This weekend Melanie McQuaid is defending her XTERRA Alabama title and after her recent win at XTERRA Italy looks good and ready to do so. Meet the Canadian Pro with a very amazing attitude.
Slowtwitch: Mel, thanks for talking to us.
Mel: Thanks for the invite! Hopefully we have some witty banter.
ST: So when were you home the last time?
Mel: Not sure, some time in May? Luckily I have good friends to water my garden for me.
ST: Didn’t peg you as the gardening type for some reason. Do you actually have a green thumb?
Mel: Yep. Must be the Dutch heritage. My mom's parents are both from Holland. My mom is an obsessive gardener as well.
ST: How much gear do you currently travel with?
Mel: A ridiculous amount. Bikes, shoes, swim stuff, triathlon junk. Then the rest of it centers on makeup and outfits. I am not sure the athletic benefit of those items but if Maxim suddenly schedules a photo shoot I am so ready for it.
ST: Is that Maxim shoot on the horizon?
Mel: No. But I do think there should be something like the CyclePassion calendar in triathlon. It is good to promote female athletes both as bloodthirsty killers and hot chicks. It is no secret that dudes like to look at totted up half naked women and women like to compare themselves to those women, either anatomically or through results. It is a winning formula to make one. Everyone wants to look. Plus bike stores are now increasingly becoming triathlon focused. The cycling chick calendars are really not cutting it anymore ;)
ST: Maybe after that nice win in Italy the calendar will happen. But were you happy with your performance?
Mel: Winning is good. I only had distant memories of last season but the race brought me right back to knowing how hard you have to go to win. The course in Italy was not very technical and a wetsuit swim, both of which tend to not favor me so I was very happy to have won there. That was the point of the trip, to keep trying races that are less favorable for me and more like Maui so hopefully that race was a harbinger of fast racing.
ST: The XTERRA guys were hinting that you went to Europe to repay Renata Bucher in kind for coming to the US and taking a race there. Truth or fiction?
Mel: Fiction. I was opting for Italy all season. In fact, with volcanoes and BA strikes my trip was in jeopardy for a little while. At the end, the worst of the travel was the fact my bags didn't arrive until after the race. I had no cute outfits but other than that I was pretty relaxed. Well, no, I was stressed for a lot of it but all of the stress stemmed from the fact I was in Italy with no cute outfits. I actually managed race logistics well without my stuff.
ST: You just raced the Bump N Grind MTB race and got your money’s worth in terms of a workout. Is that a fair statement?
Mel: Yes. 28 miles in Oak Mtn Park is a long and difficult race after travelling for two days back from Europe. Thank you so much to the BUMP crew for giving me 350 dollars more reason to harden my resolve and get through a tough day out there - that was a nice bonus on a training day. I could only keep control of the race for 35 minutes before I blew and Shonny rode away but knowing I could ride with her for at least part of the race is enough for me. She is riding really fast this year.
ST: Would you consider Shonny your toughest competitor right now?
Mel: Well I think Renata is equally strong right now, and both started the season a lot stronger than I have. They are both really great athletes who are going well right now so I have to pull my socks up to get some wins. The series races really favor strong cycling so riding well is key for those races. For Maui, I am looking towards the field that is coming later in the year and those girls will swim faster than me and run fast. I want to be ready for that and in the meantime, get my bike up to speed so that I can perform well right now.
ST: What is next for you?
Mel: A couple XTERRAs, BC Bike Race then the real focus to Maui. I am doing a lot more 70.3 races to be more well rounded and stronger in Hawaii. You don't win by riding fast, you win by running well after a hard bike ride. I hope to be ready for that. In the short term my season has played out a bit different but I think long term this season's set up will likely be a good plan.
ST: Is it a fair statement that XTERRA Maui is currently the holy grail for you?
Mel: Absolutely. It is the race with the strongest field and the one everyone thinks of when they remember last season. It is always more memorable for me to race well there than anywhere else.
ST: Tell us about your athletic background and how you stumbled into XTERRA racing.
Mel: I started with mountain bike racing. I was thinking to become a triathlete when I fell into cycling at the start of my career. I was offered many more opportunities in cycling as a beginning woman cyclist than triathlon had so it was easy to decide to be a cyclist. Then when I felt I needed a change, the XTERRA world beckoned first and I had a decent skill set to get started. Now I love the half distance stuff too. I am really enjoying the process of weakness reduction and the road triathlons are definitely addressing that.
ST: Please describe a typical hard training week for us.
Mel: I trained a lot of swim and run this year to try to reinvent myself. I swam 30-35km per week, ran about 5-7hours (mileage doesn't really matter because I ran mostly vertically) and biked only 8-13h. In the past I would ride 15-20h per week. I did a lot of weeks with more than 30h in them but less cycling than I ever have. I plan to pick my cycling up in July in prep for worlds. Last year I died in July/August from too much intensity and too much altitude. This year I hope to bring a better peak by having a mid season break, working harder on the bike later and only introducing speed work later in the season. I guess only results will tell. Right now I am not that impressed given the work I have done so I am hoping results of that work comes at some point this year. Haha!
ST: How are things going for you in terms of sponsorship?
Mel: I am pretty stoked to be a part of the AVIA and Specialized teams. There are a lot of killer athletes with whom I share company on both teams, most notably the legendary Conrad Stoltz. Conrad and I have a lot of fun on tour trying to entertain people at our race clinics and trying to be the least focused at post race festivities. I also am happy to be a Nathan athlete and I thank all three of these companies for supporting MelRAD (Mels Rad racing team), my development team. Shimano also is a big supporter as are Sundog eyewear, Maxxis, Profile Design, GU, Saris, Genuine Innovations, USANA, ESI Grips and Pactimo. At home I am well supported by Pro City Racing. They take care of my bikes and also heckle me nonstop so there is no chance an ego could ever form.
ST: What could they possibly heckle you about?
Mel: Umm... everything? Pro City is where every pro athlete hangs out and deals with bike things. So if we take the usual suspects that are there: Bill, Troy, Jasper, Mike and Simon W. Hmmm, lets see what has been on the list: unflattering pictures in the media, unflattering moments on television, soft performances internationally, soft performances locally, whether or not I can beat my boyfriend in a sprint, whether I could beat ANYONE in a sprint, the not enough number of minutes I beat Bill up Hurricane Ridge, how much my bike weighs compared to Jaspers, how much I weigh compared to Jasper, how old Austin was when I started racing, whether Mike would still beat me in an XTERRA even though he can't mountain bike in a dirt parking lot, same for Simon (although his skills have yet to be tested off-road), poor quality baking brought to the bike store (I am a much better chef than baker), bad quotes in the media that weren't really funny, etc you get the picture. Kind of like a whole bunch of annoying brothers picking fights that all hang out in the same place. Especially Bill and Simon and excluding Troy, Jasper and Mike. Bill is the biggest pain in my butt of all and I am sure all of the above are attributed to him. He's a meanie. All you guys, I love you xxoo
ST: Tell us more about MelRad.
Mel: MelRAd is my attempt to give back to a sport that has given me so much. I think long distance and XTERRA so often feed the pro field from the amateur field, so I think supporting developing and influential amateurs is a healthy way of promoting the sport. Not everyone in MelRad is going to be a successful pro, but all will promote and further the sport by their participation and maybe someone will become the next best pro. The main goal is to promote off-road racing. There are amazing athletes on the team, both the pro athletes are podium potential and many of our amateur athletes are nipping on pro heels. I think our team is the best in terms of participation and promotion, which is a very compelling combination for any sponsor. The MelRad program benefits from all of my sponsors as listed and also receive product from Justin's Nut Butter and Squirt Lube.
ST: Do you follow other sports?
Mel: I really like to watch running of all distances as I have a solid appreciation for how fast elite runners go but I don't really follow it. I enjoyed watching the Olympics in Vancouver but really don't have much understanding for any of the sports aside from XC skiing, which I have dabbled in. They are just fun to watch on TV and in person. Especially that last hockey game ;). Honestly I am not one to really watch that often... I really prefer to do stuff. Doing is more satisfying than watching.
ST: Can you share your food likes with us?
Mel: Love healthy, local veggies, fruits and meats. I love cooking. Come to my place when I am inspired some time. I also like to pair nice wine with meals.
ST: Do you cook much when you are on the road?
Mel: I assign myself all cooking duties when I am at home stays. I kind of assume the role of personal chef so that my hosts can come home from work, go do their workouts and not worry about dinner. I hope this inspires them to invite more random strangers into their homes for a week at a time. I mean, the home stay concept is kind of weird so the more people I can convince it is a good idea the better it is for those, like myself, who enjoy company more than a hotel room.
ST: What music do you like?
Mel: An eclectic mix of techno, alternative, house, rock, electro-jazz and pop. A swamp water of music genres. Excluding country and any country-esque crap.
ST: What was the last book you read?
Mel: Lolita, a classic Nabokov book about a pedophile that inspired some heated discussion about what is disgusting/understandable regarding love and relationships. I also read Never Eat Alone, a business networking book.
ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Mel: Hmmmm... maybe buying a hot car, dressing half my age and enjoying a solid midlife crisis with a boyfriend 15 years younger than me? Nah. Probably more likely to be behaving somewhat similar to right now. Saying yes to almost everything and enjoying the ride.
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Mel: I believe pedicures are instrumental in terms of recovery. I think that nothing can't be solved if you have fresh vegetables and a glass of outstanding red wine. I have a bet with my friend Paul that I can grow a watermelon in Victoria (where the weather is uncooperative) with a $200 bottle of red wine on the line. I also know that although I am sure I am right a lot of the time, a lot of the time I am not right.