Relief in Unexpected Places

August 18th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Todd Anthes

There is an old adage, it is not “if” you are going to injure your back, it’s “when.” Okay, I made that up. Granted I am not a sleep professional that you see advertised in the media, but I am someone who has recently suffered with some difficult back pain that has impacted my sport.

Running, biking, and strength training can definitely put some stress on your back. And I contend that in most situations, rest and recuperation will restore your back to its normal state.  This takes a bit more time an intention with a master’s athlete, but my back pain was not abating, and come to find out, I had unknowingly injected a variant into the process know – our bed.

A little over a year ago we needed to replace our mattress.  So, my wife and I went mattress shopping. In this regard, what was going to make her happy was what was going to make me happy. We purchased a very expensive name-brand memory foam mattress. I must say that I was not particularly fond of the mattress from the get-go; when I laid on my back, I felt like a turtle that had been flipped over. I did not enjoy this feeling, but hey, the bed was soft and the mattress salesman was very persuasive as to the benefits and quality of the mattress.

Over the past year I have stressed/injured my back, namely through racing, hard workouts, and even a long day doing yardwork. And my back was not springing back. I consulted my physical therapist and was worked with her for an extended time period. As part of this process, one day she asked me if my back hurt worse when I woke up, or at the end of the day.  Without fail, my back hurt the worst in the morning when I awoke, but got better throughout the day.  The short story is that my therapist said I should examine my mattress, specifically if it was firm enough.

My baseline test for determining what firmness would work for me involved me sleeping on the floor for a few nights. I found that this did not make my back pain any worse; in fact, it was marginally better. Armed with this knowledge, my next step was to find a much firmer mattress that would accommodate the needs of my wife and me. Initially I suggested to her that we use two twin extra-long mattresses, one to my wife’s liking and one to mine. However, we settled on a single mattress that is firm on one side and much softer on the other.  If you would have asked me about such a product before this, I would have looked incredulous.

Fast-forward a month or so after my new firm sided mattress, and a new low-profile pillow; after an extended time period where my back was giving me fits, I now feel that my back is properly recovering and I am able to regain some semblance of regular training.



New Adventures at the Ann Arbor Tri

August 9th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Kathy Braginton

In search of something new and adventurous, I headed to the center of the universe for the Ann Arbor Tri presented by Epic Races. This race says it is a triathlon that is as tough as you are and I found out what tough really was.

Centered around Halfmoon Lake in the Pinckney State Recreation Area, you’ll swim the open waters of Halfmoon lake, bike the rolling country roads of the surrounding rural area, then run the Poto Trail.   The event featured 5 different races/distances (Sprint, Mini Sprint, Duathlon, Aquabike, and Sprint Relay), as well as, the Wolverine Collegiate Conference race.

The 800 meter swim was an out and back rectangle.  The lake was fairly clean with only a few patchy weed sections.  The female sprint wave was fairly large, so to avoid the masses, I chose the weeds at the start.  It turned out to be a very thick section and they were even getting caught around my neck!  Luckily, I was able to swim out of it fairly quick and get into clean water.  The out and back was West to East, so the return trip was blinding.  I was unable to see any buoys or any of the sighting objects on shore that I had made note of before the race.  I had to just swim towards the sun and actually stop several times to try and get my bearings.

The female wave was the last wave for the sprint race and was followed by the mini sprint wave.  The mini sprint was half the swim distance as the sprint, so we all converged around the same time into transition and onto the bike. This made for a very crowded bike leg for about the first 4 miles.  The road was also open to traffic, so we got caught up behind cars that were waiting to pass a few times.  The bike is described as rolling country roads.  I would describe it as large rollers and lots of them.  There were 2 in the last few miles that were out of the saddle worthy.  As most races go, what was listed as a 14 mile bike, was actually 14.6 according to my Garmin.

I came into this race ill prepared for what was really in store on the run.  I knew it was a 5 mile trail run, but really didn’t pay attention to the specific trail.  I heard the word brutal used several times before the start of the race.  Then, I realized where we were and that the trail run was the Potawatomi Mountain Biking Trail.  The Poto website lists the trail as fast and flowy trail to steep, technical climbs, to brain-rattling descents.  I’m actually glad I did not read that prior to the race.  Not knowing what was in store around the next corner,  made for more of the adventure.  I found myself several times wishing I was on my Fatty winding my way through the trails.  The run only had 2 half mile sections of paved road and both of those were uphill.  I found myself hoping the run that was listed as 5 miles would actually be short.  Unfortunately, that was not my luck and it turned out to be a painful 5.2!  I came in 7th overall with a 1st age group finish after being caught by 3 women on the run.  I’m still in awe at how fast they were able to move on those trails.

The post-race awards were listed as Grab-and-Go Awards.  This seemed unusual to me and I’m still up in the air about it.  Instead of waiting around to receive awards, you could simply report to the awards table to claim your prize.  While this method claims to get you home sooner, it is based off unofficial results as they are being posted.  The initial Female Masters winner that was listed turned out to be someone different and the actual winner had already left.

The race did offer a pretty cool finishers medal, super-soft Michigan race tee (Go Blue!), Free professional race photos, and FREE beer!  What more could you ask for?  It was definitely worth the adventure.


My Kona Journey: Part 1

August 4th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

By Brian Reynolds

“Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.”
Sylvester Sallone

On September 12th, 2016 I was anxiously waiting in the Ironman World Championships slot allocation room at Ironman Wisconsin to find out how many slots would be given to my age group. When they posted the slot allocation sheet I saw that only two slots were given to my age group.  My heart sunk to the ground.  This meant that only two athletes would go to the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. I finished 4th place in my age group.  The only way I could go to Kona is if the first and second place athletes did not accept their slot.  Unfortunately when they announced the 1st and 2nd place athletes both of them accepted their Kona slot.

reynolds IM

I was very disappointed that I missed out on qualifying for Kona.  I remember feeling very confident that I would place in the top 2 in my age group considering how I felt going into the race. Note that this was my first Ironman race so I may have been a little naive:)   To quickly recap my race I started off with a great swim (58:20 swim time) and a fast T1.  I got off to a good start on the bike but was not able to keep that momentum going the entire ride.  I got passed by a lot of fast bikers but I kept a good attitude.  While on the bike I kept repeating to myself “once I get to the run I’ll run them down”.  When I got to the run I was in my comfortable zone since this was my strength.   I was able to make up a lot of places but the top two athletes in my age group were just too far ahead of me to rundown.  I ran a solid marathon time of 3:08 but would’ve needed to run a 2:58 to finish 2nd place which just wasn’t in the cards that day.


After my entire experience at Ironman Wisconsin it made me more determined and dedicated to qualify for Kona.  I also became more humble of the opportunity of qualifying.  I knew in order to qualify I would have to continue improving my Ironman fitness and I would have to choose a Ironman race that would give me the best shot of qualifying.

Ironman Brasil

The big question I asked myself was “What should be my next Ironman race”.  I really wanted to qualify for the 2017 Ironman World Championships so I wanted to pick a race in the Spring.  Unfortunately there was only one Ironman race in North America during the Spring and that was Ironman Texas in mid April.  However, I thought Texas was not ideal considering I would not be acclimated to the extreme Texas heat since I would be training in the cool Michigan temperatures.  This meant I had to look international.  The international races I considered was Ironman Australia, South Africa, and Brazil.  After weighing the pros and cons of each race Ironman Brazil was the best choice.

Ironman Brazil would give me the absolute best shot to qualify for Kona in 2017 for many reasons.  The first reason is they’ve historically offered more qualifying slots for my age group (30-34) than any other race.  In 2016 they handed out 11 slots!   The second reason was the temperatures during late May were between the high 60s and low 70s.  These temperatures were very ideal for me to race and perform well in considering it would require little heat acclimation.  The third reason was the time zone difference.  The race would take place in Florianopolis, Brazil which is only one hour ahead of US eastern time so didn’t need to adjust my sleep pattern.  Finally, the fourth reason was that the course suited me well given my strengths and weaknesses.  For example, the swim was in the ocean and not in a river which meant there were no water currents to assist us.  Thus the swim would favor a stronger swimmer like myself.  In addition, the course did have a few long hills which was to my advantage since I’m a good climber.

There were a few risks and concerns that I had being in a foreign country.  For one I was not familiar with the area and the food.  I knew I had to be cautious about what I ate and drank (don’t drink the water!).  My worst case scenario was getting a stomach flu or something bad before the big race.  To mitigate my concerns I decided to use Endurance Sports Travel (EST) agency to take care of the lodging, transportation, language translation, and food.  EST is an official partner with Ironman and understand/cater to the needs of the Ironman athlete very well.  Finally this would be my first time visiting South America so I could check this one off the bucket list.

Now that I had my Ironman race picked out it was time to get training!

To be continued….

Revitalized Clark Lake Triathlon after 33 Years

July 30th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Kathy Braginton

In it’s 33rd year running, the Clark Lake Triathlon, was boasted as being revitalized.  Under new race management, I was anxious to see the changes Run Toledo would bring to the event.

Some of the fun the new offerings were race number tattoos and nice number decals for your bike and helmet.  I’ve only seen these used at ½ iron distances or longer.  On the downside though, everyone trying to apply the tattoos in transition on race day, is much more time consuming than a Sharpie!  I also really liked the unique, wooden finishers medals.

The swim waves were modified this year to be based on ability, rather than age.  There were 6 waves: Elite Men & Women, Men’s Open, Women’s Open, Clydesdale & Athena, and Beginner.  The swim course itself was still the same: a counter-clockwise triangle.  I liked the idea of the wave change and selected Wave 1 during the on-line race registration.  My reasoning for the selection was not based on my speed on the swim, but rather my speed on the bike.  I usually find myself in the last wave of a swim start based on age, so one of the advantages in being able to select wave 1 was less congestion on the bike course.  In 2015, they changed the bike course to a 2 loop course due to rough sections of road and that is still the case in 2017.  There were still quite a few pot holes and sections of rough road requiring you to stay alert, so position on the course was key.  Otherwise, the bike course was rolling and fast!  The run course was the same scenic route winding around portions of Clark Lake.  However, what I previously found as an advantage during the bike leg would become the downside on the run.  I found myself all alone for miles 2 and 3 making it tough to push the pace.

Clark Lake provides a great opportunity to race against some different, challenging competitors.  I found myself 6th overall, 4th Master, and 2nd Age group.  I’m always fascinated to see the average age of these though competitors when you find 4 of the top 6 all over the age of 40!

2017 Grand Rapids Triathlon Recap

June 19th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Elizabeth Kayfish

 The Grand Rapids Triathlon was this past Sunday (June 11th) in Ada, Michigan. For those who raced it, they would probably agree with me and say it was quite a challenging race day. The temperatures were in the 90’s , the wind was brutal, and the sun was beaming down. Even with these conditions, many of our teammates had a successful race.

Even with a tough race day, I have to say that I have always had a positive experience racing at Grand Rapids Triathlon; I am sure others can agree with that statement. This year was my second year racing the half iron distance and I can’t wait to go again next year. This race was very well directed and there were numerous volunteers and supporters. There is no way I could have made it through the half without all the volunteers at the aide stations, the generous families with hoses for us to run through, or the on course cheering of teammates and friends. I’d recommend this race to anyone who hasn’t raced in it next year.

As for me? I was able to PR by 30 minutes this year and place 2nd in my age group, even with these brutal conditions. I was really excited about this and I have to give a huge thanks to our coaches at Athletic Mentors for that one! They really inspired me to try my hardest and gave me the guidance to break the six hour mark.
We had quite a few other teammates place and race well on Sunday. Congratulations to everyone who raced and successfully made it through the heat! Below are some highlights on top finishers.
Sprint Highlights
Jeff Nordquist, 2nd male overall
Todd Anthes, 3rd masters male
Danielle Nye, 1st female and 2nd overall sprint aquabike
Gr tri anthes
Olympic Highlights
Kathy Braginton, 2nd AG
braginton GR
Half Highlights
Tammy Shuler 1st AG
Elizabeth Kayfish 2nd AG
Lindsey Lilley and Dave Stebbins: 2nd relay
GR tri2GR tri 3


A Key to the Marathon- Always have a Plan B

June 12th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Danielle Nye

After wrapping up the tri season last fall I decided I would try a marathon this year. Many of my experienced running friends and teammates recommended the Bayshore Marathon. I signed up as soon as the registration opened and set out to start building my running endurance for the long race ahead. This would be my longest run to date and I wouldn’t be able to control all the factors on race day. In order to help keep my mental game strong during the race I decided to try something different. Instead of just setting one goal, I would set three goals for my race. My A goal would be 3:30-3:35, my B goal would 3:35-3:40, and the C goal was to finish no matter what and be proud of my accomplishment.

nye bayshoreI lined up at Bayshore feeling prepared and ready to conquer the marathon. I took off following closely to my pacing plan. Everything was going really well and at the halfway mark I was convinced I was going to have a great race. At the 21.2 checkpoint my husband shouted that I had only five miles left and if I kept the pace I would have my Boston Qualifier! And then it hit. My quads buckled and I struggled to start running again. I walked through the next aid station and felt like five miles might as well have been a hundred. After a minute or two, I decided to keep going no matter what it took. If I could keep going I would still be able to make my B goal. As the sun beat down and other runners started to walk around me, I kept running. It was a slow run and my mind was screaming to stop. But I kept it going until I saw the track and made it to the finish line with my B goal still intact.

When things get hard during a race it seems your mind starts to think about quitting. I found that by setting three attainable goals during longer races it helps to keep your mental strength going even when the race starts to hurt you physically. It is important to set these goals with your current fitness in my mind and to be realistic about your ability. Having a range of goals kept me going during the hardest race I have tackled so far. Even though I did not get the BQ I was after I was able to finish my race and feel the satisfaction of completing my first marathon.

Fueling for Performance

June 1st, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

By Elaine Sheikh

People enter the world of endurance sports for a lot of different reasons.  Some common ones include: weight loss, the desire to maintain an active lifestyle, and the desire to have a competitive outlet.  It is important to be cognizant of your goals in the sport – if you aren’t you may fall into the trap of living your life in conflict to those goals.

elaine roadNot that many years ago, I was training for performance.  However, I refused to fuel properly to meet my goals.  Having those two key ingredients to racing success at odds with each other wreaked havoc on my body.  Overuse injuries, undoubtedly the result of overtraining and underfueling, plagued me.  Even now, years later, my body is much more fragile than that of my peers and it doesn’t take a lot for me to suffer one injury after another.  Additionally, I started to notice issues with distance training.  I would become incredibly weak during workouts because I refused to fuel during them.  Not an issue if you’re doing a 30 minute easy run, but definitely an issue if you are hammering out a 20-miler.  It’s taken years for me to come to terms with fueling my body for performance.  Here’s what I learned.

In the book “The Well-Built Triathlete,” Matt Dixon spells out the lessons it’s taken me years to put into action.  Nutrition and fueling are two wholly different, yet synergistic, things.  Your nutrition comprises your day-to-day food choices.  Fueling is eating specific things during specific time windows to maximize performance and recovery.  Clearly, you cannot achieve your full potential as an athlete if your nutrition is terrible, but fueling is something that many athletes do not focus enough on.  For me, separating my fueling from nutrition allowed me to begin to eat enough to reach my performance goals.  I picture fueling as putting high octane fuel in a sports car.  You can’t make it around the track with your tank on empty, and you can’t get away with just putting junk in the tank either.  Viewing my body as a high-performance engine and treating it as such was the single most effective mindset that allowed me to break through my mental barriers surrounding food.

Fueling: Unless you are attempting to become a fat-adapted athlete, it is recommended to fuel before workouts to maximize your efficiency.  The pre-training window for fuel is variable.  Experts recommend eating 1.5-3 hours before beginning your workout.  However, if you read my last post about being a time-crunched athlete, you can bet I don’t eat breakfast at 1 am.  A quick snack that is approximately half carb and ¼ each of protein and fat and balances out to 200-400 calories is a great way to pre-fuel for your workout.  Depending on the intensity of the workout, this can be consumed 15-30 minutes before you begin.  During training, recommendations range from 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour.  It’s important to keep yourself fueled throughout workouts!  I struggle to eat gels and solid foods so I recommend using a liquid calorie source such as Infinit to reach your calorie goals without gastrointestinal upset. Post-workout it is essential to eat within 60 minutes (preferably 30) of the end of the workout.  A ratio of 3:1 carbs to protein is ideal.  This will help jumpstart your recovery.

Nutrition is its own incredibly complex topic.  I won’t talk about it now or this post could become a book!  However, don’t forget to pay attention to your daily diet to be the healthiest, most wholesome athlete you can be.




Feeding Off the Crowd at Boston

May 4th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Tammy Shuler    

Boston marathon, marathon Monday. The day that has been looked forward to since the qualifying race you ran the year before. So many months of training, so much money spent on shoes, travel, hotels and hours spent training.  This year’s Boston marathon was no different. Thousands of runners meet in a small New England town, Hopkinton, arriving by bus, train or car. Many standing out in the elements for hours waiting for the late morning start. The weather can play a big role in your marathon result. This year’s weather was great for spectators, but not so good for a northern person. It was in the high 60’s, humidity 85% with a tailwind predicted (sounded great).

I was excited to be there, smiling ear to ear. Cheering on  the people in the wave before me as they started their race. My wave started and all was well, but soon the heat began to take its toll. My feet were tammy boston2hot, I started cramping about mile 12, even though I was following my hydration plan. The tail wind offered no cooling effect. I was not alone in this cramping issue as the med tents were packed even at mile 8 and people were walking. One person I came upon was attempting the race on crutches. Another had a walking boot on. I myself had just gotten over pneumonia weeks before and my friend had a  hamstring injury, but we showed up for that start and made it to the finish. 

The crowds were amazing, packed, screaming, cheering us on. The more you smiled the more they cheered. So that’s what I did. And it made a very hard race bearable. We would not be denied our finish and that coveted Boston marathon medal.

tammy bostonI came upon Karen Smires a pro triathlete and  I met Molly Huddle an Olympian. So my advise is if you are having a hard time, look to the crowd and…


Tips for Early Morning Workouts

April 18th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Elaine Sheikh, Triathlete

Most of us endurance athletes are beyond time-crunched – balancing work, family, social obligations and often training 10+ hours a week. Most of us don’t look forward to the alarm clock going off at 4:00am for that morning workout. Here’s some of my tips for making those workouts as pleasant as possible:

1) Prep your breakfast in advance! I avoid doing more than a few fasted workouts every week. Usually a banana or toast with nut butter or a larabar are enough to get me going for the workout. I’m a dedicated user of one of our team sponsors, Infinit. Often I can go fasted into a workout and still have plenty of energy with a bottle or two of one of my customized blends during the workout. However, when the workout is done and you have to fly through the shower and get to work, it’s important to have breakfast pre-made so you have time to eat something wholesome and don’t find yourself craving a donut on the way to work.

– I will often scramble a couple of eggs with nutritional yeast (those of you who tolerate dairy could use cheese instead) and sautéed veggies. That plus a cup of cooked rice and some coconut oil will elaine runningstill be surprisingly palatable after being refrigerated overnight.

– Another go-to is overnight oats. Use quick cooking oats and a milk or milk substitute of your choice in a 1-1 ratio. I add a scoop of green powder, nuts, fruits, cinnamon, and honey in whatever proportions I’m feeling. Put in the refrigerator overnight and it’ll be perfect to eat cold the next morning.

– One of my morning-of breakfasts is a simple protein shake. Milk or milk substitute, frozen fruit, nut butter, greens, and protein powder will keep you full until lunch and takes 2 minutes to throw together in the morning.

– A leftover baked sweet potato with a generous serving of nut butter or coconut oil, is another great breakfast. Depending on your caloric needs you may want to supplement with a shake or an egg or two.

2) Prep your workout gear the night before
-If I’m going to bike, the trainer is already set up with my kit and heart rate monitor next to it and my laptop and speakers set up the night before. If I’m running or swimming my gear is gathered and sitting next to the door. Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the pool at 5 am and realizing you don’t have your goggles!

3) Prioritize your sleep
– Nothing sets you up for failure like staying up until midnight and still expecting to wake up at 4 am refreshed and ready to train. As simple as it sounds, make sure you are streamlining your evenings so that you are able to sleep and be fresh in the morning. The night before is just as important as the morning of in determining your training success.

I hope this was helpful. Happy training!

Life Lessons from Running and Triathlons

April 10th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

-By Brian Reynolds, Team Athletic Mentors triathlete

Over the past 16 years of being a runner and triathlete I have learned many life lessons.  I would like to share the 5 key life lessons I’ve learned.

  • Overcoming adversity – Throughout our life we will always have to deal with challenges whether they’re big or small.  When training for a marathon or Ironman event there were always winter run brianchallenges to overcome.  There were days when I had to run in snowy 5 deg F weather even though it was freezing and uncomfortable.  I had days when I didn’t feel like training due to fatigue or just not being in the mood but I still did the workout anyways. There were very challenging workouts that made anxious before even doing it.  I had injuries that forced me to limit my training.  However, I made the necessary adjustments to my training to help me stay on track for the racing season.  My determination and passion to achieve my goals help motivate me to overcome this adversity.


  • Patience – Sometimes we have to wait a long time before accomplishing our biggest dreams.  For example, my dream was to win a marathon.  In 2011, I entered the Kalamazoo marathon which was my first and I won it!  Some people will say beginners luck; however, I was a runner for 10 years prior to the marathon which made me no beginner.  During those 10 years I’ve accumulated over 15,000 miles and raced distances from the 5k to the half marathon.  I wouldn’t have won the Kalamazoo marathon if I just started running the year before.  I needed those 10 years to improve as a runner to help prepare me for that moment in Kalamazoo.  The tiny improvements I made day to day added up to accomplishing my dream because I gave myself the time to develop. Patience will always payoff in the end.


  • Setting SMART goals – Setting goals for the season are very important.  I always try to set challenging BUT attainable goals.  Goals can be a great motivation tool and gives an athlete accountability.  However, setting an unrealistic short term goal will not help you have a better season.  Instead, an unrealistic goal can sabotage a season by causing an athlete to overtrain and/or be disappointed because their goal was not met.  These unrealistic goals are best saved for long term goals because given time and persistence they may be attainable.

When I was training for the 2014 Kalamazoo Marathon my goal was to run a 2:30 which would be a 4 minute PR.  As the season progressed, I was having good workouts so I thought a 2:28 goal was doable.  Later in the season I started to overreach a bit by pushing myself a little too hard in workouts.  I went into the race in a more fatigued state and paced it too fast.  As a result I didn’t have my best race.  Looking back I wish I had a coach to help me set a realistic goal and monitor my progress to make sure I was on track for achieving my goal.

  • Brian en route to his Kalamazoo Marathon victory

    Brian en route to his Kalamazoo Marathon victory

    Work ethic – This is the #1 attribute that I learned while being a runner and triathlete.  All of my achievements were due to the hard work and dedication I put into my training. The more work I put in training the faster I got.  To help myself stay dedicated during High School Cross Country and Track I started a consecutive running streak which meant I ran at least 1 mile everyday.  My running streak is still strong going to this day.  If it’s one thing that I’ve learned when it comes to running or triathlons an athlete cannot get lucky and have a great race without putting in the work.  The work you put in is a direct result of how well you perform in the races!

  • Talent does not determine success – My favorite Steve Prefontaine quote is “Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.”  Steve is known as one of the greatest US distance runners in history.  Even though Steve was a very talented runner his quote suggests that success should be based on a athlete’s growth and improvement.  For instance, an athlete’s success should not be based on their 5k time but rather the improvements they’ve made from where they started.  We shouldn’t try to compare ourselves with others because it really doesn’t matter.  What really matters is how far you’ve come as an athlete and person. Don’t get me wrong I’m guilty of sometimes comparing myself to other ‘fast’ athletes.  These ‘fast’ athletes do give me inspiration and motivation to become better.  However, my measuring stick for success is the progress I’ve made over the past 16 years.


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