Trusting the Process

April 19th, 2019 by Kaitlyn Patterson

-By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team Athletic Mentors athlete

As a nearly fourth year medical student, I enjoy writing as an opportunity to reflect on ideas relevant to both medicine and athletics as this is an obvious reflection of my daily life.  I am intrigued with the parallels between the process of physician and athlete training and it is a fun challenge to try to organize these ideas into cohesive posts.

One of my college cross country coach’s mantras was to “trust the process.” I didn’t give it as much thought at the time, but have come to recognize the weight of this task. The “process” is usually not glamorous or social media worthy. It involves consistency and a steadfast commitment to the basics. In athletics, this means doing the “boring” things right everyday- sleep, nutrition, stress management, recovery and training stimulus. In medicine, the process is less straightforward but still requires meticulous attention to the foundations everyday- asking the right questions, meticulous exams, thoughtful clinical decision making and effective communication. When you are in the midst of either process, sometimes it can be hard to measure progress or judge success. Feedback is a powerful tool but sometimes the feedback we receive isn’t as straightforward or easy to interpret as we would like.  This grey area, where we are working hard but a bit unsure if we are making progress, is the most challenging for anyone- be it athletes, students, physicians, or any professional.

The process of medical training feels like occupying the grey area constantly. Medicine in itself involves more uncertainty than we like to admit, making the process of learning that much more challenging. It involves constant questioning of your own capabilities as a healthcare provider, decision maker, and communicator without obvious feedback. Despite benchmarks and evaluations, quantifying meaningful advancement in this space is challenging. Occasionally there will be glimpses of progress – sometimes with patient encounters that go especially well, moments of being spoken to as a physician colleague, or reminders of the transformation undergone over the past several years. However, feedback can be subtle and identifying both strengths and weaknesses requires practice in self-reflection.  Although the learning process is formally measured in years and benchmarks, it has become increasingly apparent that the process never actually ends as it is persistent curiosity, reflection and attention to the basics are habits of the best physicians.

In athletics, it is easier to quantify progress in numbers: training hours, distance, power, and heart rate. Races are concrete and straightforward benchmarks of success: podiums, age group places, times, rankings. However, the grey areas still exist- such as the off-season, long training blocks, performance plateaus, or races that are not satisfying, yet not epic failures. Sometimes in these spaces, it seems like failures would be more satisfying to at least allow for more obvious feedback or take-away lessons.  These are the analogous grey spaces that requires a bit more self-reflection and attention to less-obvious feedback to continue the upward trajectory. However, these are also the hardest days or times to describe to others and process for ourselves.

I think we all have a baseline aversion to uncertainty and “grey areas.” I think this may be accentuated by the age of social media but I am not sure.  I do think it is the commitment to the process despite the noise, uncertainty and self-doubt that makes for the most sustainable and ultimately satisfying progress.  Definitely easier said than done, but something to strive for nevertheless.


Three Cheers for Greenware Sponsorship

April 11th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  JoAnn Cranson

What does drinking beer, cycling and environmental stewardship have in common?  Greenware!

Greenware not only sponsors cycling events, they also provide cyclists with a refreshing cup of beer served in their eco-friendly and brag worthy renewable cups.

Greenware is a line of disposable cups, lids, portion containers and on-the-go boxes made from 100% renewable plants.  Greenware is passionate about promoting active, healthy lifestyles.  They do this by partnering with Athletic Mentors to sponsor Team Athletic Mentors and its youth development programs as well as sponsoring multi-sport events including the Barry-Roubaix gravel road race, Michigan Titanium and other community outreach events.

Greenware’s forward thinking and passion to preserve the earth’s resources has not only created a great line of disposable and renewable products but it enables us to enjoy a cold one with friends after a hard race. Thank you to Greenware and co-owner, John Kittredge for supporting the events and lifestyle we all enjoy!

Greenware containers are crafted in the USA supporting local farmers and manufacturing.  Greenware is a registered trademark of Fabri-Kal, a Kalamazoo packaging company.   If you want to learn more about these products, check out Fabri-Kal’s website http://www.fabri-kal.com/brands/greenware


Yankee Springs Mountain Bike Kid’s Race – Let’s Go!

April 4th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By Amy Kimber

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the Yankee Springs Time Trial on Saturday, April 27th. This is the longest running mountain bike race in the state of Michigan, beating Iceman by about 7 months.

This is an awesome event for all ages! Whatever your ability, we have something for you, and it’s free for our young racers to compete!  Make it a family event!

Athletic Mentors is proud to be running the Kids Race and Team Members will be there to support and motivate the young riders.   This event has been known to attract around 80-100 kids ages 2-12 years old (we will let older kids race too).   These races are  free, but make sure to sign up the day of the race.

Strider racers will have their own grass loop, it includes a small uphill and some big pine trees to navigate around.  There is plenty of viewing for family and friends.

Our youngest pedalers will have a challenging loop with a combination of single track and a grassy field, it’s about a ½ mile in length. The older kids will choose between one or two laps on the famous 2 mile Yankee loop known to the locals as the “warm-up loop.”  It’s 100% single track. The course offers rocks, roots, and some challenging sand pits for kids to navigate.

Come out and enjoy the day to expose your kids to the sport of mountain biking and trail riding at 8833 Twin Creek Dr, Middleville, MI.  We will have plenty of volunteers to monitor and supervise your kids during the race.  All the kid racers will receive an award!

Along with being a fun event, all proceeds go directly towards maintaining and building the many wonderful trails right here in Western Michigan.

The race schedule is listed below or visit http://yankeespringstt.org/race-day/ for more details.

Strider Race – 11:30
The Striders (bikes without pedals) will race multiple loops on a grass loop with plenty of opportunity for families and friends to cheer. This race will last roughly 15 minutes.

Beginner Race –  12:00
The beginner race will be 1/2 mile long and will consist of a mixture of single track and double track.  Beginner racers should feel comfortable riding on trail and uneven terrain.

Intermediate Race – 12:30 
The intermediate race will be 2 miles long and is mostly single track.  Intermediate racers should have the endurance to race 2 miles and the ability to handle single track on uneven terrain.  The single track is mostly hard packed dirt but does have some sandy spots with a few rocks and roots.

Expert Race – 12:30
The expert race will be 4 miles long and is mostly single track. Expert racers should have the endurance to race 4 miles and the ability to handle single track on uneven terrain. The single track is mostly hard packed dirt but does have some sandy spots with a few rocks and roots.


How to bring your bike from a muddy mess to race ready in 30 minutes (or less?!)

March 21st, 2019 by Marie Dershem

Written by Bobby Munro

Cyclocross and wet gravel grinders are not kind to someone who likes a clean bike. If you cannot stand to have anything other than a well-oiled machine here is a step by step process to do it quickly. It won’t be perfect, but it will be close enough.

Tools:
Hose (A bucket can be used but this will slow you down)
Bucket
2 Rags
Dish soap
Chain lube

Step 1: Hose down
Go outside and blast that grit away! Don’t forget to hit your pads (disc or rim). Also pay attention to your rims (especially with rim brakes). This is also the time to blast as much crud out of your chain as possible. While spinning the crank backwards, blast your hose downward over the chain. This is the best way to get a lot of grit off your chain. There are a few “Chain washing machines” (like the park tools CM-25) on the market that work OK but high pressure seems to do a good job as well. It is also a lot faster.

Step 2: Soap
Fill your bucket with water and dish soap. Use one of your rags to wipe the bike down. Get into all those nooks and crannies. I like to do a little intermediate rinsing to make sure I am getting everything. Save the chain for last as this will get grease on the rag that will wipe off on your frame.

Step 3: Rinse
Rinse the bike with the hose. If you only have a bucket, then this will take a bit longer. It usually helps to not use too much soap in step 2.

Step 4: Dry
Admittedly you could skip this step. But since you are already out there you might as well do it. Use your second (clean and dry) rag to dry off the bike. It is usually worth it to add a little elbow grease in a few spots. Save the chain for last for the same reason as earlier. Your goal is to get your chain as dry as possible.

Step 5: Lube
Now that you blasted all the lube out of your chain, it needs to be replaced. Go a little heavy then wipe off excess. You can use the “dry” rag if it is indeed still dry. Otherwise you will need a third. Paper towel works. But try to stick to washable rags when possible. It is also advisable to hit all the moving parts of your derailleurs and brakes. You should also try to get some lube inside the jockey wheel cups if you do not have sealed bearings.

Step 6: Ride! And know that a clean happy bike is only 30min away.


Traumatic Injury Life Saving Tips

March 8th, 2019 by Marie Dershem

Written by Dawn Hinz

Sadly it seems there are more car versus cyclist accidents. In 2006, 772 people were fatally injured in cycling accidents. Where as in 2016, that number was up to 840; including 5 local cyclists. (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)

We do everything we can as a cyclist to minimize the danger. We wear bright clothes, our bikes look like Christmas trees and most importantly, we follow the rules of the road. Unfortunately that doesn’t guarantee that we aren’t seriously injured. What should you do if tragedy strikes you or your group?

  • Everyone should carry a cell phone on their body. I do not agree with keeping your phone in a bag on your bike. If you are thrown from your bike you may not be able to reach your phone.
  • KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. You should know your route and where you are along that route. This way when you call 911, emergency personnel can find you as quickly as possible, when every minute counts. Go one step further and set up an activity tracker that relays your location to a reliable person who is not a part of the ride. This way they get a notification if you stop moving and can call for help.
  • Know how many people are in your group. 911 will need to know how many patients need an ambulance. Then, go help your friends. You should know any help you render will be covered under Michigan’s Good Samaritan Act (MCL 691.1501). This law basically states that a volunteer trying to help someone cannot be held liable if those actions cause further injury; excepting gross negligence.
  • Do not move someone unless the location causes further danger or harm. I.e. Perhaps you need to slide someone off the road if traffic is not slowing down or giving you space.
  • Do not unnecessarily adjust the patient’s head. If you hear snoring, gurgling or no breaths then gently place the head in a “sniffing” position.
  • If you see blood, control the bleeding with direct and continuous pressure. Put your hand or hands over the wound and keep pressure on the wound until help arrives. Every red blood cell counts.
  • If it is cold or even slightly chilly outside keep the patient warm if possible. Hypothermia causes shivering which wastes precious ATP. Even slight hypothermia will worsen a trauma patient’s outcome. Give them your jacket or get blankets from bystanders.

With these actions you have given your friends a fighting chance in the Emergency Room. If you would like to take it one step further then it is time to find a First Aid and CPR class. Stay safe out there.


Off-Season Goals

February 16th, 2019 by Kaitlyn Patterson

-By Brian Reynolds

It’s winter in Michigan and you know what that means for us triathletes.  It’s the Off-Season! Hopefully most of you are back training again after taking a break from the season.  I’ve always enjoyed the off-season because you can make big gains to set yourself up for a good season. The best way to make big gains is to work on your limiters because let’s face it we all have something to improve on.  So the question you may be asking yourself is “What should I work on this off-season”?

A good place to start is determine what your big races are next season because this will give you a better idea on what to work on in the off-season.  What are your goals for your big race(s)? Do you want to win or podium in your age group? Do you want to qualify for USAT Nationals or Kona? Do you want to set a new PR?  Whatever you want to accomplish at your race you need to determine what it’ll take to meet those goals. For example, if you want to podium in your age group you can look up the podium finisher’s past results to find out their splits per each discipline.  Base on those race results you can figure out which discipline you need to improve on to become more competitive. It’s also important to assess if the time improvement needed is realistic per that discipline because if it’s not then you may need to get faster in the other areas.  When you know what it’ll take to meet your race goals you’ll have a better understanding on what you need to focus on during the off-season.

It important to have off-season goals to help keep you on track and accountable to your training.  You want to make sure that your goals are measurable. For example, some measurable goals could be to increase your FTP on the bike, threshold swim pace, or threshold run pace.  What should I target for my goal paces and power? Good question! For the bike you can use tools such as Best Bike Splits to help estimate the power required to do the bike course in a certain amount of time.  If you know roughly the power you need to sustain in the race then you can correlate that to a FTP number. For the swim you can compare your paces to the paces of your competitors. If your competitors are swimming 5 – 10 sec per 100 faster than you then you can set your threshold pace goal to be 5 or 10 seconds faster.  Similar to the run you can check out your competitors run paces.

When you have your specific goals set for the off-season the next most important question becomes “How are you going accomplish your goals”?  For the bike if you are not too familiar training with power you probably need to consider getting a training plan or better yet getting a coach.  For the swim if you are swimming between 1:40 to 2:30 per 100 it would be a good idea to look at improving your swim technique. Athletic Mentors offers a video swim analysis and have experts on deck to help critique your swim stroke and will provide helpful tips and drills.  Better yet you can join a winter swim program to work on technique, speed, and stamina such as the program that Athletic Mentors offers. If you are proficient swimmer (under 1:40 per 100) then you can consider joining a master swim program to swim with other faster swimmers. Finally for the run you can join a run camp or if you are a experienced runner the best bet is to hire a triathlon coach to help optimize your running while balancing the other disciplines during training.

Finally if you fall short from hitting your off-season goals don’t sweat it you have time during the race season to continue your improvements.  Remember that the most important question is that “Are you faster than you were exactly one year ago from today?” If that answer is “Yes” then you made progress which is what all endurance athletes are striving to achieve.


Be Nice to Your Nervous System

December 16th, 2018 by Kaitlyn Patterson

-By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist

I’ve been intrigued by the endocrine system and nervous system for quite a while and after the grand tour of the major medical fields over my second and now third year of medical school, they continue to be my favorites. They are dynamic and responsive, influencing our eating patterns, sleep, body composition, happiness and performance. The endocrine system works through pulses of hormones – growth hormones, stress hormones, insulin – all with different patterns but always dynamic.  In fact, the hallmark of a dysfunctional endocrine system is a stagnant or non-responsive hormone. The nervous system is also constantly changing- toggling between different modes: the sympathetic, commonly referred to as “fight or flight” and parasympathetic or “rest and digest.” Similarly, there should be a cycle to this as well since either one isn’t meant to be always on. The nervous and endocrine system work together to make sure your physiology matches whatever situation you happen to be in. Quite impressive really.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

One of the themes I have been struck by during my clinical training is the number of medical problems associated with chronic stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. Most of these are common chronic diseases- sleep apnea, COPD, congestive heart failure, type II diabetes. It is an appropriate response by the nervous system as it is answering to a real threat- be it a lack of adequate oxygen entering the lungs, episodes where breathing stops, or a heart not pumping adequately. However, the constant activation of the sympathetic nervous system eventually creates its own problems- including reduced sensitivity to hormones like insulin and even depression. A sustained stress response is actually one of the possible mechanisms of the high rate of depression after heart attacks or strokes.

As athletes, we depend on our sympathetic nervous system every time we jump on the bike, in the pool or lace up the running shoes. It helps orchestrate the physiological response to exercise to allow us to do physical feats, feel good doing it and induce health benefits. As long as the stressor is episodic and followed by a shift to parasympathetic (recovery) mode for a time, all is good. However, it can be all too easy to abuse the sympathetic nervous system. Whether it be becoming greedy about training volume or intensity, additional life stress, lack of sleep, or under-fueling, sometimes the balance can be tipped into spending too much time in “fight or flight” mode.

At first, this is not obvious and we can get away with asking a lot of our sympathetic nervous system and even feel good doing it. However, it is ultimately unsustainable and can create the same type of maladaptive changes as seen in chronic diseases discussed earlier. Although performance might not decline initially, the first signs  can include waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep, feeling irritable, hungry, or losing motivation to train. If it continues it essentially can create a state of nervous system exhaustion when performance is significantly impaired. This spectrum is often referred to as “overtraining syndrome” although it is still a poorly understood phenomenon.

I personally believe this process is what many people refer to as “burnout.” Burnout is a bit of a buzzword especially in medicine right now, but it is often used as an ambiguous term. However, it appears there are parallels between athletic and professional burnout and both consistent with a maladaptive stress response with a big factor being the constant sympathetic nervous system stimulation.

I am guilty of phases of nervous system abuse, but feel I have gotten better at both identifying and respecting it. One hurdle for me is admitting I’m tired (even if I don’t think I “deserve” to be) and actually resting in response. For me and probably many endurance athletes, resting can take more discipline than training and it can initially be difficult to trust that resting more can lead to going faster and feeling better. Although race results are not everything, still being able to perform well while training less provides positive reinforcement. This process requires constant attention and I think it is one of the biggest challenges of being an athlete and a future physician.

Although a constant vigilance for this phenomenon is important for athletes and people in high pressure careers such as medicine, this is an important awareness for everyone. Unfortunately, the society we live in does not necessarily have built in cycles of rest and recovery. I think everyone should be aware of the need for natural ebbs and flows and the importance of respecting and protecting our nervous systems, not just to be good athletes or professionals, but to be healthy, fulfilled people.

 


The unexpected Ironman: a race story

December 11th, 2018 by Marie Dershem

Written by Raquel Torres

I write this with the intent to share my story, passion, efforts, obstacles, high and lows. My hope is to inspire others to fight for their dreams; to be better at whatever they love and in all areas of life.

Though I do not have the space here to write my life’s story, you’ll have to trust me that I have a million and one excuses that anyone could use to renounce my dreams. Maybe someday, I will write an autobiography of my crazy life, but that is for another time. So, today, I start with the decision to do a Full Ironman.

My coach, Mark Olson, has been telling me for a few years now that I should consider racing a full Ironman. But, because my life is a bit complex a few moves, job changes, parental responsibilities, sponsor commitments, and other sports opportunities) my goals have mostly been based on opportunities that arise as I go along. After a few very challenging years, competing as Elite and professional, this 2018, I had decided to take some time and compete at the age group level and in local events. During the summer, I had the honor to be asked by the Dominican Triathlon Federation to compete in a World Cup in Huatulco, Mexico and a Pan American Cup in Quebec, Canada.

With a little less pressure and some other changes happening in my life, I felt that the timing was right to try a Full Ironman. Together with my coach, we decided to start training for an event, which I would do as part of the Athletic mentors’ team. Long story short, I received a few work related opportunities in coaching so my daughter Chantal and our dog Phoenix moved to Virginia, that decision was 8 weeks before the event, a full Ironman, so we looked for an event that was near our new home and found the Ironman Maryland event that was in 8 weeks. I signed up and made plans with some friends that had also registered for the event and I was happy with the challenge. Two days before the Race I was contacted by the Ironman race staff to let me know that due to my status as an Elite ITU competitor, the rules did not allow me to compete in the Maryland event as an Age Group competitor, and the event did not have a Pro category. After several e-mails and phone calls between my coach and the event referees, they signed me up for the event in two weeks, the Ironman in Louisville, where there was a Pro category.

Honestly, this situation made me loose concentration; it was a shock, as I had decided not to compete as Professional in a full Ironman competition. I felt that I did not have the condition or support to be competitive at that level; at least at this moment in my life. I realized, however, that I needed to concentrate on what I could control, which was to prepare all of the logistics (my parental responsibilities, work commitments, packing all necessities, shipping the bike, etc.) to get ready to be at that starting line in 2 weeks.

The strategy changed in all aspects, as I was planning to drive to the event in Maryland and I had almost everything packed. I had to now find a plane ticket, bike transportation and my home responsibilities. I focused on giving priority to each item, while keeping up with the training as best as possible for the next two weeks.

Race Week:

When I arrived in Louisville the climate took a big turn and it became windy, rainy and cold. Neither I nor anyone had come prepared for the weather that was going to be on event day. I concentrated in finding what I was going to need the next day to deal with the weather conditions. I went to the Ironman Village and was only able to find a small winter hat; they had sold out of everything. They suggested a store that was about 6 miles away and they said it had gloves and other gear. Since I had not been able to train, I rode my bike to the store as I figured 12 miles would do great for my metabolism. Luckily, my coach and others from Athletic Mentos let me borrow special gear for the cold temperatures and for the rain conditions.

That afternoon, I had a beer with them, had a salmon sandwich and later spent the rest of the afternoon preparing my nutrition for the Ironman. I dined on light pasta, a cup of tea and off to sleep.

Race Day:

5:00 AM – I placed my numbers on me, drank a coffee, went down to the hotel lobby to eat breakfast a bagel with peanut butter. It was raining HARD, so then I decided to wear my wetsuit and walk warmer to the transition area, it was cold, dark and rainy.

6:00 AM – It was a bit uncomfortable to prepare the transition and to walk from T1 to the start of the swim, approximately 2 KM away. There were so many people walking, saying “we are signed up for this so let’s have fun and do our best!”

7:30 AM – When the race was about to start, they announce that the swim start will be delayed while they adjust the buoys as the weather and the currents are not apt for the race as initially planned. They announced that the swim will be done in a different direction and that it will be, .09 Miles shorter and it will start 30 minutes later.

Swimming 3.86 KM

Dark, raining and cold, I was very calm, as I had prepared mentally to stay calm no matter what happens. My coach Mark and Coach Cricket stayed with me in the start area, I was able to stay warm and they even gave me hot handbags, which helped my more psychologically than physically. I had already decided to take the swim part of the race as a warm up as this was my first Ironman and I had no idea what I was doing. My goal was to be conservative and concentrate on nutrition and mental state.

It was a water start and the currents were strong, and you could not see absolutely nothing. This gave me even more reason to take it slow and try to tail someone to be able to reach the markers. Because of the rain, the water smelled terrible and I could not wait to get out of the water.

T1 (Transition #1 Swimming to Bike).

When I got to the transition I decided to use the people that help you strip off the wetsuit, it was something I was not planning to do, but they could not take it off … so I lost a minute or so. The volunteers were very friendly as they helped you find your gear and to prepare, as I was arriving I said out laod …”Raquel Take your Time.” I had improvised what I was going to wear for the 180 KM with such low temperatures  and the rain. I wore gloves, a winter cap, two cycling scarfs a winter jersey and a raincoat. I ran barefoot as my biking shoes were attached to the pedals and I  carried my socks in my hands, when I reached the mounting area (600 Meters) I put on my socks and mounted the bike.

Cycling 180.25 KM

The bike was the hardest part and challenging of the event. First, I noticed that my Powermeter was not calibrated. I tried (with gloves) to fix it and it was even worse as the screens kept moving as it is a touchscreen system and it was so cold that my fingers where frozen and having gloves made it impossible to adjust the screens. After about 10 KM trying, I gave up and said to myself “Raquel, just go for it”. The first 40 KM was super cold, I did warm up later and was able to take off the raincoat and was able to hand it to a volunteer (avoiding penalties).

I saw 4 deer that crossed right in front of me and it was beautiful, I was focusing on the views and as I could not see how fast I was going nor my power output, I placed attention to the time and distance so I decided that every ten minutes I would drink some nutrition and anytime I had a negative thought, another drink!

About 100 KM mark my bike chain came off and was able to replace in less than one minute, then the second time the chain came off, same result, then the 3rd time the chain got stuck real hard and luckily I had gloves on was able to pull as hard as I could and got it out. I remained positive and said to myself “Raquel, this is what it takes, keep going and focus!”

Without a doubt, the hardest part was the last 20 KM as I was so tired of being in the aero position and my neck and back really hurt. I was counting each second, but kept focusing on the moment, not what was coming ahead.

 

T2 Transition Bike – Marathon

This is when I said to the volunteer….”Now a Marathon?” She smiled. I sat down and removed my clothing slowly, I stretched my back and took my time as I wanted to be ready to feel the best possible way and take my nutrition to the marathon.

Marathon 42.20 KM

During the run, I was impressed how well I felt. It was as if my body had forgotten that I already had 7 hours in action. The first 10K my job was not to go too fast as I felt better than what I would have imagined. So, my mantra was “Raquel, keep in the zone” and I did; taking small sips of my nutrition often. After 20 KM, I was starting to feel the pain and noticed that my pace was starting to slow down, I then changed my mantra to “keep mental focus and the pace, breathing and form.”

Watching the people on the streets, the music, enjoying the people as they greeted me, I focused on the smells, homes that smelled of fresh laundry, and kept thinking “I wish I was there drinking coffee and doing Laundry.” It’s funny the things that go through your mind when you are pushing yourself so hard.

There was a hippie on a bike with music, another person playing a harmonica during both running laps, another guy that was yelling very loud, “If it was easy everyone could do it.” When I got to the first lap 21KM, my coach yells, “You need to be tough now!” I thought…..”Now Tough?”

The last 10 KM were hard. I could feel the challenge physically and mentally so I kept saying to myself motivational things “Raquel only 10 KM which is nothing for you” Later, Raquel, a simple 5K, you made it keep going!”

The finish was a culmination of emotions, I was happy, tired (mentally and physically), I believe more because of the event challenge then for the physical demands and resistance. I laughed, cried, laughed again and then I finished.


Christmas “wish list” for your favorite triathlete (even if that is you)

December 6th, 2018 by Marie Dershem

By JoAnne Cranson

All I want for Christmas is some Triathlon Equipment……

But the problem is, I’m new to this sport and don’t know what the “best – tried and true” equipment is.  So…. I went to my teammates at Athletic Mentors to utilize their experience and knowledge to figure this out. Together, we came up with a great “wish list” of suggestions for your favorite triathlete (or yourself)!

For Swimming:

Goggles:  I got a lot of different feedback so this tells me it depends on your face shape and this may be trial and error

  • Kayenne Goggles – Smoke Lens for bright sunlight in open water.
  • Speedo Vanquisher 2 is good.
  • Speedo Jr. Hydrospec for a smaller face shap3
  • Roka R1 – amber colored makes the buoys much easier to see in open water

Wetsuit:

  • Aquaman brand is the clear winner. There are many different makes, so it’s based on your budget, but ones like Bionik, ART, or whatever you can afford, you won’t regret it.  They have some good sales too.  This is a local Michigan business where you can try on the suit for an accurate fit which is very important!

Tri-Suit:

  • A one-piece suit seems to be the preference, it’s easier to keep in place. But if you are just starting and want to go with a shirt and shorts you would want to look for specific “tri” shorts, not normal biking shorts.
  • Biking shorts have too much padding and are not comfortable to do the run or swim in. It needs to be comfortable, have adequate movement, and dry quickly.

Other items that will help you in training:

  • Super Important in Open water swimming – Safety Buoy – Safer Swimmer Float attaches to your waist, has a dry bag you can put valuables in, bright orange so people see you and in emergency you use as a flotation device.
  • FINIS paddles for proper stroke practice and Sporti Training swim fins.
  • Body Glide to apply to avoid chafing (perfect stocking stuffer)

Biking:

 Helmet: If you want a helmet for road riding, a Smith MIPS helmet is great.  There are also specific TT helmets, but those are only used when riding a triathlon bike and offer less wind resistance than a typical road helmet.

  • Bike: It depends on what type(s) of biking you will be doing.  If you are just beginning and want a more versatile bike that you can go to group rides and ride on paved trails, you should purchase a road bike.  I good entry level road bike would be the Giant Contend.  Giant TCR is an all-around road bike or you can move up to a Giant Propel – aero road bike.  There are lots of used bikes on local website ads to get you started too.  Most Triathlon’s have the bikes on paved roads, so to help you go faster ideally you want smooth tires – 25 cm – 28 cm.  You can purchase clip-on aero bars once you are very comfortable riding.  For aero bars, you want to get them as “flat” as you can to lower wind resistance and the lighter the bars the better.  If just triathlon racing and not group riding, you could get a triathlon bike, like a Giant Trinity Advanced.  But, you can’t ride a triathlon bike in a group. It is just not safe.
  • Biking Shoes with Cleats: These are a little tricky to start using but they are super effective in utilizing your pedaling strength the whole way around the pedal, instead of, just pushing down.  For the shoes, there are specific shoes for tri events.  The main thing I’ve learned is you want shoes with just “velcro” closures.  The other types of shoes take too long to put on, secure the closures, and take back off again.  Remember, focus is to save time in transition.  The feedback I got on the cleats is “look” type pedals. They give your foot a big base for improved power transfer, and as a result, helps you go faster!
  • Bike Seat – this is difficult because everybody has different “sensitivity” pressure points. A good place to start would be the Adamo, the Infinity or other seats with “cut-outs.”
  • Bike Computer: This is optional – If you have a running watch that can also track bike speed and other details, you may not need a bike computer.  If a bike computer is wanted, Garmin 520 is our team’s top choice.  It will also upload course routes, so you have turn by turn directions!  If you are limited on a budget, there are other lower priced Garmin computers on the market that will give you mileage, speed, etc
  • Water bottle – If you are just getting started, use bottle cages for your water bottles. As you get into using aero-bars or a tri-bike, ideally you don’t want to get out of that aero position to get a drink.  One option is Xlab Torpedo Versa – easy to drink from, refill and easily attachable.  Another one is Speedfil Inviscid.

Another item that is really neat is the Bontrager Speed Concept Speed Box II.  It attaches to your top tube bar and allows you to store gels and nutrition that is easily accessible.

A few other miscellaneous, Biking Items include:

  • Underseat bag to carry tire levers, spare tube and CO2 canister;
  • Fluid Trainer or Smart Trainer for indoor training;
  • “Chamois Butt’r” cream to apply to pressure points areas or, for the ladies, Hoo Ha Ride Glide.

Running:

  • Shoes: Good Quality is most important.  Go to a specialty sports store like Striders, Playmakers, or Gazelle Sports where they fit you personally and even allow you to run on a treadmill in the shoes.  Shoes are not something to go cheap on.  They are key to getting your feet, knees, and hips “happy” when you are running.  Some brands to consider are Hoka, Asics, or Nike Structures.
  • Triathlon – Running Watch. Most popular is the Garmin 920XT.  A great accessory for the Garmin 920XT is the water-proof heart rate strap you can wear in the water and throughout the race.  The Garmin 920 tracks all aspects of your race, even transition times!  There are also many screen display options to choose from.  It is great for training as it can track your indoor swims or open water swims, indoor or outdoor runs, plus your biking stats too.  If you want to look into other watch option, some teammates use Garmin models like Vivoactive 3 or Fenix.
  • Sunglasses – Hats: Smith sports sunglasses are the best option.  Other suggestions are using a ball cap or sun visor during your run.

A few other miscellaneous Running Items include:

  • Race Number belt – to strap around your waist and pin your number on;
  • Foxelli USB Rechargeable Headlamp – create for early morning or late night runs;
  • Reflective Vest with Lights – creates good visibility for safety in training;
  • Stryd – run power meter

Stocking Stuffer:  Elastic Laces – for sliding on your running shoes, like Lock Laces

There are a number of local bike shops that have a lot of these items for you to see in person, try-on and get their opinions.  Check out Speed Merchants Bike Shop, KLM Bike & Fitness, or Custer Cyclery.  For swimming items, check out swimoutlet.com.

It has been fun compiling this list and I’ve learned I want even more items than I thought!  I hope this will be a good resource for you too.  I encourage you to make it your goal to do a triathlon.  You don’t need to have all these items, just get out and “tri” it.  You will learn what you really need and can gradually accumulate the additional tools.

 


2018 USAT Age Group National Championship Race Report

December 3rd, 2018 by Marie Dershem

Written by Brian Reynolds

The 2018 USAT Age Group National Championship took place in Cleveland, Ohio this year.  The olympic distance event was an “A” race for me. After an off-season of working hard on improving my swim and a summer filled with great training sessions, some fast new equipment, and improvements in every discipline, I was ready and excited to peak for my “A” race.  I was excited to race because my summer training was going really well.

Here is how my day unfolded at Nationals on August 12th, 2018.

Swim

The drama before the swim was waiting to find out if the swim was going to be wetsuit legal. The day before the water temp was 78.5 deg F and the wetsuit cutoff is 78 deg F so it was going to be a close call race morning.  On race morning the water temp was 75.8 so it was wetsuit legal! I was happy it was wetsuit legal because it would help neutralize the advantage to the strong swimmers. There were a fair amount of waves in Lake Erie, which made it a tough swim.

I started in the first wave, which was helpful because I knew who was ahead of me in my age group.  In past events, I’ve started later and never had a good sense of where I was compared to my competition.

My plan for the swim was to get out strong and try to catch the draft behind the strong swimmers.  However during the race it was very difficult to stay on anyone’s feet for more than a few seconds without getting pushed off course by the waves.  I was working harder during this swim than any other swim this year. It didn’t help that the swim was around 200 to 300 yards long. Although it felt like I was giving up a lot of time to the leader, I was only 1:10 minutes down from the leader. This was the closest I’ve been to the leader coming out of the swim at Nationals. I was in 17th pace after the swim.

T1: Swim to bike

The swim to bike transition was long.  It was roughly a 300 yard run from the lake-shore to transition. I had a smooth transition besides my helmet visor being super foggy.

Bike

When I got onto the bike my legs were feeling good and I was able to get up to power quickly.  I passed 8 riders within the first 2 miles of the race. After passing the riders, I could see the flashing lights of the motorcycle pacing the two leaders.  I used the motorcycle as my carrot to chase. I was quickly making up time on the leaders. By mile 5 I ca

ught up to the leaders. At this point I was excited because I’ve never been this close to the lead at a USAT nationals event.

I had to wait before passing the leaders because there was a sharp right hand turn.  As I made the turn I noticed that the road surface was very rough. There were several tare strips going across the road which prevented me from taking a more aggressive line into the turn.  Instead I took a wide sweeping turn to help keep my bike under control. Unfortunately I ran out of pavement and my front wheel hit the curb in the middle of the road. I landed on my right side and skidded across the pavement.  I had cuts on my elbow, hip, and hand. I would also find out later that I had bruised my rib and had a big dent in my helmet. A race volunteer ran up to me asking for my name and what event I was in to make sure I didn’t get a concussion.

My day went from an ultra high feeling of being with the race leaders to an ultra low feeling of being on the ground bruised and banged up.  At first the crash didn’t feel real because a month prior I had crashed my bike during the Tri Del Sol race.  I couldn’t believe that I crashed again!  As I laid on the ground I thought about dropping out and calling it quits. But after thinking about it for second I picked up my bike, re-positioned my dropped chain, fixed my helmet, and I got on my bike.

For the remainder of the ride I felt discomfort in my right shoulder area with every breath I took. I wasn’t able to ride at the same power prior to the crash, riding at 75% of my full capacity. Although frustrating, I knew that all I could do was give it my best effort. Even with the crash, I was still able to post my fastest bike split for a USAT Nationals event. My hard training had paid off.. I was in 8th place after the bike.

 

T2: Bike to run

My T2 transition was not as smooth as T1.  Coming off the bike my shoe fell off the pedal so I had to go back and pick it up.  As I ran through transition and picked up my run gear I was starting to notice more discomfort in my right shoulder.

Run

When I started running, my form was off due to lack of mobility in my right shoulder due to pain.  I was running 20-30 secs slower than my typical race pace and at  this point I was in 8th place. It took about 2 miles until I was able to settle into a descent run rhythm.  I wasn’t feeling too fatigued during the run since I wasn’t able to push myself to my full capacity. Thankfully I was able to run the 2nd half faster and picked up a few places to finish 6th in my age group.  I was proud of myself for finishing the race let alone finishing in the top 10. However, I was still bummed about not having the performance that I was capable.

If there was a silver-lining I can takeaway from this race it’s that unexpected things can happen to disrupt your race.  However, when the unexpected happens it’s your attitude that will dictate how much of an impact it will have on your race. A good attitude will go a long way especially, when you need to adjust your race plan and expectations.  During this race I was saying to myself “it’ll be pretty cool if I could still finished in the top 10” and I did! I still had something to chase and keep me mentally engaged during the race. At my next race my goal is to keep the rubber side down and that will be a win in my books.



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