Multi-Sport

Race Recap – Dirty Mitten Gravel Triathlon

October 18th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Jeff Nordquist

Gravel racing meets triathlons in The Dirty Mitten in Middleville MI. I decided to race the Long Course on Sunday which is equivalent to the standard Olympic distance triathlon. The race directors shortened the swim distance which measured 1200 m and the bike route was just under 30 miles. Both of these changes didn’t cater to my strengths.

The forecast called for rain all morning, so I was anticipating a messy day of racing. The swim wasn’t  much of a challenge, temps were high 60’s and felt great through the two-loop course. I had a 45 second lead out of the water and tried to capitalize on this with the longer trek up to the lodge for transition.

I settled onto my bike saddle and took in some nutrition before hitting the gravel roads. Biking is not my strong suit, so I knew I was going to see a few riders soon. At Mile 4 I was caught by one and we worked off each other for another 10 miles sharing the workload (drafting is legal in gravel triathlons). Just before we reached Sager Rd, I was dropped and then I struggled on Sager. This portion was nearly 2 miles long of sandy two-track and it whopped me, I had to dismount up two slippery climbs. My front wheel found a root just beneath the soft sand and it threw me over the bike, I’m sure it looked graceful but I picked myself up and rode solo all the way back into the transition.

I wasn’t too confident with my run legs, but knew I was in 3rd place leaving transition and felt I could close the gap. I maintained even splits for the first 5 k trail loop passing 2nd place at the same time. I pressed to keep him off my heels and never saw him again. I was in a solid 2nd place for loop 2 and crossed the line to finish 2nd overall. I was really hoping to come away with the victory here, but considering my bike course struggles, I was ultimately happy with a podium finish.

There is much to learn with this new format for triathlons and I’m excited to see more of these races appear in the coming years


Metabolic Testing for the Average “Jo”

September 14th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  JoAnn Cranson

I’m always trying to learn more about my body and how to manage staying healthy, burning fat and keeping my weight in check. I’m not a pro racer but I do like to exercise and compete. My latest bucket list item is to run my first Marathon.

Well, the first thing I’m discovering as I increase my miles is that I am not fueling enough during my run. The best way to figure out fueling is to do Metabolic Efficiency Testing.

Metabolism is how your body converts food into fuel to power your body. When you breathe, oxygen is carried to your muscles where carbohydrates and fats are used as fuel to create energy to keep the muscles working. Your body’s preferred fuel source is fats. It relies on oxygen (aerobic) and produces more energy. Alternatively, carbohydrates don’t rely on oxygen and provide quick bursts of energy.

However, your body only has a small storage of carbohydrates, so this is why we need to fuel adequately and frequently with carbohydrates during endurance exercise (Over 2 hours). Ideally we don’t want to have to rely on carbohydrates for all our fueling if we can train our body to use our fat stores for longer periods of times and increasingly higher intensities.

Your metabolism is unique to you! It not only refers to the way our body regulates our weight but also includes all of the chemical processes within our bodies that help to maintain normal function.

What I wanted to know what is my Metabolic Efficiency? In other words, how much fat am I burning and how many carbohydrates do I need to take in during my Marathon to run my best? Plus, I want to teach my body to burn more fat so I preserve the carbohydrate stores. This test will tell me at what heart rate, pace or power my body burns fat the best, and how I can improve that over time. The less I need to eat while I’m running the better it is for me and my digestion, yet not enough could potentially allow me to bonk!

I went to Athletic Mentors gym in Richland, Michigan to get this testing done. They had some questions that I answered ahead of time and I had the option to run on a treadmill or cycle on a trainer for this test.

I fasted for 12 hours and arrived for my test in comfortable running clothes. Jess was so friendly and helped me feel at ease by explaining everything as we got started. She checked my blood pressure, pricked my finger to measure my glucose, I put on a heart rate strap and she fitted me with a mask until I was comfortable in it. The mask and tubing were attached to a KORR machine and her computer setup.

Each test is tailored to your specific goals of what you want to learn about yourself. Some people want to know exactly how metabolically efficient they are while others are specifically looking for a fueling strategy at a certain target race pace. We started with a slow walk and very gradually eased into a run. Each phase was clearly communicated and she was always making sure I was comfortable and communicating my energy output before going to the next step.

After the test is complete, you will have a personal consultation about your results. My results showed I do burn a decent amount of fat vs carbohydrate at my 9:22/mile run pace. The information also shows me how many grams of carbs I should consume every hour for my long runs.

My long-term goal is to improve my body to preferentially use fats as the main fuel source for as long as possible. From the test, I know my target zone (heart rate and pace) to gradually get my body to use more fats as a fuel source for as long as possible. As my body adapts to using fats more, I’ll see an improvement in this speed and heart rate. Along with this, I need to be aware that I’m eating a balanced diet of healthy fats, protein and complex carbohydrates.

Check out Athletic Mentors and set up your Metabolic Efficiency Test. (Click the link and it will explain everything along with the reasonable cost to have it done.) Whether you want to learn more about your personal health or you have an upcoming goal race, it’s so worth it to learn more about how your body operates.

This average “Jo”Ann is enjoying learning more about staying healthy and being more prepared to check off another item (Running a Marathon) on my bucket list!


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


Runner’s injuries – Tips and Treatments

July 18th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Raquel Torres

Running is a great way to get in shape!  Knowing about common injuries and how to prevent them can keep you on track toward reaching your goals, saving time, energy, money and also enjoying the limitless benefits of running with peace of mind.

8 Common runner’s injuries with tips and treatments:

1.Soft tissue injuries – such as a pulled muscle or ligament sprain.    Tip Warm up and Cool Down before and after running. Include plenty of slow and sustained stretches. Make sure you thoroughly stretch the muscles in your thighs and calves.

2.Muscle pull – this is a small tear in your muscle, also called a muscle strain. It’s often caused by overstretching a muscle. If you pull a muscle, you may feel a popping sensation when the muscle tears. Treatment includes RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

3.Ankle sprain – this is the accidental stretching or tearing of ligaments surrounding the ankle. It often happens when the foot twists or rolls inward. Tip. Sprains typically get better with RICE rest, ice, compression, and elevating the foot.

4.Achilles tendinitis– this injury is marked by dull or sharp pain along the back of the Achilles tendon, calf tightness, and early morning stiffness. Tip: Stretching can help prevent this injury. To treat it, rest and stretch until the pain is gone. Anti-inflammatory medicine may also help.

5.IT (iliotibial) band syndrome Or runner knee– this syndrome causes pain on the outside of the knee. IT band syndrome happens when this ligament thickens and rubs the knee bone, causing inflammation and pain.  Treatment includes: Cutting back on exercise, heat and stretching before exercise, icing the area after activity.

6.Stress fractures– Is a relatively small break in the bone which typically develops from a repetitive force to the bone as opposed to a single traumatic incident. This type of overuse injury can occur when the structural capacity of the bone is overloaded. Incremental damage to the bone might occur if it isn’t strong enough or if there is insufficient time to adapt to the increased loads. Stress fractures most commonly occur in the bones of the lower limb and runners tend to get stress fractures in their leg bones, feet and hips.  Tip: Eat enough, do cross training, don’t forget the calcium, and use soft surfaces like grass and treadmills.

7.Plantar fasciitis– this injury is an inflammation of the plantar fascia related to faulty structure of the foot. In runners, improper or old shoes, or/and overuse of hard surfaces. This is a fibrous band of tissue in the bottom of the foot. Tip: Proper stretching the calf and foot exercises can help prevent and heal this type of injury. Anti-inflammatory medicine and ice compresses help relieve pain.

8.Shin splints– this injury is caused by overuse or poor conditioning. It gets worse when you run on hard surfaces. This injury causes pain on the inside of the shinbone. Tip: Shin splints are treated by rest and stretching until the pain is gone. You can relieve symptoms by using ice and anti-inflammatory medicines. Once your symptoms have eased, you should make changes in the distance you run and your speed. 

Give yourself permission to rest and heal.  We are all different in mind and body so focus on how you feel and nourish yourself based on what you are doing and training for to obtain long-term optimal performance.

Runners’ Secrets to Running Injury Free

July 8th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Raquel Torres

Run happy and smartly

Running does have a risk of injury but if you follow some simple guidelines like warming up, wearing the right gear or clothes, fueling for what you are training for and not pushing yourself too hard, most injuries can be prevented.

Some Risk Factors About Running:

Overtraining – running beyond your current level of fitness or doing too much too soon can put muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments under strain. Shin pain and stress fractures are common overuse injuries in runners. Some tips to avoid overtraining consequences:

  • Build up slowly. Don’t push too hard beyond your current level of fitness. Plan to gradually increase how long and how often you run over a few months.
  • Do Cross training. Training like a triathlete, alternating running with other low impact sports like cycling or swimming can be very beneficial in many ways and it gives your body a break, helps muscles to absorb impact and protects joints and bones.
  • Avoid running on consecutive days to allow the body to recover between runs. As a general rule of thumb, avoid increasing your weekly mileage by more than 15%. This rule applies to seasoned runners as well. Remember that the most common cause of stress fractures is doing too much too soon.
  • Keep marathons in moderation, stick to 1-2 marathons per year to allow your body to recover. 

Hard surfaces – the impact of running on hard surfaces, such as bitumen, can cause injuries including shin pain and stress fractures. Tip: Try to use soft surfaces like clear trails, treadmill, track, grass or any clear, smooth, even and reasonably soft surface. Avoid uneven surfaces and concrete. Gradually introduce surface changes and alternate hard surfaces runs with softs like dirt roads.

Incorrect technique – poor running style can increase the risk of injuries. For example, running flat-footed pulls on the shin muscles and may cause small tears.

Incorrect shoes – Before you even hit the pavement or track, boost your confidence with the right running shoes. Using the wrong type of shoe can increase the risk of various injuries, including blisters, stress fractures and shin pain. Some tips about running shoes:

  • Buy running shoes at an athletic store, where a sales clerk can help you choose a shoe that fits your foot type. This can help prevent injuries.
  • Your foot should fit snug in the heel, with a little wiggle room around your toes, experts say to guarantee the best fit, get a proper fitting at a specialty running store and wear your usual running socks when you go.
  • Track your shoes’ mileage. Worn out shoes can often contribute to and/or exacerbate pain in the ankles, knees, and hips. But it’s not enough to buy the right shoes. You also need to maintain them properly. “Experts in sports medicines recommend replacing your shoes every 400 to 600 miles, or about every 4-6 months if you run regularly. Only run in your current running shoes. 
          • Have 2 pairs of running shoes. To extend the life of your shoes, having two pairs is a great idea. Alternate your runs between the two pairs. Or, you could also have one pair suitable for longer runs and a lightweight pair for your faster speed workouts. Having two pairs is also helpful when you’ve had a rainy or muddy run. While one pair is drying, you can run in the alternate pair. Use your good running shoes JUST for running.

Did you know that  PROPER nutrition can avoid many injuries?

It’s true that proper nutrition can do little to prevent injuries caused by factors such as over training or wearing the wrong type of running shoes. But specific eating habits can be an effective part of a comprehensive injury-prevention strategy.

Eat enough

Stick to a healthy Diet. The worst nutritional mistake you can make with regard to injury prevention is to eat too few calories. That can lead to stress fractures. When your body doesn’t get enough calories to meet all of its tissue maintenance and energy needs, it will enter a catabolic state—which means your muscles begin eating themselves. Consequently, catabolism compromises your body’s ability to repair tissue damage incurred during workouts, which slows muscle recovery and increases your risk of injury.

Don’t forget the fat

Fat has a bad reputation, but it’s needed in the diet to create healthy cell membranes that are resistant to damage during exercise. A 2003 University of Buffalo study concluded that female athletes (particularly endurance athletes) who restricted their dietary fat intake had a higher risk of injury and higher levels of fatigue during training.

What’s most interesting is that the low-fat diet athletes and high-fat diet athletes ate the same amounts of carbohydrates, fiber, protein, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and iron. For the group that did not eat enough fat, they suffered from both low energy availability and poor nutrient absorption.

Keep the calcium coming

Bone strains and stress fractures are uncommon in swimming and cycling, but quite common in running—especially for those with low bone density.

After all, your diet creates the building blocks of your body structure. Just as a well-built house is more likely to survive an earthquake, a properly nourished body is better able to withstand, say, a rigorous half-marathon training plan. That said, here a tip nutrition habit that will help you reduce the risk of injury:

Train, shower, eat

When you eat is every bit as important as what you eat when it comes to preventing injuries. Muscle and joint tissue damage that occurs during a workout is repaired most quickly in the two hours immediately after the workout—provided you eat during that time. 

The most important nutrient to consume for post-exercise tissue repair is protein, but research has shown that consuming protein with carbohydrate is even better, because carbs stimulate muscle protein synthesis as well as restock depleted muscle glycogen stores.

Conclusion:

Be moderate with the loading distance and the volume with intensity, this is like cooking, too much of an ingredient (aka: volume, intensity, frequency or surfaces) can be much worse than too little. 

Don’t ignore pain, a little soreness is OK. But if you notice consistent pain in a muscle, bone or joint that doesn’t get better with rest, stop the activity and see a health care provider.

Most research on strength training for injury prevention in runners focuses on hips. Strengthening the hip muscles (hip abductors and external rotators) does help keep the knee in line with the hip. This is good advice to prevent mild knee pain from patellar tendonitis and shin splints. At the same time, if a runner only works on hip strength, ignoring core stability they haven’t gained the full benefit.

Create a smart running plan: Before beginning a running routine, talking to a good experienced coach or trainer can help you create a well balanced running plan that is in line with your current fitness abilities and long-term goals.

 


Triathlon Training in Tucson

March 29th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Paul Raynes

Predictable sunny weather, beautiful mountains, and abundant training opportunities, all reasons why Tucson Arizona became my home for the first two months of 2022.

At 2400 ft. of elevation, the valley of Tucson is a caldera, and the surrounding mountains the remains of an ancient collapsed volcano. Because of the beauty, weather, and available outdoor activities, Tucson has been my winter destination for the past four years.

Tucson has an expansive and highly accessible recreational parks system. Just down the road from my Airbnb casita, a large 158 acre indoor and outdoor recreational facility, Morris K. Udall Park.  Udall Park became my primary destination for biking, running, and relaxed evening walks.  The desertscape of the back half of Udall Park was a great place to run, and practice transitions off the bike – just me, a few rabbits, birds, roadrunners, and that one coyote that would trot by, stop, and stare at me like it was assessing my running mechanics.

From there, I had a direct link to the Chuck Huckleberry Loop (The Loop), nearly 140 miles of well-maintained interlinked paved trails – approximately 55 miles to circumnavigate the metro Tucson area.  You’ll find exit points for gravel or mountain biking on certain areas of The Loop. Or, if desired, travel to one of the many specific off-road cycling destinations. Most major roads have wide bike lanes, however, for non-stop riding and safety reasons, I chose to stay on The Loop.

South Loop

Tucson has a robust cycling community, great bike shops and features the annual November event, “El Tour De Tucson.”

Like many of the larger parks, Udall had an outdoor lap pool. Regrettably, it was not open during the winter months. I did find at least four outdoor pools with winter hours. The pool at William M. Clements Center, was a short drive from my casita. A drive well worth the 82-degree water, no reservations, and there was always a lane open. A mere $2, for out of towners.

Mount Lemmon is a must-see destination. A 9000 ft. mountain regularly used by the cycling community, sight seers, and hikers. If you’re so inclined, you’ll find a ski resort near 8,500 ft. of elevation. If you do visit Tucson, make sure to take Catalina Highway up the mountain. There’s hiking along the way, and great overlooks, like Windy Point. If you make it to the top, you’ll experience a significant change in eco systems, and have an opportunity to grab a bite to eat in the quaint little town of Summerhaven, some 26 miles up the mountain.

Apparently, I prepared for an Octathlon: road bike, running shoes, hiking shoes, swim gear, 20lbs. dumbbells, elastic bands, self-massage tools, and golf clubs. I used it all, including the golf clubs – I completed a ton of base training, and feel healthy. The sun and hikes into the mountains helped with the sense of health and wellness. After all, it’s not just about the physical being.

Udall Park

My thoughts have been on the purpose of the 2022 season, and during my stay, I received notice of an age group national qualification. Some of the reasons and excuses for not pursuing past qualifications no longer exist. So, why not take advantage of being the youngster at the bottom of the 65-69 age group?

A question to myself, a question of motivation…   Questions of ambition regarding competitive endurance sports surfaced during my soul searching.  Can passion transcend a waning competitive spirit?

It’s been a long journey, and as I enter my tenth age group, I question where my heart is, the desire for intensity, the intensity and discipline it takes for me to be my best.

I’ve learned over the years, if you want something, hangout with people on the same mission, and mind set. Place yourself with the right people, in the correct environment, and the energy will come.

Here in Southwest Michigan, we are also fortunate to be integrated into a large active community.

These communities don’t manifest on their own, and we are especially privileged to have organizations, athletic families, our Athletic Mentors Team – creating the environments where people are motivated to express their passion through athletics and healthy community engagement.

I’m going to do something this season, I’m just not sure what that something is…  I do know, staying healthy and enjoying the moment is important to me.

Staying connected to the athletic community and team, will help me with that vision.  The truth, I can use a nudge in the right direction, a word of motivation, and perspective…

To a safe and purposeful athletic season…


My Experience with AeroTune; Aerodynamics without a Wind-Tunnel

March 22nd, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Jay Campbell

Like most triathletes, I wish I had cheap access to a wind-tunnel. I could fine-tune my cycling body-position, hydration system position, gear selection, and so much more. If you need to be convinced that reducing drag during the cycling leg of a triathlon is important, just wallow in this fact: A recumbent with fairing (eg. a very very aerodynamic bike/rider) only requires 50 watts to maintain 22 mph on a flat course!! (Wilson, D.G., Bicycle Science, 3rd Edition, 2004, p.188.)

Sam Whittingham averaged over 52mph when he set the one-hour world record in his faired recumbent.

Last year, I read about a German company, AeroTune, that was using a rider’s speed and power data to calculate a drag coefficient. Whaaat??!! Here is the gist of how it is done: The rider pedals a 1000m flat course, turns around and pedals 1000m back to the start. The power and speed data are used by AeroTune to calculate a Cd (coefficient of drag). The rider can then make changes to body position or equipment and repeat the test. The change in Cd between the two rides indicates the improvement or degradation in aerodynamics.

Why does this work? Aren’t there a bunch of other factors that affect the speed:power relationship? Let’s take them one at a time (or skip this paragraph if you are not an aero geek).

Elevation change: This factor is reduced by setting up the course on flat terrain. Riding the course in both directions is also intended to remove any effects from “doing work against gravity.”

Wind: Once again, the out-and-back course is intended to subtract out any effects of wind. Even so, I would suggest doing the test on a calm day. If the weather changes during a testing session, either redo the baseline “setup” or come back another day. More on this below.

Frictional losses: These exist, but if you keep the test-power at about 90% of your race-power, frictional losses will be a small fraction of the total power.

Rolling resistance: Aerotune uses empirical data to approximate rolling resistance based on your setup and speed. [Aerotune can also calculate your actual rolling resistance, but that requires a separate test at a lower speed.]

Aerodynamic Drag: Once all of the power losses above are subtracted from your total power, the remainder is consumed by aerodynamic losses. These are typically 80 to 90% of total power at race speeds. The relationship between Power consumed by aero losses and Velocity is roughly Paero = k x Cd x V3 where k is a constant. The test generates data for V (speed) and Paero from which Aerotune calculates a Cd for each setup.

What do you need to use AeroTune? The basic requirements  to do an AeroTune test are a power meter (I use garmin pedals), Garmin bike computer (I have an old Edge520), a mobile phone with Garmin Connect app installed, and the AeroApp on your bike computer (downloaded using ConnectIQ). The procedure is not super-complicated, but is definitely not simple. In fact, I created my own “Gear List” and “Step-by-Step” even though AeroTune provides both on their website, aerotune.com. My list includes a tripod, bike stand, and whiteboard, so I can take pictures of each “setup.” A bathroom scale is handy for weighing rider and “rider-holding-bike.” Aerotune suggests a speed sensor but it is not required as speed can be calculated from the GPS data.

Photo of Setup for #3. See table below.

You will also need to create an account at aerotune.com. The basic account is free (“Freemium”).

Finally, you need a course. Currently, the only public course in Michigan is my course just north of South Haven, but it is fairly easy to create your own course. You just need a 1000m straight, flat, quiet road. A big/fast truck passing will screw up the results.

Screenshot of Allegan County course at https://aerotune.com/aerotest/testroute/show/745/

EXAMPLE:

I had a couple questions I wanted to answer before last year’s Age Group Nationals. What hydration system should I use? Are aerosocks worth the time to put on? Is my 25-year-old heavy disc wheel helping or hurting?

I paid for “premium access” for one month to get the results of this study in a pdf format (otherwise the results are only on-line.) Aerotune reports the results in several different forms. In this case, I had Aerotune report the results as predicted finish times for a 40K Time Trial.

AeroTune results for six “Setups.” The green indicates an aero advantage of the setup over Baseline (Setup #1)

 

 

Setup #1 is my “baseline” ride. This is my tri bike with training wheels, no hydration system, road helmet and cycling jersey/shorts.

Setup #2 is with a Profile hydration system between the aerobars. It gives a slightly favorable aero advantage over baseline. This is the working hydration system I used at Nationals. (See photo below).

Setup #3 is with an aero-bottle on the seat tube. (see photo above). This gave quite a favorable aero advantage, so I elected to ride Nationals with this bottle in place (empty). See photo below.

Setup #4 is with carbon race wheels. Once again a definite advantage

Setup #5 is carbon race wheels and aero socks. The aerosocks appear to not be effective in this configuration. This ride probably is showing the reproducibility issues with aerotune. The wind was starting to pick up, and may have been a factor. In any case, as you can see in the photo below, I selected not to wear aerosocks at Nationals.

Setup #6 This setup was throwing everything on: race wheels, socks, hydration systems, PLUS aero helmet and Roka trisuit that I had tested previously. I was looking forward to my lowest Cd of the day. I was very confused when this setup turned out to be 2 minutes slower than baseline??!! It made me question all of the results. By this time the wind was picking up, so I discounted this result on that basis. (The wind was a crosswind, so it was slowing me both out and back). I was also starting to get tired and perhaps I was getting lazy with head position. I have some data that the Giro AeroHead is not very aerodynamic if the tail is sticking up (gaze falling down to cycle-computer) or if the tail does not smoothly transition to the spine. I talked with one of the founders of AeroTune and he thought the results were real and that I should do more tests to understand the interaction of various items in the “cockpit”…my shoulders, head, aero-helmet, front water bottle. Unfortunately, I have not had the time to conduct these tests.

My setup at Nationals. Note: no aero socks, empty aero bottle (white) on seat post, working aero bottle (black) between aero bars.

Was all of this worth it?

  • Because I enjoy the science of aerodynamics (I have a PhD in Fluid Dynamics), I may find more pleasure in this than others would. I am not convinced it really made me that much faster, but I am intrigued enough that I will be doing more test rides.
  • I got frustrated a few times when the AeroApp froze during a ride which invalidated the test. [Have you ever had a coach tell you at the end of an interval, “That one didn’t count, Do it again.”? That’s how it felt.] I now turn off any communication between my phone and Garmin during the ride. [The glitches happened after Gale Warning were streamed to my Garmin Edge during a ride.]
  • My new protocol includes a “Baseline” ride every fourth setup. That will give me a better idea of the reproducibility of the results.
  • I am happy to share my written “protocols” if anyone is thinking of trying out AeroTune.
  • More reading:

    AeroTune Test Guide: https://aerotune.com/aerotest/static/resources/documents/aeroTESTGuide_withAPP_180608_en.pdf

    Aerotune Test Protocol: https://aerotune.com/aerotest/static/resources/documents/aeroTEST-test-protocol-20180608_en.pdf

    Are shaved legs faster?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZnrE17Jg3I

    Sebastian Schluricke on Scientific Triathlon: https://scientifictriathlon.com/tts90/


    Five Ways to Improve Your Metabolism

    March 3rd, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

    By:  Raquel Torres

    Metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions in your body.

    These chemical reactions keep your body alive and functioning; the molecules are constantly changing shape, renewing and rearranging themselves to either build things (heal), use energy, or save it as fat. 

    Sports training can have a significant effect on metabolic rate – this can determine weight gain and weight loss. This is because it boosts calorie burning.

    However, the word metabolism is often used interchangeably with metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn.  The higher it is, the more calories you burn and the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off.  Having a high metabolism can also give you energy and make you feel better.

    Metabolism is a tricky thing. It’s not as simple as “eating a certain food” or “running a 10k every day”, and certainly not “taking a diet pill”. But the right balance of factors can lead to a healthy metabolism that’s metabolically flexible and sustainable.

     1. Enough sleep.

    Sleep is one of the most important factors in maintaining (or improving) metabolism. In fact, studies show that sleep deprivation leads to changes in glucose metabolism and hormonal functions. The result is a decrease of levels of Leptin Hormone (control the feeling of fullness/appetite suppressant), and an increase in the Ghrelin Hormone (which invokes the hungry feeling), along with other issues, known as metabolic dysregulation, which also has links to an increase in obesity and diabetes. 

    2.  Keep a good combination of exercise with CARDIO + STRENGTH. 

    For example: 40 minutes of any Cardio 3-5 days a week, including some H.I.I.T (high intensity interval training) and 2-3 times a week of Strength Training. People who include strength training burn significantly more fat than those who only perform cardio exercises. 

    People who are leaner with higher muscle mass burn more calories at rest, compared to those with higher body fat. 

    Fact: 1 pound of lean muscle in the body burns 14 calories a day at rest , while 1 pound of fat burns 2-3 calories a day. 

    Tip: Strength training can be weights at the gym or bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, or resistance bands.

    3.  A well balanced nutrition.

    Avoid extreme diets. While some studies show that fasting is healthy, if you are underfeeding your body on a regular basis, your metabolism will adapt to the lower caloric intake and your metabolism will work to preserve the remaining calories as fat rather than energy, hence slowing down your metabolism.

    Fact: Eating some type of food, like proteins, can increase your metabolism for a few hours.

    Tip: Reduce calorie intake at a healthy and realistic pace to lose weight sustainably. 

    This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). It’s caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb, and process the nutrients in your meal.  Protein causes the largest rise in TEF. It increases your metabolic rate by 15–30%, compared to 5–10% for carbs and 0–3% for fats.  Try to include proteins in every meal. Proteins can be: nuts, meat, fish, yogurt, cheese, egg, and many vegetables, such as green vegetables, as well as rice and beans are rich in proteins. 

    Fact: While carbs are necessary for energy, studies show that some are better than others. Consuming complex carbs (ex. oats, potatoes, rice, fruits, veggies, beans, or grains) versus simple carbs (ex. white bread, pasta, food with raw sugar, corn syrup, and concentrated fruit, etc.) means that the body requires more effort to break down the foods. That’s why when you eat complex carbs, you feel full for longer.

    Tip: Try to have 30% of your total of food intake in proteins.

    4.  Caffeine / Coffee. 

    Studies have shown that caffeine can boost metabolism by 3 to 11%. Most fat burners supplements have caffeine as their #1 ingredient. That doesn’t mean that you need to be a coffee addict, or spend all day long drinking coffee expecting to lose weight–you still need to put in the effort. 

    Tip: Caffeine/Coffee before exercise can improve your workout, speed up metabolism, and burn fat more efficiently.

    5.  Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.

    Age is just a number, but it still affects your metabolism. The rumors on this one are true.

    From about age 25 until age 65, your metabolic rate decreases with each year by a rate of 2-5%. This means the number of calories your body burns without you doing any sort of physical activity actually decreases. 

    Tip: The best way to beat the reduction in your BMR is to regularly exercise. Following a healthy eating plan helps as well. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body is burning.

    Remember, you are in charge: don’t get in that defeating mindset about “your genes or your age”; there are areas that you have total control over your metabolism: your lifestyle, nutrition, sleep, weight, and well-structured exercises.

     


    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?’

     



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