2014 Ironman 70.3 Ballarat, Australia

I flew from 11 hours from Maui to Honolulu to Auckland, laid over 7 hours, then flew 8 hours to Perth on November the 1st -hoping to start my Australian campaign at the Aussie Championship in Mandurah.  Unfortunately, that much time in the germ tube and airports meant that by my second day in Australia I went down for the count.  Five full days of illness and inactivity followed, which meant I missed the event altogether.  I was devastated.  I think I was the worst homestay athlete ever given all I did was either sit on the couch or in bed all day.  My hosts Jamie, Nicky and Robin were gracious and did all they could for someone wracked with fever and crawly skin – they loaned me four seasons of Game of Thrones.  Now I am all up to date – bring on Season 5!  J

Needless to say, I was extraordinarily hungry to race in Ballarat the following weekend but honestly, my mental game needed a tuneup.  The leadup was not ideal - as my body was still a bit sick and I was feeling quite flat- so I didn’t have the workouts I normally use to fuel some confidence.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  However, I got the mental kick in the pants on race morning when I was faced with the possibility of NOT RACING AT ALL.  I can honestly say that if an opportunity is taken away from you, you will suddenly discover just how bad you wanted that opportunity and what you would do if you had it back again.  This was an excellent prerace gift, to lose and then regain the opportunity, and I am sure it was why I was as strong as I was on the day.  I think the old adage is racing is 90% mental and the other half physical? 

Winning!  All race photos are by Delly Carr.

The swim was held in Lake Wendouree, an Olympic rowing venue from days gone by that has become home to numerous beautiful black swans.  Ironically, I described the race as a “black swan event” the day before.  A black swan event is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. 

Swans!  Black ones!

Day before - ready to rock

There was a terrible storm rolling through Ballarat the night before, complete with frightening thunder and lightning. I don’t know if it was the fact my bike endured a lightning storm the night before or not but when I got to the bike in the morning I discovered the bike did not work.  Black swan event –it was an absolute freak occurrence.

01 im703 ballarat start gun

Rifle shot start to the race.  Thanks to the soldiers for the race support.

So as I stood fretting about the possibility of flying all the way to Australia to have no opportunity to race, the brilliant Matt of Cyclescape Trek Store Ballarat worked his way through the problem. Having the opportunity presented back to me was invaluable.  Suddenly I was going to make the most of every single minute.  When the soldier shot the gun to start the race I was completely immersed in the process of racing.  I got a bit confused on the swim course (it was not complicated but some wind chop made the teeny buoys hard to see) but I still managed to lead Maddie out of the water for my third Blueseventy swim victory of the season.  In transition, I took my sweet time putting a lot of clothes on, while Maddie roared out onto the bike course.  It was freezing.  It was also wet, which meant I took the first lap very slow as my crash the week before 70.3 worlds has turned me into a fraidy-cat in wet conditions.  I decided that lying on the ground is slower than taking a corner slowly.

The bike course went out along the Avenue of Honor, a stretch of road lined with trees planted for fallen WW1 and WW2 soldiers from the town of Ballarat.  The course also went through beautiful Victoria Park and Ballarat Botanical gardens, areas full of beautiful war memorials and art.  The run was on a tan track that circumnavigated the lake, dedicated to Olympic hero Steve Monghetti.  The town of Ballarat really appreciates heroes from all walks of life.  Having this race in November, shortly after Remembrance Day, was an excellent sobering reminder of the history of sacrifices that allow us to live our lives the way we choose today.

05 im703 ballarat ride

That isn’t me but you can see that some of the roads were skinny, slippery, one lane avenues to navigate on the bike.

It took me until about 15kms to find the front of the race on the bike.  It was very cold in the wind, both on the bike and on the run.  Despite putting socks on, for the first 6km of the run my feet were frozen and my legs were threatening to seize up and cramp.  Cold weather makes running fast difficult.  I was running at a good clip until I hit the freezing headwinds.  At that point I stopped looking at splits, ate another Powergel, and pumped my arms harder.  It wasn’t going to be my best ever splits on that day.  

I won the champagne celebration – managed to empty nearly the whole bottle on my fellow podium girls J

Running across the finish line was the best feeling in the whole world and the crowds were amazing. Congratulations to Madeleine Oldfield and Mareen Hufe for second and third on the day and to Jessica Mitchell and Kirsty Hallet for rounding out the top five  A pleasure to race with you all.

Ironman events are absolutely fantastic.  The races are always hard, competition and course inclusive, but the satisfaction of doing your best on the day is immeasurable.  I am so stoked to have the fastest swim, fastest bike and second fastest run on the day to a flying Jessica Mitchell.

Lean in! My run splits are improving thanks to Asics and Marilyn of Mindful Strides!

So that makes three half Ironman wins in one season.  I am looking forward to one more in two weeks before I come home to plan for 2015.  One thing is for sure, I just have to remember the feeling I had when I considered not being allowed to race on the day to know I would definitely rather give it everything I have, with what I have on the day, than not have the chance to try at all.

Thank you to Kelly Guest and his elite juniors for inviting me to train with you for the last push of my 2014 season.  I really think I have a lot of great form thanks to chasing these super fast kids around... and after chasing coach Kelly for a number of workouts as well.  Thank you so much for your help! 

Thanks to the Trek Store Cyclescape in Ballarat for saving my race for me.  Thanks to Chris at Monza Imports for loaning me Powertap wheels and a Cycleops trainer to use while I am here.  Thanks Trek Bikes and Trek Bikes Australia for making me part of the family.  Thanks Shimano, Bontrager, Champion System, Rudy Project North America, Powerbar, Powertap, Asics, Cobb Saddles, Frontrunners Westshore, Synergy Wellness, and USANA.  See you all in Sydney for IM 70.3 West Sydney!

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2014 XTERRA World Champs

This year at the XTERRA World Championship I took 8th place.  Top 10 at a World Championship is always good.  It is a respectable position and you earn money so some of the boxes get ticked from that effort.  Of course, I was aiming for much higher.  I think that with a few tweaks in execution I would have finished a bit higher as well but that is very often the case after a race- we learn how to be faster.

Flora Duffy, Barb Rivieros and Nicky Samuels were fantastic and they had outstanding races to sweep the podium.  However, training for and participating in the race was not only fun but very useful for me as I headed to Australia to put the cap on my season.  I also absolutely love being in Maui so I am grateful to get the time there each year.  If I ever quit racing I will still find some race to come and spend some time enjoying Maui.   I am addicted to this island.

There was a lot of rain before the race and this made the course an absolute mess for days.  As with any mountain bike event, there was endless tire talk and even rumors of the course being shortened.  In Hawaii, the dirt turns to slippery clay, and as it dries it gets really sticky.  Bike tires will cake with that clay like giant vegetation donuts and once the clearance between the tire and the frame is reached the tires stop rolling.  Hawaii does not have a good kind of mud.  Luckily, it stopped raining and by race day the course could not have been faster.  Much ado about nothing.

This is the short story of my race.  The swim swells were the largest I have experienced on this course. This is one of the big differences between this venue and the old race venue, the Makena venue was in a more protected bay with less exposure to swells so the swim was generally smoother. I had a great swim start and found myself in front of Charlotte McShane and felt that was a good place to be. I lost that group when I bungled my exit after the long loop looking back and waiting to get pounded by waves, so I ended up a few seconds down on the group into transition. I rode my way up through the group to fourth by the sixth mile with Katrin Muller hot on my heels. We rode together for the rest of the bike, with her exposing my weakness on the very steep climbs and me riding past on the flat sections.  Riding with her was a lot of fun as she is amazingly sportsmanlike and we moved out of each other’s way when we felt the other would be the better leader. Having not seen the course before the race, I let her ride all the fast descents on the second half of the course, and she let me lead all the twisting technical bits near the end. Up until I crashed at least. My strengths have changed significantly with my present time trialing focus.


By the time the bike was finished I found myself in 8th place. I went out onto the run behind Katrin and caught her on the first climb. I thought I would run myself into 7th but that ITU speedster McShane tracked me down on the sand in the closing meters and sprinted past to leave me 18 seconds back (I am not much of a sand sprinter) in 8th again. It wasn’t my most impressive day but it also was a strong day.  I was racing a very strong field and after multiple years of complete blowouts since 2011 I am happy to have been racing at the front.   I was strong across all three disciplines but not my fastest at any of them. It was a great reminder about how much speed and power is in XTERRA racing and it was so much fun to duke it out even if I wasn’t competing for the topmost rung. 

Please enjoy the little video I made of my time in Maui:


So now I am in Australia. I managed to get a very nasty chest infection off the plane and unfortunately missed the first race I planned in Perth. So now I am on the mend, in Melbourne, planning to race the second event, the Ballerat 70.3. Wish me luck! Thanks to the amazing partners I have. Thank you to Trek Factory Racing, Bontrager, Shimano, Powerbar, Rudy Project NA, Powertap, Blueseventy, Champion System, Frontrunners Westshore, Procity Racing, USANA and Synergy Wellness. Lets find a few more podiums before we put the lid on 2014.

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Coach Mel: 60 Minute Workout - Four Minute Hills

This session was originally posted online with Triathlon Magazine Canada September 16, 2014 at http://triathlonmagazine.ca/racing/profiles/sixty-minute-bike-workout-mels-max-hill-reps/

2013 Utah champs

 With the XTERRAWorld Championships coming up for some of us, this week’s 60 minute training session focuses on working your maximum climbing power.  You can do it on the trainer or use a short hill that allows you to climb for a minimum of four minutes at maximum effort.  Your heart rate should reach over 90 per cent of your maximum by the end so don’t be afraid to really go for it.


Warmup (10 minutes):

Start with a 10 minute warmup slowly increasing cadence as you ride.  In the last five minutes increase cadence by  five rpm per minute up to the maximum cadence you can hold (aim for 130 rpm or more) in a relatively easy gear or low wattage:  something like 39 x 17 or 100 watts on the Powerbeam.


Final warm up preparation (10 minutes):

You can do these accelerations uphill or use the trainer to increase watts.  For a continuous 10 minutes, complete 15 second accelerations uphill or at high watts on the trainer, recovering for 1:45 after each.  Repeat five times.


Main Set (28 minutes):

The workout is a simple 4 x 4 minutes set with 3 minutes of recovery after every interval.  Push the hardest gear you can maintain at 80-90 rpm.

Don’t let your cadence drop below 80 rpm and try to keep at least the same gear or harder for each successive effort. If you’re on the trainer, hold your best average watts and be sure the last set is not lower than the first. You may want to start a bit conservative then blow the doors off the last one.   If you’re using a powermeter, these are meant to be above threshold efforts.


Finish (12 minutes):

Warm down is 12 minutes.  Ride the first five minutes at 120 rpm in a very easy gear to spin the legs out then easy warm down as you choose.

Visualize crushing the steep, stair-step climbs on the Maui course if you are preparing for Xterra.  The steep sections of the climbs on that course are between two and four minutes long before it flattens out slightly, so finding your max four minute efforts will be useful for that race.

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2014 Lake Stevens 70.3 - An Evolution

I have written a blow by blow account of the race for Triathlon Magazine Canada and you can read it HERE. This race report is more about what has been different behind the scenes to create this race.  If you don’t feel like reading my other report and just want to know what happened the guts of it is that I put myself in a strong position to win the race with the fastest swim and bike, but finished it off with a strong run as well.  Liz Lyles, a very strong pro and a fabulous runner, was only able gain just over two minutes on me in the run which is easily my strongest run of the year.  It was a good day.

The background is that the race fell after a really successful block of three weeks where I really pushed my limits in training.  I had a solid week to recover to the race but I am excited to see what happens when that block really starts to settle in.  I have a lot of people to thank (well besides MC for putting up with like 95 hours of training in three weeks- I was a barrel of monkeys worth of fun I bet- love you baby! xx) and I would like to talk about some of them below.

First is in the swim.  I have had a banner year of swim development which is only right now starting to really show in my races.  I love the Blueseventy Helix which is why I asked to be a part of Blueseventy’s program, but I have also really benefitted from medium-small sizing.  Changing to a smaller wetsuit has been very, very good for my wetsuit swims.  I did have one swim where I wasn’t allowed in a swimskin and I believe my Champion System elite trisuit rocked it.  These suits are a great choice if you are planning ITU rules events or Canadian races that may not allow any swimskins.  

I have had a group of athletes in Victoria to swim with who are very dedicated.  The most frequent training group I swim with is Clint Lien's- my training partners are Steven Kilshaw, James Cook, Sara Gross, Kate Button, sometimes Karen Thibodeau and in open water- Brent McMahon and Danelle Kabush.  In and outside of the swims I do with them, I have periodized the swim training I am doing overall in order to swim more, and then swim more quality.  Sometimes it just isn’t enough to mindlessly follow what the masters or even a triathlon swim squad is doing.  You have to be sure it fits in with what you are doing around the swimming – it doesn’t occur in a vacuum.  Each session, even a swim session, matters.  I think I have been much better at recognizing that and I am sure I am swimming better because of it.  So that is why my swims in races are getting better and I managed to be first out of the water twice.  Not all of them are great, but some of my bad swims were followed by an average race as well, so it can be a canary in a coal mine.

Second, my riding is improving because of a commitment to programming philosophy from the Pacific Cycling Center.  Houshang Amiri is a brilliant coach who has taught me a lot of things but the one thing you really can’t teach is patience.  Sometimes I would push too much intensity, too soon, when I wasn’t seeing the immediate benefit of aerobic endurance training.  Houshang is the master of creating aerobic monsters.  Svein Tuft is probably Houshang’s most famous athlete but I can honestly say that working with Houshang has made me better as an athlete and a coach.  I am self coached for triathlon but really, self coached athletes need to be smart about who they learn from in order to be good self-coachers.  You may want to consult www.pacificcyclingcenter.ca to see if any of his camps or programs work for you.  A winter of training with Houshang’s group followed by a block of incorporating his work into my program late season has been very effective for me.

Riding as part of the Trek Factory team is an inspiring and motivating experience.  I am lucky to ride the fastest machine outfitted with amazing Bontrager wheels with Powertap hubs, full Shimano Di2 components, the most aero helmet from Rudy Project and the latest and greatest saddles from Cobb Cycling.  I am very privileged in this regard and it makes me very proud to be a fast cyclist who has the equipment to be even faster. I am lucky to have a Trek Concept Store in Victoria. The Trek Procity Store is full of amazing and dynamic personalities and I love those guys/gals to bits. Thanks very much for being a part of my support team for many many years. I have five races with the fastest bike split so far this year.. and I am not finished yet.  I love being a fast rider but you can’t rely on your bike split to win the race.

Third and most important aspect of my racing to improve was my running.  In order to run faster I first had to start practicing my nutrition with my Powerbar products on the run.  This has made a difference.  Then I asked my friend Marilyn to show me HOW to run as a participant in her www.mindfulstrides.com course.  Huge benefit!  With a bit of technical ability, I just put my head down and ran a lot, lot more.  That is where Frontrunners Westshore comes in, helping me choose footwear that will keep me healthy and injury free.  With more running, I was leaning on Synergy Wellness where I meet Jamie Grimes for weekly chiropractic tuneups and I visit Markus Blumensaat at Leftcoast Health for regular massage and stretching sessions.  Without these two guys and Marilyn my hip would still be that of a 90 year old.  Thank you to all of you!  My last shoutout goes to Geoff McLaughlan, who has sadly (for me) moved to McGill to pursue his doctorate in math.  He was my solid as a rock run training partner all summer and he will be missed by me and the swim squad for sure while he is gone!

So I am hoping at this point I have learned some things that are going to help further my development because I am planning to race first at a world class level in the ranks of 70.3 for the remainder of this season and then hopefully make the leap to full Ironman in early 2015.  It is time but it certainly is not too late.  Jo Pavey is very inspirational to me – she didn’t win any major championship event in running despite a long, long career which started when she was a junior.  Recently, at 41 years of age, she won the Commonwealth Games 5km and then the Euro Champs in the 10km.  Ladies, it ain’t over until you say it’s over.Plus I have USANA products to keep my skin and body young as a 20 year old! 


So on that note of delayed retirement for an as yet undetermined period of time, I am a happy auntie and leader of Ironkids events.  I had a lot of fun with all of YOUR children while in Lake Stevens so take a peek at this if you want to have a little giggle about how adorable your children are.


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