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Steps to Getting Better Sleep

February 1st, 2018 by Terry Ritter

In today’s culture, poor sleep is worn almost like a badge of honor. If you are a high achiever, whether in your job, with your family, or just trying to live a full life, sleep often takes a back seat to our attention. It’s the place often sacrificed to find more time in the day. However, science is showing time and again that better sleep is imperative to good health. Many don’t know that simple changes to the daily task of getting to sleep can help them feel more rested and ready to take on their day, and aid their long term health. Here are some steps to take for more effective rest.

Establish a Sleep Schedule

Many daily biological patterns are based off the body’s circadian rhythm. This system is cued into light and other waking stimuli, and best responds to a pattern of regularity. Set aside 7.5-8.5 hours to sleep each night. Try to retire at the same time, rising around the same time each morning. Weekends should replicate the weekly waking and sleeping times as well, where possible. Avoid long naps (greater than 30 mins) in the day as these impact the ability to fall asleep at a normal time.

Adjust Your Surroundings

The place one sleeps should be inviting. For many, this means some place cool, dark, and calm. Others benefit from a fan or other device to give a consistent, gentle background sound. Minimizing stimulating your senses through blocking out sounds, light, or other things that will prevent relaxation. This includes not using television, phones, computers, or radio when trying to fall asleep.

Prepare the Body

It is common to try to work or be active right up till it’s time to go to bed. However, this keeps the body on alert. Hormones are released to tell us when to rise, prepare us for proper function, and give appropriate arousal to best perform in our day.

These aspects of the “biological clock” are influenced by outside cues, like light, sound and other stimuli. It’s best to allow the body time to adjust away from this alert state. As the evening hours begin, dim or shut off lights within the house. If spending time on the computer shortly before bed, consider installing a program that removes blue light to lower stimulation. Do some relaxing activity before sleeping, like reading a book or taking a bath. Not only should work be avoided as you’re approaching bedtime, but also exercise or other activities that keep the body charged up.

Though going to bed hungry doesn’t promote quality sleep, neither does stuffing oneself. Be careful how much you consume leading up to the hours before bed.Also note that excessive fluids will likely cause the need to hit the bathroom at some point in your slumber. Caffeine, alcohol, some herbs, and nicotine can be stimulants that hinder a quick fall into a useful sleep cycle. These can take hours to get out of the system, so pay attention to when to stop ingesting them. Alcohol especially can make the sleep one gets poorer then it should as well.


My Kona Journey: Part 7

January 20th, 2018 by Terry Ritter

This blog is a continuation from my last blog post “My Kona Journey: Part 6”.  I would suggest reading that blog before reading this one.

“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.”

– Laird Hamilton

My summer racing and training was going really well heading into mid September.  Based on my key bike workouts, I felt that I was on track for achieving my 5 hour time goal for the bike course at Kona.  In fact, the day after the Reeds Lake Triathlon, I had my best 100 mile power average ever!  That 100 mile ride gave me confidence that my fitness was where it needed to be for Kona.  However, that confidence began to wane heading into Kona.

The last 5 weeks leading up to the big race were the most physically and mentally draining block of training I had experienced. With all honesty, I was just having bad workouts.  I especially struggled with big brick workouts each weekend.  These workouts included a 4 to 5 hour bike ride followed by a 30 to 50 minute run.  I really struggled to hit my power or pace targets during some of these big workouts.  For instance, I recall one workout where I had to do a 100 mile time trial followed by a 1:10 hour run. It just so happened that the temperatures were in the 80s and 90s on that day.  At the time I thought the sunny hot weather would be a good thing since it would be great preparation for Kona.  The hot weather would allow me to test out my nutrition plan and pacing.  In addition, the heat would test my physical and mental limits.  I can assure you, my limits were tested!

When I started the 100 mile time trial, I could tell early in the ride that my legs were not going to cooperate, causing me to ride well below my goal power. In fact, the average power that I was able to hold was 30 watts lower than my Ironman goal power.  It was hard to stay mentally focused when I was not physically able to ride to my full capability.  On the positive side, I was able to stay cool and stay on my nutrition plan since the intensity of the ride was low.  Unfortunately, I felt worse as the ride progressed, so I decided to just call it a day on the bike and cut the ride short to 73 miles.  This was the first ride I had to shorten due to fatigue during my training.

After the shorten bike ride I changed into my run gear and started my 1:10 hour run.  The run was broken up into 3x 20 min at 15 – 20 seconds faster than Ironman pace with 2 minute recoveries.  When I started the run I was really “feeling” the heat since I didn’t have that 20 mph breeze like I did for the bike.  It was in the low 90s with no cloud cover and no wind.  I thought to myself “this weather will be very similar to Kona”.  To help stay cool I threw ice and cold water down my tri kit since Kona would have these items at aid stations.  I was only able to get relief for 5 minutes until a;; the ice in my tri kit melted.  During the 20 minute intervals, I was able to hold between 6:45- 6:55 pace but the perceived effort was very hard.  My body had to work extra hard stay cool and overcome a fatigued body.  The heat really got to me during the last 10 minutes of each interval.  After each interval, I rested in the shade and put ice and cold water in my tri kit to stay cool.  During the run it was a challenge to take in calories without getting an upset stomach due to the heat.  This was one of the hardest runs of the year for me!  When I finished the run I was glad that it was over but was disappointed that I was not able to do better.

The following day after my big brick workout I did a 2:40 hour long run.  My long run would again be in the high 80s.  However, this workout went better than yesterday’s suffer-fest.  I was able to hold my Ironman goal pace and stay cooler during the run.  It made a huge difference not doing a 3:30 hour ride before the run.  I was able to get in 22 miles for the run, stay hydrated and fueled.

I realized that my body was just getting fatigued from the long Ironman season.  Doing Ironman Brasil in the late spring and then training for another Ironman in October was new territory for me, so I wasn’t sure how my body would respond. One thing is for sure is my body was telling me to start tapering.  So, three weeks before Kona, I began cutting back on my training volume. When I started the taper, I was beginning to feel more like my normal self again.  Finally, I was having good workouts again and I had my mental motivation back again.

One week before Kona I flew out to the Big Island of Hawaii.  I was very fortunate to have my father, Aunt, and 2nd cousin with me during the 10 days in Hawaii.  We stayed in a nice condo resort in Waikoloa Beach Village area which was right off the Queen K highway.  This was a good spot for training since I could ride on Queen K which was part of the bike course.

I rode the course a few times to get an idea of how my bike would handle in the crosswinds.  Kona is known for having significant crosswinds that can change on a dime.  On Tuesday, I rode 1.5 hours from my Condo to the turnaround point in Hawi.  When I started the ride I was fighting a stiff 15-25 mph cross wind.  Several times the wind turned into a headwind or sometimes a tailwind.  After 45 minutes of riding I started the climb up to Hawi. The climb was a gradual incline.  There are a few steeper sections where I could get out of my aero position and sit up on the bike.  The hardest part was fighting the strong 20-30 mph headwinds and crosswinds.  Overall, I thought the terrain of the course was not hard but rather  the elements of the race such as the wind, heat, sun, and no shade is what makes this course challenging.

After the 1.5 hour bike I did a 20 min run off the bike which felt great.  This was my last “long” brick workout before the race which I thought went well.  I felt that physical and mentally strong.  The taper and rest was exactly what I needed.

Two days before the race I did a 30 minute open water swim in Kailua Bay.  The water temperature was around 80-81°F which was warm enough to not allow wetsuits.  For the race I will wear a speed suit instead.  One benefit of swimming in the Pacific is the salt water will help keep you more buoyant. The water in the Bay was very clear so you could see all the sealife below.  When I was swimming from the pier the water was calm for the first 200 yards.  Once I got more out into the ocean there were waves that began to push me around a little.  In addition, the tides kept me constantly moving up and down which caused me to get a little motion dizziness.  Hopefully I don’t get seasick during the race!   I had to be extra careful not to swallow or get any saltwater in my month.  This  2.4 mile swim in Kona will be the most challenging of any Ironman race I’ve done.  Knowing that I will be swimming with the best Ironman athletes in the world,  I needed to be on top of my game.

The final day before the race we had to check in our bike and equipment.  It was a spectacle just to witness the bike check-in process.  It felt like the red carpet in Hollywood.

Everyone was gathered around the fence to check out the Pro and age group athletes walk in. They had an announcer calling out all the athletes as they walked into the transition area.  When I entered the transition I had my own volunteer to escort me around the entire check-in process.  I had photographers take a picture of my bike so Ironman determine the total count of bikes and equipment that people are using for the race.  After the photoshoot, the volunteer walked me out to my transition spot.  I mounted my bike and placed my bike and run bags in the changing tent area.  The transition area and changing tent were very condensed.  On race day the changing tent would be very crowded..  Other than the space issue I felt like a VIP during the check-in process.

After the bike check-in I went back to the condo to eat and get things ready for the race.  On race morning, I like to have everything ready to go so I can try to get extra sleep.  I prepared my Infinit nutrition bottles for the bike and run.  Similar to Ironman Brasil, I plan on having 5 bottles on the bike plus one extra bottle in special needs, just in case.  The special needs bag will be placed at the turnaround point in Hawi.  For the run I prepared 5 flask bottles.  I plan on carrying 3 flasks with me coming out of T2 and picking up 2 more flasks at the special needs which was located at mile 18.  I plan on keeping my calorie consumption per hour the same as Ironman Brasil, but I plan on drinking more water.  I had all my shoes, race kits, electronics, race numbers, and timing chip laid out on the floor.

I had a lot of nervous energy running through my body considering it was the biggest race in my triathlon career.  I felt relaxed and calm during the final days leading up to the race but now that the race was less than 24 hours away it was hard to keep calm.   For me, it’s hard to not be nervous before a race that I deeply care about… especially if it’s a race that I’ve been dreaming of doing for a long time.  I just tried to embrace the nervous energy and the moment that would be in store for me tomorrow.

To be continued….


A Thousand Invisible Mornings

January 13th, 2018 by Terry Ritter

This time of year, I often need a little inspiration to keep up (or start up) my training.

In the fall, the weather and beauty draws me outside to ride the lovely Michigan countryside.

In the spring, I am so eager to get back on my bike outside, I can hardly wait for clear roads and warmer temps.

In the summer, the sun and warmth, group rides and racing provide daily motivation to ride hard and long.

But, this time of year… especially those windy, gray days when there isn’t enough snow to get out and enjoy, the trainer becomes the best option.

Morning after morning after morning on the trainer can suck the motivation right out of you. With ever-improving technology making trainer rides more enjoyable, even the hardcore Zwifters have to long for a breath of fresh air.

A few days ago, my college roommate and rowing teammate sent me a photo that spoke to that deep motivation… that drive to use these cold months of indoor training to become the best athlete I can be. It is perfect. I hope it helps you get through until Michigan welcomes us back outside!


My Kona Journey – Part 6 by Brian Reynolds

January 4th, 2018 by Terry Ritter

This blog is a continuation from my last blog post “My Kona Journey: Part 5”. I would suggest reading that blog before reading this one.

“The five S’s of sports training are: stamina, speed, strength, skill, and spirit; but the greatest of these is spirit.”

– Ken Doherty

I did it! I achieved my biggest goal of my Ironman career! I qualified for Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Focus now: recover from Ironman Brasil and start ramping up training for Kona. During the 2 week rest and recovery after Brasil, I have to admit that the post-season blues set in. I know this sounds strange because I had accomplished my biggest goal… but suddenly, I didn’t have that next big goal to chase. Don’t get me wrong; I was very happy that I qualified to compete at Hawaii in October. But, I knew that I needed a new, challenging goal to chase to keep me focused in training and, probably most importantly, to keep my motivation high for those hard training days ahead. After much thought and discussion with my coach, I determined that  a top 5 finish in my age group at Kona fit the bill perfectly. The top 5 athletes per each age group are recognized at the Award Ceremonies the following day after the race. It is the highest honors that an amateur Ironman athlete can earn.

Finishing in the top 5 at Kona will be no easy task. I will need a good training plan, to stay injury-free, and to stay highly motivated. Most importantly, I need to believe that I could achieve this goal. There have been a few athletes that I’ve raced against locally around Michigan who have finished in the top 5 at Kona. So I had a good idea on where I stacked up in the competition. Also I’m a tall and lean athlete which puts me at an advantage of dissipating heat as long as I can stay hydrated. My current level of fitness was a little behind where I needed to be to achieve a top 5 podium spot, so my coach and I laid out a plan of attack to put me in the best possible position at Hawaii.

Looking over the past year results at Kona there was a very consistent trend for the top 5 times. For the swim the top 5 have been around a hour or 1-2 mins faster. For the bike the top 5 have been between 4:53 to 5:00 hours- which are fast times considering the heat and the wind. For the run the marathon times have been between 3:00 to 3:10 hours. I felt comfortable doing the swim in a hour or less considering I’ve always been under a hour in my past Ironman competitions. My coach and I felt that the bike was the area where I needed the most improvement- I needed to get 5 to 10 minutes faster on the bike to put me under a 5 hour bike time. As for the run, as long as I rode within myself on the bike and properly hydrated I can run between a 3:05 to 3:10 hour marathon. I was a little surprised that I was not too far off from a top 5 performance. However, I may be a little naive since I never raced in the Kona. But, I made it this far and I was determined to do my best… “go big or go home!”

Once we had a plan of attack I started getting back into a normal training routine 2 weeks after Ironman Brasil. Coming off of Ironman Brasil I needed those 2 easy “down” weeks so I could recover physically and mentally. In addition, shortly after the race, I was sick for 5 days which added additional stress to my body. Mentally it took me 10 days to get my desire to start training hard again. When I got back to training the strategy was to focus on the bike and maintain my swim and run fitness.

During the month of June I gradually ramped up my training from 8 hours per week to 16-17 hours per week. On June 17th I did the Kalamazoo Klassic 10K and 5K. I won the 10k which was my 3rd 10k title at the Klassic and one hour later I finished 2nd in the 5K run in a time of 16:15. Overall I thought it was a successful day considering it was only 3 weeks post Brasil. The Klassic is one of my favorite races in Kalamazoo due to the support and people so I always like to fit it in my schedule if I can.

When I got to July my training was going really well. I was having some of my best long rides of my career. I was executing or exceeding my power targets during all of my bike workouts. On July 16th I did the Tri Del Sol Olympic distance Triathlon which was a breakthrough race for me. I had a good swim, a great bike, and a solid run. During the swim I was in the lead after 200 yards and stayed in the lead for the rest of the race. I had my best career power average on the bike. I broke my previous best olympic distance power average by over 20 watts for the 23 mile bike ride. By the time I got to the run I had a 3 minute lead so I could relax and enjoy the run a little bit. My Tri Del Sol performance was a big confidence booster heading into August where I planned on doing the USAT Olympic Distance Age Group Nationals in Omaha, Nebraska.

The biggest racing month of the year for me was in August. In August, I did the Ready or Not 5k, USAT Nationals, and Michigan Titanium. The Ready or Not 5k is a small local race in Otsego, MI that is put on by the Otsego High School running club. I’ve been doing this race since 2001 when I was a freshman at Otsego. It’s always been a tradition for me to do this race every year to support the club. This year the course was changed due to construction so it ended up being 3 miles instead of 3.1 miles. I ended up finishing 2nd in a time of 15:19 which I was happy with considering I haven’t ran that fast in over 3 years. The overall winner was the very talented Alex Comerford who is a Junior at Otsego.

The following weekend after the Ready or Not was USAT Nationals which took place on August 12th. I put high expectations on myself going into Nationals. Base on my Tri Del Sol performance in July I felt that I was going to have my best finish ever at Nationals. My previous best overall finish was 17th however each year Nationals get more and more competitive so you have to keep improving just to keep up. I’ve been doing the USAT Olympic distance Nationals since 2013 so I had a good sense of the competition and were my current fitness would place me in the overall rankings. On race day I felt rested and ready to go. I did a 2 mile run warm up that felt great so I knew my run legs were ready to go fast. During the race I had a solid swim and got out of the water in my highest position ever. I was excited to start the bike leg because this was my biggest improvement for the year. I rode well for the first 5 minutes then later on I was not holding my goal power. I wasn’t feeling as powerful on the bike like I did in Tri Del Sol. So I had to forget about riding at goal power and instead focus on holding a consist power and try to negative split the 2nd half. I did negative split the ride and it still ended up being my 2nd best career power average for the bike leg. When I started the run my legs were feeling great. At the .5 mile marker my watch was showing a 5:24 min mile pace so I knew I was going to have a good day on the run. I ended up running the flat 10k course in a 33:18 which was the 2nd fastest run of the entire competition. In fact that was the fastest road 10k time I ever ran period! I ended up finishing 3rd in my age group and 8th overall in the competition. If I had a better bike I could’ve climbed a few more spots but overall I was still happy with how the race went. It was my highest finish at Nationals.

The final race in August was Michigan Titanium. My original plan was to do the half iron distance. However, I had a issues with my left calf that was giving me some discomfort when I ran on it. I was concern about running on my calf and making it worse so I decided to do a Full Aquabike instead. The Full Aquabike was a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike. In hindsight it was the right call because the big goal was to stay healthy for Kona. I ended up winning the Full Aquabike and it was a great Ironman training day! To recap the race, on race morning it was really fogging on the lake which made it difficult to sight buoys during the swim. At the start of the swim I took the lead and then I eventually got lost halfway through the first lap. In fact, I had to stop swimming to ask a Kayaker where the next buoy was at. Fortunately everyone else got lost behind me as well so I was just the leader of the lost boy’s club. The fog eventually cleared up and by the 2nd lap of the swim I was able to find my way around the course. I was the first athlete out of the water and the first to start the bike. My goal for the bike was to break 5 hours which was 22.4 mph average. My biking legs were feeling good and I ended up riding the 112 mile course in a 4:53! For once I paced the ride very evenly and I didn’t have any really bad patches. I beat my previous best Ironman bike distance by 10 minutes and Titanium was a hard course! It was just one of those days where things were clicking. Now if I can do that same ride in Kona then I’ll be in a good position coming off the bike.

After Michigan Titanium I had one more race before Kona and that was the Reeds Lake Triathlon Olympic Distance on September 9th. I didn’t have any high expectations for Reed’s Lake but I just wanted to do a race in September to keep my competitive spirit going. In addition, I’ve never did Reeds Lake so it’s always been a bucket list race. I ended up finishing 2nd overall in the race behind Todd Buckingham who finished 3rd overall at the USAT Nationals this year. The morning race temperatures were in the low 50s which is cold for a triathlon. I was able to stay warm during the swim because of the wetsuit and thermal cap but once I got to the bike I froze. On the bike my feet and hands were numb. When I got to the T2 transition it took me longer than usual to unclip my helmet and put my run gear on because I had hardly any grip strength with my frozen hands. When I started the run I could not get my legs to go at all because they were so cold. It was a weird feeling to not feel your feet during the first few miles of the run. I just had to laugh it off and just keep running along. I was able to see the race leader and I figured out that he had at least a 3 minute lead on me. I was in 2nd place and there was no way that I was going to catch the race leader so I just ran fast enough to hold onto my position. What I enjoyed most about this race was the food and beverages afterwards:)

In summary I had my best summer triathlon season ever. I was faster in every race compared to previous years. After Reeds Lake I had 5 weeks to go to Kona. The next 5 weeks would be solely focused on Ironman training and tapering for the big race.


My Kona Journey: Part 5

November 13th, 2017 by Terry Ritter

by Brian Reynolds

This blog is a continuation from my last blog post “My Kona Journey: Part 4”. I would suggest reading that blog before reading this one.

“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”
– Arnold Schwarzenegger

The alarm goes off at 4:00am and I’m already wide awake filled with nervous energy. I thought to myself 3 hours from now I will be toeing the line for Ironman Brasil. I woke up to rain droplets hitting our hotel. The forecast showed light rain showers and temps in the high 60s throughout the day so I put on a rain jacket to keep dry. I had my usual breakfast which was oatmeal with protein powder mixed in. After eating I walked down to our hotel lobby to take a shuttle bus to the race transition area. The shuttle ride was slow due to the pedestrian and car traffic. When I got to the transition area I dropped off my special need bags and then I went to set-up my bike. I loaded up my nutrition bottles on the bike, pumped up the tires, setup the bike computer, and pre-clipped my bike shoes.

After getting setup in transition and put on my wetsuit in a dry area and started my half mile walk to the swim start. When I got near the swim start I got into the ocean and did a 5 minute warm up swim. The ocean was really calm which put me at ease considering the tides we had a few days ago. After warming up I had 30 minutes until my 7:05am wave start for the 30-34 age group. During that time I drank some Ucan and took-in other nutrition to get fueled up before the start. The Pro men started at 6:35am and the Pro women started at 6:45am. My wave started after the Pro Women. The race officials lined us up at the start line 15 minutes prior to the start. The race was a beach start so the race officials lined us up 10 meters away from the shoreline. It felt like an eternity waiting at the start line. During the wait, I stared out into the ocean thinking to myself that this was exactly what I envisioned in my head over a 1000 times during training.

Once the volunteers moved out of the way and lowered the start-line tape it was game on. BANG!! The cannon went off and over 300 athletes sprinted into the Atlantic Ocean. I ran about 30 yards before jumping in the water to begin my swim. There was a group of 8-10 guys that took off ahead of us within the first 200 yards. I ended up swimming with a pack of 8 guys during the first half of the swim. The swim course was set up as a “M” shape meaning we swam a 2.2K out and back then another 1.6K out and back. At times it was challenging to sight the first turnaround buoy because it was still dark and my goggles were fogging up. I mainly focused on drafting behind the swimmers in my group to save as much energy as possible. Within the group there was a lot of contact- so got hit and kicked several times. We rounded the first buoy and swam back to shore. Heading back out, the sun was higher in the sky, so it was easier to sight. Hitting the shore a second time, we ran onto the beach and went around a few cones before running back into the Ocean. At this point we another 1.6K of swimming left to go..

When I entered the water again I noticed that the group that I was swimming with were more spread apart. Since I didn’t have a group to swim with, I swam behind one of the stronger swimmers from that group for the next 300 meters. At this point the 35-39 age group leaders were starting to pass us so I made a surge and got behind them. After 200 yards I lost contact with the 35-39 age group leaders and I swam solo until the swim finish. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have made a surge since I only got a small lead on the group that I swam with earlier. I came out of the 2.4 mile swim in a time of 55:08 which was a personal best for a Ironman swim. It was a fast swim considering the saltwater for the extra buoyancy and ocean currents pushing us along.

We had to run about .3 miles to the transition. I ran by my dad just before entering transition and he yelled out “You’re in 15th place”. To qualify for Kona I needed to be in the top 8 of my age group to guarantee a slot. I had a smooth T1 transition even though the transition area was slippery from the rain. There were athletes sliding and falling but luckily I had no issues. When I got on the bike and started pedaling the legs were feeling good. My mantra for the first few hours of the bike was to hold back and stay at my goal wattage. I waited 10 minutes into the bike before taking in nutrition to make sure my stomach had settled after the swim. My nutrition plan was to take 273 calories every hour which equates to one bottle per hour.

The course was mostly flat during the first 30 minutes until I got to the first major climb. The climbs were long and gradual but I made sure that I kept a steady effort. On the steeper uphill sections I would pedal standing up so I could work different muscles and give other muscles a break. I felt strong up the hills. After the hilly section it was mostly flat and fast. On the flats I stayed in the aero position. The roads were wet and periodically there would be a light rain showers. The roads were slippery so I took extra caution going around turns. I saw a few riders fall on some of the hairpin turns. There were large water puddles on the road which made it dangerous to ride through because you didn’t know what was underneath the puddle. There was one rider 50 yards ahead of me that hit a pothole and his bike catapulted him over the handlebars. He never saw the pothole because it was hidden under a water puddle.

I felt good all the way though the first lap of the bike. My first lap split was 2:27 which put me on pace to be under 5 hours for the bike. When I started the 2nd loop the winds picked up in speed which made the course slower. At the 2:45 hour mark my Quarq power meter started to malfunction due to the wet conditions. My power meter was reading very low power numbers which made it useless since the numbers had no meaning to me. To help monitor my pace/intensity I switch to my heart rate monitor. I tried to stay at around 158 bpm since this was my heart rate when I started to track it. Hard to say if that heart rate was keeping me within my proper power zones. I was just trying to keep the intensity consistent. This was the first time my power meter completely malfunctioned, so it was terrible timing that it happened in a race. Throughout my training I relied on my power to monitor my pace and intensity.

At the 3:30 hour mark my legs were favoring a lower cadence which meant that my legs were getting fatigued. At the 4 hour mark my legs were really hurting which became obvious as I was struggling on my smallest gear going up the major climbs. On the first loop the major climbs felt easy. Also I was a little behind my nutrition plan because I didn’t finish my fourth bottle until the 4:20 hour mark. The last hour of the bike was just survival mode to get to T2. I just focused on giving it everything that I had. When I finished the bike I still had a half bottle of nutrition leftover. I finished the 112 mile bike in a 5:02:50 which was a personal best.

When I got off my bike and started running through transition I was not feeling good. My legs were stiff and I didn’t feel comfortable. My goal for the marathon was to run a sub 3 hour which was a 6:53 pace. I took the first mile conservative at a 7:05 pace. During the run my stomach was a little upset so I wasn’t able to take in nutrition until 20 mins into the run. However, my running legs did start to feel better by mile 2 and I began running 6:40-50 pace. The most challenging part of the course was the first 10 km. At the 4 km mark we had to run up two very steep hills. The 2nd hill was so steep that I had to power-walk it. The descent on these hills were very steep so I had to keep the pace super slow so I didn’t fall over. I ran with another competitor side by side during the first 10km which was nice. I tried to make small talk with him but he didn’t speak very much english. We passed at least 30 people running together. I passed more people the first 10km of the race than I did during the remainder of the marathon.

After the first 10 km it was mostly flat the next 20 miles. From miles 6 to 12 I was holding 6:45 pace and was feeling good. I began opening up a gap on the my fellow competitor who I was running with side by side. I was taking in nutrition but I was still behind my nutrition plan. One hour into the run I was suppose to take 2 flasks of Infinit but I only had one. When I got near mile 13 I was starting to feel light headed and low on energy. I felt low on energy because I was behind on my calorie count. Thankfully the 2nd flask I took before mile 13 was starting to kick in and I got my energy back. I ran a 7:05 for mile 13 and then I picked up the pace to a 6:50 mins per mile.

I felt alright the next 10 km but I could tell I was on the edge of falling off pace. I KNEW if I did not keep taking my nutrition I going to hit the wall. With 12 km to go I stopped at the special needs station to pick up 2 more flasks of Infinit and took a quick walk break. This was the only time I walked besides the power-walk up the very steep hill. After the special needs I was holding onto 7:00 – 7:07 pace. It was in survival mode at this point. There were a LOT of people on the run course during my final lap. I had to maneuver around a lot of runners, which is hard when your legs and body are at their physical limits. I almost fell over when I tried to dodge a orange cone.

I was able to finish all of my nutrition with a mile left to go in the race. During the entire run I had no idea where I stood in my age group placement. With 1 km left until the finish my dad yelled out “You’re in 7th place!”. I was relieved to hear those words because I knew I qualified for Kona. I got an extra surge of energy and I was able to break 7:00 mins for the last mile. My official marathon time was a 3:00:06 which is a Ironman PR. After I finished I didn’t know the official results until a few hours later. The official results showed that I finished 2nd in my Age Group in a total time of 9 hours 4 minutes and 3 seconds. I was ecstatic! I did it! I’m going to KONA baby!

The following day was the award and the Kona slot allocation/roll down ceremonies. I got a big trophy for finishing 2nd in my age group.

After the age group and professional awards they did the Kona slot allocation and rolldown. Ironman Brasil had a total of 75 Kona Slots. For my age group they gave 8 Kona slots just like I predicted. When the announcer called my name I gladly walked on stage and accepted my slot to Kona. They gave me a Hawaiian lei and token which read “Qualified for 2017 Ironman World Championship”. The back of the token had the Ironman slogan “Anything is Possible”.

Overall Ironman Brasil was a huge success! I accomplished my main goal which was to qualify for Kona. Anything more was just icing on the cake. Now I had a place to be on October 14th, 2017 which was at the pier in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

To be continued….

 


Planning for a Successful Season by Terry Ritter

November 5th, 2017 by Terry Ritter

Failing to plan is planning to fail. We’ve all heard this, and somewhere along the way the value of laying out your preseason and training may start to look attractive. But what components should a training plan have? As a racer that later became a coach, plus the near 20 years of working with hundreds of athletes, I see a few themes repeat themselves when athletes fail to achieve their planned goals. With the off season soon upon us now is the time to start thinking about the big picture for next season. Here are five points a successful training plan will address to help you reach your cycling goals.

Realistic Numbers

Finding a training plan is not difficult. Finding your training plan is the hard part. What amount of volume is appropriate? What amount of intensity? Both of these components combined to give the workload an athlete will see. Many athletes think more is better. Though this might be the case if your body can handle it, too much is often a one way ticket to overtraining. It’s better to take an honest look at your yearly volume and increase it only 10-15%. Some weeks might see more, others less. Overdoing it won’t make one faster.

Adequate Rest

So much of what an athlete focuses on is the physical training. It makes sense that one of the first question most will ask when discussing a training plan is what workouts they’ll be doing. But, stressing the system is only part of the equation. Giving your body time to rest, recuperate, and adapt is where conditioning/fitness comes. This work versus rest balance not only involves day to day planning, but monthly and full season planning as well. Most athletes can tell when they are tired from recent training (acute fatigue). What is often missed is the thought of taking time off within a season. That seems counter-intuitive to purposely lose fitness so that you can train harder later. Getting the mix of weekly, monthly, and seasonal rest correct is one of the biggest challenges. Long term goals require a good balance of all three.

Proper Peaks

It is common for athletes that are adopting a training plan for the first time to be cautious of committing time periods to be at peak fitness. Most of this seems to stem from the belief that they will give up fitness and results in lesser events due to this focus. Most of the time this is not true. Sure, there is the chance that if you are dedicated to a given event, you might find your training has you a bit too tired to do your absolute best at a race a few weeks before. Or, the fact a late season race focus might have you starting a bit behind the 8 ball early is difficult to swallow considering your historical fitness at that time.

But, without a focus the other pieces of the season can’t be put in place. Training doesn’t really serve anything, and the body also doesn’t get to unload the stress its acquired through training. Having a peak period to anchor a plan will help you determine the right workouts, focus, and rest within a season.

Purposeful Objectives and Efficacy

The word “plan” implies a purpose. When it comes to athletes, that purpose is to get better. The best way to do just that is assessing weakness and tailoring training to improve in these areas. Given to our own device, most people spend most of their time doing what they are good doing.

Climbers climb more…people good on the flats stay away from the hills. The best opportunity to get faster in your given event is to determine what aspects of your abilities are holding you back and devise training that’s specific to improving these areas. And this is also the way to get the best return on investment. Off season, weekly, and monthly focus should be centered around training activities that address your weaknesses. But, this training has to be gauged for effectiveness. Periodically testing, whether by time or using a power meter, will determine if your training is having the desired effect. And the season should have different aspects that address the whole athlete’s needs. Even a great climber that has to climb in their events should have a plan that at least keeps that as a strength.

Flexibility

A good plan followed is better than a great plan ignored. Too often I see athletes that are slaves to their training plan. They look past obvious challenges, like recovery or the stress it puts on other aspects of their life, and soldier on. Or, they try to make up workouts after an illness, or attempt to train through times when they are sick. This never ends well. A training plan is a best guess, and should be “written in pencil” to allow changes as new and unexpected territory is being charted. Maybe a travel week was thrown at you by your boss. Or something on the home front is eating into effective recovery. And rarely does a season go by that an injury doesn’t keep us off the bike at some point. Even the most well thought out training plans require adjustments now and again. Not all variables can be known, and sometimes life proves we don’t even know what we don’t know. Small tweaks can allow training to stay consistent in the face of adversity, and the purpose of a block of training to still be realized. A training plan should work for the athlete, not the other way around.

There are many benefits to a well devised training plan. There are also many pitfalls. Learning to use it as a tool for training and not the reason we train is important. Being sure your plan possess the five elements here will improve the chances of being guided to a successful season. Enjoy your off season and here’s hoping for much success in 2018!

 


Lessons learned: the “crit”

October 3rd, 2017 by Terry Ritter

Criterium racing is a different kind of bicycle racing – and “crits” can be very intimidating for those just entering into the racing scene. Criterium races are short courses (usually .5 mile to 1 ½ miles) where you race for a designated amount of time. As the race progresses, the time turns into laps, based on average lap time. So, if racing for 40 minutes, at some point the officials will start a lap counter and count down laps until the finish. These are races of skill and strategy because they are typically high-speed races with 4 to 8 corners.

I am a long-course road racer at heart… so over the years of racing, I’ve had to learn how to race differently when racing a criterium. Here is what I’ve learned:

1. Be patient. When racing a criterium, you do not need to chase down every attack. Someone will chase it down and you’ll save a lot of energy by hoping on that wheel.

2. Positioning is everything. This makes or breaks the race. If the race is coming down to a field sprint, your position entering into the last stretch of road on the last lap will most likely determine where you place. Know the riders around you. Pick a good wheel to follow. Stay in the top 5 around that last corner.

3. Take some chances. Try for a break. Shake things up a bit. These races can be exciting and fun if racers take a chance and mix it up. Attack. Bridge up to a break. Go for a prime. Have fun and make racers work for their position.

4. Know your strengths and weaknesses. If you are more endurance than power, try to get into a break so you have a better chance at the end. If you are a sprinter, do some work, throw some attacks, but mostly just sit in and wait for your moment to shine. If you aren’t sure – test the waters and see where you land.

5. Rubber side down. It is never worth it to steal a wheel (taking a good draft wheel from someone else during a race), take a corner faster than your skill allows, or break your line (being unpredictable to the riders around you) to gain position or move up in the field if you have to do so in a dangerous manner. Everyone wants to do their best and get the best possible positioning leading up to the finish. But this can cause serious crashes, especially at high speeds. Be smart. Be cautious. Be aware of the riders around you. Be safe. Everyone wants to end the ride rubber side down.


Back to basics: an interview with Junior Racer, Christian Dershem

September 27th, 2017 by Terry Ritter

Sometimes kids have a perspective that bring us back to basics. There are times, as adults, we are out on a ride and the wind is high, motivation is low… and we wonder why we are out there. Here is a short interview with 11 year old junior racer, Christian Dershem. He’ll remind you.

1. What is your favorite part of racing: “It’s fun and competitive at the same time – I love that.”

2. What is your least favorite part of racing: “Crashes and mean bike riders that will shove you or cut you off.”

3. Why did you get into cycling? “My parents did it and when I tried it, I thought it was really fun.”

4. What is your favorite type of race? “Time trial or mountain bike race.”

5. Why? “I like how it is all your power. It’s just you and your individual power. It’s your speed. No one can help you. And, mountain biking is also so fun to do – really fun!”

6. What do you like about being on a team? “The support that you get and making friends. And, you get pushed and you also get to learn from teammates.”

 

 

7. Is there anything you aspire to do with bicycle racing? “Become a pro and race in the Tour de France.”

8. What do you plan to do to make that happen? “Work hard every day.”

9. How much do you train now? “Not too often.”

10. What is racing all about? “Having fun and doing what you love.”

11. Is there anything you want to say to those reading this blog post? “Do what you love to do, and thanks to all my teammates and cycling friends for all the help and support they give me.”

Ride on!

 


An object at rest stays at rest . . .

July 11th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Aric Dershem

Newton’s 1st Law of Physics: An object in motion stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.

sunrise

My brain is in shock as I try to determine where the noise is coming from. It takes me a few seconds to gain just enough consciousness to reach over to the bedside table and fumble around, eyes still closed, searching for the off button on the alarm clock. When I finally muster enough dexterity to flick the off button, I begrudgingly pull off the covers and swing my legs over the bed. My feet hit the hardwood floor with my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands. I look at my watch. 4:46 am. Even though I’m only in a semi-conscious state, I need to make a choice right now. Stand up and get moving or fall back into the warmth of my bed and the comfort of my pillow. The latter sounds so inviting at this time in the morning, but there’s a small part of me that knows that this is my only chance. This is going to take the force of my will to get moving. If I’m going to ride today, I have to ride now.

aric lights

Over the next several minutes I slowly emerge from my grogginess into a state of complete consciousness. It’s chilly outside – chillier than it should be for early June. I have a hard workout on my training plan for today. I find myself having an all too familiar conversation in my head – What am I doing? Isn’t this supposed to be fun? Some days, this whole “cycling thing” feels more like a job.

It’s 5:20. I ratchet my shoes tight and pull on my helmet and glasses. As I step out the door, am smacked in the face by the cool early morning air. I dread the chill that seems to go right through me when I start riding, but I’m committed at this point. I check my setup – rear flashers are on, one solid front light and one flashing front light. The Garmin has satellite connection and the power meter is calibrated. I swing my leg over the bar and hear the familiar sound of my cleats clipping into my pedals. One press of the start/stop button and my Garmin is capturing every bit of data about my the ride I am about to take. With a few standing pedal strokes, I’m down the driveway and out onto the road.

Even in these pre-dawn hours it takes about 20 minutes to get out of town. I have the roads mostly to myself. There’s an occasional car, but I’m more likely to see rabbits, racoon or deer. Nearly every stoplight I hit is flashing. I’m able to roll-up and (usually) roll through. The sleep is out of my system by now and I’m enjoying the feeling of acceleration when stand-up on my pedals. I feel the almost metronomic rhythm of my pedals as my wheels roll resolutely over the pavement – I focus on smoothing out my pedal strokes. Occasionally I look down at my Garmin to check on my progress, but mostly I take in the familiar landmarks as I slice my way through the city.

aric morning1Now that I’m riding the chill in the air no longer bothers me, instead the cool air hitting my skin feels refreshing. The thoughts of my warm bed have long left my head. I’m focused on the ride. My legs feel alive (even if they’re a little sore) and the sensation of speed as I focus my energy into my pedals is unlike any other.

Most non-cyclists think I’m crazy for riding on the road (they think it’s too dangerous). Many of my cycling friends think I’m crazy for riding this early in the morning (it is an ungodly hour to be awake). Regardless, these early morning rides have become the staple of my training. Like today, it usually takes a little extra effort to get out the door, but once I’m on the road, there are rewards waiting for me. Sometimes, the reward is just the sense of accomplishment that comes from surviving a hard workout while others are sleeping. Other times, the reward is the opportunity to greet the sunrise and experience the awe of the new day coming over the horizon. Every day I find myself moving relentlessly over the road, I’m rewarded by feeling a little more alive.

I check my watch and see that it’s almost 7:00. The morning traffic is in full flight with commuters rushing to work. I have to double-check behind me before making a left turn and watch for the drivers distracted by their coffee or their phones. By this point, the hardest work is usually behind me. I just feel the exhilaration of accelerating from intersection to intersection. I know that the ride is over soon – time to finish strong. I almost never hit the final intersection on a green light. This is a good place to call it a ride. I hit the “Start/Stop” button on my Garmin again. Just a short easy pedal home and I’m there.

As I roll up the driveway and see my family scurrying around the house as they being their morning routine. I pull up to the back door and unclip from my pedals. I can’t wipe the smile off my face. I’m 35-miles into my day and ready to face whatever comes. That feeling of forward motion carries me into my day – I feel like there’s no stopping me . Now I just need to remember that feeling tomorrow morning when the alarm goes off . . .

aric sunrise 2

 

 


Training While Pregnant

June 14th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Lindsey Lilley

    My husband and I are expecting our first child in November and we couldn’t be more excited. This change has also brought a new aspect into training, training while pregnant. This is my first pregnancy so I had NO IDEA what to expect or how my body would react. I spent a lot of time reading blogs by women who have led an active lifestyle before/during/after pregnancy and learned A LOT and it was nice to get a lot of different perspectives. This is a brief summary of my first trimester training.

              Have you ever been hung-over, taken a sleeping pill and had to go potty 24/7 all at the same time? That is exactly what I felt like forweeks straight. I wasn’t going to let this be an excuse to not train because 1) Staying active is important for the health of our growing human and myself. 2) I want my body as strong as possible for labor and delivery (OUCH!) 3) There are still events I want to participate in this year. It wasn’t easy to get the workouts going. Not easy at all. It took a LOT of arguing and negotiations with myself to get started every day.  Once I finally started, my swimming, biking, running and lifting sessions were when I felt best. Even though my workout time is when I felt my “best” it didn’t mean it got easier to convince myself to get going, I just did it. As an athlete I think it’s fair to say we are all used to doing things we don’t always want to do but know we should do.

Lindsey nicole

              10 weeks came and it was like a switch was flipped. The nauseous and exhaustion phase had passed, I was finally starting to feel like myself again. I was able to put more energy and effort into my training sessions. I’ve completed two races so far (Kent City Ridge Run 15K and 5/3rd Riverbank Run 25K) and look forward to “racing” throughout the summer and early fall. My times will be slower, I’ll be rounder but having my little workout partner with me this racing season is beyond spectacular.

              Disclaimer: I did get the OK from my physician to continue training as long as my heart rate didn’t get too elevated for an extended amount of time, I wasn’t having any health issues/complications and I didn’t deprive my body of oxygen for too long.



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