Elite Cycling

Beyond The Gravel

October 20th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

Photo by: Laura Caprara

By:  Christina Vipond

The first time I raced Uncle John’s Gravel Race, I was tooling along by myself about 16 miles per hour thinking I was going really fast. I climbed the hill to the finish line expecting champagne to be sprayed all over me and saw what looked like 1000 racers who had already finished. 

Lesson:1  I wasn’t “really fast”. Lesson 2: I had a lot to learn about racing.

The Michigan Gravel Race Series provides a great opportunity to experience different courses. Melting Mann kicked off the season with an overnight rain and drop in temperature which made for a chilly and leg zapping peanut butter road ride. A very nice volunteer was excited to tell me I only had 10 miles left. I tried to hide my true emotions with a smile and a thank you. 

Photo by: Laura Caprara

Barry welcomed us with a snowy start and a new, uphill finish. Lowell-it’s always nice to get to the bridge. I had to miss Hart Hills this year due to mechanical issues with both bikes at the same time. A racer can never have too many backup bikes. Waterloo was memorable with  lots of water bottle sucking potholes. The Cow Pie Classic added a 2nd farm, those trails always add adventure. Arcadia Grit and Gravel and Lord of the Springs are short but both pack a powerful punch. This year’s MGRS season ended with Uncle John’s and a new, straight up the grassy hill climb for the finish. The MGRS awards were held at the Moran 166. Although this  wasn’t part of the long or short course, it was the final ultra race. The 66 mile course was beautiful with leaves just beginning to turn and racers talked non stop about the infamous snowmobile trail. The weather was perfect, it was a great way to end the series. 

Photo by: Rob Meendering

It doesn’t take long to recognize the same faces at the races. The men are always helpful with “hop on my wheel” and “hey, we raced together at ___”.  Rob Meendering is always in the middle of the road, shouting encouragement as he captures the action. As nice as all that is, there seems to be a special bond with the women.  As competitive as the women are, they are also very encouraging.  There is chit chat during warm up rides, wishing each other good luck and a safe ride.  Some of my biggest competitors are some of my greatest friends. We stay at each other’s houses during race weekends, ride together for fun and share stories about our families. I was talking with another female racer about the relationships we build, she said her husband, who also races, just doesn’t understand it. For many of us, it goes beyond the gravel. 

 

 


Strategies for Staying Motivated During Ultra Cycling Events

September 19th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Jared Dunham

Ultra-Cycling is challenging by nature, but in return, these events can be highly rewarding to complete. However, there may be times during an event where your motivation to continue riding is low. It can be very tempting at times to quit but, not finishing an ultra-event can be difficult and occasionally emotional depending on how much time and effort was put into preparation. While most of my experience is with events that are 24 hours or under, here are some tips that I have for staying motivated during the challenging times of an Ultra Event. These are strategies that I’ve followed and are backed by my own experience.

Break the ride down into different sections

This is very similar to goal setting; you will be more successful if you set small goals that are steps to your larger goal. In an ultra-event, you shouldn’t think of the entire route as one long race, but instead break the event down into manageable portions and focus on getting to the next section of the course. Rather than counting down the miles to go on an event, count down the miles to the next portion/section/checkpoint of the course. 

 

Examples:

  • Landscape: Divide a 100-mile course into two portions. Half of the course is in a national forest; the other half is on farmland. Your first goal is to reach the farmland, then your next goal from there can be to finish.
  • Gas Stations / Stores: Create a mental checkpoint for each of the four gas stations on a 200-mile route. This makes the distance 50 miles before starting a new portion of the course.
  • Road Conditions: Take a Bikepacking Route and divide it into different sections based on the type of road/path you’re on.

Be flexible with your plans & goals

It’s very important to do thorough planning for an ultra-event and having goals can provide something to motivate you. However, it is important to adapt your goals/plans as you ride. If you can’t sustain the average speed you’d like or won’t make it to the next checkpoint at your goal time, then adjust your goal. If you don’t, you might start thinking about how you weren’t able to follow-through with your plans/goals, which can sap motivation. Instead of being disappointed, adapt your goal to one that is obtainable, or continue a less specific version of your original plan.   

Examples:

  • EX: You aren’t going to meet your goal time for reaching the next checkpoint.  New Goal / Plan: Set a time that is close to the original goal, but still obtainable.
  • EX: You were going to ride all grades lower than 8% in the Aerobars, but now are having back pain from that riding position.  New Goal / Plan: Ride in the drops of the handlebars instead if that feels better. Otherwise, stop and move your bike stem higher on the steering tube to raise the handlebars for a more relaxed position.
  • EX: You didn’t drink as much water as you should’ve during a hot portion of the ride.  New Goal / Plan: Drink extra water at every stop that you make.

Know what to do when a Plan Falls Apart

We’ve all had those rides that make you wonder what else could go wrong, hopefully one of those rides isn’t your event. But if it is, you need to know how to handle it. Having the knowledge of how to get out of challenging situations gives you confidence, which will help to keep your morale high. The ability to continue riding despite setbacks is one that requires experience, but this experience can be gained through preparation.    Examples:

  • Know how to repair mechanical issues with your bike
  • Understand how to remedy gut issues that you could have during the event

Focus on the Good

Know how to recover from dehydration during a ride.  Ultra-events are known to have moments of mental “highs” and “lows” for their participants. If you’re in a “low”, then practicing mindfulness may help reclaim motivation for your ride. To practice mindfulness during an event is to not worry about the past or future and focus on the now. Focusing on the now (specifically what’s good right now) will keep your mind off mistakes that were made earlier in the ride or how intimidating the remaining portion of the ride may be. 

 

 

Examples:

  • Taking in your surroundings as you ride
  • Savoring a pop/soda at the next checkpoint rather than downing it quickly
  • Enjoying each pedal up-stroke, where not much work is required

Other things to keep in mind:

  • The midpoint of the race is the hardest, and if you can make it past that then you can finish.
  • Understand that there could be “highs” and “lows” and that these feelings are normal.
  • If temperatures are high during an event, it’s common to experience more dips in motivation as the conditions are difficult.

Reward Yourself for Persevering

If you’re really in a difficult spot during the ride, then it may be a good idea to grant yourself rewards for continuing the event. A reward can be the “light at the end of the tunnel” that keeps you going.   

Examples:

  • Coast the descents of hills: Depending on what the event is, it may not be as efficient to coast the descents. But allowing your legs to rest a bit may grant the motivation needed to continue riding.
  • Give yourself a break off the bike: At the next checkpoint, whatever that may be, take some extra time off the bike. Don’t wait too long though, as you may need to re-warmup your legs again before getting back into a rhythm.
  • Food: Thinking about that Snickers bar or Coke at the next gas station or C-Store can be a great motivator. However, I would caution you to only eat things that you know work for you during a ride. Additionally, if a large portion of your nutrition is coming from candy bars, then your performance is going to reflect that.
  • Slow your pace: If you made it through a particularly difficult section of the course then you could slow your pace for a moment to reward yourself.

Keeping spirits high and remaining disciplined throughout these events is a sure sign that you will be able to complete them. As with most things, you will likely need to discover what exactly works for you. However, I hope this list has sparked some ideas or even allows you to finish your next event.

 

 


Racing Without Volunteers is Just Another Training Day

September 11th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Dawn Hinz

We are athletes and we are here to race. Yet, we cannot do it alone. Races whether they be triathlons, cycling, running or another sport give us the opportunity to test our personal fitness on that particular day. While we’re out there pushing ourselves to our limits there are volunteers supporting us. They give us kayaks to rest on, safety on the road (traffic doesn’t stop on its own), and provide quick nutrition and hydration. They are the biggest cheerleaders to each and every athlete; from the Leader to the Average Joe to the Back of the Packer. They are there to support and encourage all athletes from start to finish.

What if Volunteers weren’t there? No kayak to rest on? No intersection coverage to stop traffic? No one to hand you nutrition or hydration? No one to cheer you on when you’re slowing down? No one at the finish line to keep you from crashing or to provide medical support if needed? In my opinion that would make racing just another training day and we’d never know how far or how fast we could really go if we had support.

Does your Team or Club support volunteering? Do they designate races or aid stations to volunteer? This is a great way to experience volunteering with people you know. Or you can volunteer individually and meet new people. Whichever way you volunteer you’ll get to see racing from the other side. Athletes are grateful for your support and you are often the “Make or Break” to someone’s race day. You will notice a sense of fulfillment and purpose because you are there for someone else.

How often should you volunteer? This is a personal question that only you can answer. Think of it like a relationship. What would you think of someone who always takes but rarely gives back? If you love your sport you will give back to the racing community. 

Secret: the more you volunteer the more you get out of the racing experience. Sometimes the experience will be big, like the time I volunteered to lifeguard a swim under the Mackinac Bridge! What a beautiful way to spend my morning while giving others the chance to check something major off their bucket list. Sometimes the experience will be simpler like a kayaker getting to watch the sunrise over a lake or a lone swimmer who wouldn’t have finished without your encouraging words. Or like handing out water at the aid station for that last athlete who’s working their tail off to make the cutoff. Each of these experiences and thousands of others like them will renew your love of your sport.

Race Directors across the country are noticing a serious lack of volunteers. People just are not volunteering the way they used to. The day before the race they’re still asking for more volunteers. Race Directors are getting creative and providing incentives for those willing to volunteer. They’re giving cool swag, providing groups a fundraising opportunity and giving individuals discounts on future races. Can you imagine what would happen to race sign up fees if every volunteer was a paid position? Many people already complain that sign up fees are too high. Race directors aren’t sitting on their loreals getting rich and the good ones are truly there to provide the best athlete experience. Volunteers are the gateway to an awesome racing experience. 

This season isn’t over. There are still plenty of chances to volunteer. Find a local race, give back in a way that you can and see for yourself how rewarding volunteering really is. I hope to see you there.

 


What is FTP in Cycling?

September 7th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Raquel Torres

FTP in Cycling. Definition & Tips

Function Threshold Power (FTP) is a measure of your cycling fitness and ability to maintain a high but manageable power output for a somewhat lengthy duration. From a physiological perspective, it’s the cycling power you produce when your lactate production has risen, leveled off, and then closely matches your body’s ability to remove lactate. This just barely keeps that lactate flooding at bay. In cycling, FTP is that gray area between the power you can sustain for a very long duration, typically an hour, and the fleeting power you can only tolerate for a couple of minutes.

The term FTP it’s a measure of the best average power output you could sustain for 1 hour in a time-trial scenario.

Why is FTP seen as important? 

The concept of FTP was developed by Dr Andrew Coggan, co-author of Training and Racing with a Power Meter

“Power at lactate threshold is the most important physiological determinant of endurance cycling performance, since it integrates VO2 max, the percentage of VO2max that can be sustained for a given duration, and cycling efficiency,” says Andrew Coggan

“As such, it is more logical to define training zones relative to an athlete’s threshold power vs., for example, power at VO2 max.” 

Lactate threshold and FTP aren’t the same thing (while VO2 max is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during intense exercise). Lactate threshold refers to a specific physical change in the body. It is the point at which lactate begins to increase exponentially in your blood. Your lactate threshold can only be truly determined through blood tests.

Coggan says that lactate threshold and FTP are closely related. One is reflective of the other. FTP is the maximum power you can maintain while your body can still clear excess lactate being produced by your working muscles, allowing you to sustain your effort. 

In other words, FTP is the balance point between energy supply and demand among your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems

When you are cycling at low intensities, you are using your aerobic system. The aerobic system uses oxygen to metabolize fuel to create the needed energy. When your aerobic system can meet the energy demands of your muscles, there’s less contribution from your anaerobic energy system.

However, when cycling at higher intensities, the anaerobic system contributes more. The anaerobic system metabolizes fuel sources without oxygen. It creates energy much faster but for a shorter time. Continue to ride at a high intensity, and the byproducts of the anaerobic system (lactic acid) overwhelm your ability to clear them. So your breathing increases, the legs start to burn, and your time at this power output becomes minimal.

 Functional Threshold Power is the harmony between Aerobic & Anaerobic energy systems.

FTP and training

This context is vital for training as well because the difficulty of cycling workouts needs to be scaled to your current fitness level. A structured training plan progressively trains the energy systems needed to grow your fitness. Using cycling power zones, each workout in a plan is designed to provide just enough training stimulus to drive the adaptations that make you a faster cyclist.

What Equipment Do You Need to Test FTP?

You need a power meter on your bike or a smart trainer with an integrated power meter to measure FTP. Essentially, you just need a bike with some kind of power meter, it measures how hard and fast you pedal, giving you a figure in Watts.

There are various kinds of cycle power meters that attach to your bike and examples include SRM, Stages and Garmin. If you don’t have one of these (they can be expensive) you might consider using a static gym bike that measures power, such as the WattBike.

Another option is to mount your own bike to an indoor trainer that measures power, such as the Tacx Bushido Smart or the CycleOps Magnus Trainer.

The Best Way To Test Your FTP

One of the best-known testing methods is a 20-minute test (Critical Power 20 Test or CP20). You’ll ride at your highest sustainable power for 20 minutes. Your FTP is 95% of the average power during this interval. 

This is simply a 20-minute time trial where you ride as hard as you can while measuring your average power output.

Once you know your average power for 20 minutes (for example 200 watts) you can multiply it by 95% to estimate your FTP. For example: if your CP20 power output is 200 watts, a good estimation of your FTP would be 190 watts. This method is surprisingly accurate.

Other Things To Consider After Measuring Your FTP

In addition to testing your FTP, it’s important to measure your body weight at around the same time. This is so you can look at your FTP power output in terms of your power to weight ratio. Otherwise, any gains in your power output might be offset by gains in your body weight in a real-world setting.

You can easily work out your power to weight ratio. Divide your FTP power output by your body weight in kgs. For example, if your body weight is 70kg and your FTP is 200 watts, your FTP power to weight ratio would be 2.86 watts per kilo.

Power-to-weight ratio is a measurement of your power on the bike, in comparison to your body weight. It is expressed as watts of cycling power produced per kilogram of body weight, abbreviated as W/kg. 

Larger or bigger riders tend to have more watts than smaller cyclists in absolute terms, but lighter riders require less energy to overcome inertia and propel themselves forward (especially uphill). Power-to-weight ratio thus offers a fairer way to compare different riders’ abilities than by looking at power alone. 

How To Set Your Power Training Zones

Once you know your FTP, you can set your own power training zones by using various online calculators such as online software like Training Peaks or Garmin Connect. They have training zone calculators that you can use. Or you can hire a well experienced coach. 😉

Raquel Torres, MBA

www.raqueltorres.org

USAT- Youth Junior Elite Coach Certified

Other Sources:

https://www.trainerroad.com/blog/power-to-weight-ratio-for-cyclists-when-watts-kg-matters-and-how-to-improve-it/

https://www.myprocoach.net/blog/ftp-test-how-to-measure-your-cycle-performance/

https://www.trainerroad.com/blog/what-ftp-really-means-to-cyclists/

https://road.cc/content/feature/what-ftp-7-key-facts-about-major-training-metric-268471?amp

https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/power-training-levels/ 

https://www.healthline.com/health/vo2-max#about-vo₂-max


What I Learned About Heart Rates & Training

April 21st, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Christina Vipond

Before I started racing, I used a bicycle computer to tell me how fast I was cruising and how many miles I had ridden. I never wore a heart rate monitor. When I started racing, I began wearing a heart rate monitor, using a power meter and using Zwift for off season training. My data showed my heart rate would quickly pop up to the 180s and even into the 190s during hard efforts. According to exercising heart rate zones, 220-your age, my max heart rate should only be 175. 

I was amazed at the number of people who looked at my heart rate during rides (on STRAVA or Zwift) and commented on the numbers; “Look at your heart rate!” “Why is your heart rate so high?”  Several people had advice for me, I heard “you haven’t trained enough” (8000 miles a year apparently isn’t enough training), “you are overtrained”, “you are working too hard”, “your heart rate shouldn’t be that high”, “you should go to the doctor to get that checked”. I was assured that my heart rate is just naturally higher when I am riding. Still, I would question how I felt when I was riding with a heart rate of 183. I was definitely working but I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out. I was also embarrassed as others would say, “man, my heart rate is only 130”. 

I am now into my third year of training and racing. My heart rate still pops into the 180s with hard efforts. As I was researching “normal” heart rates, I had the opportunity to talk with Mark Olson, Athletic Mentors co-founder and expert in the field of strength and conditioning.  I was relieved to hear we have similar heart rates. He explained heart rates are very individual and that there shouldn’t be any comparison to anyone else’s heart rate.

Mark defined the lactic threshold heart rate for me. A simplified definition of Lactate threshold is the level at which the intensity of exercise causes lactate to accumulate in the blood at a faster rate than it can be removed, making it the border between low- and high-intensity work.  According to various research articles, lactate threshold for an untrained person usually coincides with 50-60 percent of VO2 max, ranging up to 85-95 percent of VO2 max for an elite athlete. Mark explained that the lactic threshold heart rate is how hard an athlete can ride for an hour.  The number is individual and should only be compared to that athlete. For example, if an untrained athlete does a test, trains then does the test again, it is expected the lactic heart rate will improve and increase. Once an athlete is trained, there will be little movement in the heart rate number.  He said that the lactic threshold heart rate is really an input number, the power created is the output number. The heart rate number alone is useless.

Together, we looked at my FTP (Functional Threshold Power) rides that I had done over the past 3 years to estimate my lactate threshold. The data from these tests showed that while my heart rate did not change at FTP, my power went up, reiterating that my heart rate number by itself is meaningless and that my training is improving my fitness.  This information has given me confidence and the ability to explain that my heart rate is okay to those who have shown concern. I also have insight to the reasoning behind, as well as the importance of training rides of lengths, power and cadence parameters. This information has piqued my interest in the “why” and “how” of training. There is still so much more for me to learn.


Challenges of Spring Racing in the Cold

April 15th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Cate Wittman

My name is Cate Wittman, I am 15 and a member of the Athletic Mentors Junior Development Team. I primarily mountain bike race but occasionally race gravel. And I understand how hard riding can be in the early part of the year!

Winter training is the time to build up for the season. It is the factor that determines how your year is going to go, yet it can be difficult to manage. All cyclists have experienced the weird feeling of going from indoor riding to outside cycling. For instance, my legs always feel like jello and my arms as stiff as a chopping block. But here is how it’s been so far…

This winter season, I have been training on rollers and a trainer. I personally like to train inside since the cold can affect my breathing. Of course I do the usual sprints, long rides, spinning, etc, but for mountain bikers, how do you keep your technical skills over the winter without fat biking?

When it finally warmed up, we rode as much as possible to take advantage of the “nice” riding weather. I’ve found myself riding sloppy gravel roads, pavement and even some dry trails. As soon as I hopped on the seat and put my hands on the handle bars, I thought I was going to crash. My whole body tensed up and every little movement made me think I was just going to tip over. There was a very noticeable difference between the trainer and the road.

After riding for about a week in warmer weather, I got used to outdoor riding. Sprints felt unsustainable and long. Spinning felt like I was moving a foot in an hour compared to the rollers. But now I’ve gotten used to my legs spinning, the wind blowing in my face and the road moving underneath me. However, there will still be the weird feeling of not being able to grab a snack from the tableside next to you.

Getting ready for Barry Roubaix was a challenge, going from the comfort of my basement to the intense, muddy, hilly pavement and gravel roads. What made training for the race even better was the cold, icy air of the month of March. It’s hard to breathe in the thick air and I would hyperventilate and cough to try to inhale as much as I could to get a little oxygen to my lungs. It felt impossible.

Luckily, there are techniques that I’ve learned this season to help control things and calm me down. Things like breathing exercises, positive self-affirmations and more can help with my riding. When I can’t breathe, I try pushing all my air out as much as possible rather than in as much as possible. And when things start getting tough and I start thinking I can’t do it, I start talking out loud to myself saying I am able to do it. By doing things like this, it has helped my training and riding this early season. It can even help my mindset which therefore helps my ability to ride as well as I am able to.

At the start of everyone’s season, it feels weird and uncomfortable. Something that you’re not used to. But it’s important to remember that everyone feels this. Calm down if possible; take a few deep breaths, say some kind words to yourself, and try your best. I still need to work on these things, but I know that it takes time and patience. Making racing more enjoyable starts with your own mindset and base training.

 


15 Ways to Get Mentally Stronger

January 26th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By Raquel Torres

“Fear is the biggest disability of all. It will paralyze you more than being in a wheelchair”. Nick Vujicic.

Tough people handle difficult situations with strength and grace. They stay positive instead of letting criticism rule their day. Being mentally tough is essential to staying positive, happy, and moving forward.  For many of us it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes practice and time; after consistent work we become braver not less afraid

Coming back from many life setbacks, personal and in triathlon as a professional elite, I dedicated many years researching about mental strength and how to improve it, learning from many different authors, doctors, scientific studies, and experts in several areas like psychology and sports medicine, so I can improve myself and help others better as a coach.

First, we decide to be brave then we become braver, being courageous is a personal constant decision.

Here is a recollection of recent scientific studies and data related to this topic from doctors and elite athletes, also practices and tips that can help us to have better life experiences, no matter who you are, what you do or want to do.

1.Wake Up! You are not your thoughts, you become what your most predominant thoughts are, sometimes our thought patterns are not even ours, they are from the environment, society, friends, family etc. Tip: with some practice we can change and create new healthy thought patterns. 

2.  Guard your thoughts, you must become aware about what you think, where your thoughts go, your life follows. Certain thoughts should never be in your head for more than 2 seconds. Tip: replace weak thoughts like: “I can’t, I’m tired,” or “I’m bored” with: “I am strong”, “I got this!”, “I have what it takes!”.

3.  Take responsibility. Have strong boundaries. Are you spending too much time and energy with fearful, negative, lazy people or someone with a bad attitude? Cut the time, attention or cut them off from your life. Tip: a practical way to guard or track your energy and thoughts that I heard some use, is to have an elastic band on the wrist and every time you catch a negative thought or listen to a negative comment, pinch yourself and replace that thought with a positive one, or with a ring and turn it around your finger or touching mala beads can replace the elastic band with the same mental effect of switching thoughts to positive.

4.  Get out of your comfort zone and fix your problems.   Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. When life is hard, we want comfort, not change. Those who have learned the secret of being mentally tough have learned that sometimes comfort now can mean pain later, whereas a little discomfort now can yield a big reward in the future.

              “Courage is grace under pressure -E. Hemingway.

5.  Confront your fears and break it down to identify your triggers. For example, make a mental list or write it down, dividing the scenario into little pieces, for example in triathlon, if you fear open water, write down in detail what you are afraid of: dark water, animals, deep waters, waves etc. Tip: with the adequate safety protocol, start from the shore, and build your confidence up while training in that environment, spend time with others who are braver than you or have extensive experience in the area that you want to get better at or mentally stronger, apply visualization techniques. Keep in mind that animals are more scared than you, because we humans are so creepy. 🙂

6.  Be accountable and careful. Whatever you are working towards, have someone like a coach that can hold you accountable in areas you are likely to give up.  Tip: there is a time for sharing your goals to help with your accountability, and other times you’re better off keeping them to yourself. You just need to be strategic and rational in your decision. Sometimes a “friend”, a family member, doctor, partner, psychologist, teacher, no matter the role or the relationship with you, some people are secretly frustrated with themselves and sometimes intentionally or not, they’ll try to sabotage, discourage, or distract you from your personal goals or aspirations.

7.  Pump up your confidence. Toughness and confidence go hand in hand. Being tough comes down to the choices you make about handling any given situation. Having confidence in yourself makes it possible to make the right choice and follow through with it. Tip: remember/visualize times when you were brave and accomplished something.

8.  Don’t take opinions personal. You can be a good person, a decent,  good hearted human and have thick skin, don’t worry about the little things, comments, or opinions. If you’re going to be tough, you can’t let a negative comment ruin your day. Tip: Realize and keep in mind the difference between truth and opinion. Focus on what you have total control: your mind, your actions. 

“An entire sea of water can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, the negativity of the world can’t put you down unless you allow it to get inside you.” — Goi Nasu

9.  Consistent rest can make you tougher. To be tough does not mean to be masochistic or a brutal person. You need to be tough when needed, the situation will tell you what mental attitude is the best or is required, the sacrifices to accomplish a goal can be personal and sometimes circumstantial. Example: not everyone needs to wake up at 5:00 am to work or train “hard”, if your responsibilities requires you to stay up late and you do not need to wake up until 7:00 am, with those 2 extra hours of sleep you can have a better-quality rest; which is an essential ingredient to have enough energy to be tough and overcome any challenge. The saying “the early birds eat the worms” has its exceptions. Never look for validation or attention from others on what is working hard or being tough for you, because we all have different pain thresholds, challenges and lifestyles. To be tough is a tool that we need to be diligent on how, when and what is mentally required. Some people spend their lives and energy trying to “show off” to someone or others on how “hard they work” or how “tough” they are, this is very common, and not surprising when they end up overdoing stuff or doing things that can be counter-productive in the long term with achieving good results, happiness and personal satisfaction. Tip for endurance sports: in the podcast about the book “How bad do you want it” by Matt Fitzgerald he explains how studies show now that elite endurance athletes can get tougher applying some techniques while training, like listening to music and the consumption of moderate caffeine, can bring the benefit of improving the “perception of effort” while training (working harder while feeling less hard) and with time reap the benefits of becoming tougher, with an adequate training, applying the 80/20 Rule (Total Training Volume=80% Easy training +20% Intensity training). Matt also mentions about how often recreational or amateurs athletes make the mistake of over training, getting in that security blanket mindset that “hard work pays off”, “that’s true and it pays off until some extend in endurance sports” he comments, most elites athletes have the capacity to take a day off and take the easy days easy, the opposite of most amateurs or recreational athletes.

10. Engaging in the activity makes you tougher. When athletes engage 100% in the activity the body increases the number of secreted Endorphins within the brain and nervous system, these are the natural Painkillers-hormones (causing an analgesic effect). Scientific studies show that athletes that have a total engaging mentality in their activity or goal, feel less pain while doing the same exercise with the same effort compared with other athletes that mentally try to distract themselves from the activity. Ex. watching a movie or reading a book while exercising or trying to distract or think of other things rather than the goal or activity or try to “avoid the pain”.

 Note: In the Book “how bad do you want it?” This method of engaging in the activity can be the opposite when training and during an event, race or test. For example, studies show that athletes or students that engage in the activity (focusing on inside feelings) while they train or practice make them improve the perception of exertion and pain tolerance (by increasing endorphins creation) on the other hand during a math test, event or a race if they focus on external factors, rather than inside feelings, the athletes have a more pleasant experience and better results.  

11. Prepare your mind for the upcoming activity as a tough one and that you will be tougher than the activity. Tip: Resent scientific studies show that athletes that visualize the event as a tough one, feel less pain or discomfort than the ones who are expecting an easy experience.

12. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. While pain is what happens to us, suffering is what we do with that pain. While changing our perception of this concept may be difficult, it is possible. We can avoid or lessen our actual suffering based on what we choose to do with the pain we experience. Tip: keep the pain in the body and relax your thoughts with your favorite mantras.

13. Get active and follow through with your goals. If you want to be tough, be willing to put in the time and effort it takes to accomplish your goals. Tip: keep in mind that just “having the information” does not do the work, just reading or listening about other stories alone will not make you tougher, you need to put in the work, nobody will do it for you.

14. Be selective. Remember that some societies, communities, governors, religions, and the most dangerous humans in world history use fear as a tool of controlling others or the masses. Tip: stay out of that mentality, protect your mind and be very selective on what information you allow in your mind, what you choose to believe, and what you need to ignore.

15. Forgive yourself. Pick yourself up after making a mistake. Tough people use their mistakes as a tool for learning how to do better next time. Do not get in a trap of staying in low energy for a long term or feeling sorry for yourself. Tip: Learn and reflect after a mistake or failure and turn the page asap and  come back wiser and stronger.

“A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor”

 Toughness can only be acquired through experience, every challenge you must face gives you a chance to get tougher. What is the story you’re telling yourself? That belief is the key to being mentally tough.

Sources: The Physical Performance Show and Matt Fitzgerald – Best-selling Author ‘How Bad Do You Want It?’

 


Barry-Roubaix Psycho Killer – 100 Miler – 2021 Race Recap

November 24th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Jared Dunham

Barry Roubaix is a uniquely Michigan festival of gravel that generally starts the season off. However, this year things were a little different. Due to rescheduling from COVID, we experienced the race in early October, just as the leaves began to change and Iceman prerides become a regular thing on weekends.

Barry has four distances to choose from, the 18-mile Chiller, 36-mile Thriller, 62-mile Killer, and 100-mile Psycho Killer. No matter the distance, Barry never shies away from a healthy serving of elevation on each route. However, the 100 miler has approx. 6,800ft of climbing and showcases the most remote two-track that Barry county has to offer. This was my first experience tackling the Psycho Killer, but after a year’s worth of long rides, I was confident in my abilities going into the event.

The morning of Barry had arrived, and I was indecisive on whether to wear a wind vest or only a jersey at the start line. On my warmup I opted for the jersey, additionally, I almost ran over a large raccoon. It was then 6:40AM, and the lights of about 243 riders could be seen on the streets of Hastings. If you know someone who is crazy enough to enjoy 100+ mile gravel rides, they were likely there on that October 10th morning.

While hilly, the beginning 35 miles remained tame, and were a prologue for the rest of the ride. Occasionally a hard effort was put in by riders at the front, but for the most part, a peloton of 50 or so remained together until we reached the first seasonal road. I didn’t get a chance to ride it, but I did walk through some of the portions of Two-Track and had an idea of what I was getting into.

Nearing the 35-mile mark, racers at the front of our group pushed the pace and I positioned myself in the top 10 leading into the first two-track. As predicted, we made a left onto Solomon Rd. and things went from Chiller to Psycho Killer. Everyone was riding/running up the sandy climbs and it went from a group ride to everyone for themselves at that point. A break of 5 riders occurred and I was 7th exiting this the first section of two-track. The next 10 miles or so were on and off seasonal road, and for a while I could still see the lead group off in the distance. Eventually, I caught up with Nicholas Stanko and we rode together in intervals. By intervals I mean he would get ahead on some sections, and I would catch up on others. The lead group eventually faded off into legend as we continued the ride.

Near Middleville, we were treated to 5 miles of ultra-smooth pavement, and only hit one red light while getting through town. At mile 47, Nick looked back and asked, “You think we can catch them?”. I, who was already having a hard time in his draft, replied, “I’m just going to see how long I can hang on,”. Not long after that, Tim Mitchell soloed up to us in aero position, setting a harder pace. I promptly fell off the duo, I had been pushing myself hard and knew that the last 18 miles were going to leave a mark. Looking back, there was no one as far as I could see. Consequently, I got back into a groove and rode solo. Mile 48, more seasonal road arrived, Tim and Nick were back in sight. Again, at certain portions of these roads, I would begin to catch up and in others, I would fall behind.

At mile 60, we hit the infamous Sager Rd. No, I’m not talking about the normal edition of Sager Rd. This is the Big Papa to the normal portion of Sager. More sand, more climbing, and more descending. At the end of the “road”, two huge, unavoidable mud puddles lay before me. I must thank Nick Dehaan for pointing out that you can run alongside the first puddle. I’m well-versed in drivetrain issues so I figured it was a better option to walk the first puddle and run through the second.

Returning to classic Barry gravel, I was now very much solo. At mile 65, I had to stop at the Otis Lake aid station. The plan was to bring enough water to not stop. However, one of my three water bottles shot off my bike frame on the first two-track, and the water bladder in backpack had questionable motives. By that I mean it was leaking onto my right leg the entire time. Keegan pointed out at the end of the race that it looked like I had either crashed or was having an allergic reaction (I had been drinking red Gatorade). Some of the kind volunteers topped me off with fluids and I also grabbed a few Clif Bloks shots. Exiting the aid station, Keegan Korienek and Scott Quiring caught me. We were then a trio, and with no seasonal road between us and the finish, it was full gas for the remaining 40 miles.

If I had to guess, I would say that it was about mile 70 when Benjamin Meer and Adam Hockley caught up to us. Unfortunately, not long after this, Adam had a flat rear tire and stopped for repairs, so we were then a group of four. With 30 miles to go, I was at the edge of my limits. On the turns, I had to push hard to stay with the group and when it came time to take a pull, my legs didn’t want to obey. The thought repeatedly crossed my mind that I should just let the group go and ride my own pace. However, while things seemed to be deteriorating, I affirmed that come hell or high water I would finish with the group.

With about 25 miles remaining, we found Nick Stanko, who informed us that there were 6 riders ahead. There were 5 cyclists in the group, someone would not be on the podium in a few hours. The following 20 miles were a lot more hills and as crazy as it might sound, I felt myself recovering a bit after 95 miles in the saddle.

Keegan, Scott, and I had a promise that no games would be played till the last 5 miles. We all kept to that promise.

3 miles to go: Ben made a small break on a flat section of gravel. Nick soon followed his wheel. Scott put in an effort to try and catch the pair. In the previous two miles, I felt cramps coming on and knew my legs were toast. I came around Scott to try and close the gap between us and the pair.

2 miles to go: Try as I might, I couldn’t bring them back and as we began descending the last gravel hill and onto the pavement, Scott came around me and I hopped on in his wheel. The order was then: Nick, Ben, Scott, Me, and Keegan. On pavement, we motored down a long descent to catch Nick and Ben. Scott was unable to close the gap, and the other two were just a few bike lengths ahead. I came around and Keegan was the one to finally seal the deal and close the gap. At that point we made our last right hand turn onto more pavement.

1 mile to go: I felt myself slipping from the group, someone from the Thriller rode up next to me saying, “Come on let’s get ’em big guy!”. That was all the motivation I needed.

This was it. The culmination of 104 miles of Gravel, Two-Track, Pavement, Grit, and Some Luck. We were in the home stretch. The group was silent now and the only noises besides cheering spectators were bike chains running over gears and rubber on pavement. Off in the distance, the sound of music and the announcer slowly drew closer.

??? miles to go: I was riding in the drops behind Scott, at the tail end of the group, as the countdown to the final sprint ticked away. The order of the group was Nick, Ben, Keegan, Scott, and Myself. I Can’t remember who it was that started the sprint but when the dust had finally settled, the order was: Keegan, Nick, Ben, Scott, and Myself.

Not sure how it happened, but I had taken 10th place. Maybe because Scott had crossed the starting mat before me and I had then caught up to him, but was the last one over the finish line of our group. Either way, I was absolutely floored to be able to finish the ride the group.


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!!


Garmin MTB Power Pedals – Rally XC100

April 4th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Collin Snyder

These days, there are countless products out there to measure power. Each type has their own pluses and minuses. Pedal based powermeters have become more and more common over the past five years, although has been mainly targeted towards road bikes. This year, the German company SRM and Garmin have brought this technology to mountain bikes, both using a Shimano SPD style XC pedal. The big benefit of a pedal based system vs a crank based system is it is very easy to swap from bike to bike. With two mountain bikes, a fat bike, and several cyclocross bikes, this benefit is very enticing for me. Earlier this week, I was able to purchase a single sided version of the Garmin XC mountain pedals known as the Rally XC100

Here is my initial review

First, pairing was without issue using a Wahoo head unit. It quickly found the ANT signal, and once it was detected, I was able to change the crank length which defaults to 172.5mm. If your cranks are any other length, this must be changed for accurate power numbers. The instructions right out of the box are a little thin as they are mainly just pictorial based. It didn’t give great instructions on how to calibrate. Stages requires the crank to be at 6 o’clock, other powermeters just need the cranks to be still, and older powertaps had to have the cranks spin backwards during the calibration. Googling calibrating the older Garmin Vectors came up saying just calibrate when nothing is touching it. Hitting calibrate the first time, it just kept giving the “calibrating” message for about 30 seconds followed by calibration failed. I hit retry and it calibrated almost instantly, said torque offset 0.0.

Power side with LED indicators

Right out the driveway/down my dirt road, the numbers seemed inflated quite a bit. The numbers were right around my threshold power which normally I can’t hold until I warm up for a little bit. Fast forward a few minutes and I got stuck at a light. When the light turned green, I did a hard acceleration which was easier than an all-out sprint, my power was in excess of 1000 watts…which unless every other powermeter I’ve owned has been lying to me, wasn’t right.

Adjustable release force

However, after about 5-10 minutes, the numbers seemed to settle down and were much more believable. The rest of the ride was uneventful. I rode about a 50/50 mix of road and trail. Anyone expecting useful info on a twisty single-track, will be disappointed. Like the mtb powertap and older stages I’ve owned in the past, numbers on the trail are either 500-700 watts or zero. When you get done and look at your average power for a really hard lap, you will surely be underwhelmed. Your average power will probably be only 60-75% of what you could hold on the road for the equivalent time. Power on the mountain bike is really for all that time spent riding to and from the trail unless you are somewhere that has long sustained climbs or long open stretches.

After the ride, one notable oddity was the max power for the ride was severely inflated. It said my max power was around 1300 watts, about 300-400 higher than I will see in an all-out sprint. Comparing my power/time graph, the 1-2 second power was the only thing that was out of whack compared to historical data.

Ride two was a little more mundane. I recalibrated before the ride. Again, it failed calibration the first time, but when I clicked retry, it gave a successful message. Out the door, power numbers appeared normal/believable. I rode the 4-5 miles to the trail head, did a hot lap of my local trail, and rode home. Once again, my max power was super high at 1500ish watts. I suspect that a single rouge spike is causing the issue. Your 1 second power is a worthless figure, so I am not concerned over these spikes. If the main numbers stay inline, then I am not worried.

The Garmin Rally XC100 are available now from your local bike shop for an MSRP of $699. For dual sided power, the XC200 are available for $1200.

Special thanks to Sweetbikes in Canton Michigan. In these times, support your Local bike shop.

 



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