Xterra Season Kicks Off in Temecula

Well, my first triathlon of the season is now in the history books and I am now flying back home to do some bike racing before I head out east.  Unfortunately, race #1 did NOT go as planned, but it was good enough to bag second place. I am going home a little disappointed only because I felt that my form was much better than my performance. I think I miscalculated some training and ended up pretty flat on the day of the race. My run absolutely sucked, there is no other way to describe it, and I didn’t ride much better. This was a bummer for me but great for Jamie Whitmore and great for Candy Angle, who nearly caught me by the end of the race.  The result was still pretty good, no matter how much I hate to lose, but the race was well below expectations. There was one positive aspect to this race and that was, thanks to Neil Harvey and the Pacificsport National Triathlon Center, my swim! I screwed up the start, swam alone for much of the first 400 meters, dropped back to a group and still ended up coming out of the water with the lead women fresh as a daisy.  Normally with that kind of open water tactic I would have lost a lot more time so my swim fitness is good.  I had a lot of fun, as usual, down in Southern California, so read on for the details of our trip…

Ross came along with me to San Diego since it was Birthday Week. Having him fly south with me on my birthday was nice since there is nothing really great about traveling and when the travel day coincides with your birthday it is much better not doing it alone. Monica and Kevin (my girlfriend from UVic and her hubby) were our hosts down in Solana Beach and our week was full of nice dinners, competitive card games and surfing.  I am also so stoked to have friends like Ashley and Jackie Burt, who arranged an incredibly beautiful gerbera daisy bouquet for me on my arrival (see photos in the gallery!)   Of course, there was a race in amongst all the birthday week fun and we tried to stay focused on the purpose of our trip.

Thursday morning we drove out to Temecula to ride the race course, which took us about an hour and fifteen minutes with the crap Mapquest directions. It was hot and dusty and the bike course was smoking fast. Ross was dragging me around for the first lap since my legs felt like poo and then the second lap, when he melted down in the heat, I returned the favor. It took us forever to get through two laps since we were adjusting brakes, seats, bars and changing a catastrophic flat. Note to self:  ride Maxxis UST tires on all courses where you crack 50 km/h.  Two and a half hours later we rolled in and I headed out to run the big loop of the run. 43 minutes later, parched and crushed, I got back to the car where my awesome boyfriend had washed and cleaned the bikes and packed the car so all I had to do was hop in while we jetted back to Solana Beach. I was absolutely blown and after some South Park looked forward to an easy Friday.

Friday morning we hit some San Diego shops and I met Nicole Newton for a swim session where she was crushing me with her broken toe. This Ironman stuff is making that girl fast. Unfortunately, broken toes are no good for running in triathlons so her race was a duathlon with a finish-regardless-of-pain run. Very inspiring. Anyways, that evening, Ross went for a surf session at Pipes with Monica and Kevin and claims to have rode a big wave to the beach which I was not a witness of but will humor him anyways. All I saw was a lot of floating on large surfboards and chatting about 100m out from shore.

Saturday was the clinic day so we went back out to Vail Lake to do another lap of the course and some swimming.  The preride went fairly average as well, but I didn’t think anything of it because I have had many races where things come around when it matters.  Brent McMahon, Candy and Andy Angle were my co-professors at Xterra University and we had a great group of Xterra competitors looking for tips on how to race Xterra Temecula faster.  In amongst the pupils was the Tri Geek Kahuna, of www.trigeekdreams.com fame, who was planning to participate in his first Xterra.  Unfortunately, things went a bit sideways for Kahuna on his preride and we wish him a speedy recovery and advise the use of Arnica cream to bring down the noggin swelling Cry.  I did a quick swim in my new Aquaman Metal Cell wetsuit with Brent and Jim Vance and then packed it in to head home for the day.  I did an ice bath when I got home to try and get the legs to come around and organized equipment for the morning.  After a Nature’s Path pasta feast and some fiercely competitive card playing it was off to bed to dream about happy legs and fast racing.

We were super early for the race in the morning so I had plenty of options for transition spot.  I checked my tire pressure in my Maxxis Crossmark UST tires ( great choice for the weekend), put the Saucony Type A’s in position with my Aquaman race belt and run Gu packet.  I went for a quick spin on the Orbea Alma rocketship and all systems were a go.  Put my Shimano shoes at the front of my transition space with my Limar helmet on top with my Mad Man Sundog glasses inside.  With some quick pre-race advise for Tom Evans (Canadian Ironman champ and overall badass) who is so badass he didn’t bother to preride the bike course and counted on a woman’s directions to get him through it.  I warned him about the one ninety degree blind corner, which I should have warned Kahuna about, and told him other than that you need to pedal more and brake less. I headed down to warm up for the swim and did a full 300 meters which is like, 300m more than I ever bother with in Xterra races, and then hung out with fast people like Tom and Brent on the shore.

After a great rendition of the US national anthem the gun went off and it was GO TIME.  I was instantly going to be dropped by Tom so I got on Andy’s feet and followed him for about 150m until I thought he was going in a bad direction and I doubled back to the pack.  Should have stayed with Andy, he was fast, I was not.  Anyways, I was in a little group with a couple of pink cap chicks so I figured I would kick back for awhile since the water was rough and I was not used to sighting and didn’t want to waste energy figuring out where the heck we were going (I couldn’t see a thing!).  When I got out with Candy and Jeanae I was happy with that.  I put my shoes on at the shore and ran to my bike to go out of transition with Candy.   I rode by Candy, Jeanae and Beth on the first climb, which is a world record for Mel taking the lead in an Xterra so I was stoked with that.

Out on the bike, I tried to spin and keep the pressure on myself but pushing the gears I needed was causing major lactic distress.  I went okay on the first lap but when we came around into the second lap into the headwind I was bogging down terribly.  I knew I wasn’t going well but I just focused on drinking enough Gu2O, staying in the moment, and doing my best.

When we went into the run Jamie was only about 30 seconds back, which did not surprise me at all since I knew I had not been riding well.  I went into the run and focused on my run plan.  I knew I had to take quick steps and control my breathing to run well on that very hilly course, so that is what I did. My legs were not cooperating at all and my turnover was too slow, my steps too small, and my breathing too hard for the crazy shuffle I was doing.  Don’t get me wrong, the course in Temecula was very hard this year and pretty much everyone suffered on that run.  The problem was I didn’t feel like I had anything more than “Get this thing done” kind of speed which is not racing; it is surviving. I haven’t had a run like that since Czech Republic last year, which was a complete meltdown disaster for me.  So, knowing there was Jamie going past me and girls coming to get me, I just pushed myself to finish with whatever I had and save what I could of the day.  Luckily Candy ran out of real estate to catch me and I got across the line 40 seconds in front of her and over two minutes behind Jamie.  My worst loss in a LONG time, yikes!  Jenny Smith rocked the bike and had a career best fourth place as did Janae Deverell in fifth (both from Crested Butte where they have NO pool right now and the coldest winter ever so who knows how they came out with such great finishes for this first race of the year!).

So the good thing is I have some disappointment to fuel me through the next few races… and motivation is a strong training advantage!  I am off to do some cycling races, which should help sharpen my form going into the next few races.  Although this race did not go as planned, I have no doubt that this year will hold some great performances.  Part of my excitement about this year is the lineup of coaching and sponsor partners, which are second to none.  I train out of Victoria, BC with Houshang Amiri of the Pacificsport National Cycling Center and Neil Harvey, Joel Filliol, Craig Taylor and Patrick Kelly of the Pacificsport National Triathlon Center.  Cliff English, who is head coach at the US training center, is key for my running (which is much better than evidenced by this weekend Laughing).  My sponsor partners include Saucony US, my longest triathlon sponsor, Nature’s Path (new this season), Orbea Bicycles, Sundog Eyewear, Shimano USA, Maxxis Tires, Profile USA, Titec, Fox Racing Shox, Aquaman Wetsuits, Limar Helmets, Fizik Saddles, GU Sports, Speedo Canada, CycleOps/Powertap, Computrainer, Powercranks, Precor, Hypoxico, Pedros and Rider’s Cycles.

Congratulations Brent…first Xterra win for McMahon, lets look for a Canadian sweep this season! Solid Canadian men’s performances, 1st was Brent, 5th was Tom Evans, and Mike Vine was sixth with a wrecked ribs and spleen from a major crash a few weeks back and Danelle Kabush was 7th in the women’s.

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