The espresso machine is on. The latte is made. Two pieces of toast. One with peanut butter and banana, the other with butter and jam. Mel's breakfast is almost identical except she always does both with peanut butter and banana. That day I have Mel's amazing home-made fruit bread/cake, a promite sandwich and some GU gels tucked in my back pocket. It is my first long ride with the Wynnum Cycling Club and I am nervous. They know how to go hard and fast in short sprints. I know how to TT. They are not the same. They assure me that someone will wait if I am dropped. Melissa leads the pack sprinting off the front, tucking in smartly when she needs to. I'm dropped and they wait. That day, like every long ride Mel and I did together, was a tremendous downpour. The Wynnum guys smartly head indoors for a coffee. Mel and I head back out into the rain. We still have 100kms of the 180kms to do. No excuses here. It rains in races too. Get over it.
For breakfast is a 100km ride with a 20 km effort up Mt. Nebo, followed by a 15-18% slightly terrifying curvy descent, a TT effort, ride up Mt. Coot-tha and back home. After the ride I come down to the smell of Melissa making french toast with bananas simmering in butter. This is consumed while she types madly on the computer - sponsor duties, race preparation, email inquiries. Lunch is an easy 45 minute run. I head to the winding Brisbane river, see a few turkeys, parrots, cross my favorite bridge. Three in the afternoon both Mel and I predictably want a cappuccino, sometimes decaf, sometimes not. Four pm is departure time for swim practice. During these long 45 minute drives across town Melissa has to listen to me talk about the latest nutrition assignment I am writing or what I am learning in exercise physiology. We test the theories to our own training ideas. Both Mel and Jared are well versed in the theories, the art of putting together a program and I am amazed how closely her training program applies the theories I read about. Short fast intensity for VO2 max, TT efforts for race specificity, recovery rides, strength work. It is all there, not rocket science. Just solid work and application everyday.
Fast Wednesday Swim Session
We are swimming with the squad that Mel trains with every week day. Kids mostly younger than 15. It is a fast lower volume day. I feel the 20 years I have on these kids but I know how to do this. I am a swimmer. We are given a set - all out 100 sprints. My heart wants to explode. My arms feel like they are going to fall off. Those little skinny armed 14 year olds push me hard and most often beat me to the wall. I think to myself that it is because I don't know how to start off the blocks. Really it is because they are just faster. I want to go back to doing 400s. Mel and I talk the whole way home how often it is that triathletes (myself included) forget the short hard stuff. We are so good at short recovery, hammering 200s again and again. I love these efforts but am I getting faster and pushing up the VO2 max? No. I decide that I will not go home until I can get 2:30s for long course 200s. Three weeks later, days after I return from Abu Dhabi I get a 2:28. I can go home. I know why I have to keep the short fast stuff.
The barbeque is on. There are huge hunks of meat. There is always meat of some sort. There is also a salad, cheese, garlic bread. Sometimes it is stir-fry, sometimes the best ever home-made meat pie. This is a house where healthy fats in nuts, whole milk, avocados are loved. Meals are always made. But there is also always room for chocolate. Always chocolate.
Monday ride back from the Sunshine Coast (200kms)
I say to Mel after 180kms of her and I riding that yes I think I am good to go, I am feeling alright I can stick with you. Famous last words. We head into Brisbane which is not flat. The light turns green and I stick to her wheel. Mel likes to go with the flow of traffic. I like to go with the flow of my bursting heart. Mel is quick to jump out of her saddle and just get to the top of the hill whereas I like to stay seated and maintain rhythm. The first 10 times of sprinting around cars, up hills, through lights I succeed. The next sprint I miss the light. Mel waits for me. I cannot believe that I am doing what feels like a Crit race around Brisbane. I am amazed. Mel still has a bounce in her legs.
The Big Picture
What I loved and learnt from Melissa and Jared though is the absolute attention to the details of every aspect of her fitness. It is not good enough to be good at endurance. Not good enough to only have explosive power and speed. The training and work covers all the bases. It is tailored to what Melissa's body can do and to manage the fine grey line of injury. She constantly works on her weaknesses with meticulous detail. They eat well, nutritious food that suit her. Balance and support for their life is found in each other. It has been a phenomenal experience. One I can not thank them enough for.