Team AM News
By: Joe Bianchini
My first experience on a longer bike ride of sorts was in 2014, after I had just graduated college. My girlfriend at the time and now wife, had just received a road bike for her birthday and was eager to try it out. We were staying at her parent’s cottage near Bellaire, MI and had spent a lot of time meticulously plotting out how far we were going to go, what speed we wanted to maintain, what clothes to wear and most importantly how long we could afford to stay at The Dockside, a local bar on Torch Lake. When I say afford, I mean both how many beers we could literally afford having just graduated college and how much time we could afford before it got too dark out for our 15-mile return trip. These were the important things at the time that I needed to know before embarking on a ride over 5 miles of flat roads yet alone the 30 miles of rolling hills that we were about to do.
We ended up making it back okay but with about 3 miles left, we had one last climb to the top of a hill before this venture would come to an end. It was a twisty turny climb that I always thought people were crazy for biking up as I rolled past them in my car countless times. Now here I was doing it with a greasy hamburger and several beers sloshing around in my stomach. The biggest challenge however was the fact that I was on a hand me down children’s sized mountain bike from the 1990’s that had “Destiny” emblazoned across the top tube. Prior to getting to the climb, Brooke had very generously offered to ride “Destiny” up the hill and let me ride her bike. Despite the bike being heavy, too small and this being one of the steepest hills around; I was not going to let this challenge defeat me. Eventually, and not in quick fashion I made it to the top, but more importantly I had made up my mind about getting a road bike.
I grew up playing a variety of sports including football, lacrosse, wrestling and rugby but I never had participated in sports that were more endurance related such as biking, track, cross country, etc. However, the last time I ever participated in any competitive sport was high school. Having that brief period where my mind switched over into that competitive mindset on that hill was so exhilarating and I was hooked. It was such a fulfilling experience to not think about anything else that was going on in my life and only focus on getting to the top of that hill. Although I am sure that I could climb that same hill much faster today, the fact of the matter is that my attitude was the same then as it is now: Get to the top as fast as I possibly can.
That following winter I bought my first road bike and started going to spinning classes in anticipation of the coming spring. Once spring hit, I started venturing out on various group rides during the week but eventually hooked up with a small group of people who had work and life schedules that provided more opportunity to ride at 5:30 AM rather than the afternoon. We dubbed ourselves the “Morning Cranks” and over time the group began to grow, and the rides began to become faster. This provided me with a group of friends to ride with consistently, compete on Strava segments with, give me confidence to sign up for my first race and overall really made me enjoy the sport. Every time I got on the bike, I was constantly trying to learn from the other people around me to make myself a better rider and having fun doing it. Eventually, I began to partake in cat 4/5 races with varying level of success but knew overall that this was something I wanted to keep getting better at. It wasn’t until earlier this summer when I began talking to Terry Ritter about taking my racing to the next level. At first, I was a little nervous for a magnitude of reasons but eventually became confident that joining Team Athletic Mentors was something I really wanted to do.
Since joining the team, everyone that I have met has been extremely helpful in a variety of ways. The thing that I look forward to most is being able to race among teammates and doing whatever I need to do to help us win some races. I have had a couple opportunities to do that in 2019 when racing the Summer Waterford Series, Cherry Roubaix, Uncle Johns Dirty Ride and The Lowell 50 and I can honestly say it has been way more fun and fulfilling than getting on the podium myself. Not only is the actual racing fun but all the conversation that is had leading up to the race and after the race is always something that I look forward to. I am very excited to be a part of this team and can’t wait to see how we perform during the 2020 race season.
Written by Dawn Hinz
Sadly it seems there are more car versus cyclist accidents. In 2006, 772 people were fatally injured in cycling accidents. Where as in 2016, that number was up to 840; including 5 local cyclists. (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)
We do everything we can as a cyclist to minimize the danger. We wear bright clothes, our bikes look like Christmas trees and most importantly, we follow the rules of the road. Unfortunately that doesn’t guarantee that we aren’t seriously injured. What should you do if tragedy strikes you or your group?
- Everyone should carry a cell phone on their body. I do not agree with keeping your phone in a bag on your bike. If you are thrown from your bike you may not be able to reach your phone.
- KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. You should know your route and where you are along that route. This way when you call 911, emergency personnel can find you as quickly as possible, when every minute counts. Go one step further and set up an activity tracker that relays your location to a reliable person who is not a part of the ride. This way they get a notification if you stop moving and can call for help.
- Know how many people are in your group. 911 will need to know how many patients need an ambulance. Then, go help your friends. You should know any help you render will be covered under Michigan’s Good Samaritan Act (MCL 691.1501). This law basically states that a volunteer trying to help someone cannot be held liable if those actions cause further injury; excepting gross negligence.
- Do not move someone unless the location causes further danger or harm. I.e. Perhaps you need to slide someone off the road if traffic is not slowing down or giving you space.
- Do not unnecessarily adjust the patient’s head. If you hear snoring, gurgling or no breaths then gently place the head in a “sniffing” position.
- If you see blood, control the bleeding with direct and continuous pressure. Put your hand or hands over the wound and keep pressure on the wound until help arrives. Every red blood cell counts.
- If it is cold or even slightly chilly outside keep the patient warm if possible. Hypothermia causes shivering which wastes precious ATP. Even slight hypothermia will worsen a trauma patient’s outcome. Give them your jacket or get blankets from bystanders.
With these actions you have given your friends a fighting chance in the Emergency Room. If you would like to take it one step further then it is time to find a First Aid and CPR class. Stay safe out there.
Written by Brian Reynolds
The 2018 USAT Age Group National Championship took place in Cleveland, Ohio this year. The olympic distance event was an “A” race for me. After an off-season of working hard on improving my swim and a summer filled with great training sessions, some fast new equipment, and improvements in every discipline, I was ready and excited to peak for my “A” race. I was excited to race because my summer training was going really well.
Here is how my day unfolded at Nationals on August 12th, 2018.
The drama before the swim was waiting to find out if the swim was going to be wetsuit legal. The day before the water temp was 78.5 deg F and the wetsuit cutoff is 78 deg F so it was going to be a close call race morning. On race morning the water temp was 75.8 so it was wetsuit legal! I was happy it was wetsuit legal because it would help neutralize the advantage to the strong swimmers. There were a fair amount of waves in Lake Erie, which made it a tough swim.
I started in the first wave, which was helpful because I knew who was ahead of me in my age group. In past events, I’ve started later and never had a good sense of where I was compared to my competition.
My plan for the swim was to get out strong and try to catch the draft behind the strong swimmers. However during the race it was very difficult to stay on anyone’s feet for more than a few seconds without getting pushed off course by the waves. I was working harder during this swim than any other swim this year. It didn’t help that the swim was around 200 to 300 yards long. Although it felt like I was giving up a lot of time to the leader, I was only 1:10 minutes down from the leader. This was the closest I’ve been to the leader coming out of the swim at Nationals. I was in 17th pace after the swim.
T1: Swim to bike
The swim to bike transition was long. It was roughly a 300 yard run from the lake-shore to transition. I had a smooth transition besides my helmet visor being super foggy.
When I got onto the bike my legs were feeling good and I was able to get up to power quickly. I passed 8 riders within the first 2 miles of the race. After passing the riders, I could see the flashing lights of the motorcycle pacing the two leaders. I used the motorcycle as my carrot to chase. I was quickly making up time on the leaders. By mile 5 I ca
ught up to the leaders. At this point I was excited because I’ve never been this close to the lead at a USAT nationals event.
I had to wait before passing the leaders because there was a sharp right hand turn. As I made the turn I noticed that the road surface was very rough. There were several tare strips going across the road which prevented me from taking a more aggressive line into the turn. Instead I took a wide sweeping turn to help keep my bike under control. Unfortunately I ran out of pavement and my front wheel hit the curb in the middle of the road. I landed on my right side and skidded across the pavement. I had cuts on my elbow, hip, and hand. I would also find out later that I had bruised my rib and had a big dent in my helmet. A race volunteer ran up to me asking for my name and what event I was in to make sure I didn’t get a concussion.
My day went from an ultra high feeling of being with the race leaders to an ultra low feeling of being on the ground bruised and banged up. At first the crash didn’t feel real because a month prior I had crashed my bike during the Tri Del Sol race. I couldn’t believe that I crashed again! As I laid on the ground I thought about dropping out and calling it quits. But after thinking about it for second I picked up my bike, re-positioned my dropped chain, fixed my helmet, and I got on my bike.
For the remainder of the ride I felt discomfort in my right shoulder area with every breath I took. I wasn’t able to ride at the same power prior to the crash, riding at 75% of my full capacity. Although frustrating, I knew that all I could do was give it my best effort. Even with the crash, I was still able to post my fastest bike split for a USAT Nationals event. My hard training had paid off.. I was in 8th place after the bike.
T2: Bike to run
My T2 transition was not as smooth as T1. Coming off the bike my shoe fell off the pedal so I had to go back and pick it up. As I ran through transition and picked up my run gear I was starting to notice more discomfort in my right shoulder.
When I started running, my form was off due to lack of mobility in my right shoulder due to pain. I was running 20-30 secs slower than my typical race pace and at this point I was in 8th place. It took about 2 miles until I was able to settle into a descent run rhythm. I wasn’t feeling too fatigued during the run since I wasn’t able to push myself to my full capacity. Thankfully I was able to run the 2nd half faster and picked up a few places to finish 6th in my age group. I was proud of myself for finishing the race let alone finishing in the top 10. However, I was still bummed about not having the performance that I was capable.
If there was a silver-lining I can takeaway from this race it’s that unexpected things can happen to disrupt your race. However, when the unexpected happens it’s your attitude that will dictate how much of an impact it will have on your race. A good attitude will go a long way especially, when you need to adjust your race plan and expectations. During this race I was saying to myself “it’ll be pretty cool if I could still finished in the top 10” and I did! I still had something to chase and keep me mentally engaged during the race. At my next race my goal is to keep the rubber side down and that will be a win in my books.
By Erin Young
I found myself relentlessly tired from weeks of epic running. I had flown out to Yosemite that spring break, to poke around and then over to Lake Sonoma only to be humbled by 50 miles of relentless “hills”. Two weeks later I ran (my face off!) at the Ice Age 50 miler in Wisconsin, gunning for top 10 in hopes of a ticket to the “big dance”. Just two weeks after that, my girlfriends and I took off for our dream adventure trip to the Grand Canyon for the 53 mile rim to rim to rim adventure to be covered in just one day. I played hard. I was living with no regrets, saying yes to everything. That all came to an abrupt end when I just couldn’t kick the fatigue. I was just SO tired. After weeks of rest and still whining, “I am SO tired”, my best work buddy slapped me with the ridiculous suggestion that I try a pregnancy test. I laughed in a way that now just seems so cocky. When she found me crying behind my desk, she knew she was right. And just for the record, those were tears of fear, not regret. Never regret. Fear because I knew that life as I knew it, was over. But life wasn’t over. This was great. I was going to have a little buddy to be part of all of these adventures! But running through a pregnancy isn’t easy. I found ways to make it tolerable, and even enjoyable. These are my suggestions for keeping it going and even making the actual birth far easier!
- Don’t stop running! As soon as you find out you are expecting, make your plan to keep it going. Once you are out of shape, getting back is far more difficult during pregnancy. Be reasonable and make your goal to maintain fitness rather than gain. There has never been a better time to focus on building your aerobic base.
- Remember that heart Rate will be elevated and you will breath heavier, even if you haven’t gained a pound yet. Blood volume doubles before the end of the 1st trimester, causing your heart to work harder
- Don’t worry about going above a certain heart rate. It is a myth. You can run hard and race as long as you feel up to it. You will cut off your own oxygen supply before you ever take away from the baby. Trust me, I had an OB researcher to back me up on that one and I raced all the way through pregnancy!
- Running in the heat is going to feel way more difficult. You will get hotter faster. I suggest early morning or treadmill runs in the air conditioning. Always carry ice cold water, or ground up ice with water. It will help you feel cooler.
- Invest in a “belly belt”. They will help you run longer into pregnancy and give your belly and lower back support. I also continued to use it for several months after I had my son. This is a must!! Belly Belt This is similar to the one I got, there are many choices on Amazon. Don’t bother with the cheap ones as there is little support.
- The Hoka’s sure are ugly, but they are the greatest pregnancy run shoe ever! Just look at all that cushion!
- Running dirt trails felt so good compared to the road. Plus it is usually shaded and not as many people around to witness your walk breaks!
- Have a running buddy! It helps so much to have a friend to motivate you. Some days were so difficult to roll out of bed. Having my friends waiting for me (sometimes in my driveway!) got me moving every morning before work. I was lucky enough to have a few who could tolerate my dropping pace. And when I was too slow, we ran on treadmills next to each other!
- Strength train! You don’t have to do box squats, but 2-3 times a week in the weight room will maintain your some of your strength and make recovery easier. Plus, you won’t feel so terrible with the added baby fat that you WILL have during pregnancy.
Run as much as you want as long as you are comfortable. You know you better than anyone. The day my back and pelvis started hurting I halted to a walk and my son came that evening. I have no regrets about running during pregnancy. It was difficult, but making it social made it enjoyable and helped me feel more like myself. I realized that I wasn’t giving up my identity, but it was enhanced.
Now, running after the baby comes is a whole other story! The good news is that pushing the baby jogger really IS easier than having one in your belly!
What’s the deal with “Cross”?
If you haven’t experienced cyclocross firsthand, you may be wondering why anyone would want to participate in such an event. If you aren’t familiar with cyclocross, imagine riding your bike as fast as you can, but throwing in every type of element that would make it more difficult to do so – grass, sand, mud, stairs, even barriers (think short hurdles). OK, this may sound a little crazy, but it’s also one of the fastest growing crazes in cycling.
So what is cyclocross (a.k.a. CX)?
Cyclocross was created Belgium as a fun way to keep cyclists riding in the winter months. Today’s cyclocross events are timed events, typically between 30-60 minutes that take place on relatively short (1-2 mile) circuits, most often in parks. The circuits typically contain a mix of grass, gravel, mud, sand, and pavement with some features that require riders to dismount and run with their bikes for a short period of time. Those who are serious CXers are riding cyclocross specific bikes, spending time dialing in their tire pressure for the conditions and look smooth and efficient getting on and off their bikes. For most of us, however, CX offers one of the easiest and most laid-back environments to try a bike race. In most CX races, competitors can (and do) use either a cyclocross specific bike or a mountain bike. Races are categorized (USAC Cat 1-5 or Beginner/Sport/Expert). Beginner races last only 30-minutes and tend to be much more laid back than their road race cousins. Because of their history as a fun way to spend the winter, cyclocross races often include competitors wearing costumes and a fair share of heckling on the course.
In other bike racing events, riders have to fight hard to “stay with the group” to take advantage of the drafting advantages. In Cyclocross, racers are riding against the course almost as much as they are against their competitors. Most races are spread out within the first lap with riders going their own pace as they take on the challenge of riding the features on the course. Also, because of the nature of the courses, CX races involved multiple laps and are well-suited to spectators as racers can be viewed multiple times throughout the race (and since they are often in parks, often have playgrounds for really young spectators to enjoy).
If you’ve wondered what this cyclocross this is all about, find a local race and come check it out. They’re fun to watch, but even more fun to ride. Whether you want to heckle or pedal, it’s hard to beat cyclocross for some fun this fall. Here are some links to the local Cyclocross series in Michigan:
- MiCX Series (http://www.michigan-cycling.org/cyclocross/)
- Kisscross – West Michigan (http://kisscross.com/schedule/)
- RunUP Cross – (https://www.facebook.com/pg/RunUpCX/events/?ref=page_internal)
By Collin Snyder, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist
A little after 3 weeks after surgery and 7 weeks since I first came in, things were finally heading in the right direction. I was putting on weight, eating real food, and ready to go home. Upon release, I set a goal for myself that I would finish Iceman this year. Some of my teammates looked at me skeptical but said they’d cheer me on.
Five weeks post-op, I got on my bike for the first time. I rode for just over 20 minutes and I was exhausted. My power output was less than a third what it once was, yet my heart rate neared race efforts. It was great and demoralizing at the same time. The next day, I rode up to my local bike shop to say hello. I managed around a 15 mph pace (with a tailwind) at a hard effort and had to hang out for the next hour to prepare for the half hour return trip.
Each day, I was able to go a little harder, a little longer. Three weeks after getting on the bike, I rejoined my Monday Night Crew. That night we rode for nearly 30 miles, and I even found myself pulling at the front. Each time I logged into Zwift, I would have to slide my FTP bar slightly higher to ensure I was working out in the proper zones. After each ride, I look at my power curve and see a new personal best. On one Monday night group ride, my buddy titled his ride on Strava as “Last ride ever where I’ll be faster than Collin.”
I feel great now. I am now back up to my old weight, I can eat just about anything I want without fear of it causing me pain and symptoms. My fears of never being able to race again have passed. My power levels are now to the point where I have to adjust my overall Iceman goal. No longer is the goal just to finish, but to place in my age group. I’ll be doing it with gears for the first time in 9 years, but I think I have a slight excuse.
Once again, I want to thank all the wonderful people in my life who helped out while I was out of commission. My wife, for being there at my side through the darkest hours. My parents for daily visits and helping out my wife with child care each night. Friends pitched in to set up a meal service for my wife and toddler. People teamed up to mow my yard and weed my garden. Heck, one of my riding buddies did a full tuneup and detailing of my mountain bike. The outpouring of love and support was overwhelming. I feel blessed to have the friends and family I do.
Living with an ostomy is not the scarlet letter I had envisioned. Off the bike, I feel completely normal. No longer am I eyeing where the bathroom is at every new place I visit. I can sit at work and actually work straight without having to get up every 20 minutes. I can dress in the same clothes I’ve always worn. On the bike, its not the death sentence I thought it was going to be. With support groups online such as the Facebook group “Ostomy Lifestyle Athletes,” I’ve learned ways to adapt to my new body. My fears of constant dehydration have not materialized. Most importantly, I’m back home with my wife and children enjoying life. Comparing the alternative, I am completely happy with my decision to go ahead with surgery.
I have gone back and forth whether or not I wanted to share my story, but if this can give just one person hope, then this amount of sharing is worth it. While I sat in that hospital bed, I scoured the internet looking for any high level athlete who managed to compete with an ostomy. I really didn’t find much which only added to my fears and anxiety. If you are reading this and in the same uncomfortable hospital bed as I was, let this give you hope. Life will get better, and you will once again do what you love.
If you have persistent GI issues, see a doctor right away. Early treatment can spare you from what I had to go through. If are interested in learning more about Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis visit these sites for information:
By Collin Snyder, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist
Continued from Part 1: A Dark Road
That night, after running to the bathroom for the upteenth time, I looked in the mirror and could barely recognize the frail body in front of me. I could see every rib, my eyes were sunken in, and I felt as bad as I looked. At this point, I could barely lift my girls, hadn’t been on the bike in over a month, and could barely muster a few laps down the hall without feeling exhausted. I was so weak, and nearing a month since my first day in the hospital with no improvement, I knew what I had to do. I had to accept my fate. Although it was less than an ideal outcome, it would lead to a path of healthiness and out of this hospital.
Surgery went well. My surgeon said that my colon was one of the worst he’d ever saw that didn’t rupture. He said that if I wouldn’t have had the surgery, it probably would have ruptured within a week and sepsis could have set in. The next day when I woke up, I felt as if a cancer had been removed from my body. Everyone who saw me that day said I looked a million times better. I started to have hope.
A couple days later, the first complication arrived. I started to get extremely nauseous and then started vomiting everything that I had ate or drank since surgery. That is when they found out I had an ileus. At the basic level, its a side effect from surgery where the guts just go into this dormant state and there is nothing they can do about it except to wait it out. While you wait for your guts to wake up, they put a tube down your nose, into your stomach to suck out any stomach acid and bile that gets produced which would lead to further vomiting. This meant no fluids or food until it was removed. They placed me on IV nutrition to slow my starvation process down. I kept losing weight along with my spirit. I was down to 116 lbs, about 50 lbs less than my race weight. At one point, both my parents and wife were scared I may not make it.
This continued for weeks. There would be signs that my guts were ready to wake up, only to go back to a dormant state. Online, everything says an ileus should last for 2-14 days. Mine lasted for 3 weeks. Going that long without food makes you feel less and less human. Nurses who were on vacation would come into my room and be surprised to see me saying “you’re still here?”
During this time, there were so many dark and depressing days. You become bitter at those who eat and drink garbage, while I lived a clean life, yet I’m the one sitting in the hospital. It’s hard when you go from a top local cyclist to someone who can barely get out of bed. Luckily I have an amazing wife, parents and friends who would visit me daily to keep me going. My “Monday Night Crew” who I’ve ridden with nearly every Monday for the past decade decided to surprise me and ride to the hospital one night for a visit. So many people from the cycling world would text or call me asking if there was anything they could do to help. Any visit would momentarily take my mind off the reality I was living. My number one dose of hope was the visits from my two year old daughter who was always happy to see me. Without the amazing people in my life, I’m not sure how I would have gotten through this dark time.
Check back tomorrow for the last chapter in my road to recovery.
By Collin Snyder, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist
On the first Saturday in November, I will line up for the most important race of my life. I’ve raced Iceman every year for about a decade but this year will be different. I know for a fact, I will not even be close to my results of last year, however this will be my biggest victory ever.
One thing most people don’t know about me is back in 2012, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. It’s an autoimmune disease that attacks the digestive tract, and can ravage an otherwise healthy body. That year, I had a bad attack, known as a flare, lost a ton of weight and strength which forced me into the hospital for a few weeks. When I eventually got back on the bike, I had to step back from 100 miler MTB races and temporarily move down a category on the road. However, I got on the right medications, and eventually returned to a normal life. I was symptom free for six years, however good things sometimes must come to an end. This April, I started to have GI issues after taking an antibiotic for a chest infection. After I finished the prescription, I figured the issues would go away. They didn’t.
For the next three months, my symptoms kept getting worse. My GI doctor started giving me stronger and stronger meds, but nothing seemed to help. By late June, it was hard to be focused at work as I would have to stop what I was doing nearly every 20 minutes to run to the bathroom. On 6/22, my anniversary, I had had enough. I called my GI doc and he said to come into my local hospital to receive IV steroids. Steroids are used as a strong immunosuppressant to keep my body from attacking itself. During my last flare, these were the magic bullet and stopped my symptoms nearly instantly. This time around, I wasn’t so fortunate. For the next two weeks they kept loading me up with steroids with little success. I was eventually discharged on July 3rd with nearly the same symptoms that I came in. Five days later, I woke up with a fever of 103.8F and told my wife it was time to go to University of Michigan to see their GI specialist.
After some imaging and analysis of my past medical history, the team at U of M re-diagnosed me with Ulcerative Colitis or UC. In the grand scheme of things, this is a slightly better diagnosis because UC can essentially be cured by surgery while with Crohn’s, a diseased organ can be removed only to have the disease pop up somewhere else in the digestive tract.
For the next two weeks, they did everything they could. At first, things were looking promising. I was given a super powerful drug (at nearly $20,000 a dose) and some of my blood tests started to improve. There was talk of discharging me the following week and they decided to give me one more dose of this drug for good measure. However, the day before my second dose, my blood markers started to go south again. The second dose did nothing. The team repeated some imaging and came to me with some devastating news. The medical and surgical team sat down with somber faces and said I had exhausted all medicine options. They had given me two doses of their biggest guns and imaging showed zero improvement. There was nothing left except for surgery. They would remove my entire large intestines and give me a temporary end ileostomy which means an external bag. I held it together for 2/3rds of the consultation, then I broke down in tears.
I knew that this would result in a cure, however, I was terrified of all the limitations this would lead to.
For the past 12 years, my life has revolved around cycling and I couldn’t comprehend how those could coexist. The number one reason why people with this surgery end up back in the hospital is due to dehydration. With a healthy body, dehydration is already a constant concern when racing. On the family front, I have two toddlers and I worried how this would affect play time, and even how they saw me. Would I still be their superhero?
Check back tomorrow for the next chapter of my story.