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My Kona Journey: Part 5

November 13th, 2017 by Athletic Mentors

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 Athletic Mentors

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.


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 Athletic Mentors

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 Athletic Mentors

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.


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.

What to expect when you’re expecting…Lumberjack100

June 7th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Collin Snyder, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist

On paper, Lumberjack is one of the “easier” NUE races. With no major climbs and just 3 laps of 33 miles of fun single track, it can look like a cake walk, but it’s not. Lumberjack is hard. Really hard. With 90 miles or so of single track, you never get a break. With the race just around the corner, here are some hopefully helpful tips to make Michigan’s most famous 100miler just a little bit easier.

In addition to preparing with hours and hours of training, make sure your bike is just as ready. Make sure your chain/cassette/chain ring are in great condition, tires are perfect with new sealant, and brakes have new pads. If there is something that you’ve been holding off fixing, it will break out there.  Most importantly of all, don’t wait until the last minute. You’ll rub your local bike shop the wrong way if you show up Friday morning asking for a shock rebuild and a replacement Chris King freehub body.

Tent Area:

Lumberjack 100 is somewhat unique in terms of NUE races because instead of one giant lap, you do three. This presents some pluses and minuses. The down side is, like the Siren’s Song in The Odyssey, the thought of passing the starting area fully stocked with cold beer, camping chairs and team tents can draw you in for a DNF. The first pass is rather easy, the second pass takes some willpower.

LJ tents

The up side of passing this area multiple times in the race is it provides an opportunity to fuel up, re-stock on supplies, lube your chain and chamois (preferably with different products), and fix anything that broke on the previous lap.  It is good practice to bring a bag with an extra kit, rain gear, some tools, first aid, spare tire, a few CO2’s and tubes. Hopefully you’ll never touch it, but it’s there in case you slash a tire after an epic downpour it will be there. If you have a cooler, stock it with lots of ice and bottles for each lap. I prefer to ride with a new set of dry gloves each lap as 8 hours of sweat will make for some beat up hands.

Fuel Up:

When you see someone else eating, eat. In 100 miles, you can easily burn 10,000 calories, and it’s almost impossible to stay in the positive. Same thing can be said for hydration. If you want to make it to the third lap without feeling like this “stupid race” will never end, you need to do your best to start water and fuel intake early and often. Once you go past this point, it’s hard to come back.

And don’t try anything fancy/new. Race day is no time to experiment on fuel. If you normally only eat granola bars and gels for races, trying to mimic your buddy’s “highly successful” McDonald’s McDoubles and “carb-rich” Budlight only plan may not be the wisest (although if it works for him, whom am I to judge). Have food that is light on the stomach that packs more than just simple carbs. Gels are great for a pick me up, but your stomach will start rejecting them when the miles add up. Real food like sandwiches are the better long term choice.

Get In and Out:

The first NUE race I did, I looked at my moving time vs finish time, and it was over an hour difference. This time was spent recovering, eating, and relaxing. That is a lot of time that could have been spent spinning at 4mph, adding to the overall goal of finishing 100 miles. When you watch the top guys go, they are in and out in under a minute. While this may be a bit extreme for someone just looking to finish, anything more than 5 minutes makes getting up and rolling harder and harder.

Take your time: Lumberjack is won over 7 hours, not the first 7 minutes. If you find yourself  going Iceman Pace with your heart rate pegged, back off. My best NUE race ever, I just rode like it was a Sunday stroll until a 2/3rds into the race, followed by passing every single speeder but one in the final 30 miles. Being a jerk 4 miles in because the guy in front of you made you put a foot down is not going to make a world a difference in your race, and chances are you’ll ride with him the rest of the race anyways which makes for an awkward 8 hours.

It’s Hard:

I’ve done around 15 NUE races and never once have I crossed the finish line and said that was easy. One of the top NUE Pro’s was quoted as saying there’s never an NUE race that he hasn’t wanted to quit at least once during the 100 miles. Know that everyone you’re riding with is probably feeling the same way. Just keep spinning (and eating and drinking) and soon enough you’ll get a coveted Lumberjack Finisher’s Patch.

LJ patch

What Being a “Fat Adapted” Athlete Really Means

April 25th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Erin Young

Of course we all want to burn that fat to be lean, but there are dozens of reasons that being a better butter burner will make you a better athlete. Ever have GI distress (bloating, vomiting, bonking, etc. ) three fourths through your marathon? Are you filling your pockets with gels and bars to  go ride for a couple of hours?

gu runner

Contrary to what most of us have learned, these pouches of sugar, called “Gu” or “gels”, are not necessary or even healthy for athletes.

“Efficiency” is usually thought of as doing something well with little amount of effort. In endurance sports nutrition, this boils down to being able to burn more fat and less carbohydrate for energy. Why would we want to do this? Because at any given time, most trained athletes are carrying about 1,500 – 2,000 calories of carbohydrates and 80,000-plus calories of fat. Yep, even speedy little Meb has that much fat in storage. The trick is teaching the body to love to run on fat and use it at higher intensities. This is done through metabolic efficiency training to build a stockpile of fat-burning enzymes- the “machinery” to make it work. Voilà – the ultrarunner, cyclist or triathlete, becomes much less dependent on consuming mass amounts of carbohydrates during the race and has reduced risk of GI distress.

Just how do you ignite this fat fire?

The single most important contributor to improve your ability to use fat as fuel is diet. A diet low in refined foods, specifically carbohydrates, moderate in protein and fiber as well as higher in fat is key to priming metabolic efficiency . Yep, fats! Not the artificial, industrially produced partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, like corn, safflower, sunflower, or canola. Not crisco or margarine. Those are examples of the “bad” when we speak of bad fats. You can safely enjoy the real fats. Fats, included in meats, avocado, ghee (oh so good for cooking!), macadamia nuts, etc. Add these delicious fats and proteins into your diet and you will be satiated enough to stop thinking about your next meal. Stay away from “low fat” products and read your labels. Carbohydrate translates to sugar. Even those “healthy” organic dressings and snacks have the bad stuff. Take Newman’s Own balsamic dressing… healthy, right? Look closely at the label Vegetable oil (soybean and/or canola oil). Stick to the real oils, like olive and avocado. The food industry has learned to trick those who want to be healthy. But athletes, fats and protein are your friend. The real fats. Yes, even animal fats.

Give your gut a break. Lengthy fasts are not necessary, but giving your gut a break and laying off the mid meal snacks can tell your metabolism to use the fuel we all have plenty of… fat! If you’re hungry before mealtime,  choose a small nutrient dense snack that can get you to you the next meal. Some great small snacks that stop the growling are:

  • Boiled eggs
  • Macadamia nuts, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts
  • Celery with almond butter
  • Hard cheeses

Get enough sleep. Your body does a lot of work at rest. You aren’t digesting and the gut can rest. Getting sufficient sleep lets you stay in a fasted state where your body is using fat stores rather than carbohydrates from your last meal. Waking up without having to immediately get a meal is a good sign you are functioning on fat stores.

fat graphYou can also train your body to use fat stores through training! Before we get fast, we have to lay the groundwork. Being a metabolically efficient athlete means we have the foundation of which speed is built upon. To find out where you are as a fat burner you will need the help of my friends at Athletic Mentors to perform a metabolic efficiency assessment. You can do this as a runner or cyclist, whichever area you want to become more efficient in. By doing this assessment you will learn what are the most fuel efficient heart rate zone for you. Athletic Mentors can teach you how to build your foundation and reach your full potential. They are currently offering group classes to teach you how to use your own data. They will teach you how to fuel and train for metabolic efficiency. The next Metabolic Efficiency Class will be held May 11th, at 6pm.

100 miler

Zach Bitter, world record holder as the fastest 100 miler on a track, is known for his fat fueled success.

You are meant to burn fats. The average American diet has allowed us to become dependent on carbohydrates to get us through the day, our workouts and races. Take a day to learn about your metabolism, and what you can do to stay healthy and burn the fuel that your body was meant to use. Metabolic efficiency training can help you stabilize your blood sugars, give you steady energy, lose body fat and allow you to run faster at a lower heart rate. All great results, so think about incorporating ME training into your base training. All you really need to start your ME training once you get the test, is your running shoes, a heart rate monitor and your body fat.

If you have questions, or want to schedule a test check out the website at www.athleticmentors.com or contact erin@athleticmentors.com with any questions about metabolic efficiency testing.



Pressing the Reset Button

March 3rd, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team Athletic Mentors Cyclist

An off-season has been a foreign concept for me for the past several years. The rollerskis (or real skis) would come out just after Iceman and ski race season would be in full force as soon after. And by the time the last xc ski race was over in March, it was already cycling season. I’m still not sure how I managed to avoid getting totally burnt out pulling this off several consecutive years, but I am very thankful for my string of healthy seasons. But with the move to Ann Arbor and school demands, I can manage being a cyclist but not a skier. And after a fall of balancing the first semester of medical school with mountain bike racing and then the Zwift Academy competition, I was pretty toasted and ready for a break.

I took some time totally off the bike and got in some skiing in December before the big January thaw. I didn’t do anything structured or hard, nor did I want to.  I did have a few things I wanted to accomplish off the bike. My first goal was to put myself back together so I could do real runs. I injured my IT band at the GR Tri in 2015 and haven’t been able to tolerate much running since. It didn’t bother me on the bike so I admittedly put it on the backburner and just didn’t run. It didn’t get worse but also didn’t get better. Some concentrated rehab on my hip flexor flexibility and abductor strength the past few months has been very successful and I’ve been able to build up to 6-8 miles every other day.

It feels great to be running again and pretty nostalgic since I’m back in Ann Arbor.  I’ve been running variations on the same well-traveled routes from my collegiate running career, albeit not quite as

Flashbacks of my previous life

Flashbacks of my previous life

fast or not quite as long. It has definitely helped to fill the void of not being able to ski or ride outside much.

I’ve also spent more committed time in the weight room since strength is definitely my weakness. I am slow twitch through and through. I’ve historically not been a fan of lifting because I haven’t seen it translate to improvements but I also haven’t previously committed enough to see results. This time is more enjoyable and it helps that I have a readily accessible gym and it has helped me get back running already. I think strength training can be a hard thing for a lot of cyclists and multisport athletes to commit to, but it really does translate to being more injury resistant and keeping control and form on the bike.

The remainder of my training time is spent on Zwift. I actually don’t mind the trainer and my cold tolerance for riding outside is pretty wimpy.  The trainer also has the added benefit of allowing me to listen to lectures and material while I ride.

I definitely miss cross country ski racing and the ski community but it has been nice to have some time to not have to be on top of my game all the time.  Sometimes a reset button is necessary and even enjoyable. And by the time spring rolls around, I’m going to be itching to race!

Making It Work

January 20th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Alex Vanias, Nordic Skier and Cyclist

I moved to Ann Arbor around the beginning of August. It isn’t the most optimal place to be a cross country skier, but I’m making it work. It took me about a month to find some convenient roads and trails to roller ski, but unfortunately after the time change in the fall I would get kicked out of said parks at sunset. Apparently downstaters are scared of the dark… Ok, I’ll go play with the cars. So much safer! It took me a few more weeks in November to find new roads with minimal traffic. I ended up finding some great suburbs with minimal traffic and nice pavement. The only annoying part about suburbs is that between 5-8pm after work, everywhere I go smells like dinner and it absolutely kills me when I’m starving a couple hours into a workout.

A quick side story; When I was searching for roller ski training spots, I came across the short track speed skating club in Ann Arbor and absolutely needed to try it out! I actually competed in a short speed skatingtrack race in Midland before ski season. In the image below, I’m the guy in fluorescent green. I’m actually very bad at short track. It is very much a technique sport, and my VO2 helped me very minimally. It may or may not have made my skate skiing more efficient, though!

I knew ski training would be a struggle, so in October I was lucky to find a used Ski Erg. This device has transformed my training and is currently saving my season. It allows me to work my weakness even when the trails are bare, and the roads are icy. It also allows me to train with power. I have done a couple 20min power tests so far with lots of improvement. The picture below is worth a thousand words.

ski erg

In December we got dumped on with snow and all the local trails were groomed and amazing. The Michigan Cup racing kicked off and I won a couple of the season openers. It was great to get that early season lung burn over with! That great snow only lasted 2-3 weeks before a series of unfortunate warmups.

Where did all the snow go?

Where did all the snow go?

speed max

Classic boot with full carbon sole offers superb control of the skis while remaining lightweight!

I was on the fence about going up to SISU Ski Fest the first weekend in January, but not having been on great snow in a couple weeks lead me to sign up for the race a few days before it started. The forecast for the race was a frigid -5F to 0F. It’s tough to go from 50F training all the way down to that, but I have awesome cold skis so I couldn’t turn it down. The drive to Ironwood is about 10hrs in one directions, and of course there were blizzards to drive through. On the way up I stopped my Northbound Outfitters for some wax and Fischer’s new Speedmax Classic boots (These boots are really worth the upgrade!).

The weather for SISU was looking straight forward all week- frigid cold. I planned on using my coldest, softest ski with TB1x grind no matter what. My TG1-1 grind on a stiff ski just happened to be testing the same as my TB1x at the start area. I knew using the TG1-1 was a liability, especially since it was starting to snow, but 10min before the race start I grabbed the risky ski hoping that the snow was packed and the snow would stop. The forecast didn’t call for snow until the afternoon so it was worth a shot.

ski testing

ski testing at -5F

All was going fantastic and I was calm and relaxed following in the draft while I watched Matt Liebsch start opening a gap. I thought “no problem, I’ll let him do some work and then bridge up to him.” I finally got around and opened up a gap on the hills. I felt great- possibly better than last year. Then the snow started getting deep, up to 2-3” in spots. My skis suddenly felt terrible. I know everybody’s skis slowed waaay down, and I’m sure others made a mistake picking skis as well, it’s just that some skis are less slow than others in this situation.  Turns out the skis I planned on using all week would have been the way to go. Lesson learned.

Matt got out of sight, and Joel bridged up and eventually dropped me. I couldn’t drink because my face was frozen. I was on the struggle bus, big time! I was actually doing V1 technique on the flats. V1 is a  technique usually reserved for going uphill but that’s how slow the conditions became. In the last few kilometers I saw Cory coming up behind me. At this point the wind and snow was so bad I couldn’t see the trail in front of me. My eyeballs were so cold and I would try to ski short distances with my eyes closed to warm them up. My left eyelid wasn’t even closing all the way! In the end, I held off Cory for 3rd place. It was a good, tough race. That’s what I drove 20hrs for. There is so much to learn with ski racing which is why you don’t see many young guys at the top of races. Experience and equipment tends to trump everything in difficult snow conditions.


sisu ski

Limiting my losses at SISU

Unfortunately the weather is still not cooperating in Ann Arbor to do much on-snow skiing so I’ll have to continue my mix of using the Ski Erg, riding the trainer and running. Training for ski season this year has made me feel more like a fitness enthusiast than a skier!   I’m looking forward to getting some more racing in and my next big test is the Noquemanon Ski Marathon in Marquette the last weekend in January!





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