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Thinking About Buying a Bike? Here are 5 Reasons you SHOULD!

September 7th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By Erin Young

1.Cycling decreases stress

Do not underestimate the power of nature and green spaces to change your mood and general health. The environment around you has a huge impact on how you perceive the world and how you feel on any given day. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, you may feel overwhelmed, stressed and hurried. Once you hit the trails, and immerse yourself in a forest or natural landscape, studies have shown that stress levels are reduced, blood pressure decreases and your overall well-being increases. Don’t believe it? Compare your body’s reaction when biking in the city vs. biking through the forest.

2. Biking is easy on your joints

If you have bad knees or hips, biking can offer great exercise, while having minimal impact on your joints. Running can often be a difficult sport to start and some of us may have past injuries that make it hard on the body, but biking is much easier on your body.

3. Mountain Biking encourages you to live in the moment

Mountain bikers are great yogis. It’s hard to think about anything else but biking when you’re hopping over logs, riding through streams and around tight corners with trees on either side. You have to be focused on riding, be in the moment to avoid injuries and get the most out of the experience. You will forget about doing your taxes, your annoying boss or recent troubles – and instead, release loads of happy endorphins that will have you smiling from ear to ear.

4. Biking makes for a healthy heart

Biking will get your heart pumping. Steep climbs will challenge your cardiovascular strength and over time your heart will become stronger. The recovery period for those climbs will decrease and you will find it easier to accomplish longer and more challenging rides.

5. Biking encourages social connections

I recently watched a TED Talk by Harvard researcher Robert Waldringer, entitled “What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From The Longest Study on Happiness” – want to know the secret to a good life? According to Robert’s study it’s high quality social relationships. The closer you are with friends and family, the happier you will be in the long run. So, what does this have to do with biking? EVERYTHING. Mountain biking encourages trailside chats with bike buddies and post-ride hang-outs to debrief the ride and talk about life. Biking brings people together, to teach each other new skills, learn from others and create memorable experiences in beautiful places.

Want to give group rides a try? Check out the Kalamazoo Bike Club. They have group ride locations and times listed on their website. Most cities have bicycle clubs that are warm and welcoming to all riding abilities, especially new cyclists. All you need are two wheels and a helmet! Visit Pedal in Kalamazoo for all of your cycling needs and Custer Cyclery if you are in the market for a mountain bike experience.

 


Breakout Season

July 18th, 2019 by Marie Dershem

By Kellen Caldwell

I have a great passion for riding bikes no matter what discipline. I began mountain biking three years ago, and only started road biking a year ago. My first experience racing mountain bikes was in 2017, and my first road race was last year. The first member of Athletic Mentors I met after joining the team was Terry Ritter. Terry has been a huge help with team related questions and he has also provided me with a lot of opportunities to improve my skills.  I met my teammate Dan Yankus last summer. I still remember the first ride we did through Kensington Metropark. During that ride, I learned a lot other cyclists as well as about Team Athletic Mentors’ long history. These rides last summer with Dan made me a better rider both physically and mentally.

Toward the end of last summer, Dan offered to train me. I can’t even explain how much of a difference this has made in my fitness and riding ability. On one of our last training rides together before the cross country season started, Dan and I talked about my goals for the coming season. In the early season, I raced the Barry Roubaix gravel road race. I finished third in my age group. I wanted to make it my goal to win that race in my age group and maybe even over all.

As fall turned to winter, I realized I would have to make the Zwift program my best friend for the next four months if I wanted to achieve my goals at Barry Roubaix. Luckily, I was also blessed with the opportunity to go to North Carolina for the annual team camp. Down in NC, I met Ross DiFalco, Jared Dunham, Bobby Munro, Elaine Sheikh, and a former team member, Scott Hoffner. It was great to go to NC not only because it’s beautiful, but it offered team bonding, quality training, and was much better than sitting on a bike in my basement.

The countdown to Barry Roubaix flew by… and before I knew it, I was at the peak of my training load… at around one hundred and twenty hours of for the off season. After hours of Dan’s workouts and online races, it was finally here: Race week! This week was very stressful for me. I was losing sleep over questions about my competition. When I asked Dan about the race and especially about my contenders, he simply reassured me saying, “You will be fine.” This kind of brought me back down to Earth, and I started thinking about really how much work I had done to get to this point. I thought, if anything bad happens to me at this point, then it is out of my hands.

Then came race day. Me and my family arrived in the beautiful Hastings countryside in the early morning. There was a slight chill and a breeze. I got my number plate, warmed up, and met up with a couple of my teammates. Before I knew it, start time was here. I hurried to the start to get the best spot possible, tried to eye up my competition, but then remembered that it was irrelevant. From here to the end of my race it was just me and my bike, a bond that couldn’t be broken. After standing and waiting for about five minutes I knew who was there and who wasn’t. Thirty seconds till start I said my goodbyes. Then, we were off!

My main focus within the race was to keep track of my competitors and make sure that I didn’t make the same mistake as last year and let one slip away into the cluster of people as they passed by. This time I kept track of them. I tried to stay up front to make sure I would be the first into Sager Road (the gnarly two track section of the course), and luckily I was. A kid my age by the name of Max, a renowned cyclocross rider, got onto Sager right behind me. We came out of there together with our battle scars. Eventually we formed a group of six riders breaking away from the main group. We stayed away for the rest of the race.

Max was still in the break and he was my only competition left for the top podium spot. We entered the last pavement strip before making our way into town. I sat up front and kept looking back to see if anyone was going to make a move early on, we came up the last hill and we could see the stop light from there. Still up front, and knowing I’m not much of a sprinter, I decided to make the move once we hit the stoplight. We made our way into the final turn “guns a’ blazin’”.  I was mashing my pedals into the ground. In this brief moment before the finish, I thought about how disappointed I’d be to come this far to lose. I poured all my might into that sprint, and at the end of the day, I accomplished my goal. I finished first in the juniors and tenth overall. This was so rewarding.   

An important lesson we can all learn from this is that it’s important to believe in yourself, but it’s also important to have faith in others. For example, not once did I doubt that the work Dan was having me do was absolutely necessary. Who knows what shape or disadvantage I could have been in if I had not listened to his instruction.

I would like to thank everyone on or off of this team for their contributions to this success: My mom and dad for driving me to these special places beyond southeast Michigan, my teammates for showing me the ropes, Terry for his support, and a special thanks to Dan Yankus for being an awesome coach, mentor, and teammate. I’m excited to see how he can possibly shape me into a better athlete in the future! Also, a big thanks to Cheryl Sherwood for organizing all of the team’s wonderful events! I look forward to the rest of the 2019 season with Athletic Mentors!


Top 5 Things Learned at This Year’s Training Camp

June 6th, 2019 by Marie Dershem

Written by Terry Ritter

This season’s North Carolina Training Camp had great weather and terrific riding. There was a newer rider flare to this edition, with ’19 team additions Ross DiFalco and Jared Dunham joining myself and fellow seasoned Team Athletic Mentor riders Elaine Sheikh, Bobby Munro, and Kellen Caldwell. Dan Caldwell, Kellen’s father, also spent part of the week with us, and Scott Hoffner made his usually trip up from Winston Salem to ride for a few days.  Second year team rider Tim Coffey attends Brevard College and got a chance to log about an hour with a few of us before some bad luck changed his preseason.

Though this marked the 19th time in the last 21 years I’ve put together a cycling excursion to jump start the season, I am always entertained by the new things I learn (or relearned) each year. Here’s my top five list from this year.

Tubeless tires require different attention in the off-season…

 Last season I mounted up some tubeless tires and sealant and enjoy the benefits of that set up for training. However, I didn’t give much thought to how I’d store these hoops over the winter, just hanging them like my tubed arrangements of the past. The first road ride of the trip happened to be the Mt. Mitchell ascent, an 87 mile day with over 9000 feet of climbing. The first time the bike rolled over 25 mph I noted an imbalance in the front wheel. After checking the bead and seeing it was seated appropriately, my brain started working on what the issue could be. That’s when I remembered I had to pump the tire up as I noticed it had deflated to the degree the bead had lost the airtight seal over the winter. I quickly speculated the air had dried out the sealant, which had collected in the bottom of the tire as it hung, and was now a solid, non-movable mass throwing things off. This was confirmed once I got the tire off and had an 8 cm strip of solid sealant affixed to one side of the tire. Removing this and remounting the tire with new sealant solved the hop. From here on out I’ll be removing sealant from my tires before I mount them for off season storage (though you could just keep them aired up to stay sealed as well).

Simple Math…

 After hitting the Parkway and descending down 215, we came to a stop and discovered Jared’s crank was coming loose. It had been creaking for 2 hours. Unfortunately, his crank bolt was a 10mm, and none of our multi-tools had anything bigger than an 8mm. That’s when I remember a trick Dan Yankus taught me at the ’16 camp. We took one of the multi-tools apart to get the 6 and 4mm allen wrenches free, then placed them side-by-side in the bolt head (6 + 4 = 10mm). We then used one of the other tools 8mm to fit into the loop of the paired allens and twisted it till the bolt was sufficiently tight to get us home.

Technology is great if you know how to use it…

 At our ’17 camp, Kaitlyn Patterson was able to construct a route within DuPont State Forest from a friend’s map, and then download that to her Garmin. She shared that route with me last year when she wasn’t able to attend and we followed the 3 hour tour without issue. This year was not as successful, as I led us around for about 90 mins before we ended up back near the finish. Seems I didn’t realize the Garmin has a turn-by-turn arrow that will let me know where I’m supposed to be heading when my screen shows route crossing over themselves. Later in the week I figured this out and we tried the route again, with it working flawlessly.

 Would you like that spoke straight or curved…

 As we rode up Mt. Mitchell, my rear Giant wheel broke its first spoke (4 years of riding on it). The DT Swiss rim stayed pretty true and I didn’t have any issues finish the ride. However, I didn’t have any of the straight pull replacements (nor did any of the local shops). A little brainstorming had Ross, Jared and I using the gas stove to warm the spoke (actually, it had to glow) and then used a couple of pairs of needle-nose pliers to straighten a J bend from a conventional spoke I did have. Unfortunately, the spoke was still too short to use, but it gave me a potential emergency option if I have this challenge in the future.

Being prepared means less stress…

 I’ve preached this to all my camp attendees each year. However, this season things got away from me as I was getting ready for camp (Jared, Ross and I took my vehicle) and so decided I’d need to do a little work when I got down to NC. This could well have been fine until some unexpected things happened (spoke, tire sealant), and also unexpected time to help others. I ended up being a bit too busy to really relax as much and recover as much as I should have. My teammates were gracious with their patience, but this was my own fault and something I would have helped entirely if I’d gotten everything done on my equipment at home before I pointed my van south.

These trips are always a lot of fun. We get some great training in, enjoy some relaxation, learn about our new teammates, and pick up some additional wisdom. It makes me wonder what I’ll learn next year.

 

 

 

 

 


Yes UCAN Recipes

May 13th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By Kathy Braginton

Two years ago, prior to my first half distance triathlon, I began to utilize UCAN as my workout and race day fuel. UCAN is the only energy food powered by SuperStarch®, a patented ingredient that delivers steady energy without sugar or stimulants. UCAN has quickly become my supplement of choice in my drink bottle. I also love to change things up when it comes to my diet, so I went in search of creative ways to utilize UCAN as more than just a drink. After a quick Google search, I found several recipes to try.

My favorite recipe from http://www.generationucan.com is the Chocolate Almond Fudge cookies. After making a few modifications from the original recipe, I have found the taste similar to a Samoa Girl Scout cookie. I have used these cookies for pre, during, or post workout nutrition. They even make a good healthy snack.

Chocolate Almond Fudge Cookies (Kathy’s version)                        

  • 2 scoops Chocolate UCAN with Protein
  • ½ Cup almond butter
  • ½ Cup peanut butter
  • ¼ Cup oats
  • ½ Cup coconut oil
  • ½ Cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ Cup honey
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Mix it all up. Add more or less of each ingredient, depending on your taste. Roll the mixture into small balls. Put in the freezer and let chill for several hours. Or, put in a baking dish, freeze and cut into small squares. These cookies are best kept in the freezer. Just let them sit at room temperature for a few minutes prior to eating.

In an attempt to utilize these cookies during a workout or a race, I have experimented with different methods of transport. Placing several cookies in a snack size ziploc bag, I put them in the back pocket of my bike jersey. Mid-ride, the cookies turned to mush and I had to squeeze them out of the corner of the ziploc like a goo or gel. While it serviced its purpose, it was a bit messy. However, the next method worked a bit better. I purchased a liquid ice pack that was divided into 1” individual sections and cut the pack down to size to fit in the snack box on my tri bike. I placed the snack size ziploc in the snack box on top of the ice pack. While this did not keep the cookies frozen, it did keep them from turning to mush. This is now my go-to nutrition on the bike during a half distance race.

My second favorite recipe from http://www.generationucan.com is the Mexican Riviera Smoothie. This is a very refreshing smoothie on a hot summer day. The original recipe called for peaches. Not being a very big fan of peaches, I have tried raspberries and cherries. Both of these are tasty substitutes.

Mexican Riviera Smoothie

  • 1 scoop Lemonade UCAN
  • 1 Cup frozen raspberries or cherries
  • ¼ Cup frozen pineapple.
  • 4 oz of orange juice

Blend all together in a blender.

This last recipe, recently found on http://www.jessrunsblessed.com, is 4 Ingredient UCAN Brownies. This has quickly turned into my favorite early morning, pre-swim fuel. I use these in place of the UCAN Snack bars. These brownies offer similar nutrition to the snack bars at a cheaper price and the taste is not bad!

4 Ingredient UCAN Brownies

  • 2 scoops Chocolate UCAN with Protein
  • 2 medium bananas (mashed well)
  • ¼ Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ Cup peanut butter

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Spray large rectangle pan with baking spray. In a large bowl, combine 4 ingredients with a spatula. Use a mixer to mix until well mixed. It will be very thick. Spread into pan and flatten with spatula. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Optional ingredients: unsweetened shredded coconut, oats, or chopped almonds.

Find additional recipes on Facebook at Generation UCAN. Fuel good. Feel Good. UCAN!


Packing your saddlebag

May 2nd, 2019 by Marie Dershem

Written by Jared Dunham

If you’ve never had the privilege to be in the middle of the rain with a flat tire, and your last CO2 canister just leaked out, then you can’t truly appreciate having the proper tools fix a mechanical issue. Accidents on the trail will happen, and the only way to deal with these is to bring the right tools/supplies with you. The best place to store all the tools needed for your bike to survive hours of singletrack is in a saddlebag. The amount of equipment you bring in the bag is determined by the time/distance your covering. Let’s look over a few things that you should be including in your saddlebag before you go out adventuring.

Before we begin, the 3 durations we’re going to be considering for packing tools are:

  • Short Rides (Under 2 hour ride)
  • Medium Rides (2 to 5 hour ride)
  • Long Rides (5 to 10 hour ride)

Master link

  • Why should I bring it? They are generally the part of the chain that snaps when it breaks due to pressure.
  • Recommended Amount
    • Short Rides: 1
    • Medium Rides: 2
    • Long Rides: 3+
  • Notes
    • Not all are re-usable, you might be able to take them on and off the bike, but they will not stay strong
    • Can be easily packed

Multi-tool

  • Why should I bring it? The Multi-tool exists to do any basic repairs or calibrations you need done on the trail.
  • Recommended Amount: Any Ride: 1
  • Notes
    • Make sure the multi-tool has a chain breaker, it will be one of the only things you can use to get your chain apart on the trail.

Spare Tube

  • Why should I bring it? In case you get a tire puncture from all sorts of sharp objects.
  • Recommended Amount
    • Short Rides: 1
    • Medium Rides: 1
    • Long Rides: 2
  • Notes
    • You can zip-tie a tube to the back of your seat when racing.
    • If you have “deep” rims make sure that the valve stem of the spare tube is long.
    • zip ties, rubber bands, plastic sandwich wrap, or tinfoil to keep the tube wrapped tight.

CO2 Bike Inflator or Mini Pump

  • Why should I bring it? These devices are used to refill a fresh tube or one that has just been patched.
  • Recommended Amount
    • Short Rides: 1 pump or
    • Medium Rides: 1 pump or 2 CO2 Canisters
    • Long Rides: 1 pump or 3+ CO2 Canisters
  • Notes
    • CO2 Bike inflators have a learning curve.
    • Some mini-pumps come with mounts that allow them to be attached near a water bottle cage.
    • If you mount the mini-pump, cover the nozzle from dirt and mud.
    • Mini-pumps take A LOT longer to fill a tube.

Cash

  • Why should I bring it? If your exhausted at a gas station it might save you from being forced to pawn off your bike for a ham sandwich.
  • Recommended Amount
    • Short Rides: None
    • Medium Rides: $20
    • Long Rides: $20
  • Notes
    • Can be used to temporarily fill a gash in the sidewall of a tire.

Tire Patch Kit

  • Why should I bring it? In case all your tubes are punctured.
  • Recommended Amount
    • Short Rides: None
    • Medium Rides: 1
    • Long Rides: 1
  • Notes
    • Get tire patches that require glue for use.
    • Make sure the patch kit includes tire levers.

Other Ideas for Trail Bag:

  •  Zip Ties
  • Packaged Rain Poncho
  • Meat Tenderizer
  • Fire Starter Kit
  • Miniature Knife

For the pack itself, I’ve recently been using a Topeak “Aero Wedge Pack w/ Fixer”. The bag is capable of fitting everything you’ll need and more. Something great about it is the “Fixer”, which is a piece that mounts to the bottom of the seat instead of relying on straps to hold the bag. However, no matter what you’re using to carry tools it’s always important to pack enough for the time you’re riding and the pathway conditions you’re faced with. Hopefully this helps a little bit when you’re considering what to bring with you on your trail travels.

 

 


Three Cheers for Greenware Sponsorship

April 11th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  JoAnn Cranson

What does drinking beer, cycling and environmental stewardship have in common?  Greenware!

Greenware not only sponsors cycling events, they also provide cyclists with a refreshing cup of beer served in their eco-friendly and brag worthy renewable cups.

Greenware is a line of disposable cups, lids, portion containers and on-the-go boxes made from 100% renewable plants.  Greenware is passionate about promoting active, healthy lifestyles.  They do this by partnering with Athletic Mentors to sponsor Team Athletic Mentors and its youth development programs as well as sponsoring multi-sport events including the Barry-Roubaix gravel road race, Michigan Titanium and other community outreach events.

Greenware’s forward thinking and passion to preserve the earth’s resources has not only created a great line of disposable and renewable products but it enables us to enjoy a cold one with friends after a hard race. Thank you to Greenware and co-owner, John Kittredge for supporting the events and lifestyle we all enjoy!

Greenware containers are crafted in the USA supporting local farmers and manufacturing.  Greenware is a registered trademark of Fabri-Kal, a Kalamazoo packaging company.   If you want to learn more about these products, check out Fabri-Kal’s website http://www.fabri-kal.com/brands/greenware


How to bring your bike from a muddy mess to race ready in 30 minutes (or less?!)

March 21st, 2019 by Marie Dershem

Written by Bobby Munro

Cyclocross and wet gravel grinders are not kind to someone who likes a clean bike. If you cannot stand to have anything other than a well-oiled machine here is a step by step process to do it quickly. It won’t be perfect, but it will be close enough.

Tools:
Hose (A bucket can be used but this will slow you down)
Bucket
2 Rags
Dish soap
Chain lube

Step 1: Hose down
Go outside and blast that grit away! Don’t forget to hit your pads (disc or rim). Also pay attention to your rims (especially with rim brakes). This is also the time to blast as much crud out of your chain as possible. While spinning the crank backwards, blast your hose downward over the chain. This is the best way to get a lot of grit off your chain. There are a few “Chain washing machines” (like the park tools CM-25) on the market that work OK but high pressure seems to do a good job as well. It is also a lot faster.

Step 2: Soap
Fill your bucket with water and dish soap. Use one of your rags to wipe the bike down. Get into all those nooks and crannies. I like to do a little intermediate rinsing to make sure I am getting everything. Save the chain for last as this will get grease on the rag that will wipe off on your frame.

Step 3: Rinse
Rinse the bike with the hose. If you only have a bucket, then this will take a bit longer. It usually helps to not use too much soap in step 2.

Step 4: Dry
Admittedly you could skip this step. But since you are already out there you might as well do it. Use your second (clean and dry) rag to dry off the bike. It is usually worth it to add a little elbow grease in a few spots. Save the chain for last for the same reason as earlier. Your goal is to get your chain as dry as possible.

Step 5: Lube
Now that you blasted all the lube out of your chain, it needs to be replaced. Go a little heavy then wipe off excess. You can use the “dry” rag if it is indeed still dry. Otherwise you will need a third. Paper towel works. But try to stick to washable rags when possible. It is also advisable to hit all the moving parts of your derailleurs and brakes. You should also try to get some lube inside the jockey wheel cups if you do not have sealed bearings.

Step 6: Ride! And know that a clean happy bike is only 30min away.


Traumatic Injury Life Saving Tips

March 8th, 2019 by Marie Dershem

Written by Dawn Hinz

Sadly it seems there are more car versus cyclist accidents. In 2006, 772 people were fatally injured in cycling accidents. Where as in 2016, that number was up to 840; including 5 local cyclists. (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)

We do everything we can as a cyclist to minimize the danger. We wear bright clothes, our bikes look like Christmas trees and most importantly, we follow the rules of the road. Unfortunately that doesn’t guarantee that we aren’t seriously injured. What should you do if tragedy strikes you or your group?

  • Everyone should carry a cell phone on their body. I do not agree with keeping your phone in a bag on your bike. If you are thrown from your bike you may not be able to reach your phone.
  • KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. You should know your route and where you are along that route. This way when you call 911, emergency personnel can find you as quickly as possible, when every minute counts. Go one step further and set up an activity tracker that relays your location to a reliable person who is not a part of the ride. This way they get a notification if you stop moving and can call for help.
  • Know how many people are in your group. 911 will need to know how many patients need an ambulance. Then, go help your friends. You should know any help you render will be covered under Michigan’s Good Samaritan Act (MCL 691.1501). This law basically states that a volunteer trying to help someone cannot be held liable if those actions cause further injury; excepting gross negligence.
  • Do not move someone unless the location causes further danger or harm. I.e. Perhaps you need to slide someone off the road if traffic is not slowing down or giving you space.
  • Do not unnecessarily adjust the patient’s head. If you hear snoring, gurgling or no breaths then gently place the head in a “sniffing” position.
  • If you see blood, control the bleeding with direct and continuous pressure. Put your hand or hands over the wound and keep pressure on the wound until help arrives. Every red blood cell counts.
  • If it is cold or even slightly chilly outside keep the patient warm if possible. Hypothermia causes shivering which wastes precious ATP. Even slight hypothermia will worsen a trauma patient’s outcome. Give them your jacket or get blankets from bystanders.

With these actions you have given your friends a fighting chance in the Emergency Room. If you would like to take it one step further then it is time to find a First Aid and CPR class. Stay safe out there.


The unexpected Ironman: a race story

December 11th, 2018 by Marie Dershem

Written by Raquel Torres

I write this with the intent to share my story, passion, efforts, obstacles, high and lows. My hope is to inspire others to fight for their dreams; to be better at whatever they love and in all areas of life.

Though I do not have the space here to write my life’s story, you’ll have to trust me that I have a million and one excuses that anyone could use to renounce my dreams. Maybe someday, I will write an autobiography of my crazy life, but that is for another time. So, today, I start with the decision to do a Full Ironman.

My coach, Mark Olson, has been telling me for a few years now that I should consider racing a full Ironman. But, because my life is a bit complex a few moves, job changes, parental responsibilities, sponsor commitments, and other sports opportunities) my goals have mostly been based on opportunities that arise as I go along. After a few very challenging years, competing as Elite and professional, this 2018, I had decided to take some time and compete at the age group level and in local events. During the summer, I had the honor to be asked by the Dominican Triathlon Federation to compete in a World Cup in Huatulco, Mexico and a Pan American Cup in Quebec, Canada.

With a little less pressure and some other changes happening in my life, I felt that the timing was right to try a Full Ironman. Together with my coach, we decided to start training for an event, which I would do as part of the Athletic mentors’ team. Long story short, I received a few work related opportunities in coaching so my daughter Chantal and our dog Phoenix moved to Virginia, that decision was 8 weeks before the event, a full Ironman, so we looked for an event that was near our new home and found the Ironman Maryland event that was in 8 weeks. I signed up and made plans with some friends that had also registered for the event and I was happy with the challenge. Two days before the Race I was contacted by the Ironman race staff to let me know that due to my status as an Elite ITU competitor, the rules did not allow me to compete in the Maryland event as an Age Group competitor, and the event did not have a Pro category. After several e-mails and phone calls between my coach and the event referees, they signed me up for the event in two weeks, the Ironman in Louisville, where there was a Pro category.

Honestly, this situation made me loose concentration; it was a shock, as I had decided not to compete as Professional in a full Ironman competition. I felt that I did not have the condition or support to be competitive at that level; at least at this moment in my life. I realized, however, that I needed to concentrate on what I could control, which was to prepare all of the logistics (my parental responsibilities, work commitments, packing all necessities, shipping the bike, etc.) to get ready to be at that starting line in 2 weeks.

The strategy changed in all aspects, as I was planning to drive to the event in Maryland and I had almost everything packed. I had to now find a plane ticket, bike transportation and my home responsibilities. I focused on giving priority to each item, while keeping up with the training as best as possible for the next two weeks.

Race Week:

When I arrived in Louisville the climate took a big turn and it became windy, rainy and cold. Neither I nor anyone had come prepared for the weather that was going to be on event day. I concentrated in finding what I was going to need the next day to deal with the weather conditions. I went to the Ironman Village and was only able to find a small winter hat; they had sold out of everything. They suggested a store that was about 6 miles away and they said it had gloves and other gear. Since I had not been able to train, I rode my bike to the store as I figured 12 miles would do great for my metabolism. Luckily, my coach and others from Athletic Mentos let me borrow special gear for the cold temperatures and for the rain conditions.

That afternoon, I had a beer with them, had a salmon sandwich and later spent the rest of the afternoon preparing my nutrition for the Ironman. I dined on light pasta, a cup of tea and off to sleep.

Race Day:

5:00 AM – I placed my numbers on me, drank a coffee, went down to the hotel lobby to eat breakfast a bagel with peanut butter. It was raining HARD, so then I decided to wear my wetsuit and walk warmer to the transition area, it was cold, dark and rainy.

6:00 AM – It was a bit uncomfortable to prepare the transition and to walk from T1 to the start of the swim, approximately 2 KM away. There were so many people walking, saying “we are signed up for this so let’s have fun and do our best!”

7:30 AM – When the race was about to start, they announce that the swim start will be delayed while they adjust the buoys as the weather and the currents are not apt for the race as initially planned. They announced that the swim will be done in a different direction and that it will be, .09 Miles shorter and it will start 30 minutes later.

Swimming 3.86 KM

Dark, raining and cold, I was very calm, as I had prepared mentally to stay calm no matter what happens. My coach Mark and Coach Cricket stayed with me in the start area, I was able to stay warm and they even gave me hot handbags, which helped my more psychologically than physically. I had already decided to take the swim part of the race as a warm up as this was my first Ironman and I had no idea what I was doing. My goal was to be conservative and concentrate on nutrition and mental state.

It was a water start and the currents were strong, and you could not see absolutely nothing. This gave me even more reason to take it slow and try to tail someone to be able to reach the markers. Because of the rain, the water smelled terrible and I could not wait to get out of the water.

T1 (Transition #1 Swimming to Bike).

When I got to the transition I decided to use the people that help you strip off the wetsuit, it was something I was not planning to do, but they could not take it off … so I lost a minute or so. The volunteers were very friendly as they helped you find your gear and to prepare, as I was arriving I said out laod …”Raquel Take your Time.” I had improvised what I was going to wear for the 180 KM with such low temperatures  and the rain. I wore gloves, a winter cap, two cycling scarfs a winter jersey and a raincoat. I ran barefoot as my biking shoes were attached to the pedals and I  carried my socks in my hands, when I reached the mounting area (600 Meters) I put on my socks and mounted the bike.

Cycling 180.25 KM

The bike was the hardest part and challenging of the event. First, I noticed that my Powermeter was not calibrated. I tried (with gloves) to fix it and it was even worse as the screens kept moving as it is a touchscreen system and it was so cold that my fingers where frozen and having gloves made it impossible to adjust the screens. After about 10 KM trying, I gave up and said to myself “Raquel, just go for it”. The first 40 KM was super cold, I did warm up later and was able to take off the raincoat and was able to hand it to a volunteer (avoiding penalties).

I saw 4 deer that crossed right in front of me and it was beautiful, I was focusing on the views and as I could not see how fast I was going nor my power output, I placed attention to the time and distance so I decided that every ten minutes I would drink some nutrition and anytime I had a negative thought, another drink!

About 100 KM mark my bike chain came off and was able to replace in less than one minute, then the second time the chain came off, same result, then the 3rd time the chain got stuck real hard and luckily I had gloves on was able to pull as hard as I could and got it out. I remained positive and said to myself “Raquel, this is what it takes, keep going and focus!”

Without a doubt, the hardest part was the last 20 KM as I was so tired of being in the aero position and my neck and back really hurt. I was counting each second, but kept focusing on the moment, not what was coming ahead.

 

T2 Transition Bike – Marathon

This is when I said to the volunteer….”Now a Marathon?” She smiled. I sat down and removed my clothing slowly, I stretched my back and took my time as I wanted to be ready to feel the best possible way and take my nutrition to the marathon.

Marathon 42.20 KM

During the run, I was impressed how well I felt. It was as if my body had forgotten that I already had 7 hours in action. The first 10K my job was not to go too fast as I felt better than what I would have imagined. So, my mantra was “Raquel, keep in the zone” and I did; taking small sips of my nutrition often. After 20 KM, I was starting to feel the pain and noticed that my pace was starting to slow down, I then changed my mantra to “keep mental focus and the pace, breathing and form.”

Watching the people on the streets, the music, enjoying the people as they greeted me, I focused on the smells, homes that smelled of fresh laundry, and kept thinking “I wish I was there drinking coffee and doing Laundry.” It’s funny the things that go through your mind when you are pushing yourself so hard.

There was a hippie on a bike with music, another person playing a harmonica during both running laps, another guy that was yelling very loud, “If it was easy everyone could do it.” When I got to the first lap 21KM, my coach yells, “You need to be tough now!” I thought…..”Now Tough?”

The last 10 KM were hard. I could feel the challenge physically and mentally so I kept saying to myself motivational things “Raquel only 10 KM which is nothing for you” Later, Raquel, a simple 5K, you made it keep going!”

The finish was a culmination of emotions, I was happy, tired (mentally and physically), I believe more because of the event challenge then for the physical demands and resistance. I laughed, cried, laughed again and then I finished.


Christmas “wish list” for your favorite triathlete (even if that is you)

December 6th, 2018 by Marie Dershem

By JoAnne Cranson

All I want for Christmas is some Triathlon Equipment……

But the problem is, I’m new to this sport and don’t know what the “best – tried and true” equipment is.  So…. I went to my teammates at Athletic Mentors to utilize their experience and knowledge to figure this out. Together, we came up with a great “wish list” of suggestions for your favorite triathlete (or yourself)!

For Swimming:

Goggles:  I got a lot of different feedback so this tells me it depends on your face shape and this may be trial and error

  • Kayenne Goggles – Smoke Lens for bright sunlight in open water.
  • Speedo Vanquisher 2 is good.
  • Speedo Jr. Hydrospec for a smaller face shap3
  • Roka R1 – amber colored makes the buoys much easier to see in open water

Wetsuit:

  • Aquaman brand is the clear winner. There are many different makes, so it’s based on your budget, but ones like Bionik, ART, or whatever you can afford, you won’t regret it.  They have some good sales too.  This is a local Michigan business where you can try on the suit for an accurate fit which is very important!

Tri-Suit:

  • A one-piece suit seems to be the preference, it’s easier to keep in place. But if you are just starting and want to go with a shirt and shorts you would want to look for specific “tri” shorts, not normal biking shorts.
  • Biking shorts have too much padding and are not comfortable to do the run or swim in. It needs to be comfortable, have adequate movement, and dry quickly.

Other items that will help you in training:

  • Super Important in Open water swimming – Safety Buoy – Safer Swimmer Float attaches to your waist, has a dry bag you can put valuables in, bright orange so people see you and in emergency you use as a flotation device.
  • FINIS paddles for proper stroke practice and Sporti Training swim fins.
  • Body Glide to apply to avoid chafing (perfect stocking stuffer)

Biking:

 Helmet: If you want a helmet for road riding, a Smith MIPS helmet is great.  There are also specific TT helmets, but those are only used when riding a triathlon bike and offer less wind resistance than a typical road helmet.

  • Bike: It depends on what type(s) of biking you will be doing.  If you are just beginning and want a more versatile bike that you can go to group rides and ride on paved trails, you should purchase a road bike.  I good entry level road bike would be the Giant Contend.  Giant TCR is an all-around road bike or you can move up to a Giant Propel – aero road bike.  There are lots of used bikes on local website ads to get you started too.  Most Triathlon’s have the bikes on paved roads, so to help you go faster ideally you want smooth tires – 25 cm – 28 cm.  You can purchase clip-on aero bars once you are very comfortable riding.  For aero bars, you want to get them as “flat” as you can to lower wind resistance and the lighter the bars the better.  If just triathlon racing and not group riding, you could get a triathlon bike, like a Giant Trinity Advanced.  But, you can’t ride a triathlon bike in a group. It is just not safe.
  • Biking Shoes with Cleats: These are a little tricky to start using but they are super effective in utilizing your pedaling strength the whole way around the pedal, instead of, just pushing down.  For the shoes, there are specific shoes for tri events.  The main thing I’ve learned is you want shoes with just “velcro” closures.  The other types of shoes take too long to put on, secure the closures, and take back off again.  Remember, focus is to save time in transition.  The feedback I got on the cleats is “look” type pedals. They give your foot a big base for improved power transfer, and as a result, helps you go faster!
  • Bike Seat – this is difficult because everybody has different “sensitivity” pressure points. A good place to start would be the Adamo, the Infinity or other seats with “cut-outs.”
  • Bike Computer: This is optional – If you have a running watch that can also track bike speed and other details, you may not need a bike computer.  If a bike computer is wanted, Garmin 520 is our team’s top choice.  It will also upload course routes, so you have turn by turn directions!  If you are limited on a budget, there are other lower priced Garmin computers on the market that will give you mileage, speed, etc
  • Water bottle – If you are just getting started, use bottle cages for your water bottles. As you get into using aero-bars or a tri-bike, ideally you don’t want to get out of that aero position to get a drink.  One option is Xlab Torpedo Versa – easy to drink from, refill and easily attachable.  Another one is Speedfil Inviscid.

Another item that is really neat is the Bontrager Speed Concept Speed Box II.  It attaches to your top tube bar and allows you to store gels and nutrition that is easily accessible.

A few other miscellaneous, Biking Items include:

  • Underseat bag to carry tire levers, spare tube and CO2 canister;
  • Fluid Trainer or Smart Trainer for indoor training;
  • “Chamois Butt’r” cream to apply to pressure points areas or, for the ladies, Hoo Ha Ride Glide.

Running:

  • Shoes: Good Quality is most important.  Go to a specialty sports store like Striders, Playmakers, or Gazelle Sports where they fit you personally and even allow you to run on a treadmill in the shoes.  Shoes are not something to go cheap on.  They are key to getting your feet, knees, and hips “happy” when you are running.  Some brands to consider are Hoka, Asics, or Nike Structures.
  • Triathlon – Running Watch. Most popular is the Garmin 920XT.  A great accessory for the Garmin 920XT is the water-proof heart rate strap you can wear in the water and throughout the race.  The Garmin 920 tracks all aspects of your race, even transition times!  There are also many screen display options to choose from.  It is great for training as it can track your indoor swims or open water swims, indoor or outdoor runs, plus your biking stats too.  If you want to look into other watch option, some teammates use Garmin models like Vivoactive 3 or Fenix.
  • Sunglasses – Hats: Smith sports sunglasses are the best option.  Other suggestions are using a ball cap or sun visor during your run.

A few other miscellaneous Running Items include:

  • Race Number belt – to strap around your waist and pin your number on;
  • Foxelli USB Rechargeable Headlamp – create for early morning or late night runs;
  • Reflective Vest with Lights – creates good visibility for safety in training;
  • Stryd – run power meter

Stocking Stuffer:  Elastic Laces – for sliding on your running shoes, like Lock Laces

There are a number of local bike shops that have a lot of these items for you to see in person, try-on and get their opinions.  Check out Speed Merchants Bike Shop, KLM Bike & Fitness, or Custer Cyclery.  For swimming items, check out swimoutlet.com.

It has been fun compiling this list and I’ve learned I want even more items than I thought!  I hope this will be a good resource for you too.  I encourage you to make it your goal to do a triathlon.  You don’t need to have all these items, just get out and “tri” it.  You will learn what you really need and can gradually accumulate the additional tools.

 



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