km at about 3:01 pace was stupid, stupid, stupid because the back half of that marathon was at a glacial pace.  Back to reality….  My dream marathon was 3:10 so 4:31/km pace.  Going out like a rocket came back and bit me so hard in the back half.  Lesson learned.  Plus no one told me Garmin’s don’t last through an IM.  You need more than one!  Lesson #2.  Danielle caught me somewhere around 4 kms to go and she was just gone.  Game over.


Hugging it out post race 🙂

The freaking gong show of people at Whistler cheering at the finish was amazing.  OMG that was the most fun ever in my life.  You guys are so cool… some that I remember hearing (I am so sorry I don’t remember everyone) were Care, Jasper, Mike, Lala, Elladee?, MC, Lisa, Clint, Sara, and Alison.  So great to have a big hug from Jazz at the finish.   I heard Clint a lot out there and I appreciate it so much buddy!  Especially the calming words after I was run over by the tv scooter..haha!  I know there are a million more of you guys but I was kind of in a hypoglycemia induced coma for probably 15kms of that marathon so I was foggy on what happened for a lot of the day but there were people from my mountain bike career, XTERRA people, Victoria folks, Vancouver people.. it was crazy.  Thank you guys so much… I tried SO HARD!!  That feels so good today.. thanks for helping me get that out of myself.

chalk IMC

You guys are soooo awesome!

So thank you to my yoda, Kelly Guest of Livefit coaching, for helping me transform into someone who can actually almost win a race that includes a run marathon.  I can’t wait to try again.  I want to crush a marathon so bad.  Thank you for all the elite juniors I train with that help me attempt to ignore my age:  Hanna, Elspeth, Holly, Hamish, Megan, Abby, and Lydia.  Thanks to Clint Lien’s group for letting me drop in and hang out with some athletes who are my own age and thank you to the Thetis Lake Friday morning swim club for constantly crushing me every Friday.  You guys are amazing.  Thank you to Houshang Amiri for letting me train with his U23 cycling stars in the winter.  Here’s hoping I can keep up for a while longer!  Thank you to my regular run training partners Danelle Kabush, Kelly, Nick, Mike, Buttons, Care, Marilyn, Trent, Hilary and Elspeth.   Extra thank you for Danelle.  You are the best- not just as a training partner but also for the mindset!  Look her up for mental training because she will make you unstoppable .

Thank you to my sponsors who believe in me and see that I can race at the highest level at this point in my career.  Easily, I am as fit if not even fitter than I have ever been in my life.  Trek Bikes is amazing – what a privilege to be on this team.  Thanks to Bontrager for the amazing wheels and shoes.  Thank you to Shimano for pedals and shifting that were bombproof on the worst of days.  Thanks to Rudy Project for the amazing helmets and glasses.  Thanks Blueseventy wetsuits for allowing me to swim solo and lose 3 ish minutes to fast swimmers in my first Ironman.  Thanks Powertap for helping me train on the bike with proper objective data.  Thanks Champion System for the cool clothes with my own designs.  Thank you Frontrunners Victoria and Asics for figuring out my footwear to transform into a runner.  Thank you Procity Racing for heckling me and keeping me grounded throughout my long career… oh and race tuning my machines to perfection.  Thanks USANA for keeping me healthy and Sci Con Bags for keeping my bike healthy during travel, thanks Saltstick and Powerbar for providing nutrition.

 Summer holidays then Challenge Penticton August 30. Right now I am so sore.  Thanks for reading.

how to perform a burpee

Functional triathlon training program

Functional triathlon training program

I am a big advocate of incorporating a functional triathlon training program, particularly for athletes older than 30.  The following workout is one I use to keep core muscles and the smaller muscles in the hips strong, while using plyometrics to build greater strength and power.  This workout has prehabilitation exercises which are beneficial for supporting muscles that are usually neglected in triathlon movement.  Here is an article adapted from one I wrote on functional training for Triathlon Magazine Canada you might enjoy.  If you need help setting up a program contact me:

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Winning my first Ironman 70.3 Event at Lake Stevens!!

I won an Ironman 70.3 triathlon event for the first time!

This past weekend I put together a great swim, a solid ride and a steady run to take first place in a field of past World Champions and all around badasses at my fifth half Ironman start ever.  It was a pretty awesome and incredible day.  The 70.3 at Vineman in Sonoma had been exciting as I came off the bike first but to have first place all the way to the finish line was WAY WAY better!!  Yes!  My goals this year were lofty, admittedly and after a day I was not satisfied with in Sonoma I wasn’t sure I was going to achieve my “Win a 70.3 Event” goal this year… but I did.  Phew!  I held off Tyler Stewart, Samantha Warriner, Samantha McGlone and Amanda Stevens on Sunday and wow, look at that firepower.  Good day for me in a huge field of talented athletes that also included famous athletes Joanna Zeiger and Linsey Corbin (Joanna’s race report is hilarious!).

All photos have been stolen from Amanda’s Facebook until I can get some from the race 😉 Time was 4:27 as we started 4 mins back…

I had a pretty crap week before the race after I managed to earn a black eye crashing into someone open water swimming, my car battery ran dead on the ferry to Anacortes on my way to the race on Friday (when I was at the front of the car line, of course) and I managed to slam my thumb in the car door as I spazzed out trying to get my battery jumped.  Friday the 13th lived up to its name.  The race was held in Lake Stevens, a lake just outside of Everett, Washington not far across the border from where I live.  The weekend was shaping up to be a hot one with temperatures up to 36 degrees Celsius which is pretty much unheard of for the Pacific Northwest.

Saturday was the turning point.  Samantha McGlone and I chose to turn it into a BFF weekend as roomies.  I joked that I was planning to bird-dog her EVERY move given she is 2006 Ironman 70.3 World Champion right down to her toothpaste… overkill maybe?  Haha!   Anyway, as soon as I got to the race site everything became much more fun.

So when o-dark-thirty arrived Sunday morning, we were up and on our way. We both independently packed the same breakfast for the race – Justin’s Nut Butter, only hers was in oatmeal and mine was on toast.  She was responsible for me arriving at the start line on time which was likely the reason I finally had a good swim.  So leaving earlier is on the menu for the future, thank you Sam!!

A quick spin on the bike, a tiny little run to check my brand new AVIA Bolt 2s were tied to the optimal tightness with my new Nathan elastic laces and a short warmup in my Profile-Design mako speedsuit (a non-wetsuit swim for pros not age groupers) and we were ready to go.  The water was 72.2 degrees, clear, smooth and had a yellow lane line from the rowers buoys underwater for us to follow.  INcredibly awesome swim conditions.  Amanda Stevens went off like she was shot out of a cannon so I held onto Joanna Zeiger (2007 Ironman 70.3 Champion) for awhile and then I was on my own until Sam Warriner and I became Siamese twins attached at the hip for the rest of the swim.  We ran over a few of the guys which was fun and then I decided just for fun to get out of the water before Sam to see if I could.  Swim done and done… third out of the water and onto the bike with my cool new Specialized shoes and helmet and my pink lens Raptor Sundog glasses.

Out with Sam Warriner….

My Specialized Transition time trial bike and I are becoming better friends.  We like hills together.  We still fight a little in the flat sections because Transition says ride a bigger gear with a lower cadence and you will go faster but I seem to hammer like a maniac, blow up my legs, slightly recover then do it all over again.. not so smooth in the flat sections… which means I am not as fast as I could/should/would like to be.  I need work on that before I take a trip to any flatter races.  I also find I ride away from all the Ironman girls on the hills only to lose some time in the flats which is frustrating but reflects the fact I am a mountain bike climber from Victoria.  I guess I am a product of my home terrain!

Go ahead slowtwitchers… bag on my position 😉

So on the bike I quickly reeled in Joanna but at one point had Sam Warriner ride up beside me.  The drafting rules say that if you are overtaken you need to drop back 10 bike lengths before reattempting the pass.  I was not in any way shape or form going to be passed on a hill.  If I was going too slow, fair enough.  So I stomped it and my Shimano C75s responded… I assaulted the hill, lost Sam and caught two more people.  One of whom I thought was Amanda.  So when “Amanda” then repassed me on the flat section I thought, whoa, she is rocking!  And tried to keep her on a legal tether.. without success.  That was until I caught the real Amanda and spent the rest of the bike wondering, was that another girl, or not?

Why Amanda had this shot of my derriere I dunno?  But this is what I tried to make sure was the only view for my competitors on the bike…

The second lap was difficult to really go fast on.  I encountered three occasions where I had to brake or run into the back of a car.  That is lame, especially when it was abundantly clear it was someones girlfriend following the race in that car.  I also had an incident where a wonderful little age group triathlete was rocking in her race and riding well.  Because the roads were narrow there is a significant amount of drafting in the age group race.  So I caught and passed her only to have her slipstream back beside me after a downhill.  I was afraid she was going to earn me a drafting penalty because she was riding my wheel past the field.  So at one point I was frustrated and told her to stop cheating which was really mean, and I apologize but sweetheart, you are a great cyclist and you might as well play by the pro rules right from the start because you have real potential.  When you are passed, DROP BACK 10 BIKE LENGTHS!!  Don’t jump on.

Before the race I toyed with idea of just killing the bike to try to get the fastest bike split just for that and was completely reined in by the coach.  He said I was to ride “regular”.  So unless you train with me I cannot give you the scientific heart rate and power zone of what regular is in frenchspeak.. haha!  Needless to say it isn’t kill yourself for the bike split.  So when I got off the bike and headed out onto the run I had the lead cyclist with me which indicated I did come off the bike first and was leading the race.  No one had come in before I left so I knew I was still somewhat ahead.  I have been working with a new coach for five weeks so I was excited to see what our hard work over a very short period of time could earn.  Jacky Evereardt owns and coaches fast french boys in Europe Franky Batelier and Olivier Marceau so he is my new not secret weapon.  He is turning me into a warrior.

So after about a mile the cyclist asked if I wanted splits and I said NO.  I had a solid plan from Jacky which did include eating a lot of GU but did not include adjusting my race strategy for that of the others if they started faster than me.  I knew I would see the girls on the out and back giant hill section.  So on the first lap I calculated under 2 minutes to Sam Warriner and maybe another 30s or so to Tyler Stewart followed by a large gap.  I told myself okay… you DEFINITELY have a top three.  See how long you can cling to your lead cyclist!

Melanie McQuaid runs to the victory at Ironman Lake Stevens

Running to my first Ironman 70.3 win

Go steady!!

The second lap I felt pretty much the same as the first… steady eddy.  I honestly didn’t have some kind of magic legs day.  I actually complained to Jacky later that my legs were tired on the bike and maybe I did too much the week before the race so it isn’t like I peaked to my best ever day… I just pulled out every last ounce of anything I had in there to get the job done.  When I did the second lap turnaround on the run and no one was right behind me I knew I had won.  I saw Tyler Stewart had overtaken Sam Warriner (who apparently came within 25 seconds of me… good thing I did not get splits!) but was still about as far as Sam had been on the first lap.  When I got to the top of the big hill to roll down the last mile and a half to the finish I go the split from the bike:  52 seconds.  Game over.  I had a smile, I was excited and my legs were sore but they were going to get me where I needed to be.  In the finish chute I did a quick check that no one was close and enjoyed some high fives and cheers a the finish line to savour my first winning run across the Ironman finish line as long as possible.  I only needed a second after all… but I didn’t want any kind of sprint so I got my ass across that line.  Then, phew, DONE!!

Ouch.  Yay!

Contrary to Triathlete magazine’s report indicating the entire women’s field was slow in half marathon times:  the race is NEVER flat on that whole course with two significant and long climbs in the race.  So I ran a 1:25.51 and sure that isn’t the fastest out there but take 5 minutes for gnarly hills for sure.  I was within two minutes of the fastest run split which is an Ironman best for me (helps Rinny wasn’t there).  Tyler Stewart had a very impressive race to put together her second place performance and Sam Warriner, who almost caught me, surrendered to third.  Roomie Samantha McGlone put her patented run to work to run herself into fourth in front of super swimmer Amanda Stevens in fifth.  Joe Gambles won the race for the second year in a row in the men’s race in front of Paul Ambrose, Luke Bell, James Cotter and Luke McKenzie.  Also a big congrats to MelRad Racing teammate Tim Holland for taking 2nd in his age group and a spot to Clearwater.  Congratulations all round.

Women’s podium minus Sam who got lost on our way back from the fabulous Central Market… oops!

New kit… looks good huh!  Thanks @bettydesigns!  Sundogeyewear hides black eye….

MOST IMPORTANT:  after the race our BFF weekend hit high gear.  We joined Amanda Balding and Luke McKenzie for a gourmet feast and winefest at Purple Wine Bar in Seattle.  What I love about sport is it introduces to me the kinds of people I want to meet but might never get the chance because they are from farflung regions of the planet.  Amanda is a girl after my own heart:  loves cooking, good wine and wow she has great sophistication in all of the above.  Luke is an absolute sweetheart and was wonderful company for the three ladies that evening.  And Sammy, well come on, she is a riot.  Her and I are what’s known as guy/girls.  So is Amanda.  So full makeup, fancy dress, sky high heels were on the menu for the evening even though we had just spent the afternoon in the trenches sweating our butts off.  Sam and I glammed it up at the Pan Pacific, spent the morning in the shops wandering downtown Seattle and managed to watch some fish get tossed about at Pike Place market before it was time to go.  I jetted north on I-5 while she jetted East through SEA-Tac.  It’s funny, she said that a study on happiness says you should always do weekend getaways because you look forward to it, enjoy it and enjoy getting home more than you would a longer trip.  It’s true.  By 2pm on Monday I was thinking:  I wanna get the drive over with without traffic, I can’t wait to get a hug for my win from RT and I wonder how my watermelons are doing??  Big hugs to Sam who is definitely on the right track for Hawaii both in mindset and in training plan.  She is a smart girl and I really admire her.  I wasn’t kidding when I said I was watching her every move this weekend.  If I want to step up the distance I have a LONG way to go!

Thank you to all my supporters, especially those who understand my new plan for the XTERRA tour and 100% supported my half Ironman ambitions.  Thanks to AVIA, Nathan, Specialized, Shimano, Sundog Eyewear, Profile-Design, GU Sports, Maxxis, Zerod, CycleOps Power, USANA, ESI Grips, Justin’s Nut Butter, Squirt Lube, and Genuine Innovations.  There is more to come!

Oh and this is for you Amanda and Thomas…. my kindred cooking and gardening lovers.  A photo of Mel’s herb garden and my first officially healthy young watermelon.  🙂


Just a tiny snippet of Mel’s farm this year..

That is officially a growing mini watermelon….


I heart Vancouver Island.

Thai Lettuce Wraps – A Recipe To Help Athletes Maintain Iron Status

Thai Lettuce Wraps- a tasty meal that helps athletes maintain iron status

bison meat can help maintain iron status

This recipe for Thai lettuce wraps is one of my favorite for preparing red meat, which is a great source of heme iron.  This recipe is easy to prepare,  tastes great and has very healthy ingredients.
Female athletes often struggle to maintain their iron status.  Iron stores are affected by a complicated balance of diet, iron absorption, training load, sleep and blood loss due to menstruation.  Doctors use ferritin levels to determine iron status; ferritin is a protein that stores iron.  If ferritin levels are low then the reserves are low and must be addressed.

High training loads or high intensity training blocks can deplete iron stores in some females, and what may be considered fatigue could actually be progressing anemia.  Regular blood tests to check for deficiencies prevent this.   If you have been feeling tired, lethargic or depressed it might be anemia so it is prudent to have your blood tested.

Many athletes can manage their iron stores with a good diet- eating lean red meat and leafy green vegetables is a good start.  The following recipe for Thai Bison Lettuce Wraps is easy, quick and delicious and bison is a lean source of iron-rich protein.

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