Melissa Ross eyes national race
Her running career has taken off in leaps and bounds, but Melissa Ross still has her feet firmly on the ground, and heads into this Saturday’s Canadian National Cross Country Championships focused on the task at hand, and firing on all cylinders.
“For sure ... I can’t wait,” she said.
It’s been a busy fall for Ross, 28, who spoke with The News by the side of the road in Errington prior to the start of one of her ongoing training runs.
Melissa was selected to the Canadian National Team in Mountain Running and made the trip with her fellow Canucks to the 27th annual World Mountain Running Championships in Tirana, Albania, Sept. 11.
There were 52 participants in the Senior Women’s race — Melissa placed 34th overall, and was the first Canadian woman, completing the two-lap 8.8km course in 47 minutes 21 seconds.
The course was carved out of the mountainside in National Botanic Park and climbed some 320 meters. Each loop was 4.4kms with just over two kilometres uphill and just over two kilometres downhill.
The other three Canadian women entered finished close together a good five minutes behind Melissa, a Vancouver Island University grad with a degree in physical education and psychology.
“Obviously I wasn’t expecting that being a rookie and all,” the always unassuming Melissa, or Mel to friends and family, surmised.
“I mean I really only had a couple months to train for it after finding out I made the team, but it was exhilarating.”
She said the temperature was pretty close to 40 degrees Celsius, even during the race.
“It was boiling ... very humid, so it defiantly made for some challenging conditions,” she said, adding, “there were a lot of people that didn’t finish the race.”
She recalled how the first place man at the time had a comfortable lead midway through his third and final lap when he collapsed and had to be carried down the mountain by paramedics because he was severely dehydrated and suffering from heat exhaustion.
The men’s race started at noon the women’s at 11 am.
The closing ceremonies were held that evening and an after party the wrapped up around midnight, “then up by 4 a.m. to make our 6 a.m. flight.”
Back at home, Melissa, who has called Errington home most of her life and graduated from Kwalikum Secondary School, was quick to point out she enjoyed the experience as a whole.
Understandably, Ross and her peers were paying for it in the days to follow.
“Oh yeah. My body was in pretty rough shape after that. I could feel all my stabilizer muscles; all the winding around, twisting, falling; lots of steep downhills, uneven ground .. it was really hard on your body and your joints and stuff, but it was really fun.”
“A lot of the women that were ahead of me were quite strong. They were well prepared for sure (and) it was interesting to watch the techniques. I learned a lot for sure. I’m so used to running at a constant speed; it was a quite a bit different, I mean I was breathing heavier than I would be in a fast (road race) ... it was quite the eye opener.”
The top woman, from the U.S., came in around 40 minutes.
Fast forward to Oct. 29 and the BC Cross Country Championships at Aldergrove Lake Regional Park, and Melissa made it in under the wire for a possible spot on Team BC bound for the nationals. Ross made her debut with Team BC and at the nationals last year on the strength of a fourth place finish.
Ross finished seventh out of the field of 25, and sixth among B.C. women, covering the six km course in a time of 22:43.
As it turned out, the woman who won the race just moved from Ontario and as such doesn’t qualify for Team BC, which bumped Melissa up to the number six spot.
Ross said she actually beat her last year’s time by 40, 45 seconds.
Because there is a significant team fee attached to competing with Team BC, Ross said she will likely enter the nationals under her club (Team ORCA).