Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Penticton ITU Worlds Duathlon

If you are reading this blog right now I probably don't need to tell you the result of my race. If you follow me on social media you will already know. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, so far, and I was excited to share it with my friends and followers that have shown me so much support on this journey to Penticton ITU Worlds Duathlon.

I was quite open about this race because I felt like to put it out there made me more accountable. But I also hoped to inspire people that watched me on this journey to know that setbacks happen but they are simply that: setbacks. They don’t need to define us.

I was determined to get to the World’s startline. I wanted that startline so bad - for me, but also for my husband; because I knew my setback had indirectly become his setback. We had signed up for this together. We were in it together.

How did desire transpire into success? Well, I stopped running cold turkey for 3.5 months and I focused on what I could control - improving my bike fitness. At the slight chance I was going to be able to make it there, I knew I was going to be relying on my bike more than ever. And I knew running when I should not run was only going to make my chances of getting there slimmer. So, for the first time in my ENTIRE life (yes I’ll admit that) I was patient.

When I was finally back running I was still smart about it. If I was running and my pain came back, I walked home. It didn’t matter if that walk was 3km. I walked! If I woke up sore from my run the day before I took another day off. Or I opted for a bike workout instead. Mentally, this was SO hard somedays. Because, like you, I doubt myself. I question whether I’ve done the work. I feel like missing one workout is going to make me a failure. But it doesn’t. In fact, listening to what you know is best for yourself, whatever that might be, is the smartest thing you can do for yourself. And you know what else I did on those days off? I imagined throwing my hands up in the air through that ribbon. Because even though the thought of winning a world championship seemed SO absurd, imagining it made me want it. And wanting it made me push through those workouts I may have quit before. It made me appreciate my legs SO MUCH when I got them back and respect them when they would work for me.

Flash forward to the week leading up to Worlds. I was a nervous wreck! What had I gotten myself into? That calm cool Mel - I couldn’t find her anywhere. What if I had forgotten how to run? What if I flat? What if I let everyone down? What if..what if...what if?! Sound familiar?

I opened up to a few very level headed people that I knew would ground me. And I’m going to call them out because I think knowing when someone has an impact on others is a good thing. Sarah Penny - Yes, I know I just need to say her name and everyone will know what I’m talking about. Thank you! My sister Christine - thank you for believing in me always. My stepdaughter Kailyn - she thinks I can do anything and told me so the day before we dropped her off and drove to Penticton. And of course my husband Reinier (even if I don’t listen to you somedays I do hear you).

Race Day
So, what happened on race day when I finally got to that start line? Well, that gun went off and confident Mel was back. Two Canadian girls ran off the front right out the gate. I knew the one name and that she is capable of a 36 min 10k. I wasn’t sure if she was going to flex that during a duathlon but I wasn’t worried if she did - just keep her in sight and be patient. At the 5k mark when I realized I’d probably PB’d my 5k, I was sitting tied for 3rd place with a lady from Great Britain. I was feeling great. Unfortunately, this feeling of bliss did not last much longer. By km 7.5 I cramped - both sides of my ribcage were in complete agony. I felt my pace slowing and was overtaken by a USA athlete. Great Britain pulls up beside me and encourages me to keep going. She told me to listen to the crowd. They were cheering for ME. It made me realize, I was not running for me. I was running for them. And I could suffer for them for another 2k. If I could just make it to my bike I could recover there. Amazingly, my pace picked up and I was able to hang with her for the remaining 2k of that portion of the race and PB'd my 10k.

I won’t even talk about my transition because, well, it’s not worth talking about. I have not put enough (or any) focus there and have learned that lesson the hard way. But, once I was securely fastened to my bike, I was off. I used the first few kms to get my breathing in check, assess the situation - who was ahead of me, how far ahead were they? And when I was ready I put my head down and I went for it. I felt so comfortable on the bike. I caught all but one girl within a few minutes and just kept pushing. These girls were faster runners than me and I knew I needed to put as much time into them on the bike as I possibly could. I averaged over 4 watts/kg on that time trial and felt so at ease. I knew the bike was my only ticket to a podium.

Sharon Styles was there (best cheerleader EVER) and told me I was second girl and first in my age. Hearing this gave me enough motivation to drain myself on the bike and hope for the best on the run. My logic here was, how much time can they really gain on me in 5k even if I feel like death?

Transition II was almost as shameful as the first. Once running, I made a mental decision not to look at my watch because my last run in a duathlon is usually quite pitiful. “Just run” I kept telling myself out loud. “Just run”. My upload tells me I ran a sub 20 min 5k and even though many girls ran it faster than me, it was enough to hold off the remainder of the pack.

I can’t really describe what running through that crowd screaming at me with excitement felt like. It was such a surreal experience to run for the satisfaction and pride of others versus myself. Someone handed me a flag and told me to bring it home. As I rounded the corner and saw that finish line I instantly began to cry. I had done it. I had really done it! And just like that, I did!

The amount of support I got following the race brought those tears back many times. The number of people in the running and cycling community that took the time to send Ren and I personal messages about our races was incredible.

Ren finished a respectable 7th overall in his age group. I was so proud of him and would never want to do this without him. On his very last lap when I was done and got to cheer him on, he yelled at me, “How did you do?” I yelled back, “SECOND!!!!” and he pumped his fists in the air and kept running. The stranger beside me says, “I don’t think he’s running hard enough!” It made me chuckle because I know my husband and I know that whenever I have success, it inspires him more. Strava tells us he ran a 3:39 last km.

And so, this chapter is closed. Or is it? It has kind of left me wanting to do it all over again…

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fitness Test: Check! & Race Recap

I learned a few lessons before the start line: tri-suits are really difficult to get in and out of. With pre-race nerves at full force getting in and out of that suit happened more than I'd like to admit. Start delayed 30 mins (as per Reinier interpreting there were horses on the course?) which meant sitting out in the heat just a little longer, but also gave me time for one final bathroom break. Sometimes what we don't expect to be a blessing in disguise turns out to be. Also, 91% humidity will cause you to sweat profusely even while standing in one place.

I knew very little about what was going to happen that day. I have been running for just a month and know that as a duathlete my bike is stronger than my run compared to the competition. My plan was to rely on the bike which meant pacing the first run correctly was the most important part of that race for me. I decided, once again, to run on feel. Be honest with myself when the pace felt too fast or too slow and adjust accordingly. Ren also suggested taking his coaches advice and dousing in water every aid station there was. So I did. I took a sip and dumped the rest on my head at every 1k aid station. One turned out to be gatorade so I was a tad sticky for the rest of the day. Oops! I finished the first run 1st girl and 17th overall, with a 3:59 per km average pace. I felt amazing and couldn't wait to jump on my bike. Nerves settled with that first run done and I actually found myself getting emotional when I realized just how strong my run had gone. Could I possibly win the Duathlon National title? Woah woah woah...don't get ahead of yourself Mel , I reminded myself (I talk to myself when I race). The race isn't even half over...

The bike course was exactly 20km long, which we were required to do twice. In just 40km we climbed over 500 metres of elevation. Ren always reminds me that even though I stress about how much hills are going to hurt, they hurt me a little less than most. Use this to my advantage. So I did. The course was a little chaotic with both Olympic distance and Long Distance triathletes riding the same course. I made sure to check the legs of every male I passed looking for the "DO" marker ("Duathlon Olympic") because for every one I caught meant my husband had caught them also. I lost track of how many I had passed, especially as the course got more congested, and guestimated Ren to finish around 3rd place.

The last run is more mental than physical. My legs were happy to move at a pace anywhere from 3:50 to 4:20 in that last run and I just let it happen. But my mind started to falter. I had to remind myself that it was just 20 minutes of my life. Suck it up! I did have the benefit of being able to pull back if necessary because I knew I was in the lead and it was unlikely that I was going to get caught in the last 5k. I was nearly sent the wrong way on the course, however, which caused the last 2k of the race to really weigh on me. Apparently language barriers mid race DO matter, because I had no idea what the volunteer was telling me and went on gut versus her signalling, and thankfully so! When I saw my husband at the finish line with open arms and a smile, I knew I had come in the right way. The other direction was for the Duathlon Sprint...thank GOD I went on instinct. Average pace: 4:09. Good enough!

I finished at 2:15 which was good enough for first female and 7th overall. Learning that my husband took 2nd for the men was a pretty surreal moment. We could share this victory together!

And so, using this race as a fitness tester for Worlds has left me more confident in my ability there. My run came back strong which I completely attribute to the bike fitness carryover and the mental strength I had built up during those 3.5 months off envisioning taking the National title. If you don't believe you can do it, your body won't believe you can either.

World's will clearly be a different ballgame. My goal there is to podium in my age-group (of course) but I also recognize that is likely everyone else's goal also. All I can control is what I do that day and congratulate those who may do it better. On any given day, there is always someone faster than you out there. It just depends if they show up that day or not. So, we celebrate the victories we get, and humbly accept the ones we do not. It makes the ones we DO get so much more victorious!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Worlds Duathlon and More!

This year started out exciting! I had a new focus for my training with World’s Duathlon on the horizon, my new business was thriving, and my husband and I were planning trips and adventures. It was going to be yet another great year! And then just like that, SMACK! I ran into our counter top. I know, not what you were expecting. But let me tell you how one stupid silly incident completely turned my world upside down.

This run-in with the counter (no pun intended) accelerated a pre-existing issue in my hip. The sudden impact exposed this issue putting me out of commission for 3.5 months. That’s a LOT of time to miss for training. At first I was optimistic. No injury lasts THAT long. But low and behold, this one did. The only two things that kept me from wallowing in self pity were 1) my husband was still going, and I was not going to ruin this for him and 2) I have athletes that need me to be strong for them and that I need to be an example for. So to my husband and my runners, thank you for pulling me through.

As they say, “this too shall pass”. And it did. Overnight. I accompanied my husband on a work trip to Seattle and finally gave myself some time to breathe. He went to work, I attempted a run…no pain. I expected to wake up in agony the next day but I didn’t. I attempted another run a day later and PB’d my 2 mile. This was all I needed to mentally get back in the game. I had “lost” my legs for 3.5 months, but they were back and they were running and they were ready to go!

I recognized quickly that I had a lot of work to do for my goals. With Nationals Duathlon, at the time, just over a month away (now less than a week, EEEK!!!) I made a plan. I would get myself there, but smartly. If I felt any pain at all I would pull back. I would listen to my body, more than ever, and take it a day at a time.

So here I am, a month later, running and feeling strong. In that time I have gotten back on my bike and even won a road race.
My husband one day hesitantly said, “Maybe you’ll look back on your injury as a blessing in disguise?” (Yes, he ducked as he said that ;) But you know what, you never know! Mentally I struggle to stay in the game month after month after month of intense physical training. But with my 3.5 month hiatus I am so raring to go it will be really hard to stop me.

So, what’s next? Well, Nationals is this weekend in Magog, Quebec. It will be a training race for Worlds and a fitness check. And a great excuse for my husband and I to explore Montreal while we are there. And then, WORLDS! Let’s talk about Worlds…

I am pretty excited to be going to Worlds in August, which happens to be on Canadian soil. I am honoured to have this opportunity to represent Canada as part of the Canadian age-group team and to be able to share this experience with my supportive husband. Knowing I will be lining up with fellow Duathletes from around the world wearing our country’s colors is pretty exciting to me. I am not a professional athlete, so for me this is truly the next best thing. I get to take four things I love and put them all into one day: my husband, our beautiful country, and running and cycling. I CANNOT WAIT to lace up my runners and run and cycle my heart out for those who are truly rooting for me to succeed. I’m running for you, for me, and for those who can’t! I know just how lucky I am to have two legs that allow me the freedom to do the things that bring me so much joy in life, especially after losing them for 3.5 months. In the grand scheme of things, that is nothing.

And so, 2017, we have had some hiccups along the way. But now as I sit back I realize just how lucky I have been. I am starting a new job in just a week’s time as a part-time accounting manager to free up some time for my own training and my own business. I am healthy, the people I love are healthy. And my legs are back!

My husband’s advice to me on the bike has often been to power over the crest of the hills and coast down. And so, I’ve taken that advice literally on the bike and it works for me. But I think it’s going to be my 2017 mantra for everything I do: keep powering through when things feel tough, even when you’re uncertain about just how much father you’re going to have to keep pushing. When you finally get to “coast” and enjoy your hard work it makes it all worth it!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Looking Forward

Some of you know the story, some of you won’t, about how I met my husband. And I think it’s very fitting that our first real encounter revolved around a running race and a running bet (I lost, btw). Since that day, just over four years ago, my world has been turned upside down. A lot has happened in those four years, some really great things and some really sad things. But each year since that day I met my husband I ask myself, “how can I possibly top this one?” That’s a pretty good problem to have.

2016 can be summed up like this: AWESOME! I had a lot of success in my running and cycling and both sports combined. My husband and I qualified to represent the Canadian team at the 2017 ITU Multisport World Championships in the duathlon event, which will be taking place in August 2017. This is as close to “pro” as I’ll ever get so I’m going to relish every minute of it!
My husband and I at the finish of Great White North Duathlon
after qualifying for World's (his "good luck socks" worked!)
We also made the decision to try and expand our family. Even though we have had no success yet, I truly feel it will happen when it’s meant to happen. And my favourite part about 2016 was I started my own running coaching business that has been successful right out the gate. I cannot even describe in words how fulfilling it has been! I have learned, because of my husband’s encouragement, how much I can accomplish. And this is my sole purpose in coaching - to give back to my athletes what I have been given: someone to believe in them and help them achieve their personal best! To push them to become stronger physically and mentally and wake up feeling like they can handle whatever is thrown at them.

I also learned a lot from being coached myself this year, not just in training but on a life-level. I used to look at some of the workouts my coach would give me and go, “there’s no way.” But I took away two very important lessons from it all: to be happy with what you DO achieve and to accept when someone sees something in you that you may not see yourself. Take things “1 interval at a time” and try to stop worrying about the next challenge. Before you know it, that workout that used to seem hard or that moment in life you never thought you’d get through will be a distant memory. You will get through it and you will come out stronger in the end.

And so 2017 has a lot to live up to. What are on the plans? A half marathon, a marathon, World’s Duathlon (ya baby!), and growing my coaching business. I don’t usually make new year’s resolutions but mine was simply this: get more sleep. I’d also like to learn how to be less sensitive. But that is a work in progress. Further, I want to put my energy into some new and some old friendships I’ve developed. A few really stand out as also supporting me in my endeavours this year. They know who they are!

We also plan to keep trying for a baby, but are putting it on hold now until the duathlon is done. I want to go all-in and represent Canada well. And I want my life to go on if a baby isn’t meant to be for me. It’s easy to get caught up in what we don’t have going right versus all the good things we do.

So, 2017, bring it! I know there will be ups and downs but if we can finish each year wondering how we are going to top it, I think we can call it a success.  

Thursday, October 6, 2016

You Can't Buy the Finish Line

read an article the other day that stated an ugly scary stat: 35% of Albertans do not make enough money to cover their monthly debt. I recognize that a large chunk of this likely has to do with the number of jobs lost in our province. But it also comes down to desire to always have more NOW, even if it's not within our reach just yet. Sadly, credit cards allow us to do this. I'd be a fraud if I said I didn't have a single loan. But what does it teach us? It teaches us to not work for things. Act now, pay for our actions later. To expect everything to just come to us. It stretches to every part of our lives: relationships take work, succeeding at work takes work, running a personal best takes work. While the world promotes immediate satisfaction, the reality is, things that matter generally are not something you can buy now pay later. But they are the things that give life satisfaction and depth.

As with most things, I instantly related this stat to running. I could never buy a personal best and it would be pretty worthless to me. A friend once told me, "the reward IS the race. The hard work is done!" And what great advice that was. I want the reward! Like so many things in life, the reward is proving to ourselves that all of our hard work was worth it! 

I've recently been training alongside my husband for a 10k. I have never targeted a 10k race before. I've done them in training for half marathons but with little pressure other than a good hard workout. This weekend I'll be racing the BMO Okanagan 10k and I'm pretty excited about it. It's actually my least favourite distance. It's short enough to push hard (threshold). But it's long enough to really blow yourself up. It's long enough to doubt the finish line, and it's a zone that for me simply hurts right out the gate. These past two months have been a lot of speed workouts, some ending with fear of what I need to do on race day (how can I do this pace for 10k if 1k hurts?!!) and some ending with confidence. But if every workout ended knowing I was going to crush my goal, would it give me the motivation to keep going out there on my lunch hours, or after work when I'm tired and my stomach is acting up? No! Training for this race and all before it has taught me the more you work for something, the greater the desire and the greater the satisfaction when you do actually achieve it.

Our goals need to be realistic or we just set ourselves up for failure. But our goals also need to be a big enough stretch that we need to work for them. My husband told me recently that he thinks I play my races too safe. I set a target and come within seconds of it each time. It's normal to fail at times but if we are constantly achieving our goals maybe our goals aren't lofty enough? I think, as with many things in life, fear holds us back and can sometimes keep us from achieving our greatest potential. 

So, what have I done with this? Well after I told him he was wrong (of course) I thought about it and realized he was right (I'm never going to hear the end of this). I train hard, yes. I race hard, yes. But I play it safe! I go in with a goal and I pace to that goal. I don't run on heart and mind and feeling. I do what my garmin tells me to do. Slow down, you're two seconds over your goal pace. Speed up, you're two seconds behind. I've ran this past month on heart and feeling. I rarely look at my paces. And I really hope to carry this through to race day on Sunday. To be honest, I don't feel pressure about Sunday. I have NEVER been able to say that about a race before.

I don't know what I will do out there, but I can promise you this: whatever the result is I know I have worked my ass off for it. And I will celebrate that race day reward far more than anything I've bought on my credit card. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Race Season Recap - What I Learned

It's July 13 and my race season has officially been over for three days. It was fun having a focus other than running for a change. There were times I missed it as I watched my running PBs I worked so hard at from last year become nothing more than a foggy memory, a dream even, maybe? But my still achy foot reminds me, every so often, of the effort I put into obtaining those PBs and it's enough to make me remember that yes that was me and, even still, is me. 

If someone were to ask me who I was last year I would have said, "runner, wife, accountant, step mom, and doggy mama". Now I can happily add cyclist to that list of "who I am" confidently! I am a cyclist! 

What makes you define yourself as something? In my opinion, it's the things you love, the things you work hard at and find pride in. It's the things that require effort but give you a sense of achievement and pride. It's the things that make you excited about life! So being able to add to these definitions only makes life more and more exciting and gives you more options for finding joy in any given day. Don't restrict yourself to who you've been! Finding new definitions of you can enrich your life.

I dabbled in ABA racing last year. I had some success with it but still thought of it as my cross training for running. And it was. But with a forced break from running it allowed me to overcome my fear of swimming (no I'm still not a "swimmer") and discover xcountry skiing (I will be a skier) and become a cyclist! 

I had four goals for my race season. These goals may not make sense to all of you but they were: 1) increase my FTP by at least 5% (I ended up increasing it by 12.5%!!)  2) upgrade to cat three, 3) top three in a crit, and 4) defend my RMCC hill climb win from last year. I can happily say I obtained all four goals plus some I added along the way. But it did more than help me check off a list - it gave me confidence that, hey, I can set goals and I can achieve them! One of these, in particular, I'd like to speak to. 

My husband and I had decided in February to do the Axel Merckx Gran Fondo in Penticton that took place on July 10, 2016. My husband was going to race it and I thought I'd come for moral support and a good long bike ride (that's what gran fondo means after all) with one little goal - give it my all on the Summerland KOM hill. That is a little race within the fondo that essentially times every rider up this 8%+ climb. The fastest riders up the hill in each age block of ten years gets a prize - the coveted polka dot jersey that represents the king (or Queen) of the mountain. My main motivation: I've always liked polka dots...

I am a good climber. My power to weight ratio works in my favour for this very thing and I thought I had a chance at top three. Usually I don't have this kind of confidence. I was liking this. I brushed off this newfound confidence until during breakfast before the race I announce to five perfect strangers, at the B&B we were staying at, that I was going for the Summerland QOM. All of a sudden I realize what came out of my mouth, embarrassed, but kinda proud of myself for actually thinking I might be able to do it. Otherwise why would I announce to perfect strangers that I'd have to see later that day again that I was going for something I could fail at? 

In all reality, no one there would have cared. They were all there to put in a long ride and give them guilt free consciences for the okanagan wine they were going to consume post ride (part of my motivation also - who am I kidding)! I came up to that hill like a bat outa hell passing people on my left and right. I felt good about my effort and then had another 95km to ride until I'd know how I'd done.

Well I ended up second women overall by 0:01 and first in my age category. Since first place was a former Olympian I felt quite privileged to come in behind her! Results show that I was 9th person over the finish line for the velofondo and first girl. I rode my bike back to the hotel in my pretty polka dots and a smile from one end of okanagan lake to the other! 

We got invited to dinner that night with the fellow fondo-ers at our B&B and when they asked how it went I proudly told them I'd gotten the jersey! One lady's jaw almost dropped and she said, "OMG! When I heard you say that this morning I thought, oh you're so cute thinking you can get that jersey!" We all had a good laugh and it made me realize - if we don't believe in ourselves no one else will! If you work hard at something, you better believe in yourself doing what you set out to do because, quite frankly, no one else will until you prove it to them with a polka dot jersey, or whatever tangible thing you can present to them. No one else knows the hard work we put into the things we love and work towards. The reality of it is - I don't need this jersey to prove to myself that I am a cyclist. There were thousands of other cyclists out there with me on July 10th doing what they love and working hard at it. 

This season has seen many other successes. Even as a runner on sabbatical I was able to achieve a Guinness World Record with the help of 11 beautiful ladies. I finished first at the GWN Duathlon qualifying me for age-group worlds next year (along with my hubby - so proud!!!!) and many ABA successes. It's been an amazing couple of months but I am ready to focus on these other definitions of myself for a few months, maybe more. And even then, I will still be a cyclist, and a runner, and whatever else I want to become that is within my power! 

Life is short. Seek out things you love! Give them your all, and never fear unbecoming someone you have already proven to yourself that you are! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


I am a person with a big love of life. This doesn't mean that things always go my way. In fact, I'm sure as often as they do they don't. But recently I'd realized I'd lost my joy for the day-to-day. My workouts had become chores, making dinner another "job", and talking about my day with my husband and stepkids a burden. In fact, all the things that used to put me in my happy place were suddenly just extra things I had to do. What happened? How did it happen? 

I read a saying on the side of a lululemon bag once (I know - profound ;) that has resonated with me ever since: if you wake up two days in a row unhappy, change something. Sure, we can all have a bad day, but when it starts to become your norm, it's up to each of us to recognize this and make changes.

She probably has no idea how much her positive energy affected me when I met her. All the ladies on the Guinness team were fantastic and when I say they all inspired me for one reason or another that is wholeheartedly the truth. But one lady I got to know a little better and when messaging me the other day she said, "Life is Awesome!!!" It made me stop, evaluate, and question why I even had to stop. I have good health, I have an AMAZING and gorgeous husband, I have two pretty great stepkids, I love being active and busy, but I was not facing the reality: I was unhappy in one major area of my life. I responded with "It is pretty great!" but immediately missed that passion for life she has that I used to have. And knew it needed to change, now! (Thank you Debbie :) So, what was it? What was causing me to lose my passion for the day-to-day? The answer was simple: my job.

Changing a job is scary. Especially when you're well respected at your job and you make a good paycheque and you're used to your routine and so are your managers (ie: I have a hard run tonight so I'm checking out early...). Making a decision based on feeling rather than logic can be scary. But no matter what logic told me - good pay, great benefits, etc etc - the emotion had taken over and I'd lost my love of my day-to-day. I missed the feeling of being challenged and the feeling of being scared and excited about the next project at work. I missed thinking life is awesome ALL the time instead of just before and after work. I missed not dreading Monday's and living for Friday's. 

So, I've taken the leap. And it's a big one and one that has me getting more time for me but less pay as a result. It has me reworking my routine and being excited about it! I haven't even started and already tonight making dinner was fun and chatting with the kids about their day was fun! 

Someone at work expressed their sadness for me leaving today but then said, "I'm happy for you. Your light is back!" And that was the only thing I needed to hear to know I had made the right decision. I don't even talk to this lady much and even SHE could recognize my light had gotten a little dimmer than it used to be. I am so excited for this next opportunity and shining brighter than ever! Thank you to my husband for always supporting my decisions and always choosing happiness over money! 

The picture below is an exaggeration (sorta) as I left my job for the last time today! Excited much? Ah, the old me is still in there :)