Stepping out of my comfort zone… the Lexus Velodrome

April 22nd, 2018 by Elaine Sheikh

In January 2018, the Lexus Velodrome opened its doors right in downtown Detroit. This is great news for the Michigan cycling scene. At a time where USAC memberships are declining, road race and criterium participation continues to decrease, and cyclists are gravitating towards gravel road events, where there are in slightly less danger from vehicular traffic, the future of amateur bicycle racing is unknown. Participation by women is especially low, leaving advocates searching for ways to entice more women to ride competitively.

Personally, I’m a roadie. I’ve never had any interest in track cycling. At 5’1” and under 110 lbs, I fly up hills, but lack the raw power that track cyclists are known for. I’m also a little bit afraid of going fast, as anyone who has waited for me at the bottom of a mountain (while I ride the brakes all the way down) knows. If you have spent any time on youtube watching the “track cycling fails” videos,  walking into the center of the velodrome and staring up at the 50 degree banked turns that rise up like a wooden wall before you, will make you shake a little bit. But, I’m a firm believer in stepping outside your comfort zone and doing things that scare you. So in March, I signed up for a Track 101 course on a Saturday morning.

The velodrome provides fixed gear bicycle rentals for only $10, and has multiple bicycles in every size. The bicycles were in excellent condition. They are fitted with Shimano clip-less pedals, but if you don’t have compatible cleats, the velodrome provides shoes as well for no additional cost. The morning started with about 20 participants sitting in the infield while Dale Hughes, the velodrome designer, gave initial instructions on the track itself and riding a fixed gear. As he talked, I looked around. There was only one other female participant besides myself. The majority of the male participants were over the age of 40. Welcome to cycling.

Soon, we were up on the track! I was petrified going into the first turn, convinced I was going to slide down the track and end up with a side full of splinters. When I finally realized that I’m not special and I was going to keep my tires down on the track just like everyone else, I relaxed and began to actually enjoy the speed I could maintain. All in all, we each got to be up on the track at least three times for 5-10 minutes during the 2 hour class. There were three sit-down instructional segments, and then 1 solo attempt on the track and 2 group exercises. Afterwards, there was open track so teammate, Bobby Munro, and I were able to work on additional skills.

Overall, it was an excellent experience. Dale did a great job with instructing, and the bikes and shoes were of good quality and excellent condition. I’m not planning on switching to track cycling any time soon, but I would highly recommend that other cyclists give this a try if given a chance! It’s definitely a “bucket list” experience!
My tips: don’t worry if you’ve never ridden a fixed gear bicycle. As long as you are comfortable riding with clipless pedals, you will be fine. Make sure you bring CLEAR glasses. The air can dry out your eyes when you are traveling at high speeds, but you will be indoors so sunglasses are not ideal. It’s also a little chilly in the velodrome so bring a jacket to wear while sitting around the infield.


The “Professional” Athlete

April 13th, 2018 by Elaine Sheikh

One definition offered by the Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word professional as “characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession”. Further, it defines a profession as “a principal calling, vocation, or employment”, another way of saying a profession is a job. Seriousness of conduct is at a higher level then what one would approach with a hobby. Though we don’t race for a living, everyone on a team benefits from professionalism. Here are a few ways to be “professional” and how it positively impacts yourself and the team?

 

 

Sharp Dressed (Wo)man

Nothing says “conforming to the technical” like a group that looks the same. More than matching jerseys and bibs, a truly professional look includes socks, helmets, accessory equipment (glasses, gloves, shoe covers, bikes, etc.) and even cool weather wear. It’s imperative riders maintain a clean bike and kit. Team Athletic Mentors’ management puts a lot of attention and effort towards projecting a brand and we all have a role in that.

Take Pride in Your Team

A professionally run team establishes a vision and follows it. TAM has looked to develop riders. Some have gone on to higher ranks, like the ProTour, and even become nationa

l champions. As a member of the team, you are part of that legacy. When other riders see you, they see a team with high standards and a history of success. You have been chosen to continue an image, so take pride. This pride is not just racing or riding in your kit, but wearing the team casual wear during cycling and promotional events.

Team Mates and Sponsors First

Being professional means holding up your end of a bargain. Part of this is supporting the sponsors that provide resources to the team. Take every opportunity to promote sponsors’ products, keeping negative assessments within the team. Following through on your contractual agreements maintains the team’s ability to keep and hold sponsors. Think of your actions as reflecting those on your jersey and in your jersey.

Be an Ambassador

True professionals take responsibility to foster their livelihood. At our level, that means promoting the sport we love. Be approachable by strangers. Look to help more novice racers. Get in front of the camera. Most of us aren’t genetic freaks destine for greatness in cycling, but, rather, people passionate about a sport. Project that passion by supporting it any positive way so people see it means something to someone. People appreciate passion.

Make a Good First Impression

A professional conducts themselves at a high character level consistently. Sharp looking, organized teams get noticed, which makes the need to act your best even more important. Maintain an even keel during the heat of racing. Communicate with others through social media, in person, or other means, as if the spotlight was always on. This includes when giving our opinion with race officials and promoters. Don’t forget having your attire leave no doubt who you race for while on the podium.

Add Value to Your Team

A well run team has a lot of moving pieces. Those pieces working in concert are what make an organization better than the sum of its parts. Try to look for ways to help, even if it’s just to offer your assistance. Most athletes have an expertise in some area(s), even if it’s just time, that can benefit everyone. Few good things happen by chance, but through effort by someone that cared.

Support Your Team Mates

One quality of a good team is people want to be a part of it. This usually isn’t the clothes they get, bikes they ride or deals offered. It comes down to feeling part of something where they are supported. Giving assistance, passing on knowledge, watching a fellow team mate and cheering them on are part of this support. It’s always best to feel we can share our triumphs and tragedies.

It’s a privilege to be on any well run team, but especially ours. Show that appreciation by projecting a professional image and sportsmanship. Represent yourself, your team, and the sport of cycling well.


50-Mile Ultramarathon: Race Day Tips

April 7th, 2018 by Elaine Sheikh

Feeling Anxious and Nervous

You have trained for your first 50-mile ultramarathon. You have been visualizing your run and you’ve trimmed up the toenails. But you might be a bit anxious and nervous. Doubt is creeping into your psyche. You even had a nightmare that you missed the start of the race. This is perfectly normal. To ease your anxieties, calm your nerves, diminish any doubt, and get you pumped, consider the following tips and what to expect.

What to Pack

Well before the night before you travel to the race site, make a list of everything you need to bring. Check the course for “drop bag”  locations and know where the water stations will be. Put what you will wear on race day in a clear plastic Ziplock. Pack two or three pairs of running shoes and at least three pairs of socks in case the race becomes wet and muddy. Pack a rain jacket, especially if the forecast calls for rain. Arm warmers that go on and off without a wardrobe change, are a lifesaver if you start in the cool morning or run through the night. Pack a hydration bottle/belt/backpack, and a cap to protect you from the rain and the sun. You pack a second set of clothes. Some like to change sweaty running clothes after the first 25 miles.

Pack a small transparent storage container to help you or your crew easily locate the following essentials: body glide, zinc oxide, toenail clippers, tweezers, scissors, ibuprofen, Neosporin, Tiger Balm, bandages, athletic tape, athletic bandages, wipes, tissues, sunscreen, headlamp, flashlight, extra batteries, sunglasses, bug spray, lip balm, Benadryl, vitamins, and duct tape.

If the course is tricky or if you are nervous about zoning out and missing that flag on a turn, also tuck in a copy of the course and aid stations. Put it in a ziplock to keep it dry. Although the aid stations are usually stocked, pack a big cooler with water, your sport drink of choice, coconut water, fruit, and food that you want your crew to feed you throughout the 8 – 13 hour race day. One time I cut up a giant burrito for my crew to dangle in front of me each lap. Turns out it was not that appetizing and the on course broth and grilled cheese had super powers. Just eat what you can stomach. Don’t force anything unless its fluids. You won’t make it far without those.

 

What to Expect The Night Before The Race

  1. What to Eat – Some races offer a pasta dinner the night before for a fee. Eat what you are accustomed to eating and what works for you. You don’t need pasta! I like a giant salad with a good protein, just as I do at home.
  2. Lay Out Your Running Clothes – Shorts, running tights, top/tank, sport bra, arm warmers, socks, running shoes, jacket, rain gear, etc. If I am camping, I sleep with them on!
  3. Set Your Alarm – Set 3 alarms! Everyone staying with you should set his/her cell phone alarm.
  4. You Might Not Sleep – I can never sleep the night before an ultra. I toss and turn. I worry the alarm won’t go off and that I will oversleep. You will be ok not having a good night sleep that night prior. It is the days and weeks leading up to it where rest and sleep are crucial.

What to Expect The Morning of The Race

  1. Prepare Your Body – Smear generous amounts of body glide or sport wax around your toes, feet, nipples (guys), below your sport bra (gals), and throughout parts of your body that will chafe.
  2. Dress – Strap on your running watch or other gadget. Dress appropriately for race day weather. Again, arm warmers! If you’re running on a cold day, dress in layers. I like old socks for my hands so I can throw them away when it warms up.
  3. Consume Calories – Eat a breakfast that you know you can stomach. It might not taste good, but eat a little something. Amino Acids prior to race start is a good practice if this is something that is not new.
  4. Butterflies and Diarrhea – It’s an exciting day and you’re a tad nervous. Experiencing butterflies and diarrhea is not uncommon at the start of any race. If you can’t go to the bathroom, a little warm salt water can help, but a little nervousness usually does the trick.
  5. Pack Your Car – Don’t forget your bib number, timing chip, extra running gear, cooler, and the container with the essentials.

During The Run

  1. Start Slow – An ultra is an endurance run, not a sprint! You can’t win a 50 mile race in the first mile, but you sure can lose it!  Plan on giving yourself walk breaks! If your goal is to finish, walk early in the race and you will feel much better that last 10!
  2. Bask in Nature’s Beauty – Enjoy the sunrise, the sunset, and the bright rainbow that adorns the sky after a rainfall. Enjoy that you CAN do this… not everyone has the ability.
  3. Hydrate – Always fill your bottle at the aid stations. If you arrive with a full bottle that is a red flag that you aren’t sipping enough. Eating small amounts frequently is usually easier than a small meal. Take small bites and keep moving your feet. Be mindful to drink or consume some electrolytes and not just water.
  4. Take Care of Your Feet– If your feet get wet, it is wise to change socks or even shoes. If the blister feels small, take care of it early to avoid a major problem later on. Unless it is hurting, avoid popping a blister. The fluid in the blister is healing. I prefer to put a good amount of neosporin over the blister and cover with athletic or duct tape. I like duct because that is not coming off!
  5. You Might Bite It– If you trip over a tree root, a rock, or slip on a switchback or in a creek, dust yourself off and carry on! You will likely fall later in the race when you are fatigued and fantasizing about an ice cold beer.
  6. Carry Wipes – Depending on the course, there will be moments when the woods are the only place to go. Don’t litter and be mindful of poison ivy. And check out Tom’s wipes if you’re a little chapped!
  7. Thank The Aid Station Volunteers, Race Directors, and Your Crew – They are on their feet longer than you are!

You Are A Rare Breed May you run many more!


Why I Raced an Impromptu Half Marathon

March 25th, 2018 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Kaitlyn Patterson

I love empowered, passionate people. And when such people have a mission that especially resonates with me, I will likely be a long-time admirer (albeit possibly a quiet admirer).

Emily Schaller is one of the people who has won me over. Emily came to our first year medical school class last year as one of our “patient presentations.”  One of the more impactful parts of the first year of medical school, patient presentations involve volunteers dealing with chronic diseases come talk to us about the textbooks don’t tell us, namely what life is really like.  I was highly impressed with all the people who volunteer to be honest and vulnerable with 170 future-physicians, often year after year. 

Emily has cystic fibrosis, a condition that causes mucus to be thick and sticky, causing chronic lung problems as well as difficulty absorbing nutrients. It can be devastating and even with current treatments, the median life span is 41.  Emily is an exceptionally charismatic person and captivated all of us as she told her story of essentially taking back her lung function and life through running and improved nutrition. Her story is also captured in a series of short videos by BreadTruck films.

She started the Rock CF Foundation in 2007, an organization devoted to CF awareness, fundraising and advocacy in the greater Detroit area. This involves raising money to donate running shoes and race entries to people with CF through “Kicks Back” and advocating CF research, including integrating exercise as as a treatment tool.  One of the big Rock CF events is the Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon held around Grosse Ile in March.

She gave a quick plug for the race during her talk last year and it has stuck on my radar since then. I have been fortunate enough to remain injury free while running this winter and when my clinical schedule was free this weekend, I decided to go for it.  I hadn’t been specifically preparing for it but felt that my running was consistent enough that it wasn’t a stupid idea either.

Yes, it was cold enough to justify the ski suit!

This was the eighth year of the race and it has grown to thousands-strong, a testament to Emily’s efforts and the strong sense of community and purpose surrounding the foundation and the race. The event was extremely well run and it was awesome to see so many people out and excited to race on a windy, chilly day in March.

 

Although I’ve identified as a cyclist for years, it is always fun and a bit nostalgic for me to jump back into an open running race. With minimal fitness tests and irregular training over the winter, I had no idea what to expect. I managed to pace it pretty well and ended up 3rd in 1:25 in a strong women’s field. 

Kudos to the Rock CF Foundation and Emily for an impressive mission and great day!

Full results


One of the best days of the year…

March 15th, 2018 by Elaine Sheikh

As a cyclist in Michigan, there are some monumental days on the calendar:

  1. Yankee Springs Time Trial – the opening of the MTB race season
  2. Barry-Roubaix – the largest and one of the most popular gravel road races in MI
  3. Race for the wishes – the road race that often serves as our state championship
  4. Alma GP of CX – the kick-off for cyclocrossers
  5. Iceman Cometh – the point-to-point MTB race that draws thousands of participants and a stacked pro field to Traverse City

Then there’s the day that every cyclist on a team looks forward to as much (or more) than these monuments of the Michigan cycling calendar . . . new kit arrival day! That’s right – the day that our new lycra arrives is one of the highlights of the year. This is especially true when your new kit is from Giordana.

I am anything but a professional racer, but as someone who logs between 7,000 – 8,000 miles on his bike each year, I most definitely have an appreciation for the equipment that makes my riding more comfortable and enjoyable.

Since joining Athletic Mentors cycling team, I have had the opportunity to wear Giordana gear. I anticipated the change from another brand to be difficult, but was pleasantly surprised by the quality, comfort, durability and aesthetic of our Giordana kit. When we head outside in the chilly morning in the Spring, the lined Roubaix line of bibs, jerseys and arm warmers are just right to keep me focused on my miles and not the air temperature. When the long rides of a hot summer afternoon hit, I have come to appreciate the breathability of the Scatto jerseys that allow enough ventilation to keep me feeling cool. Regardless of the weather, I most appreciate the comfort and quality of the chamois. I know, no one likes to talk about those parts, but if you are going to log serious miles, this becomes a critical contact point between cyclist and bike. I have been amazed not just at the comfort of the chamois, but the durability. With other brands, this critical component of the kit had a definite shelf life. I have yet to experience that with my Giordana chamois.

Finally, the aesthetic of the kit looks great. Whether I find myself logging some solo miles, riding in the peloton or on the those rare occasions I get to stand on a podium, I look forward to wearing my team colors in my Giordana kit. And I always look forward to new kit arrival day each spring . . .


My Kona Journey: The Final Part

March 12th, 2018 by Elaine Sheikh

This blog is a continuation from my last blog post “My Kona Journey: Part 7”.  I would suggest reading that blog before reading this one.

“The hardest skill to acquire in this sport is the one where you compete all out, give it all you have, and you are still getting beat no matter what you do. When you have the killer instinct to fight through that, it is very special.”

– Eddie Reese, U.S. Olympic Swimming coach

I woke up before my alarm went off at 3:30am.  I was only able to get a few hours of good sleep since my body was so amped up for what was about to happen today.  This was the morning I’ve been imaging and waiting for for years. After putting on my race kit I had my usual breakfast of oats with protein powder because it settled well with my stomach.  After eating, my family and I left our condo around 4am and started the 30 min drive to the race transition area.

At 4:30am we arrived at the transition area where my aunt and I were dropped off.  The athlete swim check-in opened at 4:45am so I got there a little early to beat the big crowds.  In addition, I wanted to see the Pro Men and Women check-in. When we got to check-in there was already a long line so we weren’t able to see the Pros.  While waiting in line I dropped off my special needs bags for the bike and run. When I was about to enter into the swim check-in area I gave my Aunt a hug as she wished me good luck for my race.

The check-in process went very smooth.  There were more volunteers than athletes which is rare to see.  The process went very quick and volunteers were very enthusiastic.  The volunteers applied my race number tattoos. After we got our race number we had to step on a scale to record our pre-race weight.  Finally we walked across the timing mate to verify that our chip was working and check-in was complete.

After check-in I walked over to my bike to get everything setup.  I placed four bottles of Infinit on my bike and filled up my aero bottle.  I pre-clipped my shoes in the pedals and pumped up the tires. After double (and triple) checking my setup, I was done in transition.  I went into the Kualia Bay Hotel to meet up with my dad. I entered the hotel and saw a few pro triathletes, like Mirinda Carfrae (3-time Ironman World Champ), another reminder that the best of the best were here this morning.  I sat in the hotel for about 30 minutes to rest the legs and take in some more fluids and nutrition. I also put on my swim speed suit, and went back into the transition area with less than a hour to go until my race.

When I got back into transition I checked on my bike setup and get some sunscreen on. By this point the transition area was packed like a can of sardines, including big name pros like Sabian Kienle, Jan Fordino, and Timothy O’Donnell.  With 20 mins before my swim start at 7:05am, I was ready. The Pro men and women already started their race, so I made my way over to the starting area by the bay.

 I entered the slow moving line to Kailua bay for the swim.  While entering the water I walked down the famous IRONMAN stairs that is always shown on NBC’s documentary coverage.  I witnessed a mix of emotions from the athletes that ranged from excitement to anxiety, mirroring my own feelings. When my feet touched the Pacific ocean, I paused for a few minutes before swimming out to the start, conserving my energy for the swim by decreasing the time I would have to tread water.  I made my way to the start line 13 minutes before the start time. My strategy was to be at least 50 yards to the left of the pier so I wasn’t starting out with the strong swimmers.  In addition it was less congested left of the pier. I didn’t want to start my race by getting trampled!

 When I got to the start line I was greeted by paddle boarders that were going back and forth to form a start line.  As I was waiting for the cannon to go off, I was thinking back to the times before I started doing triathlons.  During High School I remember watching the Ironman World Championship documentary on NBC, which inspired me to do a Ironman race one day. I’ve always dreamt of what it would be like to compete and experience the start at Kona.  In my opinion, the start of the Ironman World Championships is probably the most epic moments in all of triathlon and I was experiencing that right now!

 Ten seconds before the cannon went off the paddle boarders stopped and turned their boards parallel to us so we could swim by easier.  When that happened I knew it was GAME ON. BANG!!! The cannon blasted and I went out at a strong pace. There was a lot of contact with other swimmers through the first quarter mile, which I expected.  Fortunately I never got kicked or hit hard to disrupt my swim.

 It was challenging to sight far due to the waves and swimmers blocking my view.  I had to just follow the swimmers and trust that they’re going the right way. The swim course was pretty simple since it was just a long straight out and back loop.  The turnaround was around a big sailboard. As I got closer to the turnaround there was more separation between the athletes which made it easier to swim. At this point in the race I was swimming 20 yards away from the buoy markers.  I noticed that the main pack was swimming closer to the buoys which explained why there were less swimmers around me. In hindsight I probably should’ve swam with the main pack so I could’ve taken advantage of the draft behind the other swimmers.  As the swim progressed there were several swimmers passing me because they likely started further back. Usually my pace doesn’t slow down this early in a Ironman swim.

At the turnaround we swam around the sailboard, filled with cheering fans, which was pretty cool.  Staying 20 yards away from the buoys allowed me to swim alone and at my own pace, though I likely missed out on the draft of other swimmers.  A half mile before the swim exit I saw the famous coffee boat and for a split second I thought about stopping in for a cup of joe. Chuckling at myself, I thought I better not since I was in middle of a race…

 When I exited the swim there were about 20 athletes around me which meant it was very congested.  In the changing tent area, there was not enough room to even sit down. I quickly removed my swim speed suit and put on my helmet and socks for the bike.  My swim time was 1:00:53 and my gender placement was 405th.

 The start of the bike was more like a NASCAR race where all of the bikes were just motor pacing behind one other.  We were only able to keep 2 bike lengths between each other because it was so congested. The Ironman drafting rules state that you must keep 5 bike lengths behind the rider in front of you.  It was impossible to not draft especially during the first 5 miles because the roads were too narrow to pass. I had to stay patient and treat it like a warm up ride. I wasn’t able to start riding at my goal Ironman (IM) wattage until I got to the Queen K highway.

 When I got to the Queen K, I was able to pick up the pace… but it was still crowded.  Most of the riders were violating the 5 bike length draft zone rule. This meant that if passed a rider I also had to pass the rider in front of him because he was within the 5 bike length rule.  So I had to pass groups of riders, which required me to ride at a hard effort for a long time duration. Often, it took 2- 3 minutes to make a pass around a group because the groups were so long.  After I passed a group of riders I would slow down and settle into my IM effort.

 I didn’t want to continue doing 2 to 3 minute hard efforts because it would tire me out later on.  I attempted another strategy,  staying behind the group until it started to separate so I could pass one or two riders at a time.  However, as I patiently waited behind the group, I would get passed by riders that I already passed, which caused some frustration.

 In order to move up on the field I had to stay near my goal IM wattage, but this was hard to manage.  I found myself doing 230-250 watt efforts when passing and then doing 180-210 watts when riding behind a large group.  I had to be patient and wait for riders separate so I could pass them one by one. Once again I did not want to work too hard during the first few hours of the ride knowing that it was a 112 mile bike race and then a marathon run.

 Between the town of Kona and the airport we had a tailwind so I was averaging between 25 to 30 mph.  I was feeling good on the bike and I was on a great pace so far. When I got to Waikoloa (30 mile mark) the wind varied between a crosswind and headwind.  My speeds slowed down to 20 to 25 mph. After the 30 mile mark I was able to pass more athletes since the riders were more spread out.

 When I got to route 270 and started the climb to Hawi (42 mile mark) I had a tailwind.  During the climb to Hawi, I took advantage of my power-to-weight ratio, passing a lot of riders and sustaining 240+ watts.  However, on the downhills, I had to pedal just to keep up with the riders who carried more mass.

 When I got to Hawi, it was getting really congested because of the slowdown before the hairpin turnaround.  A lot of riders took advantage of the slowdown by passing a bunch of riders before the turnaround.

 After the turnaround, the riders were slow to getting up to speed, so I gunned it and passed at least 30 riders.  In addition, the riders were grabbing nutrition at the special needs station which is right after the turnaround.  I didn’t need any food at special needs since I had enough nutrition to get me through the bike leg. At this point I was right on my nutrition plan of one bottle of Infinit per hour.  I made sure that I was taking in a little water at every aid station. In addition, I was splashing water in my helmet and on my body to help stay cool.

 Once I got to the long downhill descent I was no longer passing riders.  Instead I was getting passed by riders every few minutes. There were a few steep section where I could get into an aero tuck position and not have to pedal.  But, for the most part, I had to keep pedaling to keep pace with the riders. When I got to the bottom of the Hawi climb I was able to pass a few riders on the climb to Queen K.  This was the last segment of the race where I felt good… from that point on things got ugly for me.

 I had a large power fade when I got onto the Queen K. At this point I knew I had to stay mentally positive and tough it out.  I had about 2 hours left to go on the bike. It was hard to stay positive when I kept getting passed by several riders. In addition, the last 30 miles of the bike had a significant headwind which added fatigue to the legs. I entered into survival mode and mentally check-out.  My mindset changed from “racing to a podium finish” to “just to get to T2 whatever it takes.” I turned my focus from pace or power to spinning the legs and soaking in the environment. I started taking notice of the beautiful landscape of the lava fields and the Pacific coast. In other words today was “pain in paradise”.

 Towards the end of the bike I had some cramping issues in my hamstrings.  I had to stand up on the bike and stretch out to get rid of the cramps. I rarely have cramping issue so I think I was a little dehydrated and more fatigued than usual.  I was happy to finish the ride in 5:14:06 and 108th in my age group.

 When I dismounted in T2 and started running my legs felt like bricks.  I did not rush myself through T2, like I normally do at other triathlons.  Instead I took my time as I put my run gear and sunscreen on. When I started the marathon, I realized that I didn’t have my Garmin watch on because I left it on the bike so I had no way of tracking my pace.  However, this may have been a good thing because I could go by feel and not worry about my time. My mindset for the run was to soak in the atmosphere, finish, and most of all just enjoy the moment because I was in KONA!

 Per the Ironman tracker I was running 7:30 pace for the first few miles. Throughout the marathon I did a run-walk strategy.  I walked through every aid station to hydrate and cool off. In the aid stations I put sponges and ice in my tri suit. After the aid stations I would start running again.  The first 9 miles of the marathon were exciting because of the crazy and cheering spectators.

 By mile 9, I had to walk up a few big hills like Paloniti.  After mile 9 my pace slowed down to the mid 8 to 8:30 pace range.  By this point, I was running on the Queen K highway… which had very few spectators, but plenty of volunteers at each aid station for support.  After a few miles on the Queen K it felt like time was slowing down because it was taking a longer and longer time to get to each mile mark. I knew it was going to be a long day! Instead of focusing on the mile markers, I shifted my focus on just getting to the next aid station and keeping pace with the other competitors around me.

 The temperature on the run was near 90 degrees, which made it uncomfortable. But the ice from the aid stations kept my body temperature under control. The hot temperatures caused my Infinit nutrition on my fuelbelt to heat up which didn’t taste great.   Instead I took some clif shot blocks on the course to get in the additional calories.

 I ran the last 2 miles non-stop since it was mostly downhill.  I was able to pick up the pace and find extra energy to finish strong.  When I got to Ali’i drive I used every last bit of adrenaline I had to finish strong.  The finish line area was pretty epic and I soaked it in. My finish time was 10:02:34 and I was 80th out of 175 athletes in the 30-34 age group.  Given the mental wins and struggles of the day, I was very pleased with how I finished.

 After finishing the volunteers gave me a finisher’s medal and Kukui Nut Lei.  Pushing myself the last 2 miles caused me to be very nauseous so I stopped by the med tent to make sure I was ok. The medical staff took my weight and I lost 10 pounds which was 7% of my body weight.  I started to feel better after resting and drinking some broth in the med tent. I’m always in rough shape after an Ironman… and today was no different. However, I was less sore since I didn’t push the marathon as hard as I’ve done in the past (aka less pounding on the feet). . did have some nasty sunburn on my back!

 The next day my family and I watched the award ceremony for the age-group and professional athletes.  The age-group award ceremony was really motivating to watch. The 5-top finishers in each male and female age group got awards.  The ceremony inspired me to continue to improve and someday be on one of those five podium steps.

This race was a humbling experience, racing against the best athletes in the world on one of the toughest course in the world.  It was a honor to say that I qualified for Ironman World Championships and that I accomplished one of my lifelong dreams. I would like to thank my dad, my aunt, and my 2nd cousin Emma that came out to support me on this trip.  I also want to thank Team Athletic Mentors, the Trikat Club, and my friends for supporting me on this journey. I would like to thank my coach for his guidance and helping me reach my Kona goal.

 Thank you for reading my Kona blogs and I hope this encourages you to go after your dreams.  You can accomplish anything if you surround yourself with the right people, you have a plan, you have a drive to succeed, and you have patiences.  Anything is possible! Go and write your journey!


Athletic Mentors Multisport Team Suiting Up for Success in 2018

February 9th, 2018 by Team AM OAM

Athletic Mentors — the training and team management company responsible for elevating Michigan endurance athletes to recognition as “podium performers” — is ramping up for another strong showing for the 2018 race season.

The storied team of Michigan amateur triathletes, cyclists, runners and Nordic skiers will be suiting up with support from numerous community partners this year.

Training the next generation of multisport athletes is an activity that will continue to receive increased attention in 2018, building on workshops held last year for youth triathlete training and cycling clinics.

“Our mission is to introduce young athletes to the joy of endurance competition as a lifelong motivation for healthy living,” said Cheryl Sherwood, General Manager and co-owner of Athletic Mentors.

“It’s one of the many ways our sponsors are making Michigan a better place for active living.”

Back for a second year in the presenter role is Greenware, a Kalamazoo packaging company that caters to restaurant, event and entertainment service with an exclusive line of annually renewable drink cups, lids, portion containers and on-the-go boxes made entirely from plants. Parent company FabriKal is privately held and home to more than 800 employees. For Greenware, the AM team is an opportunity to encourage the community to enjoy the outdoors and keep it green.

After a season break, OAM NOW is back in the fold as a major sponsor. OAM NOW offers urgent orthopaedic care from the best orthopaedic surgeons available. With 30 experienced physicians and PAs specializing in motion; spine; joints; hands and feet, OAM is uniquely qualified to give immediate diagnosis and customized care to athletes. With all diagnostic technologies onsite, OAM NOW offers fast, unified care whether you’re on the couch or on the trail.

Rounding out the premium level of support are three community-minded West Michigan companies.

Gauthier Family Home Care provides elder and home care with an emphasis on independence and an improved quality of life. This family-owned business understands the struggles of in-home care and works with clients to create tailored care solutions. Their compassionate, professional caregivers go the extra mile to provide dependable comfort.

 

Total Plastics Inc. distributes thousands of diverse plastics across the US. They provide top-quality products with superior service and swift shipping. Dedicated staff, value-added services, and quick turn-around set them apart.

Agility Sports Medicine serves the Kalamazoo area with comprehensive orthopedic physical therapy. They employ one of the most heavily-certified staffs in the region, featuring two Board-Certified Clinical Specialists in Orthopedics and the only Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Sports Physical Therapy in Southwest Michigan.

Additional team support comes from the following: Infinit Nutrition, Smith Optics, Giordana, First Endurance, KLM Fitness, Custer Cyclery, Speed Merchants Bike Shop, Giant and the Cross Country Ski Shop. Learn more about our sponsors.

Athletic Mentors continues to serve as the title sponsor for the team as well as the management company that operates it.

“We’re committed to keeping endurance athletes of every age moving. And nothing motivates a commitment to training more than a race,” Sherwood said.

The team regularly operates free introductory clinics to help amateur or would-be endurance athletes prepare for local races such as the GR TRI, the Cycling Lawyer Criterium, or the Michigan Titanium, mother of multisports.

Athletic Mentors, founded in 2002, continues to expand at a record pace. In 2016, it purchased a new home for its Richland training facility and fitness drop-in center. Last year, in partnership with the Wings West facility in Kalamazoo, Athletic Mentors opened a second center to keep young hockey and figure skaters in top form with off-ice training programs.

AM also offers adult fitness programs, classes, metabolic testing and sports camps. Previously, Athletic Mentors has managed the award-winning Bissell cycling team, the Priority Health Team and OAM NOW.


Steps to Getting Better Sleep

February 1st, 2018 by Elaine Sheikh

In today’s culture, poor sleep is worn almost like a badge of honor. If you are a high achiever, whether in your job, with your family, or just trying to live a full life, sleep often takes a back seat to our attention. It’s the place often sacrificed to find more time in the day. However, science is showing time and again that better sleep is imperative to good health. Many don’t know that simple changes to the daily task of getting to sleep can help them feel more rested and ready to take on their day, and aid their long term health. Here are some steps to take for more effective rest.

Establish a Sleep Schedule

Many daily biological patterns are based off the body’s circadian rhythm. This system is cued into light and other waking stimuli, and best responds to a pattern of regularity. Set aside 7.5-8.5 hours to sleep each night. Try to retire at the same time, rising around the same time each morning. Weekends should replicate the weekly waking and sleeping times as well, where possible. Avoid long naps (greater than 30 mins) in the day as these impact the ability to fall asleep at a normal time.

Adjust Your Surroundings

The place one sleeps should be inviting. For many, this means some place cool, dark, and calm. Others benefit from a fan or other device to give a consistent, gentle background sound. Minimizing stimulating your senses through blocking out sounds, light, or other things that will prevent relaxation. This includes not using television, phones, computers, or radio when trying to fall asleep.

Prepare the Body

It is common to try to work or be active right up till it’s time to go to bed. However, this keeps the body on alert. Hormones are released to tell us when to rise, prepare us for proper function, and give appropriate arousal to best perform in our day.

These aspects of the “biological clock” are influenced by outside cues, like light, sound and other stimuli. It’s best to allow the body time to adjust away from this alert state. As the evening hours begin, dim or shut off lights within the house. If spending time on the computer shortly before bed, consider installing a program that removes blue light to lower stimulation. Do some relaxing activity before sleeping, like reading a book or taking a bath. Not only should work be avoided as you’re approaching bedtime, but also exercise or other activities that keep the body charged up.

Though going to bed hungry doesn’t promote quality sleep, neither does stuffing oneself. Be careful how much you consume leading up to the hours before bed.Also note that excessive fluids will likely cause the need to hit the bathroom at some point in your slumber. Caffeine, alcohol, some herbs, and nicotine can be stimulants that hinder a quick fall into a useful sleep cycle. These can take hours to get out of the system, so pay attention to when to stop ingesting them. Alcohol especially can make the sleep one gets poorer then it should as well.


My Kona Journey: Part 7

January 20th, 2018 by Elaine Sheikh

This blog is a continuation from my last blog post “My Kona Journey: Part 6”.  I would suggest reading that blog before reading this one.

“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.”

– Laird Hamilton

My summer racing and training was going really well heading into mid September.  Based on my key bike workouts, I felt that I was on track for achieving my 5 hour time goal for the bike course at Kona.  In fact, the day after the Reeds Lake Triathlon, I had my best 100 mile power average ever!  That 100 mile ride gave me confidence that my fitness was where it needed to be for Kona.  However, that confidence began to wane heading into Kona.

The last 5 weeks leading up to the big race were the most physically and mentally draining block of training I had experienced. With all honesty, I was just having bad workouts.  I especially struggled with big brick workouts each weekend.  These workouts included a 4 to 5 hour bike ride followed by a 30 to 50 minute run.  I really struggled to hit my power or pace targets during some of these big workouts.  For instance, I recall one workout where I had to do a 100 mile time trial followed by a 1:10 hour run. It just so happened that the temperatures were in the 80s and 90s on that day.  At the time I thought the sunny hot weather would be a good thing since it would be great preparation for Kona.  The hot weather would allow me to test out my nutrition plan and pacing.  In addition, the heat would test my physical and mental limits.  I can assure you, my limits were tested!

When I started the 100 mile time trial, I could tell early in the ride that my legs were not going to cooperate, causing me to ride well below my goal power. In fact, the average power that I was able to hold was 30 watts lower than my Ironman goal power.  It was hard to stay mentally focused when I was not physically able to ride to my full capability.  On the positive side, I was able to stay cool and stay on my nutrition plan since the intensity of the ride was low.  Unfortunately, I felt worse as the ride progressed, so I decided to just call it a day on the bike and cut the ride short to 73 miles.  This was the first ride I had to shorten due to fatigue during my training.

After the shorten bike ride I changed into my run gear and started my 1:10 hour run.  The run was broken up into 3x 20 min at 15 – 20 seconds faster than Ironman pace with 2 minute recoveries.  When I started the run I was really “feeling” the heat since I didn’t have that 20 mph breeze like I did for the bike.  It was in the low 90s with no cloud cover and no wind.  I thought to myself “this weather will be very similar to Kona”.  To help stay cool I threw ice and cold water down my tri kit since Kona would have these items at aid stations.  I was only able to get relief for 5 minutes until a;; the ice in my tri kit melted.  During the 20 minute intervals, I was able to hold between 6:45- 6:55 pace but the perceived effort was very hard.  My body had to work extra hard stay cool and overcome a fatigued body.  The heat really got to me during the last 10 minutes of each interval.  After each interval, I rested in the shade and put ice and cold water in my tri kit to stay cool.  During the run it was a challenge to take in calories without getting an upset stomach due to the heat.  This was one of the hardest runs of the year for me!  When I finished the run I was glad that it was over but was disappointed that I was not able to do better.

The following day after my big brick workout I did a 2:40 hour long run.  My long run would again be in the high 80s.  However, this workout went better than yesterday’s suffer-fest.  I was able to hold my Ironman goal pace and stay cooler during the run.  It made a huge difference not doing a 3:30 hour ride before the run.  I was able to get in 22 miles for the run, stay hydrated and fueled.

I realized that my body was just getting fatigued from the long Ironman season.  Doing Ironman Brasil in the late spring and then training for another Ironman in October was new territory for me, so I wasn’t sure how my body would respond. One thing is for sure is my body was telling me to start tapering.  So, three weeks before Kona, I began cutting back on my training volume. When I started the taper, I was beginning to feel more like my normal self again.  Finally, I was having good workouts again and I had my mental motivation back again.

One week before Kona I flew out to the Big Island of Hawaii.  I was very fortunate to have my father, Aunt, and 2nd cousin with me during the 10 days in Hawaii.  We stayed in a nice condo resort in Waikoloa Beach Village area which was right off the Queen K highway.  This was a good spot for training since I could ride on Queen K which was part of the bike course.

I rode the course a few times to get an idea of how my bike would handle in the crosswinds.  Kona is known for having significant crosswinds that can change on a dime.  On Tuesday, I rode 1.5 hours from my Condo to the turnaround point in Hawi.  When I started the ride I was fighting a stiff 15-25 mph cross wind.  Several times the wind turned into a headwind or sometimes a tailwind.  After 45 minutes of riding I started the climb up to Hawi. The climb was a gradual incline.  There are a few steeper sections where I could get out of my aero position and sit up on the bike.  The hardest part was fighting the strong 20-30 mph headwinds and crosswinds.  Overall, I thought the terrain of the course was not hard but rather  the elements of the race such as the wind, heat, sun, and no shade is what makes this course challenging.

After the 1.5 hour bike I did a 20 min run off the bike which felt great.  This was my last “long” brick workout before the race which I thought went well.  I felt that physical and mentally strong.  The taper and rest was exactly what I needed.

Two days before the race I did a 30 minute open water swim in Kailua Bay.  The water temperature was around 80-81°F which was warm enough to not allow wetsuits.  For the race I will wear a speed suit instead.  One benefit of swimming in the Pacific is the salt water will help keep you more buoyant. The water in the Bay was very clear so you could see all the sealife below.  When I was swimming from the pier the water was calm for the first 200 yards.  Once I got more out into the ocean there were waves that began to push me around a little.  In addition, the tides kept me constantly moving up and down which caused me to get a little motion dizziness.  Hopefully I don’t get seasick during the race!   I had to be extra careful not to swallow or get any saltwater in my month.  This  2.4 mile swim in Kona will be the most challenging of any Ironman race I’ve done.  Knowing that I will be swimming with the best Ironman athletes in the world,  I needed to be on top of my game.

The final day before the race we had to check in our bike and equipment.  It was a spectacle just to witness the bike check-in process.  It felt like the red carpet in Hollywood.

Everyone was gathered around the fence to check out the Pro and age group athletes walk in. They had an announcer calling out all the athletes as they walked into the transition area.  When I entered the transition I had my own volunteer to escort me around the entire check-in process.  I had photographers take a picture of my bike so Ironman determine the total count of bikes and equipment that people are using for the race.  After the photoshoot, the volunteer walked me out to my transition spot.  I mounted my bike and placed my bike and run bags in the changing tent area.  The transition area and changing tent were very condensed.  On race day the changing tent would be very crowded..  Other than the space issue I felt like a VIP during the check-in process.

After the bike check-in I went back to the condo to eat and get things ready for the race.  On race morning, I like to have everything ready to go so I can try to get extra sleep.  I prepared my Infinit nutrition bottles for the bike and run.  Similar to Ironman Brasil, I plan on having 5 bottles on the bike plus one extra bottle in special needs, just in case.  The special needs bag will be placed at the turnaround point in Hawi.  For the run I prepared 5 flask bottles.  I plan on carrying 3 flasks with me coming out of T2 and picking up 2 more flasks at the special needs which was located at mile 18.  I plan on keeping my calorie consumption per hour the same as Ironman Brasil, but I plan on drinking more water.  I had all my shoes, race kits, electronics, race numbers, and timing chip laid out on the floor.

I had a lot of nervous energy running through my body considering it was the biggest race in my triathlon career.  I felt relaxed and calm during the final days leading up to the race but now that the race was less than 24 hours away it was hard to keep calm.   For me, it’s hard to not be nervous before a race that I deeply care about… especially if it’s a race that I’ve been dreaming of doing for a long time.  I just tried to embrace the nervous energy and the moment that would be in store for me tomorrow.

To be continued….


A Thousand Invisible Mornings

January 13th, 2018 by Elaine Sheikh

This time of year, I often need a little inspiration to keep up (or start up) my training.

In the fall, the weather and beauty draws me outside to ride the lovely Michigan countryside.

In the spring, I am so eager to get back on my bike outside, I can hardly wait for clear roads and warmer temps.

In the summer, the sun and warmth, group rides and racing provide daily motivation to ride hard and long.

But, this time of year… especially those windy, gray days when there isn’t enough snow to get out and enjoy, the trainer becomes the best option.

Morning after morning after morning on the trainer can suck the motivation right out of you. With ever-improving technology making trainer rides more enjoyable, even the hardcore Zwifters have to long for a breath of fresh air.

A few days ago, my college roommate and rowing teammate sent me a photo that spoke to that deep motivation… that drive to use these cold months of indoor training to become the best athlete I can be. It is perfect. I hope it helps you get through until Michigan welcomes us back outside!



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