Elite Cycling

Recovering from Burnout in Cycling

May 1st, 2020 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Jared Dunham

There are some workouts that we don’t want to finish or even start, however when this happens more often than not, it may be clear that you’re suffering from burnout or overtraining. Burnout is especially detrimental to training because it is not something like sickness where resting for a few days or taking medication can fix, it’s something that must be mentally worked through and has no quick fixe. It’s not a matter of lacking the strength or endurance to finish a workout but instead the motivation, which can be much worse. Personally, I’ve had fleeting experiences with burnout but none to the degree I experienced near the end of this past off-season. That being said, here are some things I learned recovering from overtraining.

Diversify: My first suggestion, especially during the winter months, would be to find multiple forms of exercise. Indoor cycling can remain the primary concern but doing another sport that cross-trains well is incredibly beneficial when biking-in-place gets mentally taxing. All my time spent training this past season revolved around two options; strength/weight workouts and indoor cycling. I did two strength workouts per week and six cycling. The issue was a lack of variety. Therefore, strength training had always seemed like a breath of fresh air to me each week. When I initially “cracked” there weren’t other forms of exercise to fall back on. Even if you don’t do these sports on a regular basis having them in your armory will be beneficial to keep your training on tract when you get sick of indoor cycling. Some sports/disciplines that would be beneficial are: cross-country skiing and fatbiking (if you have the trails), indoor track cycling (if you’ve got the track), weight lifting/strength training, snowshoeing, running, or swimming. Other activities that will at least get you outside would be: downhill skiing/snowboarding or snowmobiling.

Reach Out: If you are being coached make sure you’re in communication with them about the situation and express honestly what your feeling currently. If you’re self-coached then talking to a racer in your cycling community who has a few years of experience may help. Other than a coach or veteran cyclist, talking or spending time with family or friends can also improve the situation and allow you to chillout. After reaching out to my coach and explaining the situation we decided to switch a lot of my training to fatbiking as base miles near the end of the offseason.

Baby Steps: In order to fully return to the bike it may take time. Having another sport to stay active with will help, but for a good recovery, you may also need to reduce your time spent training per week or your training volume. If you’ve got time sensitive goals that you’re working towards then this concept may seem especially difficult, but I would recommend not taking huge leaps and bounds during this period. Continue working on your goals while you’re working through this and don’t beat yourself up over not getting to a specific FTP or weight by a certain date. Making these goals flexible will allow you to stay more optimistic while recovering. Something that helped me was looking at each day and seeing how I was improving or following my training plan. Each time I finished my stretching routine or stuck to my nutrition plan it was a good day.

Relax: Possibly the most important piece to this process is to chill out. This situation will pass and won’t ruin your entire race season. Make sure to take some time and get the occasional RnR by doing another hobby, spending time with yourself or others, or whatever it is that you enjoy doing (off the bike). One of the issues with my recovery was that I was overthinking the issue. I’m a pretty big numbers person and they weren’t aligning the way I wanted them to for a few weeks. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and look at the big picture.

So to bring it all together, here are the things I would recommend getting around to sooner or later so that when you hit a phase of burnout you’ll be able to shrug it off faster:

  • Find other hobbies you enjoy
  • Find other sports that cross-train well (especially for winter)
  • Invest in things that will make indoor riding more comfortable/easier (a new fan, Zwift, more towels, a better saddle, etc…)
  • Take note when the workouts start to become mentally harder to complete. In my experience by the time I realized I was in a rut, it was already too late.
  • Understand that every workout isn’t life or death. You can occasionally take it easy  if you are very sore or mentally taxed.

Better Sleep for Better Results

March 5th, 2020 by JoAnn Cranson

By  Jared Dunham

Recovery between workouts is crucial for improving your ability to perform in endurance sports. Proper recovery helps in many ways, some of which are:

  • Allowing your muscles to rebuild and recover from a hard workout.
  • Preventing over-training or burnout.
  • Managing consistent weight and body composition.

There are many ways to receive the right amount of recovery between workouts, popular methods are: protein intake, stretching, foam rolling, and time spent away from the sport. While all of these are important factors to consider, one thing that can be overlooked or set as a lower priority is the amount and quality of sleep you’re receiving. Those restful night hours are crucial because it can directly affect how hard you perceive a workout is. “That means biomechanically there’s no reason sleep will lessen your physical capabilities, but you will fatigue faster on less sleep, making it feel tougher to work out to your maximum capacity,” (How sleep affects fitness and vice versa: Everyday Health). This being said, here are my recommendations for getting the proper amount of sleep needed to recover best.

Get the right number of hours. The recommended number of hours would be eight per night, however with a busy schedule this can be difficult. Something I find that helps is scheduling my less crucial tasks near bedtime, that way the task I skipped to get asleep on time isn’t a big deal anyway. To really soak up those hours, create a sleep routine where you arrive and depart from the mattress at the same times every day. This will make getting to bed and waking up on time easier as your body acclimates to the schedule.

Improve your digestive system. An unhealthy gut can lead to poor sleep and poor sleep can lead to an unhealthy gut, it’s a vicious cycle. In my experience, three major contributors to a problematic stomach are: lack of variety in diet, lack of fiber in diet, or a calorie deficit. If you’re eating the same things every day then diversifying the food groups your consuming will draw more nutrients from your diet, which can aid gut health. Fiber is also an important factor, though it can sometimes seem difficult to take enough in while dieting. The average recommended amount is 35 Grams per day which I’ve found to work fine with me. Two foods that are low calorie and packed with fiber are Spinach and Berries. On another note, natural fiber is leagues better than supplementing it out of a bottle. Lastly, a diet that has you eating too little calories will slow down your metabolism and hurt not only weight loss but also sleep. Going to bed a tad hungry is okay but trying to sleep while you clearly did not eat enough is going to make easy rest a distant dream.

Remove distractions before bed. Generally one of the rules for getting good sleep is to shut down electronics prior to hitting the hay, however I think we may need to be broader than that. We should stop focusing intently on one thing in that 30 minute window before bed. I say this because concentrating on a task and then attempting to sleep could leave you with ruminating thoughts that keep you awake. Good examples of tasks not to do would be: playing an intense video game, doing stressful paper work, or watching a horror movie.

Stretching or Foam Rolling. Two things that have aided me in the transition from wake to sleep is stretching or using a foam roller immediately before bed. While there aren’t certain stretches or areas of the body to roll that I recommend everyone, if you’re a cyclist then obviously to get the best recovery from a workout stretch and roll your lower body.

Without the proper recovery and sleep, it doesn’t matter how hard you workout you will not yield the results to meet your goals.


My Oatmeal Cookbook

February 9th, 2020 by JoAnn Cranson

By Jared Dunham

As an endurance athlete you may be faced with many early morning or otherwise inconveniently timed workouts to your daily schedule. To fuel for one of said workouts it’s easy to reach for a protein bar, cereal or a similar product, however a better and more holistic option is oatmeal. Oatmeal is an empty canvas as far as food goes, it can be served in many ways and variations. Admittedly I’m an emerging oat addict myself, eating mostly oatmeal for a great deal of my past breakfasts. Nowadays I don’t eat oats nearly as much as I did in the past but still thoroughly enjoy the dish every now and again. With that being said, here are some of my favorite recipes for oatmeal. I hope they help break you out of your daily oat rut or make you take a shot in the dark and try some oats for the first time.

Quick Notes:

  • These oat recipes can be made easily in 15 minutes or less with the caveat that you use a microwave for cooking.
  • Most microwaves have an “Oatmeal’ setting on them, however cooking them for about 3 minutes is a good substitute.
  • Boiling oatmeal on the stove in a cooking pot also works, however this requires a little more time and cleanup, so I usually opt for the microwave if I’m trying to whip up some oats quickly.
  • All my recipes are based on one serving and are a ½ cup of dry oats each.
  • When cooking these oats, I use about ¾ cup of water.
  • Milk is a good substitute, which some of the recipes call for, but I use water most of the time.
  • Lastly, the amounts of ingredients in these recipes are in the eye of the beholder and all these meals are open to editing so if there’s something you wanted to change then go ahead and try it.

Classic Recipes

Pumpkin Spice

While the season for pumpkin spice lattes may be over, you can still enjoy this meal anytime.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 268
  • 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Spice Carbs: 38.5g
  • 1/8 Cup Pecans Fat: 10.3g
  • 1/4 Cup Canned Pumpkin Protein: 8g
  • ½ tbsp Brown Sugar

Directions:

  1. Begin cooking oats, about halfway through mix the canned pumpkin in with the water and oats.
  2. Finish cooking.
  3. Mix in brown sugar to be sure it melts while oats are hot. Afterwards stir in other ingredients and enjoy.

Cinnamon Apple

Cinnamon apple is a very simple recipe that is a good option if you are trying to fuel for a workout or day without many bells or whistles attached.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 204
  • ½ Finely Chopped Apple Carbs: 41.7g
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon Fat:3.2g

Protein:6.3g

Directions:

  1. Chop up half an apple while aats cook.
  2. When oats finish mix in Cinnamon and Apple.

Cooking Notes: If you’re looking to sweeten up this recipe then add half a tablespoon of brown sugar or maple syrup.

Maple Nut

This recipe was crafted to mimic the taste of the “Maple Nut” glazing that coats a doughnut of the same name. The main difference is this one speeds you up instead of slowing you down.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 300
  • 1 tbsp Natural Peanut Butter Carbs: 45.1g
  • 1 tbsp Real Maple Syrup Fat:11g
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract Protein:9.5g

Directions:

  1. Cook oats, then mix all ingredients.

Carb Load

Sweet Potato Oats

Sweet potatoes and oatmeal can be a match made in heaven especially if you’re looking to pack in a few extra all-natural carbs before a ride. This bowl combines the two with a dash of sweetness and salt.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 321
  • 1/2 Sweet Potato Carbs: 52g
  • 1 tbsp Brown Sugar Fat: 10g
  • 1/8 Cup Chopped Pecans Protein: 7g

Directions:

  1. Chop up the Sweet Potato while Oats cook.
  2. Stir in Brown Sugar to melt after Oats finish.
  3. Cook Sweet Potato in microwave if you need to.
  4. Mash Potato in with Oats until desired texture is achieved.
  5. Mix in Pecans.

Cooking Notes: The fastest way to make this recipe is to microwave the potato however, if you steam it, that will allow the spud to mix better with the oats. If you’re looking for more carbs add the whole potato.

The Fruit Bowl

Let’s see how many different fruits we can mix in with oatmeal. This is less of a standout than some of the other recipes but still holds true with how great oats taste when your average fruits are mixed in.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 259
  • ½ tbsp Honey Carbs: 55g
  • 1 Sliced Strawberry Fat:3.3g
  • 1 Sliced Orange Wedge Protein:7g
  • 1/4 Chopped Apple
  • 1/4 Sliced Banana
  • 6 Grapes

Directions:

  1. If Fruit isn’t already prechopped then do that while Oats cook.
  2. Mix Honey followed by Fruit when Oats are finished.

Cooking Notes: This recipe requires various fruits, but you can use whatever may be at your disposal. If there’s any leftover fruit salad, simply use that or chop up fruit to be used for several servings and then store in the refrigerator.

Beet Oatmeal

Studies have shown that beets can help improve performance in endurance sports when consumed before exercise. It only makes sense that we add them in with oats.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 260
  • ¾ Cup Beet Juice Carbs: 54.4g
  • 1/2 Finely Chopped Apple Fat: 3.2g
  • ½ tsp Cinnamon Protein: 6.4g
  • ½ tsp Vanilla
  • 1 tbsp Brown Sugar

Directions:

  1. Add Beet Juice instead of Water to Oatmeal for cooking.
  2. Chop Apple while Oats cook.
  3. Once Oats are finished, mix in: Cinnamon, Vanilla, Brown Sugar and Apple.

Cooking Notes: Unless you have a juicer or direct access to beet juice then mixing dried beet powder in with water will be your best option. That is what I do here.

Protein Packed

Greek Oats and Berries

For this recipe the Greek Yogurt provides a nice contrast to the citrus flavor of the mixed fruit.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 210 to 235
  • ½ Cup Frozen Mixed Berries Carbs: 38 to 40g
  • ¼ to ½ Cup Greek Yogurt Fat: 3g

Protein: 10 to 15g

Directions:

  1. Cook Oats.
  2. Cook Berries separately.
  3. Mix warmed Fruit with Oats and Greek yogurt.

Cooking Notes: I prefer to leave the fruit juice that comes with the frozen fruit in when I mix with oats.

Strawberry Dream

I was a little hesitant on mixing cottage cheese in with oatmeal but soon discovered that the pair have a similar flavor that jives perfectly.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 279 to 334
  • 6 Chopped Strawberries Carbs: 48 to 50g
  • ¼ to ½ Cup Cottage Cheese Fat: 5 to 8g
  • 1tbsp Strawberry Jam Protein: 8 to 17g

Directions:

  1. Chop Strawberries while Oats cook.
  2. After Oats are ready; mix in Cottage Cheese and Strawberry Jam.
  3. Lastly, add Strawberries.

Cooking Notes: This recipe can be adapted to any fruit, EX: Chopped Peaches and Peach Jam.

Savory Oat Bowl

Here’s another one you may have to be open minded about. Trust me though, there’s nothing under the sun that doesn’t taste great with bacon and cheese.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 361
  • 2 Eggs (Runny) Carbs: 28g
  • 1 Crumbled Slice of Cooked Bacon Fat: 18.3g
  • 1 tbsp Shredded Cheddar Cheese Protein: 22.8g
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Fry Eggs while Oats cook.
  2. Mix Cheddar Cheese in with oats after they’re finished.
  3. Add Bacon to mixture.
  4. Mix in Salt and Pepper to taste, then top with Runny Eggs.

Cooking notes: I prefer using runny eggs for this recipe because the yoke adds more flavor to the bowl, however I have tried mixing scrambled in with oats. Something I haven’t tried is mixing precooked oats in with scrambled eggs as they cook. If you want to make this recipe much faster with less cleanup make sure to pre-fry your bacon and then simply store in the fridge till you need to use it, then microwave to warmup for this recipe.

Indulgent Recipes

Elephant Ear

As the name would suggest, the main objective of this recipe was to have a similar taste with that of an Elephant Ear. This one is surprisingly low calorie compared to a lot of the other recipes that made it onto the “Indulgent” list.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 271
  • 1 tbsp Sugar Carbs: 32G
  • ½ tbsp Cinnamon Fat: 14.5G
  • 1 tbsp Melted Butter Protein: 5G

Directions:

  1. Begin cooking Oats
  2. Near the end of their prep add Butter to be melted.
  3. Mix Butter in with Oats and add other ingredients.

Almond Joy

We’re going for an Almond Joy candy bar here, enough said.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 577
  • 1/8 Cup Sweetened Coconut Flakes Carbs: 64.6g
  • 1/8 Cup Chocolate Chips Fat: 31g
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Milk Protein: 18.6g
  • 1/8 Cup Sliced Almonds

Directions:

  1. Cook Oats with Milk instead of Water.
  2. After Oats have finished mix in Chocolate Chips till they melt, followed by other ingredients.

Cooking Notes: Obviously if you’re looking for a leaner version of this recipe it can be done. I’d recommend replacing Whole Milk with Almond and lessening the rest of the ingredients.

PB&J

Here’s an idea to shakeup that average, packed lunch, peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 397
  • 1 tbsp Natural Peanut Butter Carbs: 49g
  • 1 tbsp Natural Jelly Fat: 17g
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Milk Protein: 15.3g

Directions:

  1. Cook Milk with Oats instead of Water.
  2. After Oats have finished mix in other ingredients.

Cooking Notes: If you’re looking to save a few calories, skimp out on the Whole Milk and replace it with Almond or Skim.

The Usual

The Usual was probably my favorite recipe for quite some time, it capitalizes on the banana and peanut butter combination that works so well with oatmeal. A note however, this recipe has a lot of horsepower so you may want to save this one for a hard workout or race.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 436
  • 1 tbsp Natural Peanut Butter Carbs: 64.5g
  • 1 tbsp Sliced Almonds or Other Nuts Fat: 15.3g
  • 1 tbsp Natural Maple Syrup Protein: 11.6g
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Chopped Banana

Directions:

  1. Slice up your Banana while Oats cook.
  2. When Oats are finished mix ingredients in as followed: Maple Syrup, Vanilla Extract, Cinnamon, Natural Peanut Butter, Sliced Almonds, and Banana.

Enjoy your Oats!!


How “Destiny” Brought Me to Racing

November 7th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Joe Bianchini

My first experience on a longer bike ride of sorts was in 2014, after I had just graduated college. My girlfriend at the time and now wife, had just received a road bike for her birthday and was eager to try it out. We were staying at her parent’s cottage near Bellaire, MI and had spent a lot of time meticulously plotting out how far we were going to go, what speed we wanted to maintain, what clothes to wear and most importantly how long we could afford to stay at The Dockside, a local bar on Torch Lake. When I say afford, I mean both how many beers we could literally afford having just graduated college and how much time we could afford before it got too dark out for our 15-mile return trip. These were the important things at the time that I needed to know before embarking on a ride over 5 miles of flat roads yet alone the 30 miles of rolling hills that we were about to do.

We ended up making it back okay but with about 3 miles left, we had one last climb to the top of a hill before this venture would come to an end. It was a twisty turny climb that I always thought people were crazy for biking up as I rolled past them in my car countless times. Now here I was doing it with a greasy hamburger and several beers sloshing around in my stomach. The biggest challenge however was the fact that I was on a hand me down children’s sized mountain bike from the 1990’s that had “Destiny” emblazoned across the top tube. Prior to getting to the climb, Brooke had very generously offered to ride “Destiny” up the hill and let me ride her bike. Despite the bike being heavy, too small and this being one of the steepest hills around; I was not going to let this challenge defeat me. Eventually, and not in quick fashion I made it to the top, but more importantly I had made up my mind about getting a road bike. 

I grew up playing a variety of sports including football, lacrosse, wrestling and rugby but I never had participated in sports that were more endurance related such as biking, track, cross country, etc. However, the last time I ever participated in any competitive sport was high school. Having that brief period where my mind switched over into that competitive mindset on that hill was so exhilarating and I was hooked. It was such a fulfilling experience to not think about anything else that was going on in my life and only focus on getting to the top of that hill. Although I am sure that I could climb that same hill much faster today, the fact of the matter is that my attitude was the same then as it is now: Get to the top as fast as I possibly can. 

That following winter I bought my first road bike and started going to spinning classes in anticipation of the coming spring. Once spring hit, I started venturing out on various group rides during the week but eventually hooked up with a small group of people who had work and life schedules that provided more opportunity to ride at 5:30 AM rather than the afternoon. We dubbed ourselves the “Morning Cranks” and over time the group began to grow, and the rides began to become faster. This provided me with a group of friends to ride with consistently, compete on Strava segments with, give me confidence to sign up for my first race and overall really made me enjoy the sport. Every time I got on the bike, I was constantly trying to learn from the other people around me to make myself a better rider and having fun doing it. Eventually, I began to partake in cat 4/5 races with varying level of success but knew overall that this was something I wanted to keep getting better at. It wasn’t until earlier this summer when I began talking to Terry Ritter about taking my racing to the next level. At first, I was a little nervous for a magnitude of reasons but eventually became confident that joining Team Athletic Mentors was something I really wanted to do. 

Since joining the team, everyone that I have met has been extremely helpful in a variety of ways. The thing that I look forward to most is being able to race among teammates and doing whatever I need to do to help us win some races. I have had a couple opportunities to do that in 2019 when racing the Summer Waterford Series, Cherry Roubaix, Uncle Johns Dirty Ride and The Lowell 50 and I can honestly say it has been way more fun and fulfilling than getting on the podium myself. Not only is the actual racing fun but all the conversation that is had leading up to the race and after the race is always something that I look forward to. I am very excited to be a part of this team and can’t wait to see how we perform during the 2020 race season.


Wait… The Iceman is When?!

October 30th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Terry Ritter

In my almost 20 years of coaching I’ve had a few athletes that signed on to just do a short training plan for the Iceman. Many of these athletes were experiencing their first edition of this race, or one of their first few, and so I made sure I covered all the bases. This meant bike prep, maintenance, nutrition, and other points that could help improve their chances of success. For the ’19 season I have two athletes tying on an Iceman number plate for the first time, and I’m pulling out all my old information to help them prepare in hopes they enjoy this unique event. Here’s some of the important stuff if you need to quickly get things together to optimize your chances.

Proper Bike Set-Up

A number of aspects related to modern bicycle set up rely on volumes of air. Most fork designs that are in the mid-level and above price range have an air chamber for the supporting spring. Rear shocks are likely similar. And, of course, all bicycle tires will be relying on ambient gases as their means of pneumonic support. The tuning of these components depends on the pressure of the air inside, which is usually changed by a rider adding or releasing air. However, major temperature changes will change pressure as described by Charlie’s Law (chemistry alert!). A given pressure will lose about 1 psi for every 10 degree loss of temperature. This doesn’t seem like much, but if you inflate your tires to that perfect 24 psi in your hotel room, they could well be at 20 psi or less at the start of the race. Your fork and shock will be less stiff as well. Solve this problem by letting the bike sit out in the elements and then doing your air adjustments just before starting your warm up. Bonus Point: Don’t forget your shock pump!

Get the Nutrition and Hydration Right

For many racers that have been racing Sport or Beginner all season, the Iceman will be the longest event of the year. Even for a number of Expert level MTBers, if conditions are poor, they could be looking at the same situation. This year’s 30 mile course will add time to everyone as well. For most, what is needed hydration and nutrition wise is uncharted territory. My suggestion is to do a good breakfast a little earlier than normal, that has fewer carbohydrates and more fat and protein. This will allow you a steady energy source for longer. From there, 2 bottles should get most racers through 3 hours with the temps we are likely to race in, especially if you sip a different bottle during warm up (grab a fresh one before heading to the start line). Bring the energy packets of choice (gels, bars), and start supplementing around the 90 min mark. If a 3 hour or more event is expected, you should repeat this every 45 mins or so. A few important points are to never try something new the day of the race, drink early, and be sure to bring just a little extra for bars or gels. And, if it is going to be below freezing for most of the race, an insulated bottle could be a wise choice. Bonus Point: If you plan to eat a gel or bar during the race, don’t mix the energy drink as concentrated to prevent GI distress.

Iceman Maintenance

Nothing is more disappointing then to have your training, race strategy, and nutrition nailed for the big day, then have your bike let you down. Though this can happen no matter what, I have seen certain patterns after 20 plus events, many centered around drivetrain issues. The bike is running and shifting well during pleasant weather from a drivetrain that’s been on the bike all season. Then, race day comes and it’s muddy or sandy and wet. The chain and other parts get covered, and the bike starts skipping, shifting poorly, or chain sucking. Your chain could well be stretched and things aren’t mating well as the conditions turned. Or, you changed the chain after it had stretched a bit too far. Regardless, I have found a good way to avoid this is to either keep my chain changed earlier, or to swap out my big ring, chain, and cassette a few weeks before the Iceman (I usually get a year out of stuff), and so it’s fresh in case the conditions are bad, and that gives me a fresh drivetrain before the start of the next season. Another area of concern is getting an appropriate chain lube for conditions (so NOT using the drier, warmer weather wax based stuff you used all summer). People also will not lube their cables, or use a heavier lube/grease that’s fine in warmer weather, but gums up the cable, and so the shifting, when it gets at or below freezing. A thinner lube works well in both applications (I like wet lubes for chains and T-9 for cables this time of year). A few drops on the pedals won’t hurt, either. Don’t forget to put a little fresh sealant in your tires if that’s your set up. It might be a good idea to get your brake pad wear checked. You can burn through 3 months of dry riding in 30 miles of poor conditions. Bonus Point: Make sure you’re clutched derailleur is turned on if you run a 1x system.

Tool Bag

With the Iceman being a point-to-point race, self-support is a bit more important. Even if your result is going to be negatively impacted with a breakdown and you want to give up, it’s often difficult to get to a location that has people. Best to fix what you can and ride it home. Most common tool bag contents would fix most problems. These include a tube, CO2 inflators, tire levers if your tires need them, and a multi-tool. What will end a day poorly is if you can’t manage a broken chain. This is best done with a master link and chain tool in the bag. Bonus Point: Look through your bag to be sure it’s equipped with what you need… and make sure you know how to use everything.

Dress for Success

A common picture from the Iceman is seeing the new riders hopelessly overdressed. This is totally understandable as it might well be chilly before the start, and we all get stuck standing around for a while. But, one must resist the temptation to pile on the outerwear in these situations. You should be a little chilly standing there, as you’ll start heating up once the racing is underway. One trick is to have someone that can take a coat while you are in the staging area. Another good idea is to have the ability to open zippers or remove layered clothing (thinking windproof vest and arm warmers here). Best to have had a chance to test out some of the clothing before you race. This is not always possible, especially with the nice fall we’ve had in Michigan. Regardless, give yourself time to take a few things off after warming up. Don’t forget to look at the forecast. If it’s looking like rain and you’re going to be out there a while, it might be a good idea to pack a jacket. Bonus Point: If you are using chemical warmers, many need some access to air to work.

Scout the Course and Plan Appropriately

This year’s edition had a lot of racers pre-riding the course weeks before. Most of this was likely due to pleasant fall weather we enjoyed. Another fact might well be all the changes incorporated into this season’s route. Regardless, it’s good to know what you’re in for on your way to Traverse City. But the most critical areas are the start and finish. The later can be tackled on the Friday pre-ride, as they will have a small loop set up that riders can do a few times. This is good to get a grasp of where you’ll need to get ahead of riders that you might be racing to the line. For the start, knowing how the course will potentially bottle neck can help determine where a little more effort should be used. New this year is the start from the airport. This will meander around for a significant bit before crossing the paved two lane and heading down a dirt road. This road was in the early editions of the Iceman, and was always a cluster due to large deposits of sand. If you have a chance, be near the front of your class when this area comes up. The later waves will struggle to check it out before the race as there will be waves and waves of riders. But, any knowledge ahead of time could prevent a catastrophe. Bonus Point: You can’t win the race at the start, but you can certainly lose it.

Resting and Race Day Warm Up

There are two major things that can impact a race negatively, but are common mistakes. The first I have seen over the years is people riding too much leading up to the Iceman. They want to get as much riding in, either due to a late start to event training , or just not understanding the power of rest. They will post hard or long riding hours the week preceding, then rest a day or two with little to no training. Unfortunately, anything we physically do to improve conditioning won’t materialize for 7-10 days at the minimum. For this reason, your hard training should end earlier and you should taper into the race. This means reducing your efforts about 30% each of the two weeks leading up to the first weekend in November. However, if you haven’t done that to this point, understand you can’t carry fatigue into the race and perform your best. With less than one week left, get some shorter, intense rides in and rest a lot more. Don’t be completely off the bike, but make sure you have good legs the day we pin the numbers on. Also, I see people afraid to get out in the cold the morning of Iceman, and so they stick around in their vehicles and fall behind, rushing to get a warm up in and get to their wave early enough to position well. When the gun goes off you want to be the best you can be, rested, warmed up, and ready to go. Bonus Point: It’s a common practice to take two days before the race completely off, then do a short ride on Friday that has a few hard, short efforts.

With days before the big race, some of this advice might be too late. But, even if one little parcel of knowledge helps your event go better it will be well worth the read. And, you’ll be all the more prepared for your next Iceman Cometh!


An Exercise in Learning

October 23rd, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Ross DiFalco

Bike racing is an incredibly rewarding sport. It can also be very frustrating. This is the synopsis of my first season of trying to figure out this whole bike-racing thing.

To start things off, mentorship is the greatest thing you can hope for. Find some great people that have been in the sport and take their advice!  There are plenty of times when I feel I know best and the result is rarely in my favor. Beyond finding a mentor , what you can do is to learn to manage time. Bike racing is a time intensive sport. If you can’t find time to ride, winning is not in the cards. I am going to tell you the tips I use to make training happen while life tries to get in the way.

Structure

Structure is the name of the game for anyone who has a life outside of cycling. The problem is that I have always been someone that hates the idea of structure. To me, structure is what sucks the fun out of the sport. The problem with this mentality is that when life gets busy, you cannot be sloppy with your time. It’s taken the entire season of struggling along to realize that structure may actually bring sanity. Unless you have zero responsibilities, riding 10 hours a week can be difficult to fit into a 50-hour work week. Many people, myself included, can either maintain their cycling or their personal life, not both. A tip given to me is that you should create a training plan that lists all the rides and races you will be doing in advance. The idea is that you can then plan around these events and set expectations with family and friends so they know when you are committed to something. Creating balance that allows an efficient use of time will be my biggest goal for the upcoming season.

Prepare For The Worst

Things WILL happen. Everyone thinks they’re invincible until something happens. For me, it was a pretty nasty crash. The crash resulted in lots of road rash and a torn tendon in my finger. Now most sane people would go to the doctor when their finger stops working. When you’re delusional about training, the strategy is to avoid the doctor out of fear they will tell you not to ride. THIS IS A MISTAKE. By the time I caved and went to the doctor, the tendon had shrunk and I had done more damage. The worst part is that now I have to limit gripping things for 8 more weeks. Now I don’t know about you, but when I ride bikes I prefer to hold on. If I was realistic about the injury from the start things might have been different.

The Trainer

I hate riding the trainer. Riding indoors is something that I’m just going to have to come to terms with. The trainer is so efficient with time! Using training software, such as Zwift, allows you to get on a scheduled plan that will continually push our limits. When you are riding on a trainer there is no coasting, this makes for a much more condensed session. The second reason you should incorporate a trainer is that, like I said above, things happen. When you can’t ride a bike you may be able to ride indoors. The third reason that a trainer is a great tool is that it’s safer than riding in the dark. Autumn in Michigan means shorter days and a decision to either get lights or ride inside. Riding at night, while fun, comes with some added risk. On a trainer, it’s very easy to get up in the morning, get a quick ride in and go along with your day. It’s a low risk and easy thing to incorporate. If you are new to indoor cycling, I recommend getting a direct drive unit, like the Wahoo Kickr. I went cheap and bought the Wahoo Snap and it works but isn’t very consistent for training. I would also recommend Zwift or TrainerRoad as the training software.

If you can do one thing for yourself, it’s to find a mentor and listen to them! Beyond that, get better at managing the time you have and remember to have fun once in awhile!


Iceman Reflux

October 23rd, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Terry Ritter

Somewhere along the way I became an elder statesmen in the racing scene. Though I can’t pinpoint when this exactly was, I know it’s happened every season when the Iceman rolls around. There’s a chat with a new or novice racer and I reminisce regarding all the changes I remember over the years in the great November race. Though I’m sure others (though not many) can tell me some interesting changes, my quarter century of Iceman participation leaves me with a few things many people who identify with this event probably don’t know.

There Used to Be a More Traditional Race Format

For a number of years Iceman was organized like most traditional races. There were ubiquitous categories like Beginner, Sport, and Expert, with age groups aligning with the age groupings based off the long defunct NORBA standard. This meant each of these categories had five year age divisions up to and over 50 years old. It made for smaller fields, but you also knew who you were racing against when the gun went off, which was the norm. It was certainly a different way to race head-to-head versus today’s individual time trial method, where your time is then compared to others regardless of your starting wave. Obviously, you could almost pick what class you wanted, and that did group riders of dissimilar abilities, Today’s waving placement method, though frustrating for some, works more effectively to eliminate this disparity.

The Pro’s Started the Race First

It’s probably been well over a dozen years, but the race was more traditional in other ways as well. Primarily, the Pro fields, both men’s and women’s, started in their own waves, but were the first to go off. This created a lot more buzz at the start, and also insured they had the “clean” lines. But it was recognized that many of the Iceman racers were also fans, and they never got a chance to see the pros race, and specifically to finish. The solution was to have the pros go off in the afternoon, after most of the fields had finished and had time to clean up and get a little into their celebratory mode. I was racing the Pro class when we first did the later start. Having done only morning send offs to that point, it was really strange to stand there trying to amp up to compete and there was hardly anyone in the parking lot, and next to no buzz at the start. I distinctly remember being able to hear others around me breathing it was so quiet just seconds before the start. And though I went through a lot of that race competing with just a handful of riders, it was really cool to get closer to the finish and see all the people, then to get to Timber Ridge and have so many cheering. That made it worth it!

The Start and Finish Have Changed Over the Years

Back when the Iceman was a fledgling event the finish was at Holiday Hills ski resort, home of the start and finish of the now popular Mud Sweat and Beers MTB race. Since I started race this event in 1996, the start has been at the Kalkaska High School, downtown Kalkaska, and soon to be the Kalkaska Airport (this year). I can remember my first finish in 1996 being out in a field off the VASA Bunker Hill trailhead. No festivities, banners, or food trucks (or bathrooms, even). Before long the race established Timber Ridge Camp Ground as the finish line and it has grown to be a cool hang out as the years have passed.

Awards Banquette

For a number of years the race had an awards banquette in the evening, usually at the Grand Traverse Resort. With most of the racers finished by noon-2 PM, there was a good 4-5 hours before the awards were to be given out. This allowed a nap, something to eat, and hooking up with friends before heading over to the festivities. I had fond memories of one of my friends who worked for the promoter and lived locally doing an early afternoon spread where a number of the invited pros would come to hang out, eat, and maybe start the beer drinking early. It was a small setting, and people got to talk to each other. For a span of a few years the Iceman was sponsored by Gary Fisher and they used to send a large amount of their national MTB team to the race. I have a neat photo of myself and a young Ryder Hesjedal, many years before he switched to road and won the Giro d’italia.

National Pros Competing

One of the cool things about the Iceman, and cycling in general, is how approachable the top competitors are around the event. The expo the day before wasn’t always what it is today, but often you’d be able to talk to a few of the racers you just see in magazines. But the fact is, though we enjoy a pretty solid pro field in recent years, the Iceman was usually a locals or regional event. One or two good riders would show up that made a living racing a bike, but it wasn’t unheard of for someone you know to break the top 10 in the men’s class or top 5 in the women. Some years the winner would not have been recognized outside of the state. For one of the years Ryder came (and the pros started first in the morning) I remember passing him and another pro about 7 miles from the finish. They were just out enjoying the ride after a long season. To the benefit of the spectators, this hasn’t been the case for a while. Now you are sure to recognize most of the top riders as national competitors, some who have come to compete a few times. And, they know they have to take it seriously because there’s quality riders behind them. Good payouts, great accommodations, the lure of competing in a race they have heard about for years is likely strong drivers to toe the line.

Champions in Our Backyard

A bonus tidbit, but the Iceman has had a number of world champions compete over the years. Cecila Potts won the 1997 Junior World Championships in MTB and holds four winner’s trophies from Iceman. Art Flemming won multiple national championships for his age group and is the 1996 world champion for the 50-59 year old class. A few years back the great Ned Overend, 6 time national champion and 1990 world champion did his first Iceman. TC local Larry Warbasse, long before he was a national road champion and Pro Tour rider, competed in numerous events. Local John Mesco was a junior national champion in downhill. The present men’s 2x Iceman Cometh champion Jeff Kabush holds 15 Canadian national championships and a World Cup win. Alison Dunlop, the 2009 Iceman winner, was also multi-national champion and world champion in 2001. The late Steve Tilford raced for years as a national pro and won a number of age group world championships. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and his wife Heather Irmiger have both won national championships and competed and won our great race. I’m missing a few, and haven’t even mentioned the interesting racers many would recognize (Gary Fisher, anyone?), but the point is the race has had its share of accomplished participants in all fields cycling.

The Iceman Cometh has really evolved over the years, from a small group of friends to a spectacle that people put on their cycling bucket list. Along the way it has found a way to become better while still holding that same spirit of fun that is mountain biking and racing. I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed so much of it and am still around to share. Happy Birthday, Iceman! Here’s to 30 more years.


Ins and Outs of Mountain Bike Time Trialing

October 15th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By Jared Dunham

When you think of time trial racing, mountain bikes don’t usually come to mind, but occasionally you can get a race that combines the two. Time trials are the testing of the athlete against the clock, not other competitors. In a time trial race participants are sent off onto the race course one at a time with small gaps between each other. Each racer is timed individually and whoever finishes with the fastest time is the winner. While at there core, Road and Mountain Bike time trails follow the same formula, there are some differences compared to the MTB version.

The mountain bike time trials I’ve raced at are: Yankee Springs TT, Custer’s Last Stand, Luton Park TT, and M66 TT. These time trial races typically are on shorter distance courses (totaling 6 to 16 miles) and more about an all-out sprint than a long-distance ride. The races I’ve done had laps that are 6 to 8 miles with Beginner/Sport doing one lap and Expert/Elite completing two. Generally, the gap between racers seems to be 30 seconds across the board. These 30 seconds don’t seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, however they can make a real difference if competition is tight or if the trail is particularly technical.

Benefits

A major benefit to racing in this style is having the ability to host a race on trails that wouldn’t be able to handle a racing event otherwise. Some trails simply don’t have the room or positioning to host a mass start, or the path is too tight for racers to be jostling for placement on. Essentially the time trial can eliminate issues with racers trying to pass each other and going over the handlebars because the trail isn’t wide enough to ride side by side on. In my opinion, this makes it a safer race: everybody might still sprint to the finish line but at least there won’t be groups wrecking because of one misplaced pedal stroke!

Pacing

Pacing for these events is a little different from your typical mountain bike race. Not only is the race shorter but you can’t be sure how far ahead or behind you really are from everyone else, so the only thing you can do is leave it all out there! Since these races feature trails that are more technical or tight, naturally there are parts of the course where you won’t be able to put the pedal to the metal and must focus on simply navigating the trail. When I race these events, I’m putting in hard efforts for most of the race and am able to rest to some degree in the more technical sections.

Other Tips

Apart from all this I highly recommend doing a recon of the race course a few days before or a warm-up lap on it the day of. On these types of races you can typically get the edge by knowing it a little better. There will always be someone out there that is as familiar with the trail system as they are with the back of their hand so it’s important to do all you can do to tip the odds slightly in your favor. If you believe that your race will take less than 90 minutes, then you might consider staying hydrated and not taking any fluids with you while racing. I find that at these races I don’t have time to take in hydration or gels because of how short and intense they are. Every time trial I brought a water bottle, I barely used it so that water bottle could only be added weight. Also, I won’t bring tools out with me for these races. It’s more weight and the margin for error is so small that if you get a flat there’s no way you’re going to get a decent finish time when compared to the rest of the field. Lastly, for these races generally those who register the earliest get the best starting positions in the race so in this case the early bird could get the win!

If you’re interested in other endurance based mountain biking disciplines then consider looking up some Short Track, Marathon, or Ultra Endurance events, but these are a discussion for another day. Personally, I still prefer the traditional style of XC races with short, multiple laps and technical courses. But I think that a Time Trial race can add a special kind of flair to an otherwise normal race.

 


The Iceman Weapon Selection

October 15th, 2019 by Kaitlyn Patterson

-By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist

The question of the perfect Iceman bike is a favorite perennial debate. The reality that there is not just one ideal Iceman bike was illustrated in the past several years where the men’s race has been won on bikes ranging from full-suspension to full rigid with drop bars. I’ve split the difference over my five previous Iceman races- two on a full-suspension, three on a hardtail and this year is yet undecided.

I started out the sport on an entry level full suspension, 27.5 Giant Lust which was my Iceman bike in 2014 and 2015. In 2015 it was enough to hang with the leaders but ultimately end up fifth. In 2016 I upgraded to a Giant 27.5 XTC Advanced hardtail which was a factor in vying for the win and ultimately ending up second. I selected the XTC as a race rig for the Michigan fall classics as the simplicity, weight and versatility is hard to beat and it has represented well over the past three years. The responsiveness and quickness of the smaller wheels is definitely a benefit when trying to make the definitive moves necessary to break up a lead pack on the high-speed VASA highway. Although my fitness level was only high enough to do this (almost) successfully in 2016, the bike was definitely a factor in gapping the field on the Boonenberg climb that year.

However, this year with my partner in crime, Alex Vanias prioritizing ski training, his full-suspension Anthem Advanced 29er has been generously offered as a potential Iceman rig. Now it is my turn to weigh the pros and cons of full suspension versus hardtail. Although it rides very fast, much of the Iceman course is not particularly smooth, especially by the end of the day when many of the downhills are rutted from thousands of prior tires. Although the number of punchy climbs especially in the second half of the race are deceptively hard, there is not a lot of total climbing, negating some of the benefit of a hardtail setup.  Given that my descending and handling skills remain my weakness and I haven’t clocked as many hours on the bike this year, the handling itself may be worth the costs in weight and stiffness.

Although I think they would be neck and neck when raced side by side, I’m sure there are many theories in both directions. I will decide in the coming week and be looking at Peak2Peak for a test run of the chosen Iceman bike!


Iceman Cometh Yet Again

October 11th, 2019 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist

The first Saturday in November is a date circled in red for the past five years and stands as my favorite bike race/party. Thinking about riding into Timber Ridge into the celebration zone usually gives me goosebumps all year.

I would love to say that every year I carefully crafted my training to arrive at Iceman as fit and fresh as possible, with my equipment dialed and mentally ready. In reality, most years my build-up has been less than perfect and the race itself has felt like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, with me more surprised than the crowd about the result. Starting medical school in 2016 has been an awesome ride but also a complicating factor in bike racing, mostly in the unpredictability and uncertainty of the process. I didn’t necessarily expect how unpredictable the schedules, clinical demands, testing schedules, and travel would be when I started, but this has been just as challenging as the material itself. However, exercise has always been my way to recharge which is why I prioritized it, even if not in the form of structured training on the bike. Every year certainly brought its own different challenges and it has been simply good timing that the fall was possible to spend more dedicated time on the bike and the season that I would get the itch to race.

Now in my final year of medical school, this season is turning out similar. I have spent the last two months living out of a suitcase rotating at Mayo Clinic and the University of Utah and will begin interviewing for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation residencies in the coming weeks. Although I didn’t plan to race given my interview schedule this fall, it looks like I may be able to line up in November. My summer and fall have been filled with plenty of explorations in new places by foot and bike, but certainly not structured training. However, Iceman is calling yet again and I will see what I can put together this year. The last several years have created some pretty high expectations but this year I’m just hoping to be able to stay in the mix.

In reflection of the past five years of Iceman and preparation of this year, I wanted to add to the Iceman banter. Over the following couple weeks, I will share a series of blogs sharing my thoughts and experiences on bikes, training and strategy for the big dance. Happy Iceman season!

 



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