Q&A with Jill-of-All-Tris, Melanie McQuaid
We had the chance to ask pro-triathlete (and proud Canadian) Melanie McQuaid a few questions as she prepares to take on the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in her home country this Sunday.
You've had an incredible season...and it's not even finished yet! So far, what's been the highlight of your 2014?
I think two 70.3 wins, both wire to wire, is definitely the highlight. But winning in Boise with Brent McMahon also winning was maybe even one better since we had an all Canadian podium.
You're no stranger to World Championships. How does a seasoned pro like yourself do to prepare for appearances at both the IM 70.3 World Championships and the XTERRA World Championships?
I made a much different plan for myself this season than in the past, so only after the events will I know if it is a good way to prepare. I am planning to remove an event that I normally do in between Ironman 70.3 Worlds and XTERRA Worlds to give myself more time to prepare for Maui. I am hoping that extra training block will allow me first, more time to recover from the 70.3 Worlds and second, to load enough training to feel good in Maui riding my mountain bike.
I am a self-coached athlete so although I have the plan right now, only after Mont Tremblant will I know where my fitness is at and how I am feeling. It's at that point I will decide what needs work. I do think I am having a better season mostly because I have done a lot of strength work to stay injury free and can run more. I will be really focused on my run going into Tremblant and Maui.
Speaking of Maui, do you have any goals heading into your 8th World Championship appearance?
Honestly, my plan is just to have fun in Maui and race my best. This year I have become much more of a complete triathlete, so I believe I will be competitive, but I don't know how that will stack up to the girls who race XTERRA from ITU. The event in Maui has no technical challenge so it doesn't really favor mountain bikers at all - it just comes down to who can climb the fastest in the heat, so that will be what I prepare for specifically during the break between events and then let the race unfold! Now that I race exclusively on the road, I wonder if I can be now categorized in the "roadie" group rather than the mountain bikers (she says with a laugh).
Do you have any sage advice for off-road athletes who are looking to get into road triathlons and vice-versa?
The biggest difference is the position, so starting with a good bike fit is key.
When I was a mountain bike racer I could set my mountain bike up by feel. I would just adjust the seat height and fore/aft, ride around, and know whether it was right. I tried this on the time trial bike when I started and wow, not effective. In the last three years I have felt the best since I went to Trek, as the Speed Concept has fit me the best, and I have had the pleasure of working with Paraic McGlynn at Cyclologic in Scottsdale and Nestor Rodriguez in Carlsbad for proper bike fits.
As mountain bikers, XTERRA athletes want to sit further back for climbing and I think this is the opposite position to really hammering in the flats and downhills so a lot of riding in aero position is required to have your body adapt to that posture riding. I still find that my skills on the bike favor a course with some hills in it, since that has been the focus of my training for so long.
Roadie, 70.3 athletes need to mainly learn to ride in the dirt and make sure they are comfortable climbing. The XTERRA series is not technical at all, but if gravel seems sketchy, you'll want to spend some time getting used to making turns in the dirt.
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
Play the guitar. I wish I could be that person that sits around the fire singing to my friends at a campsite. However, I should learn to sing as well if that were my plan, so luckily I can't play the guitar — or I would invite howling dogs and coyotes with my terrible voice.
Melanie McQuaid is the first person to have won the XTERRA Triathlon World Championships three times and was the inaugural winner of the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship in Spain April of 2011. Recently, she has switched her focus to Ironman racing in order to challenge herself in a new discipline of non-drafting triathlon. Since turning her focus to the road she has earned three Ironman 70.3 victories and 10+ podiums in long distance triathlon. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and racergirl.com.