Rac­ing my First Xterra

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Front Page - By Me­lanie Mcquaid

Like­many other pro­fes­sional triath­letes, my triathlon ca­reer be­gan in an­other sport. I was a pro­fes­sional road and moun­tain bike cy­clist when I com­peted in my first Xterra. I used my cycling mo­tor to fuel the other two sports. My in­spi­ra­tion to make that tran­si­tion in 2001 came from an event in Whistler, B.C.

It is no won­der I fell in love with triathlon. Whistler is ar­guably one of the best venues for an in­tro­duc­tion to the sport. I was in Whistler in Septem­ber 2000 to train for the up­com­ing road World Cham­pi­onships af­ter I was cho­sen to com­pete with the na­tional team. My plan was to do a marathon moun­tain bike event as part of my last train­ing build to the World Cham­pi­onships in France. When I dis­cov­ered the Xterra event there, I de­cided to try it. I had no idea how much that choice would im­pact my ath­letic ca­reer.

Many ath­letes that I raced with on the World Cup moun­tain bike cir­cuit were fa­mil­iar with Xterra. In fact, the Xterra race di­rec­tor also or­ga­nized the World Cup moun­tain bike fi­nals and a mul­ti­day moun­tain bike race in Hawaii that many of us had en­tered. Pro ath­letes like Ned Ov­erend, Shari Kain and Les­ley Tom­lin­son were mak­ing a splash in the Xterra ranks be­fore I tried the sport. In the early days of Xterra, hav­ing good moun­tain bike skills was a strong weapon at Worlds against road triath­letes, as ev­i­denced by Ned Ov­erend and Shari Kain’s World Cham­pi­onship ti­tles.

Al­though I was a pro cy­clist at the time I first tried Xterra, I wasn’t a com­plete novice in swim­ming and run­ning. I had been on the swim team for a few years in high school and had tried to make it as a cross coun­try run­ner in univer­sity be­fore get­ting in­jured and tak­ing up cycling. I had some tools for suc­cess in mul­ti­sport but I hadn’t used them in some time. How­ever, by no means did I have an ex­cel­lent first race. My at­ten­tion to de­tail was lack­ing and, as a re­sult, some ma­jor er­rors in prepa­ra­tion and ex­e­cu­tion made for some race day hi­lar­ity.

My first ever open wa­ter swim was the day of the race. Since I did no open wa­ter swim­ming to pre­pare for the event, I was com­pletely un­aware that one would re­quire a wet­suit. With no swim train­ing for the race at all, and none in the open wa­ter, not only was I not re­ally fit for 1,500 me­tres of swim­ming I also was at a dis­tinct dis­ad­van­tage hav­ing no buoy­ancy or pro­tec­tion in the very cold Lost Lake wa­ters of Septem­ber.

Once on the bike though, I was back in fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory. I had raced on the trails in Whistler for nu­mer­ous high level moun­tain bike events. This was my op­por­tu­nity to shine and I went for it. It felt in­cred­i­ble to be time tri­alling on the bike. Un­like in moun­tain bike rac­ing, you are sep­a­rated from your com­peti­tors, but still get the op­por­tu­nity to mea­sure your progress as you move through the field.

I had con­sid­er­ably more skill in the tech­ni­cal north­west sin­gle track than my com­peti­tors. I tran­si­tioned off the bike in that race with a healthy lead on se­cond place. Part of my min­i­mal race prepa­ra­tion was rid­ing the run course the day be­fore. Miss­ing from my prepa­ra­tion was the knowl­edge that the loop I had seen was but one of two re­quired. Imagine my dis­may when I was pointed di­rectly back up­hill af­ter my first lap num­ber one know­ing that I had noth­ing left in the tank. My lead quickly dis­ap­peared on the se­cond lap num­ber when three com­peti­tors, one af­ter an­other, ran past me be­fore the fin­ish.

Re­gard­less of the out­come, the en­tire race ex­pe­ri­ence was in­spir­ing and fin­ish­ing on the podium was a mas­sive bonus. The prize money for fourth place was $600. Given my per­spec­tive on prize win­nings at the time, com­ing from women’s cycling, you would think I had won a for­tune I was so ex­cited. Triathlon was beck­on­ing as the ex­cite­ment, my ap­par­ent po­ten­tial in the sport and the fi­nan­cial re­ward were point­ing me in a new di­rec­tion. Af­ter crash­ing in the first 800 m at the road Worlds in France that year, I booked a flight to Maui for the Xterra World Cham­pi­onship to see if my se­cond World Cham­pi­onship race that sea­son would be more suc­cess­ful. Ul­ti­mately I took se­cond place in Maui and de­cided that triathlon was go­ing to be my fu­ture.

Pro ath­letes get their start in a va­ri­ety of ways. Some play hockey first, some swim and oth­ers might seem to have no ath­letic his­tory at all. But they all share pas­sion, a be­lief in them­selves and a strong work ethic. I am grate­ful that I dis­cov­ered Xterra in Whistler 13 years ago. It opened the door to a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as a pro­fes­sional ath­lete. The sport has led me to amaz­ing friends, taught me pow­er­ful lessons and pro­vided en­rich­ing ex­pe­ri­ences I’ll never for­get.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.