The 4 F’s of a Successful Triathlon Season (without using the F-word)

September 20th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Belinda Vinton

I have been racing triathlon for 10 years. Some seasons have been more successful than others! So how can an athlete prepare for a successful season? Besides spending time swimming, biking, and running, here are 4 ways to help make your season a good one.

Focus – Carve out some time each day to workout. Concentrate on upcoming races. Set some goals for yourself. It always helps me to write out my goals and put them in a place where I can see them each day. Read books about triathlon. Join a triathlon Facebook group and follow some triathletes on social media. You will find that your focus on the sport will improve!

Follow the plan – Find a training plan that works for you. I worked with a triathlon coach through  Athletic Mentors. My workouts were well defined and specific to my needs. I could see the improvements by knowing exactly what I needed to work on each day.

 

Fair/Foul weather – Although I am definitely a fair weather athlete, don’t let the weather control you. It’s important to plan for the worst. You may have to race in rain, heat, cold…in Michigan it’s hard to know! So practice for those situations. Know what to do on a hot day. Know how you will be successful through rain. Hope for the best, but don’t let the weather ruin your day.

 

Friendships – Find someone who has the same love of the sport as you do! Join a club or a team. Find folks at the gym who you can meet for a workout. Maybe you have a swim buddy, a biking partner, and someone who loves to run. Even if they don’t want to compete in all three, you’ll always have someone who wants to join you. Triathlon can be a lonely sport, so find those friends! 


Canoeing the Au Sable River – Part 2

September 13th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Ross DiFalco

Day 3

We were off! After you cross the 4001 bridge, you are officially in the Huron National Forest. It’s hillier in this section and you see a lot less homes. I don’t know if we were canoeing ourselves into shape, but we felt the best on day 3. The only problem is that we were running low on water, and now that we were in the Huron National Forest, it would be harder to come by. Today we needed to make it to just before the loud dam. Between that dam and us was 28 miles and one more dam, the Alcona. When we reached the Alcona, it was a more difficult portage. There was construction, so there was a temporary portage set up. We had to pick the boat up over a 3ft seawall, pull the boat up the levy, and then go about 400 yards down a hill back to the water. It was not ideal. The red line is where the portage is supposed to be, and the yellow line is where the re-route took us. The other thing we were quickly learning was that dam sections were bad for making progress. Portaging was slow, but the real killer is the massive lake sections that lead up to them. The river widens for 3-4 miles before each dam and there is no current to help you along.

After we had been paddling for a while again, we started to reach water that is more stagnant. The river was marshy and wide. As we paddled along, looking forward to having 5 miles to go, we heard some yelling from the bank. As we looked closer, it turns out my mom and a friend were waiting on the riverbank for us to go by. As we get to the bank, I realize this is not a coincidence. Due to the fact that we had lost cell service for the last two days, my family was concerned for our well-being. My mom started by calling the forest service to ask if they could go look for us. Turns out, they can, but it costs $10,000. The second best thing was to wait by the river for us to go by. After proving that we were okay, it was time to get back on the river. Having stopped was a blessing in disguise, we were able to get two gallons of water that we desperately needed. We also offloaded anything we didn’t need any more to reduce weight.

Paddling again! The rest of the way was slow going but we got there with plenty of time. The campsites in this area are all about a ¼ mile apart and have a small number plate indicating which campsite that you reserved. The wind was ripping across the lake and we had to paddle as hard as we could to overcome the drag. The drag in a canoe seems much worse than when cycling. Once we made it to our campsite, it was completely worth the wait. The campsites at Loud Dam are incredible! This was our best campsite by far. They are only accessible by water and you feel like you have the place to yourself. There was a nice fire ring with grilling attachment and we even had a stack of cut firewood.

Day 4

Day 4 was easily going to be the hardest. We had learned that three things made it difficult to canoe. Portaging, lake sections and wind. On day 4 we had plenty of all three. There were 4 dams, it was almost all lake sections, and the wind that kicked up the day before was still going in the wrong direction. We were determined, but the unseasonably hot weather and long mileage was starting to take its toll on us. We portaged the Loud Dam right off the bat. This was an easy portage because of the canoe wheels we used. You put the wheels on and walk with the canoe on the boat launch road that was provided.

If you were going to canoe any section of the river, I would do the upper sections. This section is much more akin to being on a large lake. It’s still very nice and you rarely see other people. You will see many more motorized boats in this section. Some people training for the River Canoe Marathon also passed us. People do the entire 120 miles in 14 hours. I do not know how it’s even possible to go that fast, but it’s incredibly impressive! I had dreams of trying it, but I now have zero desire to try.

As the day progressed, we went over the Five Channels and Cooke dams and continued to chug along. The wind remained in our face and we were working harder the last day than we worked on any other day. If you have ever been to Lumberman’s Monument, we were paddling past this section of the river when we realized we had cell service. At this point, we had to decide if we wanted to make it to Oscoda or cut it early and end at the Foote Dam. We decided that we had enough fun and were going to get picked up at the next dam. This was the best decision we made. Foot Pond is massive and the wind had really picked up, and we had lightning and thunder. The boat was rocking all over the place and we didn’t feel safe in an aluminum canoe, in the middle of a lake during a thunderstorm.

Tips/Advice

  • Plan and try your canoe before doing a trip – see how fast you can comfortably travel
  • Canoe wheels are worth it if you portage
  • Tie down all of your stuff
  • Pull food into trees at night – we made some raccoon friends
  • Create an itinerary and let people know where you are going to be (having a satellite phone would be useful too)
  • Know where food and water sources are
  • Have a working water purifier and have iodine as a backup
  • Don’t bring fishing gear if you aren’t going to use it often
  • Put sunscreen on often
  • Check the flow of the river before going – the river was down and was moving slower
  • I would recommend doing no more than 20 miles a day if you want to have maximum fun

Reflection

It’s a beautiful place out there. This river is vastly underutilized. If you want to go on an adventure, I would highly recommend it. Despite our blunders, I will have these memories the rest of my life. Learn from our errors and limit travels to a reasonable distance and enjoy the time on the river.


Canoeing the Au Sable River

September 8th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Ross DiFalco 

For those of you that don’t know, in northern Michigan there lies a beautiful winding river with an incredible amount of wildlife and diversity. The Au Sable is a fly angler’s paradise, and is professionally managed to keep it that way. The other reason that people know of the Au Sable River is for the Au Sable Canoe Marathon that takes place each year in July. The Marathon, as it’s commonly called, is a 120 mile canoe race from Grayling to Oscoda. This is where our story begins, kind of.

My dad has wanted to canoe the entire length of the Au Sable since he was a kid. This spring, he asked me if I would join him on an adventure to make that dream a reality. Given that I love being active and outdoors, I said yes without hesitation. We both talked a big talk and decided we would train for this trip, and even do some over-night excursions to be acclimated with paddling all day. Fast forward until 3 weeks before our trip, none of this has transpired (we didn’t even have a canoe yet!). This is where the canoe marathon starts to become important. I started researching how much time I needed to take off work, and my source of data happened to come from ex racers. Here is the data I used to prepare: 

  • Speed – river 3mph   – canoe 5.5mph (estimated)         
  • Estimated daily travel- 5 hours at 5.5m/h = 27.5mi 
  • Current river temp- 59 degrees                                                 Total Length- 138mi           
  • River race length- 120 river race time 14:17 (2018)              Race speed – 8.5mph 

Based on the research, we planned for a 4 day (3 night) trip to do 115-120 miles of the river. We figured if the river were flowing at 3mph, then we would have to average a normalized 2.5mph to maintain our estimated speed of 5.5 mph. In order to complete the trip we would need to average about 27-28 miles a day to stay on track, and that puts us at 5 hours moving time. We even discussed worse case scenarios, which we thought was no paddling and floating down the river at 3mph (10 hours in the canoe). I even mapped out where food was along the river so we could go get new things to eat along the way.

What to bring? We made the excellent decision to borrow a bunch of dry bags. If you do any canoe/kayak trips, get dry bags. We each brought a sleeping bag, camping mattress, camping pillow, 64oz bottle, and clothes. Collectively we had a tent, 6 dehydrated meals, bagels, peanut butter, jelly, protein pars, fruit bars, a backpacking stove, knife, flashlight, battery back (solar), two ropes, and some canoe wheels picked up on Amazon. We even brought some fishing poles and gear. One of our most valuable items ended up being canoe backrests and instead of lifejackets, we brought floating cushions to serve dual purpose. All of this fit in our borrowed 15’ Michicraft Canoe that was from the late 60’s or so. All in, our setup was probably about 180-200 lbs. 

  •  Day 1 

Here we GOOOO! Day 1 was Friday 6-4 and it was gorgeous weather. We started in downtown Grayling, the sun was shining, and we had a high of 84 degrees. We packed our canoe, tied all of our gear down, and we were off! The first part of the river is the narrowest section and winds tightly. There’s pines everywhere and many that are bent over the river. It’s a very cool experience travel down this section. For day one, we packed “real” food so we wouldn’t have to start eating the dehydrated variety just yet. By 12:30 we had made it 12 miles (4mph) and it was time for sandwiches. It was also a time for reflection because 4mph was a long way off from 5.5. We decided that we should push the effort a bit to make sure we make it to our campsite, Parmalee Bridge State Park Campground, at a reasonable time. Around 3pm, we took a break because we were dying and needed to filter water to refill. Here is snag number two, our filter was having problems and the water that was coming out was awful. We lucked out though! On our map, I listed that there was a convenience store .25 miles up the road. I ran down there, picked up 6 Gatorade’s, and ran back. This gave us the energy to push on.  

We pulled into our campground at 7:30 pm, after canoeing all day. To say this was a rude awakening would be a massive understatement. We unpacked the canoe, and had to hike with our stuff to our campground. Once set up, it was time to figure out food. My dad set up the backpacking stove and started to boil water and I went looking for sticks so we could have a fire. Once our food was ready, we sat down and started to eat. We looked at each other and laughed about how ridiculous this had been. Sitting at this campsite was a low mental point for sure. Knowing that we had 3 days like this ahead, and the weather was calling for it to be 94 degrees was oppressive. To make things worse, we talked with others at the campground canoeing the Au Sable, but they were taking 8 days! It was at this point we had some serious doubts. On a positive note, Parmalee had a hand pump so we were able to get fresh, cold water.  

  •  Day 2 

We woke up around 7am feeling decent. Shoulders, lats, and traps were all fatigued but not too sore. We packed our stuff, ate and were on the river by 8:30 am. The river looks completely different from where we started. It was wider, shallower, and had a rocky bottom. It was a nice change of pace. I don’t know if it’s because you can see the current, but the river looks faster in here and provides motivation. Today our goal was to travel 31 miles to a campsite called Buttercup Campground. Starting earlier than the day before was a huge help. It didn’t feel like we were playing catchup all day. Early on, we had our first Bald Eagle sighting! The eagle was sitting in a tree close to the water and took off as we paddled by. The best part about the second day is that you go through Mio around lunchtime. Before reaching Mio, you have to traverse the Mio Dam. This is the first of 6 dams that we would have to portage over. You will be looking for a canoe shaped sign that says “portage”. These signs are not very large, so keep your eyes open!  This portage is right next to the dam and is 9 concrete steps. All of the dams require you to walk a ways after leaving the water, so plan for this ahead of time. When we reached Mio, my dad walked to the grocery store, bought more bagels, sandwiches, water and pretzels. Eating food after being on the water felt so great! 

 Back on the water we went! The rest of the day went smoothly. This section of river is popular for tubing and rentals, so you will have to share the river much more than day 1. 6 miles after Mio all the tubers get picked up and everything will be peaceful again. Overall, I was shocked at how few people you see on the water. Day two ended on a much more positive note than day 1. We arrived earlier and had time to relax a bit. The only negative is that Buttercup did not have any water source so we were running a bit low.  

 Check out part two to see how day 3 and 4 go! 


Mackinac Island Swim

August 31st, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Dawn Hinz

What do you consider a “long” swim? Anything over a mile? How about 2 or 3 miles? Or have you ever done a point to point swim? Is it crazy to swim 8.2 miles around Mackinac Island? Yes it is. Crazy, exciting and beautiful!

The event starts on the shoreline in front of the Grand Hotel and then goes clockwise around Mackinac Island to Mission Point Resort. (Optional to swim around marker buoys near the harbor to make up for not being allowed to swim through the harbor itself.) Water conditions could be wavy and rough or flat, cold or not as cold but crystal clear and rocky. You could stand or reach shore quickly if you wanted a standing break.

A storm blew through the night before the race bringing 4-6’ waves but luckily calmed down by race start. Lake Huron was an enjoyable 68*. 237 swimmers entered the water two by two. Miles 1-2 had a gentle head on current. That current increased over miles 3-4 and then disappeared for miles 5-8, except the last 350 yards from finish. There it pushed you to the final buoy and I had to dig deep to make the final surge back to the finish line. Garmin officially recorded 13,532 yards, about 1000 yards shy of 8.2 miles. Views of the Island were beautiful and you could use various points to sight. The crystal clear water allowed you to see all the rocks and boulders and old logs beneath the surface, along with numerous tiny fish. Oddly enough M-Dot had road construction in the middle of our swim course. They were unloading rocks from a barge at mile 3.5 to repair the road that goes around the Island.

Training for this distance meant swimming 10,000+ yards, broken over 3-4 swims weekly since February with a lot of emphasis on technique. It also meant getting into open water by late May to acclimate to cold water. Long continuous swims started in June at 2 miles and increased mile by mile up to 7 miles in August. If I could go back I would add a few 3 mile pool swims in before hitting the open water.

Are you up for the challenge of a distance swim? There’s actually a few in Michigan. Swim to the Moon offers distances from 0.5 miles to 10,000 yards through a few connected inland lakes. Mackinac Island Swim can be taken on by individuals or relay teams. The Mighty Mac Swim across the Straits of Mackinac will hopefully return in 2021. It’s a 4 mile swim but is more like swimming 5+ miles due to the currents and there is no bottom to touch for a break. 

If you do take on a long distance swim I recommend starting with technique improvement. Bad form over miles and miles could cause a major injury. Follow a solid training plan or work with an experienced coach who can improve your technique and give you an individualized plan. Also, swim in conditions that closely match your event and practice your nutrition.  Happy Swimming, Coach Dawn 


The Divide – Gravel Road Race

August 24th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Christina Vipond

The Divide began in 2015 by Jeff Harding and Don Passenger as a fundraiser for Manton Public School’s Cross Country and track teams. It is held the last Sunday of July and is part of the Michigan Gravel Road Series.  

The Divide offers something for all gravel enthusiasts with 3 route options:

  • 19 miles with 1330 feet of elevation change
  • 34 miles with 1987 feet of elevation change
  • 50 miles with 2292 feet of elevation change.

There is an outer loop that the 34 mile course completes one time and the 50 mile racers get to experience it twice. The outer lap is ridden in opposite directions every year to vary the terrain profile. All routes begin and end on paved roads in Manton, Michigan. Around the 3 mile mark, these roads turn to mostly hard packed gravel with “a little two-track” and “a little sand”  for a scenic ride on the outskirts of the Manistee National Forest.

The Divide is a great race for gravel, mountain and fat tire bikes. As with so many other races, The Divide will leave racers wondering if they are riding the right size tire for the course. 

Jeff, Don and their volunteers (including the cross country and track teams) were top notch with ice cold drinks and freeze pops at all aid stations. The course was well marked with signs and volunteers were stationed throughout the course to make sure racers stayed on course. Photographers volunteered their time and posted over 1000 photos that racers could share for free. 

This year’s race took place on Sunday, July 25th. Jeff and Don, as always, did a great job of posting on The Divide’s Facebook to keep racers up to date. A post on July 22nd, updated the course conditions.  It was reported that the roads were recently brined and the outer loop was rolling “faster than ever”. Then the news about the infamous Gilbert Corners, a section of sandy two-track that keeps racers guessing about their bike choice.  The 19 milers could expect some sand at the bottom of the downhills. The 34 milers would ride this 3-4 mile section mostly uphill on their way back into town. The 50 milers would get to ride this section both out and back. There will be some “sketchy downhills” on the way out and “on the way back the sand at the bottom of those downhills will zap your legs before the punchy uphills challenge your will power”. There was a July 24th update post reporting the rain had made the washouts on Gilbert Corners a little bigger. “Caution Ahead” signs were put out throughout the course with a Facebook posted warning “when you see a caution sign, we mean it!”

 

Athletic Mentors represented well in the race with athletes using a variety of tire sizes.

  • Jared Dunham took 3rd overall in the 50 mile race. He rode 42cc but felt he would have been fine on 40cc tires. Jared said he feels like the sand made a few of the hills more challenging but you don’t need a big tire to ride the course. He further stated that “The Divide may be 50 miles but it’s probably the most memorable 50 mile race course I’ve done so far.” He thought it was a good race, very hilly with some sand thrown in.
  • Terry Ritter took top spot in the 50+ class for the 50 mile on 36cc tires. He felt the course conditions were excellent; right direction and plenty of heavy rain the day before.
  • Hunter Post took 1st in his age group and 4th overall in the 50 mile race, racing 40 cc tires. He also felt the rain helped firm up the sand, but the depth was still energy draining. Particularly on the 2nd lap, once the sand was chewed up by other riders. Hunter liked the direction of this year’s outer loop as well.
  • Melanie Post took 1st in her age group for the 34 mile race. Melanie  raced on 40 cc tires and stated she also liked the route this year. “The sandy climbs were definitely the most challenging part of the course, aside from just the elevation gain in general. The course was very well marked with great volunteers as always.”
  • I raced the 50 mile route on 36cc tires and finished 2nd overall for women. Choosing lines on the edge of the two-tracks was helpful but I still did my fair share of walking some of the deeper sand. The main gravel roads were in great condition.

The Divide really does have something for everyone with 3 options for miles, challenging climbs, fun and memorable sections of sand, and beautiful scenery on quiet gravel roads. It is a great fundraiser with all proceeds going to Manton’s cross country and track teams.  Hope to see YOU there next year!!


Don’t Give up – Keep “Tri-ing”

August 16th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  JoAnn Cranson

Do you have that challenge in your life that no matter how hard you try – you just can’t get better or fix it? Do you feel like giving up?

I experienced that feeling last Sunday! I qualified for the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship 2021 for the Sprint Distance in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This race is once a year and you are racing against the top women in your age group from all over the US. The race entails about a ½ mile swim in open water, a 12.5 mile bike and a 5K (3.1 miles) run.

I really struggle with the swim portion. I didn’t learn to swim until about 4 years ago and it is so hard for me to figure it out and get better. It is so discouraging! I realize this is a minor issue to someone being plagued with health issues, family problems, abuse, addictions, etc. But….no matter how big or small we all get that “feeling” of discouragement in our heart and minds.

I don’t have the solutions to your personal challenges but I hope this blog will give you some encouragement on your journey through life as we each live it. I don’t even have the solution of how I’m going to learn to swim!

But what I can offer from my race today is “keep the faith”. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

So on with my race – out of 80 women I crawled out of the water totally exhausted in 76th place! I still had the bike and run to do with 75 women ahead of me. Now I’m a competitive person so it wasn’t about completing this event – it was about getting a good place. At this point, I could have said to myself – “Why continue to push yourself, just go through the motions and get it done” but what I decided to say to is “Don’t Give Up – Keep Tri-ing” until the race is done!

I ran to my bike, put my helmet and biking shoes on and started pedaling. Biking is my favorite so I said to myself “I’m going to give it my all even if I have nothing left for the run”.

Now back to our daily personal struggles. Life is already hard but then you get “kicked in the teeth” when you are already discouraged – it’s just not fair. But how are you going to deal with it? We just have to acknowledge it and figure it out. Right?

Shows angle of handlebars that dropped and how I had to grab my drink bottle.

So what do you think happens as I’m pedaling just as hard as I can and hit a big bump? My aero-handle bars drop down to a 30 degree angle and my drink bottle started sliding out of the holder on the front of the bike as I’m going 25+ mph downhill. I grabbed the bottle, so now I’m hanging on with one hand and holding this bottle wondering what the heck am I going to do with this? I can’t throw it and I can’t insert it back in the holder that is now slanted at a 30 degree angle. This isn’t fair – wasn’t my race hard enough already!!!

I’m like think fast, figure it out. I remembered just watching an Olympic marathoner stuff her water bottle down her shirt so as I’m still flying downhill I unzip by tri-suit and stuff the bottle down my shirt and zip it back up with the straw flopping out the top of my suit. I had to be quite a sight, but I just couldn’t stop, I could tell those handle bars where not going to move back up and I still had 4 miles to go! So I just keep pedaling!

I made it off the bike and was off on my run. I’m real tired now and it’s really hot. Just like in the day to day grind – it’s easy for us to all say when the going gets tough – I’m tired and give into the negative self talk of “It doesn’t really matter”, “You aren’t really good enough to be here anyways”, “So & so is better”, “Others have it easier”.

Instead I decided to put one foot in front of the other and Run. As I was running my daughter yelled out to me – you’re in 32nd place! What – how did that happen?? I was 76th out of the water but during my pedaling I had passed 44 people. I kept going – I tried to encourage people around me, I walked some, I took ice from volunteers to try and keep my body cooled down. I did the best I could to encourage others and care for myself while trying to do my very best.

I think that was my lesson today that I learned. I needed to keep “Tri-ing” during the hard times and not let my circumstances stop me from completing what I set out to do.   I’m going to seek out more training with Athletic Mentors.   We all need to take action to improve our circumstances the best we can.

So….you want to know how my race ended??? I finished 23rd place. Between the bike and run I had passed 53 of my competitors! I had the 6th fastest time on the bike and the 16th fastest run time in the women’s 60-64 age group.

I encourage you to Never Give Up No Matter What Your Challenge Is because you never know how it will end if you do!!


Check Out What Athletic Mentor’s Youth Development Cycling Team Has Been Up To

July 23rd, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson
By:  Terry Ritter
Athletic Mentors has a great Youth Development Cycling Team!  This year’s Junior squad returned Kellen Caldwell for his 3rd season and Hunter Post for his second. Joining this pair for the 2021 campaign are 16 year old Jonathan Meyer, 14 year old Joel Bretzlaff, 14 year old Cate Wittman, and 13 year old Elijah Garris.
Both old and new have contributed to the Team’s success seen this year. Kellen has developed into a threat to win any gravel race, demonstrating such by taking the top spot in 2021 in the Pro field at Lowell 50, and then a 6th place at Waterloo Grit and Gravel and a top 6 at Cowpie Classic.
Kellen had 2 wins to his credit and multiple top fives for gravel and MTB from 2020, already. Hunter has developed into a solid 2nd year rider, taking first at the 50K Waterloo Grit and Gravel race, while winning the Open Expert class at Hanson Hills XC, and 2nd at the recent Pontiac Lake XC event.
Jonathan often competes with Hunter, and took 2nd to him at the Grit and Gravel, while also winning the Open Expert class at Pontiac Lake, and taking 11th at Hart Hills in the Elite field.
Joel has competed well on the gravel front with a top 4 in the 19 and under age group at Waterloo Grit and Gravel and Hanson Hills XC.
Cate recently competed at the WORS Englewood Open and won her Elite Junior category, while taking 4th overall out of 70 female entrants. She recently finished 3rd in her first Elite race at Pontiac Lake XC.
Elijah is a recent addition to the team, but quickly made a name for himself by finishing 2nd in the 14 and under Sport class at Pontiac Lake.
It’ll be exciting to see what the rest of the year holds for this young and talented squad.

It Can Happen To You!

July 1st, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Bob Schultz

The Grand Rapids Tri was my first triathlon nine years ago.  I average five tri’s a year including Xterra off road triathlons.  The Grand Rapids Tri in the Olympic distance was my third of 2021 season.  The first on the year was in Oak Mountain, Alabama with the Xterra SE Championships where the temperatures and humidity were in the 80’s then I did the Greenville Tri two weeks ago.  

Photo By: Stellafly

I approached this year’s race knowing I had trained better than any other year and felt good about aging up to the 65-69 age group, which yes, made me the youngster.  I enjoyed the rolling start for the swim and averaged within 4 seconds of my training swim pace and had a good bike ride within ½ mile off my planned pace, so I took off on my run feeling good wanting to do a 10 minute pace.  I took my normal “Gu” in the transition followed by a swallow of water and headed out.  I saw another guy in my age group in transition, so knew he was relatively close behind me.

The run-out on Thornapple Drive went as planned.  I stopped at both aid stations on the way out and took my cup of Gatorade and water before heading off again. After the turn, I started to feel the heat a little more.  Instead of cruising to the aid station, I could not wait to get there for my Gatorade and water.  After drinking a splash of water, I would dump the remaining on me.  Both stations had cups of ice, but I declined.  I remember the final station throwing my cup in the basket and missing.  My training teammates rode bikes out by me to encourage my final kick before they headed back to the finish line to watch for me.  This is where things got bad.  I thought I tripped and fell forward hitting my head on the pavement before the Camel Back bridge.  I actually made it to the bridge and started staggering which caught the attention of a lady who is coached by Athletic Mentors and is in healthcare.  She asked if I was okay, and I responded yes.  This tipped her off I was not and started towards me.  I apparently was trying to get myself to the side of the bridge, saw her and reached to her when I fell down face first.  A volunteer on a cart was driving by and stopped and helped get me sitting up.  The lady took my heartrate at 200 with erratic and shallow breathing.  They got me in the cart and took me to the med tent where I was put in a chair and given water until I felt I could stand.  Cheryl stopped to check on me and I assured her many times I just tripped.  Only after a nap back home did I realize I had no memory from the time my teammates left until the med tent.  If not for the lady who saw and helped, I would not know what really happened.  

My takes on this episode are:

  • First there is no normal race.
  • The weather was 77 when I collapsed, not hot by GR Tri standards and much cooler and less humid than Oak Mountain Xterra. 
  • The bike and run are relatively flat straight courses. 
  • When I came in on my bike, I had trouble taking my shoes off and could not figure out the latch to release the strap which I have done hundreds of times.  This should have tipped me off then something was not right.  
  • On the run I knew my competitor was behind me and assumed he was faster than he was.  He never did catch me. 
  • When I knew I was getting hot, I did not take the extra time in the aid station to drink a complete cup or two of Gatorade to hydrate and pack myself with the ice provided and then run at a slower pace to the next station.  

When my teammates told me I was not looking good and could slow down I should have listened to them.  These guys train with me multiple times a week and know me as well as I know myself.  Most importantly you know yourself best and need to listen to your body.  While I did a couple of 15 second walks, when I felt myself heating up I should have walked until I felt my heartrate go down.  I knew I was pushing myself, but I continued.    

My incident turned out fine.  I have had an EKG which was normal and will have an echocardiogram to rule out a heart issue and confirm it was just the heat and dehydration.  I may not be so lucky the next time if I don’t keep track of myself.  You do the same!


Yin and Yang

June 10th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Hunter Post

I am a Multi-Sport athlete and High School student.  I compete in alpine ski racing, and cycling. Alpine ski racing consists of Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super G.  I have raced gravel and mountain bike, and plan to add road racing this season. People find it hard to believe that a fall and winter sport can take up an entire year. My ski season starts in November, and continues until April. I start cycling in April and ride until November with about 2 weeks off in between the seasons. These two very different sports take up most of my  time and energy, I am so grateful for where they’ve brought me.

The social aspect of each sport is important to me. I have met so many new friends that have similar interests and have fun both training and racing with them. In skiing, my coaches emphasize a balance between having fun on the hill and training; the same applies in cycling, too. Having friends to ski or bike with for fun helps me to do that. Some of my closest friends that I train with are also my competitors which pushes us to work harder and gives us the opportunity to learn from each other. In each sport I am part of multiple teams, from my high school ski and mountain bike teams to competitive teams outside of school. I look forward to these practices because of the team atmosphere and to see my friends.

On the teams I belong to, there are athletes with varying skill levels and passion for racing. Belonging to these teams gives me a chance to practice more, work with more rigorous coaches and gain experience. I hope to pursue both of my sports at the collegiate level in two years and hope that this will help my chances. In ski racing, we train for the different disciplines separately. For example, setting a slalom course only helps the athletes get ready for a slalom race. There are a few fundamentals including staying on your feet, finding good balance and knowing when to initiate a turn, but the course is set for only slalom or giant slalom, never for both. In cycling there is more crossover on the training. Mountain bike training helps in gravel races. Handling skills for the trail translate into easier passing in sketchier portions. Training for endurance on my road bike correlates into mountain bike races by helping me to manage my breathing and know how to pace myself.

YIN

 

For me, skiing and cycling are like Yin and Yang because my life would not be complete without either.

Yin

YANG

It helps me to stay focused on one sport at a time, always looking forward to the next season and a chance to start over. Each season has triumphs and defeats that I learn from. It is a cause for celebration when races go well, but honestly I learn more when they don’t go as I hoped. A ski race allows very little room for error. The smallest mistake can change an entire run and two runs are needed to complete a race. Results are often determined by hundredths of a second, so everything has to go right to achieve the results you are looking for. In a mountain bike race, you have more room for error, including falling or mechanical issues. You can overcome the problems you might face in a bike race since you have at least an hour if you face a setback.

By the time one season is coming to an end, I am more than ready for the next to start. I logged 5000 cycling miles in 2020 and couldn’t wait to get on snow.  When my last ski race ended on March 21 of this year, I eagerly packed up my winter gear and waited not very patiently to get on my bike. People always ask me which I like better, and I tell them that I can’t answer that yet and don’t have to choose. Each have different workouts, muscle groups, and race atmosphere. I have found, however, that I am not alone. There are a few of us that both ski and bike race. They go together well, just like yin and yang. I am grateful that I found each of my sports. I hope to continue skiing and biking for the rest of my life.

 


“Best Kept Secret” Ultra-Gravel Ride in Michigan

May 24th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Jared Dunham

The KRanza 170, is the “best kept secret” ultra-gravel ride in mid-Michigan. Notorious for it’s sand, last year’s ride was given the nickname of “The Sandza”, on account of the course primarily being built from sandy two-track. To give some context, the fastest time from last year’s course was a spicy 12:57:55, laid out by Paul Low. Rob Richardson went as far as to name his Strava ride, “I’d rather cut off my legs and eat them before riding that course again!”. Roy Kranz, the event organizer, promised less sand this year and he delivered with the new and improved 2021 course.

The original course was two 85 mile laps which were done on the eastern portion of the route, before crossing over near Evart. This year however, we continued farther west and were treated with less sand but an added 1,500 ft of elevation. With more hard packed gravel and less sand, my tire choice was a 29×2.1” MTB tire on the front and a 700x42c gravel tire on the back. In addition to this, we also got some rain for two days prior to the event so the sand was reduced even more. One last note, while some of us were riding 170 miles, there was also the option to complete one lap of the original 85 mile loop.

It was 32 degrees at the start, or 28 by the time you factored in the wind. So I layered up with a normal jersey, thermal long-sleeved jersey, and wind vest. However, by the time you added in the sun and adrenaline, three layers was probably more than what was needed. With how long the ride was going to be, I assumed we would have an easy rollout and somewhere along those 170 miles we’d start racing, that was not the case today. The start of the ride was just as hard as any gravel race I’d done, maybe even more intense. David Messing wasn’t leaving anything to chance as he, Ben Kalis, and a few riders from the 85 mile race formed a group and began setting a hot pace from the start. Realizing the race was getting away from us, I tried to put in a good effort and bridge the gap but wasn’t willing to blow up early in the ride.

A group of five chasers formed to catch the lead group featuring: John Whipple, Jon Delboy, two 85 mile riders, and myself. The rain from the previous days had left the roads muddy, some sections had standing water that we were riding through. Running a 2.1 MTB tire in the front of my rig served me well in these areas and I was able to confidently charge into sloppy sections of the roads. In 8 miles we hit the first section of two-track and I took a pull through the road, having ridden this before. Not too long after this point, we were descending a hill and I was completely sprayed with mud from the wheel ahead of me, thinking that we had a very long day in the saddle at this rate. Somewhere within 13 miles, Ben was off his bike and on the side of the road. He hopped back on and joined our group, forming a peloton of 6. At 15 miles, I realized that my engine was probably still running too hot and I needed to throw some coolant in there or we were about to have a premature explosion at the beginning of a 170 mile race. I fell off the group and settled into a controllable pace in zone 2. Not too long after, I caught up with Jon who had left the group for the same reasons. We joined forces and entered the added 85 mile portion to the original 85 mile loop.

The total elevation from this ride was 6,788 ft, much of that began just after passing Evart at mile 30 and ended at mile 100 as we rejoin the original 85 mile loop. Upon passing Evart, we hit some long, rolling, hill climbs and were eventually rewarded with a little over 10 miles of the paved “White Pine Trail”. Until mile 70 me and Jon took turns hammering out the paved section of this course. Nearing the end of the white pine trail I began to feel myself slipping a little, my heartrate compared to my wattage was rising and I could feel the ride becoming harder than it already was. I was confident that I could still finish the ride but was worried that I’d have to slow the pace. At mile 72 we hit 170th Ave, “The Miracle Mile”. Having lived near this area all my life, I knew fully well what this seasonal road was capable of. When it has been dry for several days, the road is a crusty, clay, path of tire marks and tractor tracks. However, when wet, the road is an entirely different experience….

Somehow Jon and I were able to ride about 75% of the mile upright and on our bikes. There were a few moments of slip and slide, but we cleared most of it. Near the end though, the mud got so thick that it was getting stuck in my front fork and shedding off the top of my front tire. The bike quickly packed on the pounds and it was hard to even push it through this peanut butter. Afterwards, we spent a solid 1 5min or more cleaning off bikes and reviving drivetrains. Luckily, Jon had taken some of the spare chain lube that Roy was offering at the start. That saved both of our rides and gears on that day. We agreed that it probably would’ve been a better option to carry our bikes and walk. Not long after starting to ride again I realized that I couldn’t shift out of my small chainring. We stopped and I emptied the remaining water in my backpack water bladder onto the front derailleur. Jon and I cleaned it off using some sticks and found a pebble lodged between the mechanism and the frame. Afterwards, my drivetrain was arguing with me, but I was able to shift into the big ring again. We then began a 7 ½ mile rolling climb to the top of Grove Hill, which depending on who you ask, is either the highest or second highest point in the Lower Peninsula. Upon reaching the top, we are rewarded with a soulful descent to the halfway point at the Dighton general store. Jon grabbed some more water and supplies, and I swapped out my empty water bladder in my backpack for the 2 Liter that was in the bottom of my frame bag. We were then told that 3rd place was probably 30 mins ahead of us at this point, which was about five and a half hours in.

Continuing the ride, I still felt like I was on the back foot and began tapping into some of my gels and more carb rich foods. This was about the portion of a long ride where you reach a low and begin to question how you are going to finish the thing. Eventually I got the second wind I was looking for and came back to life in a few miles. This second wind was quickly followed by the portion of a long ride where you get the euphoric feeling that you can complete the thing. At 107 miles, there had been a serious accident, and someone was being airlifted to a hospital via helicopter. We were not getting through and one of the guys blocking the road said that we had a 20 minute or more wait on the helicopter. The helicopter did eventually land and we spent about 15 minutes scrolling through google maps to get a reroute. The main issue was that we needed to get over the Muskegon River and there were not many options to do that other than take 66 (the road we needed to follow). Our next best bet was to head northeast for a bit and jump onto M115. After some contemplation we decided to go ahead and take the reroute. Motoring through headwind on 115 we made a left at the “Bucksnort Saloon” and were finally back on track. Upon reentering the portion of the course which was the original 85 mile loop, the nostalgia of last year came flooding back to me. We reached the small town of Temple and crossed M61 to enter Strawberry Rd. With the name of “Soulpit”, this four-mile portion of the course is arguably the sandiest. On a bad day your bike will only sink in the sand unless you brought some mountain bike tires. However, we were fortunate enough to have the road well packed down and got through without too much issue.

The next 8 miles was flat gravel till we got to the Leota gas station at mile 134 and took a break. I grabbed a few fig bars and some cheese and crackers to take with me. We ate some gas station pizza with fingers crossed that it wasn’t “from last week” and I downed a Dr.Pepper. Refueled by gas station nutrition, we got back on the road with only 36 miles left. At 140 miles, we hit some rolling hills before the last portion of two-track. This last three-mile section is the primo two-track of the KRanza. A good chunk of it is descent and it’s technical enough that you can make a good case for coasting through some sections. At one point both our rear tires nearly washed out on the edge of a huge mud puddle. Two side-by-sides passed us not long after, and we soon passed them when a truck being pulled from the mud was blocking the road. The remaining 27 miles were mostly rolling hills and felt like a cooldown compared to the first 27. The last portion of the course is through some open farmland which can have some brutal headwind. However, we were spared form the wind and in return got a calm conclusion to the ride. Sort of, there was still a sprint. Not one of the sprinting types, I tried to make an attack on one of the last climbs. However, Jon followed my move easily and we rode together for the last mile.

Making a right onto Clare Ave…

Left onto Hatton Rd….

and Sprint!

Jon takes the sprint.

In total, we finished the ride in 11 hours and 22 minutes. Considering everything that happened along the way, I’d say that’s a pretty solid time. I took 5th, Jon Delroy 4th, John Whipple 3rd (10:48:12), David Messing 2nd (10:18:39), and Ben Kalis 1st with a fiery (9:46:23).

I need to thank Roy Kranz for hosting the KRanza for 6 years, this was my second time completing one of the 170 routes and I feel they present a unique challenge you don’t see at the average gravel ride. With 65 people registered between the 85 and 170 mile race in 2021, I can’t wait to see how the ride changes and evolves as time goes on!

Till next year!

You can find my ride here, the 2021 KRanza route can be found here, and for more information please go here.

Other stuff that happened on the ride

  • Someone flagged us down to say their dog was missing
  • A goose got mad at me (thankfully I was on a bike)
  • A chicken ran out in front of Jon and almost learned why not to cross the road
  • At one point an entire chain was lying in the road


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