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Smith Helmets: Honest review of Smith Overtake and Smith Network helmets

August 13th, 2018 by Bobby Munro

Long term Smith Helmet review. 6 quick observations (good and bad).

Having owned the Smith Overtake and Network I feel I can speak knowledgeably about both. You can follow the link to learn more of the technical (and salesy) stuff about them. https://www.smithoptics.com/us/Root/Men%27s/Helmets/Cycle/c/1420

Safety

I tested the crash worthiness of the Overtake more than once in 2017. Every time I walked away without head injury. The helmet wasn’t so lucky. I am confident that both helmets will keep your noggin safe!

Bugs

The Overtake has every vent covered with the honey comb stuff (Smith sales team would like me to call it aerocore, but I like saying honey comb stuff). The Network leaves a few channels in the middle exposed. This opens your head up to bugs. It’s a pretty magical experience to never get bugs under your helmet.

Ventilation

I couldn’t tell a difference. Sorry this one was boring, but I wondered if the Network would be breezier without the full honey comb. Turns out that Smith knows how to design a “windy” helmet!

Retention system

The retention system is comfortable, light, and (unfortunately) fragile. I have seen many of these snap (and not from crashes). They must be treated with care. The only glimmer of light in this situation is that they are easy to swap out. I would recommend getting a spare before you are left helmet-less.

Price

These are both pricy. The Network is expensive and the Overtake is very expensive. Its good to see Smith starting to roll out more affordable options.

Fit

Both helmets come in multiple sizes. They also allow you to adjust the retention system height and pad placement. You will get a great fit.

In the end, they are both great helmets. The range of prices and features on helmets can be overwhelming, especially because all helmets are safety tested and (theoretically) offer the same level of protection. However, when you need to wear a helmet daily, it’s the little things that really do make a difference.


Teetering with Injuries This Season? Let Stretching Help you!

August 6th, 2018 by Bobby Munro

Are you at that point in your season where your muscles are starting to ache more, your knees are becoming bothersome or that lower back remains tight? The last thing you want before your big race is an injury to come about. Typically at this point of the summer, many athletes are at full training load and their bodies are starting to feel the effects.  Injuries are common with endurance athletes due to the repetitive nature of the sports and the enormous training load that most of you indure. Common causes for these injuries are overuse of muscles and joints, along with the lack of a proper warm up and stretching regime. Forgoing the stretching, and overworking “your sport” muscles can cause imbalances that lead you to become injured. The good news though, is that a lot of these injuries are avoidable, and treatable, with a little bit of time spent stretching! Read on to help prevent your next injury.

“You think I have time to warm up?”

None of us want  to take the time to warm up before we do every workout. Instead of forging the warm up completely, just tack it on to the beginning of your workout.  A great way to start off any workout is with some dynamic movements, which just means exercises with constant change. These include motions like high knees, leg swings and arm circles. Dynamic movements are more beneficial than traditional static (holding) stretches and will loosen, and ready, your body for your workout. Below is an example of a typical dynamic warmup for runners. This can be easily implemented into the first couple minutes of your run; just alternate between a jog and a warm up exercise. If your rather, you can take just a few minutes to go through these before any other work out, such as biking.  Something as simple as adding these warm up movements into your workout can make a large impact on injury prevention.

Dynamic Warm Up

The Dreaded Stretching

Another area that we athletes tend to neglect, but is helpful in preventing issues, is stretching. With a lack of stretching, our muscles remain tight from our workouts and this can create imbalances in our body. When imbalanced, our bodies can not perform at peak performance and this is also when we tend to get injured. A key factor is to make sure we stay on top of stretching and not just do it when we start feeling something injured or tight.  Adding in just 5-10 minutes of stretching,  several times a week, can make a drastic impact. If possible, it is a great idea to add in yoga or a long stretch session once a week as well. Here are some stretches that are great for runners and I would encourage you to try some after your next workout.

Stretches for Runners

  1.  Downward Dog (pedal your feet out to stretch your calves)
  2. Butterfly stretch
  3.  Adductor stretch
  4. Calf stretch gastrocnemius
  5. Calf stretch soleus
  6. Hip flexor stretch
  7. Standing Quad stretch (can be done sidelying or on stomach)
  8. Hip figure 4 stretch (can be done seated or standing)
  9. Standing hamstring stretch (can be done seated, lying on back, on a chair, etc)

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Stretching Cont.

  1. Foam roll -IT bands
  2. Feet up the wall relaxation pose
  3. Chest opening stretch on foam roll (good for arm swing and posture)

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I challenge you to try out these tips this next week of training and see if you notice a difference in how you are feeling. Please know that some injuries are serious and should be taken care of by a professional. The above exercises are merely a way to make you feel better going into your workouts and to prevent further injuries. Train smarter, not harder and happy stretching!


Grand Rapids Triathlon Race Report

July 5th, 2018 by Bobby Munro

On June 10th, The Grand Rapids Triathlon saw numerous Team Athletic Mentors’ athletes compete across all race distances at this world class event.  Known for its flat, fast course, 2018 was no exception with a plethora of Podiums and Personal Records.

Brian Reynold’s took the overall win in the Half Iron distance with a time of 3:59:49.  It was the first time he had broken 4 hours in the Half Iron distance and he had the best bike split of the day, averaging over 25 mph.  The swim and bike went really well to give him a 4 min lead over 2nd place going into the run.  Despite running a 5:56/mile pace on the run, the 2nd place guy gained 2:30 minutes on him during the run, but he was able to hold him off for the win.

Kathy Braginton took 2nd in her Age Group in the Half Iron distance with a time of 5:40:51.  This was a 10 minute PR for her in the Half Iron distance from this event 2 years ago.  A strong tail wind on the return from the out and back bike course made for a fast bike split.  It also helped in conserving the legs for the run portion.  Cool temps and overcast skies, aided in carrying a strong, consistent run leg into the finish. Kathy loves the out and back of both the bike and run portions on this event.  The opportunity to see all her teammates compete and to cheer them on can be very inspiring.

Two relay teams took on the Half Iron Distance placing 3rd and 4th overall.  In the Athletic Mentors Coaches relay, Elizabeth Kayfish swam, Mark Olsen biked, and Bridget Miller completed the run leg to place 3rd overall.  Lindsey Lilley and Dave Stebbins did a Father/Daughter 2 person relay with a time of 5:00:53.  Dave swam and biked while Lindsey did the run.  Dave had a good, strong swim and bike.  His swim was 2 minutes slower than last year, but his bike time was 2 minutes faster.  He credits his faster bike time to Mark Olsen who gave him some encouragement when they passed each other.  Dave is super consistent and refuses to let age slow him down!  The run portion was a fight from step 1, but Lindsey oddly enjoyed the long battle.  She loved trying to chase down the other AM team runner, Bridget.  She knew she couldn’t catch her, but it was a fun mental game.  With so many AM team members out there, it helped make the miles and time go by faster.

Tammy Shuler, Dawn Hinz, Belinda Vinton, and Bob Schultz rounded out the Olympic distance race.  Tammy Shuler took 1st in her age group with a time of 2:42:59. 

Dawn Hinz took 4th in her age group with a time of 2:52:10, a 6 min PR for her from a year ago.  Belinda Vinton took 3rd in her age group with a time of 3:00:10.  Bob Shultz competed in the Aquabike Olympic race placing 7th overall with a time of 1:59:47.

 

In the Sprint distance, Andrew Fathman, JoAnn Cranson, Paul Raynes, Jacob Florey, and Danielle Nye brought on strong performances.  Andrew Fathman finished 11th overall and 2nd in his age group with a blazing fast time of 1:05:57.  JoAnn Cranson, competing in her first triathlon, had a strong race.  She was last coming out of the water in her age group, but recorded the fasted bike and run splits for a 5th place age group finish.  Paul Raynes took 3rd in his age group with a time of 1:23:46.  Jacob Florey, our youngest competitor from the youth team, took 3rd in his age group with a time of 1:30:18.  Danielle Nye repeated as the overall Sprint Aquabike winner with a time of 58:21.


Getting to Know Junior Triathlete Jacob Florey

July 2nd, 2018 by Bobby Munro

 

I’m going to start where it all started. It started when I was nine. That was when my Mom did her first triathlon. She introduced me to the sport.

I do triathlons because of all the great people. The racers and all of the volunteers. One other thing I really like is the exercise.

I don’t really have a favorite part. But if I had to choose I would pick the bike because I can breathe without dying at the same time.

Outside of triathlons I run for my school. I also swim on our swim team. I was ten years old when I did my first triathlon. I specifically remember one huge hill but the good part is that I got to go back down it.

My goals are to do an Olympic triathlon in a few years. I also want to pace myself more in the water. I am used to short fast swims.


Ego and the Team

June 13th, 2018 by Bobby Munro

Every cyclist that races has some ego attached to what they do. Whether they are racing for a win or racing for their own best effort, the ego is ever-present and hard to ignore.

But, when you race for a team, the ego has to take a back seat (or a back wheel) to the team. When you are competing on a team in a road race or criterium, it has to be about the team’s podium – whether that is yours or your teammate’s.

This past weekend, my teammate, Elaine and I, raced the BTR criterium (in the pouring rain) on Saturday and Race for the Wishes road race on Sunday. There are only 2 of us, and we both are best in time trial mode… meaning, we have our best results when we can get away from the pack. In racing, we call this a “break,” when a rider or group of riders has broken away from the pack to win the race. With this in mind, our mutual goal was to get one of us in a break.

If one makes a break, it is the other teammate’s job to slow the peloton’s chase by not participating in any efforts to reel the break back into the peloton, and chasing down any other break, sitting second wheel, and again no participating in the pull efforts.

Toward the end of the race on Saturday, at BTR criterium, I chased a rider who went for a prime (a prize for crossing the line first on a bell lap) and got away. The person I chased couldn’t hold on, so I rode solo 4-5 miles, building distance between myself and the rest of the riders. Because I had a teammate in the peloton, I knew that one of the strongest riders behind me, Elaine, would not be pulling to reel me back in.


She let the others try to chase me down without lending a hand. And, I can tell you- this is hard to do. When you know your lack of contribution to the chase means likely giving up a podium spot – the ego has to be set aside. But, this is what being on a team is all about.
Sunday, I had the opportunity to do the same thing for Elaine. 

 

She chased a break that stuck and worked with the two other women to build a comfortable lead going into the last lap of a 17 mile course (3 total laps for the race). Meanwhile, I was sitting in the peloton, frustrating the other riders by refusing to assist in chasing the break. I set my ego aside and took joy in knowing that Elaine would take well-earned podium spot.

The end result? I was able to maintain my break for a win at BTR. Elaine hammered home a 2nd place finish at the State Championship road race. But, really, we both stood on the podium at both races because we accomplished these things together.


Tour of the Gila: Part 2: Bobby’s Journey

June 11th, 2018 by Bobby Munro

We’re on about hour 10 of the 26 hour drive to New Mexico. Teammate Bobby (Robert) Munro (who happens to be my significant other as well) and I are crammed into a Kia Soul with our bikes, camping equipment and luggage.

I can’t believe we’re actually going to the Tour of the Gila!” I exclaim: “I’m going to blog about this, so don’t steal my blog.”

“Well, actually I was thinking about that.” Bobby says with a smile while he looks ahead at the road. “We can write about each other’s races! I’ll give you the highlights of my race, and you can do the same for me. We’re riding on the same course so we can just write about each other’s’ experiences.”

Hence, this blog. You’ve already read Bobby’s recap, you know that Tour of the Gila is a UCI professional stage race held in Silver City, New Mexico. Silver City rests at 6,000 ft of elevation, and every stage of the road race crosses the continental divide, often climbing above 8,000 ft. Rob Britton, 2x Tour of the Gila champion and professional cyclist for Rally, has been quoted to say that the combination of climbing and elevation makes this race the hardest of the North American stage races leading into Tour of California. The professionals tend to use this race as a tune-up event for Tour of California, but this is one of the few stage races that features an amateur field. As such, the amateurs show up fit and ready to go.

Now for an introduction to Bobby:

  • Height: 6’4”
  • Weight: 82 kg
  • Strengths: Strong in breakaways, respectable sprint, expert donut eater
  • Weaknesses: Climbs with a gradient > 4%

With those intros out of the way, we can jump into the race.

Day 1: Race to Mogollon (Pronounced Moe-ghee-on): This is a 75 mile point-to-point that is essentially a net downhill until the base of Mogollon, which is an iconic climb to a mountain top finish. Bobby knew he wouldn’t be competitive at the finish against the field of young up-and-coming juniors smashing their way through the cat 3 field on their way to a pro contract. His goal was to crush the intermediate sprints. He was able to snag a 2nd in the first intermediate sprint, but soon after a break was established and as their gap grew, they were able to easily sweep the rest of the sprints. Bobby\stayed with the main pack until the base of the climb, then rode it in to the finish. Mountains aren’t kind to the big boys.

Day 2: Inner Loop Road Race. The juniors of Lux and Team Swift started flexing their quads early in the day. The pack was blown to shreds and groups of 2 and 3 battled their way through the crosswinds and up the final climb. Bobby needed to work with others and give it some real effort to make the time cut, which were strictly enforced in the men’s 3 field. He succeeded and rode in just in time. He would get to fight another day.

Day 3: Tyrone TT. For one, neither of us own TT bikes. For two, a windy day in New Mexico is sustained winds of 25 mph with 40 mph gusts. Not ideal when you have a crosswind for the entire TT. Knowing he was under-equipped for the TT and is a strong criterium rider, Bobby chose to conserve his energy for the next day.

Day 4: Criterium. We quickly learned that we in the Midwest are much more experienced with criteriums than our Western amateur colleagues. Bobby raced a smart crit but unfortunately was second wheel to an inexperienced rider who grabbed his brakes coming into the last turn. Bobby was able to get around him and sprint to 5th, but the split second of slowing and loss of momentum allowed a line of racers to come around the inside.  This unfortunately cost Bobby a podium position.

Day 5: Gila Monster. Gila Monster boasts a 10 mile climb to the finish. The pack stuck together for 60 miles to the base of the climb. Then it was go time. Bobby spun his way up the mountain with time to walk around and recover before watching the women’s finish.

I asked Bobby at the end of the week what he took away from this race. “It’s important as a cyclist to experience different things – things that take you out of your comfort zone to improve yourself” was his response. He certainly stepped outside his comfort zone last week. As a flat-lander from Michigan, elevation is a crushing experience, and as someone who isn’t a strong climber, this race was just about the hardest thing to attempt. Bobby fought through it and came away stronger and smarter. He’s looking forward to a summer of racing in the flat, fast criteriums we specialize in here in the Midwest!


Tour of the Gila: Elaine’s journey to the podium

May 30th, 2018 by Bobby Munro

Tour of the Gila is a professional stage race in New Mexico that is the highlight of many pro calendars. The best teams from around the country send their riders for glory up high mountain passes. This stage race debuts the best roads around Silver City with Iconic climbs like the road to Pinos Altos and to the Ghost town of Mogollon. What separates this race from many other pro stage races here in America (like Tour of California, Tour of Utah, and Redlands) is that it is open to amateurs. That’s where Elaine comes in. She competed in the Women’s 3/4/5 field.

Stage 1: Inner loop road race. 61 miles. 4,400 ft of climbing
Stage 1 started at Pinos Altos (elv 7,000ft!). The skies were clear but the temps in the mid 30’s. Elaine dressed lighter knowing that it would warm up fast. She stocked up on gels and Infinite drink mix to endure what would be her longest road race ever. She also got a look at the competition. It can be hard to judge your competition by what they look like. However, one thing was clear, she was outnumbered. El Groupo youth cycling sent 3 riders and ALP cycles (as in Alison Powers) sent a whopping 7 riders! The hills can make numbers count for nothing, but this was not reassuring.

Elaine finally relaxed after months of anticipation as the field rolled down the mountain and into battle. Unfortunately for some, the race got off to a bumpy start. There was a crash on the tricky descent 15 miles in and the field neutralized (the right thing to do). All riders were ok but a couple riders opted to slow roll the rest of the stage knowing that there was plenty of action to come in the days to follow. The remainder of the field stayed slow on the ensuing miles of rollers. No one was willing to burn themselves up with a significant climb near the end of the stage.

With 25mi to go, the Cat 3 climb finally broke up the field and 4 riders pulled away (Cory, Tamatha, Brook, and Elaine). The group stayed together and descended towards the finish for a bunch sprint. With 200m to go Cory kicked and the group followed. She was able to make it count and took the red jersey. Elaine claimed 2nd and kept her hopes alive of a strong finish in the overall.

Stage 2. Time Trial. 16 miles

Elaine went into the time trial with confidence. She knew she could lean on her strong triathlon background to bring her to the finish line. But this race presented a new challenge, CROSSWINDS! New Mexico crosswinds are not like Michigan crosswinds. The land of Enchantment brought 20mph sustained winds and 30+mph gusts! Luckily everyone stayed on their bikes, but there were quite a few pucker moments.

Unfortunately Elaine lost time on her competitors on the downhills. A compact chainset was not enough to keep her from spinning out and loosing time on the 3-4% descents. She slid to 4th, over 4 minutes behind Tamatha who stormed the TT.

Stage 3. THE CRIT

Elaine wanted to race aggressively given how prominent criteriums are back in the mitten but the voice of reason prevailed. There was little to gain and so much to lose. ALP constantly sent riders up the road as any strong squad should. Elaine stayed tucked near the front and followed the red jersey as it was primarily her responsibility to chase. With a lap to go, Cory accelerated off the front to take her 2nd win of the race! She took 10 bonus seconds at the line but the overall did not change. Elaine sat in for 6th.

Stage 4. The inner loop road race (counterclockwise this time). 68miles 5,800 ft climbing

While the roads are beautiful in New Mexico, they are not plentiful. There are only really 4 roads out of Silver City, and it just so happens that 2 of them reconnect. Hence, you get stage 1 backwards. This results in a massive climb at the end of 70miles that never disappoints.

When the group hit the rollers a large break of 6 formed which contained 3 ALP riders. The leaders all sat back and conserved their legs. This also meant that Cory (team ALP) got a free ride to the base of the climb. With 15 miles to go the leaders hit the hill and immediately lit it up. Elaine knew that she needed to start early if she wanted a chance to move up in GC. The Red Jersey couldn’t follow and would ultimately loose a spot on the podium.
The 3 remaining GC riders chipped away at the break which had a 6min lead at the base of the undulating climb. With 500m to go, Elaine made one last ditch effort to grab the stage win catch the last escapee but it was not to be. A junior rider from El Groupo stayed the course and took a monumental victory. Cory passed Elaine at the line, which left Elaine with her second stage podium!

Elaine learned a lot this week and held her own against a talented field of racers. Now its back to the flatlands for criterium season in Michigan.


Stepping out of my comfort zone… the Lexus Velodrome

April 22nd, 2018 by Bobby Munro

In January 2018, the Lexus Velodrome opened its doors right in downtown Detroit. This is great news for the Michigan cycling scene. At a time where USAC memberships are declining, road race and criterium participation continues to decrease, and cyclists are gravitating towards gravel road events, where there are in slightly less danger from vehicular traffic, the future of amateur bicycle racing is unknown. Participation by women is especially low, leaving advocates searching for ways to entice more women to ride competitively.

Personally, I’m a roadie. I’ve never had any interest in track cycling. At 5’1” and under 110 lbs, I fly up hills, but lack the raw power that track cyclists are known for. I’m also a little bit afraid of going fast, as anyone who has waited for me at the bottom of a mountain (while I ride the brakes all the way down) knows. If you have spent any time on youtube watching the “track cycling fails” videos,  walking into the center of the velodrome and staring up at the 50 degree banked turns that rise up like a wooden wall before you, will make you shake a little bit. But, I’m a firm believer in stepping outside your comfort zone and doing things that scare you. So in March, I signed up for a Track 101 course on a Saturday morning.

The velodrome provides fixed gear bicycle rentals for only $10, and has multiple bicycles in every size. The bicycles were in excellent condition. They are fitted with Shimano clip-less pedals, but if you don’t have compatible cleats, the velodrome provides shoes as well for no additional cost. The morning started with about 20 participants sitting in the infield while Dale Hughes, the velodrome designer, gave initial instructions on the track itself and riding a fixed gear. As he talked, I looked around. There was only one other female participant besides myself. The majority of the male participants were over the age of 40. Welcome to cycling.

Soon, we were up on the track! I was petrified going into the first turn, convinced I was going to slide down the track and end up with a side full of splinters. When I finally realized that I’m not special and I was going to keep my tires down on the track just like everyone else, I relaxed and began to actually enjoy the speed I could maintain. All in all, we each got to be up on the track at least three times for 5-10 minutes during the 2 hour class. There were three sit-down instructional segments, and then 1 solo attempt on the track and 2 group exercises. Afterwards, there was open track so teammate, Bobby Munro, and I were able to work on additional skills.

Overall, it was an excellent experience. Dale did a great job with instructing, and the bikes and shoes were of good quality and excellent condition. I’m not planning on switching to track cycling any time soon, but I would highly recommend that other cyclists give this a try if given a chance! It’s definitely a “bucket list” experience!
My tips: don’t worry if you’ve never ridden a fixed gear bicycle. As long as you are comfortable riding with clipless pedals, you will be fine. Make sure you bring CLEAR glasses. The air can dry out your eyes when you are traveling at high speeds, but you will be indoors so sunglasses are not ideal. It’s also a little chilly in the velodrome so bring a jacket to wear while sitting around the infield.


The “Professional” Athlete

April 13th, 2018 by Bobby Munro

One definition offered by the Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word professional as “characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession”. Further, it defines a profession as “a principal calling, vocation, or employment”, another way of saying a profession is a job. Seriousness of conduct is at a higher level then what one would approach with a hobby. Though we don’t race for a living, everyone on a team benefits from professionalism. Here are a few ways to be “professional” and how it positively impacts yourself and the team?

 

 

Sharp Dressed (Wo)man

Nothing says “conforming to the technical” like a group that looks the same. More than matching jerseys and bibs, a truly professional look includes socks, helmets, accessory equipment (glasses, gloves, shoe covers, bikes, etc.) and even cool weather wear. It’s imperative riders maintain a clean bike and kit. Team Athletic Mentors’ management puts a lot of attention and effort towards projecting a brand and we all have a role in that.

Take Pride in Your Team

A professionally run team establishes a vision and follows it. TAM has looked to develop riders. Some have gone on to higher ranks, like the ProTour, and even become nationa

l champions. As a member of the team, you are part of that legacy. When other riders see you, they see a team with high standards and a history of success. You have been chosen to continue an image, so take pride. This pride is not just racing or riding in your kit, but wearing the team casual wear during cycling and promotional events.

Team Mates and Sponsors First

Being professional means holding up your end of a bargain. Part of this is supporting the sponsors that provide resources to the team. Take every opportunity to promote sponsors’ products, keeping negative assessments within the team. Following through on your contractual agreements maintains the team’s ability to keep and hold sponsors. Think of your actions as reflecting those on your jersey and in your jersey.

Be an Ambassador

True professionals take responsibility to foster their livelihood. At our level, that means promoting the sport we love. Be approachable by strangers. Look to help more novice racers. Get in front of the camera. Most of us aren’t genetic freaks destine for greatness in cycling, but, rather, people passionate about a sport. Project that passion by supporting it any positive way so people see it means something to someone. People appreciate passion.

Make a Good First Impression

A professional conducts themselves at a high character level consistently. Sharp looking, organized teams get noticed, which makes the need to act your best even more important. Maintain an even keel during the heat of racing. Communicate with others through social media, in person, or other means, as if the spotlight was always on. This includes when giving our opinion with race officials and promoters. Don’t forget having your attire leave no doubt who you race for while on the podium.

Add Value to Your Team

A well run team has a lot of moving pieces. Those pieces working in concert are what make an organization better than the sum of its parts. Try to look for ways to help, even if it’s just to offer your assistance. Most athletes have an expertise in some area(s), even if it’s just time, that can benefit everyone. Few good things happen by chance, but through effort by someone that cared.

Support Your Team Mates

One quality of a good team is people want to be a part of it. This usually isn’t the clothes they get, bikes they ride or deals offered. It comes down to feeling part of something where they are supported. Giving assistance, passing on knowledge, watching a fellow team mate and cheering them on are part of this support. It’s always best to feel we can share our triumphs and tragedies.

It’s a privilege to be on any well run team, but especially ours. Show that appreciation by projecting a professional image and sportsmanship. Represent yourself, your team, and the sport of cycling well.


50-Mile Ultramarathon: Race Day Tips

April 7th, 2018 by Bobby Munro

Feeling Anxious and Nervous

You have trained for your first 50-mile ultramarathon. You have been visualizing your run and you’ve trimmed up the toenails. But you might be a bit anxious and nervous. Doubt is creeping into your psyche. You even had a nightmare that you missed the start of the race. This is perfectly normal. To ease your anxieties, calm your nerves, diminish any doubt, and get you pumped, consider the following tips and what to expect.

What to Pack

Well before the night before you travel to the race site, make a list of everything you need to bring. Check the course for “drop bag”  locations and know where the water stations will be. Put what you will wear on race day in a clear plastic Ziplock. Pack two or three pairs of running shoes and at least three pairs of socks in case the race becomes wet and muddy. Pack a rain jacket, especially if the forecast calls for rain. Arm warmers that go on and off without a wardrobe change, are a lifesaver if you start in the cool morning or run through the night. Pack a hydration bottle/belt/backpack, and a cap to protect you from the rain and the sun. You pack a second set of clothes. Some like to change sweaty running clothes after the first 25 miles.

Pack a small transparent storage container to help you or your crew easily locate the following essentials: body glide, zinc oxide, toenail clippers, tweezers, scissors, ibuprofen, Neosporin, Tiger Balm, bandages, athletic tape, athletic bandages, wipes, tissues, sunscreen, headlamp, flashlight, extra batteries, sunglasses, bug spray, lip balm, Benadryl, vitamins, and duct tape.

If the course is tricky or if you are nervous about zoning out and missing that flag on a turn, also tuck in a copy of the course and aid stations. Put it in a ziplock to keep it dry. Although the aid stations are usually stocked, pack a big cooler with water, your sport drink of choice, coconut water, fruit, and food that you want your crew to feed you throughout the 8 – 13 hour race day. One time I cut up a giant burrito for my crew to dangle in front of me each lap. Turns out it was not that appetizing and the on course broth and grilled cheese had super powers. Just eat what you can stomach. Don’t force anything unless its fluids. You won’t make it far without those.

 

What to Expect The Night Before The Race

  1. What to Eat – Some races offer a pasta dinner the night before for a fee. Eat what you are accustomed to eating and what works for you. You don’t need pasta! I like a giant salad with a good protein, just as I do at home.
  2. Lay Out Your Running Clothes – Shorts, running tights, top/tank, sport bra, arm warmers, socks, running shoes, jacket, rain gear, etc. If I am camping, I sleep with them on!
  3. Set Your Alarm – Set 3 alarms! Everyone staying with you should set his/her cell phone alarm.
  4. You Might Not Sleep – I can never sleep the night before an ultra. I toss and turn. I worry the alarm won’t go off and that I will oversleep. You will be ok not having a good night sleep that night prior. It is the days and weeks leading up to it where rest and sleep are crucial.

What to Expect The Morning of The Race

  1. Prepare Your Body – Smear generous amounts of body glide or sport wax around your toes, feet, nipples (guys), below your sport bra (gals), and throughout parts of your body that will chafe.
  2. Dress – Strap on your running watch or other gadget. Dress appropriately for race day weather. Again, arm warmers! If you’re running on a cold day, dress in layers. I like old socks for my hands so I can throw them away when it warms up.
  3. Consume Calories – Eat a breakfast that you know you can stomach. It might not taste good, but eat a little something. Amino Acids prior to race start is a good practice if this is something that is not new.
  4. Butterflies and Diarrhea – It’s an exciting day and you’re a tad nervous. Experiencing butterflies and diarrhea is not uncommon at the start of any race. If you can’t go to the bathroom, a little warm salt water can help, but a little nervousness usually does the trick.
  5. Pack Your Car – Don’t forget your bib number, timing chip, extra running gear, cooler, and the container with the essentials.

During The Run

  1. Start Slow – An ultra is an endurance run, not a sprint! You can’t win a 50 mile race in the first mile, but you sure can lose it!  Plan on giving yourself walk breaks! If your goal is to finish, walk early in the race and you will feel much better that last 10!
  2. Bask in Nature’s Beauty – Enjoy the sunrise, the sunset, and the bright rainbow that adorns the sky after a rainfall. Enjoy that you CAN do this… not everyone has the ability.
  3. Hydrate – Always fill your bottle at the aid stations. If you arrive with a full bottle that is a red flag that you aren’t sipping enough. Eating small amounts frequently is usually easier than a small meal. Take small bites and keep moving your feet. Be mindful to drink or consume some electrolytes and not just water.
  4. Take Care of Your Feet– If your feet get wet, it is wise to change socks or even shoes. If the blister feels small, take care of it early to avoid a major problem later on. Unless it is hurting, avoid popping a blister. The fluid in the blister is healing. I prefer to put a good amount of neosporin over the blister and cover with athletic or duct tape. I like duct because that is not coming off!
  5. You Might Bite It– If you trip over a tree root, a rock, or slip on a switchback or in a creek, dust yourself off and carry on! You will likely fall later in the race when you are fatigued and fantasizing about an ice cold beer.
  6. Carry Wipes – Depending on the course, there will be moments when the woods are the only place to go. Don’t litter and be mindful of poison ivy. And check out Tom’s wipes if you’re a little chapped!
  7. Thank The Aid Station Volunteers, Race Directors, and Your Crew – They are on their feet longer than you are!

You Are A Rare Breed May you run many more!



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