My Kona Journey: Part 5

November 13th, 2017 by Athletic Mentors

by Brian Reynolds

This blog is a continuation from my last blog post “My Kona Journey: Part 4”. I would suggest reading that blog before reading this one.

“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”
– Arnold Schwarzenegger

The alarm goes off at 4:00am and I’m already wide awake filled with nervous energy. I thought to myself 3 hours from now I will be toeing the line for Ironman Brasil. I woke up to rain droplets hitting our hotel. The forecast showed light rain showers and temps in the high 60s throughout the day so I put on a rain jacket to keep dry. I had my usual breakfast which was oatmeal with protein powder mixed in. After eating I walked down to our hotel lobby to take a shuttle bus to the race transition area. The shuttle ride was slow due to the pedestrian and car traffic. When I got to the transition area I dropped off my special need bags and then I went to set-up my bike. I loaded up my nutrition bottles on the bike, pumped up the tires, setup the bike computer, and pre-clipped my bike shoes.

After getting setup in transition and put on my wetsuit in a dry area and started my half mile walk to the swim start. When I got near the swim start I got into the ocean and did a 5 minute warm up swim. The ocean was really calm which put me at ease considering the tides we had a few days ago. After warming up I had 30 minutes until my 7:05am wave start for the 30-34 age group. During that time I drank some Ucan and took-in other nutrition to get fueled up before the start. The Pro men started at 6:35am and the Pro women started at 6:45am. My wave started after the Pro Women. The race officials lined us up at the start line 15 minutes prior to the start. The race was a beach start so the race officials lined us up 10 meters away from the shoreline. It felt like an eternity waiting at the start line. During the wait, I stared out into the ocean thinking to myself that this was exactly what I envisioned in my head over a 1000 times during training.

Once the volunteers moved out of the way and lowered the start-line tape it was game on. BANG!! The cannon went off and over 300 athletes sprinted into the Atlantic Ocean. I ran about 30 yards before jumping in the water to begin my swim. There was a group of 8-10 guys that took off ahead of us within the first 200 yards. I ended up swimming with a pack of 8 guys during the first half of the swim. The swim course was set up as a “M” shape meaning we swam a 2.2K out and back then another 1.6K out and back. At times it was challenging to sight the first turnaround buoy because it was still dark and my goggles were fogging up. I mainly focused on drafting behind the swimmers in my group to save as much energy as possible. Within the group there was a lot of contact- so got hit and kicked several times. We rounded the first buoy and swam back to shore. Heading back out, the sun was higher in the sky, so it was easier to sight. Hitting the shore a second time, we ran onto the beach and went around a few cones before running back into the Ocean. At this point we another 1.6K of swimming left to go..

When I entered the water again I noticed that the group that I was swimming with were more spread apart. Since I didn’t have a group to swim with, I swam behind one of the stronger swimmers from that group for the next 300 meters. At this point the 35-39 age group leaders were starting to pass us so I made a surge and got behind them. After 200 yards I lost contact with the 35-39 age group leaders and I swam solo until the swim finish. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have made a surge since I only got a small lead on the group that I swam with earlier. I came out of the 2.4 mile swim in a time of 55:08 which was a personal best for a Ironman swim. It was a fast swim considering the saltwater for the extra buoyancy and ocean currents pushing us along.

We had to run about .3 miles to the transition. I ran by my dad just before entering transition and he yelled out “You’re in 15th place”. To qualify for Kona I needed to be in the top 8 of my age group to guarantee a slot. I had a smooth T1 transition even though the transition area was slippery from the rain. There were athletes sliding and falling but luckily I had no issues. When I got on the bike and started pedaling the legs were feeling good. My mantra for the first few hours of the bike was to hold back and stay at my goal wattage. I waited 10 minutes into the bike before taking in nutrition to make sure my stomach had settled after the swim. My nutrition plan was to take 273 calories every hour which equates to one bottle per hour.

The course was mostly flat during the first 30 minutes until I got to the first major climb. The climbs were long and gradual but I made sure that I kept a steady effort. On the steeper uphill sections I would pedal standing up so I could work different muscles and give other muscles a break. I felt strong up the hills. After the hilly section it was mostly flat and fast. On the flats I stayed in the aero position. The roads were wet and periodically there would be a light rain showers. The roads were slippery so I took extra caution going around turns. I saw a few riders fall on some of the hairpin turns. There were large water puddles on the road which made it dangerous to ride through because you didn’t know what was underneath the puddle. There was one rider 50 yards ahead of me that hit a pothole and his bike catapulted him over the handlebars. He never saw the pothole because it was hidden under a water puddle.

I felt good all the way though the first lap of the bike. My first lap split was 2:27 which put me on pace to be under 5 hours for the bike. When I started the 2nd loop the winds picked up in speed which made the course slower. At the 2:45 hour mark my Quarq power meter started to malfunction due to the wet conditions. My power meter was reading very low power numbers which made it useless since the numbers had no meaning to me. To help monitor my pace/intensity I switch to my heart rate monitor. I tried to stay at around 158 bpm since this was my heart rate when I started to track it. Hard to say if that heart rate was keeping me within my proper power zones. I was just trying to keep the intensity consistent. This was the first time my power meter completely malfunctioned, so it was terrible timing that it happened in a race. Throughout my training I relied on my power to monitor my pace and intensity.

At the 3:30 hour mark my legs were favoring a lower cadence which meant that my legs were getting fatigued. At the 4 hour mark my legs were really hurting which became obvious as I was struggling on my smallest gear going up the major climbs. On the first loop the major climbs felt easy. Also I was a little behind my nutrition plan because I didn’t finish my fourth bottle until the 4:20 hour mark. The last hour of the bike was just survival mode to get to T2. I just focused on giving it everything that I had. When I finished the bike I still had a half bottle of nutrition leftover. I finished the 112 mile bike in a 5:02:50 which was a personal best.

When I got off my bike and started running through transition I was not feeling good. My legs were stiff and I didn’t feel comfortable. My goal for the marathon was to run a sub 3 hour which was a 6:53 pace. I took the first mile conservative at a 7:05 pace. During the run my stomach was a little upset so I wasn’t able to take in nutrition until 20 mins into the run. However, my running legs did start to feel better by mile 2 and I began running 6:40-50 pace. The most challenging part of the course was the first 10 km. At the 4 km mark we had to run up two very steep hills. The 2nd hill was so steep that I had to power-walk it. The descent on these hills were very steep so I had to keep the pace super slow so I didn’t fall over. I ran with another competitor side by side during the first 10km which was nice. I tried to make small talk with him but he didn’t speak very much english. We passed at least 30 people running together. I passed more people the first 10km of the race than I did during the remainder of the marathon.

After the first 10 km it was mostly flat the next 20 miles. From miles 6 to 12 I was holding 6:45 pace and was feeling good. I began opening up a gap on the my fellow competitor who I was running with side by side. I was taking in nutrition but I was still behind my nutrition plan. One hour into the run I was suppose to take 2 flasks of Infinit but I only had one. When I got near mile 13 I was starting to feel light headed and low on energy. I felt low on energy because I was behind on my calorie count. Thankfully the 2nd flask I took before mile 13 was starting to kick in and I got my energy back. I ran a 7:05 for mile 13 and then I picked up the pace to a 6:50 mins per mile.

I felt alright the next 10 km but I could tell I was on the edge of falling off pace. I KNEW if I did not keep taking my nutrition I going to hit the wall. With 12 km to go I stopped at the special needs station to pick up 2 more flasks of Infinit and took a quick walk break. This was the only time I walked besides the power-walk up the very steep hill. After the special needs I was holding onto 7:00 – 7:07 pace. It was in survival mode at this point. There were a LOT of people on the run course during my final lap. I had to maneuver around a lot of runners, which is hard when your legs and body are at their physical limits. I almost fell over when I tried to dodge a orange cone.

I was able to finish all of my nutrition with a mile left to go in the race. During the entire run I had no idea where I stood in my age group placement. With 1 km left until the finish my dad yelled out “You’re in 7th place!”. I was relieved to hear those words because I knew I qualified for Kona. I got an extra surge of energy and I was able to break 7:00 mins for the last mile. My official marathon time was a 3:00:06 which is a Ironman PR. After I finished I didn’t know the official results until a few hours later. The official results showed that I finished 2nd in my Age Group in a total time of 9 hours 4 minutes and 3 seconds. I was ecstatic! I did it! I’m going to KONA baby!

The following day was the award and the Kona slot allocation/roll down ceremonies. I got a big trophy for finishing 2nd in my age group.

After the age group and professional awards they did the Kona slot allocation and rolldown. Ironman Brasil had a total of 75 Kona Slots. For my age group they gave 8 Kona slots just like I predicted. When the announcer called my name I gladly walked on stage and accepted my slot to Kona. They gave me a Hawaiian lei and token which read “Qualified for 2017 Ironman World Championship”. The back of the token had the Ironman slogan “Anything is Possible”.

Overall Ironman Brasil was a huge success! I accomplished my main goal which was to qualify for Kona. Anything more was just icing on the cake. Now I had a place to be on October 14th, 2017 which was at the pier in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

To be continued….

 


Planning for a Successful Season by Terry Ritter

November 5th, 2017 by Athletic Mentors

Failing to plan is planning to fail. We’ve all heard this, and somewhere along the way the value of laying out your preseason and training may start to look attractive. But what components should a training plan have? As a racer that later became a coach, plus the near 20 years of working with hundreds of athletes, I see a few themes repeat themselves when athletes fail to achieve their planned goals. With the off season soon upon us now is the time to start thinking about the big picture for next season. Here are five points a successful training plan will address to help you reach your cycling goals.

Realistic Numbers

Finding a training plan is not difficult. Finding your training plan is the hard part. What amount of volume is appropriate? What amount of intensity? Both of these components combined to give the workload an athlete will see. Many athletes think more is better. Though this might be the case if your body can handle it, too much is often a one way ticket to overtraining. It’s better to take an honest look at your yearly volume and increase it only 10-15%. Some weeks might see more, others less. Overdoing it won’t make one faster.

Adequate Rest

So much of what an athlete focuses on is the physical training. It makes sense that one of the first question most will ask when discussing a training plan is what workouts they’ll be doing. But, stressing the system is only part of the equation. Giving your body time to rest, recuperate, and adapt is where conditioning/fitness comes. This work versus rest balance not only involves day to day planning, but monthly and full season planning as well. Most athletes can tell when they are tired from recent training (acute fatigue). What is often missed is the thought of taking time off within a season. That seems counter-intuitive to purposely lose fitness so that you can train harder later. Getting the mix of weekly, monthly, and seasonal rest correct is one of the biggest challenges. Long term goals require a good balance of all three.

Proper Peaks

It is common for athletes that are adopting a training plan for the first time to be cautious of committing time periods to be at peak fitness. Most of this seems to stem from the belief that they will give up fitness and results in lesser events due to this focus. Most of the time this is not true. Sure, there is the chance that if you are dedicated to a given event, you might find your training has you a bit too tired to do your absolute best at a race a few weeks before. Or, the fact a late season race focus might have you starting a bit behind the 8 ball early is difficult to swallow considering your historical fitness at that time.

But, without a focus the other pieces of the season can’t be put in place. Training doesn’t really serve anything, and the body also doesn’t get to unload the stress its acquired through training. Having a peak period to anchor a plan will help you determine the right workouts, focus, and rest within a season.

Purposeful Objectives and Efficacy

The word “plan” implies a purpose. When it comes to athletes, that purpose is to get better. The best way to do just that is assessing weakness and tailoring training to improve in these areas. Given to our own device, most people spend most of their time doing what they are good doing.

Climbers climb more…people good on the flats stay away from the hills. The best opportunity to get faster in your given event is to determine what aspects of your abilities are holding you back and devise training that’s specific to improving these areas. And this is also the way to get the best return on investment. Off season, weekly, and monthly focus should be centered around training activities that address your weaknesses. But, this training has to be gauged for effectiveness. Periodically testing, whether by time or using a power meter, will determine if your training is having the desired effect. And the season should have different aspects that address the whole athlete’s needs. Even a great climber that has to climb in their events should have a plan that at least keeps that as a strength.

Flexibility

A good plan followed is better than a great plan ignored. Too often I see athletes that are slaves to their training plan. They look past obvious challenges, like recovery or the stress it puts on other aspects of their life, and soldier on. Or, they try to make up workouts after an illness, or attempt to train through times when they are sick. This never ends well. A training plan is a best guess, and should be “written in pencil” to allow changes as new and unexpected territory is being charted. Maybe a travel week was thrown at you by your boss. Or something on the home front is eating into effective recovery. And rarely does a season go by that an injury doesn’t keep us off the bike at some point. Even the most well thought out training plans require adjustments now and again. Not all variables can be known, and sometimes life proves we don’t even know what we don’t know. Small tweaks can allow training to stay consistent in the face of adversity, and the purpose of a block of training to still be realized. A training plan should work for the athlete, not the other way around.

There are many benefits to a well devised training plan. There are also many pitfalls. Learning to use it as a tool for training and not the reason we train is important. Being sure your plan possess the five elements here will improve the chances of being guided to a successful season. Enjoy your off season and here’s hoping for much success in 2018!

 


Winning at a different game… women and aging

October 27th, 2017 by Athletic Mentors

By JoAnn Cranson

At almost 57 years old, I am happy to report that I am in the best shape of my life! Yes, I have hot flashes, wrinkles and don’t always sleep well, but I’ve never been a faster cyclist! I have the joy of visiting my doctor and seeing their surprise that my pulse is 56 and I take no medication… a rarity to be sure.

No, this doesn’t come without some hard work, but the benefits are worth the effort. Here, I’ve outlined 5 steps for you to work your way into shape no matter what your age.

  1. Lift weights! I know you say “Do I have to?” YES, it is so good for us in so many aspects that you need to do it. We lose up to 30% of our muscle mass between ages 50 and 70. Muscle loss affects so much. Most importantly it helps us to remain independent as we age. By keeping our “core” strong, we maintain our overall balance which means less falls and broken bones. But to build muscle mass, you do need to lift with 60-85% intensity… you need to sweat. Get a training buddy and lift 3 or 4 times a week. Oh yeah, another benefit—Lifting increases your metabolism, which means weight loss!
  2. Get off the couch and do something that makes your heart work. My cardio is biking. Find something you like to do and make it a habit. Once again, you need to understand your own body and increase your heart-rate to the correct “zone” to get the best benefit.
  3. Keep trying new ways to stay active overall. Step out of your comfort zone, Don’t worry what others think, My comment is “I’m old, who cares!” I took my first swim lessons last winter to learn how to swim. I was definitely one of the oldest in the class. I had no clue how to do the proper breathing in the freestyle swim, but I learned. You can teach an old dog new tricks!! I had to practice a lot more than the younger class members, but I now have the basics to build on.
  4. Watch and monitor your food content on a daily basis, try MyFitnessPal app. By recording your food, it helps you to understand how much and what types of food you are eating. As you form healthy eating habits you will be amazed by your increased energy and overall body function.
  5. Positive attitude – if you don’t feel like you are positive – fake it until you make it! If you do steps 1-4, you will see a huge change in your hormones which will naturally help you feel good!

The bottom line is that menopause will come to all women whether we like it or not. Don’t succumb to it, embrace it and overcome it! Some people say I’m crazy for racing, that may be but it takes me to my happy place. I would have never imagined I’d be sponsored on a race team at this time in my life. Take the first step and see where your passion takes you. Yes, it’s a sacrifice to make time for exercise and healthy habits, but YOU are worth it!!

Don’t know where to start in a program, contact Athletic Mentors. They offer all kinds of programs at their location or remotely. www.athleticmentors.com


Tips for Braving (and Enjoying) a Rainy Ride

October 25th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Charlie Seymour

Riding in the rain can be a very intimidating or tough task. Many people would rather just ride the trainer when the weather is less than ideal because of convenience. However if it is done the right way, riding in the rain can be a very enjoyable experience. I have compiled a list of important tips and tricks to make riding in the rain fun.

The first topic is clothing choice. No matter what you wear, you will get wet so keep that in mind when choosing a kit to wear. I went for a road ride in 60 degrees and my choice consisted of regular mountain bike shoes, cycling socks, Giordana arm warmers and knee warmers, Giordana bibs and a short sleeve jersey, a wind vest and a Giordana rain jacket. I chose not to wear gloves as I like to keep a natural grip on the bars. Glasses are a must, and a cycling cap helps with rain getting behind the glasses. If your ride is in the evening then go for a clear lens rather than a shaded one.

Riding late in the day while raining brings me to my next point, which is visibility. Front and rear lights are an essential piece to have, as many drivers sight is affected by the rain and they are less likely to look for cyclists. A flashing front and rear light will help dramatically. I chose to use a 900 lumen front light and a 60 lumen rear light. The front light is very important because there is no sun to light up the roads and the rain makes things look even darker.  

My next tip is about bike setup. I chose to ride my mountain bike on bike paths and a few roads. Make sure to plan your route before, and try to leave out tight and fast corners because grip is very limited in the rain. An added tip is to lower tire pressure to provide a larger contact patch with the road. I also applied rock n’ roll extreme lube to my chain before my ride. The rain will make your drivetrain very gritty, which will wear your components out faster than dry conditions. Using a wet lube displaces water from the chain compared to a dry lube.

For many people riding in the rain has a big mental block. The biggest way to get over this is to accept the fact that you will get soaked. You can only get covered in so much water, so enjoy riding through puddles! Another tip is to keep your phone and other things in a plastic bag so it does not ruin them. Once you have returned from your ride, try your best to get most of the water off of your bike with a towel, especially the chain and cassette. This will prevent your drivetrain from rusting and avoid a large bill for new parts. Also, if possible, wash your kit immediately after your ride because if it is left wet and folded on top of itself, it will create a lot of bacteria. If a washer is not available, hang you kit to let it air dry and then wash when it is available.

Many people find riding in the rain to be a lot of fun, so try it out to change things up a bit!


From One Fall Season to Another- Reflections on a Rollercoaster Year

October 17th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Kaitlyn Patterson

The fall is hands down my favorite season. The air and leaves make me nostalgic about high school cross country, collegiate cross country and now mountain bike racing. Recently I have been reminded of last fall, which seems way longer than 12 months ago.

Last fall was a culmination of many surreal life changes- starting medical school, competing in a virtual cycling competition through Zwift Academy, and continuing my usual fall calendar of mountain bike racing. I was on a mission (or several), I had momentum and life was good. Iceman was the climax of the fall, an awesome day that will likely stand as one of my favorite cycling memories forever.

I absolutely knew that my pursuits through the fall were unsustainable but I felt it was worth it. After Iceman, I continued to fulfill the workouts for the Zwift Academy competition but I knew I had been digging myself a deep fatigue hole that was starting to engulf me. By the end, I was going through the motions and very much looking forward to the off-season. However, the fact that there was a real contract on the line started to become a more concrete reality. I had brought up the potential of winning to the medical school administration but was told to come back when I had more information. Conveniently over Thanksgiving break, I got more information. I was selected as one of the three finalists and had 48 hours to decide if I would accept the offer. The finalists would travel to training camp with the Canyon/SRAM pro road team and anyone that went to camp had to be prepared to accept the one-year contract if offered. The only way any of it was going to be possible was if I took an immediate leave of absence from school or left altogether. And to make it worse, I had no way to talk to the medical school administration about it before having to give an answer.

In the end, it was too big a sacrifice to throw everything else under the bus to pursue the virtual cycling experiment. And the thought of continuing to train at a high level and immediately launching into another race season in January was essentially inconceivable for me at that point. I also wasn’t ready to hang up my mountain bike in exchange for a road pro peloton. I ultimately made the difficult decision to turn down the offer, as did another of the finalists.

I didn’t publicize the conclusion of my Zwift Academy because I didn’t want to try and justify my decision to others. Despite occasional twangs of regret, I overall feel that it was the right call. However, my desperately needed off-season was beset with some poor decision-making. Based on just how fatigued I was after the fall and multiple years of bike racing immediately transitioning to ski racing, I probably needed many weeks of no training to truly recover. At the time, this was incomprehensible and I rested some but not nearly enough. I was excited to get back to running and skiing and I still considered myself invincible. As expected the winter was challenging in multiple ways- school was demanding, the snow was crappy for skiing, and Alex would depart for our usual ski racing adventures alone.

Fast forward several months to the summer when I was supposed to be taking advantage of my last chances to race bikes, I found myself in the deepest depths of overtraining syndrome that I had ever visited. In retrospect, I made several mistakes that should have been obvious but I missed. First, I needed a hard reset of recovery after the fall. A season absolutely should not start with residual fatigue from the previous. Second, I integrated running into my training more than I have in years and underestimated the training stress. Since I started cycling, I quantify training in hours instead of miles and translating this to running can be a slippery slope. Third, I lost weight that I didn’t have to lose. In contrast to most of the population, I tend to lose weight when I’m not careful and especially when stressed. This makes it exceptionally difficult to make progress in training and instead can directly undermine it. Fourth, I was utilizing exercise as a drug. Usually this is a healthy outlet but it started to become my only coping mechanism.

The signs were subtle at first, I wasn’t responding to training and had to take many more recovery days. However, my spring racing went well and I figured there couldn’t be anything wrong if I could still race fast. I apparently had to prove to myself that this was false. It eventually hit the fan and I felt like I broke my sympathetic nervous system. I was incapable of getting my heart rate up and sometimes would just stop and rest. This progression was absolutely consistent with the mysterious “overtraining syndrome.”  It is often debated if overtraining syndrome is a real thing because we have no good way to measure it or “gold-standard” test. Criteria and descriptions vary somewhat but it is essentially the result of a dysfunctional response to stressors, both training and non-training related. As good as we are trained as medical students to identify patterns of pathology in others, we tend to be terrible in ourselves.

I again found myself at the bottom of a large fatigue hole realizing there was no quick or easy way out. So I took my summer races off the calendar, slept more and ate more. However, my recovering was punctuated by weekends of long rides up north or adventure rides in Marquette when I would feel better for a few days but then have to start over. It was hard to imagine being legitimately fast again.

Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah. One stop on our tour out west

I eventually realized I was just going to have to put away the bike for a while. In August, I went on a non-cycling vacation with my mother and then to a medical conference for a total of 3+ weeks off the bike. When I came back was the first time I felt a spark in a long time. As the fall air rolled in, I got the itch to race. I counted up the weeks and Alex and I devised a conservative training plan to put myself back together for my favorite fall races.

So while I may not have the same fitness heading into this fall campaign, I have a much different perspective and sense of gratitude. Days I get to ride and feel good on the bike are now gifts and not expectations. I have a greater respect for managing fatigue and the importance of recovery as well as accounting for non-training stressors. I have no doubt that cycling has taught me many things that will make me a better physician, many of them learned this year.

Just after Iceman this year I start my clinical rotations and cycling will take a backseat for a while. This summer has admittedly made this transition a bit easier as this season now feels like a bonus. So here’s to another few weeks of fall racing, riding and memories for future nostalgia before the next chapter begins.

 


My Kona Journey: Part 4

October 11th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Brian Reynolds

This blog is a continuation from my last blog post “My Kona Journey: Part 3”.  I would suggest reading that blog before reading this one.

“Only he who can see the invisible can do the impossible.” – Frank L. Gaines

It was early May and less than one month to go until Ironman Brasil!  During the month of May I did two races which were the Borgess run and the Muncie May Triathlon. I’ve ran the Borgess run 4 years in row and wanted to continue on with that tradition.  On May 6th I did the Borgess 10k run which was a “C” race for me.  I went into this race in a non-rested state since my Ironman training took priority.  I was able to get the overall win in a time of 33:32 which was the fastest time I’ve ran on that course.  I was really surprised of how well I ran considering my legs felt fatigued from training.  This race result showed that I had good run fitness which was a big confidence booster heading into Ironman Brasil.

The following weekend on May 13th I did the Muncie May Triathlon which was an Olympic distance race in Muncie, Indiana.  The race was one of the first triathlon races in the Midwest.  I was trying to find a race further South to get some warmer temps but there weren’t any others on that weekend.  The race was on a Saturday so I drove down to Muncie on Friday and checked out the course.  The water temp was 58 deg F which will be the coldest water I would ever swim in!  The bike course was a 2 loop that was mostly flat with a few rolling hills.  The run course was a out and back which had rolling terrain.

On race day there were a few delays which pushed my swim wave start to 9:50am.  Before the start I swam in the lake to get my body acclimated to the freezing water temps.  When I stuck my head in the water it took my breath away but after a few minutes my body adjusted.  I wore a skull cap to help keep my head warm.  When the race started I got off to a good start.  I was swimming with the leaders for the first 300-400 yards.  Eventually the leaders started to pull away which was unusual because I usually keep a even pace throughout the swim.  I think the cold water temps were getting to me because my body was using its energy to stay warm.  I ended up fading to 6th place coming out of the water.  I tried to stay positive and thought that once I got to the bike I would be ok and would make up those lost positions.

 

When I got to the bike I notice within the first few minutes of the ride that my power numbers were low.  I was riding 30-40 watts lower than what I expected.  On lap one I got passed by two riders and I started to get disappointed with myself.  I thought to myself “Man I did all this hard work on the bike and this was all I could show for it.”  I didn’t give up and just kept pushing.  When I started the 2nd loop I started to pick up the pace.  Within a 5 minute window my power started to gradually climb from 240 to 250 to 260 to 270 to 280 to 290 watts.  I got a 2nd wind and the engines were running on full power.  The two guys who passed me early on in the bike I could not see but I knew if I kept pushing I could catch them.  I was able to catch both with 2 miles left to go in the bike.  It turned out that I was in the lead coming off the bike so I felt confident that I had the race at hand since my run was my strongest discipline.  I managed to grow my lead and win the race.  This race showed me that ANYTHING can happen and you can go from a low point to a high point as long as you keep pushing.

After Muncie I had 2 weeks until Ironman Brasil.  The final 2 weeks were lighter workouts since I was beginning my taper.  My dad and I left for Brazil on a Tuesday (5 days before the race) and arrived in Florianopolis, Brazil on a Wednesday.  The total flight time was 15 hours through 3 different connections.  After landing in Florianopolis we had to drive 45 minutes to the hotel which was a few miles away from the race venue.  On our drive I was able to checkout the landscape and the bike course.  Florianopolis was a very hilly and pretty area.  Fortunately the bike course is mostly on the highways which is mostly flat with a few big hills along the course.  The scenery was beautiful especially near the coastline.  It definitely felt like I was in a different country because the buildings, roads, and cars were different compared to the US.

On Thursday I did a 45 minute easy run which did not feel smooth or easy.  During this run it felt like I left my running legs in Michigan.  I didn’t worry too much over this run because it could’ve been due to the long flight or the taper effect.  I knew that I was fit and that I would be ready to race.  Later than day I did the athlete check-in and checked out all the cool triathlon toys at the expo!

On Friday I did a open water swim near the Ironman start.  I probably couldn’t have picked a worse day to go for a swim.  There were 5 to 8 foot tides crashing into shore.  This made me worry because I thought this was normal and this would be the race conditions on race day.  I manage to have the courage to go for a swim but it was rough.  I was getting saltwater in my mouth.  I had a hard time sighting since I couldn’t see over the tides.  The waves were tossing me around for 30 minutes.  There was an instance when I was swimming back to shore a big wave flipped me over on my back!   After the swim I talked to a few folks about the ocean tides and they said that those conditions were not typical.  Usually the water is a lot more calm and race officials would’ve cancelled the swim in the conditions I swam in which made me feel more at ease.

The day before the race I did my final workout which was a bike and run.  I did a 25 min bike and a 15 min run.  On the bike I tested out my race equipment by placing two filled water bottles in my rear bottle cages to make sure they did not fall out while riding on the cobblestone roads.  Yes, there is a section of cobblestones for .5 miles near the start of the bike.  The good news is that my bottles did not fall out; however, the bad news was that my rear bottle cage broke!  Literally on the 2nd to last speed bump heading back to the hotel I heard a “thud” sound.  I was really surprised but it’s good that it happened now and not during the race.  If this happened during the race it would’ve had a big impact on my race since two bottles were two hours worth of nutrition.  Fortunately I was able to buy another rear bottle cage at the Ironman expo.

That late afternoon I started packing my equipment and nutrition.  For the bike I prepared five bottles of my Infinit bike blend that I would carry on the bike.  I had one bottle in my aero bars, two bottles on my frame, and two bottles in my rear bottle cages.  To take extra precautions I packed two extra bottles in my bike special needs bag just incase I lose any bottles during the race.  For the run I prepared six 10 oz flasks of my Infinite run blend.  Each flask had 30 mins worth of energy and I plan on running for 3 hours which meant I needed 6 flasks.  I would carry three flasks out of T2 and then pick up the other three flasks in special needs.

The last agenda items to do before the race day was eat and get to bed early.  We had a buffet dinner so I could pick and choose what I wanted.  I limited my fiber intake and ate foods that I was more familiar with.  Not worth experimenting with different foods in a foreign country the day before a race.  After dinner we went to bed shortly after.  It’s usually hard for me to get a good night’s sleep before the biggest race of the season.

All the hard work was done and now it was time to reap the benefits tomorrow.   I was in the best shape of my life and felt confident that I could qualify for Kona as long as I executed my race plan.  The forecast for tomorrow was rainy with the temps in the high 60s.  At least I didn’t have to worry about it being too hot:)

To be continued….


Catching the Cyclocross Bug

October 6th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

-By Charlie Seymour

Last week, I lined up for my first cyclocross race of the year. Primarily, I am a mountain biker, but with mountain bike season winding down, I decided to change my focus from the MiSCA race series, to the Michigan cyclocross series. The race this week was at Glengary park in Wixom Michigan, so it was considered to be my “home course”, meaning I was able to go out and do some course preview the day before. The course featured a lot of fast, grassy sections with a few tight corners, a set of barriers, and a run up with a set of barriers at the top and bottom of the hill. The lack of rain in the days leading up to the race made for a very dry and dusty race. My race was at 2 p.m, with the sun beating down on the course, causing temperatures to reach the mid 90’s, very unusual for a September cyclocross race. I got to the venue about an hour and a half before the start to the junior race. I did my usual warm up and then heard the call for the juniors to report to the staging area. I made my way over, had a last few words with my coach, and then the juniors had their call ups.

It was zone 4 fun right from the whistle. The first lap went as expected, I kept a strong pace and had perfect skills, as I had practiced. I led the race for laps 2-5 with Hayden Fox, from Andrie Machine Star, right on my rear wheel. Being on my mountain bike, I had a pretty big disadvantage in the fast parts of the course, particularly on the flat sections. I kept a hard pace going the whole race, despite the very hot weather. On the run up on the second to last lap, I stumbled and had to jump off my bike, where I would usually go over the barriers and shoot up the hill, and had to run up it. Hayden saw this and capitalized on it, slowly gaining time on me, until he was beyond reach. We both had our fastest laps on the last lap, and he ended up coming away with the win, with me shortly behind. It was one of my favorite races of the year, and made me super excited for the next race.


What’s in your triathlon bag?

October 5th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Kathy Braginton

As another triathlon season came to a close, I began to clean out my triathlon bag and pack it away until next year.  I looked through all the items I have collected over the years and which ones have become standard items in my bag.  So, what is in your triathlon bag?

The first, and most important item, is my race day checklist.  I have used this same checklist for the last 9 years.  No matter how many times I have packed my bag, I use this list to ensure I have everything I’ll need on race day.  If you look closely at the handwritten items, you’ll see the true age of this checklist.  Does anyone still own/use an MP3 player?  I do find it amusing that I have that item listed on a USAT labeled checklist.  Use of any personal audio device at a USAT sanctioned event is a rule violation and subject to a time penalty.  I will admit that I did use an MP3 player during a race when I was first starting out and I did receive a 2:00 minute penalty as a result.  Needless to say, I no longer include that item in my bag!

The rest of the items in my bag are handy and will keep you prepared for whatever might come your way:

 

  1. No matter what the race distance:  the water, wind, and sun can really take its toll on your lips.  I use a squirt of Aquaphore on the stem of my bike.  While I am riding, I can quickly apply it to keep my lips protected without slowing me down.
  2. You never know what the race day bathroom situation may bring and there rarely is a place to wash your hands. So, for the times when you just feel the need to clean your hands, a travel size bottle of hand sanitizer is a must!
  3. Electrical tape can be used to secure gel packs on the stem of your bike for easy access during the bike leg. If you tape the gel pack over the tab at the top, it can serve as a quick release for opening the gel pack.  You also never know when you may need tape to do a last minute handlebar repair.
  4. Sidewalk chalk can be used to mark your transition area. I have only needed to use this a few times when I could not find a good visual landmark for locating my transition, however, this is not allowed at USAT sanctioned events.
  5. At race day packet pick-up, you never know what kind of race numbers you will be given and how they are to be mounted. Most triathlon bikes have odd shaped stems and seat posts and do not allow for easy attachment of race numbers.  I use a mini-stapler to quickly wrap the race number on my stem.  I have had people ask to borrow my stapler many times as they struggle to attach their race number and watch me attach mine within seconds.
  6. In addition to the stapler, I have a pair of travel scissors to assist with the race number application. Race numbers can be trimmed for a better fit.
  7. For faster transitions, I have my bike shoes already clipped in my pedals and I use rubber bands to fasten the back of my bike shoes to the frame of the bike. The bike shoes will then stay horizontal until I mount the bike. Once I start to pedal, the rubber bands will snap.
  8. The most recent item I have added is a Sharpie. Waiting in line to be body marked, can be one of the most time consuming tasks on race day.  Having your own Sharpie for body marking, can eliminate the stress and anxiety that can come from having to wait.

A few of the other items I carry are safety pins, spare tubes, baby powder, deodorant, body glide and sunscreen.  Be prepared for whatever race day may bring.  Keep your bag stocked and utilize your checklist each and every race.

 


Lessons learned: the “crit”

October 3rd, 2017 by Athletic Mentors

Criterium racing is a different kind of bicycle racing – and “crits” can be very intimidating for those just entering into the racing scene. Criterium races are short courses (usually .5 mile to 1 ½ miles) where you race for a designated amount of time. As the race progresses, the time turns into laps, based on average lap time. So, if racing for 40 minutes, at some point the officials will start a lap counter and count down laps until the finish. These are races of skill and strategy because they are typically high-speed races with 4 to 8 corners.

I am a long-course road racer at heart… so over the years of racing, I’ve had to learn how to race differently when racing a criterium. Here is what I’ve learned:

1. Be patient. When racing a criterium, you do not need to chase down every attack. Someone will chase it down and you’ll save a lot of energy by hoping on that wheel.

2. Positioning is everything. This makes or breaks the race. If the race is coming down to a field sprint, your position entering into the last stretch of road on the last lap will most likely determine where you place. Know the riders around you. Pick a good wheel to follow. Stay in the top 5 around that last corner.

3. Take some chances. Try for a break. Shake things up a bit. These races can be exciting and fun if racers take a chance and mix it up. Attack. Bridge up to a break. Go for a prime. Have fun and make racers work for their position.

4. Know your strengths and weaknesses. If you are more endurance than power, try to get into a break so you have a better chance at the end. If you are a sprinter, do some work, throw some attacks, but mostly just sit in and wait for your moment to shine. If you aren’t sure – test the waters and see where you land.

5. Rubber side down. It is never worth it to steal a wheel (taking a good draft wheel from someone else during a race), take a corner faster than your skill allows, or break your line (being unpredictable to the riders around you) to gain position or move up in the field if you have to do so in a dangerous manner. Everyone wants to do their best and get the best possible positioning leading up to the finish. But this can cause serious crashes, especially at high speeds. Be smart. Be cautious. Be aware of the riders around you. Be safe. Everyone wants to end the ride rubber side down.


My Kona Journey: Part 3

October 1st, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

-By  Brian Reynolds

This blog is a continuation from my last blog post “My Kona Journey: Part 2”.  I would suggest reading that blog before reading this one.

“Success in the sport is, above all else, about enduring suffering.”

– Chris McCormack, Two-Time Ironman World Champion

My training from October 2016 to February 2017 was progressing in the right direction leading up to Ironman Brasil on May 28th.  I was more powerful on the bike and my run/swim fitness was looking good.  In fact to show off my run fitness in February I was able to run a 1:15:46 at the Portage Winterblast Half Marathon which is the fastest time I’ve ran in 5 years for a half!  My swim times in the pool were better compared to prior years.

When March rolled around my training volume was starting to pick up.  This meant that I started doing 4.5 – 6 hour bike rides and 2:00 to 2:45 hour long runs.  As my training increased to 16 – 18 hours per week I became more fatigued.  There were some days during the week where I became so fatigued that I thought I would not be able to make it to the weekend.  Going into the weekend feeling very fatigued is not good considering my big workouts which include a 5+ hour bike and 2+ hour run were on the weekend!  Some fatigue is acceptable but not to the point where you feel tired all day and have to rely on coffee to keep you awake.

There was one particular week where I had to take a off day instead of doing my scheduled bike and run workout.  My coach contacted me about how much sleep I was getting and how we could tweak the schedule so I could get more sleep.  Looking back on my past training I was waking up at 4:15 am three times per week to swim with the Kalamazoo Masters group.  To wake up that early meant I was giving up a lot of sleep considering I could wake up at 7:00am during the weekday.  This was not an issue prior to March when I was training 12-15 hours per week; however, when my training exceeded 15 hours then the lack of sleep became an issue.  I moved all of my swims to the evenings which meant I only had to get up 1 time at 5:30am per week.  I was bummed that I had to miss my morning Masters swims but I needed the extra sleep.  When I started getting more sleep I did not have any bad workouts and I had more energy throughout the week.  Getting more sleep was a game charger and I didn’t have to reduce my training. This proves once again that sleep is the best form of recovery!

Another area I wanted to improve on was my stamina on the bike.  When I did the 2016 Ironman Wisconsin my power on the bike faded the last 2 hours of the ride which costed me a lot of time.  To gain more confidence on the bike I did multiply 5+ hour rides with Ironman efforts mixed in throughout the rides. I remember one long ride I did in mid April was a 112 mile time trial at Ironman goal pace.  Sounds simple right?  Just ride as hard as you can for 112 miles.  When I did this ride it was in the 70s which was the warmest day we’ve had so far that Spring.  I could tell within the first few hours into the ride that I was not going to hit my Ironman goal pace.  The combination of the heat and being a little fatigued before starting the ride made it for a challenging day.  Instead of thinking negatively about how much this ride was going to suck I flipped the script.  I tried to think about something positive to help keep me motivated to ride hard.  For me I knew I was not going to hit my goal watts so I didn’t focus on that.  Instead I focused on maintaining the wattage that I was currently averaging and try to finish the ride strong.  When I finished the ride I did maintain my power from start to finish and I gave it everything that I had.  All we can do is take what our body gives us and make the most of it.  If I got anything from this ride then it was working on my mental toughness. In an Ironman race you are going to go through high and low points.  The key moments in a Ironman is how you manage those low points.  During those low points try not to get down on yourself and believe that you can get through it.  Focus your energy on what you can control for that given situation.

In early May I did another time trial which was a 100 miles at Ironman goal watts.  I had a great ride.  My legs were feeling great and in fact I was exceeding my goal wattage.  This ride was a big confidence booster for me because I was able to my goal wattage for Ironman Brasil.  Even though I was felt great on this ride I made sure I didn’t push the pace too hard starting out.  As I mentioned earlier during a Ironman race you will go through some high points where you are feeling great.  During these high points you need to keep a level head and use good judgement.  When an athlete feels good we have a tendency to ignore our race plan and start pushing the pace.  If we push the pace too hard too soon we usually pay the consequences later in the race and end up hurting our overall performance.

All of the long rides and runs allowed me to dial in my race nutrition plan. I started out using Ucan which I used for Ironman Wisconsin.  For some reason I could only stomach Ucan for up to 3 hours before I would get tired of the taste and my body would start rejecting it.  For a Ironman I needed a product that would work for at least 8 hours so I needed to try something else.  The new product I tried was First Endurance EFS drinks which I have used in the past and had success with it.  Base on my weight and race duration I needed to get in 250-300 calories per hour on the bike and around 210 calories per hour for the run.  When I used EFS I found the flavor to be a little over concentrated to get the calories in that I needed.  I was able to stomach EFS longer than Ucan but by the time I got to the 3.5-4 hour mark on the bike I got tired of the taste and I couldn’t take much more.

I had to rethink my nutrition once again.  I decided to give Infinite Nutrition a try.  I’ve heard good things about Infinite from other triathletes in the Trikat club and I knew they were a sponsor for Athletic Mentors and the Trikats.  For those of you who may be new to INFINIT, it is a custom-blended nutrition solution customized to fit your nutrition needs on the bike and run portions of triathlons or your nutrition needs for any type of exercise and racing.  I did a free consultation with their nutritionist specialist to create my custom blend via email.  The process was really easy.  They send you a survey to fill out to help them understand what your needs are to develop the right nutrition blend.  After the survey they created a bike and run blend for me.  The bike blend was 275 calories and the run blend was 210 calories.  In addition, the bike blend had some added whey protein to help satisfy hunger whereas the run blend does not because the protein has a tendency to cause bloating due to the liquids sloshing around while you run.  The flavor I chose for the bike bland was chocolate and the run was a fruit punch which both tasted great.

When I tried Infinit on my 5 hour ride I took 5 bottles on my bike with one 275 calories serving per bottle.  I just had to take one bottle per hour to stay on my nutrition plan which was really easy to keep track.  I was able to stomach it through 4 hours without an issue.  The last hour I struggle a little to finish the last bottle.  I contacted Infinit about it and they sent me a new blend with a little less Whey Protein in it to make it easier to digest.  On my next 5 hour ride I tried the new blend and I was able to down all 5 bottles on my ride.  In hindsight, I think the old blend would’ve still worked because I think my stomach needed time to get use to digesting that amount of calories while riding.   I did not have any issues with the Infinit run blend on my long runs so didn’t have to make any modifications to that.  Overall, I was very satisfied with Infinit’s product and service.

That all said I had my nutrition plan dialed in and I had the stamina (and confidence) on the bike to help get me a Kona slot at Ironman Brasil.  Now it was time to start racing and tapering!



SPONSORSView All


 
Team Athletic Mentors
© 2017 - Team Athletic Mentors